Paul George and Montrezl Harrell reportedly had a heated exchange on the bench during the Clippers’ loss to the Nuggets.
Apparently, that wasn’t an isolated incident.
Shams Charania of The Athletic:
Paul George had a disappointing series against Denver, and had several moments that left him in compromising positions with his teammates — beyond just his production. Multiple teammates had verbal spats with George throughout the postseason, citing in their exchanges a lack of accountability from him.
In the postgame locker room Tuesday night, George was preaching to teammates to remain committed, for all the players to return to the team this offseason and stay ready to make another run. It was met by some eye rolls and bewilderment, sources said, because George did not back up his words with action in the series and the team has multiple free agents with decisions to make.
George wanted more time with his teammates. They already had enough of him.
This had been a simmering problem – George and Kawhi Leonard getting preferential treatment, their teammates resenting it. Harrell sounded particularly bothered by the dynamic.
Losing exacerbates issues like that, and getting upset by Denver was a big loss. Both George and Harrell faced on–court and off–court stressors – only further contributing to squabbling.
Harrell will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. The Clippers should try to keep him. He’s a good player, and they wouldn’t gain much cap flexibility without him.
But the 26-year-old might also want to explore the market and secure the most lucrative deal. It’d be reasonable for him to resent a teammate pressing him just to take the Clippers’ offer – especially if Harrell felt George wasn’t as committed to the team in the first place.
George and Leonard have earned preferential treatment. Leonard in particular has shown he benefits from load management.
However, that can annoy teammates. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad plan. It just means that downside should be accounted for.
It’d be nice if Leonard were more vocal or George rubbed fewer people the wrong way. But their basketball talent means dealing with their shortcomings. It’d be nice if George’s eye-rolling teammates realized that, too.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers bears responsibility for managing this tension. A this best, he connects well with players and gets everyone pulling for the same goal. That’s his job as the Clippers try to make the next step.