Haberstroh: “We Were A Little Too Eager To Anoint” Kawhi Leonard

Tom Haberstroh weighs in on the Clippers’ collapse and explains why Doc Rivers should keep his job

Reiter Than You
September 16, 2020 - 1:15 pm
Kawhi Leonard

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After leading the Toronto Raptors to an NBA title in 2019, Kawhi Leonard hoped to do the same for the Los Angeles Clippers in 2020. 

That, however, won’t be happening.

The Clippers lost Game 7 of their second-round playoff series to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday, as Leonard had one of his worst games of the season. He scored 14 points on 6-of-22 shooting, this after scoring 13 points on 4-of-17 shooting in Game 2.

The Clippers lost that game, too.

At this point, what should fans make of the two-time NBA Finals MVP? 

“Kawhi Leonard won the championship last year under very odd circumstances,” NBC Sports NBA insider Tom Haberstroh said on Reiter Than You. “Kevin Durant got hurt. Klay Thompson got hurt as well. Not that there’s an asterisk on the Toronto Raptors’ title, but there were circumstances that maybe we were a little too eager to anoint him as the best player in the NBA. I remember during The Last Dance people were comparing him to Michael Jordan, and I think we really need to pump the brakes on that now.”

Leonard, of course, isn’t the only person responsible for the Clippers’ collapse. Thirteen NBA teams have lost a series after going up 3-1. Doc Rivers has coached three of them.

“He deserves a lot of heat for losing this series,” Haberstroh said of Rivers, “but I’ve always felt this way: you need to build a 3-1 lead in order to blow it. Do you think it would be better if the Clippers lost in six games by going down 2-0 and then fighting back and losing to the Nuggets in six games? Would people be more impressed by that than going up 3-1 and losing in seven? The order in which these games take place, where he gets up 3-1, I don’t think it matters all that much. It might be good for dramatics, but in terms of his ability to do his job, I think going up 3-1 in a series, we take it for granted. . . . You have to be a pretty darn good coach to go up 3-1 against a really good Denver Nuggets team.

“Now, look, there’s things he could have done better,” Haberstroh continued. “But at the end of the day, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard had zero points in the fourth quarter [of Game 7], and I’m not so sure you can hang all of that on Doc Rivers.”

Rivers, who led the Boston Celtics to a pair of NBA Finals, hasn’t advanced to even the conference finals in seven years with the Clippers.

“I think this is a really ugly way to go out for the Clippers considering the Kawhi Leonard and Paul George trades,” Haberstroh said. “But this is not something I think Doc Rivers should lose his job over.”