Lou Williams

Clippers Rumors: Lue, Young Players, Kawhi

After parting ways with Doc Rivers, the Clippers initially put together a list of about 10 possible candidates to replace him, according to Jovan Buha and Joe Vardon of The Athletic. The team seriously considered five of those candidates before narrowing their search to three finalists.

Although the Clippers did conduct a full search, Tyronn Lue was the first candidate they contacted following Rivers’ departure and was one of just two candidates who checked every one of the team’s boxes. As Buha and Vardon explain, the Clippers consider Lue an “elite tactician” and viewed his familiarity with the roster as a positive — having spent the 2019/20 season as Rivers’ lead assistant, Lue got to see first-hand what went wrong, and has ideas for potential solutions.

[RELATED: Clippers to promote Tyronn Lue to head coach]

According to The Athletic’s duo, the Clippers also like that Lue isn’t a “staunch idealist” like Mike D’Antoni or Tom Thibodeau, and is more willing to tinker with lineups and styles, adapting to the roster he has. The club hopes to keep Kawhi Leonard and Paul George around for multiple seasons but recognizes that the roster might change around them. L.A.’s front office believes Lue is capable of adjusting to those changes and getting the best out of his players.

Speaking of Leonard and George, they were consulted by the Clippers’ top decision-makers during the search, per Buha and Vardon. However, neither star forward wanted to steer the search in a particular direction and told the team that they trusted the front office. They were both ultimately on board with the choice of Lue.

Here’s more on the Clippers and their new head coaching hire:

  • Lue will be aiming to bring more ball movement and a faster pace to the Clippers next season, sources tell Buha and Vardon. He also intends to switch up defensive coverages more often and give the club’s younger players – such as Ivica Zubac, Landry Shamet, Terance Mann and Mfiondu Kabengele – more playing time.
  • Lue’s five-year contract is believed to be worth in the neighborhood of $7MM per year, according to Buha and Vardon.
  • The Clippers would like to establish better “synergy” between the coaching staff and front office, sources tell The Athletic. Lue is willing to work with the front office as he fills out his staff.
  • Buha and Vardon also reiterated a point that we’ve heard in the past, writing that some Clippers players – including Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell, and Lou Williams – bristled at the preferential treatment that Leonard received during his first season in L.A. The star forward was allowed to dictate to Rivers when he came out of games and was often late for team flights because he lived in San Diego, according to The Athletic’s reporters.
  • In an Insider-only story for ESPN.com, Kevin Pelton offers up three areas for Lue to focus on as he attempts to get the Clippers to the NBA Finals. Those include tightening up the defense and not overreacting to a disappointing postseason outcome.

More Details On Doc Rivers’ Departure From Clippers

Although the Clippers‘ official press release on Doc Rivers‘ exit from the franchise suggested that the split was a mutual decision, people with knowledge of the situation told Dan Woike and Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times that Rivers was “surprised to learn” the club wanted to move on.

[RELATED: Doc Rivers Out As Clippers’ Head Coach]

While the coaching change may have come as a surprise, it didn’t come out of nowhere, according to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, who reports that a divide occurred as a result of an “accumulation of philosophical differences” over the years and especially in recent weeks.

According to Buha, Rivers and team owner Steve Ballmer had multiple “candid” discussions following the team’s second-round playoff exit, exploring where things went wrong and comparing their visions of the organization’s future. They ultimately decided that they had differing visions of the path forward, resulting in what Buha refers to as a mutual decision to go their separate ways.

Rivers’ view, per Buha, was that the Clippers’ roster had some flaws and that he had tried the make the best of a less-than-ideal situation. The franchise, meanwhile, viewed the second-round collapse as “inexcusable” and considered Rivers culpable for many of the club’s shortcomings despite the unfavorable and unusual circumstances dictated by the coronavirus pandemic and the Orlando bubble.

Here’s more on the Clippers’ split with Rivers:

  • Rivers’ insistence on sticking with a struggling Montrezl Harrell over Ivica Zubac at key moments in the postseason and his reluctance to develop or empower young players during his Clippers tenure were among the factors the team considered when it made its change, according to Buha. Harrell’s energy and effort on the defensive end of the court was questioned both inside and outside the locker room, Buha adds.
  • There was a sense that the Clippers played with a “distinct lack of joy and on-court chemistry” this season and that Rivers had a hard time balancing his treatment of new stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George with that of Clips veterans like Harrell, Lou Williams, and Patrick Beverley, Buha writes. The perception of preferential treatment for Leonard and George was an ongoing issue for multiple Clippers players all year.
  • The decision to part ways with Rivers was ultimately Ballmer’s, but the Clippers owner called a few key players, including Leonard and George – to get their opinions, sources told Ramona Shelburne and Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. None of the feedback Ballmer received changed his mind about the need for a change, and Rivers didn’t feel comfortable staying with the team without Ballmer’s full sport, per ESPN’s duo.
  • The Clippers didn’t have a specific replacement in mind when they decided to part with Rivers, and there’s an expectation that the search for a new coach could take several weeks, according to Buha, who says there’s no clear-cut top candidate yet.
  • Michael Scotto of HoopsHype spoke to some executives around the NBA about the Rivers news and the most logical candidates to replace him on the Clippers’ bench.

Clippers Notes: Game 7 Loss, Next Steps, Kawhi, George

The Clippers blew double-digit leads in each of their last three games against Denver, losing the series and missing out on a date with the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. Having failed to advance after taking a commanding 3-1 lead in the series, the team was left searching for answers on Tuesday night.

As Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN details, head coach Doc Rivers accepted blame for the club’s shortcomings and suggested that conditioning issues played a part in the Clippers’ inability to put Denver away. However, Lou Williams and reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard pointed to chemistry issues as they looked to explain the club’s disappointing postseason run.

“I think a lot of the issues that we ran into, talent bailed us out. Chemistry it didn’t,” Williams said. “In this series, it failed us.”

“We just couldn’t make shots,” Leonard said. “That’s when it comes to the team chemistry, knowing what we should run to get the ball in spots or just if someone’s getting doubled or they’re packing the paint, try to make other guys make shots, and we gotta know what exact spots we need to be. And you know, just gotta carry over and get smarter as a team. Get smarter. Basketball IQ got to get better.”

Perhaps the most eyebrow-raising comment of the night came from Paul George, whom the Clippers acquired last summer in a deal that cost the team Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, five first-round picks, and two first-round pick swaps.

I think internally, we always felt this was not a championship-or-bust year for us,” George said, per Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link).

Here’s more on the Clippers:

  • The Clippers are now very much on the clock, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, who points out that Leonard and George can opt for free agency in 2021. Rival executives don’t expect the Clips to make major changes, but they could make a trade to bring in more talent if they’re willing to take on some long-term money, writes Windhorst.
  • One rival executive suggested to Windhorst that the Clippers are essentially pot-committed to their win-now approach, meaning it doesn’t make sense for them to back off now by significantly shaking up the roster. “You’ve heard of the saying, ‘In for a dime, in for a dollar’?” the exec said. “Well, they’re in for 95 cents, in for a dollar.”
  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer and ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) also explored what’s next for the Clippers. As Marks points out, one of the first orders of business for the team will be figuring out which of its major free agents – Montrezl Harrell, Marcus Morris, and JaMychal Green – can and should be re-signed. Harrell and Morris are unrestricted free agents, while Green has a $5MM player option that he may turn down.
  • Marks also notes that the Clips could offer a George a contract extension worth up to $128.9MM over three years, if they so choose. George would be 32 years old before that extension begins in 2022 though, so it’s not clear how aggressive L.A. will be on that front.

Clippers Notes: Harrell, Williams, Zubac, Game 2 Loss

Montrezl Harrell‘s late grandmother was on his mind when he accepted the Sixth Man of the Year award, writes Jovan Buha of The Athletic. Harrell left the Disney World campus for nearly a month when she died earlier this summer, returning just in time for the start of the playoffs.

“This is for my grandmother, who is not here with me today and isn’t going to be able to see this,” he said. “She isn’t going to be able to see me do something that she instilled in me as a young child, a game that she brought to my attention as a young man and I fell in love with and worked my tail off at.”

Harrell is the first big man in nearly a decade to capture Sixth Man honors. Heading into unrestricted free agency, he posted career highs this season with 18.6 PPG and 7.1 RPG. He recalls a conversation with coach Doc Rivers shortly after the Rockets traded him to L.A. in 2017.

“From day one, coach told me that this is not one of those things that we kind of just did to package this,” Harrell said. “‘No, we want you here. We’ve seen you play. We know the type of intensity and motor that you bring to the game. This isn’t one of those things that you’re going to be coming here and leaving back out. We want you here.’ To hear the head coach of an organization say you don’t have anything to worry about, you can get comfortable here, and this is a team that wants you, it means a lot.”

There’s more Clippers news to pass along:

  • The award was presented to Harrell by teammate Lou Williams, who won it the past two seasons, Buha adds in the same story. A three-time winner overall, Williams finished third in this year’s voting. “For him to come out and just hand me the trophy, it was special,” Harrell said. “It was a huge surprise. … To see that trophy come out from the back and actually coming towards me, it was a tremendous honor and just a complete, complete tremendous thank you to my teammates, to Doc and Lou, everybody.”
  • The Clippers need a strong performance from center Ivica Zubac, who is the only player on the roster who can match up physically with Denver’s Nikola Jokic, observes Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times. Zubac had 15 points and nine rebounds in Saturday’s loss, but he remained on the bench late in the game as L.A. opted to use a smaller lineup.
  • Game 2 exposed bad habits that have plagued the Clippers all season, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN. L.A. showed little energy to start the game and trailed by 19 points after the first quarter.

Montrezl Harrell Named Sixth Man Of The Year

Clippers center Montrezl Harrell has won the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award for the 2019/20 season, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter). Harrell beat out fellow finalists Dennis Schröder and teammate Lou Williams for the award.

Harrell, 26, enjoyed the best season of his career in 2019/20, averaging 18.6 PPG, 7.1 RPG, and 1.1 BPG on 58.0% shooting in 63 games (27.8 MPG) for the Clippers. Although he was technically the team’s backup center behind Ivica Zubac, Harrell was typically relied upon in the team’s closing lineups.

As Fred Katz of The Athletic observes (via Twitter), Harrell’s win represents a deviation from the norm, as the award almost always goes to a high-scoring guard. In the last decade, Williams and Jamal Crawford have won the award multiple times, with Eric Gordon, J.R. Smith, and James Harden also taking it home. Lamar Odom was the last non-guard to be named Sixth Man of the Year in 2011.

The Sixth Man of the Year was one of the few NBA awards this summer whose outcome was in doubt, as Schröder and Williams also submitted strong cases. The Thunder point guard averaged 18.9 PPG, 4.0 APG, and 3.6 RPG on .469/.385/.839 shooting, while Williams – who won the award in 2018 and 2019 – put up 18.2 PPG, 5.6 APG, and 3.1 RPG.

Harrell received 58 of 100 potential first-place votes for the award, with Schröder getting 35 and Williams receiving the final seven. Here are the full voting results, per the NBA:

  1. Montrezl Harrell, Clippers (397 total points)
  2. Dennis Schröder, Thunder (328)
  3. Lou Williams, Clippers (127)
  4. Christian Wood, Pistons (17)
  5. George Hill, Bucks (17)
  6. Goran Dragic, Heat (6)
  7. Derrick Rose, Pistons (5)
  8. Davis Bertans, Wizards (2)
  9. Dwight Howard, Lakers (1)

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

NBA Announces Finalists For 2019/20 Awards

The NBA has announced the finalists for several awards as the seeding games on the Orlando campus move forward and the postseason nears. It was announced in July that all awards for the 2019/20 season would be based on games up until March 11, when the coronavirus pandemic shuttered play. Media members made their votes before the seeding games began on July 30.

NBA Most Valuable Player Finalists:

NBA Defensive Player of the Year:

NBA Rookie of the Year:

NBA Most Improved Player:

NBA Sixth Man of the Year:

NBA Coach of the Year:

  • Mike Budenholzer (Bucks)
  • Billy Donovan (Thunder)
  • Nick Nurse (Raptors)

The winners for the awards will be announced during the NBA playoffs after the seeding games period concludes on August 14.

Pacific Notes: Fox, Warren, Waiters, Williams

De’Aaron Fox becomes eligible for his rookie scale extension this offseason and he’s strengthening his case for a high-end offer. Even though the Kings lost their first three games during the restart, their potent point guard averaged 26.7 PPG and 6.0 APG, James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area notes. He followed that up with a 30-point, 10-assist outing in the Kings’ victory over the Pelicans on Thursday.

“I definitely feel confident that we’re seeing what kind of player we’re going to have here as the future plays out,” Kings coach Luke Walton said of Fox.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • T.J. Warren‘s explosive scoring has been one of the biggest stories of the restart. The Suns traded him to the Pacers last offseason in a salary dump but Warren claims to harbor no grudges against his former team, as IndianaSportsCoverage.com relays. “I don’t have no ill blood between anybody,” he said. “I’m just fortunate enough to be doing what I’m doing, playing basketball at the highest level. With me, it’s all love.” Warren has two years and $24.5MM remaining on his contract, which is increasingly looking like a bargain.
  • Dion Waiters has been getting steady playing time with the Lakers as Rajon Rondo mends from a thumb injury, Kyle Goon of the Orange County Register notes. Waiters is averaging 10 PPG during the restart despite shooting poorly from 3-point range. “Situation like that, you just try to take full advantage of it ’til Rondo get back and things like that,” Waiters said.  The enigmatic guard was signed by the Lakers for the remainder of the season just prior to the suspension of play in March.
  • Clippers guard Lou Williams took a lot of flack for visiting an Atlanta strip club after temporarily leaving the Orlando campus and he admits to making a bad decision, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN writes. “It’s been documented how much I talk about this place, how much I eat there,” Williams said of Magic City. “I just did something that was routine for me. … At the time, I thought I was making a responsible decision. After looking back on it, with everything going on in the world, the pandemic, maybe it wasn’t the best-quality decision.” Williams is back in action after clearing quarantine.

Lou Williams Set To Return For Clippers

Clippers guard Lou Williams has cleared quarantine and will be available to play on Tuesday against the Suns, agent Wallace Prather tells Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Williams, who left the NBA’s Walt Disney World campus last month to attend a funeral, was photographed at popular Atlanta strip club Magic City during his absence. Although Williams said he was only there for the food – Magic City’s lemon pepper BBQ wings are named after him – he had to undergo a 10-day quarantine upon returning to Orlando.

Players who leave the NBA’s campus with permission can quarantine for as few as four days when they return, but any potential violations of the league’s protocols can instead result in a 10-to-14-day quarantine period, as was the case for Williams.

The extended quarantine period sidelined Williams for the Clippers’ first two seeding games, but it sounds like he’ll be ready to resume his sixth-man role on Tuesday vs. Phoenix. His return figures to result in a reduction in minutes for the likes of Reggie Jackson and Landry Shamet.

With Williams back, the Clippers are nearing full strength. However, L.A. is still missing Montrezl Harrell, who is taking some time away from the team to deal with his grief following the death of his grandmother.

Pacific Notes: Kings, Len, LeBron, Williams, Warriors

The Kings, who previously furloughed some employees starting on June 1, have now laid off some staffers as well, according to Sean Cunningham of ABC10 Sacramento (Twitter links). According to Cunningham, no members of the Kings’ basketball operations department were part of this week’s layoffs.

Cunningham estimates that about 100 employees within the organization were impacted by the earlier furloughs. And based on a statement from John Rinehart, the Kings’ president of business operations, it sounds like a portion of those workers have now been laid off.

“As part of the organization’s ongoing evolution of efforts to align with the changes in our business, we have made the difficult decision to transition a portion of previously furloughed full-time roles to a reduction in workforce effective July 31 and extend the furlough period for the remaining segment of previously furloughed employees to tentatively November 1 due to continued uncertainty surrounding the resumption of live events at Golden 1 Center resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic,” Rinehart said, per Cunningham.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Kings center Alex Len, who reported to the NBA campus late after a bout with COVID-19, will likely miss the team’s first summer game on Friday, head coach Luke Walton said today (Twitter link via James Ham of NBC Sports California). However, it shouldn’t be too much longer before Len is ready to go.
  • Within an ESPN.com piece about the Lakers‘ unusual 2019/20 season, Dave McMenamin suggests that LeBron James wasn’t thrilled about Lakers players being asked last fall to address the NBA/China controversy before commissioner Adam Silver or Rockets GM Daryl Morey did. Morey’s tweet supporting Hong Kong protestors instigated that dispute between the league and its Chinese partners.
  • Lou Williams‘ violation of the NBA’s protocols means he’s serving a 10-day quarantine and missing at least two seeding games, but his Clippers teammates and head coach Doc Rivers have Williams’ back, as Mark Medina of USA Today writes. “Lou’s one of the most-liked guys in the whole organization and is always trying to get everyone together on the road,” center Ivica Zubac said. “Lou is a true leader. The fact that everyone is coming to the defense of him speaks everything about him.”
  • Anthony Slater of The Athletic takes a deep dive into James Wiseman‘s potential fit with the Warriors, pointing out that if Golden State does end up using its top-five pick this fall, it will represent an opportunity to secure a long-term building block — not just a role player who can fit in with the current core.

Western Notes: Clippers, Lakers, House, Blazers

The Lakers and Clippers will play in the second game of Thursday’s “re-opening” night. However, both teams could be missing key players.

According to Anthony Slater of The Athletic, Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell are listed as out on the status report, while Patrick Beverley is considered questionable for the Clippers (Twitter link). For the Lakers, Anthony Davis is listed as questionable, while LeBron James, Kyle Kuzma, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope are listed as probable and should play.

With Williams in quarantine for 10 days, the Clippers are hoping Beverley, who just returned to the NBA’s Walt Disney Campus after being away for a personal matter, can step in.

Davis practiced on Wednesday with goggles on after being poked in the eye last week against the Magic. All signs point to the Lakers forward playing tomorrow night.

Here’s more from around the Western Conference:

  • Clippers head coach Doc Rivers spoke at length about how deep his team’s roster is despite missing multiple players, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. “Well, a deep roster is built for that,” Rivers said. “And we’ve done that. Now, when you have five and six guys out at one time, that’s asking too much on any roster. By the time the [seeding] games start, we won’t have that many out, but we’ll have maybe two to three key guys out, and that’s asking a lot.” As previously noted, Los Angeles will be without Williams and Harrell on Thursday night. But Kawhi Leonard echoes the same sentiment of his head coach about the depth of the roster.“I knew that we had a pretty deep squad,” he said. “I knew how talented we could be. It’s about executing now.”
  • With Eric Gordon being sidelined for two weeks with an ankle injury, Danuel House will be inserted into the Rockets’ starting lineup, per Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). This season, House has started in 47 games for Houston, while averaging 10.2 PPG and 4.2 RPG. He is also shooting 36.3 percent from three-point range.
  • Trail Blazers head coach Terry Stotts told reporters this week that he expects to have a full team available for Friday’s seeding game against the Grizzlies, per Jason Quick of The Athletic (Twitter link). Portland currently trails Memphis by 3.5 games for the eighth seed in the Western Conference playoffs.