Report: Clippers new plan to trade for Rivers first, then maybe Garnett

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The question now isn’t “do the Clippers want to make a series of trades with the Celtics that brings them Kevin Garnett and Doc Rivers?” They do. Both sides have basically hammered out a deal they liked.

The question is, “how do we structure a deal that David Stern and the NBA would sign off on?” Stern himself has said the deal would not get league approval. So it was back to the drawing board on how to construct a trade.

The latest plan is to get the coach first, reports Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne at ESPN.com.

The Los Angeles Clippers’ new strategy, in the wake of NBA commissioner David Stern’s public comments Thursday expressing serious misgivings about the legitimacy of the proposed trade of Kevin Garnett and a corresponding transaction that would transport Celtics coach Doc Rivers from Boston to L.A. as a package deal, is to pursue Rivers first and roll the dice on acquiring Garnett and Paul Pierce later, sources told ESPN.

The Clippers’ primary target now is Rivers, whom sources said team owner Donald Sterling already has signed off on paying upward of $7 million a year for five years. Boston would require compensation for Rivers, who is still under contract for three years and $21 million with the Celtics.

You cannot trade a coach for players, as Stern and the league office interpret the Collective Bargaining Agreement. And you cannot have “side deals” attached to a trade, like throwing a couple picks on a Kevin Garnett for DeAndre Jordan swap and then suddenly it’s okay if you sign Rivers.

But if the Clippers get Rivers with no promise of Garnett… maybe. The league would not stop the Rivers move; there is a precedent of picks for coaches under contract who are let out to sign with another  (the most recent being Stan Van Gundy going from the Heat to the Magic in 2007).

The question is how the league reacts in two weeks when the Clippers and Celtics propose Garnett for DeAndre Jordan straight up. This after the Celtics have bought out Paul Pierce and he has signed as a free agent in Los Angeles.

If you want to predict Stern, you go ahead. I’m sitting this one out.

Spurs’ LaMarcus Aldridge nails three from one knee during warmups (VIDEO)

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Take that Stephen Curry.

Gregg Popovich would pull him so fast he’d look like a fidget spinner if he tried this in a game, but during warmups before Game 4 Monday night LaMarcus Aldridge knocked down a deep three from one knee.

If Aldridge is taking a lot of threes that’s not a good sign for the Spurs, but we’ll see if he can have a big night and keep the Spurs alive in this series.

Stephen Curry drains shots from near half court during warmups like they’re layups

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Stephen Curry‘s pregame warmups draw people into the arena early, it’s a show in and of itself.

Before Game 4 Monday night, Curry was taking a couple shots from the center-court logo. And draining them. Like layups. Because he can.

We’ll see if he can put on that kind of show when the game tips off.

Gregg Popovich makes it official: No Kawhi Leonard for Game 4

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This was expected. It still sucks to hear.

Kawhi Leonard is out for Game 4 vs. the Warriors Monday night.

Leonard has sprained his left ankle in Game 5 against the Rockets and sat out Game 6 of that series (a San Antonio win), then returned for Game 1 against the Warriors. He re-injured his ankle twice in that game — once stepping on David Lee‘s foot, once when Zaza Pachulia slid under him on a jumper and took away his landing space. Leonard left that game with his team up 23 points, but the Warriors rallied back to win Game 1 and have controlled the series ever since. Leonard has not returned to the series.

San Antonio will play with pride on Monday night, but it may not be enough. You can bet the Warriors were reminded all day about taking their foot off the gas after what happened with Cleveland Sunday.

Report: Orlando hires Toronto GM Jeff Weltman to be president of basketball operations

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In Toronto, Masai Ujiri is the head of basketball operations and the guy with the hammer on deals. Jeff Weltman was his right-hand man and team GM.

Make that was his right-hand man, Weltman has been hired by the Orlando Magic to run its basketball operations, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Orlando Magic have hired Toronto Raptors general manager Jeff Weltman as the franchise’s president of basketball operations, league sources told The Vertical.

Weltman met with Orlando CEO Alex Martins and ownership on Monday, finalizing a five-year deal, league sources said.

Orlando officials had been intrigued with Cleveland GM David Griffin, but moved steadily toward Weltman as they became further engaged with his candidacy in recent weeks, league sources said. Weltman has been deeply involved in every aspect of the Raptors’ front office under president Masai Ujiri as Toronto became a perennial Eastern Conference contender.

Making a move now is smart in this sense: The Magic have the No. 5 pick in this draft and would want the guy making the big picture decisions about this roster on board to make this selection.

That roster already has some quality pieces — Aaron Gordon, Evan Fournier, Nikola Vucevic, maybe Elfrid Payton — but has underachieved. There were questions about the culture and a lack of accountability, and that blame ultimately fell on GM Rob Hennigan and he was let go. Frank Vogel is locked in as

Frank Vogel is locked in as coach, so how well Weltman and Vogel work together — and share a vision — will be key.

Weltman is well-respected around the league. He spent five seasons as an assistant GM in Milwaukee, and has been with the Raptors since 2013 as that team has risen up the Eastern Conference standings and had its best run in franchise history. He also has worked with the Clippers and in Denver. He’s been one of those guys expected to get a chance in the big chair for a few years now.

He’s got it, and it’s an interesting challenge in Orlando.