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LA Clippers hoping to run it back with core 'Big 3' ahead of Intuit Dome opening

LA Clippers hoping to run it back with core 'Big 3' ahead of Intuit Dome opening

LOS ANGELES - Despite a disappointing finale, the Los Angeles Clippers believe in their core "Big 3" of Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and James Harden. They hope to bring them back for the 2024-25 season, which will be the team’s first inside the Intuit Dome in Inglewood.

While the heartbreak of a first-round exit continues to linger, there are off-season matters to handle. Now, the Clippers front office is focused on conjuring the right formula that combines a new arena and the same "Big 3" that will equate to better results.

For those more superstitious, maybe a new home is what is needed to break the rumored "Clippers curse."

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In the wake of a short-lived playoff run, some fans on social media begged for changes and at this point, believe the 213 era (Kawhi Leonard and Paul George's jersey numbers that are synonymous with one of LA's area codes), has been an overall failure.

Leonard signed a maximum contract extension with the Clippers in January. Meanwhile, George has a player option while Harden becomes an unrestricted free agent.

SUGGESTED: Kawhi Leonard signs massive $153M contract extension with LA Clippers

"We want young, hungry players that actually want to win a ring. Not players who just want the money," one fan wrote on X.

Another echoed those sentiments and wrote, "Lawrence Frank saying he wants to run it back reminds me of a dude in a toxic relationship who would rather get his heart broken over and over again instead of letting it go and trying something new."

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Clippers' president Lawrence Frank took the hot seat Monday and spoke to reporters about how the season went and what’s ahead.

Frank said the mood among the staff was "disappointed and frustrated," adding "there's no excuses" for how the season ended.

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"The goal is to be the last team standing in June and obviously, we [had] 2 wins, we need to get 16, so there’s a lot of work to be done."

See the biggest takeaways below.

What can fans look forward to at the Intuit Dome without a championship banner?

Nobody roots harder for the Clippers than owner Steve Ballmer, and he's put his heart and soul into the privately funded Intuit Dome. "It was quite clear that living in the shadow of anybody else wasn't going to work because we wanted to be the preeminent team in the preeminent market in the world," he said earlier this year.

RELATED: Clippers' Intuit Dome: Steve Ballmer shares inspiration behind Inglewood's new arena

Ballmer traveled across the country for ideas on how the perfect basketball arena should be constructed and drew inspiration from San Diego State's Viejas Arena, Atlanta's Mercedes-Benz Stadium and Salt Lake City's Delta Center.

While they won’t be able to hang a championship banner, Frank said the arena was built for the fans and there's still plenty to be excited about.

"It’s going to be a showcase arena around the world. Steve [Ballmer], in so many different ways, has shown why he's the best chairman in sport. And this literally will be the showpiece for how much he gives our fans, our players and the excitement at their own home," Frank said.

He also acknowledged "taking sh—" from fans while walking around with his Clippers gear over the weekend.

"You have to own it. We don't run away from it. But also we do have great hope that we're going to be able to hopefully retain Paul and James, along with Kawhi, along with some of our other really, really good role players and a couple of pieces, that can make a big difference. And we'll get back at it again next year and give ourselves a chance to try and compete for something that we've never done before."

Is Paul George coming back?

<div>Paul George #13 of the LA Clippers. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)</div> <strong>(Getty Images)</strong>
Paul George #13 of the LA Clippers. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

While Paul George hasn’t said he plans to explore free agency, multiple outlets have reported Orlando and Philadelphia are two possible destinations for the nine-time All-Star. Frank also confirmed that negotiations are ongoing with the "Podcast P" host.

"We want Paul, we value Paul. Paul's done some tremendous things here, he’s an elite player. And our biggest thing is we always want to be able to treat players well and pay them fairly," Frank said.

He continued to say, "We also have to build out a team, especially if it's a new CBA. But in terms of the exact money, I would never go into details other than we've had really, really good conversations over the course of the year and we're hopeful that we can get him to remain a Clipper."

What’s next for Terance Mann and Ivica Zubac?

<div>Terance Mann #14 and Ivica Zubac #40 of the LA Clippers. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)</div> <strong>(Getty Images)</strong>
Terance Mann #14 and Ivica Zubac #40 of the LA Clippers. (Photo by David Berding/Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

Ivica Zubac and Terance Mann may not get the recognition of the main stars, but they have been consistent and reliable in the starting lineup.

Zubac had a career year and is the longest-standing Clipper on the roster. "We love Zu and would love to keep Zu here," Frank said. He credited James Harden for "unlocking" his potential.

Mann, often referred to by fans as "The Glue Guy," was visibly upset on the bench Friday night as he began processing their season was over. He remains a fan favorite, especially after his pivotal role in getting the Clippers to their first-ever Western Conference Finals in 2021. This season, he was inserted into the starting lineup after Westbrook moved to the bench.

"He’s very much a fabric of the team," Frank said. "I’m really proud of how he competed against one of the game’s greatest players in Luka Dončić and thought defensively, he tried to make things as hard as possible for an MVP candidate."

Will Russell Westbrook return?

<div>Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Clippers. (Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images)</div> <strong>(Getty Images)</strong>
Russell Westbrook #0 of the Los Angeles Clippers. (Photo by Sam Hodde/Getty Images)
(Getty Images)

When Russell Westbrook was removed from the starting lineup, The Athletic reported he didn’t do so voluntarily.

The sports outlet reported Westbrook’s role coming off the bench was "far more challenging behind the scenes."

After getting word, Westbrook took to Instagram Sunday and wrote, "Understand that anything you read or what I’ve said or haven’t said has likely been fabricated."

He continued to write that he will "remain more than willing to take on new roles, and make certain sacrifices in hopes that it would make our team better.  I hoped for a different outcome, but I also enjoyed being in the trenches with my teammates this year who have all been supportive of me throughout the season."

Known as being the vocal leader of the locker room, Westbrook was ejected in Game 3 after a confrontation with Dallas' PJ Washington. After that, he didn't seem like himself and in Game 6 of the Clippers-Mavericks series, he logged a mere nine minutes.

On Monday, Frank said he plans to speak with Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue, Westbrook and his representation to "outline what the role is going forward." He added this is common for those with player options.

How do the Clippers plan to work around Kawhi Leonard’s injuries?

Injuries are a part of basketball and some players seem to deal with them more than others.

During his tenure with the Clippers, Kawhi Leonard tore his ACL and then his meniscus in his right knee. Toward the end of the regular season and at the start of the playoffs, he dealt with and continues to battle inflammation.

Frank said if the Clippers were preparing for the second round of the playoffs, Leonard still wouldn't be available.

<strong>(Getty Images)</strong>
(Getty Images)

"As an organization, we have to look, at how we can manage this the best to increase our odds and probability. Look, there are no guarantees. Like, I can’t promise you something that we can’t deliver," Frank said.

He continued to say, "We’re not going to play the victim like it is what it is. But I do empathize and I do feel the frustration and the disappointment and the anger, like guess what? We all feel it like, without a doubt, because we invest so much."

Frank added, "I get the skepticism. I mean, I'm not here to sell, you know, overpromise, something that we can't deliver or sell hype. But I'm we're dealing with what our reality is."

Leonard played in 68 games this season, which is the most he’s played since the 2016-17 season.

<strong>(Getty Images)</strong>
(Getty Images)

On Media Day he said "When I’m healthy, I’m going to play," and that’s exactly what he did. Unfortunately, his latest injury struck weeks ahead of the playoffs when he was most needed.

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Leonard, James and George are all in their 30s. The game continues to evolve and the teams left standing in the playoffs are filled with young and emerging talent.

"I see the young stars that are rising and we're not in denial about it. But I still think this group, we're going to ask them to be better to you don't stop being better. And to be able to do our jobs and continue to look to surround them with the best complementary players, that give us the best chance to win."

Frank said their course of action would be to continue adding complementary pieces around their stars and hope to add some youth and athleticism to the roster.

It's safe to say, the Clippers stand by giving Leonard his contract extension with the hope that eventually things will fall into place the way they planned it.

When does the Intuit Dome open?

The first event at the Intuit Dome will not be a basketball game.

Bruno Mars will take the stage for two sold-out shows in August for the grand opening and the following month, Usher brings his "Past Present Future" tour to Inglewood.

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The 2024-25 NBA season begins in October.