Dion Waiters debuts, nearly keys Heat comeback vs. Clippers (video)

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Dion Waiters‘ season entering Friday:

  • Suspensions: Three
  • Instagram posts offensive to the Heat: Two
  • Games played: Zero

However, due to a rash of injuries on the Heat, Waiters finally escaped the doghouse and actually played against the Clippers last night.

He played a little in the first half then started the fourth quarter with Miami down 16. In the final minute, Waiters even twice blocked Lou Williams on the same possession then made a 3-pointer on the other end to cut L.A.’s lead to three.

But the Clippers held on for a 122-117 victory.

Waiters finished with 14 points, including 4-of-9 3-point shooting, in 18 minutes.

Kawhi Leonard racks up first career triple-double, lifts Clippers past Heat

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MIAMI — Kawhi Leonard got his first career triple-double and scored 33 points, Landry Shamet added 22 and the Los Angeles Clippers shrugged off an early 15-point deficit before hanging on to beat the Miami Heat 122-117 Friday night.

Leonard finished with 10 rebounds and 10 assists. He was first credited with the triple-double in the third quarter — briefly, because one of his rebounds was taken away after a stat review. He then officially got it on a rebound with 3:55 left.

Lou Williams scored 16 points, Montrezl Harrell had 15 and JaMychal Green added 14 for the Clippers.

Jimmy Butler led Miami with 20 points. Butler left midway through the fourth after appearing to turn his right ankle for the second time in the game, capping a night when he also got inadvertently popped in the eye during the first half.

Kelly Olynyk and Tyler Herro scored 19 points each, Bam Adebayo had 18 and Duncan Robinson added 16 for Miami. The Heat fell to 20-2 at home – 0-2 against teams from Los Angeles. Their only other home loss was to the Lakers.

Miami was down by 18 with 8:34 left, then went on a 24-9 run and got within three on a 3-pointer by Dion Waiters with 34 seconds remaining. But they got no closer, and Leonard sealed it by going 4 for 4 from the foul line in the final moments.

Leonard flirted with a triple-double on two other occasions this season, missing it by two rebounds on Oct. 26 at Phoenix and by one assist on Nov. 11 against Toronto.

The Clippers were without Paul George (left hamstring) for the eighth consecutive game and Patrick Beverley (right groin) for the second straight game, though Beverley tried lobbying his way into the lineup.

Miami was without two point guards – Kendrick Nunn missed the game with left Achilles soreness and Goran Dragic was out with a sore left calf, something that flared up after he got kicked in Wednesday night’s overtime win against Washington.

So, down to 10 available players, Miami had no choice: Dion Waiters played for the first time this season.

Waiters, who had been suspended three times for various issues since October and embarrassed himself and the organization when he ingested at least one cannabis-infused edible and needed medical attention when the team charter plane wrapped up a Phoenix-to-Los Angeles flight in November, played 18 minutes and scored 14 points on 5-for-12 shooting, 4 for 9 from 3-point range.

Miami ran out to a 24-9 lead after seven minutes. The Clippers were within eight by the time the first quarter was done, and 65-63 at halftime. Then they outscored Miami 38-20 in the third to take total control.

Report: Lakers unhappy with Clippers coach Doc Rivers’ LeBron James joke

Lakers star LeBron James and Clippers star Kawhi Leonard
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Asked about the differing health-management philosophies between the Clippers with Kawhi Leonard and Lakers with LeBron James, Clippers coach Doc Rivers quipped, “I think theirs is whatever LeBron says it is.”

Now, the Clippers are facing internal issues amid perceived favorable treatment for Leonard and Paul George.

Jovan Buha and Sam Amick of The Athletic:

The irony was not lost on the Lakers, who sources say weren’t happy with the comment, in part, because of the perceived hypocrisy regarding the Clippers’ style with Leonard.

This is such a Los Angeles squabble.

Every team gives its top players favorable treatment. That’s especially true with these two teams that use their glamour market to attract stars. The Lakers and Clippers are pointing fingers at the other for behavior each does itself. It’s Spider-Man.

This is just intensifying because the rivalry is finally heating up.

In the 35 years they’ve shared the city, the Lakers and Clippers have both won a playoff series in the same season only once – 2012. The Lakers were on the downswing with Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum. The Clippers were rising with Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan.

Now, both teams are elite. It’d be a massive disappointment for either to lose in even the second round, let alone before that. A Western Conference finals featuring both Los Angeles teams is highly anticipated.

Pettiness like this adding up would make it even more fun.

Three Things to Know: LeBron’s big day, first named All-Star captain, then has triple-double

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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) LeBron James’ triple-double gives Lakers win in Brooklyn, a sweep of New York. The Lakers have been kicked out of Staples Center for a week allowing rehearsals for the Grammys can take over the building. Meaning old guys in suits sit around for a week and figure out if they can get Lizzo and Kenny Chesney to perform together. Because strange pairings always make good music and television.

So LeBron James and the Lakers just went to New York and made themselves at home.

LeBron racked up a triple-double of 27 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists — his 10th triple-double of the season — and the Lakers finally played some defense down the stretch to get a 128-113 win in Brooklyn on Thursday.

That leaves LeBron just 17 points short of Kobe Bryant for third on the all-time NBA scoring list. LeBron likely passes the Laker legend on Saturday night while Los Angeles is in Philadelphia.

The Laker offense was flowing against the Nets “defense” — Los Angeles made a season-high 19 threes. Anthony Davis had 16 points and 11 rebounds, and Dwight Howard got his first start of the season and responded with 14 points and 12 boards.

The Lakers are 3-1 on their five-game road trip so far, and they swept New York with wins over the Knicks and Nets.

Brooklyn has lost five in a row through a difficult part of the schedule. Even with Kyrie Irving back, that’s not enough to lift this lineup to wins against the league’s best. The Nets now have two games on the road, against the Pistons and Knicks.

2) LeBron — and Giannis Antetokounmpo — again names captains as All-Star Game starters are announced. The fans (50% of the vote), players (25%), and media (25%) got together and put together a pretty representative group of All-Star Game starters. Here’s the list and the guys who will start in Chicago:

WEST
Guard: Luka Doncic (Dallas)
Guard: James Harden (Houston)
Frontcourt: LeBron James (L.A. Lakers)
Frontcourt: Anthony Davis (L.A. Lakers)
Frontcourt: Kawhi Leonard (L.A. Clippers)

EAST
Guard: Trae Young (Atlanta)
Guard: Kemba Walker (Boston)
Frontcourt: Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee)
Frontcourt: Pascal Siakam (Toronto)
Frontcourt: Joel Embiid (Philadelphia)

Of course, they won’t play East vs. West. Instead, the two captains — LeBron and Antetokounmpo, the leading vote getters by the fans — will select their teams playground-style live on a TNT special NBA All-Star Draft Show Feb. 6 (a week before the game). First, they will choose from the pool of starters, then from the pool of 14 reserves (seven reserves from each conference, selected by the coaches and announced next week).

Being named a starter, one of the 10 best players in the game, is a powerful affirmation. Check out Trae Young’s reaction to being named.

Team LeBron is 2-0 in this format, and LeBron will be coached by his Laker coach Frank Vogel (as much as there is “coaching” in the All-Star Game). Also, when LeBron steps on the All-Star Game court in Chicago it will be his 16th time as a starter, passing Kobe for most starts ever in the game.

3) Damian Lillard is putting on a clinic (and it’s still not enough to get the Trail Blazers’ wins). Damian Lillard may not be an All-Star Game starter (he was third on the fan, player, and media votes), but he remains one of the best, most entertaining players in the league.

Coming off a game where he had 61 points, Lillard dropped 47 on Dallas on national television on Thursday night — that’s 108 points in two games, a Trail Blazers record.

In what sums up Portland’s season, that was not enough. Portland barely beat the lowly Warriors when Lillard dropped 61 on Monday, and the 47 was not enough against Luka Doncic and the Mavericks on Thursday. The Mavericks led by double-digits much of the game and won 133-125.

Portland was without CJ McCollum (sprained ankle) and, of course, Jusuf Nurkic, who has been out all season with a leg injury. Without elite help, it’s Lillard against the world too often, and that’s not enough against good teams. Portland entered the season dreaming of getting back to the Western Conference Finals or even doing better, but this morning they sit as the 10 seed, 2.5 games out of the playoffs. It’s been a rough season in the Pacific Northwest.

Doncic had 27 points and nine assists in the win.

 

Report: Preferential treatment for Paul George and Kawhi Leonard causing waves within Clippers

Clippers stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George
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The 2018-19 Clippers were incredibly gritty.

The 2019-20 Clippers are incredibly gifted.

It hasn’t been the easiest adjustment.

Last year, the Clippers played hard and tough. They had one of the best-ever seasons for a team with no All-Stars, present or past. L.A. won 48 games and pushed the Warriors in the first round of the playoffs. That roster created an appealing culture.

Enter Kawhi Leonard and Paul George.

The Clippers added those stars last summer and became an instant championship contender. That’s the primary goal – getting in that hunt.

But big-time players usually require more maintenance, and Leonard and George are no exceptions.

While with the Spurs, Leonard was reportedly envious of the star treatment other teams’ players received. Leonard’s uncle and advisor, Dennis Robertson, reportedly asked the Lakers and Clippers for illegal inducements during free agency last summer.

George has twice pushed his way off teams while still under contract. He didn’t request a trade from the Pacers, but by informing them he’d leave the next year, he essentially sealed his early exit. George made a big show of re-signing with the Thunder in 2019 then requested a trade to L.A. only one season later.

And of course, there are Leonard’s unique injury issues. He misses several games each season for what was confusingly called load management but is now dubbed injury management. That leaves his teammates to pick up the slack.

One of those teammates, Montrezl Harrell, sounded particularly upset with the Clippers’ outlook earlier this month. Harrell is a grinder, one of the key players on last year’s overachieving squad. And it turns out his tone amplified a larger concern.

Jovan Buha and Sam Amick of The Athletic:

Off the court, sources say there are some teammates who have struggled with the organization’s preferential treatment that is afforded to Leonard and George.

“I think it boils down to Kawhi not talking, and so who is their true leader?” one source with knowledge of the Clippers’ dynamics said. “How do you get around that?”

He isn’t necessarily standoffish, sources say, and there are times when he lives up to that “Fun Guy” reputation that has become part of his one-of-a-kind profile — even more so recently as he’s grown more comfortable around his teammates. He’s certainly more talkative and playful behind the scenes than in front of the media, when he rarely says a word outside of the scrum of reporters who speak to him, on average, for a few minutes at a time. But there can be a tangible distance, sources say.

Multiple players, according to league sources, don’t feel the team practices as hard or as seriously as it should at this point in the season.

Nearly every team in the NBA would trade its problems for the Clippers’ problems.

The Clippers are 31-14. They’ve gone 21-6 when Leonard and George both play. Winning cures most ills, and that will likely take care of these.

In the meantime, everyone involved should take a step back and be just a little more understanding.

Leonard, George and everyone else in charge – including coach Doc Rivers – should see how this looks to everyone else. Other players are scraping every night. It can be frustrating to see Leonard and George reaping the benefits without exerting as much energy right now.

In particular, Leonard should understand how his quiet nature can come across. That might be natural for him, but teammates are far more likely to rally behind a leader with whom they have a personal connection.

The upset Clippers also ought to realize this is how it works. Stars get preferential treatment. They’ve often earned it. Practicing a lot is more likely to wear down the team – especially Leonard – than help. Ditto Leonard playing more often.

With a few months left in the regular season, the Clippers have plenty of time to get past these issues. This team is still well-equipped to win in the playoffs, and lot of this tension is just about how to proceed through the long regular season to that point. Get through it, and a championship is still well within reach.