Reports: Clippers getting closer to deal to build new arena near new Rams’ stadium

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Since Steve Ballmer bought the Clippers, he has wanted something his predecessor Donald Sterling never much cared about — getting out from under the shadow of the Los Angeles Lakers. (Well, Ballmer also cares more about winning than maximizing profits, another key difference.) As a marketing guy, Ballmer understands the challenge of the Clippers brand in a Lakers’ dominated market, and having a better team for a few years is not enough. Ballmer okayed putting up pictures of the Clippers in front of the Lakers’ championship banners and retired jerseys, but that’s just a band-aid.

What he needs, and what he’s wanted, is a new arena that is all Clippers. He is apparently closing in on that.

An “exclusive negotiating agreement” means the deal is not done, but the two sides see enough in common that they are not going to talk to anyone else (the Clippers with other locations for the arena, for example).

As noted, this is next to where Stan Kroenke bought up the land of the former Hollywood Park horse racing track and is now building his new home for the Los Angeles Rams. Kroenke’s plans call for retail and residential (and possibly some office space) around the stadium, and a new arena to house the Clippers and other events certainly would fit in with that model. This is all just down the street from the Inglewood Forum, where the Lakers played back in the Showtime era.

The Clippers have seven more years on their lease at Staples Center, through 2024 (Staples opened in 1999). Getting this deal done, a building designed, and then built would take up most, if not all, of that time.

It’s a smart long-term move by the Clippers to shake the Lakers’ shadow. In the short term, a good one would be to sign LeBron James in 2018.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.

Marc Gasol: If Grizzlies don’t share my goal of continued growth, we might have to revisit things

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The Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind era has ended.

Zach Randolph signed with the Kings, and Tony Allen appears likely to leave Memphis, too. The Grizzlies are prioritizing younger/cheaper players like Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans.

Marc Gasol via Ala Carta, as translated by HoopsHype:

I’m very ambitious and I’ve wanted Memphis to be a great franchise. We’ve grown a lot the last 6-7 years, but we have to keep growing. If this is not lined up, maybe we may have to revisit things.

Gasol has been loyal to Memphis, and his first wish is probably winning there. But Giannis Antetokounmpo put it well: Teams must also do right by their players. Gasol is 32 and doesn’t have much time in his prime left. I see why rebuilding wouldn’t interest him.

But what will he do about it if the Grizzlies don’t prioritize the present? They made their push last summer with a max contract for Chandler Parsons, but because Parsons can’t stay healthy, that deal only inhibits team growth.

Gasol is locked up for two more years before a player option. He doesn’t have much leverage. This is part of the reason LeBron James keeps signing short-term contracts. Gasol doesn’t have the same ability to steer his team in his desired direction

On the potentially bright side, rebuilding teams often don’t have much use for 32-year-olds guaranteed more than $72 million over the following three years. If the fit devolves, Memphis becomes more likely to trade him.

Celtics to retire Paul Pierce’s number after Cavaliers game in February

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The Celtics already said they’d retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.

Now, we know when.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34 after a mid-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Feb. 11

After? That’s apparently in response to a new rule that penalizes teams not ready to play after a 15-minute halftime. These ceremonies can drag on, and nobody wants to cut Pierce short. I wonder whether this will start a trend of number retirements coming after games.