J.J. Redick

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Doc Rivers: Donald Sterling almost nixed J.J. Redick signing because he didn’t ‘like white players’

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J.J. Redick has told this story before.

Former Clippers’ owner Donald Sterling’s racism was a thing of infamy around the league. There were public parts to it, such as the $2.75 million payment to settle a federal housing discrimination lawsuit in 2009, a suit that said he discriminated against black tenants trying to rent in his buildings. Sterling was bringing his privileged friends into the Clippers’ locker room after games while players were changing, at times telling his guests, “look at their beautiful black bodies.” Baron Davis told stories of Sterling disrespectfully cussing out players after a loss. Blake Griffin had his own stories about just being shown off.

As an owner, Sterling was cheap and arbitrary. In the final years of his ownership, some around him pushed and prodded Sterling to allow the organization to grow up — Mike Dunleavy Sr. deserves credit for this — and a big step in that direction was hiring Doc Rivers as coach and GM (even if Doc was not cut out to be the head of player personnel and on the bench). Rivers has said before people would be blown away by the trades Sterling nixed.

Monday, on #NBATOGETHER with TNT’s Ernie Johnson, Rivers told the story of Sterling almost killing the signing of J.J. Redick, but from Doc’s point of view.

“I think he was going to sign with Minnesota, I literally talk J.J. out of it, ‘Come play with me. Come play with the Clippers with Chris Paul and DJ and Blake [Griffin], you’d be a great fit.’… The free agent signing is done, J.J. agrees, I jump on a plane, I fly back to Orlando, and I get a call from Andy Roeser, and he says, ‘the deal’s off.’ I say, ‘what do you mean the deal’s off?’

“‘Donald doesn’t like white players.'”

“I said, ‘excuse me?’ ‘Donald Sterling said no.’ I said, ‘well, we’ve already agreed.’ I’m in the garage at the Orlando Airport, Ernie, I get a call from Coach K, who is upset because of J.J. I get a call from J.J.’s agent, I think it was Arn Tellem [Ed. note: It was] who screaming at me.

“So I call Donald Sterling, and I think this was three weeks to a month into the job, I’m not sure but right in that area, me and Donald are having a ‘conversation.’ It made [a screaming, cussing argument with Doc’s then coach Pat Riley years before] look meek. So, by the very end of the conversation, I quit. I said, “Well, I quit’ [Immitating a screaming Sterling] ‘You’re not gonna quit.’ ‘I quit.’ ‘You’re not gonna quit.’…

“I said, ‘I’m not gonna let you ruin my reputation. Not gonna happen. It will never happen.’ And Donald goes in, ‘Oh, just trust me, I have this great reputation around the league.’ And I was screaming, ‘No, I have the reputation around the league, you don’t. I will not coach another day if this deal doesn’t go through.’ I hang up, and I remember going home and telling Chris [Paul], ‘I think I don’t have a job.’…

“Three hours later I get a call from Andy Roeser who says, ‘Hey man, deal’s done, Donald’s all in.’ Didn’t say why, didn’t say anything, just he changed his mind.

“I knew that minute we were in trouble.”

That trouble would land later that season, when the V. Stiviano tapes of Sterling saying more racist stuff went public, and at that point there was no way the league was putting it in the bottle. Soon Adam Silver was banning Sterling for life and orchestrating a sale of the Clippers to Steve Ballmer.

Rivers told Johnson he thought his Clippers’ team that season had a legitimate shot at a title, but the disruption around the released tape blew that up, and also became about something bigger. It’s all detailed in a new 12-part documentary called “Blackballed” now available on Quibi. That release has brought up some old Sterling stories again.

They all leave you shaking your head in disgust.

David Griffin calls Pelicans ‘a team that is sort of on the precipice of being very good’

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From the moment Zion Williamson walked on the court for the New Orleans Pelicans this season, the Pelicans became must-watch.

The team went 11-8 with the league’s 11th ranked offense, eighth-best defense, and a +4 net rating. New Orleans was 3.5 games back of Memphis for the final playoff spot in the West when the season was suspended, but with a soft schedule down the stretch (and the Grizzlies facing a brutal one), the postseason was not out of the question for New Orleans.

David Griffin, the Pelicans Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, thinks his team could have grown a lot playing meaningful games down the stretch — regardless of what the result would have been. That opportunity may be lost. Still, he told the Pelicans’ official website he likes how this team is positioned.

“We have a young group here that is exciting,” Griffin said. “We have a team that is sort of on the precipice of being very good and is just scratching the surface of what we’re capable of. We’re optimistic – if we’re able to restart in any form or fashion – that we’re going to be a team that is one to be reckoned with.

“We’re a team that has shown a great deal of promise. I think there is a lot of optimism that surrounds our team on a lot of levels.”

Whether the league restarts this season or not, Griffin is right that this is a team on the rise.

There is Zion Williamson, who came in overhyped and then somehow exceeded expectations in the 19 games he got to play, averaging 23.6 points per game and opening up their offense with his gravity. Brandon Ingram found his jumper and became an All-Star player, one who fits well with Williamson. There were the lobs of Lonzo Ball and the bouncy potential of Jaxson Hayes. All that youth was surrounded by veterans such as J.J. Redick and Jrue Holiday.

Almost all of those players are under contract for next season. The Pelicans will need to max out Ingram to retain him, but that’s expected to happen. Derrick Favors is a free agent and the Pelicans will either need to re-sign him or find another big man who can fill that role. However, for the most part this team is locked in.

The West is going to be brutal next year. The Pelicans and Grizzlies are getting better, the Timberwolves are putting better players around Karl-Anthony Towns, the Suns are improving, the Golden State Warriors get Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson healthy — and those are just the teams missing the playoffs this season. The Lakers, Clippers, Rockets, and everyone else are not going anywhere.

Even with all that, the Pelicans feel like a playoff team, whatever next season ends up looking like.

Second-year Luka Doncic sets Mavericks’ career triple-double record (video)

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DALLAS — Luka Doncic scored 30 points and broke Dallas’ career triple-double record with his 22nd, helping the Mavericks hold off the New Orleans Pelicans 127-123 in overtime Wednesday night.

Doncic added 17 rebounds and 10 assists, and Kristaps Porzingis had 34 points and 12 rebounds in the nationally televised matchup between young stars Doncic and Zion Williamson. Williamson scored 21 points in 35 minutes in the first back-to-back of his NBA career.

Just five days after his 21st birthday, Doncic broke Jason Kidd’s record for triple-doubles.

Neither team led by more than three points throughout the fourth quarter or overtime until Doncic fed Porzingis for a dunk with 49 seconds left to give Dallas a four-point lead. Doncic had hit a 3 to snap a 118-118 tie with 1:10 to play.

Williamson held up well in his first back-to-back since making his NBA debut Jan. 22. He has scored double figures in all 16 games he’s played in and has 20 points or more in his last 13.

Brandon Ingram led New Orleans with 27 points, but fouled out in overtime. Lonzo Ball added 25.

The Pelicans’ Nicolo Melli sent the game to overtime with a tying 3 with 7.4 seconds left after missing his first six 3s of the game.

The Mavericks led by as many as 11 in the first half, but New Orleans kept it close. Dallas led by two at the end of each of the first three quarters.

Williamson gave New Orleans its first lead at 75-73 when he drew contact with Maxi Kleber, who fell to the ground without a call, giving the Pelicans rookie a clear path for a dunk.

While both coaches insisted that the matchup was greater than the two young stars, both showed flashes in the opening quarter. Williamson bulled his way to the basket on two drives, while Doncic drained a 3 with the Pelicans rookie in his face at the other end.

TIP-INS

Pelicans: G J.J. Redick remains out with a left hamstring strain.

Mavericks: Coach Rick Carlisle said there is no timetable for the return of G Jalen Brunson, who missed his sixth game in a row with a right shoulder sprain. The Mavericks also played without G J.J. Barea, who was out with right ankle soreness.

BLOCK PARTY

The Mavericks set a franchise record with 11 blocks in the first half, three of those at Williamson’s expense. After Kleber swatted away one of his shots, Williamson crashed to the floor and got up shaking his head.

Dallas’ previous high was 10 blocks in a half against Philadelphia on Jan. 29, 2005.

UP NEXT

Pelicans: Host Miami on Friday night.

Mavericks: Host Memphis on Friday night.

Joel Embiid calls ‘BS’ on idea he, Ben Simmons can’t play together

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CHICAGO — Philadelphia has not lived up to expectations this season. Their 34-21 record would have them starting the playoffs on the road, and this team some picked to come out of the East this season (*raises hand*) has not looked like a threat to Milwaukee.

Which has added fuel to the idea that Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons — the two All-Stars the 76ers have banked their franchise success on — simply don’t fit well together.

Embiid will have none of that.

“I think it’s BS,” Embiid said of the idea while at All-Star media day on Saturday. “Because when you look at the last two years we have been playing together, it was not a problem. This year it’s only a problem because at times our offense has struggled and I think it’s definitely going to be better after the All-Star break.

“I mean, just look at the last two years what we have been able to do and I think it can work and it’s going to work.”

Ben Simmons is on the same page.

“It takes time, not everything is supposed to be perfect…” Simmons said a few feet away from Embiid. “I mean I love playing with Joel, he’s an amazing talent, I have a lot of respect for his game and I know he feels the same way about me, so as long as we strive and continue to go the right way we’ll be fine…

“There’s a lot of things [the 76ers] haven’t tried, we’ve got a lot of talent, it’s kind of scary how good we can be. ”

This year, the Sixers have just a +1.3 net rating when Simmons and Embiid share the court. That is way down from the +7.9 net rating the pair had a season ago, or +15.5 two seasons ago.

What’s changed? The players around Simmons and Embiid. Gone are J.J. Redick and Jimmy Butler from last season, two players whose shooting and shot creation opened up space for Embiid to operate in the paint and Simmons to slash his way into that same space. Now, the threat of Tobias Harris and Josh Richardson is not having the same impact (it’s why Furkan Korkmaz has been so crucial for the 76ers, he has been a legitimate threat from deep) and the offense feels clogged.

This has sparked speculation about the Sixers trading Embiid or Simmons. Don’t bet on it. The first move in Philly (as it is with virtually every team where the pieces don’t fit) is to fire the coach and see if a new system solves the problem. That is the likely path if the 76ers continue to fall short of expectations once the playoffs start.

Embiid isn’t worried about any of it.

 

 

Zion Williamson has big dunk, block, scores 15 but Pelicans still fall to Nuggets

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Zion Williamson is still making plays — his first NBA dunk and a dramatic block shot came in his second NBA game — and he is still facing a minutes limit, much to the frustration of fans in the arena.

And the Pelicans are still looking for their first win with Zion in the lineup.

Williamson had 15 points on 7-of-9 shooting, plus six rebounds, in his second NBA game. One highlight was his first NBA dunk, finishing an alley-oop from Jrue Holiday just :40 seconds into the game.

However, the most eye-popping of his second game highlights was a fourth quarter blocked shot of Malik Beasley.

Williamson played just 21 minutes, about three more than his first game but still under a tight minutes limit. The crowd chanted “we want Zion” late in the fourth, but the Pelicans are wisely bringing their No. 1 pick along slowly as he recovers from surgery to repair his torn meniscus.

The Pelicans also lost the game 113-106 to a Denver team led by Nikola Jokic‘s 27 points and 12 rebounds.

New Orleans is now 0-2 with Williamson in the lineup. When the team won 11-of-16 just before his return, the Pelicans pulled back from trade talks for Holiday, Derrick Favors, and J.J. Redick to make a playoff push. New Orleans now sits 4.5 games out of the playoffs in the West and would need to leap four teams to get in — if the wins don’t start coming soon (and a lot of them), David Griffin and company will have to reconsider what they do at the trade deadline.