Clippers Notes: George, Harden, Westbrook, Lue, Tucker, More

Even after a disappointing exit in the first round of the playoffs, the Clippers are expected to make a strong push to bring back both Paul George (player option) and James Harden (unrestricted free agent) this offseason, Sam Amick and Law Murray of The Athletic write. Despite failing to advance past the first round since 2021, team owner Steve Ballmer still has faith in this core.

The Clippers’ poor injury luck during the Kawhi Leonard era prevented them from seeing this roster at full strength for long, but they did win 26 of 31 games from December to February at full health. That, according to The Athletic, is seemingly a big reason behind L.A.’s eagerness to run it back. Even though Ballmer wants to keep things going with this core as the Clips on their new home floor in Intuit Dome next season, the nuanced contract negotiations with George, Harden, coach Tyronn Lue and Russell Westbrook may complicate things, Amick and Murray write.

George has been eligible for an extension all season, and while negotiations have been extensive, the lack of a deal leaves the possibility open for the nine-time All-Star to depart for a cap-space team like Philadelphia or Orlando. Though George holds a player option worth $48.7MM, he’s widely expected to decline it and become an unrestricted free agent if no extension is reached. Los Angeles wants George to accept a deal similar in structure to what Leonard agreed on, which saved L.A. approximately $9.9MM. A non-max deal would help the team financially going forward as it surely crosses the restrictive second tax apron by bringing back George and Harden.

Harden wants to continue with the Clippers and he’s happy to be with the team, but it could get tricky to keep him if he seeks a max contract. Meanwhile, Westbrook accepted a reserve role in L.A. and while he found success in the regular season, he may look for an opportunity to start elsewhere.

As for Lue, while Clippers’ officials praise the work the veteran coach has done, there have been no discussions about an extension, according to Amick and Murray. Friday reports indicated the Clips plan to pursue an extension with Lue, but those conversations have not yet taken place. According to The Athletic, the Clippers know they can’t improve on Lue and expect him to be the coach next season, likely blocking other teams from trying to talk to him. For his part, Lue expressed an interest in making a long-term commitment to the Clippers during his series-ending media availability (Twitter link via Michael Scotto of HoopsHype).

I didn’t come here to bounce around and go all over the place,” Lue said. “Mr. Ballmer, Lawrence [Frank], Mark [Hughes], and Trent [Redden] have all been great to me. This is where I want to be. Hopefully, they feel the same way.

We have more from the Clippers:

  • Forward P.J. Tucker is expected to exercise his $11.5MM player option for next season, according to HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto. This comes as no surprise, as Tucker averaged career lows in minutes and points this season. Tucker was frustrated with his role this season and Los Angeles sent him home at one point. Scotto’s piece lines up with the reporting from The Athletic regarding the futures of George, Harden, Lue and Westbrook. In addition to writing about those four, Scotto speculates on what president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank‘s future with the organization looks like.
  • Including George, the Clippers have eight players eligible to sign extensions this offseason, ESPN’s Bobby Marks writes in his 2024 offseason guide. Role players Norman Powell, Terance Mann and Ivica Zubac are among the extension-eligible players. Mann, an unrestricted free agent in 2025, is eligible to sign a four-year extension worth $78.7MM.
  • Leonard missed games in the playoffs for the Clippers for the fourth straight season, but according to his teammates, he tried to play more in this series. “[Kawhi] wanted to be out there, wanted to be with us… it was more staff keeping him back,” George said, per The Orange County Register’s Mirjam Swanson (Twitter link). Leonard appeared in two postseason games this year, averaging 12.0 points per contest.
  • George didn’t speak much on his upcoming free agency after the Game 6 loss, according to ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk. “Yeah,” George said on if he sees himself with the Clippers long term. “If it works that way, absolutely. … I’m not even focused on that yet. I got a lot to kind of digest myself, so I haven’t even got to that yet. Look forward to kind of going back, just letting everything kind of decompress, talk to my family, be around family support and then address the next step. … Yeah, it’s just not where I’m there. I’m not there yet.
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