Blake Griffin trying to focus on court, not trade rumors

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Know this — Blake Griffin wouldn’t mind playing with Chris Paul or Dwight Howard if the Clippers could swing one of them in a trade.

“Yea, I guess that’d be all right,” Griffin told ProBasketballTalk with a laugh. “That would be great, obviously, both of those guys are very, very good. But it’s got to be the best fit for the team and it’s got to make sense not just for this year but for the next several years.”

Also know that right now the trade situation is not Griffin’s focus, it is getting ready for the season. Well, on Monday his focus was making sandwiches for Subway (a product he endorses) as part of the company’s Customer Appreciation Month. Griffin admitted he gave away more sandwiches than he sold, which may not be best for business.

Which is okay, sandwiches are not his business. Basketball is. Griffin may be the best finisher around the rim in the game right now but he spent his summer working on an outside shot to balance that out.

“Really just working on my shot,” Griffin said. “A lot of midrange, a lot of face up out of the post, a lot of pick-and-pop, a lot of stuff like that. I’m not really worried about my three point shot right yet, that’s something that may come later, right now just becoming more consistent with the shots I’ll shoot in games.”

Which includes the 12-foot bank shot that Tim Duncan made a living on. Griffin broke that out at times last season.

“(The Tim Duncan bank) has always been one of my favorite shots out of the post, especially on the left block, but I really added it to both sides and getting more reps and all that,” Griffin said.

Last year the Clippers were everybody’s surprise team and fun to watch. And when they were healthy — with Eric Gordon, DeAndre Jordan and Mo Williams in the lineup — they were pretty good. Griffin says he wants to get into camp and get rolling this year with the team they have not focus on what could be (and how much of that core would have to be shipped out to make a deal for a superstar).

“Some of the free agency stuff is out of our hands, it’s got to be who is a good fit for the team,” Griffin said, sounding sincere while using a standard athlete cliché. “I know we are looking forward to getting everybody actually on the team into L.A. and start working….

“We need to get off to a fast start. We’ve got to stay healthy, we’ve got to go on the road and wins and win the games we’re supposed to.”

When this season ends Team USA will be put together to compete for the gold medal at the London Olympic Games. Griffin’s name has come up as a potential player on that squad. Griffin said he has not had contact with USA Basketball about that but certainly would listen.

“I have not talked to them about it but yes, playing for your country is one of the best honors you can have,” Griffin said.

But that’s another rumor. One Griffin is trying not to focus on as he prepares for the season.

Pelicans owner Tom Benson hospitalized with flu symptoms

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — New Orleans Saints and Pelicans Owner Tom Benson has been hospitalized with flu symptoms.

A statement released Wednesday by the NFL and NBA clubs says their 90-year-old owner is resting comfortably at Ochsner Medical Center, a hospital which also serves as a major sponsor and which owns naming rights to the teams’ training headquarters.

Benson has owned the New Orleans Saints since 1985 and bought the New Orleans Pelicans in 2012.

In recent years, Benson has overhauled his estate plan so that his third wife, Gayle, would be first in line to inherit control of the two major professional franchises.

 

Report: Seattle hosting Kings-Warriors preseason game

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Kevin Durant spent his rookie season in Seattle, before the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. He has said Seattle fans deserved to see him grow up in the NBA after supporting his promising start.

They’ll get their chance.

Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee:

The Kings and Golden State Warriors have scheduled a preseason game next season in Seattle, according to multiple league sources.

The Oct. 6 meeting between Northern California teams will be the first NBA game in the Key Arena since the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City after the 2007-08 season and became the Thunder.

This game will be loaded with storylines. Not only Durant, but the Kings considered moving to Seattle a few years ago. And of course, the return of NBA basketball to Seattle.

At some point, Seattle will get its own team again. For now, this preseason game creates intrigue there.

Report: Kawhi Leonard cleared medically, seeking second opinion

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard played again this season, a stark reversal from just a month ago. Back then, even while announcing Leonard was out indefinitely with a quad injury, the San Antonio coach said Leonard wouldn’t miss the rest of the season.

What’s going on?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

After spending 10 days before the All-Star break in New York consulting with a specialist to gather a second opinion on his right quad injury, All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard bears the burden of determining when he’s prepared to play again, sources told ESPN.

Leonard has been medically cleared to return from the right quad tendinopathy injury, but since shutting down a nine-game return to the Spurs that ended Jan. 13, he has elected against returning to the active roster, sources said.

The uncertainty surrounding this season — and Leonard’s future which could include free agency in the summer of 2019 — has inspired a palpable stress around the organization, league sources said.

At first glance, this sounds like Derrick Rose five years ago. Even after he was cleared to play following a torn ACL, the then-Bulls star remained mysterious about when he’d suit up. His confidence in his physical abilities seemed to be a major issue, and he was never the same player since (suffering more leg injuries).

But the Spurs famously favor resting players to preserve long-term health. They seem unlikely to rush back Leonard. They might even sit players who want to play more often. And Leonard isn’t Rose.

Still, it’s clear something is amiss in San Antonio. Maybe not amiss enough to end Leonard’s tenure there, but the longer this lingers, the more time for tension to percolate.

Report: Dennis Smith Jr. planned to have J. Cole dunk in dunk-contest routine

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Mavericks rookie Dennis Smith Jr. seemed pretty steamed about getting eliminated in the first round of the dunk contest:

The dunk-contest scoring system – five judges ranking dunks on a scale of 6-10 – is plenty flawed. There should have been a larger difference between the Smith and Victor Oladipo dunks the Dallas point guard mentioned. But Oladipo didn’t advance, either. Personally, I thought the right two players – eventual-winner Donovan Mitchell and runner-up Larry Nance Jr. – advanced.

Maybe Smith was more upset about the missed opportunity – dunks (plural!) involving rapper J. Cole.

Amin El-Hassan of ESPN on Black Opinions Matter:

If Dennis had made it to the finals, Cole was going to throw him the alley-oop. But then the plan was, he was going to throw him the oop, Dennis would dunk it, and then Cole would catch the ball, and then he’d dunk it too. That was going to be the ill, craziest dunk-contest use of a prop or a person ever. But we never got to saw it, because they were holding out until the final round. They didn’t want to bring it out in the first round.

This certainly would have been unprecedented and cool. But unless Smith had something amazing planned for the alley-oop, the best element would have been Cole dunking. That would have upstaged Smith, who’s presumably the one being judged.

For what it’s worth, Cole can dunk. We’ve seen it in the celebrity game: