Shortly after the Clippers’ abnormally, maybe mercifully quiet draft Thursday – with the 43rd pick, they selected Michigan forward Moussa Diabate, a 20-year-old Frenchman with whom they’ll be patient – Lawrence Frank also offered something of a State of the Team address before free agency tips off June 30.
The Clippers’ president of basketball operations touched on Kawhi Leonard’s rehab and a trade rumor regarding Luke Kennard, who turned 26 on Friday.
Also, yes, Frank gave what felt like a loaded breakdown of how the Clippers rank leadership and availability when making personnel decisions. It was a relevant explanation, perhaps, considering reports that Kyrie Irving, the talented, controversial star who played just 29 games last season, might want to break up with the Brooklyn Nets.
SO, HOW’S KAWHI?
Frank’s most succinct responses had to do with the progress of their famously private superstar, who is working his way back after missing all of last season recovering from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. Leonard had surgery to repair the torn ACL on July 13, 2021.
“He continues to do great,” Frank said. “He’s maniacal in his work ethic. It’s fun to see. I’m glad to afford the light bill because he’s putting in the hours. But yeah, he’s doing great, and he continues to progress, and it’s great seeing him on the court.”
That doesn’t mean Leonard is playing five-on-five yet, Frank said.
“No, he’s just kind of following in terms of just – I think he’s on course where he’s developing really well,” he said. “But, like, five-on-five isn’t something I think that he’s doing at this point.”
KENNARD ON TRADE BLOCK?
Earlier in the week, Sean Deveney, of Heavy.com, reported that the Clippers were shopping Luke Kennard, who shot a NBA-best 44.9% from behind the arc last season, suggesting the team’s acquisition of Norman Powell last season made Kennard “more expendable.”
Frank said he wouldn’t comment on rumors with “zero truth” – in effect commenting on this one and deeming it was hogwash.
“Luke has been terrific, Luke had an unbelievable season,” Frank said. “Luke has had a little bit of a pattern if you go back to his first year at Duke, Detroit and the Clippers, that it takes him just a little bit to adjust, get comfortable and then he just hit the ground, takes off…
“And now, I don’t know if you’ve seen Luke lately, his body looks great. He’s in the gym, minimum four times a week. At times our guys will play pick up and play five-on-five with the player development staff, and you know, Luke looks terrific. He’s just entering his prime, so I think the best is yet to come.”
Get Luke Kennard in the dunk contest right now. pic.twitter.com/hQIGxvZ1X4
— Justin Russo (@FlyByKnite) June 20, 2022
Kyrie Irving, the hyper-talented guard whose decision not to get a COVID vaccine meant he missed most of the Nets’ home games last season, is emerging as the main character in this summer’s NBA’s free-agency drama.
The seven-time All-Star reportedly has a list of teams he wants Brooklyn to work with on a sign-and-trade if he and the team can’t come to terms for him to stay, per ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
The list: Lakers, Knicks, Heat, Mavericks, 76ers and, yes, the Clippers.
About that …
“Any time you put a player in the locker room, whether it’s through the draft, free agency, trades, it is a statement to your team what you think of them, right? Because that is their sanctuary,” Frank said of the Clippers’ player evaluation process.
“So in terms of basketball leadership, it is very, very important to understand the basketball character of the player … Innately, regardless of the types of players, your best players are always your leaders one way or the other because that’s what the other player is going to look to.
“We are really, really fortunate in that our two best players really, really, really enjoy each other. Like they have a great bond with each other, which is, I won’t say unique, but it doesn’t happen everywhere.”
In summation, Frank said: “It’s all about your people. Your people create your culture, and so yeah, we look at all those things and try to study, if we are going to bring this player in the locker room, how does it fit?”
NICO LOVES L.A.
Nicolas Batum reportedly will decline his player option and enter free agency, which wouldn’t be a surprise from the veteran contributor who’s earned a raise from the $3.3 million he was due. His next deal almost certainly will come from the Clippers, with whom Batum is quite happy, as he’s said, in so many words — and with a schedule that might speak even louder.
“Nico is a nut,” Frank said, noting that Batum “comes in every morning at 4:30 to work out.”
Frank said Batum has been among the Clippers who’ve been regulars at the team’s training facility this offseason.
“They come in Monday through Thursday,” Frank said. “We’ve had anywhere from nine to 11 guys every day in the gym and it’s an unbelievable atmosphere … I think after going through the year we did where there are a lot of positives but yet ultimately the goal is to be the last team standing, you just get a sense of a great urgency to try to maximize the opportunity we have in front of us.”