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51Q: Can the Clippers keep pending free agents Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick happy?

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We continue PBT’s 2016-17 NBA preview series, 51 Questions. For the past few weeks, and through the start of the NBA season, we tackle 51 questions we cannot wait to see answered during the upcoming NBA season. We will delve into one almost every day between now and the start of the season.

The Clippers are aiming for nothing short of an NBA title, which is an admirable mindset.

But it doesn’t have to be all-or-nothing this year if they meet another – far vaguer – standard.

To keep their championship window open beyond this season, the Clippers must accomplish enough to satisfy Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and J.J. Redick.

Paul and Griffin have player options next summer, and they’ll certainly opt out to claim their share of the new national TV contracts. Redick’s contract also expires next summer.

Two stars and a third member of a four-man core could leave via unrestricted free agency, sending the Clippers back to their stone ages. Or all three could return and keep the Clippers in title contention until Paul, who turns 32 next spring, declines too far.

The stakes are high.

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer will reportedly pay whatever it takes to keep Paul and Griffin, and that’s probably necessary. Re-signing those two would send the Clippers deeper into the luxury tax,* but they’re no-doubt-about-it max players. If the Clippers don’t pay them, other teams will line up to do it.

That’s why also keeping Redick is probably essential. The Clippers can use his Bird Rights to exceed the cap when re-signing him. Capped-out, they would have no way to get a suitable replacement.*

*Based on current projections and the Collective Bargaining Agreement, which could change.

So – if the money is right – what else will it take to sell Paul, Griffin and Redick?

In Paul’s five seasons with the Clippers, they’ve reached the playoffs every year. But they’ve exited in the first round twice and second round thrice. Blowing a 3-1 lead to the Rockets in the 2015 second round – after vanquishing the 55-win Spurs in the first round, no less – was particularly painful.

As much as Doc Rivers calls reaching the conference finals a garbage goal, it would probably be satisfying for a franchise that has never been there. And – the Clippers might not want to hear this – losing to the Kevin DurantStephen CurryDraymond GreenKlay Thompson Warriors wouldn’t be so shameful.

That’d clearly signal that the Clippers are on the right track, which could convince Paul, Griffin and Redick to stick together with DeAndre Jordan.

Another second-round loss, depending on the circumstances, and selling a positive direction gets trickier. A first-round loss or somehow missing the playoffs entirely would be a disaster for the Clippers. They don’t want to enter free agency on that sour note.

They’re not the Lakers, but it does help to play in Los Angeles. The size of the market and proximity to Hollywood can sway players.

It won’t be everything, though. The Clippers need to be coming off a good season.

How do you define good?

They probably don’t know precisely right now, but ask Paul, Griffin and Redick on July 1. Their answers then are the only ones that matter.

Report: Mavericks’ Jalen Brunson may have torn labrum in his right shoulder

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Dallas’ reserve point guard Jalen Brunson has missed the last two games with a shoulder injury suffered against Atlanta, and he was expected to miss the next three games with the Mavericks out on the road.

It sounds like he may be out longer than that, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

 

Brunson, the former Villanova star, has given Dallas a solid 18 minutes a night off the bench this season, averaging 8.2 points and shooting 35.8 percent from three. In the short term this means more minutes for J.J. Barea, but come the postseason Brunson’s size and defense would be helpful off the bench.

If playing through the injury isn’t going to make it worse or risk long-term damage, then it’s up to Brunson and his level of pain tolerance as to when and how much he plays. The surgery can wait until after the playoffs. Just expect he’s going to miss a little time in the immediate future.

Timberwolves fined $25,000 for resting healthy D’Angelo Russell against Denver

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Sunday, in a game against Denver, the Minnesota Timberwolves rested D'Angelo Russell. He was healthy, they just gave him the night off, and nobody around the NBA thought twice about it.

Except for the folks in Manhattan at the NBA’s league office.

The league fined the Timberwolves $25,000 as an organization for “violating the league’s player resting policy.”

The Timberwolves response? Basically, ¯_(ツ)_/¯

The new management team in Minnesota is very focused on modernizing the health and player development programs in the organization. Resting Russell was part of that, and if they felt the need to make sure Russell was good to go for future games they were not going to be dissuaded from sitting him.

Especially if the cost is just $25,000.

Some teams have gone to great lengths to make sure the league knew their player medically needed days off, the most prominent among those being the Clippers with Kawhi Leonard on back-to-backs. Then Doc Rivers admitted the truth — that they were resting him at times when Leonard was healthy and could play — and he got hit with a $50,000 fine.

The league has become very sensitive to the idea of “load management,” that healthy players are being rested during the regular season. From a PR perspective, it’s bad for business and is seen as devaluing the regular season. However, coaches and team sports scientists have seen the value, particularly in preventing injuries and having players relatively fresh for the playoffs, so they will continue to do it.

At this point in the season, every player is a little banged up. These kinds of fines by the league will push teams to say Russell — or whomever — is out for a game due to a sore knee, or ankle, or back, or whatever. Every player has some ailment that could use a little rest. This is how it was done before the league became more transparent and let teams just call it “rest.” The practice is not going to change with teams, it may just have a new name.

Kobe Bryant memorabilia, including game-worn Finals jerseys, going up for auction

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NEW YORK (AP) — Some key Kobe Bryant memorabilia, including two of his Los Angeles Lakers uniforms and cement handprints from his induction into the Grauman’s Chinese Theater hall of fame gallery, are going up for sale in April.

Julien’s Auctions said Thursday that the items would be up for sale on April 30 as part of its annual sports auction that includes a silver medal from the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles and a 2002 FIFA World Cup gold winner’s medal.

Bryant’s items were already being planned for auction when he, his daughter Gianna and seven others were killed in a helicopter crash on Jan. 26.

“We are honored to include this collection of his items and pay tribute to this giant who was an inspiration not only to basketball fans but to the entire world,” said Darren Julien, Julien’s Auctions’ president and CEO.

The Lakers uniforms up for sale are one worn during the 2000 NBA Finals, with his original number 8. The uniform included a black armband which marked the memory of Wilt Chamberlain, who died that season.

The other uniform was from his 2007 season, when his number was 24.

Other Bryant items include Adidas game shoes signed by the late legend; and a basketball signed by the 2010-11 Lakers including Bryant and other stars such as Ron Artest and Pau Gasol.

Juliens said the Bryant items were being sold by a collector in Kentucky. Fans can view what’s up for sale between April 27 and April 30 in Beverly Hills, California, before the auction takes place at Juliens Auctions Beverly Hills.

Bryant, who was 41, and his daughter were remembered Monday at the Staples Center with a memorial that included a performance from Beyoncé and tributes by Michael Jordan and Shaquille O’Neal.

Raptors coach Nick Nurse to perform musically next month

Raptors coach Nick Nurse
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On his way to guiding the Raptors to a championship, Nick Nurse earned viral fame by arriving in Milwaukee for the Eastern Conference finals with a guitar slung over his back:

Now, Nurse is preparing for a different stage.

Nurse, via CityNews:

I’m working on four songs right now that I’m getting ready to – I’m getting ready to have a little performance. Actually, March 11th, I’m having a kickoff for my foundation – Nick Nurse Foundation – in support of music programs for kids around the Toronto area. So, we have a lot of bands coming in, and I’m going to sit in with, well, at least one of them.

Nurse is doing this while building a strong case for Coach of the Year.

Excelling in the NBA and music, Nurse is a regular Damian Lillard.