Lawrence Frank

Clippers Notes: Future Skepticism, Westbrook, Lue, Championship Window

The Clippers will play in a new arena next season but they’ll have to hope their current core group can produce a better playoff run, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN writes.

Team president Lawrence Frank declared on Monday that he’ll try to re-sign Paul George, who can opt out of his contract, and James Harden, who will be an unrestricted free agent.

Kawhi Leonard, who signed a three-year extension, only appeared in two games during the first round due to injury. Despite the age of the team, Frank said it’s not far-fetched to believe they’ll have better health during the next postseason.

“I understand the skepticism of, ‘Hey, this is another year where you haven’t had the group [whole],'” he said.“But I would guard against the cynicism. Just because it’s happened [four straight seasons] doesn’t mean it’s always going to happen next year.”

They will have to cling to that hope because they don’t have much choice except to run it back with Leonard, George and Harden, Youngmisuk adds.

We have more on the Clippers:

  • Russell Westbrook has a $4MM player option to ponder and stated in an Instagram post that he was just fine with being a key reserve for the team. “I, for one, enjoyed my year, and worked hard to bring the energy and provide a spark for each opportunity I was given,” he wrote in part, adding, “I hope to come back better, stronger, and remain eager to take on any role that continues to put us in the best position to win next season!”
  • The Clippers can’t afford to offer Westbrook significantly more if he opts out but Frank said the players would hate to lose him, Mark Medina of relays. “Guys in the locker room love Russ,” Frank said. “Got a lot of respect for Russ, what he’s done for his career and what he’s done for the Clippers. He’s one of the game’s great players.”
  • The front office has, by all indications, prioritized an extension agreement with head coach Tyronn Lue, according to Medina. Lue has one year left on his deal. “He has a great way of connecting while still holding guys accountable,” Frank said. “He’s a truth teller without leaving scars or wounds. He’s an unbelievable strategist who makes terrific in-game adjustments. And he has a growth mindset in that he’s always looking to get better. So our hope is that Ty is here for a long time. We love Ty.”
  • The championship window for this group has closed, Law Murray of The Athletic opines. The conference is too strong and dotted with younger stars leading teams such as Oklahoma City and Minnesota, Murray notes. He adds that the past three years have proven that the team cannot seriously contend with aging, injury-prone stars in Leonard and George. However, Frank disagreed. “We are still big believers that the window is still open,” Frank said, as Murray relays. “But also acknowledge the fact that we can understand the skepticism with it, and there are no guarantees either way.”

Frank: Clippers Will Look To Keep Core Group Intact

The Clippers are hopeful of bringing back their core group despite the team’s first-round loss to Dallas, president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank told assembled media during a Monday press conference.

Kawhi Leonard has already signed a three-year extension but the team’s three other big stars could all depart. Paul George has a $48.8MM player option on his contract for next season, while James Harden will be an unrestricted free agent. Russell Westbrook holds a $4MM option on his 2024/25 contract.

The Clippers and George chose to defer extension talks around the All-Star break, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“We’d like to be able to bring back and retain Paul and James,” Frank said. “We’re hopeful we can, but also understand and respect the fact that they’re free agents. Paul has a decision with his option. James will be an unrestricted free agent, so our intent is to bring him back, but also realize that they’re elite players and they’ll have choices.”

The Sixers and Magic are expected to pursue George if he opts out, Janis Carr of the Orange County Register writes.

George is eligible to sign up to a four-year, $221MM extension, though it’s reasonable to assume the Clippers are pursuing a lesser amount, considering that they failed to reach an agreement during the season. Shams Charania of The Athletic confirmed on FanDuel’s Run it Back show (Twitter video link) on Monday that L.A. has offered George less than his full max.

“We want Paul, we value Paul,” Frank said. “Paul’s done some tremendous things here. He’s an elite player, and our biggest thing is we always want to be able to treat players well and pay them fairly, and we also have to build out a team, especially, this is a new CBA. But in terms of the exact money, I would never go into details other than we’ve had really, really good conversations over the course of the year and hopeful that we can get him to remain a Clipper.”

Harden said right after the series that he “hadn’t even thought” about his free agency.

As for Westbrook, Frank said he’d hold discussions with the former MVP regarding his role next season, if he decides to opt in. Westbrook was the team’s sixth man for a majority of the season.

“I’ll sit down with Russ. (Tyronn Lue) will sit down with Russ, talk with his representatives and you kind of outline what the role is going forward,” Frank said, per Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times. “It’s very similar to when Russ came last summer. Like, we explained to him exactly what his role is, what it could be, the different guys that we’re looking at and then Russ has a decision to make. And so we’re kind of going through the process. So, I’m not going to speak for any player in terms of what they’re thinking, but that’s our process.”

Frank said he’ll also pursue extensions with center Ivica Zubac and wing Terance Mann, per Carr, then look to make marginal improvements if he’s able to retain his stars.

Clippers G League Franchise Moving To San Diego

The Clippers’ G League team will relocate to Oceanside, Calif. and rebrand as the San Diego Clippers, according to a team press release.

They’ll play at the brand new Frontwave Arena for the 2024/25 season. The NBA Clippers will also have new digs next season, as they’re on track to move into the $2 billion Intuit Dome in Inglewood.

It’s a sort of homecoming for the Clippers organization, as the NBA team played in San Diego from 1978-84.  Their current G League franchise, named the Ontario Clippers, will complete its season in Ontario, Calif. The NBAGL club was previously named the Agua Caliente Clippers of Ontario.

Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank will continue to oversee basketball operations for both teams.

“We are proud to re-introduce the San Diego Clippers into this passionate sports market,” Halo Sports and Entertainment CEO Gillian Zucker. “Our G League team is a critical part of our business and basketball operation, and we are thrilled to be relocating to the new Frontwave Arena next season.”

Pacific Notes: Suns Rumors, Caruso, Clippers, Powell, Barnes

Within a look at some of the potential trade targets who have recently been linked to the Suns, Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports reports that a source close to the situation has described Phoenix as “very confident” about its ability to make a competitive offer for Hornets forward Miles Bridges. Bourguet adds that Charlotte center Nick Richards is also a target, but that the team would likely only be able to acquire one Hornet or the other due to salary-matching considerations.

Bourguet also confirms that Nets forward Royce O’Neale is a legitimate target for the Suns, observing that O’Neale is more attainable than Dorian Finney-Smith due to his expiring contract and smaller cap hit.

The Suns would almost certainly need to use Nassir Little ($6.25MM) as their primary outgoing salary piece in any trade and would need to get to within 10% of the incoming salary, so acquiring a player who is earning much more than O’Neale ($9.5MM) would be tricky. Phoenix would presumably need to add one or two minimum-salary players and multiple second-round picks to its package for either Bridges or O’Neale.

The buyout market could also prove fruitful for the Suns, Bourguet writes, even though they’ll be prohibited from signing a player whose pre-waiver salary exceeds $12.4MM. P.J. Tucker would have interest in Phoenix if he’s bought out, according to Bourguet, who says the team has also been in touch with center Bismack Biyombo, a current free agent.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • Veteran guard Alex Caruso, who left the Lakers for the Bulls as a free agent in 2021, tells Melissa Rohlin of FOX Sports that he still sometimes thinks about how things would have played out if he had remained in Los Angeles. “Yeah, definitely,” Caruso said. “Just because of how well I played with them when I was here. I know how I supported them. And I’ve gotten better. I was expecting myself to get better. It’s actually what had to move me on. I kept getting better and eventually I was at a point where I couldn’t stay here. I definitely have always thought about it because those guys (LeBron James and Anthony Davis) are my brothers. We’ve been through a lot together. Always good seeing them. Every now and then you think about what could’ve been.”
  • Rival coaches and executives are praising Clippers head of basketball operations Lawrence Frank for the way his gamble on James Harden has paid off so far, according to Steve Bulpett of “I didn’t think it would work out,” one exec said. “A lot of people didn’t think it would work out. But he had it right. Russell (Westbrook) is playing within himself. Harden is sharing the ball. They have great chemistry right now.”
  • In a conversation with Mark Medina of Sportskeeda, Clippers wing Norman Powell spoke about his impressions of Harden and Westbrook as teammates, the role that coach Tyronn Lue has played in the team’s success, and how these Clippers compare to the 2019 champion Raptors, among other topics.
  • Viewed as a probable outgoing piece if the Kings make a major deadline trade, Harrison Barnes has been on a heater this week, scoring 32 points on Monday and a career-high 39 on Thursday, as Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee writes.

Pacific Notes: Leonard, Frank, Lue, Green, Durant

Kawhi Leonard has been eligible for an extension for the past six months, and Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank never had any doubt that a deal would get done, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. L.A. signed the star forward to a three-year, $152.4MM extension on Wednesday that will keep him under contract through the 2026/27 season.

“We knew this union was going to happen,” Frank told reporters before Wednesday’s game. “We both wanted it to happen and we came to an agreement.”

Frank added that there was “no hesitation” about making such a large commitment to a player with a long injury history who is in 30s. Leonard has dispelled some of those physical concerns this season by playing in the Clippers’ first 27 games and 32 of 36 overall. The team is 13-1 with him in the lineup since the start of December and he’s putting up All-Star numbers over that stretch, averaging 26.4 points, 6.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.9 steals per night while shooting 57% from the field and 48% from long distance.

Lawrence added that Leonard’s willingness to accept less that the full amount he was eligible to receive — approximately $220MM over four years — will help the organization in upcoming negotiations with Paul George and James Harden.

“In order to win, you need to be able to have flexibility to have really good teammates,” Frank said. “And in order to do that, there’s sacrifices that need to be made. And what I love what I’ve heard from our guys, what Kawhi has shown is … we want everyone to be compensated fairly and yet also preserve flexibility to both in the short and long term have contending rosters.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Leonard’s extension with the Clippers includes a 15% trade kicker, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).
  • Coaches and players throughout the league are recognizing the job that Clippers coach Tyronn Lue has done in making all the pieces mesh after the early-season trade for Harden, per Janis Carr of The Orange County Register. Lue guided the team through a rough stretch after Harden arrived and found a way to build an effective offense around numerous players who are used to having the ball in their hands. “He was giving us confidence, he was telling us this is not going to last for a long time, that we’re going to figure out, figure out how we want to play both ways. (He kept saying) it’s going to happen, and he was the one that was preaching that from the start, and we trusted it,” Ivica Zubac said. “Now we’re playing at a high level, and everyone is really confident. We know what we want to do, and it’s been a big time for him.”
  • Whenever Draymond Green resumes playing, he hopes to cut out the antics that have already led to two extended suspensions this season, relays Kendra Andrews of ESPN. Green addressed his behavior Tuesday at a news conference that marked his return to Warriors practice. “I’ve cost my team enough. I’ve cost this organization enough,” he said. Green will accompany the team on its upcoming trip and may return to action in one of the road games, Andrews tweets.
  • Suns star Kevin Durant clarified that he intended “no ill will” when he said last month that he hopes Green “gets the help that he needs” following “incident after incident,” per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

Pacific Notes: Ishbia, Suns, Clippers, Lakers

New Suns owner Mat Ishbia‘s swift, decisive decision making thus far with Phoenix could impact how his coaching candidates view the gig, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic.

As Rankin notes, within 12 hours of Ishbia assuming control over the franchise, the team had already made a massive deal, acquiring forwards Kevin Durant and T.J. Warren from the Nets for young talents Mikal Bridges and Cameron Johnson, along with several draft picks.

Ishbia also was quick to move on from head coach Monty Williams, who possessed a 194-115 regular season record with the club, just two years removed from an NBA Finals berth.

At present, Ishbia is something of a wild card as an owner, which could give some of the finalists for the head coaching vacancy pause.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • The Suns and the Phoenix Mercury, the WNBA team Ishbia also purchased, have made formal bids to host future All-Star Games, Rankin writes in a separate piece. “We’re excited to partner with the city of Phoenix to engage the NBA and WNBA to bring both All-Star Games to the Valley,” Ishbia said. “Phoenix is one of the great basketball cities in the world and the perfect place to bring together the players and fans to celebrate the sport. The Phoenix Suns and Mercury want to continue finding new and important ways to partner with the city to bring real impact to our community.”
  • With one of their top front office lieutenants gone, the Clippers face several looming offseason decisions, writes Law Murray of The Athletic. Former Los Angeles GM Michael Winger departed the team to run the Wizards. As Murray notes, 2023/24 marks the final season with injury-prone stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on guaranteed deals, as both players hold options for the 2024/25 season. Murray wonders if Clippers team president Lawrence Frank will opt to extend Leonard, George, or head coach Tyronn Lue.
  • Though the Lakers could theoretically make a run for the services of Mavericks All-Star point guard Kyrie Irving in free agency or Hawks point guard Trae Young via trade, Mark Medina of The Sporting Tribune believes the club should prioritize roster continuity over splashy names.

Russell Westbrook Signs With Clippers

FEBRUARY 22: Westbrook has signed with the Clippers after clearing waivers, the team announced (via Twitter).

FEBRUARY 20, 4:32pm: Westbrook has officially been waived, the Jazz’s PR department tweets.

FEBRUARY 20, 9:51am: Russell Westbrook will join the Clippers once he completes a buyout with the Jazz, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Paul George and Marcus Morris recently spoke out in favor of adding Westbrook, but Clippers management took more convincing, Wojnarowski writes. Sources tell Woj that team officials, including coach Tyronn Lue and president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank, recently had discussions with Westbrook on whether he would accept a clearly defined role that focuses on his play-making, rebounding and toughness.

Those attributes could make a difference for a Clippers team that has been searching for a point guard after failing to fill that role before the trade deadline. L.A. unloaded Reggie Jackson and John Wall in separate deals, so there was a desire to find a lead guard.

Westbrook also had discussions with the Bulls, Wizards and Heat, but Wojnarowski’s sources say he was swayed by the chance to remain in Los Angeles and compete for a title with the Clippers.

Westbrook began the season with the Lakers, continuing a relationship that seemed rocky ever since he was acquired from Washington in 2021. He adapted to a sixth man role under new coach Darvin Ham and contributed 15.9 points, 6.2 rebounds and 7.5 assists in 52 games. However, his shooting percentages remained low at 41.7% from the field and 29.6% from three-point range, and shot selection and turnovers were still an issue.

The 34-year-old guard, who was traded to Utah at the deadline, still must finalize buyout terms with the Jazz and clear waivers before he can join the Clippers. He will likely give up a portion of the money still owed to him on his $47MM+ expiring contract.

The Clippers were considered among the favorites in the West when the season began, but they have been inconsistent during a 33-28 start. If they get the best version of Westbrook to pair with Kawhi Leonard and George, his former teammate in Oklahoma City, they would be a tough playoff matchup for anyone.

Clippers’ Lawrence Frank Talks Roster, Offseason, More

Speaking to reporters on Wednesday for his annual postseason press conference, Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said the team will look to upgrade the roster this summer after a disappointing end to 2021/22, writes Mirjam Swanson of The Southern California News Group.

We’re going to have to look at areas of improvement,” Frank said. “We want to make sure that we maximize our opportunities and be able to do something that’s never been done in the history of this organization.”

The Clippers failed to advance to the playoffs after losing both of their play-in tournament games, partly due to the season-long absence of Kawhi Leonard (ACL recovery) and Paul George‘s elbow injury (as well as his positive COVID-19 result the day of the second play-in loss). Frank said the team’s inability to win a championship with its star wings has shown “how fragile the difference between winning and losing is,” but he’ll use the playoff absence as “fuel for a great offseason,” per Swanson.

Frank said he’s encouraged by Leonard’s recovery progress, but declined to give any timetables for a potential return.

Here’s more from Frank’s press conference, courtesy of Swanson:

  • L.A. holds the Bird rights to unrestricted free agent Robert Covington, who recently said he was intrigued by the idea of playing with Leonard and George. Frank said he was happy to hear that, because the team would like to bring him back. “RoCo was very, very good for us. I’m excited to hear that he likes it here. We look forward and we’d like to be able to keep him here.”
  • Isaiah Hartenstein is also a free agent, but the Clips only holds his Non-Bird rights. The big man surpassed Frank’s expectations this season. “We actually recruited Isaiah … we put a lot of effort into it,” said Frank, who noted Hartenstein’s qualities, including his play-making, paint protection, floater and chemistry with the team. “Now, did we think he was going to be able to deliver at this high a level? No.”
  • From a developmental perspective, the Frank said the season was a great success, according to Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. “From a process standpoint [it] went better than expected,” Frank said, calling the development of the team’s young players a “huge silver lining.”
  • League sources tell Greif the team will look to add a point guard this summer, but Frank was coy when asked about the possibility. “The game now is played a little bit differently, there are some obviously elite point guards in the league, but a lot of teams are playing through their wings like we do,” Frank said. “So I look at it as do we have enough play initiators between Kawhi, PG, Norm [Norman Powell], Reggie [Jackson], Terance [Mann]? I don’t know; we’ll look at it. We’re not averse to it, but we’ll continue to evaluate and see if we have to address it.”
  • Frank is hopeful that Jason Preston (foot surgery) and Jay Scrubb (turf toe surgery) will be ready for Summer League, Greif relays.

Clippers Rumors: Frank, George, Leonard, Luxury Tax, Ibaka

The Clippers were involved in the first trade of deadline week and there may be more to come, writes Andrew Grief of The Los Angeles Times. A day after acquiring rotation players Norman Powell and Robert Covington from the Trail Blazers, president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank told reporters that “roster building is very much ongoing.”

Frank has a track record of being active around the deadline since he joined the franchise five years ago, Greif notes. He is determined to build the best possible roster around Paul George and Kawhi Leonard, even though there’s no guarantee that either player will return from injury in time to play this season.

Frank would like to find another ball-handler after sending backup point guard Eric Bledsoe to Portland in Friday’s trade. Coach Tyronn Lue said Terance Mann will fill that role for now, and Frank isn’t necessarily seeking a traditional point guard to replace Bledsoe.

“Instead of saying point guard, I really look at ‘play starter,’ ‘play finisher,’ ‘connector,’” Frank said. “And, look, our two best players have the ball in their hands 60% of the time. And point guards, as you know, what a point guard was 20 years ago is different than what is 10 years ago is different than today. … “I don’t even call it a point guard, it’s like, ‘OK, can we find a guy who can do these skill sets that maybe relieve some of the burden on Kawhi and Paul? And guess what? That player can be a forward. It doesn’t have to necessarily be a quote-unquote point guard.”

There’s more on the Clippers, all from Greif’s story:

  • George was shooting with his left hand before this morning’s practice. He has an MRI exam on his injured right elbow scheduled for February 24, but it won’t be the “ultimate decision-maker” on whether he tries to return before the season ends, Frank said. He added that the team is still in the dark about Leonard’s status. “No one knows, he doesn’t know,” Frank said. “But all you can do is just every day continue to control what you can control and see how he responds. Literally nothing has changed and I know it’s probably a frustrating answer or response but it’s just the reality. We don’t know.”
  • Getting Powell and Covington added close to $20MM to this year’s projected luxury tax bill, pushing it past $112MM, and Frank said owner Steve Ballmer is willing to pay whatever it takes to upgrade the roster. “We never thought it was realistic for us to get a player like Norm Powell for a team that won’t have salary cap space for a long, long, long time,” Frank said. “It’s really, really hard to get players like Norm, who are under a long-term deal, who are in their prime.”
  • Trade rumors are surrounding Serge Ibaka, who is the third-string center and has a $9.7MM expiring contract, but Frank said it’s possible he will be kept past the deadline. “Like anything, look, we will continue to look for opportunities to enhance the team,” Frank said. “Whether it is Serge or other situations.”

Clippers Notes: Leonard, Ibaka, Preston, Offseason Grade, New Coaches

The Clippers made it to the conference finals for the first time in franchise history last season, but they’ll have to wait quite a while for Kawhi Leonard to return from the partially torn ACL he suffered in the playoffs — possibly until the 2022/23 season.

President of basketball operations Lawrence Frank says the team doesn’t even broach the subject of Leonard’s recovery timeline, stating that “no one knows” when he’ll return, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

In the same piece, Youngmisuk relays that Serge Ibaka, who’s recovering from back surgery, will be limited to non-contact drills at the start of training camp, according to Frank.

Youngmisuk also notes that rookie Jason Preston, the 33rd pick in the draft, suffered a foot injury in a group workout recently and will not be available for the start of training camp, which begins next Tuesday, September 28th. Frank said team physicians will determine the severity of the injury in the next couple of days.

Frank declined to say whether all of the players and staff members on the team are fully vaccinated, per Youngmisuk, although he did say that he’s a “huge advocate of the vaccinations.”

There’s more on the Clippers:

  • Zach Harper of The Athletic gave the Clippers a B-minus for their offseason moves. He liked their draft picks and thought Justise Winslow and Harry Giles were decent “buy-low” pickups, but states that ultimately their offseason will depend on how Leonard and Ibaka recover from their surgeries.
  • The Clippers announced in a press release that Brian Shaw and Jay Larranaga will be assistant coaches under Tyronn Lue. The team also promoted Shaun Fein to assistant coach. Shaw’s and Larranaga’s additions were reported in July. Shaw played 14 seasons in the NBA and was the former head coach of the Lakers and Nuggets. He spent last season as the head coach of G League Ignite. Larranaga was an assistant with the Celtics the past nine seasons.
  • In the same release, the Clippers said former NBA player Wesley Johnson will be joining the team in a coaching and development role, along with Cookie Belcher.
  • Frank loves Patrick Beverley and said it wasn’t easy parting with him, but he’s excited for what new addition Eric Bledsoe will bring to the team, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN (via Twitter).