The trade talks between the Celtics and Clippers aren't quite dead yet, but they also didn't move forward at all yesterday, as we detailed in a pair of posts rounding up Sunday's updates. Though the two sides have reached a stalemate for now, they continue to engage in talks and hope remains of finding an agreement, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (via Twitter). We'll keep tabs on today's new items right here, with any further updates added to the top of the page throughout the day:
The Celtics-Clippers saga continues with Yahoo Sports' Adrian Wojnarowski saying that Eric Bledsoe had been a part of discussions between the two teams until Saturday morning (Twitter). The Boston Herald's Steve Bulpett mentioned earlier that Doc Rivers might feel uncomfortable returning to the Celtics after this flirtation with the Clippers, but Wojnarowski said within the Celtics it hasn't been acrimonious between team and Doc (Twitter).
ESPNLosAngeles.com's Ramona Shelburne thinks the Clippers should dare the Celtics to cut Paul Pierce (he's owed $15.3MM if he's not waived before June 30th), and see if Kevin Garnett and Rivers will really hold to their promise to only be moved from the Celtics as a tandem (Twitter). Shelburne goes on to cite an objective league source who proposed the Clippers keep DeAndre Jordan and Bledsoe, sign Pierce after he's waived, and trade Caron Butler and a pick for Garnett (Twitter).
Shelburne also says that the Clippers have been "shaking every tree" looking for a third star to complement Blake Griffin and Chris Paul if he re-signs this summer (Twitter). According to Shelburne, the Clippers have expressed interest in Danny Granger and Arron Afflalo already as a possible third threat on their roster.
Here are some more tidbits about the Clippers and Celtics as well as other teams around the league on this rumor-filled Saturday night with a huge game 5 in the NBA Finals tomorrow.
4:37pm: A source tells Baxter Holmes of the Boston Globe that he "guarantees" Paul will re-sign with the Clippers if Rivers comes to coach the team. Part of the Clippers' unwillingness to include Bledsoe in the deal has been concern over whether Paul, a free agent this summer, would be back, Holmes writes. Meanwhile, the Celtics have shifted their focus from trying to keep Rivers to working on a deal that sends him to the Clips, according to Holmes.
4:16pm: The Clippers would prefer to acquire both Garnett and Pierce if they can get Rivers, as Shelburne and Marc Stein write for ESPN.com. The Clippers aren't looking to relinquish Blake Griffin in these trade talks, preferring to strengthen their team around Paul and Griffin, according to the report. Shelburne also tweets that the Celtics are primarily focused on acquiring Jordan. If Garnett waives his no-trade clause to head to the Clippers, he'll forfeit about $1.17MM because of higher state taxes in California, according to noted sports accountant Robert Raiola (Twitter link; hat tip to Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun).
3:50pm: Garnett and Rivers are seen as a package deal, with each unwilling to go to the Clippers unless the other joins him, a source tells Shelburne, who hears that Paul Pierce might not be a part of the trade talks for now (Twitter links). Since the Clippers could sign Pierce as a free agent if the Celtics decide to waive him by June 30th, when the guarantee on his contract for next season jumps from $5MM to $15MM+, he's been in and out of trade discussions, Shelburne reports (Twitter links). The Clippers like Rivers, but they remain determined not to "mortgage the farm" in terms of compensation for Rivers, since Lionel Hollins was so impressive in his interview with the team yesterday, Shelburne also tweets. Ultimately, if a deal between the Clips and Celtics is to come together, it will happen by the middle of next week at the latest, according to Shelburne (Twitter link).
3:34pm: The Celtics and Clippers are discussing a deal that would send DeAndre Jordan and two first-round picks to Boston for Kevin Garnett and the right to hire Rivers as coach, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. Presumably, the picks and the rights to Rivers would be structured as one deal, while the players would technically be involved in a separate transaction, since a coach can't be traded for current players under NBA rules. Clippers owner Donald Sterling is prepared to pay Rivers about $7MM annually, which is what he's making with the Celtics, according to Wojnarowski.
The hang-up in the deal continues to be Celtics GM Danny Ainge's insistence that Eric Bledsoe be a part of the swap, Wojnarowski adds. While the Clippers appear unwilling to make that happen, Bledsoe would be all right with going to Boston, despite the presence of fellow point guard Rajon Rondo, a source tells Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com (Twitter link).
Rivers could be speaking with soon-to-be free agent Chris Paul today to get his assurance that he'd re-sign with the Clippers as long as Garnett and Rivers join him in L.A., as Wojnarowski also reports. Both Rivers and the Celtics want closure on the process, so there's pressure to complete the deal within two days.
The two top players available on this year's free agent market have interest in teaming up and playing together, according to ESPN.com's Chris Broussard. Broussard reports that Chris Paul and Dwight Howard have been "texting back and forth" to try to figure something out.
Considering first-year salaries in maximum contracts for Paul and Howard would combine to total $39MM+, there likely won't be many teams that would be able to accommodate both players, barring a significant discount on one or both. However, the Hawks may be able to clear the necessary room to make max offers to both players, while a handful of other teams, including the Rockets, could use sign-and-trades to make space.
According to Broussard, although Howard has previously been averse to the idea of playing in his hometown of Atlanta, he'd be open to considering it if it meant playing with Paul. However, Broussard adds that CP3 is unlikely to leave Los Angeles, making the Clippers the preferred destination for the two stars if they're to become teammates.
The Clippers could theoretically bring Howard aboard via a sign-and-trade, though it's hard to imagine the Lakers agreeing to such a deal with their Staples Center cohabitants, as Broussard writes. The same goes for the Clippers sending Paul to the Lakers, a task that would be even more difficult, given the Lakers' payroll situation. Teams acquiring a player in a sign-and-trade aren't permitted to surpass the tax apron (expected to be about $75.6MM) at any point after the deal -- max contracts for CP3 and D12 would make it virtually impossible for the Lakers to get under that apron.
A deal that lands both players on the Clippers wouldn't be quite as challenging, but as Broussard notes, for the Lakers to seriously consider it, it would likely take an offer that includes Blake Griffin and perhaps Eric Bledsoe as well. A blockbuster trade like that between the two Los Angeles teams seems a bit outlandish to me, but if Howard was set on joining Paul with the Clippers, the Lakers certainly wouldn't find a better return than a Griffin/Bledsoe package.
8:52pm: Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald reports that Danny Ainge had denied the Clippers permission to contact Rivers earlier this week, though Rivers is said to now be intrigued at the prospect of other coaching opportunities.
7:57pm: Frank Isola of the New York Daily News (via Twitter) cites a source who tells him that Rivers ending up with the Clippers is "gaining momentum."
4:01pm: If Doc Rivers decides to part ways with the Celtics this offseason, there would be "strong mutual interest" between Rivers and the Clippers, according to Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com. The ESPN.com duo reports that the idea of coaching the Clippers would be highly intriguing to Rivers, and that the current Celtics coach would be L.A.'s number one choice should he become available.
According to Stein and Shelburne, the Celtics would like Rivers to return and don't want to see him coaching another team next season, considering he has three years left on his contract in Boston. However, if Rivers decided he wanted to leave, the C's could potentially be persuaded to let him go to the Clippers if they received compensation, whether that came in the form of a veteran player or draft picks.
The ESPN.com report also includes a number of other juicy Clippers and Celtics tidbits, so we'll round them up here:
While the Rockets have been heavily tied to Dwight Howard for several months, he's not their only free agent target this summer. The team is also planning a similar and simultaneous pursuit of Clippers guard Chris Paul, a person with knowledge of the club’s thinking told Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.
Another individual familiar with the team’s plans termed the two stars as “targets No. 1 and 1A.” The difference, of course, is there have been far more indications that Howard will be receptive to the Rockets’ recruiting efforts. Meanwhile, it's too early to know if Paul is disinterested or just keeping his thoughts on Houston private.
James Harden has spoken with Howard about the Rockets and playing in Houston, but he is even closer to Paul thanks to their time together with USA Basketball. It still seems as though Howard is a more likely get for Houston than CP3 given the big man's fondness for coach Kevin McHale.
An individual with knowledge of Howard's thinking also says that he would be open to signing a four-year deal as he would be able to re-up as the NBA gets more TV money and, potentially, a fresh Collective Bargaining Agreement. They'll have to free up cap room to land D12 as well and a Thomas Robinson deal has been pointed to by many as the easiest way to make space. However, a person with knowledge of GM Daryl Morey's plans says there are about "20 other ways" that the finances can be worked out.
Mark Jackson, having just completed his second year on the Warriors' bench, is the longest-tenured coach in the Pacific Division. Mike D'Antoni, whom the Lakers hired at midseason, is next, while the division's other three teams are making offseason changes. Jeff Hornacek is the new Suns coach, and Michael Malone is poised to take over the bench in Sacramento. It's unclear who'll lead the Clippers, but there's news on that among the items out of the Pacific this evening:
Chris Paul is reportedly upset about the perception that he engineered the ouster of coach Vinny Del Negro, but the former Clippers coach and the team agree that CP3 wasn't involved. We've got more details on that, as well as the latest on a search for Del Negro's replacement:
ESPN's Chris Broussard cites a source who tells him that Chris Paul is angry with the Clippers because he is being blamed for the firing of Vinny Del Negro. The former head coach was relieved from his duties about ten days ago, amidst chatter that Paul "wasn't a fan" of Del Negro and didn't endorse him while speaking with management after the season ended. While it isn't clear on how much this will impact the free agent point guard's decision to remain with the franchise, Broussard's source intimated that it could lead Paul to consider looking elsewhere. Should the six-time All-Star decide to leave L.A., Broussard won't rule out the Hawks as a possible landing spot, making note that Atlanta is in the position to offer max contracts to both Paul and Dwight Howard.
In a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times, Clippers owner Donald Sterling hinted that Paul was among those on the team who played a role in Del Negro's firing. When asked if the players were now calling the shots, Sterling responded:
"This is a players' league, and, unfortunately, if you want to win you have to make the players happy...If you have special players, and special players think that they know the best opportunity to win, you have to support them."
In an interview on the Dan Patrick Show (hat tip to Zach Harper of CBS Sports), Del Negro implied that Paul was the reason why he was let go:
"Well, Chris is a free agent...They were compelled to make a decision. He's entitled to his opinion. He's a free agent and he's going to have a lot of say on a lot of things as he did in the previous summer when we put the team together."
Despite those implications, Broussard credits a source with knowledge of the situation that the superstar guard had made it clear to the organization that he wanted nothing to do with the decision making regarding Del Negro's future, and that Blake Griffin did not play a role either. The source also said that the front office had long been at odds with the coach, claiming that Del Negro had been the one to initiate trade calls with the Celtics involving DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe for Kevin Garnett - something that the front office was strongly against. In general, Broussard relays the notion that the tension between Del Negro and team brass had been so high that the players wouldn't have had to be involved in his ouster.
According to another of Broussard's sources, Paul is not involved in the team's current head coaching search. Should the six-time All-Star decide to leave L.A., there are a handful of teams who could make a viable contract offer in addition to the potential route of joining another team via sign-and-trade. Broussard won't rule out the Hawks as a possible landing spot, making note that Atlanta is in the position to offer max contracts to both Paul and Howard.
In an article he released yesterday, Dwain Price of the Star-Telegram cited that two point guards who interest the Mavericks include Jarrett Jack and the Grizzlies' Jerryd Bayless. The source also said that after the Clippers released Vinny Del Negro, the feeling in Mavs camp is that Chris Paul would likely stay in Los Angeles considering he'd be given significant control over the next coaching hire. With that being said, Dwight Howard continues to be the team's top priority. Here are few more miscellaneous notes from around the league: