Lawrence Frank

Clippers Continue To Have Eyes For Kawhi

The Clippers continue to be obsessed with the top of the 2019 free agency class and with a recent report reiterating Kawhi Leonard‘s desire to be in Los Angeles, Steve Ballmer‘s squad isn’t likely to let up anytime soon. The Raptors are not concerned with the Clippers’ efforts, as aggressive as they may be, team sources tell Sam Amick of The Athletic.

Raptors officials have previously claimed that a Clippers’ employee has attended about three-quarters of Toronto’s games this season but a source tells Amick that the figure is closer to 25%. Still, president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank and his team in the front office are doing everything within the league’s rules to up the odds of the franchise landing the former NBA Finals MVP.

NBA squads are allowed to gather as much intel about rival players as possible that might shape their free agency pitch, including both on and off court information. There’s a grey area when it comes to distinguishing the lines between research and recruiting, Amick explains. Teams are not allowed to recruit directly, though they can build relationships with people around a free-agent-to-be.

Up until recently, Leonard was unaware Clippers’ officials had been attending his games nor did he know what Frank even looked like, as Amick details. The scribe was with the head of the Clippers’ front office directly after last week’s game between the two squads. Leonard briefly embraced Amick while ignoring the front office executive and although some may see this as a case of Leonard and Frank consciously creating a ruse in front of a media member, Leonard simply isn’t wired that way, Amick writes.

Many within the league believe that the next six months will play a big part in determining Leonard’s decision. How far Toronto goes in the playoffs and how well he clicks with his coach, teammates, and the city will be factors. One source close to the situation pegs Leonard’s chances of staying up north as “50-50.”

Teammate Kyle Lowry isn’t sure if Leonard will call Toronto home long-term but the point guard is certain that Leonard is enjoying his time on the court.

“We don’t have to read him, because he talks to us,” Lowry said of Leonard. “He’s our teammate. He’s a guy we talk to every day. He’s awesome. He’s enjoying being back on the floor playing basketball at a high level. That’s what he’s really enjoying. I think he missed playing basketball last year, and I think people take that [for granted] When you lose the game for a little while, you’re like, ‘Man, that’s a tough thing.’ But when you get it back, it’s like, ‘Wow.’

“I don’t know [if Toronto fits him]. That’s a question where his individualized personality is going to have to step in [and determine it].”

Woj: L.A. Remains The Focus For Kawhi Leonard

Things are going well for Kawhi Leonard in Toronto, but he hasn’t given up on the idea of playing in Los Angeles, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said during a broadcast today that focused on trade and free agency rumors. (Hat tip to Real GM.)

Leonard’s desire to return to his home town and his refusal to commit to a long-term deal after this season were the main reasons the Spurs decided to trade him away during the summer. Leonard is considered certain to opt out of his $21.3MM salary for next season and become a free agent in July.

The Raptors, who are off to a 23-8 start, worked out a deal in hopes that a successful season could convince Leonard to stay in Toronto, but Wojnarowski suggests that may not be enough.

“They can’t change the geography. They can’t change the weather in Toronto. Those were always be things against them in this,” he said. “Home and L.A. has been the focus for Kawhi Leonard through all of this.”

The Lakers and Clippers should both have enough cap space to offer max contracts next summer, but there have been reports that Leonard doesn’t want to accept a supporting role to LeBron James. That makes the Clippers the favorites if Leonard decides to leave Toronto, and they have been acting the part with a visible contingent at many of the Raptors’ games, including president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank.

“They’re treating this like a college recruitment,” Wojnarowski added. “… To have the president of the organization show up in Toronto, in Milwaukee, just sitting there, players are seeing him. … It’s a unique way they’re going about this.”

Clippers Rumors: 2019 Free Agency, Rivers, Frank

The Clippers could have enough cap room in 2019 for two maximum-salary free agents, and one rival executive believes that the franchise – often viewed as an afterthought in Los Angeles in the shadow of the Lakers – could be the “most attractive free agent situation of all of them” next summer, according to Howard Beck of Bleacher Report.

“None of the available free agents want to be LeBron [James]‘s caddy,” the executive told Beck, explaining why a star player may choose the Clippers over the Lakers and other teams. “And they can become the greatest player in the history of a franchise in an unbelievable market with the wealthiest owner in the league. Why would that not thrill you?”

The “wealthiest owner in the league,” Steve Ballmer, spoke extensively to Beck for an in-depth feature that explores the Clippers’ plans for the 2019 offseason and beyond, while also looking back on a few major decisions that have shaped the organization’s direction during Ballmer’s tenure.

Beck’s piece is excellent and is worth reading in full, but here are a few of the highlights:

  • One top agent tells Beck that he’s eager to steer clients toward the Clippers, pointing out that Ballmer won’t mind going into luxury-tax territory and “wants to win.” The Clips have “definitely changed” their image in recent years, according to that agent.
  • In a speech to Beck, Ballmer previewed what a pitch to an elite free agent might look like: “You wanna have a legacy? You wanna really say you were involved in doing something super special? You come here. You be in L.A., the greatest market in the world, and you show people: ‘I’m the guy! I went to a franchise who’d never been there! I’m the guy! I made it happen! I get a legacy!'”
  • Ballmer regrets waiting as long as he did to restructure the front office, since he now believes the president of basketball operations job is “all-consuming” and requires someone who can focus on it full-time — head coach Doc Rivers held that position until Lawrence Frank was promoted to fill it last year, allowing Rivers to focus on coaching. “There were too many [basketball operations matters] where I really wanted to talk to Lawrence, not Doc,” Ballmer said. “Doc was, as I would have said at Microsoft, an unnecessary middle layer.”
  • Having everyone in the proper management roles should help the team maximize its assets and avoid making short-sighted moves, as Ballmer explains: “We want a team where we get maximum value out of the guys that we have, that we’re not dummies. I think if you look over the last five, six years, there’s some moves with hindsight I say, ‘God, now that I’ve been around longer, I wouldn’t make a move to give up a first-round pick to get Jeff Green.’ Because we weren’t as close to being a championship contender as we thought we were. So we gave up a pick we shouldn’t have.”
  • Ballmer also admitted that the Lob-City-era Clippers often came off as “whiny” by complaining too often about calls on the court. “I think that was known for the Clippers,” he said. “I don’t want to be that way. That’s not who we want to be.” Ballmer added that, in order to help sell the team to top free agents, he wants to make it clear to the rest of the NBA what the present-day Clippers stand for: “I want us to be playing defense. I want us to be resilient.”

Pacific Notes: Green, Kings, Clippers

The results from Draymond Green‘s MRI have come back negative, Chris Haynes of ESPN writes. The Warriors forward injured his knee in Tuesday’s season opener, missing the entire fourth quarter.

While it’s likely Green misses time as a result of the injury that had him limping in the team’s first game, the good news for the Warriors is that there was no structural damage that would necessitate a longer absence.

In 76 games for the Warriors last season, Green averaged 10.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists. If Golden State is going to survive an even stronger Western Conference than last year’s they’ll need to do it at full health.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

Lawrence Frank Replaces Doc Rivers As Head Of Clippers’ Basketball Ops

Clippers head coach Doc Rivers will no longer oversee the team’s basketball operations, owner Steve Ballmer tells ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. According to Wojnarowski, Clippers executive VP of basketball operations Lawrence Frank will assume control of the club’s basketball ops going forward.

Although Rivers will continue to have a “strong voice” in personnel and basketball matters, and will work closely with Frank, he’ll no longer have the title of president of basketball operations, and will instead focus primarily on coaching, as Wojnarowski details. Both Frank and Rivers will report directly to Ballmer. Rivers confirmed his re-assignment and endorsed the decision, as Bill Oram of The So Cal News Group tweets.

“I’ve owned the team for three years now, and I really better understand what an owner’s responsibility is — and it turns out that running a franchise and coaching are two enormous and different jobs,” Ballmer told Wojnarowski. “The notion that one person can fairly focus on them and give them all the attention they need isn’t the case. To be as good as we can be, to be a championship franchise, we need two functioning strong people building teams out beneath them. There needs to be a healthy discussion and debate with two strong, independent minded people.”

This is the second time this offseason that a team has removed a president of basketball operations title from its head coach, assigning those duties to someone else. The Hawks did the same thing with Mike Budenholzer before hiring Travis Schlenk to run the front office. With Budenholzer and Rivers focused on coaching again, only Gregg Popovich, Stan Van Gundy, and Tom Thibodeau hold dual roles as head coach and president of basketball ops for their respective clubs.

For Frank, it represents another step forward in what has become an interesting career path. A longtime assistant coach and head coach, Frank transitioned into a front office role with the Clippers last year, handling day-to-day operations for the franchise. He was impressive enough in that capacity that he’ll be charged with overseeing the entire department now, though Rivers – and presumably consultant Jerry West – will remain involved in the process.

“There are different relationships that a player needs to have with the coach and the front office,” Ballmer said. “Doc put Lawrence in charge of the non-coaching aspects of the front office last year, and he’s done a fantastic job. I want each of them to dig in and do what they do best. Lawrence has come on so strong in that role, and that has helped us go down this path.”

Pacific Notes: D. Green, Warriors, Clippers

It has been an interesting week for B.J. Armstrong of the Wasserman Media Group, who weighed in on on Derrick Rose‘s potential long-term future in New York and confirmed that Donatas Motiejunas isn’t reporting to the Rockets after having his offer sheet matched. Earlier in the week, Armstrong also provided his thoughts on another client, Draymond Green, telling Sam Amick of USA Today that the NBA’s rule changes are designed to make money rather than to improve the game. Specifically, Armstrong criticized the league’s “unnatural acts” rule which has penalized the Warriors big man for flailing his limbs and kicking opponents.

“People flail, people do things, and their bodies respond in certain ways,” Armstrong said. “I think it (Green’s play with James Harden last Thursday) is a no-call. … When I played, I would never, ever try to run Reggie Miller off the line because I knew Reggie. If I ran at him, and I was trying to run him off the line, I was going to get kicked. I knew that, and people around the league knew that. And players always adjust.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific division:

  • In an interesting piece for The Vertical, Adrian Wojnarowski notes that the Warriors – along with the Spurs – made an effort to trade up in the 2011 NBA draft to select Jonas Valanciunas with the No. 5 pick. Ultimately, the Raptors kept that selection and took Valanciunas themselves, while Golden State and San Antonio got decent consolation prizes — they ended up with Klay Thompson and Kawhi Leonard, respectively.
  • Clippers owner Steve Ballmer is “dead serious” about trying to move the club into a new arena when its lease with the Staples Center expires, writes David Aldridge of Aldridge’s piece provides plenty of other interesting tidbits on the Clippers, including a look at Lawrence Frank‘s role in the team’s basketball operations department.
  • The fifth overall pick in the 2012 draft, power forward Thomas Robinson is still just 25 years old, but he has lived a nomadic existence in the NBA so far, having spent time with seven teams in just five seasons. Mark Whicker of The O.C. Register examines how Robinson is fitting in this year with the Lakers as he looks to find a consistent role in the NBA.

Coaching Notes: Frank, Iske, Lucas, Pistons

The Clippers and assistant coach Lawrence Frank have reached an agreement that will see him promoted to executive vice president of basketball operations, reporting directly to team president and coach Doc Rivers, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reports. Frank will be tasked with reorganizing the franchise’s front office, including building out the infrastructure of its scouting, sports science and long-term strategic planning, Wojnarowski notes.

Frank, 45, has been a two-time head coach in the NBA with the Nets and Pistons, and had been working toward a transition to the front office in recent years, the scribe notes. As Nets coach, Frank reached the Eastern Conference semifinals three out of his first four seasons on the job. He won 279 games as a head coach, including an 18-20 (.474) playoff record. Frank has been an assistant coach and defensive coordinator for the past two seasons with Los Angeles.

Here’s more coaching news from around the league:

  • The Pistons announced via press release that the team has named Jon Phelps as GM and Rex Walters as head coach of the Grand Rapids Drive, Detroit’s D-League affiliate. “We’re fortunate to be able to fill these two positions with guys we feel very comfortable with,” said coach/executive Stan Van Gundy.  “Jon was in Grand Rapids with the Drive the last two years so there’s familiarity and continuity there.  We’re confident he will continue to do a good job and transition well into this new role.  “Rex Walters brings a wealth of basketball knowledge and experience and has a passion for developing young players.  He’s spent some time with us here and already has a good understanding of how we operate.  We look forward to working with both of them.
  • The Wizards will be adding former Kings assistant Chad Iske to Scott Brooks‘ coaching staff in Washington, Tim Bontemps of The Washington Post relays (on Twitter).
  • Former Wizards assistant coach Roy Rogers has reached an agreement to join Mike D’Antoni‘s staff with the Rockets, Wojnarowski tweets.
  • Former NBA player and coach John Lucas is joining the Rockets‘ staff as the head of player development, Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle relays.

Clippers To Move Lawrence Frank To Front Office

The Clippers plan to shift assistant coach Lawrence Frank from the bench to a high-ranking post in the front office, Marc Stein of reports (on Twitter). The move would be part of a shuffle that would have Frank assist head coach and president of basketball operations Doc Rivers in personnel and move Brendan O’Connor to the bench, Stein tweets.

It is unclear what specific role or job function Frank would have. O’Connor would seemingly fill Frank’s void, Stein notes in a full story. He joined the Clippers as an assistant in September 2014 after reaching a buyout arrangement with Brooklyn, where he was previously an assistant. The Nets reassigned Frank in December 2013 into a role in which he filed daily reports for the club, in spite of a contract that had called for him to make more than $1MM a year for six seasons as an assistant coach under Jason Kidd.

Rivers and Frank have a previous relationship, too. Frank served as an assistant under Rivers for the 2010/11 season on the Celtics bench and Rivers had reportedly sought Frank as an assistant coach in the summer of 2013, too. Frank’s greatest success in coaching came in his first stint with the Nets, when he guided the team to the playoffs four straight years as head coach. He also served as a head for the Pistons, and is 279-335 in parts of nine seasons as an NBA head man.

Pacific Rumors: Clippers, Lee, Thompson

Forbes revealed its list of the 400 wealthiest Americans today, and new Clippers owner Steve Ballmer ranks as the richest NBA owner at number 18 overall. Here’s more from around the Pacific Division:

  • The Clippers announced the additions of Sam Cassell, Lawrence Frank, and Mike Woodson to their assistant coaching staff in a team release.
  • David Lee told reporters including Diamond Leung of Bay Area News Group that he’s not upset with Warriors brass, who floated his name for much of the summer in trade talks for Kevin Love that never came to fruition. “There was no hard feelings,” Lee said. “There can’t be. Our front office is trying to improve the team, and Kevin Love is a great player. It happened, and I’m not mad at anybody. I don’t feel bad. It’s just this is a business.” 
  • Warriors point guard Steph Curry backed up Klay Thompson‘s insistence that the Love trade talks, which also heavily involved Thompson’s name, did not anger him as reported. “[Thompson] showed me the little link on his phone and then started laughing,” Curry said, as quoted by Leung on Twitter.

Atlantic Notes: Rondo, Nets, Sixers

Celtics guard Rajon Rondo has suffered a broken hand, and had surgery to repair it earlier today, Baxter Holmes of the Boston Globe reports (Twitter link). The player injured it in a fall at his home according to the team’s official statement regarding the matter. Rondo is expected to miss six weeks, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports adds. That would slot Rondo’s return to be during the second week of the season. This development certainly complicates any possible deals for the veteran for the time being.

Here’s the latest from the Atlantic Division:

  • Boston had been considering waiving John Lucas III today, but Rondo’s injury could change those plans, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today notes (Twitter link).
  • Alan Anderson said he turned down an offer for more money to re-sign with the Nets, Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News reports (Twitter link). Anderson inked a two year, $2.6MM deal with Brooklyn in July.
  • New Nets coach Lionel Hollins said that he never considered adding Lawrence Frank to his staff, Bondy tweets. Frank had a falling out with former coach Jason Kidd, and appears to be on the way to the Clippers as an assistant after reaching a buyout arrangement with Brooklyn.
  • The Sixers are set to hire Blazers analytics manager Ben Falk for a role that will put him second in command to GM Sam Hinkie in the team’s front office, according to The Oregonian’s Joe Freeman. Grantland’s Zach Lowe believes it’s another in a series of shrewd hires of late for Philadelphia’s front office (Twitter links).

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.