Clippers do the right thing, but that's not bringing LeBron

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There were parts of this move that were still vintage classless Clippers. Like Mike Dunleavy saying he learned he was fired from the Internet and people calling him, not the Clippers (they said they called but didn’t get him). Or the players learning about it after the game just seconds before the media came in. It was announced during a Clippers road game and broadcast.

It had all the earmarks of an impulsive move. But that doesn’t make it wrong.

The Clippers needed to make an organizational change, and short of Donald Sterling selling this team (not going to happen, folks) this was it. And Sterling did it for the right reasons, he is aiming big.

The irony is Dunleavy was sacked three weeks after he did his best work as general manager (although there are reports that new GM, and then assistant, Neil Olshey, had a very big role in all that). At the trade deadline, the Clippers shoehorned their way into deals and traded oversized contracts and a good player in Marcus Camby to clear out $5.5 million, enough cap space to allow the Clippers to go after a major free agent this summer.

Sterling wants to use that money to get a name free agent – to remake the image of his Clippers. He realized that to do that he needed a sea change. He can tell LeBron James or Dwyane Wade they can come here and pick their own coach (expect neither role to be filled until after the July 1 free agency deadline). Or he can hire a recognizable basketball mind to run the organization.

That, by the way, likely will not be Larry Brown — any reaching out to the Clippers he did was because if Michael Jordan had been out as Bobcats owner Brown likely would have been as well. So he started covering his bases. Then at the last minute Jordan stepped up, and with his North Carolina ties (not to mention he’s doing a good job) he is safe.

On some levels, this has to be a tempting place to land for a general manager. The Clippers have a good lineup already — All-Star Chris Kaman at center, number-one pick Blake Griffin at power forward, Baron Davis (well, he can be good when he wants to be) at point guard, plus good role players such as Eric Gordon, Rasual Butler, Steve Blake and DeAndre Jordan. Plus they will have another lottery pick in a pretty deep draft.

If they can land a big-time swingman, they will be position to be a very good team. This move was about getting that man.

Clippers fans dream of LeBron James — as does everyone — but that remains the most pipe of pipe dreams (he likely never leaves Cleveland). Dwyane Wade is also unlikely to leave Miami.  A more likely scenario would be the Clippers getting someone such as Rudy Gay out of Memphis, who fills that swingman role. However, the Clippers likely would have to overpay to lure him in.

Any big time free agent with half a brain wants to see an ownership committed to winning. The Clippers have never had those in Los Angeles. That — well that and signing a deal to work for a guy fighting off discrimination suits at his main job, — means guys concerned with global status and shoe sales will not come to the Clippers.

If Donald Sterling’s hire is a case of “meet the new boss, same as the old boss,” someone with his hands tied by Sterling’s frugality, then this will all have been words without meaning. But if there is a genuine change, this is a team where the foundation of something good is in place. Where the Clippers can be, dare we say, winners.

The Clippers did the right thing, severing ties with Dunleavy. Whether they continue to do the right thing is the bigger question.

After Ricky Rubio’s triple-double, Russell Westbrook promises to “shut that s*** off”

Associated Press
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Ricky Rubio outplayed Russell Westbrook Saturday night in Utah and now the Jazz are up 2-1 in that series.

Rubio did his damage from the midrange — he was 5-of-5 between the key and the arc — on his way to 26 points, to go with 11 rebounds and 10 assists. All series the Thunder have dared Rubio to shoot and to beat them, Saturday he did. It was a stark contrast to Westbrook’s 14 points on 17 shots Saturday with eight turnovers.

When asked about Rubio’s big night postgame, Westbrook was looking ahead to Game 4 and using a little NSFW language (hat tip to Ben Golliver of SI, who loves him some playoff podium video).

There you have it, a personal guarantee.

Rubio struggled some in Game 1, taking 18 shots and mostly the ones the Thunder wanted him to. However, after that he has been better at getting to his spots and taking the shots in rhythm, and it’s worked — he’s averaging 20.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 8 assists per game this series. OKC has been focused on making life difficult for rookie Donovan Mitchell (with limited success) and it’s freed up Rubio to make plays.

More than just slowing the Spanish point guard, Westbrook and the Thunder need to figure out how to get their offense back on track against a Jazz defense that was best in the NBA once Gobert got healthy last season. Oklahoma City lost Game 2 when their big three — Westbrook, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony — went 0-of-15 in the fourth quarter. In Game 3, OKC averaged 100 points per 100 possessions (well below their season average of 110.2) and Westbrook shot 29.4 percent. Do that again in Game 4 and it will not matter what Rubio shoots, what matters is the Thunder could be looking at a 3-1 deficit. The Thunder need to even this series before it heads back to Oklahoma City.

Gregg Popovich will not coach Game 4 following death of his wife, Erin

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San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will not be on the sidelines again for Game 4 Sunday following the death of his wife, Erin, to a lengthy illness.

Ettore Messina will again coach the Spurs.

Popovich also missed Game 3. His San Antonio Spurs are down 3-0 to the Golden State Warriors in the first-round matchup. None of that matters compared to the loss of a woman he loved and was married to for four decades.

Erin Popovich’s passing has cast a pall over the series, especially with Warriors coach Steve Kerr being very close to the Popovichs dating back to his playing days with the Spurs.

The reaction and sadness about Erin’s passing has reached well beyond this series.

Our thoughts are with the Popovich family in this difficult time.

Anthony Davis’ 47 points, Pelicans sweep Trail Blazers out of playoffs

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Anthony Davis scored 33 of his franchise playoff-record 47 points in the second half, and the New Orleans Pelicans completed a first-round playoff sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers with a 131-123 victory on Saturday.

Jrue Holiday capped his 41-point performance with an 18-foot pull-up jumper that gave the Pelicans a six-point lead with 40 seconds left.

Rajon Rondo added 16 assists, and Davis also had 11 rebounds and three blocks for New Orleans, which is moving on to the second round of the playoffs for only the second time since the NBA returned to the city 16 seasons ago.

C.J. McCollum scored 38 for the Trail Blazers, who responded to a blowout loss in Game 3 by keeping Game 4 close until the final minute. Al-Farouq Aminu scored 27, Damian Lillard added 18 points and Jusuf Nurkic had 18 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out.

Lillard’s difficult driving layup had just tied the game at 60 when the Pelicans briefly pulled away, going on an 11-2 run capped by Davis’ 3.

Soon after, Nikola Mirotic added step-back 3. Davis, who scored 19 in the third quarter, then added a layup while falling down after a hard foul by Aminu, after which Davis flexed both biceps while still sitting on the court.

Holiday’s transition 3 made it 87-72, prompting Portland to call timeout while Holiday walked slowly toward mid-court, nodding and smiling wide as he soaked in the crowd’s adulation.

New Orleans led by 13 to start the fourth quarter, but Portland refused to wilt, opening the period on a 15-4 run that included Nurkic’s hook shot, 20-foot jumper and dunk. McCollum’s transition layup made it 104-102 with nearly nine minutes to play.

Portland got as close as a single point on Aminu’s layup with 5:08 to go, but Davis responded with 12 points over the final 4:56, starting with a layup as he was fouled and a 3-pointer. Holiday scored six points during the final 2:52, starting with his 3-pointer. The pair combined for all but one of New Orleans’ points during that pivotal stretch.

Leading up to Game 4, Lillard spoke of the need for the Blazers to ramp up their intensity and physicality. From the tip, it looked as though they’d done so.

In stark contrast to Game 3, when New Orleans led by 18 in the first quarter, this game was tight and testy.

Anthony and Ed Davis received double technical fouls after bumping one another following one of Anthony Davis’ dunks – and that was just the beginning.

McCollum was called for a flagrant foul when he stormed into the lane behind E'Twaun Moore and grabbed the Pelicans guard by the shoulders to thwart a driving layup attempt. Moore then shoved McCollum and was assessed a technical foul.

And in the final seconds of the half, double technicals were assessed to Rondo and Portland center Zach Collins after Rondo lowered his forehead into Collins’ chest and Collins shoved back.

When halftime arrived, New Orleans led 58-56.

 

 

Twins Marcus, Markieff Morris each fined by league for separate instances

Associated Press
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Twins Marcus and Markieff Morris have a special bond, one that includes doing so much together on the basketball court — playing at the same high school, the same AAU team, then going to college together at Kansas, and even playing together in the NBA for a while together with the Suns (they are now on separate teams).

That includes them both getting fined Saturday by the NBA for recent actions during the playoffs.

Washington’s Markieff Morris picked up a $25,000 fine for “attempting to escalate an altercation and pushing a game official,” the league announced. Here is the play in question, just minutes into Game 3.

Toronto’s OG Anunoby draws a foul knocking Morris to the ground, but Morris starts the incident with an elbow to Anunoby’s back, and he does push referee Kenny Mauer. Considering all that, a $25,000 fine is not that severe.

His twin Marcus Morris picked up a $15,000 for “public criticism of the officiating,” which he certainly did following the Celtics’ Game 3 loss to the Bucks. Here are his comments, and they are NSFW.

That $15,000 fine is pretty much the going rate for ripping the referees after the game.

Markieff outdid his brother on this one… if you consider getting the larger fine the “win.”