Chris Paul

Trevor Ariza, Gerald Green Suspended Two Games Each

The NBA is suspending Trevor Ariza and Gerald Green for “aggressively entering” the Clippers’ locker room earlier this week, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports (Twitter link).

Chris Paul and James Harden will face no discipline. Wojnarowski (Twitter links) adds that interviews with 20 people from the locker room incident were conducted. It was determined that Paul and Harden tried to be “peacemakers,” attempting to defuse the situation. The scribe also adds that Blake Griffin will not be suspended.

The pair of Rockets wings will miss the team’s games against the Wolves and Warriors this week. Golden State is the only team ahead of the Rockets in the Western Conference standings, while the Wolves own the fourth spot in the conference, sitting just three games behind Houston.

Ariza will lose approximately $103K as a result of the two-game suspension, while Green will lose roughly $19.K. The Rockets will receive a credit of slightly under $61K against the luxury tax, Bobby Marks of ESPN.com explains (Twitter link). The team now sits roughly $2.56MM below the luxury tax threshold.

NBA’s Clippers/Rockets Probe Focusing On Ariza

The NBA’s investigation into the postgame incident between the Rockets and Clippers in Los Angeles on Monday night is focused on Trevor Ariza, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. According to Wojnarowski, Ariza has been “isolated as the person most responsible” for the Rockets’ attempt to get into the Clippers’ locker room.

Ariza, who got into it with Blake Griffin during the game, resulting in ejections for both players, was waiting on Griffin after the game, a Rockets source told Lee Jenkins of SI.com. A source also told Jenkins that teammates James Harden, Chris Paul, and Gerald Green were holding Ariza back when he attempted to get into the Clippers’ locker room to confront Griffin and Austin Rivers.

Wojnarowski hears similar rumblings, writing that Paul and Harden are “increasingly described” as having attempted to cool down Ariza. However, Woj does note that some sources on the Clippers’ side insist that Paul “eagerly entered” the home locker room through the back entrance, as we detailed on Tuesday.

The NBA interviewed several executives, coaches, players, and security personnel during the 24 hours following the incident, and those discussions are expected to continue today, league sources tell Wojnarowski. It remains to be seen whether fines and/or suspensions will be announced before the Clippers host Denver on Wednesday night. The Rockets’ next game takes place on Thursday night in Houston.

Pacific Notes: Ball, CP3, Clippers, Kings

Lonzo Balls balky left knee kept him out of the Lakers‘ loss to the Grizzlies on Monday and will likely sideline him for at least another game, ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk writes. Ball underwent an MRI on Sunday after he complained of discomfort and he will not be able to return until the swelling subsides.

“I know my body the best,” Ball said. “So as long as I can run, that is pretty much all I need. So as soon as I can run and the swelling goes down a little bit, then I should be ready to go.”

Ball, 20, had played well since he returned from a shoulder injury that sidelined him for six games from late December through early January. In total, Ball has averaged 10.2 PPG, 7.1 RPG, and 7.1 APG in 36 games for Los Angeles. The Lakers are 0-6 without Ball and are also currently without Brandon Ingram who is day-to-day with a sprained ankle.

Check out other Pacific Division notes below:

  • Before the melee that ensued during and after in the Rockets‘ matchup against the Clippers in Los Angeles on Monday, former Clipper Chris Paul did not want to be the focus of the game, Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times writes. Paul spent six seasons with the Clippers before he was traded this past offseason to Houston, pairing him with perennial Most Valuable Player candidate James Harden. However, after the game was over, it was Paul and several of his Rockets teammates entering the Clippers locker room looking for a confrontation with several L.A. players that was the story.
  • Michael Lee of The Vertical examines the Clippers dynasty that never was. While Los Angeles compiled an impressive list of stars, such as Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and others, the team was never able to escape the first round of the playoffs.
  • Several Kings player have voiced their displeasure with the way things are going for the team and that could be beneficial for the organization’s rebuild, Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee writes. Jones argues that if players continue speaking up, the team will have to speed up its efforts to put forth a contending team with winning players.
  • With the trade deadline approaching, James Ham of NBC Sports takes a look at which Kings veterans could be on the move and the impact they could have on the market.

NBA Investigating Rockets/Clippers Incident

10:09am: There will be “no shortage of punished individuals” as a result of the NBA’s investigation into last night’s incident in Los Angeles, tweets Wojnarowski. That investigation began late last night and continues into today.

8:26am: Chris Paul‘s return to Los Angeles took an unexpected turn on Monday night after the Clippers beat the Rockets in a testy contest that featured multiple ejections. As ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports, tensions boiled over after game, with a handful of Rockets players looking to confront Austin Rivers and Blake Griffin in the Clippers’ locker room.

According to Wojnarowski, Paul, James Harden, Trevor Ariza, and Gerald Green walked through a back hallway to reach the Clippers’ locker room, where several L.A. players “dared the Rockets to come farther into the room.” However, security and team officials quickly stepped in and pushed the Rockets back toward their locker room, per Wojnarowski.

Sources tell Wojnarowski that the Rockets were upset with Rivers, who was described as “especially belligerent” during the late stages of the Clippers’ win, despite standing on the sideline in street clothes (he’s still recovering from an ankle injury). Griffin was also involved in confrontations with Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni and Ariza during the game, leading to his ejection.

While the details of Wojnarowski’s report are bizarre and fascinating, it appears the locker-room incident didn’t escalate beyond some shouting. “It was classic NBA,” one Clipper witness told Woj. “None of these guys were going to fight.”

Nonetheless, the NBA intends to investigate the matter and will begin to gather information on Tuesday, Wojnarowski writes. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the league announces fines and/or suspensions at some point this week, with the Rockets seemingly likely to be hit with harsher penalties.

Southwest Notes: Paul, Matthews, Selden, Pelicans

Chris Paul has battled some injuries in his first season with the Rockets, but the team has played exceptionally well when he has been on the court. Houston is 16-2 in games that Paul has started, and has enjoyed one of the NBA’s best backcourts when the veteran plays alongside James Harden.

The Rockets are now eligible to offer Paul, 32, an extension but the All-Star point guard has not given much thought to that possibility, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle writes. Paul is set to hit free agency at season’s end, at which point he will face no shortage of suitors. It will be Paul’s decision to either stay in Houston or pursue other options but the team is prepared to make him a part of their future plans.

“Obviously, when we get someone as great as Chris Paul or James Harden, the plan is to keep him here,” Rockets general manager Daryl Morey said to Feigen. “He’ll have a choice when the season ends. We feel like we set things up well. It should be an easy choice for him.”

The Rockets are just two games back of the Warriors for the best record in the Western Conference and a healthy Paul — along with Harden — would go a long way to making that a strongly contested race.

Check out other Southwest Division notes below:

  • Wesley Matthews, who holds a player option for the 2018/19 season, has altered his game for the Mavericks this season, Eddie Sefko of Dallas Morning News writes. Matthews has always been a “3 and D” player, meaning he shoots well from beyond the arc while providing solid defense. However, this season, Matthews has attempted fewer threes in favor of shots closer to the basket.
  • Wayne Selden has played sparingly this season due to injury but his recent return for the Grizzlies has the team excited, Ronald Tillery of the Commercial Appeal writes. “(Selden) brings an athleticism and speed to the game,” head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “You keep watching how the game is evolving, and that’s where it’s evolving. He also brings a bit of playmaking for you.
  • The Pelicans are a win-now team that is struggling to win games, including back-to-back losses to the Mavericks and Knicks in recent days. Scott Kushner of The New Orleans Advocate opines that Pelicans fans deserve better from the organization.

James Harden Out At Least Two Weeks

Rockets star guard James Harden will be sidelined at least two weeks with a Grade 2 hamstring strain, the club announced in a press release.

Harden suffered the injury on Sunday in a 148-142 double-overtime victory against the Lakers in which Harden posted 40 points and 11 assists. The release said Harden will be re-evaluated after the two-week period, which suggests he could require another week or more to get back in action.

Harden is enjoying another stellar season, averaging 32.3 PPG, 5.0 RPG and 9.1 APG. The Rockets snapped a five-game losing streak on Sunday and they are now two games behind the Warriors for the top spot in the Western Conference. Harden’s injury naturally decreases their chances of regaining the top spot.

In his absence, Eric Gordon and Chris Paul will have to take a bigger share of the scoring load. It also means an increased role for recently-signed Gerald Green.

Rockets Notes: Green, Paul, Weber

Gerald Green went from unemployed to a member of the Rockets’ rotation in a few hours Thursday. In need of depth with Chris Paul, Clint Capela and Luc Mbah a Moute all sidelined by injuries, Houston signed Green to a non-guaranteed contract Thursday afternoon and used him against the Celtics a few hours later. He went scoreless with one rebound in 11 minutes. With all NBA contracts becoming fully guaranteed January 7, Green’s arrangement serves as an unofficial 10-day deal as the Rockets will have approximately that long to decide whether or not to keep him.

There’s more news today from Houston:

  • Green was signed to take some of the stress off forward Trevor Ariza, explains Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Ariza ranks 13th in the league in minutes played at 36.0 per game and had topped 40 in six straight games before last night. Mbah a Moute, his primary backup, is projected to be out another week with a dislocated shoulder. “He’s a vet, he knows how to play,” Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni said of Green. “We’re not real complicated. If he can take a few minutes off Trevor, that’s what we’ll use him for. We’re just really shorthanded on the wings. Obviously, he’s played at a good level before.”
  • Because the Paul trade was competed six months ago, the point guard becomes eligible for an extension today, notes Bobby Marks on ESPN Now. Marks adds that it’s unlikely anything will happen during the season, but Paul could agree to a $132MM extension over four years that would give him a $29.5MM salary for 2018/19. He’s more likely to head into free agency next summer, when he will be eligible for a five-year, $205MM deal that would start at $35.3MM.
  • Paul’s injury has created an opportunity for Briante Weber, who signed a two-way contract with the Rockets in late October, writes Owen Pence of The Houston Chronicle. Weber, 24, had brief stays with the Grizzlies, Heat, Warriors and Hornets, but is still searching for his NBA breakthrough. “[I’m] just trying to learn and figure out how to play with two Hall of Famers,” he said. “It’s a continued learning experience. I’m going to continue to learn and continue to grow as a player behind those two guys and hopefully the minutes can increase when I can gain some trust from Coach [D’Antoni].”

Injury Updates: Curry, Griffin, Paul, Hill

Two-time MVP Stephen Curry is expected to return on Saturday during a home game against the Grizzlies, Chris Haynes of ESPN.com reports. Curry will miss his 11th straight game on Friday because of a right ankle sprain but he participated in drills and a 3-on-3 scrimmage during practice on Thursday. “If all goes well, I expect him to play Saturday, but even if it goes well, I’m not expecting him to play (Friday),” Warriors coach Steve Kerr told the assembled media.

In other injury-related news around the league:

  • Blake Griffin practiced on Thursday after practicing with the Clippers’ G-League team on Wednesday, but it’s still uncertain whether he’ll play on Friday against the Lakers, according to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times. Griffin has missed 14 games due to a sprained left MCL. Griffin said he would defer to the team’s medical staff. “That’s why we have the team doctors,” he said. “That’s why we have the training staff that we do. They have done a great job so far putting together … a rehab plan and pushing me and getting to this point.”
  • Rockets point guard Chris Paul is expected to play either Friday against the Wizards or Sunday against the Lakers, coach Mike D’Antoni told Jeff Goodman of ESPN (Twitter link). Paul missed his third consecutive game on Thursday due to an adductor strain.
  • Pelicans forward Solomon Hill rejoined the team to watch their victory over the Nets on Wednesday, but he’s not close to returning from the torn hamstring he suffered in August, William Guillory of the New Orleans Times-Picayune reports. Hill was expected to miss 6-8 months and that hasn’t changed. “It’s not going to get any quicker or anything like that.,” coach Alvin Gentry said. “We’re just going to have to let it play out. He’s still got a ways to go before he’s able to get back on the court and actually play.”

Southwest Notes: Capela, Leonard, Weber, Simmons

Rockets center Clint Capela has a right orbital fracture and will miss at least the next two games, the team tweets. Capela will be re-evaulated later this week, the tweet adds. Capela suffered the injury during the third quarter of the Rockets’ loss to the Thunder on Christmas Day. He had missed three of the previous four games with a heel injury. Capela, who is averaging 14.2 PPG and 11.2 RPG, will miss Thursday’s matchup against the Celtics and Friday’s game against the Wizards.

In other developments around the Southwest Division:

  • Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard admits he’s still not 100% as he works his way back from a quad injury but the team appears ready to go on a run, according to Michael C. Wright of ESPN. Leonard played 26 minutes in San Antonio’s victory over the Nets on Tuesday. “I don’t feel like I’m there yet,” Leonard told Wright and other reporters. “But I tried to do what I can. It’s really nothing tonight. Just the whole process of going through playing limited minutes, and just seeing how I feel each game.” With Leonard and Tony Parker back from long-term injuries, the Spurs finally have their full roster together. “It’s a good time to get everybody playing, everybody feeling good, get Kawhi and Tony back to their usual selves, back to their rhythm and feeling good,” guard Manu Ginobili told Wright.
  • Briante Weber has played meaningful minutes as a backup point guard with Rockets starter Chris Paul on the mend, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle relays. Paul could return as early as Thursday from an adductor strain. Weber, who is on a two-way contract, played a total of 34 minutes over the last two games, though he only contributed two points and three assists. “It’s a learning process, just trying to figure out what to do to play my game and not take away from what the team has,” Weber told Feigen.
  • Rookie guard Kobi Simmons, another player on a two-way deal, has given the Grizzlies a boost of energy, Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal notes. Simmons has played a total of 51 minutes over the last two games, supplying 12 points, nine rebounds and five assists. “He brings a spark,” interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff told Tillery. “He’s got a natural talent that we’ve got to do a great job of developing. He can help us.”

Northwest Notes: Mitchell, Allen, Butler, Gibson

Jazz rookie guard Donovan Mitchell intended to return to Louisville for his junior season when tested the draft waters, Tim MacMahon of ESPN reports. Mitchell paid his expenses to the Creative Artists Agency pre-draft camp because he wanted to see what improvements he needed in his game before returning to college, MacMahon continues. Chris Paul and Paul George convinced Mitchell during the camp that he was good enough to be a first-round selection. The Jazz targeted him after an interview during the Chicago pre-draft camp and traded into the lottery to snag him, MacMahon adds.

In other news involving the Northwest Division:

  • Nuggets coach Michael Malone downplays the feeling that the franchise made a mistake dealing Mitchell, the No. 13 pick, to the Jazz, Eric Woodyard of the Deseret News tweets. “The only thing I can say is obviously we got (forward) Trey Lyles in that deal and Trey Lyles has been great for us,“ Malone told Woodyard. Mitchell doesn’t hold any grudges against Denver for trading him, Kyle Goon of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets.
  • Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen is the biggest reason why the franchise is wallowing in mediocrity, John Canzano of The Oregonian opines. Allen’s hands-on approach has been a failure, which has led to numerous GM and coaching changes, Canzano continues. The best way for the franchise to move forward is for Allen to let his basketball staff and coaches do their jobs without his constant meddling, Canzano adds.
  • The acquisitions of Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson have transformed the Timberwolves, as coach Tom Thibodeau told Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune and other reporters. “Just the toughness,” Thibodeau said. “You’re talking about two elite defenders and knowing how important defense is and making the right plays offensively. … You can ask (Butler) to guard any player on the floor and he does it. They don’t take any possessions off and they understand how hard you have to play on every possession. With young guys, sometimes they don’t understand that. You can’t take plays off and you can’t pick and choose when you’re going to play defense.”
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