Kobe Brown

Clippers Notes: Leonard, Harden, Playoffs, Brown

Kawhi Leonard‘s status remains uncertain, but coach Tyronn Lue is preparing for him to be ready when the Clippers open their first-round series with Dallas on Sunday, writes Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN. Leonard, who missed the last eight games of the regular season due to inflammation in his right knee, hasn’t played since March 31.

Before today’s practice, Lue told reporters that the medical staff would determine how much Leonard would be permitted to do during the session. Team doctors were also monitoring Leonard to see how his knee responded after taking part in a quarter of Tuesday’s practice.

Lue added that Leonard is making progress, but there’s still not a set timetable for his return.

“Letting medical take over, and whatever is the best thing for Kawhi, making sure you protect him first,” Lue said. “But whatever is best for him is what we’re going to do. Not sure of the minutes yet, or how long he’ll be able to play. So we just kind of wait and take it day by day.”

There’s more on the Clippers:

  • James Harden is confident that he’ll be ready for the playoff opener after missing three of the team’s last four games with inflammation in his right foot, Youngmisuk adds. Harden is hoping to change his playoff reputation in L.A. after a recent history of sub-par performances. “I mean I always want to play well in the playoffs,” Harden said. “I’ve had some not great games, but I have some really good games. So for me, I think the goal is to win, and that’s the only thing that I’m missing at the highest level as far as my NBA career. Of course, I want to play well individually and then I want our team to play well. So I think it’s my job as one of the leaders on this team is to make sure our guys are fulfilling their potential and maximizing what they bring to our team to the best of their ability, game by game.”
  • Harden expects everyone to be more focused now that the playoffs have arrived and wasn’t bothered that Lue called the team “soft” a few weeks ago (video link from Tomer Azarly of ClutchPoints). “We’re still a fairly new group,” he said. “… For me, I think it’s just not getting bored with the game, find ways to keep getting better, even when you feel like it’s a tough game or opponent might not be as good, you might not feel the best. … Now we’re locked in on one opponent.”
  • Kobe Brown is looking forward to his first NBA postseason, per Janis Carr of The Orange County Register, who talked to Brown after last Friday’s game when the Clippers returned to the locker room to find thick scouting reports on the Mavericks on their chairs. “I’m really excited to see what it’s like,” Brown said. “We already got the playoff scouting report or whatever it is. Big packet that I’ve never had before. It’s going to be fun, exciting … I want to see how far we go. Hopefully, we can win it all. It will be fun.”

Clippers Notes: Brown, Harden, Powell, Consistency, Primo

Clippers forward Kobe Brown has usurped P.J. Tucker in the team’s rotation of late, per Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. Brown, who was the final first-round pick of this year’s draft (30th overall), is receiving a rare opportunity for a Clippers rookie, Greif writes, as L.A. has been focused on contending in recent years — its young players typically receive playing time in the G League instead of the NBA.

That was also the case for Brown prior to the trade for James Harden, which saw the Clippers send out four forwards and only receive one in return (Tucker), creating a void at the position. The 23-year-old said his time with the Ontario Clippers was beneficial, Greif notes.

The G League definitely helped, a lot,” he said. “It’s the same stuff we do with the big team but the games are a lot slower, at least in my opinion, so you’re able to grasp onto stuff we’re doing a lot easier so when you come back up it’s like, everything slows down a little bit for me. That’s been the biggest thing for me, really.”

Brown’s statistics have been modest to this point, which is to be expected with so many ball-dominant players on the roster. But the team likes his versatility, and head coach Tyronn Lue has been encouraging him to remain confident even when he makes mistakes, according to Greif.

Here’s more on the Clippers:

  • L.A. reeled off six straight losses after acquiring Harden, but the Clippers have gone 7-3 over their past 10 games and are back at .500 with a 10-10 record. What has led to the turnaround? Law Murray of The Athletic explores that topic, writing that Harden is regaining his form, Norman Powell continues to provide a lift off the bench, and players growing more comfortable in their roles have all played factors in the team’s improved play.
  • Despite recent comeback wins over Golden State and Denver, the Clippers are still searching for consistency, Greif writes for The Los Angeles Times (subscription required). Evaluating the team through 20 games is nearly impossible because of all the changes to the roster and rotation, says Greif, but one thing seems certain — avoiding playing Harden and Russell Westbrook together is a must, with Lue saying the team plans to stagger their minutes late in games.
  • Guard Joshua Primo won’t face charges after being accused of “exposing himself to one individual” five different times over the course of several months, Greif tweets. The Bexar County District Attorney’s office cited a lack of evidence as the reason why Primo won’t be charged with a crime. The 20-year-old was given a second chance this fall by the Clippers after being waived by San Antonio last year for engaging in “inappropriate and offensive behavior by exposing himself to women.” The NBA imposed a four-game suspension and Primo has been undergoing therapy for his behavior, which allegedly included multiple incidents with Dr. Hillary Cauthen, a sports psychologist who worked for the Spurs during his time with the organization.

Pacific Notes: Paul, Brown, Vezenkov, LaVine

Warriors guard Chris Paul seems to have avoided a major injury. Paul exited Golden State’s Tuesday game against Sacramento in the first quarter due to a lower left leg nerve contusion. He underwent an MRI on Wednesday, according to a team release (Twitter link via Andscape’s Marc J. Spears), and it confirmed his contusion and revealed no structural damage.

While Paul has to miss the Warriors’ next two games, he’s scheduled to be reevaluated on Monday.

Paul is an integral part of the Warriors’ rotation, averaging 8.9 points and 7.3 assists per game in 18 appearances (seven starts) this season. With Gary Payton II also out, Moses Moody and Cory Joseph are most likely to pick up extra minutes during Golden State’s upcoming stretch of games.

We have more from the Pacific Division:

  • Clippers head coach Tyronn Lue said rookie forward Kobe Brown will be a part of the team’s rotation moving forward, tweets ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk. Lue said he wants to give Brown a chance due to his ability to knock down shots and his physicality. Brown is averaging 2.5 points and 1.6 rebounds in eight games this season after being selected with the 30th overall pick in this year’s draft.
  • Kings forward Sasha Vezenkov had season highs of 13 points and five rebounds during Sacramento’s Wednesday loss to the Clippers, continuing to assert himself into the team’s rotation. According to Eurohoops.net, Vezenkov is still adjusting to the NBA after making the transition from EuroLeague this summer. “It’s like going from the EuroCup to the EuroLeague or from the EuroLeague to the NBA,” Vezenkov said. “It’s hard to adjust, create your comfort zone, learn how the game is played, and earn everyone’s trust. With my work, my character, and my desire to win and help the team, I’m sure everything will be fine.”
  • Stemming from reports that the Lakers are expected to register some interest in trading for Bulls star guard Zach LaVine, Eric Pincus of Bleacher Report explores whether such a trade makes sense for Los Angeles. Pincus writes that matching the price (LaVine is set to make $40.1MM this season) and taking on his long-term money (he’s under contract through at least 2026) are huge risks for the Lakers. On top of that, L.A.’s biggest issues this year have been injury problems and dealing with opposing centers and LaVine doesn’t address either of those concerns. Pincus reasons that the Lakers should consider trying to trade for Andre Drummond and Alex Caruso rather than for LaVine.

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” to 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.