Storyline: Clippers Front Office

114 rumors in this storyline

In this post-“Moneyball” era, many sports franchises have gone to great lengths to maximize their statistical focus, in some cases hiring journalists with a quantitative bent. Just last year, to much less fanfare, Jenkins’s friend Luke Winn left Sports Illustrated, where he’d covered college basketball, to fill a new position created by the Toronto Raptors—director of prospect strategy—that seems to combine old-fashioned scouting with the contemporary vogue for analytics. (“I probably picked up the phone ten times during this process, like, ‘I should call Luke right now,’ ” Jenkins told me. “But I didn’t. I didn’t want to seem like I was at the N.B.A. job fair.”) It stands to reason that there may now be comparative advantages, however small, to be gained from concentrated efforts to assess the intangibles with an outsider’s eyes: about the extent to which boys from chaotic households may become men who crave order in their daily routines, say, or about the predictive nature of automobile preferences.

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It’s also not very expensive, given the disparity between journalists’ wages and athletes’ millions. Jenkins, for his part, downplayed the applicability of Lewis’s theory, perhaps realizing that being implicated as a spy or a therapist would diminish his effectiveness in the role. “It’s not sports psychology,” he said, of his new gig, adding that talking to players who are already under contract with other teams is considered “tampering,” and punishable by fines or worse. Neither, he said, does the job involve “P.R.” He won’t be writing copy for the team’s Web site. The only kind of externally directed writing he could imagine possibly engaging in was helping to craft letters to players’ representatives, or agents, not so much as a primary element of the job but in the collaborative sense of “looking for ways that I can add value.”

Jenkins is believably adamant that the looming sale of the magazine he’d dreamed of writing for since he was fifteen had “absolutely nothing” to do with his seizing an unusual opportunity. He said that he’d always expected to be “the last guy before they turn the lights out,” and that he intends to return to full-time writing, only with a deeper base of knowledge about how the league operates from inside, in the future. He hopes he’ll last in the new job for more than a year, but sounded skeptical of my alternative suggestion that he could remain with the Clippers for as many as five years, let alone the fifteen that Bill James has been with the Red Sox. When I asked if he’d considered writing a book about the experience, he said that he didn’t anticipate doing so.

Doc Rivers set a goal of winning an NBA championship upon taking the job, just as he’d done in Boston, which won a title in 2008. He knew he needed top players to do that. To get stars he needed the perception of the franchise, long one of the league’s least successful and most woebegone, to change. “That has happened,” Rivers said. “Now when you hear people come, when they say, ‘Well I want to go to L.A.,’ and when you hear rumors they want to go to L.A., they mean both teams. And sometimes they mean only our team. To me, that’s a level of success that tells you we’re doing something right here.”
4 weeks ago via ESPN

Jenkins, 41, will be working alongside Clippers president of basketball of operations Lawrence Frank and general manager Michael Winger in the franchise’s reshaped front office. Jenkins has worked at Sports Illustrated for the past 11 years, with assignments that included revelatory cover stories and features on the biggest stars in the NBA. “As a reporter, I can ask a hundred questions to a hundred people, but I could never know what really goes on behind the curtain,” Jenkins told ESPN on Monday night. “The deadline. The draft. Free agency. All the strategy and gymnastics and prep work that goes into those events, but also the every day of an organization. On a personal level, I came to the realization that no matter how many player profiles I write, I still have a ton to learn about the NBA, and the best way to learn it is through immersion.

“We identified Tyrone as a versatile, competitive and tough-minded player who adds to the organizational culture,” said Frank. “Ty worked hard with our staff at Agua Caliente and Los Angeles, and his growth has been a reflection of his commitment to getting better. Together with our team’s player development program, Ty demonstrated impressive improvement and contributed meaningfully to our team last season. We are excited to welcome Ty back to the Clippers.”

On whether Teodosic and Marjanovic will play for Serbia in September: “On Tuesday, I have a final meeting with the Los Angeles Clippers‘ General Manager, Lawrence Frank, after which I will know everything on Milos Teodosic and Boban Marjanovic’s situations and whether they’ll join the team. Both of them travelled to Los Angeles to meet with doctors and athletic trainers. On Monday and Tuesday they will practice, and then a decision will be made. Most likely on Wednesday, the roster will feature 16 players.”

He also likes where he’s at in terms of job description, though he says things haven’t shifted much in his tenure. “I’m still doing basically the same stuff,” Rivers said. “It’s interesting. I don’t think my role has changed since I’ve been there. “When I first came, I was just the coach, but I was involved in every decision. Then I was the president, and I was involved in every decision. Now I’m the coach and whatever other title I have — I have another title, but I don’t even know what that is — but I’m still involved in every decision, so it really hasn’t changed much. My workload has changed some though. It’s less now, and that’s good. Before this last title change, I was hiring different people so I didn’t have to do everything, and that was the intent.”

When the Clippers’ scouting department made their respective prospect rankings, Frank claims they were almost unanimous in evaluating Robinson as an NBA-ready scorer and lottery talent that would be the logical pick in the Clippers’ draft range. “It’d be one thing if I just had that opinion,” Frank said. “But when we do our scout rankings, we don’t allow out other scouts to look at the other scouts’ rankings because we don’t want to get into the group thing and you want to avoid the echo chamber. When you just kept on seeing [Jerome], you’re like, ‘OK, I think we’re onto something.’”

Though Robinson didn’t win over all of his skeptics in the media ahead of the draft — some mock drafts still had him as a late first-round pick as recently as a few days before the draft — Frank and his front office refused to waver in their confidence in the 21-year-old. “Internally we were always very, very high on him,” Frank told The Athletic. “And we thought, if you’re going to allow the mock drafts to determine your decision-making, that’s probably a little bit skewed. But we did think eventually the rest of the basketball media community would catch on to how good he is.”

Almost a Knick? West strongly shot down the notion, which was in circulation earlier this season, that the Knicks made a run at hiring him as a front-office consultant before the Clippers did. “No truth whatsoever,” West said. But he did surprise me a bit by revealing that he fully expected to land with the Knicks in the 1960 draft. The Lakers had the No. 2 overall pick and selected West before the Knicks were forced to settle for Darrall Imhoff at No. 3. Referring to the intense fan interest and media scrutiny in New York, West said: “I always thought that would be an interesting place to be.”

Do the Clippers hold on to those picks and wait for July 2019 to make their next big free-agent push? Do they try to package one or both in a potential trade this off-season to pursue an established star like San Antonio’s Kawhi Leonard? Frank and Ballmer will ultimately make those calls, but West expects to have significant say. “I don’t just want to be a figurehead,” West said. “You want to be a part of the decision-making process. I don’t have the final decision here, but I do have a voice.”

Clippers, Doc Rivers agree to extension?

Although nothing has been made official, all indications are that Rivers and Ballmer have reached an agreement on a multiyear extension that will keep Rivers here for a remodeling job that will begin soon. This is big. This is cornerstone big. This is the Clippers setting the foundation for the post Lob City era with a guy who is coaching even better now than when he led them through the Donald Sterling crisis upon his arrival five years ago.
8 months ago via ESPN

When Altman visited with James in the Cavaliers’ practice facility a week ago, he let him know that there were still talks alive with the LA Clippers on a Jordan deal. What’s more, there was significant progress: Altman had ownership approval to send the Clippers Jae Crowder, Channing Frye, Iman Shumpert and the Cavs’ 2018 first-round pick for Jordan. The Clippers were willing to accept the trade, but on one significant condition. Clippers general manager Michael Winger explained to Altman that LA didn’t want another shooting guard. He hoped to find a third team that would take Shumpert and his $21 million with draft compensation, and have the Clippers get a center back. Altman and Winger agreed to make more calls to try to find a third team to make the deal work. Winger wondered whether Altman would let him talk to Shumpert’s agent about a possible contract buyout, but Altman wanted trade talks to be further along before granting that permission.

There’s a price for that, though. Ownership has no interest in a Sixers-like rebuild, a team source told Yahoo Sports, but it’s hard to see L.A. as anything but middle of the pack. The Clippers were 8-8 without Griffin this season. Bradley is one of the NBA’s most underrated players, and Harris, at 25, is having his best season. Sure, if things break right — the season-ending injury to DeMarcus Cousins will likely clear one team from the field in front of them — the Clips could make the playoffs … where a first-round butt-kicking awaits them.
9 months ago via ESPN

After serving as team president in the NBA’s coveted “dual role” of lead basketball executive and head coach, Doc Rivers is now a mere mortal in the first chair, a job for which he’s under contract through the summer of 2019. Sources with knowledge of the Clippers’ thinking say owner Steve Ballmer is eager to see what Rivers can do as a coach with more limited talented. With the Clippers playing a spirited brand of basketball after (and even amid) their late-autumn swoon, the powers that be have entertained no serious thoughts of a midseason shakeup.
9 months ago via ESPN

He might even agree, to an extent, with those who see him that way. “People are like, ‘Well, his dad [Doc Rivers] gave him his chance.’ Is that true or not? I don’t know. It might be,” Austin Rivers said. “[But] could it be that my pops knew how good I could be because he’s my pops? “He told me on the phone [when the Clippers traded for him in 2015], ‘If it doesn’t work out, we’ll just cut ways at the end of the year, keep it clean, and you can go on and try to figure it out.'”

Paul reportedly had issue with Austin, especially after Doc Rivers was unable to make a rumored deal for Carmelo Anthony that would’ve sent Austin Rivers, Paul Pierce and Crawford to New York. Rivers denies that he rejected a deal in order to keep his son and takes issue with criticism of Austin and how he coached him. “I don’t think we’ve really heard a former player actually say that. It was reported,” Rivers told The Vertical. “I think Austin, it will always be unfair to him, throughout his career. He was a McDonald’s All-American. I guess that was because of me. The game-winning shot against North Carolina? Somehow I made that shot. He was drafted 10th. I guess that was me, too. He’s always got to deal with extra crap. He’s an easy target. It’s very easy for reporters. Use his name, and you’ll get hits. I’ve told Austin this a lot. ‘Is it a fair shake? But the lifestyle you’ve been able to live growing up, you had that advantage.’ ”

They were sitting in a meeting on the eve of free agency, when one of the NBA’s icons captured the room for Blake Griffin. With owner Steve Ballmer, coach Doc Rivers and Los Angeles Clippers teammates, Jerry West captivated Griffin, who made clear his desire to return. West had been hired as a special consultant with the Clippers, and the first task he had embraced was persuading Griffin to re-sign with Los Angeles. For all of the voices in the final meeting before midnight, West’s resonated, and Blake returned.

The Clippers pulled off one of several blockbuster trades in a wild NBA summer when they dealt Chris Paul to the Houston Rockets, but it was Paul who wanted out of Los Angeles, not the other way around. And in an appearance on ESPN’s The Hoop Collective podcast with Kevin Arnovitz, head coach Doc Rivers admitted “there were a lot of reasons” why one of the best point guards in NBA history was ready to move on. “I think he was tired of hearing my voice,” Rivers said. “I think Chris is a guy who is very opinionated, wants to be coached ‘kind of,’ if you know what I’m saying, but wants a partnership as well. And it’s tough from a coaching perspective. You gotta have a partnership but at times, you’ve gotta make the call. I thought that bothered him.

On Monday, the former Lakers legend and Hall of Famer talked about his move south an interview with The Athletic’s Tim Kawakami. “Frankly it was very sad, OK? It really was. A place where I thought that if I was going to work another year or if somebody wanted me to work another year, I thought I could contribute; I did not want to leave. I did not want to leave. I was very happy there. But those things happen sometimes. Obviously to be around a bunch of players that were as together as any I’ve seen and I think more importantly the talent that was on that team and to see the joy. There’s a lot of joy there. I think those are the kind of environments where people really prosper.”
1 year ago via ESPN

Redden worked with Winger in Cleveland, where he rose in the executive ranks as a well-regarded talent evaluator who worked under Danny Ferry, Chris Grant and Griffin. He will complement Winger, who has established a reputation as an expert strategist with a steady administrative hand and strong negotiating skills. For years, the Clippers had among the thinnest staffs in the NBA under the thrifty ownership of Donald Sterling. Since the arrival of Steve Ballmer in 2014, the franchise has grown into a robust organization with a basketball operations department that has expanded exponentially in size. Sources say the team has plans to add another assistant general manager to its brain trust.
1 year ago via ESPN

NBA commissioner Adam Silver believes that Rivers did a great service to the franchise’s value, and to the NBA, with how he held together the organization and its star players through the tumult of the Sterling nightmare. Silver wasn’t necessarily against Rivers’ ascension to the top of the Clippers masthead, but the commissioner has privately expressed concerns to owners and senior franchise officials in several instances, case by case, about the dynamic of the coach-in-charge model, league sources said.
1 year ago via ESPN

Rivers’ losing his front office duties isn’t so much an indictment of his individual fitness for the duties, but the fact that it is suited for no one coach in this modern era. For everyone trying to replicate the San Antonio dynasty, understand this: The Spurs have the greatest coach (Gregg Popovich) and greatest executive (RC Buford) of a generation. As much as it’s the ultimate model, it’s the ultimate aberration too. Popovich defers to Buford’s expertise and judgment, in ways that Minnesota president and coach Tom Thibodeau will likely never do with a GM.
1 year ago via ESPN

LA Clippers owner Steve Ballmer is returning Doc Rivers to the primary duty of head coach, freeing him of front office responsibilities, the owner told ESPN on Friday. Rivers, who held the title of president of basketball operations, will continue to have a strong voice in personnel and organizational matters and will partner with Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank, Ballmer told ESPN Friday. Frank will now oversee basketball operations, including the general manager.
1 year ago via ESPN

“I’ve owned the team for three years now, and I really better understand what an owner’s responsibility is — and it turns out that running a franchise and coaching are two enormous and different jobs,” Ballmer told ESPN on Friday. “The notion that one person can fairly focus on them and give them all the attention they need isn’t the case. To be as good as we can be, to be a championship franchise, we need two functioning strong people building teams out beneath them. There needs to be a healthy discussion and debate with two strong, independent minded people.

Do the Laker moves at all, do they affect you today?” Jerry West: “Well, what have they done? You know something, every year when people… I love Earvin Johnson, OK? I love him. I will admire him forever. But just because people do things doesn’t always make it right. How many times has the first player failed in the draft? Three times. Everyone gets excited about the draft. I’m excited even though the Clippers don’t have a draft pick at this point in time. Laker fans should be excited about it, they should be. But there’s so much more to this than meets the eye.

An official announcement is not expected until next week, another executive said, possibly as early as Monday. “Obviously, it’s attractive to him because he lives in the Los Angeles area and started his career as a player in L.A. with the Lakers,” one executive said. “This is the place for him to go because he’s looking for things to do still. He’s looking for another challenge.” Even after West met with Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and Doc Rivers, the team’s coach and president of basketball operations, on May 30 at the team’s practice facility in Playa Vista, the executives said West “twice changed his mind” before deciding Wednesday that he wanted to join the Clippers.

For one thing, Rivers isn’t leaving the Clippers. He’s owed $22 million-plus over the next two years, and he has the confidence of Ballmer. The Clippers didn’t promote Lawrence Frank to executive vice president of basketball operations, give him a long-term deal, only to tear apart the management structure months later. Ballmer, Rivers and Frank have worked to build out the front office and scouting department, and examine the processes of what they all agreed was the most important summer in franchise history.
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October 15, 2018 | 10:50 pm EDT Update