Blake Griffin

Atlantic Notes: Sixers, Embiid, Celtics, Griffin, Irving

In order to maximize their chances of winning a championship, the Sixers need to reinvent themselves around an injured Joel Embiid, David Murphy of the Philadelphia Inquirer opines. Embiid is dealing with ligament damage to his thumb and will undergo surgery after the playoffs.

As we relayed, he has no intention of sitting out, but he clearly seemed bothered by the injury in Game 4. The MVP candidate still finished with 21 points and eight rebounds, but he was frequently grabbing at his hand during stoppages of play.

The Sixers have enough talent around Embiid to close out their series against the Raptors, but advancing beyond the second round without his usual level of production would be difficult. Embiid is coming off a season in which he averaged a career-high 30.6 points, 11.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks on 50% shooting.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe takes a look at the Celtics’ hopes to bring the All-Star Game back to Boston. The Celtics are preparing a bid, Washburn notes, as Boston hasn’t hosted an All-Star Game since 1964. The team would likely look to host in 2025 or 2026.
  • Nets veteran Blake Griffin provided a lift off the bench in Game 3 against Boston, Peter Botte of the New York Post writes. Griffin played for the first time since April 2, recording eight points in nearly eight minutes. He could see action again in Game 4 on Monday.
  • A trio of ESPN hosts — Stephen A. Smith, Jalen Rose and Michael Wilbon — ripped Nets star Kyrie Irving and believe the team shouldn’t sign him to a long-term deal, as relayed by Adam Zagoria of NJ.com. Irving didn’t get vaccinated against COVID-19 and couldn’t play in home games until late March this season due to New York City’s vaccine requirement. That, combined with a midseason James Harden trade and key injuries, have harmed the Nets’ ability to build chemistry. Irving could decline a $36.5MM player option for next season and become a free agent this summer.

Nets Notes: Simmons, Nash, Durant, Griffin

Ben Simmons is targeting Monday’s Game 4 to make his debut with the Nets, but coach Steve Nash isn’t committing to anything, tweets Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Simmons went through a full workout today, which Nash said went well, but he cautioned that it’s difficult to start playing at this point of the season.

“I think it’s possible, but I’m not sure,” Nash told reporters before tonight’s game. “Like I said before, it’s not a normal return to play, having been off for nine months and being injured as long as he has been at the back of this, going on two months now – I think if I’m not mistaken – or more, so it’s not just, he got through three workouts and he’s ready to play. There’s a lot of bigger picture, bigger context — how he’s feeling, how able he would be to adapt to the environment. It’s a little different than playing a game that’s in the middle of the regular season so I think there’s a few factors at play to evaluate when he’s ready to play.”

Simmons was just cleared for contact five days ago as he continues to make progress from the back ailment that has kept him out of action since Brooklyn acquired him in February. He hasn’t played since Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals more than 10 months ago.

There’s more on the Nets:

  • The Celtics‘ defensive approach has forced Kevin Durant into two of the worst playoff games of his career, observes Sam Amick of The Athletic. Amick talked to a pair of scouts who point out that Boston is being physical with Durant before he gets the ball and has guarded him with six different players so far. Durant is coming off a 4-for-17 performance in Game 2 and committed six turnovers in each of the first two games of the series.
  • The Nets are in danger of letting another of Durant’s prime years slip away, warns Ian O’Connor of The New York Post. O’Connor notes that it’s not a sure thing that Durant and Kyrie Irving will both be healthy at playoff time ever again, so the Nets should have a sense of urgency to get back in the series.
  • After missing the first two games of the series with a sprained left ankle, Blake Griffin was upgraded to available for Game 3, Lewis tweets. The veteran big man hasn’t played since April 2.

Atlantic Notes: J. Johnson, Schröder, Griffin, Toppin

Joe Johnson is excited to resume his NBA career in the same place it started 20 years ago, writes Patrick McAvoy of NESN. After three years out of the league, Johnson signed a 10-day contract with the Celtics, who selected him with the 10th pick in the 2001 draft. Johnson only played 48 games in Boston before being traded to the Suns, but he says it has a feeling of home.

“Man, I’m just going to enjoy the moment. It’s almost like a familiar place but I was only here for about six months my rookie year and I got traded,” Johnson said. “But you know it’s fun, there’s still a lot of familiar faces out there for the organization and I was surprised to see. It’s good to see some familiar faces and good to be in a familiar place.”

Johnson told reporters he wasn’t ready to play 5-on-5 basketball last year, but he spent the past 12 months working on conditioning, tweets Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Johnson was spending time with his daughter on Tuesday when his agent called and said the Celtics might be interested, adds Jay King of The Athletic (Twitter link). The agent called back 30 or 40 minutes later and told him to get on a plane.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Dennis Schröder will represent the first major trade deadline decision for new Celtics president of basketball operations Brad Stevens, King states in a full story. Schröder has been productive in his first season with the team, averaging 16.8 points and 4.7 assists per game, but he’s on a one-year bargain contract and Boston will be limited to an offer beginning at about $7MM this summer. King notes that Schröder also takes playing time away from Payton Pritchard, who is among the team’s best shooters.
  • The COVID-19 outbreak that has strained the Nets‘ roster gave Blake Griffin a chance to revive his season, per Mark W. Sanchez of The New York Post. Griffin was out of the rotation when the virus hit, but with only eight active players he logged a season-high 32 minutes Saturday night. He has played better since returning to the lineup five games ago and could see regular minutes once the roster is back to normal. “Blake’s played great,” coach Steve Nash said. “Like I’ve said to him, we know there’s always something around the corner, so although he was out of the rotation for a little while, we knew something would happen and he’d get his opportunity again, and he’s a pro. Worked his butt off, stayed in shape, found a rhythm. He’s playing good basketball.”
  • The Knicks, who have also been decimated by the virus, got good news today with Obi Toppin clearing health and safety protocols, the team announced (Twitter link).

Nets Notes: Bembry, Aldridge, Griffin, Harris

DeAndre’ Bembry‘s one-year, minimum-salary contract with the Nets is only partially guaranteed for $750K, but based on his performance as of late, it seems like a foregone conclusion that the team will be comfortable fully guaranteeing that deal, writes Brian Lewis of The New York Post. Bembry has taken on a larger role with Joe Harris and Bruce Brown out of action and has responded as well as Brooklyn could’ve hoped.

“He gives us some speed and athleticism; he gives us a defender out there who can guard No. 1 options on the other team, and he also is a cutter offensively for us. So he’s been great,” head coach Steve Nash said. “We’ve been working with him to really understand his role, and I think he’s been fantastic with his willingness to compete and to grow as a player. So, really proud of his effort and he’s getting better.”

Bembry scored 18 points on 9-of-11 shooting to go along with nine rebounds in 35 minutes during Saturday’s loss to Phoenix. Bembry won’t play that much – or that well – every night, but he looks like a good bet to continue getting regular minutes going forward, having impressed his star teammates with his recent play.

“He played incredible [on Saturday] — playing defense on the ball, cutting to the rim, making himself available, rebounding,” Kevin Durant said, per Lewis. “We’re going to need that from him. He was a spark for us and he was one of the bright spots out there. So hopefully he can continue to build on this and keep getting better.”

Here’s more on the Nets:

  • Alex Schiffer of The Athletic takes an in-depth look at how LaMarcus Aldridge went from retiring in the spring to becoming a crucial part of the Nets’ lineup in the fall. Aldridge, who inked a minimum-salary contract with the club in the offseason, has been one of this season’s best bargains so far.
  • Having been displaced by Aldridge in the starting lineup, Blake Griffin has been out of Brooklyn’s rotation entirely over the last couple games, which he admits he didn’t see coming, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN relays. Griffin said he talked to former teammate DeAndre Jordan, who was removed from the rotation last season, about how to handle the demotion. “He did a really great job with it,” Griffin said. “I told him that. That is how I am going to try to do it as well.”
  • Joe Harris‘ contract includes a $500K bonus that he can earn if the Nets win the championship, but he only qualifies for it if he plays at least 65 regular season games, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. Harris’ absence due to ankle surgery appears likely to take that bonus off the table for this season, even if Brooklyn makes a title run.

Eastern Notes: Griffin, Bembry, Fultz, Capela, Bogdanovic

Nets big man Blake Griffin has seen his role shrink with the impressive play of LaMarcus Aldridge, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. Griffin started last season and in Brooklyn’s first 18 games this year, but he was replaced by Aldridge against the Celtics on Wednesday.

In addition to losing his starting spot, Griffin also didn’t receive minutes off the bench. Head coach Steve Nash opted to play James Johnson and Paul Millsap instead, and the duo helped the Nets secure a 123-104 road victory.

“We just need to look at different things,” Nash said. “I think it picked up our pace. [Aldridge is] not the fastest guy on the floor, but we played with pace. We played with ideas. We weren’t stagnant. We moved the ball. I thought we defended well. 

“Overall, the spirit was really good. That’s what we’ve been asking from this group is to have a great spirit and pick each other up and push for more, get better.” 

There’s more from the Eastern Conference today:

  • Nets swingman DeAndre’ Bembry is showing the team he deserves more minutes, Mark Sanchez of the New York Post opines. In 18 games this season, Bembry is averaging 5.1 points in 18.6 minutes per contest, shooting 41% from three-point range. He has failed to exceed 30% from deep in each of his last three seasons.
  • Magic guard Markelle Fultz discussed a variety of topics with former NBA player Etan Thomas on BasketballNews.com’s The Rematch (podcast link), including his injuries, love of the game and facing adversity. Fultz has yet to play this season as he rehabs from a torn ACL.
  • Chris Kirschner of The Athletic examines the close connection between Hawks players Bogdan Bogdanovic and Clint Capela. Bogdanovic and Capela have been teammates for two seasons, but, as Kirschner details, their relationship extends past basketball.

Atlantic Notes: Griffin, Flynn, VanVleet, McBride, Sixers

Blake Griffin has struggled mightily for the Nets so far this season, and it’s having a detrimental impact on the team, according to Mark W. Sanchez of the New York Post.

Sanchez notes that Griffin has gone 0-for-18 from deep over his last 5 games. Head coach Steve Nash says Griffin has had open shots, but hasn’t been able to convert.

He’s just having a funk. I think he’s got good looks, but I think he just hasn’t been in a good rhythm,” Nash said of Griffin’s shooting before the Nets met the Cavaliers at Barclays Center. “People go through stretches like that.”

Through 14 games, Griffin has a shooting line of .312/.173/.696 while averaging 5.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, and 2.0 assists in 22.6 minutes per game. Last season in 26 games with the Nets, Griffin averaged 10.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.4 assists in 21.6 minutes per game, with a shooting slash line of .492/.383/.782.

Sanchez opines that Griffin has had mixed results on the defensive end, but hasn’t done enough to make up for the poor shooting. He’s excellent at drawing charges (league-leading 11 prior to Wednesday’s games), but lacks the foot speed to consistently switch, and after a series of knee injuries, isn’t a great rim protector.

Griffin will be an unrestricted free agent in 2022.

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Second-year guard Malachi Flynn has mostly been out of the Raptors‘ rotation this season, and whether he should get more minutes is a complicated question, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. Smith notes that the Raptors have struggled with shooting and on defense recently, and he thinks Flynn is better at those two areas than backup rookie point guard Dalano Banton. However, Smith opines that another change to the rotation might be rough for a team struggling with consistency. Flynn says he’s putting the onus on himself to show the team he’s worthy of more playing time. “I’m not pointing the finger at anybody. I’m taking it upon myself. What can I do to help myself? That’s the only thing I can control. It’s definitely easier said than done, but that’s what I’m trying to do,” Flynn said.
  • In a separate article, Smith writes that Fred VanVleet has become the vocal leader of the Raptors after Kyle Lowry‘s departure. VanVleet says he always comes from a place of respect and winning. “I’m not always right, but my heart’s in the right place and I can usually live with myself knowing that I try to respect the guys as men first. We’re all equal in the locker room. We all say: We want to win, and any conversation after that we’ll figure it out,” VanVleet said.
  • Head coach Tom Thibodeau was effusive in his praise of Knicks rookie Miles McBride, tweets Marc Berman of the New York Post. McBride was recently assigned to the G League to get minutes. I love him, I love him. I think it’s important for him to be with us but every opportunity we get where we can have him play some, we want to try to take advantage of that as well. But he’s got a great future, great kid, hard worker,” Thibodeau said.
  • Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes that Sixers coach Doc Rivers isn’t panicking about the team’s five game losing streak. “There’s nobody here worried,” Rivers said. “It’s just a long season. When you have the injuries that we have and the games that we’ve played … listen, I want to win every game. But I do understand what we’re under right now, too.”

Atlantic Notes: Tatum, Griffin, Doc, Rose, Walker

After weeks of drama, Celtics forward Jayson Tatum has reasserted himself as the team’s leader, on and off the court, writes Jared Weiss of The Athletic.

“My teammates, my coaches and everyone we play know what I’m capable of,” Tatum said on a night he scored 32 points but the Celtics lost 107-104 to the Mavericks. “It’s a long season and we have a lot of games to play, obviously. You see everything people say and you hear everything, but that’s part of it. I should be worried if you guys stop talking about me. That would be a problem. But it’s part of the business, part of what I do, and take it with a grain of salt.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Nets starting center Blake Griffin enjoyed his best night of the season against his former club, the Pistons. Griffin, who scored 13 points and five rebounds, appears to be overcoming his early struggles in the season, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “We love that Blake brings it and gives us that physicality,” said head coach Steve Nash. “He’s also a very intelligent player, so he’s taking charges, fighting on the glass and understands our concepts defensively.”
  • With the Sixers‘ 114-105 victory over the Bulls, head coach Doc Rivers earned his 1,000th win as a coach, writes Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Across his 23 combined seasons coaching the Magic, Celtics, Clippers and now Philadelphia, Rivers has posted a 1,000-706 record. The Sixers currently lead the Eastern Conference with an 8-2 record on the young season, despite several key player absences for multiple games.
  • The impressive play of Knicks reserve guard Derrick Rose could result in fewer minutes for starter Kemba Walker, writes Marc Berman of the New York Post. Head coach Tom Thibodeau most recently played Rose for 31 minutes while restricting Walker to just 15 in a 113-98 comeback win over the Bucks. Walker, who has struggled with knee injuries in recent years, will be resting tonight against the Cavaliers in the first of New York’s back-to-back games this season, per Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News (Twitter link).

Nets’ Nash Not Planning To Bench Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin is off to an extremely slow start but Nets coach Steve Nash has no plans to bench the former All-Star, according to Brian Lewis of the New York Post.

Griffin has scored in single digits in every game this season while starting all six games. He has posted averages of 4.8 PPG on 28.6% shooting and 4.8 RPG in 20.0 MPG. Griffin has made just two of 17 3-point attempts while LaMarcus Aldridge has scored 37 points over the last two games.

“There’s no (plan to pull him). We’re not really thinking about changing roles,” Nash said. “BG’s been successful there for us in the past, and LaMarcus is successful coming off the bench right now. So there’s no reason to make any big changes.”

Nicolas Claxton has missed the last three games due to a non-COVID-19 illness. He’s expected to miss at least one more week, which gives Griffin more time to find his offensive game.

“We all go through different periods where we won’t have our rhythm, our confidence; and that’s what he’s going through right now. So it’s normal. We just don’t expect it from him because he’s shot the ball well for us,” Nash said.

Griffin re-signed with the Nets on a one-year, veteran’s minimum contract. He reached a buyout agreement last year with the Pistons, who have the remaining $29.7MM from that contract on their cap this season.

Nets Notes: Griffin, Aldridge, Two-Way Slot, Harden, Irving, Thomas

The Nets are likely to move away from their approach of spreading the court and could field one of the tallest rotations in the league, writes Kristian Winfield of The New York Daily News. That decision was forced partially by the uncertainty surrounding Kyrie Irving, but Brooklyn focused heavily on the frontcourt in its offseason moves, re-signing Blake Griffin and adding veteran big men LaMarcus Aldridge and Paul Millsap.

Griffin played alongside center Nicolas Claxton with the first unit in Saturday’s practice, Winfield notes, but he frequently started at center after joining the team last season and can be effective at either position. Millsap and Aldridge have spent most of their careers as power forwards, but they will also see time in the middle.

“It’s not a traditional big lineup. Blake can switch a lot. I can switch at times. (Kevin Durant) can do it all,” Aldridge said. “I think it’s a big lineup, but it’s not traditional. You’re going to need that. I think teams can play big and play small, and I think having the ability to do both is nice for us.”

There’s more from Brooklyn:

  • The Nets’ decision to give David Duke Jr. their final two-way spot and waive Devontae Cacok was based on their philosophy related to two-way deals, Winfield adds. “I think it’s more development at this point,” coach Steve Nash said. “I think when you look at a team like this, it’s hard for those guys fighting for two-way spots to be guys that are playing in the rotation. So it’s not impossible, but it’s more of a development spot, someone that we can groom and help grow into a piece of this organization’s future.”
  • The Nets were determined to trade for James Harden last season because they already had doubts about whether they could trust Irving, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said on his podcast (hat tip to RealGM). Woj added that Brooklyn and Philadelphia haven’t discussed a trade involving Irving and Ben Simmons, and he doesn’t believe the Sixers would have any interest in such a deal. He also said the Nets are preparing to play the entire season without Irving.
  • Cameron Thomas put together a strong preseason after being named co-MVP of the Summer League, but he’s still not likely to have a spot in the Nets’ rotation, according to Zach Braziller of The New York Post. Brooklyn has an experienced backcourt after the offseason additions of Patty Mills and Jevon Carter, and there may not be many minutes available for the rookie guard. “I think there’s some ground for him to make up, but we love him as a player and think he’s got a bright future, but it might take some time,” Nash said. “He’s joined a pretty tough team to crack into.”

Central Notes: Griffin, O’Bryant, Karnisovas, Sexton

Blake Griffin admits being upset over internet rumors that he wasn’t giving 100% during his time with the Pistons last season, writes Andrew Hammond of The Detroit Free Press. Griffin, who joined the Nets after agreeing to a buyout with Detroit in February, addressed that topic during an appearance on J.J. Redick‘s podcast, “The Old Man and the Three.”

“It bothered me,” Griffin said. “Because the stat was, he hadn’t dunked in 400-something days … sure.” 

Griffin pointed out that the number is misleading because the Pistons weren’t part of the NBA’s restart in Orlando in the summer of 2020 and he only played 20 more games for Detroit before the buyout. He laughed off the criticism, but Hammond believes he was irritated by the narrative that formed.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Bucks were among several teams that worked out veteran center Johnny O’Bryant, according to Jeff Garcia of Locked on Spurs (hat tip to Dalton Sell of FanSided). The 28-year-old spent four years in the NBA, but has been out of the league since the 2017/18 season. He has been playing overseas and spent last season in the Turkish League. Milwaukee, which drafted O’Bryant in 2014, has two openings on its training camp roster. The Nets and Warriors also hosted workouts for O’Bryant, according to Garcia.
  • Arturas Karnisovas is keeping his promise to not accept mediocrity on the Bulls‘ roster, observes Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times. Cowley notes that Zach LaVine and Coby White are the only players still remaining from when Karnisovas took over as executive vice president of basketball operations in April of 2020. Cowley expects the changes to continue as Chicago tries to break a four-year playoff drought.
  • On his Instagram account, Cavaliers guard Collin Sexton claims that team officials were crying during his 2018 pre-draft workout because they had lost to the Warriors in the NBA Finals the day before.