Los Angeles Clippers

Western Rumors: Bryant, Rockets, Nuggets

Kobe Bryant is shooting a career-low 33.1% from the field but Lakers coach Byron Scott wants him to stay aggressive offensively, according to Baxter Holmes of ESPN.com. Bryant’s desire to score off isolation plays may be hindering the team’s ball movement but Scott doesn’t plan on telling the aging small forward to stop looking for his shot, Holmes continues. “He’s had 20 years of experience in the league,” Scott told the team’s beat reporters. “We might not have six players that have 20 years in this league combined. He has that privilege, basically. From a coaching standpoint, I want Kobe to be Kobe. Other guys haven’t earned that right yet.”

In other news around the Western Conference:

  • Former first-round pick Jordan Hamilton, who finished last season with the Clippers, has left the Russian club Krasny Oktyabr, aka Volgograd, tweets international journalist David Pick. JaJuan Johnson, another former NBA first-rounder who hasn’t played in the league since 2012, also left the team, Pick adds.
  • The struggling Rockets have slowed down offensively and interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff wants to increase the tempo, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle reports. Houston was second in pace last season but has slipped to eighth this season. Some of that is due to defensive breakdowns but Bickerstaff also wants to utilize his team’s quickness to a greater extent, especially in the first half, Feigen adds. “That’s one of the things we’re focused on now,” Bickerstaff told the Houston media. “We want to be speedy. We want teams that come in here in the first five minutes of the game … to be overwhelmed by our speed. We have the athletes. We have the skilled players who can get up and down and do those things.”
  • Nuggets first-year coach Michael Malone is generally pleased with his team through the first 14 games, as he relayed to Christopher Dempsey of the Denver Post on Monday afternoon. “We lost eight games, but, c’mon, two of those to Golden State,” Malone said. “We lost to OKC when they were healthy. Phoenix twice, [which] is a good basketball team; at San Antonio. We’ve had some tough games, and hopefully as long as we keep on staying together, learning from the losses and growing, we’re going to be OK.”

Pacific Notes: Rivers, Butler, Russell, Randle

Doc Rivers said the slow start for the Clippers is “on me” and insisted that the team doesn’t have chemistry problems in spite of heated conversation in the locker room after Sunday’s loss, which dropped the team to 6-7, notes Jovan Buha of Fox Sports (All Twitter links). Rivers’ coaching took some criticism from Hoops Rumors readers in Sunday’s Community Shootaround, as did the roster he assembled as the team’s president of basketball operations. Still, it’s early, and the Clippers have had the poor luck of running into the still-unbeaten Warriors twice so far this season. See more from around the Pacific Division:

  • Caron Butler credits the team meeting the Kings had amid the tumult and rumors after they started 1-7 for sparking the club to a 4-2 record since, reports Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times“Behind closed doors we addressed some things and we came together. Because of that, we’re playing great basketball right now,” Butler said. “It’s about camaraderie; when things go bad, you figure it out. Whatever it is, you figure it out and you move forward, and that’s what we did.”
  • Butler has been a free agent four times, but he hasn’t returned to the Lakers since the team traded him away in 2005. Still, he considers Kobe Bryant a “brother for life” and remains in contact with his long-ago Lakers teammate, as he details to Pincus for the same piece. “Being up under the wing of Kobe Bryant and the relationship that we built over that time, I learned a lot about the game of basketball,” Butler said. “I took the things that I learned from him, and that’s why I had the success that I had in my career.”
  • Lakers coach Byron Scott is urging patience with top-10 picks D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle, pointing to the end of next season, notes Janis Carr of the Orange County Register. The Lakers are under pressure to win in the near future, as Jeanie Buss is holding brother Jim Buss to three-year timeline for a return to contention. With D’Angelo, it might be sometime toward the end of next season where he says, ‘Man, I’m starting to get it.’ Same thing with Julius. We’re going to just be patient and keep working them the way we’ve been working them and try to bring them along,” Scott said.

Pacific Notes: Brown, Goodwin, Bryant

Suns shooting guard Archie Goodwin has seen his role in the team’s rotation expand this season, something GM Ryan McDonough credits to Goodwin strengthening himself over the offseason, Matt Petersen of NBA.com writes. During an appearance on the “Burns & Gambo Show,” McDonough said of Goodwin, “I think it’s easy to forget that he’s still one of the younger players in the league. He just recently turned 21 years old. He’s gotten stronger. That allows him to fight through screens, defensively. Offensively, as you guys know he’s got a quick first step and long strides, but when you can’t absorb the contact as well going to the basket, it’s hard to finish in this league, especially through contact.

Here’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Lakers coach Byron Scott said that he has high expectations for rookie swingman Anthony Brown, and he hopes the young player can follow the path of Jordan Clarkson, who had a breakout 2014/15 campaign for the team, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders relays (Twitter links). Brown was assigned to the team’s D-League affiliate specifically to work on creating his own shot off the dribble, and the team is interested in seeing if he can learn to play guard in addition to his natural small forward position, Pincus adds.
  • The Clippers intend to leave Branden Dawson and C.J. Wilcox in the D-League through the end of November, Rowan Kavner of NBA.com notes. Dawson is thankful that Wilcox is alongside him because of his previous D-League experience, Kavner adds. “It’s definitely helpful for him to be going through this process with me,” Dawson said. “He was there last year, so having someone to go through this experience with is definitely helpful. He’s told me all about it, about what to expect and what to prepare for.
  • Kobe Bryant acknowledged that his career is likely to end without him winning another NBA title, but the veteran understands he has a duty to help the Lakers develop their younger talent, Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News writes. “Of course I want love to win another championship. But my responsibility now is to think outside of what I want,” Bryant said. “My responsibility is to these young players.

And-Ones: Hunter, Doncic, Sterling

Attorneys for former NBPA executive director Billy Hunter filed an amended complaint in Los Angeles County Superior Court on Monday, seeking a jury trial on four breach of contract claims related to his 2013 termination, according to Ken Berger of CBSSports.com. The new complaint removes claims against former NBPA president and current Knicks coach Derek Fisher and his business manager and also clarifies the compensation claims, Berger continues. The amended complaint, obtained by CBSSports.com, includes a copy of Hunter’s 2010 contract, which called for him to be paid the balance of his salary and benefits through the end of the contract term if fired without cause, and through the end of the applicable calendar year if fired for cause. The complaint alleges that Hunter has not been paid since his termination, Berger adds.

In other news around the league:

  • Luka Doncic has carved out a role with European power Real Madrid and the 16-year-old forward could be a high lottery pick when he’s eligible, according to Bleacher Report’s international expert David PickHawks overseas scout Himar Ojeda told Pick that the 6’8” Doncic will be the best European of his age group when he enters the draft.
  • A California appeals court on Monday rejected former Clippers owner Donald Sterling’s attempt to reverse the $2 billion sale of the team, Brian Melley of The Associated Press reports. The court ruled that Sterling failed to show that a Los Angeles Superior Court judge who approved the sale last year committed any legal error. Sterling’s estranged wife sold the team to former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer.
  • The Spurs assigned small forward Jonathon Simmons to their D-League affiliate in Austin, the club announced via press release. Simmons made his NBA debut on Saturday, playing nine minutes against the Sixers. Simmons has played in 94 games with Austin over the past two seasons.

The Beat: Ben Bolch On The Clippers

Ben Bolch

Ben Bolch

Nobody knows NBA teams better than beat writers, save for those who draw paychecks with an NBA owner’s signature on them. The reporters who are with the teams they cover every day gain an intimate knowledge of the players, coaches and executives they write about and develop sources who help them break news and stay on top of rumors.

We at Hoops Rumors will be chatting with beat writers from around the league and sharing their responses to give you a better perspective on how and why teams make some of their most significant moves. Last time, we spoke with Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post about the Wizards. Click here to see all the previous editions of this series.

Today, we gain insight on the Clippers from Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times. You can follow Ben on Twitter at @latbbolch, and check out his stories right here.

Hoops Rumors: Have you noticed any changes in DeAndre Jordan or the way the team regards him in the wake of his near-defection to the Mavs this summer?

Ben Bolch: Jordan has seemed a touch more serious than in recent seasons, perhaps a sign of his maturity and increased leadership role. His offensive game seems about the same, though, and that’s fine because the Clippers don’t need him to score more than he does. He just needs to continue being the defensive captain and rebound-grabbing force that has made him one of the league’s most coveted big men. His rebounding is down a bit from recent seasons but it’s still too early in the season to think those numbers won’t go up.

Hoops Rumors: Lance Stephenson unexpectedly won a spot in the opening-night starting lineup. What has he done that’s impressed Doc Rivers?

Ben Bolch: Well, he lost that spot against the Pistons and it will be interesting to see whether he starts going forward once the entire roster is back intact. Rivers thought Stephenson was a better fit with the starters and it helped the second unit’s rhythm as well. I’m not sure that’s been the case through the season’s first few weeks. My take is that Stephenson is best with the ball in his hands and the floor spaced so he can attack the basket, something he can’t do with Blake Griffin and Jordan on the court. He might be best utilized with the second unit.

Hoops Rumors: Jamal Crawford‘s minutes are down, but he seems OK with it so far, even though he appeared to hint at dissatisfaction over the summer and is entering a contract year. How have the Clippers convinced him to stay engaged?

Ben Bolch: Crawford’s immense value was never clearer than in the game against the Pistons where he scored 37 points in a spot start. He’s done a great job of staying patient and professional amid the reduced playing time and will be an important part of whatever success the Clippers have this season. It was interesting to note that Crawford’s best game came with Stephenson barely playing — less than two minutes. One of the big questions coming into the season was whether Crawford and Stephenson could coexist as contributors and it hasn’t been answered.

Hoops Rumors: Paul Pierce was a locker room leader for the Wizards, but the Clippers have others to fill that role, Chris Paul in particular. What sort of approach is Pierce taking on this team?

Ben Bolch: He’s been vocal. Doc Rivers said he’s entered the locker room on several occasions to find Pierce addressing the team and saying things that Rivers had planned to say. That’s a big boost for the coaching staff and the players to have that voice of someone who has won a championship. Paul said he welcomes it.

Hoops Rumors: Josh Smith is the only big man off the bench in the rotation thus far, but even he hasn’t seen that many minutes. Have the Clippers had success with all their small ball lineups, or are they just trying to keep up with what their opponents are doing?

Ben Bolch: The Clippers’ second unit has been hit and miss. They have tried to match up at times and tried to exert their own will at others. The small-ball lineups haven’t terrorized opponents as some thought before the season, but they have been moderately effective in stretches. Wesley Johnson and Smith have been effective at times playing alongside Austin Rivers, Crawford and Pierce. It just hasn’t all come together yet.

Hoops Rumors: The Clippers haven’t gone with a traditional point guard to back up Chris Paul too much this year, either. How well has Austin Rivers handled those duties so far?

Ben Bolch: He’s been solid defensively but a little erratic offensively, especially with the jump shot that he worked so hard to improve during the summer. He hit a big 3-pointer late in the game against Detroit, though, so maybe things are starting to turn in a better direction for him. Austin is usually at his best attacking the basket, something the Clippers hope he does more than becoming largely a jump shooter.

Western Notes: Stephenson, Chalmers, Kanter

Clippers coach Doc Rivers cautions not to read too much into Lance Stephenson‘s brief cameo during today’s win over the Pistons, writes Justin Verrier of ESPN.com. Even with Chris Paul and J.J. Redick sitting out with injuries, Stephenson saw the court for just 1 minute and 42 seconds. Rivers said it was a “spacing” issue and he wasn’t convinced that Stephenson was “ready” during his brief appearance. Stephenson was dealt to L.A. in June after a disappointing season in Charlotte. He had started the Clippers’ first nine games, averaging 6.2 points, 3.3 rebounds and 2.1 assists. Rivers said Stephenson handled today’s demotion well. “Lance has been great,” Rivers said. “He’s been in great spirit. He really has. Obviously, he wants to play. We want to play him. And tonight we chose not to. I thought he was the pro’s pro.”

There’s more news from the Western Conference:

  • Mario Chalmers came to the Grizzlies in a bad mood, according to Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal. After seven seasons in Miami, the Heat traded Chalmers to Memphis this week in a deal aimed at reducing their luxury tax payment. Chalmers is upset about being involved in trade rumors all summer, then having his playing time cut to 20 minutes per game this season. “I’m definitely playing with a chip on my shoulder, especially with the way everything went down in Miami,” he said.  “I’m just licking my chops at this new opportunity and I’m ready to help the Grizzlies start winning.”
  • After matching Enes Kanter‘s hefty offer from the Blazers, the Thunder are happy with the early returns, writes Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman. Even though Kanter is being used as a backup, he’s justifying his four-year, $70MM deal with some impressive rebounding numbers. Kanter ranks sixth in the league in offensive rebounds and is third in rebounds per 48 minutes. He also provides scoring punch. With 27.5 points per 48 minutes, he trails just Jahlil Okafor and Brook Lopez among centers.
  • The Spurs recalled forward Jonathon Simmons from their D-League team in Austin today. He made his first appearance of the season in tonight’s game against the Sixers.

Pacific Notes: Rondo, Jordan, Walton, Nance Jr.

Clippers big man DeAndre Jordan has demonstrated growth since last season, with his play on the court, as well as in his overall maturity level, Justin Verrier of ESN.com writes. “I don’t know if it’s necessarily because of what happened this offseason, but I’d say he’s been more mature, more focused. He’s been a better leader,” shooting guard J.J. Redick said. “I’d say the same about Blake Griffin, I would say the same thing about Chris. Those guys are really locked in. It goes without saying — they just want to win a championship, and we have to follow that lead.” Redick is of course referring to Jordan almost joining the Mavericks as an unrestricted free agent before suddenly reversing course and deciding to re-sign with Los Angeles via a four-year, $87.6MM pact.

Here’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Despite all the reports of turmoil in Sacramento, one bright spot for the team has been the recent play of point guard Rajon Rondo, who has impressed embattled coach George Karl with his orchestration of the Kings‘ offense, Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee writes. “Rajon is very intelligent there, and I think he’s ahead of the curve,” Karl said. “I’ve been surprised by the numbers he’s putting up from the standpoint of understanding our team.”
  • Luke Walton has been performing admirably filling in as interim coach for the Warriors while coach Steve Kerr recovers from multiple back surgeries, guiding the team to a 10-0 start to the 2015/16 season. While Walton is anxious for Kerr to return to the team, he also adds that he would like to become a head coach on a more permanent basis down the line, Ben Golliver of SI.com relays. “I would love to at some point. It’s been a lot of fun. It’s enjoyable,” Walton responded when asked about potentially becoming a full-time head coach. “It’s something I would like to do one day with my own team. That’s nothing I’m trying to rush into. I’m just grateful for this opportunity and learning. As hectic as this has been and as crazy as this has been, obviously I can’t wait for Steve to get back. I’ll be thrilled to hand this thing over to Steve once he’s ready.
  • Lakers rookie Larry Nance Jr. credits his four years as a starter for the University of Wyoming for preparing him for the rigors of the NBA, and believes his experience gives him an edge over many other first year players, Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News writes. “I’m not taking anything away from the young guys to the guys that come out early. Obviously you can look around the league and you can look around our locker room,” said Nance. “But I think we’ve grown up mentally and may be a little bit more ready physically.

Mavs Rumors: Jordan, Nowitzki, Matthews

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban admits he has fun with the back-and-forth between his team and the Clippers over the DeAndre Jordan saga, notes Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com. Cuban fired yet another salvo Wednesday after Jordan played his first game in Dallas since pulling out of his commitment to sign with the Mavs this summer and re-signing with the Clippers instead.

“It’s not like DeAndre and I pinkie swore,” Cuban said. “It’s not like we’ve been friends forever. It’s not like he broke some trust we had. You know, he turned out to be who we thought he was.”

Jordan isn’t the only member of the Clippers whom Cuban called out Wednesday, as we detail amid the latest from Dallas:

  • Cuban shot a retort at Clippers coach/executive Doc Rivers when told before Wednesday’s game that Rivers had said to reporters that too much was being made of the Jordan story, notes Robert Morales of the Long Beach Press-Telegram. “I have no problem slamming Doc Rivers, even though he’s not going to play,” Cuban said. “I like [Clippers owner] Steve Ballmer. Lots of guys on the team, I like. But look, Doc does his radio interviews and brings it up for a reason, right? Again, Doc’s in the coaching business, he’s gotta do his job. God, there is so much I want to say.”
  • Rivers argues Jordan was simply exercising his collectively bargained right when he turned his back on the Mavs, notes Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News. “Teams do it all the time,” Rivers said. “It’s amazing how often teams change their mind on players. They sign free agents, tell them they’re gonna be there for the rest of their lives and they cut them or trade them.”
  • Dirk Nowitzki is certain that he’ll play through his current contract but isn’t sure whether he’ll keep playing or retire after that, the 37-year-old tells Sam Amick of USA Today. Nowitzki has a player option worth more than $8.692MM for next season, the last on his pact.
  • Wesley Matthews benefited financially when he turned down a four-year offer of about $65MM from the Kings to take what turned out to be an approximately $70MM four-year max offer from the Mavs, and he also dodged the Kings controversy, Amick writes in a separate piece“I had my own reads [on the Kings], being in the room with the owner and the GM and talking to the coach, the president,” Matthews said to Amick. “I had my own thoughts going into it, my own reads, my own intuition. I think they mean well. I think they mean well. … I didn’t feel confident in meaning well.”

Mavs/Clippers Notes: DeAndre Jordan’s Dallas Visit

DeAndre Jordan knew when his Clippers teammates paid a visit to him in July that his second thoughts about committing to the Mavericks were about to escalate, writes Dan Woike of the Orange County Register.

“When the Clippers came to my house,” Jordan said, “I was like ‘Oh [expletive]. This is going to be bad.’”

It wound up being good for the Clippers, but it was the Mavericks who absorbed the worst of it, with their offseason plans in shambles following Jordan’s decision to vacate his deal with them. Jordan will play in Dallas tonight, but in a Clippers uniform as the Mavs play host to his L.A. team. See more on the grudge match stemming from one of the offseason’s most engaging stories:

  • It’s not that Jordan turned his back on the Mavericks, but instead the way he went about it that Dirk Nowitzki found untoward, note Tim MacMahon and Justin Verrier of ESPNDallas.com“We’ve all changed our mind before,” Nowitzki said. “I think the franchise and the fans were not happy with the way he went about it — not responding to [owner Mark Cuban] and [Chandler] Parsons anymore and kind of put-the-head-in-the-sand strategy, instead of being upfront and saying, ‘Hey, I changed my mind,’ and just being honest about it. I think that’s what rubbed people the wrong way, but it’s over.
  • Mark Cuban saved all the text messages that Jordan sent him during the saga, including one in which he told the Mavs owner that he was on a date when he was actually with Blake Griffin, observes Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times“Some day I’ll let you read all the texts and we’ll get into it and we’ll talk about it, but now is not the right time,” Cuban said to Bolch (Twitter link).
  • Jordan’s flip-flop wasn’t altogether shocking for his Clippers teammates, who are familiar with his impulsiveness and indecisive nature, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com told the Dallas Morning News in an interview. Shelburne believes Jordan didn’t want to be the pre-eminent star in Dallas and instead simply sought better treatment and appreciation from the Clippers.
  • Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News suggests Jordan took the easy way out, declining the chance to embrace the mantle of leadership and the work that comes with it.

Los Angeles Notes: Bryant, D-League, Russell

Kobe Bryant hasn’t gone on record about his plans for next season, but he remains adamant that he’ll never play for another NBA team besides the Lakers, Baxter Holmes of ESPNLosAngeles.com relays. “I’ve said it so many times. I’m here, I’m a Laker for life,” Bryant said Friday night. “I’m not playing anywhere else, no matter what. It’s just not going to happen. I bleed purple and gold, and that’s just how it’s going to be.

Bryant, who is in the final year of his deal with the Lakers, was addressing some comments made by Phil Jackson, his former coach, and current president of the Knicks, Holmes notes. Back in September, Jackson had said, “I don’t think it’s his last year. It sounds like it may be his last year as a Laker.” Kobe made light of Jackson’s remarks, adding, “That’s Phil baiting you [members of the media] like he always does. He’s a master at it.

Here’s more from L.A.:

  • It was a mild surprise when the Clippers announced that Branden Dawson and C.J. Wilcox were assigned to the D-League this week, considering that executive/coach Doc Rivers had been on record as being hesitant about sending players down to the D-League without the Clippers having an affiliate of their own. Rivers explained his change in thinking to Rowan Kavner of NBA.com, saying, “We’re sending them to the right place. We talked to them beforehand, we tried to identify somebody that plays somewhat similar offensively to us. The Phoenix group came and it was good.
  • Rivers also told Kavner that it was possible that the Clippers could have their own D-League affiliate at some point in the near future, though there are no plans in the works currently. “We haven’t even decided if we’re going to get one yet,” Rivers said. “But it doesn’t take long to get one.
  • Lakers coach Byron Scott is preaching patience with D’Angelo Russell, the No. 2 overall pick in this year’s NBA Draft, notes Bill Oram of The Orange County Register. “He’s learning,” Scott said of Russell. “I wouldn’t say ‘struggling.’ He’s learning, and that’s what people got to understand, that this is a 19-year-old kid. Even I sit back at times and say, ‘Wait a minute guys, he’s 19. We got to cut him some slack, this is all new to him.’ But fans and people they don’t understand that.

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