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LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Clippers are close to hiring Tyronn Lue, the former Cleveland Cavaliers head coach, as a top assistant to Coach Doc Rivers, according to three people familiar with the negotiations.
In May, Lue was widely billed as the leading candidate to take over as head coach of the LeBron James-led Los Angeles Lakers before talks abruptly collapsed over contract terms.
[Read more: Tyronn Lue Is Out of the Hunt for the Lakers’ Next Coach]
Lue wanted a longer deal with the Lakers that extended beyond the remaining three seasons on James’s contract, given that Lue won a championship in 2016 in his first season coaching the Cavaliers. The Lakers’ offer to Lue topped out at three years and just shy of $20 million before the team moved on and hired Frank Vogel, the former Indiana Pacers coach, to succeed Luke Walton. Two former Nets head coaches, Jason Kidd and Lionel Hollins, joined Vogel as high-profile assistants.
Lakers management’s insistence on picking the team’s assistant coaches was another factor in the collapse of Lue’s talks. Vogel and Kidd were the Lakers’ prime targets for those roles if Lue had become head coach.
The Clippers have had a big off-season in their quest to meaningfully narrow the intracity gap with the Lakers. A blockbuster trade in July to acquire the All-Star swingman Paul George from Oklahoma City enabled them to clinch the free-agent signing of Kawhi Leonard, just weeks after he led the Toronto Raptors to their first championship.
The Clippers followed up that superstar swoop by unveiling plans for a new arena and entertainment complex in Inglewood, Calif., by 2024 and are now seeking to finalize the hiring of Lue to add more star power to their bench.
After stints on Rivers’s staffs in Boston and with the Clippers, Lue was hired by the Cavaliers as an associate coach to work under the newcomer David Blatt in June 2014. He was promoted to head coach within a season and a half when the Cavaliers, despite an Eastern Conference-leading record of 30-11, fired Blatt in January 2016.
The Cavaliers defeated the Golden State Warriors to win the championship in 2016, as the first team in N.B.A. finals history to overturn a 3-1 deficit in a best-of-seven series. The team then reached the finals against the Warriors in the next two seasons before James left for the Lakers in free agency last summer. Cleveland fired Lue after an 0-6 start to the 2018-19 season.
Lue, 42, posted a 128-77 record in two and a half seasons as James’s coach in Cleveland — and he ranks as one of two just coaches, along with Miami’s Erik Spoelstra, to team with James for a championship.
As a player, Lue was a first-round draft choice out of Nebraska who spent his first three N.B.A. seasons with the Lakers, winning two championship rings as a lightly used reserve guard in 2000 and 2001.
The Clippers and Lakers are scheduled to play each other on Oct. 22, opening night of the 2019-20 season at their shared home of Staples Center. The Lakers’ off-season business was highlighted by a trade with New Orleans to acquire the All-Star big man Anthony Davis and the free-agent signing of the former All-Star DeMarcus Cousins.
Marc Stein is a sports reporter specializing in N.B.A. coverage, with occasional forays into soccer and tennis. He spent nearly 15 years at ESPN before coming to The Times. @TheSteinLine • Facebook
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