Author: Dan Feldman

Los Angeles Lakers v Brooklyn Nets

Doc Rivers leaning toward starting Wesley Johnson over Paul Pierce

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Clippers coach Doc Rivers was reportedly considering starting Wesley Johnson at small forward over Paul Pierce.

It’s a little more than a consideration now.

Zach Lowe of Grantland:

Pierce is better than Johnson. There’s no question about that.

But starting Johnson might be the right call.

The Clippers’ starting lineup is loaded with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick. There won’t be many touches for the starting small forward. So, it makes sense to balance the starters with the reserves and bring Pierce off the bench.

But the Clippers’ bench – featuring Lance Stephenson, Jamal Crawford, Josh Smith and Austin Rivers – has its own gunners. Pierce might get more touches off the bench, but the difference won’t be huge.

The key is finding Pierce minutes at power forward, his most effective position the last few years. A related question: How much can Griffin and Smith play center? Those two natural power forwards could eat up a lot of the minutes at the four. Once Rivers determines how much they can shift down, the coach can assemble a rotation that maximizes Pierce’s minutes at power forward. If that means starting Johnson and bringing Pierce off the bench, that’s fine.

Ultimately, I think a key factor is the ability to fix the initial rotation if it doesn’t work. Benching Johnson for Pierce would go over a lot better than benching Pierce for Johnson. That – above all the other considerations – could push Rivers to start Johnson.

For now, at least.

Chris Bosh fully cleared for training camp

Fast Money
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MIAMI (AP) — Erik Spoelstra isn’t spending too much additional time looking back at what went wrong for the Miami Heat last season.

To him, the exercise would be pointless.

The easiest thing for the Heat to have done this summer would be to have blamed a 37-45 record – which kept them from the playoffs – on the illness that struck Chris Bosh and the injuries that limited Dwyane Wade and others over the course of the year. But Spoelstra, in a roundtable session with the team’s beat writers Thursday, said he wasn’t accepting any excuses for what went wrong.

“Yes, there’s some things I would have done differently,” Spoelstra said. “Is it necessary for me to go through the whole autopsy right now? No. I take responsibility for it and that’s where it should be. It should be on my shoulders. I’m not running away from that. And now my energy and my focus is on this team, with big expectations. And you know what? That’s the way we like it.”

So with Bosh healthy again, Wade re-signed for another season and with starters Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside about to go through their first full season in Miami, the Heat will gather next week for training camp – the first step toward what Spoelstra fully believes will be a bounceback season for a team that has reached the postseason 10 times in the last 12 years.

“Guys are refreshed,” Spoelstra said, referring to both players and his coaching staff.

Spoelstra said Bosh – who missed the second half of last season after a blood clot was discovered on his left lung – will be fully cleared for the first practice, an indicator that the All-Star forward is no longer on bloodthinners. Also expected back for camp is forward Josh McRoberts, who missed nearly the entire 2014-15 season after knee surgery.

The Heat also added Amare Stoudemire to the big-man rotation during free agency, and drafted forward Justise Winslow from Duke.

“We like the talent, we like the depth, we like the experience, we like the skill set we have with our front line,” Spoelstra said. “And we like the expectations that it brings.”

Jason Richardson retires

Richardson wins slam dunk contest
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Jason Richardson signed an unguaranteed contract with the Hawks, but he’s not going to training camp.

The 34-year-old announced his retirement on Instagram:

Richardson spent 14 years in the NBA with the Warriors, Bobcats, Suns, Magic and 76ers. He was the go-to scorer on a few lousy teams in Golden State and Charlotte.

He never made an All-Star team or won a championship. His teams won just three playoff series.

It’s the type of résumé that would doom a good player like Richardson to being forgotten to history – if it weren’t for his dunk contests.

Richardson was a dunking savant.

He became the first player since Michael Jordan to win back-to-back dunk contests (a feat since matched by Nate Robinson). Richardson won the title as a rookie in 2002 and defended it the next year with this incredible off-the-bounce, between-the-legs reverse dunk:

Richardson fell to Fred Jones the following year, but not before going off the backboard for a between-the-legs dunk:

Vince Carter resurrected the dunk contest.

Richardson took it to the future.

As he got older, Richardson’s game drifted toward the perimeter. The Saginaw, Mich., native didn’t dunk nearly as much, but a steady diet of jumpers kept him in the league.

A knee injury sidelined Richardson in 2013, and foot injury kept him out longer. It seemed his career was over.

But Richardson returned two years later – an incredible accomplishment. It was arguably more meaningful than his dunk-contest success.

But cooler? No way.

Those were AWESOME.

Those are his NBA legacy.