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Doc Rivers says he wants to keep Clippers together no matter what happens in playoffs

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This will be the sixth season of Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan together with the Clippers. Some things have changed — Vinny Del Negro was replaced by Doc Rivers, Jordan’s role has grown, as has J.J. Redick‘s — but one key thing hasn’t: The team has never gotten past the second round of the playoffs.

The Clippers are down 1-0 to the Jazz, and if they are able to come back and win that series (very possible, especially with Rudy Gobert injured), their reward is a Warriors team that has beaten the Clippers 10 consecutive times. The Clippers are likely gone before the conference finals again.

Is it time to break up this Clipper core and try something else? Paul, Griffin, and Redick are all free agents this summer (in addition to a few key role players), and bringing all three of them back could mean a record luxury tax bill next season. Do you let one go and replace him with another star, or a couple good role players that may fit better?

Not if you ask Doc Rivers, which is what Sam Amick of the USA Today has done.

“Here’s my argument to (the question of whether all that luxury tax is worth it),” Rivers, who is three years into a five-year deal worth more than $50 million, told USA TODAY Sports recently. “Let’s say we don’t win this year — which I think we will, (but) let’s say we don’t. Do you give up on a 50-win team that has proven that they’re really close (to winning it all), or do you hang in there and keep trying to maybe make changes around (the core)?

“I always use Utah as a great (example). Thank God Karl Malone and (John) Stockton didn’t listen to people, you know what I mean? They fell (in the playoffs), and kept trying and kept trying. And finally, late in their careers, they finally broke through to the Finals. They didn’t win it (all). But you know, that’s the pursuit. I just think it’s so easy to (say), ‘Hey, they should break up,’ from the outside. And I think that’s such an easy opinion.”

The difference between the eras is the cost — former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer may have more money than he knows what to do with, but is a massive luxury tax bill to be a team that needs a lot of breaks to go their way to win a title worth it? The Clippers are the oldest team in the West in terms of the playoff roster, is bringing everyone back going to lead to a step forward? The Warriors and Spurs aren’t going anywhere, the Jazz are getting better (if they can retain Gordon Hayward) and Minnesota is a team on the rise.

Of course, allow Griffin to walk, or make a trade, and you break up a very good team for the unknown. Is bringing in players such as Carmelo Anthony or Dwyane Wade going to make this team better? Blake Griffin is still a tremendous talent that would be very difficult to replace.

There have been reports that both Paul and Griffin want to stay. The question is will that change once the Clippers are bounced from the postseason?

Doc may want to keep the band together, but there’s a sense around Los Angeles that Ballmer is going to take a hard look at things if and when this team gets bounced in the first couple playoff rounds again.

Remembering Notre Dame, Laker legend Tommy “the hawk” Hawkins

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Tommy Hawkins passed away recently at the age of 80.

The former NBA player was the first black athlete to earn All-America honors in basketball at Notre Dame (he still holds the school’s total rebounds record), was drafted in the first round, and went on to have a 10-year NBA career playing for the Minneapolis/Los Angeles Lakers as well as the Cincinnati Royals. Los Angeles fans may also remember him as the long time director of communications for the Los Angeles Dodgers after his playing days ended.

The NBA put together this well done video look back at Hawkins’ career.

Celtics’ Brad Stevens said early September tests will show if Thomas ready for camp

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Isaiah Thomas said he expects to be ready for the Celtics’ training camp next month. The guard’s All-NBA season came to an early end in the playoffs when he aggravated a labral tear in his right hip initially suffered back in March. At least the injury did not require surgery.

Players are also about the worst judges of when they will recover from an injury. They pretty much all think they are invincible and will be healthy faster than doctors predict.

Coaches tend to be more pragmatic. Take Boston’s Brad Stevens, who told Chris Mannix on The Vertical Podcast that tests in a couple of weeks will show if Thomas is ready for camp.

“He has another follow-up and another scan in the early part of September. Obviously, it’s been a lot of appropriate rest, a lot of rehab. There have been some good strides here certainly in the last month or few weeks, but we’re not going to know that until after that early September timeframe.”

The Celtics are understandably going to be cautious with Thomas, while Thomas wants to prove he is healthy and has no ill effects from the injury as he enters a contract year (one where he expects to get PAID). Also, the Celtics could use him in camp as they start to figure out how he and Gordon Hayward can share playmaking duties.

Still, from the outset, the timelines have suggested he should be ready for camp in late September. Coaches are just cautious on these things by nature.

Allen Iverson predicts LeBron James will win MVP

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LeBron James has four NBA MVP trophies in his case. (Does he keep that case in his home in Akron or the one in Los Angeles… that’s a question for another day.) Only Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (six) and Michael Jordan (five) have more.

Could LeBron James add a fifth to his case this season?

Allen Iverson said yes at last weekend’s Big3 playoffs in Seattle.

LeBron was fourth in preseason odds to win the MVP at 15/2, behind Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, and Kawhi Leonard.

To me, LeBron could be a good bet. If/when Kyrie Irving is traded, the chances of LeBron getting the MVP go up. If LeBron puts up impressive numbers (again) and leads a depleted Cavaliers team to a top two seed in the East, he is certainly going to be in consideration. And should be.

It’s a long season, and personally, I think you need to get midway through the season before seriously considering the year-end awards. But history says LeBron will be in the mix, and Allen Iverson could be proven prophetic.

Phoenix Suns with quality solar eclipse joke on Twitter

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With the cooler-than-I-expected solar eclipse on Monday came a lot of bad solar eclipse jokes on Twitter. Because that’s what Twitter does. Especially the NBA Twitterverse. We knew a lot of “where on the flat earth will Kyrie Irving watch the eclipse?” jokes were coming.

There were a couple of good ones, however.

Appropriately, the Phoenix Suns won the day.

One personal favorite here, an old meme that never goes out of style.