Eliminated by Mavericks, Clippers have a number of offseason questions to address

Los Angeles Clippers guard James Harden (1) drives against Dallas Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving.
Clippers guard James Harden drives against Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving during the first half of the Clippers’ season-ending loss in Game 6 on Friday night. Will Harden be on the Clippers’ roster next season?
(Jeffrey McWhorter / Associated Press)

Steve Ballmer leaned over from his baseline seat and shook hands with a reporter walking by, the Clippers owner appearing somber after watching his team get eliminated from the playoffs with a 114-101 loss in Game 6 against the Dallas Mavericks at American Airlines Arena.

A few minutes later, Clippers coach Tyronn Lue said Ballmer walked into the locker room and spoke to the players.

Along with president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank, Ballmer has a lot of decisions to make about the future of the franchise as it prepares to move into its new arena, the Intuit Dome in Inglewood, next season.


The Clippers are hoping Tyronn Lue will remain their coach for the foreseeable future amid speculation he could be a candidate for Lakers’ coaching job.

May 3, 2024

Most of the questions will center on the health of Kawhi Leonard, contract extensions for Paul George and Lue and whether the Clippers re-sign James Harden.

So Ballmer’s decision to talk to players after their season-ending loss meant “a lot” to the team, Lue said.

“You have the seventh-, eighth-richest man in the world and he’s a real fan. Like, he’s a real fan. Like, he treats us like family,” Lue said. “He actually genuinely cares about each individual and we’ve seen that time and time again. So, when you have an owner that really respects who you are, not as a basketball player, but a person and who you are, that means a lot. Not just putting you on a basketball court and saying, ‘OK, you work for me.’ Like, he really genuinely cares about each individual. He cares about the wins. He’s fired up. He’s passionate about it. And, so, that’s what I love the most about Mr. Ballmer. He treats everyone as equals.”

The Clippers again had to play without Leonard, who missed his fourth game in the series because of inflammation in his right knee. He played 68 games during the regular season but missed the final eight with the knee issue. He played in Games 2 and 3 against the Mavericks but was limited. Leonard didn’t make the trip to Dallas for Game 6.

“The times he was around, he was very frustrated,” George said. “You could see it on him. He wanted to be out there. He wanted to be with us. But like we said, it was more staff keeping him back, noticing that he wasn’t himself, to protect him. So he was ready to lace it up and give whatever he could. So I know it was frustrating for him not to be able to be out there with us.”

Leonard signed a three-year extension worth about $152 million that starts next season. But George hasn’t signed an extension. He has a player option for next season at $48.7 million. The most the Clippers can offer George is a four-year extension worth up to $221 million, and that would be contingent upon him opting out of the last year of his deal.

After struggling through a six-for-18 night, George was asked if he could view himself being with the Clippers long term alongside Leonard and Harden.


“Yeah, if it works that way,” George said. “Absolutely.”

The Philadelphia 76ers and Orlando Magic reportedly will make a run at George if he is unable to work out a deal. The most either team could offer George is a four-year deal worth about $212 million.

Clippers guard Norman Powell attempts a driving layup against Dallas' Maxi Kleber (42) and guard Dante Exum (0).
Clippers guard Norman Powell attempts a driving layup after beating Mavericks forward Maxi Kleber (42) and guard Dante Exum (0) down the lane.
(Jeffrey McWhorter / Associated Press)

“I’m not even focused on that yet,” George said. ”I got a lot to kind of digest myself, so I haven’t even got to that yet. Look forward to kind of going back, just letting everything kind of decompress. Talk to my family, be around family support and then address the next step. But I’m not just there yet.”

Harden will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. Acquired by the Clippers in a trade with Philadelphia in October, Harden earned $35 million this season but couldn’t help them advance past the first round, shooting five for 18 in the finale.

He was asked about his future.

“I don’t even know,” Harden said. “You’re asking me a question that I don’t have the answer to. I haven’t even thought about it.”

The Clippers expect Lue to be the coach for a “long time” and the plan is to look at getting him a contract extension, according to a person with knowledge of the situation not authorized to speak publicly. Lue was asked if he hopes to get an extension, leading him to talk about his fondness for Ballmer, Frank, general manager Trent Redden, assistant general manager Mark Hughes and president of business operations Gillian Zucker.


James Harden scored just seven points during the Clippers’ critical Game 5 playoff loss to the Dallas Mavericks on Wednesday, an unacceptable tally.

May 2, 2024

“I hope so,” Lue said. “I didn’t come here to bounce around, go all over the place. Mr. Ballmer, Lawrence, Mark, Trent, Gillian, they all have been great to me. This is where I want to be and hopefully they feel the same way. I haven’t had a better experience since I’ve been here. Mr. Ballmer showed me a lot of different things that [I] wouldn’t be privy to if I wasn’t here. ... So, just having a great relationship with the owner, the front office, it’s great. And, so, I would love to be here long term.”

When the Lakers fired coach Darvin Ham on Friday, Lue’s name surfaced as a potential candidate for the job, one he was offered five years ago, but the sides couldn’t reach an agreement.

“Yeah, I don’t really have a comment on that,” Lue said when asked about the Lakers coaching rumors. “I mean, it’s great to be wanted. You know, that’s a really good feeling. But like I said, I want to be here and hopefully we’re able to solidify that.”