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Pacific Notes: Ballmer, Ariza, Caruso, Howard

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer invested $100MM in the city of Inglewood, California this week, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com.

The investment was created as part of the city’s new arena development agreement, with the Clippers labeling it as the largest funding commitment for community programs related to a sports or entertainment venue in California.

“We’re close to a residential neighborhood and we are being very mindful,” Ballmer told ESPN in July about building a potential arena in Inglewood. “Investing well into the community, being a good citizen of the community. No homes need to get moved but we need to be a good neighbor.”

Ballmer’s proposal for a new Clippers arena, according to Youngmisuk, would include a corporate headquarters, team training facility, sports medicine clinic and much more.

“I want it to be beautiful,” Ballmer said. “But I want it to be about basketball. I want it to be comfortable. But I want it to be about basketball.”

There’s more today out of the Pacific Division:

  • James Ham of NBC Sports Sacramento examines how Trevor Ariza could fit in a crowded Kings rotation this season. Ariza, a veteran 3-and-D forward, signed a two-year, $25MM deal to join the Kings in free agency this past summer.
  • Mike Trudell of Lakers.com discusses several Lakers-related items in his mailbag, including the possibility of Alex Caruso starting at point guard this season. Caruso was better than Rajon Rondo while playing alongside LeBron James last season, though head coach Frank Vogel also has the option of testing Quinn Cook at starting point guard in training camp.
  • Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com examines whether former All-Star Dwight Howard could help solve the Lakers‘ depth issues at the center position. Howard is expected to fill in the role that injured center DeMarcus Cousins was supposed to fill before tearing his ACL, likely playing back-up center behind JaVale McGee to start the season and controlling the team’s interior presence on defense.

Atlantic Notes: Randle, Dudley, Scott, Nets

The KnicksJulius Randle got a head start on building chemistry with his new teammates during workouts last month in Los Angeles, relays Marc Berman of The New York Post. Randle, who signed a three-year, $63MM contract, is among seven free agent additions in New York, along with rookies RJ Barrett and Ignas Brazdeikis.

“It’s important for us to get to know each other, spend time together on the court before training camp starts,” Randle said. “There’s a lot of new pieces. Everyone’s going to be trying to figure out their role. Coach (David Fizdale) is going to do a great job of helping us through that. If we want to be a good team and have a chance, we have to jump-start that process ourselves.”

From an individual standpoint, Randle is working this summer on becoming a more efficient scorer and is watching a lot of tape to try to improve defensively. He believes people who are expecting another losing season in New York are undervaluing the team.

“It’s easy to do that because the last couple of seasons have been hard,’’ Randle said. “It’s easy to underestimate us. But we’re a deep team. We’re a very deep 1-to-15 with guys who can play. If they underestimate us, I don’t care.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Jared Dudley was interested in signing with the Celtics, but the team believed it already had enough wings and wanted to keep a roster spot open, reports Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. The Boston College alum wound up joining the Lakers on a one-year deal.
  • Sixers forward Mike Scott is looking forward to having Al Horford as a teammate again, writes Lauren Rosen of NBA.com. Scott broke into the league with the Hawks in 2012/13 when Horford was one of the stars in Atlanta. “Not only is he a great player, he’s a great person,” Scott said. “You love to play with people like that. He’s humble, he’s grateful, he knows his role.”
  • The NBA Board of Governors is expected to address Joe Tsai’s purchase of the Nets next month, according to a NetsDaily article. The sale shouldn’t affect any of the basketball operations, but changes may be coming on the business side of the organization.

And-Ones: LaMelo, G League Draft, Gentile, Blair

LaMelo Ball was extremely impressive during the Drew League pro-am in Los Angeles, writes Jeremy Woo of Sports Illustrated. The younger brother of Lonzo Ball will spend the upcoming season in Australia and has a chance to be one of the top picks in the 2020 draft.

After seeing him in action, Woo states that LaMelo has a chance to be the best player in the family. He’s already 6’6″ at age 18 and is a much better scorer than Lonzo was at the same age. Woo describes LaMelo as “an excellent passer” with an effective change-of-pace move and a “quicker, cleaner release” on his shot than his brother has.

Woo also got a first-hand look at Cade Cunningham, whom he calls “best high school prospect regardless of class.” The 6’7″ point guard appears to be headed to Kentucky, North Carolina or Oklahoma State and could be the first player drafted in 2021.

  • Former NBA forward DeJuan Blair can’t fulfill the contract he signed with Italian team VL Pesaro earlier this month because of a doping suspension, Carchia writes. Blair failed an anti-doping test during the 2017/18 season, but wasn’t aware because FIBA sent the notification to the wrong email address. Blair was selected by the Austin Spurs in last year’s G League draft.

Atlantic Notes: Walker, Carmelo, Rozier, Payton

The chemistry problems that plagued the Celtics last season don’t appear to be a concern now that Kemba Walker has replaced Kyrie Irving in the Boston backcourt, writes Sekou Smith of NBA.com. Walker is getting to know three of his new teammates — Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart — while preparing for the FIBA World Cup, and it sounds like they’re off to a great start.

“They’re just some really good young dudes and I just enjoy being around them,” Walker said. “And the age difference is really crazy to me. J.T. is like 21 and J.B. is 22 and Marcus is 25. And I’m 29 and feeling like, wow, this is cool. It sounds crazy. I remember when I was 21 in this league. I was a rookie and just trying to figure it all out. And these guys are young vets already. Like I said, it’s crazy.”

Age difference was a recurring theme in Boston last season as Irving frequently criticized his younger teammates and talked to the press about how tough it is to be a leader. Walker has raved about the work ethic that Tatum, Brown and Smart are showing and how quickly they’ve adapted to the international game.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Carmelo Anthony‘s presence in summer workouts with Nets players doesn’t mean Brooklyn plans to sign him, according to Brian Lewis of The New York Post“Nothing to it,” a source close to Anthony said. “There’s several guys (playing) that aren’t Nets, but friends and other NBA players.” Team officials and Anthony’s agent, Leon Rose, refused to comment.
  • Terry Rozier, who signed with the Hornets last month, tells Lewis in a separate story that there are no hard feelings between him and Irving after their tumultuous time with the Celtics“A lot of people don’t know how great of a person he is,” Rozier said. “A lot of people think I hate Kyrie. And a lot of people think that me and Kyrie not cool, but we text, and I text him right before free agency.”
  • Knicks GM Scott Perry had been pursuing Elfrid Payton for a long time before signing him in July, relays Marc Berman of The New York Post. Perry, who acquired Payton for the Magic in a draft-night trade in 2014, attempted to bring him to New York at the 2018 trade deadline. “I’m very aware of Scott’s interest,’’ said Payton’s father, Elfrid Payton Sr. “He’s showed confidence in him and always kept track of him when he left. He’s always someone who really believed in him. Somebody invested in you like that and knows you, that’s a big thing.”

And-Ones: Clippers, Wroten, Giedraitis, Caffey

The signing of Kawhi Leonard and the trade for Paul George helped the Clippers have the league’s best offseason, according to David Aldridge of The Athletic. L.A. added two potential MVP candidates while keeping the core of last year’s playoff team intact and acquiring another rotation piece by trading for Maurice Harkless.

The Nets, who also hit the jackpot in free agency by signing Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving, finished second on Aldridge’s list, followed by the Jazz, Lakers and Sixers. At the bottom are the Hornets, who lost Kemba Walker and replaced him with Terry Rozier, and the Warriors, who not only saw Durant leave, but also parted with Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston, two key components of their championship teams.

There’s more NBA-related news to pass along:

  • Tony Wroten, whose journey to the EuroLeague we profiled earlier this week, has decided to sign with Anwil Wloclawek in Poland rather than KK Zadar in Croatia, tweets Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Wroten, 26, attended a mini-camp with the Wizards in June.
  • Lithuanian swingman Rokas Giedraitis turned down multiple opportunities to play in Summer League this year, according to international basketball writer Donatas Urbonas (Twitter link). A few teams considered offering him a two-way deal last year, but he remains “under the NBA radar.” Giedraitis is considered a late bloomer at 27 and is under contract with Alba Berlin for the upcoming season.
  • Jason Caffey admits he embraced an irresponsible lifestyle during his time in the NBA, and now he is trying to warn younger athletes not to make the same mistakes, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe. Caffey believes the choices he made, along with an undiagnosed mental illness, prevented him from having a longer career. Caffey had 10 children with eight women and says watching their success inspired him to change. “When I saw them doing so well — got a son at Alabama and a daughter at Missouri, D1 schools,” he said. “I knew then if I could help my own kids — kids who were pegged to be kids of a guy who’s a deadbeat dad, a guy who’s never going to be anything again — when I overcame that stigma, I knew it was time for me to step out and help other children.”

World Cup Notes: Teodosic, Colangelo, Tatum, Fox

Former Clippers guard Milos Teodosic will miss the FIBA World Cup tournament after going through another bout of plantar fascitiis in his foot, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. Teodosic, who reached an agreement last month to play for Virtus Bologna in Italy, was part of a powerful Serbian team that is expected to challenge for a gold medal.

“He suffered again a plantar fascitiis injury,” said Serbian team doctor Dragan Radovanovic. “We already started intense therapies and they will continue in the next couple of days. We will see how the foot reacts and after we will able to know more precisely how long he has to rest.”

Teodosic was a star in the EuroLeague before coming to the NBA, but only played 60 games in two seasons for the Clippers before being waived in February. He suffered a plantar fascia tear during the 2017/18 campaign that ended his season early.

There’s more World Cup news to pass along:

  • Jerry Colangelo, who serves as director of USA Basketball, isn’t concerned about the number of big-name players who turned down invitations to training camp, relays Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated. Even though Kyle Lowry and Harrison Barnes are the only members of the 2016 Olympic team who have returned for the World Cup, Colangelo doesn’t see it as a crisis. “There isn’t any one reason—there’s myriad reasons,” he said. “We had 30 guys here last summer — they all said they wanted to play. Things happen. I think as we move forward, the World Cup is going to played with young players. It’s going to be a training site for the Olympics.”
  • Jayson Tatum and De’Aaron Fox were standouts in Team USA’s first public scrimmage Friday night, according to Colin Ward-Henninger of CBS Sports. Tatum led all scorers with 17 points and hit 3-of-5 shots from 3-point range. He also displayed a quicker release that was a welcome sight for Celtics fans. Fox had 12 points off the bench and brought plenty of energy to the game that resulted in several steals and fast-break dunks. He could have a significant role in the World Cup if Lowry is unable to play after thumb surgery.
  • Argentina’s final roster contains several familiar names, Carchia writes in a separate story. In addition to Luis Scola, who played 10 NBA seasons, the roster features Nicolas LaprovittolaNicolas Brussino and Patricio Garino.

Heat Notes: Olynyk, Johnson, Waiters, Adebayo

The Heat will face an important decision on Kelly Olynyk at some point this season, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Olynyk can opt out of his contract next summer if he believes he can do better than his $13.2MM salary for 2020/21, and his choice will have a significant effect on Miami’s flexibility in free agency.

The Heat can create about $12MM in cap room, assuming James Johnson opts in to his $16MM salary and free agent Goran Dragic is let go. If Olynyk opts out, that number will exceed $25MM, putting Miami in a much better position to add a top name in free agency. After this year’s spending spree, Winderman estimates only about six teams will have that much to spend.

He adds that the Heat may consider dealing Olynyk during the season so they don’t have to wait for his decision. They could also try to negotiate a long-term contract next summer that replaces the option year, but that would effectively take them out of the next free agency bonanza in 2021 when  include Giannis Antetokounmpo, Bradley Beal, Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, Blake Griffin, Jrue Holiday and Victor Oladipo will all be on the market.

There’s more this morning from Miami:

  • Johnson’s message for those who have lost faith in him and Dion Waiters after down seasons is “doubt at your own risk,” according to Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Johnson was slowed by a sports hernia, while Waiters was recovering from ankle surgery. “Dion is adamant about his and I’m more silent,” Johnson said. “We’ve been grinding and we’ve been working together on and off. I feel like he’s ready. He looks the best that I’ve seen since he’s been a Miami Heat. And I’m healthy.”
  • Bam Adebayo attended last night’s BIG3 games in Miami, but refused to comment on his release from Team USA, Winderman tweets. A late invite to training camp, Adebayo was among the first round of cuts announced Friday. Adebayo was an awkward fit with this year’s team because he serves as a complementary player and there aren’t many stars to complement, Winderman adds in a full story. His limited offense stands out when the American team will rely on scoring from all five positions.
  • Veteran forward Reggie Evans, who now plays for the BIG3’s Three-Headed Monsters, was in a more talkative mood Saturday, but not about the NBA, Winderman relays in another piece. Evans reacted angrily any time former members of the Heat were asked about playing in Miami or the NBA in general. However, Mario Chalmers, who is holding out hopes of an NBA comeback, said coming to Miami with the league is “just like playing at home for me.”

Pro Football Rumors Seeking Part-Time Writers

Our NFL sister site Pro Football Rumors is looking to add part-time contributors to its writing team. The position pays on an hourly basis. Applicants must meet ALL of the following criteria:

  • Exceptional knowledge of all 32 NFL teams, with no discernible bias.
  • Knowledge of the salary cap and transaction-related concepts.
  • At least some college education.
  • Extensive writing experience, with professional experience and a background in journalism both strongly preferred.
  • Keen understanding of journalistic principles, ethics and procedures. Completion of basic college-level journalism classes is strongly preferred.
  • Attention to detail — absolutely no spelling errors, especially for player and journalist names.
  • Ability to follow the site’s style and tone.
  • Ability to analyze articles and craft intelligent, well-written posts summing up the news in a few paragraphs. We need someone who can balance quick writing with thoughtful analysis. You must be able to add value to breaking news with your own insight, numbers or links to other relevant articles.
  • Ability to use an RSS feed reader. Ability to use Twitter. Both of these are crucial.
  • Strong weekend availability is crucial. You must be available to work between 1-5pm central time on Sundays and frequently be available to work between 5-11 pm CT on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.
  • Flexibility. You must be available to work on short notice.

If you’re interested, email pfrapplications@gmail.com by August 12 (11:00pm central time) and take a couple of paragraphs to explain why you qualify and stand out. Many will apply, so unfortunately we cannot respond to every applicant.

Clippers Notes: Rivers, Leonard, Patterson, Robinson

Doc Rivers will be in the spotlight with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George both joining the Clippers, but his training for dealing with superstars dates back to his early days as a coach in Orlando, writes Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times. Rivers had just completed his first year as a head coach in the summer of 2000 when the Magic signed both Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady, forming what was expected to be a super-team of that era.

“(Clippers president of basketball operations) Lawrence Frank did more research than any human being is possible to do,” Rivers said. “And I thought (former Magic general manager) John Gabriel did the same thing. That’s why we were successful in Orlando getting Tracy and Grant, and that’s why we’ve been successful today.”

In both cases, the free agent jackpot was preceded by a decision to trade a franchise player — Anfernee Hardaway in Orlando and Blake Griffin in L.A. Rivers insisted that both franchises remain competitive rather than tanking after the deals, believing that was the best way to lure free agents. George confirmed the value of that decision.

“You could just see their connection on the court,” he said of last year’s team. “Everybody pulling for one another, everybody elevated their games to be part of that camaraderie. That’s what made it such an attractive spot.”

There’s more Clippers news to pass along:

  • In the same story, Rivers offers an inside look at the negotiations with Leonard, saying the focus never strayed from how the team could compete for a title. “All the other stuff that people think matters in the recruitment, I don’t think Kawhi wanted to talk about that, and so I didn’t,” Rivers said. “I talked about winning, and basketball. Kawhi is a serious man and I think you felt that with him. I think he felt the seriousness of me and how serious I am about winning and how serious he is about winning and he felt good about that match.”
  • In his buyout with the Thunder, Patrick Patterson gave back $3.5MM of the $5.7MM he was owed, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. He will earn another $2.3MM with the Clippers this season.
  • Jerome Robinson didn’t see much playing time as a rookie, but he’s counting on a greater role in his second season, relays Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.
  • Mathias Lessort, whose rights were acquired from the Sixers in the Jimmy Butler trade, will play for German Bundesliga champion FC Bayern Munich this season, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. A 2017 draftee, Lessort spent last season in Spain.

Inside Kawhi Leonard’s Path To The Clippers

The Clippers were portrayed as a distant third in the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes before the opportunity developed to trade for Paul George, but their work behind the scenes paved the way for success, according to Jovan Buha and Sam Amick of The Athletic in a detailed look at one of the offseason’s most important stories.

Everything came together late on the night of July 5 when a tentative deal was reached with the Thunder that would deliver George for a generous return of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, five first-round picks and two pick swaps. The Clippers’ front office then held its collective breath during a phone call to Leonard and his representatives to make sure he was on board.

When the answer came, L.A. vaulted into a short list of the league’s elite teams. Pairing Leonard and George gives them a pair of two-way stars in their prime who are capable of delivering the first championship in franchise history. It also brings a pair of Southern California natives back home, but the authors suggest that storyline was overblown in Leonard’s case.

From the start of free agency, Leonard was focused on finding a team that could contend for a title every year. He spoke to the Clippers several times each day once free agency began, continuing the conversation past his official meeting on July 1. The team’s selling points included owner Steve Ballmer’s commitment to winning and to spending whatever it takes to get there, a player-friendly environment and a planned new arena in Inglewood.

It turns out that discretion also worked in the Clippers’ favor. They have a history of making major deals without leaking to the press, as evidenced by recent trades involving Blake Griffin and Tobias Harris. It’s an approach that Leonard’s camp insisted upon, and it helped them as Leonard sorted through his options.

The payoff came late that Friday night as George and Leonard committed to joining forces. As Buha and Amick note, the moves validated everything the Clippers have set up since Ballmer bought the team and allowed them to cash in the assets they collected in the Griffin and Harris deals. All the small moves they had made in recent years suddenly turned into a very big deal.

There are a few more significant details from the Athletic story:

  • In contrast to the Clippers‘ reputation to operating in the shadows, the Lakers tend to be very public about their business. Some observers believe their chances at Leonard were severely damaged when details of his meeting with former team president Magic Johnson became public. “I truly believe that when Magic started telling the media about the meeting he had with Kawhi and (his uncle and confidant, Dennis Robertson) that sealed the fate of the Lakers,” a person involved in the process told the authors. “I think that right there was when Dennis and Kawhi decided we can’t trust the Lakers as an organization. And that was it. I think that was it for them.”
  • Before learning of the opportunity with George, the Clippers ran through exhaustive scenarios about NBA stars who might be available. They contacted the Wizards about Bradley Beal and the Rockets about James Harden, but were turned down in both cases. Leonard, meanwhile, reached out to Jimmy Butler and Kevin Durant about coming to Los Angeles.
  • George and Russell Westbrook both talked to the Thunder in June about shaking up the franchise, frustrated by a second straight early playoff exit. However, Oklahoma City management believed everything had been smoothed over by the time free agency began.
  • Leonard, who has built a reputation of knocking off “super teams,” wasn’t especially interested in forming another one by joining LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the Lakers. “Elite players like Kawhi earn their stripes, and he was not going to be a guy who joins a so-called ‘super team,’” a source told The Athletic’s Shams Charania. “Now, if a super team forms around him, there is nothing he can control. The Clippers were the best long-term fit.”