West told ESPN that he has not yet signed a contract with the Clippers, but he knew on Monday night, when the Warriors finished off the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 5 of the NBA Finals, that it would be his final game with the team. He called leaving the Warriors — who won their second NBA title in three years — “one of the saddest nights of my life,” because of the respect he has for the Golden State organization and the players he has worked with.
“I knew I was going to be leaving. I didn’t know what I was going to be leaving to,” West told ESPN. “Was this the end of me being productive? Every person is different in terms of their lives and how people age. I don’t feel old; I feel really competitive.
“Sometimes you need to be challenged. I’ve kind of been defiant my whole life, the way I was raised, and I think this is like the defiant streak in me. I don’t know.”
Sports Illustrated first reported that West, 79, was leaving the Warriors to join the Clippers.
West, who has worked with the Warriors since 2011, said he enjoyed his time with the franchise.
“The ownership did a hell of a job creating an environment that’s fun. You see a lot of happy faces up there,” West said.
“I’ll be forever grateful they gave me an opportunity to be involved. If I helped, that’s up to them to judge, not me.”
That said, he’s looking forward to working with Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, general manager Lawrence Frank, and coach and president of basketball operations Doc Rivers.
“I’m very intrigued. I worked for a great owner [with the Los Angeles Lakers] in Jerry Buss. I worked for a fantastic owner in Michael Heisley in Memphis,” West said. “I worked for a fantastic group of people up [at Golden State]. And this owner [Ballmer] is going to be that kind of an owner.
“He’s a winner and he wants to win. He will let Doc and Lawrence Frank make decisions, and hopefully, I can help. That’s really all I care about. I don’t want to be the story. I don’t want to be the headline. I’m going to have the same role as I did up there.”
The Clippers’ interest in West was first reported by ESPN’s Marc Stein.
It is believed that adding West is a key part of the Clippers’ strategy to retain their own free agents, most notably Chris Paul.
League sources have told Stein that Paul is intrigued by the idea of teaming up with the likes of San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and NBA MVP top-three finalist Kawhi Leonard in Paul’s quest to achieve the deep playoff success that has eluded him to this point in his career.
West has been widely cited for his role in advising the Warriors when they were weighing whether to trade Klay Thompson for Kevin Love. West strongly discouraged the trade, insisting the Warriors needed Thompson’s shooting and defense to complement the skill set of Stephen Curry.