The Los Angeles Clippers entered this season with championship expectations, but their 2019-20 campaign is over after losing three straight to the Denver Nuggets to complete their seven-game Western Conference Semifinal series loss.
On Wednesday, ex-NBA center and current ESPN analyst Kendrick Perkins cited an "inside source" that L.A. will look to break up the team after its disappointing finish (1:00 mark).
"But listen, here's the thing...the Clippers are going to break this up whether you like it or not," Perkins said. "I heard from the inside source they're all going to break this up. They are going to break this up."
The Clippers traded for two-time NBA Finals MVP and defending champion Kawhi Leonard and six-time All-Star Paul George during the offseason.
They were added to a team that had gone 48-34 the year before and took the eventual Western Conference champion Golden State Warriors to six games in the first round of the playoffs.
The Clips traded some members of that team to land the two stars, including Danilo Gallinari and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. But expectations were still high with Leonard and George being added to a team that included Lou Williams, Montrezl Harrell and Patrick Beverley, among others.
L.A. largely excelled during the regular season save for a few rough patches, finishing 49-23 and landing second in the Western Conference.
However, the playoffs were a struggle, with the team fighting to dispatch the No. 7 seed Dallas Mavericks in six games in the first round before the Clippers fell to Denver in the semifinals.
Word of internal issues emerged in January, when Jovan Buha and Sam Amick of The Athletic dropped a Jan. 23 piece about them that included these notes:
"As more than a dozen sources shared in The Athletic’s reporting on the matter, the transition from the team’s overachieving past to its promising present has not been seamless. From the frustrations relating to Leonard’s injury management and his quiet ways, to the different views regarding regular-season competition, to the reality that their chosen style of play isn’t always conducive to collective joy, there are issues tugging at this talented team that will need to be resolved by the time the playoffs come around."
That article was published three weeks after a passionate postgame session with reporters from Harrell after L.A.'s 140-114 loss to the Memphis Grizzlies.
After the Clips lost, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reported more on some internal struggles, including a "heated verbal exchange during a timeout" between Harrell and George during Game 2 of the Denver series.
"The Clippers are arguably the most talented team from top to bottom, but their chemistry was among the worst of the bubble teams," Haynes said.
"They could never find the relaxed calm to persevere and perform."
Any changes likely won't be at head coach, as Haynes reported that "discourse on [Doc Rivers'] job status is premature at the moment." In addition, Haynes said that Rivers will be "running it back" for 2020-21.
Also, Leonard and George are under contract for one year, and giving up on that partnership would seem premature at this time.
Still, the Clips can't help but be undoubtedly disappointed with the result, and now the team must figure out where to go from here.