Chris Paul, Quincy Pondexter

Chris Paul update: Clippers waiting for league, Lakers trying to get back in

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The entire Chris Paul saga reminds me of the NBA lockout, just flipped on its head.

In the lockout, the owners and league made wild demands of the players, and since the owners had the leverage they got most of what they wanted (they got the money, which is what mattered most).

With CP3, the league (which owns the Hornets) shot down the trade to the Lakers and is making outrageous demands of the Clippers to get a deal done.

Except, this time the Clippers have the leverage. They walked away from he bargaining table on Monday and while the league has worked to re-engage them the Clippers are sitting around waiting for the league to come back to them with a more reasonable offer.

But in that interim time, the Los Angeles Lakers have tried to jump back into the fray, reports Marc Stein at ESPN.

ESPN.com learned Tuesday that a Lakers’ deal for Paul has not yet been ruled out, contingent on the fact that they can recruit at least one other team to supply some of the young pieces that the league is demanding. But the Lakers do still have Gasol as a centerpiece, who could either replace Paul as the Hornets’ franchise player or give New Orleans a top-20 player to be dangled in subsequent deals.

The Clippers are doing this on their own terms and picked up Chauncey Billups off waivers, which gave them even more leverage, as Adrian Wojnarowski reports at Yahoo.com.

Clippers officials and NBA executives representing the Hornets have continued to have conversations, but the tone and substance of the talks has dramatically changed with L.A.’s addition of point guard Chauncey, sources said. The Clippers are selling the NBA on the idea that the market for Paul has shrunk and the league’s demands have to be lowered, too….

“They’re scrambling now,” one official said of the NBA. “But it’s still hard to tell if they really want to trade him, or they’re just determined to keep the asking price in a place where they can hold onto him for the next owner. …These guys in New York had no idea how hard this process would be.”

That’s where we sit Tuesday night. Waiting. The Clippers could go into the season with Billups, Mo Williams and Eric Bledsoe at point guard — with Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan and Eric Gordon — and be a likely playoff team in the West. They are not feeling the pressure. The Lakers are trying to find a third team to get some younger pieces, but they are not under great pressure to get a deal done either (they always have Dwight Howard to chase).

In the Clippers case, the league wanted Chris Kaman (an expiring contract) plus Gordon, Bledsoe, Al-Farouq Aminu and Minnesota’s unprotected 2012 first-round draft pick (to which the Clippers have the rights). The Clippers were not willing to give up all five things before they got Billups. Now rumors of Trevor Ariza coming to the Clippers and Mo Williams going to the Hornets are out there, Stein reports, but all kinds of ideas have been bounced around. That is different than one getting done.

The league might be willing to keep Paul through the sale of the Hornets. As if that would boost the value of the team (nobody is buying that team thinking Paul is staying). Who knows? It’s hard to see what the league is thinking.

So we wait. Because the Clippers have the leverage.

Report: Bulls pushing to trade for 76ers’ Jahlil Okafor

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 14: Jahlil Okafor #8 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks to pass against Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on December 14, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The Bulls reportedly reached out to the 76ers about Jahlil Okafor a few weeks ago.

After unfulfilled intrigue and maybe a trade that fell through, Okafor remains in Philadelphia. And Chicago apparently still wants him.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

As constituted, the Bulls already have a few interior bigs: Robin Lopez, Taj Gibson and Cristiano Felicio. But one or more could go in an Okafor trade or another deal.

Okafor would make the Chicago younger, confusing its direction with Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade already in place.

Perhaps, the Bulls are pushing for a trade only because they’re offering so little. Okafor’s low-post game offers intrigue. At the right price, he’d be worth adding, no matter the fit and direction presented.

Maybe the 76ers don’t go for a lowball offer, but that’d be worth trying considering their center logjam with Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. Otherwise, Chicago ought to tread carefully when pursuing Okafor.

Report: 76ers trading Ersan Ilyasova to Hawks for Tiago Splitter, picks

Atlanta Hawks guard Mike Dunleavy blocks the shot of Philadelphia 76ers forward Ersan Ilyasova (7) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Saturday, Jan. 21, 2017, in Atlanta. Atlanta won 110-93. (AP Photo/John Amis)
AP Photo/John Amis
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The 76ers have played like a 64-win team when Joel Embiid and Ersan Ilyasova share the court and a 20-win team otherwise, using data from nbawowy!.

That’s helpful for Philadelphia, which is learning what type of player — a stretch four — works best with its franchise player.

But the Hawks can use more than just a lesson in the idea of Ersan Ilyasova. They can use actual Ersan Ilyasova.

And Atlanta will get him.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

Jake Fischer of Sports Illustrated:

Atlanta stills sound intent on keeping Paul Millsap, so Ilyasova will likely back him up. Ilyasova should work particularly well with Dwight Howard, whose interior play was a key factor in ushering in this stretch-four era by covering for the lighter power forward next to him.

In the last 21 months, Ilyasova has been traded five times: from the Bucks to the Pistons to the Magic to the Thunder to the 76ers and now to the Hawks. They can probably count on the veteran to settle in quickly as they try to improve their position in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff race. Atlanta is fifth, closer to third than sixth.

Both Ilyasova and Splitter have expiring contracts. The advantage of Splitter, who has missed the Hawks’ last 90 games, is that his full compensation counts toward the floor apparently without Philadelphia actually having to play all of his salary.

Plus, those picks could help the 76ers in a season where they can win something meaningful — like the Hawks have decided this season is for them.

Report: Other NBA executives believe Pacers not seriously shopping Paul George

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 12:  Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers in action during the NBA match between Indiana Pacers and Denver Nuggets at the O2 Arena on January 12, 2017 in London, England.  (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
Dan Mullan/Getty Images
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The Pacers are reportedly shopping Paul George, trying to line up a trade if they can’t get him help in another deal.

But it’s hard to find anyone who believes Indiana is genuinely looking to trade George before the upcoming trade deadline.

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

If the Pacers are serious about trading George, they better convince other teams quickly. That’s the only way to draw out the best offers.

But it makes sense Indiana is only in the exploratory stage.

The Pacers — and only the Pacers — could offer George a designated-veteran-player contract extension (projected to be worth about $209 million over five years) this offseason if he makes an All-NBA team.

That’s probably a longshot. Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard and LeBron James are locks for three of the six forward spots. Anthony DavisJimmy ButlerDraymond Green and Giannis Antetokounmpo should also rank ahead of George. Gordon HaywardPaul MillsapKevin Love are firmly in the mix, too. That’s a lot of ground to make up and other contenders to fend off.

But it’s likely worth it for the Pacers to keep George past the deadline and let him try. The upside is so high.

If George doesn’t make an All-NBA team, Indiana could always trade him at any point before the next trade deadline. He could also qualify as a designated veteran player by making a 2017-18 All-NBA team and re-signing as a free agent in 2018, but by then, it’d be too late for the Pacers to trade him if they don’t have the major financial advantage.

At some point, Indiana could ask George to pledge to stay for his max, whatever that winds up being. That wouldn’t be binding, but his response could be telling.

For now, if I were the Pacers, I’d hope he makes All-NBA this year and dare him to reject the designated-veteran-player extension. If he qualifies and turns that down, that would absolutely be telling.

But I’d also be exploring the trade market now, hoping for an offer that knocks my socks off but more realistically gaining understanding for when dealing George becomes more logical.

Report: Clippers’ Chris Paul cleared, could play against Warriors on Thursday

Los Angeles Clippers' Chris Paul shoots as Portland Trail Blazers' Al-Farouq Aminu watches during the first half of an NBA preseason basketball game Thursday, Oct. 13, 2016, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong
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Chris Paul tore a ligament in his left thumb last month, and the Clippers announced he’d miss 6-8 weeks.

He could return just over five weeks after injury, when the Clippers face the Warriors on Thursday.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers, via Andrew Han of ESPN:

“He looked great. He went through the whole practice [on Tuesday]. You know, so it was good. Really good,” Rivers said before practice on Wednesday. “He could play tomorrow. I mean, I can’t tell you if he will or not, but he’s been cleared medically. But we just want to make sure that he’s comfortable playing.”

The Clippers have slid to fourth in the West, leading the fifth-place Jazz by just half a game. It’s probably too late to catch the third-place Rockets, who are five games up. But maintaining home-court advantage in the first round is important.

Paul should help.

The Clippers remain dangerous when healthy. They’ve outscored teams by 15.1 points per 100 possessions when Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick share the court. With those four, they score and defend at rates that would lead the league if it weren’t for Golden State’s historic offensive rating.