Associated Press

Clippers fans cheer Blake Griffin in his return, he then drops 44 in win

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Blake Griffin scored 44 points in his return to Staples Center for the first time against his old team and the Detroit Pistons beat the Los Angeles Clippers 109-104 on Saturday to snap a four-game skid.

Griffin was greeted with cheers during pregame introductions and received a standing ovation after a first-quarter video tribute from the team that drafted him first overall in 2009.

He stuck his right arm in the air and then brought his raised hands together in a thankful gesture without smiling. He clearly wanted to beat the team that stunningly traded him last January after he had signed a $171 million, five-year extension.

It showed from the start.

Griffin scored 15 points in the opening quarter when he got razzed by superfan Clipper Darrell during free throw attempts. He had 26 points in the first half to help Detroit to a 65-54 lead.

“Hey Blake, we miss you but enough for tonight, OK?” a Clippers fan implored.

Griffin wasn’t done.

His 3-pointer to start the third and a basket by Andre Drummond pushed Detroit to a 16-point lead. Griffin had a one-hand slam reminiscent of his old Lob City days.

Griffin briefly left the court near the end of the third. He wore a wrap around his waist before entering for the fourth.

The Clippers tied it at 97 on a 3-pointer by Lou Williams after outscoring the Pistons 17-7 to open the fourth.

Reggie Bullock had two 3-pointers around Drummond’s dunk and Griffin’s hook for a 107-99 lead.

The Clippers got within three and Griffin missed two 3-pointers in the closing seconds.

He stepped out of bounds in the corner of the baseline while trying to save a pass and fell backward, crashing into fans and the floor.

Bruce Brown stole the ball with 20 seconds left, got fouled by Danilo Gallinari and made both to keep Detroit ahead 109-104. Gallinari’s jumper missed in the waning seconds.

Drummond had 20 points and 21 rebounds for the Pistons, who had lost nine of 11. Bullock finished with 17.

Gallinari led the Clippers with 23 points. Williams added 22 points, and Harrell had 21 points and nine rebounds.

Griffin averaged 21.6 points, 9.3 rebounds and 4.2 assists in eight seasons for the Clippers. He was the Rookie of the Year and a five-time All-Star with the franchise.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers said he and Griffin haven’t spoken since the trade. But Rivers credited him for the franchise’s resurgence.

“Blake got this started,” Rivers said before the game. “Six playoffs in a row. It doesn’t equate to being the winner because we didn’t do that but it equates to winning. Blake was part of that. Now when you hear our name you don’t think of those bad Clippers before Blake.”

 

NBA makes it official, moves up free agency six hours to 6 p.m. June 30 (Eastern)

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I’d like to think this means we’ll all be able to go to bed at a reasonable hour on June 30. I also know better.

There is a frenzy of activity right as free agency opens (Tampering? There is no tampering in the NBA…), which traditionally has been as the clock turns to July 1 in New York, right at midnight. Things got so active that a lot of agents and players made sure they were in Los Angeles, even if they didn’t live there in the offseason, just so things started at the more reasonable hour of 9 p.m.

Now the NBA has made the rumors official: Free agency will begin at 6 p.m. Eastern on June 30. Six hours earlier than before.

This was done as an agreement between the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association.

This is going to be a wild July with a lot of big-name free agents — Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler — and maybe a third of the players in the league on the market, plus there are a lot more teams with cap space to spend this season. It’s going to be a frenzy.

Now we know what time the wild times start.

Why does Kevin Durant respond on social media? “I’m qualified to talk about basketball”

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Every NBA player gets ripped on social media, even the guys who are not on social media. Most of the time players just ignore it, the way they ignore fans yelling stuff courtside or distant family asking them for money.

Kevin Durant, however, gets into it sometimes, even with national media members (and even had a burner account). Which always becomes a thing.

Why? Why not just ignore it? From Durant himself at practice Friday, via NBC Sports Bay Area.

“Because I have social media,” Durant said Friday… “I mean, I’m a human being with a social media account. I could see if I ventured off into like politics, culinary arts or music and gave my input, but I’m sticking to something that I know. You know what I’m saying? This is all I know. I’m actually talking about stuff that I know. I’m qualified to talk about basketball.

“So when I respond to something, especially if it’s about me personally, of course I’m going to tell you if you wrong about it. When I’m on the training table getting treatment on my calf and I see a tweet that come by and I disagree — I don’t talk to people because I’m worried about what they say, it’s just that I’m interested. So if you talking about in-game or the NBA Finals, they’re the same to me, you know what I’m saying?”

Durant seems to have more time on hands to get into these spats while he is out injured. Which likely will last into the start of the NBA Finals.

Does this mean the Drake/Durant beef is inevitable?

LeBron likes Instagram of Kyrie Irving in Lakers jersey, Internet goes berserk

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The Lakers landing Kyrie Irving in free agency this summer might be their best realistic option. It’s far, far from a lock — the Knicks, and yes Celtics, will make their pitch, too — but reuniting the pair that won a title in Cleveland is on the Lakers’ radar. (Insert your own, “you know who should coach this team” Tyronn Lue joke here.)

Fueling the speculation, LeBron James and Irving were seen hanging out together at a club in Los Angeles recently. Then Friday, this happened: Cuffthelegend posted this on Instagram and LeBron liked it.

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I like how this feels

A post shared by Savage Season 365 (@cuffsthelegend) on

(For the record, Cuffthelegend gets some stuff right, he’s not a guy who posts stuff out of nowhere.)

Of course, NBA Twitter and the web responded to this in its usual measured, thoughtful way. Some Lakers fans think the deal is done, others mock the idea altogether.

Two thoughts on Irving and the Lakers:

• Multiple reports say Irving is open to it. Irving also has a strong relationship with Kevin Durant, and Boston still plans to trade for Anthony Davis and then try to re-sign Irving (even if Boston fans are done with Kyrie). The only person who knows which way Irving is leaning right now is Irving, and there’s a good chance he changes his mind in the next five weeks anyway.

• If the Lakers are going to land a star free agent this summer, it will be because LeBron was an active recruiter. These elite players have options, and the Laker front office is not inspiring confidence of late, it will be on LeBron to win guys over.

 

Jeremy Lin: Milwaukee security guard asked for my pass to Raptors team bus

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Jeremy Lin has discussed people not believing he plays in the NBA.

It apparently still happens.

Lin, whose Raptors are playing the Bucks in the Eastern Conference finals, via Bill Michaels Sports Talk Network:

After Game 2 in Milwaukee, I was trying to get to the team bus and one of the dudes in the Milwaukee arena just screams at me. He’s like, “Where do you think you’re going?!” And I’m like, “Uh, I’m trying to get to the team bus.” He’s like, “What?! Where’s your pass?” I was like, “I don’t have a pass. I don’t know what you’re talking about. I don’t have a pass.”

This happens in a lot of arenas, so I just kind of go with the flow.

It’s a fine line. Lin shouldn’t be profiled as a non-athlete because he’s Asian-American. Arena staffers should keep everyone safe by stopping unauthorized people.