Clippers Rumors

Clippers Notes: Mann, Leonard, Lue, George

In the most important game in Clippers‘ history, the hero was a second-year swingman whose name may be unfamiliar to most NBA fans, writes Marcus Thompson II of The AthleticTerance Mann scored a career-high 39 points in Friday’s close-out win over the Jazz, connecting on 15 of 21 shots from the field and 7 of 10 from three-point range.

Mann, who played a combined 9:10 in the first two games of the series, sparked the L.A. comeback Friday with 20 points in the third quarter as the Clippers advanced to the conference finals for the first time in franchise history. His shooting success enabled coach Tyronn Lue to stick with a smaller lineup that left Utah scrambling to defend the perimeter.

“When you trust your work, you trust in yourself,” Mann said, “you’re not surprised when any of this happens.”

There’s more on the Clippers:

  • There’s still hope that injured forward Kawhi Leonard can rejoin the team sometime during the conference finals, but Lue said he’s preparing to go through the series without him, tweets Mark Medina of USA Today. Leonard, who injured his knee on Monday, didn’t travel with the team to Phoenix and has been ruled out of Sunday’s Game 1. “We can’t have hypotheticals and think he’s coming back one game,” Lue said. “No. We have to prepare like he’s not playing, and just kind of go from there.”
  • Paul George enjoyed his first playoff game with a capacity crowd in his home town of Los Angeles, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Last year’s postseason took place at the Disney World complex in Orlando, and COVID-19 restrictions prevented the Clippers from filling their arena until Friday night. “This was my first time experiencing a crowd like this,” George said. “It was just a special night. You felt it, the cheers, the excitement. You felt the monkey off of the Clippers’ back in terms of getting out of the second round.”
  • Josh Robbins of The Athletic talks to an anonymous coach, scout and executive from the Western Conference and gets a split decision in their predictions for the conference finals.

Kawhi Leonard Won’t Travel To Phoenix For Game 1

7:10pm: The Clippers have officially ruled Leonard out for Game 1, tweets Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times.

5:00pm: The right knee injury that forced Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard to miss the past two games will also keep him out of Sunday’s opener of the Western Conference finals, tweets Chris Hayes of Yahoo Sports.

Leonard won’t make the trip to Phoenix, choosing to stay in Los Angeles and get treatment on the knee. There’s no speculation yet on his status for Game 2 or the rest of the series.

He hasn’t played since hurting the knee midway through the fourth quarter of Game 4 against the Jazz. There are concerns that it might be an ACL injury, but the team is still officially calling it a sprain.

Leonard had been outstanding in the playoffs before being sidelined. He averaged 32.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists in the first round against the Mavericks, then posted a 27.3/7.5/4.0 line in four games against Utah.

George: "You Felt The Monkey Off The Clippers' Back" Following Series Win

Suns guard Chris Paul entered the league’s health and safety protocols on Wednesday morning, and has been ruled out indefinitely pending his COVID-19 test results. With the Clippers defeating the Jazz on Saturday night to advance to the Western Conference Finals, head coach Monty Williams and the Suns are now preparing to enter their series against the Clippers without their star point guard.

  • Paul George and the Clippers rallied following news of Kawhi Leonard‘s ACL injury, winning two straight games to advance to the Western Conference Finals. George, who hasn’t reached a Conference Finals since 2014, discussed the relief of getting past the second round, as tweeted by Michael Scotto of HoopsHype. “It was a special night,” George said. “You felt the monkey off of the Clippers’ back in terms of getting out of the second round.”

Jazz Notes: Conley, Mitchell, Gobert, Toughness

Jazz All-Star point guard Mike Conley made his first appearance in the second-round series against the Clippers in Game 6. Conley admitted after the Jazz were eliminated on Friday that he was far from 100% due his hamstring tightness, Eric Walden of the Salt Lake Tribune tweets.

“Initially, I was told I wasn’t going to be able to play at all this series, just last Friday,” Conley said. “This maybe being the last game of the season, I had to give it a try. But I couldn’t move well. It was a tough night.”

Conley, an unrestricted free agent this summer, scored just five points on 1-for-8 shooting and committed six turnovers in the 131-119 loss.

We have more on the Jazz:

  • Conley’s backcourt partner, Donovan Mitchell, was also a game-time decision due to an ankle injury. Mitchell poured in 39 points and nine assists but his 40-minute stint was painful in more ways than one, Walden tweets“It (bleeping) hurt. Just tried to play through it. … I was just trying to find a way, by any means necessary,” he said.
  • Losing the last four games of the series and squandering a 25-point lead in Game 6 will haunt Mitchell, Walden adds in another tweet. “I’m still in shock. … I don’t know what I’m going to be doing next week,” he said. “Probably watching the games, mad as hell. This hurts more than last year. This is going to eat at me for a long time.” However, Mitchell isn’t blaming the coaching staff for the collapse, according to Walden (Twitter link). “The coaches made great adjustments. And we just didn’t execute,” he said. “That’s on the players on the floor.”
  • Rudy Gobert believes the tougher team won the series, Walden relays (Twitter link). “They were the tougher team over the course of the series, more connected over the course of the series,” he said of the Clippers. “For us, it’s pretty much the story of our season. For us to take another step in the playoffs, a lot of things are gonna have to be better.”
  • Picking up on Gobert’s theme, Tony Jones of The Athletic opines that the Jazz are probably not near a championship-level team despite having the league’s best record. Playing without Kawhi Leonard, the Clippers turned up the intensity in the second half of Game 6 and the Jazz failed to match their physicality and got out-hustled.

Atlantic Notes: Embiid, Simmons, Harden, Nets, Mann

The Sixers forced a Game 7 on Sunday in their second-round series against the Hawks by winning on the road Friday night. That didn’t stop Joel Embiid from complaining about the officiating, Dave McMenamin of ESPN writes. Without specifically naming Trae Young, Embiid claims the Hawks’ star gets favorable treatment.

“I just felt like it wasn’t called both ways, especially because of the minimal contact that they get on the point guard, and when it comes to us, we don’t get the same thing,” Embiid said. “So I just want it called both ways. If you’re going to call something like nothing on their point guard, it should be the same way and call the same thing [for] me when I get — if I get — touched.”

Young has taken an average of 9.7 free throws in the series but only five on Friday. Embiid has shot an average of 12.0 free throws per game, though just four on Friday.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Ben Simmons‘ performances in the last three games have damaged his reputation, Rich Hofmann of The Athletic opines. The Sixers’ guard has four years remaining on his five-year, $177.2MM extension but he hasn’t improved upon his weaknesses. The same knocks against Simmons from four years ago still exist, according to Hofmann, mostly notably that he remains an offensive liability against a set halfcourt defense. Simmons’ 29.8% shooting from the foul line in the series has also forced coach Doc Rivers to pull him out of the game at crucial stages.
  • James Harden promises to be a bigger threat in Game 7 on Saturday than he was the past two games, Brian Lewis of the New York Post writes. The Nets’ star guard scored a combined 21 points on 21.9% shooting after returning from hamstring tightness. “It’s not even about rust, it’s about being able to move,” Harden said. “As I go day-by-day, continue to get better. … I’ve got to be better on both end of the ball, which I will be in Game 7.”
  • With Kevin Durant on their side and the home-court advantage, the Nets have no excuses in Game 7, Ian O’Connor of the New York Post opines.
  • Clippers guard Terance Mann exploded onto the national scene on Friday with a career-high 39 points as his team eliminated the Jazz. Some members of the Knicks’ front office lobbied to acquire Mann in the Marcus Morris deal last year, Ian Begley of SNY tweets. The Clippers retained Mann and instead shipped Maurice Harkless, a 2020 first-round pick and 2021 second-rounder to the Knicks.

Celtics Notes: Udoka, Ham, Billups, Walker, Fournier, Williams, Smart

Assistant coaches Ime Udoka (Nets), Darvin Ham (Bucks) and Chauncey Billups (Clippers) are expected to get interviewed a second time by the Celtics’ brass for the head coaching job vacated by new president of basketball operations Brad Stevens, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports. While that trio is viewed as serious candidates for the job, others are still under consideration.

Udoka has received endorsements from Celtics players who were members of the U.S. national team in the 2019 World Cup tournament, according to Wojnarowski. Ham has interviewed for several head-coaching jobs in the past two years, while Billups has drawn interest from the Trail Blazers, Wizards, Magic and Pelicans for their current openings.

We have more Celtics news:

  • By shedding Kemba Walker‘s salary in a trade with the Thunder on Friday, the Celtics believe they’ll have a better chance of re-signing free agent Evan Fournier, Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald tweets. The trade also increases the possibility of signing another free agent to the full mid-level exception, Murphy adds.
  • Walker’s 15% trade kicker was nullified due to his large salary, Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus tweets. Walker’s $34,379,100 salary this season, coupled with him being a nine-year veteran until August 2, exceeded the $32,742,000 maximum. He couldn’t earn anything above that, so the trade bonus was voided. If Walker had been traded once the new league year began in August, he could’ve received a portion of that bonus.
  • Robert Williams and Marcus Smart are two other prominent players who could be on the move, according to John Hollinger of The Athletic. Boston’s roster is overloaded with centers and Williams could be used to bring in a backcourt piece. Smart has an expiring $14.4MM contract next season and is eligible for an extension that could go as high as $17.MM in the first year. If Smart believes he could get more on the free agent market next year, the team may consider moving him now and getting assets in return.

Free Agent Stock Watch: Playoff Edition

Throughout the season, Hoops Rumors takes a closer look at players who will be free agents or could become free agents this offseason. We examine if their stock is rising or falling due to performance and other factors. With the playoffs in full swing, we take a look at players on teams still alive in the postseason:

Lou Williams, Hawks, 34, PG/SG (Up) – Signed to a three-year, $24MM deal in 2018

When the Clippers and Hawks swapped veteran point guards at the trade deadline, the general consensus was that Los Angeles pulled off a coup landing Rajon Rondo. It doesn’t look that way right now. Rondo has only played nine minutes in the last four games against Utah, while Williams had 15 points, three assists and two steals in 23 minutes during Atlanta’s dramatic Game 5 comeback at Philadelphia on Wednesday.

Williams may not possess Rondo’s leadership qualities, but he’s been instant offense for many seasons wherever he’s played. The 34-year-old has been in the league since 2005 but he can stick around a few more seasons due to his offensive prowess.

Jeff Green, Nets, 34, PF (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.56MM deal in 2020

It’s amazing to think that the Jazz had no use for Green midway through last season and put him on waivers. The Rockets scooped him up and he was highly productive. He’s doing the same thing for the Nets. After a solid regular season, Green battled a foot injury that sidelined him for six postseason games. Back in action, Green delivered a monster performance in Game 5 against Milwaukee, firing in 27 points while draining 7-of-8 3-point attempts. Green won’t have any trouble finding work as an unrestricted free agent this summer, whether he re-signs with Brooklyn or joins another contender.

Reggie Jackson, Clippers, 31, PG (Up) – Signed to a one-year, $2.33MM deal in 2020

A TNT broadcaster called Jackson “Mr. June” as he made several clutch baskets in Game 5 at Utah on Wednesday. He’s not on the level of baseball’s “Mr. October” but this Reggie Jackson is proving to be a consistent playoff performer for the Clippers. He averaged 15.4 PPG against Dallas in the opening round, including a 25-point outing in Game 6. He scored 29 points in Game 2 and 22 in Game 5 against the Jazz. Jackson has also kept his turnovers down to a minimum. After having to settle for the veteran’s minimum in free agency last year, he’s due for a substantial raise when he enters the market again this summer.

Mike Conley, Jazz, 33, PG (Down) – Signed to a five-year, $152.6MM deal in 2016

Conley finally got his first taste of the All-Star Game this season. He got off to an impressive start in these playoffs, scoring 20 or more points in the first three games against Memphis. The injury bug soon bit him as Utah closed out the series and he’s been sidelined with a hamstring strain throughout the second round. That’s the main concern with Conley as he enters unrestricted free agency – he’s had numerous leg injuries in recent seasons. That could limit the amount of years teams will be willing to offer him.

Clippers Hope Kawhi Leonard's Injury Isn't Long-Term

  • The Clippers don’t expect to have Kawhi Leonard back for Game 6 or 7 against Utah, and his return at any time during the playoffs is uncertain. The team will learn more about Leonard’s status in “the next 24 to 48 hours,” Wojnarowski adds, saying the Clippers are hopeful that it’s not a severe injury that will impact Leonard beyond this season.
  • The Suns are optimistic that Chris Paul won’t miss significant time after being placed in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. However, Wojnarowski adds that Phoenix is hoping the Jazz-Clippers series gets extended to a seventh game so the Suns won’t have to play again until Tuesday. He cautions that Paul and the team are “at the mercy of the testing” and have no control over what those results will show.

Clippers Fear ACL Injury For Kawhi Leonard

12:37pm: More imaging will be performed on Leonard’s knee to determine the severity of the injury, but those tests will have to wait until the swelling subsides, tweets Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

11:57am: The Clippers fear that forward Kawhi Leonard has suffered an ACL injury, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Leonard will miss Game 5 of Los Angeles’ series against the Jazz on Wednesday night due to a right knee injury that the Clippers referred to today as a sprain. Neither the team’s announcement nor Charania’s report indicates that Kawhi is undergoing an MRI on his injured knee, but presumably that would be the next step to determine if there’s any damage to the ACL.

A full tear of the ACL would be a worst-case scenario for Leonard and the Clippers, but even a partial tear would almost certainly be a season-ender — that’s the injury that has kept Spencer Dinwiddie on the shelf since December. A low-grade sprain would be the best case, tweets Jeff Stotts of In Street Clothes.

The timing couldn’t be much worse for Leonard and the Clippers, who have won two games in a row against Utah and are just two games away from making the Western Conference Finals for the first time in team history. With Kawhi unavailable on Wednesday – and potentially for longer than that – the Clippers have suddenly become major underdogs to get past the Jazz and into the third round.

We’ll provide more updates on Leonard’s status as they’re reported or announced.

Mike Conley To Remain Sidelined For Game 5

Jazz point guard Mike Conley will remain on the sidelines for at least one more game, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link), who hears from sources that Conley won’t be available for Game 5 vs. the Clippers on Wednesday. The team has confirmed the news.

Conley has been out since Game 5 of Utah’s first-round series vs. Memphis due to what the team is referring to as a mild right hamstring strain. Despite the strain being classified as “mild,” the Jazz aren’t taking any chances with their starting point guard, since they want to reduce the risk that he re-aggravates the injury once he returns.

With Conley on the shelf, Donovan Mitchell and Joe Ingles have taken on increased ball-handling and play-making responsibilities. Mitchell continues to deal with a nagging ankle injury himself, though he hasn’t missed any time since the first game of the postseason.

While the Jazz have clearly felt the effects of Conley’s absence over the last couple games – both Clippers wins – the team will be back at home tonight and will face an L.A. squad that will also be missing an All-star. Kawhi Leonard has been ruled out for Game 5 due to a right knee injury, which the Clippers fear is an ACL issue.

Conley has been initially listed as questionable for every game in this second-round series so far, and head coach Quin Snyder said this week that he’s “making progress,” but it remains unclear when the 33-year-old might be cleared to play.