The Los Angeles Clippers were the big winners of the NBA’s buyout season, adding two of the top players on the midseason free agent market in Danny Granger and Glen Davis. These are just the latest veterans that were drawn to Los Angeles this season, as the Clippers previously signed Hedo Turkoglu, Stephen Jackson and Sasha Vujacic earlier in the year (only Turkoglu remains on the roster).
The Clippers have become an attractive destination for free agents because the team is a star-studded contender with a top-tier head coach in a very large market. Granger and Davis – a former All-Star and an NBA champion – each received interest from a number of teams, but couldn’t turn down the chance to join the Clippers.
“You want to come here and play,” Davis told Clippers.com. “Because of the weather, the atmosphere, and what they’re trying to accomplish. But I’m playing for an NBA championship. I’m not here to do the Hollywood thing and be in movies and commercials. I don’t want that, I want another ring. That’s why I came here, that’s why I chose to come here. You don’t get any younger, you get older. And being my age, and being still in my prime, why not come here and play for something like that?”
“I’m very familiar with the way Doc [Rivers] coaches,” Granger told the team’s website. “And I think you always have a desire to play with a point guard the caliber of Chris Paul. And I think in the West it’s a really tight race out here and I just thought I would be able to help this team the most.”
The Clippers were already a very talented and deep team before they inked Granger and Davis to contracts. L.A. is currently 40-20, which puts them in the fourth seed in the Western Conference.
Now, they’re even more stacked and Rivers has countless lineups that he can tinker with going forward. Both players were bought out by Eastern Conference bottom feeders (Granger by the Philadelphia 76ers and Davis by the Orlando Magic) and now they’re excited to get a fresh start on a team that could make a deep postseason run.
“I’ve always made the playoffs in my career and not playing for something was crazy,” Davis said. “Being on this team is some fresh energy, knowing that you can help a team win a championship is important. It feels good.”
“It’s still kind of surreal honestly,” Granger said. “I’ve been in Indiana my whole career. I’ve always seen ‘Granger 33’ with Pacers on top of it. So, it’s going to be a change, but I’ll be happy. … [Their] offense isn’t very structured and when you have that freedom you can really thrive. The last time I played in an offense like that was probably three or four years ago where it’s up and down, you throw it ahead, you can attack the rim, you have lobs because you’re spacing the floor. When you have Blake [Griffin] and DeAndre Jordan you just throw it by the rim. It’s a really unique way to play and a lot of fun.”
Both players believe they have a unique skill set to offer the Clippers that will help the team in the long run.
“I think I bring another dynamic,” Granger said. “I’m a bigger small forward. I can play the four as well. And I can shoot the ball and when you add that to the type of offense that we have: up-tempo, shoot a lot of threes, go out and space the court. That’s the kind of offense that I think I would thrive in.”
“What Doc wants is for you to play hard and play the right way, give yourself up for the next guy,” Davis said. “That was embedded in my brain as a rookie and my four years playing with him. That’s just a part of my game. The think he noticed it and asked me to come along.”
The current Clippers are thrilled with the additions, because it’s clear that the team is bolstering the roster for a title run.
“It changes the team,” Griffin said of adding Granger and Davis. “But we [will] just try to do a good job of meshing them in and getting them in the mix as fast as possible.”
“I think at the end of the day with our team we understand that it’s all about winning games,” Paul said. “We’ve dealt with injuries and things like that. Depth, especially at this point in the season, is very crucial. When I was out, [Darren Collison] stepped into a starting role and was amazing. When I came back, we still kept that dialog. Out here it can’t be personal; it has to be all about winning games.”
The question is, how much can Granger and Davis help the Clippers?
Prior to being traded and bought out, Granger was averaging 8.3 points and 3.6 rebounds in 22.5 minutes with the Pacers. The veteran small forward was playing a reduced role as he bounced back from injury. While his 2013-14 numbers don’t jump off the page, it was just two years ago that Granger was Indiana’s leading scorer and one of the better small forwards in the game. While he won’t be asked to be a focal point in L.A., the 30-year-old should be able to produce off of the bench in spurts. There’s a reason why every contender in the league was pursuing Granger in recent days.
While Davis doesn’t quite have Granger’s name recognition or All-Star credentials, he could actually end up being the better pickup. Davis is in the prime of his career at 28 years old and he has played well this year, averaging 12.1 points and 6.3 rebounds prior to being bought out. He’s had a number of big games this season, including a 33-point game in early December and three 20-point games. And that was Davis “not playing for something,” as he said several paragraphs above. The last time he did have something to play for, in the Magic’s last postseason appearance in 2012, he averaged 19 points, 9.2 rebounds and 1.2 blocks versus the Pacers and was a big reason Orlando was able to steal a game despite playing without Dwight Howard. There’s no question that he can still play at a high level, and the fact that he’s comfortable with Rivers’ system and knows exactly what the coach wants from him off the bench should help him thrive. Davis played under Rivers for four years on the Boston Celtics, and the duo won a ring together in 2008. Davis is going to play a significant role for the Clippers, who traded Byron Mullens and Antawn Jamison at the deadline. That opened up minutes at the four and five, and Davis and Ryan Hollins are the only reserve big men on L.A.’s roster.
Before these additions, it seemed that the Clippers were poised to make some noise in the playoffs. Now, after adding Granger and Davis to an already talented squad, anything less than a deep postseason run will be considered a disappointment in L.A.
Colangelo Admits That Raptors Tanked
During a recent panel at the MIT Sloan Sports Analytics Conference, former Toronto Raptors general manager Bryan Colangelo admitted that he tried to tank down the stretch of the 2011-12 season. The Raptors finished 23-43 that season and landed the eighth overall pick in the draft, which was used to select Terrence Ross.
Colangelo said that he’s in favor of a proposal that would replace the draft lottery altogether, for a system that doesn’t create an incentive losing. One such proposal was a wheel that determines where teams will draft for the next 30 years.
“I like (the proposal) because there’s no assurances (of getting a good pick) when you do tank,” Colangelo said, according to USA TODAY Sports. “Admittedly, I will say, I tried to tank a couple years ago. And I didn’t ‘come out and say, ‘Coach (Dwane Casey), you’ve got to lose games.’ I never said that. I wanted to have him establish a winning tradition and a culture and all of that, but I wanted to do it in the framework of playing and developing young players, and with that comes losing. There’s just no way to avoid that, but I never once said, ‘You’ve got to lose this game.’
“Just one less loss (that season) would have put us in a coin toss for Damian Lillard potentially (he was taken sixth), and that was a need that we had on our team that year, a point guard need. So it would have kind of taken us on a whole different route in this rebuilding process, and of course if we had lost a lot more games we would have had better odds to get Anthony Davis, the big prize that year. We’re looking at it, and it didn’t work out. … There’s no assurances (in the lottery). I do like the certainty of the (proposed) process. I think there are some merits to obviously take it to the next extent, except I wish we could start it sooner because there really is some ugly basketball being played.”
It’s not a surprise that the Raptors tanked. What’s surprising is that Colangelo decided to admit it and talk openly about it. Executives usually keep that kind of things to themselves. You have to love Colangelo’s honesty.
NBA Daily: Jaylen Brown Set To Return For Celtics
The Celtics finally got some good news on Thursday. Jaylen Brown’s return is imminent.
Finally, some good news for the Boston Celtics.
Jaylen Brown is set to return to action.
Brown has been M.I.A. since sustaining a concussion during the team’s 117-109 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves back on March 8, but has traveled with the team to Portland and is expecting to return to the lineup on Sunday when the Celtics do battle with the Sacramento Kings.
As the Celts gear up for a playoff run, which they hope will result in them ending LeBron James’ reign atop the Eastern Conference, they’ve picked the wrong time to run into injury issues. Along with Brown, both Kyrie Irving and Marcus Smart have each been conspicuous by their absences, and the team could certainly use all of their pieces as they attempt to enter the postseason on a high note.
Fortunately for Boston, with the Toronto Raptors leading them by 4.5 games in the standings and the Celts ahead of the Cleveland Cavaliers by a comfortable six games, Brad Stevens’ team is enjoying the rare situation of having a playoff seed that appears to be somewhat locked in.
Still, with the team only able to go as far as its young rotation will carry it, Brown addressed the media on Thursday.
“I’m feeling a lot better. I’m just trying to hurry up and get back,” Brown said, as quoted by Celtics.com.
“I’m tired of not playing.”
Stevens is probably tired of him not playing, too.
As we head into the month of April, playoff-bound teams and conference contenders begin to think about playing into June, while the cellar-dwellers and pretenders begin to look toward the draft lottery and free agency.
What’s funny is that in the midst of the Raptors and their rise out East, the Celtics and their dominance has become a bit of a forgotten storyline. When Gordon Hayward went down on opening night, the neophytes from the Northeast were thought to be a decent team in the making whose ceiling probably wasn’t anywhere near that of the Cavs, the Raptors and perhaps even the Washington Wizards.
Yet through it all, with the impressive growth of Jaylen Brown, impressive rookie Jayson Tatum and the rise of Irving as a franchise’s lynchpin, the Celtics stormed out the games to the tune of a a 17-3 record. What made the strong start even more impressive was the fact that the team won 16 straight games after beginning the season 0-2.
Although they weren’t able to keep up that pace, they began the month of February having gone 37-15 and turned a great many into believers. With their spry legs, team-first playing style and capable leader in Irving, the Celtics, it was thought, were a true contender in the Eastern Conference — if not the favorite.
Since then, and after experiencing injuries to some of its key cogs, the team has gone just 11-8.
In the interim, it seems that many have forgotten about the team that tantalized the Eastern Conference in the early goings of the season.
Brown’s return, in one important respect, will signify a return to Boston’s prior self.
With Marcus Smart having recently undergone surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right thumb, he is expected to be out another five weeks or so, meaning that he’ll likely miss the beginning of the postseason.
As for Irving, although reports say that his ailing knee has no structural damage, everything the Celtics hope to accomplish begins and ends with him. FOX Sports 1’s Chris Broussard believes that it’s no slam dunk that Irving returns to action this season, but he’s in the minority. This team has simply come too far to not give themselves every opportunity to compete at the highest level, so long as doing so doesn’t jeopardize the long term health of any of the franchise’s cornerstones.
Make no mistake about it, the Celtics are far from a finished product. With their nucleus intact and flexibility preserved, they will have another offseason with which to tinker with their rotation pieces and plug away at building a champion.
But here and now, with what they’ve got, the Celtics are much closer than any of us thought they would be at this point.
And on Sunday, when Jaylen Brown rejoins his team in the lineup, to the delight of the Boston faithful, the Celtics will be that much closer.
Winslow and the Miami HEAT Are “Believing in Each Other”
Justise Winslow discusses the all-around team effort of the Miami HEAT with Basketball Insiders.
The days of LeBron James in Miami are over. Chris Bosh isn’t there anymore, either. No more Ray Allen or Shane Battier. Dwyane Wade is back, but he’s not “Flash” nowadays.
Actually, check the entire Miami HEAT roster; there’s no superstar. They have an All-Star in Goran Dragic, even if he was the third alternate. But during this most recent playoff push, the HEAT don’t have a worldwide household name to plaster all over billboards as a reason for their success.
With 10 games remaining until the playoffs, Miami doesn’t have a player averaging more than 33 minutes per game. Instead, they have 11 players who average at least 20 minutes a contest. Their approach is that of a deep rotation, and its led them to a 39-33 record and the 7th seed in the Eastern Conference. All while the rest of the league is star-driven.
One of those key cogs to the Miami machine is third-year wing, Justise Winslow. A former top-10 pick out of Duke, Winslow is enjoying most efficient season so far for the HEAT. To him, the fact that his squad isn’t littered with names like LeBron and Steph doesn’t make a difference.
“I think our team is extremely confident in each other,” Winslow said. “I think that’s a big thing is that we all believe in each other. We play to each other’s strengths, and most importantly we’re a defensive-minded team. We hang our hats on the defensive end, and that’s really what gets us going as a team.”
Winslow isn’t exaggerating. The HEAT is seventh in the NBA in defensive rating. Head coach Erik Spoelstra harps on the team’s defensive scheme and preparation. Without a go-to scorer capable of getting the team 30 any given night, Miami needs to do their job as a collective unit on the defensive end of the floor night in and night out.
“Each night the coaching staff preaching to us that we have enough, no matter who is in the lineup,” Winslow said. “So it’s just about going out there and executing and putting together a good game of 48-minute basketball. I think our belief in each other that we have enough to get the job done is key.”
In the current NBA landscape, a lot of the playoff contenders are centered around players with big resumes and bigger names. As a result, the HEAT get lost in the shuffle of the national conversation from time to time. Their culture of togetherness and slight from the media outside of their city could make for the perfect “chip on the shoulder” recipe. Or so you would think. Winslow doesn’t believe the chatter, or lack thereof, matters any to Miami.
“We don’t pay too much attention to that,” Winslow said. ‘We’re so focused, and locked in on our team, and each other, and trying to win each game. For us, it’s about having the respect of your peers, of the other team. I think every night no matter who we have or who’s healthy, I think teams know we’re going to be a tough, physical team. Guys in this league don’t want that, you don’t want to have to play against a Miami HEAT team that’s going to be physical, that’s going to get into your body, that’s going to make you play a hard, 48-minute basketball game.”
Because of the HEAT’s brand of basketball, an 82-game season can be grueling. For Winslow, keeping his body right throughout the grind is important to him. After dealing with a few injuries last season, and ultimately being shut down for the year last January to undergo right shoulder surgery for a torn labrum, Winslow was determined to make sure he kept his body in check throughout his comeback so he would be available for a long playoff run.
While his numbers aren’t flashy, Winslow is showing improvement. His 49.3 true shooting percentage is the highest of his career, along with shooting nearly 43 percent from beyond the arc, Winslow made strides in arguably the biggest knock against his game since coming out of college.
Because NBA players have the freedom to form partnerships with whichever companies they’d like, Winslow made the choice to strike up a partnership that he felt would not only help him off the court but more importantly, on it as well.
“My partnership with MET-Rx has been great,” Winslow said. “They’ve really helped take my game to the next level with all their nutritional supplements, and the Big 100 bar. So, for me, I’m always looking for ways to stay off my feet, but also get in the best shape possible and this was just a great way to help.”
The grind of the NBA season is also eased for playoff teams by a veteran presence. So, when the HEAT brought back franchise legend Wade at the trade deadline, their locker room suddenly had a face and feel of someone who’s been there before. A player who reached the pinnacle, with the very team that traded for him nonetheless.
Getting Wade back to Miami was crucial for the team’s playoff run down the stretch, and more importantly for Winslow, who benefited greatly from his time with the future Hall of Famer when he was fresh out of college.
“First and foremost, it was great to get him back,” Winslow said. “Just the role that he played in my career as a rookie, and everything I learned from him. But then also, just the energy and positivity that he brought to the locker room, and also the community of Miami, the city of Miami as a whole. It was a much-needed energy boost, and good vibes that he brought back for that post All-Star break push for playoffs. So, it’s just been great having him back, and it’s kind of rejuvenated the team and the locker room, and just the city in general.”
Wade is the MVP-caliber player he once was this time around, though. But that’s okay. This version of the Miami HEAT is charging toward the postseason with a team-first mentality.
NBA Daily: The Road Ahead for Michael Porter Jr.
Michael Porter Jr. is an elite prospect, but questions surrounding his back will determine his landing spot in the NBA.
The Road Ahead for Michael Porter Jr.
While some of the highly thought of college players have made their intentions on declaring for the 2018 NBA Draft known, Missouri’s Michael Porter Jr still hasn’t made his proclamation. Most people in NBA circles believe he’ll be in the 2018 NBA Draft class—you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn’t think he’s in.
Back in November, the Missouri staff was somewhat vague and guarded about Porter’s condition until it was announced that he’d have back surgery on a couple of problematic discs in the lumbar area of his spine. The procedure is called a microdiscectomy and by all accounts was a success.
Porter missed virtually all of his college season but opted to play in the post-season for Missouri, who got eliminated fairly quickly.
There were certainly a lot of ugly things about Porter’s game. He looked out of shape, and certainly wasn’t the overwhelming dominating force he’d been in high school. Some executives applauded his decision to play, even though he wasn’t at a 100 percent. Some pointed to that fact that too many college players play it safe and that’s not always viewed positively. Almost no one Basketball Insiders spoke with was holding the less than stellar outing against him. In fact, most had far more positive things to say than negative. There was one resounding theme from the NBA executives who spoke about this situation—none of it matters until they see his medical.
Assuming Porter does as expected and hires an agent and enters the draft, the next challenge he’ll face is how open he wants to be to teams looking at drafting him.
In recent years, NBA teams have not shied away from using high draft picks on injured or recently injured players. Once a team can get a sense of how the player is recovering, they can make a value judgment.
Agents often use this information and access to the player to help steer their client to the situation they deem most favorable. While fans and outsiders often get caught up in the pick number a player ultimately lands at, more and more agents are concerned with fit, especially for a player that may need time to get back to 100 percent.
Most agents would want to steer their client to a team with favorable medical staff, a team with a proven track record of patience or more importantly, a team with the best chance at a long and fruitful career.
This won’t be good news for some team that could end up in the top 10, as it’s more likely that Porter isn’t made available to everyone. NBA executives will tell you, they can certainly draft him if they wanted to, but most teams won’t draft a player if their medical staff doesn’t sign off, and without information and access how can they do that?
There is a significant financial difference in going third in the draft ($5.47 million) and 10th ($2.964 million) – but several agents commented that the short-term money shouldn’t drive the long-term decision, especially if the player isn’t 100 percent. The fit and situation typically trump everything in these situations.
Another concept to consider is while Porter did play, there are questions about whether he’ll host a pro-day, take part in private team workouts or simply let his body of work drive his draft value.
Almost no one who spoke about this situation believed Porter would take part in the NBA Draft Combine in Chicago, as he’d have to subject himself to the medical testing that’s part of that event.
The common perception on Porter is he’s a top-five talent, although it seems more likely that his camp is going to try and work the process to ensure he lands in a favorable situation. That could mean he falls out of top-five selections, simply because he and his agents choose to.
There is still a lot that needs to play out for Porter, including his announcement that he will enter the draft. But given where things stand with him, it’s more likely than not he’s coming into the draft, and it’s more likely than not he’ll have a lot of questions NBA teams will want to understand before his real draft position is clear.
The NBA Draft Lottery will be held in Chicago this year and is scheduled for May 15th. The annual Draft Combine, also in Chicago, gets underway on May 16th.
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