Clippers Keeping Close Eye On Kawhi, Durant

The Clippers are “transparently obsessed” with chasing 2019’s top two free agents, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, who writes that the franchise has treated Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant like college recruits, frequently sending executives to Raptors and Warriors contests this season to scout the stars and ensure that the Clips are visible at those games.

Raptors officials have noticed at least one Clippers employee at about three-quarters of their games this season, per Windhorst. President of basketball operations Lawrence Frank has been among those Clippers employees spotted at Toronto’s contests, even though top execs rarely attend NBA games that don’t involve their teams.

As Windhorst details, the approach appears to be part of team owner Steve Ballmer‘s master plan. In Ballmer’s perfect world, the Clippers would land Leonard or Durant – or both – during the 2019 offseason, making them the face(s) of the franchise as the team prepares to eventually move into a new arena in Inglewood. Ballmer alluded to this plan on Tuesday, as Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times relays.

“We’re just stacking it up,” Ballmer said. “We’re stacking it up with Jerry [West], stacking up with Lawrence, stacking it up with Doc [Rivers], stacking it up with a new arena. We’re headhunting in a place where this team has not been before.”

The Raptors and Warriors will hold the Bird rights for Leonard and Durant, respectively, allowing them to offer more years and more money to their stars than any other suitor could put on the table. Still, the Clippers are in position to make a strong pitch to both players — L.A. should have the cap flexibility to create two maximum-salary slots, and has added a veteran executive in West – as well as former SI.com scribe Lee Jenkins – to its front office “in an effort to prepare a grand slam pitch when the time is right,” writes Windhorst.

While it remains to be seen whether the Clippers will be successful in their efforts to add a star, they may have another prime opportunity to continue their scouting efforts on Wednesday night, with the Raptors in Golden State to face the Dubs. Leonard is day-to-day with a sore hip, though Toronto had no problem thrashing the Clippers in L.A. on Tuesday night without him.

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21 thoughts on “Clippers Keeping Close Eye On Kawhi, Durant

  1. When’s the last time the Clippers signed a top-tier free-agent? I submit, never.

    They usually let their top-tier guys walk and they don’t even consider resigning with the Clippers.

    As Magic Johnson said, they’re still the Clippers.

    The only hope they have now is Jerry West. He’s built three different franchises into championship-caliber teams. Lakers, Warriors, and Memphis was very good for about five years. He could make it happen. We shall see.

    • FromTheCheapSeats

      Steve Ballmer’s only owned the team since 2014. When he bought it, the Clippers were locked into Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan.

      I’m interested to see what the next couple years look like for the Clippers.

    • Their only hope isn’t West but Ballmer, he is by far the richest owner in the league & is changing the culture of the franchise, getting a new arena to play away from the Lakers is a very good move too, definitely a franchise on the up, they come from a difficult & bad decade but their future is looking very bright, thanks to Ballmer.

    • Durant can’t go anywhere. He says when the Warriors get their 3peat, they’ll retire Steph, KD, Draymond, and Klay’s jerseys and put their statues outside Chase Arena.

  2. Nebraska Tim

    It’s super funny to me that Toronto continues to rest Kawhi against LA teams, with some slightly bogus “injury” to save him for the second night of a back-to-back.

    It was surprising to me that Toronto was able to dominate both LA teams on their respective home courts without Kawhi.

    Should be an interesting match between Golden State and Toronto tonight, though it’s still hard to envision any team being able to keep up with the Warriors through a 7 game series – especially after Cousins comes back.

    • Toronto looks pretty strong with Kawhi added and a couple young Wings stepping up. Siakim looks great so do a couple other guys. Ibaka playing very well too.

      • Nebraska Tim

        Siakim has looked great – seems like he’s taken a big step forward this year. While his improvement has been impressive, I don’t think it’s completely a surprise.

        Ibaka’s resurgence, however, has been super eye-opening.

        I’ve watched a little more than half of their games, and they still seem like a team that’s figuring things out. They play sloppy for long stretches, then they go on a 5-10 minute surge and win the game.

        They still have lots of time to figure things out before the playoffs, but they’ll need to take much better care of the ball and start making their open 3s.

        Super fun to watch so far though.

        • I think a lot of their sloppiness has to do with Kyle Lowry. I don’t think he’s a top-tier point guard even though he’s paid like one. He’ll make bad decisions turnovers at the wrong time take a bad shot. Breaking up that back court was the greatest thing ever because both those guys were not closers in the fourth quarter. DeRosen was the same way. Dribble off his foot out of bounds with 90 seconds to go. He’s even doing that with the Spurs LOL. Raptors are looking better and as long as they put the ball in kahwai’s hands they should be okay cuz Lowry can shoot a little. Just don’t let Kyle make big decisions and do a lot of dribbling.

          • Nebraska Tim

            Well, I understand that Lowry rubs some people the wrong way – he’s particularly prickly in interviews.

            But the turnovers/sloppiness don’t happen nearly as much with him controlling the ball.

            From my eye test this year, he’s been mostly phenomenal – except for a cold shooting stretch over the last couple of weeks. Advanced stats have usually backed up his great value, too.

            He does all the little things, defends, takes game-changing charges, and moves the ball well while pushing the tempo. If anything, I believe he’s a highly underrated NBA player.

            • You make great points. Let’s watch tonight. Let’s see how Lowry does. Hopefully well !!

              I’d like the Raptors to do well this year. Rooting for him not against him. I just don’t think he’s all that and 32 million dollars a year. Wow.

              • Especially with Kawhi Leonard out, which he might be. I haven’t heard anything for sure. If Leonard is out this is Lowry’s team…let’s see how it goes.

                • Nebraska Tim

                  Oh, Lowry’s paid handsomely. But once you’re over the cap, does it really matter?

                  I think they gave him more per year to limit the total term of his last deal.

                  But he plays as hard as any player in the NBA. Also, last night he was insane. I did not see that coming.

  3. darquee

    If Durant leaves the Warriors going to the Clippers makes the most sense. He has a home in LA and he would be the man on his own team and he would get to go head to head against LeBron and prove whether he is the best player in the NBA (if that is what he REALLY wants). But who knows with Durant since he talks a lot of mess and constantly contradicts himself.

    • Kevin Durant lives in a high rise in San Francisco with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean. He also has businesses in San Francisco. Durant said he wants the max this summer. That would come from Golden State. He ain’t winning no championships in Los Angeles. He’s been doing just fine going head to head with LeBron with the Warriors (2 Finals MVP’s). For this year, check LeBron and Durant’s stats. Identical.

  4. Jerry West is already the greatest personnel man in NBA history. Even in semi-retirement, in a little over a year, he’s turned a top heavy roster of stars with little flexibility that was descending back half of the Western conference’s playoff teams into the current roster, which is better, deeper and full of contracts that are expiring or movable for value.

    • Nebraska Tim

      I agree.

      West’s track record is super impressive.

      And that he’s been able to continue to be relevant and make smart moves with the Clippers really cements him as one of the best of all time. He understands better than nearly anyone how to build (and rebuild) a competitive NBA roster.

  5. x%sure

    Raptors & Warriors both visit OKC in late March. Ballmer should rent a house there and throw Leonard & Durant Oklahoma house parties when they visit. Have some good drugs and a contract at the ready. It worked with Paul George! Leave Magic to sit & stew.

    • My theory is that LeBron did not want Paul George. Paul George is not a closer. Paul George is just a guy who will get you 25 in the first three quarters but can’t get you two when it matters. He’s got great size good Defender and very good at all facets of the game. But he’s not a closer like Kemba Walker Isaiah Thomas Paul Pierce LeBron Durant and many many others.

      • x%sure

        I wonder if Lebron really wants Cousins, for similar reasons. Somebody with the Lakers blocked making a play for him, I say because, they did not despite needing a center.

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