Blake Griffin

Blake Griffin says back injury not serious, will be fine for Clippers season

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Relax, Clippers fans.

Yes, Blake Griffin pulled out of Team USA duties because of a hairline fracture in his back. But he wants you to know it’s not that serious (something you could probably tell when he was doing backflips into the ocean).

Griffin is working out in the South Bay and is working on his game for the fall, his body just wasn’t ready for the full-on contact of a game situation as he would have seen with USA Basketball, Griffin told the Los Angeles Times.

“It’s less than a hairline and my back is not fractured. Everything is still intact,” Griffin said. “I can still come out here and I can do my workouts and I can do everything I used to do. I just shouldn’t be playing and practicing everyday this early….

“It’s not that my back is broken and I’m walking around with a broken back, or I’m in so much pain. But if I start playing basically two months earlier than everybody else and then go through all of next season and the playoffs, then I’m probably going to put myself in a bad position. I couldn’t do that.”

Hard to argue with that.

Griffin knows the Clippers are on the edge of contending, and that he is a big part of that. He’s an explosive player who gets the shoe commercials because of how he finishes running in transition or off the pick-and-roll. But he’s got good post moves (using that elite quickness) and he’s a good passer out of the post.

Most importantly he’s developed a reliable midrange game — this was key. DeAndre Jordan can protect the rim on defense, but on offense he’s not much good outside an arm’s-length from the basket. Griffin had to develop a jumper just to provide spacing in the offense, something that is doubly important come the playoffs (the Clippers need to pull rim protecting bigs out away from the basket, giving Chris Paul more room to operate.

The Clippers were the third best team in the NBA at the end of last season, they just ran into another of the top three in the second round (Oklahoma City) and you throw in the distraction of the Donald Sterling tape going public and they couldn’t advance.

They have a shot next year with a little more depth up front (Spencer Hawes will help). But none of it happens without a healthy Griffin. He’s making the right call this summer.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.

Isaiah Thomas nutmegs Knicks center Marshall Plumlee (video)

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Isaiah Thomas usually saves his best play for the fourth quarter, but the Celtics guard showed out early with this pass between Marshall Plumlee‘s legs to get Kelly Olynyk a layup.

Thomas uncharacteristically just didn’t have enough late. Though he scored 39 points, he shot just 2-for-9 in the final period, as the Knicks pulled away for a 117-106 win.

Kevin Durant misses dunk so hard, ball flies past halfcourt (video)

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Kevin Durant played great in the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night, but – perhaps fueled by excess emotion – he missed this incredibly emphatic dunk attempt.

Later, Russell Westbrook showed his former teammate how to do it (sparking their apparent conversation):

James Harden outduels Giannis Antetokounmpo as they produce fantastic highlight video

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James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo met in a battle of two of the NBA’s best point guards. (Still weird to say.) The final lines:

  • Harden: 38 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 blocks
  • Antetokounmpo: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks

The winner? Harden and the Rockets, who topped the Bucks, 111-92.

But the real winner? Anyone who gets to watch this highlight video. It just gets better as it goes.