The Clippers believe Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will be the foundation of the team for years, new head coach Tyronn Lue said during an appearance on ESPN’s “The Jump” (video link from show host Rachel Nichols).
Both stars have the ability to opt out next summer if they want to become part of what is expected to be a loaded free agent class. George’s player option for 2021/22 is $37.9MM, while Leonard’s is $36MM. However, Lue is confident that both Los Angeles natives will remain with the organization.
“I think Kawhi and PG are here to stay for a long time,” he said. “I think in their situation and where they want to be, it’s here with the Clippers. We just have to make it a great environment and we have to win.”
Lue also discussed how it feels to become a head coach again for the first time since the Cavaliers fired him six games into the 2018/19 season. Lue, who served as lead assistant to Doc Rivers last season, was rumored to be a candidate for several openings this year, including the Sixers, Nets, Pelicans and Rockets.
“It felt great to be wanted,” he said. “After the Cleveland situation and just having the chance to take a step back and reflect on things I could have done better, what I need to get better at, what I need to do to be better. I want to be great. I want to win championships. That’s what I want to do. So it takes a lot of work to do that.”
Lue said he is healthier now and better able to deal with stress than he was during his time in Cleveland. He experienced chest pains late in the 2017/18 season and had to take a short break from coaching to deal with his health. Lue told Nichols that he has lost 35 pounds since then and has learned how manage stress.
“Just having the chance to focus on myself, working out, eating better, doing some meditation here and there,” he explained. “Just learning to have a release outside of basketball. Because when I dive into coaching, it’s just all basketball. I’m up for the challenge. I feel great. No health issues, none of that. So I’m ready for the long run.”