Kurt Helin

Wesley Johnson, Al-Farouq Aminu

Report: Clippers consider bringing Pierce off bench

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Paul Pierce has come off the bench in 10 of his 1,408 NBA games (including playoffs). He’s no sixth man.

But Doc Rivers knows he needs Pierce in May and, they hope, June — not so much November and December. Pierce will be 38 by the time the season starts and Rivers has talked about keeping his minutes in check. It has been expected Pierce would start in Matt Barnes slot at the three and play some four as well.

But what if he came off the bench? From Dan Woike of the Orange County Register (hat tip Eye on Basketball):

And with Matt Barnes now in Memphis, it would make sense for Pierce to slide into the starting lineup, a place where he’s been for all but 10 of his 1,400-plus career games. But whispers out of the Clippers’ training facility in Playa Vista make it sound like that plan isn’t set in stone.

Wes Johnson, who the Clippers signed in free agency from the Lakers, is still being considered as an option to start, sending Pierce to the bench.

Bringing Pierce off the bench could be a way to limit minutes and preserve his legs for the postseason. It would also allow Rivers to use Pierce at multiple positions, perhaps at power forward in all-bench lineup with Josh Smith, Lance Stephenson, Jamal Crawford and Austin Rivers.

You can see the appeal of this. Pierce could play the four off the bench and then, late in games when he’s needed, slide into the three with the starters, but only for limited minutes.

One thing holds me back from thinking this could work: Wesley Johnson.

I bet right now in workouts in Playa Vista Johnson looks good — he passes the eye test of an NBA player. He is athletic, long, he hints at the promise of versatility — then he gets on the court in an NBA game and none of it materializes. He’s just a guy — one who doesn’t really hurt you too much, but relies on his athleticism and doesn’t show any meaningful NBA-level skills beyond that. Johnson has started 121 games for the Lakers the past two seasons, but did you see that roster? He started because he had to beat out Xavier Henry, Manny Harris, and coach-frustrating Nick Young. Johnson barely looked like a guy you want in your regular rotation, especially if you care about efficiency, with his true shooting percentage of 50.9 and a PER of 11 last season (both well below the league average). He has the physical tools to be a good defender, but often he coasts on that end (especially if his offense isn’t going). He’s struck most people as a bubble NBA rotation player on a good team.

And Doc Rivers is going to start him on a contender?

Because the other four starters on the Clippers are so strong, maybe the idea is he could be hidden a little. Just ask Johnson to do specific things — defend, hit the three (which he does pretty well, 35.1 percent last season), and soak up minutes while Pierce rests. But the Clippers have been looking to upgrade at the three and, to be blunt, the Johnson playing for the Lakers the last couple seasons is no upgrade over the solid professional that is Matt Barnes. It’s a step down.

Which is why the Clippers brought in Pierce in the first place.

Real Madrid president wants his team in NBA

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The idea of an NBA European Division continues to fascinate. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has discussed it before. But it fascinates in the way building a colony on the moon does — it’s fun to imagine and talk about, something else entirely to do.

Now Silver is about to get pressed on it a little.

Silver will be spending some time with the Celtics when they face Real Madrid in the preseason, and the president of the prestigious club is going to ask Silver about joining the NBA, he told ABC.es (hat tip r/nba).

“I would love that Real Madrid play in the NBA. Now comes the commissioner and try to talk to him,” said the leader. Real Madrid will face in early October  the Celtics at the Palace of Sports and will then match Florentino Perez David Silver to make a proposal that would be revolutionary for European basketball.

He can go ahead and present his proposal. I’m going to go ahead and present my wife with a proposal about me buying a Ferarri. These two have the same chances of success.

Silver has said there would need to be five (give or take) European teams willing to make the jump for this to work — a European division would be set up. Other powers like FC Barcelona or CSKA Moscow could join. It sounds fun on paper.

There are just the questions of the quality of facilities, are they up to NBA standards? And the travel logistics. And this complicates broadcast rights deals. And how would a playoff series between Real Madrid and the Golden State Warriors (or any other team) work exactly? And these are just the first handful of challenges.

The first thing we might see is the NBA All-Star Game head overseas down the line, to a modern arena like the O2 in London. One step at a time. Get past that and you can start to think other logistics.

Serbia beats Italy 101-82 to win EuroBasket group

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BERLIN (AP) — Serbia finished the toughest group undefeated at the European basketball championship by beating Italy 101-82 and blasted organizers on Thursday.

Guard Milos Teodosic had 26 points and eight assists as Serbia made sure of winning Group A with a perfect 5-0 record, with both teams heading to the knockout stage in Lille, France.

Spain (3-2) edged Germany 77-76 to also advance from the group. Germany (1-4) was eliminated and gave a rousing standing ovation to Dirk Nowitzki, who may have played his last match for his homeland.

Nemanja Bjelica had 19 points and eight rebounds for Serbia, which shut down Italy’s powerful front line for most of the match.

Andrea Bargnani and Danilo Galinari scored a combined 21 points throughout the first three quarters. Bargnani finished with 17 points and Galinari 14, while Alessandro Gentile led Italy with 19.

Italy (3-2) rested high-scoring guard Marco Belinelli, who has a sore groin muscle.

“Defense is our greatest strength and we used our greatest strength,” Serbia coach Sasa Obradovic said.

Obradovic also criticized the schedule – five group games in six days – with teams often getting less than 24 hours to rest.

“It’s incredibly difficult, it’s not human,” he said.

Sergio Llull made four free throws late against Germany to secure Spain’s victory. Dennis Schroeder could have sent the game into overtime but he made only two of three free throws with three seconds remaining.

Spain had what seemed a safe 10-point lead until Germany rallied late.

Nowitzki and Maodo Lo hit consecutive 3s to bring Germany within one with 23 seconds remaining.

Llull then made two free throws, so did Schroeder, and Llull hit two again. Schroeder went for a 3-pointer and got the call, but missed the last shot from the foul line.

Schroeder finished with a game-high 26 points, and had seven assists and six rebounds. Nowitzki finished with 10 points and seven rebounds. Tibor Pleiss had 10 points and 10 rebounds.

Pau Gasol contributed 16 points and 11 rebounds for Spain, and Sergio Rodriguez added 19 points. Llull had 14.

Serbia will take on Finland in the first knockout game on Sunday. Finland (2-3) finished fourth in Group A after losing 78-65 to Poland (3-2).

Belgium (3-2) made sure of advancing from Group D by beating Ukraine 79-71. Latvia (3-2) also went through after beating Estonia 75-64.

In Group C, Slovenia (3-2) defeated Macedonia 62-51 to make the Round of 16. Georgia (2-3) stunned Croatia 71-58, but host Croatia (3-2) will finish second to Greece, which played the Netherlands in the late match. Six Georgia players scored in double digits.

In a Group A game between two already eliminated teams, Russia salvaged some pride by defeating Bosnia-Herzegovina 81-61.

Draymond Green donates $3.1 million to alma mater

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EAST LANSING, Mich. (AP) — Golden State Warriors standout Draymond Green is donating $3.1 million to Michigan State in support of its men’s basketball program.

Green played for the Spartans and graduated in 2012. His donation, which is pending approval from the Board of Trustees, is the largest single gift to Michigan State athletics from a former Spartans athlete.

A strength and conditioning facility at the Breslin Center will be named in Green’s honor, part of a renovation to Michigan State’s home arena.

Green helped the Warriors to the NBA championship last season and then signed an $82 million, five-year contract to stay with Golden State.

In a statement sent to NBC, Green said:

“Michigan State means everything to me. I grew up in Saginaw and was lucky enough to attend Michigan State University where Coach Izzo believed in me and gave me the chance to succeed. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my Spartan experience and this donation reflects my deep appreciation to the University. This donation isn’t just about me. I want more kids to have the opportunities I had thanks to Michigan State and want to use this to stimulate all Spartans to give back to the best university in the world.”

Duncan says he plans to ride Aldridge’s coattails

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San Antonio landing LaMarcus Aldridge was the best move of the summer. It took brilliant cap machinations, but the Spurs not only made themselves one of the favorites to win it all next season, but they also secured the team’s future into the post Tim Duncan era.

There were some questions out there — how would Duncan and Aldridge work together? Both prefer to operate from the left block, and at last check there is only one of those on the court. They have some similarities of game. How would the two blend?

Duncan, speaking to the fantastic Jared Zwerling of Bleacher Report, said not to worry (hat tip Eye on Basketball).

“I’m not worried about him benefiting my game; I’m going to worry about me benefiting his. I’m going to let him do his thing and just see where I can fit in and help. I’m going to ride his coattails and I’m going to push him.”

Aldridge has said he’s not worried about meshing with Duncan, so they started off agreeing on something. For me, there are two key reasons Spurs fans should not be concerned (and the rest of the NBA should be):

1) That Gregg Popovich guy is a pretty good coach. I think he’ll be able to put players in positions where they can succeed.

2) Duncan’s leadership style has always been unselfish and bending toward the practical — let’s do what works and what wins, not what’s best for my numbers. Aldridge will need to adapt to that some, but Duncan isn’t going to freak out about his numbers if Aldridge is getting more touches.

The only question anyone should have about the Spurs is health — they have the depth to keep guys fresh, but you never know. Of course, the same is true of every other contender.