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.

Hawks hire Travis Schlenk as general manager

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The Hawks picked Warriors assistant general manager Travis Schlenk as their next general manager. All that was left was negotiating terms.

That’s done.

Hawks:

The Atlanta Hawks today announced the hiring of Travis Schlenk as General Manager and Head of Basketball Operations. He will start leading Hawks basketball operations on June 1.

Schlenk worked his way up the latter and helped the Warriors become the envy of every other NBA team. He deserves this opportunity.

But the job won’t be easy.

The Hawks are stuck between two directions. On one side, they have veterans Paul Millsap (a 32-year-old pending unrestricted free agent whom the owner has basically promised a huge contract) and Dwight Howard (who sounds unhappy). On the other side, they have a youth movement featuring Dennis Schroder and Taurean Prince. Tim Hardaway Jr., who bridges the age groups, is about to enter a potentially tricky restricted free agency.

Keeping the core together offers the upside of a playoff-series victory or two annually, modest outcomes for the cost. But a fragile Atlanta fan base might not tolerate a rebuild.

Schlenk works for owner Tony Ressler, and Ressler sounds committed to maintaining the status quo by keeping Millsap. It’s now Schlenk’s job to execute that vision or convince his boss to approve a different direction.

Potential none-and-done first-rounder Hamidou Diallo returning to Kentucky

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The more I’ve looked into the 2017 NBA draft, the less impressed I’ve become. There are a few bright spots in the first round relative to an average draft – No. 2, 5ish-10ish, 17ish-22ish – but I’m not convinced this is the generationally strong draft it has been touted as.

In the absence of prospects who offer secure promise, why not turn to upside? Hamidou Diallo offered plenty and was increasingly viewed as a first-rounder.

Yet, he’ll return to Kentucky for his freshman season.

Diallo:

A highly ranked recruit, Diallo began last school year at a prep school then enrolled at Kentucky for the spring semester. He practiced with the Wildcats, but never played.

Then, he went to the combine and posted excellent measurables: 6-foot-5, 6-foot-11 wingspan, 44.5-inch vertical and strong agility and sprint scores. Just 18, Diallo might have been the second-youngest player drafted this year (behind only Ike Anigbogu).

It wouldn’t have taken long – likely somewhere in the middle of the first round – for a team to bite on all that potential.

Instead, Diallo returns to Kentucky and must now show his ability to actually produce in basketball games. If he does, there’s no limit on how high he goes in the 2018 NBA draft. If he doesn’t, he’ll regret missing the opportunity to get drafted before his game got picked apart.

Report: Bulls expect Dwyane Wade to opt in

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Dwyane Wade said he wants to see the Bulls’ plan for Jimmy Butler and the rest of the roster before deciding on a $23.8 million player option for next season.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

I can tell you is most everyone associated with the Bulls believes Wade will pick up the option and remain in Chicago for a second season. More surprising things have happened in league history, though. So stay tuned.

This could be a tell that Wade will opt in. The Bulls could obviously be positioned to base their prediction on inside information into Wade’s thinking.

This could a tell the Bulls won’t trade Butler. If they know they’ll keep Butler, they can extrapolate what that’d mean for Wade.

Or the Bulls, like so many of us, just assume a 35-year-old Wade won’t turn down so much guaranteed money at this stage of his career.

PBT Extra: Why Derrick Rose more likely to be Spur than Chris Paul next season

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San Antonio heads into this summer looking to answer the question: What do we need to do to challenge the Golden State Warriors? Well, besides keeping Kawhi Leonard healthy.

They need to get more athletic, particularly along the front line, and they need a secondary shot creator and playmaker, that’s all at the top of the list.

One rumor that keeps gaining traction, Chris Paul to the Spurs. In this PBT Extra, I get into why that move is unlikely, and why a one-year contract with Derrick Rose is more probable. Basically, if you want to see a significant roster shift in San Antonio, wait until the summer of 2018.