Clippers Still Working Through Chemistry Issues

Some players on the Clippers are not thrilled with the team’s preferential treatment to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, sources tell Jovan Buha and Sam Amick of The Athletic. This sort of handling is common in the NBA nowadays. Stars play by different rules, however, that doesn’t mean things are always smooth behind the scenes.

Look across the Staples Center to LeBron James to see another example of stars getting different treatment. James frequently sets the Lakers’ practice and shootaround schedules, coordinating with coach Frank Vogel as they try to figure out what works best for the team. Yet, LBJ’s situation is generally accepted by teammates because of his leadership style; he has an ability to inspire and connect with his teammates in a way that facilitates it.

Leonard and George have different personalities. Leonard is a lead-by-example type and with George having the same approach, there’s a bit of uncertainty about whose voice should be the loudest.

“I think it boils down to Kawhi not talking, and so who is their true leader?” one source with knowledge of the Clippers’ dynamics said. “How do you get around that?”

After a loss to the Grizzlies earlier this month, Montrezl Harrell was particularly vocal about the team’s performance, telling the media that the Clippers were not a great team” while explaining that the club needed to “wake up and figure it out.” Harrell was asked about the vibe in the locker room and the center’s response was noteworthy.

“I don’t know, brother,” Harrell said at the time. “I don’t know. And that might be another problem right there.”

Doc Rivers addressed Harrell’s comments and Buha and Amick hear that tension had been rising in the locker room leading up to those remarks. The big man’s words also rubbed some teammates the wrong way as they felt Harrell’s post-game mood was, at times, reliant on his individual box score.

Harrell is in a contract year and could be in line for a major raise in free agency. However, sources tell The Athletic duo that the 25-year-old remains focused on the team’s goal of winning a championship over any sort of personal agenda.

“Everything he does is out of his passion for winning,” one source said. “He kind of walks to his own beat a little bit, but it’s not from a selfish perspective at all.”

Buha and Amick spoke to over a dozen sources and the entire piece is worth a read. Here are more highlights from the duo’s latest:

  • Multiple Clippers players don’t feel the team practices as hard or as seriously as it should be. Leonard’s load management plays a role in that.
  • The Clippers prefer to call the strategy with Leonard “injury management.” Los Angeles’ medical team still doesn’t consider Leonard a fully healthy player and maintains that Leonard should not play back-to-backs.
  • Leonard has become more vocal recently. He’s coordinated player-only film sessions that many around the team believe have been a key to the Clippers’ recent surge in the standings. “It wasn’t one of those crazy players-only meetings, but they started doing it two or three games ago,” Rivers said earlier this month. “They just felt like watching the game together instead of everybody watching their iPads, watching it alone, would be better.”
  • The team’s success over the next week or so (which includes games against the Heat and Lakers) could determine what Los Angeles does at the trade deadline. Many players and team employees feel the dynamics have improved and the team has begun to jell over the past few weeks.
  • Buha and Amick write that Leonard most frequently speaks with George, Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, and Maurice Harkless. The pair notes that Leonard is not standoffish to others, but has grown the most comfortable with that group.
  • As a reminder, both Kawhi and PG can hit the free agent market in the summer of 2021, as each player’s deal contains a player option for the following season.
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30 thoughts on “Clippers Still Working Through Chemistry Issues

  1. amk3510

    Kawhi plays when he feels like it. The Clippers chemistry issues are what people said would happen to the Lakers…. but predictably they were wrong and in a funny twist it happened to the Clips

    • Dxit90a

      Kawhi is a smart player . He knows how to protect his body and he has earned the right to do that … team chemistry is always test when the team goes through a losing streak or are not playing as expected. LAC “chemistry issues” will be revealed in the next month if it’s real or not. LAL chemistry is untested at the current moment . Every body is happy when your winning. Once they go through a long losing streak it will be tested . I believe both teams will meet in the western finals and will go down to the wire with LAC winning .

      • amk3510

        They aren’t going to have a long losing streak. They had a 4 game streak around christmas and thats as bad as it will get for the Lakers. Clippers need to focus on getting to a west final first since that has been an impenetrable line for their franchise.

        • ColossusOfClout

          Ya right, you really think people like playing with a egomaniac who dictates everything and calls himself a king? Please.

          • amk3510

            Only ego manaic is you. The players on the Lakers roster must absolutely hate playing with Lebron

          • implant

            I dont know. I go to every game and watch 95% of the road games. From what I see his teammates love playing with him and he has been instrumental in establishing a winning, family culture, something the Lakers desperately needed

    • Curtisrowe

      He played when he felt like it last year too. Same issues, same comments. Once the playoffs started he was a different dude. Clippers are counting on Kawhi and George beasting when it counts and resting them until it does. Worked last year.

      • kawg

        George hasn’t left the first round, despite playing alongside an MVP, since Obama was in office.

        Leonard was lucky to draw the inconsistent Sixers, one year too early Bucks, and the injury riddled Warriors. Last year’s championship was a fluke.

        I foresee the Clippers losing in the second round or WCF without home court advantage because Leonard took a quarter of the season off.

    • Reflect

      Lakers did have a bunch of chemistry issues the first year LeBron was there and now Clippers are having issues the first year of Kawhi/George. It’s literally the same thing.

        • implant

          a team that was put together with chemistry in mind. All roles are fully known by all players. They are tight

      • harden-westbrook-mvps

        Except that the Lakers missed the playoff last year and even with all of their struggles this season the Clippers are a playoff team.

        • amk3510

          Thats so funny bro you sure got us by saying the Lakers missed the playoffs last year. That team that missed the playoffs for 6 straight years is also now a real title contender over the Rockets who have been running in place for 8 seasons.

        • implant

          this isnt the same team, as your Rockets so painfully found out a week ago

      • Chief Two Hands

        It is not the same thing at all. The Lakers were completely different team last year and even with a weak team overall LeBron had them in fourth place almost halfway through the season before he suffered an uncharacteristic freak injury.

      • Chief Two Hands

        You can disagree with posts here regarding chemistry issues all you want. The fact remains that comments about chemistry concerns are coming directly from the Clippers organization, including some players and even Rivers has addressed it.

  2. imindless

    According to clippers commercials they are built on grit and hardwork….talking to players sounds like there isnt a fair division of workload and clicks within the team. Dont see this team being around for more than a year or two and them all going there own ways. That coupled with the amounts of picks the clips gave up will hurt this Team getting younger and adding additional talent for the next 6 years.

    • chiefivey

      part of me feels like rhese reports are overblown but i could understand if there were real issues. i also agree about the team not being together for long and how much they have hurt their future. i believe the moves were made solely for the next 2 years and if they won a title or 2 they would be completely happy w. the rebuild

    • the sterling don

      True however keep in mind, most of those dealt pics were not even theirs. They dealt from picks they accumulated.

  3. Tazza

    Clippers should target Jerome Robinson for Aaron Baynes.

    Zubac is a 20 minute centre, Harrell and Green have played the rest of the role mainly but they are both undersized (Harrell 6’7 and Green 6’8).
    What if they have to player the Sixers or Lakers in a 7 game series. Can see them matching up well against teams with 2 bigs cause of the size issue.

    Aaron Baynes is 6’10, can shoot the 3 ball and can play good defence. He’s got playoff experience and doesn’t mind being a bench role player or fill in starter. Suns aren’t going to be competing so for them to trade an expiring contract, 33 year old for a second year lottery pick guard is a good trade.

    • Curtisrowe

      The Suns want to make the playoffs badly, and they might. They aren’t going to dump Baynes for a bust like Robinson.

    • Tazza

      Just wait and see 2 more weeks when the Suns are 8 games out and still trending down wards. Why keep him for another 2 months if he’s a bench player that’s going to leave. Robinson might be able to turn it around learning from Booker

  4. x%sure

    The two teams with the most chemistry flowering in 2019, the Clips and Nets, both got big new FA additions that diluted that chemistry. But what are you going to do, tell the new guys to go away?

    One could add the Blazers and Raptors to the “chemistry” list, but they suffered FA losses instead of gains.

    Win leaders Lakers & Bucks have so far benefitted from a continuing heirarchy they have built around.

    • implant

      x%sure. You get it. The culture that Lebron has helped create has been paramount to their on court success this season. Players actually like each other, they are tight and everyone knows their role. Guys such as Dudley, Daniels and Cook rarely play but when called on (OKC) are ready because they have their minds right. The lakers are once again a fun team to match and they appear to be having fun on the court

  5. Nothing to do with personality (loud, talkative or whatever). Nothing to do with a double standard for stars. Certainly nothing to do with not being more like LeBron. The opposite.

    KL (and PG13 by extension) have to understand that, by orchestrating the OKC trade in the manner they did, they “LeBron-ed” a core group of their current teammates. A group that had a successful season last year, with the accolades to prove it. The first message they wanted to hear from their new “leader” was NOT: Look, even with SGA and Gallo, and Me, you guys aren’t good enough to waste a year of my prime on. But because I really wanted to come here, I made management deplete almost all their assets so I could have at least one real championship level teammate. Now, let’s fight like brothers.

  6. implant

    The best is seeing bill boards around LA that say, We not me, Squad not self, We are one. Catchy slogans

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