BINGO: 3 Questions with Ralph Lawler

Ralph Lawler, who retired from broadcasting as one of the all-time greats after the 2018-19 season, remains beloved by Clippers followers across the world. His longevity and talent made him as identifiable to fans as just about any player in team history. The Hall of Famer agreed to provide some personal insight into the season for The Sporting Tribune. 

So, today, I am proud to introduce “BINGO: 3 Questions with Ralph Lawler,” a weekly question-and-answer exclusive.

1. What has been your overall impression of the Clippers through the first games of the 2022-23 season so far?

The early results are about what I expected. The greatest LAC strength may be their extraordinary depth. However, it is also a bit of a curse and that has been evident. It is not easy for quality players like Terance Mann, Luke Kennard, Robert Covington and Nic Batum to establish any rhythm when they are playing such limited minutes. Coach [Tyronn] Lue is trying to rotate 11 players. That is tough. 

They also need to decide on who is the starting point guard. If John Wall is healthy enough, he would seem to be the choice with Reggie Jackson bringing scoring power off the bench.

I have no idea how long before they are comfortable playing Kawhi Leonard 30+ minutes a night. His stretches of three spans of 7 minutes each game make it very difficult for the team to put together the 42-48 minutes of excellence that are needed to beat quality competition. 

I would love to see the team settle in on a nine-man rotation with each of the nine understanding

their role. This coaching staff is super sharp and they will figure that out. The Clippers do not face another championship contender until game 11, so they have some time to do it.

2. It seems like one of the points of emphasis from Coach Lue so far has been to tinker with various small-ball lineups. While it is a great weapon to have, do you think they ultimately need to add a more traditional back up big?

Golden State proved small ball can be lethal. It was effective for the Clippers at times last year and will certainly be an important weapon for this season. That said, I think they miss Isaiah Hartenstein. I feel the team could use another player with some length. The front office and the coaching staff will decide if they agree as the season continues.

3. In the time you spent both observing Kawhi Leonard from afar when he was on the Spurs and Raptors and being around him on a regular basis as a member of the Clippers, what do you think makes him such a unique superstar?

I did not realize how special he was in his first few seasons. As the San Antonio Spurs super-trio of Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili were aging, I asked Coach Gregg Popovich who their next great star would be. Without hesitation he said: “Kawhi Leonard.” Few outside of Texas could have seen that. Leonard was a consistent 20-point game scorer by his fifth season. He was already an elite defender and a solid rebounder considering his 6-foot-7 size.

He is a Top 5 player in the league, when healthy. That is the asterisk on this or any season when he is on your team. Kawhi has not played as many as 70 games in a season since 2016-17. I would hope he can play somewhere between 60 and 70 games for the Clippers this season. That should be enough if he is healthy going into the playoffs.

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