Paul George

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Clippers executive Jerry West calls Celtics’ Gordon Hayward ‘a very good player’


Clippers executive Jerry West raved about Warriors stars Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green – which sounded a lot like the comments that got Lakers president Magic Johnson fined for tampering with Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.

But Johnson previously received a tampering warning for winking at Paul George. Maybe West got warned for his Golden State remarks.

After all, NBA commissioner Adam Silver explained the Johnson fine: “What we’ve said to him, and it’s a clear message to other team executives, is that stop talking about star players on other teams. There are plenty of other issues they can address.”

Well, West again talked about a star player on another team. This time it was Celtics forward Gordon Hayward.

West, via Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald:

“I’ll just say that every once in a while, there’s a chance that people get to take advantage of someone,” West said. “I don’t think that will ever happen again, but what Brooklyn did almost should be legislated against, to be honest with you.

“It’s very much like when Stepien was in Cleveland,” he added, referring to former Cavs owner Ted Stepien, who traded away so many first-round picks that the league no longer allows teams to trade first-rounders in consecutive years. “We got the No. 1 pick in the draft (James Worthy in 1982) out of it, who helped us win championships.

“But Danny’s done a nice job back there. Are they good enough? They had a terrible break with a very good player (Gordon Hayward), and are they good enough now? At the end of a couple of years, they’re going to be judged by that, by how they’re doing then — not by now. They’ve got some good young players. They’ve got a terrific coach. They’ve got a lot of positive things going, that’s for sure.”

I promise I’m not trying to pick on West. I appreciate his perspective, as a former great player and longtime executive. I don’t think he should be punished for this.

But I wouldn’t blame the Lakers one bit if they feel they’re being held to a different standard. The NBA has created an unease around the most benign forms of tampering – the most meaningful still go largely unchecked – thanks to a selective enforcement.

Moving onto to the substance of West’s quote, he might be right about a rule change to prevent another Brooklyn situation.

It’s easy to say the NBA shouldn’t protect teams from themselves, but that’s probably counter to the league’s financial interests. The Nets have been hopeless for three years, and it’ll probably take multiple more seasons to dig out of this hole. A large market is going to waste. The NBA is a money-making enterprise more than anything else, so that’s a big problem.

The Nets found a loophole in the Stepien Rule with pick swaps, allowing the team to keep a first-rounder every other year – just not the high one their lousy record would otherwise entitle them to. It was a clever workaround, one that effectively nullified the Stepien Rule.

There’s a case that Brooklyn’s plight will dissuade teams from ever trying such a plan again. But a similar case could have been made about Stepien’s Cavs, and the league decided that type of trading must be specifically prohibited.

The Stepien Rule exists for a reason, and if that reason is valid, the rule doesn’t go far enough.

Fixing that would be a much better use of the league’s time than (sometimes) turning harmless mentions of opposing players into the high crime of tampering.

Billboard wars comes to Los Angeles: Fan’s billboard woos LeBron, takes shot at Sixers

via Twitter

Forget social media, the best way to recruit a player now is apparently billboards. Big, urban visual blight billboards.

First, a Philadelphia business posted three outside Cleveland (a  nod to the movie “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri”) telling LeBron to come to the Sixers. Then a Cleveland business took out a billboard in downtown Cleveland to respond.

Now a Lakers’ fan (and lawyer promoting his firm) has stepped into the fray.

“Forget the process, we win banners.”

Well, except for 1983, when the Sixers swept the Lakers. But forget that.

I keep hearing from sources around the league the Lakers are a longshot to land LeBron, because even despite the recent run of play he’s not convinced this young L.A. core is ready to win titles with him (or even him and Paul George). If LeBron leaves Cleveland (and that is far from a sure thing, more and more people think he stays) then Houston is the name I hear most, with Philadelphia gaining some level of traction. LeBron is going to go through the playoffs, survey the NBA landscape and where the Cavaliers and other teams are in it, then make his call.

The billboards are not going to play a role.


Three Things to Know: Rockets smack down Thunder for 16th straight win

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Oozing confidence, Rockets comfortably roll past Thunder for 16th straight win. Going into the season, the question was who would be the second elite team in the West, Houston or Oklahoma City? Both had loaded up on stars, both were led by MVP-level talents, and both had questions to answer.

Houston has emphatically answered their questions all season and Tuesday emphatically put the rest the question of which of these teams would step up (although we already knew). The Rockets defensively controlled the Thunder — Oklahoma City didn’t have a shot at the rim until midway through the second quarter — plus they rained threes (17-of-33, 51.5 percent from deep) and went right at every mismatch (over and over). Houston took control of the game in the second quarter and ultimately coasted to a 122-112 win.

That’s 16 straight wins for the Rockets, who remain half a game up on Warriors for the best record in the West. Houston has left no doubt they are elite, and they are the one team that is a legitimate threat to a healthy Golden State squad. That starts because of their defense, which could not stop Russell Westbrook (32 points) but made him work for it, as they did everyone in blue.

Oklahoma City’s defense, which has not been the same since the loss of Andre Roberson (ruptured left patellar tendon, they are now 8-9 without him) had no answer for the Rockets.

Chris Paul had 25 points, James Harden 23 and 11 assists (but 10 turnovers, Paul George did not make his life that easy), as they exploited the Thunder defensive holes all night long, to the tune of a 120.8 offensive rating.

Paul George had 17 points on 16 shots, his offense hampered by the fact he was assigned to guard Harden most of the night and expelled a lot of energy on that end. This team’s play of late, and its potential fate in the playoffs the way they are playing right now, is going to make this an interesting July for George.

2) Damian Lillard and Anthony Davis — and with them the Trail Blazers and Pelicans — keep on rolling. Anthony Davis and Damian Lillard have been clear and away the two hottest players in the NBA of late, leading their teams on win streaks that have them looking like solid playoff teams (as much as that can be said about any team below third in the competitive West). That continued on Tuesday.

Davis suffered a blow to the ribs during the second quarter trying to box out DeAndre Jordan and had to go to the locker room for X-rays. DeMarcus Cousins told AD to get back out there — or give Boogie his Achilles — and Davis did that, and then took over: he had 31 second-half points, on his way to 41 points and 13 rebounds to lead the Pelicans to a 121-116 victory. That’s nine straight wins for New Orleans, who sits as the four seed in the West now three games clear of the nine-seed Clippers.

Lillard had  37 points — hitting 8-of- 11 from three — as the Trail Blazers cruised to their eighth straight win, 111-87 over the hapless New York Knicks. Portland is currently the three seed in the West, four games clear of the nine seed.

3) Kevin Love did the most important thing in the NBA Tuesday, opening up about mental health issues. We tend to focus on the games, the highlights, and the on-the-court action around here, but it was Kevin Love who did by far the biggest, most important thing in the NBA Tuesday:

He opened up about his battle with panic attacks in a Player’s Tribune article.

Inspired by DeMar DeRozan opening up about his battle with depression, Love talked openly about his mental health challenge.

It was November 5th, two months and three days after I turned 29. We were at home against the Hawks — 10th game of the season. A perfect storm of things was about to collide. I was stressed about issues I’d been having with my family. I wasn’t sleeping well. On the court, I think the expectations for the season, combined with our 4–5 start, were weighing on me.

I knew something was wrong almost right after tip-off….

After halftime, it all hit the fan. Coach Lue called a timeout in the third quarter. When I got to the bench, I felt my heart racing faster than usual. Then I was having trouble catching my breath. It’s hard to describe, but everything was spinning, like my brain was trying to climb out of my head. The air felt thick and heavy. My mouth was like chalk. I remember our assistant coach yelling something about a defensive set. I nodded, but I didn’t hear much of what he said. By that point, I was freaking out. When I got up to walk out of the huddle, I knew I couldn’t reenter the game — like, literally couldn’t do it physically.

Love talks about overcoming the stigma, about not being afraid to tell people this is what he was dealing with, about figuring out with help how to better cope with panic attacks — that’s what happened when he left the blowout loss to the Thunder that became so controversial — and doing that in the macho world of sports is important. There are a lot of people dealing with panic attacks — or depression, or a host of other mental illnesses — that don’t seek help because there is still a stigma attached to them. But that is changing. Love found support from all over the league.

Love’s move helps change that stigma and can help other people step forward. From the outside it would be easy to say “look at him with his NBA championship ring, his All-Star appearances, his nine-figure salary plus endorsements, his supermodel girlfriend, he has no problems” when in reality he is dealing with many of the same issues and pressure all of us are. That a star of Love’s stature steps forward is a step in the right direction for society.

Report: Andre Iguodala and Spencer Dinwiddie only players to attend meeting with referees

AP Photo/Mary Altaffer

Update: Referees union:

It’s hard to see how helpful this meeting could have been, even if the size was by design. Andre Iguodala cares about his and the Warriors’ interests. Spencer Dinwiddie cares about his and the Nets’ interests. They’re not ideally positioned to convey concerns of players on other teams, though Iguodala’s place in the players union gives him some mass perspective.


As tension between players and referees has endured and maybe even escalated, a meeting between both sides during All-Star Weekend in Los Angeles drew a lot of attention.

The actual result sound underwhelming.

Ken Berger of Bleacher Report:

Three referees attended the meeting: Marc Davis, Jason Phillips and Brian Forte, two people briefed on the meeting told B/R. Among the other key participants were Michele Roberts, executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, and Lee Seham, general counsel for the National Basketball Referees Association, the people said.

Only two players attended, and neither one was a current All-Star: Warriors swingman Andre Iguodala, an NBPA vice president, and Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie, the All-Star Skills Challenge winner, the people briefed on the meeting told B/R.

Only two players?

All-Stars LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Paul George, Anthony Davis, DeMar DeRozan and Draymond Green have notably had problems with officials this season. This was a chance to address their concerns. Other players could have also gone to Los Angeles for the meeting.

However, All-Star Weekend is incredibly busy for All-Stars with sponsor events, media sessions and the actual game and contests. Other players relish the break and rare opportunity for a vacation. This meeting wasn’t necessarily well-timed, though it’s also possible there weren’t better options until after the season.

It’s easy to blame players for not showing up. It’s just not that simple.

Someone from the union probably had to be there, and I bet Iguodala was designated. I’m also not surprised Dinwiddie – nicknamed “The Mayor” and trying to carve out a more prominent place in the NBA – got involved. Hopefully, Iguodala can use his union post to convey diffusing information to other players.

But I wouldn’t count on improved player-referee relations this season. Too many players are convinced referees treat their team unfairly. (If they all think that, it can’t be true.) And too many referees are insensitive to the fact that players are in the midst of high-pressure competition during their interactions.

More meetings between players and referees could help and should happen. A better time would be next preseason, when referees could meet with teams as they travel around the country. That’d allow a far larger number of players to listen and be heard.

By the way, it’s fine there were only three referees at the meeting. Unlike players, who have their competing agendas, referees are essentially on the same team. A few officials can represent the whole group.

Three Things to Know: James Harden does Wesley Johnson, Clippers wrong

Associated Press
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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) James Harden does Wesley Johnson, Clippers wrong. NBA Twitter loves it.
This filthy move by James Harden is all anybody is talking about out of Wednesday night’s games. It’s not so much the move, it’s the staredown and taking a few seconds to take his three that’s savage. RIP Wesley Johnson.

NBA Twitter had a field day with this one.

By the way, there was a basketball game played, one with playoff implications. The Rockets controlled it pretty much from the start — the Clippers were on a back-to-back, looked flat early and never got out of the hole — and Houston cruised to its 14th straight win, 102-95. Houston remains half a game up on the Warriors for the best record in the NBA. The Clippers, on the other hand, fell out of the eight seed and are now half a game back of Denver for the final playoff slot in the West (the teams are tied in the loss column).

2) Kyrie Irving goes off and Celtics smash Hornets (but Raptors win, too). There were other basketball games played Wednesday. For example, in the battle of 10-game losing streaks highlighting the tankapaloza that is the bottom of the NBA right now, the Suns beat the Grizzlies 110-102 behind 34 from Devin Booker. The Pelicans beat the Spurs for New Orleans’ sixth straight win behind 26 and 15 from Anthony Davis.

The other big night of note was Kyrie Irving went off for 34 points in 24 minutes as the Celtics easily handled the Hornets, 134-106. That keeps Boston just half a game back of Toronto (which also won Wednesday) in the race to avoid Cleveland in the second round for the top seed in the East. That loss also puts the Hornets 4.5 games back of Miami for the Final playoff spot in the East with 20 games to go — Charlotte is going to need a lot of help to have any playoff dreams.

3) Coaching carousel update: David Fizdale to Suns? Maybe. To Lakers… don’t bet on it. Coaching rumors are ramping up around the league as we head down the final stretch of the season and some teams are focused on tanking their way to a high lottery pick next season. Three coaches were fired during this season —Earl Watson in Phoenix, David Fizdale in Memphis, and Jason Kidd in Milwaukee) and at least a couple more are expected once the season ends — Frank Vogel in Orlando’s should be calling a mover and realtor (even if the problems with the Magic are more about roster construction than coaching), and Jeff Hornacek’s job in New York is rumored to be in danger.

Despite the fact Jay Triano has done a respectable job as the interim guy, who is the hot name the Suns want to go after this summer? David Fizdale (according to Mitch Lawrence at The Sporting News). The guy Memphis fired. Which would be a great hire. The long-time Heat assistant coach did well trying to turn the Grizzlies into a modern NBA team, there was just pushback from the star player and within the organization and Fizdale lost the battle. Put him with the young core in Phoenix, get him a point guard, and the Suns will take some steps forward and be on the right track.

Lawrence’s report gets into another rumor floating around some corners of the league: The Lakers would dump Luke Walton and bring in Fizdale if it would land them LeBron James as a free agent. Remember, Fizdale was in Miami when LeBron was there and there is a lot of respect both ways. LeBron defended Fizdale on social media when Memphis dumped him this season. While it’s fun to connect those dots, I’ve heard not to bet on it. Forget the fact the Lakers like Walton and the job he’s done, and have backed him at every turn. The bigger problem is I keep hearing LeBron is not coming to the Lakers — even with he and Paul George (and Fizdale), that team is at best third in the West. Maybe fourth. That’s not what LeBron wants. His post-basketball life is in L.A., but he’s not done establishing his legacy and chasing MJ. Not sure where LeBron does end up this summer — maybe Cleveland, maybe Houston, maybe a lot of places — but I keep hearing Los Angeles is not going to be the landing spot.

As for who the Knicks would get to replace Jeff Hornacek… it’s James Dolan’s team. Literally anything is possible. He could hire Don Henley from the Eagles and I wouldn’t be shocked. I’m not about to venture a guess.