PHOENIX — A somber Tyronn Lue left the podium for the final time this season, a year full of hopes and expectations down the drain. The Los Angeles Clippers had just been eliminated from the NBA Playoffs in the first round, with neither Kawhi Leonard nor Paul George available for the team's final three games. George missed the entire first-round series against the Phoenix Suns, and it was just revealed that Leonard has a torn meniscus.
The team will now face questions top to bottom, from roster constructions to the front office. As of right now, not much is on people's minds more than the future of Tyronn Lue as head coach of the Clippers. There had been rumors floating around that Lue was considering leaving coaching due to the strenuous nature of the job and some personal matters that he had been unable to tend to.
Lue answered with a straightforward “Yes, sir” when asked if he expects to be the head coach of the Clippers entering the 2023-24 regular season.
There were, however, several comments throughout his postgame press conference that opened some eyes.
Tyronn Lue started his presser by thanking the fans, his coaching staff, the players, the front office, organization, and Steve Ballmer. Nothing in that was out of the ordinary except that it gave off the feeling of a ‘goodbye' to a number of people in the room. That's why the press conference closed with the question about his future.
Tyronn Lue took the first minute of his postgame presser to thank the fans, his coaching staff, the players, and the organization for this season and the last 3 seasons.
It almost sounded like a goodbye, but Ty told @AndrewGreif he does expect to coach the Clippers next season. pic.twitter.com/pXE7aLFYjb
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) April 26, 2023
It's likely due to being a prisoner of the moment, but Lue found it hard to name something that stuck with him from the season outside of the two biggest injuries to their two biggest guys at the worst possible time.
“What else could be?” Lue asked. “I mean, yeah, our two best players got hurt. Take Steph and Klay off of Golden State. Take KD and Booker off this team, Greek Freak was out two games. Take the two best players off of any team in the league and see if they can win in the playoffs against a team that's picked to win it.
“No letdowns. Like I said, I'm proud of every guy in the locker room, scrap and compete every night. That is all you can ask for when you are shorthanded. You take the two best players off of anybody's team, they're not going to win. I don't care how you look at it. They're not going to do it. That doesn't mean you can't compete, fight, play hard, play right every single night. Like I said, I really thank our guys for doing that every single night even in tough situations we had to go through.”
Truthfully speaking, the Clippers simply never stood a chance against the Suns without Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Even one of them could've helped win the series, and both would've certainly put them in a great position to win.
This coaching season wasn't the best of Tyronn Lue's career. Overplaying Marcus Morris at times, committing to poor multiple guard lineups, and not giving Robert Covington enough looks are all at the top of people's lists. But it also wasn't like he was given a full deck of cards to work with either. The constant shuffling of the deck made it impossible to ever get a rhythm. The team finished with under 10 games played at full strength.
“There are probably a lot of things [I would've done different], but I don't know right now. Any time you lose a game, you think about what I could have done differently, what I could have done better. It starts with me first. That's how I look at everything. It starts with me first, then you kind of go down the line.
“I mean, probably a lot of things, but I don't know right offhand.”
As he stated, Tyronn Lue is expecting to return as head coach of the Clippers for the 2023-24 season. Lawrence Frank, Steve Ballmer, Lue, and the rest of the Clippers' braintrust will sit down over the next few days and gauge where the season may have gone wrong.
No matter the outcome of those conversations, taking a step back will remind everyone that the Clippers weren't winning an NBA championship unless Kawhi Leonard and Paul George were healthy.