When Doc Rivers was first employed by the Los Angeles Clippers in 2013, the expectation was that he could be the one to information the franchise into respectability. A laughingstock of the NBA for just about their whole existence, marred by unhealthy teaching, unhealthy administration and unhealthy possession, Rivers was supposed to assist change all of that.
For essentially the most half, he did.
Rivers arrived from the Boston Celtics with the 2008 championship, and he helped the Celtics regain their standing as one of many NBA’s elite groups. The Clippers have been a perennial playoff contender underneath him and have been even within the dialog for being a doable championship contender. The Lob Metropolis Clippers led by Chris Paul and Blake Griffin definitely have been talked about as being a title contender, and this season’s group led by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have been undoubtedly within the combine as effectively.
Not solely did Rivers regular the staff on the court docket although, however he was additionally a really steadying presence off the court docket. He guided the franchise via the Donald Sterling controversy and he was a constructive voice for the staff as they navigated the bubble and the continuing cost for social reform within the nation.
However when issues go mistaken with a staff, the coach is often the one who finally ends up taking the autumn. Whereas Rivers did carry the Clippers to a stage of respectability the franchise has by no means identified, his file was not with out blemishes. Most notably was his staff’s lack of ability to shut out playoff sequence’ after holding three video games to at least one on benefits two separate events.
In 2015, the Clippers had a Three-1 lead over the Houston Rockets solely to squander that lead and lose Sport 7 on the highway. In Sport 6, their pictures stopped falling and neither Paul nor Griffin may do something to halt the Rockets onslaught.
This season, in an extremely comparable style, the Clippers choked away a Three-1 lead over the Denver Nuggets and ended up getting blown out the second half of Sport 7. Identical to earlier than, the offense stalled a number of video games and neither Leonard nor George may make a distinction.
There have been additionally questions on Rivers’ rotations and his seeming lack of ability to regulate to his opponents. Ultimately, one thing needed to change, and whether or not it’s proper or mistaken, the coach often finally ends up taking the autumn.
Enter Tyronn Lue. Lue, like Rivers, can also be a former NBA participant and has quite a lot of respect across the league. He got here up underneath Rivers, getting his first teaching expertise as an assistant in Boston, after which following Rivers to the Clippers.
He ended up becoming a member of David Blatt’s employees in Cleveland in 2014, and when Blatt was fired in the course of the 2015-16 season, Lue was promoted to go coach. Within the playoffs that yr, Lue guided the Cavaliers to victory of their first 10 playoff video games. They reached the Finals the place they famously got here again from a Three-1 deficit in opposition to the 73-9 Golden State Warriors to win the franchise’s first championship.
The Cavaliers reached the Finals every full yr of Lue’s tenure as head coach, however he was let go initially of the 2018-19 season when the staff began Zero-6 after the departure of LeBron James.
Within the 2019 offseason, Lue emerged because the main candidate for the Los Angeles Lakers head teaching job, earlier than he finally rejected the staff’s provide. After rejoining Rivers in LA with the Clippers for a yr, he as soon as once more emerged as a number one candidate for a number of head teaching positions this offseason earlier than agreeing to phrases with the Clippers.
Following the Clippers sequence loss to the Nuggets, many gamers overtly talked in regards to the staff’s lack of chemistry and the way that will have performed an element within the staff’s postseason demise. Including two-star gamers in Leonard and George was at all times going to be a problem from a chemistry standpoint, and the Clippers might need secured the right man to step as much as that problem.
Throughout his time in Cleveland, Lue was praised for his capability to handle a locker room that included James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love. In Sport 7 in opposition to the Warriors, Lue reportedly challenged James at halftime and ended up lighting a fireplace that propelled the Cavaliers to the championship.
Lue’s capability to cope with star egos isn’t simply restricted to his teaching tenure. Throughout his taking part in days, Lue was a trusted teammate with the Los Angeles Lakers throughout a time when Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant weren’t seeing eye to eye. He additionally performed with Michael Jordan throughout Jordan’s Washington Wizard days.
Now, he’ll be tasked with breaking via and main the Clippers to a spot the place no Clipper staff has ever been earlier than. He’ll be anticipated to complete what Rivers was unable to perform and information the Clippers to an NBA championship.
For one, he’ll have to alter the Clippers offensive assault. This previous season, the Clippers relied an excessive amount of on an isolation heavy offense centered round Leonard and George. That type of play failed within the playoffs when after failing to regulate, the Clippers saved taking robust shot after robust shot whereas the Nuggets continued to run their offense and get good pictures.
With the Cavaliers, Lue confirmed his capability to regulate his offense and work to his participant’s strengths. Within the 2018 Playoffs, Lue employed a sequence of off-ball screens involving Love and Kyle Korver with James studying the protection and making the right learn to whoever was in one of the best place to attain.
When taking part in with James, the offense generally tends to stagnate with the opposite 4 gamers standing round and ready for James to make his transfer. Lue was capable of get the opposite gamers to keep up focus and hold them engaged when James had the ball in his fingers. Search for him to attempt to do one thing comparable for when both Leonard or George has the ball of their fingers.
He’s already obtained a participant on the roster in Landry Shamet who can play that Korver position because the designated shooter on the ground working via off-ball screens and getting open. Each Leonard and George have change into environment friendly sufficient playmakers to have the ability to discover open shooters and cutters. That needs to be Lue’s first process to tweak the offense to seek out methods to maintain the remainder of the staff engaged and energetic when their star gamers are holding the ball.
The defensive finish goes to be one thing he’ll want to regulate as effectively. The Clippers have a number of the best possible particular person defensive gamers within the league. Leonard is a two-time Defensive Participant of the Yr, George was a finalist for the award in 2019 and Patrick Beverley is a perennial All-Defensive Group choice.
When the staff was locked in defensively this season, there wasn’t a staff within the league that might rating on them. The issue for them was they seemingly couldn’t keep engaged on the defensive finish persistently sufficient. The opposite problem was Rivers’ lack of ability to regulate his protection to his opponent. Towards the Nuggets, Nikola Jokic had a area day each time Montrez Harrell was guarding him.
Lue’s main process will probably be to get this staff to keep up their defensive depth all through the season, in addition to acknowledge what matchups are and aren’t working. Each Ivica Zubac and JaMychal Inexperienced have been more practical frontcourt defenders within the postseason than Harrell was. Search for Lue to play to his staff’s strengths, as he at all times has, and to trot out a heavy dose of man-to-man protection.
General, Lue was one of the best rent obtainable given the candidates. He’s obtained a powerful rapport amongst star gamers. He’s made it to the finals a number of instances and gained a championship as a head coach. And he already has expertise working with Leonard and George.
Given the potential free agent standing of each Leonard and George within the close to future, the Clippers have a comparatively small window of championship competition. Lue was in the same state of affairs in Cleveland when James’ pending free company in the summertime of 2018 was additionally an element. That point round, Lue delivered. He’ll be prepared for this new problem.