Kobe Brown

Robert Covington Approaching 2023/24 Season With “Vendetta”

Robert Covington feels like he has a lot to prove to the Clippers after being kept out of the rotation for nearly all of last season, writes Law Murray of The Athletic.

The 32-year-old forward appeared in just 48 games and averaged 16.2 minutes per night, the lowest total since his rookie season. He doesn’t understand why he spent so much time on the bench, adding that he hasn’t talked to head coach Tyronn Lue since the playoffs ended.

L.A. was Covington’s fifth team in four years when the Clippers acquired him shortly before the 2022 trade deadline. He became the primary backup at power forward and believed the fit was so good that he didn’t test free agency, opting for a two-year extension with L.A. instead.

Covington had a regular role at the beginning of last season while starting center Ivica Zubac was injured. But after entering health and safety protocols at the end of October, Covington didn’t see consistent playing time again. He was expecting to be traded before the February deadline, Murray adds, but he remained on the roster, although he was stuck behind Marcus Morris and Nicolas Batum. Even when Paul George and Kawhi Leonard were sidelined with late-season injuries, Lue didn’t insert Covington back into the rotation.

“I got a vendetta. It’s a bigger chip on my shoulder,” Covington said of his approach to the upcoming season. “Not playing that much last year really put me in a place — all right. I got to force them. So, come back, do what I got to do. They say this is the mentality of, you know, come back strong, get better. That way, it won’t be none of that. Won’t be no issues of, whatever the case. … It’s the way the year went. It wasn’t how I expected, but I said it’s come back, go to the drawing board, and get better.”

Covington addresses a few other topics in his interview with Murray. Here are some highlights:

On getting ready to enter another season with an expiring contract:

“It ain’t no difference. Only difference is that I didn’t play last year. I mean, that’s the only difference. I approach every chance, every opportunity like that —it’s no different. So my mentality don’t shift, I don’t get discouraged or anything. I got to do what I do. And I do what I do best. So I’m never going to stray away. Never going to stray away from anything of that nature. I am going to be who I am, and that’s just what it is.”

On whether there was anything to learn from spending so much time on the bench:

“I didn’t take nothing from last year. Last year didn’t go how I expected, so I didn’t take nothing from it. I just wash it away and start over, a new year. That’s just my mentality of it. … It’s nothing that could be talked about. I mean, I really haven’t had much feedback besides, you know, what I’ve been doing now. I haven’t talked about last year. I’ve put that behind me and focused on right now and moving forward. That’s what it’s all about. Can’t dwell on what happened last year, whatever the case may be. It happened. So I’m just gonna wash, move forward.”

On his early impressions of offseason additions Kenyon Martin Jr., Jordan Miller and Kobe Brown, along with other workout partners such as Bones Hyland and Brandon Boston Jr.:

“Those guys are going to be special. I like Jordan’s tenacity, his pressure on defense, I like his cutting off ball. I like the plays and reads he made. The other guys came up here and played really well. You know, BB is starting to get better. Bones is getting better. KJ is athletic as hell. He’s gotten so much better. It is great to sit up here and see them dudes sit up here and prosper.”

Pacific Notes: Paul, Kuminga, Warriors, Eubanks, K. Brown

Appearing on ESPN’s NBA Today on Wednesday (YouTube link), Warriors head coach Steve Kerr discussed the addition of point guard Chris Paul and what he can bring to the team, highlighting Golden State’s turnover issues in 2022/23 and the future Hall-of-Famer’s ability to take care of the basketball.

As Tim Bontemps of ESPN writes, Paul has never come off the bench in his lengthy career. Following Team USA’s practice on Friday, Kerr brushed aside that topic, noting that it will be a matter for a future date.

I think that’ll be a case where you get three weeks of training camp before that first game,” Kerr said. “We’ll just look at all kinds of different combinations.

The main thing is we know all those guys are gonna play a lot of minutes. But the luxury of having Chris Paul to add to this group that we’ve been lucky enough to have for a decade … pretty remarkable. He is one of the great competitors in the game. He’s one of the great point guards of all time. I think he’s a great addition for us, because of his ability to control games, control tempo, take care of the ball.”

Here’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Warriors forward Jonathan Kuminga believes he’s primed for a breakout season in 2023/24, he told Leonard Solms of ESPN at the Basketball Without Borders camp in South Africa. “This upcoming season is definitely the year,” Kuminga said. “A lot of people are expecting so much from me – and myself; I’m expecting a lot. It’s a lot of pressure, but I don’t really pay attention to the noise. The pressure is always going to be there. It’s just [on] me to go out there and perform.” The former lottery pick also discussed mentoring his fellow African countrymen and the importance he places on “growing as a person,” per Solms.
  • What can the Suns expect from free agent addition Drew Eubanks? Gerald Bourguet explores that question in detail for PHNX Sports, writing that the big man’s shot blocking, mobility, foot work, athletic finishing, solid screening, and physicality are positive traits he’ll bring to his new club.
  • The Clippers selected former Missouri forward Kobe Brown with the 30th overall pick in June’s draft. They’ve been impressed with Brown’s versatility and willingness to make winning plays, according to Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. “He can do a lot of things without having the ball in his hands, as you saw,” Summer League coach Dahntay Jones said. “…He can do a bunch of different things to complement the cast that we have already. He knows he’s a basketball player first. He doesn’t hang his hat on scoring. He hangs his hat on having a positive effect on the game of basketball.”

Pacific Notes: Kawhi, Brown, Suns Payroll

The Clippers are reportedly in “no rush”t o enter into a new extension for oft-injured star forward Kawhi Leonard, reports Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN in a new edition of Zach Lowe’s podcast The Lowe Post.

“I hear it’s kind of quiet right now,” Youngmisuk said (hat tip to Joey Linn of Sports Illustrated for the transcription). “There is no rush on an extension for Kawhi Leonard, and then Paul George will be eligible in September.”

The 32-year-old Leonard, a five-time All-Star, two-time Defensive Player of the Year and two-time Finals MVP, remains an impactful player when healthy. After missing the entire 2021/22 season with an ACL tear, the 6’7″ swingman averaged 23.8 PPG on .512/.416/.871 shooting splits, along with 6.5 RPG, 3.9 APG, 1.4 SPG and 0.5 BPG last year, albeit in just 52 games. He tore his meniscus during L.A.’s first-round matchup against the Suns this spring, and has not played a full postseason without a major injury since 2020.

As Youngmisuk notes, Leonard’s fellow injury-prone, maximum-salaried wing George will also be eligible for a lucrative new extension this offseason.

There’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • Clippers rookie Kobe Brown considers his four years of college seasoning a positive asset as he preps for his pro hoops debut, writes Tomer Azarly of Clutch Points. The 6’7″ wing was selected with the No. 30 pick out of Missouri in June. “Just because of the experience, the maturity on and off-the-court,” Brown told Azarly of how his extended NCAA run will help him at the next level. “I hear some guys you gotta kind of worry about off-the-court and if they’ll catch onto stuff faster, but me being older, I’ve kind of already lived a lot, not a whole lot, but a little bit more than some of the younger guys in the league so I understand a lot of off-the-court stuff a lot better.”
  • The Suns’ $188.5MM payroll ranks third in the NBA this season. Jeremy Cluff of The Arizona Republic unpacks the team’s contract situation for 2023/24. That number will shoot up to $204MM+ in 2024/25 among just 11 players who will be signed on that season, assuming some player and team options are picked up.
  • In case you missed it, former Warriors president of basketball operations Bob Myers is expected to receive a variety of inquiries about his services, should openings arise in rival front offices. Myers has publicly stated he wanted to take a break from the NBA at large upon departing, so it will be interesting to see how clubs try to entice him to return.

L.A. Notes: Plumlee, Brown, LeBron, Wood

Mason Plumlee might have landed more money or a starting spot with another team, but he was willing to accept a one-year, $5MM contract because he wanted to stay with the Clippers, writes Janis Carr of The Orange County Register. The 33-year-old center settled into a reserve role behind Ivica Zubac after being acquired from the Hornets in February. He made just four starts in 23 games while averaging 7.5 points and 6.9 rebounds in about 20 minutes per night.

“I was very comfortable,” Plumlee said. “It’s an easy system to get comfortable with and they (front office) were just very clear and what they were looking for so that made (my decision) smooth.”

Plumlee also admitted it’s hard to leave an organization that has a chance to be a title contender. He believes the Clippers will be back in the race for the top after losing in the first round of the playoffs last season.

“That was the biggest thing, to be honest with you,” Plumlee said of the Clippers’ title aspirations. “You know, I think a lot of teams talk about it, but there are a few teams that believe it, and this is one of those teams. So that was a major factor.”

There’s more from Los Angeles:

  • Clippers rookie Kobe Brown thought he should have been taken higher than 30th in the draft, and he’s been showing why at Summer League, per Steve Reed of The Associated Press. Brown sank seven three-pointers on his way to a 35-point night in Friday’s win over the Sixers.
  • Lakers star LeBron James will change his number from 6 back to 23 next season in deference to the late Bill Russell, according to Dave McMenamin of ESPN. “It’s LeBron’s decision,” said James’ agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports Group. “He chose to out of respect for Bill Russell.” 
  • Financial constraints may be keeping the Lakers from reaching out to free agent big man Christian Wood, Marc Stein suggests in a Substack chat. L.A. only has 13 players with guaranteed contracts and reportedly wants to add more size, but the team doesn’t have the available funds to make a competitive offer to Wood, who earned $14.3MM with the Mavericks last season.

Clippers Sign First-Rounder Kobe Brown

The Clippers have signed late first-round pick Kobe Brown, according to the team’s PR department.

The 6’7” forward played four seasons at Missouri. He averaged 15.8 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.5 steals last season for the Tigers.

As the last first-round selection in last month’s draft at No. 30 overall, Brown will make $2,413,320 in his rookie season. His four-year rookie scale contract will total $12,394,178.

The salary figures represent 120% of the rookie scale amounts for 2023’s first-round picks. Rookie scale contracts are guaranteed for the first two years, with team options on the third and fourth years.

The 23-year-old Brown has much more experience than a typical rookie and the Clippers could look to get him some meaningful minutes early in his career.

Clippers Notes: George, Leonard, Westbrook, Brown, Miller

Paul George‘s name has surfaced in trade rumors a few times this month, but Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank told reporters this week that the team intends to continue building its roster around George and Kawhi Leonard, per Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“It’s still the plan,” Frank said. “What we are trying to do is how can we put together the best team around these guys? And we look at the different things, what has worked, what hasn’t worked, the job that we have to do better, the job that we challenge our players to continue to do better. We are trying to maximize these two and figure out ways we can get better.”

There has been some speculation that the trade rumors involving George have popped up because he’ll become extension-eligible this offseason and the Clippers may be reluctant to offer him another maximum-salary deal, given his injury history. The same thinking applies to Leonard, who will also become eligible for an extension. Asked about possible new contracts for the team’s two star forwards, Frank referred to the conversation as “premature.”

“We do talk [about] what the plan is, but we really can’t get into those specifics until the appropriate date and we will have the dialogues like we do,” he said, according to Youngmisuk. “We are very, very honest and [have] open conversations and see if there is something that makes sense for both sides.”

Here’s more on the Clippers:

  • Frank made it clear during this week’s press conference that the club wants to re-sign point guard Russell Westbrook, despite only having the ability to offer him a salary of $3.8MM using the Non-Bird exception. “Russ is a free agent and gets to choose,” Frank said, per Youngmisuk. “As he’s shown, he did a phenomenal job during his time with the Clippers. … We want Russ back but also respect the fact that he’s a free agent. But hopefully we can keep him a Clipper.”
  • Veteran NBA reporter Howard Beck is treating Frank’s comments about wanting to build around George and Leonard with a grain of salt, suggesting during an appearance on the FnA podcast that the Clippers aren’t “trying to give (George) away,” but that he’s “certainly available” via trade. “Lawrence Frank is going to say what he has to say,” Beck said (hat tip to Bleacher Report). “Team GMs and presidents always say that, ‘No, we love our guys,’ right up until the moment that they trade them. That’s just how this thing goes.”
  • Law Murray of The Athletic takes a look at what the Clippers are getting in No. 30 pick Kobe Brown and No. 48 pick Jordan Miller and what lies ahead for the team in free agency. As Murray notes, Los Angeles’ two draft picks reflect the team’s win-now mindset — both Brown and Miller are already 23 years old.

Trade Rumors: G. Williams, Hunter, Nuggets, Wizards, Ayton, More

The Mavericks are among the teams that have spoken to the Celtics about the idea of a Grant Williams sign-and-trade, a league source tells Tim Cato of The Athletic. While it’s not easy to envision a deal that gets Williams to Dallas and appeals to both teams, the Mavs are just one of many potential suitors for the restricted free agent forward.

According to Jared Weiss of The Athletic, there have been more than a half-dozen teams to inquire with the Celtics about the possibility of signing-and-trading for Williams. At this point, Boston is conveying that it wants to retain Williams, per Weiss, who notes that new Celtics assistant coach Charles Lee is a fan of the forward and could help get more out of him in 2023/24 and beyond.

Within his story, Weiss also notes that veteran guard Malcolm Brogdon, who is optimistic he can avoid surgery on a torn tendon in his left elbow, would like to remain in Boston. Brogdon’s name has come up in trade rumors early in the offseason as the Celtics reportedly explore ways to clear a backcourt logjam.

Here are a few more trade-related rumors and notes from around the NBA:

  • Within his latest mock draft, Jonathan Wasserman of Bleacher Report cites league sources who say the Hawks have explored the trade market for forward De’Andre Hunter. One motivating factor, Wasserman explains, would be opening up more playing time for promising young wing AJ Griffin.
  • The Nuggets, who worked out Trayce Jackson-Davis, Andre Jackson, Jordan Walsh, Kobe Brown, Drew Timme, and Tyree Appleby on Tuesday, continue to actively explore deals that would get them into the first round of Thursday’s draft, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post (subscription required), who says Denver is talking to multiple teams.
  • The Wizards asked for Suns center Deandre Ayton when the two teams were negotiating their Bradley Beal trade, but Phoenix was unwilling to include him, tweets John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7.
  • Gambadoro said this week during an appearance on the HoopsHype podcast that he has been told the Heat weren’t all that interested in pushing for Beal. Reports have indicated that Beal would have approved a move to Miami, and it seems as though the Heat could’ve put a stronger package on the table than the one the Wizards got from the Suns if they’d been so inclined.
  • While it comes as no surprise, the heads of basketball operations for the Hornets (Mitch Kupchak) and Pacers (Kevin Pritchard) both said they don’t anticipate keeping and using all of the 2023 draft picks they own, per Rod Boone of The Charlotte Observer (Twitter link) and Scott Agness of Fieldhouse Files. The two teams, who each figure to make at least one draft-night trade, control five picks apiece — Indiana has three in the first round and two in the second, while Charlotte has a pair of first-rounders and three early seconds.

Draft Decisions: Tshiebwe, Phillips, Brown, More

In one of this year’s most anticipated decisions, Kentucky’s Oscar Tshiebwe announced that he will keep his name in the NBA draft pool, tweets Jeff Goodman of Stadium.

Tshiebwe was selected as the national player of the year in 2022 after averaging 17.4 points and 15.1 rebounds per game as a junior, and he was an All-American again this season with 16.5 PPG and 13.7 RPG. Despite his lofty college status, Tshiebwe isn’t a sure thing to get drafted, ranking 75th on ESPN’s big board.

“What makes me decide what I’m going to do today is not about me,” Tshiebwe said in his press conference, per Roderick Boone of The Charlotte Observer. “Most of the time I pray and I follow the discernment of God. It’s just I am following what God has put in place, because the decision, if you feel peace and joy and happiness in your heart, that’s what you’ve got to go with.”

A few more high-profile players have decided to remain in the draft ahead of the 11:59 pm EDT deadline to withdraw and retain their NCAA eligibility. Among them are Tennessee’s Julian Phillips, according to Jonathan Givony of ESPN (Twitter link). The freshman small forward has gotten positive feedback from NBA teams during the pre-draft process, Givony adds. Phillips, 19, is listed at 34th on ESPN’s rankings, making him a potential late first-round pick.

Also staying in the draft is Kobe Brown of Missouri, tweets Matt Norlander of CBS Sports. Norlander considers the senior power forward a possible second-round pick, and ESPN has him listed at No. 46.

Baylor’s Adam Flagler, who has one year of eligibility remaining, has decided to remain in the draft as well, Goodman tweets. The shooting guard is listed as No. 80 by ESPN.

Among those deciding to withdraw from the draft, today’s most significant decisions involved Florida Atlantic guards Johnell Davis and Alijah Martin, who helped the Owls reach the Final Four in March, per Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. He projects that their return will make FAU a preseason top-five team for next season.

According to Woj, Martin worked out for the Mavericks, Celtics, Bulls and Clippers, while Davis had sessions with the Celtics, Kings, Bucks, Jazz, Sixers and Pacers.

Here are a few more early entrants who have decided to return to school:

Central Notes: Pacers, Pistons, Duren, Cavs

Indiana will be hosting six prospects on Friday for the team’s first pre-draft workout, the Pacers announced in a press release.

The six players are UConn’s Andre Jackson, UCLA’s Jaime Jaquez, Missouri’s Kobe Brown, Creighton’s Arthur Kaluma, North Dakota State’s Grant Nelson, and Liutauras Lelevicius, a Lithuanian prospect who played for Zalgris II this past season.

Jackson (30), Jaquez (32), Brown (43), Kaluma (90), and Nelson (94) all appear on ESPN’s top-100 prospects list, while Lelevicius is unranked. The Pacers control their own lottery pick, two late first-rounders (26th and 29th), and two second-round picks (either 50th or 32nd, plus 55th).

Here’s more from the Central:

  • Hiring the right head coach, having a successful draft, and acquiring forward depth in free agency are among the top offseason priorities for the Pistons, according to Mike Curtis of The Detroit News (subscriber link), who thinks the team should pursue Nets restricted free agent Cameron Johnson.
  • Pistons center Jalen Duren, who was recently named to the All-Rookie Second Team, was mostly pleased with his debut season, but he’s going to work on his conditioning and consistency in year two, Curtis writes in another subscriber-only story. “Consistency is a huge word,” Duren said. “To be great, you have to be consistent. For me, it’s honestly just being locked in and trying to understand what’s going on. ‘Being where my feet are,’ I like to say, and try to take over games, dominate games and affect games in any way possible. … I feel like that will come. I’m excited about what I can be in this league.”
  • Josh Richardson, Kelly Oubre, Max Strus, Gary Trent Jr. and Jalen McDaniels could be the types of wings the Cavaliers choose to go after in free agency with their mid-level exception, Kelsey Russo states in a mailbag for The Athletic. I don’t see Trent falling to that price point, especially since he could just opt in to his $18.8MM player option if he isn’t confident about getting a better payday, but the other four might be attainable (whether or not they’d be a good fit is another story).

NBA Reveals Players Expected At 2023 Draft Combine

The NBA has announced 78 players that are expected to attend this year’s draft combine, scheduled for May 15-21 at in Chicago, Jon Rothstein of CBS Sports tweets.

Additionally, a select number of standout players from the G League Elite Camp, which takes place May 13-14 in Chicago, will be invited to participate in the combine.

Players will have interviews with NBA teams and participate in five-on-five scrimmages, as well as shooting, strength and agility drills. Some top prospects opt out of the scrimmages.

Victor Wembanyama, the projected top pick, is not on the list. His French League season is still ongoing.

The list of invitees is as follows: