On paper, the Los Angeles Clippers should be contenders.
In reality, they got eliminated from the playoffs in the first round — they got up 2-0 on Memphis then were swept out of the playoffs. The Clippers started that series with a good plan, the Grizzlies adjusted and Los Angeles had no counters. They went no farther than the Lakers, Hawks or Celtics.
Los Angeles had a good offseason. Now they have shooters — J.J. Redick and Jared Dudley — to go with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin. They have depth (Jamal Crawford was in the Sixth Man of the Year conversation last year). They have the highest paid coach in the NBA in Doc Rivers.
With that the Clippers have high expectations — and Rivers is embracing them. He told the Los Angeles Times he wants the team to live up to the challenge.
“The expectations are great. I don’t want us to shrink from that at all. I don’t want us to run from that,” he said. “But what we’ve got to get our guys to understand is expectations are one thing. Realization is a whole different thing, and just because you’re expected to do anything doesn’t mean you’ve arrived.
“We have not arrived. We didn’t win a playoff series last year. So we have a lot of work to do as a group. We should expect to do that work. We have to expect that it’s going to be much harder and we have to embrace it and do it.”
Rivers wants changes — despite that athleticism the Clippers were 19th in the NBA in pace of play. The Clippers averaged three fewer possessions per game than their older building mates the Lakers. The Clippers also struggled at time at the ends of games.
“As athletic as we are, we didn’t run enough. We have to get up and down the floor more offensively. We have to do a better job of our spacing offensively. And we have to find a way to close games. Over anything, that’s what stands out. We have to execute as a group better. Each guy has to buy into that execution, and so there’s things we have to do.”
As I have said before, the offense isn’t going to be an issue for the Clippers — they were fourth best in the NBA in points per possession last year and they added good shooters to space the floor. They will be a top three NBA offense (and maybe No. 1). Where Rivers has to improve the team is defense, that is where the inconsistencies cost them at the end of games.
If Rivers gets his faster pace, his improved defense and better execution at the end of games he will have earned that $7 million a year contract. And the Clippers will be serious contenders.
Joel Embiid is a big man like we haven’t seen in some time. He’s both an interior force and a range shooter, and is one of the more talented 7-footers in recent NBA memory.
So it makes sense that the Philadelphia 76ers star leans toward former big men when it comes to discussing the greatest players in league history. While most are obsessed with the back-and-forth between Michael Jordan and LeBron James, Embiid told Jason Concepcion of the Ringer this week that he didn’t think either were the best player ever.
To Embiid, Wilt Chamberlain is the true GOAT.
“He’s not the GOAT. To me, you got Wilt Chamberlain. I mean he has all the records. They’re never gonna be beaten. I don’t see anybody getting 100 points in a game. That’s it, he’s the GOAT.”
Chamberlain doesn’t seem to be brought up in the GOAT conversation much anymore, but his prowess was legendary and it’s mistaken to say that he only played against smaller, less athletic white players.
It’s sort of cool that Embiid decided to choose a different player as is greatest of all time. Whether or not that’s true — or whether Embiid truly believes in his choice — is another thing altogether.
I’m not sure how excited I am to watch “Space Jam 2”. I think LeBron James is a slightly better actor than Michael Jordan, and the original “Space Jam” was nothing to shake a stick at. I’m the perfect age for Space Jam to have meant something to me, but having watched the film as an adult I can tell you it’s largely underwhelming.
Still, Space Jam 2 is set to film this summer and we finally have a confirmation of that fact from LeBron himself.
Speaking at All-Star Weekend, James told a crowd in Charlotte that they are indeed going to film once the season is over.
I think filmmaking has evolved, particularly animated filmmaking in the wake of things like Toy Story, Shrek, and other big franchises. There is no doubt that Space Jam 2 will be a better movie than the original. The director of the film certainly thinks so.
Kids will love it, and it’s exactly the kind of thing that James want to get involved in when he moved to the Los Angeles Lakers this summer.
I’m sure that basketball Twitter will have a steady stream of opinions when it comes out in theaters. Maybe I will catch it when it’s on at Netflix a month later.
Anthony Davis recently made mention that all 29 NBA teams other than the New Orleans Pelicans are on his list to land when he becomes trade eligible again this summer. Teams like the Boston Celtics, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Milwaukee Bucks, and Los Angeles Clippers will vie for his services with the best packages they have the to offer.
But which of these teams will be long-term solutions for Davis, whose current contract runs out in the summer of 2020?
That is likely to be where the conversation around Davis shifts as we move into the spring. In fact, according to Shams Charania, at least one interested team isn’t on Davis’ radar long term.
Davis and agent Rich Paul severely overplayed their hand when it came to negotiating a trade request with the Pelicans as they tried to steer Davis to the Lakers before the deadline.
New Orleans remains firmly in control of Davis and any offers for him, although it’s possible the player could retain some additional influence by making it known that he would not re-sign anywhere outside of his preferred destinations. According to Charania, that’s the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks, and Bucks.
Still, a player’s status as a potential risk in free agency is affected by how good he is and how close to a championship the receiving team thinks they are. We saw a Toronto Raptors take a chance with Kawhi Leonard, who could very well leave this summer.
Might a team trade for Davis without the guarantee that he could leave in 2020? That seems possible, and I wouldn’t rule out anything wild happening in trade market come summer.
LeBron James spent just four years with the Miami Heat, grabbing two championships with pals Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh. LeBron then left South Beach to bring a title to his native Ohio with the Cleveland Cavaliers.
James is now part of the Los Angeles Lakers, an organization that Miami Heat president Pat Riley is innately familiar with (Riley was on the coaching staff of the Lakers from 1979-90). Riley was famously upset when he took the podium in the summer of 2014 after James had informed him that he was not going to come back to Miami.
We are approaching the half-decade mark from that interaction, and Riley appears to have cooled off a little bit.
Speaking with ESPN’s Dan LeBatard, Riley said that he felt disappointed because of how long a tenure that Heat team could have had.
I’m not sure if it’s fair to say that Miami you would have been a “10-year team”. Chris Bosh last played in February of 2016, and Wade hasn’t been a starter-level player for some time.
Still, it’s true that if LeBron would have stayed in South Beach that the Heat would be a perennial Eastern Conference Finals team and perhaps a real dynastic challenger to the Golden State Warriors.