Clippers Rumors

Raptors Notes: Siakam, Roster, Taylor, Tampering

Several coaches and executives believe Raptors forward Pascal Siakam has a strong case for a maximum extension after his breakthrough season, writes Frank Urbina of HoopsHype. Siakam was fighting for playing time in his first two NBA campaigns, but he earned Most Improved Player honors for 2018/19 by posting a 16.9/6.9/3.1 line in 80 games.

“With Toronto in the situation that they’re in, no longer having Kawhi Leonard or Danny Green, Pascal Siakam may be a safe bet for them and they may want to give him a max extension to lock him up,” one Western Conference coach said. “I’ve been impressed with his development; he’s improved into a highly, highly serviceable player who’s very efficient and does a lot for that team. From the outside looking in, it seems like he’ll be able to continue his development too. He seems highly motivated and very grateful to be in the situation he’s in and he doesn’t take anything for granted.”

However, a couple of executives questioned whether Toronto should commit to a full max deal right now, saying it might be wiser to let him play out this season and negotiate with him as a restricted free agent next summer.

There’s more from Toronto:

  • Doug Smith of The Toronto Star takes a look at the battle for roster spots as training camp draws closer. With 12 players holding guaranteed contracts and three with Exhibit 10 deals, Smith expects the competition for the three open slots to be decided among Cameron Payne, Isaiah Taylor, Malcolm Miller, Chris Boucher and Dewan Hernandez.
  • The two-year contract that Taylor signed this week contains a $50K guarantee for the first season, but no protection beyond that, tweets Bobby Marks of ESPN. If he stays on the roster, Taylor will receive $1.62MM for this season and $1.76MM for 2020/21. Marks notes that it’s similar to the deal that Payne received, except it offers a $100K smaller guarantee.
  • Columnist Dave Feschuk of The Toronto Star calls the NBA’s newly adopted tougher stance on tampering more of a “nuisance” than a deterrent. He adds that little could be done to punish the Clippers for their aggressive recruitment of Leonard last season because the wealth of owner Steve Ballmer makes a $10MM fine insignificant, and most of the team’s upcoming draft picks already belong to Oklahoma City from the Paul George trade.

L.A. Notes: Kawhi, George, Cook, Dudley

Speaking on Friday to reporters, Clippers head coach Doc Rivers said that he doesn’t think Kawhi Leonard‘s “load management” plan for the 2019/20 season will be as strict as it was last year in Toronto, tweets Dan Woike of The Los Angeles Times.

After missing most of the 2017/18 season with a quad injury, Leonard didn’t play in any back-to-back sets during his first and only year as a Raptor. He also missed a handful of additional games due to minor ailments or for rest purposes, ultimately appearing in just 60 of the team’s 82 regular season games. Of course, he played all 24 postseason contests en route to a championship.

While the Clippers may plan on having Leonard play in more than 60 games this season as long as he remains healthy, Rivers acknowledged that he won’t be the only one involved in that decision. “That’ll be played out by smarter guys than me,” Rivers said, per Mirjam Swanson of The Orange County Register.

Here’s more on the NBA’s two Los Angeles teams:

  • As Swanson details in the article linked above, Rivers and Clippers president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank addressed a handful of other topics during today’s media session. Frank said Paul George has made “great progress” in his recovery from shoulder surgeries, but didn’t offer a specific timeline for his return.
  • Frank also suggested that the Clippers will be keeping a close eye during the first half of the season on areas that may need to be fortified at the trade deadline or on the buyout market. “We’re gonna learn a lot over the first two, two-and-a-half, three months of the season,” Frank said, according to Swanson. “You can look at a roster and say, ‘I think the holes are gonna be here or here,’ and you could be completely off. What Doc does, he puts guys in position to succeed and play to their strengths, so what may, on the board, look like, ‘Oh, we lack this position,’ well, maybe he’s gonna make those adjustments and (we) won’t.”
  • While Lakers head coach Frank Vogel is optimistic that his team can get off to a strong start this season, he admits in a conversation with Mike Trudell of Lakers.com that all the new pieces on the roster may need some time to jell. “It’d probably be irresponsible to think it’s all going to happen overnight, and that we’re going to start the season with great cohesiveness,” Vogel said. “There are going to be bumps in the road, there are nights where it might be ugly, and guys are getting to know each other on both ends of the floor.”
  • In a pair of articles for Lakers.com, Joey Ramirez examines what free agent signees Quinn Cook and Jared Dudley will bring to the Lakers in 2019/20. Ramirez singles out Cook’s ability to shoot from the outside, as well as Dudley’s veteran leadership and high-IQ play.

And-Ones: FIBA Ranks, Olympic Qualifiers, NBAGL

Despite their disappointing showing at the 2019 World Cup in China, USA Basketball has retained the No. 1 seed in FIBA’s international rankings, writes Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. World Cup champion Spain is at No. 2, followed by Australia, Argentina, and France.

FIBA’s rankings account for results from the last eight years, so the fact that Team USA won the 2014 World Cup and took home gold medals at the 2012 and 2016 Olympics keeps the program at the top of that list for now.

Meanwhile, FIBA also announced this week that the 24-team field is set for next summer’s Olympic qualifying tournaments. Eight of the 12 spots in the 2020 Olympics have already been claimed, but 24 countries will have a chance to compete for the final four spots. Brazil, Canada, Germany, Greece, Lithuania, Serbia, and Slovenia – all of whom should have NBA players on their rosters – are among the teams competing in those qualifiers.

Interestingly though, those Olympic qualifying tournaments are scheduled to take place between June 23-28, 2020, so it’s not clear whether members of next year’s free agent class will be willing to participate — suffering a major injury in those games would impact their earning potential a week later.

Here are a few more odds and ends from around the basketball world:

  • Ethan Strauss of The Athletic polled a dozen executives around the NBA about the 2019/20 outlook for the Warriors, Lakers, Clippers, and Rockets. The consensus? Those execs unanimously agreed that Golden State will make the playoffs, and believe that the Clippers are a better team than the Lakers. They’re also not convinced that the Rockets will be much better after swapping Chris Paul for Russell Westbrook.
  • The NBA announced this week that the annual NBA G League Winter Showcase will have a new tournament format this year. The event, which will take place in Las Vegas from December 19-22, will feature a $100K prize for the winning team. That prize will have to be split among all the team’s players, but it still represents a nice bonus, considering the NBAGL’s standard salary is $35K.
  • In an interesting piece for The Athletic, Danny Leroux explains how an over-the-cap, below-the-tax team that re-signs a player using Bird rights can essentially turn that player into a “walking trade exception” by overpaying him to some extent. Leroux points to Darius Miller of the Pelicans as one example. Miller probably wasn’t getting a $7.25MM salary from any team besides New Orleans, but that contract could be a useful salary-matching piece for David Griffin during the season, whereas a minimum deal wouldn’t have been.

Doc Rivers On How Clippers Landed Kawhi, George

The Clippers were one of the big winners of the 2019 offseason, landing the top free agent on the market in Kawhi Leonard and trading for MVP finalist Paul George in perhaps the most shocking deal of the summer.

While the Clippers can look back fondly now on a first week of July that culminated with the club reaching agreements to acquire both stars, head coach Doc Rivers admits to Arash Markazi of The Los Angeles Times that it wasn’t exactly a smooth ride at the time.

According to Rivers, on Friday, July 5 at noon, it looked like the Clippers wouldn’t be able to pry George away from the Thunder. Failing to complete that deal was expected to result in Leonard signing with the Lakers or returning to the Raptors, and Rivers was particularly dismayed at the idea of Kawhi joining the Lakers, telling Clippers owner Steve Ballmer that they couldn’t allow that to happen.

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

Less than 12 hours later, the deal with Oklahoma City was back on and the Clippers had secured a commitment from Leonard, shaking up the NBA world and putting Rivers in position to coach two of the game’s top players.

In his conversation with Markazi, Rivers offered a few more entertaining tidbits about the Clippers’ pursuit of Leonard and their trade for George. Here are a few of the highlights from the veteran head coach:

On the Clippers’ subtle, season-long recruitment of Leonard in 2018/19:

“I got a lot of credit, and so did [special consultant] Jerry West, but the guy that was the hero in all this was [president of basketball operations] Lawrence Frank. He did all the work. He had Steve Ballmer going to Raptors games and he went to some, too. We were warned that no more Clippers players, coaches or employees could go to games in Toronto. We were sending guys to go sit the stands.

“There was nothing wrong with what we were doing, but Steve Ballmer sitting courtside in Toronto seemed a little strange. But we didn’t say a word. We just wanted [Leonard] to know we were there and we were interested.”

On Leonard essentially giving the Clippers an ultimatum:

“He said, ‘I want to play for you,’ and he pointed at me. He said, ‘Mr. Ballmer, I love the things you do and what you stand for, but your team is not good enough and if you don’t change your team, I’m not coming.'”

On how Leonard zeroed in on Paul George as a potential teammate:

“We actually had a list of guys, which was a mistake, but we got lucky. We shouldn’t have had a list, because then he got to choose who he wanted to play with and the assumption was that we could get them. We didn’t know if we could get anybody. We just showed him guys that we thought would match him and when he saw Paul George’s name he said, ‘I want to play with him.’ We showed him everybody else and he didn’t want to hear it. He just stayed on Paul George, so after the meeting we sat down and I said, ‘We got to get Paul George. I don’t know how we are going to do it, but we have to do it.'”

On sending a massive haul of draft picks to the Thunder for George:

“Steve Ballmer was nervous about the picks. I said, ‘Steve, you keep saying six picks for Paul George is insane, but you’re saying it wrong. It’s not six for Paul; it’s six for Paul and Kawhi. So three for each. I would do that.’ You have to look at it in those terms.”

Examining What Other Newcomers Could Bring To Team

Pacific Notes: Ballmer, Ariza, Caruso, Howard

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer invested $100MM in the city of Inglewood, California this week, according to Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.com.

The investment was created as part of the city’s new arena development agreement, with the Clippers labeling it as the largest funding commitment for community programs related to a sports or entertainment venue in California.

“We’re close to a residential neighborhood and we are being very mindful,” Ballmer told ESPN in July about building a potential 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.”

Ballmer’s proposal for a new Clippers arena, according to Youngmisuk, would include a corporate headquarters, team training facility, sports medicine clinic and much more.

“I want it to be beautiful,” Ballmer said. “But I want it to be about basketball. I want it to be comfortable. But I want it to be about basketball.”

There’s more today out of the Pacific Division:

  • James Ham of NBC Sports Sacramento examines how Trevor Ariza could fit in a crowded Kings rotation this season. Ariza, a veteran 3-and-D forward, signed a two-year, $25MM deal to join the Kings in free agency this past summer.
  • Mike Trudell of Lakers.com discusses several Lakers-related items in his mailbag, including the possibility of Alex Caruso starting at point guard this season. Caruso was better than Rajon Rondo while playing alongside LeBron James last season, though head coach Frank Vogel also has the option of testing Quinn Cook at starting point guard in training camp.
  • Kevin Pelton of ESPN.com examines whether former All-Star Dwight Howard could help solve the Lakers‘ depth issues at the center position. Howard is expected to fill in the role that injured center DeMarcus Cousins was supposed to fill before tearing his ACL, likely playing back-up center behind JaVale McGee to start the season and controlling the team’s interior presence on defense.

Frank Vogel Ready To Coach LeBron, AD

Frank Vogel talks about the excitement of coaching LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the opportunity that Dwight Howard has to revive his career and the wide open Western Conference playoff race in a lengthy interview with Steve Aschburner of NBA.com.

Few coaches going into a new situation have ever faced as much pressure to win right away as Vogel will. The trade that brought Davis from New Orleans has pushed the Lakers into a favorite’s role, and the sense of urgency for James has grown after missing the playoffs last year.

Vogel is also entering a situation where he clearly wasn’t the first choice for the job. He was only hired after negotiations with Tyronn Lue collapsed, and he was asked to bring along former NBA coaches Jason Kidd and Lionel Hollins as assistants. Still, he’s eager for the chance to mentor what could be a historically great duo in James and Davis.

“Talent-wise, they’re the two best players I’ll ever have had the opportunity to coach,” Vogel said. “That brings a lot of fun, a lot of excitement to what we’re able to do on the court. It brings a lot of challenges too. You have to make sure you’re managing them the right way and putting them in the right positions to feel good about their roles and what’s happening around them. There are challenges involved with that. So I’m looking forward to how that all is going to play out.”

Vogel touches on several other subjects, including:

Howard’s return to L.A.:

“I think he’s excited about this opportunity with the Lakers. It’s very different from the first time he came through. Then, he was a mega-star coming in with two other mega-stars [Kobe Bryant, Steve Nash]. This time around, he’s had a few teams where they haven’t had great success. And he’s at a different point, age-wise, in his career. So he’s excited just to be part of something, in any way he can help. He knows it’s going to be more of a role player type of role.”

Whether Davis will see more time at power forward or center:

“To me, he’s effective in both positions. But I don’t think it’s wise when your mindset is to be at your best going into the playoffs, to have him banging with centers for 82 games full-time. Does that mean he’s never going to do it in the regular season? No, of course he’s going to play some center in the regular season. But we want to make sure we keep the end goal in sight and getting him to April, for that playoff run, the right way.”

The rivalry with the Clippers:

“They have a terrific team and a terrific coach, and their front office is doing really well. But we can’t focus on their location. We still have to focus on ourselves and the task at hand. Not just worry about what’s happening crosstown. There are a lot of teams capable of winning the West, so we’ll be focused on our process.”

Potential Iguodala Suitors Content To Wait Out Grizzlies?

News that the Grizzlies are currently uninterested in negotiating a buyout with Andre Iguodala is unlikely to push the veteran’s potential trade suitors into action, according to Sean Deveney of Heavy.com, who hears from league sources that those teams are more likely to “wait out” the Grizzlies.

As Deveney notes – and as has been previously reported – Memphis would like to get a first-round pick in exchange for Iguodala, but teams with interest in the former Warrior don’t believe it will ultimately take more than a second-rounder. Even that price may be too high for some interested teams, who are hoping Iguodala will eventually become available via buyout.

One league executive who spoke to Deveney suggested that an impasse at this point shouldn’t be a surprise.

“What the Grizzlies are doing, it is to be expected,” the exec said. “They’re looking at him as an asset and they want to get something in return for him. He’s under contract, so they hold all the cards. The worst he can do is not show up and it is not like Memphis is going to be playing for a playoff spot. Him not showing up wouldn’t help anything. But if you’re on the outside, those teams, they’re just waiting it out.”

The Clippers are viewed around the NBA as the most likely landing spot for Iguodala, per Deveney, but they don’t necessarily have a simple path to a trade, given all the draft picks they’ve traded away and their proximity to the tax line. The Rockets, Lakers, Nuggets, and Mavericks have been linked to Iguodala, but all face potential roadblocks on the trade market too.

According to Deveney, the Grizzlies’ ideal scenario would be to have Iguodala start the season on the roster to mentor the team’s young players, then trade him at some point before the deadline in exchange for a first-round pick — or at least a second-rounder or two. But it’s unclear how enthusiastic the 35-year-old would be about spending much of the 2019/20 season on a non-contending team.

“It is going to be a matter of whether the Grizzlies blink on this one or not,” the league executive told Deveney. “You have a guy who does not want to be there but has some value. He does not have a ton of value, though. He’s 35, 36 years old. So what do you do, hold him hostage? If you want him to be a guy to help your young players but he does not want to do that, does that really help your young players? Most teams figure they can wait (the Grizzlies) out on this.”

Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian took a Grizzlies-centric look at the Iguodala situation on Monday, writing that “one way or another” the former Finals MVP figures to be on a new team after the February trade deadline.

And-Ones: Lillard, Role Players, Seattle, Lawson

During a recent appearance on The Joe Budden Podcast (h/t to Dan Feldman of NBC Sports), Trail Blazers superstar point guard Damian Lillard, who recently signed a super-max extension to stay in Portland through 2025, explains his thoughts as to why more players don’t do the same.

“I think people walk away from it because of the media… the outside influence, people talking about their legacy… so (the players) say, ‘It’s not about the money. I want to win the championship. And I want to do this.”

“But I don’t think just because you decide to stay and not pass up on that money, that don’t mean you ain’t trying to win it. When you’re 42 years old and your career [is] over, and you ain’t won it, anyway, and you walked away from 60 million dollars more than what you got, they ain’t even going to be talking about you then. The joke is going to be on you.”

Lillard’s point is an interesting one, and it begs the question as to how many players eligible for a super-max turned it down for this reason. Even though he won a championship in Toronto, Kawhi Leonard almost certainly did not. But, it’s conceivable Anthony Davis felt pressure to leave the Pelicans because outside influences convinced him he couldn’t win a title in New Orleans and that outcome would be bad for his legacy.

We have more content from around the basketball world, below:

  • Quinn Davis of Basketball Insiders takes a look at three role players who could make an impact on a team with championship aspirations next season: Sixers forward James Ennis, Clippers forward Maurice Harkless, and Jazz big man Ed Davis.
  • Newly inducted Hall-of-Famer, big man Jack Sikma, said during his induction speech last night that it’s time for the NBA to return to Seattle, writes Anthony Olivieri of ESPN. “Speaking for all Sonics fans, it’s our great hope that the NBA will soon find a pathway to bring a franchise back to Seattle. It’s time.”
  • The Xinjang Flying Tigers of the Chinese Basketball Association are considering the signing of former NBA guard Ty Lawson because Ian Clark cannot report to the team yet due to an injury, per Emiliano Carchia of Sportando.

L.A. Notes: George, Leonard, Howard, Wade

The health of the Clippers‘ two new stars will determine how much success they’ll have this season, writes Jovan Buha of The Athletic. The more immediate concern involves Paul George, who is recovering from surgery in June to fix a small labrum tear in his left shoulder.

George will likely miss all of October, according to Buha, and whenever he returns he will need time to rediscover his shooting rhythm and blend his talents with his new teammates. Buha considers the Clippers to be just “fringe contenders” until George is 100% and warns that they may get off to a disappointing start.

The concern with Kawhi Leonard is load management, which is something the Raptors happily agreed to last season to keep him fresh for the playoffs. Leonard played just 60 regular season games last year, and his availability will play a large role in where the Clippers finish in the standings.

There’s more today from Los Angeles:

  • The addition of two elite players should mean a smaller role for Lou Williams, Boha suggests in the same story. He will still provide a spark off the bench, but won’t have the same control over the offense when George and Leonard are both active. Buha also states that Williams’ defensive liabilities could mean Landry Shamet or Patrick Beverley might take some of his late-game minutes.
  • Shane Rhodes of Basketball Insiders examines whether adding Dwight Howard to their roster is worth the risk for the Lakers. L.A. reached out to Howard after DeMarcus Cousins was lost with an ACL injury, but Rhodes notes that Howard’s track record since 2013 doesn’t inspire confidence. Because of the roster turnover in the past two seasons, Rhodes doubts that the Lakers have the locker room cohesion to handle any problems that Howard may cause.
  • Dwyane Wade isn’t actively planning a comeback, but he tells Arash Markazi of The Los Angeles Times that he’ll be working out with LeBron James at the Lakers‘ training facility and at Staples Center. James and Wade have been close friends since they entered the league, and their sons are now high school teammates. “You’re definitely going to see me out there,” Wade said. “I’ll be there early to work out with LeBron before the game starts. I just want to stay around it and be as involved as I can.”