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Clippers’ Paul George, Tyronn Lue react to Lou Williams-Rajon Rondo trade

LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Clippers improved to a perfect 8-0 on the second night of a back-to-back set, but there wasn’t much celebrating on Thursday night. Tyronn Lue, Paul George, and the team admitted their thoughts were set on Lou Williams, who was traded to the Atlanta Hawks in a deal for Rajon Rondo.

“That is the toughest part of the business, especially for me being traded a few times and knowing how that is,” head coach Ty Lue said after the game. “We are going to miss Lou dearly, hate to see him go, a big part of what they have done here the last four years, with him being a part of it and what he has done for us the last few months since I’ve been here.”

Of all the trades the Clippers have facilitated over the last couple of years, this one involving Lou Williams seemed to hit everyone the hardest. Yes, that includes Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

“It was tough preparing, not seeing 23 in the locker room.” Paul George said. “Everybody felt it throughout the locker room. He’s a presence, not only on the floor but in the locker room, on the bus. In film, he’s a presence that’s gonna be missed. What a career here in LA for Lou. I wish him nothing but the best. Unfortunately, this is the toughest part of the business.”

Williams finished his Clippers career averaging 19.1 points, 2.7 rebounds, and 5.1 assists across 261 regular-season appearances. He won back-to-back Sixth Man of the Year Awards before helping former Clipper Montrezl Harrell win his first last season.

More than his knack for getting buckets and setting up his teammates, Lou Williams had really developed into a strong mentor in the locker room while also being the coolest cat in the room. Teammates loved him and trusted him.

“[Today was] very bitter,” Lue added. “Over the last two years, just having a chance to be around Lou, I knew him from afar and we always spoke. But to have a chance to actually be around him for two years and just seeing the person he was and how he did so much for this team and this franchise, just tough letting him go. When you get a guy that is three-time Sixth Man of the Year, scored 15,000 points, most of them off the bench, just his contributions to this organization have been so incredible.”

Second-year guard Terance Mann, who Lou Williams took under his wing as a rookie last season, says he learned so much from the two years he’d been with him.

“Lou was my vet,” Mann said. “He taught me how to be a pro. He taught me how to approach the game. He taught me how to have the right mentality during the game when it’s going good, when it’s going bad. He always picked me up if things were going bad. He always, you know, checked in on me, on and off the court, so you know it’s going to be tough having him gone, but you know I’mma stay connected with him. He’s great for our team, big-time leader, and like you said, you know he’s the cool, cooler, so just having him around was just a great vibe, and I’m definitely gonna miss him.”

With Williams leaving, the stage is set for Rajon Rondo to come in and take over the minutes left behind by Lou. Kennard and Terance Mann have both shown that they deserve a spot, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a guard with more playoff experience.

Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers, who coached both Rondo and Lue while also having Lue as an assistant during Rondo’s time on Boston, was asked about the move late Thursday night. He expects the move to bring about positive results, and went as far as to call Lue the “Rondo whisperer.”

Lue wouldn’t go that far, but acknowledged Rondo’s in with the Clippers.

“First thing you got to know what you’re talking about,” Lue said in response to a “Rondo whisperer” question. “Second thing is he’s so smart, sometimes he’s too smart for his own good. He knows every play that’s called and everything that’s coming and he might pull out of coverage, but the other guys are not ready for it because he knows what play is coming.

“As far as being cerebral and smart around the game, in my experience it’s just him and LeBron who are two of the guys that I’d rank up there as far as just high IQ and knowing what’s going on on the floor, how to control a game. [Chris Paul] as well. Just tell him the truth, being honest with him. He’s fiery, that’s what we need, he’s tough. He understands the game. And he respects people as a straight shooter and will tell him the truth. That was my biggest thing in Boston, was just being honest with him and telling him the truth and keeping it real with him.”

The Clippers return home for a nine-game home stand starting Saturday against the Philadelphia 76ers. Rajon Rondo has been dealing with a right adductor injury, so his status for any of the Clippers’ upcoming games are still unclear.

After losing Lou Williams, LA will face Doc Rivers for the first time since he was let go by the Clippers.