Last offseason, the Clippers were the target of front-office poaching. Minnesota was interested in GM Michael Winger for its president of basketball operations opening, and New Orleans wanted assistant GM Trent Redden to be the Pelicans’ general manager. Both Winger and Redden ultimately stayed with the Clippers in lesser titles.
The understanding was that the two executives were each keen on seeing through what the Clippers had built, but also that Steve Ballmer had opened up his checkbook to keep them in Los Angeles.
Now, Ballmer is using his checkbook to do the poaching himself. The Clippers reportedly swiped assistant coach Dan Craig away from the Miami Heat after rumors circulated last week of LA’s interest in Heat lifer. Craig spent 17 years with the Miami organization, but per the Miami Herald, was lured away by a larger contract, the prospect of winning a championship, and a stronger pathway to becoming a head coach.
With all due to respect to the Herald’s reporting, the latter two reasons are a bit specious. The Heat just made the NBA Finals and have multiple young players (Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, and Duncan Robinson) on the right side of the aging curve, making their future prospects arguably more tantalizing than those of the Clippers. Furthermore, Miami is a big market and Erik Spoelstra’s staff is well-respected around the league. In recent years, David Fizdale has gone to be a head coach in both Memphis and New York; Juwan Howard emerged as a candidate for the Lakers job in 2019 before going back to coach his alma mater Michigan; and Craig himself was interviewed fo the Pacers job before they hired Nate Bjorkgren.
It seems like Craig made the move for the money, and good for him for earning that raise. Credit also to Ballmer — the richest owner in the NBA by a large margin — for making that happen. There is no salary cap on coaches, so it only makes sense for a team with title ambitions to pay to get the best staff possible.
Former Nets head coach Kenny Atkinson is reportedly coming along with Craig and is another strong hire. As a free agent, his price tag may not have been as high, but Atkinson was beloved by many players in Brooklyn and will be a fine asset for the Clippers’ player development.
More news for Tuesday:
- Former Clipper Danilo Gallinari has expressed an interest in finding a winning situation in free agency rather than the highest payday. Could a reunion with the Clippers be in the cards?
- Bobby Marks predicted the starting salaries for each free agent.
- Jovan Buha went over the changes the Clippers could make under Ty Lue.
- The Forum and Staples Center are open for early voting. Make sure to cast your ballot if you haven’t already.
- Happy birthday to Lou Williams! Strange to think he’s only been a Clipper for three seasons; it feels like he’s been around forever.