Montrezl Harrell

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Lou Williams asks can jerseys say ‘Black Lives Matter?’ What about court?

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Tune into an English Premier League game this weekend and you will see the kits/jerseys say “Black Lives Matter” across the back, where the players’ name traditionally would be. Also, all the players on both teams take a knee before kick-off. It has been a fantastic tribute to the cause from across the ocean.

Could NBA jerseys have “Black Lives Matter” on them somewhere when play resumes in Orlando next month? What about having BLM on the court somewhere?

Reigning Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams asked those questions when he appeared on CoStar Friday, in response to a question about what NBA players will do to keep social justice causes it in the spotlight. Williams sounded like a guy who thought going to Orlando would prove a distraction from more important issues (hat tip Los Angeles Times).

“We’re trying to find that balance where if we do suit up we’re having conversations behind closed doors. If we do suit up, how much of this platform can we really use? Can we get a ‘Black Lives Matter’ patch on our jerseys? Can our jerseys say ‘Black Lives Matter’? Can the court say ‘Black Lives Matter,’ so we can use that platform to the best of our abilities? So it’s just hard to call, bro. it’s honestly, it’s hard to call. I’m 50-50 right now, to be honest with you…

“I think for us, the only benefit of us not playing is to keep the focus on the fight. And with that being said, this is in six weeks, so we don’t know what it looks like in six weeks. In six weeks the world may need some healing, they may need us to be on the floor. But if more Black kids or more Black adults or any adults that’s dealing with police brutality are getting killed and we’re still outraged, I don’t know if it’s in our best interests to suit up because it looks like we don’t care. You know what I mean? It’s just a fine balance we’re trying to create.”

Adam Silver and the NBA are negotiating with players’ union on exactly what a return will look like and part of that is how the league and players can use that platform to promote the social justice cause that matters so much to the players.

Williams, just like every other player in the league, has an intensely personal decision coming up that has to balance not just BLM and social justice issues, but also family, health risks, and the serious financial risks the players make by choosing not to play. The answer is not the same for everyone, and obviously Williams has not decided.

If he didn’t come to Orlando it would be a blow to the Clippers and their depth. One of the things that makes the team a title threat is that beyond Kawhi Leonard and Paul George (now both healthy and rested) is they roll out serious depth and versatility, including bringing Williams and Montrezl Harrell off the bench. If Williams chooses to stay home, it’s one fewer weapon Doc Rivers has to use when needed.

And Rivers would be the first to say that is fine, that Williams has to do what he sees as right.

What players chose not to go to Orlando could end up having a massive impact on who is a favorite once there.

Memphis’ Precious Achiuwa, a potential lottery pick, declares for NBA draft

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In what is considered a down draft, smart teams selecting in the double digits will be looking for one of two kinds of players. One is very raw players with impressive athleticism and a lot of potential who could develop into quality players and maybe stars down the line—the swing-for-the-fences pick.

Or, teams will take guys who can fill a role in the modern NBA and contribute fairly quickly in that spot.

Memphis’ Precious Achiuwa could be that latter kind of player, with some upside, and he announced he is entering the NBA draft.

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Achiuwa is considered a bubble lottery pick, he’s 6’9″ but with a 7’2″ wingspan and good defensive instincts.

NBC Sports’ college ball guru Rob Dauster discussed the potential for Achiuwa on a recent PBT Podcast. He said the key is less physical and more mental.

“I think he’s going to buy into this idea that he is a five,” Dauster said. “If he does, if he fully buys in, he is a guy who can do all of those things: He averaged 16 points, 11 boards and a couple blocks [Ed. note: 15.8/10.8/1.9], he’s switchable, he’s 6’9”, he’s explosive…

“The thing with his is Precious Achiuwa is going to be 21 before he plays an NBA game. People talk about Cole Anthony being old, Precious Achiuwa is eight months older than him. (Achiuwa) is two months younger than Kaleb Wesson (of Ohio State) and Wesson is a junior in college. If you’re drafting him, you have to know he is more or less a finished product. Right now he can go out there and contribute. I don’t think he has the same kind of ceiling Bam Adebayo does, or that Onyeka Okongwu does, he’s not as explosive, he’s not as strong, but he’s able to play with the ball on the perimeter a little bit and he shot 33 percent from three.

“I think he’s a guy who does have a role in the NBA as long as he buys into the idea ‘I’m a five.'”

I envision an energy big off the bench in more of a Montrezl Harrell role (although reaching the standards of Harrell would be difficult, Achiuwa is not quite as athletic). There are a lot of teams who could use a guy like that, especially if he can be consistent enough from three to stretch the floor.

Achiuwa told ESPN he is getting an agent and staying in the draft. Which in his case seems a smart move.

While the NBA draft is still scheduled for June 25, nobody around the league expects it to take place around that day. The draft process is in flux and most around the league expect it to be pushed back until August or later, after whatever portion of this season is played (if it is played).

Lou Williams plans to finish career with Clippers: ‘I’m not playing for anybody else after this’

Lou Williams
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Lou Williams can still just get buckets. The 33-year-old guard averaged 18.7 points a game off the bench for the Clippers this season, and while his efficiency slipped a little he is still going to get a lot of Sixth Man of the Year votes.

Williams has one more season on his contract after this one, for a very reasonable $8 million. After that he could chase a bigger payday.

Except he doesn’t want to, he wants to finish his career with the Clippers he told Ros Gold-Onwude of ESPN (hat tip Sports Illustrated).

The money quote:

“This is it. Listen, all teams out there, I’m not playing for anybody else after this… I identify with this group of guys, I identify with this organization. I don’t see me finding that somewhere else.”

His agent would like to thank Lou for helping with the negotiating leverage.

As long as Williams can continue to cross guys up and rack up points, plus he’s willing to take reasonable contracts, there’s no reason the Clippers wouldn’t want him coming off the bench. Williams said in the interview he thinks he can play four more years, and he will because he brings real value to an already deep and versatile roster.

The Clipper to watch this summer is Williams’ pick-and-roll partner Montrezl Harrell (who is my pick for Sixth Man of the Year this season). Harrell is a free agent and the market for a high-energy big like him could be more than the Clippers are willing to pay. Los Angeles will have a decision to make with Harrell.

That’s not the case with Lou Will. He’s good.

Two Clippers, two Suns left standing in NBA 2K Players Tournament

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The champion is coming out of the Pacific Division.

That may be true of which team will hoist the Larry O’Brien trophy and have a parade through the streets when (or, maybe if) the NBA season and playoffs return.

It absolutely is true of the NBA 2K Players Tournament.

After Thursday night’s quarterfinal rounds we are down to four players: Patrick Beverley and Montrezl Harrell of the Los Angeles Clippers, and Devin Booker and Deandre Ayton of the Phoenix Suns.

The semi-finals and finals will take place Saturday on ESPN (3-7 p.m. ET on ESPN). Booker will face Harrell in one semi while the trash-talking Beverley will take on Ayton in the other. The winners will then square off.

In the first matchup on Thursday night, Rui Hachimura raced out to an early lead on Booker, but once the Suns’ guard, playing as the Mavericks, got Luka Doncic going it was all over. Booker won handily, 71-55.

Harrell, playing with Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers, led most of the way over Derrick Jones Jr. in the second game of the night, and while Jones made it close a couple of times, Harrell held on for the 71-66 win.

Then the games got tighter.

Ayton, playing as the Clippers, upset No. 2 seed Trae Young of the Hawks (playing as the Lakers). Ayton raced out to a double-digit first-quarter lead, held that through the half, but in the third quarter Young stormed back thanks to one LeBron James. It set up a dramatic, back-and-forth fourth quarter, with Ayton using Paul George to get the win.

In the nightcap, Andre Drummond (playing as the Bucks) took an early lead over Beverley, but in the fourth Beverley stormed back with the Sixers — and this was the most entertaining matchup of the night because Beverley would not stop trash talking.

We should all be rooting for Beverley to advance on Sunday just for the entertainment factor.

 

 

 

2020 PBT Awards: Sixth Man of the Year

Clippers Montrezl Harrell and Lou Williams and Thunder guard Dennis Schroder
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The NBA regular season might be finished. Heck, the entire NBA season might be finished. Even if play resumes with regular-season games, there’d likely be an abridged finish before the playoffs (which will also likely be shortened).

So, we’re making our 2019-20 award picks now. If the regular season somehow lasts long enough to reconsider our choices, we’ll do that. But here are our selections on the assumption the regular season is over.

Kurt Helin

1.  Montrezl Harrell, Clippers

2.  Dennis Schroder, Thunder

3.  Derrick Rose, Pistons

A Clipper gets my vote, and for the first time in years, it’s not Lou Williams (who would be fourth on my ballot). Montrezl Harrell improved his game this year defensively and he continues to bring energy and grit off the bench that has made the Clippers’ second unit one of the most feared in the league. Schroder had a fantastic season, mostly when paired in a three-guard lineup with Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Rose faded a little at the end and the Pistons didn’t win much, but he averaged 18.1 points a game and was the team’s best player for chunks of the season.

Dan Feldman

1. Montrezl Harrell, Clippers

2. Dennis Schroder, Thunder

3. Christian Wood, Pistons

After finishing a deserved third for this award last year, Montrezl Harrell improved his scoring skill and played stingier defense while maintaining his energetic style. That moved him past Clippers reserve teammate and reigning Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams. Harrell and Williams work well in tandem, but it seems Harrell has taken a little more ownership of their shared production.

Dennis Schroder scored more effectively than ever. He also diversified his all-around game to fit with the Thunder’s other point guards, Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander. Schroder absolutely deserves credit for helping make that trio work.

Christian Wood narrowly topped Bucks guards George Hill and Donte DiVincenzo, who both did plenty to help replace Malcolm Brogdon. Wood made so many productive plays inside and out, especially as a starter after the Pistons traded Andre Drummond. That’s part of being a good reserve, stepping up when the starter is unavailable.

Keith Smith

1. Dennis Schroder, Thunder

2. Montrezl Harrell, Clippers

3. Lou Williams, Clippers

It seemed like this might be another year where the two Clippers could have split the award, but Dennis Schroder was just a bit better than both. In his second year coming off the Thunder bench, Schroder has put together the best season of his career. He’s averaging 19 points per game, while shooting 46.8% from the field overall and 38.1% from three, both career highs. And he’s also averaging 4.1 assists per game and 3.7 rebounds per game. To top it off, Schroder is regularly a part of the closing lineup for the surprising Thunder.

L.A.’s two bench stars could be mainstays on this ballot if they stay in reserve roles with the Clippers. Williams has hit Jamal Crawford-territory, where award could be named for him. He had another outstanding scoring season at 18.7 points per game, but what stood out was Williams’ career-best 5.7 assists per game. Harrell also continued to impress with 18.6 points on 58% shooting, to go along with 7.1 rebounds and 1.1 blocks per game.