On one night, the Clippers celebrated Lou Williams scoring his 15,000th point in the NBA after a blowout win road win over the San Antonio Spurs. On the next night in San Antonio, the team was discussing the deadline deal that sent Williams away and brought Rajon Rondo to the roster following Thursday’s 98-85 win.
“Actually, we talked about it at halftime, I said, ‘We need Lou Will right now,’” Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue said after Thursday’s game came without starters Kawhi Leonard (right foot soreness), Marcus Morris Sr. (right calf contusion), Serge Ibaka (lower back tightness) and Patrick Beverley (right knee soreness), in addition to Williams.
“He’s going to be missed for everything he brought and not just basketball. I just thank him as a person. That is what I love the most. We know he is a great basketball player. Just him as a human being and what he stood for and how he always boosts morale for the team and of everyone around him, that is what is going to be missed the most.”
Now, the Clippers arrive in Southern California and don’t have to play another road game until April 13. A nine-game homestand awaits them. When they start it, they will have Rondo in the locker room. And they’ll be facing a familiar face and voice in Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers, who led the Clippers from 2013 until 2020.
For Lue, it’s a confluence of relationships at an interesting time in his first season after succeeding Rivers. The trade deadline cost Lue a player he often referred to as his third scorer in Williams; it also cost the Clippers two second-round draft picks (Portland’s 2023 and their own 2027) along with cash considerations. It gives Lue a player in Rondo who Lue called his “project” while on the Boston Celtics coaching staff from 2009 to 2013. Lue has a lot to figure out over the next couple of weeks, on and off the court.
It’s all about relationships.
The important relationship to start with is with Rivers. In 2003, Lue signed with the Orlando Magic to become Rivers’ starting point guard. That Magic team won its first game of that season, then lost 19 in a row. Rivers was fired as Magic head coach after the tenth loss. But before that, Lue made an impression on Rivers.
“When I played for Doc in Orlando, he just said when I’m ready to start coaching, I can come coach with him,” Lue said during 2012 Summer League, according to the Boston Globe. “I called Doc up when I was done and said I wanted to get into coaching, and the next day he had a job for me.”
Before this season, Lue spent six of his 11 seasons as an assistant coach with Rivers. Lue left Boston with Rivers to join the Clippers in 2013, with Rivers being named the senior vice president of basketball operations with the Clippers; Lue turned down an opportunity to join former Los Angeles Lakers teammate Brian Shaw’s staff in Denver that year. In 2014, Lue left the Clippers for the Cleveland Cavaliers, first as a top assistant under David Blatt and then as Blatt’s replacement starting in January 2016.
When Lue’s Cavaliers won the championship in 2016, Rivers was proud of him. When the Cavaliers started 0-6 and fired Lue early in the 2018-19 season, Rivers empathized with Lue. And when the Lakers and other NBA teams didn’t hire Lue as a head coach in 2019, Lue went back to the Clippers as Rivers’ assistant again.
Lue said he’s giving Rivers a “big hug” when the 76ers meet the Clippers in LA Saturday.