Danny Granger expects to start next season, and Frank Vogel plays along for now

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The Pacers’ starting lineup this season was one of the NBA’s best. George Hill, Lance Stephenson, Paul George, David West and Roy Hibbert meshed together extremely well, both offensively and defensively. It was almost as if Indiana’s management assembled that group to play heavy minutes together. Almost.

If not for injuries, Danny Granger would have certainly started over Stephenson. Instead, Granger played just five games – all of the bench – between two knee injuries.

Stephenson certainly stepped up, going from on his way out of the NBA to a solid starter on a team that reached the Eastern Conference Finals.

But what happens next year if Granger returns? Zak Keefer of The Indianapolis Star:

Following the Game 7 loss, Granger said he expected to be back in the starting lineup at the start of next season.

Vogel was asked if he saw things the same way.

“Probably,” he said. “We gotta see how he returns. My anticipation is that he’s going to have a full recovery. I told him if he returns to full health and the ability that he’s exhibited throughout his career, then he’ll be the starter.”

Vogel added that he challenged Lance Stephenson, who in Granger’s stead had a breakout year, to “not let that happen.”

Granger is 30 years old. Under normal circumstances, he’d probably be declining. Considering he had two knee surgeries in seven months, he and the Pacers must accept there’s a very real chance he never approaches his All-Star level again.

But if Granger is healthy, Vogel will have a delicate situation on his hands managing not only the on-court combinations, but also the egos off the court. So far into his young coach career, Vogel has looked great, but this could be his biggest test to date.

Kevin Durant apologizes for telling fans ‘If you don’t like it, don’t watch it,’ reiterates stance

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Kevin Durant told fans, dismayed by the lack of competitive games and series this postseason, “If you don’t like it, don’t watch it.”

Daring customers to choose another form of entertainment might not be good business for the NBA, but it’s not as if many fans needed an invitation. I doubt anyone was on the fence about watching then made up their minds after hearing Durant’s comments.

Yet, the Warriors star offered an apology.

Durant, via Chris Haynes of ESPN:

“I mean, life can be simple, man, Durant told ESPN. “If you don’t like the way the game is going, just turn it off. If you’re enjoying it, just keep it on. Life is simple. I didn’t mean it to disrespect anybody, but if you felt disrespected, I’m sorry. But if you don’t enjoy the game, turn it off [and] turn something else on. If you do, enjoy the rest of it, man.”

This is just a softer touch on the same sentiment – and just as reasonable.

People who love the NBA will watch. People who hate the NBA won’t. And people in the middle will fluctuate depending on the quality of the product.

Anyone mad at Durant the first time was just looking for a reason to get upset. That group will probably find a source of irritation in the follow-up quote, too.

The rest of us didn’t need this (half-hearted) apology, anyway.

Marreese Speights opts out of Clippers contract

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The Clippers are unraveling.

Of course, whether they can re-sign Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are the big questions. But they also must deal with smaller matters in free agency – like Marreese Speights.

Speights will opt out, his agent tweeted:

The Clippers will hold Speights’ Non-Bird Rights (technically a form of Bird Rights), allowing them to give him a starting salary up to $2,540,346 without using cap space or the mid-level exception.

The 29-year-old Speights, a stretch five who takes charges, fits the modern NBA. He could probably get more if he seeks it.

The Clippers won’t have cap space unless they lose Paul and Griffin, and at that point, re-signing a veteran like Speights is of little use. So, it would likely require the taxpayer mid-level exception or Speights taking a discount to keep him.

Luc Mbah a Moute can and likely will also opt out, and he’ll fall in the same Non-Bird situation. The Clippers would likely prioritize their mid-level exception for him – if it’s enough for either player.

Keeping Paul and Griffin is of the utmost importance, but that’s not the Clippers’ only challenge. Even if they keep those two stars, assembling even a decent supporting cast will difficult. Possibly losing J.J. Redick is the main issue there, but handling Speights’ and Mbah a Moute’s roster spots will also be pivotal.

Warriors struggle to get Zaza Pachulia’s 2017 NBA Finals hat on his big head (video)

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Zaza Pachulia became the villain of the Western Conference finals when he injured Kawhi Leonard and torpedoed the Spurs chances of upsetting the Warriors.

But his teammates stood by him – then shared this fun moment with him after Golden State won the West.

Reporter asks Spanish-speaking Manu Ginobili whether he just announced retirement (video)

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Manu Ginobili received an emotional sendoff in the Spurs’ season-ending – and maybe Ginobili’s career-ending – loss to the Warriors last night.

The postgame press conference featured a lighthearted moment when, after the Argentinian guard answered a couple questions in Spanish, an American reporter – not wanting to miss big news – asked whether Ginobili had just announced his retirement.

No, Ginobili assured the reporter. He says he plans to take a few weeks to consider his options.