It makes sense that star players and franchise faces would be treated a little differently than their teammates. The big bucks, potential championships and viewership they bring with them puts them in a class above the journeymen and role players that necessarily fill out the rest of the squad, even as "team effort" post-game press quotes pile up. Even knowing that though, Kawhi Leonard and Paul George's treatment in Los Angeles reportedly rubbed some of their Clippers teammates the wrong way. According to a new report from The Athletic, the privileges granted to the Clippers' A-listers was enough to cause major chemistry issues in the locker room last season, which ended with an unceremonious early exit from the playoffs.
The report states that George and Leonard were allowed to have their own security detail, bodyguards and personal trainers. They also had veto power over the team's practice schedule and travel times and several team members reportedly think Leonard flexed that ability and cancelled several practices over the season.
Adding to that sense of separation, Leonard was allowed to live outside of Los Angeles. As has previously been reported, Leonard resides in San Diego, a full two hours from his home arena. In the report, teammates say that this exception made Leonard frequently late for team events and travel.
For all this, the Clippers didn't even get the perk of having the pair act as public faces of the franchise. They were allowed to postpone their post-game conferences nearly a full hour after the game ended for treatment and workouts. In practice, this left their teammates to explain the game and defend the decisions made on the court.
Perhaps the most damning accusation in the whole report is that Leonard and George were allowed to decide when and if they would play. Teammates believed the pair were allowed to decline playing time, sitting out entire games and even telling coaches in-game that they would not be subbed back in.
“How do you ever build a strong team with that shit going on?” a team source told The Athletic. “I thought from the beginning, ‘We’re doomed. Kawhi wants too much special treatment.’”
On the same day as The Athletic's report, a clip from an upcoming All the Smoke episode featuring Paul George was released, where he talked about what went wrong in Los Angeles last season. He accused former head coach Doc Rivers of scheming incorrectly for his game and not getting the most use out of players.
"Doc was trying to play me as a Ray Allen or a JJ Redick, all pin-downs. I can do it, but that ain't my game," he said. "I need some flow. I need some mixes of pick and rolls. I need some post-ups. Just different touches."
The full All the Smoke episode with George will be released on Dec. 10.
New Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue is looking to fix these issues, and will reportedly deny George and Leonard of these privileges going forward. However, he also plans to make it clear that Leonard is the premier player on the team. The Athletic reports that Lue will "establish a clearer internal hierarchy" and ask the pair to "forgo certain requests or standards to set a better example for their teammates."