Clippers looking to add a piece before lockout starts

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Here’s a sign of progress for the Clippers: They want to make trades so they can win now. They want to be in the playoffs next year.

They like their core — Blake Griffin gives them a star, then they have Mo Williams at the point, Erik Gordon at the two, and the combo of DeAndre Jordan and Chris Kaman at center. GM Neil Olshey told Eric Pincus at Hoopsworld that the goal is to build around Griffin.

“This is not unlike the drill in San Antonio when they had Tim Duncan or Cleveland with LeBron or guys like that,” said Olshey. “You have to put right pieces around him but you don’t have to find ‘the piece’ because it’s here.”

That we’re talking about building a serious playoff team for the Cliipers is a start.

But now it’s time for the next step.

“We need an impact veteran,” said Neil. “A guy with leadership skills that has won at a high level that can show Eric and Blake how not just to get in the playoffs but how to be a factor in the playoffs.”

What they really need is an impact guy at the three, their gaping hole. Olshey sounded like a guy looking to deal around the draft, to make a move now not in the frenzy that will follow the lockout.

“We’ve got $5.3 million in cap room right now to do an uneven deal,” said Olshey. “We’ve got the Minnesota pick unprotected in 2012. We’ve got two second-round picks. We’ve got our first-protected to 10 next year. So we’ve got a lot of deal-making assets.”

Look for the Clippers to be active around the draft (they do not have a first-round pick this year, they moved it to Cleveland in the Baron Davis deal). For the first time in a long time there is legitimate hope for the Clippers, and they want to turn that hope into reality sooner rather than later.

Jazz boost international bona fides with new minor-league coach

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Martin Schiller has been named coach of the Salt Lake City Stars, the Utah Jazz’s NBA G League affiliate.

Schiller previously served as an assistant coach of MHP Riesen Ludwigsburg in Germany and replaces Dean Cooper. He was an assistant coach for the Artland Dragons from 2010-15.

Schiller has also been an assistant coach on the German National Team since 2015, where he worked with Jazz assistant coach Alex Jensen.

Schiller hails from Vienna, Austria, and Stars vice president of basketball operations Bart Taylor lauded him for his international experience and player development background.

The Jazz organization is known to have close relationships with the international basketball community. The Jazz currently have eight international players.

Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 with Celtics

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BOSTON (AP) — Newly acquired guard Kyrie Irving will wear No. 11 in Boston because the Celtics already have retired the numbers he wore in college and with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Irving wore No. 11 at two New Jersey high schools before switching to No. 1 at Duke. He wore No. 2 with the Cavaliers for the first six years of his NBA career.

The Celtics retired No. 1 for founder and original owner Walter Brown. They retired No. 2 for former coach and general manager Red Auerbach.

In all, the Celtics have retired 21 numbers, with Paul Pierce’s No. 34 next in line for the TD Garden rafters.

 

PBT Extra: Cavaliers’ new GM aces first big test with Kyrie Irving trade

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Everyone in the NBA — heck, nearly everyone living in the Western hemisphere — knew Kyrie Irving wanted out of Cleveland. That should kill the Cavaliers’ leverage and make it hard to get enough quality back.

New GM Koby Altman — the guy thrust into the job when David Griffin was shown the door — pulled it off brilliantly.

That’s what I talk about in this new PBT Extra. With Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder, the Cavaliers remain the team to beat in the East this season. The Brooklyn Nets pick gives them flexibility going forward, whatever LeBron James decides to do next season.

First time at the plate in the big leagues and Altman crushed it to straight away center field.

Cavaliers-Celtics deal first offseason trade involving players who just met in NBA Finals or conference finals

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The Cavaliers and Celtics played in last year’s Eastern Conference finals. The teams were widely expected to meet there again.

Yet, Cleveland and Boston just completed a blockbuster trade – Kyrie Irving for Isaiah Thomas, Jae Crowder, Ante Zizic and the Nets’ 2018 first-round pick.

That seemed odd.

In fact, it’s unprecedented.

That is an incredible fact, one which speaks to LeBron Jamescachet. The Cavs are emphasizing this season, LeBron’s last before a player option, by loading up with veterans Thomas and Crowder. With LeBron still reigning in Cleveland, the Celtics are delaying their peak by acquiring the younger Irving.

Adding to the intrigue: the Cavs and Celtics are still favored to meet in this year’s conference finals. At minimum, they’ll face off in a(n even more) highly anticipated opening-night matchup.