The shadow of Doc Rivers last season will now become his successor. Ty Read a would have agreed to a five-year contract to replace Rivers as head coach of the Clippers as they head towards a title-or-loss season. Joining him as main assistant will be another former player, point guard, champion and coach candidate: Chauncey Billups.
It was just last year that Lue was vying for the other job in Los Angeles. The proposition sounded enticing: the former Lakers point guard could return to the squad as head coach to help LeBron James win another title. But Lue ultimately turned down the job because the money and the length of the contract weren’t good enough. The Lakers hired Frank Vogel and won the title anyway. Lue took a backseat to Doc for a season instead and watched the Clippers go from favorites to chess, losing a 3-1 series lead in the second round of the playoffs and crashing for the entire NBA.
Steve Ballmer cut the bait with Doc shortly after their season ended, and Lue was immediately identified as the concert’s favorite. Maybe Lue saw the long game as the Clippers’ head coach by starting there as an assistant; perhaps he thought he would bide his time until a better, more lucrative job opened up elsewhere. Either way, he basically turned down a chance to coach LeBron and earn another ring to now take a job with even higher stakes. If he thought the pressure from the Clippers this season was strong, that will be nothing compared to the expectations they will have to endure this year. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will be free agents in the 2021 offseason, and with the Lakers and the rest of the West looking to only improve, the Clippers’ clock is now running even faster.
Hiring Lue reinforces the idea that the Clippers didn’t quite need an overhaul as much as they just needed a new voice. It seems that Lue is also whose players wanted to; the LA TimesBrad Turner reported that the team felt Lue was the “best choice,” which is no surprise. If you’re Ballmer, you don’t make that decision without being sure your two franchise stalwarts want to be coached by Lue. While some don’t give LeBron’s coaches any credit for his titles, Lue was able to guide the 2015-16 Cavs team to an unlikely end and appeared to be able to balance his duties as tactician and manager of two superstars – LeBron and Kyrie Irving. Given what we know about the relationship between the two former Cleveland stars, it’s safe to say that Lue’s role in keeping things together was not trivial.
Lue will have to do the same with the Clippers. There is no apparent animosity between Kawhi and George, but there is a need for more cohesion across the roster. Depending on what the Clippers decide to do with free agent Montrezl Harrell and the rest of the roster, Lue’s job may depend on how well he balances the restoration of Kawhi and George, but not quite the s ‘bow before them. It appears to have been a point of contention among the Clippers. Their reaction to George’s comments after the Denver series that they had to stay engaged for another race also proved once again that the Clippers never had the right chemistry, which the Clippers themselves did. not mince their words. The chemistry problems manifested themselves in many ways, but we ignored them because of their talent; the Nuggets finally took the blindfold off for us. Ballmer is probably pulling out the checkbook and is hoping the solution to the team’s problems was still there.
Lue’s decision to take the Clippers job will reverberate throughout the NBA. Lue was one of the top contenders for openings with the Rockets and Pelicans. Now that he’s off the table, it looks like Daryl Morey – minus Houston Will focus on Jeff Van Gundy, as well as some current assistants. New Orleans must also weigh its options and appear to be interested in the other Van Gundy on the market. In the East, the Pacers were interested in Billups, but now Chris Finch is would have been the favorite. Instead of fighting for a high-level position, Billups chose to follow the same path as Lue: being an assistant for at least a season. And who knows, maybe if Lue’s experience plays out like Doc’s final season, Ballmer and the Clippers could keep playing musical chairs and end up giving Billups a shot.