The Clippers — behind the force of nature that is Blake Griffin — are on the precipice of being good. Maybe very good. Only the Thunder are a young team as well positioned to grow into a contender as the Clippers. Los Angeles has a franchise player, a good number two in Eric Gordon, quality young role players, future picks, a very reasonable salary number going forward. Just keep making smart decisions and they can be right there.
And yet, I keep waiting for the other shoe to drop. Because they are the Clippers and their owner Donald Sterling will find a way to screw it up. The stories about him are more horrifying with each new revelation.
This latest one may top the list — several years ago Clippers assistant coach Kim Hughes had prostate cancer, but the team wouldn’t pay for surgery.
We’ll let Gery Woelfel at the Journal-Times tell the story.
“I contacted the Clippers about medical coverage and they said the surgery wouldn’t be covered,” Hughes said. “I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ And they said if they did it for one person, they’d have to do for everybody else.”
When (then Clippers coach Mike) Dunleavy learned the Clippers wouldn’t cover the cost of Hughes’ surgery, he mentioned it to his players.
Several of them, including now Milwaukee Bucks forward Corey Maggette, Chris Kaman, Elton Brand and Marko Jaric, were taken aback by the news and decided to offer their assistance.
“Kim was one of our coaches and he’s a really good friend of mine, too,” Maggette said. “He was in a situation where the Clippers’ medical coverage wouldn’t cover his surgery. I thought it was a great opportunity to help someone in need, to do something that Christ would do. It shows your humanity, that you care for other people and not just yourself. Kim was in a life-and-death situation.”
That says a lot about the players on that team and their unselfishness. Their humanity.
It says plenty about the Clippers and their owner, too.
Who will we see in the NBA Finals come June?
The West looks cut and dried — if the Warriors are healthy, it’s hard to imagine any other team in that conference giving them too much trouble.
The East? That’s wide open. A good case can be made for Boston, Toronto, Philadelphia, or Milwaukee finding their way in. (For a more detailed breakdown, listen to the latest PBT Podcast where Keith Smith of Yahoo Sports and myself break down the East in more detail.)
The bookmakers over at BetOnline put together these odds on potential Finals matchups, and after the first four options the odds get pretty long.
Milwaukee Bucks vs Golden State Warriors 9/2
Toronto Raptors vs Golden State Warriors 9/2
Boston Celtics vs Golden State Warriors 5/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Golden State Warriors 5/1
Indiana Pacers vs Golden State Warriors 28/1
Brooklyn Nets vs Golden State Warriors 33/1
Boston Celtics vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Milwaukee Bucks vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Toronto Raptors vs Houston Rockets 40/1
Charlotte Hornets vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Detroit Pistons vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Miami Heat vs Golden State Warriors 50/1
Orlando Magic vs Golden State Warriors 66/1
Washington Wizards vs Golden State Warriors 66/1
Boston Celtics vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Milwaukee Bucks vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Philadelphia 76ers vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
Toronto Raptors vs Oklahoma City Thunder 80/1
A few quick thoughts on that list:
• Interesting that the Sixers and Celtics are just a little behind the Bucks and Raptors in the minds of the bookmakers.
• I don’t know that I’d have Houston in front of Oklahoma City as the second-best option in the West. Not this season. The Thunder have the defense and star power to do playoff damage.
• If you’re thinking about putting money on Washington or Orlando to make the Finals — against anyone — just donate that money to charity instead. That way it will do some good.
Zion Williamson will probably be the No. 1 pick in the upcoming NBA draft.
He’s a generationally good prospect. The rest of this draft also looks relatively weak.
In fact, Williamson has such a stranglehold on the top pick, some have suggested he sit out the rest of his freshman season.
His injury during Duke’s game against North Carolina tonight will only heighten those calls.
Hopefully, Williamson is OK.
And hopefully, the system changes. The NCAA is a cartel in which schools conspire to cap compensation for athletes at a scholarship plus some expenses. In a free market, Williamson would earn far more.
Unfortunately, it probably can’t be both. If Williamson escapes this without major injury, the status quo will likely endure.
But, if this injury even allows him to play again this season, it might be a warning shot that causes him to sit until he can enter the NBA draft.
Again, I hope he’s healthy enough to make that decision for himself.
Friday morning, Jayson Tatum guaranteed the U.S. team would beat the World team in the Rising Stars game that night. The U.S. team won.
So, Tatum was asked Saturday morning whether he wanted to guarantee anything for that night. He guaranteed he’d win the Skills Challenge. He won.
So, then ESPN’s Rachel Nichols asked Tatum whether he wants to guarantee anything else. And he really let it ride.
We’re going to win the Finals this year. February 16th, mark it. Jayson Tatum says we’re going to win the Finals this year.
Obviously, Tatum wasn’t going to pick against Boston. But this wasn’t that. He could have easily avoided such a grand proclamation.
Instead, even if he were just caught up in the emotion of an All-Star Saturday Night victory and taking the interview especially seriously, Tatum put a little more attention and pressure on the Celtics.
I’m not convinced that’s what this team needs.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban said Kristaps Porzingis will sign long-term with Dallas this summer, and Porzingis he was on the same page.
But he will be a free agent. Restricted, but a free agent, nonetheless.
Porzingis’ exit from the Knicks provided a clue about where he’d want to go if he explores leaving the Mavericks.
Marc Stein of The New York Times in his newsletter:
The four teams Porzingis had on his wish list of trade destinations were the Nets, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat and Toronto Raptors, according to two people with knowledge of the list who were not authorized to discuss it publicly.
Porzingis had little leverage to get to any of these teams. Because he’ll be a restricted free agent, the Knicks or any team acquiring him would retain immense team control over him.
The Nets and Clippers project to have cap space this summer. The Heat and Raptors don’t.
But even if Porzingis signs an offer sheet elsewhere, Dallas will will likely match it.
Still, Porzingis will become an unrestricted free agent someday – 2020 in the unlikely event he accepts his qualifying offer or a future year if he signs a multi-year deal this summer. It’s probably best to file away this list until then.