Many delighted in the demise of the Los Angeles Clippers during the NBA bubble in Orlando. The absurdly stacked championship contenders blew a 3-1 lead in the Western Conference Semifinals to the significantly less stacked Denver Nuggets. There was much rejoicing by those who enjoy parity in the NBA.
There has been a lot of insider info coming out in the months since the team's early exit that helps explain why they fell so far short of expectations. They were outplayed, to be sure, but a team with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George shouldn't blow a lead like that. It turns out that chemistry was the biggest issue. Teammates were arguing with one another in an increasingly public manner, and even before the season was postponed there were rumblings that all was not well in the locker room. Leonard would often show up late for team flights, and the preferential treatment he and George received bothered their teammates.
In a tell-all piece published by Jovan Buha of The Athletic today, even more information was revealed. Including the fact that Leonard and George apparently dictated when the team would practice and what their travel schedule would look like. Per the article:
"But according to multiple league sources, the perks the Clippers gave Leonard and George began to compromise the standard of the culture they had built over the 2017-18 and 2018-19 seasons — the very culture that the Clippers used, in part, to attract Leonard and George to Los Angeles. Some of those perks included: Leonard and George were the only players to have their own personal security guards and trainers, [and] Leonard and George had power over the team’s practice and travel schedule, leading teammates to believe Leonard canceled multiple practices."
That's insane. No star has ever held that kind of power before. Sure, they perhaps asserted it without permission, like Allen Iverson and his famous practice rant, but as far as the general public is aware no superstar of any caliber has been able to tell the team when they're practicing and when they leave for road games.
If it's any indication of just how preferential the treatment the two stars received, it makes complete sense why their teammates would be unhappy. Stars are going to get more leeway than a role player or bench guy; that's just the way of the world in the NBA. But giving these stars a little more wiggle room within the rules is quite different than letting them make decisions that coaches are normally supposed to make.
It's especially surprising that Doc Rivers let them do all this. It isn't the first time he's juggled star power on his team. He's a players' coach but has been around long enough to know that's far from the norm in the league.
Perhaps new head coach Ty Lue will be able to get things in order for the team. And change this in particular. Because it won't fly with any players in the NBA.