What was thought to be one of the best stories in the NBA this season is slowly turning into a nightmare as the days go by. The Los Angeles Clippers got themselves two of the best players on earth during the offseason, improving their bid to win the NBA title considerably.
However, there are some things they need to figure out if they want to be completely successful when the playoffs arrive. According to Sam Amick of The Athletic, “tension had been quietly building” in the Clippers’ locker room and is in part, thanks to Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, the two stars supposed to take this team to the promised land.
It seems like there are some chemistry issues between players that are preventing some of them to become the stars they want to be or average the numbers they want.
Via The Athletic:
“We don’t know each other yet and we have not been tested yet. There are a lot of obstacles hopefully that we have moving forward and it’s not bad to hear that we understand. But like I always tell our guys, ‘There’s a difference between work in progress and progress, and the work is the most important part.’ You have to put in the work. So we have to understand that.”
After Rivers’ spirited private response, Harrell — who was upset with the media for what he felt was taking his quotes out of context — did not speak to Los Angeles reporters after the next two home games (wins over the New York Knicks and the Golden State Warriors).
Tension had been quietly building in the locker room, according to multiple sources, but Harrell’s comments confirmed the uncomfortability some felt. The comments also rubbed certain players the wrong way, as they feel that Harrell’s post-game mood can be dictated more by his individual box-score performance than the game’s outcome, according to sources.
Besides, several players believe their training sessions aren’t as hard or as serious as they should. At some point we learned that Paul George and Kawhi Leonard hadn’t trained together, so this might not be a total surprise for a lot of people. Everything has an explanation, though, as Clippers head coach Doc Rivers’ teams don’t practice often, a fundamental he adopted back in his days with the Boston Celtics:
This is part of a larger systemic issue for the team. Rivers’ teams don’t practice often, which is a principle he adopted in Boston.
Rivers understands the grind of an 82-game season, and is willing to concede practice time if it means his players will stay healthier and play harder in games. As Rivers has joked all season, he was one of the early pioneers of load management.
But that, combined with the team’s constant injuries, the front-loaded schedule and Leonard’s injury management, has created a lighter mood and approach to practices. Multiple players, according to league sources, don’t feel the team practices as hard or as seriously as it should at this point in the season.
Leonard and George didn’t play for the Clippers on Wednesday against the Hawks. The team was just resting Leonard since it was the second night of a back-to-back, while George is still nursing a hamstring injury.
It looks like this is a cocktail for disaster, as this is not the only thing bothering players right now. This report goes on to say that Kawhi and George have lowkey become a problem for the special treatment they receive from the team.
“Off the court, sources say there are some teammates who have struggled with the organization’s preferential treatment that is afforded to Leonard and George.”
“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?”
He isn’t necessarily standoffish, sources say, and there are times when he lives up to that “Fun Guy” reputation that has become part of his one-of-a-kind profile — even more so recently as he’s grown more comfortable around his teammates. He’s certainly more talkative and playful behind the scenes than in front of the media, when he rarely says a word outside of the scrum of reporters who speak to him, on average, for a few minutes at a time. But there can be a tangible distance, sources say.
Multiple players, according to league sources, don’t feel the team practices as hard or as seriously as it should at this point in the season.
However, it looks like the players are trying to figure things out for the team’s sake. According to Amick, after the Clippers got embarrassed by the Memphis Grizzlies and almost beaten by the New York Knicks at home at the start of the month, players went to dinner and bowling to shake off the bad vibes.
To shake off some of the strange vibes, several players decided to round up players for dinner and bowling on their second day off, according to league sources. Interacting off of the floor has never been a problem for the group, which has enjoyed off-court activities like paintballing, fishing and movie-screening before and during the season.
The Clippers are having a mixed season if we take a look at it, and this news isn’t the most favorable for them. They put together a good core of players, but things haven’t gone as expected. To make things worse, their two biggest stars are becoming a distraction and the rest of the squad isn’t happy and that’s something that must change as soon as possible.
Luckily for them, the players are actually taking action to try to improve the situation. It’s important to see the bigger picture here, which is the championship, and start to work to reach that goal.
Leonard and PG landed in Los Angeles to make this team true candidates for the title. The Clippers still have a good record, but plenty of fans believe they’re missing something that takes them to the next level. They’ve beaten the Lakers twice, but that hasn’t made them the best team in the Western Conference, the place that belongs to their neighbors.
The Clips have everything to be successful this year. It’s up to them to work things out and finally become that dangerous squad everyone wanted to see before the start of the season.