Lou Williams

Pacific Notes: Clippers, Horton-Tucker, Williams, Wiggins

The Clippers have seen their bench production nosedive during the 2020/21 season thus far, according to Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register. Los Angeles is averaging a league-low -5.3 plus-minus through its first 10 games, according to Swanson. This is a marked drop-off from years past, as former Clipper Montrezl Harrell was the Sixth Man of the Year for the 2019/20 season and longtime Clipper Lou Williams won that honor in ’18/19.

“We are going to figure that out,” Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue said of the Clippers’ bench’s struggles. “It is a good problem to have, especially when you can get Marcus (Morris) back, who has been a starter and now is coming off the bench. You have that kind of talent coming off the bench, it adds a different dynamic to your team.”

There’s more out of California:

  • Lakers reserve shooting guard Talen Horton-Tucker, a restricted free agent in 2021, is expected to draw interest from several squads during the offseason, including possibly the Knicks, Cavaliers, and Mavericks, according to Sean Deveney of Heavy.com. Los Angeles possesses Horton-Tucker’s Early Bird rights. While the Lakers could technically match any offer for Horton-Tucker, an opposing team’s GM speculates that a rival club could outbid make it hard on L.A. “Teams that have a lot of cap space and are looking to gamble on a young guy, why not put your money into him?” the GM wonders. “The upside is obvious.”
  • A rotation tweak by the Clippers has freed up backup guard Lou Williams, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times reports. L.A. coach Tyronn Lue and his staff have opted to surround Williams with four solid defenders on the floor.
  • The 2020 trade deadline deal wherein the Warriors sent D’Angelo Russell to the Timberwolves in a package for swingman Andrew Wiggins and a top-three protected 2021 first-round draft pick continues to pay off for Golden State, according to Josh Schrock of NBC Sports Bay Area. After a rocky start, Wiggins has transformed into a solid two-way option on the wing to help fill the void left by injured Warriors star Klay Thompson. Through 10 games this season, Wiggins is currently averaging 17.5 PPG on 43.3% shooting from the floor and 38.5% shooting from deep, on 5.2 attempts. The 6-4 Warriors are the No. 4 seed in the West.

Clippers Notes: Ibaka, Zubac, George, Morris, Williams, Beverley

Serge Ibaka started at center in the Clippers‘ preseason opener and coach Tyronn Lue will continue to have the prized free agent acquisition work with the first unit, according to Jovan Buha of The AthleticIvica Zubac started regularly last season when Doc Rivers was the head coach.

“Zu started the last couple of years and did a great job,” Lue said. “Just kind of seeing this team, what style of play we want to play at, right now, tonight we went with Serge and we’ll continue to see how that looks.”

Ibaka has the ability to stretch defenses and defend the perimeter more adeptly that Zubac, while Zubac is a better screener and roller and rim protector, Buha adds.

We have more on the Clippers:

  • The front office checked around the league to determine Paul George‘s trade value before deciding that an extension was the best option, The Ringer’s Paolo Uggetti reports. George signed a max four-year extension that kicks in for the 2021/22 season. George could have opted out of his contract after the upcoming season without the extension. The market for George around the league would have likely gotten him that same contract elsewhere, Uggetti adds.
  • Forward Marcus Morris sat out the preseason opener due to minor knee soreness, Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times writes. “We’re just being cautious,” Lue said. The Clippers re-signed Morris on a four-year, $64MM deal after acquiring him in a trade last season.
  • Patrick Beverley and/or Lou Williams could be traded during the season, though Beverley’s contract might be tough to move, some anonymous front office executives and scouts told Sam Amick of The Athletic. The Clippers didn’t truly address their point guard situation in the offseason but that could change as the season progresses.

Stein’s Latest: Williams, Clippers, Giannis, Bucks, Knicks

After adding Serge Ibaka and Luke Kennard to their roster while losing Montrezl Harrell, JaMychal Green, and Landry Shamet, the Clippers may not be done, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times. A number of rival teams expect L.A. to trade away Lou Williams at some point, Stein says.

Although Williams is now 34 years old, he’s on a team-friendly expiring $8MM contract and remains a very talented scorer, having averaged 18.2 PPG off the bench in 2019/20, so he’d certainly draw interest if the Clippers put him on the trade block.

Interestingly, Stein notes that the Clippers made it a top priority this offseason to make “dramatic chemistry changes.” There were reports last season of tension in the locker room based on what some incumbent players viewed as preferential treatment for new Clippers stars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. While he doesn’t specify whether it was related to those issues, Stein says that team officials “quietly decided (Harrell) had to go.” The Sixth Man of the Year ended up with the rival Lakers.

Here’s more from Stein’s latest newsletter:

  • For weeks leading up to the offseason, there had been “promising rumblings” about the Bucks‘ ability to sign Giannis Antetokounmpo to a super-max extension this fall, according to Stein. As Stein explains, there was an increasing belief that Antetokounmpo would opt for long-term financial security and reserve the right to ask for a trade down the road if he becomes dissatisfied with the situation in Milwaukee. The Bucks are now in wait-and-see mode, with Giannis expected to soon arrive back in the U.S. from Greece.
  • People around the NBA are wondering if the Bucks gave up too much to acquire Jrue Holiday, having surrendered three first-round picks and two pick swaps for the standout guard, writes Stein. However, he contends that if Holiday and Antetokounmpo end up sticking around beyond 2021, Milwaukee’s “all-in approach will be redeemed.”
  • After initially offering Gordon Hayward a two-year deal in free agency, the Knicks increased their offer to four years and remained in the chase for the veteran forward “throughout the process,” according to Stein, who notes that head coach Tom Thibodeau is an “admirer” of Hayward. Ultimately though, Charlotte’s four-year, $120MM was at a level that neither New York nor any other suitor was willing to match.

Pacific Notes: Harrell, Zubac, Oubre, Kings

Montrezl Harrell decided to sign with the Lakers because he wasn’t convinced the Clippers wanted to keep him, writes Dave McMenamin of ESPN. Speaking to the media for the first time since accepting a two-year, $19MM offer to change teams, Harrell indicated that he would have remained with the Clippers if he believed they were interested.

“I feel that if you spend your career in any place long enough, you’re going to want to still keep playing there and keep growing there,” he said. “So, of course I still have great respect for those guys and for that organization. But like I said, as far as they wanted me back, obviously it doesn’t seem that way, does it?”

The new deal for the reigning Sixth Man of the Year contains a player option for 2021/22 that could have him back on the market in July. Some observers have suggested his connection to Klutch Sports prompted him to join fellow clients LeBron James and Anthony Davis, but Harrell said that wasn’t a factor.

“As far as my decision, it didn’t have any effect, because at the end of the day, my decision doesn’t affect neither one of those guys’ lives as far as their living conditions,” he said. “I have a family I have to provide for, so my decision was my decision.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Any further roster upgrades for the Clippers may have to come through trades, according to Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times, who identifies Ivica Zubac, Patrick Beverley and Lou Williams as their best assets. A rival executive tells Greif that Zubac would likely bring the greatest return because he’s only 23 and can still develop his game. Zubac is under contract for three more seasons at a total of $21MM. Williams, who is in the final year of his deal at $8MM, may have limited trade value because of his age and defensive liabilities. Executives who Greif spoke to believe it would be difficult to unload Beverley’s contract, which pays him $27MM over the next two seasons, and the Clippers would likely have to attach draft picks to move him.
  • After being traded from Phoenix to the Warriors, Kelly Oubre appeared to take a shot at Suns owner Robert Sarver, notes Nick Friedell of ESPN“I can play for an owner — somebody who actually cares about the organization and not just the perception of the organization on the media end of it,” Oubre said in a radio interview.
  • New Kings general manager Monte McNair looked for versatile players in the draft and tried to alter the roster to better fit De’Aaron Fox‘s timeline, writes Greg Wissinger of The Sacramento Bee. That’s why he pursued 25-year-old Wesley Iwundu and 26-year-old Willy Hernangomez, although both signed with other teams.

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.