Kawhi Leonard wants to do ‘everything,’ Clippers being cautious

2021 NBA Playoffs - Dallas Mavericks v Los Angeles Clippers
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While addressing the media on Thursday, the Clippers’ President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank said that Kawhi Leonard has been cleared for 5-on-5 work. He also said that Kawhi Leonard wants to do “everything”, but they’re going to be cautious.

“One, he feels great,” Frank said. “Two, his plan is, look, he wants to participate in everything,” Frank said. “And I think three, organizationally, we’re going to be cautious. There will be a step-by-step approach.” (h/t Law Murray)

Kawhi missed all of last season after tearing his ACL in the Western Conference Semifinals in 2021. The Clippers lost in the Western Conference Finals that year and in the play-in tournament last season. There’s been a “what if” every year since Kawhi and Paul George joined forces in LA.

Frank also said that George is 100% healthy and has had an “extremely productive off-season”. PG missed 43 games last season with an elbow injury. The team has been plagued by injuries for years, but things are looking up as they enter the season.

The team didn’t give an official timeline for Kawhi’s return to the court. However, Kawhi wanting to do “everything” includes the preseason. It may be a very limited sample size, but we could see him play in the preseason. Their first preseason game will be on October 3rd against Portland.

The Clippers have high expectations this season with their star duo back healthy and the addition of Norman Powell, Robert Covington, and John Wall since the trade deadline last season. They will be incredibly careful to avoid their season being derailed by injuries yet again.

Report: NBA, players union in ‘serious conversation’ for new CBA, with draft age lowered to 18

NBA Draft 2022 at Barclays Center in NY
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A long-discussed return to allowing 18-year-olds straight out of high school to make the leap to the NBA appears on the way sooner rather than later, part of the “serious conversation” the NBA and NBPA are having toward a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

There is a mutual opt-out date of Dec. 15 when either the NBA (meaning the owners) or the players union could opt out of the current CBA, effective July 1. The goal of both sides has been to have a new agreement before Dec. 15 that would roll into place after the current CBA. Sources around the league expect no work stoppage — both sides are profiting from the current system and nobody wants a work stoppage that messes with that flow (and would be a PR disaster in a time of inflation and economic concerns nationally).

But there will be tweaks to the CBA. Here are the highlights via Charania.

• At the top of the list is doing away with one-and-done, Charania reports.

The league and NBPA are expected to agree on moving the age eligibility for the NBA Draft from 19 years old to 18, clearing the way for the return of high school players who want to make the leap to the NBA, per sources with knowledge of the discussions.

This would kick in as early as the 2024 NBA Draft, although the details are still being hammered out.

• Stiffer luxury tax penalties in some cases are on the table. Some owners were put off by the Warriors spending more than $350 million in player salaries and luxury tax penalties on their way to the title last season. Both the Warriors and Clippers are on pace to break that $350 million barrier this season, and with that, some owners want to make the tax even more punitive (a hard cap is out of the question, it would lead to a players’ strike).

However, as Warriors owner Joe Lacob pointed out during the Warriors playoff run, the core of their team is players they drafted, developed and retained, not high-priced free agents. He questioned whether teams should pay the same tax penalties for keeping their own players as opposed to teams built through trades and free agency. There could be owners who see the Warriors model — or what the Grizzlies are doing, for example — and think they should see some tax relief. This is a complex topic that isn’t just a concern of the owners, the players are always happy when an owner is willing to spend.

• The sides are talking about setting up a mental health designation for a player to miss a game (or games), similar to a player being listed as out due to a sore knee or sprained ankle. The NBA would be the first major professional sports league to take this step. After Ben Simmons sat out much last season in part due to not being mentally ready to play (he also had back issues), the owners likely will seek some kind of checks and balances on the system. But with DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love at the forefront, the NBA has been the most progressive league in addressing mental health concerns and this would be a step in that direction.

• There also is talk of finding ways to help players create generational wealth after their playing days end. While NBA players today — on the whole — are smarter with their money than previous generations of players (part of that is they are making more), NBPA executive director Tamika Tremaglio wants a system that could create more equity for the players and give them more financial opportunities.

“Thinking about the players’ contributions to the game and how they can be compensated for it will mean there will have to be more equity structures in place. It could be the sale of a team. It could be the deals they are entering where they are receiving equity beyond the four or five years that a contract exists. It’s much broader, and I don’t think historically we’ve looked at it. It’s been the here and now.”…

To do that, Tremaglio thinks it will require setting up an infrastructure alongside the league that does not currently exist. And she feels very positive that it is something both sides can come to an agreement on.

The NBA and NBPA representatives are expected to meet this week and continue talks toward a new CBA.

Curry regrets not boycotting 2014 Clippers playoff game after Sterling tapes came out

Golden State Warriors v Los Angeles Clippers
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The bombshell that exploded in the NBA back in April of 2014 when audio tapes of long-time Clippers owner Donald Sterling making blatant, transparently racist comments to his mistress, V. Stiviano, shook the league to its core. Not that Sterling being a racist surprised anyone, but the undeniable, in-your-face nature of the recordings led to a backlash. Major team and league sponsors — State Farm, CarMax, Kia, Red Bull, Sprint, Corona, among many others — dropped the Clippers fast.

Caught in the middle of the firestorm were the Clippers players and coach Doc Rivers, who were five games into a first-round playoff series against the upstart Warriors. The Clippers players debated a boycott, ultimately choosing to play, however, they turned their warmup shirts inside out so as not to show the logo.

The Warriors debated boycotting, too. And looking back, Stephen Curry wishes his team had boycotted Game 5, he told Matt Sullivan of Rolling Stone.

Curry privately discussed a unified player response with the Clippers star Chris Paul, twice, because Curry and his teammates wanted to walk off the court after the jump ball. But the Warriors ultimately deferred to their opponents’ protest of choice — the Clippers wore warmup shirts with the logo inside out, then discarded them at center court — and to the league commissioner’s lifetime ban of Sterling.

“One of my biggest regrets is not boycotting the game,” Curry told me. “That was a moment to leverage beyond anything we probably could have said.”

It was not an easy decision for the Clippers players (who came close to boycotting), this was a 57-win Clippers team considered a title contender. The Clippers players wanted to take the court for each other, but not for Sterling. For Curry and the Warriors, it was logical to defer to the wishes of CP3, Blake Griffin and the rest of the Los Angeles team, even if they wanted to do more. Adam Silver banned Sterling for life, fined him $2.5 million, plus took the first steps toward forcing a team sale, which the players saw as the league taking action, influencing their decision to play. Ultimately — with the help of a Machiavellian move by Sterling’s wife, Shelly — the NBA forced the sale of the team to Steve Ballmer. Nobody should think of Sterling as a loser out of this fiasco, he bought the Clippers for $12.5 million and sold them for $2 billion.

Maybe the players could have done more at the moment, a boycott would have sent a stronger message of their disgust and given them leverage. But, at the time, there were no easy decisions. Ultimately the Clippers went on to beat the Warriors in seven games that series, but the Sterling debacle had taken the steam out of their playoff run and they fell to the Thunder in the next round.

Curry has the clarity of hindsight now, but at the time everything was chaotic and there were no easy decisions. The players’ protest at the time was heard, and ultimately Sterling was on his way out, but we’ll never know how much the message of a boycott would have resonated.

Poole, Herro, Brogdon early betting favorites for Sixth Man of the Year

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Sixth Man of the Year is one of the most challenging awards to predict preseason for one simple reason: The players often best in this role get bumped up to starter (sometimes to cover an injury, sometimes to get more minutes).

That is the case with some familiar names at the top of this year’s preseason Sixth Man of the Year odds. For example, the reigning award winner, Tyler Herro out of Miami, wants to start this season and may well get a chance.

NBC’s partner at Points Bet has its preseason odds out for the 2023 Sixth Man of the Year award and there are a lot of familiar names at the top of the list with Herro. Here are the top 12:

Jordan Poole (Warriors) +400
Tyler Herro (Heat) +650
Malcolm Brogdon (Celtics) +1000
Bones Hyland (Nuggets) +1400
Jordan Clarkson (Jazz) +1800
Spencer Dinwiddie (Mavericks) +2000
Norman Powell (Clippers) +2000
Brandon Clarke (Grizzlies) +2200
Anfernee Simons (Trail Blazers) +2500
Kevin Love (Cavaliers) +2500
Immanuel Quickley (Knicks) +2500
Bogdan Bogdanovic (Hawks) +2500

A few quick thoughts on that list:

• Poole deserves to be the favorite. He very well could take home the award.

• Jordan Clarkson has won Sixth Man of the Year before and is always a good bet to be in the mix as a volume scorer off the bench, but his chances to win will depend on where he gets traded. He may be the next Jazz veteran on the move.

• As noted above, Herro wants to start and likely will get the chance in Miami.

• Kevin Love finished second in the voting last season, and his team is about to be in a much bigger spotlight and win a lot more games. He has accepted his role and is a real threat to win this award.

• Bones Hyland is a sneaky good call if he can make a leap in his second season. He certainly is going to get the opportunity.

• Norman Powell might be my pick, leading a good Clippers bench on a team that will win a lot of games, but how many games will he start this season? It could be a lot of Paul George and Kawhi Leonard can’t stay healthy.

John Wall opens up about last two-and-a-half years: ‘Darkest place I ever been in’

Los Angeles Clippers v Houston Rockets
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While it’s wise to be skeptical of all summer workout reports, there is optimism around the return of John Wall with the Clippers this season. Marc Stein wrote on Sunday a source told him Wall “looked sharp in offseason workouts and appears poised to be a contributor for the Clippers.” Others have echoed those sentiments, including Paul George.

It’s a bounce back from a very dark place for Wall, who has played 40 games over three seasons due to injuries, COVID, and the Rockets sending him home. But what was public was only a fraction of what Wall had to deal with the past 30 months. Wall opened up about all of it, including suicidal thoughts and seeing a therapist, when speaking at a garden dedication for his mom at Salvation Army of Wake County in North Carolina, where he grew up.

Wall on the past two-and-a-half years:

“Darkest place I ever been in. I mean, at one point in time I thought about committing suicide. I mean to tear my Achilles, my mom being sick, my mom passing, my grandma passed a year later, all this in the midst of COVID at the same time. Me going to the chemotherapy, me seeing my mom take her last breath, wearing the same clothes for three days take laying on the couch beside her…

“If I can get through this I can get through anything in life… For me to be back on top of where I want to be and see the fans still want me to play, support from my hometown — their support period means a lot.

“I had to go find a therapist, You know, a lot of people think ‘I don’t need help. I can get through it at any time.’ But you got to be true to yourself and find out what’s best for you and I did.”

Good on Wall for talking about this. It matters.

Wall is the latest NBA player to be honest and step forward, following the lead of DeMar DeRozan and Kevin Love in looking to take the stigma off of seeking help and seeing a therapist.

Wall missed the 2019-20 season while he recovered from his torn Achilles, he played 40 games the next season in Houston, but sat out all of last season, increasingly getting frustrated that the Rockets did not play him or trade him. Wall wisely opted into his $47 million for this season, was bought out by the Rockets (after no trade emerged), and quickly signed with the Clippers. He will split time at the point in Los Angeles with Reggie Jackson.

Keeping Wall healthy will be the key for Los Angeles, he hasn’t played more than half a season since 2016-17 — but when he has played, he’s been solid to good. The explosive burst may not be the same, but there is more craft in Wall’s game than he sometimes gets credit for, and the Clippers with Tyronn Lue could bring it out of him. Wall is on a team with a chance to win a ring; that legacy should be added motivation.

But after the past 30 months, just getting on the court is motivation enough.