Chris Paul

Southwest Notes: Leonard, Capela, Conley, Barnes

The Lakers might be the logical landing spot if the Spurs decide not to offer Kawhi Leonard a supermax deal or if he tells them he’ll walk after next season, Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe speculates. Leonard can opt out of his deal next summer and the Spurs would want to acquire assets rather than wind up with nothing, as the Thunder experienced when Kevin Durant bolted, Washburn continues.  The Lakers have enough assets to make such a deal happen, but the Celtics would likely decline the Spurs’ advances if they were asked to give up Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum and a first-rounder for him, Washburn adds.

In other news around the Southwest Division:

  • Clint Capela‘s value to the Rockets hasn’t gone unnoticed and should lead to a lucrative offseason for the impending restricted free agent, as Stefano Fusaro of The Undefeated notes. Houston went 42-3 this season when Capela, Chris Paul and James Harden were all in the lineup, and Paul told Fusaro it’s no coincidence. “Y’all know the record when we all play together, and I’ll tell you it’s not because of me and James,” Paul said. “Clint is really the X factor. He opens up so much for us.”
  • Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley anticipates playing a full season after his injury-marred 2017/18 campaign, the team’s PR department tweets. Conley opted for season-ending heel surgery in late January after appearing in just 12 games. “Thankfully I had the surgery early enough to where I have a full summer of work and getting my body ready for an 82-game season,” Conley told reporters.
  • Mavericks forward Harrison Barnes wants to play for the U.S. national team again, Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News reports. Barnes, who had a limited role in the 2016 Olympics, is one of 35 players USA Basketball has named as candidates to play in the 2019 World Championships and 2020 Olympics. “Everybody would love to play in a World Cup and the Olympics,” Barnes told Sefko. “Those are bucket-list experiences. If I could be included in that group, it would be really special.”

Clippers Rumors: Rivers, CP3, Offseason, West

While Doc Rivers has long been viewed as an adept manager of relationships and egos, an in-depth look at the veteran head coach by ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz suggests that Rivers may actually be overrated as a locker-room manager, but underrated as a “practitioner of X’s and O’s.” As Arnovitz writes, Rivers has done an excellent job this season with a Clippers squad hit hard by injuries and lacking the star power of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. For his part, Rivers has enjoyed himself in 2017/18 despite falling short of the playoffs.

“This group this season — it’s been a breath of fresh air,” Rivers said. “It’s been a group that has followed. They allow you to coach them. They’re competitive as f—. We’ve got a bunch of guys who just want to compete. We have a formula — our pace, our attacks and our draw-and-kicks. We’re not good enough go off-formula and win. Defensively, our switches and our traps — we’re going against the grain.”

By comparison, Rivers’ comments about his 2016/17 squad, led by Paul and Griffin, suggest that he wasn’t exactly devastated when that particular Clippers era came to an end.

“I was aloof last year. I didn’t want to be here with these guys,” Rivers said of ’16/17. “I wanted to coach, but this team was a hard team to coach. I’m aloof anyway — I’m an introvert — and it was a hard group to like because they didn’t like each other. For me, you have to want to figure it out. And we lost the ability to want to figure it out.”

Here’s more on Rivers, plus a few other Clippers-related notes:

  • Next season would be the final year of Rivers’ contract with the Clippers, but sources tell Arnovitz that there has been “no meaningful outreach” from the team about a possible contract extension. Meanwhile, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report says that the buzz from executives around the NBA is that the Clippers and Rivers are likely headed for a split “sooner than later.”
  • Rivers is still saying the right things about his position with the Clippers. Asked by Arnovitz if he wants to remain with the organization, Rivers replied, “I love it here. I love the guys. I love the organization. It’s so much better than when I got here. So, most likely, yes.”
  • According to Arnovitz, Chris Paul met with Clippers owner Steve Ballmer last year after CP3 decided to leave for Houston, and the veteran point guard told Ballmer that Rivers was one of the factors that contributed to his departure.
  • In a column for Basketball Insiders, David Yapkowitz lays out a possible plan for the Clippers’ offseason. Pincus also previews the team’s summer at Bleacher Report, exploring the odds of veterans like DeAndre Jordan, Austin Rivers, Milos Teodosic, and Wesley Johnson exercising their player options for 2018/19.
  • Entering free agency, Jerry West‘s abilities as a recruiter shouldn’t be overlooked, writes Bryan Kalbrosky of HoopsHype.

Chris Paul, Rockets Appear To Be Long-Term Match

Chris Paul will be a free agent this offseason, but he’s not looking ahead to the possibilities that this summer could bring. “Not at all,” Paul said when asked if he’s thought about his upcoming free agency (via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle). “Not one time. Not once. I just always worry about right now.”

The point guard is happy in Houston and it’s easy to envision him remaining with the franchise — after all, when he decided to join the Rockets, it wasn’t simply about him. His family moved with him to Texas, which means his free agency is about more than basketball options. It’s about life decisions.

“That’s what happened when the trade happened,” Paul said. “I love it here. I love it here.”

Paul will be eligible for a five-year deal worth approximately $205MM this offseason. GM Daryl Morey wouldn’t discuss potential contract specifics, though he said that top-shelf point guards like Paul have a history of playing well late in their careers.

“Obviously, when we get someone as great as Chris Paul or James Harden, the plan is to keep him here,” Morey said during the season. “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.”

Injury Notes: Thomas, Paul, Booker, Simmons

The hip injury that caused Lakers guard Isaiah Thomas to miss nearly the first half of the season appears to be acting up again, tweets Tania Ganguli of The Los Angeles Times. Thomas woke up this morning with stiffness in his right hip and will be held out of the final two games of the team’s road trip.

Thomas first suffered the injury last year in Boston, and the Cavaliers held him out of the first 36 games of this season while he was recovering. The latest flare-up could be a warning sign for any team interested in the 29-year-old guard when he becomes a free agent this summer.

There’s more news on the NBA injury front:

  • Down to eight players for tonight’s game, the Lakers will get some help tomorrow when two-way player Gary Payton II joins the team after the G League regular season ends. However, fellow two-way contract holder Alex Caruso is sidelined by a concussion, according to Bill Oram of The SoCal News Group (Twitter link).
  • Rockets guard Chris Paul will be held out of tonight’s game, but could return tomorrow, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). Coach Mike D’Antoni said Paul is making progress after hurting his hamstring Tuesday night.
  • Devin Booker will miss his fourth straight game tonight with a sprained right hand, but coach Jay Triano is optimistic that he can play Monday, tweets Scott Bordow of The Arizona Republic (Twitter link). T.J. Warren is missing his third consecutive game with left knee inflammation after a non-contact injury last Saturday (Twitter link).
  • Magic swingman Jonathon Simmons, who has missed the past two games with a right wrist contusion, will probably be held out another week, relays Josh Robbins of The Orlando Sentinel (Twitter link).
  • Bulls guard Kris Dunn remains in a walking boot with a toe injury, but was able to exercise today on an elliptical machine, reports K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune (Twitter link). Swelling has gone down and he will join the team on its upcoming road trip, but coach Fred Hoiberg said Dunn will need to be “reconditioned” if the team doesn’t shut him down for the rest of the season.

Southwest Notes: Green/Paul, Aldridge, Ginobili, Parsons

Late in Sunday night’s win over Minnesota, Gerald Green of the Rockets shoved Timberwolves big man Gorgui Dieng into the stands in retaliation for Dieng pushing Chris Paul to the floor after being fouled

Green was ejected, causing Paul to speak out on his behalf, telling Rockets‘ beat writer Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle that he would take care of any fine levied against Green by the league. Said Green, “I’m just trying to be there for my teammate. I saw something happen and I reacted. I paid the consequences for it. I learned my lesson, got ejected, try not to do that again, and hopefully we’re going to move forward from this.”

Despite Green’s contrition, the league announced today that it has fined the Rockets swingman $25K for the incident, with no word yet on whether or not Paul with stay true to his word and foot the bill for Green coming to his defense.

There’s more coming out of the Southwest Division:

  • With all of the uncertainty surrounding the injury to and possible return of superstar Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge has quietly saved the Spurs‘ season, writes Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. “I’m a leader, so I have to do what we need – playing defense, blocking shots, scoring,” Aldridge said. “It all comes with it. But my teammates have been great. Everyone has gotten better in this stretch. It’s been good for us.”
  • In another article for the San Antonio Express-News, McDonald reports that Warriors’ head coach Steve Kerr believes that Spurs veteran Manu Ginobili, 40, still has another year or so left in the tank. “I could see Manu playing when he is like 58, honestly,” Kerr said before Monday’s game. “He loves the game. He keeps himself in such great shape. I thought he was going to retire last year, so the fact he came back this year surprised me. (But) it wouldn’t shock me at all if Manu came back next year.”
  • It has been a frustrating tenure so far in Memphis for Grizzlies forward Chandler Parsons, but as reported by Michael Wallace of Grizzlies.com, Parsons believes he can get back to form next season barring any additional injury setbacks. “Obviously, there were high expectations coming here and I haven’t come close to meeting them. But in my head, it’s all health. I know if I’m healthy, I can play with the best of them. And I’ve shown flashes of that this year when I’ve played minutes.”

Southwest Notes: Pelicans, Noel, Brooks

The Pelicans will be hard-pressed to improve their roster ahead of the trade deadline, especially since a case can be made that the team will keep DeMarcus Cousins close by with the intention of committing to him long-term, Bobby Marks of ESPN writes.

The club will face mounting pressure to appease Anthony Davis, their superstar center whose own free agency decision (in 2020) already looms. Unfortunately for general manager Dell Demps and the rest of the Pelicans’ front office, with so much money tied up between Davis, Cousins and Jrue Holiday they have little options for adding depth to the rest of the roster.

Marks suggests that the Pelicans could consider packaging a young player  like Cheick Diallo with a second-round pick to net a rotation player like much-improved Nets guard Joe Harris but cautions the team against dealing first-rounders considering their long-term financial forecast.

There’s more from the Southwest Division today:

Rockets Notes: Trade Market, CP3, Rotation

Although the Rockets had a big win over the Warriors on Saturday night, one January victory is a far cry from beating Golden State in a seven-game series in May. In order to give his team the best possible chance to knock off the defending champions, GM Daryl Morey figures to explore the trade market leading up to the deadline, so ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) surveyed some of Houston’s potential options.

As Marks details, James Harden, Chris Paul, Eric Gordon, and Clint Capela are considered part of the Rockets’ core and won’t go anywhere at the deadline. Several other veterans, including Trevor Ariza, P.J. Tucker, and Luc Mbah a Moute, are important pieces in the rotation and are also unlikely to be moved. Ryan Anderson‘s contract makes him a potential trade chip, but that’s more likely to happen in 2018/19 than in the next two weeks, in Marks’ view.

That leaves the Rockets, who have already traded their 2018 first-round pick, with few trade assets of note, as Marks acknowledges. The former Nets front office executive points to Mario Chalmers and Arron Afflalo as the sort of smaller-scale trade (or buyout) targets the Rockets could look into in the coming weeks.

Here’s more out of Houston:

  • In an in-depth Paul feature on SI.com, Lee Jenkins writes that Harden’s free agent pursuit of Paul last year began before the offseason started. According to Jenkins, Harden asked CP3 about his free agency plans during the 81st game of the regular season, when the Rockets faced the Clippers.
  • Within the same piece, Jenkins suggests that Paul insists he has no plans to become a coach once his playing career is over. While the cerebral point guard, who already serves as a sort of on-court coach, is viewed as a good fit for that sort of role, he’s not interested in the travel that comes along with it, says Jenkins.
  • With Harden, Paul, and the rest of the key Rockets players healthy – and Ariza and Gerald Green back from their two-game suspensions – Mike D’Antoni has more options at his disposal than he has all season. As Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle details, D’Antoni views that as a “good problem” and may extend his rotation beyond his usual eight or nine players for the next little while.

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.