Los Angeles Clippers Paul reacts during their loss to the Memphis Grizzlies in Game 5 of their NBA Western Conference Quarterfinals basketball playoff series in Los Angeles

Clippers respond publicly to appease the ‘angry’ Chris Paul

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When anonymously sourced reports surfaced that Chris Paul wasn’t the least bit happy with being tagged as the one responsible for the Clippers parting ways with Vinny Del Negro, the logical move would be for the team to reach out to Paul directly — and privately — to let him know that wasn’t the case.

But logic and the Clippers have never played well together, so the franchise embarrassed itself yet again.

Because both team owner Donald Sterling and the departed Del Negro each had their own way of hinting that Paul was indeed behind the decision — and again, even if Paul didn’t go to bat for Del Negro, that silence still qualifies as saying something — the team felt that it needed to respond publicly to the reports of their unrestricted free agent point guard being ‘angry’ with the way this whole thing has been playing out.

From Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com:

“The decision not to extend a contract to Vinny Del Negro was an organizational decision from the top down,” Clippers vice president of basketball operations Gary Sacks said. “Our front office evaluated the season and Vinny’s three years here before making this move, and our conclusion and feeling was that we needed a change.”

“Our goal is to compete for a championship and I felt that in order for us to keep improving, we needed to make this move to help us achieve that goal,” Sacks said. “With the talent we have on our roster, it’s not our goal just to make the playoffs. It’s our goal to compete for a championship, and we need to find the right person who can lead us there.”

All of that might be true, and Del Negro wasn’t without his flaws. But if the team truly was concerned about how Paul would be perceived throughout this process, they would have said these things from the very beginning, and repeated them on a loop to any and all media outlets willing to listen.

By jumping in after the fact like this, the organization is coming from a position of weakness. Those in charge are letting it be known that they will do whatever is necessary to placate Paul to make sure he’ll re-sign with the Clippers in free agency.

That’s not the wrong thing to do, but this is the wrong way to go about it. Paul should take the way the Clippers have handled this whole thing as a sign that they still aren’t ready to compete at the level of of the elite, and look elsewhere for where he’ll spend his future.

He won’t, of course, because the Los Angeles market is too great of a place to play, and because he can get a max contract from the Clippers while playing for a team that’s relatively stocked with talent. But the organization groveling at Paul’s feet and responding to his every reported whim publicly is not the way to build a long-term, two-way relationship full of mutual respect with its cornerstone superstar.

Zaza Pachulia steals ball, starts break, blows open layup against Suns (VIDEO)

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Zaza Pachulia is riding the Golden State Warriors train for all it’s worth, in the good and the bad. In November, Pachulia hit a mid-range jumper and did a horse dance. If that was the zenith, Saturday night against the Phoenix Suns was the nadir.

Particularly because Pachulia blew a breakaway layup in which he definitely should have scored.

Instead, the Warriors big man stuffed the ball between the iron and the backboard, clumsily squandering his opportunity:

*Sad trombone*

Russell Westbrook’s no-look, two-hand, behind-his-head pass ignites Thunder break

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Russell Westbrook was just himself — hustling, attacking, and getting his fifth triple-double in a row Sunday night against the Pelicans.

But the play of the night didn’t get him any points or an assist. It was Westbrook hustling, getting to the floor to get a loose ball, then making the showtime pass to start a Globetrotters-like fast break that ended with an Andre Roberson dunk.

Westbrook had an impressive dunk of his own.

NBA VP Kiki VanDeWeghe on “unnaturual acts:” “Our rules are for every player”

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The NBA has tried to crack down on “unnatural acts” — players flailing body parts trying to draw a foul call.

At the heart of that is Golden State’s Draymond Green, who picked up a flagrant foul for the unnatural act of getting his leg high enough to kick James Harden in the face Thursday night. Green fired back at the league, saying in part, “It’s funny how you can tell me how I get hit and how my body is supposed to react. I didn’t know the league office was that smart when it came to body movements.” Green’s argument is that he was fouled in the air and the high leg was the natural act of him trying to keep his balance. (Doesn’t matter, it’s a reckless act and if you kick someone in the face you should get a flagrant foul. Also, try explaining the kick on Marquese Chriss on Saturday that way.)

Former All-Star NBA player as well as coach Kiki VanDeWeghe is now an NBA vice president and the guy who is the decision maker on these reviews and fouls. He spoke with Sam Amick of the USA Today about how those unnatural act rules are applied.

“Our rules are for every player,” VanDeWeghe told USA TODAY Sports. “We want each play judged according to the rules, as best possible, and the rules applied fairly across our whole league. That’s very important to us. We don’t make exceptions for players. They are applied to everybody.

“In Draymond’s particular case (against the Houston Rockets on Thursday), he had an arm flail which struck the player (James Harden) in the neck-head area. And then in addition to that, he had a kick up above the head of the defender. As he brought his leg down, his heel hit him in the face. It wouldn’t matter what player we’re talking about (it’s a foul)….

“Most of these are done to draw the attention of the referees. We noticed an uptick in these last year, and they needed to be addressed by the competition committee.”

While Green feels singled out — “marked” is what he tweeted — VanDeWeghe noted that competition committee included owners, coaches, GMs, people from the players union, and a lot of people with playing experience, who all sat down as a group and studied what is and is not an “unnatural act.” As Amick noted, it isn’t just Green who gets hit with these penalties, although he gets the headlines: Boston’s Marcus Smart was given a Flagrant One for his kick to the groin of the Miami’s Hassan Whiteside; Thursday LeBron James was given a technical foul for his blow to the head of the Clippers’ Alan Anderson.

So long as Green continues to make these acts — and the kick to Chriss Saturday suggests they are not slowing down — the crackdown will continue.

Watch Raptors PG Kyle Lowry throw a full-court alley oop to Pascal Siakam

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Toronto Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry is having an excellent year for the Eastern Conference Finals hopefuls, and part of that is due to his vision. On Saturday, Lowry threw a full-court lob to Pascal Siakam that was mighty impressive.

After a missed shot in the middle of the third quarter by the Atlanta Hawks, Lowry gathered the rebound on the left block and quickly turned his eyes downcourt.

Siakam, the No. 27 overall pick in the 2016 NBA Draft, was streaking toward the Raptors basket and behind the Hawks defense.

Lowry took advantage with a long-distance heave after one dribble at the free-throw line, and Pascal was able to gather and softly lay the ball up at the rim.