Ian Clark

Sindarius Thornwell vs. Pelicans
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Pelicans sign Sindarius Thornwell as a substitute player. For whom?

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Three Pelicans tested positive for coronavirus. At least.

Is one of them not playing in the NBA’s resumption at Disney World?

Despite having a full roster, New Orleans is signing Sindarius Thornwell.

Pelicans release:

The New Orleans Pelicans today announced that the team has signed free agent guard Sindarius Thornwell as a substitute player for the remainder of the 2019-20 season.

Thornwell will wear #12 for the Pelicans.

Christian Clark of The Times-Picayune:

At this stage, only players who can’t play due to coronavirus or choose to it out can be replaced. That’s not Darius Miller, who’s still recovering from an Achilles injury.

With Zion Williamson looking fit, the Pelicans could be dangerous. They’re in a tight race to force play-in games. But they don’t have much margin for error in the playoff race.

So, keep an eye on whom Thornwell is replacing.

Zion Williamson received treatment at Pelicans’ practice facility during shut down

Zion Williamson
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Zion Williamson missed 45 games to start the season due to a torn right lateral meniscus. His recovery saw the Pelicans reworking how Williamson moved, improving his flexibility, changing the way he landed on jumps, even changing his walk in an effort to reduce the chance of future injury.

That recovery work continued at the Pelicans practice facility during the league shut down, reports Christian Clark at the Times-Picayune.

[Pelicans vice president of basketball operations David] Griffin said the Pelicans received special clearance from the NBA so Williamson could continue receiving treatment at the team’s practice facility in Metairie while it was closed down…

“As you guys know, the flexibility aspect with Zion was really critical, so they’ve been able to continue to focus on that,” Griffin said. “They weren’t able to do any court work during that period of time, but they were able to get the work in needed on the table, and so that was important. We’re grateful that the league allowed for that.”

If the NBA returns with regular season games — officials with the league office hope to, but every option remains on the table — Williamson would be ready to go and could play.

In the 19 games he did play, Zion was a force who lived up to the hype, averaging 23.6 points per game on 58.9% shooting, plus pulling down 6.8 rebounds a game. His athleticism and aggressive attacking of the rim opened up the rest of the Pelicans offense, and they started to look like a playoff team. New Orleans was just 3.5 games back of Memphis for the final playoff spot when play was suspended — and the Pelicans had a much easier schedule the rest of the way.

What matters for the Pelicans is not making the playoffs this season, but building on what started going right in those 19 games. It’s about what happens next season and beyond. Working with Zion to continue both his recovery and the steps needed to prevent future injuries during the break could be an important part of that.

Zion Williamson’s knee surgery was six weeks ago today, he has not begun on-court work

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New Orleans coach Alvin Gentry says Zion Williamson is “itching” to get back on the court.

He’s also not close to that yet.

Monday was the six-week mark since Williamson had surgery to repair the lateral meniscus in his right knee. That seemed a good time for Christian Clark of the Times-Picayune to ask Gentry for an update. The answer is Williamson wants to get back as soon as he can, but he has yet to start on-court work.

“I think he’s fine,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said after practice Monday. “I don’t think it’s anything that can be rushed. I think it’s a time thing. Six weeks is what we said, but obviously, he’s making progress. When the time comes for him to start on court and do things like that, he will. It’s not anything that’s going to be rushed or any shortcut. It’s a matter of taking the time to make sure he’s fine.”

Gentry added that the Pelicans are going to be “overly cautious” reintegrating Williamson, who has watched from the sidelines as his team has gotten off to a 6-14 start.

“In these situations, you sometimes have to protect players from themselves,” Gentry said.

While the team gave a 6-8 week timeline for his return, Zion playing on Christmas day was always optimistic because of the level of caution the team has with him. Remember, the Pelicans sat Williamson for all but one half of Summer League after a reported minor bruise.

Williamson is projected to be a franchise cornerstone and the face of the franchise, and with that it can be worth the wait. Ask a Sixers fan about Joel Embiid.

Expect Williamson to get on the court later this season, they want him to gain some experience, but the Pelicans are simply going to go slow with this return. This is not a contending, win-now team, they can afford to be patient.

 

Anthony Davis on whether racism contributed to negativity with Pelicans fans: ‘Not at all’

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Pelicans fans booed Anthony Davis last season while he still played for New Orleans. They’re going to boo him when he returns with the Lakers tonight.

That’s the consequence of his trade request.

But is something else at play, too?

Shelburne on ESPN LA:

I do think there is a racial component to this. OK? If you took a poll of who the most disliked people in the state of Louisiana is, I think Rich Paul would be at the top of that list.

This is an African-American super-agent trying to dictate terms, trying to tell people what to do.

Lakers fans don’t like Aaron Mintz, right? That was Paul George‘s agent, D'Angelo Russell‘s agent. But I don’t think his negative rating is as high as Rich Paul’s.

Aaron Mintz did the same thing in Indiana. Aaron Mintz, who is white, did the same thing in Indiana with Paul George, saying he wasn’t going to re-sign there. It wasn’t that bad.

If you were close to that situation, part of the reason why New Orleans didn’t want to trade him for so long – and, one, they obviously couldn’t get fair value for him. But I think the idea that a black agent was asking – telling, not asking, telling – the team, “You should trade him,” and that he wasn’t going to stay did not go over well in New Orleans. Especially with, I don’t want to say, “that fan base,” but you’re down in the South, man. This was very charged. And I think that when things get ugly emotionally like that, it’s not just about what’s going on on the court. It’s not just about the moves that are being made.

Rod Walker of The Times-Picayune:

Davis, via Christian Clark of The New Orleans Advocate:

“No. No,” Davis said when asked if racism is a significant factor in New Orleans fans’ anger over how last season unfolded. “Not at all.”

Racism absolutely factored into how Davis was treated last season. Racism factors into so many aspects of American life.

Resistance to player empowerment – in a league where majority-white owners have traditionally held significant control over majority-black players – is rooted in racism.

But that isn’t the whole story.

Davis issued his trade request in a way that maximized resentment from Pelicans fans, no matter what their racial views. First of all, he tried to leave their favorite team. That’s enough – especially after Anthony set expectations by repeatedly expressing his affection for New Orleans. But he also requested a trade during the season, sending a team with at least at outside shot of the playoffs into chaos as games were still occurring. On top of all that, he tried to steer himself to the loathed Lakers.

That’s quite different than Paul George. George didn’t request a trade. He told the Pacers he would leave them the following summer. He was obviously trying to induce a trade, but if Indiana kept him the upcoming season, he seemingly would’ve complied. He also had his saga play out during the offseason. If he were still playing, you can bet Indiana fans would’ve booed him.

I think Shelburne is a little too inside the game here. Only a certain segment of diehard fans can identify agents, let alone their races. It’s far more about the players.

Paul is close to an exception, through. Through his representation of LeBron James and unapologetic style, Paul has gained a high level of fame. His blackness certainly affects how people view him.

But it’d be a mistake to isolate Paul, New Orleans or the South. These issues exist far wider. We should discuss them in a fuller context, not as something unique to this situation.

Is this the final series for the Warriors as we know them?

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The Golden State Warriors are trying to complete a three-peat. The NBA championship is there for the taking, if they can only get rid of those pesky Toronto Raptors. But the result of the Finals is not the only thing up in the air come June. With Kevin Durant‘s decision looming, and several players needing to be paid, the question is whether these Warriors will open next season intact.

Who Golden State will be next season — and if this iteration of the team will come to an end — requires us to start with a begining question: who are “The Warriors” to you?

Time has the effect of smoothing out the bumps and ridges, the detail that make up the storylines of every NBA season. Ask a Warriors fan and ask a Lakers fan this same question, the question of The Warriors, and you will get two different answers. But there is a core that isn’t debatable: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green.

The characters surrounding this core have changed over the year, and so too has the dynamic of Golden State stars and their importance to the squad. In 2014-15, Golden State won its first NBA title in this era. Everyone remembers the onslaught of Curry and Thompson from the 3-point line, the beginning of a revolution in the NBA. But what some folks forget is the impact that other players had. Marreese Speights, Andrew Bogut, Shaun Livingston, Harrison Barnes… all these players were once also considered core supporting members of what made this team great.

To that end, storylines for that supporting cast have changed as time has gone on. For instance, Speights played a significant amount of minutes for the Warriors in ‘14-’15 but posted a negative VORP for the season. Livingston, seemingly back from the dead after early knee issues in his career, had not yet found his stride with the Golden State. That wouldn’t come until the next year.

But time has a funny way of finding a narrative and running with it. For some it’s been “Speights was a great floor spreader” and “Livingston was instantly dominant for GSW” even though those things aren’t really wholly true. Time allows us less nuance.

Players have gone from important to overlooked during a Golden State’s run over the past half-decade. This season is no different than that first Finals appearance, and the Warriors have done what teams in the “Big 3” era do. That is, surround their stars with low-level players who can be a part of the system, do their job, and not commit crucial mistakes. Kevon Looney, Quinn Cook, Jordan Bell… the names change, but the roles remain the same.

The point is, supporting cast comes and goes in Golden State like it does for just about any championship squad. But now the Warriors are faced with real questions. Questions about whether they should re-sign their stars (Green); about whether they can re-sign their stars (Durant); and about how much they should re-sign their stars for (Thompson).

These are not easily answered for GM Bob Myers, either. Thompson seems like a no-brainer, even at a max deal that will put a serious crunch on the Warriors’ cap in a couple years time. But Green, who is 29 and will probably want a huge payday, is a riddle harder to answer. Will he decline in ability? Is Regular Season Draymond who you get on the next contract, or are you getting Playoff Draymond? Can he survive in five years without being able to shoot?

Then, hardest of all, is that of Durant. Never mind the fact that Golden State will have to weigh whether they want to spend the next half-decade assuaging Durant’s delicate feelings — Durant might not want to stay with the Warriors if he wins another championship. To change might not be up to Golden State to decide.

But in trying to answer these questions, it ultimately comes back to the most important factor of all: Curry. The superstar point guard is under contract for three more seasons after this one ends, and he doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. In fact, with Durant out with a calf injury during this postseason, Curry has shown that he still is who he was before KD flew in from OKC.

For that reason, there’s hope we will see “Golden State” — this Golden State, the Golden State we think of right now — in 2019-20 and beyond if major changes come to this roster.

The Warriors might not be inevitable in the coming seasons. If Durant leaves, the seismic shift that tilted the NBA off its foundation in 2016 might finally be repaired. Parity, however slowly, will come to the Western Conference. We’ve already seen what the vacuum left by LeBron James has done to the Eastern Conference. But just as Golden State adapted to Durant’s arrival, they will respond in kind if he happens to depart. The same will be said if Green takes a big payday elsewhere next year.

Because really, the Warriors have always adapted. They made up for Barnes when the Dallas Mavericks signed him in 2016, mostly with Durant but also with the minutes from Matt Barnes, Ian Clark, and better output from Livingston. They replaced Bogut with Zaza Pachulia, JaVale McGee, and David West. Then Looney was added, and Omri Casspi, and Cook. The list goes on.

The Warriors are about Curry and Thompson, and how the offense Steve Kerr has built for them operates. On the other side, Golden State is about how those same players are able to thrive thanks to Ron Adams’ defense, Green’s excellent play notwithstanding. Losing Durant would be big. Losing Green is inevitable, either to age or to free agent poachers. But Curry is the engine that makes this Warriors team go. Would losing both of them in the same offseason mean this team has a fundamentally different identity? I don’t think so.

It’s evident when you watch the team play, and it’s certainly exemplified in Golden State’s advanced statistics — Curry is the favorite son in the Bay, and as long as he is in blue and gold, the Warriors will stay The Warriors.