When Tyronn Lue signed a five-year deal to be the head coach of the Los Angeles Clippers, there wasn’t much meaning associated with the Los Angeleno brand.
And while there still remains the ultimate goal of securing the franchise’s first championship, Lue has built an organization with character — the newly coined “Comeback Clips” — and what seems to be a perennial friendship.
The first example? Nicolas Batum, a 33-year-old forward.
Before the 2016-17 season, the Frenchman signed a massive contract with the Charlotte Hornets: $120 million for five years. He wasn’t quite the $120 million player that the Hornets or their fans were expecting, though. In just 22 games in 2019-20, he struggled to find traction: he averaged less than four points, shooting an ugly 35% from the field.
So, the Hornets made the no-brainer decision to waive Batum, leaving him without a guaranteed future in the league. That was the case until Batum received a call from the Clippers and soon signed a one-year veteran’s minimum deal.
You know the rest of the story: Batum quickly emerged as a key role player, efficiently knocking down open corner threes and taking the defensive load off the shoulders of superstars Paul George and Kawhi Leonard.
Hundreds of games ever since, it still seems like Batum still hasn’t forgotten who gave him the opportunity to play again, as he shared last month: “Ty Lue saved my life, so I’ll stay with T-Lue unless they kick me out.” We can now safely posit that Batum will continue to play for the Clippers — perhaps opting into his player option for the upcoming season.
This enthusiasm was also shared by his fellow European teammate, Ivica Zubac.
Although the Croatian big man wasn’t introduced to the Clippers in quite the same way as Batum — he was a young talent desired by many teams in the league — the Clippers still mean a lot to Zubac. He shared recently: “I want to stay and I think they want to keep me. I think I should be there and they’re going to pick [Zubac’s team option] up. I like Los Angeles a lot and I like the Clippers. It’s like a family to me.”
You could say the same of any other Clipper, too. Robert Covington, despite playing just 23 games for the Clippers, was quick to agree to a two-year contract extension and even the team’s superstars have continued to express their reverence for Lue and unconditional appreciation for the city of Los Angeles.
Under captain Lue’s prudence, the Clipper ship has quickly stirred away from being the second team in Los Angeles to becoming the team you want to play for, the city you want to play in front of, and the organization you want to win championships with.