The Milwaukee Bucks were one of the biggest disappointments of the Orlando Bubble. Widely expected to come out of the East, they failed to make it out of the second round after being roundly dispatched in five games by a hungrier Heat team. In the West, the Clippers were part of a similar script.
The expectation was that we’d at least get to see an all-L.A. showdown in the conference finals, with many predicting the Clippers to emerge on top. Of course, that didn’t happen, and the Clippers were sent into the offseason searching for answers about what went wrong and how to fix it.
They started with the team and Doc Rivers parting ways, an inevitable outcome after Rivers’ postseason failings during his tenure in Los Angeles, but that might mask underlying issues within the organization, namely regarding one of its star players.
In Los Angeles, there is an unquestioned, A-1 superstar in Leonard. His presence both instantly made the Clippers a title contender and also eventually ruffled the feathers of some teammates because of the preferential treatment showed to him from top to bottom.
Players like Beverley, Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams — Clippers bedrocks before the arrival of Leonard and George — bristled when Leonard was permitted to take games off to manage his body and to live in San Diego, which often led to him being late for team flights, league sources said. The team also allowed Leonard to dictate to Rivers when he could be pulled from games, among other things. Lue was on Rivers’ bench for all of this, but the Clippers were Rivers’ show.
Paul George had taken a lot of flak for his brutal performances throughout the playoffs, but when the Clippers needed Kawhi the most in Game 7 against the Nuggets with their season on the line, he was a virtual no-show, scoring just 14 points on 6-for-22 shooting.
It’ll be interesting to see if or how those dynamics change with Tyronn Lue taking over the coaching job on a long-term deal following Rivers’ departure. Lue has certainly had some experience managing egos, as he was able to help get LeBron, Kyrie Irving, and Kevin Love all on the same page during their title run in 2016.
A big part of Lue’s success was his ability to push back against LeBron and demand more of his superstar. He’ll need to replicate some of that in his new position in L.A. with the team’s stars if he wants to help take the Clippers to un-reached heights. How they respond to that remains to be seen.
(Via The Athletic)