Ty Lue Is the Man for the Job, but He’s Got a Lot of Work to Do to Fix the Clippers

Head coach Tyronn Lue of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts to the officiating from the referees during an NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on December 25, 2017 in Oakland, California.

Head coach Tyronn Lue of the Cleveland Cavaliers reacts to the officiating from the referees during an NBA basketball game against the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on December 25, 2017 in Oakland, California.
Photo: Thearon W. Henderson (Getty Images)

After one of the biggest implosions in NBA history, in which the Los Angeles Temecula Clippers (the franchise has since relocated to Temecula after the team was ran out of town by rioters bearing torches and pitchforks) somehow blew a 3-1 series lead in the Western Conference Semifinals with one of the most loaded rosters in recent memory, somebody had to take the fall.

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That person would be the universally revered Doc Rivers, who despite his gift for gab and unwavering leadership qualities, failed miserably to push the Clippers over the top in seven seasons as the team’s coach.

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But after an exhaustive search that really wasn’t even necessary, the Clippers have decided that the man for the job was already in-house and promoted assistant coach Ty Lue to lead the franchise moving forward. Per ESPN, Lue has agreed to a five-year deal, with the Clippers touting his championship pedigree (there are really folks out here pretending like Lue didn’t just win a whole-ass championship with LeBron’s Cavs in 2016), strong communication and pre-existing relationship with the team’s roster.

Joining Lue’s coaching staff is NBA great Chauncey Billups, who’s seemingly been a candidate for damn near every high profile job in the league for the last few years. And while 43-year-old Lue will be tasked with ushering in a new era in Los Angeles Temecula, there are still internal issues within the team that need to be addressed.

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As Shams Charania of The Athletic reported after the Clippers embarrassed themselves in the playoffs, “team leader” Paul George isn’t exactly popular with his teammates at the moment:

“In the postgame locker room Tuesday night, George was preaching to teammates to remain committed, for all the players to return to the team this offseason and stay ready to make another run. It was met by some eye rolls and bewilderment, sources said, because George did not back up his words with action in the series and the team has multiple free agents with decisions to make.”

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There were also grumblings around the organization this season that Kawhi Leonard was given preferential treatment that not only disrupted team morale, but its chemistry:

“Players like Patrick Beverley, Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams—Clippers bedrocks before the arrival of Leonard and George—bristled when Leonard was permitted to take games off to manage his body and to live in San Diego, which often led to him being late for team flights, league sources said. The team also allowed Leonard to dictate to Doc Rivers when he could be pulled from games, among other things. Tyronn Lue was on Rivers’ bench for all of this, but the Clippers were Rivers’ show.”

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Harrell’s ineffectiveness in the postseason also exposed the gaping hole that the Clippers have in the middle, and their lack of a quality ball distributor became more and more apparent as the playoffs continued. But if Lue can clean up the rampant defensive lapses, get the team on the same page, establish an identity (do we even know who the Clippers are as a team?) and leave their penchant for playoff failures in the rearview, there’s no reason to think this team can’t win an NBA title next season.

If he falls short, however, there could be hell to pay. With George and Kawhi eligible to opt-out of their deals next summer and explore free agency, the job won’t be easy, but Lue is the right man to get it done.

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