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Clippers win again without Griffin, beating Hawks 85-83

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ATLANTA (AP) — Jamal Crawford scored 21 points and the Los Angeles Clippers won again without Blake Griffin, holding off the mistake-prone Atlanta Hawks 85-83 on Wednesday night.

The Hawks turned it over a season-high 23 times but still had a chance to force overtime when Chris Paul lost the handle on an inbounds pass after Al Horford‘s free throw. Atlanta got it back with 6.7 seconds left and inbounded to Paul Millsap, who drove against Luc Mbah a Moute and got a good look at the basket but came up short on a running one-hander. The horn sounded as the Clippers celebrated their 14th win in 17 games.

Los Angeles won for the second straight night after word leaked that Griffin would be out 4-to-6 weeks, having broken his shooting hand by punching a staff member. He apologized for the incident on Twitter late Tuesday, and his teammates kept on winning.

DeAndre Jordan scored 13 points and grabbed 19 rebounds, foiling the Hawks’ strategy to keep sending him to line by making 6 of 8 free throws in the fourth quarter.

Jeff Teague led Atlanta with 16 points.

Both teams looked ragged – not surprising with the Hawks coming off a weeklong West Coast road trip, while the Clippers were finishing up a five-game East Coast run and played the night before at Indiana.

Atlanta shot just 42 percent (33 of 79) and eclipsed its previous high for turnovers, after surrendering the ball 22 times at Indiana on Dec. 28. The Clippers connected on just 39 percent (33 of 85) from the field, including a dismal 5-of-27 showing from behind the 3-point arc.

Chris Paul had 11 points and 10 assists, while J.J. Redick added 12 points.

TIP-INS

Clippers: Coach Doc Rivers considered giving 38-year-old Paul Pierce the night off in the second half of a back-to-back. He wound up starting but played just under 15 minutes, least among the starters, scoring 5 points. He went 23 minutes the night before at Indiana. … Rookie Branden Dawson was inactive. … Los Angeles scored 17 points off Atlanta turnovers.

Hawks: Assigned C Walter “Edy” Tavares to the Austin Spurs of the NBA Development League to get some playing time. The rookie has been in nine D-League games this season, averaging 10.9 points, 10.6 rebounds and 2.7 blocks. … Justin Holiday was inactive for the fifth game in a row. … All five starters scored in double figures.

 

Counter-report: Kyrie Irving has been ‘communicative and forthright’ with Celtics

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Kyrie Irving, according to a report, has ghosted the Celtics as free agency approaches.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Whoever leaked the initial information wanted to make Irving look bad. Whoever leaked this wanted to make Irving look good. Who’s telling the truth?

Who knows?

Maybe Irving’s and Boston staffers have differing definitions “communicative and forthright.” They could each be telling their own truths. But neither side is above spreading inaccurate rumors to sully someone else’s reputation.

Breakups get messy, and it appears this one is already there.

Beyond all the noise about how Irving is leaving, the most important detail: This is yet another report he’s leaving for the Nets.

Report: Hornets’ Michael Kidd-Gilchrist opting in for $13 million

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The Hornets’ last hope for super-maxing out Kemba Walker and avoiding the luxury tax without trading or stretching anyone has been extinguished.

With Michael Kidd-Gilchrist‘s $13 million salary locked in for next season, Charlotte faces hard choices.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

If the Hornets re-sign Walker to the super-max, sign their draft picks (Nos. 12, 36 and 52) and add no other free agents, they’d project to be about $9 million over the tax line.

Would Walker take that large of a discount? That $9 million below the super-max would be for just next season. Over a five-year contract with max raises, he’d be leaving about $54 million on the table. And that’s all to maintain a lottery team that’s not really upgrading.

Would Michael Jordan pay the tax? He never has, and I doubt this mediocre team sways him.

The most likely outcome if Walker re-signs: Charlotte trades an undesirable contract – Kidd-Gilchrist’s, Nicolas Batum‘s, Marvin Williams‘, Cody Zeller‘s) – or stretches Bismack Biyombo. Trading those rotation players would probably require a sweetener. Stretching Biyombo would create a cap hit through 2022.

So, the Hornets get even more depleted in the long-term, maybe also the short-term.

That’s the cost of overpaying so many players – including Kidd-Gilchrist, who plays hard and defends well but hasn’t developed enough of an offensive game.

Report: After working out Darius Garland, Knicks set on R.J. Barrett with No. 3 pick

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R.J. Barrett is the consensus No. 3 prospect in this draft. The Knicks have the No. 3 pick.

A potential snag  – New York working out Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland today – apparently won’t keep Barrett from his desired Knicks.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The top of the draft looks clear:

1. Pelicans: Zion Williamson

2. Grizzlies: Ja Morant

3. Knicks: R.J. Barrett

New Orleans has the No. 4 pick but is looking into trading it. I rate Garland as the top available prospect, but the Pelicans already have Lonzo Ball and Jrue Holiday in the backcourt. They could still take Garland, but the fit would be tricky.

Will New Orleans pick Garland? Take someone else? Trade the pick?

The draft will get interesting at No. 4.

Trade who? Wizards reportedly will offer Bradley Beal three-year, $111 million contract extension

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Predicting what the Wizards will do this off-season — from the No. 9 pick in the draft on Thursday through what to do with Jabari Parker‘s $20 million team option — is difficult because they do not have a permanent general manager. The Wizards have made a run at Toronto’s Masai Ujiri (something sources told me is true despite owner Ted Leonsis’ denials), but for now in-house candidate Tommy Sheppard is running the show (and will for a while longer).

The biggest question: What will the Wizards do with Bradley Beal?

While every team in the league has called to try and feel out trade possibilities, the Wizards are leaning toward offering him a three-year, $111 million extension to his current contract, something reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

“He’s eligible for a three-year, $111 million extension. I’m told it’s the team’s intention to offer that up to him and try and move forward.”

The Wizards should offer it up.

It would be a surprise if Beal accepted it.

In part because he will want to see who is in charge and what direction this person takes the franchise before he commits to it, but also in part because it doesn’t hurt him financially. Beal can get a larger-year four-year extension in the summer of 2020, or become a free agent and sign a max five-year contract in 2021 (or, he could bolt them to another team that summer). Beal is just 25 years old and has not had the kind of injury issues that would make him think he needs to take the security now (he has played 82 games the last two seasons).

This little dance will go on in our nation’s capital, but it signifies nothing. Meanwhile, Beal will gear up for next season, another without John Wall where Beal will once again be the focal point of the office.