Posts Tagged ‘JJ Redick’

Buyout Business: Where They Fit Best




VIDEO: Caron Butler lights it up off the bench for the Bucks, where will he do it next?

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Last week’s NBA trade deadline was just Phase 1 of the late-season player grab for contenders looking to upgrade in certain areas and give themselves a push in the right direction with the playoffs on the horizon.

Phase 2 is the buyout market, when teams lock up veteran help at an area of need when teams start purging their rosters of players that were moved last week or veterans on lottery-bound teams in search of work with a contender. And that means we switch our focus from superstars who were rumored to be traded (yes, you Rajon Rondo and Pau Gasol) to those players who were actually moved or probably should have been (guys like Danny Granger and Caron Butler, headliners in the buyout market).

Now it’s just a matter of matching the right player with the right team …

DANNY GRANGER TO THE … LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS

The Pacers didn’t have any use for Granger with a younger and much cheaper option available in Evan Turner, but plenty of other teams are interested in adding him to their mix for the remainder of the season and playoffs. He reportedly spoke, via phone, with five different teams Thursday, per Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports. Granger explored the possibilities with the Clippers, San Antonio Spurs, Miami Heat, Houston Rockets and Chicago Bulls. A free agent-to-be this summer, Granger knows that the work he does between now and June, should it last that long, is as a temp. He’ll have time to find the long-term fit in the summer, which takes some of the pressure off right now.

ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelbourne has more on why Granger picked the Clippers:

Former All-Star forward Danny Granger has decided to sign with the Los Angeles Clippers, according to a source with knowledge of the situation.

The San Antonio Spurs, Houston Rockets, Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks all made a run at Granger, but ultimately he chose the Clippers late Thursday night because they offered him the best opportunity to play meaningful minutes for a contender.

Granger hopes to play Saturday when the Clippers host the Pelicans, a source said.

By signing with the Clippers, he will become the second veteran player coach and senior vice president of player personnel Doc Rivers has recruited to the team in a week. Last week Rivers outrecruited several other teams to sign forward Glen Davis, after he was bought out by the Orlando Magic. Davis played for Rivers in Boston, where they won the 2008 NBA championship and lost in the 2010 Finals.

The Clippers traded Byron Mullens and Antawn Jamison last week to create roster spots to pursue players such as Granger and Davis, who were likely to be bought out. They also backed out of late trade discussions with the New York Knicks for injured swingman Iman Shumpert and guard Raymond Felton. Both decisions look prescient a week later.

The unique thing for Granger is he’s going to get work with the Clippers the same way he would have gotten it with the Pacers, off the bench as a veteran scorer-for-hire. Granger coming off of that Clippers’ bench alongside Jamal Crawford and others is a dangerous proposition for the opposition. And if J.J. Redick‘s injury issues linger, Granger could always work as a starter alongside Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, giving Rivers a boost no one saw for the Clippers before Granger was sent to Philadelphia at the final hour of last week’s trade deadline.

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CARON BUTLER TO THE … OKLAHOMA CITY THUNDER

The race for Butler’s services has turned into a battle between two teams that could very well end up battling for the ultimate prize this season. The Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, are the leaders for Butler. They both have a need for a quality veteran to help work on the perimeter. Butler’s career began in Miami and he has institutional knowledge of how to operate in the Heat’s system. He could slide right into the mix with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and crew and fit in well. But the chance for more meaningful minutes might actually come with the Thunder, where Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook could use another wise vet with a championship ring (Butler won his with Dallas) to help with some of the heavy lifting.

Butler was not on the active roster when the Mavericks won that title in 2011 (and the Mavericks went through both the Thunder and Heat to snag the Larry O’Brien trophy that year). Butler would bring some balance to the Thunder’s attack and his ability to defend on the perimeter would also take some pressure off of Durant, depending on the matchup, in critical situations. He’s a good fit in both place but needed more in Oklahoma City.

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VIDEO: Jimmer Fredette works his magic against the Knicks

JIMMER FREDETTE TO THE … CHICAGO BULLS

The rumblings of a Fredette move to the Bulls started early Thursday, courtesy of a report from ESPN’s Marc Stein. It would be an odd marriage considering the Bulls’ defensive-minded focus and Fredette’s allergy to anything defensive during his time with the Sacramento Kings. But if Fredette wants to continue his playing career in the NBA and not abroad, proving himself as a contributor and key component for a rugged playoff outfit coached by Tom Thibodeau would do wonders for his cause.

The Bulls need the scoring help, particularly on the perimeter and from a shooter with Jimmer’s range. And he’ll get a chance to learn the fine art of true team defense playing for a coach and a team, led by All-Star center and defensive backbone Joakim Noah, that could very well save the No. 10 pick from the 2011 Draft.

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METTA WORLD PEACE TO THE … SAN ANTONIO SPURS

World Peace has nine NBA lives. Who’d have thunk it a decade ago when his career was hanging in the balance? This is admittedly more of a guilty pleasure exercise for us than it is a necessity for the Spurs, but the potential World Peace and Gregg Popovich chemistry experiment is one that would keep social scientists up at night trying to figure out how it works. Metta proved during his run with the Lakers that he was capable of folding himself into the fabric of a championship outfit. He could do it again with the Spurs and Pop, who has made an art form of integrating veteran role players into the right spot in the rotation.

Seemingly every contender on both sides of the conference divide need help at the three, so Metta could see the interest in his services pick up when Granger and Butler make their decisions. He’s not necessarily a great fit in Miami or with the Clippers, but he’d be an intriguing fit with Tim Duncan, Tony Parker, Manu Ginobili and the Spurs.


VIDEO: Danny Granger shows that he still has some bounce left in those legs

Lob City … Alive And Kicking?




HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Blake Griffin said Lob City was dead.

He lied.

And that might actually be a good thing for the Los Angeles Clippers.

That obituary highlighted here and elsewhere at the start of training camp was a tad bit premature. The Clippers remain a highlight show waiting to happen under Doc Rivers, courtesy of Griffin and plays like this one (sorry Rudy Gobert). I’m not complaining, mind you. I loved everything about the Clippers’ Lob City routine. When you are a team in the midst of the transformation the Clippers are in right now, a clear-cut identity is a good thing to get a handle on.

And when you possess the parts the Clippers do — Griffin, a masterful architect in Chris Paul, a fellow high-flyer in big man DeAndre Jordan and others — playing to those strengths, at least offensively, makes perfect sense.

The Clippers have the personnel to run several different styles. Versatile talents like Jamal Crawford, Jared Dudley, J.J. Redick (who made his preseason debut in Wednesday night’s win over the Utah Jazz), Matt Barnes, Ryan HollinsByron Mullens, Darren Collison and others give Rivers an assortment of player to choose from on any given night.

Continuing the Lob City movement would be no problem, if that’s what Rivers wanted to do. Rivers, of course, has already made it clear he has something else in mind. He wants to upgrade the toughness of this crew and make sure they are don’t fall into the trap of thinking highlight plays will deliver them deep into the playoffs.

It’s going to take more than a month to teach, preach and truly embed his philosophy into the collective psyche of this bunch.

But Paul is the ideal leader to spearhead Rivers’ effort. He bought in immediately, before free agency began in July. So Rivers has already solidified the initial bond with the principles needed to run whatever system he needs. Griffin and Jordan are his biggest projects and, according to Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com, they’re all in as well:

“Actions speak louder than words. You can say this or that, but then you get out there and it doesn’t really happen,” Griffin said when asked why he has responded to Rivers’ approach so quickly. “I think that’s the biggest reason. He says it, and then you see it in action.”

As the senior vice president of basketball operations, Rivers has the power to trade any of his players. That’s something of a double-edged sword for a coach. That power isn’t always a good thing. But in Rivers’ case, so far at least, it has helped his relationships with the two players who are crucial to the Clippers’ championship aspirations.

From the jump, he looked both in the eye and said he believed in them.

“As soon as [Rivers] got here he told me, ‘We’re going to do it here with you,’ ” Jordan said. “He looked me in my eyes and I knew he was telling the truth.

“I respected that on a different level once he told me that up front.”

It was exactly what he needed to hear after two seasons of feeling insecure about his place in the organization’s plans, and a summer of reading his name in trade rumors.

“This summer, I just felt like he had to be here for us to be what we want to be,” Rivers said. “And he’s done it. He’s really played terrific basketball. His defense has been unbelievable.

“You guys can’t hear his talk, but I can. His talk on the floor has been terrific. I didn’t know DeAndre so I didn’t know if he could or would do that. But he’s been just off the charts.”

All of that precious Ubuntu-esque chatter can’t obscure the obvious. The Clippers, at least through the preseason, are still relying on the same things they did before Rivers arrived. Lob City is alive and kicking.

Chances are the Clippers will need to lean on that familiar mode of operation at times throughout this season, even as they pledge to continue digging that early grave for Lob City!

Clippers Wise To Challenge Lakers Now





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – What do you do when the bully is wounded, down on a knee and struggling to gain his equilibrium?

You pound on him. You take every shot you can to keep him down, to gain whatever measure of satisfaction you can. It’s the law of the jungle, as they say, the way it’s done in the cutthroat world of professional sports.

That’s why the Los Angeles Clippers are wise to strike their Staples Center hallway neighbors now. The Los Angeles Lakers are in a holding pattern with Kobe Bryant fighting his way back from a devastating injury, Dwight Howard gone and guys like Nick Young and Robert Sacre joining Steve Nash and Pau Gasol.

The Clippers had the upper hand last season, when Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and the rest of Clipper Darrell‘s favorite team won the Pacific Division. They served as the most exciting team in the Southland — though the Lakers still won the headlines battle because they generated the most drama in SoCal this side of the Kardashians.

Adding front office ace/coach Doc Rivers, sharpshooter J.J. Redick, utility man extraordinaire Jared Dudley and others bolstered the Clippers’ situation over the summer. Rivers helped make sure Paul’s free-agent frenzy ended before it got started, and that led us to this point:

The Clippers covered up the Lakers’ championship banners and retired jersey numbers at Staples during a preseason game Friday night, a move initiated by Rivers. And that dials up the energy in the battle for Los Angeles to new levels:

“He can do that?” Young said after Lakers practice Sunday, the team’s first since returning from China. “For real? That’s disrespectful. We got to talk to Doc. He can’t have that. We got to do something about that.”

The Clippers revealed their Staples Center redecoration during a preseason game Friday, as they plastered giant posters of players Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, DeAndre Jordan, Jamal CrawfordMatt Barnes, Jared Dudley and J.J. Redick over the Lakers’ 16 championship banners and 10 retired uniforms.

“That’s a lot of pull y’all are giving Doc,” Young said, somewhat facetiously. “I think he shouldn’t come in and have so much pull like that. He’s got to earn his keep.”

I’m not saying what the Clippers did is right or wrong, but it is certainly understandable when you are battling for the hearts and minds of millions of Angelenos. The Clippers don’t have decades of credibility to lean on in this fight. They have a sliver of an opening to exploit while the Lakers are in flux. They have to go for the jugular.

Bypassing the Marquess of Queensberry Rules for the UFC playbook makes perfect sense. If you can’t win a fair fight (the Clippers are down 16-0 in the titles category and decades behind in the credibility department), it’s time for the by-any-means-necessary approach.

Rivers knows what he’s doing. He understands what it takes. He’s been a part of the only franchise that can rival the Lakers in terms of all-time success. He has a keen insight on how this works.

He knows that maintaining that elite level is just as pressure-packed a situation as trying to get to that level.  So while covering up a few banners and retired jerseys might seem like a stunt to some, it’s much more calculated than that from this perspective. The Clippers are firing shots at the Lakers. They smell blood. They are on the attack.

We’ll find out if they have what it takes to follow through on all of this or if the Lakers have what it takes to fend them off. Either way, fans of both franchises, in Southern California and around the world, will be the biggest winners. Because this sort of contempt only cranks up the level of competition. Just the way it should be.


Childress Eager For Another Shot In NBA



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Josh Childress has no regrets.

And he’s not looking for a payday or anyone’s pity. Let’s clear all of that up now, before we get into the meat of his story, a comeback one of sorts, in need of an appropriate ending.

His only desire is to finish what he started nearly a decade ago, when he was the sixth pick in the 2004 NBA Draft and began what was supposed to be a long and promising NBA career with the Atlanta Hawks.

No, contrary to the rumors circulating in the basketball universe, he is not ready to retire. Far from it. He has not lost an ounce of the desire that he had the day he first set foot in the league. He is simply a veteran player whose career has taken enough twists and turns the last five years you’d need motion sickness medicine to survive it.

“It’s been a ride, a wild ride,” said Childress, who is three weeks away from finishing up his degree at Stanford while training vigorously in Palo Alto, Calif., and contemplating his next basketball move. “It’s not about the money for me. It’s about having an opportunity to get back out there and play the game at the highest level. That’s what is important to me.”

Childress is a free agent this summer, just another seasoned veteran looking for the right training-camp fit, the right place to show that he can still play a vital role for the right team in a mutually beneficial situation.

He’s just a month past his 30th birthday and is as healthy as ever, as athletic as ever, his basketball IQ remains off the charts and his body is fresh. After all, he’s played just 1,485 minutes in 102 games over the past three seasons with the Phoenix Suns and Brooklyn Nets. But he’s operating in a realm where the prevailing wisdom of the day changes like the wind. What’s hot today is ancient history tomorrow. Fall off the NBA radar long enough and you’ll fade into obscurity.

“I feel like I’m the best I’ve ever been right now,” Childress said. “When I was with the Hawks it was a little different. I’d been there four years and really grown in that system. We all knew each other and knew each other’s tendencies. And I don’t think I’ve changed as a player since then. For a guy like me, it’s always been a matter of the right fit. My time in Phoenix … it just wasn’t the fit i thought it would be and they thought it would be. That’s not a good or a bad thing, it’s the way it is. You look around the league every year and guys are in situations that work and some that don’t, and a change of scenery changes everything.”

One choice alters career path

Childress made a drastic change in scenery five years ago, a move that altered the course of his career and carved out his place in NBA free-agent lore. He is far removed from that spotlight now, but five years ago he was in a much different space. He was dealing with the constraints of restricted free agency and a Hawks franchise that was in tumult as members of its ownership group were embroiled in a legal fight that overshadowed everything.

Childress’ unprecedented move to bolt for Greece and a groundbreaking contract with Euroleague power, Olympiacos, landed him a deal that would pay him the equivalent of $32.5 millions over three years. That deal dwarfed the five-year, $33 million the Hawks offered only after learning that the deal from Olympiacos was on the table and legitimate option for Childress.

He accepted Olympiacos’ offer — one that he could not refuse — and made a business decision no matter how controversial it might have seemed at the time. That decision, along with the five-year, $34 million deal he signed when the Hawks traded him to the Suns after he returned from his two-year stint in Greece, is one of the reasons his comeback story now isn’t about getting another lucrative pay-day.



That’s also what makes his current predicament so perplexing. In a league where money and championships serve as the ultimate motivators, in different order for different players at different times in their careers, Childress is someone decision-makers have had a hard time figuring out.

“We honestly haven’t seen enough of him the last couple of years to know what he’s got [left] and what’s driving him now,” an Eastern Conference executive said. “There’s no doubt he was a solid payer before he went to Europe. He was one of the best sixth-men in the league and on a team that was on the rise. I watched him a little bit when he was in Europe and he played well. He didn’t dominate necessarily, but he was solid. But since he came back [to the NBA] it’s been a mixed bag. The Suns were a mess when he was there and they ended up amnestying him. And he only played like 14 or 15 games with the Nets before they waived him. This is a what-have-you-done-for-me-lately business, man. Everyone knows that.”

Childress was the victim of an ill fit, some poor timing and plain bad luck in his last two NBA stops.

Stats revolution affects Childress’ future

A broken ring finger on his shooting hand slowed him down in his first season with the Suns. He came back sooner than he probably should have, given his desire to prove himself after playing in Europe, and was in a system where wings were spot-up shooters and not the jacks-of-all-trades player Childress thrives at being.

He was on a non-guaranteed deal in Brooklyn was playing lights out in the preseason before a severely sprained ankle knocked him out of the rotation and opened the door for veteran Jerry Stackhouse, who promptly went on a shooting tear. Childress was slated to serve as Gerald Wallace‘s backup, but never got the chance. When it became clear that he wasn’t going to be in the Nets’ plans, he requested and was granted his release.

In the larger scope, Childress has also become a casualty of the analytics revolution that has swept through the league the past five years. High-percentage jump shooters who stretch the floor have become the new utility players who cash in most during free agency (see Kyle Korver and J.J. Redick this summer).

There’s always room for a pro’s pro on someone’s roster, a guy who does all of the dirty work and accepts that role. But now that guy needs to be a dead-eye shooter, too. And while Childress is a career 33 percent 3-point shooter (52 percent from the floor overall), he’ll never be confused for one of these shooting specialists.

But he knows there is always a place for the skills he has honed over the course of his career. He just needs the right setting to show it … again.

“You know it’s really training camp, just being able to show what I can do on the court,” he said. “You get on the court in that situation and do the little things I’ve always tried to do; hustling and rebounding, and all the stuff that helps my team win. More than anything, what I’d love is to get into a situation where I’m with somebody who actually believes in me and what I can bring to a team. I can’t say that I’ve had that lately.”

Fighting for one last chance

Between dispelling foolish rumors and having to remind executives that he was drafted ahead of guys like Andre Iguodala, Luol Deng and even his friend and former Hawks teammate, Josh Smith, for reason, this summer has been a trying process for Childress’ camp.

“Without question it’s frustrating,” said his agent, Chris Emens. “It’s frustrating that so many of the experts … it’s funny how quickly things change. Josh hasn’t changed as a person or a player since he got back from Greece. It’s almost mind-boggling to see him go from a guy worth $6 million a year to fighting for a contract. The thing I love is that Josh wants to fight for it. It’s really not about the money for him. It’s about pride and proving people wrong. I’ve never seen him with chip on his shoulder like this.”

That chip will rest squarely on that shoulder until training camp, wherever that might be. But it’ll be a slow-burn for the always measured Childress. He’s had offers to play elsewhere, overseas. Ironically enough, Olympiacos pursued him again, though it wasn’t an offer he couldn’t refuse this time.

He’s focused strictly on the NBA this time around in free agency.

“I’m patient,” Childress said. “I realize the situation that I’m in. I’ve had offers to go elsewhere. But I feel like I am a NBA player and I can still play at a high level. It’s a mater of getting in a situation where I can do that.”


Neal, Bucks Agree To Two-Year Deal





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – It took a little while, but Gary Neal has finally found a comfortable landing spot. The former San Antonio Spurs’ sharpshooter agreed to a two-year deal with the Milwaukee Bucks worth a reported $3.25 million per season, according to the Journal Sentinel.

With their point guard situation still in flux, they extended a qualifying offer to Brandon Jennings making him a restricted free agent this summer, Neal gives bucks coach Larry Drew another seasoned offensive weapon to work with at shooting guard. The Bucks added O.J. Mayo earlier this summer. They also presented restricted free agent point guard Jeff Teague with a four-year, $32 million offer sheet that the Hawks matched.

Neal’s most recent and perhaps best career highlights came last month in The Finals, during the epic seven-game series between the Spurs and Miami Heat. He scored a playoff career-high 24 points in a Game 3 blowout of the Heat, nailing six 3-pointers in that contest as he and Danny Green combined for 51 of the Spurs’ 113 points.

Neal, 28, averaged 9.7 points and shot 40 percent from beyond the 3-point line in three seasons with the Spurs.

The Bucks, who lost J.J. Redick (to the Los Angeles Clippers) and Mike Dunleavy (to the Chicago Bulls) in free agency, were in need of a someone who could provide an offensive spark off of the bench. Neal is the sort of fearless, big-game performer Bucks general manager John Hammond was looking for.

There is still business for the Bucks to tend to, of course. They have to figure out what to do, if anything, with Jennings. As it stands, he’s set to return to his starting point guard spot for the 2013-14 season. He would then become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, 2014.


Clippers’ Jordan Relishing USA Basketball Summer, Fresh Start In L.A.



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LAS VEGAS – DeAndre Jordan didn’t waste his time with the trade rumors that kicked off his summer. He had more important things on his mind, work to do and progress to make no matter what name was on the front of his jersey.

Jordan is still the Los Angeles Clippers’ center. He never made it to Boston, where he was rumored to be heading in a deal that would have included Kevin Garnett, had it ever come to fruition.

This week, there are just three letters splattered across his chest: U-S-A. And Jordan couldn’t be happier with his current assignment, as one of several standout young big men in USA Basketball’s minicamp for the Men’s Senior National Team, or the one that awaits back in Los Angeles with the Clippers and new coach Doc Rivers.

Rivers has already stated that he’s going to raise the bar of expectations for both Jordan and All-Star forward Blake Griffin in every facet imaginable, and that’s something Jordan said he’s looking forward to in his sixth NBA season.

“Once I talked to Doc, I knew what kind of season we were going to have because Doc is definitely a player’s coach,” Jordan said. “He definitely gives you that confidence. I talked to him on the phone for about 15 or 20 minutes that first time and I hung up and I was confident. I was like, ‘yeah, we’re going to win it.’ He’s such a great motivator. I can’t wait to get to work with him.”

The more intriguing prospect is for Rivers, who will be working again with a young and rugged big man still in the early stages of his career the way Kendrick Perkins was in Boston when Rivers took over there. But Jordan is off-the-charts athletically and has the potential to be a defensive menace and a rebounding machine under the tutelage of a coach like Rivers.

He’s drawn the praise of many observers here, including U.S. coach Mike Krzyzewski, for his energy and nonstop motor. While no one is playing for an actual spot on a team that will compete this summer, the big man action has been fast and furious in each and every drill and scrimmage.

It’s exactly what Jordan said he needed, this minicamp that feels a lot like a boot camp, an environment that will push him to the max.

“When you are working at home, and no disrespect to them, but guys who are in college or playing overseas or whatever,” Jordan said. “But being here with USA Basketball, this is straight NBA guys or guys you know you’ll see in the league down the road, top of the line, the best young guys in the league and competition everyday. Me playing against DeMarcus CousinsAnthony DavisAndre DrummondDerrick FavorsTyler ZellerGreg Monroe and Larry Sanders is something I can’t get at home.”

The feeling is mutual.

“He’s absolutely right,” Favors said. “This is the ultimate environment for a big man or any young player. You get a chance to go against the best of the best. You don’t get a second to rest out here. You back off for a moment and somebody is pushing you out of the way. We’re all pushing each other.”

The pushing and shoving will continue for Jordan the minute he leaves here. The work doesn’t end when you’re bent on redeeming yourself for being knocked out of the playoffs in the first round the way the Clippers were against the Memphis Grizzlies.

“We’re solid on paper, but we have to build that chemistry up,” Jordan said. “We’ve got most of our regulars back but we’ve added J.J. [Redick], Jared Dudley and guys like that, just signed B.J. Mullens. We have to get that chemistry and come together a little bit. We’ve just got to get to work.”

As for his own development, Jordan has improved steadily. He had his best year yet last season, averaging a career-high 8.8 ppg, 7.2 rpg and 1.4 bpg in just 24.5 mpg.

That won’t cut it next season, not with Rivers and Chris Paul demanding more and more from the frontcourt tandem of Griffin and Jordan.

“I feel like my progression has been, well, steady. I don’t think I’m going up and down or taking any steps back,” he said. “It might not be as fast as some people want it to be. But as long as i feel like I’m getting better and my teammates feel like I’m getting better and taking the right steps, I’m happy with where I am and the work I’m doing to get to that next level.”

Clippers Enjoying The Power Of Doc!



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – For anyone who didn’t understand before just how important coach Doc Rivers was and is to the Los Angeles Clippers’ championship blueprint, it should be clear by now.

Chris Paul needed just hours to make his commitment to the organization and the five-year, $107 million contract they offered their prized free agent. The next day, the Clippers send Paul’s backup, Eric Bledsoe, and Caron Butler to Phoenix for a valuable floor-spacer in J.J. Redick and one of the best utility men in the league (Jared Dudley) in a three-team deal that, no offense to ex-coach Vinny Del Negro, simply does not happen without the Clippers’ new senior vice president of basketball operations (Rivers) in place.

Some 72 hours and counting into the free-agent summer of 2013,  it is clear that the Clippers are thriving off of and enjoying the power and influence that a coach the caliber of Rivers brings.

It’s a cosmic energy that the Clippers’ Staples Center roommates know well. The Los Angeles Lakers thrived off of Phil Jackson‘s aura for years. The right coach with the right roster at just the right time can equal great things.

Rivers has yet to blow his first whistle with his squad, yet they’re already sold on him. They know what he did in Boston: getting solid players to perform above their pay grade and helping turn great players without hardware into champions.

“Doc is damn good,” a Clippers vet said via text late Tuesday night. “You know what he does with elite talent. And he’ll have plenty of that in our locker room. He gets everyone to buy in.”

That sort of track record resonates in a locker room full of veterans who want to experience those same things.

The 2013-14 season will be the ultimate testament to the influence Rivers can have and the proof won’t be just in Los Angeles. We’ll be able to observe the happenings in Brooklyn, where Rivers-faves Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce have moved on to in attempt to rekindle the championship glow they found in 2008 with the Celtics. And it will be seen in Boston, where Rivers’ departure instigated Danny Ainge‘s decimation of the outfit that was a force in the Eastern Conference and the league for the past six seasons.

Rivers will be in charge of a Clippers team that could legitimately contend for the top spot in the Western Conference for the first time in franchise history.

The Nets have a chance to do the same, but do have a few hurdles (rookie coach Jason Kidd and whatever transition time he needs to get comfortable calling the shots from the bench, sorting out a pecking order in a locker room filled with big personalities, who is the first, second and third option, etc.) to clear before we know exactly what type of team they are going to be.

The Celtics don’t even have a replacement for Rivers yet, so it’s extremely difficult to get a handle on exactly what type of team they will unveil opening night. But, rest assured, the rebuilt Celtics won’t look anything like the juggernaut they were under Rivers the last six seasons.

No one is disputing that talent rules the day in the NBA. It always has and always will.

But I’ll say it again: the right coach with the right roster at just the right time can lead to great things. And the Clippers could be on the verge of living that reality now that Rivers is running their show.

Jennings’ Funny Math No Laughing Matter





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – His demeanor has shifted. The smile is gone.

The gravity of what Brandon Jennings and his Milwaukee Bucks are facing, down 3-0 to the defending champion Miami Heat in their first-round playoff series, seems to have set in for the brash young point guard.

That funny math he used to predict the “Bucks in six” has crumbled over the past eight quarters of this series. It’s no longer a laughing matter, not when your season and potentially your career in Milwaukee is potentially coming to an end.

Jennings has vowed to play until the final buzzer in Sunday’s Game 4, hoping to stave off elimination for at least one more games. But it’s hard to ignore the fact that this series is every bit the mismatch most of us thought it would be on paper. And it’s even tougher to avoid the obvious question that will linger between now and free agency for Jennings and the Bucks. Do they stick together after four extremely productive years for Jennings, a restricted free agent at season’s end?

He’s helped the Bucks to the playoffs twice, his rookie season and this one, and he’s shown his many critics that his decision to bypass college for a one-season detour in Italy did nothing to damage his NBA stock. But in a league filled with as diverse and talented a group of point guards as its potentially ever had, where exactly does a player like Jennings fit?

“Great question,” an Eastern Conference general manager said. “His rookie season I felt like he was going to join that group of elite point guards, especially after what he did to the [Atlanta] Hawks during the playoffs. He showed off playmaking skills and scored at will in the postseason, doing things you don’t normally expect from a rookie. And he’s been solid ever since. But I don’t know that he’s moved into that tip tier of point guards. He’s not there, not yet.”

Jennings has averaged an impressive 17.0 points, 5.7 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.5 steals in 291 career regular season games. Considered more of a scorer than a facilitator, Jennings has proven himself capable of handling both responsibilities for the Bucks. Still, there is some uncertainty about his desire to stick around in Milwaukee during what could be a complete rebuilding situation this summer.

His backcourt mate Monta Ellis can opt out and become an unrestricted free agent this summer. And Samuel Dalembert, Mike Dunleavy, Marquis Daniels, J.J. Redick and Joel Pryzbilla will all be unrestricted free agents this summer.

The Halloween deadline for Jennings and the Bucks to agree on an extension of his rookie contract passed without either side admitting that they were even close to getting something done.

That’s one reason why this series against the Heat is such a showcase event for Jennings. It’s his final platform before free agency to remind the league that he’s a player a franchise can build around. The upset guarantee and his 26-point effort in Game 1 was the ideal buzz and result for Jennings early on.

But he’s managed just 24 points in the two games since the opener, shooting 8-for-30 from the floor and 1-for-14 from beyond the 3-point line. The Heat have stymied the Bucks’ offense late in all three games, eliminating the pick-and-roll as an option for Jennings and Ellis when the game is one the line.

“One of the problems we have with that is our size in the backcourt,” Bucks coach Jim Boylan said. “We’re not a big team. So when they are out there trapping and staying with the ballhandler like that, they are putting a lot of pressure on you, first of all. Secondly, they have good size. It’s easy for me stand up in the huddle and say ‘we’ve got to make a quick pass, we’ve got to move that ball and take advantage of them double teaming.’ But sometimes it’s hard to do. They are flooding the strong side and cutting off passing angles and it makes it difficult to find the right man, the open man, with a pass. It’s usually a cross court pass and those are always dangerous because of their speed and activity.”

This is one of the premier defensive teams in the league we’re talking about in the Heat, who boast quality perimeter defenders in not only LeBron James and Dwyane Wade, but also Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole and Ray Allen.

Chalmers and Cole have taken a particular interest in limiting Jennings, both of them no doubt smarting from the brash attitude and words Jennings has been sure to share with the world.

“They are really getting physical,” Boylan said. “It’s playoff basketball. So there is a lot more contact than in the regular season. And anytime we use any sort of pick-and-rolls, they are double-teaming him and putting pressure on him. That combination is difficult. And they are focused in on both [Jennings] and Monta. They did what they needed to do, be physical, be big and cut off those angles for finding people.”

At 23, Jennings is probably done growing. So there is nothing he can do about that size disadvantage and the fact that the Heat are executing flawlessly in wearing him down. But he has at least 48 minutes left to prove that his skill set can best whatever advantage the opposition brings to the show.

That Bucks in six stuff is obviously history.

Whether or not Jennings’ time with the Bucks is, however, … well, only time will tell.

Magic Need To Wake From Dwightmare?



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Closure.

That’s what is on tap for Orlando Magic fans tonight when Dwight Howard makes his return to the building built upon his broad shoulders, the one that was supposed to house the city’s biggest and brightest star.

A win over the Los Angeles Lakers would sweeten the deal, anything the Magic can do to damage the Lakers’ playoff chances serves that purpose. And a lousy game by Howard might also add to the feel-good nature of the evening for those Magic fans still wounded by Howard’s departure last summer via a blockbuster trade.

But after it’s all over, when the booing is finished and the Lakers are in the air and headed to Atlanta for a Wednesday night matchup against the Hawks, the Magic and the entire city of Orlando needs to close the door on this Dwightmare drama for good. It’s time to wake up from this mess and finally move on.

That’s an extremely tall order, what with Howard’s refusal to stop sticking his size 18s in his mouth at seemingly every turn. Howard, however, is someone else’s Dwightmare now. The Lakers have to sweat out this summer wondering what he’ll do, whether he’s willing to stick around or chase his fortunes elsewhere (the Brooklyn whispers remain).

Magic fans will get a fresh start after tonight, and a well-deserved one. They can thank their front office for only having to see Howard once this year anyway. The decision to trade him to the Lakers and not somewhere else in the Eastern Conference prevented us all from having to go through this exhausting exercise on more than one occasion.,

That said, tonight’s meeting between the Magic and Lakers (7 ET, League Pass) promises to offer up one of the more bizarre scenes of the season, which is saying a mouthful, given the traveling circus the Lakers have been all season long.

Howard’s recent comments about his time in Orlando and his words about his former teammates (that he insists were misconstrued) will have to be addressed again … and in the flesh. There’s no Stan Van Gundy around to serve as the punching bag/foil for Howard, as he did during that infamous hallways scene after a shootaround practice last season.

One-time Howard ally Jameer Nelson will be in the other locker room. The eyes and ears of former Magic players like J.J. Redick, Rashard Lewis and even Vince Carter will no doubt be tuned into whatever is said.

Nelson swears there are no hard feelings, as he told Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

“What’s said is said, and what happened is over and done with,” Nelson said. “I’m just here trying to look forward and not trying to dwell on the past. The decision was made and things happen, so it’s not like anybody could take them back or anything like that. And me personally, I’m not mad at him for doing what he did. I don’t know. Could things have been done differently? Yeah. But they weren’t. So, me as a person, I just have to move on and try to continue to be successful and do the things I need to do to help the team get back in the position we used to be in.”

Last week, Howard said he had reached out to former teammates after some of them, including Nelson and Rashard Lewis and J.J. Redick, took issue with a comment Howard made to a Los Angeles television station about his old Magic teams.

Howard said the statement was misconstrued and twisted by the media — that he was attempting to say that the Magic were always considered underdogs.

Nelson was asked whether he and Howard have conversed recently.

“No,” Nelson said.

There was silence before Nelson spoke again.

“Have me and Rashard conversed? Yes.”

To his credit, Howard has tried his best to apologize to everyone from his former teammates to the arena workers for how he handled himself during his season-long departure, which started with a trade request he refused to own up to during training camp. Howard was candid in a sit down interview with USA Today‘s Sam Amick, explaining his side of things as best he could:

“In Orlando, I handled a lot of stuff the wrong way,” he said. “If any of those people in Orlando are upset with how I did it, I apologize for the way I handled it and the way it was handled in the media.

“I really just got caught up in wanting to please everybody else. I really love that city. That was the hardest thing to do was to leave that city because I basically grew up there. That was my whole life. Orlando was it. I did not want to leave all that behind — the city, just everything about it. The fans. But I wanted a change for my life. I just felt like there was something else out there for me.”

That something else, for now, is trying to rebound from the Lakers’ disastrous start to this season and assist Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash in delivering his new team to the playoffs.

Howard would be wise to focus on that tonight and not the hate shower he’ll get from the crowd tonight in Orlando. Because it should get nasty.

But when it’s over, win or lose, the Magic need to wake up from their Dwightmare and just move on.

In fact, it’s time for everyone to just move on!

Workplace Tension In Orlando

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Frictions isn’t always a bad thing.

Sometimes just the right amount of tension in the workplace brings out the best in everyone.

With Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy tinkering with his rotations, there was bound to be some healthy friction between the free-speaking coach and his players.

Ryan Anderson didn’t like being passed up in the rotation by Brandon Bass and Mickael Pietrus doesn’t like the way he’s being used, either, hence the shouting match and benching that occurred Wednesday night.

But with Van Gundy committed to tinkering, in anticipation of the playoffs, Magic players will have to live with whatever Van Gundy decides to do (as Stan Van explained to my main man Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel):

“It’s going to be a tough thing for a few of our guys. The good part is we have a flexibility to play different situations, but to do that, somebody has to pay every night. I guess, as we go along, we’ll see who can handle it and produce. I don’t mind if they are pissed off with me, but I don’t want it translating to their teammates. I need them to stay together as a group.”

As B. Schmitz pointed out, this is the second straight year that Van Gundy’s rotation tinkering has caused friction. Last season Bass and J.J. Redick bristled at the way they were being used.

The fact is, players complain about the way they are used all the time. It’s as common as tattoos and baggy shorts in the NBA. The key is making sure that the friction helps the cause as opposed to hurting the team’s overall performance.

Pietrus seems to understand as much:

“I’m a very competitive guy. What I miss the most is being out there,” he said. “It’s not playing time; it’s getting back that adrenalin that I need. It’s hard for me not to have that.

“It’s why I’m so frustrated. … I respect Stan. Of course. He’s like part of my family.”

Family or not, do you think this tension is good for the Magic?

Let’s go to the polls: