Paul George

Pacific Notes: Rivers, George, Harrell, Catanella, Suns

Doc Rivers will likely coach the Clippers next season, but his future with the organization beyond that is sketchy, Jovan Buha of The Athletic opines. The way the 2020/21 season plays out will determine Rivers’ future with the franchise, Buha continues. There will be even more pressure for the Clippers to finally reach the Finals for the first time, Buha adds, and if it doesn’t happen then there could be a mutual parting of ways.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Suns hope their $45MM practice facility will be finished in October, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. The courts are still being installed and painted, team officials told Rankin. Team owner Robert Sarver originally targeted August for the completion of the privately-financed facility.
  • New Kings GM Monte McNair is expected to retain assistant GM and salary cap expert Ken Catanella, James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area reports. Catanella has been in the Sacramento front office since 2016 following a five-year stint with the Pistons.
  • Clippers teammates Montrezl Harrell and Paul George got into a heated verbal exchange during a timeout of Game 2 against Denver, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. George committed a turnover on an attempted half-court pass to Harrell, which was intercepted by Jamal Murray. George told Harrell the pass could have been caught if he made the right play and that made Harrell angry.

Atlantic Notes: Hayward, Sixers, Nets, Leonard, VanVleet

The Celtics announced on Wednesday that forward Gordon Hayward is listed as doubtful for Thursday’s Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN (Twitter link).

As Bontemps points out, this is the first time Hayward has been upgraded from “out” since he suffered a Grade 3 ankle sprain in the first round of the NBA Playoffs. The Celtics replaced Hayward in the starting lineup with Marcus Smart, who is averaging 15.3 PPG, 5.6 RPG, and 4.2 APG.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic Division:

  • After losing the development rights to Penn’s Landing to a rival bidder last week, the Sixers have signaled their dissatisfaction with playing at the Wells Fargo Center, writes Jacob Adelman of The Philadelphia Inquirer. The Sixers want their own arena for a variety of reasons, including the ability to gain schedule flexibility, which they currently do not have. Philadelphia’s lease at the Wells Fargo Center reportedly runs out in 2031. The Inquirer goes on to lists various locations within Philadelphia that the Sixers could use to build their new arena.
  • Long Island Nets guard Devin Cannady spoke with Alex Schiffer of The Athletic about working out with Nets superstars Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving in Los Angeles. The NBA G League guard recalled a game of 2-on-2 where he had trouble defending Irving. Durant stopped the game and instead gave tips Cannady to help him. “If I got the confidence from KD,” Cannady said to Schiffer. “Then I don’t need to hold back anymore at all.” The former Princeton standout also said that Durant looks good and healthy in the workouts.
  • One of the reasons why Kawhi Leonard wanted to go to the Clippers is because he felt the Raptors weren’t good enough to repeat, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN (Twitter link). The Finals MVP reportedly said this last summer in his meeting with Toronto’s front office. Leonard ultimately ended up signing a three-year deal with Los Angeles and teaming up with Paul George. However, his old team didn’t experience a significant drop-off, finishing with the second-best record in the Eastern Conference and losing in Game 7 of the Eastern Semifinals.
  • With the Raptors’ season coming to an end last week, Blake Murphy of The Athletic explains what it would take to re-sign Fred VanVleet while also maintaining max cap space for the 2021 offseason. VanVleet is set to be an unrestricted free agent and is reportedly expected to receive interest from the Knicks, Pistons, and Suns. Murphy details various scenarios involving OG Anunoby‘s rookie-scale extension, which he is eligible for this offseason, the 2021 free-agent class, and Norman Powell‘s player option.

Clippers Notes: Game 7 Loss, Next Steps, Kawhi, George

The Clippers blew double-digit leads in each of their last three games against Denver, losing the series and missing out on a date with the Lakers in the Western Conference Finals. Having failed to advance after taking a commanding 3-1 lead in the series, the team was left searching for answers on Tuesday night.

As Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN details, head coach Doc Rivers accepted blame for the club’s shortcomings and suggested that conditioning issues played a part in the Clippers’ inability to put Denver away. However, Lou Williams and reigning Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard pointed to chemistry issues as they looked to explain the club’s disappointing postseason run.

“I think a lot of the issues that we ran into, talent bailed us out. Chemistry it didn’t,” Williams said. “In this series, it failed us.”

“We just couldn’t make shots,” Leonard said. “That’s when it comes to the team chemistry, knowing what we should run to get the ball in spots or just if someone’s getting doubled or they’re packing the paint, try to make other guys make shots, and we gotta know what exact spots we need to be. And you know, just gotta carry over and get smarter as a team. Get smarter. Basketball IQ got to get better.”

Perhaps the most eyebrow-raising comment of the night came from Paul George, whom the Clippers acquired last summer in a deal that cost the team Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, five first-round picks, and two first-round pick swaps.

I think internally, we always felt this was not a championship-or-bust year for us,” George said, per Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times (Twitter link).

Here’s more on the Clippers:

  • The Clippers are now very much on the clock, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN, who points out that Leonard and George can opt for free agency in 2021. Rival executives don’t expect the Clips to make major changes, but they could make a trade to bring in more talent if they’re willing to take on some long-term money, writes Windhorst.
  • One rival executive suggested to Windhorst that the Clippers are essentially pot-committed to their win-now approach, meaning it doesn’t make sense for them to back off now by significantly shaking up the roster. “You’ve heard of the saying, ‘In for a dime, in for a dollar’?” the exec said. “Well, they’re in for 95 cents, in for a dollar.”
  • Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer and ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Insider link) also explored what’s next for the Clippers. As Marks points out, one of the first orders of business for the team will be figuring out which of its major free agents – Montrezl Harrell, Marcus Morris, and JaMychal Green – can and should be re-signed. Harrell and Morris are unrestricted free agents, while Green has a $5MM player option that he may turn down.
  • Marks also notes that the Clips could offer a George a contract extension worth up to $128.9MM over three years, if they so choose. George would be 32 years old before that extension begins in 2022 though, so it’s not clear how aggressive L.A. will be on that front.

California Notes: George, Kings GM Search, Divac, Lakers/Clippers

Star Clippers forward Paul George dealt with a rough four-game offensive showing during Los Angeles’ first-round series against the Mavericks. He bounced back with an incredibly efficient 35-point performance in Game 5 across just 25 minutes on Tuesday. George cites struggles with depression and anxiety living within the NBA’s Orlando restart campus as factors in his difficulty during the series, as Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN reports.

“I underestimated mental health, honestly,” George said in a TNT interview that Youngmisuk recapped. “I had anxiety. A little bit of depression. Just being locked in here. I just wasn’t there… Games 2, 3, 4, I wasn’t there. I felt like I wasn’t there. Shout-out to the people that were in my corner, that gave me words.”

There are more NBA notes out of California:

  • The Kings have begun their search for a new general manager after firing GM Vlade Divac, though there appear to have been no interviews with candidates as of yet, per Jason Anderson of the Sacramento Bee. If no one gets hired ahead of the NBA draft (tentatively scheduled for October 16) or the beginning of free agency (October 18), interim executive vice president of basketball operations Joe Dumars would be at the reins for those decision-making processes.
  • Kings small forward Harrison Barnes, who received a four-year, $85MM contract from Divac last summer, opines that the former GM laid a promising foundation for Sacramento during his tenure, according to James Ham of NBC Sports California. “I’m definitely thankful for all that Vlade’s done, not only for me, but for the Kings,” Barnes said. “I think with the talent he’s brought in, the work he’s done, he’s definitely set this franchise up to be successful.” The Kings posted a 162-238 win-loss record with Divac at the helm since 2015.
  • As we previously detailed, the Lakers and Clippers voted last night to strike for the rest of the 2019/20 NBA playoffs in response to the Sunday shooting of Jacob Blake by police officers in Kenosha, but the 11 other remaining NBA playoff teams voted to keep playing. In a follow-up meeting today, players ultimately decided to resume playoff participation tomorrow or Saturday.

Northwest Notes: Dort, Nuggets, Lillard, Jazz

Thunder wing Luguentz Dort, who suffered a right knee sprain this week, will miss Friday’s regular season finale against the Clippers, according to Royce Young of ESPN (Twitter link). Dort will be listed as day-to-day going forward, so his availability for the start of the postseason next week remains unknown. Oklahoma City’s first-round series vs. Houston gets underway on Tuesday.

Meanwhile, as Young adds, Thunder guard Chris Paul will also miss Friday’s seeding game due to a left hand sprain. That injury isn’t believed to be an issue that will compromise Paul’s postseason availability at all — he’s simply getting a rest before the playoffs get underway.

Here’s more from around the Northwest:

  • Will Barton (knee) and Gary Harris (hip) will remain sidelined for the Nuggets‘ final seeding game on Friday, tweets Mike Singer of The Denver Post. There had previously been some optimism that Barton and Harris – who haven’t played yet this summer – might be available for today’s contest. Their playoff availability remains up in the air.
  • In an appearance on TNT, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (video link) reported that Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard and Clippers forward Paul George touched base to clarify that there were no hard feelings on other side in the wake of their recent war of words.
  • Following the departure of G League Coach of the Year Martin Schiller, the Salt Lake City Stars – the Jazz’s G League affiliate – have promoted assistant Nathan Peavy to become their new head coach. Andy Larsen and Julie Jag of The Salt Lake Tribune have the story and the details on Peavy’s ascension.
  • As a result of the seeding games in Orlando, the 2020 first-round pick that the Timberwolves will receive from the Nets will land at No. 17 overall. Minnesota was assured of receiving that lottery-protected pick once Brooklyn clinched its playoff spot.

Paul George: “Feeling Back To Myself Again”

The NBA’s four-month hiatus allowed Paul George to fully heal for the first time since having surgery on both shoulders last offseason, writes Jovan Buha of The Athletic. In a Zoom session with reporters, the Clippers star talked about how much progress he has made since the season was suspended.

“I had insecurities throughout the season just because I wasn’t all the way 100 (percent), shoulder didn’t feel back to 100 (percent),” George said. “Everything was kind of waiting and hoping, believing in the doctors that everything they were telling me was going to come into this moment now where I feel great, no shoulder issues. The whole season, all the way up until maybe a month or two ago, I had to always do shoulder rehab stuff, warming the shoulder up. Just so much went into stuff I had to do before I actually took a foot on the floor.

“Now I feel great again. I feel great going on the court, shooting, doing regular things. Just confident in that, feeling back to myself again.”

Even though George finished third in the MVP race with the Thunder last season, he was playing through pain, dealing with a small labrum tear in his left shoulder and a partially torn tendon in the right one. He was traded to L.A. in July, but missed all of training camp and the Clippers’ first 11 regular season games while recovering from the operations. A strained left hamstring in midseason cost him 11 more games.

George told reporters he was able to stay in “great shape” during the hiatus by using an exercise machine, adding, “My body (is) in the best form that it can be right now.”

Clippers coach Doc Rivers got to watch George shoot at the team’s practice facility and said the physical difference was evident.

“When you factor in at the beginning of training camp, P.G. couldn’t play, he wasn’t healthy,” Rivers said. “Now in this second ‘training camp,’ he’ll be 100 percent healthy. I think that’s huge for us.”

Central Notes: Pacers, George, Giannis, Bulls

In an appearance this week on the Knuckleheads podcast with Quentin Richardson and Darius Miles, former Pacers star Paul George revisited his 2017 departure from Indiana, explaining why he felt the need to move on from the organization. According to George, “the best power forward” in the NBA had said at the time that he wanted to team up with PG13 in Indiana, but the Pacers weren’t willing to do what was necessary to make it happen.

“They’re like, ‘We’re a mid-major, we’re a small market, like, we can’t do it, we’re a small market, we can’t afford that,'” George said (per 8points9seconds.com). “I’m like, ‘The best power forward wants to come play here, like, y’all can’t make that work?’ They didn’t want to do it.”

According to J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star (Twitter links), the star power forward George is referring to is Anthony Davis. Michael also suggests that George may be overstating the Pacers’ ability to have landed AD, noting that Indiana lacked the pieces to make it happen and had no deal in place with New Orleans. It’s worth pointing out as well that the Pelicans didn’t become truly motivated to move Davis until he after he requested a trade in 2019.

Here’s more from around the Central Division:

  • Following Malcolm Brogdon‘s positive coronavirus test, coaches who have come in contact with the Pacers guard are being quarantined, a source tells J. Michael of The Indianapolis Star. Michael adds in the same story that Indiana probably won’t make any roster moves in the next week as long as none of the team’s players opt out of the summer restart.
  • Giannis Antetokounmpo was dealing with a minor knee injury when the NBA went on hiatus in March, but he’ll be ready to go when the season resumes next month, Bucks head coach Mike Budenholzer tells Jackie MacMullan of ESPN. “It’s a huge advantage for us that Giannis will be completely and totally healthy,” Budenholzer said. “He’s in a great place, both mentally and physically.”
  • In his latest mailbag, K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune says that new Bulls executives Arturas Karnisovas and Marc Eversley are more likely to make modest tweaks to the roster for 2020/21 than to do anything drastic this offsesaon that breaks up the young core. The team’s two new decision-makers hope to put those young players in better position to succeed going forward, Johnson adds.

LeBron, Curry Among Players Who Will Owe Money From 2020/21 Salaries

Starting this Friday, 25% of NBA players’ pay checks will be withheld for the foreseeable future. The NBA and NBPA reached that agreement last month in order to ensure that players are bearing some of the brunt of the league’s lost revenue due to the coronavirus pandemic — and so that players won’t be required to surrender a significant lump sum in a few months if games are officially canceled and the CBA’s “force majeure” clause is triggered.

However, some players will still have to return money to the league down the road rather than seeing a portion of their pay checks withheld now. While most NBA players are paid in 24 bi-monthly installments, beginning in November, some players negotiated deals that see them receive just 12 pay checks, with the last one issued on May 1. As a result, those players have already received their full salaries for the 2019/20 season and withholding part of their checks starting on May 15 isn’t an option.

As Bobby Marks of ESPN details, LeBron James, Stephen Curry, John Wall, Blake Griffin, and Paul George – all of whom are making $33MM or more this season – are among the players who have already received their ’19/20 salaries in full.

Because those players – and several others – won’t resume receiving pay checks from their respective teams until the fall, they’ll essentially owe the NBA an IOU for each pay date this spring and summer (until the 25% agreement ends), Marks explains.

By the fall, the league should better understand to what extent players’ 2019/20 salaries have to be reduced, and players like James and Curry will have money taken out of their advances for 2020/21 (on October 1) and/or their ’20/21 pay checks (beginning on November 15).

As Marks notes, the amount of money that players ultimately have to give up for the 2019/20 season will depend on how many games can be played this summer if and when the season resumes.

Players could lose approximately 23-26% of their full-season salaries if games don’t resume, according to Marks. On the other hand, in the unlikely event that the NBA is able to play its remaining regular season games and playoff games in full, teams would be responsible for returning players’ full salaries to them.

Adjusting player salaries based on the amount of games that can eventually be played should help the league avoid a scenario in which the salary cap fluctuates significantly over the next couple years based on this year’s lost revenue, since the NBA and its players share roughly a 50-50 split of the league’s revenue.

Western Notes: Leonard, Giles, Johnson, Blazers

Clippers coach Doc Rivers isn’t worried about his stars getting out of shape during the NBA’s hiatus, he told ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk and other reporters. “I know (Kawhi Leonard is) overworking. I can guarantee you that,” Rivers said. “And the difference is, during the summer, Kawhi couldn’t work, you know, so now he’s got this break and he’s able to train. The Kawhi we’ll see will be in phenomenal shape. PG (Paul George) is another guy that’s going to be in phenomenal shape.”

We have more from the Western Conference:

  • Kings center Harry Giles is likely to be playing elsewhere next season, according to James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area. His original coaching and training staff are gone and the franchise didn’t pick up his contract option for next season, Ham notes. Giles, who will be an unrestricted free agent, did enough during his opportunities this season to intrigue plenty of teams, Ham adds.
  • Big man James Johnson is a solid reserve but not the answer as a starter alongside Timberwolves center Karl-Anthony Towns, Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic opines. Johnson gave the club a boost in 14 games after being acquired in a three-team deal, averaging 12.0 PPG, 4.7 RPG and 3.8 APG in 24.1 MPG. Johnson will surely exercise his $16MM player option for next season and the team hopes he can pick up where he left off.
  • Zach Cooper, a video assistant for the Trail Blazers, has died unexpectedly due to undisclosed reasons, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets. “I am devastated by the news of Zach’s passing,” head coach Terry Stotts said in a statement. “He was a valued member of our staff, but more importantly, he was an outstanding young man who everyone loved and appreciated.”

Hiatus Notes: TV Revenue, Benson, Storylines, Clippers

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.