Clippers exit interviews: How Kawhi Leonard and Paul George grew as leaders

Mikal Bridges reaches over the head of Nicolas Batum as Batum prepares to shoot a basket.
Clippers forward Nicolas Batum gets past Suns forward Mikal Bridges for a layup in Game 6.
(Gina Ferazzi / Los Angeles Times)

The Clippers’ season ended Wednesday night in a 130-103 loss to the Phoenix Suns in Game 6 of the Western Conference finals.

Here are some takeaways from exit interviews on Thursday (Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, among others, did not address the media):

— Second-year guard Terance Mann was first and discussed how superstar teammates Leonard and George evolved as leaders with the help of coach Tyronn Lue. “I’m not going to lie,” Mann said. “It took time for them to figure out the team, figure out what everybody was about. But a big part of it was having T. Lue back. … He played a big role in helping Kawhi and PG learn the team and lead the team.”


— Center Ivica Zubac, who is under contract for two more seasons, which includes a club option in 2022-23, is hopeful that free agents Nicolas Batum and Reggie Jackson return. He said Batum “did all the little stuff” while adding what Jackson “did in the playoffs was really incredible.”

— Batum, signed by the Clippers after a dismal end to his tenure in Charlotte, was surprised by how his season turned out. “Back in November,” he said, “if someone had told me I’d still be playing basketball in late June and competing for something big and being on the court and playing, I would not believe it.”

— Mann, who not only had a breakout season but also multiple impact games in the playoffs, said he’s ready to improve his game. “Myself, I learned I’m ready to fight when my name is called. … I’m excited to attack this offseason and take my game to the next level.”

— Although the Clippers finished the postseason with Leonard (right knee strain), Serge Ibaka (back surgery) and Zubac (right knee MCL sprain) sidelined, Batum gave a nod to the Phoenix Suns. “If we have no injuries, it certainly would have been different,” he said. “We don’t know, we never know. That’s why Phoenix is a good team. … They find a way to get through adversity.”

Clippers’ Reggie Jackson, who once had limited minutes during season and playoffs, finished strong against the Suns and is thankful for his chance.

July 1, 2021