Doc Rivers, Clippers players oppose raising NBA’s age limit


NBA commissioner Adam Silver said over All-Star weekend that raising the league’s age limit to 20 was something on his list of priorities. But there are plenty who will argue against that, including several members of the Los Angeles Clippers.

It’s a tricky topic, because from the league’s perspective, they would like to see players further along in the developmental process — both in terms of basketball as well as from a standpoint of emotional maturity. But on the flip side, limiting a person’s right to earn a living if there is a willing employer is difficult to justify.

That is the argument of Doc Rivers, and DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul added their thoughts in this piece from Dan Woike of the Orange County Register:

“I just have a philosophical view about it, that guys should have a right to earn a living,” the Clippers coach said. “I can go and fight in Iraq at 18, but I can’t play in the NBA? That’s silly to me.” …

“I think that’s the dumbest idea ever,” center DeAndre Jordan said. “For what? Why make those guys, those college phenoms, stay in college for two years? Some of our greatest players, Hall of Famers, Top 50 players are going to be guys who came out of high school. Why should we put an age limit on it?” …

“Every situation is different,” said Paul, who left Wake Forest after two seasons. “… I knew I wasn’t ready after my freshman year. But, that’s not everybody’s situation. I think you should have the option or opportunity to decide if you think you’re ready. … If you feel like you’re ready, it shouldn’t be someone else’s decision.”

Again, tricky. But there are reasons that a higher age limit may make some sense.

There are certainly going to be players every year who will be ready to play at the NBA level right out of high school or after only one year of college. But that’s a small minority. The rest who clearly show a certain level of potential will need to be drafted as soon as they decide they are ready, and that forces teams to give precious roster spots to guys who won’t be ready to contribute for potentially a couple of years.

Now, the developmental opportunity is theoretically better for a player practicing with an NBA team or getting some minutes in the D-League. But there’s hardly any real practice time during the grind of the NBA season, and the D-League level of talent drops off rather quickly once you get past the top couple of players on each team.

But if the basketball argument doesn’t get you, the emotional maturity one should. This is the point Rockets head coach Kevin McHale makes when arguing in favor of raising the age limit, and take a look at these comments from Gerald Green — now in the middle of a breakout season with the Suns, but who flamed out of the league earlier in his career due to an admitted inability to mature quickly enough to become a professional.

From Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe:

While in Boston, Green was expected to make an immediate splash, but he clashed with coach Doc Rivers, who gave the high school product strong suggestions about how to play the game and carry himself. Those lessons did not always translate well.

“Yeah, he was [tough on me], but if I knew then what I know now, the things that Doc was telling me were all the right things,” Green said. “He wasn’t telling me nothing that was incorrect. All Doc was trying to do was help me and I just didn’t understand the fact . . . I just didn’t know how to be a pro. When you’re coming from a situation where you’re the man and shooting 20 shots a game — in high school, I could sub myself in. I went from that to getting sent down to the D-League. It’s tough for a young kid to go through it.

“I was going from a very poor kid to paying all the bills. So, it was a big difference from all angles. I just didn’t know how to handle it. I wish I could turn back the hands of time but I kind of don’t because it wouldn’t have made me into what I am today.”

If you want a current example of this, look no further than the stories that have emerged this season about Bucks rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo, a 19-year old from Greece whose anecdotes seem cute on the surface, but are actually a little sad. This one, about taking a cab to a Western Union office to send money back home and then not realizing he wouldn’t have any left for a return trip isn’t adorable, it’s ridiculous. His is a great case of someone struggling to acclimate to NBA life (and life in another country), and an extra year or two of real world experience could only help that transition.

It’s not an easy topic, and it’s one the players union and the league will have to battle over when the time comes. The NBA has valid reasons for wanting a more mature player and person entering its ranks, but the high school or college player who would be drafted sooner if it was allowed has credible reasons on his side of the dispute, as well.

Alvin Gentry on refs after controversial James Harden foul: “You can’t guess on plays”

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Alvin Gentry was heated after the New Orleans Pelicans lost to the Houston Rockets on Saturday night, all thanks to a late foul on James Harden. Oh boy.

Gentry was given a technical foul after speaking with officials with 5:39 to go in the fourth quarter in a tight matchup between the two Western Conference playoff teams. The Pelicans coach was heated about a foul called on Jrue Holiday after Harden swung through the defender’s area to get free throws on a 3-point attempt.

That didn’t sit right with Gentry, who went after referee David Guthrie. After complaining for some time, Gentry got a handle on himself and went back to his seat on the bench. That’s when he was called for a technical foul.

Here’s the play in question, and Gentry’s response after the game:

Gentry does have a general point, and sounds like just about any non-Houston fan you overhear at games or in bars regarding Harden’s wacky inflatable flailing arm tube man style. Nevermind his driving — which consistently gets players to legitimately hack away at his arms — the question on the play in New Orleans is whether the defender has a right to that space, and whether Holiday made a move.

Pelicans broadcaster David Wesley pointed out that if a defender is in his own defensive space and not moving, it shouldn’t be a foul if the offensive player jams his way into the defender’s arms. That’s part of why the idea of verticality works for modern NBA big men defending the rim.

Offensive players are getting more astute at drawing contact, then finding a way to immediately get fouled after the contact. It’s something that will need to be addressed by the NBA in coming seasons, as there are quite a few instances of contact specifically being drawn by an offender by moving into the defender’s space and drawing contact with their arms.

However, on the play in question, if you rewind it enough times you can barely see Holiday’s arm and elbow flex reactively before Harden moves the ball up. Thus, in the purview of instant replay, it was probably a foul.

Here it is in super slo-mo:

Gentry is likely to get a nice big fine as others have this season for criticizing officials. It seems that even after the All-Star Break meeting to sort out some issues between the NBPA and NBRA not everyone is happy.

Expect a bigger overhaul and more announcements regarding NBA refereeing in the offseason.

Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue sits out second half Saturday with illness

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CHICAGO (AP) Cleveland Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue remained in the locker room to start the second half of their game against the Chicago Bulls because of an illness.

Lue was on the sideline as the Cavaliers used a strong second quarter to build a 17-point halftime lead. He did not come out for the start of the third Saturday night, and he did not return to the game.

Lue has missed one other game this season due to illness. He is expected back on Monday when the Cavs host the struggling Bucks.

The Cavaliers went on to get the win over the Bulls Saturday, 114-109.

Grizzlies snap 19-game skid with 101-94 win vs Nuggets

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Dillon Brooks scored 24 points, Tyreke Evans added 20 and the Memphis Grizzlies snapped a 19-game losing streak with a 101-94 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Saturday night.

Wayne Selden scored 16 points for Memphis by hitting 6 of 7 shots, including 4 of 5 from outside the arc. Marc Gasol added 14 points as Memphis won for the first time since Jan. 29.

Nikola Jokic led the Nuggets with 17 points and 12 rebounds, while Jamal Murray finished with 16 points on 5-of-18 shooting. Denver shot just 37 percent overall and 27 percent from 3-point range.

Denver entered the night in ninth place in the Western Conference, a game out of the playoff race. Denver played without leading scorer Gary Harris, who is expected to miss the next few games with a right knee sprain suffered against Detroit on Thursday.

The Nuggets struggled through a miserable first half of shooting, connecting on 22 percent in the first quarter. Memphis stretched its lead to 21 early in the second quarter before Denver cut it to 53-48 at halftime.

Brooks hit four 3-pointers to start the second half and keep Memphis ahead.

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LaMarcus Aldridge’s 39 points lead Spurs past Wolves, 117-101

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SAN ANTONIO (AP) – LaMarcus Aldridge had 39 points and 10 rebounds, and the San Antonio Spurs overcame a sluggish start to beat the Minnesota Timberwolves 117-101 on Saturday night.

San Antonio won its third straight to move into fifth in the Western Conference five days after dropping to 10th and out of playoff position.

Karl-Anthony Towns had 23 points and nine rebounds for Minnesota, which dropped to sixth in the West.

The Spurs had lost three straight and nine of 11 but are now unbeaten halfway through a six-game homestand.

San Antonio shot 84 percent in the second quarter, their best shooting quarter since 2010.

Two nights after battling New Orleans’ Anthony Davis on both ends, Aldridge had to take on another All-Star in Towns. Aldridge responded by leading the Spurs in scoring for the 49th time this season while helping keep Towns in check.

Aldridge scored 18 of 21 points during a five-minute stretch in the second quarter, including 12 straight. He capped the run by coming from the weak side to swat Towns’ floater deep into the seats.

Minnesota started quickly, shooting 78 percent from the floor in the first 5 1/2 minutes while San Antonio floundered at 17 percent. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich called timeout, only to watch the Timberwolves’ Jeff Teague steal the ball once play resumed.

The Spurs responded behind veteran reserves Manu Ginobili, Tony Parker, Pau Gasol and Rudy Gay. San Antonio went on a 16-4 run bridging the first and second quarters to take a 29-26 lead.

Andrew Wiggins scored 21 points for Minnesota and Teague had 16.