Clippers send PJ Tucker and Bones Hyland home after road trip against Warriors: Sources

The Los Angeles Clippers sent two players — P.J. Tucker and Bones Hyland — back from their road trip against the Golden State Warriors, and both players are expected to return to the team after the All-Star break, league sources confirmed to The athlete Wednesday.

Amid three months of frustration, the Clippers and Tucker had productive discussions this week about the disgruntled forward remaining available to potentially return to the rotation, according to league sources. Sources said the talks stemmed from weeks of intense frustration surrounding Tucker and his lack of playing time.

after The athlete I reported on December 11 that Tucker and Los Angeles were discussing a solution to his frustration by moving elsewhere or internally, and no agreement was reached at last week's trade deadline. The acquisition has yet to gain momentum as Tucker has an $11.5 million player option for next season.

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Now, Tucker and the Clippers are expected to move forward after the All-Star break with an openness to reinserting him into the rotation as the franchise enters the stretch phase of the regular season and into the playoffs.

Los Angeles has the best record in the NBA since December 1, going 27-7 in that time period. During that span, third-string guard Bones Hyland has played in just seven games, none of which he has played since Jan. 31. Tucker has not played in a game since November 27.

Hyland and Tucker were not on the team's trip to San Francisco for Wednesday night's televised game against the Warriors, the Clippers' final game before the All-Star break. This is the first time this season that both players have been deactivated, and it comes with the squad already short. All-Star forward Kawhi Leonard was ruled out with a left adductor strain that Clippers coach Tyronn Lue attributed to groin pain that Leonard had been playing through for a “brief period.”

Tucker was included in the Nov. 1 trade that also brought guard James Harden from the Philadelphia 76ers to Los Angeles. The 76ers were starting Tucker, the 2021 NBA champion with the Milwaukee Bucks and a postseason contributor for the Toronto Raptors, Houston Rockets and Miami Heat. Tucker signed with Philadelphia in 2022 on a three-year contract that includes an $11.5 million player option for the 2024-25 season.

While Tucker was in the first 12 games in November, the Clippers lost their first six straight. There were multiple instances of Los Angeles starting to take Tucker out of the tackle earlier in November, such as the 6:10 assignment against the Dallas Mavericks where the Clippers were outscored by 20 points in those minutes. Tucker did not play in the second half of his last two games, a win over the Mavericks at home on Nov. 25 and a loss to the Denver Nuggets.

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Then, rookie Kobe Brown replaced Tucker in the rotation, and news surfaced in December that Tucker and Los Angeles were working on a trade that never came.

Tucker shared with The athlete That not playing before the trade deadline was a collaborative decision. But no trade deal was found, and Tucker indicated he was not willing to give up his player option to be bought out.

“It was agreed that I would sit down,” Tucker said. The athlete during the Weekend. “Not only did I sit, it was agreed upon. Until they moved me, I was sitting. They didn't do that. But (I'm) trying to be as professional and professional as possible. But at the same time, if I don't stand up for myself, who is? You know? But at the same time, if I don't stand up for myself, who is? You know? But at the same time, if I don't stand up for myself, who is? You know? But at the same time, if I don't stand up for myself, who is? You know? But This is it, man.

Tucker recounted his previous experience when he was traded from the Rockets in 2021 to the Bucks about how difficult it was to transition from one team to another after the season had already started.

“Even when I went to Milwaukee, I went at the trade deadline,” Tucker said.. “How difficult. This is difficult. He talked about how difficult it was to go to a team that had already been training and playing together since October. In February and March? It's hard to integrate. To learn everyone, to know how to play with everyone, to know the style of play. It's not just about catching when you go out there and play.

Although the Clippers have been playing well, Tucker hinted that it will be difficult to integrate him back into the rotation.

“When you become teammates, you build bonds,” Tucker said. “Look, all of this had to happen very quickly. Even here. Now, it's great now. But in the beginning it was rocky. Everyone was wondering about it. They didn't know. So you have to take time when you have something built. We can't We throw someone out there and say, 'Go play now.' You know what I'm saying? It doesn't work like that.

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“So I don't know where it goes from here. I don't know. I know what.” they I think it will happen. But I don't think it happens that way. Just throw someone into the playoffs in the second round. “Okay, now go do what you're doing.” Don't work like that.”

Tucker also described how having him in a situational role in the playoffs would be difficult if he didn't play in the regular season.

“It's not realistic for me,” Tucker said of only playing in the playoffs. “Just the realization for me, fans and people really have no idea what's going on, what it's like to sit and wait for a trade and anything because of decisions that the front office has made. Where a player isn't playing because of decisions and things that players can't talk about. You can't say anything about That. And sitting through it with someone like me, who's been in legitimate bands for the last six or seven years.

“I think every year three or four teams get a chance to win it. I've been on that type of team. Won a championship. One game out of the Eastern Conference Finals last year. One game out of the Finals the year before, conference finals. Consecutive years. No, “Just play in the playoffs. It's tough or tough. It's tough or rough.”

Lue talked about deactivating Hyland and Tucker before the All-Star break as a good opportunity for both players to reset after the trade deadline came and ended last week without a trade involving either of them being made. Lue, a two-time NBA champion as a player, views the break as a good thing for both players given their frustration with not being in the rotation.

“You want to have competitors on your team,” Lu said Wednesday morning at the shootaround. “They want to play. So when you try to trade, and it doesn't work out, and you want to go somewhere you want to play, it doesn't mean they're not happy here. They are. But they want to play and compete.”

Lue also specifically mentioned Tucker's player selection as part of considering Tucker's frustration.

“You have guys like P.J., who has another year left on his deal, and he can ride into the sunset, and he's 70 years old,” Lue said of Tucker, who turns 39 in May. “You know? But he wants to play. He wants to compete. So you understand that you want guys like that. So the trade didn't happen. They'll be here. We're just giving them a little time off, you know, to get their minds right. And come back to Oklahoma City ready to go.”

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Hyland's situation was simple before the Harden trade. He was poised to be the backup point guard behind Russell Westbrook after he was brought in in a trade from the eventual champion Nuggets at the 2023 trade deadline. Hyland even started the Nov. 1 game against the Los Angeles Lakers, which was Tucker's Clippers debut.

But when the Clippers moved Westbrook to the second unit to allow Harden to be the only primary playmaker in the starting lineup, Hyland's rotation spot was lost to spots on the depth chart. Harden and Westbrook have yet to miss a game since Harden's Clippers debut, and backup goalie Norman Powell has also played in every game this season. The Clippers don't want their team to be too small, so there are no minutes for Hiland.

Hyland made a point of cheering his teammates on during games, but struggled to perform in overtime, missing 25 of 32 shots and 13 of 16 3s while the Clippers put up 59 points in his 50 minutes since Dec. 1. There were several garbage-time games where Hyland didn't play at all, which is an indication that the team wants more from him in terms of meeting expectations in practice and other developmental settings.

“The team we have now, we’re playing at a high level right now,” Lu said. “There's no room right now. So they understand they want to play and compete. They're not traded, they're going to be here. And we want to give them some time, get their minds back, come back to Oklahoma City and be ready to go.”

Leonard, according to team sources, is expected to be in Indiana for the All-Star break. His playing status will be determined later, though Lue said, “I think the All-Star break will get him ready to play, hopefully,” for next week's games against the Oklahoma City Thunder and Memphis Grizzlies.

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(Photo: Bart Young/NBAE via Getty Images)

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