Ivica Zubac

Frank: Clippers Will Look To Keep Core Group Intact

The Clippers are hopeful of bringing back their core group despite the team’s first-round loss to Dallas, president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank told assembled media during a Monday press conference.

Kawhi Leonard has already signed a three-year extension but the team’s three other big stars could all depart. Paul George has a $48.8MM player option on his contract for next season, while James Harden will be an unrestricted free agent. Russell Westbrook holds a $4MM option on his 2024/25 contract.

The Clippers and George chose to defer extension talks around the All-Star break, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“We’d like to be able to bring back and retain Paul and James,” Frank said. “We’re hopeful we can, but also understand and respect the fact that they’re free agents. Paul has a decision with his option. James will be an unrestricted free agent, so our intent is to bring him back, but also realize that they’re elite players and they’ll have choices.”

The Sixers and Magic are expected to pursue George if he opts out, Janis Carr of the Orange County Register writes.

George is eligible to sign up to a four-year, $221MM extension, though it’s reasonable to assume the Clippers are pursuing a lesser amount, considering that they failed to reach an agreement during the season. Shams Charania of The Athletic confirmed on FanDuel’s Run it Back show (Twitter video link) on Monday that L.A. has offered George less than his full max.

“We want Paul, we value Paul,” Frank said. “Paul’s done some tremendous things here. He’s an elite player, and our biggest thing is we always want to be able to treat players well and pay them fairly, and we also have to build out a team, especially, this is a new CBA. But in terms of the exact money, I would never go into details other than we’ve had really, really good conversations over the course of the year and hopeful that we can get him to remain a Clipper.”

Harden said right after the series that he “hadn’t even thought” about his free agency.

As for Westbrook, Frank said he’d hold discussions with the former MVP regarding his role next season, if he decides to opt in. Westbrook was the team’s sixth man for a majority of the season.

“I’ll sit down with Russ. (Tyronn Lue) will sit down with Russ, talk with his representatives and you kind of outline what the role is going forward,” Frank said, per Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times. “It’s very similar to when Russ came last summer. Like, we explained to him exactly what his role is, what it could be, the different guys that we’re looking at and then Russ has a decision to make. And so we’re kind of going through the process. So, I’m not going to speak for any player in terms of what they’re thinking, but that’s our process.”

Frank said he’ll also pursue extensions with center Ivica Zubac and wing Terance Mann, per Carr, then look to make marginal improvements if he’s able to retain his stars.

Pacific Notes: O’Neale, Allen, Hyland, Leonard, Monk, Sabonis

Suns coach Frank Vogel switched up his rotation in the team’s 124-108 win over the Clippers on Wednesday, Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic reports. Royce O’Neale was inserted into the lineup in place of Grayson Allen, while Thaddeus Young replaced Drew Eubanks as the backup center.

However, the Suns could go right back to Allen as the starter against Sacramento on Friday. “It’s just something we’ve been talking about,” Vogel said. “If we get into a playoff matchup where we have a bigger opponent, then we feel like (O’Neale’s) size in the starting lineup is something that would make sense. We didn’t want to go to that with Grayson coming off the bench for the first time having never done it. We used this one game to let Grayson just feel the rhythm of coming off the bench, if it’s needed in the playoffs.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Ivica Zubac and Norman Powell sat out the second game of a back-to-back on Wednesday. Bones Hyland carried the Clippers‘ offense in their absence, pumping in a career-high 37 points, Janis Carr of the Orange County Register notes. Leonard sat out his sixth consecutive game because of inflammation in his right knee. He might not return until the postseason but coach Tyronn Lue believes his superstar forward will be ready to go by that point.
  • Kings guard Malik Monk was the solid frontrunner for the Sixth Man of the Year award until he suffered a sprained MCL in his right knee late last month. Center Domantas Sabonis said Monk still deserves the honor. “Monk has to win it,” Sabonis told HoopsHype’s Michael Scotto. “If he doesn’t win it, it’s rigged. He definitely brings energy and light. If we’re down, he’s always up and in a good mood off the court, too, so that really helps during a long season with ups and downs.” Coach Mike Brown concurs. “It should not even be a debate on Sixth Man of the Year with Malik’s body of work and us fighting for a playoff spot,” Brown said. “He should be the hands-down winner.”
  • Monk will be an unrestricted free agent after the season. Sacramento has Early Bird rights on Monk and can sign him up to $78MM over four years. “I’d love to play here again, for sure. I’ve been here for two years and made friends with everyone, including the training staff and front office,” Monk told Scotto. Sabonis said the organization can’t afford to lose him: “We’ve got to keep him. He’s a big piece for us moving forward.”
  • Sabonis saw his 61-game double-double streak end on Tuesday, Cliff Brunt of The Associated Press writes. He had eight points and 13 rebounds against Oklahoma City. It’s the seventh-longest streak in league history and the longest since the NBA and ABA merged prior to the 1976/77 season.

Pacific Notes: Dinwiddie, Jackson-Davis, Booker, Zubac

Lakers guard Spencer Dinwiddie used to imagine himself making game-winning plays, but he always expected them to come on offense, writes Khobi Price of The Orange County Register. Still, Dinwiddie will take the game-saving block he had against the Bucks’ Damian Lillard as time expired on Friday night.

“I’m not gonna lie to you, having been a high-usage offensive guy my entire career, even when I was a kid, I kind of dreamed of those moments in terms of hitting the shot, not necessarily getting the block,” Dinwiddie said. “But it feels pretty much just as sweet.”

Dinwiddie hasn’t gotten many moments to savor since signing with L.A. last month after Toronto traded for him at the deadline and waived him the same day. Friday marked his first start in 11 games with the Lakers, and it only happened because LeBron James was sidelined with a left ankle issue. Dinwiddie is averaging just 5.4 PPG and shooting 37% from the field with the Lakers, and he understands that he has to earn a steady role with his new team.

“It’s not a trade where it opened up a bunch of shots or opportunity or whatever,” Dinwiddie said. “… I was coming to like set-in-stone teams. And so it’s just a little bit different of a situation.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Warriors started Trayce Jackson-Davis at center tonight and moved Andrew Wiggins to the bench, tweets Anthony Slater of The Athletic. The move provides a lob threat for Chris Paul, who will be the team’s starting point guard while Stephen Curry recovers from a sprained ankle. Earlier this week, Draymond Green talked about the connection between Paul and Jackson-Davis, per Ron Kroichick of The San Francisco Chronicle. “We found a couple of things in our second unit that are working,” Green said. “Trayce with CP is dynamite. Throughout CP’s career, one thing you know that works is him with a lob threat, a dynamic roller to the rim to open up the defense. … I think we’re finding something there with that lineup, for sure.”
  • Devin Booker continues to make progress toward returning from the sprained right ankle he suffered last Saturday, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Suns coach Frank Vogel told media members that Booker went through an “extensive workout” earlier today, adding that he’s “pleasantly surprised” by how quickly Booker is recovering.
  • Clippers center Ivica Zubac was able to return today from the illness that forced him to miss two games earlier this week and prompted coach Tyronn Lue to keep on the bench for the second half of Wednesday’s contest at Houston, notes Janis Carr of The Orange County Register. Zubac had 16 points and nine rebounds in nearly 25 minutes and sparked a second half rally as L.A. defeated Chicago on Saturday.

L.A. Notes: Hyland, Zubac, Westbrook, Dinwiddie, Giles

The fractured left hand that Russell Westbrook suffered Friday night has created an opportunity for Bones Hyland, writes Janis Carr of The Orange County Register. Hyland played 16 minutes after Westbrook left the game, and he may have a spot in the Clippers‘ rotation for the foreseeable future.

“It’s been a long time,” Hyland said, “but honestly I’m just ready to keep contributing to the team, build up these wins and carry this momentum into the thing that we all want to do.”

Carr points out that Hyland averaged 26.2 minutes and 13.6 points in the season’s first five games. But he became a forgotten man after the James Harden trade was completed, logging 34 DNPs since November 10 and being listed as inactive five times. He admits it has been “challenging” and credits Westbrook for providing encouragement while he waited for playing time.

“Russ has been a great leader to me, man, since I came here, even before I got here,” Hyland said. “He’s always been that guy I can go talk to. … In this whole process, he told me to stay down, stay hungry, stay in the gym, just keep being myself and it’ll come back around full circle.”

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • Center Ivica Zubac was able to travel with the Clippers after missing the past two games with an undisclosed illness, per Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. He’s listed as questionable for Sunday afternoon’s contest in Minnesota. “I hope I can play,” Zubac said. “I didn’t come all this way not to play. But I guess it’s up to the medical staff, but I hope I can play.”
  • Clippers coach Tyronn Lue talked about the effect that losing Westbrook will have on the team, Turner adds. “Russ plays every night, so just to see him go through something like this is tough on everybody,” Lue said. “He wants to compete in practice, in games, in everything.”
  • Spencer Dinwiddie, who signed with the Lakers last month after being waived by Toronto, is becoming more comfortable with his new team, according to Khobi Price of The Orange County Register. Coach Darvin Ham said his advice to Dinwiddie was “be aggressive and let us figure it out around you.”
  • Harry Giles will report to the Lakers Sunday on his new two-way contract, tweets Jovan Buha of The Athletic. Ham told reporters that he’s happy to find a promising talent to fortify the frontcourt (video link). “I think he’s a really good young player,” Ham said. “He was available and we saw an opportunity to gain a little insurance at that position. … He’s also someone we can take a long, hard look at as far as implementing him into the program.”

Pacific Notes: Zubac, Green, Beal, Young, Gallinari, Leonard

Clippers center Ivica Zubac is dealing with a minutes restriction since returning from a calf injury, Janis Carr of the Orange County Register notes, averaging 20.5 minutes in four games. He had 11 rebounds in 23 minutes against Minnesota on Monday.

“I wanted to play a little more, but I got to trust the process,” Zubac said. “I didn’t go to my limits, so the game was like that. I can’t complain. If I was not in foul trouble, if I was playing a little better, I would have been out there more.”

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Warriors are riding a five-game winning streak and Draymond Green believes his 16-game league suspension played in a role in the resurgence, ESPN’s Kendra Andrews writes. Golden State had to adjust without Green and Jonathan Kuminga emerged as a starter in his absence, while other young players cracked the rotation. “I think me getting suspended helped in a weird way,” Green said. “Not that I wanted to get suspended, but I do think that helped us find different things we can go to and explore.”
  • Bradley Beal departed the Suns’ game on Tuesday early due to a left hamstring injury, Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports tweets.
  • The impending addition of Thaddeus Young will add size and physicality to the Suns, Bourguet writes. Young can serve as a small-ball center at times and a connector at the offensive end.
  • The Suns will still have a roster spot open when Young officially signs. They have also shown interest in Danilo Gallinari, who was waived by the Pistons after the trade deadline, according to Duane Rankin of the Arizona Republic. It’s unclear whether they will still pursue Gallinari once they officially sign Young on the buyout market, given that they also added two forwards – Royce O’Neale and David Roddy – via trade last week.
  • Clippers star Kawhi Leonard (left adductor strain) won’t play against the Warriors on Wednesday, ESPN’s Marc J. Spears tweets. It will be the fifth game he’s missed this season.

Pacific Notes: Beal, Kings, Curry, Wiggins, Zubac

Bradley Beal had a long list of accomplishments during his 11 seasons with the Wizards, but he never got close to winning an NBA title. He hopes he has that chance with the Suns as he returns to Washington this afternoon, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic.

“Honestly, (Friday) is probably the first day it hit me, just getting closer to it,” Beal said. “Being back in the building, seeing familiar faces. I have no idea what to expect, to feel, but I’m kind of going in with just an open mind, open heart. Embracing all the feels, embracing the love. Whatever I get, you know, being thankful the moments that we had here and just take it all in.”

Beal has experienced a challenging season since waiving his no-trade clause and being dealt to Phoenix last summer. Back issues and a sprained right ankle sidelined him for 21 games early in the season, but he hasn’t been out of the lineup since late December. He’s currently dealing with a broken nose and trying to snap out of a shooting slump while adjusting to wearing a face mask.

“I’d be naive if I said it doesn’t have a little effect,” Beal said. “Still got to go hoop. Plenty of guys who have hooped with a mask and had success and done well. I got to step it up and be better. I know it’s tough. I got hit in it. Can’t control that, but I can control my play, my change of pace, not turn the ball over. I’ve got to be better, man. I’ve got to be a lot better.”

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • The Kings have interest in trading for Jerami Grant, but he prefers to stay in Portland and the Trail Blazers aren’t eager to move him, a source tells James Ham of Kings Beat (subscription required). Ham also hears that Sacramento has considered acquiring Kyle Kuzma on several occasions and could be in the market again if the Wizards are lowering their asking price.
  • After Saturday’s loss at Atlanta, Warriors guard Stephen Curry said the players can’t afford to get distracted by Thursday’s trade deadline, per Anthony Slater of The Athletic (video link). “Until it’s said otherwise or decisions are made, it’s up to us to go out and perform and hold our ground as a legitimate team that can win,” Curry said. “If you’re not, then you approach things differently when the opportunity presents itself.”
  • Warriors forward Andrew Wiggins left Saturday’s game with a sprained foot, but X-rays were negative and he didn’t need crutches or a walking boot afterward, Slater adds (Twitter link).
  • Clippers center Ivica Zubac has been upgraded to questionable for today’s game at Miami after being sidelined since January 12 with a strained calf, tweets Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

Clippers Center Ivica Zubac Out At Least Four Weeks

Clippers center Ivica Zubac will miss at least a month due to a right calf strain, Andrew Greif of the Los Angeles Times tweets. The team says Zubac will be reevaluated in four weeks.

Zubac has been one of the most durable players in the league over the last five seasons. He has appeared in at least 72 regular season games in each of the past four seasons, but it looks like that streak will come to an end in 2023/24.

In 38 starts this season, Zubac has averaged 12.4 points, 9.7 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 27.1 minutes per game. He’s in the second season of a bargain three-year, $32.8MM contract.

It’s a huge blow for the Clippers, who are 17-4 over the last 21 games. Without him, the Clippers will have to rely on veterans Daniel Theis and Mason Plumlee to pick up the slack. The front office could also explore trade options to fortify the position.

Pacific Notes: Warriors, Curry, Zubac, Beal

In search of answers after a poor stretch of games, the Warriors made another change to their starting lineup on Friday night, with Dario Saric replacing Jonathan Kuminga, per Kendra Andrews of ESPN (Twitter link). Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Andrew Wiggins and Kevon Looney were the other four starters.

Golden State gave up 75 points to the Bulls at half, which was a season-high for Chicago, and trailed by 13 after two periods. But the Warriors rebounded with a 48-20 third quarter and wound up winning by nine.

Here’s more from the Pacific:

  • Curry has been in a slump of late for the Warriors, and it’s clear the ups and downs of the season have been wearing on him, writes Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic. “I feel like we’ve been in this situation for the last two years,” Curry said. “Even in the championship year, we started 18-2 and then we had some rough patches like this where we struggled mightily. These last couple of years have been rough because of all the noise and distractions, because of the lack of consistency on the court. At least last year we had enough to scare somebody. But we’re far from that right now.”
  • Center Ivica Zubac has been playing an important role during the Clippers‘ surge up the standings, per Janis Carr of The Orange County Register. The eight-year veteran is averaging career highs in multiple categories this season and has formed a strong two-man game on offense with James Harden while anchoring the paint defensively. “I knew I could play in that pocket, that I could be a roll man on offense and defense,” said Zubac. “I’m confident in my game a lot, so I’ve always been confident. But right now, it’s at a high level.”
  • Suns guard Bradley Beal had his best game of the season during Thursday’s victory over the Lakers in Los Angeles, recording 37 point (on 14-of-21 shooting, including 8-of-10 from deep), six rebounds and four assists in 32 minutes. In a story for Sportskeeda, Mark Medina describes Beal’s transition to Phoenix, writing that the three-time All-Star has drawn rave reviews for fitting in so well with the team, despite dealing with injuries for much of 2023/24. “Brad is one of the best players in the world,” Kevin Durant said. “To see an opportunity to see that close up and see a guy every day and see who he truly is as a player and then you come out there and get moments like that, that’s always fun. I enjoy seeing my teammates cook like that. We’re going to need more from him because that ignites the bench and it ignites the crowd, even if we’re on the road.”

Pacific Notes: Green, Durant, Clippers, Lakers

Speaking to the media on Sunday for the first time since he received a five-game suspension for putting Rudy Gobert in a headlock for several seconds, Warriors forward/center Draymond Green expressed no remorse for actions, writes Kendra Andrews of ESPN.

I don’t live my life with regrets,” Green said. “I’ll come to a teammate’s defense any time that I’m in a position to come to a teammate’s defense. … What matters to me is how the people that I care about feel, first and foremost. How are the people that I care about affected? How are the people I care about, what do they have to deal with? That’s it for me.”

Head coach Steve Kerr initially defended Green in the aftermath of the incident between Golden State and Minnesota, but he later changed his stance and said the forward’s behavior was “inexcusable” and the suspension was deserved. While Green didn’t outright disclose any specific details about the talks he had with Kerr and general manager Mike Dunleavy Jr., it’s pretty clear they want him to make better decisions going forward, according to Andrews.

The consensus amongst all of us is that I’m going to be me no matter what. That’s not going to change,” Green said. “But in saying that, there’s always a better way that something can be done. So it’s figuring out a better way. That’s the consensus among all of us.”

Green, who also complained about being harshly penalized in part due to his past transgressions, won’t be on a minutes restriction when he returns for Tuesday’s matchup in Sacramento since he wasn’t injured, Andrews notes.

Here’s more from the Pacific:

  • Suns star Kevin Durant missed his second straight game on Sunday in New York due to right foot soreness, as ESPN.com relays. Durant, who warmed up before contest before being ruled out, is considered day-to-day. Phoenix’s next game isn’t until Wednesday in Toronto, so he’ll have some extra rest the next couple days.
  • Saturday’s decisive victory over Dallas showcased the Clippers‘ depth, according to Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. With James Harden and Kawhi Leonard struggling for a second consecutive game, the Clips got key contributions from Russell Westbrook (14 points on 6-of-9 shooting, eight rebounds, seven assists), Terance Mann (17 points on 7-of-14 shooting), Norman Powell (15 points without missing a shot), and Ivica Zubac (11 points on 5-of-8 shooting, 14 rebounds), Greif writes.
  • With Cam Reddish (left adductor), Rui Hachimura (nasal fracture), Jarred Vanderbilt (left heel bursitis) and Gabe Vincent (left knee effusion) all sidelined on Saturday in Cleveland, the Lakers used a shortened eight-man rotation, per Khobi Price of The Southern California News Group. Head coach Darvin Ham says they need to “weather the storm” until they get some players back. “You have to see the glass half full always, so I’d rather this happen now with some of our guys as opposed to late March, April going into that money time,” Ham said. “We just have to weather the storm. That’s why you try to put together a deep roster. I think the plan for our team that we put together and tried to execute this summer is coming to fruition. We’re needing these pieces, being deep at every position allows you a chance to weather all of this to try to get through it at the highest level possible.” After starting the season 3-5, the Lakers have won seven of their past nine games and hold a 10-7 record.

James Harden To Make Clippers Debut On Monday

Star guard James Harden will make his first appearance of the 2023/24 season on Monday, according to Shams Charania and Law Murray of The Athletic (Twitter link), who reports that Harden will make his Clippers debut in New York vs. the Knicks.

The expectation, per The Athletic’s duo, is that Harden will start alongside Russell Westbrook, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and Ivica Zubac.

There had been some speculation that Westbrook might be moved to the bench to play the sort of sixth man role he did with the Lakers during the first half of last season. That would allow the Clippers to stagger their ball-dominant players a little more. However, it sounds like the team will look to make it work with a starting five that features a pair of former MVPs in the backcourt alongside star forwards George and Leonard.

Harden had yet to play this season for Philadelphia prior to Wednesday’s blockbuster trade that sent him to Los Angeles, but 76ers head coach Nick Nurse and Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue both told reporters that the 34-year-old looked great in practices, so he wasn’t expected to require an extended ramp-up period.

The Clippers last played on Wednesday and are in the midst of four consecutive days off, giving them ample time to get Harden up to speed. The club’s other newcomer, P.J. Tucker, played nearly 21 minutes on Wednesday, about 12 hours after the trade was officially finalized.