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Doc Rivers: I told Steve Ballmer, if Kawhi Leonard signed with Lakers, Clippers moving to Seattle

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We know what happened: The Clippers traded for Paul George, signed Kawhi Leonard and became championship favorite.

But at one point, Clippers coach Doc Rivers thought the George trade with the Thunder would fall through and Leonard could sign with the Lakers.

Rivers, via Arash Markazi of the Los Angeles Times:

“The day of the trade at 12 noon the deal was off,” Rivers said. “I was at home in Malibu and Lawrence called me and told me, ‘It looks like he’s either going to Toronto or the Lakers.’ The Lakers part just threw me over. I told him that can’t happen. … I remember I kept telling him, ‘We cannot allow that to happen!’

“I actually told Steve jokingly that if that happens, we’re moving the team to Seattle. It was a joke, but I was actually serious about it. I really believed that.”

Kawhi Leonard cost us the SuperSonics returning!

I don’t know how serious Rivers really was. Leonard joining LeBron James and Anthony Davis on their cross-arena rival would’ve been disastrous for the Clippers.

I’m convinced Ballmer will keep the franchise in Los Angeles. Ballmer’s ties to Seattle through Microsoft are well-established, and he previously tried to buy the Kings to move them to Seattle. But I can’t see him moving the Clippers from such a prime market, especially after going so far to get a new arena built in L.A. At every turn, he has maintained he’ll keep the team in Los Angeles.

Then again, Ballmer also phrased that guarantee as, “I will die owning the L.A. Clippers.” Now, he’s open to changing the nickname. Hmmm…

To be clearer than Rivers: That’s a joke I’m not actually serious about don’t really believe.

Kobe Bryant on best NBA duo: ‘I think it matters what they put around those two guys’

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James Harden and Russell Westbrook. LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum. Eventually there will be Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson, plus Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

The NBA is stacked with elite duos that are NBA contenders, and figuring out which twosome will fit best together has become part of making a prediction for who will win the NBA title.

Kobe Bryant was asked that in an interview by ESPN and he went another direction (hat tip Hoop Rumors).

“It doesn’t matter. I think it matters what they put around those two guys, and then what is the offensive and defensive system they’re going to be executing. You could have marquee names and put those marquee names together, and guess if they could play together or not, but it ultimately comes down to what system do you have them in and how does that affect the rest of the guys.”

He’s right. The Warriors had a big three but do they win without Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, solid bigs, and everyone there buying into Steve Kerr’s system? LeBron and Irving in Cleveland needed Kevin Love and J.R. Smith (pre-meltdown mistake) to win in 2016. The big three of LeBron/Dwyane Wade/Chris Bosh had Ray Allen and other guys to hit big shots, plus they lost before they all bought into Eric Spoelstra’s system. The Spurs won five rings with Tim Duncan/Tony Parker/Manu Ginobili but always were the ultimate system team under Gregg Popovich.

It’s why a lot of pundits lean toward the Clippers when looking at the coming season — this was a 48-win, hard-to-play-against team well coached by Doc Rivers last season before Leonard and George showed up. But, will the Clippers be the same team and play with the same passion this season? Do the Lakers have the guard play needed to contend, and can Frank Vogel get them on the same page (can he keep his job)? Do the Rockets have the depth after their starting five? Will any of those teams fully buy into the coach’s system?

What makes this NBA season so fascinating and wide open is that every team has plenty of questions, there is no juggernaut. But next June, we may be talking less about the best duo and more about what Kobe said — which supporting cast and system worked best?

Shaun Livingston retires

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Shaun Livingston was a high school phenom drafted No. 4 overall by the Clippers. He was damaged goods with a devastating knee injury that nearly caused amputation and cost him nearly two full seasons. He was a savvy veteran who won three championships with the Warriors.

His career was full.

And now it’s finished.

Livingston:

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After 15 years in the NBA, I’m excited, sad, fortunate and grateful all in one breath. Hard to put into a caption all of the emotions it takes to try and accomplish your dreams. I wasn’t supposed to be here. Anybody that has beat the odds understands the mental and emotional strain it takes to inspire yourself on an uphill war, let alone inspire others. “The injury” gave me a chance to find and prove to myself (and the world) that I wouldn’t be defined by my circumstances. With my time in the League what I will be most proud of is the fact that my character, values and faith were tested, and I persevered. To my pops that told me to “go get the big ball” I THANK YOU. To my Grandpa that always showed me there was more to life than basketball I THANK YOU. To my Uncles that helped raise me like I was one of their own, THANK YOU. To my wife and kids…the future IS BRIGHTER than our past, and I couldn’t see myself taking on this chapter without you. To all of my teammates, coaches, TRAINERS, staff, my journey is a collection of experiences, and those of you that helped me along the way, THANK YOU! To all the fans and anybody else that inspired me, supported me, cheered for me, or even said good words about me, THANK YOU. “The greatest gift we can give is service to others” #Raiseaglass 🍷

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Livingston had been contemplating retiring. The Warriors waiving him likely only made the decision easier. The 34-year-old could have maybe found a team in free agency. There’s a market for decent backup point guards. But a new team would have been an adjustment and maybe too much of one at this stage.

Though he never fulfilled the star track he appeared to be heading down, Livingston earned so much respect for his perseverance after the injury. His mid-range shot became his signature move – an ironically boring play for someone once so flashy. But it befits the necessary transformation. Livingston found a role and filled it well, stretching his career a once-unfathomable 15 years.

It’s a career to be proud of.

Steve Ballmer, Clippers give $100 million to city of Inglewood

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The Los Angeles Clippers want to be the top game in town. Steve Ballmer’s team now has Kawhi Leonard and Paul George, and soon they will have a new arena in Inglewood.

It will be hard for the Los Angeles Lakers to keep up with both the on-court product and the amenities the Clippers can provide in the future. Meanwhile, Ballmer has made some inroads in getting his Inglewood arena built, and keeping the promise of lifting up the city around it.

In a story reported on ESPN on Tuesday, Ballmer committed $100 million to the city of Inglewood as part of a community benefit plan.

Via ESPN:

Ballmer’s $100 million community benefits plan was negotiated with city officials from Inglewood as part of their arena development agreement and is set to be revealed Tuesday at an Inglewood City Council meeting.

“We’re close to a residential neighborhood and we are being very mindful,” Ballmer told ESPN in July about building the arena in Inglewood. “Investing well into the community, being a good citizen of the community. No homes need to get moved but we need to be a good neighbor.”

A lot of talk about how sports arenas benefit the surrounding city area is puffery. It’s not clear whether the Clippers new home will be the exception to that rule, but a hundred million dollars goes a long way in the right direction.

Kawhi Leonard’s sister, Kimesha Williams, charged in deadly robbery

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RIVERSIDE, Calif. (AP) — A relative of NBA star Kawhi Leonard has confirmed his sister is one of two women accused of robbing and killing an elderly woman at a Southern California casino.

The Riverside Press-Enterprise reports the aunt of 35-year-old Kimesha Williams confirmed Saturday that Williams is the sister of the Los Angeles Clippers forward.

Authorities say Williams and an accomplice followed an 84-year-old woman into a bathroom at Pechanga Resort Casino on Aug. 31, broke her skull and stole her purse. The victim died Wednesday.

A Riverside County sheriff’s investigator is asking a judge to keep Williams held without bail, saying she may flee and “has family that are well-off and could post her bail.”

Leonard attended high school in the Riverside area. He led the Toronto Raptors to their first NBA championship during the 2018-19 season before signing with the Clippers this past summer.