Blake Griffin

Woj’s Latest: Kawhi, Simmons, Schröder, Kings, Lowry, Nets, More

There’s no indication that Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard wants to leave Los Angeles as a free agent this offseason, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said in Sunday’s televised Woj & Lowe special (video link). However, there is a belief that Leonard is at risk of missing the entire 2021/22 season following his ACL surgery earlier this month, says Wojnarowski.

That nugget was one of several that Wojnarowski and fellow ESPN reporter Zach Lowe shared during their half-hour special and the bonus YouTube segments that followed. We’ve already passed along several of their other insights, including some draft-related rumors, the latest updates on Bradley Beal‘s status, and the fact that the Lakers have shopped Kyle Kuzma and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to many teams around the NBA.

However, the ESPN duo dropped several more notes and rumors during their special. We’re using the space below to round up a few of the most interesting ones:

  • The Sixers have engaged in Ben Simmons trade talks and are making and receiving offers, says Wojnarowski (video link). However, Woj thinks Philadelphia will be patient, noting that Simmons is under contract for four more years, which “opens up the landscape” for possible trade partners. The 76ers are looking for the best possible player they could get back in a Simmons deal, Woj adds.
  • Despite the fact that the Lakers have been linked to so many other point guards in advance of free agency, Wojnarowski believes there’s still a deal to be made with Dennis Schröder (video link).
  • The Kings have talked to teams in both the West and East about Buddy Hield, according to Wojnarowski (video link), who says the club has also received plenty of trade interest in Harrison Barnes. Woj would be surprised if Barnes is dealt though.
  • In a discussion of free agent point guards, Wojnarowski (video link) said that he anticipates a “big market” for Raptors star Kyle Lowry, who could receive offers in the neighborhood of $25-30MM per year, and that the Bulls and Lonzo Ball would be an ideal match in a perfect world, but his restricted FA status could complicate matters. Woj also thinks luxury tax concerns will prevent the Jazz from simply re-signing Mike Conley and keeping everyone else on their roster (video link).
  • The Nets hope to lock up Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, and James Harden to contract extensions and are optimistic that Blake Griffin will want to return, per Wojnarowski (video link). Jeff Green may be trickier to re-sign, however, as he’ll likely seek more than the veteran’s minimum. Woj and Lowe both identify the Bucks as a possible suitor for Green if he leaves Brooklyn.

Atlantic Notes: Simmons, Nets Free Agents, Nets Assistants, Stevens

After the Sixers suffered through a seven-game second-round playoff exit as the top seed, head coach Doc Rivers has stated that the club will address the shooting struggles of All-Star Ben Simmons during the offseason, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

“I believe, without going into detail with what we’re doing, I believe we know what the right work is, and the right type of work, and the right way to do it,” Rivers said of the Sixers’ plan for Simmons. “We’re not hiding that Ben has to become a better free throw shooter and a more confident free throw shooter.”

During the playoffs this season, Simmons connected on just 34.2% of his 6.1 free throw attempts per game, and attempted one total three-pointer. The Sixers guard was timid in looking to score late in games. He had just three fourth-quarter field goal attempts in the entire series, fewer than role players Dwight Howard, Matisse Thybulle, George Hill, Tyrese Maxey, and Furkan Korkmaz.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Several key Nets players will be free agents during the 2021 offseason, prompting Michael Scotto of HoopsHype to project the market value for the likes of Spencer Dinwiddie, Blake Griffin, Bruce Brown and Jeff Green. The league executives Scotto spoke with speculated that Dinwiddie is looking to leave Brooklyn and will hope to command an annual salary in the “high teens.” Rival NBA executives peg the value of both Griffin and Green as ranging anywhere from the bi-annual exception to the taxpayer mid-level exception. Because Brown is a restricted free agent, the Nets will be able to match any offer sent his way. Executives project Brown to net a yearly salary between $4-7MM.
  • The Nets might not just be undergoing some changes on the hardwood. Their sideline may look a bit different for the 2021/22 season too, as many assistants are in the running for the seven currently available NBA head coaching jobs, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post. Berman writes that assistant coach Mike D’Antoni appears to be a finalist for the Trail Blazers head coaching gig, while fellow assistant coach Ime Udoka is in the running for the Celtics’ vacancy.
  • For the first time, Celtics team president Brad Stevens has discussed his decision to trade point guard Kemba Walker and two picks to the Thunder in exchange for Moses Brown, old friend Al Horford, and a 2023 second-round draft pick, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN“The ability to make our wings (All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown) better is going to be a huge part of the people that will be around them,” Stevens said Monday in explaining the thinking behind the deal. Stevens, of course, coached Walker for two injury-plagued seasons before moving into the front office earlier this month. Stevens also cited future finances as a consideration in his decision.

Nets Notes: Harden, Brown, Griffin, Dinwiddie

The Nets‘ plan to build a championship team around three stars was derailed by injuries, writes Malika Andrews of ESPN. Brooklyn pulled off a bold trade in January to acquire James Harden from Houston and combine him with 2019 free agent additions Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, but Brooklyn’s Big Three were rarely all healthy at the same time. With the season on the line against Milwaukee Saturday night, Irving was out with a sprained ankle and Harden was limited by a strained hamstring.

“I still thought we could win it,” coach Steve Nash said. “And clearly, I think we proved tonight that we could. Game could have gone either way. You always know there’s a chance. Anything can happen. I think we just faced one too many obstacles this year. Because our guys gave everything they had.”

Harden, who hurt the hamstring in the opening minute of Game 1 and didn’t return until Game 5, revealed that he had been playing with a Grade 2 strain that limited his mobility. He missed nearly a month during the regular season with an injury to the same hamstring.

“Me, personally, like, it’s frustrating,” said Harden, who played all 53 minutes Saturday. “Just being durable and being myself for the last so many postseasons and dealing with this particular hamstring, I’m frustrated. We did everything we could towards the end. Just frustrated, but give the Bucks credit. They fought until the end, had a hell of a series. We just came up short.”

There’s more from Brooklyn:

  • Bruce Brown, who will be a restricted free agent this summer, expressed interest in returning to Brooklyn next season, Andrews adds. Unrestricted free agents Jeff Green and Blake Griffin both said they need time to recover before thinking about the future, but they enjoy playing for the Nets. “I’m still happy with my decision,” Griffin, who signed with Brooklyn after reaching a buyout with the Pistons, told Marc Berman of The New York Post. “This was obviously a tough loss, and not where we’re expected to be. But injuries are part of the game, things happen. Being without James for four games and then having him on one leg … (it’s) a messed up situation.”
  • Durant, Harden and Irving will all be eligible to sign extensions of up to four years during the offseason, notes Bobby Marks of ESPN. Brooklyn will have to determine how much money it wants to commit to the trio, and each player will have to decide whether to take the security now or seek more money when they can opt out in 2022.
  • Spencer Dinwiddie has until Monday to make a decision on his $12.3MM player option for next season, Marks adds. Dinwiddie has indicated that he will turn down the option and pursue free agency, and Marks believes he’ll get at least that much on the open market. The veteran guard played just three games this season because of a partially torn ACL, but his rehab has gone well and he talked about possibly playing if the Nets had reached the NBA Finals.

Celtics Notes: Walker, Stevens, Fournier, Williams, Smart, Griffin

Kemba Walker, who was traded to the Thunder on Friday, had a “tension-filled” season with former coach and now president of basketball operations Brad Stevens, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic. Multiple team sources tell Weiss there was dysfunction in the Celtics‘ locker room and Stevens was seen as being tougher with Walker than other players. Weiss adds that after Gordon Hayward left to sign with the Hornets, he told Stevens that he needed to take a more forceful stance with players for the team to be successful.

Stevens became harder on several players, including Walker, whom he frequently criticized for errors on defense. Walker and Stevens often argued, sources add, but they maintained a working relationship and respect for each other.

According to multiple sources, Walker, who signed with Boston two years ago in free agency, became angry about the team’s disappointing season and boos directed at him by Celtics fans. He began talking privately about moving to another team and was willing to accept a trade.

There’s more on the Celtics, all from Weiss:

  • Trading Walker was a first step toward keeping free agent guard Evan Fournier and young center Robert Williams, who is eligible for a rookie scale extension this summer. The Celtics hope to bring back Fournier on a long-term deal while creating only a modest tax bill. The trade will also make it easier to add a maximum-salary slot for 2022 free agency, as Horford’s contract has just a $14MM guarantee in its final season.
  • Multiple sources told Weiss that several players were hoping for a coaching change, believing Stevens didn’t hold some of his star players accountable. There was also frustration with the coach’s “college offense” and complaints that players would get stuck in isolation. There seems to be a preference in the locker room for a Black coach with NBA playing experience, and Chauncey Billups, Ime Udoka and Darvin Ham are among the candidates being given second interviews.
  • Marcus Smart stands to inherit the starting point guard role and will hope to re-establish a culture of accountability on defense that he built along with Al Horford, who returns to the team in the Walker trade. Teammates often ignored Smart after Horford left, according to Weiss’ sources, which led to his confrontation with Jaylen Brown after Game 2 of the 2020 Eastern Conference finals.
  • After Blake Griffin‘s buyout with the Pistons, he asked a Celtics player about joining the team and was told there was too much dysfunction.

Nets Notes: Green, Durant, Harden, Griffin, Tsai

Plantar fasciitis forced Nets forward Jeff Green to miss six games earlier in the playoffs, but he has made a huge impact since his return. In a crucial Game 5 win on Tuesday, Green handled tough defensive assignments and was Brooklyn’s second-leading scorer behind Kevin Durant, pouring in 27 points and making 7-of-8 three-point attempts.

“Jeff Green was unbelievable,” head coach Steve Nash said, per Marc Berman of The New York Post. “Incredible performance. For a guy who is coming off an injury, who has been a big part of our team this year, to step up and show that maturity, that veteran presence, that winning mentality, was unbelievable. Kevin’s performance tonight was historic, but Jeff’s the one that kept us in the game for a long, long time.”

Over the course of his NBA career, Green has become one of the league’s most well-traveled players, having played for 10 different teams since making his debut in 2007. The veteran forward hasn’t played for the same club for two consecutive full seasons since leaving Boston in 2014. However, he tells Sopan Deb of The New York Times that he can envision himself sticking with the Nets beyond this season.

“I’d love to settle down in one place,” Green said, adding that he’d like to play into his 40s. “There’s Brooklyn. I’d love to settle down in Brooklyn. I’m not too concerned with the NBA record or how many teams. When you think about it, if I was to play 22 years, played on 15 teams, what does that say? It has no teeth behind it.”

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Brian Windhorst of ESPN takes a closer look at what might be remembered as a career-defining performance for Kevin Durant, who led the Nets to a Game 5 victory with 49 points, 17 rebounds, and 10 assists on 16-of-23 shooting.
  • While James Harden‘s final stat list (five points on 1-of-10 shooting in 46 minutes) looked pretty ugly, especially compared to Durant’s, the All-Star guard turned in an inspiring performance coming back from a hamstring injury, writes Ian O’Connor of The New York Post. Harden, who chipped in eight assists and held his own on defense, ended up with a +4 rating on the night.
  • Blake Griffin was considered a luxury pickup for the Nets when they added him on the buyout market, but the team has asked for more from him in the postseason with Harden and Kyrie Irving both hobbled, and Griffin has delivered so far, says Louis Zatzman of FiveThirtyEight.
  • Nets owner Joe Tsai admitted during an interview with CNBC this week that he didn’t realize all that he was getting into when he prepared to assume control of an NBA franchise four years ago, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. “One thing that I realize, when you own a sports team is it’s larger than a sports team: It’s a social institution,” Tsai said. “You’re doing it for the fans, you’re doing it for the broader population. I’m really glad we’re situated in Brooklyn because we have the best fans in the world.”

Atlantic Notes: Griffin, Stevens, Williams, Green

Nets big man Blake Griffin has been happy, healthy and productive since signing with the team in March, as NetsDaily.com details.

Griffin, an 11-year veteran, has averaged 6.8 points and 5.8 rebounds in 24.1 MPG through the team’s first eight playoff games, starting at center in every contest. He’s shot an impressive 52.5% from the floor and 37.5% from deep during those outings.

“Every time I talk to Blake, one of the things that always comes up is how much fun he’s having, playing in meaningful games and making an impact,” said Jeff Capel, Griffin’s college coach.

Griffin is seeking his first NBA championship, earning a starting role on a contending team at 32 years old. The Nets are currently tied with the Bucks 2-2 in the second round of the postseason.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • A. Sherrod Blakely of the Boston Sports Journal ponders whether Celtics fans will be ready to “trust the process” now that Brad Stevens is the team’s lead decision-maker. Boston dealt with numerous injury and COVID-19 issues this season, never getting a fair chance at developing chemistry and competing. The team finished with an underwhelming 36-36 record and lost to the Nets 4-1 in the first round.
  • Justin Leger of NBC Sports Boston explores the factors that would go into a potential Robert Williams extension this offseason. Williams is eligible for a rookie scale extension after becoming the Celtics‘ top big man in the final stages of the season. He averaged 8.0 points and 6.9 rebounds in 18.9 minutes per game this year.
  • The Sixers sent Danny Green home to Philadelphia to get treatment on his right calf strain, but hope to get him back around the team as quickly as possible due to his veteran leadership, head coach Doc Rivers said on Sunday (Twitter link via Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com). Of course, the team would love to welcome a healthy Green back on the court too, but he’s expected to miss at least two or three more weeks due to his calf injury.

Nets Notes: Durant, Griffin, Harris, Game 4

Two significant anniversaries occurred this week for Nets star Kevin Durant, notes Jerry Brewer of The Washington Post. Thursday marked two years since he suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon during the 2019 NBA Finals, and Saturday was the second anniversary of his surgery.

Durant has made a full recovery after sitting out last season and has returned to his spot among the NBA’s elite players. He’s averaging 30.3 points and 8.0 rebounds in the first three games of the Eastern Conference semifinals, and his Brooklyn team is favored to capture its first NBA title.

“Yeah, it’s really hard to tell the difference,” coach Steve Nash said. “He’s not only executing at that level, but he’s able to play the minutes and able to sustain such a high level of efficiency. So it’s hard to say that he has any dip at this point. And his game has picked up as we go.

“He’s gotten more reps, more comfort, especially defensively and on the boards. … When you’re a player that hasn’t played for a long time and you’re a scorer like that, you’re going to focus on trying to get that back first. So he did that, and then he started to pick up the other parts of his game. So it’s very difficult to distinguish him now opposed to before the surgery.”

There’s more on the Nets:

  • The toughest defensive assignment of the second round has been given to Blake Griffin, who is charged with slowing down Giannis Antetokounmpo, writes Paul Schwartz of The New York Post. The two-time MVP scored 33 points in Game 3, but he shot just 14 of 31 from the field and was 1 of 8 from three-point range as Griffin gave him plenty of space to shoot from outside. “I know he’s got points here and there,” Griffin said, “he had points in the last game, but we’re just trying to make it tough on him.”
  • Joe Harris called it “a shooter’s dream” to be surrounded by so much offensive talent in Brooklyn, and Ian O’Connor of The New York Post looks at how he has benefited from the presence of his Big Three teammates.
  • Today’s Game 4 in Milwaukee will be a chance for the Nets to prove that they’re really a great team, O’Connor contends in a separate piece. He states that Brooklyn needs to bounce back from the Game 3 loss, just as it did after Jayson Tatum‘s 50-point outburst when the Celtics won Game 3 in the first round.

Atlantic Notes: Brown, Griffin, Simmons, Raptors

With James Harden sidelined, Bruce Brown‘s role has expanded and the Nets guard is thriving, Peter Botte of the New York Post writes. Brown blanketed Khris Middleton while piling up 13 points, six rebounds, four assists and no turnovers in Brooklyn’s Game 2 blowout of the Bucks on Monday. “Bruce just comes in and plays extremely hard,” Kevin Durant said. Brown’s value is rising at an opportune time, as he’ll be a restricted free agent this summer.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Blake Griffin, who will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, continued his resurgence with another strong defensive outing against Giannis Antetokounmpo in Game 2, Brian Lewis of the New York Post notes. The Nets big man only took four shots, making three, after his 18-point, 14-rebound performance in Game 1. “He always plays with that good energy, fire to him,” Brown said. “They counted him out at the beginning of this year, so he’s got something to prove.”
  • Sixers coach Doc Rivers has compiled a series of video clips to demonstrate to the league that Ben Simmons doesn’t get a fair shake when guarding smaller players, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “You should never be penalized for playing straight, solid, legal, physical defense,” Rivers said. Rivers has an ulterior motive to lobby for Simmons since the Sixers would prefer to have him guard the Hawks’ top scorer, Trae Young, during the conference semifinals.
  • The Raptors have enough versatile defenders to get by without a traditional center, Eric Koreen of The Athletic argues. Finding a big man with athleticism and agility should be the priority, with a free agent such as JaMychal Green, Daniel Theis, Richaun Holmes or Nerlens Noel filling that need.

Nets Notes: Harden, Griffin, T. Johnson

Even though they recovered to beat the Bucks in the first game of their playoff series, the Nets were shocked and disappointed by the hamstring injury that sidelined James Harden in the first minute Saturday night, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Harden felt pain in his hamstring on a drive to the basket and left the game for an MRI. The results of that test will determine his availability for the rest of the series.

“You never want to see that for someone like James, who is such an important player and such an incredible player and cares so much,” coach Steve Nash said. “I’m heartbroken for him. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I don’t know if he’s playing the next game, if he’s out. I have no idea. But I’m heartbroken for him that he had to miss tonight.”

Harden missed more than 20 games late in the season with a strain of the same hamstring. He was able to return during the final week and played all five games of the first-round series against the Celtics without any issues. The Nets have a quick turnaround for Monday’s Game 2 and they’re awaiting word on when Harden will be able to play again.

“I know how much he cares. I know how much he wants to be in this moment,” Kevin Durant said. “… Wishing him a speedy recovery. Keep him involved as much as possible. It’s just a bad break.”

There’s more from Brooklyn:

  • The Nets won’t risk a long-term injury to Harden by trying to play him before he’s fully recovered, sources tell Jordan Schultz of ESPN (Twitter link). Schultz adds that it’s a sensitive issue right now after the Lakers permitted Anthony Davis to play in their final game despite a groin injury.
  • Blake Griffin helped the Nets survive the loss of Harden by posting 18 points and 14 rebounds for his best rebounding performance and second double-double since joining the Nets, notes Ryan Dunleavy of The New York Post. He’s happy to be part of the playoffs after being benched in Detroit before a buyout in March. “For two years, I didn’t hear much positivity,” Griffin said. “Probably rightfully so. But it’s pretty crazy how quickly it happens, so I’m just thankful for this opportunity.”
  • Jonathan Lehman of The New York Post looks at the path Tyler Johnson traveled to get to Brooklyn after getting a massive offer from the organization as a restricted free agent in 2016. The Heat matched that offer, but Johnson eventually became a salary dump in Phoenix before joining the Nets last summer in advance of the restart.

New York Notes: Randle, Rose, Barrett, Harden, Griffin

After another poor shooting night, Julius Randle expressed confidence that he and the Knicks will turn things around in the first-round series against Atlanta, according to Marc Berman of the New York Post. Randle missed 13 of 15 field-goal attempts in Game 3 on Friday.

We just got to adjust, just got to adjust and we will,’’ he said. “It’s on me. I just got to find a way to read the outlets quicker.’’

Impending free agent Derrick Rose was the main source of offense after being inserted into the lineup in place of slumping Elfrid Payton. Rose believes the team has been frustrated by its lack of offensive execution.

“When we’re not making shots, we still have to play with that sense of urgency,’’ Rose said.

We have more on the New York teams:

  • RJ Barrett has also been in an offensive funk in the series, Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post notes. The Knicks shooting guard is averaging 11.3 PPG and shooting 32.6% from the field during the series. “I’m getting a lot of wide-open shots,” he said. “I need to make them.”
  • James Harden saw a silver lining in the Nets’ Game 3 loss to Boston on Friday, according to Alex Schiffer of The Athletic. Harden believes the team had been lulled into a false sense of security after winning the first two games at home. “This probably was good for us,” Harden said. “Especially after our last game when we played so well. This was a good reminder for us that things aren’t going to be so easy.”
  • The Nets slowly worked Blake Griffin into their mix after signing him this season and general manager Sean Marks said the team has been pleasantly surprised how much he has left in the tank, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne writes. “We knew what we were getting in terms of veteran and high-IQ player,” Marks said. “So it was about being able to maximize what he’s got left, career-wise. And from the first day we got him, we could see, ‘OK, there’s some more there.'” With the superstars carrying the team in the playoffs, Griffin is averaging a modest 5.3 PPG, 3.7 RPG and 3.0 APG in the first-round series against Boston.