Report: Clippers nearing two-year deal with free agent big man Byron Mullens

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The Clippers have had a strong offseason, shoring up plenty of areas on the roster with a variety of moves intended to push the team to the league’s top tier, or at the very least, further than the first round of the playoffs.

The one area that L.A. is still sorely lacking in is frontcourt depth, however, and the team’s most recently reported acquisition will likely only help in that regard as a technicality, at best.

From Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports:

Free-agent center Byron Mullens is nearing an agreement on a two-year contract with the Los Angeles Clippers, league sources told Yahoo! Sports.

The proposed deal, which would include a player option for the 2014-15 season, is on course to be finalized late Wednesday or Thursday, sources said.

The thinking here is that the Clippers need another big body to replace the departed Ronny Turiaf, and one that will hopefully play better than the woefully ineffective Ryan Hollins. But Mullens has yet to prove capable of filling that role through his first four NBA seasons.

Mullens is that elusive “stretch four” that teams with a strong presence at the point guard position are clamoring for, but while he has no trouble taking outside shots or even launching plenty from three-point distance, they tend to go in at a very low percentage.

Last season with the Bobcats, Mullens shot 208 three-pointers, and connected on just 66 of them, good for a mark of 31.7 percent. He also shot 33.3 percent 10-15 feet from the basket, and 33 percent when he was 16-23 feet out. Most troubling, given these numbers, is the fact that 7.5 of his 10.6 field goal attempts per game came shooting jumpers from one of these spots on the floor.

Mullens isn’t known for his abilities on the defensive end either, but the Clippers needed size more than anything else at this point. Despite his known shortcomings, Mullens averaged 10.6 points and 6.4 rebounds in 26.9 minutes per game in Charlotte last season.

It’s clear right now that L.A.’s biggest challenge will be holding onto the leads built by the starters. Because once you get past Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan, you’re looking at Hollins and now Mullens to come in off the bench and spell the guys who can actually play.

In other words, expect the Clippers to play a lot of small ball with the second unit next season.

Three things to watch: Boston Celtics vs. Washington Wizards

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1. How much will these teams’ disdain for each other color the series?

Back in January, the Wizards wore all black for a figurative funeral while arriving for a game against the Celtics then buried Boston in a 123-108 win.

But the Celtics are still alive and ready for the next stage in a rivalry that has included:

Both teams appear primed for more hijinks. The Wizards taunted the Hawks throughout their first-round series, and Boston crossed the line with the Bulls.

2. Which team is actually better?

The Wizards outpaced the Celtics in my adjusted-for-playoff-rotation rankings before the postseason began. But getting a clear picture of who’s in the teams’ playoff rotations and counting the first round turns the tables.

Here’s both teams’ offensive, defensive and net ratings from the regular season to counting only lineups (regular season and first round) comprised of five players projected to be in the teams’ rotation this series:

1. Boston Celtics

  • Offensive rating: 112.4 to 116.2
  • Defensive rating: 109.8 to 110.4
  • Net rating: +2.6 to +5.8

4. Washington Wizards

  • Offensive rating: 111.7 to 115.6
  • Defensive rating:  110.0 to 110.5
  • Net rating: +1.7 to +5.1

Even with the flaws in these numbers – small sample sizes and no control for competition – the question of which team will put a better team on the floor in this series isn’t everything. Boston has home-court advantage, and that matters.

The complete updated playoff-rotation-adjusted ratings will be released Monday, after the first round ends.

3. How will the MVP-vote-getting point guards match up?

Both the Celtics and Wizards are reasonably deep, but good luck keeping your eyes off their star point guards. Isaiah Thomas and John Wall both received fifth-place MVP votes, tributes to their importance to their teams.

Thomas is Boston’s lone reliable scorer, and that brings a heavy fourth-quarter burden – which he has answered all year. Even when opponents know he’ll get the ball, they haven’t stopped him. Wall also drives Washington’s offense, though he does it with a more balanced passing and scoring attack throughout the game.

But Wall’s primary argument for superiority over other big-name point guards – including Thomas – is his defense. The 6-foot-4 Wall will have an opportunity to show that against the 5-foot-9 Thomas. Likewise, Thomas has a chance to pester Wall enough to show the defensive gap isn’t too wide.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.