Storyline: Blake Griffin Trade?

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4 months ago via ESPN

The Celtics have talked intermittently with the Clippers about Blake Griffin, per several league sources, but a deal is extremely unlikely. Griffin will be a free agent this summer, and Boston would probably need official permission to talk to him about his future — a concession Minnesota allowed Cleveland before the Kevin Love trade. The Clips would ask for a bounty, starting with Jae Crowder and one of the Avery Bradley/Marcus Smart duo, plus picks, per league sources.

Boston also expressed interest in Blake Griffin this summer, so it’s conceivable they’d have interest when he hits free agency. To be clear, those conversations were merely exploratory since the Clippers had no interest in retooling, per a league source. Gordon Hayward received interest from Boston in 2014 when he was a restricted free agent; Hayward and Brad Stevens also have unfinished business after experiencing a heartbreaking national championship loss at Butler. Beyond that, there is no star, max-level, unrestricted free agent available in 2017 that is both reasonably acquirable and enticing to the Celtics.

Still, Rivers realizes those rumors could resurface in February if the Clippers aren’t faring well. No team wants to be put in Oklahoma City’s situation, in which it waits on a player to make a decision at the end of his contract only to be left with no compensation if he goes elsewhere. “Blake and CP are free agents and just like last year, Oklahoma had to deal with that — now it’s our turn,” Rivers said. “It’s been a sense of urgency since we’ve been there, in my opinion. And we haven’t followed through yet, and there’s another sense of urgency here. We’re not the only ones. Everyone has a sense of urgency.”

Head coach Doc Rivers hopes Blake Griffin spends his entire career with the Clippers. At this time of year, trade rumors tend to circulate. But when it comes to his star power forward, Rivers reiterated Thursday on Adrian Wojnarowski’s “The Vertical Podcast” none of the rumors are substantiated, and he plans on keeping Griffin. “It’s funny, you don’t want to go out and send a press release every time there’s a rumor about Blake,” Rivers said. “We are hoping that Blake ends his career playing for the Clippers, period. So, when teams call, we say we have no interest. First of all, no team’s calling right now, because teams know we don’t have any interest. It just tells you the different times. Things have changed. Everyone believes that they’re media now.”

During an appearance on The Vertical Podcast with Adrian Wojnarowski, Rivers stressed he intends to keep Griffin in Los Angeles and believes the Clippers could take another step forward with their current core. “Danny and I have talked twice this summer,” said Rivers, who controls Los Angeles Clippers personnel decisions in addition to his duties as the team’s head coach. “One (conversation) was about the British Open, and one was about another golf tournament. That’s about it.”

“You know, listen, winning is the key. The better we play on the floor, the better chance we have of not only keeping those guys but actually adding to our basketball team. And so that’s always the key factor in this. Quality of life is important, being comfortable, getting along, players getting along with the staff and each other, all that goes into it. But I think we’re in a good place there. I know both of them have said they want to play here, they want to play with us forever. But you’ve got to do your job. Like, your job never stops. You can never relax. You can never take a player for granted. If I have (not) learned that over the years, I have not learned anything. That’s something you just have to keep coaching them, but you also have to keep bringing them in and keeping them in.”

Celtics targeting Blake Griffin

That does not necessarily rule out a trade of Westbrook to Boston. But it makes it unlikely, at least until that contact is made, that the Celtics are now targeting him. The team has viewed this as a crucial summer, so their activity is expected. The Celtics are stocked with young players, have a raft of future picks available and have already signed big man Al Horford in free agency, as they hope to push closer to the Raptors and Cavaliers in the East. The likely target for the Celtics, according to front-office sources, is Clippers forward Blake Griffin. The Clippers have been weighing trading Griffin all season, and the possibility of a three-team package involving Sacramento sending Rudy Gay to the Clippers has emerged. The Celtics would give up some number of their upcoming draft picks, but opposing front-office members say they don’t want to give up either Brooklyn pick Boston can own in the next two years.

There should be no question by now that the Celts still believe they need to make changes to their roster before the season begins, and it has been confirmed that they are trying to accomplish this on multiple avenues — to no avail thus far. Sources indicate the Celtics are very much open to major moves, but, while situations certainly remain fluid and they have expressed interest in Blake Griffin and Russell Westbrook in the past, there have been no discussions regarding those players in quite some time.

Clippers listening to offers for Blake Griffin

But the Griffin noise is real. He’s no longer untouchable. The Clips are listening, even right now, and they’ve rarely listened before. If they get wind over the next four days that they’re out of the Durant sweepstakes, they could accelerate the Griffin trade timetable. It’d take a monster offer to pry him away before the draft, but the ground is trembling (As I’ve written before, Rivers needs to think very hard about whether trading Griffin is a good idea).

High-level members of the organization say they remain adamant about not dealing Griffin, the best young player the franchise has ever had, despite another round of rumors suggesting they called Denver about Kenneth Faried, Danillo Gallinari, Will Barton and Nikola Jokic. “One hundred percent not true,” according to one executive involved in any trade discussions. Clippers coach Doc Rivers has also been vocal, saying the team isn’t trading Griffin.

Yet despite the Clippers’ steadfast support of Griffin in the aftermath of an embarrassing incident that could imperil their title chances, there’s a growing feeling among rival executives that the team’s posture could change dramatically if the Clippers endure another disappointing postseason outcome this spring. Since they paired Chris Paul with Griffin in 2011 and lured Doc Rivers from Boston in 2013, the Clippers have yet to advance past the second round of the playoffs. Owner Steve Ballmer has gone deep into the luxury tax again this season, and there’s a belief among rival teams that falling short in the playoffs again could lead to a major roster shakeup this summer.

The benefits of playing in a small market like Oklahoma City — less glitz and glamour, fewer media responsibilities, an organization that has proved to be protective of its stars — would be canceled out for Griffin. For him, Oklahoma City would be like New York on steroids. This factor must be considered, especially since Griffin has a player option for the 2017-18 season. “I’ve seen him there; it’s like Michael Jackson walking around,” the person close to Griffin said.

There is a perception that Blake Griffin is available via trade, a perception, quite frankly, that’s incorrect. The Clippers don’t need to trade Griffin – even after he broke his hand punching assistant equipment manager Matias Testi. They don’t want to trade Griffin, at least not to the extent where they’re willing to take less than he’s worth. And in their minds, Griffin is worth a whole bunch. Despite what people outside the organization think, people on the inside believe that a healthy Clipper team can still contend for an NBA title this season.

Multiple teams have contacted the Clippers about acquiring Blake Griffin in the wake of his having punched a team assistant equipment manager, said a person close to the situation not authorized to discuss it publicly, but the team has no active interest in trading its five-time All-Star power forward. The Clippers have fielded calls involving various trade proposals but remain reluctant to part with a cornerstone of their franchise and a player who, at age 26, was having possibly his best season before he was sidelined by a quadriceps injury the day after Christmas and subsequently a broken hand sustained in a scuffle with assistant equipment manager Matias Testi.
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