Chris Paul says Clippers will go as far as Griffin takes them

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The Los Angeles Clippers got better this summer — they needed shooting and got it with the additions of J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley. Those two will space the floor when Chris Paul drives the lane, they will give defenders something to think about as Blake Griffin makes a cut to the rim. Plus, both additions are solid team defenders.

The Clippers are potential contenders.

Paul thinks Griffin is the key, he told ESPNLosAngeles.com’s Ramona Shelburne.

“Blake is one of those guys, where his age has nothing to do with anything,” Paul said in a wide-ranging interview with ESPNLosAngeles.com this week. “People may say he’s a young guy, but he’s been special in this league, he’s been an All Star. His voice carries a lot of weight and I think our team will definitely go as Blake goes.

“He’s our guy, and he’s good enough to do so.”

There was friction in the Paul/Griffin relationship before, although how much of that is tied to former coach Vinny Del Negro (who sided with Paul constantly in an effort to keep his job) is up for debate. With Doc Rivers in charge the coach will not be the source of friction.

Paul and Griffin have spent a lot of time together this summer — they were both part of the Jordan Brand tour through Asia. With CP3’s new max contract, he and Griffin are now the locked together cornerstones of the franchise. They will win or lose together for years.

Griffin has become a more efficient shooter each season as he worked on his game — his handles have improved allowing him to attack and get to the rim more. And he should do that — when you finish like Griffin you shouldn’t settle for midrange shots, you should get to the rim every chance you get. Every coach would take a dunk over a midrange jumper every time down. That said, Griffin shot 72 percent last season in the restricted area, 41 percent in the rest of the paint and 35 percent in the midrange (he only took 28 threes, and that’s probably too many). He’s improved from the left side midrange (he shot 39.1 percent from zones closer to the baseline on the left side) but he needs to be more consistent.

To me though Griffin isn’t the real key for the Clippers, neither is the offense. They will be a top three NBA offense next season. They will go as far as their defense takes them — Doc Rivers is going to bring in a more consistent system, but it comes back to DeAndre Jordan. Can he be a defensive force like they need? Even if he is, can he hit enough free throws to stay on the court at the end of games when they will need his defense and energy?

Chris Paul is a guy who wants to win, who wants to play deep into the playoffs, and he’s hungry for it. Part of that is tied to Griffin, part to the rest of the Clippers.

Josh Jackson’s first pitch is… just a bit outside

Associated Press
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Josh Jackson is not going Bo Jackson on us and playing baseball in the offseason.

The highly-rated forward out of Kansas who was the No. 4 pick of the Phoenix Suns was invited to throw out the first pitch before Friday night’s Diamondbacks game.

To quote Bob Uecker, he was just a bit outside. He tried the corner and missed.

Lonzo Ball was able to make his first pitch, ergo, he will turn out to be a much better NBA player. Obviously, these skills correlate.

Report: Re-signing Nerlens Noel Mavericks’ top off-season priority

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This is a Mark Cuban owned team, you don’t think the Mavericks are going to make a serious run at a free agent come July 1? Pelicans’ point guard Jrue Holiday has long been known to be a target, but there will be others.

But keeping their new core together, including restricted free agent Nerlens Noel, is the top priority, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Rumors like this are out there in part from Dallas to hope to chill the market for Noel. While he could be a defensive force who provides some scoring around the rim, with Noel’s injury history they may be able to get him at less than max money — because if he’s at the max the Mavericks are flirting with the luxury tax (and Cuban isn’t going to want to pay the tax for a borderline playoff team at best).

What Dallas fears is what Brooklyn did last season to Allen Crabbe in Portland and Tyler Johnson in Miami — some team to come in with a max or near-max offer sheet that drives up the price. Dallas will match, they will keep the young core together, it just gets more expensive.

Next season in Dallas will be a deserved big farewell to Dirk Nowitzki. He will be the focus, but behind him Dallas will try to be building for the future. They made the trade deadline move to make sure Noel is a part of that, the only question now is how much it costs them.

Magic Johnson on drafting Lonzo Ball: “what I needed was a leader”

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Nobody, not even his critics with the Lakers, question that D'Angelo Russell had talent. What they questioned from the start was his work ethic and maturity. I was told by sources with the team he often was the last one to team meetings, often one of the first out of the gym, and the whole Nick Young thing spoke to the maturity question. Byron Scott took a lot of heat as Lakers’ coach for benching him, and Scott’s communication skills were lacking, but he had reasons. Russell also just 21 and maybe he finds his way, but the Lakers weren’t willing to wait anymore.

Which is why the Lakers were willing to move him to Brooklyn in the Brook Lopez trade, and why the Lakers went after Lonzo Ball in the draft, Magic Johnson said, via Baxter Holmes of ESPN.

Is Lonzo Ball a leader? Only time will tell, he has the potential.

Will players want to play with him? Yes, if the passing skills he showed in college transfer to the NBA. If guys know they will get the rock if they run/cut, then they will do just that. It’s some simple B. F. Skinner stuff here — if players are rewarded they will keep doing it. Get them the rock in transition and they will get out there every time.

Ball has flaws in his game, there are certainly questions about his defense, and how that awkward shot translates remains to be seen (it goes in but his time to get it off will decrease at the NBA level)? Will he be a scoring threat in the half-court? He’s got work to do. But answer those questions and the Lakers may have the key piece to help anchor a franchise he’s been looking for.

Sacramento Kings waive guard Arron Afflalo

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) The Sacramento Kings have waived guard Arron Afflalo one year after signing him as a free agent.

The Kings cut ties with Afflalo on Friday before his entire $12.5 million contract for 2017-18 would become guaranteed. Afflalo will get $1.5 million instead.

Afflalo averaged 8.4 points and 2 rebounds in 61 games this past season for Sacramento. He has averaged 11.3 points per game in his 10-year career.