Doc Rivers’ buyout market plan falls short, leaving Clippers with short bench

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The Clippers are a very dangerous team with their top six players — Chris Paul, J.J. Redick, Matt Barnes, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, and Jamal Crawford — are healthy and some combination of them is on the court. But go much past that and things start to fall apart. The Clippers lack depth.

Doc Rivers, the team’s coach and GM, planned to help remedy that the same way he did last season — on the buyout market. That’s where they picked up Glen Davis and Danny Granger back then. This time around Doc cleared roster space — that was part of what was behind the Austin Rivers’ trade — and was ready to pounce.

But this year Josh Smith chose Houston. Kendrick Perkins — who played for Rivers in Boston — chose Cleveland. Tayshaun Prince and Kevin Garnett were traded and not bought out.

That left the Clippers with nothing. It left Los Angeles flat-footed in a Western Conference where Houston, Dallas, Oklahoma City, Memphis and others made moves to upgrade their rosters. Rivers tried to put a spin on it, speaking to Arash Markazi of ESPN.

“We like our team,” Rivers said Wednesday. “We actually like our basketball team, and if we could add something that can help that, we will. What people don’t understand is chemistry is so freaking important. Unless it’s somebody you think is going to really change your team, this team was a couple bad plays in Game 6 away from the Western Conference finals last year. We lost some guys and added some guys, but we like our team.”

The real problem was that Rivers’ tied his own hands this summer. He wanted Spencer Hawes and gave him the full mid-level exception to land the reserve big man. In doing so he triggered a hard cap on the Clippers of $4 million more than the luxury tax line, and the Clippers have been within a couple million of that all season. Meaning all they could ever do was offer minimum salary contracts to anyone who came available. It also made it hard to make a trade (not that the Clippers had assets people wanted, aside Crawford) because the Clippers couldn’t take on salary.

That said, I agree with Rivers, I like this team. But I don’t love it. And they don’t seem a team likely to come out of the loaded West.

The Clippers, at 37-21, are currently the six seed in the West. They are just 2.5 games out of the three seed, but they are also just four games up on the hard-charging eight seed Thunder.

This Clipper team has not been as good as the one that made the second round last season. That’s mostly because their defense hasn’t been as tight — they are giving up 104.2 points per 100 possessions, which is 2.1 more than last season. If you don’t think that’s much, it’s the difference between seventh best in the NBA last season and 18th this season. That defense has been better the last few games, but they need to sustain that — and do it with Griffin back in the lineup — before I’m a believer.

They’re just going to have to do it in-house, because there is no help coming.

Chris Paul on 2020 Olympics: My wife wants to go to Tokyo

Chris Paul
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Chris Paul feels great starring for the Thunder.

So great, he might even take on extra workload.

Paul – who helped Team USA win gold medals in 2008 and 2012 but didn’t compete in 2016 – said he’s “very serious” about playing the 2020 Olympics. Paul:

I’m excited about the opportunity. My wife is sort of calling the shots on this one. She said she wants to go to Tokyo.

I’ve been blessed and fortunate to play in 2008. I had no kids then. In 2012, my wife couldn’t come, because, four days after the gold medal game, she had my daughter.

We often hear about players missing international tournaments due to personal reasons. But that can go both ways. Paul might compete due to personal reasons.

Paul faces steep and deep competition for making the team at point guard: Stephen Curry, Damian Lillard, James Harden, Kyrie Irving, Kyle Lowry, Russell Westbrook, Kemba Walker, Mike Conley, Malcolm Brogdon, Derrick White. Trae Young didn’t even make the list of finalists.

USA Basketball managing director Jerry Colangelo said players who’ve previously represented the U.S. will get favorable consideration. So, that’ll help Paul.

If he plays, Paul – who turns 35 in May – would be Team USA’s third-oldest Olympian:

Chris Paul

Age for Team USA’s first game or, in 2020, first game of the tournament

Did John Beilein’s methods lead to Dylan Windler’s season-ending injury?

Former Cavaliers coach John Beilein and Dylan Windler
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John Beilein gave the Cavaliers problems mentally.

Did he also give them problems physically – especially Dylan Windler, who’s missing his entire rookie year?

Shams Charania, Jason Lloyd and Joe Vardon of The Athletic:

Warning signs for Beilein could be traced to the Cavs’ Summer League schedule, when the rookie coach ran a collection of (mostly) G Leaguers and non-roster invites through extended practices, multiple times a day. This is precisely what Beilein would have done at Michigan, especially with an entirely new batch of players, this early in a season calendar. But players not only complained about the work, they also were drilled in games by opponents who were clearly well-rested. And this was in Summer League.

There was at least one player, though, involved in those early summer workouts under Beilein who was expecting to make a major contribution to the Cavs this season. Rookie Dylan Windler, a late first rounder, was supposed to compete with Cedi Osman for minutes on the wing. But he never played a game this season because of a stress injury in his left leg — which could be traced back at least in part to being overworked during the summer.

Would Windler have missed the season under a different coach? It’s impossible to say. Counterfactuals are complex.

But there was legitimate reason to be concerned with Beilein’s approach. Teams have learned the importance of rest. Fatigued players are more susceptible to injury.

Beilein’s longest college season was 41 games. He coached 54 games in Cleveland – and left with much of the season remaining.

Handling the grind of the NBA season was always going to be an adjustment for the long-time college coach. It probably got understated amid concern about him relating interpersonally to his players.

The Cavaliers needed practice time. They needed work to develop. That’s clearly what Beilein prioritized.

But they also needed to limit the physical toll, and it’s reasonable to question whether Beilein did enough there. Even if he was learning that the NBA is more marathon than sprint, the several months Beilein coaches the Cavs were enough to cause issues.

Bucks’ minor-league coach suspended two games for rant (video)

Bucks minor-league coach Chase Buford
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Chase Buford, who coaches the Bucks’ minor-league affiliate, went on an epic rant after the Wisconsin Herd’s latest loss. He singled out referee Matt Rafferty as a “f—ing clown” and said the officials were “bad and biased and unfair and illegal and cheating.”

Ryan Rodig of WFRV-TV:

G League release:

Wisconsin Herd head coach Chase Buford has been suspended for two games without pay for a direct and extended public attack on the integrity and credibility of the game officials.

I can’t recall an NBA coach ever getting suspended for something he said during a press conference.

I also can’t recall an NBA coach ever saying something so inflammatory during a press conference.

In 2005, then-NBA commissioner David Stern threatened to ban Jeff Van Gundy from the NBA after the then-Rockets coach criticized officiating. That incident still led to just a $100,000 fine. Twice as large as any previous fine for a coach. But still just a fine, nonetheless.

Watch entire Kobe Bryant memorial service (video)

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The public memorial for Kobe Bryant and Gianna Bryant featured several unforgettable moments, including:

But I can’t overstate how well done the entire event was, how heartfelt the speakers and performers were. If you missed it yesterday and are in the right headspace, it’s worth watching to get a more complete understanding of Kobe and Gianna.