LOS ANGELES — Tyronn Lue and the Los Angeles Clippers knew this would be coming, but it hasn’t made it any easier. With the NBA’s trade deadline rapidly approaching on Feb. 10, the Clippers are stuck having to decide where they want to go with the futures of Kawhi Leonard and Paul George uncertain.
Trade deadline week in the NBA is one of the most nerve-wracking times of the season. Championship contenders look to tinker with their roster to prepare for the title run, middle-of-the-pack teams try to figure out which direction they want to go, and lower-end teams often try to accrue assets for the upcoming offseason.
With a 27-27 record through 54 games, the Clippers are firmly in the middle of a heated race for a Western Conference playoff spot. They’re 6.5 games ahead of the New Orleans Pelicans, who sit just outside the play-in tournament, while also sitting 2.5 games behind the sixth-seeded Denver Nuggets.
The Clippers rarely leak on their end, but they’ve had a number of players involved in trade rumors over the last month, namely Serge Ibaka. Ahead of Thursday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers, Tyronn Lue made his stance very clear with a week remaining until the league’s highly anticipated trade deadline.
“I haven’t really had time to try to manage it,” Lue said. “Like that’s Lawrence’s and their job. I know they’ll do a great job whatever we need but, like I said, I love our team and how we’re constructed now. Like we come out every night and compete, play hard.”
Eric Bledsoe is the only player to have played all 54 games so far. Kawhi Leonard has missed all 54 games. Paul George has missed 28 games. Marcus Morris has missed 25 games. Nicolas Batum has missed 21 games. Isaiah Hartenstein has missed 14 games. Luke Kennard has missed 10 games. Iron Man Ivica Zubac has missed six.
George, Morris, and Batum have played just four minutes together all season. By all accounts, the Clippers have been very good and still don’t know how good they can be since they haven’t had their whole team.
“You really didn’t get a real gauge of our team because of our two best players being out. Kawhi the whole year, PG missing over half the season. Like I said, I love our team how we are now, and it’s not really a true testament to what our team can be once those guys are on the floor so we really haven’t seen what our team can be.”
As far as managing players’ concerns regarding rumors and how it might affect the mental side, Lue says everyone must remember it’s a business.
“I mean, I don’t know. It’s part of the business. I’ve been traded five times, so just part of the business. If a team trades for you, that means somebody wanted you, so that’s how you gotta look at it. It’s a tough time in the season, but, you know, it’s business and you gotta understand that. Like you said, it’s one of the toughest stretches of the season because you don’t wanna see guys get traded and you don’t wanna lose guys that you’ve been working with for four, five months and see them leave, so it is a tough time in the season.”
"I love our team and how we’re constructed now. Like we come out every night and compete, play hard. You can't get a real gauge of our team because our two best players are out. Kawhi the whole year, PG missing over half the season."
Ty Lue on the trade deadline. #Clippers pic.twitter.com/rrserifPEq
— Tomer Azarly (@TomerAzarly) February 4, 2022
LA could benefit from creating an additional roster spot via trade in order to sign Amir Coffey to an NBA contract. Coffey is a restricted free agent following the 2021-22 campaign and is expected to receiver multiple offer sheets in the offseason. Additionally, Coffey would be ineligible to play in the postseason due to his two-way contract not being converted.