Tyronn Lue

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.

California Notes: Kings, Ty Lue, Wiseman, Wiggins

Ahead of the 2020/21 season, John Hollinger of the Athletic wondered if the Kings will be able to move the contracts of shooting guard Buddy Hield and forward Harrison Barnes, and whether or not Sacramento would be able to surround newly-extended point guard De’Aaron Fox with enough help to reach the playoffs.

New Kings GM Monte McNair has expressed a desire to give Fox similarly-aged teammates. Hield is currently in the first season of his four-year, $94MM extension, which declines over each year, while Barnes has three years and $61MM left on his deal. Moving at least one of those players for assets could help in McNair’s quest to find players who align with Fox’s timeline.

There’s more out of California:

  • The Athletic’s Bill Oram and Joe Vardon explore the process last summer that ultimately led to the Lakers hiring Frank Vogel as their head coach in 2019 and the Clippers promoting Tyronn Lue to their head coaching job this year. Vogel had expected to be a top assistant on Lue’s staff with the latter serving as head coach for the Lakers in May of 2019 when negotiations between the Lakers and Lue fell apart. The Lakers would not budge from a three-year, $18MM offer, while Lue was hoping to receive closer to a five-year, $35MM deal. Lue ultimately pivoted to become the lead assistant on the staff of then-Clippers head coach Doc Rivers. Lue assumed the head job this offseason.
  • Though the Warriors may have gotten soundly defeated by the Nets in their season opener, No. 2 draft pick James Wiseman flashed plenty of potential in his NBA debut, according to Marcus Thompson II of the Athletic. The rookie center scored 19 points and pulled down six rebounds in just 24 minutes. “He’s a presence,” star point guard Stephen Curry said, “and I think he showed exactly how he can open up the floor for me in the middle of those pick-and-rolls and put pressure on the rim.”
  • Warriors small forward Andrew Wiggins is hoping to be more aggressive on offense in Golden State’s Christmas bout against the Bucks, per Anthony Slater of the Athletic“Shoot, I hope I find that flow next game,” Wiggins said. “I’m not trying to wait. I’m trying to get after it and get it as soon as possible.”

Sixers Notes: Morey, Simmons, Lue, Embiid

Daryl Morey set off an international firestorm last year with a tweet supporting protestors in Hong Kong, and he says in an interview with ESPN’s Jackie MacMullan that he feared it would cost him his NBA career.

The Sixers‘ new president of basketball operations was still general manager in Houston when he sent the tweet in October of 2019. Although the Rockets resisted demands from Chinese officials to fire Morey, he understood that he put the league in a difficult position considering the business dealings it has in China.

Morey explained that he had gotten to know several Hong Kong residents in business school and wanted to show solidarity for their cause. Although he said he’s still “very comfortable” with his decision, the tweet caused a huge controversy and cost the league hundreds of millions in international revenue.

“In the last 12 months, I had moments where I thought I might never work in the NBA again, for reasons I was willing to go down for,” Morey said. “But I love working, I love what I do, and I didn’t want that to happen.”

There’s more from Philadelphia:

  • Ben Simmons has heard his name mentioned as a potential trade piece to bring James Harden to Philadelphia, but he’s focused on the season rather than the rumors, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “I come in every day, take it a day at a time, ready to work,” Simmons said. “I’m with my teammates. … Every day I wake up, every time I got a Sixers uniform on, I’m representing the Sixers. So my mentality never changes. I’m here to win a championship. That goal is never gonna change. I know things are always going to be said in the media, and rumors and things like that, but my goal is to come in every day and get better and help the team that I’m on win a championship.”
  • Tyronn Lue was scheduled to interview for the Sixers’ head coaching job in September, but he never had Joel Embiid‘s support, according to Bill Oram and Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Lue had the backing of agent Rich Paul, who represents Simmons, and Embiid wasn’t comfortable with Simmons’ “guy” being hired. Embiid also opposed Lue for “X’s and O’s reasons,” per The Athletic’s duo.
  • The additions of Doc Rivers and Morey brought excitement to Philadelphia, but Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer warns Sixers fans to be realistic in their expectations. He believes that unless Morey can upgrade the supporting cast around Embiid and Simmons, the Sixers will be in the running for fifth place in a more competitive Eastern Conference.

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.

Harden Requires Six Negative COVID-19 Tests Before Being Cleared

Rockets star James Harden will be required to register negative coronavirus tests for six consecutive days before receiving clearance to join the team for group workouts, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and ESPN’s Tim MacMahon (Twitter links).

As MacMahon explains in an ESPN story, the NBA required three consecutive negative tests from most players before they were permitted to enter team facilities for individual workouts. However, Harden arrived in Houston late and violated league policies by attending parties and clubs in Atlanta and Las Vegas without wearing a face mask, subjecting him to a longer testing period.

The timeline should put Harden on track to join his teammates for practice on Monday, assuming he doesn’t test positive for COVID-19 during the next few days. Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle notes (via Twitter) that Harden wasn’t going to fly to Chicago for the Rockets’ preseason games against the Bulls on Friday and Sunday anyway, so this shouldn’t actually delay his practice debut.

Asked today about Harden’s status, Rockets head coach Stephen Silas said he had the opportunity to say hello to the former MVP on Wednesday, per MacMahon. Silas likely won’t get a chance for a longer face-to-face interaction until Harden clears the testing process.

Interestingly, Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today reported today that Harden made his offseason trade request as soon as Houston hired Silas as its new head coach.

While that doesn’t necessarily mean that Harden sought a trade as a direct response to Silas’ hiring, Zillgitt says the former Mavericks assistant wasn’t among the 31-year-old’s top choices when management asked for his input on the coaching search. Harden preferred Tyronn Lue, according to Joe Vardon of The Athletic.

We learned on Tuesday that Harden has indicated to the Rockets that he’s open to being dealt to teams besides Brooklyn, including the Sixers.

Pacific Notes: CP3, Suns, Clippers, Ibaka, Morris, Warriors

At age 35, Chris Paul is more than a decade older than Suns cornerstone players Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton. However, the star point guard doesn’t plan to simply be the veteran mentor on a young Phoenix roster — he made it clear during his first media session this week that he also wants to help the team get back to the postseason, as Royce Young of ESPN writes.

“Everyone always talks about what I can teach (Booker) or teach some of these other guys, but they’re teaching me at the same time too,” Paul said. “I’m not James Naismith by no means. First things first, I’m not just coming in here trying to teach everybody. I’m his teammate. We’re here to hoop, we’re here to compete and that’s how I approach this.”

Meanwhile, Booker and Ayton are excited by the opportunity to team up with a 10-time All-Star like Paul, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic, who says both players were shocked when they first heard about the trade bringing CP3 to Phoenix.

“I wanted to do a backflip,” Ayton said. “You ever seen a seven-footer do a backflip? OK. That’s how excited I was.”

Besides getting an opportunity to play with up-and-coming stars like Booker and Ayton, Paul is looking forward to reuniting with head coach Monty Williams, whom he played for in New Orleans for a single season 10 years ago. Williams said this week that he thinks both he and Paul have “grown a lot” in the last decade.

“I think we both were really headstrong, too, back then,” Williams said, according to Young. “I was walking around like a dictator ready to cut somebody’s head off, trying to implement my way and my program. I don’t think I was really good at allowing him to do what the great ones do. There were times I felt like I took the paintbrush out of (Paul’s) hand.”

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

  • After chemistry issues helped sink the Clippers last season, head coach Tyronn Lue is confident he’ll be able to hold players accountable in his new role by always being blunt and honest, writes Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register. “What I learned from Brian Shaw a long time ago was always tell the truth, whether they like it or not,” Lue said. “Even (back in his playing days) with Kobe and Shaq, just telling those guys the truth. They might not like it, but they respect it.”
  • Serge Ibaka‘s friendship with Kawhi Leonard was a factor in his decision to join the Clippers in free agency, he said on Thursday, as Swanson relays in a separate O.C. Register story. “One thing about me and Kawhi is like, there is no ego in our friendship,” Ibaka said. “… I know who he is and he knows as a teammate what I can do for him, for the team and it is make things smoother and easier.”
  • Lakers forward Markieff Morris said this week that rumors last month about him potentially teaming up with twin brother Marcus Morris for the Clippers were “just talk,” per Swanson. “They were just trying to scare Lakers fans,” Markieff said.
  • Warriors big man Marquese Chriss is confident that there will be plenty of minutes at center to go around around for him, Kevon Looney, and No. 2 overall pick James Wiseman, as Marcus White of NBC Sports Bay Area details.

Pacific Notes: Clippers, Batum, Hield, Suns, Warriors

In a fascinating, in-depth article for The Athletic, Jovan Buha takes a deep dive into the chemistry issues that plagued the Clippers during the 2019/20 season, exploring the club’s leadership void and various players’ grievances with the preferential treatment that star forwards Kawhi Leonard and Paul George received.

While Buha and others have reported about the Clippers’ locker room issues throughout the year, the latest Athletic story includes more specific details, including many of the perks provided to Leonard and George that irked teammates and compromised the positive culture that players bought into during the previous two seasons.

According to Buha, the two stars had power over the Clippers’ practice and travel schedule. Additionally, teammates believed Leonard and George were allowed to pick and choose when they played (not just sitting out games, but manipulating their playing time within games).

There are too many specific stories and details in Buha’s report to pass along all of them, but the upshot is that the Clippers are hoping new head coach Tyronn Lue – with the help of new roster additions like Serge Ibaka – will be able to address many of those issues, putting a greater emphasis on accountability. Sources tell The Athletic that players are excited to play for Lue and that Leonard and George are aware they must “establish a healthier locker room dynamic” in 2020/21.

Here’s more from around the Pacific:

Clippers Finalizing Deals With Billups, Drew

The Clippers are finalizing deals with Chauncey Billups and Larry Drew to have them join head coach Tyronn Lue‘s staff as assistants, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

Both Billups and Drew have long been expected to join the Clippers, who fired longtime head coach Doc Rivers in September after seven seasons. Along with Billups and Drew, former Nets coach Kenny Atkinson and Heat assistant Dan Craig are also expected to join the team for next season.

Billups, a 17-year NBA veteran, worked for the Clippers as a broadcaster during the 2019/20 season and shares a close relationship with Lue. This will be his first coaching job since retiring back in 2014.

Drew, a well-respected assistant with the Cavaliers, spent the past six years in Cleveland. He was part of the 2016 Cavs’ championship team led by LeBron James, previously serving in assistant coaching roles with the Lakers, Pistons, Wizards, Nets and Hawks from 1992-2013. He also served as head coach of the Bucks during the 2013/14 season.

The Clippers finished with a 49-23 record last year and were eliminated by the Nuggets in the second round of the playoffs after a seven-game duel.

Rockets Notes: Lucas, Van Gundy, Harden, More

Although new Rockets general manager Rafael Stone opted for Stephen Silas over John Lucas as the team’s new head coach, Stone has been Lucas’ “biggest backer” within the organization in recent years, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times. Stone was a driving force in bringing Lucas back to coaching in 2016, when Houston hired him as its director of player development, says Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.

The Rockets and Silas are working hard to keep Lucas on the team’s staff and to install him in a more prominent role, tweets Mark Berman of FOX 26 Houston. A source tells Feigen that, as of Tuesday, the two sides were in “extensive talks” on a deal that would keep Lucas in Houston as a member of Silas’ staff. While no deal is in place yet, there’s optimism one could get done on Wednesday, Feigen notes.

Here’s more on the Rockets:

  • Sources tell Marc Berman of The New York Post that Jeff Van Gundy “sent mixed vibes” regarding his interest in the Rockets’ job after interviewing with the team. Berman speculates that Van Gundy may have had concerns about the James Harden/Russell Westbrook fit or that he was just comfortable with his role as an analyst for ABC and ESPN.
  • According to Berman, some Rockets players were pulling for Lucas to get the team’s head coaching job. Marc Stein, meanwhile, says Harden’s top two endorsements for Lucas and Tyronn Lue. Rival teams are wondering if Harden is at all perturbed by the club’s eventual hire and whether the Rockets will become open to trading their superstar guard, Stein adds. Based on other recent reports, it sounds like that’s not an option Houston will consider this offseason.
  • In a pair of stories for The Athletic, Kelly Iko and John Hollinger evaluated a series of hypothetical trades involving the Rockets.

Pacific Notes: Green, Ayton, Oubre, Lue

Lakers guard Danny Green is confident the team is capable of repeating as NBA champions during the 2020/21 season, Adam Zagoria of Forbes.com writes. 

Los Angeles is coming off its first championship since 2010 with superstar performances from LeBron James and Anthony Davis, plus noteworthy production from rotation players such as Green, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard, Kyle Kuzma and Alex Caruso.

“For sure, I think we can definitely get one more for sure,” Green said. “It’s going to be tough because we have so many free agents, with 10 guys that are free agents. Trying to bring everybody back and reconstruct the contracts, it’s going to be difficult, but when you have the nucleus of LeBron and AD — if they bring back AD — that’s pretty much what you need. You don’t need much else around them.”

Among the players set to enter unrestricted free agency are Howard and Markieff Morris, with Rondo and Caldwell-Pope expected to decline their player options and do the same. The others include Davis (who’s expected to re-sign), JaVale McGee ($4.2MM player option), Dion Waiters, J.R. Smith and Jared Dudley. Avery Bradley holds a $5MM player option for next season.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division tonight:

  • Suns center Deandre Ayton could prove to be the ultimate difference-maker for the team next season and beyond, Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic writes. Ayton, who turned 22 in July, averaged 18.2 points, 11.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 38 games last season. He was the team’s No. 1 pick in the 2018 NBA draft.
  • Rankin examines five potential trade destinations for Kelly Oubre Jr. in a separate article for The Arizona Republic. Oubre, who’s on an expiring contract for 2020/21, could be used in trade conversations going forward — much like he was around the trade deadline last February. Oubre averaged a career-high 18.7 points per game on 45% shooting this past season.
  • Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times examines how the Clippers are relying on Tyronn Lue‘s ‘Midas touch’ going forward. Lue, who is highly respected by players and officials across the league, was recently promoted to head coach with the team after serving as an assistant last season. “I’ve never found anyone that doesn’t just rave about Ty Lue the person,” one league executive told Greif.