Marc J. Spears: While @Chris Paul is expected to opt-ou…

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The Houston Rockets are aggressively trying to make trades in conjunction with Thursday's NBA draft to create the needed financial flexibility this summer to pursue a marquee free agent, according to league sources. Sources told ESPN on Wednesday that the Rockets have at least four top-tier free agents in their summer sights: Atlanta's Paul Millsap, Toronto's Kyle Lowry and the LA Clippers duo of Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.
Colin Cowherd: “Is Chris Paul the priority though?” Jerry West: “Well, I’ve only been here a few days. I know how they value him, so obviously he would be a priority. Chris is one of my favorite players I’ve seen this in this league. He just plays the game, he’s an incredible defender, unbelievable competitor and everyone here is hopeful he comes back, for sure.
There’s all kinds of work to do before then, like re-signing James’ close friend/Clippers point guard Chris Paul this summer (which is still believed to be likely) and convincing five-time All-Star forward Blake Griffin to come back too (which is considered more dicey).
"Phil Jackson and Carmelo Anthony should have been walking arm in arm to go greet Chris Paul for free agency," said Adrian Wojnarowski. "There's an opportunity to get Chris Paul on this market. He may stay in L.A. and part of it might be because there's nowhere else that makes perfect sense that is worth giving up the money for, but he may go. New York should have been in the Chris Paul conversation.”
Paul also has plans to talk with the Houston Rockets and Denver Nuggets, one executive said. Griffin can sign a five-year deal worth $175 million with L.A., or sign a four-year deal worth $130 million with another team. The Boston Celtics and Oklahoma City Thunder are two teams that will make a bid for Griffin, according to several executives. “West knows he has a big task ahead of him with the Clippers,” one executive said. “But he feels as if Steve Ballmer is going to be one of the great owners in this league.”
The Clippers have recently become “nervous” about the reports that San Antonio will make a big push to get Paul and that the point guard has interest in talking to and possibly joining the Spurs, said one executive who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
The Spurs don’t do Draconian, especially when it involves franchise icons like Parker and Ginobili. Stein reported that his source believes the Spurs are all but guaranteed a face-to-face meeting with Paul, should he become a free agent, but Western Conference basketball management types aren’t losing sleep over the prospect of another conference superteam, this time based in San Antonio. "I think all that talk is nothing more than leverage," one Western Conference basketball executive said Thursday. "Chris is just trying to make sure he can leverage Doc (Rivers). "If you’re the Clippers, don’t you have some reservations about giving him that big commitment? I know I would. So, if you’re Chris, you’ve got to create some interest out there in the league that then puts pressure on your own people to give you what you want."
Jody Genessy‏: STOP THE PRESSES!!!!!! FIRE UP THE WEBSITE!!!!!!!

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All-Star point guard Chris Paul intends to give the San Antonio Spurs serious consideration in free agency this summer in the event he decides to leave the LA Clippers, according to league sources. Sources told ESPN that Paul, for all of his undeniable fondness for Los Angeles, is intrigued by the idea of teaming up with the likes of Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and Most Valuable Player top-three finalist Kawhi Leonard in his quest to achieve the deep playoff success that has eluded Paul to this point in his career.
The Spurs, sources say, are increasingly considered a lock to at least secure a face-to-face meeting with Paul when free agency begins July 1, despite the fact San Antonio would almost certainly have to sacrifice considerable roster depth to make him a representative contract offer.
"Not that I see," Wojnarowski said of Paul's chances of ending up with the Spurs. "I don't know where that came from. I've spent a lot of time around the Spurs this spring. They would have to just tear up that entire payroll. It's almost unlike anything the Spurs would've done or would do to even have a chance at him. I mean, they'd have to really gut the roster. And to do that for a 30-plus year old point guard, who has a couple great years left, there's no question -- I think there's more pressure on the Clippers to have to re-sign him than for the Spurs to turn their whole franchise over to make a run at him.”
"Listen, Chris Paul, financially, the difference with him staying in L.A. and to get paid, I'd have a hard time imagining him leaving there," continued Wojnarowski. "There's so much money for him to be made and at that Los Angeles market, just in terms of his marketing endorsements, I still think they're a pretty overwhelming favorite to re-sign him."
The San Antonio Spurs are exploring the feasibility of making a free-agent run at All-Star point guard Chris Paul, league sources told ESPN. Sources say the Los Angeles Clippers, meanwhile, regard the threat of San Antonio signing away Paul as a legitimate concern, even though the Spurs, at present, have virtually no salary-cap flexibility.
The Clippers are widely regarded as strong favorites to retain both Paul and fellow free agent-to-be Blake Griffin when they hit the open market July 1, given their financial advantages over competing teams in trying to sign them. But the Clippers' nagging inability to dodge injuries and reach the conference finals even once in Paul's five seasons there has given interested suitors such as San Antonio hope that he will strongly consider external interest.
‎The Spurs and Clippers would also naturally have the ability to engage in sign-and-trade talks if Paul were to decide he wants to continue his career in South Texas as opposed to Hollywood. Yet it should be noted that Paul, in a sign-and-trade scenario, could not get the five-year, $205 million deal; such a swap would merely allow San Antonio to clear cap space by sending assets back to the Clippers in exchange for Paul.
So when we got Rivers out at Madeo we had to ask about Paul's future with the team, being that Doc is the Clippers prez, and the only guy who can make the trade happen. And according to Doc ... it ain't happening ... 'cause he told our guy Paul is 'absolutely' staying with the Clippers, and he seemed pretty concrete on it.
During an interview with ESPN's Kevin Arnovitz on his podcast on Tuesday, colleague Zach Lowe said he thinks there is legitimacy behind the speculation that Paul will go to the San Antonio Spurs next season.
"There's been a lot of rumblings about Chris Paul, and I think that's real," Lowe says. "I think there's mutual interest there. I don't know how real it is given the Clippers can offer a gigantic amount of money and are also a really good team; and the Spurs, like I said, have no sort of cap flexibility to get there. I'm very curious about what they do this summer and who's on the team next year."
After six years with the Clippers, Paul has a choice: Stick with the team or go elsewhere in free agency. It seems unlikely Paul will leave — after all, he engineered a change in the new collective bargaining agreement to allow him to get a five-year maximum contract — but it remains in play. Paul likely will be among the most prominent free agents this summer, but he’s expected to remain in Los Angeles.
According to several NBA officials who were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter because of the sensitively of contract talks, the Clippers hope to re-sign Paul and Griffin after both exercise their early terminations.
Sources inside and outside the organization have told The Times that the Clippers hope to re-sign Paul for the maximum deal. The sources requested anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the situation.
Mark Medina: Chris Paul on Clippers' needs offseason: "That’s not my job. My job is to come in the best shape possible to try to lead my team."
THE CLIPPERS FACE A RECKONING this summer when Paul, Griffin and Redick enter free agency. Ballmer says the Clippers don't have any interest at present of blowing it up. "I love those guys, and I want those guys back," Ballmer says, adding that he's amenable to swallowing a large luxury-tax bill, which would come due with new contracts for his players. "If we're in it and we're playing for a championship, I don't mind the tax," Ballmer says.
The 31-year-old Paul and the 28-year-old Griffin will be seeking maximum-salary contracts, deals that would respectively start at approximately $35 million and $30 million annually. Redick, the 32-year-old who was recruited by Rivers not long after he arrived from the Boston Celtics in the summer of 2013, is sure to land a massive payday as well. Working projections peg the total at approximately $196 million in all, with $140 million in salaries and $56 million in luxury tax (and Redick, in that scenario, having a starting salary of approximately $18 million).
Chris Paul and Blake Griffin can – and are expected to – opt out of their contracts and become free agents, while J.J. Redick will be an unrestricted free agent. “Everybody knows free agency,” Austin Rivers said. “That’s not a question. We’ve got a lot of free agents this summer, too. So that adds to it.”
The same is basically true of Chris Paul. He’ll opt out of his final $24.26 million and ink a new deal with the Clippers for north of $200 million. While Knicks fan often dream of a Carmelo Anthony-Paul tandem, it’s not going to happen. Sources close to the process said that it’s already been verbally agreed to and it’s simply a function of the calendar and the new Collective Bargaining Agreement kicking in.
This summer Dwyane Wade and Chris Paul will both become free agents – and New York can create enough cap space to sign one of them - but the Knicks’ predicament has turned Anthony’s longstanding dream into the pipe variety. Unless he leaves New York. “I don’t know where that would be able to happen. It’s always a dream,” he said. “They’re all in the same boat I’m in. It’s hard to think about something else when Chris is going through his surgery and (Wade) is going through what they’re going through in Chicago. I think it’s hard to start thinking about that at this point right now. I think everybody just needs a break, everybody is waiting for the break to decompress and re-evaluate.”
Steve Ballmer, L.A.'s moneybags owner, has already said he'll pay the cost. Maxing out Griffin is a no-brainer, and the team expects Paul to demand the full five-year max (or whatever the longest possible deal ends up being in the revised collective bargaining agreement) to stick around, per several league sources. That would take him well past age 35. Gulp. Suitors will line up for Redick.
So after three years of Ballmer's ownership, it might just be long enough to draw some conclusions. Most importantly, according to Clippers insiders, is his commitment to keeping both Griffin and Paul long term no matter what it costs.
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.”
Jordan said there wasn’t any more urgency to win next season, simply because Paul and Griffin can both become unrestricted free agents in the summer of 2017. “They’re both extremely talented players,” Jordan told The Vertical. “I believe whatever decision they make is going to be a great decision. I’m not worried about it right now. I don’t expect it to be a distraction during the season. I can’t speak for them, but at the end of the day, they’ve got to make the best decision for themselves and their families. Whatever happens, happens.”
"I'm confident (Griffin and Paul want to stay)," Rivers added. "Probably the same way every team's confident that they're going to be able to keep their guys. I do think we have an attractive place. We have a new owner. It'd be interesting if Steve Ballmer wasn't the owner, I don't know how confident I'd be. But with Steve I'm extremely confident that we can keep both.
Storyline: Chris Paul Free Agency
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January 21, 2021 | 10:39 am EST Update
While the Nets starters tired and Harden, Irving and Durant played the final 18:45 together, Brooklyn’s best on-ball defender, Bruce Brown, sat on the bench. Brown’s 6-2 frame made for an ideal matchup to potentially cool down Sexton, who is 6-1, but after seeing the reserves struggle in the second quarter, Nash elected to tighten his rotations and play just nine all game. After the game, Brooklyn’s stars said Sexton hit a lot of difficult shots on them and his performance isn’t a total reflection of the defense. “He made some tough shots,” Harden said. “And if he missed those shots, is it good defense? No, he made some tough shots, everybody’s tired at that point, and I think we did enough, especially in the fourth quarter and first overtime. I don’t know how many points he had in that second overtime, but I think he had the majority of them. Chalk your hat up to him.”
Irving said his time in Cleveland with LeBron James and Kevin Love taught him that resolve, compromise and sacrifice was necessary for the Cavaliers to win at a high level. Irving thinks the same can happen in Brooklyn with his new star-studded team. Like his last one, it isn’t going to happen immediately. “We’ll have good nights, we’ll have great nights, but it’s how we galvanize as a group together,” Irving said. “It’s how we sacrifice and compromise for the greater good. And that still remains to be seen. Obviously, one game is out of the way, but I’m excited for what’s to come.”
His teammates have noticed a difference in him, too. Osman has noted the advancements in Sexton’s game from his rookie year to now. Sexton is competitive on the defensive end of the floor, he’s making the extra pass and his assists this season are up to 3.7 per game. “Obviously, last year he was better, and this year he’s even better,” Osman said. “He made like 14 or 15 points in a row, and then there was good defense on him, but then he found TP (new Cavalier Taurean Prince) in the corner for a 3-point shot that was wide open. That was a beautiful play from Collin. He could have taken that one too but saw TP was open, and that was the right play, so he made the right play. You can see from his first year until now — he’s just getting better every day.”
Meanwhile, Kerr says the Warriors focused the “vast majority” of their initial practices this preseason on defense so they can compete in early games while beta testing the offense on the fly. “Training camp before was just about getting in shape,” Curry says. “Now we gotta do that and figure out who needs to be where, what sets are going to be our bread and butter, defensive chemistry and communication — everything that makes a team great.”
“Steph is so unique. There’s nobody like him in the NBA,” Kerr says. “Nobody who can play on and off the ball at that level and who creates that kind of havoc. And so I think with most players who come in, they’re not used to the second half of the possession. They’re sort of used to whatever the pattern is in the beginning. But as soon as maybe Steph gives up the ball, that’s when the action really starts the way we play. And that’s the tricky part for guys to figure out.”
Wiggins’ latest display came Wednesday night, when he contributed 18 points, seven rebounds, three assists and terrific defense in a 121-99 win over the San Antonio Spurs. He says he wants to “change the narrative” that followed him to the Bay Area, and all indications are he is serious about it. It is being noticed, even earning him a nickname. “He’s more than capable as ‘Two-way Wiggs,” as we call him now, at just being able to make his presence felt,” Stephen Curry said. “I think he really cares about the defensive end, and being with us, he’s able to kind of show it night after night. There’s an expectation of it now. He’s proven that he can definitely make an impact on that end of the floor, guarding the ball, off the ball or whatever.”
Wiseman noted that his consistent film study has made him feel more comfortable on the floor, but it was Green who has really assisted him when it comes to figuring out how to stay in the game and stay out of foul trouble. “Listening to Draymond, talking to Draymond,” Wiseman said. “He’s giving me little tricks, different tricks on how to be smart. How to stay on my feet, because I’m 7-1, so I don’t have to jump. So if I’m going to jump, be the second jumper. But just like using verticality, which I’m getting better at.”
Now that they’re in, it’s going to be very hard to get some players to opt out. “I love the game of basketball, so if I have the chance to play it, I will,” Grizzlies star guard Ja Morant told me on a Zoom Monday. “I also feel like COVID is a big thing going on right now. We still have to be safe. I feel like the league’s doing a great job, from last season to even this season, trying to stop it, make sure we keep the games going and everybody staying safe and healthy. I feel like as long as everybody locks into it, hold each other accountable and also their self, I feel like the season will be fine to continue to go on.”
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