Year 1 of the partnership between Kawhi Leonard and the Los Angeles Clippers started with championship expectations, but ended with a blown series lead, a second-round loss to the Denver Nuggets, and the firing of veteran coach Doc Rivers.
According to The Athletic‘s Jovan Buha and Joe Vardon, Leonard’s landing in L.A. and his star status there also “eventually ruffled the feathers of some teammates because of the preferential treatment showed to him from top to bottom.”
In an article published Thursday in the wake of Tyronn Lue’s promotion from Clippers assistant to head coach, Buha and Vardon included a few details pointing to discontent that had been brewing among a few players with regards to how Rivers and the organization treated Leonard:
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. -Jovan Buha and Joe Vardon, via The Athletic
Questions of chemistry were raised this post-season, with Leonard himself pointing to just that following the Clippers’ Game 7 loss to Denver last month.
“Just got to build,” Leonard told reporters after the loss. “Build some chemistry and we’ve got to get smarter.”
Leonard pointed at the team’s struggles to make shots, and how chemistry issues and “basketball IQ” exposed that further.
“We just couldn’t make shots,” Leonard said. “Felt like we got some good looks — that’s when it comes to the team chemistry, knowing what we should run to get the ball in spots, or just if someone’s getting doubled or they’re packing the paint, try to make other guys make shots and we gotta know what exact spots we need to be, and you know, just gotta carry over and get smarter as a team. Get smarter. Basketball IQ got to get better.”