Los Angeles Clippers

Clippers Rumors: Ballmer, Paul, Griffin

With the Clippers looking to extend their season Friday night in Utah, Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com has published an interesting, in-depth feature on the team, exploring the last few years in Los Angeles and what might come next for the franchise. The piece features several interesting details and stories on the Clippers and is worth a read in full, but here are some of the highlights from Arnovitz:

  • Clippers owner Steve Ballmer maintains that he has no interest in blowing up the club’s roster, even if L.A. can’t get out of the first round. “I love those guys, and I want those guys back,” Ballmer said.
  • Ballmer also told Arnovitz, as he said recently to Matthew Rocco of FOX Business, that he’s not averse to going deeper into tax territory as the Clippers continue to build the roster and re-sign key pieces. Ballmer explained to Rocco that because the value of the franchise keeps increasing, he’s willing to lose a little money along the way if necessary. “If we’re in it and we’re playing for a championship, I don’t mind the tax,” Ballmer said to Arnovitz.
  • Sources close to the Clippers tell Arnovitz that they continue to expect Chris Paul to re-sign with the team, but Blake Griffin’s future is less certain. One source, “in good humor,” suggested that it wouldn’t be a huge surprise to see Paul go through a public process of taking meetings with other teams before re-signing with the Clippers, while Griffin is more likely to go through the process privately and perhaps land elsewhere.
  • Several of Paul’s teammates told Arnovitz that the veteran point guard insists that his teammates are able to “absorb criticism at any moment,” and that you’re likely to keep hearing from CP3 about a blown coverage even if a replay shows it wasn’t your fault. “If I had to go to war, I’m going with Chris every day,” said one member of the Clippers. “I just wish he was wrong more. I wish he would say, ‘My fault.'” Despite Paul’s ornery nature, most Clippers teammates and staffers say that he has “mellowed with age,” Arnovitz writes.

Clippers Rumors: Rivers, Offseason, G. Green

After losing Game 5 at home to the Jazz on Tuesday night, the Clippers will head to Utah down 3-2, on the brink of elimination. And as soon as they’re bounced from the postseason, which could happen as early as Friday, the Clips will face some potentially franchise-altering decisions, as Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical outlines. According to Wojnarowski, it’s not “realistic” to believe that the Clippers will bring all their key free agents back and go deeper into the luxury tax if they’re ousted in the first round on the heels of another Blake Griffin injury.

While there may be some roster changes coming in Los Angeles, the Clippers are very unlikely to undergo any sort of front office upheaval, per Wojnarowski, who says that Doc Rivers isn’t leaving the club. Rivers has owner Steve Ballmer‘s trust and confidence, and the Clippers like their current front office structure, which includes Lawrence Frank in an executive VP of basketball operations role, Wojnarowski writes.

Still, the Clippers’ brain trust will have a lot to think about if the team’s season comes to an end this weekend. Here’s more on the franchise:

  • Bill Plaschke of The Los Angeles Times breaks down several scenarios for the Clippers’ offseason, suggesting it would be “stunning” if the team were to bring back its entire core after another early postseason exit. In Plaschke’s view, the most likely scenario involves retooling the team around Chris Paul and DeAndre Jordan, with Griffin and J.J. Redick heading elsewhere.
  • A past roster decision is coming back to haunt Rivers and the Clippers in this year’s postseason, according to James Blancarte of Basketball Insiders, who details the team’s decision to waive Joe Ingles in 2014. The Australian forward caught on with the Jazz shortly after being cut by L.A., and is playing a key role for Utah in these playoffs.
  • Before he signed with the Celtics last summer, Gerald Green appeared to be on the verge of signing with the Clippers, reports Sean Deveney of The Sporting News. Sources tell Deveney that the Clips believed they had Green locked up before he ultimately landed with Boston. Green likely wouldn’t have been a postseason difference-maker for Los Angeles, but he did have a big game for the Celtics on Sunday, when he poured in 18 points in Game 4.

Poll: Which 2-2 Series Will End In Upset?

Last year’s NBA Finals combatants, the Cavaliers and Warriors, made quick work of their first round playoff opponents, dispatching the Pacers and Trail Blazers respectively in four games apiece. However, many of the other first round series around the NBA remain very much up in the air.

Currently, four series are tied at 2-2, with two of those Game Fives scheduled for tonight, and two more on tap for Wednesday. The Clippers and Jazz have each split their home games, resulting in a 2-2 tie, while the No. 7 seeded Grizzlies won two home games over the Spurs following David Fizdale‘s post-Game 2 “take that for data” rant, pulling even in that series. Those four teams will be in action tonight.

Over in the Eastern Conference, the No. 1 seeded Celtics find themselves tied with the No. 8 Bulls in an unusual series in which road teams are 4-0 so far. Meanwhile, the Hawks ripped through the Wizards‘ defense in two games in Atlanta, evening that series at 2-2. Both of those series will resume on Wednesday.

In each of those four series, the higher seed maintains the advantage, with two of the final three games on their home court. But most of those higher seeds don’t look as formidable as they did entering the postseason.

What do you think? Will any of these series result in upsets? If the Jazz are able to knock off the Clippers, should that series even be viewed as a legit upset, given the absence of Blake Griffin and the teams’ identical regular season records?

Vote below on which lower seeds will make it through the first round — you can pick as many as you want. After placing your vote, share your thoughts in the comments section!

Clippers Expect Austin Rivers To Return For Game 5

4:18 pm: Rivers said his son will play in Tuesday’s contest, but he’ll be on a minutes restriction, as Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times relays (Twitter link).

12:44 pm: Health issues have wreaked havoc on the Western Conference Quarterfinals between the Jazz and Clippers, with standout big men Rudy Gobert and Blake Griffin both sustaining injuries of varying severity during the first four games. One player who has yet to make his 2017 postseason debut in the series appears to be ready to return though.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, the Clippers expect Austin Rivers to play in Game 5 on Tuesday. Rivers will be on a minutes restriction for the game, league sources tell Wojnarowski.

Rivers was initially sidelined with a left hamstring back in March, with head coach Doc Rivers suggesting earlier this month that the injury was “a little more serious” than initially believed. Shortly after he first went down, the younger Rivers said that he expected to get back on the court in time for the start of the playoffs, but his return was delayed by another week and a half.

Assuming Rivers is able to play on Tuesday, his return will give the Clippers some flexibility to use smaller lineups, particularly with Griffin sidelined for the postseason. In addition to providing solid perimeter defense, Rivers will give Los Angeles another outside shooting option — he made a career-high 37.1% of his three-point attempts during the regular season.

The Clippers and Jazz are tied at 2-2 heading into Game 5.

Clippers Maintain Title Dreams Without Griffin

  • The Clippers have every intention of competing for a title even with the injured Blake Griffin on the sidelines, Bill Oram of the Orange County Register writes. “It’s not the best thing that could have ever happened to us,” teammate Chris Paul said, “but it’s not the end of the world. We still are going to go out there. We know we got a job to do. We got a big game (Sunday), Game 4, and we go out there expecting to win.”

Clippers Notes: Griffin, Paul, Redick

Blake Griffin, who was ruled out for the remainder of the postseason with a toe injury, can become a free agent this summer, but he may not have many teams lining up to give him a long-term max deal, Kevin O’ Connor of The Ringer contends. O’Connor details Griffin’s injury history, which includes several ailments on each of his legs, and believes it will cause rival teams to be cautious when making the big man a multi-year offer in free agency. Griffin could always elect not to activate his ETO and stay with the Clippers, though the $21.4MM he would receive in the 2017/18 season is less than the annual salary he’s likely to receive on the open market.

Here’s more from Los Angeles:

  • The window to trade Griffin closed over a season ago and the Clippers missed their chance at getting value for him, O’Connor notes in the same piece. The scribe argues that if GM Doc Rivers had pulled the trigger years ago, the team would have much more depth today and players such as Paul Pierce and Raymond Felton wouldn’t be soaking up significant playoff minutes.
  • Chris Paul is expected to re-sign with the Clippers, but O’Connor (same piece) wonders if the team should be worried about Paul finding a more attractive option in free agency. He speculates that the Spurs could be a threat should the franchise open up the necessary cap space to give Paul a maximum-salary contract.
  • Sam Amick of USA Today (video link) isn’t sure owner Steve Ballmer is going to sign off on paying luxury tax payments again for a team that doesn’t have a clear path at a championship. In addition to Paul and Griffin searching for max deals this summer, J.J. Redick will be a free agent and Amick estimates that the Duke product will warrant a deal that pays him $18MM per year.

Griffin Injures Toe, Out For Playoffs

9:30am: The Clippers have announced that Griffin will miss the remainder of the postseason with an injury to the plantar plate of his right big toe. Marc J. Spears of ESPN relayed the press release over Twitter.

8:24am: The Clippers avoided a worst case scenario when it was revealed that Blake Griffin‘s toe was bruised and not broken but battling through to a championship without their forward at full strength is unrealistic, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times writes.

A silver lining for the franchise is that it was quickly discovered through initial X-rays that the 28-year-old’s right big toe was bruised and not broken. Clippers courtside reporter Kristina Pink tweeted as much during the game.

Per Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times, Griffin was scheduled to undergo an MRI following the game on Friday night.

Both head coach Doc Rivers and point guard Chris Paul understand the impact that the toe issue could have on their postseason fates.

We won’t be able to play through the post so much,” Paul said. “Blake is such a dynamic player. We go to him in the post, and we cut and move off of him. He’s our other assist guy. There’s just a different feeling when he’s on the court.

The news conjures images of last year’s first-round series against the Trail Blazers when both Griffin and Paul went down with injuries.

Expect the Clippers to build upon the 2-1 lead they eked out with Griffin sidelined, Hernandez writes, but unless some good news comes through the pipeline soon, that may be all they get.

According to Turner, Rivers expects that news to come Saturday with Griffin’s Game 4 status still questionable in the meantime.

All-NBA Teams Will Impact Griffin's Free Agency

It hasn’t been decided if the All-NBA teams will be announced during the league’s first ever award show on June 26 but regardless of when the teams are revealed they’ll have an impact on two pending free agents, John Smallwood of the Philadelphia Inquirer writes.

Redick Getting Limited Shots In Playoffs

  • Clippers shooting guard J.J. Redick has gotten off just 13 shots in the first two games of the playoffs, but coach Doc Rivers appreciates his unselfish approach, according to Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times. Redick has scored 11 points in the series under heavy defensive pressure but the team hopes to get him more involved in Game 3 on Friday, Turner adds. “Sometimes in certain games and series, you have to give yourself up to get the team stuff,” Rivers told the assembled media on Thursday. “J.J. has been terrific with that. He’s going to get his shot eventually.”
  • Clippers guard Austin Rivers will miss Game 3 with a strained left hamstring but remains hopeful of returning for Game 4, Turner reports in a separate story. Rivers has not played the last eight games, including the final six of the regular season.

Doc Rivers Hoping To Retain Clippers’ Core

The Clippers are down 1-0 to the Jazz in their first round playoff series, and there has been speculation that if L.A. can’t get by Utah, a significant roster overhaul could be around the corner. However, head coach and president of basketball operations Doc Rivers tells Sam Amick of USA Today that he’d like to keep the Clippers’ core intact, even with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and J.J. Redick facing potential unrestricted free agency.

“Here’s my argument to (the question of the roster will be worth going deeper into the tax to keep intact),” Rivers said. “Let’s say we don’t win this year — which I think we will, (but) let’s say we don’t. Do you give up on a 50-win team that has proven that they’re really close, or do you hang in there and keep trying to maybe make changes around (the core)?

“I always use Utah as a great (example). Thank God Karl Malone and (John) Stockton didn’t listen to people, you know what I mean? They fell (in the playoffs), and kept trying and kept trying. And finally, late in their careers, they finally broke through to the Finals. They didn’t win it (all). But you know, that’s the pursuit. I just think it’s so easy to (say), ‘Hey, they should break up,’ from the outside. And I think that’s such an easy opinion.”

As we noted this week, the Clippers were one of two teams to finish the 2016/17 in luxury tax territory, and that was with Paul, Griffin, and Redick on their old deals. The trio combined to earn about $50MM this season, but that number could increase beyond $65MM in 2017/18 for CP3 and Griffin alone, without even taking into consideration a raise for Redick as well. In total, Amick estimates that the Clippers’ team salary could increase to the $140MM range if they bring everyone back, which would mean a tax bill of more than $55MM.

Even though Rivers is the GM in Los Angeles, team owner Steve Ballmer will have the final say on roster moves if they significantly increase the money he’ll owe his players in the coming years, as Amick observes. And if the Clippers don’t make a deep playoff run this spring, there’s no guarantee that Rivers and Ballmer will see eye to eye on the team’s strategy going forward, despite the trust that the franchise’s owner has in his head coach.

A new long-term deal for Paul appears likely, but the Clippers will face some interesting decisions in the next few months, and will be a team worth watching this summer.

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