Marcus Morris

Leonard, Zubac Won’t Play In Game 6

Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard and center Ivica Zubac will sit out Game 6 of the Western Conference Finals tonight, Marc Stein tweets.

Leonard hasn’t played in the series against the Suns due to a right knee injury that he suffered June 14 against Utah. Zubac is also sidelined by a right knee injury, officially described as an MCL sprain. The 24-year-old center played regularly during the first four games of the series, averaging 12.8 PPG and 11.0 RPG.

Marcus Morris is also dealing with a knee injury but he’ll play, according to coach Tyronn Lue, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN tweets.

With Zubac sidelined in Game 5, Lue went with a smaller lineup and his team staved off elimination with a 116-102 win. Guards Terance Mann and Patrick Beverley were inserted into the lineup with Morris and Paul George as the only natural forwards.

Kawhi Leonard Ruled Out For Game 5

JUNE 27: Leonard has officially been ruled out for Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals, Mark Medina of USA Today tweets. Leonard will remain in Los Angeles to continue his knee rehabilitation.

JUNE 26: Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard hasn’t played yet in the Western Conference finals and it doesn’t appear he’ll return for Game 5 on Monday. Sources tell Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports that it’s “highly unlikely” Leonard will make the trip to Phoenix (video link).

Leonard is recovering from a right knee injury that he suffered June 14 against Utah. He didn’t accompany the Clippers for the opening two games of the series with the Suns, and there are concerns that air travel would be harmful to the knee, according to Haynes.

Speaking to reporters today, coach Tyronn Lue said that Leonard, who has been ruled out of tonight’s Game 4, continues to offer advice to his teammates and has been “a lot more vocal” since the injury, tweets Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

The news is better for Clippers teammate Marcus Morris, who has been cleared to play tonight, Youngmisuk adds (via Twitter). Morris, who is also dealing with a knee issue, was a game-time decision on Thursday.

Kawhi Leonard Won’t Play In Game 4

Kawhi Leonard will sit out Game 4 of the Western Conference Finals on Saturday, Clippers coach Tyronn Lue told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN and other media members (Twitter link). Another prominent Clippers forward, Marcus Morris, will be a game-time decision.

Leonard hasn’t played since injuring his knee during Game 5 of L.A.’s second-round series against the Jazz.

The Clippers are officially calling Leonard’s knee injury a sprain, but few details have been released about the severity. There was concern last week that he might have damaged his ACL, but there’s been no confirmation one way or the other.

Leonard was averaging 30.4 PPG, 7.7 RPG and 4.4 APG in 11 postseason games prior to the injury.

Morris played 24 minutes in the Clippers’ Game 3 victory over Phoenix, contributing eight points and five rebounds in 24 minutes. He’s also been battling a knee issue.

The Suns lead the series 2-1.

Pacific Notes: Jones, CP3, Morris, Simmons

Suns general manager James Jones won his first NBA Executive of the Year award after just two years on the job. In a new piece, Gina Mizell of details how Jones netted the honor.

As Mizell details, two years to the day before Jones won the award, he had his first draft as full-fledged team GM, selecting Cameron Johnson on June 20, 2019.

“[When] I was first drafted here, it was like, ‘Oh man, this team is terrible. I was a terrible pick. This team was destined for failure.’” Johnson reflected. “Then to get to this point now, going into the Western Conference Finals … (it) shows the trust and the faith and the confidence we have in one another.”

“He’s a big reason why we’re having the success, because of the team that he’s put together and the character of the players and the talent that he’s assembled,” head coach Monty Williams (a Jones hire) said of the man his NBA colleagues used to nickname “Champ.” “Just happy for him. He’s changed this thing in a short period of time.”

Among his more impactful moves for the 2020/21 season, Jones traded for All-Star point guard Chris Paul, signed starting power forward Jae Crowder, and traded for reserve swingman Torrey Craig. The Suns finished the abbreviated 2020/21 season with a 51-21 record, good for the second seed in the Western Conference.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • Though Suns point guard Chris Paul will miss at least the first two games of Phoenix’s Western Conference Finals matchup against the Clippers, the 11-time All-Star has managed to remain a vocal figure even from a distance, writes Mark Medina of USA Today“We put him on FaceTime,” All-Star Suns shooting guard Devin Booker said. “We lean on him for a lot, and we know how disappointed he is and frustrated he couldn’t be out here for Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals, especially knowing his past history around this time. But we know we had him all the way through. We brought him in the locker room. We had him in our after-game huddle. So he’s proud of us.” Paul continues to grapple with the NBA’s coronavirus-related health and safety protocols and will miss Game 2 of the series on Tuesday.
  • Clippers forward Marcus Morris suffered a knee injury during the first half of the Clippers’ 120-114 Game 1 loss to the Suns on Sunday. Though Morris is not on the club’s official injury report ahead of Game 2 yet, L.A. coach Tyronn Lue said that he was unsure whether Morris would suit on Tuesday, tweets Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.
  • After Sixers All-Star point guard Ben Simmons underwhelmed in his club’s seven-game second-round series loss to the Hawks, James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area wonders if the Kings should consider trying to trade for the All-Defensive First-Teamer. Ham notes that Simmons will not come cheap, as the 24-year-old just completed the first season of the five-year, maximum-salary extension he signed with the team in the 2019 offseason. Though Ham asserts that Sacramento would not part with young guards De’Aaron Fox or Tyrese Haliburton, he thinks that Simmons, though not a perfect match due to his flaws as a shooter, could be worth a look.

Kawhi Leonard Still Sidelined For Game 2

Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue has confirmed that All-Star wing Kawhi Leonard will remain sidelined for Game 2 of L.A.’s Western Conference Finals series against the Suns, tweets Mark Medina of USA Today. Leonard has been unavailable since the closeout Game 6 of the Clippers’ second-round series against the Jazz with a right knee sprain.

While Leonard is unable to contribute on the court, he continues to stay engaged with the Clippers from afar, Medina writes for USA Today. Lue said that Leonard helped the club make some key halftime adjustments to beat the Jazz in Game 6.

“He came into the coaches’ office, just talking about different strategies,” Lue said. “He just wanted to know our game plan, how we are going to start, what’s our coverages and things like that. So he’s very engaged.”

Clippers center Ivica Zubac also said that Leonard remains involved with the club, and continues to text the team in a group chat thread while they’re on the road in Phoenix and in-person in Los Angeles, tweets Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times.

Lue has stated previously that he hopes Leonard can rejoin the Clippers on the court at some point during the series, but is game-planning as if the All-NBA forward will be unavailable.

The team is also missing nominal starting center Serge Ibaka, done for the postseason after undergoing back surgery earlier this month. The status of big man Marcus Morris ahead of tomorrow’s Game 2 remains up in the air, Medina also noted. Lue said that Morris is “getting treatment around the clock,” but “is still experiencing soreness.” Morris suffered a knee injury in the first of Game 1, a 120-114 Suns victory.

Pacific Notes: Morris Twins, Fox, KCP, CP3

Lakers power forward Markieff Morris and his twin brother, Clippers power forward Marcus Morris, are hoping to meet in the playoffs in a Western Conference Finals for the ages, writes J. Brady McCollough of the Los Angeles Times. Marcus’ club is currently down 2-1 to the ascendant, lower-seeded Mavericks. Markieff’s Los Angeles team, the 2020 champion, is up 2-1 against the higher-seeded Suns.

“That matchup wasn’t supposed to happen in the bubble,” Marcus said of the Lakers-Clippers all-Staples Center showdown that fans were denied in the Orlando restart season “bubble” in 2020. “That was supposed to happen in Staples Center.”

McCollough reveals that the Morris brothers and their families live just 10 minutes apart on the west side of Los Angeles County (near their clubs’ practice facilities), with Markieff in Playa del Rey and Marcus in nearby Manhattan Beach.

“[W]e know the importance of having your family around for your success in life, just having that backbone and that stability,” Marcus said. “Being in the same city has been amazing.”

How long the brothers will remain in the same city remains to be seen. Markieff inked a one-year, minimum-salary deal with the Lakers for this season and has remained a valuable stretch-four option off the bench for L.A. Clippers starter Marcus signed a four-year, $64MM extension ahead of the 2020/21 season, though McCollough acknowledges that the Clips may make roster changes if the team continues to underperform in the postseason.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • Recently-extended Kings point guard De’Aaron Fox exhibited significant growth in his play and leadership, even amidst an otherwise-disappointing Sacramento season, writes James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area“Just trying to get to that level of consistency, where night in and night out you’re playing really good and if you’re not playing great, you’re still playing really good basketball and I don’t think I was there just yet,” Fox said. He averaged a career-best 25.2 PPG, to go along with 7.2 APG, 3.5 RPG and 1.5 SPG. Ham observes that Fox’s driving ability and his stroke on jumpers from 10-16 feet away from the bucket are high-level, though the rest of his shot chart is a bit more erratic.
  • Lakers starting shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has been ruled out for this afternoon’s Game 4 matchup against the Suns due to a left knee contusion, tweets Mark Medina of USA Today. Veteran Wesley Matthews would make the most positional sense as a replacement starter, tweets Jovan Buha of The Athletic. Lakers All-Star power forward/center Anthony Davis, however, will be suiting up today as he plays through a knee injury, tweets Marc Stein of the New York Times.
  • Suns All-Star point guard Chris Paul remains a game-time decision for today’s pivotal Game 4 against the Lakers, tweets Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. Paul has been battling a shoulder injury since Game 1. The Suns are currently down 2-1 in the best-of-seven series. Paul’s output has taken a turn with reduced minutes since the injury. He is averaging 6.7 PPG, 6.3 APG, and 4.0 RPG for the series.

Heat Notes: Portis, Riley, Free Agents, Butler

A decision not to pursue Bucks big man Bobby Portis in free agency may have led to the Heat’s playoff downfall, according to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. Jackson traces several missteps for Miami, which is in a 3-0 hole against Milwaukee, but the most significant might be passing on Portis, who is averaging 10.0 points and 6.0 rebounds per game in the playoff series.

A source tells Jackson that the Heat showed “mild interest” in Portis during free agency, but decided against making an offer. Portis would have considered Miami, Jackson adds, but he wound up signing with Milwaukee for $3.6MM and having a career-best season. The Heat signed Maurice Harkless for the same money, but he played just 11 games and scored 15 total points before being traded to the Kings in March.

Portis figures to be back on the market this summer as an unrestricted free agent and should get much better offers this time.

There’s more from Miami:

  • The Heat made overtures to Marcus Morris in free agency before he re-signed with the Clippers for $64MM over four years, Jackson adds. They lost two of their own free agents when they refused to come close to the three-year, $30MM deal that Jae Crowder got from the Suns or the two-year, $19MM contract that the Trail Blazers gave Derrick Jones Jr. Instead, Miami split its $9.6MM mid-level exception between Harkless and Avery Bradley, neither of whom is still with the team. The Heat also drafted Precious Achiuwa and gave a two-year, $19MM deal to Meyers Leonard, but Achuiwa dropped out of the rotation when Dewayne Dedmon was added and Leonard played just three games before a season-ending shoulder injury.
  • Team president Pat Riley has a history of making major changes after playoff embarrassments, and Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel suggests that another one may be coming. Winderman notes that the current roster was built for an immediate overhaul, with team options on Goran Dragic and Andre Iguodala for next season and Duncan Robinson, Kendrick Nunn, Andre Iguodala, Victor Oladipo, Trevor Ariza, Nemanja Bjelica, Max Strus, Gabe Vincent, Udonis Haslem and Dedmon all potentially headed for free agency.
  • Jimmy Butler believes the Heat need to fall back on toughness to salvage the series, writes Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN. “(I’m most surprised by) just how fast it got out of hand,” Butler said after Thursday’s loss. “We’ve got to pick who we want to be — be physical, make things much tougher. Then you’ve got to live with the result.”

Pacific Notes: Morris, Schneider, Ayton, Haliburton

Clippers power forward Marcus Morris has thrived across the 16 games he has played since replacing Nicolas Batum in the team’s starting lineup, as Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times details. Los Angeles is 13-3 since head coach Tyronn Lue made the change.

Ahead of tonight’s 126-115 victory over the Pacers, Morris had been connecting on 48.8% on his 6.2 three-pointers a night and 51% overall from the floor since taking over as a starter.

My production is the same, minutes (have) been the same,” Batum said of the switch. “But Marcus has been great for us. He has been even better since he has been starting.”

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • The Warriors have announced (Twitter link) that Brandon Schneider will replace departing Rick Welts as Golden State’s president and COO when the latter retires at the end of the 2020/21 season. Schneider has served as the Warriors’ chief revenue officer since 2018, and has spent 19 seasons with Golden State overall.
  • Suns center Deandre Ayton has been a big, but subtle, contributor to the club’s newfound success this season, writes Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. Though he is known more for his scoring and rebounding, Ayton has been able to juggle his impressive skill set with a growing defensive game and improved screening.
  • Kings rookie shooting guard Tyrese Haliburton acknowledged his frustration over his team’s current seven-game losing streak, according to James Ham of NBC Sports California“We know we’re better than this, we’ve proven we’re better than this throughout the year,” Haliburton said. “But obviously, consistency has plagued us our whole season.” With a 22-32 record, the Kings are currently four games behind the tenth-seeded Warriors for a chance at a play-in tournament berth.

Knicks Notes: Front Office, Thibodeau, Quickley, More

In an entertaining, in-depth story for The New York Post, Yaron Weitzman takes a deep dive into the inner workings of the Knicks‘ front office, exploring how president of basketball operations Leon Rose has skillfully managed a handful of competing viewpoints and voices in the basketball operations department.

As Weitzman details, Rose has had to consider input from head coach Tom Thibodeau, who has little patience for a rebuild and wondered if RJ Barrett and Mitchell Robinson could be traded for “seasoned veterans”; from executive VP William Wesley – aka “World Wide Wes’ – who frequently zeroed in on players who attended the University of Kentucky or signed with CAA; and from cap expert Brock Aller, who advocated for a patient, flexible approach to using the team’s cap room.

Rose has managed to make everybody happy so far — he acquired Derrick Rose, like Thibodeau wanted, drafted Immanuel Quickley, which Wesley “pushed for like crazy,” and used the Knicks’ cap room primarily on affordable one-year signings, which was Aller’s preference.

“His job is to sort through different opinions from different people and make the best decision,” a rival executive said of Rose. “It certainly seems like he’s doing that well.”

Here are a few more highlights from Weitzman’s story, which is worth checking out in full:

  • Wesley, who had been hyping up Quickley for months, badly wanted the Knicks to select him at No. 23 and was “furious” when the team made a last-second decision to trade back to No. 25, loudly declaring, “Coach says we need shooting, Quickley’s the best shooter.” The Knicks ultimately landed the Kentucky point guard with the 25th pick.
  • According to Weitzman, when conversations in the front office focused on players who had no connections to Kentucky or to CAA, Wesley would often close his eyes. “When Wes said ‘we,’ people weren’t sure if he was referring to the Knicks or Kentucky,” one source said of World Wide Wes, who has a long-standing friendship with Wildcats coach John Calipari.
  • Meetings between Thibodeau and Aller sometimes became heated, given their diametric points of view on winning now vs. rebuilding. Weitzman says Thibodeau would sometime mockingly refer to Aller as “Hinkie,” a reference to Sam Hinkie, who infamously took an extreme long-term view when he rebuilt the Sixers.
  • Thibodeau pushed for the Knicks to use their cap room to pursue veteran free agents such as Gordon Hayward, Marcus Morris, and Bogdan Bogdanovic, per Weitzman. While the Knicks were said to be in the mix for Hayward, they ultimately used their space to sign veterans like Nerlens Noel, Alec Burks, and Elfrid Payton to one-year deals.

Pacific Notes: R. Jackson, Morris, Bjelica, Suns

Reggie Jackson gave the Clippers a solid performance Friday night in his first action since learning he was out of coach Tyronn Lue‘s reduced rotation, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. Jackson contributed 11 points, four rebounds and three assists in 18 minutes after sitting out the previous two games. The 30-year-old guard, who will be a free agent after this season, was told last Saturday that he will no longer have guaranteed minutes every night.

“It was a hard conversation for me because I thought he was actually playing well,” Lue said. “But we couldn’t play all the guys, you know that coming into the season. … I talked to Reggie and he took it well. When you are a veteran and you’re a pro and you want to win, you do whatever it takes to try to win. I told him to stay ready, it’s a long season, with the COVID, injuries, things like that, you got to be ready.”

Jackson found out at Friday’s shootaround that he would be in the starting lineup, and Lue was happy that he didn’t try to do too much on his own. One highlight for Jackson was a rare dunk in the second half.

“Feels good, especially at 30, getting teased by my teammates, seeing an open lane and having a chance to attack,” Jackson said. “I had an injury-plagued past few years so just feeling like I’m getting my legs back under me and to feel somewhat 20 again, it felt great to go out there and get a dunk.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Clippers forward Marcus Morris says the NBA’s decision to begin the season in December threw off his recovery timeline, Greif adds in the same story. Morris said tendinitis prevented him from doing offseason workouts and he was timing his recovery for a January start. He remains on a minutes limit, but hasn’t had any trouble with his knees since training camp began.
  • The Kings haven’t used Nemanja Bjelica in their past three games, but the decision is only temporary, tweets Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. Coach Luke Walton is experimenting with defensive rotations and has told Bjelica he will get another chance soon.
  • The Suns‘ last three games have been postponed due to health and safety protocols, but a league source told Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic that Monday’s contest in Memphis “looks good to go.” Grizzlies coach Taylor Jenkins is also optimistic that the game will be played. “All I know is that everything is kind of full go right now,” he said. “There’s some final checkmarks that need to be taken care of, obviously, for Phoenix to get back on track, but we’re all hopeful we are able to play on Monday.”