NBA finals, Lakers Celtics Game 6: Perkins goes out, Celtics go down. But is it for the count?

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Thumbnail image for Perkins_hurt.jpgBoston did not lose this game at the 5:30 mark of the first quarter. When Kendrick Perkins went down the Lakers were already up 6 points, L.A. had been dominating the boards, they were shooting better, they were playing with energy and getting to the 50/50 balls.

But that moment may have cost them Game 7.

The 5:30 mark Perkins went up for a rebound, fighting for it with Lakers center Andrew Bynum — a guy already playing through a knee injury that will require surgery — and Kobe Bryant. Perkins seemed to land awkwardly and injure his knee. He had to be helped off the court and to the locker room, and he never returned. Officially, the Celtics are saying it’s a sprain, although Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that it is a sprain to both the MCL and PCL. He will undergo an MRI on Wednesday.

It will be a day and a half before any decision is made, but Doc Rivers was not optimistic.

“I don’t know. It doesn’t look great, but I don’t know,” Rivers said.

After the game Perkins was seen walking to the team bus under his own power but very stiffly, according to ESPN.com’s Ric Bucher. Perkins also said he would try to give it a go.

They need him. Without Perkins in Game 6, things opened up inside even more for a Lakers team that came out the more aggressive team, the team playing with more desperation. The Lakers were get getting into the paint on the dribble drive, getting the ball to their big men in deep. And the Lakers were getting rebounds — Los Angeles had a 12 to 5 rebound advantage after one quarter, 30 to 13 at the half.

“(Perkins is) a guy that cleans the paint up, let’s say, and not having him there made the Lakers awfully long,” Rivers said. “It also, I thought, allowed them to rest Bynum even more in the game.”

Bynum also sat out almost the entire second half because he asked out after his knee swelled up and he could barely run after halftime. Jackson said Bynum had swelling on the back of the leg that will receive treatment. But as he has all series, Bynum said he will be out there for Thursday night.

So it comes to a Game 7 where Boston may well be without their defensive force in the paint, their key rebounder, another key big body. Rivers said that either Rasheed Wallace or Glen “Big Baby” Davis would start if Perkins can’t go — he hasn’t decided — but that both will get key minutes. Sheldon Williams may get more minutes as well.

“It would be tough if (Perkins) can’t go,” Rivers said. “Somebody else is just going to have to step forward.”

Boston to a man echoed that thought. They know that road teams are 3 and 11 in NBA finals Game 7s. But nobody was expecting things to be easy because nothing has been for Boston this season.

“We went through too many ups and downs to lose like this,” Davis said. “Out of all the teams in the league we were the one that struggled. We were the one that went through the bumps and bruises. We went through the, ‘we’re old.’ We went through the ‘oh, they can’t play, they’re going to get beat by Cleveland, get beat by Orlando.’ We’re here now, in spite of what everyone else thinks.

“So you think we’re just going to let this go? No. We accept the challenge to win the championship. We want it. It’s that point blank simple. We could have gave up a long time ago. We could have gave up a long time ago and looked forward to next year. But no, we’re here. So we’re going to take it while we are here. We understand we’ve been through the ups and down and deserve it more than them.”

Report: Thunder have planned Blake Griffin pursuit for months

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The Clippers sound confident about re-signing Blake Griffin in the wake Chris Paul going to the Rockets.

But L.A. will have competition for the star forward – from the Nuggets, Celtics (depending how their primary plan goes), Heat and Griffin’s home-state Thunder.

Royce Young of ESPN:

It’s a shame for the Thunder they backed off their plan to sign Griffin last summer, signing Steven Adams and Victor Oladipo to contract extensions, only to resume it a few months later.

Letting Adams and Oladipo hit unrestricted free agency would have given Oklahoma City an additional $22,514,699 in cap flexibility while maintaining Adams’ and Oladipo’s Bird Rights. That alone wouldn’t have been enough to offer Griffin a max salary, but dumping Enes Kanter, Kyle Singler and either Doug McDermott or Domantas Sabonis would’ve projected to get the Thunder there. In that scenario, Oklahoma City could have also exceeded the cap to re-sign Adams and Oladipo after inking Griffin.

Alas, the Thunder are now limited to dumping contributors that make the team appealing to someone like Griffin in the first place or executing a sign-and-trade. But a sign-and-trade gets complicated. Adams’ salary alone isn’t enough to return Griffin on a max, and it’s not even clear the Clippers – with DeAndre Jordan – would want Adams (though losing Griffin could initiate an even greater rebuild that includes trading Jordan). And again, the Clippers reportedly want to keep Griffin rather than go this route.

This was all foreseeable, though some surprising factors worsened the consequences of the extensions for Oklahoma City.

Griffin seemed more certain last summer to stay in L.A. The 2017-18 salary cap appeared on track to be higher. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement won’t raise cap holds for first-round picks until next year. So, Adams’ deal projects to save the Thunder just $6,425,000 over the next four years relative to a max offer sheet – a paltry sum in the face of the potential cap flexibility lost this year by extending him instead of waiting to re-sign him.

The Thunder making moves earlier than necessary and salary-cap developments turning those plans especially imprudent – where have I heard this one before?

Report: Gordon Hayward will meet first with Heat in free agency, then Jazz, then Celtics

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Gordon Hayward is arguably the biggest available prize in free agency, and his dance card for the first couple of days in July is filling up.

Miami and Pat Riley will bat lead off in a series of meetings, reports ESPN.

Gordon Hayward will take his first free-agent meeting with the Miami Heat on Saturday, a source told ESPN’s Jorge Sedano. Hayward will then be traveling Sunday to meet Utah on Monday, with Boston coming after that…

Sources previously told ESPN the Jazz regard the Heat as no less a threat to lure Hayward away than the Celtics, whose interest in the former Butler star has been anticipated for some time, largely thanks to the presence of Hayward’s college coach, Brad Stevens, on Boston’s bench.

For the record, there are rumors it’s Miami Saturday, Boston Sunday, Utah Monday, then he will take some time to make a decision. I’m not sure the order matters that much.

Hayward is an All-Star level player at a position of need for a lot of teams out on the wing. He averaged 21.9 points per game last season, shot 39.8 percent from three, can put the ball on the floor and be a playmaker for himself and others, plus can defend everything from stretch fours to point guards (he’s not a lock-down defender, but he is good). Hayward is the kind of versatile player teams need to compete in a modern NBA. He’s an elite wing player who is about to get paid like one.

The question is by whom? Around the league teams are convinced it will be one of those three, but which one depends on who you talk to. The Jazz seem confident they can retain him, where others seem confident he’s got one foot out the door. Only Hayward truly knows, and he’s wise to not speak on it and take the meetings. (If he takes his time deciding that could impact the chase for Blake Griffin, Miami and Boston reportedly have interest if they don’t land Gordon, but that can’t be Gordon’s concern. He has to do what’s right for him in his own time.)

Doc Rivers says Chris Paul left to be with James Harden not because of Clipper players

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Chris Paul essentially forcing a trade to the Houston Rockets was an earthquake that shook the Los Angeles Clippers and destroyed them as any kind of contender. (How much of a contender they really were is up for debate, they did win 50+ games five of the past six years, but a combination of injuries, mediocre chemistry and toughness questions never let them get past the second round.)

Then came the aftershocks — or spin. First, there was the report that Paul had it with Doc Rivers because he and the team felt Austin Rivers gets favorable treatment. That was followed by the Clippers spin saying they never formally offered Paul a five-year max deal because they were concerned about paying a 37-year-old CP3 more than $40 million.

Now Doc Rivers entered the fray, defending his players saying Paul left he wanted to play with James Harden, via Brad Turner of the Los Angeles Times (below is his comments from a series of Tweets combined).

“At the end of the day, when you lose a CP, it’s a big loss. I thank him for the years he was here. He left because he wanted to be with James Harden. Let’s not get that twisted. I wish him well. I have no problem with that. Do I disagree? Yeah, I think he would have been better served here. But that’s not for me. That’s CP to decide and he decided against that. We’ve heard all the stories about Blake and DJ and Austin. I can’t comment just on Austin because it’s just not right. We’ve heard he left because of all three today. He left because of DJ, he left because of Blake and now he left because of Austin. We know he didn’t leave because of that. There is a lot of speculation on why he left. The one thing I know is he didn’t leave because of any of those three guys. He left because he felt like he would have a better chance to win somewhere else.”

Doc is right. And wrong. Almost all spin is like a myth — there’s some truth in it, then everything around that gets blown up to put that truth in the light that best suits one side. All of the aftershocks in the wake of Paul’s exit from L.A. have some truth, what any one person believes to be “the truth” speaks more to their viewpoint.

Did Paul leave the Clippers because he wanted to play with Harden and saw that as his best chance to a ring? Absolutely. After six years of playoff frustration, it was clear what the Clippers were not: A team getting to the Finals past the Warriors. These Rockets have a better chance of that and CP3 is a very competitive person.

Were Paul, and many of his teammates, frustrated with what they saw as favoritism toward Austin Rivers? I can tell you that is also unequivocally true. Any reporter that has been around this team at all in recent years has heard that from a variety of sources, myself included.

Were the Clippers worried about the fifth year of CP3s deal? Of course they were, any sane executive would be. Now, if Paul had demanded a five-year max to stay with the Clippers I also have no doubt they would have given it to him, they just would have done it knowing the last year or so of that deal was an anchor. Teams do that all the time.

Life is rarely something black and white, it’s always shades of gray. Major decisions — like changing where you work and live — are not based on just one factor, but a variety of them. Did the chance to win weigh more on Paul than money or frustration with Doc Rivers? Only Paul can answer what the ratios were, but winning probably was the biggest factor. That doesn’t make the other factors less true.

It also doesn’t change the fact Doc Rivers and the Clippers have some hard choices — and some recruiting of Blake Griffin to do — coming up this summer.

Ex-financial adviser gets 4 years in federal prison for defrauding Tim Duncan

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) An ex-financial adviser to retired San Antonio Spurs player Tim Duncan has been sentenced to four years in federal prison for defrauding the former NBA star of millions of dollars.

Federal prosecutors say 49-year-old Charles Banks of Atlanta was sentenced during a court hearing Wednesday in San Antonio.

A judge also ordered Banks to pay $7.5 million in restitution.

Banks had pleaded guilty in April to one count of wire fraud.

Investigators say Banks manipulated Duncan -who retired last year after five NBA championships with the Spurs – into guaranteeing payment of a $6 million debt related to a merchandising business.

Prosecutors say Banks failed to disclose commissions and loans he received in the deal.

Banks is set to report to federal prison as early as Aug. 28.