Sindarius Thornwell

Associated Press

Ben Simmons embarrasses Clippers for game-sealing dunk

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Philadelphia was probably going to win the game, the Sixers were up four on the Clippers (117-113) with 15.9 seconds remaining. Teams rarely come back in that situation, but it does happen and the Sixers needed another bucket.

They got it from Ben Simmons, who embarrassed the Clippers and gave Doc Rivers a little ulcer.

The Sixers were inbounding the ball, the Clippers were looking for a steal and, short of that, a quick foul. Sindarius Thornwell was brought in to guard Ben Simmons, who was inbounding the ball, but Thornwell turned his back on Simmons and…

Ouch.

The Sixers got the win, but this game got chippy.

Jimmy Butler and Avery Bradley — who were in each other’s face a couple of times — were both thrown out after this incident.

Three Things to Know: Kawhi Leonard preps for return to San Antonio by dropping 45 on Utah

Associated Press
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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) Kawhi Leonard prepares for return to San Antonio by dropping career-best 45 on Jazz. Utah has been back to playing good defense of late: For the 10 games prior to New Year’s Day, the Jazz had allowed less than a point per possession. They have started to look more and more like the Utah team that made a run the second half of last season (even if they are not stringing together wins yet).

Kawhi Leonard didn’t care.

Leonard scored a career-best 45 points on 22 shot attempts (all without hitting a three). He got to the rim seemingly whenever he wanted and was 7-of-9 from the midrange, doing much of his damage in isolation sets.

It wasn’t just Leonard for the Raptors, Pascal Siakam also had a career-high with 28 points.

The Raptors have been battling through some injuries — they have been without either Leonard or Kyle Lowry for each of the last 11 games (and Lowry got an injection for his back Tuesday, he likely misses a little more time), plus Jonas Valanciunas has been out. Still, the Raptors are 7-4 in those games and while it hasn’t always been pretty — they have a middle-of-the-pack offense and defense in those 11 games and a 0.4 net rating — they keep finding ways to win. Which is what great teams do.

However, San Antonio will be up for Thursday’s showdown.

2) Giannis Antetokounmpo demolishes Pistons’ Jon Leuer with a thunderous dunk. This is just nasty. Credit to Detroit’s Jon Leuer for trying but…

Just a reminder, Antetokounmpo is on pace to demolish more than just the rims, he’s on pace to set the NBA record for dunks in a season. Dwight Howard holds the record at 266, but the Greek Freak is on pace to top that by about 80 dunks.

3) Ben Simmons just embarrasses the Clippers for a game-sealing dunk. Philadelphia was in control and probably going to win the game anyway, up four (117-113) with 15.9 seconds remaining. This play just sealed it… and gave Doc Rivers an ulcer.

The Sixers were inbounding the ball, the Clippers were looking for a steal and, short of that, a quick foul. Sindarius Thornwell was brought in to guard Ben Simmons, who was inbounding the ball, but that didn’t go so well.

Let that be a lesson to you young basketball players out there, do not turn your back on the inbounder (especially if he’s a smart player).

This game got chippy.

And eventually, Jimmy Butler and Avery Bradley — who were in each other’s face a couple of times — were both thrown out.

Report: Clippers trading Wesley Johnson to Pelicans for Alexis Ajinca

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The Chris PaulBlake GriffinDeAndre Jordan era already ended in L.A.

Now, the Clippers are losing the very last player from their 2016-17 team (just two years ago!) – Wesley Johnson, who’s being shipped to the Pelicans for Alexis Ajinca.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Johnson ($6,134,520) has a slightly higher salary than Ajinca ($5,285,394) with both players in the final year of their contracts. As long the Clippers have to waive a player, they’d rather drop the cheaper one.

The Clippers actually had to shed two players before the regular-season roster deadline. They’re also releasing Jawun Evans, the No. 39 pick last year. The point guard just didn’t acclimate to the NBA quickly enough to beat out Sindarius Thornwell and Tyrone Wallace. Though waiving Evans was probably the right move now, I wouldn’t write him off entirely.

Ajinca, on the other hand, has no place in a shrinking NBA. The 7-foot-2 30-year-old can’t stay healthy and hasn’t been productive when on the court.

Johnson fell out of favor with Clippers coach Doc Rivers, but the Pelicans desperate for a small forward. Though Johnson wouldn’t be an exciting addition for most teams, he’s worth the low cost – the $849,126 difference between his and Ajinca’s salaries – to New Orleans, where he might actually be a significant addition.

In surprise move, Clippers match offer sheet to Tyrone Wallace

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Most around the league expected the Clippers to move on from Tyronne Wallace when the Pelicans gave the restricted free agent a two-year offer sheet. They liked his play last season, but Wallace would give the Clippers 17 guaranteed contracts on the roster, meaning they would have to pay two people not to play (they already were going to have to do that with one). Plus, the Clippers are loaded at the guard spot Patrick Beverley, Milos Teodosic, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Avery Bradley, Lou Williams, Jerome Robinson, and Sindarius Thornwell.

The Clippers are going to match the offer anyway, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

That has since been confirmed by the Clippers.

“We identified Tyrone as a versatile, competitive and tough-minded player who adds to the organizational culture,” Clippers head of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said in a statement. “Ty worked hard with our staff at Agua Caliente and Los Angeles, and his growth has been a reflection of his commitment to getting better. Together with our team’s player development program, Ty demonstrated impressive improvement and contributed meaningfully to our team last season. We are excited to welcome Ty back to the Clippers.”

Expect the Clippers to try and make a trade to cut their costs in the coming weeks, although that will come at the price of draft picks most likely.

Wallace was in camp with the Clippers last season but was cut and signed with their G-League team in Ontario, then in January got bumped up to a two-way contract. However, with all the injuries and roster changes in Los Angeles last season, Wallace got thrown into NBA action quickly — he played 31 minutes in his first game for the big club. Wallace ended up playing in 30 games for the Clippers, becoming a steady part of the rotation near the end.

Wallace looked like a guy ready for the NBA. He fits the modern game in that he’s a versatile player who can be put in at either guard spot and can defend spots one through three. He moves well without the ball. The rest of his offensive game needs work — he doesn’t have enough shooting range yet, his ball handling and decision-making need to get better — but he impressed the Clippers enough they are going to keep him.

How many minutes he can get in that rotation remains to be seen, but this is a win for Wallace because he’s getting paid.

Reversing reported course, Clippers fully guarantee Milos Teodosic’s salary

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The Clippers reportedly wanted to move on from point guard Milos Teodosic.

Teodosic opted in anyway, guaranteeing $2.1 million of his $6.3 million salary. Why not get as much money as possible on the way out?

But apparently Teodosic isn’t leaving L.A., as his contract became fully guaranteed yesterday.

Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times:

The Clippers are expected to keep guard Milos Teodosic despite their crowded backcourt, according to an NBA official not authorized to speak publicly.

The Clippers traded guard Austin Rivers for center Marcin Gortat since the initial report, but that hardly ended the backcourt logjam. Patrick Beverley, Avery Bradley, Lou Williams, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jerome Robinson, C.J. Williams and Jawun Evans remain at guard.

The bigger logjam is with the overall roster, though. The Clippers now have 17 players on standard contracts, two more than the regular-season limit. That doesn’t bode well for Williams, whose salary is unguaranteed. Without another trade, Evans or Sindarius Thornwell could get cut.

Why the change of heart on Teodosic? Perhaps, he’s progressing better than expected medically. The 31-year-old missed 37 games last season with a foot injury, and there was concern about his long-term health. But when on the court, he’s a dazzling passer and long-distance shooter. Being slowed won’t help his already-woeful defense, though.

The Clippers were already over the cap, and they’re in little danger of entering the luxury tax. So, the only costs of guaranteeing Teodosic are owner Steve Ballmer’s real money, a roster spot and him potentially blocking playing time of L.A.’s lottery-pick guards. But the Clippers could even cut Teodosic in the preseason if someone else emerges as more deserving of the roster spot, and Doc Rivers can choose whether to play Teodosic or Gilgeous-Alexander and Robinson.

So, the biggest development is the roster spot. Teodosic is now extremely likely to hold it into the season, which means monitoring who gets dripped.