Blake Griffin says Clippers change defensive principles ‘every single game’

8 Comments

The Clippers will, in all likelihood, finish the regular season as either the three, four, or five seed in the Western Conference playoff picture. They way they’ve been playing recently, however, winning just four of their last eight, would suggest that some adjustments need to be made internally over the team’s last 13 regular season games in order to prepare for a postseason run that will last beyond the first round.

Like most teams, defense is what the Clippers have been struggling with as of late. Not in terms of overall effort, but the level of execution has varied wildly from game to game, and if we’re to believe the recent comments made by Blake Griffin, we now know the reason why.

From Arash Markazi of ESPN Los Angeles:

“Our bigs are getting stretched out a little bit,” [Vinny Del Negro] said. “They have to have a little sense of urgency in closing out. Some guys can make that adjustment, and some guys are struggling with that but drilled it again today. That’s obviously an area of concern.”

Clippers forward Blake Griffin disagreed with Del Negro.

“It depends on our defensive strategy and our defensive principles for that game,” Griffin said. “We switch them every single game. I don’t see that, no, but I’m biased.”

“Our main focus of practice and our theme of practice has been defensively making sure we’re executing our game plan,” Griffin said. “Because like I said, we switch it up every game, depending on who we’re playing and who has the ball and who’s a threat for them.”

Go ahead and make note of the date of these quotes, because this is only the beginning of a core issue facing this Clippers team, and one that will get magnified over time if the team doesn’t advance to the later rounds of the playoffs.

Del Negro is viewed by many as incapable of leading the Clippers past a certain point. If what Griffin is saying is true (and there’s no reason to believe that it isn’t), then the team has no defensive backbone that it can rely on game to game, while he and his teammates are forced to constantly adjust schemes and principles on the fly based on who the opponent is on any given night.

Every team makes adjustments, of course, but the fact that the word Griffin used was “principles” is a bit scary, considering that those should be foundational and not be changing throughout the course of the season.

Regardless of how you view these words, the fact that Griffin’s idea of what should happen defensively is very different than how his head coach views things is not a great sign for the Clippers this late in the season.

How Ryan Anderson, Trevor Ariza complicate Rockets’ pursuit of third star

AP Photo/John Raoux
Leave a comment

After pairing Chris Paul and James Harden, the Rockets are reportedly chasing a third starPaul George, Carmelo Anthony or someone else.

But Houston parted with significant assets to land Paul from the Clippers. And the Rockets will have a tricky time dealing two remaining players, Ryan Anderson and Trevor Ariza.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

Unloading Ryan Anderson to sign Paul outright would have helped Houston keep one of their outgoing guards, but the market for the three years and $60 million left on Anderson’s deal was frigid. Not even the Kings wanted him for free. At least two teams would have demanded two Houston first-round picks in exchange for absorbing Anderson, according to several league sources.

The salary filler probably can’t be Trevor Ariza, by the way. Ariza and Paul are close after years together in New Orleans, and playing with Ariza factored at least a little into Paul’s decision, per league sources. The Clippers had tried to trade for him in prior seasons, sources say. Ariza is also still good at a coveted position, and his Bird Rights will be valuable to a capped-out Rockets team next summer.

Anderson would be dangerous as a stretch four in pick-and-pops with Paul and Harden. Even if he’s overpaid, might be better to keep him than surrender more assets to dump him.

Likewise, Ariza is a nice two-way player and can play small-ball four. There’s a use for him on this team.

But beyond them, Houston is left with Eric Gordon and Clint Capela as movable players. Gordon, with a higher salary and less obvious fit with Paul and Harden, would almost certainly be a key cog in a trade for another star. Capela is younger and more valuable, though the Rockets would probably want to keep him as a defensive anchor.

That might not be possible while trading for a third star, though. Houston can’t even guarantee sending out another first-round pick in a trade after sending a protected first-rounder to the Clippers. (The Rockets could agree to convey a first-rounder two years after sending one to L.A., which would is highly likely to convey next year.) Including Capela in a trade might be the only way to assemble a suitable package.

Even then, Houston would be hard-pressed to surpass an offer from the Lakers or Celtics for George. Plus, if Indiana is rebuilding around Myles Turner, Capela is an awkward fit. That trade might require a third team – causing further complications.

Hoping Anthony gets bought out by the Knicks then signs for the mid-level exception is much simpler – though that route returns the lesser third star.

But Daryl Morey just brought Chris Paul to Houston before free agency even began. Now is not the time to underestimate the Rockets general manager.

Report: Knicks won’t consider Isiah Thomas to run front office

AP Photo/Seth Wenig
1 Comment

A couple years ago, Knicks owner James Dolan said there was no scenario Isiah Thomas would return to the Knicks.

But Dolan also said a few months ago he’d keep Phil Jackson for the duration of Jackson’s five-year contract.

With Dolan effectively firing Jackson today, could Thomas become the Knicks’ next president?

Marc Berman of the New York Post:

The Post also learned Liberty president Isiah Thomas would not be considered for Jackson’s successor.

It’s sad that this needs to be reported. It’s even sadder that, even if this the Knicks’ plans right now, there are no assurances Dolan holds steady.

Dumping Jackson is a reason to celebrate. But as long as Dolan owns the team, it must be a reserved celebration.

At least the Knicks’ next step won’t include Thomas. Probably.

Raptors promote Bobby Webster to general manager

Dave Sandford/NBAE via Getty Images
1 Comment

TORONTO (AP) — With rumors swirling about the Knicks chasing Raptors president Masai Ujiri, the Raptors have promoted Bobby Webster to general manager.

Webster, 32 years old assistant the youngest GM in the NBA, replaces Jeff Weltman, who left Toronto in May to become president of the Orlando Magic.

A former staffer at the NBA league office in New York, Webster joined the Raptors in 2013 and was named assistant GM in 2016.

He’ll help decide what to offer All-Star point guard Kyle Lowry, who opted out of the final year of his contract last month after Cleveland swept Toronto in the second round of the playoffs.

Forwards Serge Ibaka, P.J. Tucker and Patrick Patterson are all unrestricted free agents.

Also Wednesday, Toronto promoted Dan Tolzman to assistant general manager.

The Raptors have posted consecutive 50-win seasons and made four straight playoff appearances.

Jason Williams out 6-8 months after injury in Big3 debut

Al Bello/Getty Images
2 Comments

NEW YORK (AP) — Former NBA point guard Jason Williams will miss six to eight months after suffering a knee injury in the opening game of the Big3.

Corey Maggette, also injured in the opening week of Ice Cube’s 3-on-3 league of former NBA players, had surgery for a leg injury. There is no timetable for his return.

The injuries were announced Wednesday during a conference call with Cube and Big3 co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz, who also detailed a couple rules changes starting with this weekend’s game in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Games will be played to 50 points, instead of 60, with halftime coming when the first team reaches 25 points. Cube said that would help the four games per day move more quickly.