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Kawhi Leonard impresses Clippers, but what about Kyrie Irving?



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Eleven months after Kawhi Leonard underwent surgery to restore {a partially} torn knee ligament that sidelined him for the 2021-22 NBA season, Leonard’s longtime coach fired off a tweet in early June that didn’t go unnoticed.

“I felt like I used to be within the lab with MJ as we speak,” wrote Clint Parks, including a hashtag with Leonard’s initials and quantity. A photograph posted the identical day confirmed Leonard in San Diego State’s follow facility the place his “KL2” banner blanketed a lot of 1 wall behind him.

Leonard’s well being is the linchpin holding collectively the Clippers’ hopes to lift their first championship banner as quickly as 2023. Lawrence Frank, the workforce’s president of basketball operations, didn’t fairly attain for a Jordan-level comparability when describing Leonard after selecting Michigan’s Moussa Diabate in Thursday’s NBA draft. He acknowledged that despite the fact that the two-time most dear participant of the NBA Finals just isn’t taking part in five-on-five video games, Leonard “continues to do nice.”

“He’s maniacal in his work ethic, it’s enjoyable to see,” Frank stated. “I’m glad we will afford the sunshine invoice as a result of he’s placing within the hours. However yeah, he’s doing nice, and he continues to progress and it’s nice seeing him on the court docket.

“I feel he’s on target the place he’s creating rather well however, like, five-on-five isn’t one thing I feel that he’s doing at this level.”

Leonard might be 14 months faraway from surgical procedure when unofficial workforce pickup video games start in September and coaching camp opens the final week of that month, timing that ought to supply likelihood to guage how he and Paul George match with a supporting forged together with midseason additions guard Norman Powell and wing Robert Covington, after accidents made that not possible final season. Until the Clippers shake up that core.

As free company approaches June 30, the Clippers like their present roster. Their precedence is to retain free brokers, comparable to wings Nicolas Batum and Amir Coffey, heart Isaiah Hartenstein and guard Jay Scrubb. Although there’s curiosity in lastly seeing how the items match, they strategy offseason transactions with open minds.

“We proceed to evaluate, OK, how can we proceed to improve, how can we get higher?” Frank stated. “, a few of these issues, you might have to do with out the good thing about seeing the group collectively, and also you simply should take some educated swings.”

One of many largest — and for now, hypothetical — swings could be Brooklyn level guard Kyrie Irving, who was linked to the Clippers, Lakers, Philadelphia, Miami, Dallas and New York, as locations he would reportedly choose ought to talks to stay in Brooklyn on a long-term extension bitter.

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving controls the ball against the Orlando Magic in March.

Brooklyn Nets guard Kyrie Irving controls the ball in opposition to the Orlando Magic in March.

(Phelan M. Ebenhack / Related Press)

Of that group, none has cap house so as to add him outright and solely the Lakers, led by Irving’s former Cleveland teammate LeBron James, know Irving’s tantalizing expertise in addition to the Clippers. Their ranks of executives and coaches are dotted with those that overlapped with him in Cleveland, Boston and Brooklyn. Irving’s sheer technical ability with the ball makes him distinctive. So is the issue in predicting how a lot he would play or how engaged he could be, with previous reviews describing him at occasions as unresponsive to others inside the group.

Irving was prepared to price himself reportedly $17 million in wage final season for video games missed whereas unable to play in New York as a result of he was unvaccinated. In his final three seasons, he has performed simply 103 regular-season video games.

Although Leonard and George will command the majority of the offense subsequent season, league observers imagine the Clippers will try and bolster their ballhandler position in some method. In addition they, nonetheless, questioned the Clippers’ urge for food of including Irving to a workforce that feels strongly in regards to the inner chemistry it has rebuilt over the past two seasons underneath coach Tyronn Lue, the previous level guard who coached Irving, James and the Cavaliers to the 2016 NBA championship.

Requested how essential management and availability are when contemplating roster additions Thursday, Frank stated he weighs rigorously a participant’s “basketball character.”

“Basketball character could also be somewhat bit totally different than what you hear of by way of character,” Frank stated. “Basketball character is like, are you able to be counted on each single day to do what you do on the highest stage, and are you — how dedicated are you to these habits? The bond that you simply type along with your teammates, like that’s a part of basketball character. Like, are you able to be the identical teammate when issues are going unhealthy for you in addition to when issues are going good for you?

“And I feel all these issues are management expertise. Innately, whatever the kinds of gamers, your greatest gamers are at all times your leaders somehow as a result of that’s what the opposite participant goes to look to. We’re actually, actually lucky in that our two greatest gamers [Leonard and George] actually, actually, actually take pleasure in one another. Like they’ve an important bond with one another, which is, I gained’t say distinctive, but it surely doesn’t occur in all places.”

And so forth.

Loyola Chicago guard Lucas Williamson, 6-5 Georgia Tech guard Michael Devoe and 6-7 Utah State ahead Justin Bean will signal Exhibit 10 contracts with the Clippers, an individual with data of the scenario confirmed. The signings are with the intent of permitting them to compete for a two-way contract.