Steve Nash, Damian Lillard

Steve Nash blames back problems for poor shooting night against Blazers

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The Lakers pulled out a close win over the Blazers on Friday, behind a stellar 40-point offensive performance from Kobe Bryant.

Bryant hasn’t been scoring like this lately, preferring instead to involve his teammates more in the offense by passing up shots in favor of getting them some better and more consistent looks. But when they struggle to score, as Steve Nash did in this one, Bryant is forced to take matters into his own hands.

Nash is one of the game’s historically high-percentage shooters, but had one of his worst games in recent memory in terms of making shots. He finished 2-11 from the field, and missed his only attempts from the free throw line and three-point arc by leaving both shots uncharacteristically short.

As it turns out, there was a reason for Nash’s struggles.

From Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times:

“I tweaked my back in the first quarter and it kept locking up,” said Nash. “It was tight the whole game and I couldn’t get the mobility.”

“I didn’t have enough time to get it sorted out and it just tightened up as it [went on],” said Nash of his back. “Hopefully, since we don’t play tomorrow, it should be fine by Sunday.”

The last thing the Lakers need is more injury concerns this season, and should Nash go down for any extended period of time, the team would find itself in even more trouble than it already is in trying to secure a spot to play in the postseason.

Despite Nash’s shooting woes, he was stil able to push the tempo and create a few things for his teammates during his 34 minutes of on-court action. He knows what it takes to get his body right, and works as hard on the conditioning aspect of his game as any player in the league, so hopefully for the Lakers this won’t become a lingering issue to finish out the season.

NBA GM: Warriors ‘leaders in the clubhouse’ for Kevin Durant

Oklahoma City Thunder Kevin Durant, left, drives the ball against Golden State Warriors' Draymond Green (23) and Andre Iguodala (9) during the first half of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Dec. 18, 2014, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
AP Photo/Ben Margot
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Kevin Durant to the Warriors is having a moment, but even the most recent and most credible report linking the Thunder star to Golden State contained an important caveat:

Make no mistake: Durant isn’t close to gone in Oklahoma City – no decision, no leaning, sources said

Nobody has credibly reported Durant is leaning toward leaving the Thunder. The issue at hand is where Durant would go IF he leaves Oklahoma City.

Except one NBA general manager has gone a step further.

Vincent Goodwill of CSN Chicago:

General managers know a lot of things we don’t, but like anyone, they can also be prone to repeating gossip and hearsay. Does this general manager have inside info, or is he just participating the echo chamber? Impossible to say, but the possibility of the former raises the level of intrigue.

Of course, the Warriors can’t be the leaders in the clubhouse, because they’re not in the clubhouse. Free agency doesn’t begin until July. Nobody has made their final pitch, not even the Thunder.

It’s fun to make bold predictions now, and this general manager has a chance of looking genius. But sometimes the desire for that designation causes people to get ahead of themselves.

Report: Clippers quickly rebuffed interest after Nuggets called about Blake Griffin

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin (32) gets tied up near the basket by Denver Nuggets forward J.J. Hickson (7) during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Monday, April 13, 2015, in Los Angeles. The Clippers won 110-103. (Michael Goulding/The Orange County Register via AP)   MAGS OUT; LOS ANGELES TIMES OUT
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Here was my gut feel on a report that the Clippers had talked to the Nuggets about trading Blake Griffin to Denver:

1. Nuggets calling Clippers about Griffin

2. Clippers saying they’re not interested

3. Nuggets leaking the fact that Griffin trade talks happened with the Clippers – technically true! – to excite their fan base and potential free agents considering whether or not to take Denver seriously

Dan Woike of The Orange County Register:

https://twitter.com/DanWoikeSports/status/695691007053070336

Woike is the more reliable source of information here. I believe that’s all this was.

The Clippers probably shouldn’t sell low on Griffin now. But if the Nuggets made a truly reasonable offer based on Griffin’s peak value – and I doubt they did – it also wouldn’t hurt to consider it.

LeBron James wants to leave Hack-a-Shaq rules as they are

Cleveland Cavaliers forward LeBron James (23) drives on Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond (0) in the second half of an NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Mich., Tuesday, Jan. 27, 2015.  (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
AP Photo/Paul Sancya
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NBA commissioner Adam Silver said he increasingly believes the league should change its Hack-a-Shaq rules this offseason.

LeBron James – who has the commissioner’s ear on a number of issues – disagreed.

LeBron, via Chris Haynes of Cleveland.com:

“I don’t really see a problem with it,” James said at shootaround Friday in preparation for the Celtics. “At the end of the day, it’s a strategy of the game and whatever it takes to win. If that’s a part of the game, and you have a guy that is a bad free-throw shooter and you put him on the line, that’s a part of strategy.”

“That’s no different from a guy that can’t shoot well from the outside and you try to make him shoot bad from outside, or if a guy is turnover-prone and you put pressure on him. It’s all part of strategy. It’s no different,” he said.

There is a difference – a big one.

Hacking someone takes no basketball skill.

I could intentionally foul DeAndre Jordan or Andre Drummond. I could not keep a bad NBA outside shooter from getting into the paint. I could not force a turnover-prone NBA player into coughing up the ball.

There’s nothing wrong with exploiting an opponent’s weakness, but with the exception of hacking, that takes ability of your own.

Hacking is an outlier strategy, and as a result, it deserves special treatment in the rulebook.

Report: Clippers and Nuggets talked Blake Griffin trade

Los Angeles Clippers forward Blake Griffin, left, passes the ball past Denver Nuggets guard Gary Harris, rear, and forward Darrell Arthur during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2015, in Denver. The Clippers won 111-94. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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The Clippers are reportedly at least thinking about trading Blake Griffin if they again come up short in the playoffs.

Other teams will try to accelerate that timeline, especially while Griffin’s value is so low.

Mitch Lawrence of Sporting News:

I don’t know the substance of those talks, but this feels like the type of rumor generated by:

1. Nuggets calling Clippers about Griffin

2. Clippers saying they’re not interested

3. Nuggets leaking the fact that Griffin trade talks happened with the Clippers – technically true! – to excite their fan base and potential free agents considering whether or not to take Denver seriously

That said, the Nuggets have the assets to put together a fairly intriguing package.

Sharp-shooting combo forward Danilo Gallinari would be a great fit with the Clippers. Will Barton, Gary Harris and Wilson Chandler (though not this season) could also help. Kenneth Faried could approximate some of Griffin’s rim-running and lob-finishing skills if the Clippers want the option of using similar lineups to their current one. Joffrey Lauvergne could provide big-man depth behind DeAndre Jordan. All those players are locked up beyond this season, so the Clippers could form a new core and give it time to develop chemistry.

Denver also has three extra first-round picks (some of which could be very valuable), the right to swap first-rounders with the Knicks this year and all its own first-rounders. The win-now Clippers might not want rookies, but those picks could always be flipped for veterans. It’s about stockpiling assets, and the Clippers have already dealt one future first-rounder.

It still seems like the wrong time to trade Griffin, and I doubt the Clippers would do it. But if the Nuggets are willing to make a major offer, it’s worth actually listening.