If you push Blake Griffin, the Clippers are pushing back

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Opposing teams have been trying to knock Blake Griffin off his game. Literally.

As Griffin has emerged as an NBA star and powerhouse offensive force, other teams have started to combat his physical presence with some physical play of their own. Teams have been trying to push Griffin around. The Clippers noticed and as a team decided they were not going to let that happen, players told Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com.

You could see it most clearly in the end-of-game incident with the Lakers last Sunday. Griffin and Lamar Odom got into a little push and pull under the basket, and Baron Davis came rushing in to shove back Odom and protect his guy. Think of it as just one teammate protecting another, but this was planned for.

The team meeting took place on the bus the afternoon of Dec. 16, after the Clippers returned to the Townsend Hotel in Birmingham, Mich., from practice at nearby Oakland University. Coaches and staffers exited, players stayed on, decisions were made.

Among others, it was decreed right there, parked near the entrance of the building, that Blake Griffin would be protected…..

“Just as far as having each other’s back, but knowing, hey, it’s a target on him especially and we’ve got to be ready for it,” said veteran Craig Smith, out now with a herniated disc but normally a physical presence as a 265-pound forward.

“And if we have to get in a brawl, there’s a brawl. It’s a grown-man’s league, and sometimes it happens. I don’t like for it to happen like that, but it’s a very emotional game. He might not like how somebody grabs him and might get up fast. It happens. It’s part of the game. I wish it was like hockey, where we could put boards all around, if guys want to go at it. But I think they don’t want to go at it with him like that, one-on-one.

“I think it started in the Portland game, with Andre Miller. I told [Griffin], ‘You’ve got to protect yourself out there, first and foremost. But at the same time, as a group, we have your back.’ They tried to get in his head. I told him, ‘Don’t let it frustrate you. Just take it to another level. Use that anger out there on the floor versus going at them at attacking ’em.’ “

The Clippers are starting to figure things out. They are playing well, 10-4 in the last 14. They are earning respect and with that will come efforts to derail them. The real tests are ahead. February is when the Clippers head out on the road for their extended annual Grammys road trip. There are tough teams ahead no longer looking past Los Angeles.

But at least these Clippers will not back down.

Klay Thompson goes up for 360 dunk in exhibition… and he’s not a dunker (VIDEO)

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Klay Thompson has an amazing skill set — one of the best pure shooters in the league, he can put the ball on the floor and create, and he’s a very good perimeter defender.

He’s not a dunker. Oh, he can dunk, but he’s not the guy you’re inviting to the Dunk Contest.

Case in point, this video out of China where Thompson was part of an exhibition and tried to show off his dunking skills.

Thompson’s shoe sponsor is China-based Anta, which explains why he’s there playing some exhibition ball. In case you missed it, Thompson had a Finals shoe released.

Those are about as good as the 360 dunk.

Sixers will talk contract extension for Joel Embiid this summer, want to lock him up

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Could Joel Embiid be Philadelphia’s Stephen Curry?

No, I don’t mean taking 30-foot bombs that demoralize opponents (although, no doubt Embiid is game for trying it). I mean in having a contract extension off his rookie deal for less than the max, a value contract that allows the Sixers the cap room to secure a title contender around him.

After three seasons in the NBA, Joel Embiid is eligible for a contract extension this summer (one that would be negotiated now but not kick in until the 2018-19 season). Teams lock up their stars at this point, and Embiid is that — he was dominant in the 31 games he played. But it’s 31 games in three seasons, how much do the Sixers want to pay here?

Sixers owner Joshua Harris said extending Embiid is a priority for the team this summer, speaking at a press conference, via the Courier Times.

“Look, I’d just say we want Joel to be on the team for a long time,” Harris said. “We want us all to grow old together. That’s the way I would put it.”

A max contract for Embiid would be five years at about $130 million, an average annual salary of $26 million. Because of his injury history, would he be willing to sign five years at $100 million, maybe with an opt-out after four? That extra cap space may not sound like a lot, it’s not a Curry-level savings, but it would help the Sixers’ team building.

If the two sides can’t reach a deal by Oct. 31 (the deadline), Embiid will play out this season then be a restricted free agent next season. If he stays healthy, he will get a max deal from another team that the Sixers would just match (the Sixers and Embiid could also reach a deal).

The Sixers are not about to let Embiid go, they have their young core they believe they can contend with in a few years. Plus he is a fan favorite. The only question left is cost.

Josh Jackson’s first pitch is… just a bit outside

Associated Press
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Josh Jackson is not going Bo Jackson on us and playing baseball in the offseason.

The highly-rated forward out of Kansas who was the No. 4 pick of the Phoenix Suns was invited to throw out the first pitch before Friday night’s Diamondbacks game.

To quote Bob Uecker, he was just a bit outside. He tried the corner and missed.

Lonzo Ball was able to make his first pitch, ergo, he will turn out to be a much better NBA player. Obviously, these skills correlate.

Report: Re-signing Nerlens Noel Mavericks’ top off-season priority

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This is a Mark Cuban owned team, you don’t think the Mavericks are going to make a serious run at a free agent come July 1? Pelicans’ point guard Jrue Holiday has long been known to be a target, but there will be others.

But keeping their new core together, including restricted free agent Nerlens Noel, is the top priority, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Rumors like this are out there in part from Dallas to hope to chill the market for Noel. While he could be a defensive force who provides some scoring around the rim, with Noel’s injury history they may be able to get him at less than max money — because if he’s at the max the Mavericks are flirting with the luxury tax (and Cuban isn’t going to want to pay the tax for a borderline playoff team at best).

What Dallas fears is what Brooklyn did last season to Allen Crabbe in Portland and Tyler Johnson in Miami — some team to come in with a max or near-max offer sheet that drives up the price. Dallas will match, they will keep the young core together, it just gets more expensive.

Next season in Dallas will be a deserved big farewell to Dirk Nowitzki. He will be the focus, but behind him Dallas will try to be building for the future. They made the trade deadline move to make sure Noel is a part of that, the only question now is how much it costs them.