The Clippers continue to put together an impressive roster, getting free-agent forward Grant Hill to agree Tuesday to join the team, according to NBA executives who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
He will be the backup small forward behind starter Caron Butler.
Hill, who will be 40 in October when training camp opens, has had a productive 17-year career despite ankle injuries that almost derailed it.
He averaged 10.2 points on 44.6% shooting last season with the Phoenix Suns, 3.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 28.1 minutes.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The NBA’s deans of discipline handed down a most appropriate fine for Metta World Peace‘s elbow to James Harden‘s head that caused a concussion and 48 hours of on unnecessary pain and suffering for the game of basketball.
Lakers fans might not feel that way, but if they remove those purple-and-gold-colored glasses for just a minute, they’ll realize that justice was served in this instance.
Unlike some hardliners, we saw no reason for World Peace to suffer through a 10-game suspension or the lifetime ban some were calling for (yes, we’ve read all of your comments and emails on the subject). That would have been excessive, even for a player with as checkered a past as World Peace.
It’s clear the league took into account all of the good deedshe’s done and the way, up until Sunday at least, he’s conducted himself within the lines the past few seasons. NBA Commissioner David Stern could have dropped the hammer on World Peace this time and met with little resistance in the court of public opinion outside of Lakerland.
Unlike World Peace, someone took the time to consider all of the options instead of just reacting in the heat of the moment. Instead of listening to the tide of discontent surrounding this latest act and using his extensive history of running afoul of the league’s code of conduct for all players, someone at the league office decided not to make an example of World Peace when they so easily could have.
Seven games might seem harsh to some, but in this day and age of bounties in the NFL and the like, seven games seems more than appropriate. And the Lakers’ acceptance of the penalty (and their continued support of World Peace) would indicate that they recognize as much and ready to try to move on from this incident.
And to his credit, World Peace did the classy thing and apologized to the Thunder and their fans for what happened on his website. Despite suggestions to the contrary, he is fully aware of what went down and seems genuinely contrite for allowing his emotions to get the best of him yet again. We’re not here to condemn the man for that. In fact, we applaud him for recognizing that and handling himself the right way now.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – This whole Battle-for-L.A. thing is infinitely much tougher to make happen when no one wants to own up to it being a real rivalry.
The Los Angeles Lakers have treated this rivalry talk like the plague since it started, when Chris Paul joined Blake Griffin and the Clippers at the start of this season. And now the Clippers are dismissing any notion of their being a rivalry with their Staples Center co-tenants.
That makes it extremely difficult to drum up some good ol’ fashioned bad blood between these two in advance of tonight’s matchup (10:30 p.m. ET on ESPN). It’s nearly impossible when they say things like this (courtesy of our main man Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times):
“Honestly, I don’t think it is one (a rivalry),” center DeAndre Jordan said. “But I’m not worried about any other team. I don’t care about them. I respect them as a team and as players. Once we step in between that line, I could care less about any accomplishments they have.”
“It’s not really a rivalry,” Griffin said. “It’s a game between two teams that play in the same city, play in the same building. It’s just another game.”
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – It’s about time someone closed the door, stopped focusing on all of this “Lob City” stuff and lit into the Los Angeles Clippers.
Someone had to do it.
You lose 11 of 18 games since Chauncey Billups went down for the season with that Achilles injury and it’s obvious to us that someone has to step up and say something.
Enter Clippers coach Vinny Del Negro, the man who will no doubt shoulder the largest amount of blame if things go awry down the stretch of this season, and his postgame tirade (of sorts) after last night’s humbling at the hands of the Oklahoma City Thunder. You could hear him through the walls, according to Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times:
The Clippers coach used words like “approach,” “compete” and “defense” in his emphatic message after the Clippers dropped a 114-91 game to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Wednesday night at Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“I’m big into how you approach games and how you compete,” Del Negro said. “We have to get the mentality of we have to play a certain way to win right now.
“And it has to be through our defense because we lack certain things. In order for us to score enough points to take pressure off of us, we have to be able to guard better.
“But our overall approach and everything to the game has to be better. That’s what is disappointing to me. We have to do a better job of being in the moment from the get-go and not waiting to get into the game.”
Del Negro got his first technical foul of the season.
The Clippers gave up more than 100 points for the second straight game in their three-games-in-three-nights trip that finishes in New Orleans on Thursday.
Del Negro probably had a receptive crowd in that locker room.
Chris Paul, Blake Griffin and the crew know that they are at a crossroads. They realize they can finish one way … or the other. And they have to know that the city they hoped to take by storm is currently being reclaimed by that “other” team that calls the Staples Center home.
You either get this fixed — and now — or risk becoming another footnote in an abbreviated season filled with teams that had the look of a contender (just ask the folks in Portland if you’re unclear on what we mean) before reality ruined the party.
The Rockets, Bulls and Celtics have all had conversations with the Lakers about Gasol, who was still unsure of his status after the Lakers’ win in New Orleans Wednesday night:
Before Gasol headed to the team bus, he thanked a handful of reporters, shaking their hands in the locker room … just in case.
“One way or another, time’s going to tell,” he said after scoring 18 points and taking 10 rebounds.
Gasol is not expected to be traded Thursday despite talks with Boston, Chicago and Houston in recent weeks. “I might wake up after the deadline,” Gasol said, alluding to the fatigue he felt from a chaotic few months.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The doors are open. The players are back in gyms around the NBA. And so too are the rumors that make this time of year unlike any other on the calendar, even if it is a few months late.
Outside of the trade deadline, there is no better time to soak in the sort of drama we’re experiencing in these days leading up to the union being reformed, the new collective bargaining agreement being finalized and the start of training camp and free agency. All we need is a big top and a ringmaster to conduct the ceremony of this player or that player being sent here or there. This is the circus that is the NBA unleashed from its 149-day lockout.
Chris Broussard and Marc Stein of ESPN.com: In a surprise development on the first day that NBA teams and agents could start talking about new contracts, Tyson Chandler came away convinced that his time with the Dallas Mavericks is coming to an end. ”I really think I’m going to be on a new team come training camp,” Chandler told ESPN.com in a telephone interview Wednesday night. “I’m really taking a hard look at all of my options, trying to see what best suits me.” Chandler’s doubts about the Mavericks’ willingness to re-sign him to a lucrative long-term deal are bound to be welcome news for the teams already courting him in these early stages of free agency. Chandler and Denver center Nene rank as the two most coveted unrestricted free agents in the 2011 class, but the overwhelming sentiment in many front offices has been that Chandler’s return to Dallas was essentially a lock after the 7-footer’s role in helping the Mavericks win their first championship. Chandler, though, insisted Wednesday that such assumptions are a misnomer and admitted for the first time that he’s disappointed by the club’s decision not to offer him a contract extension after he was widely credited — most notably by Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki – for changing the team’s defensive culture after three first-round exits in the previous four years.
TEAMS IN HOT PURSUIT OF NENE
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: The Nuggets, New Jersey Nets, Golden State Warriors, Houston Rockets, Indiana Pacers, Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers were among the teams that reached out to Nene’s representatives Wednesday, the first day teams were allowed to contact agents to discuss potential deals. Once the offers arrive, it could take more than $13 million annually to sign Nene. While the market is still developing for him and the rest of a thin free-agent class, he’s clearly the focus for every team with cap space and the need for an inside presence. The Nuggets are pressed to keep him, and would likely have to pay significantly more than would’ve been necessary if they had worked a deal with him prior to his opting out this summer. The Nets could be the major threat for Nene because of their combination of salary-cap space and desire to surround point guard Deron Williams with as much talent as possible to convince him to sign an extension. Privately, Williams has made it clear that he’s far less inclined to re-sign a long-term deal with the Nets if they don’t immediately improve their roster. New Jersey can also gather assets and still stay in position to make trade offers to the Orlando Magic for Dwight Howard.
METTA WORLD PEACE AN AMNESTY CANDIDATE?
Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Times: Achieving world peace comes with a hefty price tag. The Lakers might feel the same way about another form of World Peace, this one the goofy 6-foot-7 Lakers forward who flexes his biceps, makes the Staples Center crowd gasp every time he shoots and goes by the first name Metta. The Times’Mike Bresnahan has reported that the Lakers might waive the player formerly known as Ron Artest via the league’s amnesty clause. Such a move could move somewhat risky considering that Artest’s defense remains strong and waiving World Peace would make it necessary for the Lakers acquire a defensive stalwart to replace him. But the thought process makes sense for basketball and monetary reasons. World Peace averaged a career-low 8.5 points last season and appears, at 32, to be on the decline in maintaining the lateral movement and quickness that have made him a top defender. By shedding World Peace’s three-year, $21.5-million contract, Bresnahan estimated that the Lakers could save as much as $27 millon in salary and taxes in 2013-14 under the new rules, should the Lakers remain between $10 million and $15 million over the tax threshold. That would prove more beneficial than even cutting forward Luke Walton (two years, $11.46 million). That’s why it’s important World Peace understands and embraces the need to temper his antics, ranging from his Twitter rants to his on-court goofiness and his name himself.
Despite Kobe Bryant’s silence, people close to both sides say Coach Mike Brown has won over his new star in two face-to-face meetings.
Their first was May 31 at Bryant’s home in Newport Beach, on Brown’s way to his news conference in downtown Los Angeles . . . more or less.
Apparently, the meeting went well. The second was 10 days later at the El Segundo practice facility, where they went through plays on the court.
A good working relationship between Brown and Bryant is the only way the Lakers will survive their first season of the second post-Phil Jackson era. Brown is one of the best in the business at relationship-building with players, so he was going to win Bryant over sooner or later anyway.
LOS ANGELES – I knew Kobe Bryant and the Los Angeles Lakers would be the talk of this town all weekend, but now it’s for all the wrong reasons.
A small group of us stood in the doorway of a downtown hotel sports bar to watch the final seconds of the Lakers’ stunning loss in Cleveland Wednesday night wondering if this was the final dagger for a team that’s taking a beating from all directions for their recent struggles.
“It’s a good thing it’s All-Star Weekend,” one hotel employee muttered as the crowd dispersed, “because these guys [Lakers] need the break.”
They are in need of something. And perhaps something more than what a few days of rest can provide. There have been some disturbing signs for Phil Jackson‘s crew through the pre-All-Star run, including this latest skid (three straight losses and a .500 mark in their last 10 games).
Instead of celebrating the weekend with the league’s ultimate star-driven showcase, there will be plenty of debate here about whether or not the Lakers are capable of defending their title for a third straight year as presently constituted. The Feb. 24 trade deadline is starting to look more and more like a drop dead date for the Lakers, who limped off the floor in Cleveland last night with a much uglier shiner than the 55-point beating they administered on the Cavs last month.
Rumblings that they might not be able to fend off challenges from the Spurs and Mavericks in the Western Conference and from either the Celtics or Heat in the NBA Finals are growing louder by the second.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — Isiah Thomas was right when he said LeBron James needed to embrace his inner villain and let the venom of others fuel him in this, the second act of his NBA career.
We haven’t had more fun watching than we did Sunday, when he soaked up the hate from the Trail Blazers fans and unleashed it back on them in the form of a season-high 44 points, 13 rebounds and six assists in a gritty 107-100 Heat win.
Remember when James was in Cleveland, having fun and taking snapshots before games with his teammates and dancing and leaving us all to wonder how wicked he might be if he played with a chip on his shoulder instead of with a smile on his face all the time?
Well, now we know.
James didn’t go it alone. The other members of Miami 3:16 — or LeWosh, as our main man and NBA.com colleague Art Garcia likes to refer to them — were in on the fun, too. They combined for all but 11 of the Heat’s points in the game, making us wonder if the Heat could have won this game playing four on five (ridiculous, right, but think about it for a second) … of course, not.
Whether you are a Heat hater or supporter, you have to admit they are fun to watch. They’ve rattled off nine straight wins and 13 straight on the road (they snapped the Trail Blazers’ eight-game home winning streak Sunday). They haven’t lost to anyone other than Dallas (twice) since Thanksgiving and here we are creeping up on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Desperate times call for desperate measures.
And prior to Sunday’s game at the Rose Garden, the Portland Trail Blazers and Los Angeles Clippers were the living, breathing, jump-shooting and dunking embodiment of desperate.
The Blazers were trying to snap a six-game losing streak. The Clippers were trying to win on the road for the first time this season. The result was a fantastic wrestling match with some pretty good basketball mixed in for good measure.
Seriously, though, both of these teams will continue to fight to save their seasons. They have to, with so much drama swirling around their respective camps.