Posts Tagged ‘LA Clippers’

MVP Ladder: A Little Love For Blake!



VIDEO: The Clippers’ Blake Griffin is one just four players in the league averaging 20 and 10 this season

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — A grand total of four players, just four, can boast of averaging 21 or more points and 10 or more rebounds a night this season in the NBA. The Los Angeles Clippers’ Blake Griffin is one of them, along with Kevin Love, DeMarcus Cousins and LaMarcus Aldridge.

Three of the four are firmly entrenched on the KIA Race to the MVP Ladder this week, Griffin joins the party this week at No. 8, and some folks would argue that Cousins should be included in that mix as well (if he keeps up his current level of play he might gain entry in the coming weeks).

Griffin’s ascent this season, however, has come with the added pleasure of watching one of the league’s true highlight players add some substance to all of that style. This is a tougher, feistier and much more rugged version of the dunk machine we’ve all watched the past few years.

“It’s really cool to be on his team these two years and watch the growth he’s made,” Clippers guard Jamal Crawford told the Los Angeles Daily News. Griffin will only continue to get better under the tutelage of Clippers coach Doc Rivers, whose ability to get the best out of his players is well-known.

Griffin’s task is even more complicated right now with fellow captain, All-Star and MVP candidate Chris Paul sidelined for six weeks with a separated shoulder. But Griffin seems more than up to the task, having increased his production (16 assists in the three games Paul has been out) in certain areas while maintaining his steady flow everywhere else.

And the best part, he hasn’t had to sacrifice his penchant for making highlights — as Kris Humphries can attest — in the meantime.

Dive in here for more on Griffin and a shake up involving Kevin Durant and LeBron James at the top of this week’s KIA Race To The MVP Ladder!

Biggest Threats To The Heat’s Three-Peat



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Now that we know what the Miami Heat’s regular-season yellow brick road to a three-peat looks like, it’s time to take a look at the teams capable of derailing those dreams.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and the boys are supremely confident in their ability to defend their title for a second straight season, as they should be. But it’s not going to be as easy as just believing and doing. The rest of the contenders around the league have fortified their ranks, retooled their rosters and crafted their own plans to knock the Heat off of their pedestal.

The San Antonio Spurs had their chance in The Finals and couldn’t get it done. I’m not sure they’ll find their way back into that mix if everyone stays healthy in Oklahoma City and Los Angeles, Clippers not Lakers. (And before you go throwing stones remember this, for all that the Spurs have accomplished during the Tim Duncan-Gregg Popovich championship era they have never made back-to-back trips to The Finals.) The real threat to the Heat’s three-peat, though, could come from an Eastern Conference challenger, who’d have their shots long before The Finals.

You remember what the Indiana Pacers did to the Heat in the Eastern Conference finals, right?

A closer look at the biggest threats to the Heat’s Three-Peat dreams …

Indiana Pacers

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That seven-game showcase we saw between the Heat and Pacers during the Eastern Conference finals was legitimate. The Pacers attacked the Heat’s one glaring weakness (size and depth inside) and tore at it until the final buzzer of that series. There’s a reason the Heat pursued a big body like Greg Oden in free agency. They need someone to help them fend off the likes of Roy Hibbert and David West, whose physicality in and around the rim was more than the Heat could handle. The star turn from Paul George during that series makes the potential for a third straight Heat-Pacers playoff series even more interesting. Toss in the return of Danny Granger and no team in the league is better positioned to challenge the Heat. The talent, experience, size, motivation and coaching are all in place for the Pacers to strike down the giants of the league. Coach Frank Vogel exited the playoff stage with a strange confidence about him, like he knew something about his team the rest of us didn’t. I see it now.

Oklahoma City Thunder

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No offense to the Spurs, who were fantastic in their playoff run last season and 30 seconds away from snatching the Heat’s crown during  Game 6 of The Finals, but the Thunder remain the cream of the Western Conference crop. Russell Westbrook‘s knee injury devastated this team and opened the door for the Memphis Grizzlies and Spurs to battle it out for the Western Conference crown. Don’t bet on the Thunder falling down like that again. Kevin Durant won’t allow it. And Westbrook will certainly return with a vengeance. The Thunder know now just how fragile elite status can be. The wrong injury at the wrong time can spell disaster. Westbrook’s injury did have one silver lining for the Thunder, it allowed a youngster like Reggie Jackson to test himself in the spotlight. It also allowed Durant and Thunder coach Scott Brooks to take stock of exactly who would be ready to go when adversity hit. Serge Ibaka and Kendrick Perkins have to know that redeeming themselves for their postseason failure is a must.

Chicago Bulls

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Grinding through an entire season without the face of the franchise, Derrick Rose, only reinforced my belief the toughest pound-for-pound team in basketball (coach Tom Thibodeau included) resides in Chicago. Rose pushes the Bulls right back into the league’s true elite as a true threat to the Heat, much like Westbrook does for the Thunder. The Bulls also have a big man presence in Joakim Noah that could give the Heat all sorts of problems in a playoff series. The continued maturation of Jimmy Butler is also a reason to believe that the Bulls are ready to resume their position atop the Eastern Conference regular season standings. But if we’ve learned anything the past three years, regular-season accomplishments are one thing, testing your mettle in the glare of the postseason is an altogether different story. Winning a Game 7 on the road against Brooklyn and then trading punches with the Heat when they were clearly overmatched showed me the Bulls with Rose, Luol Deng and all of their other main components healthy are a very real threat to the Heat.

Los Angeles Clippers

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No team in basketball did more to upgrade its position over the course of the Draft and free agency than the Clippers. And it all starts with the acquisition of coach and senior vice president of basketball operations Doc Rivers, who packed his championship bag of tricks with him when he left Boston for Los Angeles. Superstar point guard Chris Paul will orchestrate things and All-Star power forward Blake Griffin will co-headline on what is arguably the deepest and most balanced roster in the league. The Clippers have a surplus of shooters (J.J. Redick, Jared Dudley, Jamal Crawford and more) who will help space the floor and push the tempo. They’ve also added enough specialists and junkyard dog types to play the relentless defensive style Rivers teams were known for in Boston. The one question about the Clippers that has to be answered early on is whether or not Girffin and DeAndre Jordan are ready to take that next step as a duo on both ends, a la Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol in Memphis. If they are, the Clippers will rise up the ranks immediately. If not, Rivers and CP3 will have to drag them along until they are ready. All of the other human resources needed, however, are already in place and ready to go.

Houston Rockets

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I know … you thought this final spot would be reserved for the Spurs. Wrong Texas power. Dwight Howard and James Harden as a 1-2 punch should worry the entire league, not just the Heat. Sure, it’s strictly based on the theory of how these two will play together. And yes, the Los Angeles Lakers tried a similar experiment with Howard and Kobe Bryant last season, only to see it go up in smoke before anyone got the fire going, but this is a new completely new season and scenario. The recent track record for Super Teams is pretty good. For every misfire like the Lakers there are examples (the Celtics and of course the Heat) of these sorts of risky, high-dollar gambles paying off in a major way. The Rockets have such a strong supporting cast and a quality head coach in Kevin McHale that will propel this team up the charts in the Western Conference playoff chase.  That said, the onus for the Rockets’ season and whatever title hopes they harbor in their initial season together rest on the shoulders of Howard and Harden. They’re not only going to have to lead this crew on the floor, they have to set the right leadership tone off the floor, particularly in the locker room, and make sure it’s on a championship course. If they get it all together by April 2014, the rest of the league better beware.

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.”

Paul’s MVP Signifies Something Greater for Clips

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HOUSTON – The moment was Chris Paul of the Los Angeles Clippers winning All-Star MVP on Sunday night, getting 20 points, 15 assists and four steals in the West’s 143-138 victory at Toyota Center and then getting eight of 12 votes for the top individual award.

In other news, the moment doesn’t matter.

It was fun and even a little historic, Paul becoming the first Clippers player since Randy Smith of the franchise’s Buffalo Braves era to grab an MVP at the midseason showcase. But the best sign about the Clippers at the break is that they have a chance to render an award from an exhibition game close to meaningless. They don’t need Paul beating out Kobe Bryant (two votes) and Kevin Durant (one each) for a credibility boost. The Clippers have the same Paul to thank for that, the way he moved an entire franchise forward just by signaling his intention to stay long term if management brought him in from New Orleans.

Paul is entirely a big-picture topic, down to how he has successfully muted any potential distraction over his free-agent future by strongly indicating at the start of the season he would re-sign in the summer 2013. He is leadership and superstar play.

And now there is this: On the same weekend he was winning MVP honors and Blake Griffin was putting together a dunk highlight reel en route to 19 points on 9-for-11 shooting, sources said the Clippers are not expected to make a deal before the Thursday trade deadline. Certainly not a major one, of the Kevin Garnett variety, as has been speculated.

That could obviously change – they fell into Nick Young at the 2012 deadline when the Nuggets and Wizards needed a third team to complete the Nene-JaVale McGee exchange. But every indication at the moment is that the Clippers are moving forward with who they have.

Their best player had already re-established himself as the premier point guard in the game, whether or not he played well Sunday. That Paul did adds another positive layer to the season, though, and there is never anything wrong with that around a franchise that for too many years had been dragging itself through the gloom. Having an All-Star MVP means something more to them.

“Pretty special, pretty special,” Paul said afterward. “It’s something I’ve never done. And it’s something that definitely coming into the game I wasn’t trying to achieve or thinking that it might even be possible. I told KD [Durant] early in the first quarter, I said, ‘Man, if they score anything, you run. I’ll get you the ball. You score. I want to be the one to give it to you.’ In games like this, it’s so up-tempo and fast-paced, a guy like me that’s a facilitator, I enjoy [it].”

It was a good moment, even if it didn’t matter. One of many that have come this season for Paul and the Clippers. Possibly, they hope, one that will be pushed to the background by what comes next.

Clippers Blooper Reel (Video)

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We’ve all grown used to seeing Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan on the Dunks of the Week list.

They’re not always in “Lob City” mode in Los Angeles, though.

The Clippers have a comedic side to them and some of them even think they can dance (we’re looking at you, Kenyon Martin). And as this LAC TV blooper reel shows, they can hold their own on that front as well:


Paul, Felton Thriving In New Locations

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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — We saw all of your complaining last week when we praised the Los Angeles Clippers for finally stepping up and trying to court the rabid hoops fan base that’s been sitting in their backyard for decades. We read all the digs Lakers fans delivered and processed each and every swipe.

But we’re also well aware of what goes on when a true superstar is added to the mix of an up and coming team and just how important it is to have the right quarterback in today’s NBA. That’s why we’re still watching the Clippers’ every move, and ignoring the venom.

Sunday’s Clippers-Trail Blazers game offered up the perfect case study on the importance of the right point guard for the right situation, as both Chris Paul of the Clippers and Raymond Felton of the Trail Blazers displayed their wares, and why the Clippers must be taken seriously with Paul at the helm.

Paul has the ability to take over games in ways that only a select few players in the league can. He was brilliant down the stretch against the Trail Blazers, executing on both ends of the floor as he and his crew handed the Trail Blazers’ their first loss of this season.

Helene Elliott of The Los Angeles Times nailed it with this postgame assessment of Paul’s impact:

Faced with losing a 17-point lead over Portland on Sunday in a game the Clippers considered a measuring stick of their progress after being spanked by San Antonio and Chicago, Paul simply took over and refused to let them lose.

He steadied his teammates’ nerves with his poise, elated them with his shotmaking and wowed them with his ability to win a crucial jump ball against a five-inches-taller Jamal Crawford with 4.3 seconds left.

If not for his leadership the Clippers would not have celebrated their first home victory this season, a gutsy 93-88 decision over the Trail Blazers that inspired the crowd to chant his name in tribute for what figures to be the first of many times.

“Great players can not only make shots but, more importantly, make plays,” Clippers Coach Vinny Del Negro said, “and Chris can do both. That’s what makes him special.”

Lost in the aftermath of Paul’s dazzling performance is the fact that Felton has provided the perfect match for Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan, who has run through a long list of point guards during his tenure. It’s one of the only criticism we have of McMillan, a longtime HT fave.

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