On Thursday, I attended the Clippers’ “The Playbook” presentation at the Shrine Auditorium at USC. The event included: opening remarks by Gillian Zucker, President of Business Operations; a panel discussion with Jerry West and Lawrence Frank, moderated by Rachel Nichols of ESPN; and, closing remarks by Patrick Beverley.
The panel discussion only lasted about forty minutes, but, in the short amount of time, one saw a stark contrast between the approach of Lawrence Frank and West, even though the two are in sync when it comes to player evaluation and the moves the Clippers have made.
- Frank is a master of public relations: Nichols did not hold back, asking tough questions about the Griffin trade and DeAndre’s future. But Frank proved capable of giving bland answers, almost sounding like he was in a board room talking to investors about a firm’s strategic vision. He even had the cliché “three principles,” which he repeated throughout his answers.
- Jerry West, more established and respected, could speak his mind: While Frank had his three principles with which to consider a potential roster move, West had a much simpler motto: What is popular is not always right, and what is right is not always popular. This mantra, of course, was deployed as West gave his perspective on the trading of Blake Griffin.
- West almost said too much, on a few occasions: As Nichols continued to probe about the Griffin decision, West wandered down a trail of thought that he would eventually abandon. Specifically, he started to say something about Blake being quiet and reserved, and suggested that working with someone like that can be hard. But he quickly pivoted to complimenting Blake’s brightness (intelligence) and the work he’s put into his game. It’s hard for me not to think that West felt like Blake didn’t fit in, but maybe I am reading too far into it.
- West didn’t hold back on DeAndre, either: As the issue of DeAndre’s future came up, Frank sang the same song — the we love DJ, we hope to find something that fits our principles and also benefits DJ, kind of talk — but West said it very plainly: He’s been offered an extension but he has not bothered so sign it. I cringed thinking about how DJ would take that comment — and wished that Frank’s PR skills could have had the last word.
Overall, I thought the event was very nice and moderately insightful. For me, it just affirmed the notion that Jerry West is there to break the Clippers’ conventional thought process and make them think more creatively. He is the blunt instrument that severed the embrace between Blake and the Clippers franchise, allowing for the front office to take a calculated risk instead of doubling down on the only success we’ve seen as a franchise. While Clips Nation holds nostalgic to the last six years, West is reminding us that the success he had with the Lakers and Warriors was not born of short-sightedness.