Having won in Cleveland, Lue was looking for at least $7 million per season — commensurate with winning an NBA title. Financial terms of his agreement with the Clippers were not immediately disclosed, but his contract is for five years and believed to be in the $7 million range annually, league sources said.
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After several consecutive days of meetings over meals and interviews at the team’s practice facility, the Clippers determined Lue was exactly the type of coach they were looking for. Lue and one other candidate checked every box on the Clippers’ internal checklist, but the Clippers were more impressed with Lue, league sources said. The Clippers consider him an elite tactician.
The Clippers made the decision to hire Lue on Thursday morning, league sources said. With Lue and his representative, Andy Miller, already familiar and friendly with the organization, it was a relatively easy negotiation process.
From that perspective, Lue had a leg up on other candidates. The Clippers understood his high Q rating with the team’s players. The Clippers consulted Leonard and George on the candidates they were considering, and what qualities they sought in a head coach, league sources said. Neither player wanted the final say on the decision, but both offered to share their input, if the Clippers saw it necessary. Ultimately, both players told the Clippers that they trusted the front office and were on board with Lue’s hiring, believing he matches the criteria of what the team needs moving forward, league sources said.
Some changes that Lue will bring to the Clippers next season include better ball movement and a faster pace, league sources said. The Clippers will experiment more on the defensive end, mixing in more zone coverages and varying pick-and-roll schemes. The younger players on the roster — Ivica Zubac, Landry Shamet, Terance Mann and Mfiondu Kabengele — will be given larger roles and more minutes. The Clippers plan to stagger Leonard and George’s minutes more, as well as testing out different role players around them to see what lineup combinations work best.
A key for Lue in his second stint as a head coach will be the collaborative process between him and his staff and the front office. For example, Lue is open to working with the front office to fill out his coaching staff. The Clippers want better synergy between the staff and the front office, league sources said.
After five seasons in Denver, where Wes Unseld Jr. helped transform the Nuggets from a middling defensive team to one that finished 10th in defensive rating last season, Malone’s top assistant is in the running for at least two jobs. Unseld Jr. has already interviewed for the Houston Rockets head coaching vacancy and was scheduled to interview for the Los Angeles Clippers job on Thursday, a league source told The Denver Post.
Sixers assistant coach Kevin Young also interviewed for the head coaching job, and he made a strong impression on the organization, sources said. The Sixers also interviewed Clippers assistant Ty Lue this week, sources said, but Lue is emerging as a strong candidate to replace Rivers with the Clippers. The Clippers are planning to interview other candidates, starting soon, sources said.
But those close to Ballmer knew it was only a matter of time before he put his stamp on the franchise. He made his fortune as a technology entrepreneur by constantly looking to innovate. And once he’d learned the ropes as an NBA owner, he brought that culture to the Clippers. Employees were urged to come up with new ideas and present evidence to support them. So when Ballmer and Rivers began discussing what had gone wrong this season, sources said that instinct is what led Ballmer to question whether a new way of looking at the team, or a new voice, is what the Clippers really needed.
Over the course of about 10 days following the Clippers’ Game 7 loss to the Nuggets, the third consecutive game the team had blown a double-digit lead in the second half, Ballmer and Rivers had multiple lengthy phone conversations, sources said.
Ballmer consulted with Frank, minority shareholder Dennis Wong and consultant Jerry West. Before a final decision was made, sources said Ballmer called several key players — including George and Leonard — to get their opinions. Nothing the players told him, sources said, changed Ballmer’s mind about moving on from Rivers. Ultimately, the decision to part ways with Rivers was Ballmer’s.
Rivers didn’t feel comfortable continuing as coach without Ballmer’s full support, believing a solid relationship between the coach and ownership was fundamental to success in the NBA. Ballmer didn’t feel entirely convinced that Rivers had a better strategy and approach to next season than a new coach with a new viewpoint would. It was made official Monday morning, but sources said it had become obvious over the weekend that the relationship had come to an end.
RIVERS AND BALLMER delved into all of these questions and issues in the 10 days following the season-ending loss to Denver. They simply could not find common ground on a vision for the future. When Rivers and Ballmer spoke Monday, the only thing left to do was discuss how they’d deliver and present the news, sources said.
According to The Athletic’s Sam Amick, talk about Rivers possibly being removed started soon after the loss to Denver. Sources close to the Clippers said that owner Steve Ballmer was understandably furious at the embarrassing finish, but making matters worse was the fact that it was a troubling trend for Rivers, [who has blown three separate 3-1 series leads in his career].
John Hollinger: Losing in the second round was unacceptable for the win-now Clippers, but this is shocking. Insiders felt there was no way it would really happen, and the timing (nearly two weeks after elimination) is odd. Rivers is a top-five coach and immediately becomes a top candidate for any and all openings. Meanwhile, the question is whether the Clippers had already lined up a replacement, and if so, whom.
Mirjam Swanson: Official announcement from the team: “Doc Rivers Departs” pic.twitter.com/D9lFfaC1T3
Doc Rivers: pic.twitter.com/UehImTaSnw
Adrian Wojnarowski: Coach Doc Rivers is out with the Clippers, sources tell ESPN.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Steve Ballmer and Doc Rivers did a short extension over the summer that allowed both sides a chance to escape deal in 2019. As Rivers told reporters, that’s been replaced with a longer-term deal. For Rivers, Lakers were never a consideration. He wanted to crush that talk today.
Dan Woike: Doc Rivers said he and Steve Ballmer have agreed to an extension. Extension originally had an out this summer, but that’s been scrapped. “This is a great place to work.”
The L.A. Clippers today announced that the team has agreed to a contract extension with head coach Doc Rivers. Per club policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed. “Doc is one of the top coaches in the NBA, coming off one of his finest seasons since joining the Clippers,” said L.A. Clippers Chairman Steve Ballmer. “We trust Doc to lead a competitive, tough, hard-working team while upholding a culture of accountability expected to resonate throughout the organization.”
“I am proud of the success we have had here over the last five seasons, but there is more work to be done,” said Rivers. “We are coming off a year where our team battled through many challenges and much adversity, proving deep talent and even greater potential. I am looking forward to getting back to work on the court to develop our players and compete with the NBA’s elite.”
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January 19, 2021 | 2:49 pm EST Update
Eric Koreen: The Raptors have waived Alex Len. He missed the last three games — one because of personal reasons and two as he was in the health and safety protocol. Raptors now have an open roster spot. Len appeared in seven games for the Raptors.