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Clippers coach Tyronn Lue sparks free-throw gate; even Daryl Morey weighs in!

Ty Lue talked about Joel Embiid and James Harden’s lofty free throw rates and now it’s a thing

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Los Angeles Clippers v Phoenix Suns Photo by Chris Coduto/Getty Images

Here’s an interesting one. Before Joel Embiid, James Harden and the the Philadelphia 76ers went in to Crypto.com arena and handed the Los Angeles Clippers a 122-97 beatdown, Clips head coach Tyronn Lue made the rounds with some interesting comments.

Here was the quote that first raised eyebrows on social media. SI Now’s Joey Linn posted Lue, stating pregame:

The Literal read

Coach Lue didn’t mean this literally, we don’t think.

The literal read which might go something like this: wait coach, literally no player who is top ten in scoring this year would still be there without their free throws being counted. Not LeBron James, not Giannis, not Trae, not Luka, none of them. Take away their freebies, and any top scorer drops out of the top ten. As long as we’re being literal, we might note that Harden isn’t even in that top ten in scoring this year, he’s 18th.

But did Lue mean to talk some smack?

The Bulletin board Material read

Then there’s the other way to read this. The Lue is talking trash read or complaining about the way Joel Embiid and James Harden are officiated read. This is the way we chose to read it on our LB Twitter account during the game, not because we thought Lue was actually taking a dig. But because we thought this was the more fun way to read into the comments and make life for those on the East coast staying up late for this game a little more feisty and fun.

And if you chose to read it that way, you can even play the old bad lip reading game and pretend that’s what Embiid is talking about here, when he has words for Lue after a field goal:

And now the moment was aggregated enough times (guilty) Daryl Morey is getting in on the action. Do we have a budding rivalry here!?

This interpretation goes like so: coach Lue is calling Joel Embiid and James Harden grifters! He’s complaining that too much of their scoring comes from the stripe and he’s basically diminishing their place among league leaders. He prefers the way Devin Booker plays, that dude doesn’t draw as many fouls! He wishes refs didn’t enable them!

If you really wanted to go crazy with this one, you could even imagine that Embiid was explaining to Lue the precise reasons he reportedly never wanted him to coach Philly just before the team hired Doc Rivers. Remember that speculation that Lue shares Rich Paul with Ben Simmons as an agent and it would be Simmons’ team and yadda yadda? Maybe there’s some history to this stuff! Do we have beef? Meh, probably not.

The snap judgment read might be most fun but it’s probably not what Lue intended, either.

The full context

Now when we consider the full context of what coach Lue said, it’s not quite as controversial. Have a listen, per Tomer Azarly, who covers the Clippers for ClutchPoints:

If you listen to the full context of the clip, it sounds like Lue intended to give Joel and James some props. He talked about how Doc has the ability to stagger their minutes so that the Sixers now always have a former MVP or possible future MVP on the floor at all times. He says Doc Rivers does a good job doing that. (This bit is pretty funny, because Doc took some heat from Sixers fans for not staggering their minutes enough late in the first half of that game, but that’s another post for another day).

If I had to interpret, I think what Lue is saying is that basically, these stars get fouled a ton because of the way they play. And it’s part of their game. And yeah, they do some crafty rip-throughs, but they also just draw a ton of legit fouls cause they’re beasts. A big portion of their total points comes from the line, and that puts pressure on our defense, and it changes our rotations as key guys potentially get in foul trouble. And yeah, maybe a guy like Devin Booker, who gets less points from the stripe and takes more jump shots, it’s not the same challenge, but yadda yadda yadda.

I don’t think Lue meant to take a dig. And I think that’s the most important thing here if you truly were curious what Lue meant.

On the other hand, if there was still a dig in there subconsciously, fine, maybe? I won’t argue either way there. Maybe Lue reveals a belief that isn’t quite fair to your favorite team’s stars. I don’t know. Furthermore, as a Sixers fan, I am a little bit concerned that the reputation of the Bonus Brothers has this cumulative effect.

Before Harden was a Sixer, Embiid got a little but not a ton of flack for flopping on occasion. The narrative around Harden this season was that he isn’t getting fouled as much because of new rules targeting anti-basketball moves. But magically, as soon as they were teammates, their reputations combined into something else entirely. Now it’s all they make basketball like watching baseball blah blah blah. And that is probably why people are reading these quotes one way or another. Opposing fans don’t like it. Sixer fans want to defend it.

As a Sixer fan you can only hope that the officials call things fair and square and not try to punish the Sixers for drawing a lot of legit fouls that bore fans of the opposing team who whine cause losing stinks. Don’t foul them as much and they’ll dunk more.

But now you’re up to speed on this absolutely vital issue.