Los Angeles Clippers Blake Griffin slam dunks against Memphis Grizzlies Hamed Haddadi of Iran and Dante Cunningham during the first half of their NBA basketball game in Los Angeles

Blake Griffin heads 2012 rookie deal extension class

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Derrick Rose and Russell Westbrook got theirs. Kevin Love got a deal, as did Danilo Gallinari. Eric Gordon and Brook Lopez did not. And nobody seriously considered giving Michael Beasley one.

It’s the first extension to the rookie contract — the first chance for NBA players to make serious, serious money. But as we saw this year teams are pretty careful about handing them out. They want to get value for that money, and there are just not a lot of max deal guys out there.

So what about the next class? Tom Ziller broke out some of the big names today at SBN.

Blake Griffin is a sure fire max. This requires about as much thought as Rose’s deal — Griffin is one of the top power forwards in the game, and his highlight reel game fills the building nightly. Even if he can get a Rose super-max deal, he’s a bargain. No owner will screw this up, not even Donald Sterling.

After that… don’t expect anybody to get a max deal. And you may not want to offer any of these guys deals. Let’s go by draft order (remember Griffin was No.1 overall).

2. Hasheem Thabeet. Not even eligible because his fourth year contract was not even offered.

3. James Harden. Here is one of the tricky ones — he deserves an extension but not a max deal. But what is the number? A deal like Gallinari’s ($42 million over four years)? Westbrook took less money this year in part to give the team room to bring back Harden, but can OKC get him to agree to a price that lets them also extend Serge Ibaka the following year? This could be a case where what the Thunder offer and what Harden thinks he can get on the open market vary greatly.

4. Tyreke Evans. Ziller put it this way.

It would be very Sacramento Kings to offer a five-year max on Day 1 of the early extension period, even without knowing which Tyreke Evans is the true version. Evans had a wash of a second season due in part to injury and in part to Paul Westphal’s painful lack of player development. This third season isn’t looking a whole lot better. I’d be hesitant to offer Evans much more than what Gallinari received at this point, but teams like the Kings can’t really afford to consider life without their best players.

I think that would be overpaying for him. The question with Evans is how much of his problems are his own doing and how much of it is because the Kings are a mess?

5/6. Ricky Rubio and Jonny Flynn. Neither of the Timberwolves picks are eligible. Rubio because he just came and started playing this season (he is in the first year of his contract) and Flynn because his fourth year was not extended.

7. Stephen Curry. Another tough one — good player, popular in the community, can fill up the basket, but his ankle injury history makes you hesitant to talk long-term deal. When healthy he also is in the $10 million a year range, but how his ankle heals will be the real deciding factor.

8. Jordan Hill. Also not eligible because nobody wanted his fourth year offer sheet.

9. DeMar DeRozan. A guy with so much athletic ability and potential who is really struggling in Toronto in his contact year. He’s not getting the max or anywhere near it, but let him become a restricted free agent and he’s the kind of guy some GM will overpay.

10. Brandon Jennings. The Bucks would like to keep him, but he is no max guy. Like Curry, this is a guy you make what you think is a fair offer too, but if he becomes a restricted free agent and market sets his price.

Other guys of note.

Jrue Holiday. Like Jennings, the 76ers want to keep him, and may make him an offer, but this is a franchise with a history of letting guys become restricted free agents.

Ty Lawson. If Denver makes a deep playoff run his stock goes up. The Nuggets want to keep him and he is likely going to get a pretty fair, healthy offer from the team.

Tyler Hansbrough: Ziller says it well.

Indiana is going to be focused on bigger fish this the summer, namely the restricted free agency of Roy Hibbert and possibly Eric Gordon. Hansbrough isn’t so highly thought of that his own restricted free agency in 2013 would be make-or-break for the Pacers, so there’s little reason to pre-empt it.

John Stockton working with Bucks point guards at training camp

SACRAMENTO, CA - APRIL 30:  John Stockton #12 of the Utah Jazz dribbles in Game five of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Sacramento Kings during the 2003 NBA Playoffs at Arco Arena on April 30, 2003 in Sacramento, California.  The Kings won 111-91.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by: Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
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The Bucks are coached by one of the greatest point guards in NBA history, Jason Kidd. But Kidd invited another legend of the position to camp to work with his point guards. John Stockton, the NBA’s all-time leader in assists and steals, was at Bucks practice on Thursday working with Michael Carter-Williams, Matthew Dellavedova and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Not a bad person to learn from, especially since the Bucks have one of the weakest point-guard positions in the league.

Blake Griffin says he’s working on improving his three-point shot

LOS ANGELES, CA - DECEMBER 21:  Blake Griffin #32 of the Los Angeles Clippers shoots a jumper over Serge Ibaka #9 of the Oklahoma City Thunder during a 100-99 loss to the Thunder at Staples Center on December 21, 2015 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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2016-17 is going to be a big year for Blake Griffin. He missed much of last season with a quad injury and a broken hand stemming from a punching incident, and he has the ability to opt out of his contract next summer. When Griffin was healthy, he was his usual All-Star self for the Clippers, but he played just 35 games. He’s healthy now, at the start of training camp, and he says he wants to improve his three-point shot.

From Dan Woike of the Orange County Register:

“I want to be someone who shoots from there confidently, for sure,” Griffin said after Thursday’s practice at UC Irvine’s Bren Events Center. “A lot of us power forwards, our strength is inside or our versatility. You look at the best power forwards, Anthony Davis, LaMarcus (Aldridge), Draymond (Green) … they can all shoot but they can all put the ball on the floor and they can all score inside. I don’t necessarily think falling in love with the 3-point shot is a good idea, but shooting it confidently from there is great.”

Not only has Griffin not hit his threes in his career (his overall mark from beyond the arc is an awful 27.1 percent) but he doesn’t take very many of them. The most threes he’s ever shot in a season is 44 in 2013-14, and he hit 12 of them. Griffin is only 27, so he’s theoretically not done improving as a player, but it’s hard to imagine a dramatic jump this far along when that hasn’t been a part of his game at all to this point.

 

Steve Kerr endorses shorter preseason to limit back-to-backs

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 19:  Steve Kerr of the Golden State Warriors speaks to members of the media after being defeated by the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 7 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 19, 2016 in Oakland, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
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There are too many preseason games. The NBA has its reasons for playing them — namely, to allow for games in non-NBA markets — and sometimes they can be valuable for teams to experiment with rotations. But most teams play seven or eight preseason games, which is unnecessary. Warriors coach Steve Kerr agrees, according to the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Connor Letourneau:

“I kind of like the idea that’s been tossed around the last couple summers to start the regular season a little earlier, maybe a week early,” Kerr said Thursday afternoon after Warriors practice. “Play five exhibition games instead of eight. I kind of like that, just so you have fewer back-to-backs in the regular season.”

The NBA has floated the idea in the past of cutting the number of preseason games in order to stretch out the regular season, thereby lessening the burden of travel and back-to-backs. The NBA has made an effort this season to cut down on back-to-backs, and this would be a logical way to do that.

Hornets’ Batum won’t let big contract affect how he plays

MIAMI, FL - APRIL 20: Nicolas Batum #5 of the Charlotte Hornets drives on Joe Johnson #2 of the Miami Heat  during game two of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Arena on April 20, 2016 in Miami, Florida. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) Nicolas Batum said he isn’t planning to alter how he plays the game after signing a five-year, $120 million contract with the Charlotte Hornets.

And that’s just fine with coach Steve Clifford.

Clifford said Batum doesn’t need to put additional pressure on himself to score just because he’s now the highest-paid player in Hornets history. He told him to play how he plays.

“You don’t change the nature of how you play. I think guys get messed up with that,” Clifford said. “… I don’t think you try to reinvent yourself because the money changed. We gave him the money because he played so well. In my opinion he was an All-Star-caliber player last season when healthy.”

Batum was acquired in a trade with Portland before last season and turned out to be a gem for Charlotte, which won 48 games and tied for the third-best record in the Eastern Conference. Batum averaged a career-high 14.9 points and 5.6 assists while becoming one of the team’s top three go-to options.

Batum said he’s learned from experience that it’s not worth putting pressure on himself just because he signed a big contract.

He did in that 2012 after inking a four-year, $46 million deal to remain with the Portland Trail Blazers. While he still played well, he said it was pointless.

“I was a young guy at the time and I didn’t know what to expect,” Batum said. “Now I know. I know what I have to go through right now. I know what the views of the media and the public will be. I know that, and I’m good with it.”

For Batum, pressure no longer enters the equation because the Hornets trust him and believe in him.

“It’s more relief than pressure,” Batum said.

The Hornets made re-signing him their No. 1 priority, offering the Frenchman a huge deal about an hour into the free-agency signing period. Batum also received several offers from other teams shortly after the deadline, which he called flattering.

The 6-foot-8, 200-pound Batum enters the season as Charlotte’s best all-around player and a favorite among teammates.

“Guys are so much more comfortable when he’s out there on the floor because he makes it so much easier at both ends,” forward Marvin Williams said.

Williams said there’s a naturalness to Batum’s game, and he’s incredibly unselfish – he’s always looking for the better shot option.

“He likes to make the assist, and he likes to get everyone involved,” Williams said. “I think that is why so many people like playing with him. It’s why I love playing with him.”

And why Clifford views him as irreplaceable.

When Batum went down in the second half of last season with an ankle injury, the Hornets struggled to find their rhythm.

“He’s not a numbers guy to me,” Clifford said. “People can say, `Well, he’s making this or he’s making that (much money),’ but if he plays at the level he played at last year when he was healthy, we have a chance to be a really good team.”

The Hornets continue to work on 5-on-5 scrimmages extensively during practice as Clifford gets a feel for his team.

But there were several key players missing on Thursday.

Point guard Kemba Walker (knee) and center Cody Zeller (knee) remained out of practice while rehabbing from injuries. Guard Jeremy Lamb did not practice after stepping on a basketball and twisting his ankle, while Brian Roberts was held out after injuring his hamstring when he slipped on some water on the court. Clifford said he hopes to have Lamb and Roberts back in a few days.