Clippers upend Memphis in battle of wanna be contenders

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It wasn’t the prettiest thing you’ll ever see.

No, I’m not talking about the ABA throwback uniforms…. well, those too. But I meant the game.

Doesn’t matter, the Clippers will take it. In a battle of teams trying to ascend to contender status, the Clippers executed better down the stretch and won 98-91. Nobody with the Thunder watched this game and felt nervous about a potential playoff matchup — nobody was taking a step up the contender ladder Thursday — but after losing to the Lakers because they got out-executed late the night before the Clippers turned the tables on the Grizzlies. That’s something for a growing team.

But really, we know why you were watching this game.

Los Angeles raced out to a quick double-digit lead but when Memphis stepped up the defensive pressure the Clippers turned the ball over (13 times in the first half) and that spurred some easy buckets to fuel a Grizzlies comeback. The game would be close the rest of the way.

Memphis needs those turnovers and runouts to really be efficient. However the Clippers tightened it up in the second half and only committed three turnovers, which slowed the Memphis attack. Marc Gasol had a good game, both scoring (18 points) and as a passer out of the post to cutters. But it wasn’t enough.

In the half court, both of these teams can be hard to watch. The Clippers are simplistic and predictable, but get away with it because Chris Paul is so special in the pick-and-roll — and they have so many athletes around him — that it just works.

Mo Williams had nine points in the fourth quarter, but in a key moment late the Clippers actually went away from the pick-and-roll (all that their offense seems to be for long stretches) and moved the ball from strong to weak, which opened a hole where Caron Butler was able to drive on the shifting Grizzlies defense and get points.

Rudy Gay had a game-high 24 points but he also had six turnovers, including a late strip by Butler and Chris Paul that sealed the game.

Victor Oladipo’s practice dunk better than anything he – or maybe anyone – did in dunk contest (video)

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Victor Oladipo has grown into far more than just a dunker.

In fact, in Saturday’s dunk contest, he didn’t look like a dunker at all.

The Pacers star missed all three attempts of his first dunk, and a Black Panther mask was by far the biggest draw of his second. Oladipo was eliminated after the first round.

Maybe Dennis Smith Jr. wasn’t the only eliminated dunker who left something in his bag. This Oladipo dunk – 180 degrees, throwing ball off the backboard with his left hand while in mid-air, dunking with his right hand – while preparing in Los Angeles was awesome.

Larry Nance Jr. had the contest’s best dunk. This would have rivaled it.

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.