We need to acknowledge that this is a historic season for the Los Angeles Clippers — it is the franchise’s first time ever to 50 wins and first time ever it will win the Pacific Division. Some luck in the draft, some aggressive moves by management and owner Donald Sterling writing bigger checks has changed the culture of the franchise.
But with success comes greater expectations.
And that’s where the Clippers find themselves — in the first half of this season the Clippers looked like a contender but as time has gone on their defense has regressed to pedestrian, they are 11-9 in their last 20 and look like a team that could get bounced early in the playoffs.
And with losing comes finger pointing. And chemistry issues. As T.J. Simers wrote about at the Los Angeles Times Wednesday, pointing his pen at DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin.
Jordan wants nothing to do with Coach Vinny Del Negro because he blames Del Negro for burying him on the bench.
Yet Jordan’s inability to play consistently or make free throws, thereby turning the ball over to the opposition much like a turnover, makes him a liability in close games….
Griffin is Jordan’s buddy, and still a kid. His development has been sabotaged by his inability to accept criticism of any sort….
The pair have also grown tired of Chris Paul’s voice, which is understandable at times. Paul, very much like Kobe Bryant — who has turned off Dwight Howard with his out-of-this-world standards — is relentless. He never shuts up. And Jordan and Griffin have become weary of him.
Chris Paul was asked about that Friday and didn’t sound overly concerned.
The Clippers locker room is unlike many others — Chris Paul’s son, Matt Barnes’ sons and other children are regulars in there. Guys joke around openly and the vibe is more family than a lot of other locker rooms.
But tough times strain families and they are straining the Clippers. CP3 is relentless in his quest to win, Vinny Del Negro’s seat is getting warm and we all wonder what will happen to them in the playoffs. With the losses is coming the finger pointing. It always does.
The big question for the Clippers is how does the playoffs and the chemistry issues impact Chris Paul — he very likely re-signs with the Clippers this summer, but when he does will he demand other changes as well? It’s going to be an interesting summer for the Clippers. And one that does not involve another lottery party.
Through 22 games, Russell Westbrook is averaging 31 points, 11.3 assists, and 10.9 rebounds a night — the first guy to average a triple-double this deep into a season since Oscar Robertson did it for a full campaign in 1963. Westbrook has had a triple-double in six straight games.
The only question is: Can Westbrook keep this up? Can he average a triple-double for a season?
He’s got a backer in LeBron James. Here is what LeBron said at shootaround on Wednesday, as the Cavaliers were in New York to take on the Knicks, you can see his comments via ESPN.
“Westbrook can do it. He’s capable of doing it. He’s showing it. He’s like the Energizer Bunny, man. He just doesn’t get tired. He doesn’t get tired, and when you have that passion for the game, too, as well, it’s very doable. The game has definitely changed a little bit. It’s more, it’s almost feeling like back in, like, the 80s, you know, when teams were putting up 145 and 135 and more possessions and more shot attempts — obviously, they weren’t shooting as many 3s, but it was a lot of possessions. So with that being said, with his athleticism, him being able to get those rebounds, he handles the ball for the majority of the game for OKC so he’s gonna get the assists and I think he’s averaging nine free throws a game. He’s going to make seven or eight of those a game and obviously he’s going to get one bucket — he’s going to get 10 points. That’s the easy thing for him. So it’s very doable.”
I don’t think the question is can he do it? LeBron is right, he can. I think the question is will his body hold up? He’s a strong, well-conditioned athlete, but that is a lot of toll physically.
The Thunder need him to do this: Westbrook has 11 triple-doubles this season, the Thunder are 9-2 in those games. They are 5-6 when he fails.
Donatas Motiejunas — with his agent B.J. Armstrong — has backed himself into a bit of a corner.
The restricted free agent signed a four-year, $37 million offer sheet with the Nets, but it had a lot of favorable terms (the final two years are not fully guaranteed, for example) so as one would expect the Rockets matched it. However, under NBA rules the Rockets only had to match the base of the contract — $31 million worth — not the incentives. Which is what the Rockets did.
On Tuesday, Motiejunas did not report for his physical with Houston, and the $6 million is the reason, reports Calvin Watkins of ESPN.
Restricted free agent Donatas Motiejunas won’t report to the Houston Rockets because of a difference of nearly $6 million from the offer sheet he signed with the Brooklyn Nets, sources told ESPN on Wednesday.
Last week, Motiejunas signed a four-year, $37 million offer sheet with the Nets. The Rockets on Monday opted to match that offer. However, based on the CBA, the Rockets only had to match the principle terms of the offer sheet, which came to $31 million. The $6 million difference was to be paid to Motiejunas via incentive clauses if he played for the Nets.
Motiejunas may not like it, but the Rockets have almost all the power here. As of Thursday, the Rockets can pull the offer (even if they don’t, it will expire eventually on March 1), and at that point Motiejunas is a restricted free agent again. Right where he was before. The Nets can’t re-sign him to an offer now for another year. Other teams with the cap space aren’t interested (for example, Philadelphia has the room, but the last thing they need is another big man in the rotation). The Rockets would like him to play — as a big who can shoot the three he should fit well in the Mike D’Antoni system — but they are not going fail him on the physical and let him go for nothing (they can’t trade him until after the season, even if Motiejunas relents and signs the deal with the Rockets)
Motiejunas’ only play? Sit out. But at age 26, why is he wasting part of his short career window to make money playing basketball?
NEW YORK (AP) — LeBron James said he wasn’t trying to make a statement by not staying at a Donald Trump-branded hotel with the Cleveland Cavaliers, calling it a personal preference.
“It would be the same if I went to a restaurant and decided to eat chicken and not steak,” James said.
James and some other players didn’t stay with the team at the Trump SoHo in lower Manhattan before the Cavs’ game against the New York Knicks on Wednesday night. James said it was the first time in his career he hasn’t stayed with his team, though he said he rode the bus to the morning shootaround as usual with the squad.
James endorsed Hillary Clinton and campaigned with her in Ohio. Several of his teammates, including Richard Jefferson, Iman Shumpert and others have expressed their disappointment about Trump’s win.
“At the end of the day I hope he’s one of the best presidents ever, for all of our sake,” James said. “For my family, for all us.”
A team spokesman didn’t say how many players opted not to stay in the team hotel and wasn’t sure how James met up with the bus.
Coach Tyronn Lue, who stayed with the team, was asked if it was odd to have the players split up on the road.
“It’s not normal, but considering the circumstances that’s what we have,” Lue said. “But that’s not my main objective. My main thing is to try to get this team to stay on track and play the right way and try to get back on track by playing Cleveland Cavalier basketball.”
James wouldn’t talk about Knicks President Phil Jackson, who angered the All-Star forward last month by referring to his friends and business partners in an ESPN interview as a “posse.”
Boston’s Marcus Smart is one of the league’s more notorious floppers.
He was at it again Monday night against the Houston Rockets — and the league called him on it and gave him a warning.
It happened on the game’s final play — you were probably focused elsewhere, wondering how Al Horford could miss the game-winning layup. But watch Smart as he gets in position for the rebound on that shot.
The referees didn’t buy it then.
This warning is barely a slap on the wrist. If — in his case, when — Smart gets caught a second time this season he will get a $5,000 fine from the league. Smart is making $3.6 million this season.