Kawhi Leonard and Paul George have undoubtedly ushered in a new era of basketball for the Los Angeles Clippers this season, and almost instantly launched them not only to the top of the field in the Western Conference, but also into contention to win an NBA title.
Their presence inside the locker room, however, may not be going over quite as well as it appears.
According to The Athletic, there are multiple teammates “who have struggled with the organization’s preferential treatment” of its two superstars.
Off the court, sources say there are some teammates who have struggled with the organization’s preferential treatment that is afforded to Leonard and George. On the one hand, this sort of superstar handling is somewhat commonplace in the NBA. Case in point: LeBron James has a significant voice in Laker Land, where he frequently coordinates practices and shoot-around schedules with coach Frank Vogel, depending on what they believe is best for the team at that time.
For example, according to the report, several teammates who were “eager to work” became upset when a pair of walk-throughs earlier this season were unexpectedly canceled by, they believe, Leonard — though coach Doc Rivers denied that to The Athletic. Several players, per the report, are also upset because they “don’t feel the team practices as hard or as seriously” as it should be by this point in the year.
Now, this isn’t unusual behavior across the league. Teams everywhere structure practices, meetings, workouts and more around their respective superstar players. Given the impact that those players have on their teams, that only makes sense.
This is, though, a big change for the Clippers from last season. They finished with a 48-34 record last year and made the postseason without a true superstar on the roster. There was no “LeBron James-type” of player to organize around — which is likely why the new style has come as a bit of a shock to some inside the locker room.
In the Clippers defense, though, things seem to be working. They have won eight of their last 11 games and are sitting just 4.5 games back from the top spot in the Western Conference. Leonard has averaged 27.1 points and 7.4 rebounds, both career highs, through 34 games, and George has put up 23.5 points and six rebounds in 26 contests.
Whether this becomes a true issue that the team has to address, however, remains to be seen.
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