Another report Chris Paul very likely to re-sign with Clippers

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Chris Paul is simply put the best player available as a free agent this summer.

And while teams will call, the buzz around the league is none of them think they have a shot at him. Everyone is pretty convinced he will re-sign with the Los Angeles Clippers.

That includes the Clippers. Marc Stein wrote at ESPN.com that the Clippers are very confident that CP3 will not leave this summer.

As one source close to the situation put it this week when asked to grade the Clips’ chances of retaining CP3, keeping in mind his well-chronicled love of the Hollywood scene and the fact that this team was good enough to reel off 17 wins in a row earlier this season: “I’m saying 99.5 percent.”

There are a lot of reasons for optimism. One, Paul likes the Los Angeles lifestyle, and he puts his son and family first and they all seem settled. Next, the Clippers can offer him more money in a max deal than anyone else with larger raises. (The Clippers cannot offer a fifth guaranteed year because they gave their one five-year deal to Blake Griffin.) Also, the organization seems to listen to him in terms of player moves he’d like to see.

Most importantly, where else is Paul going to go where he would be closer to winning a title? We can debate if DeAndre Jordan can really provide the punch they need inside in the postseason, just like we can discuss how they could use another shooter. And there is always the Vinny Del Negro caveat when discussing the Clippers postseason. But the fact is the Clippers are close, very close. If they can play in the postseason like they did at their peak this season they are a legitimate challenger to the Thunder. The Clippers are in the red zone for a title, not starting the drive from their own 20 like they were for so long.

Things always can change. A playoff meltdown could alter the landscape. This team is still owned by Donald Sterling and he did not become a saint overnight. We could come up with a list of things that could go wrong, but the fact is they most likely will not. Chris Paul will be back with the Clippers next season.

Which is why when team around the league look at major free agents they can poach this summer, they are eyeing that other team in Staples Center, not the Clippers.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.

Marc Gasol: If Grizzlies don’t share my goal of continued growth, we might have to revisit things

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The Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind era has ended.

Zach Randolph signed with the Kings, and Tony Allen appears likely to leave Memphis, too. The Grizzlies are prioritizing younger/cheaper players like Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans.

Marc Gasol via Ala Carta, as translated by HoopsHype:

I’m very ambitious and I’ve wanted Memphis to be a great franchise. We’ve grown a lot the last 6-7 years, but we have to keep growing. If this is not lined up, maybe we may have to revisit things.

Gasol has been loyal to Memphis, and his first wish is probably winning there. But Giannis Antetokounmpo put it well: Teams must also do right by their players. Gasol is 32 and doesn’t have much time in his prime left. I see why rebuilding wouldn’t interest him.

But what will he do about it if the Grizzlies don’t prioritize the present? They made their push last summer with a max contract for Chandler Parsons, but because Parsons can’t stay healthy, that deal only inhibits team growth.

Gasol is locked up for two more years before a player option. He doesn’t have much leverage. This is part of the reason LeBron James keeps signing short-term contracts. Gasol doesn’t have the same ability to steer his team in his desired direction

On the potentially bright side, rebuilding teams often don’t have much use for 32-year-olds guaranteed more than $72 million over the following three years. If the fit devolves, Memphis becomes more likely to trade him.

Celtics to retire Paul Pierce’s number after Cavaliers game in February

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The Celtics already said they’d retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.

Now, we know when.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34 after a mid-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Feb. 11

After? That’s apparently in response to a new rule that penalizes teams not ready to play after a 15-minute halftime. These ceremonies can drag on, and nobody wants to cut Pierce short. I wonder whether this will start a trend of number retirements coming after games.