Lawrence Frank

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).

Clippers’ Lawrence Frank Named Executive Of The Year

Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank has been named the NBA’s Executive of the Year for the 2019/20 season, the league announced today in a press release.

Frank received 10 of 29 first-place votes for the award, which is voted on by a panel of team front office executives from around the league. He beat out Sam Presti of the Thunder and Pat Riley of the Heat, who finished second and third, respectively.

The criteria for the Executive of the Year award aren’t clearly defined, so some top vote-getters are recognized for the splashy or savvy roster moves they made within the last year, while others receive votes for an accumulation of the moves made in recent years that helped build their current rosters.

In Frank’s case, it’s safe to say he earned Executive of the Year honors for the job he did landing Kawhi Leonard and Paul George on the same night last July, instantly turning the Clippers into title contenders. The team also re-signed Patrick Beverley, Ivica Zubac, JaMychal Green, and Rodney McGruder to new deals, and acquired Maurice Harkless and a first-round pick in a four-team deal during the free agent period last summer. Frank later flipped Harkless and a first-rounder to the Knicks for Marcus Morris.

Frank’s roster moves didn’t ultimately result in a deep playoff run for the Clippers, who were upset in the second round by the Nuggets. However, voting for the Executive of the Year award was completed prior to the NBA’s summer restart.

The full voting results for Executive of the Year can be found below. Teams’ heads of basketball operations were awarded five points for each first-place vote, three points for a second-place vote, and one point for a third-place vote.

  1. Lawrence Frank, Clippers (61 points)
  2. Sam Presti, Thunder (41)
  3. Pat Riley, Heat (39)
  4. Jon Horst, Bucks (27)
  5. Masai Ujiri, Raptors (20)
  6. Zach Kleiman, Grizzlies (16)
  7. Rob Pelinka, Lakers (14)
  8. Donn Nelson, Mavericks (8)
  9. Tim Connelly, Nuggets (7)
  10. Danny Ainge, Celtics (6)
  11. Bob Myers, Warriors (5)
  12. Jeff Weltman, Magic (5)
  13. David Griffin, Pelicans (5)
  14. James Jones, Suns (3)
  15. Ed Stefanski, Pistons (1)
  16. Dennis Lindsey, Jazz (1)
  17. Kevin Pritchard, Pacers (1)
  18. Sean Marks, Nets (1)

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Pacific Notes: Kuzma, Clippers, Frank, Kings

When his name popped up in Anthony Davis-related trade rumors a year ago, Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma followed the NBA rumor mill with interest, but ultimately stayed put even when the team swung a deal for Davis in the summer. Kuzma has once again been identified as a potential trade candidate this season, but he believes he has gotten better at blocking out that speculation this time around, per Bill Oram of The Athletic.

“I consumed it more last year,” he said. “This year is different I don’t care at all, but last year it was new and foreign, so it was like more of a can’t-really-escape-it thing. But for me it’s a little bit easier now. I don’t really have my Twitter like that. I don’t really use it.”

As Oram notes, the Lakers are no longer in developmental mode like they were in Kuzma’s first year or two in the league, and the third-year forward is one of the only young players left on the roster. As such, the club needs Kuzma to be on its timeline, which has put some added pressure on him this season. He has done his best to live up to those expectations.

“Everybody knows that I’m a learner and I want to become a good player,” Kuzma said. “So everybody’s helping me. I think it reflects in my game all the way down from my defense learning from Avery (Bradley), Dwight (Howard), A.D. and offensively just slowing down, develop my pick-and-roll game from other guys.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • The Clippers have moved into a tie for second place in the Western Conference with a 30-13 record, but it hasn’t exactly been smooth sailing for the franchise in the first season of its new super-team era, writes ESPN’s Brian Windhorst. After a first half that saw players express frustration about a lack of cohesion and Doc Rivers express annoyance at inconsistent effort, the club will be looking to put it all together in the second half as the postseason approaches.
  • Chris Iseman of provides an interesting behind-the-scenes look at how Lawrence Frank ascended to the top of the Clippers‘ front office after a long career as a coach. As Iseman details, the Clippers’ current president of basketball operations was initially reluctant to take on the role due to his lack of management experience.
  • The Kings have already made one significant trade this winter, sending three players to Portland for Kent Bazemore, Anthony Tolliver, and two second-round picks. However, they may not be done. James Ham of NBC Sports California previews the trade deadline for Sacramento, exploring what moves could be coming next.

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.”