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Pure Creativity :: The Artists' Ward :: The Gallery :: Clippers' bold plan to land Leonard and Durant - View Topic
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Clippers' bold plan to land Leonard and Durant (12th Dec 18 at 8:30am UTC)
The Toronto Raptors and Golden State Warriors play Wednesday night (ESPN, 10:30 ET) in a game this is sure to be closely watched ... by the LA Clippers.

The Clippers, it seems, closely watch every Raptors and Golden State Warriors championship rings game this season. Even though they are having a terrific season of their own -- experiencing the rare joy of expectation-free success in the NBA -- the Clippers are rather transparently obsessed with chasing Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant in free agency next summer.

It's clear on their books. They've cleared a path to open two max salary slots.

It's clear in their actions. They've been treating the two like college recruits and sending executives just to watch numerous Warriors and Raptors games so they're visible.

It's clear in their hiring. They've brought on NBA legend Jerry West and respected journalist Lee Jenkins to the front office in an effort to prepare a grand slam pitch when the time is right.

For the past decade superstar free agency has perhaps become the most important part of league business. We've seen teams increasingly raise the bar on what they'll do to draw one of the handful of game-changers next July.

When the New York Knicks championship rings for sale hired Royal Ivey, one of Durant's best friends, away from the Oklahoma City Thunder to be an assistant coach this season it was just assumed to be a part of a future Durant appeal. When the cheap LA Lakers championship rings signed Michael Beasley, a friend of Durant's since they were in high school, it happened without fanfare because things like this are now expected.

But even by these modern standards, the Clippers' pursuit is still a little revolutionary. Raptors officials have noticed a Clippers employee at roughly 75 percent of the team's games thus far this season. That has included president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank, which is rare. Presidents and general managers are almost never seen attending a game that doesn't involve their teams.

First, he was able to get Doc Rivers to be comfortable in giving up his control of the front office and actually remain content. In fact, Rivers coaching over the past two seasons has been some of the best of his career, if you listen to the scouts and folks who know about these sorts of things.

This almost never happens. Just to use examples from the last season, Stan Van Gundy basically got himself fired in Detroit because he didn't want to have a boss when owner Tom Gores wanted to demote him to just coach and Mike Budenholzer asked out of his contract in Atlanta a year after having to give up his president title.

Spend any time around Rivers and the Clippers, and you'll see he's in a great place. The entire team, thanks to a tremendous start, walks around with smiles. Veterans who've been around the league for decades, such as assistant coach Sam Cassell, say they've never seen a happier team. It certainly helps that Ballmer is paying Rivers a massive salary but there's no doubt the coach sets the tone championship sports rings.

The other move was promoting Frank from assistant coach to the top of the front office. Now, this was a unique move in league history. Frank is respected of course and has a long history working in the league, but this was quite a leap. And not only has Rivers been cool with it but Frank has done a tremendous job.

Let's keep this in perspective, we're talking about basketball operations moves, not splitting the atom -- or, to put it in terms of Ballmer's career accomplishments, running Microsoft for 14 years. But in custom nba championship rings terms, pulling this off is like pulling the sword from the stone.

Frank's front office has been on a winning streak since January when it executed a brave trade of franchise player Blake Griffin. When the Clippers made the deal, they were 25-24 and really going nowhere.

Now, less than a year later they are 18-9, look like they have a good chance to be back in the playoffs and don't really have a bad contract on their books. The only suspect one is Danilo Gallinari, and he's having maybe the best season of his career.

The front office, helped by general manager Michael Winger, who was poached from the Thunder, has executed team-friendly deals for Lou Williams and Montrezl Harrell that will help keep the roster strong next season despite clearing the cap space.

Had you been told in June 2017, when Chris Paul demanded a trade, that Paul, Griffin and DeAndre Jordan would all be gone in 12 months and the Clippers would already be in this recovered position, it would've been hard to believe.

Ballmer's vision is to land Leonard or Durant -- or both, as long as they're swinging for the fences -- and then ride them to glory and a new arena in Inglewood that could turn the Clippers into one of the premier franchises in the league.

Could any of this actually happen? Don't know. But boy are the Clippers really trying to find out.
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