The Clippers drafted Brice Johnson 25th in the first round last June with the eyes on the future. He’s an explosive athlete who doesn’t have a ton of moves but a nice touch around the rim. He was efficient, he played within himself. He has the potential to develop into a solid rotation big in the NBA.
But that future is on hold for a little bit.
The Clippers announced that Johnson has a herniated disc in his back and is now out “indefinitely.” He injured his back in the preseason game against the Raptors.
The goal is to rehab and avoid surgery. What that means is expect Johnson to be sidelined for an extended period of time, at least a month and likely more (ESPN reports 4-6 weeks, but backs are tricky things).
Johnson was not going to see a lot of court time this season — Blake Griffin, Brandon Bass, DeAndre Jordan, and Marreese Speights will soak up the majority of the minutes — but this is a setback on the team’s plans to develop his game.
On paper, and if healthy, Chandler Parsons is exactly what Memphis needs — a guy who can space the floor with his shot and is a second shot-creator on the wing who gives them more offensive options.
New head coach David Fizdale’s job is to put Parsons and the Grizzlies in a system that best takes advantage of those skills. The former Heat lead assistant has an idea from his past — treat Parsons like the Heat did LeBron James. From Tim MacMahon of ESPN.
“When I said I want to play him like LeBron, I do,” Fizdale said. “I really do want to use him, because there’s not many guys in the league at that size that have that skill set, and there’s no reason why I should put a cap on his abilities because his name isn’t LeBron James. I just see the same skill set. He’s not a high flyer like LeBron obviously, but he can pass it, he can shoot the 3, he’s huge, he can post guys and he moves great without the basketball, so I can move him around in a lot of different spots. I do not want to put a ceiling on him. I want to see how far we can go with him and put him in a role that is positionless. … I think all it takes is a coach showing that he has the confidence in a guy to do it and develop him according to the system and then it can take place.”
Let’s start with the obvious here: Parsons is no LeBron. Parsons isn’t as physical, isn’t as quick, isn’t as good a passer, and the list goes on. That’s not a knock on Parsons — LeBron is arguably the most physically gifted player the NBA has ever seen, and as good a passing forward as has ever played the game. Nobody is quite LeBron.
Can Parson’s be a poor man’s LeBron in a system that plays to his versatile strengths? Maybe. Memphis signed him over Portland (a four-year, $94 million max deal was offered by both teams) because they promised to put the ball in his hands and get him opportunities. It makes sense and can be what the Grizzlies need in a second option — give a good, smart player the ball and let him make decisions. Parsons is efficient running the pick-and-roll, so let him.
For any of this to work, Parsons needs to be healthy. Parsons has been slowed by knee pain through camp — remember he had two knee surgeries in the last 18 months — and he is questionable for opening night. That means James Ennis — GO LONG BEACH!!! — may get the call after a strong camp.
Brandon Ingram has real potential, All-Star or better kind of potential, but right now he’s a work in progress for Luke Walton in the Lakers.
Friday night Ingram took one step forward — he got his first professional buckets. There first came off an alley-oop from Marcelo Huertas for a dunk. The Laker bench loved that.
The second bucket came as he stepped into a transition three.
Ingram is going to come off the bench for the Lakers, at least to start the season, but what matters for him — and the entire Lakers young core — is growth this season. The people around the Lakers said they already see that from Ingram. It’s a start.
We know Devin Booker can knock down the three ball. He did that against Portland Friday night.
But what we saw was attack-mode Booker, as he scored 47 percent of his points in the paint as he dropped 34 on Portland in a preseason game. This guy can just get buckets. The Suns have a cornerstone there.
The Blazers still won the game 115-110, with Damian Lillard scoring 18 and Shabazz Napier dropping 20 off the bench.
Last season, Rudy Gobert shot 56.9 percent from the free throw stripe. For his career, he’s at 58.5 percent. That makes him a prime candidate for hack-a-big.
In Utah’s preseason game the other night against Phoenix, Gobert hit 13-of-14 from the stripe.
It turned heads. Has the Utah big man turned the corner on free throws? He says he has.
We may need to see this over a longer stretch of ground to fully buy in (and he’s not going to hit 90 percent), but maybe the French center has figured it out. If so, he and the Jazz — already everybody’s most likely breakout team this season (even with the Gordon Hayward injury) — just go a little more dangerous.