With NBA season coming fast, Clippers have a lot to consider, and quickly – Press Enterprise
It’s crunch time already, and the season hasn’t started.
On Monday, the NBA and the players’ union came to terms on an amended collective bargaining agreement and the board of governors approved it Tuesday, meaning the league can officially push fast forward on all the typical offseason events. Free agency negotiations begin Nov. 20 at 3 p.m. PST, fewer than 48 hours after the NBA Draft and fewer than two full days before free-agent signings are permitted. Then training camps open Dec. 1.
It will be a challenging deadline to construct rosters and balance books for every team, including the Clippers – whose revamped coaching staff, under Tyronn Lue, also must implement a new system and work to build chemistry before the reduced 72-game season begins Dec. 22.
Led by Lawrence Frank, the team’s president of basketball operations (who was lauded last season as the league’s Executive of the Year), the Clippers’ front office tips off the frenzied preseason with the draft on Nov. 18, when they’ll have just their late second-round pick (No. 57 overall) after trading their first-round pick (No. 27) to New York in February as part of the three-team deal that brought Marcus Morris Sr. to L.A.
Then, in a blink, free agency.
The Clippers – now aware they are working with a $109.1 million salary cap and a $132.6 million luxury tax cap – must figure out how best to supplement the efforts of All-Stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, both of whom can opt out of their contracts after this coming season.
“Given that we don’t have a whole lot of picks going forward, (it’s important) how we sort of work in the margins and really find and develop talent and how we use our exceptions and our veteran minimums,” Clippers chairman Steve Ballmer said recently on a Zoom call with reporters.
“There’s a lot of work. And I would say we’ve made big moves, bold moves under Lawrence’s leadership, but we are going to have to continue to grind in every area of roster development.”
That means deciding what to do with several free agents who were key contributors on the 2019-20 squad. The Clippers’ second-place finish in the Western Conference was the best in franchise history but their second-round collapse was reminiscent of other bitter playoff shortcomings, leading to Coach Doc Rivers’ departure.
Montrezl Harrell’s two-year, $12 million deal expired after the season, as did Morris’ one-year $15 million deal, which he signed with the Knicks. Also, versatile forward JaMychal Green can opt out of the last year of his deal, for which he’s owed $5 million next season.
Harrell, 26, established himself as an undersized 6-foot-7 backup center for the Clippers. And he’s coming off his best season yet: His 18.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 27.8 minutes per game were career highs and netted him the NBA Sixth Man of the Year award.
But Harrell struggled in the bubble, after spending the run-up to the playoffs away from the team and with his family mourning the loss of his grandmother. The Clippers were plus-15.1 points per 100 possessions in the playoffs with Harrell off the court and minus-11.9 with him on.
Morris, 31, was the Clippers’ fourth-highest scorer during the playoffs, averaging 11.8 points on 50.5 percent shooting, including making 47.5 percent of his 4.5 3-point attempts per game.
Green, 30, re-signed with the Clippers last offseason, wanting to play for a championship contender. With a player option this offseason, the 6-8 Alabama native has another decision looming following a season in which he averaged 6.8 points and 6.2 rebounds in 20.7 minutes.
Point guard Reggie Jackson, whom the Clippers signed off waivers in February, also is an unrestricted free agent who might find another home in the NBA’s speed round of musical chairs.
The Clippers are expected to be in the market for another reliable ball-handling point guard to take some pressure off of Leonard, who notched a career-high 4.9 assists and 33 percent usage rate in his Clippers debut – after which ESPN’s Stephen A. Smith reported the two-time NBA Finals MVP had “privately clamored” for the team to add a point guard.
Those who have been linked to the Clippers include Lakers’ free agent Rajon Rondo, whose play and leadership were key during the championship run in the bubble. Other notable point guards who have reportedly drawn the Clippers’ interest: Spencer Dinwiddie, an L.A. native whom SNY’s Ian Begley reported is drawing trade interest from “multiple Western Conference contenders,” and New Orleans’ Jrue Holiday, another native Angeleno whom the Pelicans are openly considering trading.
And on Tuesday, the Clippers were connected with another high-profile, high-octane guard: Russell Westbrook.
Kevin O’Connor suggested on “The Ringer NBA Show” podcast that Houston’s mercurial All-Star “could become available” via trade, and that he understood the Clippers and Knicks might be interested. Westbrook, who starred at Leuzinger High in Lawndale and then UCLA, averaged 27.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 7.0 assists in his first season with the Rockets and is set to earn more than $41 million in salary over the 2020-21 season.
Whether the Clippers make another huge splash or send out smaller ripples, they’ll need to hurry.
more on that here: pic.twitter.com/v9ayhqYNhM
— #RingerNBA (@ringernba) November 11, 2020