Report: Clippers pursuing LeBron James, but won’t trade Blake Griffin for him

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Can you imagine a team with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and LeBron James? Even surrounded by minimum-salary players, it would immediately become championship favorites.

The Clippers want to make that happen – but on their terms.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

Griffin is extremely valuable to the Clippers, and I’m sure they don’t want to trade him.

But if pressed, there is absolutely no way they should should keep Griffin over acquiring LeBron.

Loyalty is important. LeBron is more important.

And if the Clippers are serious about landing LeBron, they’d likely have to part with Griffin in a sign-and-trade.

Even if the Clippers strip their roster to just Paul and Griffin, they still wouldn’t have enough space below the projected salary cap to offer LeBron his max – though the difference would be negligible.

More importantly, trimming the roster to that point would be a huge challenge.

Glen Davis and Danny Granger are helping by opting out. Darren Collison is also opting out, and Willie Green has a fully unguaranteed contract that becomes fully guaranteed July 1. Either way, the Clippers should waive him.

That still leaves Paul, Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, J.J. Redick, Jamal Crawford, Jared Dudley, Matt Barnes, Darren Collison and Reggie Bullock under contract for next season. Clearing those last seven would take considerable maneuvering. Even if all but Dudley has real value, those are several trades to lineup.

Unless Doc Rivers accomplishes all that, a sign-and-trade would be required. He’d certainly pitch one based on Jordan, but there’s no way Pat Riley accepts. He’s not going to help LeBron leave Miami without significant return.

It would take Griffin to even get the conversation rolling – and that still might not be enough. The must be really convinced LeBron is leaving regardless.

LeBron joining the Clippers is a longshot, but it’s much, much, much more improbable if they’re unwilling to deal Griffin.