Jerry West

Clippers Notes: Kennard, Leonard, West, Kabengele

After a pair of uninspiring games to start the preseason, Luke Kennard promised his Clippers teammates he would become more aggressive, write Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register. Kennard delivered on Thursday night, coming off the bench to score 13 points and hit 3-of-4 three-point attempts.

“After our first scrimmage in training camp, I just told him, ‘Be aggressive, be who you are,’” coach Tyronn Lue said. “‘If you’re doing too much, I’ll let you know – and I doubt I would ever say that.’ And I told him, ‘Kawhi (Leonard) and (Paul George), they need that from you. They want that from you. So don’t come here trying to fit in, trying to please guys. Just play your game, and then we’ll make sure we tailor your game around our offensive foundation.’”

Kennard is getting used to competition again after being shut down for more than a year. He was sidelined by knee tendinitis last December with the Pistons, and the league went on hiatus before he could return. The Clippers picked him up in a three-team trade on draft night.

There’s more on the Clippers:

  • Leonard has responded to charges that the team and executive board member Jerry West used improper tactics to lure him to L.A., tweets Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. According to a TMZ report, Johnny Wilkes, who claims to be Leonard’s friend, is suing West for $2.5MM. “That has nothing to do with me swaying my mind to go somewhere,” Leonard said. “I’m from L.A. and I grew up here my whole life and out here people try to find any way to get some money, so he probably won’t be the last. I know a lot of people out here.” TMZ has published a voicemail allegedly left by West.
  • Mfiondu Kabengele remains in the Clippers’ plans for the future, even though the team elected not to take him to Orlando for the restart, Greif writes in a full story. President of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said it was difficult to decide who was brought to the Disney World campus. “We obviously were in a championship and still are in a championship contending mode, and we prioritize performance and medical for the playing group,” Frank explained. “You would have loved to have brought Fi there. Fi has a contagious personality. He stayed engaged throughout. He would jump on Zooms and watch practice. He would talk to his teammates. He talked to the staff. He kind of lived the journey remotely.” 
  • ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz examines how the Clippers can fix the flaws that caused them to underachieve last season with a second-round exit after adding two All-Stars.

NBA Investigating Kawhi Recruitment By Jerry West, Clippers

7:23pm: The Clippers have released a statement in response to the NBA’s investigation, referring to the lawsuit against West as “replete with inaccuracies” and the allegations as “baseless.”

“The Clippers are fully cooperating with the NBA,” the statement said in part. “They are providing the NBA with evidence that the allegations are false.”


6:16pm: The league is investigating the recruitment tactics employed by the Clippers and executive board member Jerry West in adding All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard to Los Angeles as a 2019 free agent, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic (via Twitter).

Earlier this week, a TMZ report indicated that Johnny Wilkes, a man who claims to be friends with Leonard, is suing West for $2.5MM.

Per the suit, Wilkes claims that, due to his connection to Leonard and his uncle, Dennis Robertson, West agreed to pay him $2.5MM for his services in luring Leonard away from the Raptors in the 2019 offseason. Wilkes also claims that he suggested the team would need to add Leonard’s future star teammate, forward Paul George.

A representative for West spoke to TMZ Sports about the suit on West’s behalf. “I am not aware of any lawsuit being filed against me and I deny engaging in any improper conduct in connection with the signing of Kawhi Leonard,” the rep said.

Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report tweets that, depending on what the NBA does or does not discover, the penalties for such a recruitment infraction could vary significantly.

L.A. Notes: West, Caruso, Davis, Rivers

If the NBA decides to eliminate conferences for this year’s playoffs, it could clear the way for a Finals matchup between the Lakers and Clippers, which Hall-of-Famer Jerry West believes would be the “ultimate competition,” relays Melissa Rohlin of Sports Illustrated. West, a Clippers consultant who spent decades with the Lakers as a player, coach and executive, discussed the possibility during an appearance on The Dan Patrick Show.

“I think in Los Angeles, they have so many Laker fans. My goodness,” West said. “The enormous success that the Lakers have had over the years, they are a really good team now, two of the best players we’ve seen in a long time on one team. I think it would be incredible for the people in the west. I’m not sure how that would go over for the teams back east who want to see their respective teams get an opportunity to play.”

West would like to see all teams play nine or 10 more games before the playoffs begin. He also supports having two bubble sites, putting all the Western teams in Las Vegas and the Eastern teams in Orlando.

There’s more from L.A.:

  • Lakers guard Alex Caruso believes the rivalry between the two franchises is more important to the fans than the players. He discussed the dynamics involved during an appearance on The Lowe Post podcast with ESPN’s Zach Lowe (hat tip to Silver Screen and Roll). “That’s not to diminish how big of a rivalry the battle for L.A. is, just in a sense of history and how long it’s been a Clippers vs. Lakers thing,” Caruso said. “But them being as good as they are this year doesn’t add any more, I don’t know … I feel bad saying it because it’s obviously one of the biggest matchups and names in the game playing against each other, but I’m sort of robotic in the sense of ‘this is another game.’ I know what they’re gonna bring, and we gotta know what we’re gonna bring to prepare for it.”
  • Although Anthony Davis‘ preference to play power forward is well known, the Lakers will probably need him at center in the most important moments of the playoffs, writes Pete Zayas of The Athletic.
  • Clippers coach Doc Rivers has been “Doc on demand” as a motivational speaker during the hiatus, notes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. Rivers’ appearances have included virtual meetings with three NFL teams, the Bears, Rams and Colts.

L.A. Notes: Bryant, Kupchak, George, West

The Lakers returned to practice today for the first time since Kobe Bryant‘s death on Sunday, writes Greg Beacham of The Associated Press. The mood was reserved as players tried to move beyond the tragedy and focus on basketball. Some of them, including Anthony Davis, spent time looking at Bryant’s two retired numbers hanging in the rafters before practice began.

“We want to represent what Kobe was about, more than anything,” said coach Frank Vogel, who was the only person to address the media after the workout. “We’ve always wanted to make him proud, and that’s not going to be any different now.”

The Lakers’ game against the Clippers last night was postponed to give the organization more time to deal with the tragedy. Instead, the team held an afternoon gathering where players and coaches shared stories and memories of Bryant. The meeting was “therapeutic and beneficial,” according to Vogel.

“It’s been something that has touched my family, being the father of daughters, and it’s been very emotional,” he said. “It’s something that brings us together. I’m around the people who were closest to Kobe throughout his time here, and it’s been just a deeply saddening time for all of us.”

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • The franchise-altering trade that brought Bryant to the Lakers in 1996 nearly didn’t happen, Hornets general manager Mitch Kupchak tells Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. Kupchak, who served as assistant GM for the Lakers at the time, said Charlotte had second thoughts about going through with the deal. “I think we always felt that we’d get the deal done,” Kupchak said. “Certainly, history would have been a lot different, at least from a Lakers point-of-view. Kobe would have been great no matter where he was.”
  • Clippers stars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard both spent time working out with Bryant at his Mamba Sports Academy and both credit him with helping to mold their careers, relays Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today. “He was my Michael Jordan growing up as a SoCal kid,” George said after today’s practice. “He was what every kid wanted to be here. I started playing basketball because of Kobe.” 
  • Current Clippers consultant Jerry West said when Bryant was thinking of leaving the Lakers as a free agent in 2004, he warned him not to go across town and play for former owner Donald Sterling (video link from TNT).

Southwest Notes: Harden, Self, Ingram, Luka

After Russell Westbrook joined James Harden in the backcourt for the new-look 2019/20 Rockets, the team’s offense struggled with counters against half-court double team Harden traps from smart teams like the Nuggets, The Athletic’s Kelly Iko writes.

Iko details how coach Mike D’Antoni, Harden, Westbrook, and their Rockets teammates devised clever solutions to counter the traps. “We figured out a way it’s going to work for us,” wing Danuel House told Iko. “All we gotta do is be ready to knock … shots down or make the right reads. If we don’t have the shot, pass it or drive to get someone else a shot.”

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • Kansas head coach Bill Self responded to chatter from ESPN’s Seth Greenberg and The Athletic’s Sam Amick and John Hollinger that he is being considered to replace Spurs coach Gregg Popovich when the five-time NBA champion eventually retires. “There’s absolutely zero truth to that,” Self said, according to The Kansas City Star’s Gary Bedore. “The thing that cracks me up about some media types is the more outlandish things you can say … what it was, was [Greenberg’s] ‘Bold Predictions for 2020 [segment].’ You grab something or throw something against the wall and hope something sticks.”
  • Pelicans star forward Brandon Ingram has been having a breakout season in New Orleans, averaging 25.2 PPG, 6.9 RPG, and 3.8 APG this year. Andrew Lopez of ESPN takes a look at how Ingram, in the final season of his rookie contract, has carved out a place for himself on his new team. The 22-year-old, who will be a restricted free agent in the summer of 2020, was just named the NBA’s Western Conference Player of the Week.
  • Clippers consultant Jerry West has very high praise for rising Mavericks star Luka DoncicKevin Sherrington of the Dallas Morning News reports. “One player has transformed them into a playoff team,” West said. “[Doncic] will be the best player Dallas has ever had… I have great respect for [Dirk] Nowitzki, but Dirk is not him.” West has won nine titles as a player and executive in a storied Hall-of-Fame career.

Western Notes: Collins, Davis, Lillard, West

Zach Collins hasn’t given up on playing this season, Casey Holdahl of the team’s website tweets “For sure, it’s very realistic,” Collins told Holdahl. However, the Trail Blazers big man faces a long rehab after undergoing shoulder surgery last week. He’s expected to miss at least four months, which leaves only about a month before the end of the regular season in a best-case scenario.

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Anthony Davis is playing through right shoulder pain, an injury he suffered on a missed dunk attempt two weeks ago, Dave McMenamin of ESPN relays. “There’s really never a play I don’t feel it,” Davis said. He hasn’t missed any games due to the injury and that will continue as long as he doesn’t aggravate it, according to Mark Medina of USA Today. “If he can be out there, he’s going to be out there,” Lakers coach Frank Vogel said. “He’s going to play through pain. We just got to make sure that it’s being done intelligently.”
  • Trail Blazers point guard Damian Lillard is content to stay the course with the Trail Blazers rather than joining forces with superstars in other organizations, as he explained to Medina in a separate story. Lillard signed a four-year, $196MM extension during the summer. “I just feel like there’s always a reward at the end. When you do things the right way and you do the work, you’re going to get the results,” Lillard said. “I really believe that. We’ve gotten the results. Even after failures, we come back and answer to it. We’re staying the course. That’s worth it to me.”
  • Clippers adviser Jerry West rubber-stamped the Paul George blockbuster with the Thunder and explained why to Sam Amick of The Athletic. The Clippers gave up five first-rounders, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Danilo Gallinari. “Everybody talks about all the draft picks we gave away. Well, we did give a lot of draft picks away. But two of them were not ours – period, OK?” West said. Giving up the young point guard was the hard part but worth it in West’s mind. “I think Shai is going to be an All-Star player in this league for a long time, and he’ll keep getting better. But we have two finished products right in the prime of their careers (in Kawhi Leonard and George) – or just getting in the prime of their careers,” he said.

Jerry West To Return To Clippers For Another Season

Jerry West will return to the Clippers as a consultant for another season, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times reports.

West is one of three key front office members who decided to remain with the franchise this offseason. The Wolves pursued GM Michael Winger and the Pelicans aimed to poach assistant GM Trent Redden, though both executives turned down promotions to stay in Los Angeles.

West, whose Hall-of-Fame NBA career began in 1960, joined the Clippers in June of 2017 as an advisor and he assisted in the overhaul from the Lob City era to the current state of the franchise, which is in position to pursue two max-level free agents. Kawhi Leonard is expected to be a top target this offseason. The team will also pursue Kevin Durant.

L.A. Notes: Pelinka, LeBron, Rivers, Lawsuit

All signs point to Rob Pelinka having full power to run the Lakers in the wake of Magic Johnson’s resignation, writes Sam Amick of The Athletic. Sources tell Amick that the team didn’t contact David Griffin, LeBron James‘ former GM in Cleveland, before he joined the Pelicans earlier this month. They also didn’t try to lure GM Bob Myers from the Warriors or consultant Jerry West from the Clippers.

Pelinka has orchestrated the coaching search ever since the team parted ways with Luke Walton, Amick adds. He identified Tyronn Lue, Monty Williams, Juwan Howard and Jason Kidd as candidates and organized their interviews.

Although Pelinka is running the show, the number of people with a voice in front office decisions has grown since Johnson left. In addition to Pelinka and owner Jeanie Buss, the interviews with Lue and Howard were attended by president of business operations Tim Harris, VP of research and development Joey Buss and assistant GM and director of scouting Jesse Buss.

There’s more today from L.A.:

  • James plans to stay out of personnel decisions and will trust Lakers management to assemble a playoff contender, Amick reports in the same story. LeBron bristles at suggestions that he serves as de facto GM wherever he goes and plans to stay out of the spotlight this summer. He released an Instagram video this week proclaiming his faith in the front office.
  • The Clippers‘ performance this year set a foundation for what could be a vastly improved roster next season, according to Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. Doc Rivers‘ team gained respect throughout the league by reaching the postseason after trading away leading scorer Tobias Harris in February. “When you are knocked out of the playoffs there’s obviously some times it’s a relief,” Rivers said. “And there are some times you just don’t want it to happen and last night was one of those points. Just the sense of disappointment — even though you know the group you had overachieved, you still don’t want it to end.”
  • A lawsuit contesting the Clippers‘ proposed new Inglewood arena is moving forward, reports Nathan Fenno of The Los Angeles Times. A Los Angeles County Superior Court judge has rejected an attempt to block the suit, which was filed by Uplift Inglewood, a community group dedicated to affordable housing.

L.A. Notes: Lakers, Lue, Williams, Clippers, West

As we detailed earlier this week, Tyronn Lue‘s meeting with Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka about the team’s head coaching vacancy is taking place today, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski confirms (via Twitter).

Lue has experience coaching LeBron James in Cleveland, which could be a point in his favor as Pelinka and the Lakers weigh their options for Luke Walton‘s replacement. As ESPN’s Brian Windhorst writes, coaching James isn’t without its challenges, but if a coach comes in with a game plan, holds LeBron accountable, and is prepared for push-back, he can succeed.

Lue and Monty Williams are among the candidates apparently in the running for the Lakers’ job, though both men have reportedly been warned to proceed with caution. As Colton Jones of Amico Hoops relays, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne said during an appearance on 710 ESPN that “everyone in the league” has told Williams not to take the job, while Jorge Sedano of ESPN said one of Lue’s close friends has given the former Cavs coach a similar warning.

It remains to be seen which direction the Lakers are leaning, or whether they’ll expand their search beyond Lue, Williams, and Juwan Howard. However, Shelburne also notes that it wouldn’t be a total surprise if Williams prefers to remain with the Sixers, where he’s an assistant on Brett Brown‘s staff. His family is settled there, and he could be next in line if Philadelphia were to move on from Brown, says Shelburne (via Jones).

Here’s more on the NBA’s two Los Angeles teams:

  • According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, there’s no indication that the Lakers plan to reach out to Clippers consultant Jerry West about the possibility of returning to the franchise following Magic Johnson‘s resignation from his president of basketball operations role. For his part, West said he’s preparing for an eventful offseason with the Clippers, but made no guarantees about his role next season and beyond. “Well, as far as I can tell, I really don’t have a future, OK? My future is now,” West told Amick. “I don’t really worry about that. I worry about getting through this season, and really concentrating – all of us, concentrating – on free agency.”
  • Although they fell back to earth last night, the fact that the Clippers made the postseason and are capable of performances like their Game 2 win over Golden State bodes well for the pitch they can make to free agents this summer, writes Shaun Powell of NBA.com. Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times conveys a similar sentiment, writing that the club’s future is bright regardless of what happens in the playoffs.
  • In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Bobby Marks takes a deep dive into the Lakers’ offseason, exploring the head coaching search, the possibility of revisiting Anthony Davis trade talks, the club’s free agency options, and more.

Stein’s Latest: West, Raptors, DeRozan, Budenholzer

While president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank and owner Steve Ballmer will ultimately make personnel decisions for the Clippers this summer, consultant Jerry West – who will represent the franchise at Tuesday’s draft lottery – figures to have a “significant say,” writes Marc Stein of The New York Times.

“I don’t just want to be a figurehead,” West said of his role with the Clippers. “You want to be a part of the decision-making process. I don’t have the final decision here, but I do have a voice.”

Within his look at West’s role in Los Angeles, Stein notes that the veteran executive helped convince the Clippers to go through with the Blake Griffin trade, even if it made the team look bad after having just extended Griffin seven months earlier. West, who felt his influence was fading in Golden State, elected to ink a two-year contract with L.A. last summer, and may ultimately stay with the franchise longer than that.

“If he still wants to do it, we can go beyond that,” said Clippers owner Ballmer. “Now that I know him better, I can’t see him retiring.”

Here’s more from Stein:

  • Within his weekly newsletter for The Times, Stein writes that “word is” the Raptors quietly explored the possibility of trading DeMar DeRozan during the 2017 offseason. That doesn’t mean that the Raps want to move DeRozan or that they’ll explore trade options for him again this summer. However, Stein fully expects Toronto to do its due diligence on the trade market — not just with DeRozan, but with everyone on the roster.
  • There’s a general belief that the Milwaukee head coaching job is the one Mike Budenholzer wants most, but that’s not a lock, according to Stein, who suggests that the former Hawks coach will have multiple meetings with both the Bucks and Raptors. Stein writes that Budenholzer “could well have preferences that outsiders aren’t privy to” after those meetings. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has said that the Raptors opened talks with Budenholzer over the weekend and continued those conversations on Monday, while Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca tweeted today that Toronto has already met with Budenholzer.
  • Speaking of the Raptors‘ head coaching job, Stein also reported on Monday that Toronto is interviewing assistants Nick Nurse and Rex Kalamian for that position today.