Jovan Buha of The Athletic looked at how the Clippers’ championship hopes crashed last season. Besides the lack of chemistry among the team, another factor apparently dealt with the perceived special treatment afforded Leonard.
“Before every Clippers game last season, the team’s training staff would honor Kawhi Leonard’s request and create a private space for his pregame routine,” Buha wrote.
“The staffers would enter and take over that space for roughly 20 to 45 minutes, according to multiple team and league sources. On the road, there were occasions when the space they occupied was the female staffers’ locker room. That also happened sometimes before a doubleheader at Staples Center when the changing of the court limited the availability of the Los Angeles Kings’ locker room, where Leonard normally warmed up privately.
“Various Clippers players, coaches and staffers were aware of the arrangement and some felt uneasy about it. While there appeared to be no sexist intent, the visual of women staffers being unable to use their locker room to use the bathroom, to change clothes or to access their personal belongings while Leonard stretched did not go unnoticed. At least one player mentioned it to a confidant and at least one staffer complained about it to coworkers. It was an awkward arrangement, but drawing too much attention to it risked being seen as going against Leonard, the team’s unquestioned star, in the eyes of the organization.
“’What were they going to do about it?’ one league source said. ‘It’s Kawhi.’”
Leonard’s signing during the 2019 offseason, coupled with the acquisition of Paul George, had made the Clippers strong favorites to capture the franchise’s first league title entering the 2019-20 season.
The Clippers lost that series in seven games after being up 3-1.
Rivers was replaced by Tyronn Lue, who was one of his assistant coaches and has previous head coaching experience with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
During that time with the Cavaliers, Lue dealt with a similar situation in which LeBron James was believed to get special treatment.
Despite that potential conflict, James helped lead the Cavaliers to a title in 2016.
Clippers fans are hoping that Lue can help eliminate the chemistry concerns in the upcoming campaign.