A number of reports both during and after the Lob City era in Los Angeles suggested that Clippers stars Blake Griffin and Chris Paul had a tendency to rub one another the wrong way and weren’t exactly the best of friends by the time CP3 was traded to Houston.
However, appearing on the Up in Smoke Podcast with Matt Barnes and Stephen Jackson, Paul admitted that he gained a renewed fondness for Griffin after his days with the Clippers were over.
“It’s seriously one of those things you don’t realize what you have until it’s gone,” Paul said, per Kurt Helin of NBC Sports. “I think about it at times. And me and Blake absolutely had our issues here and there, but I actually appreciated Blake probably a lot more after I left.”
Here are more odds and ends from around the basketball world:
- Isaiah Thomas, who recently expressed confidence that he’ll have no problem finding an NBA job for next season, told NBC Sports Washington’s Chris Miller on the Wizards Talk Podcast that he wants to play for many more years. “I have a lot left in the tank and my goal has always been to play until 40 (years old), and I’m going to try everything I can to reach that,” the 31-year-old guard said.
- With the Basketball Hall of Fame scheduled to officially announce its 2020 class on Saturday, an ESPN panel identified the most likely Hall-of-Famer on every NBA team’s current roster.
- Which current NBA front office executives look like candidates to take on greater roles in the not-too-distant future? Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News spoke to multiple sources in an attempt to compile a list of the rising and overlooked executives from around the league, ranging from current general managers and assistant GMs to scouts and G League execs.
1:24pm: Pacers GM Chad Buchanan will join Karnisovas and Webster on the Bulls’ list of first-wave interview targets, per K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune (via Twitter). Sources tell Darnell Mayberry and Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link) that Heat assistant GM Adam Simon will be part of that group as well.
According to Mayberry (Twitter link), the Bulls won’t pursue Ujiri or Thunder head of basketball operations Sam Presti and won’t go the player-agent route like New York and other teams have.
12:41pm: The Bulls have formally launched their search for a new top front office executive who will have full authority on basketball decisions, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. We had previously heard in a series of February reports that the team was laying the groundwork for front office changes.
Those February reports suggested that executive VP of basketball operations John Paxson would retain a “valuable seat at the table” amidst the front office upheaval and that general manager Gar Forman would have his responsibilities cut back.
Wojnarowski confirms that Paxson is expected to continue in an advisory role and says that the club will have more conversations with Forman about his future. Previous reports indicated Forman would likely be re-assigned to a scouting position.
According to Wojnarowski, Chicago plans to seek permission to interview Nuggets general manager Arturas Karnisovas and Raptors GM Bobby Webster, among others. The club’s goal is to complete its planned front office changes “well before” the NBA resumes play, per Woj, who hears that interviews will begin next week and will be conducted virtually rather than in person due to the coronavirus.
Neither Karnisovas nor Webster is the head of basketball operations for his respective team — Tim Connelly serves as Denver’s president of basketball operations, while Masai Ujiri holds that position in Toronto. However, the two GMs have risen through their respective organizations in recent years and have played important roles in building the Nuggets’ and Raptors’ talented rosters.
According to K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago, who identified Karnisovas and Webster as two possible targets for the Bulls in a March mailbag, Pacers GM Chad Buchanan, Heat assistant GM Adam Simon, Jazz GM Justin Zanik, and Clippers GM Michael Winger are among the other executives on Bulls president/COO Michael Reinsdorf‘s list of potential candidates (Twitter link).
Many of those executives are under contract beyond the 2019/20 season, but likely wouldn’t be held back by their respective teams if the Bulls’ job is viewed as a promotion from their current roles. Based on Woj’s description, it should be.
The timing of Chicago’s search is interesting. Ujiri spoke earlier this week about putting business like contract extensions for himself and Nick Nurse on hold during the NBA’s stoppage, and we heard on Thursday that the Knicks aren’t pursuing front office changes or a new head coach during the hiatus. Nets GM Sean Marks also said this week that his team isn’t moving forward with its head coach search at this time.
However, no official hiring or firing freeze has been instituted by the NBA, and the Bulls’ situation is a little different from that of those other teams — a new top front office executive would lead the team’s decisions in the draft and free agency, making that search a more pressing matter than a head coaching hire, lower-level front office changes, or extensions for current execs and coaches.
The Clippers have a realistic opportunity to bring back their 11-man rotation next season, according to Jovan Buha of The Athletic. Many of the decisions will come down to whether the organization wants to make a financial commitment to its current players or explore other options.
L.A. has Bird rights on Montrezl Harrell and can offer him a longer and more valuable contract than anyone else. The Clippers have Non-Bird rights on Marcus Morris, who was acquired from the Knicks last month, and can offer a new deal starting at $18MM per season. JaMychal Green has a $5MM player option, and the team might decide to use part of its mid-level exception to re-sign Reggie Jackson.
Buha adds that the loss of revenue from the shortened season could work in the Clippers’ favor by depressing a free agent market that’s already limited by the small number of teams with cap space. Harrell and Morris may not get the offers they would have under normal circumstances, while Green could decide to stick with his guaranteed money.
There’s more Clippers news to pass along:
- There may be something to the rumors that Doc Rivers would like to add Bulls guard Kris Dunn as a defensive specialist next season, Buha states in the same piece. Dunn will be a restricted free agent if Chicago makes a $4.6MM qualifying offer, and he could be a nice backcourt partner for Lou Williams coming off the bench. The downsides are Dunn’s poor 3-point shooting — 25.9% this year — and his season-ending knee injury.
- Speculation regarding Tyronn Lue as the next head coach of the Nets has died down while the league has been on hiatus, but Buha understands why Brooklyn would be interested. During his time in Cleveland, Lue proved he could win a title and he developed a strong relationship with Kyrie Irving. Buha identifies two other members of Rivers’ staff, Rex Kalamian and Sam Cassell, who might get head coaching offers soon.
- The Clippers may benefit as much as anyone from having several weeks off, Buha suggests in a separate column. They are among the league’s oldest teams and injuries have been a concern, particularly for Kawhi Leonard, Paul George and Patrick Beverley. New additions Morris and Jackson will also get more time to learn Rivers’ system.
Clippers owner Steve Ballmer, through the Ballmer Group, has pledged more than $25MM in aid to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN tweets. The donation will help Seattle, Southeast Michigan and Los Angeles, areas that have been hard hit by coronavirus. It includes $10MM to University of Washington Medicine’s Emergency Response Fund to speed up testing for a COVID-19 vaccine. In an unrelated revelation, Ballmer said his team will lose at least $10MM this season because of the suspension of play, sports business Scott Soshnick tweets.
We have more coronavirus-related developments:
- Mavericks owner Mark Cuban suggests that fans could be checked for illness entering arenas once games are played in front of spectators, Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News relays. “It’s not hard to use thermal guns to take someone’s temperature and look for fevers,” Cuban said on CNBC. “Is it feasible? Yes, absolutely. We have to be very cautious, particularly as we try to come back. At first, we’ll play a lot of games without fans and figure it out with all the medicines that become available, we’ll go from there.”
- The BIG3 is moving forward with plans to play a quarantined reality-show tournament in early May, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reports. The league is partnering with the producers of the TV show “Big Brother” to create the tournament. Players and referees will be quarantined in the same Los Angeles-area home provided by the league for the three-week preseason tournament, which will consist of 16 players, Haynes adds.
- A well-known ESPN analyst is recovering from the coronavirus. Get the details here.
Clippers owner Steve Ballmer has agreed in principle to purchase the Forum in Inglewood, California, which is a necessary step for the franchise to build a new arena in the area, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com writes.
The newly-formed CAPSS LLC will acquire the Forum from The Madison Square Garden Company – and executive chairman James Dolan – for $400MM in cash. The Forum will remain a music venue, but Ballmer’s purchase allows him to clear the existing litigation that was preventing an arena from being built nearby.
“This is an unprecedented time, but we believe in our collective future,” Ballmer said in the news release. “We are committed to our investment in the City of Inglewood, which will be good for the community, the Clippers, and our fans.”
The Clippers, who have shared the Staples Center with the Lakers since 1999, intend to build a state-of-the-art, 18,000-seat arena in Inglewood, notes Youngmisuk. Public hearings to approve construction of the building are expected to happen later this year.
The franchise anticipates creating an estimated 7,500 “high-paying construction jobs” and 1,500 permanent jobs, Youngmisuk added. The team announced that it has a $100MM package of community benefits on the way.
- The Ballmer Group, founded by Clippers owner Steve Ballmer and his wife, Connie, have donated $1MM to community groups in Los Angeles to help during the coronavirus epidemic, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times writes.
Rookie guard Terance Mann underwent right hand surgery to repair a torn ligament on Wednesday, according to a press release from the Clippers. Mann’s timetable to return to basketball activities is unclear.
The 6’5″ guard was drafted by the Clippers with the No. 48 overall pick in the second round of the 2019 NBA Draft. In 35 games this season with Los Angeles, Mann is averaging 1.6 points and 1.1 assists per game.
The former Florida State standout has also spent a considerable amount of time in the NBA G League with the Agua Caliente Clippers. In 20 games with L.A.’s NBAGL affiliate, Mann is averaging 15.5 PPG, 8.7 RPG, and 6.4 APG in 35 MPG. He is also shooting 53.2% from the field and 32.1% from three-point range.
Mann is scheduled to make $1.5MM next season and will be under contract for a non-guaranteed $1.7MM in 2021/22. He has a team option in 2022/2023, which is worth $1.9MM.
Earlier today, we explored what the lottery odds for the 2020 NBA draft would look like if the regular season doesn’t resume. We’re now applying that hypothetical to another aspect of the draft and examining which traded 2020 picks would and wouldn’t change hands based on the current standings.
Our projections below assume that the NBA will sort its standings by winning percentage in scenarios where teams haven’t played the same number of games this season. Again, this is just a hypothetical exercise — if the season resumes, the order below would likely change.
With that in mind and with the help of our reverse standings, let’s take a closer look at where this year’s traded draft picks would land if the NBA has played its last regular season game of 2019/20.
- Minnesota Timberwolves (from Nets)
- Boston Celtics (from Grizzlies)
- Brooklyn Nets (from Sixers)
- Note: Could be No. 20 depending on random tiebreaker.
- Milwaukee Bucks (from Pacers)
- Note: Could be No. 19 depending on random tiebreaker.
- Philadelphia 76ers (from Thunder)
- Note: Could be No. 22 depending on random tiebreaker.
- Denver Nuggets (from Rockets)
- Note: Could be No. 21 depending on random tiebreaker.
- Oklahoma City Thunder (from Nuggets)
- New York Knicks (from Clippers)
- Boston Celtics (from Bucks)
- Golden State Warriors (to Nets; top-20 protected)
- Cleveland Cavaliers (to Pelicans; top-20 protected)
- Utah Jazz (to Grizzlies; top-7 and 15-30 protected)
- The Thunder pick would be the one worth watching closest if the season does resume. It’s top-20 protected, so OKC would keep it if it were to move up a spot or two, sending the Sixers second-round picks in 2022 and 2023 instead.
- Dallas Mavericks (from Warriors)
- Charlotte Hornets (from Cavaliers)
- Philadelphia 76ers (from Hawks)
- Sacramento Kings (from Pistons)
- Philadelphia 76ers (from Knicks)
- Washington Wizards (from Bulls)
- New York Knicks (from Hornets)
- New Orleans Pelicans (from Wizards)
- Memphis Grizzlies (from Suns)
- Boston Celtics (from Nets)
- Chicago Bulls (from Grizzlies)
- Golden State Warriors (from Mavericks)
- Atlanta Hawks (from Rockets)
- Note: Could be No. 51 depending on random tiebreaker.
- Sacramento Kings (from Heat)
- Golden State Warriors (from Jazz)
- Brooklyn Nets (from Nuggets)
- Charlotte Hornets (from Celtics)
- Philadelphia 76ers (from Lakers)
- New Orleans Pelicans (from Bucks)
- Indiana Pacers (to Nets; 45-60 protected)
- Portland Trail Blazers (to Nets; top-55 protected)
- The Hawks will receive the more favorable of Houston’s and Miami’s second-round picks, while the Kings will receive the less favorable of those two picks. Those two picks could end up right next to one another, since the Rockets (40-24) and Heat (41-24) have nearly identical records.
- The Celtics’ pick looks like it will be one of the rare second-rounders with heavy protection that will actually change hands. Boston would have kept it if it had fallen in the top 53.
The NBA hopes to play at least 70 regular-season games this season in order to retain 100% of the revenue the league receives from their regional sports network partners, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst (hat tip to RealGM). Those networks broadcast games in local markets. An abbreviated resumption of the regular season would also serve as a way for teams to ramp back up before the playoffs begin, Windhorst adds.
We have more developments related to the league’s hiatus:
- Pelicans owner Gayle Benson has pledged to give $1MM to various causes, including financial assistance to arena workers displaced by the coronavirus-related stoppage, according to a team press release. The Gayle Benson Community Assistance Fund will also provide assistance to the general New Orleans community. Numerous players and teams have reached out to help their arena workers.
- LeBron James‘ pursuit of Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time scoring record and Giannis Antetokounmpo‘s potentially historic follow-up to his MVP season are among the storylines that won’t be played out if the season is canceled, Michael Lee of The Athletic notes. The Pelicans’ pursuit of the Grizzlies for the Western Conference’s final playoff berth, with the added intrigue of those teams being led by top rookies Zion Williamson and Ja Morant, would also fall by the wayside.
- The hiatus could have a silver lining for the Clippers, ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk points out. The prime title contender will have a chance to get fully healthy heading into the postseason, as Kawhi Leonard and Paul George will have an extended time to rest, while Lou Williams (calf) and Patrick Beverley (groin) can recover from their ailments. The article breaks down what the hiatus means for each Western Conference club.