Rumors of season-long chemistry issues rose to the surface as the Clippers blew a 3-1 series lead, and head coach Doc Rivers’ seven-year tenure as head coach came to an end.
Reports about preparation issues and preferential treatment for Kawhi Leonard under Rivers dogged the team prior to Rivers’ exit. But the complaints were relegated to reports and rumors, with players largely declining to publicly put their name on the problems.
Paul George lays blame on Doc Rivers
On Wednesday, Paul George did put a name to it — his and Rivers’ — in a candid takedown of Clippers problems last season on the “All the Smoke” podcast.
— SHOWTIME SPORTS (@SHOsports) December 2, 2020
George not happy with his role
George — who joined Leonard as a first-year Clipper in last season’s roster overhaul that set up championship expectations — was not happy with his role in Rivers’ offense.
He talked about how he felt like Rivers had him pegged as a shooting specialist rather than a player who can work from from the post and the perimeter.
“Doc was trying to play me as like a Ray Allen, a J.J. Reddick — all pin downs,” George said. “I can do it. But that ain’t my game.”
However, as The Ringer’s Kevin O’Connor pointed out, the stats don’t back up George’s assessment.
Interesting comment. Paul George finished 33% of his total plays using the pick-and-roll, which was a career-high. The prior high was 25% in OKC, via @SynergySST stats. That’s very different from a Ray Allen or JJ Redick style role. https://t.co/w0n1UDrx1p
— Kevin O'Connor (@KevinOConnorNBA) December 2, 2020
With Rivers gone and Tyronn Lue in as head coach, George said he expects better results this season with “everybody starting out on a healthy page.”
George: Clippers didn’t adjust during playoff meltdown
As for blowing that 3-1 lead to the Nuggets? George has problems with how the Clippers worked away from the court during the series.
“During that whole process, we never worked on adjustments, we never worked on what to do differently,” George said. “Just literally having the same s--- happening over and over again.”
George didn’t mention Rivers by name there. But that’s a clear shot across the coaching bow. And he said those same problems carried over from the regular season.
“We didn’t practice during the whole year,” George continued. “That’s hard to do when you’re putting a fresh group of guys together. Because the problems you have during games — those s---s can get ironed out in practice. ...
“When it happened during games, it’s gonna rub a little differently. It’s hard to come back from that. Especially during the playoffs ... and that’s just kind of how we was, how we went about it after stuff started unfolding and unraveling.”
Morris backs George’s claim
When asked about George’s take on Thursday, Clippers forward Marcus Morris echoed his sentiment.
— Justin Russo (@FlyByKnite) December 3, 2020
“I didn’t think we put enough time into working on exactly what we needed to fix — and more of just relying on talent and relying on the guys we had,” Morris said. ...
“Sometimes I think we were just relying on how good we are on paper. Not actually breaking it down and really finding out what we need to do better.”
What George’s interview didn’t include was much accountability for himself or his teammates. He didn’t mention his 39.8 percent shooting rate in the playoffs in another disappointing postseason performance.
Now Rivers is gone, and the Clippers are running it back with their All-NBA core intact and and championship expectations still in place. Whatever happens this season — good or bad — won’t be put on Rivers.
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