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As front office looks toward free agency, starless Clippers winning now

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CHARLOTTE – The Clippers have no All-Stars here.

Not Danilo Gallinari. Not Montrezl Harrell. Not even Tobias Harris, who spent most of the season with L.A. before getting traded to the 76ers.

Heck, nobody who has played for the Clippers this season – including Gallinari, Harris and Lou Williams – has ever made an All-Star team.

No Clippers are participating in All-Star Saturday Night events, either. Their only representative here is rookie Shai Gilgeous-Alexander in the Rising Stars Challenge.

Yet, the Clippers are an impressive 32-27.

“When you just have a bunch of guys that are selfless and just want to play for each other and just want to ultimately win,” Gilgeous-Alexander said, “things like that happen.”

The Clippers are on pace for one of the best-ever records for a team with no past or present All-Stars. Here all the all-time leaders (counting only seasons with an All-Star game):

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The Clippers’ success is particularly surprising because this was supposed to be a transitional year for them.

They moved on historically quickly from the Chris PaulBlake GriffinDeAndre Jordan Lob City era. Everyone from the Clippers’ 2012-17 teams was gone before the season even began. Since the early 1950s, only these Clippers, the 1996 Mavericks and 2003 and 2004 Hawks completely turned over their rosters within two seasons.

The Clippers have made no secret of their interest in Kawhi Leonard. They’re also reportedly pursuing Kevin Durant. Jimmy Butler could be in the mix.

“The front office and coaches and teammates are all competitive guys and want to be good for a long time,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “That’s the ultimate goal.”

Here’s the rub: Many of Gilgeous-Alexander’s teammates might not be around for that ultimate goal.

To open a projected $57 million in cap space this summer,* the Clippers had to stock their roster with expiring contracts.

*Based on the Clippers renouncing all their free agents and not having a first-round pick. L.A. owes the Celtics a lottery-protected first-rounder.

Beverley will be a free agent this summer. So will Harris and likely Avery Bradley, who got dealt to the Grizzlies shortly before the trade deadline and has just $2 million of his $12.96 million salary next season guaranteed. So will Marcin Gortat, who got waived around the trade deadline.

Yet, these players put aside personal agendas to help a franchise that’s transparently looking past them. It’s a tribute to the players. It’s a tribute to Clippers coach Doc Rivers, too. This team has played hard and shown great camaraderie.

It won’t get easier even after moving Harris, L.A.’s top player this season who’s entering free agency. Ivica Zubac, JaMychal Green, Garrett Temple and Wilson Chandler – acquired before the trade deadline – also have expiring contracts.

Don’t assume the Clippers will fall off now. They added solid vets who could fit this culture.

The Clippers’ identity – starless, transient – remains intact. The winning could, too.

It’s not that the Clippers got snubbed. I thought none deserved to be an All-Star.

That’s the beauty of this team.

Report: Clippers trade Avery Bradley to Grizzlies for JaMychal Green and Garrett Temple

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The Clippers will enter the offseason with the wildest of fantasies in reach. Kawhi Leonard, Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Jimmy Butler and Anthony Davis could each be in play. L.A. will have the cap space, desirable players (Shai Gilgeous Alexander, Montrezl Harrell, Lou Williams) and draft picks (highlighted by the Heat’s unprotected 2021 first-rounder) to credibly chase multiple stars.

Now, the Clippers’ position has gotten even stronger.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Avery Bradley has $2 million of his $12.96 million salary for next season guaranteed. Getting that off the books will help the Clippers’ flexibility.

JaMychal Green and Garrett Temple are on expiring contracts. Frankly, they should also help L.A. win more this season. Even after trading Tobias Harris and waiving Marcin Gortat to open a roster spot for this deal, the Clippers remain in the playoff race. Stars are more attracted to winning teams.

So, why did the Grizzlies do this? After the Marc Gasol trade, they would have been over the luxury-tax line this season. Obviously paying the tax this year was a non-starter. Plus, Bradley might help them tank while keeping the veneer of competitiveness.

The Shelvin Mack trade was similarly about reducing this year’s payroll.

Clippers might buy, might sell, will be ‘careful’ at trade deadline

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The Clippers are walking a tightrope heading into the Feb. 7 trade deadline.

They are currently tied for the seven/eight seed in the West and want to stay in the playoffs. They could use some reinforcements to bolster that effort, just 3.5 games separate seeds six and 11 in the West. The Clippers may want to add a player who can help them make a playoff push.

On the other side, the Clippers will be major players next summer in free agency, with enough cap space for one max contract player and, with some maneuvering, two. There have been strong links reported between the Clippers and both Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant (the Clippers are nearly stocking Leonard this season with their staff). The Clippers do not want to make a deadline trade move that messes with that cap space.

What will they do?

Be careful but look for trades that work, coach Doc Rivers told Jovan Buha of The Athletic.

“It’s a lot that goes in it,” Doc Rivers said about the trade deadline. “It’s easier when you think you have a shot to win it. Then it’s an easy move. If there’s a move to make your team or put your team over the hump, those are easy.

“Where we’re at, you have to be very careful with anything you do because anything that puts money on your cap and all that, it’s probably a bad move in some ways. Unless you think it’s a longtime guy. Every team has their own stuff. It’s different for everyone.”

The Clippers could trade or, barring that, buyout third point guard Milos Teodosic (if he takes enough of a discount).

Beyond that, the Clippers have a lot of expiring contracts that could interest other playoff teams, but the Clippers are not just dumping them for picks or taking on additional salary.

Otherwise, the Clippers are not actively shopping any of their expiring deals that could have value to the numerous teams pursuing a playoff spot — Patrick Beverley, Marcin Gortat, Boban Marjanovic, Luc Mbah a Moute, Mike Scott and Avery Bradley ($2 million partial guarantee for 2019-20). It is also unclear what each player’s respective trade value is currently, as all six players have endured up-and-down seasons (more down for Mbah a Moute, who has missed 44 of 48 games with a sore left knee).

The Clippers caution speaks to this entire trade market. The Clippers are in too good a position to just be sellers, but they are not aggressive buyers either because there is not that much of an advantage in the short term. There are a lot of teams that before the season were expected to be sellers who find themselves in the playoff mix and debating whether they should go for it (Brooklyn is at the top of that list, they will go for it, and then there are bubble teams like Orlando).

There are a lot of buyers but teams don’t want to give up picks/young players, and they don’t want to take on bad salaries. Which limits the market.

It’s likely going to be a quiet trade deadline, with some smaller moves (Jeremy Lin or Kent Bazemore may be the biggest names traded), but then a very robust buyout market. Then again, this league has a way of surprising.

DeMarcus Cousins’ first bucket as a Warrior is a monster jam

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LOS ANGELES — DeMarcus Cousins sure looked his hops are back on this throw down.

Cousins started for the Warriors Friday night after missing almost a full year with a torn Achilles, and on the Warriors first possession they fed him the rock in the post. Cousins faced up on Marcin Gortat, drove baseline with a nice first step, but got caught under the basket and couldn’t power it up through the Clipper big, getting his shot blocked.

Nobody was blocking his next shot.

It was a side pick-and-roll where Gortat had to cut off Durant’s drive, but Danilo Gallinari didn’t tag into the middle to cut off Cousins’ roll (or, made the business decision not to). The result was an impressive first bucket for DeMarcus as a Warrior.

Cousins’ first shift was three minutes long. He’s on a minutes restriction for a while.

Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic ejected for arguing call vs. Clippers

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NBA officials seem to have a quick trigger with the technicals the past couple of days.

Midway through the third quarter against the Clippers Saturday afternoon, Nikola Jokic got called for a foul for pushing Marcin Gortat along the baseline. Jokic didn’t like the call, barked at the official, got a technical then a quick second and he was gone.

The Clippers loved it.

Was it a foul to start with? Yes.

Did Jokic deserve a technical for trying to show up the referee? Yes (the way it is being called this season).

An ejection? We don’t know what was said, maybe Jokic crossed a line, but that wasn’t really much of an “air punch,” this strikes me more like an official with a thin skin and quick trigger.

Consistency, we need it. Tell me how LeBron James did this last night and didn’t even get T’d up.

Yet this got a technical in another game.

The line on what players can and can’t do moves nightly, no wonder they are confused.