Landry Shamet

Mock NBA expansion draft
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Mock NBA expansion draft: Warriors, Clippers, Lakers, Suns, Kings

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The NBA season is on hiatus. NBC Sports is not – even if we have to venture into fantasy.

We’re holding a mock NBA expansion draft. Keith Smith is setting protected lists for existing teams. Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman will run two new teams as this project culminates in an expansion draft.

Current teams can protect up to eight players. Each team must make at least one player available. If selected, restricted free agents become unrestricted free agents. Pending options can be decided before or after the expansion draft at the discretion of the option-holder. Anyone selected in the expansion draft can’t return to his prior team for one year. Players entering unrestricted free agency and players on two-way contracts are essentially ignored.

We’re unveiling protected/unprotected lists by division (here is the Atlantic Division and the Central Division). Players are listed with their 2020-21 salary. Up now, the Pacific:

Golden State Warriors

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 5

Ineligible – 0

Analysis: The Warriors have their core together with Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson, Draymond Green and Andrew Wiggins. Ky Bowman, Marquese Chriss, Damion Lee and Eric Paschall provide value on minimum contracts. That’s all the Warriors need to protect.

Golden State wouldn’t mind seeing Kevon Looney or Jordan Poole selected to get the salaries off the cap sheet. The rest of the players are ones the Warriors won’t lose any sleep over if they’re drafted.

L.A. Clippers

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 2

Ineligible – 4

Analysis: L.A. has its main guys with four starters under contract. They aren’t being exposed here. The other three players are key bench contributors on good contracts. And Kabengele and Mann were just drafted. Easy decisions across the board for the Clippers.

L.A. could lose Green as a free agent. The Clippers also bet he does undrafted and could return. Rodney McGruder makes too much money for his role.

Los Angeles Lakers

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 2

Ineligible – 5

Analysis: The Lakers and Anthony Davis will work out that he’ll opt out before the expansion draft, which makes him ineligible. The rest of the players are role players that Los Angeles would rather keep around LeBron James than risk losing.

Los Angeles won’t be upset to see Quinn Cook or Rajon Rondo selected. They’re both replacement-level players for the Lakers at this point.

Phoenix Suns

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 5

Ineligible – 1

Analysis: Phoenix keeps it simple and protects all the guys who are part of its core. The Suns could have left Dario Saric unprotected, but by protecting Saric, they keep the flexibility to re-sign him as a restricted free agent. The rest are all easy decisions.

Of the unprotected players, none of have established themselves as NBA rotation players. If any are selected, Phoenix won’t lose any sleep over it.

Sacramento Kings

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 2

Ineligible – 4

Analysis: The Kings will protect their five starters and three key reserves. Cory Joseph is a decision-point, but considering De’Aaron Fox’s injury issues, Joseph is too valuable to let walk away.

Sacramento won’t mind if Jabari Parker is selected, but they aren’t going to pay anyone to do it. Justin James has been an interesting prospect, but the Kings won’t stress if he gets selected.

Finally whole and healthy, can Clippers build championship chemistry in time?

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LOS ANGELES — Doc Rivers has been here before. Sort of.

He has entered a season the coach of a team that, thanks to some bold off-season front office moves, looked like a contender. The difference is the core of the 2008 Celtics — Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen — were all healthy and pushing each other in training camp.

“They came out of training camp running…” Rivers said of his Celtics. “We played Toronto in Rome in the first exhibition game, and Kevin [Garnett] was diving around on the floor, and I turned to [assistant coach Tom Thibodeau] and said, ‘We’re going to win it this year.’ And I said, ‘I’m sure of it.’

“But [these Clippers] didn’t have that chance this year. Kawhi [Leonard] didn’t play much in preseason or training camp, Paul [George] didn’t play at all. Then when Paul came back, Kawhi was out. But it was just one of those things.”

This Clippers’ season has been a study in long-term thinking. It has been about taking time with recovery from injuries (Paul George returning from off-season shoulder surgery, Kawhi Leonard‘s knee issues, Patrick Beverley‘s strained groin, and that is just the tip of the iceberg).  It has been about rest to prevent more injuries. The Clippers target has been the playoffs, not the regular season.

It has been a contrast with the other team in Staples Center, a Lakers’ team led by LeBron James that has placed a higher value on the regular season. The Lakers focused on building good habits and chemistry and banking on that to pay off in May and, maybe, June.

The Clippers — finally healthy and whole, with Marcus Morris and Reggie Jackson in the rotation — now have weeks to develop the chemistry they will need in the playoffs. The cohesiveness needed to take advantage of their deep and talented roster.

A locker room that has had tension, dissension, and lacked cohesion at points this season now needs to come together and pull the rope in the same direction.

“You can feel our guys know they have to get it. They know that…” Rivers said. “There’s a positive urgency about that, but there’s not a panic about that, which I love. They know they need it, they know they’re going to work.

“They know they have time, but they know they don’t have a lot of time.”

“If we serious about this, we got to show it and work towards it now,” Paul George said. “I think coach made a great comment about turning it on now and not thinking we can [flip the switch] late. There’s got to be some steps that we take if we’re serious about our journey down here.”

The healthy Clippers have been impressive — they are 16-4 when Leonard, George, and Beverley are all in the starting lineup. There have been flashes, like beating the Lakers on Christmas Day, when the Clippers looked every bit the title contender.

Those Clippers also still have a lot of steps to take, the on-court chemistry remains a work in progress.

On that play from a week ago, sharpshooter Landry Shamet ran to the corner for a transition three, Leonard made a pass expecting him to cut to the basket for a layup. That’s just a lack of time playing together manifesting in a turnover.

“We got to get guys on the floor, we need minutes together,” Rivers said after his team easily handled Memphis on Monday night. “Even tonight, we played great, but then there were stretches I thought we got bogged down. You can see, we just don’t know the stuff yet.”

“We all know we got to get better, we got to get healthy, we got to be more consistent,” Leonard said. “You can’t panic, you have to stay even keel.”

The bright side for Rivers and the Clippers is the defense — it has been intimidating when healthy, holding their last two opponents below 100 points (granted, Memphis and Phoenix are both slightly below average offenses). There also was a change in plan of attack from Rivers: He put Leonard on star rookie Ja Morant from the opening tip Monday night. No easing the load on Leonard and letting someone else do the hard work early, Rivers wanted to set a tone. Leonard did exactly that. The Clippers raced out to a 35-9 lead in that game.

Rivers is still doing some experimenting. Against Phoenix he broke out some five-out, small-ball lineups with Morris at center, leaving starter Ivica Zubac and possible Sixth Man of the Year Montrezl Harrell on the bench (Harrell usually closes games for the Clippers at the five).

Rivers also is putting another ball-handler on the court with Lou Williams in the form of Jackson. For the past couple of seasons, the Williams and Harrell pick-and-roll off the bench has been the Clippers’ best offense (and what they counted on in crunch time). Now, the lineups are different and Williams could even see a reduction in minutes. Rivers added he thought having a second ball-handler on the court would be good for Williams.

Maybe. It just takes time to figure all that out, and the Clippers are running out of it. Longer shootarounds to go over sets and longer film sessions (things that have happened with the Clippers of late) can only go so far.

“We have to learn our own stuff, because we’ve had so much disruption this year. We’ve had 28 different starting lineups,” Rivers said. “It just hasn’t gone the way we wanted it to go as far as the continuity part.”

The players, for all the bumps that come in a culture shift when superstars like Leonard and George are added to the mix, seem to get the time is now.

“It feels better having all of us on the floor,” Shamet said. “It felt good to have everybody full force, to see what that big picture looks like.”

The Clippers as an organization chose this path — it was always all about the playoffs. And, hopefully, a ring. The games in November and January took a back seat to the big picture. The Clippers focused on getting healthy and some rest, and now they will see if that bet pays off.

“We’ve been put in the place we’ve been put in, there’s nothing you can do about it. You can’t fight it. What were we going to do, play PG hurt?” Rivers asked. “The injuries and all the things just kind of added up on us, it’s not what we expected. But we didn’t expect Pat (Beverley) to miss games, and Lou (Williams) to miss games, and PG to miss the games he did.

“But I told the players, ‘so what? It happens.’ The key is being ready, win as many games as we can, and be ready when it really counts. That’s all we can do. That’s the hand we’ve been dealt, and we have to play that hand.

“We can play that hand and still win it.”

Landry Shamet sends Celtics-Clippers to 2OT, where he gets crossed badly by Kemba Walker (videos)

Clippers guard Landry Shamet and Celtics star Kemba Walker
Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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The Celtics and Clippers exchanged several clutch shots last night. Landry Shamet hit the biggest one to that point, sinking a deep 3-pointer to tie the game late in overtime:

His reward for forcing an extra period? Getting crossed over by Kemba Walker and Boston winning, 141-133:

Ben Simmons has triple-double, meshes well with Joel Embiid, 76ers top Clippers

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PHILADELPHIA — Ben Simmons had 26 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists, and the Philadelphia 76ers beat the Los Angeles Clippers 110-103 on Tuesday night.

Joel Embiid also scored 26 points and Tobias Harris added 17 points and 12 boards for Philadelphia, which has the NBA’s best home record at 25-2. Josh Richardson scored 17 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter.

Kawhi Leonard led Los Angeles with 30 points, and reserve Landry Shamet scored 19 against his former team.

Richardson nailed his third 3-pointer of the quarter to give Philadelphia a 102-94 lead with 4:44 left. Then he scored on a driving left-handed layup and made the free throw to complete the 3-point play, extending the lead to 11. His free throw made it 110-100 with 1:15 remaining after the Clippers cut the deficit to single digits.

Leonard faced the Sixers for the first time since his quadruple-doink, buzzer-beater knocked Philadelphia of the playoffs last May. Leonard’s shot gave Toronto a 92-90 victory in Game 7 and the Raptors went on to win the NBA championship.

The Sixers opened the second half with a 16-5 run, taking a 70-59 lead. Simmons, Embiid and Glenn Robinson III combined for 14 of the 16.

The Sixers led by 12 in the second quarter after Embiid’s reverse layup two minutes in, but the Clippers chipped away. Los Angeles closed out the half with a layup by Williams and pull-up jumper by Leonard to tie it at 54.

Embiid heard some boos mixed in with loud cheers when he was introduced. The All-Star center shushed the crowd and screamed an expletive following a shot Sunday after the team heard boos. He exacerbated the situation with a social media post Monday and a friendly exchange with Jimmy Butler, hinting he might join his former teammate who now plays for Miami.

But it was all love for Embiid in the fourth quarter after he and Marcus Morris got into a shoving match. Embiid did a shimmy for fans and got a loud ovation (see the video above).

Report: Lakers, Clippers arms race in West with Knicks’ Marcus Morris in middle of it

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The Lakers and Clippers are the two favorites to come out of the West.

They are the top two teams in the West standings, they have elite talent with championship pedigrees, and the margin between these teams is thin.

Which has led to an arms race for role players at the trade deadline — particularly the Knicks’ Marcus Morris — as the teams look for an advantage. Adrian Wojnarowski said as much on an ESPN draft special.

After months of “we want to re-sign him” posturing, the new Knicks management is getting down to the business of trading Morris. Multiple reports confirm the news that the Knicks are intent on moving Morris, including from Marc Stein of the New York Times.

The question is, where? On SportsCenter, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said the two Los Angeles teams are at the front of the pack.

The challenge for the Lakers is trade construction. Kyle Kuzma is the bait, and the Knicks like the young forward, but he only makes $2 million, to match salaries the Lakers would have to throw in Danny Green (something they do not want to do), or get the Knicks to accept a combination of players with Kuz (DeMarcus Cousins and Avery Bradley would work, for example). The question the Lakers need to ask themselves becomes, are they better with Morris but no Kuzma and Green (or Bradley)?

The Clippers have their 2020 first-round pick and Mo Harkless to make a deal. The Knicks reportedly want Landry Shamett and are getting shot down.

This is a wide-ranging race between the Lakers and Clippers, with Memphis’ Andre Iguodala being another target. Iguodala makes $17.1 million, making it almost essential the Lakers put Green in any offer. The Clippers could use their 2020 first-rounder here plus Harkless and someone like Jerome Robinson to make the numbers work. It would be very difficult for either the Lakers or Clippers to go after both.

The Lakers made calls on Dennis Schroder of Oklahoma City and Brooklyn’s Spencer Dinwiddie, but sources told NBC Sports those are more exploratory than anything substantial. In both cases, their teams want to keep those guards.

Around the league, the sense has been for a while that the Clippers would make a trade before the deadline — ideally looking for size and toughness, which is why Morris makes sense — while the Lakers were more likely to wait for the buyout market.

Either way, a lot of eyes are going to be on Los Angeles the next 24 hours before the NBA trade deadline as one move could tip the balance in the West.