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The Clippers’ new vocal leader after Kawhi Leonard injury, Patrick Beverley trade

Clippers, Kawhi Leonard, Patrick Beverley, Ty Lue, Paul George

PLAYA VISTA – When the LA Clippers traded away guard Patrick Beverley, they didn’t just lose another role player. Beverley’s roles as lockdown defender, knock-down shooter, and number one hype man are all facets that could be found in other players, to a lesser extent. The toughest part about Beverley’s game and personality to replace is his voice and leadership.

Beverley was a strong voice in the Clippers locker room over the last several years. When the Clippers were playing well, he was the loudest player on the court and bench. When they weren’t performing up to standards, Beverley was the first player to light into his team without escaping any kind of accountability on his own. The trade sending Beverley to the Memphis Grizzlies opened a spot for the Clippers in that department. Losing Kawhi Leonard to injury didn’t help either.

As the preseason comes to a close and the regular season is set to begin, the Clippers are still searching for that big voice. Most of the team will agree that guard Reggie Jackson is the loudest player until he gets on the court.

“Before practice starts, I think it’s Reggie,” Tyronn Lue joked. “But then once the game starts, he’s quiet too so I don’t really know. I would say Reggie before practice, but then once the game starts and we start playing, everybody’s pretty quiet.”

One guy who has stepped up the most in his short tenure with Los Angeles is the oldest player on the team: Nicolas Batum.

Batum is entering his 13th season in the NBA, a journey which started in Portland with the Blazers, transitioned to Charlotte with the Hornets, and is now in Los Angeles with the Clippers. His demeanor in those 13 years hasn’t changed too much.

“He’s quiet like everybody else,” Tyronn Lue laughed. “He’s quiet like everybody else. But when he needs to speak up, he does. When we’re not playing the right way and we’re not sharing the basketball, he definitely steps up and makes sure his voice is heard. But just a quiet guy, just wants to do whatever it takes to win. He’s the ultimate team guy.”

Batum even admits to mistakes far too often, Lue says. Even when they aren’t even on him.

“He always owns up to — he thinks he makes a mistake even though it’s not his fault, but he’ll own up to it like the rest of our guys do as well so we got a great group of guys. I’m excited to coach this team and we know it’s gonna be a process, but these guys are up for the journey.”

While that leadership style is great, it’s not what Lue is looking for. He’s not looking for any one particular guy to lead the way and speak out when needed. It’s not just on Nicolas Batum, or Paul George, or Reggie Jackson, or even Kawhi Leonard from the sidelines. It’s got to be on everyone, and especially the veterans who have been here before.

“We need more vocal leadership from [Eric] Bledsoe, Paul George, Marcus [Morris], Reggie [Jackson]. Those are the guys we need to be more vocal.

“I think a committee is better, because if you have one person just speaking up all the time, you can kind of tune that out. But when you have different guys speaking up in different moments, I think that’s a lot better as far as a team standpoint.”

Even though Kawhi Leonard hasn’t been able to participate in any activities with his teammates, he’s still finding his way to stay involved and impactful. Leonard has been more involved in coaches meetings while actively advising his teammates from the sidelines of scrimmages and preseason games. He’s even taken to the practice court a few times to shoot around in a limited fashion.

“Just him being around has a great effect on our team,” Tyronn Lue said. “Just his presence alone. He’s been good, just talking to everyone, making sure everyone is on the same page, giving guys confidence. He’s also been in our coaches’ meeting a couple of times. I think he wants to be a coach. Even at our team dinner the other day, he was sitting with the coaches and [is] always picking our brain. It’s just fun having him around.”

Leonard has years of experience under his belt under head coaches Gregg Popovich and Nick Nurse, both of whom he won an NBA championship with. So far, Lue has essentially had an extra assistant coach on the sidelines, talking to his players, echoing where he sees that things can be done differently.

“I’d rather have him out there,” Lue said despite the pleasant addition to his staff.

“Any time you can get him to be vocal and talking, that’s just good to see. He’s always asking questions, what we’re doing this, why we’re doing this, what’s that for? Just trying to pick up on everything we’re trying to do and trying to see from the coach’s side, what our thoughts are, going into it. So it’s just good having him around, it’s good having the conversations and he’s been good for our young guys as well.”

Towards the end of his tenure with the San Antonio Spurs, Gregg Popovich said the next step for him was going to become a more vocal leader. While playing alongside Tim Duncan, Manu Ginobili, and Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard was never needed in that role. The expectation was that he’d take that leap. Unfortunately, things broke down in San Antonio pretty quickly.

“He wasn’t a vocal leader [with the Spurs], that’s not who he was,” Popovich recalled. “Timmy wasn’t a vocal leader. Everybody leads in different ways. While he was there, Tim and Tony and Manu were there so those were the guys you kind of looked to while he was developing, but that was gonna be the next step for him. He started talking about leadership and that sort of thing. But he set an example at practice and in games every day.”

It appears Leonard has sort of found his way, at least from the sidelines.

“He’s definitely a leader by example,” Tyronn Lue added. “Just the work he puts in, and being early every day, staying late, working on his game. And having the same routine every single day, so we see that. The vocal leadership, it’s just different for everyone. So, I think last year he took a step forward of just being more vocal, and this year, when he’s around he’s doing the same thing. I just think it’s a process, you know? I think it’s like every year you add something to your game, basketball-wise. I think, leadership as far as being vocal, it’s the same thing, just taking steps and he’s definitely done that, in taking steps in the right direction.

Does that mean it’s time to cue the Kawhi Leonard-future head coach talk?

“Nah,” Lue chuckled. “He has too much money to coach.”

The Clippers open up their season on Thursday, October 21st, when they visit the Golden State Warriors.