Pistons star Blake Griffin restrained in confrontation with Minnesota fan, who gets ejected

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Blake Griffin played excellently in the Pistons’ 129-123 win over the Timberwolves last night. He scored 34 points. Detroit outscored Minnesota by 15 points in his 42 minutes and got outscored by nine points in the 11 minutes he sat.

Yet, even in a one-possession game late in overtime, a Minnesota fan broke Griffin’s focus on the game.

Griffin approached the fan and yelled at him. Zaza Pachulia held back Griffin. The fan got ejected. The Pistons finished off the win. Everything went smoothly enough, but I wonder what the fan said to get so deeply under Griffin’s skin at that point of the game.

Rumor: Pistons among teams considering Markelle Fultz trade

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Markelle Fultz remains away from the 76ers, getting treatment for his Thoracic Outlet Syndrome while the rest of his teammates try to adjust to playing with Jimmy Butler (which is going better for some than others).

The sense around the league is the Sixers still plan to trade Fultz, they’re just waiting for better offers to come in, the first round was very lowball.

A few teams are kicking the tires on a trade, and among them are the Pistons, reports Rod Beard of the Detroit News.

Let’s be clear, nothing is close on any Sixers trade of Fultz right now. Teams are just testing the waters.

It’s an interesting idea for Detroit, the chance to add a player who was a high draft pick —  but only if they think he’s healthy and can get over his mental hurdles (his agent said there aren’t any, it’s all physical, and most of the league laughed at that). Also, the sides need to find a trade that works. Fultz, as a No. 1 pick, is not cheap, he makes $8.3 million this season and is guaranteed $9.7 next season, then $12.3 million the season after that (unless whatever team has his rights and just cuts bait on that last season).

The Pistons are flirting with the luxury tax line right now, their $123.3 million payroll is just about $500,000 below the tax line, so Detroit will not be taking on any salary in any potential trade. They also sent out last year’s first-round pick in the Blake Griffin trade, so they can’t trade this year’s, and likely would not include a pick anyway. A deal centered around Ish Smith or Langston Galloway plus Zaza Pachulia works (after Dec. 15 when Pachulia becomes available to trade). Both provide guard depth and Galloway offers Philly some shooting (34.9 percent taking 65 percent of his shots from three this season). Reggie Bullock also could be part of a trade.

There are options. Right now the Pistons are among the teams kicking the tires on a trade, but we are a long way from it actually happening.

Warriors’ starting center Damian Jones undergoes surgery for torn pectoral

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Warriors center Damian Jones underwent surgery for a torn left pectoral muscle.

Golden State said Friday that Jones had the procedure Wednesday in Chicago, performed by Dr. Benjamin Domb. Jones is expected to begin the rehab process in six weeks with a timetable to be determined based on his progress.

Jones, a third-year pro out of Vanderbilt who developed in the G League last season to emerge as the starter for the two-time defending NBA champions, was injured Saturday at Detroit.

The 23-year-old Jones started in 22 of his 24 games, averaging 5.4 points and 3.1 rebounds in 17.1 minutes. Golden State had an opening at center following the offseason departures of JaVale McGee, Zaza Pachulia and David West.

 

Warriors signing DeMarcus Cousins not even best development of their summer

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The Rockets downgraded. LeBron James didn’t form a super team anywhere. Only the Raptors emerged as a new contender, and that’s only if Kawhi Leonard is healthy.

The Warriors’ path to another championship looks even clearer now than it did at the beginning of the summer.

Oh, and they signed DeMarcus Cousins.

Of course Golden State isn’t assured a third straight title and fourth in five years. I’ve been banging the drum against the inevitability of a Warriors championship during this entire run, and I’m sure not stopping now. There are too many variables just to assume one team will cruise against a field of 29 others. But few teams have ever looked so well-positioned entering the season.

Golden State returns its entire elite core. Kevin Durant re-signed, though on just another 1+1 deal. Uncertainty seems unavoidable with him.

At least he’ll be a known factor next season. The same can’t be said of Cousins.

Cousins’ Achilles tear makes it unclear when he’ll play, let alone when he’ll play at a high level. Even once he gets healthy and on track individually, there are real questions about how he’ll fit with the Warriors. Cousins won’t necessarily be the dominant force that stacks the deck insurmountably in Golden State’s favor.

There was also a real opportunity cost to signing him. The Warriors needed more wings rather than another center, and they used their biggest tool to upgrade – the mid-level exception – on Cousins. And they’ll almost certainly get him for only one year. The largest starting salary they can effectively offer him next summer is just $6,404,400. If Cousins can’t command far more than that on the open market, he probably wouldn’t be welcomed back, anyway.

All that said, Golden State had to sign him when he agreed to play for so little. He’s so darned talented. It’s worth the risk. If everything pans out, he could help the 2018-19 Warriors stake a claim as the greatest team of all time.

Otherwise, the Warriors were pretty conservative this summer.

They drafted Jacob Evans No. 28 and signed Kevon Looney and Jonas Jerebko to minimum contracts. Patrick McCaw will probably accept his qualifying offer.

David West retired. JaVale McGee signed with the Lakers. Zaza Pachulia signed with the Pistons. Nick Young remains unsigned.

On a team with Durant, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and Andre Iguodala, those players just don’t move the needle much. Golden State was mostly locked into a static summer by virtue of the team’s incredible standing already.

So, it was shocking the Warriors added a potential gamechanger in Cousins. But the biggest moves for Golden State were the ones that didn’t happen elsewhere to threaten its supremacy.

 

Offseason grade: A

Kyrie Irving is going to business school classes at Harvard

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Boston Celtics star Kyrie Irving doesn’t believe that the Earth is round but that hasn’t stopped him from seeking out knowledge from one of the nation’s top universities.

Part of Irving’s offseason plans have apparently been to enroll in a business program at none other than Harvard. The program, aptly titled “Crossover Into Business” reportedly helps athletes prepare themselves to enter the business world after they end their active sporting careers.

According to Boston.com, the program also pairs athletes with mentors to, “develop their business acumen and empower them to make better business decisions.”

Other attending athletes are John Holland, Martellus Bennett, Spencer Dinwiddie, Zaza Pachulia, and Paul Millsap.

This is a prudent move given how Irving has risen in cultural standing within the NBA, not only as a star player but as the title character in the soda-ad-turned-Hollywood-movie “Uncle Drew”. Many of us have seen stories of NBA players going broke, and there have even been entire documentaries produced about the likelihood of professional athletes losing millions of dollars after their playing days have ended.