Los Angeles Times reporter Law Murray recently reported that Steve Ballmer was tired of Cowie Leonard’s repeated injury and load management scripts, and Clippers management planned to seek a deal between Leonard and Paul George in this offseason. This reconstruction option has been discussed internally.
The Clippers returned to Los Angeles with a big score of 1-1. Before the third game of the series, the whole team practiced shooting. Head coach Tyrone Lu was still optimistic. Former assistant coach Chauncey Billups was also present to help guide the training, and chatted with Westbrook on the sidelines to exchange some game suggestions. Later, George sent a positive message: "I’m training and I’m in very good shape. I’ll win the championship together when I come back."
Everything is going in an orderly way. Clippers fans are looking forward to beating the Suns at home and taking the trend of the series into their own hands. Soon, an injury news was released: "Leonard sprained his right knee and will miss the third game against the Suns." This is the 30th day of George’s right knee injury, and he expects to need the Clippers to reach the Western Conference semifinals before he can come back.
The Clippers’ situation is still deteriorating. Leonard’s knee injury has nothing to do with the ligament tear two years ago, but the injury position is on the same side of his right knee, which is worrying. "Leonard has no timetable for his return, and I don’t know when he will return from injury." Law Murray confirmed, "Clippers management, coaching staff and players still hold a glimmer of hope, expecting Leonard to come back at some point, but the situation does not seem optimistic."
"This is a familiar playoff story for the Clippers. There is no Leonard and no George." Law Murray revealed, "Ballmer is tired of such a plot, tired of Leonard’s endless injuries and load management, tired of entering the playoffs with hope year after year, and ending the season with great disappointment." Since 2020, something has happened to the Clippers every spring, which makes the management unable to achieve the plan of winning the championship. Every year, they come on the spur of the moment and come back disappointed.
In 2020, the Clippers reached the playoffs with the second place in the West and were reversed by the Nuggets with a 3-1 lead. In the semi-final of the Western Conference in 2021, Leonard’s right knee ligament was torn and reimbursed; In 2022, Leonard was reimbursed for the season, and George was also unable to play in the key game against the team; Then in the spring of 2023, Leonard and George stood by in front of the fans in Los Angeles. "(Leonard is always injured) This is really painful and particularly boring." Ballmer said in an interview, "This is the casino profit effect."
The Clippers signed Leonard with a maximum salary of $109 million for three years in 2019, and renewed his contract with a maximum salary of $176 million for four years in 2021. Ballmer not only invested $285 million in Leonard, but also traded his designated George from the Thunder at any cost. Every season, he built a lineup around Leonard and didn’t care about money. The Clippers ranked in the top three in the league in salary expenditure in the past four seasons, and ranked first in the total salary of $193 million this season.
"Ballmer is extremely eager to see the Clippers win the championship. He is eager for the Clippers to beat James and the Lakers in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, this wish may be difficult to achieve by Leonard." Law Murray continued, "Ballmer was extremely disappointed. This season was originally the best chance for the Clippers to win the championship, but the hope became extremely slim with Leonard and George’s knee injuries." During Leonard’s four seasons with the Clippers, Ballmer spent more than $1.2 billion on player salaries and luxury taxes, but he couldn’t realize his dream of winning the championship.
Leonard played only 161 games in the Clippers’ four seasons, of which he was reimbursed in 2021-22. He missed a lot of games in each season for load management, and still could not guarantee his health. "Clippers management and Ballmer discussed it, maybe it’s time to set sail again." Law Murray said, "In this offseason, the Clippers’ most important plan includes the option of trading Leonard and George, and rebuilding a healthy team to compete for the championship.