Report: If Kevin Garnett wanted to join the Clippers, Chris Paul would have made it happen

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We know Kevin Garnett is intensely loyal, but Chris Paul and the Clippers certainly put that to the test at the deadline.

Garnett’s situation was unique of other stars that didn’t get dealt at the deadline, mainly because of his no-trade clause. If he wanted to remain a Celtic, that was his prerogative.

Despite what he said in the media about his love for the Celtics, and how he had no interest in waiving his no-trade clause unless Paul Pierce got dealt first, that didn’t stop Chris Paul from trying to lure him to the Clippers, apparently.

According to several accounts, though, talk between Ainge and the Clippers continued right up until the final hours yesterday. Garnett said during All-Star weekend that he would not waive his no-trade clause, and held true to his vow despite added pressure from Clippers guard Chris Paul.

According to a league source, Paul called Garnett and said that if he was open to joining the Clippers, then Paul would make it happen. Garnett, though, declined, expressing a desire to remain a Celtic.

Ainge’s wish list had been topped by the Clippers’ young duo of guard Eric Bledsoe and center DeAndre Jordan. The Clips, with an eye on trading part of the future for a deep playoff run now, focused their attention on Garnett.

But Garnett reportedly said no, to the relief of an entire Celtics locker room.

Via Mark Murphy | Boston Herald

This is what true franchise players do. They play the game off the court, too. They recruit. They plot. They swing their weight around to get things done.

No one has questioned Paul’s power with the Clippers. Wisely so, the Clippers have complied with all his wishes since he joined the team last year. They re-signed Chauncey Billups — a guy Paul adores — as their first act of business this offseason. They’ve brought in former Hornets employees Paul pined for at various levels of the organization.

Paul has that level of persuasion in part because he’s not committed to the team yet. While no one around the team expects Paul to leave in free agency this season, the threat is present until he signs an extension. That left Paul with some unique power at the deadline — if Garnett would have been amenable to it, he could have gone to the front office and said, “Go get Kevin Garnett, and I’ll sign my extension.” The Clippers front office would have little choice but to acquiesce to Paul’s desires. They know where their bread is buttered.

It’s an interesting lesson in NBA politics and seniority, if nothing else. You see the three levels of power.

Blake Griffin, who is signed with the Clippers long-term, probably wouldn’t have much influence had it come to that. DeAndre Jordan is his best friend and going “all-in” and sacrificing young talent probably wouldn’t be in his best future interests, but he wouldn’t have the power to stop it.

Chris Paul had the power, even if it was only implied and never spoken, to get what he wanted at the deadline.

But of course, Kevin Garnett, who paid his dues in Minnesota all those years, held the ultimate power of being able to decide where he wanted to play.

How different would things be if Garnett didn’t have that power? We’ll never know.

John Wall scores 37 as Wizards down LeBron James, Cavs 127-115

Associated Press
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CLEVELAND (AP) John Wall scored 37 points, Bradley Beal added 27 and the Washington Wizards began a challenging road trip by beating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers 127-115 on Saturday night.

Wall scored 18 in the first quarter, when the Wizards shot 82 percent, and Washington held on down the stretch to avenge an overtime loss to the NBA champions last month.

James, who briefly wore goggles to protect an eye injury sustained Friday night, scored 24 and added 11 rebounds and eight assists. Kyrie Irving added 23 points and Kevin Love 17 for Cleveland, playing at home for the only time in a seven-game stretch.

Washington’s victory cut Cleveland’s lead in the Eastern Conference to a half-game over idle Boston.

Rudy Gobert calls out Jazz teammates after loss: “We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice.”

Associated Press
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Utah and the L.A. Clippers are almost locked into a first round, four vs. five battle in the Western Conference. The only question is which team will have home court, and the Clippers took a big step towards that beating the Jazz at home Saturday. While the Jazz still has a half-game lead, the Clippers have a much softer schedule the rest of the way.

After that loss, Jazz center Rudy Gobert was ticked off and called out his teammates. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“We’ve got guys that compete, but some of us don’t compete. Some of us just think about scoring. That’s what it is. … Coach keeps repeating it: We’ve just got to compete. We’re too nice. Those guys, we know they’re going to get calls. We’ve just got to come out aggressive and ready to fight.”

Interesting comments for a team that is third in the NBA in defensive rating and 13th in offense.

Gobert is frustrated as Utah has dropped four of its last five, and the slump has been on both ends of the court. The defense has struggled, but if guys are looking to score too much they aren’t doing it efficiently because the offense has been worse.

This slide likely costs Utah home court in the first round, which could matter in what will be a tight matchup with Los Angeles. Utah needs to find its grinding rhythm again heading into the playoffs, at their best they can knock off the Clippers in the first round. Just not like they are playing now.

One thing to watch, Utah’s Gordon Hayward asked out of the game in the fourth quarter due to what is being called a bruised muscle in his leg. If he misses any time or if this lingers, it could be trouble for the Jazz in the postseason.

 

LeBron James starts game with protective goggles. That lasts about a minute.

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LeBron James suffered a scratched cornea Friday night when he went up for a layup late in the third quarter and Jeremy Lamb tried to contest and caught him clean across the face. LeBron got the and-1, but had trouble keeping his eye open in postgame interviews Friday.

Saturday he did play — wearing protective goggles. As you can see above.

That lasted about a minute.

LeBron was likely frustrated as the Cavaliers defensive woes had the Wizards up double digits much of the first half.

Kobe Bryant says he’s “only a phone call away” if organization needs his advice

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For the first time since he walked off the court in his final game, Kobe Bryant was back at Staples Center Friday night.

The reason was Shaquille O’Neal was getting a statue out in front of Staples Center (a building that may not have gotten built without the two of them). The two famed feuders sat next to each other and joked around through the ceremony. Time heals all wounds.

With the new management of the Lakers — specifically Kobe’s former agent Rob Pelinka as GM — there has been speculation Kobe could take on a role. He’s not looking for something formal, according to reports, but he didn’t say no, either, when asked.

I picture Kobe as a guy who someday buys a team, not a guy who wants to haggle with agents over the details of a contract. He’s not going to take on a day-to-day role, he likes the retired life and what he is building with the Kobe brand.

That said, the Lakers front office can use all the smart voices it can get as they try speed up a rebuild. They should give him a call every once in a while.