Associated Press

Clippers win 10th straight, beat Heat 104-90 without DeAndre Jordan

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Backup center Cole Aldrich had 19 points and seven rebounds in place of ailing DeAndre Jordan, and the Los Angeles Clippers used a thunderous third-quarter surge to beat the Miami Heat 104-90 Wednesday night for their 10th straight victory.

Jordan was sidelined because of pneumonia, ending the NBA’s longest active consecutive games played streak at 360.

The eight-year veteran, who led the league in rebounding the past two seasons, had the second-longest streak in franchise history behind Randy Smith’s 595 straight games with the Buffalo Braves.

Chris Paul had 15 points and 12 assists for Los Angeles. Aldrich, a five-year veteran making his first start in 17 games with the Clippers, made seven of 14 shots while playing a season-high 24 minutes.

The winning streak is the Clippers’ third of 10 or more games during the past four seasons. They also had an 11-game run in 2013-14 and won a franchise-record 17 straight in 2012-13 – going 16-0 in December.

Miami (22-17) is the only team the Clippers have faced during their streak that currently has a record of .500 or better.

Reserve guard Gerald Green led the Heat with 19 points and Dwyane Wade added 16 points and eight assists. Miami’s third straight loss equaled its longest skid of the season and kept the Heat a game behind first-place Atlanta in the Southeast Division.

Hassan Whiteside, who had 23 points and 16 rebounds against the Clippers the last time the Heat faced them, came off the bench for the first time this season and had 10 points and 11 boards after sitting out Monday’s loss at Golden State because of pain in his right knee.

Miami point guard Goran Dragic was sent home from the team’s road trip to get an MRI on his lingering left calf strain and is expected to miss at least three games.

Paul Pierce hit a pair of 3-pointers to help the Clippers end the first half on a 14-5 run and slice a 16-point deficit to 52-45. They opened the third quarter with 13 unanswered points and extended that run to 24-5 for a 69-57 lead with 6:11 left in the period.

Miami got as close as 74-68 on two free throws by Whiteside with 2:32 left in the third, but the Clippers’ bench controlled the fourth quarter and built the margin to 94-75 on Jamal Crawford‘s 3-pointer with 5:46 to play.

Jordan missed a game for the first time since March 23, 2001. On that occasion, the Clippers beat Washington 127-119 in double overtime at Los Angeles after Jordan was diagnosed with a mild case of pneumonia.

Los Angeles is 9-0 since leading scorer Blake Griffin went down with a partially torn tendon in his left quad. Overall, the Clippers are 21-8 when the five-time All-Star has sat out due to injury or suspension – including a 9-6 mark last season.

TIP-INS

Heat: Miami committed a season-high 24 turnovers, compared to eight for the Clippers. . Wade, who turns 34 on Sunday, has not recorded a double-double in his last 71 games since Jan. 11, 2015, when he had 17 points and 10 assists against the Clippers. . No player on the team has had a double-digit assist game this season. . Chris Bosh, whose career-best streak of 13 straight games with a 3-point basket ended in Monday’s loss at Golden State (0 for 5), was 0 for 4 from behind the arc against the Clippers and finished with 11 points and 12 rebounds.

Clippers: Now that Jordan’s streak is over, Cleveland F Tristan Thompson has the NBA’s longest active consecutive games streak at 324. . All 18 of Aldrich’s previous starts in the NBA came with the New York Knicks. . Paul has been on the winning side in 10 of his 16 career head-to-head matchups against Wade. . Reserve guard Pablo Prigioni had a career-high eight steals, one shy of the franchise record held by coach Doc Rivers. . Crawford scored 15 points on 4-for-15 shooting. He set career highs with 52 points, 20 field goals and eight 3-pointers against Miami on Jan. 26, 2007, while playing for the Knicks. . The Clippers are 17-2 when allowing fewer than 100 points.

 

Are Raptors viable trade destination for Kawhi Leonard?

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The Lakers, Clippers, 76ers and Celtics have dominated Kawhi Leonard trade discussions for most of the summer.

But the Raptors have emerged as a trendy pick for the star’s destination. One betting site even gave Toronto even odds against the field – including the Spurs – as Leonard’s team to begin next season.

Are the Raptors actually a realistic landing spot for Leonard?

Brian Windhorst and Zach Lowe of ESPN discussed on The Lowe Post podcast.

Windhorst:

Toronto Raptors, I think they’re in the driver’s seat for Kawhi. Because I think the Lakers have given up. The Sixers have given up. And with the Nets, Bulls and Hawks spending their cap space, it makes it harder to assemble a multi-team trade. I think the Raptors are in the driver’s seat.

Lowe:

I’ve seen a lot of snark on Twitter that the Raptors stuff is a joke, that the odds went up because of something I said on my podcast and you said on TV. I’ve seen it being dismissed. It may not happen. Most NBA trades don’t happen. But if you think it’s a joke, you should probably recalibrate your expectations.

The Raptors can construct an offer built around:

Because DeRozan and Lowry earn more than Leonard, the Raptors could also take back a costly contract San Antonio wants to dump.

Such a deal would allow the Spurs to remain competitive now while gaining long-term assets under greater team control than Leonard, who can walk in unrestricted free agency next summer.

It’d also give the the Raptors a championship chance they wouldn’t have next season otherwise. The window might not remain open long considering Leonard’s health and contract status, but there’s something to be said for raising the ceiling when it can reach that level – even if it means lowering the floor. Plus, if Leonard left, Toronto could more easily transition into its next phase than if DeRozan and Lowry remained on the books.

This trade framework makes too much sense for the teams not to discuss it. But whether that’d result in an actual deal is another question.

Report: Kawhi Leonard considering participating in Gregg Popovich-led Team USA minicamp

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The Spurs want to repair their relationship with Kawhi Leonard and keep him long-term. Leonard wants to leave San Antonio. Potential trade partners want to know more about his health and mindset.

Something has to give.

Maybe it will next week.

Spurs president/coach Gregg Popovich, taking over Team USA, will direct a minicamp in Las Vegas. Leonard is invited and – in a surprising development after he missed the few months of the season due to a quad injury – might actually play.

Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

San Antonio Spurs star Kawhi Leonard is seriously considering participation in the USA Basketball national team’s minicamp in Las Vegas next week, an event for the embattled All-NBA forward to showcase the status of his recovery to prospective trade partners, league sources told ESPN.

Among NBA teams and USA Basketball officials, there is a belief that Leonard wants to participate in the camp, but could be dissuaded based on ancillary concerns.

Leonard holds some enthusiasm for showcasing his revitalized health in the wake of the quad injury that has been at the center of discord between the Spurs and him, sources said. The question being debated, sources said, is whether participating in the Team USA camp will ignite trade talks that deliver him to his preferred destination — the Lakers — or give the Spurs more cause to hold on to Leonard and push him to report to training camp in September.

For what it’s worth, there is conflicting reporting about Leonard’s preferred destination. Some say it’s the Clippers.

This low-intensity camp won’t be a chance for Leonard to prove he’s fully healthy, but he can show enough to ignite trade interest. Maybe that helps propel him out of San Antonio – though if it’s not to Los Angeles, how much would that mean to Leonard?

The camp could also give Leonard and Popovich a chance to reconnect. Depending on whom you believe, maybe some in Leonard’s camp or even Leonard himself don’t want to give the Spurs boss that opportunity.

If Leonard goes to Las Vegas, it’d become a media circus. All his movements and interactions, especially with Popovich, would be closely scrutinized. At one point, I would have figured the reserved Leonard would want no part of that. But I now believe we incorrectly assumed too much about him just because he’s quiet.

So, I’m not entirely sure what he wants – or what direction participating in this camp would send him.

Leonard knows more about the former. It’s on him to evaluate the latter.

Report: Kings get Ben McLemore back in trade with Grizzlies

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Since the NBA instituted a four-year rookie scale for first-rounders in 1998, just 22 top-10 picks spent their entire rookie-scale contract with their original team then left that team in free agency.

Many stayed on their first team long-term. Others got traded while teams were still intrigued by the talent that got the player drafted so high in the first place. Some were signed-and-traded, the threat of restricted free agency giving teams one last chance to recoup value from a high pick.

There’s a certain stagnancy with a player’s development and a team’s decision-making when a team drafts someone high, holds him for his entire rookie-scale contract then just watches him leave in his first free agency.

Former No. 2 pick Jabari Parker is an atypical example of that rare situation, as he was picked especially high before the Bucks let his value drain until he signed with the Bulls last week.

Ben McLemore is far more representative.

The Kings drafted him No. 7 in 2013, and his production oscillated between degrees of poor. Sacramento explored trading him numerous times, but never pulled the trigger. The Kings didn’t even extend him a qualifying offer last summer, and he signed with the Grizzlies.

It was a failure of development by McLemore and foresight by Sacramento. The Kings clearly just never figured what to do with McLemore – which makes this trade, oh, so special.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian:

To be fair to the Kings, maybe this isn’t about McLemore at all. He could just be a salary for matching purposes, the player receiving it completely irrelevant.

All three traded players are on expiring contracts. All three are overpaid based on their production. Temple is the best and highest-paid player in the deal. Davis and McLemore have better chances of helping Sacramento win meaningfully.

The Kings, generously, have minimal chance of winning a satisfactorily next season. Temple wasn’t going to change that, and at 32, he had little chance of helping once Sacramento was ready.

McLemore is a longshot to ever become an effective rotation player, but he has the requisite size and athleticism for an NBA shooting guard, and he’s not old at age 25. The 21-year-old Davis is far more intriguing as a bouncy center, but he must make major strides in effort and awareness.

Even as low-odds bets, Davis and McLemore offer more to Sacramento than Temple did. The second-rounder and cash only improve the Kings’ return.

Sacramento also opens $995,049 in additional cap space. Could that go toward signing another restricted free agent to an offer sheet after the Bulls matched Zach LaVine‘s? Marcus Smart? Rodney Hood? Clint Capela?

Temple is the biggest winner of the trade. He opted in for $8 million next season, even though that meant committing to the lowly Kings. But now he gets his money and gets to join a better team. He might even start at shooting guard in Memphis. Temple is a fine player and an upgrade for the wing-hungry Grizzlies. But he’s also 32 and showed slippage last year. Memphis hopes a change in scenery will solve that and it wasn’t simply aging.

The Grizzlies were wise to bet on Temple considering the low cost of acquiring him. They’re trying to win now, which isn’t necessarily the wrong move with Marc Gasol and Mike Conley under contract. It’ll still be an uphill battle in the loaded West, but Temple is another helpful addition along with Jaren Jackson Jr., Kyle Anderson, Omri Casspi and Jevon Carter this summer.

Report: Nemanja Bjelica backs out of contract agreement with 76ers to return to Europe

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Nemanja Bjelica had his $4,937,499 qualifying offer pulled by the Timberwolves (so they could sign Anthony Tolliver while remaining out of the luxury tax).

Bjelica rebounded with the 76ers, agreeing to take the $4,449,000 room exception for one year.

But…

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

DeAndre Jordan 2.0? Maybe. We don’t know exactly what, if any, contingencies Bjelica and Philadelphia put on the agreement.

A key distinction: Jordan pledged to sign with the Mavericks and reneged all during the July moratorium, when he couldn’t officially sign. Bjelica’s deal with Philadelphia came out a day before the moratorium ended, and he could have signed during the last 11 days.

Teams often delay signing players with the room exception, because they can exceed the cap with it. But the 76ers have long used up their cap space. Unless they have a bigger deal in mind and asked Bjelica to wait just in case, they should have known for a while something might be amiss.

Bjelica is better than any remaining unrestricted free agent, so he won’t be easily replaced. Philadelphia will probably hold its room exception for potential buyout players, as it’s unclear anyone available could command more than a minimum salary.

The 76ers certainly viewed Bjelica as a replacement for Ersan Ilyasova, who left for the Bucks. Depth matters, but at least Philadelphia still has a stretch four in Dario Saric, who improved his range (and a lot more) last season.

Bjelica’s defection will also help, though not solve, the 76ers’ roster crunch. They still have 16 players clearly getting standard contracts – one more than the regular-season limit – and 2017 second-round Jonah Bolden has stated a plan to sign with Philadelphia for next season. So, the 76ers might have to buy out Jerryd Bayless and/or waive players like Justin Anderson and Furkan Korkmaz.