Michael Redd, the same as he ever was

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Michael Redd used to be the center of all things Milwaukee Bucks, but those days are long gone. Injury after injury and rehab after rehab rendered his fully functional return a pipe dream, while his bloated salary handicapped a franchise on the rebuild. Fair or unfair, many among the Bucks faithful hold Redd’s health against him, and the frustration both internally and externally regarding his unfortunate streak of injuries is undoubtedly significant.

In that frustration, I only ask that we not forget that Redd is one of the NBA’s classiest acts, and that as irritating as it is to think of him rehabbing his leg instead of helping his teammates (or even instead of sitting on the bench with them during their brief playoff run), it bugs Redd himself more than you know. Basketball may not be everything to Michael Redd, but you’d better believe that he cares about playing and not playing, leading and not leading, and willing the Bucks to victory or watching them be burdened by his very presence on the roster.

He never chose this path. He didn’t get busted on a criminal charge, face legal allegations of any kind, or divide a locker room with an over-the-top persona. Redd just played basketball. He made mistakes, surely, but the marks held against him are often for events largely out of his control.

I’m not saying you can’t dislike Michael Redd. That’s your business. But hate him? For being injured of all things? That’s beyond petty. His poor health may have crippled the Bucks, but the NBA has far more compelling villains than a humble, professional, former second rounder who carved out a spot for himself in the NBA by expanding his game and sharpening his skill.

Skill he probably won’t be using to help Milwaukee this season, even as he eyes a potential return in February…so long as the Bucks will have him. He’s not forcing his way into any discussion or any rotation. Redd knows that this team is no longer his, and yet his words ring only with hope and humility. Redd’s not throwing a tantrum, not demanding attention, and certainly not making a fuss over the Bucks’ decision to move on. He’ll just play if they need him, and sit if they don’t. Basketball is a passion, but in this case, it need not be a production.

It’s a pity that this is what Redd’s career has been boiled down to. That this is the fate of the man who, about six years ago — before he became a semi-household name and before his own injuries marred his career — shared this exchange with Scoop Jackson of SLAM:

Before each game, he lays his hands on the ball. Rubs them across David Stern and Spalding. And prays. And while most players ask the Lord for 30, not to get embarrassed by Tracy McGrady (who has found ministry through Redd), or a victory so they can maintain home-court advantage throughout the playoffs, Michael Redd prays for health. And nothing more than that.

“When I grab the ball before every game,” he says, “I pray that nobody gets hurt.”

“Nothing else?” I ask him.

“Nothing else.”

This is how he gets down.

It’s how he still does, I’m sure. That prayer means something far more specific now than it ever did then, but the man uttering the words is the same. Redd was a terrific scorer for a long time, but even though he doesn’t cock back his signature jumper these days, he’s no more worthy of hate now than he was six years ago. He’s the same man, even if he’ll never be the same player.

Report: Clippers’ management remains committed to re-signing Blake Griffin

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Maybe Friday night in Utah, maybe not for a few weeks, but the Clippers season is going to end before they reach the conference finals, and with Blake Griffin sidelined by injury. It’s an all-too-familiar scene. It will be six seasons of the Chris Paul, DeAndre Jordan, Griffin experience in Los Angeles, and they will not have gotten out of the second round (unless you think they can come back on the Jazz from down 3-2, then beat the Warriors).

That has come with a lot of talk about the Clippers breaking up the core. Jordan remains under contract, Paul would be too hard to replace, and that leads to a lot of speculation — inside and outside the league — that Griffin could be on the move this summer, when he becomes a free agent.

That’s not what the Clippers want, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports in a video essay.

Management remains committed to signing him to a long-term deal this summer, league sources tell me.

Doc Rivers has said he wants to bring back this core. Multiple times. His argument is that this is a 50+ win team that is one of the better teams in the NBA, why would you take a big step back rather than look for the tweaks that get the team to a title?

Steve Ballmer has the checkbook deep enough to pay both Paul and Griffin max money (although keeping fellow free agent J.J. Redick as well would be difficult). The Clippers will have one of the highest payrolls in the NBA, and is this team worth that? Especially in a conference where the Mount Everest of Golden State is not going anywhere for a few years, not to mention the Spurs and Rockets will remain good, Utah is on the rise, and so are teams like the Wolves. The Clippers will be a good team that needs a lot of breaks to go their way to really contend — how much would Ballmer pay for that?

The Clippers need to do some soul searching this offseason.

Just don’t be shocked if the result of that is them running this team back again.

Playing through sore knee, Jimmy Butler says “I’m good,” will go in Game 6

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At this point in the season, everyone is banged up. It’s just a matter of degree.

But with Rajon Rondo listed as out for Game 6, the Bulls’ need a big game from Jimmy Butler if they are going to extend this series to a Game 7. And he is not near 100 percent.

In Game 4, Butler banged knees with a Celtic and it impacted him during Game 5, as Vincent Goodwill detailed at CSNChicago.com.

But he could only muster two shots and barely seemed to push off on his left foot—his lead foot, and it hampered what the Bulls could do late as he was their prime fourth-quarter performer.

He couldn’t even go straight up on a jumper over the diminutive Isaiah Thomas without pump-faking, throwing off his rhythm. He wouldn’t elaborate on the injury, although he said it happened during the second half of Game 4 on Sunday night when he collided with a Celtics player.

“I’m good. Everyone’s a little nicked up; I’ll be all right,” Butler said in the locker room.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune added this detail.

Boston has done a good job of limiting the number of times Isaiah Thomas is exposed on defense, having to cover Wade or Butler. Essentially, the Celtics switch in sort of a matchup zone to keep IT covering a shooter on the wing, even if his man goes up and sets the pick. Zone’s can be exposed (there’s a reason they’re more a change-of-pace rather than a basic set defense in the NBA), but it involves getting into the middle, getting into the paint. Which comes back to driving the ball and pushing off, things that Butler is struggling to do at his usual level.

There are a lot of other factors favoring Boston in Game 6, but if Chicago is going to force a Game 7 Sunday they need Butler to be an All-NBA level player.

Knicks’ Joakim Noah has expected shoulder surgery to repair rotator cuff

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NEW YORK (AP) — Knicks center Joakim Noah has had right shoulder surgery to repair his rotator cuff, a procedure that could sideline him until training camp.

The Knicks say Noah had the surgery Wednesday at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York, performed by Dr. David Altchek.

The team didn’t give a timetable for Noah’s recovery, but coach Jeff Hornacek said late in the season that if Noah had the operation, the recovery time could be five months.

Noah had an injury-plagued season that ended early when he was suspended 20 games by the NBA for violating the league’s anti-drug policy. There are still 12 games remaining on the penalty that he will have to serve next season when healthy.

Noah had surgery on his other shoulder last season, limiting him to 29 games in his final season in Chicago before signing a four-year, $72 million deal with New York.

PBT Extra: Pacers offseason moves start with Paul George

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Larry Bird, when not delivering All-Star Game bids, should be spending his time lighting candles and praying in churches all over Indianapolis that Paul George makes an All-NBA team.

If PG13 makes the cut, Bird’s job this summer becomes more clear: Offer George the designated player max extension, get him to sign the deal, then get back to building a contender around him.

If George doesn’t make the cut, things get much tougher for Bird. I discuss all of it in this new PBT Extra.