Despite the Clippers’ early exit, their roster is sti…

Despite the Clippers’ early exit, their roster is still top-loaded with talent and expected to be among the top contenders in the West next season. The league executive believed the Clippers would bring back much of the same team into 2021, calling it the course he would take, as well. The Clippers can use a midlevel exception in free agency. The Clippers, the executive said, should pair Leonard with the quality of point-guard playmaker he played alongside while winning championships with San Antonio and Toronto. It is one of several upgrades needed if their championship dreams are to become reality in 2021.
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September 26, 2020 | 7:47 am EDT Update
Fox is the team’s best chance to accomplish that goal, although McNair has to make a major commitment to the former Kentucky Wildcat this season. League sources have confirmed to NBC Sports California that the Kings, under previous management, already had a discussion with Fox’s representation on an extension. Depending on where the NBA’s final salary cap numbers come in, Fox is eligible for a five-year max money contract worth between $150-180 million. Don’t expect a discounted rate. He will ask for and likely get whatever the maximum is allowed under the collective bargaining agreement.
Ntilikina and Smith both are in the final years of their rookie contracts and haven’t lit the league on fire yet. They have vastly different styles. Ntilikina is a playmaker and defender, while Smith is a scorer and penetrator. Smith has even changed his jersey number to No. 4 — which he wore at North Carolina State. “We’re three days in, so I’m getting to know both guys,’’ Thibodeau said after the third day of voluntary group practices that is part of the NBA’s in-market OTAs for the “Delete 8.’’
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“I like what they’ve done so far. They got to continue to work. There’s often times ups and downs for young players. There’s a learning curve they have to go through. Some experiences will be better than others. “They both have had some good moments in the league. You want to build a consistency. And how do you get there? You have to do it through your work. You have to learn from the experiences. And you have to be disciplined. And so, hopefully we can get there this is a very important offseason for both players.”
As it happened, Butler’s hard-nosed approach wasn’t accepted by Minnesota’s ownership, management or their young players. Butler asked to be traded and Thibodeau was soon out of a job. “Butler didn’t like some of the guys’ lack of professionalism,” one NBA source told The Post. “[Jimmy] and Tom had long talks about how to deal with it. When Butler realized it was unsolvable, he lashed out at the organization. His clock was ticking on his prime and didn’t want to waste it and forced his way out. Tommy was telling him to have patience, see it through.”
Boston overcame a 12-point first-half deficit, its largest comeback when facing elimination in 25 years, according to ESPN Stats & Info. “Boston played great in that second half,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “They deserved and earned what they got. We understand how tough it is to win in the playoffs. We did not compete hard enough defensively, and we paid the price for that. But you do have to credit Boston. They played with great force, particularly off the dribble.”
During a huddle in the second half, coach Brad Stevens told his players that, for the first time in several games, they were playing Celtics basketball. Though this was probably obvious to anyone who has watched this conference finals series, it was a powerful statement that spoke to both how much of a departure the Celtics’ recent efforts have been from their ideal selves, and to Boston’s potential to be a two-way monster when the players are confident and aggressive. “He was absolutely right, we didn’t play the way we wanted the whole series,” Theis said. “We didn’t play our defense, we did adjustments and we just went back to our system the way we played all year. Everybody felt comfortable in our system. You could tell in the third quarter everybody was just enjoying being out there.”
With a berth in the NBA Finals on the line, Adebayo wanted all the blame for Miami’s ugly second half and the 121-108 loss to the Boston Celtics in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Finals. “I played like s— — bottom line — (and) I can’t,” said Adebayo, who finished with 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, but along with his Heat teammates couldn’t slow the Celtics during a 41-point, third-quarter outburst and couldn’t stop Boston from trimming the Heat’s series lead to 3-2. “I’ll put that game on me,” he continued. “It’s not my teammates’ fault. It’s not my coaches’ fault. It’s me. I missed too many shots I should have made. … I wasn’t being the defensive anchor I should’ve been. I don’t think I was communicating fast enough. I feel like I was a step behind today. I wasn’t a difference-maker today. I didn’t get us into fast enough triggers. That’s on me.”
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