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Rumor: Clippers president/coach Doc Rivers’ work ethic not up to snuff

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Doc Rivers was supposed to put the Clippers over the top.

Chris Paul and Blake Griffin were bona fide stars. DeAndre Jordan became a third star, and J.J. Redick thrived in a complementary role.

But Rivers’ Clippers never advanced further than Vinny Del Negro’s Clippers, topping out in the second round. Paul left for the Rockets, sparking numerous theories of what went wrong in L.A.:

Poor team chemistry. Western Conference being too good. Bad luck. Favoritism toward Austin Rivers.

Here’s another potential culprit.

Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report:

Rivers remains charming, but team sources say his work ethic as a coach and executive lags far behind the championship rep he built on the shoulders of veterans Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Ray Allen.

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

Insiders complained about a lack of accountability — about practices and shootarounds starting late

Rivers would be far from the first person to rest on his laurels after securing a loftier job. Is that the case here? This ignores the heavy burden Rivers carried in guiding the franchise through the Donald Sterling scandal. I can’t speak definitively to Rivers’ work ethic outside that crisis, but the fact that these leaks – true or not – are even getting out shows Rivers isn’t running the tightest ship.

Rivers’ multiple job titles only exacerbate the potential problem.

Coaching well takes immense work. Running a front office well takes immense work. I’m not sure any one person can successfully handle both tasks. Someone with a poor work ethic definitely can’t.

There is some circumstantial evidence to support these claims, especially for Rivers as executive. Even in a desirable market with a contending team, he routinely failed to find the quality role players who could put a good team over the top. Rivers frequently targeted players he previously coached or who played well against his teams in the playoffs, which always felt lazy.

The Clippers have added front-office help, shifting Lawrence Frank upstairs and hiring Jerry West. Maybe that will allow Rivers to focus more on coaching – a necessity this year.

Paul is a basketball genius and natural leader. He practically demands everyone get in line behind him.

With his departure, L.A. has built an intriguing hodgepodge around Griffin, adding Danilo Gallinari, Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams, Milos Teodosic, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell. The Clippers are now a team without an identity, but with a roster of versatile players that could go in any number of directions.

It’s on Rivers to experiment, assess and ultimately pick a style. Whatever happened in the past, the next step will require a lot of work.

Lakers’ recruiting pitch for Paul George leaks

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LeBron James doesn’t want elaborate pitches in free agency.

Paul George never said that, though.

So, the Lakers are apparently planning to put some showbiz into their recruitment.

Robin Lundberg of Sports Illustrated, citing a “Hollywood source,” revealed a Lakers pitch for George. The direction:

Less Morgan Freeman/Denzel Washington, and more Jamie Foxx. A bit more edge an attitude to their voice, and a bit less aspirational

The text:

When you were just a kid

In your room
Dreaming from Palmdale

We were dreaming too.

While you dreamt, we built – built for your arrival

And while we dreamt, you built too
Becoming one of the world’s greatest.

Life’s most powerful dream are the one we realize ourselves.

The ones that turn us into legends.
That kid from Palmdale always knew it
Now the world will, too

Who wrote this, noted storyteller Kobe Bryant?

My bigger question: Did or did not the Lakers, who’ve gone to great lengths to make their interest in George known, want this to leak before the official start of free agency?

Report: No divide between Chris Paul and Rockets over contract

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That rumor of tension between Chris Paul and the Rockets over his contract?

Sam Amick of USA Today:

As for the recent report from Fox Sports’ Chris Broussard that there are rising tensions between the two sides because Paul wants the full max and isn’t sure if he’ll get it, two people with knowledge of the situation refuted the idea there is any friction between the sides.

Remember, everyone who leaks something has an agenda. But I find this report far more credible than the initial rumor.

Paul’s max projects to be about $205 million over five years. That’s a lot to commit to a 33-year-old, but Paul took a discount to facilitate an opt-in-and-trade to Houston last year. He expects to be made whole.

Until Broussard’s report, all indications were the Rockets would appease him. Barring more information, that should remain the expectation.

Report: LeBron James not planning to sit for elaborate pitch meetings in free agency

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LeBron James held court in Cleveland in 2010, listening to pitch after pitch as teams flew in to recruit the superstar during free agency. That approach became a model, and Kevin Durant followed it in the Hamptons in 2016.

But maybe once is enough.

Durant announced months ago he’d stay with the Warriors. And now LeBron – who could definitely leave Cleveland – is making clear he doesn’t want the hoopla, either.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

sources close to the situation tell ESPN that he has no intention of hearing elaborate pitch meetings from teams.

league sources believe he and his agents Rich Paul and Mark Termini have enough understanding of the stakes and NBA landscape to handle the process without much fanfare.

LeBron is still haunted by The Decision. He’s a great player and philanthropist and does plenty to connect with fans. Yet, people still dislike him purely because of how he changed teams eight years ago.

If I wielded as much power as LeBron, I’d want suitors wining and dining me. He wants to avoid more backlash.

This will probably look similar to 2014 – LeBron’s agents hearing out teams then LeBron meeting with only the most serious options, though the final announcement will likely come via Uninterrupted rather than Sports Illustrated.

The Lakers, Cavaliers, Rockets and 76ers are commonly viewed as the favorites for LeBron. This approach makes it less likely for a longshot to emerge – though, for what it’s worth, we don’t know those four teams are his favorites right now.

Report: Nuggets re-signing Nikola Jokic to five-year max after declining team option

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The Nuggets are building around Nikola Jokic.

But a second-round pick turning into a franchise player so quickly creates complications. Denver is resolving one by declining Jokic’s team option, which will send him into restricted free agency (as opposed to unrestricted free agency next year) and paying him.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

This ought to please Jokic. He would have earned just $1,600,520 next season if Denver exercised his team option.

Jokic is one of the best-passing full-time centers ever. He also shoots and rebounds well, though he must improve his defense to become worthy of this contract. At just 23, he’s worth betting on.

That said, I’m surprised the Nuggets didn’t get him on a slight discount. Though they clearly didn’t want to risk him testing unrestricted free agency next year, they gave him a MASSIVE raise (about $24 million) next season when they didn’t have to.

Jokic’s exact max salary won’t be determined until the salary cap and luxury-tax line are set this month. But this clearly puts Denver in cost-cutting mode now.

As constructed, the Nuggets are in line for about $24 million in luxury-tax payments. That’s without considering Will Barton, who’ll be an unrestricted free agent. Expect Denver to look to unload Kenneth Faried, Darrell Arthur, Wilson Chandler and/or Mason Plumlee.

Jokic was always going to be in Denver next season. The Nuggets have now secured him far longer. It will cost them next year – an important season to them – but they also clearly value a future with Jokic.