Jerry West and Clippers locked on Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard
My prediction one year ago of a rapid rebuild-on-the-fly for the Clippers after the arrival of Jerry West at their front office no longer seems a long shot. The Clips sit at #4 in the standings for the Western Division with a 17-10 record - have moved on from their former Big Three of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan - and Tobias Harris is currently ranked 9th in the Kia MVP rankings. And now, according to ESPN's Brian Windhorst, the Clippers are obsessed with going after Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard this summer.
Both Durant and Leonard have player options for the 2019-20 season. We can't forget that it was West, then with Golden State, that lured Kevin from a potential stop in Boston right to the Warriors. Jerry had great success with both the Lakers and Warriors, and I predicted he would do so with the Clippers (per ESPN's Brian Windhorst):
The Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors play Wednesday night (ESPN, 10:30 ET) in a game this is sure to be closely watched ... by the LA Clippers.
The Clippers, it seems, closely watch every Raptors and Warriors game this season. Even though they are having a terrific season of their own -- experiencing the rare joy of expectation-free success in the NBA -- the Clippers are rather transparently obsessed with chasing Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant in free agency next summer.
It's clear on their books. They've cleared a path to open two max salary slots.
The success of any endeavor starts at the top, and that is where the ever-excitable owner, Steve Ballmer, sits. He demoted Doc Rivers from the front office and placed Assistant Coach Lawrence Frank there. And he brought in NBA mastermind Jerry West (per ESPN's Brian Windhorst)
Spend any time around (Doc) Rivers and the Clippers, and you'll see he's in a great place. The entire team, thanks to a tremendous start, walks around with smiles. Veterans who've been around the league for decades, such as assistant coach Sam Cassell, say they've never seen a happier team. It certainly helps that Ballmer is paying Rivers a massive salary but there's no doubt the coach sets the tone.
Let's keep this in perspective, we're talking about basketball operations moves, not splitting the atom -- or, to put it in terms of Ballmer's career accomplishments, running Microsoft for 14 years. But in NBA terms, pulling this off is like pulling the sword from the stone.
This article is really Part-3 of a series. In the first article, I broached the possibility of Danny Ainge's Celtics meeting Jerry West's Clippers in the Finals, and was met with the following reader comments:
Big fan of the site but one of the worst articles I've read. You said nothing about what he could actually do with the clippers to get them to the finals...
Clippers are going nowhere fast
That last comment came from a familiar thorn-in-the-side of many of our respectful readers - who has since been banned from the site for various transgressions. We did get a lot of insightful commentary on that article, and readers may want to look back at it, if only to verify the unnamed transgressor. He had also promoted using half of the Celtics roster to trade for Kawhi Leonard.
As Windhorst indicated, pulling this off would be like "pulling the sword from the stone." I would not put it past the Ballmer-Frank-West-Rivers team at all. ClipperLand has become an attractive destination.
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