Players had to cover coach’s cancer surgery because Clippers wouldn’t

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The Clippers — behind the force of nature that is Blake Griffin — are on the precipice of being good. Maybe very good. Only the Thunder are a young team as well positioned to grow into a contender as the Clippers. Los Angeles has a franchise player, a good number two in Eric Gordon, quality young role players, future picks, a very reasonable salary number going forward. Just keep making smart decisions and they can be right there.

And yet, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. Because they are the Clippers and their owner Donald Sterling will find a way to screw it up. The stories about him are more horrifying with each new revelation.

This latest one may top the list — several years ago Clippers assistant coach Kim Hughes had prostate cancer, but the team wouldn’t pay for surgery.

We’ll let Gery Woelfel at the Journal-Times tell the story.

“I contacted the Clippers about medical coverage and they said the surgery wouldn’t be covered,” Hughes said. “I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ And they said if they did it for one person, they’d have to do for everybody else.”

When (then Clippers coach Mike) Dunleavy learned the Clippers wouldn’t cover the cost of Hughes’ surgery, he mentioned it to his players.

Several of them, including now Milwaukee Bucks forward Corey Maggette, Chris Kaman, Elton Brand and Marko Jaric, were taken aback by the news and decided to offer their assistance.

“Kim was one of our coaches and he’s a really good friend of mine, too,” Maggette said. “He was in a situation where the Clippers’ medical coverage wouldn’t cover his surgery. I thought it was a great opportunity to help someone in need, to do something that Christ would do. It shows your humanity, that you care for other people and not just yourself. Kim was in a life-and-death situation.”

That says a lot about the players on that team and their unselfishness. Their humanity.

It says plenty about the Clippers and their owner, too.

Kobe Bryant says LeBron James has earned the right to take a rest (VIDEO)

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Former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was a pretty consistent player in the NBA. Save for his final injury-laden seasons and the lockout year of 2011-12, Bryant played in no fewer than 65 regular season games in a single season.

Coaches also had no reason or want to ask Bryant — a notorious worker — to sit out in order to rest. That wasn’t really on the menu, and Bryant knew that.

Speaking to ESPN’s First Take, Bryant said no coach really asked him to ever take a rest, “I’ve never been approached by a coach and asked to rest.”

Bryant remarked that he took queues from Michael Jordan during tough stretches of the season — back-to-backs or four games in five night scenarios — where he could switch his game up, floating from perimeter to post, in order to save energy during those matchups.

Bryant also said during the same interview that he understands the complexity of the modern game, and that players like LeBron James deserve to take a rest if they’ve earned it.

“LeBron has done so much for the game. He’s earned the opportunity to take a rest,” said Bryant.

The debate on this subject will continue, it seems.

Phil Jackson’s reaction to Kristaps Porzingis getting turned upside down feels about right

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New York Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis is the future of the franchise, so any time he’s upended and nearly lands on his noggin it’s a cause for concern. To say the least.

That’s what happened on Monday night, as Porzingis got turned upside down during a play near the basket during a game against the Detroit Pistons.

Porzingis was OK on the play, and Detroit big man Andre Drummond did his best to help catch him so nothing too scary happened.

Still, Knicks president Phil Jackson had a pretty hilarious reaction to the whole thing. I guess that’s what happens when you watch your basketball life flash before your eyes.

Porzingis was unhurt and played a full 37 minutes. New York beat Detroit, 109-95.

Jimmy Butler won’t pick LeBron over Durant as toughest matchup in NBA, and for good reason

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Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler is a smart dude. He’s spent years of offseason work turning himself into a max-level player, and that shows he knows not only how to work but how to attack the game of basketball.

He’s also smart enough to know he shouldn’t go poking the bear when it comes to two future Hall of Fame players in LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

When asked whether the Cleveland Cavaliers star or the Golden State Warriors scorer was the toughest matchup in the NBA, Butler made sure he wasn’t adding any kind of blackboard material to rile up either player.

Via Twitter:

The best way to defend LeBron or Durant: don’t make them angry.

Smart move, Jimmy.

Likely top-10 pick Dennis Smith Jr. of North Carolina State declares for draft

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This had long been expected, but now it is official.

North Carolina State freshman point guard Dennis Smith Jr. has declared for the NBA Draft. He made the announcement on ESPN saying playing in the NBA is his dream, reports the News & Observer.

“It was definitely an obtainable dream for me,” said in an interview on SportsCenter. “I knew I would chase it with all of my might.”

Smith is considered a top-10 pick (DraftExpress.com has him going seventh currently).

Smith had missed his senior year of high school ball with an ACL injury, but was named ACC Freshman of the Year after averaging 18.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. He had two triple-doubles as a freshman. He was also inconsistent. Smith had brilliant games and ones where he looked disinterested.

Smith is unquestionably explosive and athletic, and that makes him a threat both in the open court and getting to the rim off a pick-and-roll. He’s got good handles, he knows how to draw fouls, and you can see his potential to get buckets at the next level. His jump shot needs to be far more consistent to thrive at the next level, however. The questions about Smith are more about his ability to make good decisions and be a floor general. He knows how to survey the floor and create for himself, but can he figure out when to pass to set up teammates? Can he defend consistently? He needs smooth out the rough edges of his game, but the potential to be very good is there.