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NBA Daily: Terance Mann Finding Success With Clippers

Second-year player Terance Mann has stepped for an injury-laden Los Angeles Clippers squad – in part due to some key veteran leadership.

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Coming out of Florida State in the 2019 NBA draft, Terance Mann was a natural wing. He could slide between shooting guard and small forward and it looked like that was going to be his calling in the NBA.

But he had some point guard skills to his game as well, and with the Los Angeles Clippers’ need for additional playmaking when the season began, Mann appeared to be someone who could grow into that role.

In early preseason games, Clippers’ head coach Tyronn Lue experimented with both Mann and Reggie Jackson as the backup point guard. He praised Mann in particular for getting more comfortable with playing the point and getting better downhill and making the right reads.

Mann himself acknowledged the transition and that he was willing to do whatever was best for the team.

“One of my strong suits is being able to play-make and see the floor,” Mann said during the preseason. “Whatever Ty Lue wants me to do, if that is playing with the second unit and making plays, then that’s what I’m going to do.”

Not surprisingly, Mann was largely out of the main rotation once the season began. On a veteran-laden team with plenty of depth, there wasn’t much room for the second-year wing. But since then, the Clippers have been hit with a bout of injuries and that’s brought forth an opportunity for Mann.

There is one major difference though between now and then, he’s back to his natural wing position and he’s been playing free with loads of energy. He started at small forward in Monday night’s win over the Miami HEAT and turned in perhaps his best game of the season. He put up 15 points on 62.5 percent shooting from the field including 1-for-2 from three-point range, 7 rebounds and 3 assists.

During the team’s win over the Chicago Bulls on Feb. 12, he came into the game early due to a brief injury to Kawhi Leonard and gave the Clippers a strong energy boost while playing a team-high 33 minutes.

On a postgame call with media following the win against Chicago, Mann credited himself with staying prepared during the early days of the season in anticipation for when he might be needed.

“I’m out there working hard every possession. I try to be in shape to do so. Even sitting out the first few games of the season, just always on the sidelines trying to do things to stay in shape,” Mann said. “When my number is called, I’m ready to play 33 minutes and guard the best player on the other team.”

The past couple of games have been a real test for Mann, especially on the defensive end of the court. Against Chicago, Mann was matched up early on with Zach LaVine who is seventh in the league in scoring at 28.2 points per game. Against the HEAT, he spent much of the night guarding Jimmy Butler, and the star finished with 30 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists.

His skill-set and frame make him an ideal candidate to develop into a defensive stopper on the wing – but these early challenges are something he relishes and something he wants to do every time he steps foot on the court.

“Most of the time when I do step in the game, I’m trying to guard the best player just to get reps at it,” Mann said. “To know what I’m doing for down the road whether it’s playoffs or whether that’s the end of the year situations or if I get subbed in at the end of the quarter and I got to guard the best player for 20 seconds and they’re trying to ISO me.

That’s just what I do and what I’m going to continue to do.”

And who better from Mann to learn from than the Clippers’ defensive ace Patrick Beverley, who has irritated quite a few of the NBA’s top scorers throughout his career. Beverley was named to the league’s All-Defensive Second Team last season for the second time in his career and has also been an All-Defensive First Team selectee once as well. (2017).

Beverley’s mentorship of Mann began last season and, although Beverley has missed time this year due to injury, he’s constantly been in the youngster’s ear to provide veteran leadership.

“I’m going to be on his ass, that’s my rookie. If you don’t play well it looks bad on me, so I’m going to need him to be ready every game,” Beverley joked with media following the Clippers’ Feb. 10 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves.

“He’s been doing a hell of a job. Riding the bench and comes in always ready, first in practice, getting in extra work, coming in and impact the game the way he does. It’s no shock to anyone, when his name is called he always performs.”

Not only has Mann tried to replicate the defensive impact Beverley has on the court, but he’s also tried to develop the same underdog and tough mentality that Beverley has used to fuel him to a solid NBA career.

Mann knows that if he doesn’t play up to expectations, he can expect an earful from Beverley in the locker room.

“Pat [Beverley] has helped me out tremendously from my rookie year until now, developing that dog mentality when I’m out there on defense,” Mann said. “Carrying that chip that he has with him… What he does for me is awesome. Like he said, if I don’t play like he wants me to then I’ll hear it from him.”

Mann has been making a solid case to remain in the rotation even when the Clippers’ injured players return. Best of all, he knows the coaching staff believes in him and he’s ready for whatever the rest of the season brings.

“They have faith in me. They know I’m going to be ready, they know I’m going to play as hard as I can,” Mann said.

“Just be aggressive defensively and offensively. Play my game, that’s what goes through my mind. Once I know I’m going to get my opportunity, just be aggressive on both sides and play to win.”

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Rockets decline Avery Bradley’s $5.9 million team option

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First reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Houston Rockets are declining Avery Bradley’s team option for the 2021-22 NBA season. On November 23, 2020, the 30-year-old guard signed as a free agent with the Miami Heat. He signed a two-year, $11.6 million deal. On March 25, 2021, the Heat traded Bradley, Kelly Olynyk, and a 2022 first-round pick to the Houston Rockets for two-time NBA All-Star guard Victor Oladipo. The 2022 first-round pick is an option to trade for a potential Heat or Nets pick. Plus, Houston received a trade exception, too.

Moreover, Bradley earned $5,635,000 this previous season; the Rockets declined his 2021-22 team option of $5,916,750 for next season. In other words, both sides have mutually agreed to part ways, so the six-foot-three guard is now an unrestricted free agent. In early February, it was first reported that the Washington native would miss three to four weeks due to a calf strain. Before this injury, he averaged 8.5 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game for Miami. Furthermore, he also shot a career-high percentage of 42.1 percent from behind the arc last season.

Though, Bradley disappointed both of his teams last season, leading to the Rockets finishing 17-55 (.236), ranking 15th overall in the Western Conference. Last season was the first time since the 1982-83 season that Houston failed to win at least 20 games. Since the 2011-12 season, it was the first time the Rockets had failed to qualify for the playoffs. In only 27 games played, the 11-year NBA veteran averaged 6.4 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game. He shot 37.4 percent from the field as well.

Likewise, the Miami Heat finished 40-32 (.556) last season, regressing from the team’s 44-29 (.603) record and sixth NBA Finals appearance from the 2019-20 season. Fans across social media are already speculating that the 2010 19th overall pick will end up playing for the Los Angeles Lakers next season. If this happens, he would join the team’s newly established big three: LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook.

After Bradley signed with the Lakers for the 2019-20 season, he joined the list of players in the league’s history who played for both the Celtics and Lakers. The list includes Brian Shaw, Clyde Lovellette, Mel Counts, Rick Fox, Don Nelson, Bob McAdoo, Isaiah Thomas, Charlie Scott, Gary Payton, Shaquille O’Neal, and Rajon Rondo. According to Bleacher Report, the Lakers are also interested in signing Carmelo Anthony this offseason.

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Mavericks are expected to pick up Willie Cauley-Stein’s $4.1 million option

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Per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, the Dallas Mavericks are planning to pick up center Willie Cauley-Stein’s $4.1 million option for the 2021-22 NBA season. The deadline is tomorrow. Last season, in 53 games played, the seven-foot big man averaged 5.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. The sixth-year player also shot 63.2 percent from the field last season.

On July 8, 2019, Cauley-Stein signed a two-year, $4.46 million contract with the Golden State Warriors. Then, on January 25, 2020, Cauley-Stein was traded to the Mavericks for a 2020 second-round pick. If everything goes smoothly, the 27-year-old center is set to earn $4.1 million next season. The 2015 sixth overall pick’s contract consumes less than three percent of the team’s total salary cap.

This news comes right after Dallas received center Moses Brown from the Boston Celtics. Brown is a seven-foot-two, 2019 undrafted player out of UCLA. In 2021, Brown was named to the All-NBA G League First Team and All-Defensive Team. On March 28, 2021, the 21-year-old center signed a four-year, $6.8 million contract with the Thunder.

However, on June 18, 2021, the Oklahoma City Thunder traded Brown, Al Horford, and a 2023 second-round pick to the Celtics for Kemba Walker, a 2021 first-round pick, and a 2025 second-round pick. With Boston, Brown was set to earn $1,701,593 next season. Of course, the Mavs’ organization is finalizing a trade to send Josh Richardson to the Celtics as well. In other news, today is Mavs’ owner Mark Cuban’s 63rd birthday.

Referencing Spotrac’s 2021-22 luxury tax totals, the Mavs’ current luxury tax space is $52,326,531. The 2021 NBA salary cap maximum is $112,414,000. Their current cap space is $27,595,632. Cauley-Stein’s contract is recognized as a club option, not a player option or guaranteed money. Richardson’s deadline is also tomorrow, so because he is getting traded to Boston, the team will not collect his $11,615,328 player option.

Plus, Jalen Brunson’s deadline is also August 1st. His guaranteed value is $1,802,057. Leading into the 2021-22 season, Kristaps Porzingis has the highest cap figure on the team, which is an amount worth $31,650,600, consuming 22.73 percent of the team’s total salary cap. At the moment, Porzingis is a popular name in trade rumor articles. Bettors and NBA analysts are predicting a possible trade to the Brooklyn Nets, Sacramento Kings, or Philadelphia 76ers.

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Lakers Need More Than Big Three

The Lakers have their “big three” after trading for Russell Westbrook but is he the right fit in Los Angeles? The former MVP has had an incredible career but he may not be the point guard the Lakers desperately need.

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The Los Angeles Lakers have formed their three-headed monster as they pursue the franchise’s 18th championship next season. Just as the NBA Draft was getting started, the Lakers completed a deal with the Washington Wizards that landed them the 2016-17 league MVP, Russell Westbrook.

The deal sent Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Kyle Kuzma, Montrezl Harrell and the 21st overall pick in this year’s draft to Washington, paving the way for Westbrook to join fellow superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis. While the Lakers added a dynamic point guard, not everyone is sold on the idea that the Lakers are the team to beat in the loaded Western Conference.

Over the past several weeks, the Lakers were rumored to be seeking perimeter shooting. Some reports had Los Angeles linked to guys like Chris Paul, Buddy Hield and DeMar DeRozan. When the dust settled, it was Washington that made the deal as Westbrook informed the front office that he preferred the Lakers as a destination.

The move is a homecoming of sorts, as Westbrook grew up in the area and spent two seasons playing at UCLA, leading the Bruins to the 2008 Final Four. He had a solid 2020-21 season, averaging 22.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 11.7 assists per game for the Wizards, who earned the No. 8 seed in the playoffs.

Oddly enough, this is the third straight offseason in which the 9-time All-Star has been traded. After leaving Oklahoma City, Westbrook was not able to find postseason success in Houston or Washington. Will that now change in Los Angeles?

For all of his accomplishments, Westbrook’s legacy has been defined by his play during the regular season. This past season, the point guard passed Oscar Robertson for the most triple-doubles in the history of the game. Out of his 184 triple-doubles, only 12 have come in the playoffs. By comparison, Magic Johnson has the most playoff career triple-doubles with 30, and James is next with 28. Now all three will have played for the Lakers during their careers.

The thing about triple-doubles (and this is especially the case with Westbrook) is that they don’t always translate to wins. They clearly help the team overall but some would argue that a more balanced attack is tougher to stop. History has shown that having a “big three” is almost a requirement to be considered a legitimate championship contender, but this trio in Los Angeles doesn’t exactly fit together like many of those others.

As talented and valuable as Westbrook has been over the course of his career, he needs to have the ball to be effective. His poor perimeter shooting has been the big hiccup in his game, and that is something that this Lakers team desperately needs. The problem isn’t that any of these three won’t share the ball. In fact, they had already discussed checking their egos even before this trade went down.

Westbrook has never had a problem sharing the ball. He was able to co-exist with Durant in Oklahoma City, Harden in Houston and Beal in Washington. The difference in this scenario is that he will be occupying the same space as James and Davis. The concern is efficiency. Out of 34 players to average at least 20 points per game over the last four seasons, Westbrook ranked 33rd in true shooting percentage.

When James drives to the rim or when Davis is facing a double-team inside, how confident will they be in passing out to Westbrook for a three-pointer? Better yet, how patient will they be if the shot isn’t falling? We have already seen what happened with Danny Green and Caldwell-Pope.

Now that the Lakers have assembled their trio of stars, many fans are hopeful to witness an NBA Finals matchup where James and the Lakers meet Kevin Durant, James Harden, Kyrie Irving and the Brooklyn Nets. As juicy as that series would be, the Western Conference is a gauntlet. There is no guarantee that the Lakers will make it there.

What helps their path is that the crosstown rival Clippers will likely be without Kawhi Leonard next season. The Denver Nuggets will be without Jamal Murray and the Golden State Warriors might not be the Warriors from four years ago. There is also uncertainty surrounding Damian Lillard and the Portland Trail Blazers and some potential roster changeup with the Utah Jazz.

Considering all of the top-tier point guard talent available in free agency this summer, the Lakers may have been better off trying to do a sign-and-trade. Such a scenario would have hard-capped them but after this deal, they are just $12.6 million below the hard cap with just five players on the roster. Putting together a deal for Hield is still possible, but the Lakers will have to get creative. Adding a third team to this trade, in particular, is one way to accomplish that. Again, it is possible but it will be complicated.

In a perfect world, the Lakers could have worked with Toronto on a sign-and-trade for Kyle Lowry. Even though Lowry is older than Westbrook, the current window for Los Angeles to win with this group is closing fast. Lowry would be cheaper and a much better fit overall. His durability, toughness, defense and high basketball IQ would pay dividends for the Lakers. Adding in the fact that he is a much better shooter, one has to wonder why the Lakers wouldn’t pursue this route instead.

Westbrook is still going to help this team. He is a tremendous asset for them in the regular season, especially when James is on the bench or unable to play. Having another floor general on the court to generate offense is something they have not had since James arrived. If Los Angeles can land some above-average shooting to the roster, Westbrook could flourish in this role.

With James sliding to the power forward position and Davis playing more at center, the key for Los Angeles will be to surround these guys with shooters. The Lakers ranked 21st in three-point percentage and 25th in makes last season. Expect the organization to be busy when free agency starts next week. Targets will include guys like Duncan Robinson, JJ Redick, Norman Powell, Evan Fournier, Doug McDermott, Bryn Forbes, Patrick Mills, Reggie Bullock, Kendrick Nunn and Alec Burks.

Obviously, the Lakers are counting on their individual talent and figuring out the rest later. It likely means the end for Dennis Schröder. Can Alex Caruso fit in and where does this leave Talen Horton-Tucker? The rest of the roster is in limbo, but the star players and the front office both feel confident that they will land the other pieces that they need to raise another banner next summer.

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