Harrell approached his teammate about the risky pass, with George not taking responsibility and arguing the pass could have been caught had Harrell made the right play, sources said. This set off the NBA Sixth Man of the Year. Harrell responded with something along the lines of, “You’re always right. Nobody can tell you nothing,” and expletives were uttered from both players, sources said. George eventually toned down his rhetoric, but a heated Harrell wasn’t having it. Teammates began clapping on the sideline, in part to disguise what was going on and in an attempt to defuse the situation. The incident deescalated shortly after as coach Doc Rivers took his seat to go over the game plan.
Internally, the Clips need to worry less about people who write about their iffy chemistry and more about fixing their iffy chemistry. Solving this problem will take some sleuthing in end-of-season meetings. Was it one person? A combination? Were there bad apples or was there just a misunderstanding? Do they need another locker room leader? We don’t really know the answers, but these are huge questions that will inevitably dictate some of the Clippers’ offseason approach.
Pushed by the Nuggets again in a Western Conference semifinal, the Clippers saw their commanding 3-1 series lead disappear in a run of missed shots, missed stops and missed opportunities that revealed that their inconsistency was still present months later. They flexed their championship potential while building leads of 16, 19 and 12 points against the Nuggets in the series' final three games. They also looked helpless when Denver began its rallies. “They ran into a real team that played together, not in spite of each other,” said one league executive.
The rapport simply wasn’t there for the Clippers, and it certainly wasn’t there in Game 2 when Montrezl Harrell and George got into a heated verbal exchange during a timeout, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Early in the second quarter, a struggling George had committed two careless turnovers in less than a minute. The second mishap was a half-court pass to Harrell, who was near the paint but surrounded by Murray and Michael Porter Jr. Murray picked off the pass. Seconds later, the Clippers called a timeout.
Harrell approached his teammate about the risky pass, with George not taking responsibility and arguing the pass could have been caught had Harrell made the right play, sources said. This set off the NBA Sixth Man of the Year.
Harrell responded with something along the lines of, “You’re always right. Nobody can tell you nothing,” and expletives were uttered from both players, sources said. George eventually toned down his rhetoric, but a heated Harrell wasn’t having it. Teammates began clapping on the sideline, in part to disguise what was going on and in an attempt to defuse the situation. The incident deescalated shortly after as coach Doc Rivers took his seat to go over the game plan.
Andrew Greif: Doc, asked about preferential treatment for Kawhi: "Nothing more than anyone else gets. They all get special treatment. ... I would say all 15 of my players get preferential treatment at some point and they’re going to continue to get that."
Andrew Greif: Doc, asked abt Athletic report, said in part, "Like I’ve always said everyone’s not treated the same, they shouldn’t be. This team as far as chemistry has been phenomenal. This has been a joyful team. Other than injury this has been a joy to coach so far."
Montrezl Harrell had spoken his truth, telling the world on Jan. 4, after a 26-point home loss to the Memphis Grizzlies, about the frustrations that had surfaced inside the Clippers’ complicated locker room. Now it was Doc Rivers’ turn. The 58-year-old, who is one of just six current NBA head coaches to have won a title, has been known to take the head-on approach to discussing disagreements with his players, and so it was that he decided to address Harrell’s unfiltered media session from the afternoon before. With his Clippers set to host the New York Knicks that afternoon in the second of a home back-to-back set, sources say Rivers lit into his team in the pregame meeting and directed his ire at Harrell multiple times in reference to the comments he had made.
The gist of the expletive-laden message had been sent loud and clear: Keep your frustrations internal. Don’t vent to the media and create distractions for this locker room. But the damage was done. Harrell, the 25-year-old center whose passion had shone through in those candid three minutes with reporters, had pulled back the Clippers’ curtain just enough to make us wonder: After executing one of the most stunning moves of the summer, adding superstars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George to a team that was among the league’s most cohesive and gritty before they arrived, why did these Clippers — even on those winning nights — seem somewhat off?
As more than a dozen sources shared in The Athletic’s reporting on the matter, the transition from the team’s overachieving past to the promising present has not been seamless. From the frustrations relating to Leonard’s injury management and his quiet ways, to the different views regarding regular-season competition, to the reality that their chosen style of play isn’t always conducive to collective joy, there are issues tugging at this talented team that will need to be resolved by the time the playoffs come around. Harrell, sources say, was hardly alone when it came to some of the sentiments he had shared.
The adjustment period with Leonard and George was inevitable, especially in a confident Clippers locker room where they took so much understandable pride in what they accomplished last season. Without an All-Star, the Clippers finished 48-34 and — with Beverley, Lou Williams, Harrell and all the rest leading the way — even took two games from the vaunted Golden State Warriors in the first round of the 2019 playoffs. At the time, it was a perfect recruiting pitch for players of Leonard’s and George’s caliber. Fast forward to this season, and the introduction of the injury management lifestyle has led to a shift in ethos and, at times, made for an awkward adjustment. What’s more, this was hardly the first time that the combination of Leonard’s unique handling of his health and his sometimes-distant personality has led to questions about team chemistry.
According to Clippers sources, that’s precisely why they refer to Leonard’s situation more accurately as ‘injury management.’ As The Athletic reported in early November, the fact that Leonard was not considered a “fully healthy player” meant he would sit out as often as the doctors advised this season. Sources say the medical advice, at present, still mandates that he not play in back-to-back games — hence the fact that he sat out against the Hawks despite the fact that the team was already without two other key players.
Even Leonard’s biggest supporters will admit that he is a lead-by-example type, and the fact that George tends to be the same means there is occasional uncertainty about whose voice should rise above the rest. “I think it boils down to Kawhi not talking, and so who is their true leader?” one source with knowledge of the Clippers’ dynamics said. “How do you get around that?”
Mirjam Swanson: JaMychal Green on righting the ship: "We had a team meeting and talked to each other. We really been embarrassed losing like we did yesterday. We had to pull together defensively. We're getting on the same page."
Andrew Greif: Doc Rivers' reaction to Montrezl Harrell's comment yesterday that the Clippers are not a great team right now: "Do we believe we can beat anybody? We do. But that's not good enough. I need our guys to understand that. We have work to do." His full answer below: pic.twitter.com/bUEYsl1aqx
Jovan Buha: Marcin Gortat retweeted Clipper Darrell’s tweet about it being heartbreaking to bench him after eight games and break his consecutive games started streak 👀 pic.twitter.com/Lp6oBxy2xi
Austin Rivers: Apologize to the fans for using that language....I was simply trying to stick up for my teammate being heckled at. Ended up barking at the wrong fan. Apologies again! All love 🙏🏼
Frustrating times for the Clippers. Even a three-game win streak didn’t alleviate the pain of the nine-game losing streak that preceded it, because the “turnaround” came against three bad teams, and Blake Griffin got hurt during it. With L.A. on its way to a 126-107 home loss to the Jazz last night, Austin Rivers confronted a courtside fan. The Clippers guard clearly told the fan to “shut the f— up.”
The Clippers haven’t won a game in three weeks. That’s why talk has been rampant around the NBA that Coach Doc Rivers could be out the door soon. It’s unlikely Rivers would want to sign up for a long rebuilding project, and if things continue to go sideways in Los Angeles, selling off pieces seems like the only logical step for the Clippers.
“I’m not worried about us when we play in the playoffs being ready and playing hard,” Rivers said. “But I still am concerned about consistency. Can you fix it in (seven) games? I don’t know. We’ll see.”
Rivers’ team blew an 18-point lead in the final five minutes to lose to the Sacramento Kings on Sunday. Chris Paul called it the worst regular-season loss of his career. Rivers said it was “up there” for him.
Two days after the Clippers suffered the season’s most damning loss, DeAndre Jordan stared down at assembled cameras and microphones. Amid a wild thicket of bed-head dreads, a patch of locks sprouted from his forehead, pointing upward like a cluster of daffodils. “It’s a struggle right now,” Jordan said Tuesday morning. “My hair is a representation of the struggle we’ve had.”
Bill Oram: DeAndre Jordan: "It's a struggle right now. My hair is a representation of the struggle we've had." pic.twitter.com/abf61J9ued
There’s not been some massive overhaul in how the players on the team view each other. The clashes still exist – and will continue to exist, Griffin said. “I don’t think people realize how much teammates are going to have to (slams fists into one another) sometime. You know?” he said. “Every team does that. Listen to Mo (Speights) talk about Golden State. Listen to Paul (Pierce) talk about Boston. Every team does that. And when you win, it doesn’t matter. “... Anytime you’re trying to achieve something this big, it’s going to happen.” Griffin said he never subscribed into those disagreements defining the Clippers’ failures. “People try to make it a thing,” he said. “I’ve never really bought that.”
On one of the next possessions, the two players were in a similar situation. This time, they executed beautifully, with Redick perfectly reading the Griffin pass and scoring. Neither player was right; neither was wrong. “That was it,” Griffin told the Southern California News Group Wednesday night. “ ... It’s about getting it right – not being right – with this team. Maybe, in years past, it was more about being right.”
In a radio interview with Colin Cowherd on Thursday, Davis, who hasn't played in an NBA game in over a year after undergoing ankle surgery in September, was critical of his ex-teammate, particularly for dribbling the ball too much. "He has his way about himself," Davis said when asked if Paul was a problem in the locker room. "It's, 'I'm Chris Paul, give me the ball, I'm gonna dribble, dribble, dribble, dribble, dribble, dribble, dribble, dribble, might pass if it looks good, or I'll shoot.'"
September 26, 2020 | 7:47 am EDT Update
Brian Windhorst: The Thunder are beginning to look at a rebuild, which is one of the reasons why Billy Donovan did not stay. So with the expectation this could be a first-time head coach. Some of the names that I’ve heard: David Vanterpool, who is an assistant with the Timberwolves. Adrian Griffin, who’s been a candidate for jobs over the years, recently with Toronto. And watch out for a sleeper candidate: Will Hardy, assistant with the San Antonio Spurs, a lot of people are very high on him.
Brian Windhorst on Rockets’ coaching search: Keep an eye on former Rocket, a guy who won a championship in Houston, Sam Cassell. And if not him, one of the favorites is our colleague here at ESPN, former Rockets coach Jeff Van Gundy, in the mix for this job.
Fox is the team’s best chance to accomplish that goal, although McNair has to make a major commitment to the former Kentucky Wildcat this season. League sources have confirmed to NBC Sports California that the Kings, under previous management, already had a discussion with Fox’s representation on an extension. Depending on where the NBA’s final salary cap numbers come in, Fox is eligible for a five-year max money contract worth between $150-180 million. Don’t expect a discounted rate. He will ask for and likely get whatever the maximum is allowed under the collective bargaining agreement.
Ntilikina and Smith both are in the final years of their rookie contracts and haven’t lit the league on fire yet. They have vastly different styles. Ntilikina is a playmaker and defender, while Smith is a scorer and penetrator. Smith has even changed his jersey number to No. 4 — which he wore at North Carolina State. “We’re three days in, so I’m getting to know both guys,’’ Thibodeau said after the third day of voluntary group practices that is part of the NBA’s in-market OTAs for the “Delete 8.’’
“I like what they’ve done so far. They got to continue to work. There’s often times ups and downs for young players. There’s a learning curve they have to go through. Some experiences will be better than others. “They both have had some good moments in the league. You want to build a consistency. And how do you get there? You have to do it through your work. You have to learn from the experiences. And you have to be disciplined. And so, hopefully we can get there this is a very important offseason for both players.”
As it happened, Butler’s hard-nosed approach wasn’t accepted by Minnesota’s ownership, management or their young players. Butler asked to be traded and Thibodeau was soon out of a job. “Butler didn’t like some of the guys’ lack of professionalism,” one NBA source told The Post. “[Jimmy] and Tom had long talks about how to deal with it. When Butler realized it was unsolvable, he lashed out at the organization. His clock was ticking on his prime and didn’t want to waste it and forced his way out. Tommy was telling him to have patience, see it through.”
Boston overcame a 12-point first-half deficit, its largest comeback when facing elimination in 25 years, according to ESPN Stats & Info. “Boston played great in that second half,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They deserved and earned what they got. We understand how tough it is to win in the playoffs. We did not compete hard enough defensively, and we paid the price for that. But you do have to credit Boston. They played with great force, particularly off the dribble.”
During a huddle in the second half, coach Brad Stevens told his players that, for the first time in several games, they were playing Celtics basketball. Though this was probably obvious to anyone who has watched this conference finals series, it was a powerful statement that spoke to both how much of a departure the Celtics’ recent efforts have been from their ideal selves, and to Boston’s potential to be a two-way monster when the players are confident and aggressive. “He was absolutely right, we didn’t play the way we wanted the whole series,” Theis said. “We didn’t play our defense, we did adjustments and we just went back to our system the way we played all year. Everybody felt comfortable in our system. You could tell in the third quarter everybody was just enjoying being out there.”
Rachel Nichols: Brad Stevens told me at halftime that several players spoke up, talking about how dire the moment was and how they had to save their season. Jayson Tatum was one of them – he just told me he’s proud of how the group responded afterward.
Sean Grande: Brad on the Miami zone…”I hear all the time ‘get the ball to the middle of [it]. When you have Butler, Iguodala and Bam in the middle of the zone that’s how you turn it over. You’ve got to create action before the passes. If you stare at it, they’re going to steal it.”
With a berth in the NBA Finals on the line, Adebayo wanted all the blame for Miami’s ugly second half and the 121-108 loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals. “I played like s— — bottom line — (and) I can’t,” said Adebayo, who finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, but along with his Heat teammates couldn’t slow the Celtics during a 41-point, third-quarter outburst and couldn’t stop Boston from trimming the Heat’s series lead to 3-2. “I’ll put that game on me,” he continued. “It’s not my teammates’ fault. It’s not my coaches’ fault. It’s me. I missed too many shots I should have made. … I wasn’t being the defensive anchor I should’ve been. I don’t think I was communicating fast enough. I feel like I was a step behind today. I wasn’t a difference-maker today. I didn’t get us into fast enough triggers. That’s on me.”