Jason Jones: Harrison Barnes said the Kings are just playing “soft” right now and there has to be a commitment play with force and resistance.
Jason Anderson: Chimezie Metu on Kings social media drama: "The guys are still hanging out with one another, talking to each other. It’s not like the locker room is divided or anything. Everybody’s still how they were when we first got here for training camp. Everybody’s cool with each other.”
It would be far-fetched to think the Kings’ season could be completely derailed by parental tweets, especially when league sources said Fox and Bagley are perfectly fine with each other. The only reason anyone would believe this could be a reason for poor play is that it is the Kings, where the wacky and unbelievable has a tendency to happen.
Fox, however, is outspoken like his father Aaron, and had no problem squashing the notion that players’ parents could lead to beef in the locker room or disrupt play on the court. “I don’t think anybody’s out there playing basketball worried about two tweets,” Fox said. “And if you are, this ain’t what you should be doing because muthafuckas gonna tweet you every day of your life while you’re playing in this league. If that’s what you’re worried about, then I don’t know what to tell you.”
Fox, who is about as engaging as any Kings player on social media, said there’s nothing hanging over the team because of the tweets. “One, it hasn’t been brought up,” Fox said. “Me, Marvin, Luke talked for five seconds because it wasn’t a big deal. But like I said, when you’re playing basketball if you’re thinking about what somebody said on Twitter, then this ain’t for you. I’m 100 percent completely honest with you when I tell you nobody’s thinking about that while we’re on the court.”
Fox was asked if it would have cleared things up in the locker room had Bagley dismissed the trade talk when he spoke to the media Sunday. “I doubt 95 percent of the team has seen the interview so I don’t think that would have changed what happened tonight,” Fox said. “We just didn’t play well.”
The Kings would tell you there is no correlation between the tweets and their worst loss of the season. “No, I don’t think so,” Kings coach Luke Walton said. “I don’t think that was part of our play tonight. We just played bad basketball tonight.”
Jason Jones: Walton also said nothing happening on social media has risen to the point of being a concern that needs to be addressed with the team. And as I've been told De'Aaron Fox and Marvin Bagley III do not have an issue with each other. Enjoy the game. I hear this Steph is kinda good.
It’s not the first time those running the Team Bagley account have taken shots at the organization. It did so earlier in the week when Bagley III did not play in the fourth quarter of Tuesday’s win over Denver, retweeting a post about Lakers fans not liking Luke Walton as a coach and others calling for Bagley III to play more, as well as complaining about Bagley III’s treatment and declaring him healthy after injuries limited him to 13 games last season.
Sources say Divac had a phone conversation with Kings owner Vivek Ranadive about the future of the front office, and a major shift to their agreed-upon structure was proposed: What if, Ranadive told Divac, Kings adviser and former Detroit Pistons player and executive Joe Dumars assumed a larger role in which he would have the final say on the roster and the two of them would work side by side? Divac, sources say, had zero interest.
So this notion of giving up personnel power, in Divac’s eyes, was a nonstarter. Divac and Ranadive then decided to take a break from the discussion and circle back, sources say. Divac, who had told Ranadive he would not accept the proposal, informed Ranadive that he would conduct exit interviews with his players in Sacramento and that they could speak again afterward.
Overall, however, the impression the Kings left was that they were too reactive, too heavily staffed with Divac’s Serbian cronies and too lightly staffed everywhere else. While the Kings made a decent-sized investment in analytics, you never got the sense it seeped very far into their basketball operations or coaching decisions.
So when the Kings' season ended Thursday, and Hield was asked if he's comfortable with his role off the bench in Sacramento heading into next season, his answer raised some eyebrows. Including, I'd imagine, some in Philadelphia. Here's what Hield had to say: [Hield] provided a series of short answers during a Zoom session with reporters and offered a cryptic response when asked if he could be content with his role going into next season. "Y'all know me," Hield said. "Y'all know how I talk. Y'all know how I feel. Y'all can read me well, so I'll let y'all answer that yourselves."
Frustration has been mounting among Kings owner Vivek Ranadive and others within the ownership group over the franchise’s front office and coaching, multiple sources tell The Athletic. Sources say Ranadive has shared his frustration with both front office and coaching decisions in a variety of unfiltered ways, including private conversations with business associates and in text messages during a season-long group chat with Divac, coach Luke Walton, assistant general manager Peja Stojakovic and Chief Operating Officer Matina Kolokotronis. The complaints, sources say, have been focused on the team’s underachievement and the part they all played in it.
As it stands, however, sources say there is no indication that a change to the front office or coaching staff will be made anytime soon. But the tension that has returned to the Kings’ environment begs the question: Will Ranadive stay the course, prioritizing stability in the front office after all these years of turnover, or perhaps look to make a change in the summer?
Ranadive, sources say, ramped up his interest in learning all about his team’s scouting process earlier this season and sought more insight about their collective network, with the belief that it was a reaction to previous draft events and the looming questions about why Doncic wasn’t selected.
Throughout the Kings’ pre-draft process in 2018, the Kings scouted Doncic heavily, including a dinner with the young prodigy led by Ranadive that also included Vivek’s son, Aneel, and Divac; the gathering was shared on Aneel’s social media. There was ownership support for the drafting of Doncic at No. 2 overall, but Divac, along with then-assistant general manager Brandon Williams and Stojakovic had concerns about his upside compared to Bagley’s, sources said. As The Athletic reported last month, the belief that Doncic’s ball-dominance would limit Fox’s ability to grow and that they were better suited pairing him with a talented big like Bagley were driving forces behind the decision.
Hield responded with a team-high 21 points in Sacramento’s 98-81 win over the Chicago Bulls to end their six-game losing streak. After the game, Hield told The Athletic his sunny disposition before the game was how he dealt with the talk that he was at fault for the Kings’ struggles the last five-plus weeks that saw the Kings go from 12-14 (going 12-9 after an 0-5 start) before stumbling to 15 losses in the next 19 games. So Hield, who never seems to be down, kept smiling and kept with his usual pregame routine before heading to chapel as he always does.
“Stuff like that, they don’t start you and after that everybody says, ‘Oh, he’s the problem,'” Hield said. “You just let everybody know what the fuck is going on. That’s what I’ve been doing and God he knows what I’m doing, I know what I’m capable of doing. “Nobody was saying that when we had a 12-14 record, it was, ‘He’s carrying the team,’ stuff like that. When we start losing, it’s a big problem. It is what it is, I’ve just got to stay confident, stay locked in and be ready and professional. That’s what it is, man. If I’m happy or not happy, I’m not going to show it out on the court. I’m going to go out and play my minutes.”
“It feels like they give up on you and that’s kind of insulting regardless of how anybody takes it,” Hield said. “And when I say insulting, I don’t mean they disrespected me, I just felt like I’m letting everybody down and they don’t believe in me. It just feels like a big letdown for myself, it’s insulting for myself.”
But the sting felt different in Sacramento, where the Kings have the league’s longest playoff drought (2006), and so many fans who have been airing their grievances on local sports talk radio ever since saw Doncic as their favorite franchise’s savior. And now, here was Joerger adding a bit of salt to the wound. According to two sources who witnessed the interaction, Joerger told Divac, in a passive-aggressive jest, that he had negotiated an in-season trade with the Mavericks that would finally bring Doncic their way. Cue the record scratch. As if this topic wasn’t touchy enough already.
This is key, of course, because it was Fox’s presence that had everything to do with Divac’s decision to pass on Doncic in the first place. With Fox emerging as a unique and dynamic lead-guard, sources say Divac had concerns about Doncic’s ball-dominance and simply believed that Bagley was a better long-term fit alongside Fox.
Jason Jones: De'Aaron Fox: "We want to pick our pace up. We’ve talked about it. We’ve practiced doing those types of things. We just have to translate it. (Walton) wants us to pick the pace up. We just have to be able to do that."
Jason Jones: Buddy Hield on the Kings' 12-22 record: "It’s terrible. The product we put on the floor is not 10 games below .500, we’re way better than that. Obviously we’re not winning games to show that. We’re way better than this and we need to figure it out."
Jason Jones: Buddy Hield on playing faster: "It’s on Fox, it’s on everybody, it’s on everybody man. We have to run with Fox. WE have to encourage getting the ball out quick, pushing the tempo with Fox." Fox said the players have been told to run and it's practiced and preached, not executed
Hield apologized to his teammates for taking his gripes public and said he and Walton are good. “Luke’s been in this position,” Hield said. “He understands me, he understands my frustration. He just told me next time, be mature and keep things in house because you don’t want to get misunderstandings … so I’ve got to watch what I say.”
Sean Cunningham: Cory Joseph said Buddy Hield apologized to his Kings team today at practice. Cory wasnt aware of what Buddy said last night
Jason Anderson: Kings coach Luke Walton says Buddy’s comments should have stayed “in house.” He showed “maturity and responsibility” in apologizing to the team.
Hield was asked how the team is holding together in the midst of all its struggles. “I don’t know,” Hield said. “Seems like we’re all over the place — coaches and everybody. Trust issues going on, I guess. Guys stop believing in players. It is what it is. They have who they have playing out there and I just have to be supportive.” Hield was then asked to elaborate on the “trust issues.”
“I don’t know,” he said. “I like to be on the court. That’s why I’m on the court, right? I want to make plays, make shots. I feel like I wasn’t trusted the past two games to be on the court.”
James Ham: I spoke to Bogdan Bogdanovic before last night's game and he had not read the story that said he was unhappy coming off the bench for Kings. He said he just wants to win and loves his teammates. He also asked if the people who said/wrote the story understood that he's restricted
Joerger started rookie forward Marvin Bagley III for the second time this season, benched guard Buddy Hield for the final 5:42 and played 12 men in an effort to salvage a critical game in the Western Conference playoff race. These decisions raised interesting and legitimate topics of conversation, but Joerger’s answers — which amounted to 22 syllables in response to the first five questions — didn’t exactly open a window into his thought process. Why did Bagley start? “That was for matchups,” Joerger said.
Hield said it was difficult to sit on the sideline when his team got within four with 3:05 to play in the fourth quarter. “I’m a competitor. I always want to be on the court,” Hield said. “That’s what I do, man. We all make mistakes out there. We aren’t perfect. ... Everybody knows what I can do and everybody knows what I bring to the table. “Yeah, it’s hard. I’m not going to lie to you. It’s hard to watch. As a player, you want to be out there, but you’ve still got to respect the guys out there, too. ... When I’m doing my thing, they’re out there cheering me on. And when they’re out there, I’m always cheering for them, too.”
Hield seemed to agree with that point. “We all want to win,” Hield said. “We’re all there for the same reason, to win basketball games. If Dave doesn’t think I should have been out there, that’s his decision. I can’t overrule the coach’s decision, but I’ve gotta respect the guys who are out there because they’re my teammates and I love them. When I’m doing my thing, they have my back, so I’ve got to have their back, too.”
Joerger and Hield argued after Hield pulled up for a long 3-pointer instead of running the play Joerger called from the sideline. Joerger addressed the situation for the first time during his pregame news conference before the Kings played the Oklahoma City Thunder at Chesapeake Energy Arena. “I was a little animated at a time when the cameras are really on you and you’re kind of out there,” Joerger said. “That stuff shouldn’t happen out in front of people.”
Joerger got upset with Hield on Thursday after he made a 32-foot 3-pointer to cut Golden State’s lead to three with 19 seconds to play. A league source, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the situation, told The Sacramento Bee that Joerger was upset because Hield took the shot instead of running the play he called from the sideline. “Why don’t you just coach the f---ing team?” Joerger asked Hield, according to the source. Warriors star Kevin Durant then joined in the discussion, asking Hield: “What’s wrong with your coach? You made a great shot.”
Jason Anderson: Worth noting: Joerger said his exchange with Hield "wasn't about shot selection," but it WAS about Hield not running the play he called. Kind of a distinction without a difference. Anyway, the words you all probably want to hear Joerger say about Buddy: "I love him to death."
Jason Jones: Joerger on his late exchange w/ Hield Thursday: “I was a little animated at a time when the cameras are really on you...that stuff shouldn’t happen out in front. Sometimes you can’t coach off camera.” Said he “loves” Hield and it’s no big deal
James Ham: Hearing Joerger/Hield discussion on sidelines was about more than shot selection. Heat of the moment exchange between two competitive guys. Joerger went right back to Hield on final play.
A heated exchange between Kings coach Dave Joerger and guard Buddy Hield during a critical moment in Thursday night’s 125-123 loss to the Golden State Warriors gained widespread attention on television, radio and the internet. Portland Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard even weighed in with some pointed words on Twitter.
A league source, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the altercation, said Joerger was upset because Hield’s shot was not the play he called from the sideline. “Why don’t you just coach the f---ing team?” Joerger said as Hield made his way to the sideline during a dead-ball situation. Joerger and Hield exchanged words for about 40 seconds while Warriors forward Kevin Durant stood nearby listening. “What’s wrong with your coach?” Durant asked Hield. “You made a great shot.”
Jason Anderson: I asked Vlade Divac about The Athletic story tonight regarding his conference call with minority owners. “I just told them about my plan,” he said. The story says you told them to stop meddling and leaking stories. “Yeah, that’s my plan,” he said.
Four years into this job that comes with one of the league’s trickiest landscapes at the ownership level, Divac kept hearing rumblings of discontent from the same group of minority owners who just three years ago had explored ways to wrestle control away from lead owner and chairman, Vivek Ranadive. With his Kings backdrop so much different than before, and with Divac clearly fed up with the internal complaints, he decided to send a strong message on Monday.
According to a source with knowledge of the situation, Divac held a conference call with 13 members of the team’s executive board, along with Ranadive, and made this much clear: Stop with the meddling, bring an end to the alleged leaks in the media about internal matters, try enjoying the ride while it’s going so well and – cue Michael Jackson, circa 1987 – leave him alone as he tries to continue this turnaround. This was Divac, so roundly ridiculed as a front office executive for so long now, demanding respect.
According to sources, some of the team’s assistant coaches were displeased with the fact that Divac had the contractual paperwork sent their way from via Brandon Williams, who has been accused of being a source for a mid-November Yahoo! Sports story about Joerger’s job security. The divide between Joerger and Williams has never been bridged, with Williams traveling extensively (and intentionally) in the weeks that followed Joerger kicking him out of a late November shoot-around as a way of relieving tensions that remain.
Jason Anderson: Coach Dave Joerger #Kings adversity: "I think that a lot of great organizations, great families and great sports teams can be destroyed from within. I want to make sure we're airtight and solid from the inside, and it's been an opportunity for us to really grab on to each other."
Jason Jones: Some pregame Dave Joerger: "My job is to make sure we are as prepared as we can be for the task in front of us and to try and limit as much distractions as possible with our group."
Jason Jones: More Joerger: "The sunshine on this team and this group of players in our city is as high as it’s been since I’ve been in the NBA from the outside and three years that I’ve been here. Like I said I’m just trying to keep the distraction to a minimum with our group."
For the Sacramento Kings, the behind-the-scenes battle between coach Dave Joerger and assistant general manager Brandon Williams isn’t going away. According to sources with knowledge of the situation, Joerger was uncomfortable with Williams' presence following practice Wednesday, and when the assistant GM showed up for the team’s shootaround Thursday, the Kings coach asked that he be removed from the floor.
According to sources, Williams and Joerger also were on separate pages when it came to free agent targets, which led to additional discord. Whether the relationship can be repaired is unknown, but at this point, there is clear distrust between the two men.
As The Athletic reported on Nov. 19, Joerger has long been of the belief that Kings assistant general manager Brandon Williams would like to replace him as coach and was, in essence, working against him internally. But that story, and the fact that it came at a time when the Kings were off to one of their best starts in more than a decade, have only made matters even worse.
According to sources, Joerger on Thursday asked that Williams not be present for the team’s shoot-around in advance of the Kings’ home game against the Clippers. Williams, who had returned from an extended stretch of travel on Wednesday that had helped avoid these sorts of conflicts, subsequently left the shoot-around with Divac as a result of Joerger’s request. Joerger, the sources say, believes that Williams was the source of the story and is upset with the organization for not levying any discipline against Williams.
In response to the Athletic story, Divac issued a statement on Thursday afternoon. “I have advised my front office and coaching staff to not focus on drama and rumors, but instead to focus on continuing to develop our young and exciting team,” Divac said in the statement. “And that’s what we’re going to do.”
Dave Joerger is safe. According to an NBA source, the Kings coach's job never was in jeopardy last week, and he is secure, as general manager Vlade Divac said in a public statement issued during Saturday's game against the Rockets. That isn't a guarantee Joerger will coach out the rest of the season or finish the final year of his contract next season. But it's an assurance that the immediate threat is over.
Jason Anderson: I've been holding back on this, but there is widespread speculation that @SacramentoKings assistant GM Brandon Williams was the primary source for the Yahoo Sports story suggesting Dave Joerger's job could be in jeopardy due to philosophical differences with the front office.
Jason Anderson: I want to stress that we don't have confirmation, but this has been rumored since the story broke Saturday night. Williams and Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports were seen having a lengthy conversation during the Kings-Lakers game Nov. 10.
Jason Anderson: Safe to say there is disagreement within the organization over playing time and rotational decisions -- so that part of the story was true -- but I'll repeat what I said Saturday night: Firing Dave Joerger is not a consideration for the @SacramentoKings right now. Not even close.
Here’s the issue. The Kings brought in Hill, Zach Randolph and Vince Carter during the offseason and still have Garrett Temple on the roster. These are respected vets who can play. These are vets brought in to help a young team, and according to sources, were brought in with the promise of a team aiming to be playoff competitive. But that promise was made to them by Scott Perry, who since left Sacramento and now makes personnel decisions for the New York Knicks. So the direction of the franchise has shifted since Perry left. An organization that brought in veterans aiming to win now is aiming to lose. Not surprisingly, Hill isn’t happy, according to multiple sources And the other veterans can’t be too happy, either. So the Kings have a mess on their hands. I’ve always liked Hill’s game, but when he signed in Sacramento, I questioned the prudence of the Kings bringing him on board when they just drafted De’Aaron Fox, the quicksilver point guard from Kentucky.
Sean Cunningham: Kings G George Hill insisted he was frustrated with losing and himself when he tweeted 😡 the other day
Chris Mannix: It was reported last week that the Kings are talking to Sam Hinkie and, in a general sense, they are looking for an executive to put above Vlade Divac. Now, Sacramento came out and inmediately denied that was happenning. They're lying.
Newly-signed Golden State Warriors forward Matt Barnes discussed the days leading up to the messy divorce between his former teammate DeMarcus Cousins and the Sacramento Kings. “It was a tough situation for all of us,” Barnes told ESPN in his first interview on the situation since the trade. “They were so adamant about not trading him. I mean, I understand this is a business and you got to do what’s best for the franchise, but when you go out of your way time and time again to say you’re not going to do something and then do something and not consulting someone is a funny way of handling it, to say the least.”
“He’s a good dude, man,” Barnes said to ESPN of Cousins. “He’s young and he’s emotional. And I think that’s why we connected because I was a similar way, even though I’m still kind of old and emotional now. All he wants to do is win, and sometimes that gets the best of us. I think he’s judged unfairly, but the league and the world needs bad guys and that’s what we’ve done for them. So we give them the bad guys.”
Barnes understands the Kings had doubts about giving Cousins a $200 million extension in the summer. He gets the business. But throughout his 13-year career that included stops with nine different teams, Barnes said he’s never observed an organization handle a player -- let alone an All-Star player -- in such a deceiving manner. “Nah, never. That was bad. That was a bad way it went down,” Barnes said to ESPN. “But you know, my hat’s off to DeMarcus the way he handled it. To give everything he gave to that franchise and for it to go down the way it went down at the end is a tough pill to swallow. But he stayed professional and said the right things. Even though he may have felt another way, he said the right stuff and that’s all that matters.”
“Once I saw them trading him and what they got back, I figured they were in a rebuilding process,” he said. “They knew I wanted to win now. I don’t have time to rebuild. So, the next day, I was gone as well. So, it’s the business. I’m thankful for the opportunity, but I couldn’t be happier being here with the Golden State Warriors.”
Is it true that you approached Cousins’ agents earlier this year about encouraging him to seek anger management therapy? You would not be the first Kings official to make such a request, by the way. Vlade Divac: Actually, that happened, and this time, they seemed more receptive. But I wasn’t sure if that was because the contract was coming up or what, so I wasn’t sure how to take it. Again, I wanted change, to start over. Acquire assets, build it right. At the same time play hard, play up-tempo, share the ball. Be a team, grow together.
Is there any part of you that wants to talk to Ranadive or Divac? DeMarcus Cousins: Nah. For what? It was a coward move, so I’m pretty sure I will get a coward response. For what? And I’ve seen this happen before. I’ve been there through all same types … I was there with [coach] Mike Malone’s [firing]. I’ve seen how they operate. I know what kind of answer I will get anyway. So, what is the point?
A person close to Cousins said he was “blown” by the trade for myriad reasons. Losing nearly $30 million because he won’t be able to sign a designated maximum player contract worth more than $200 million was significant but only part of his frustration. Kings general manager Vlade Divac had told Cousins days before the deal that he wouldn’t be traded, only to ship him out for an uninspiring package from the Pelicans. Over the past few years, Cousins had developed a deep distrust of team management, which often told him one thing and did another.
Adrian Wojnarowski: (Vlade Divac's) M.O. as a GM is not to be on the phone with everybody on the league, and to be pursing out different deals. He has not embraced that part of the job, to put it mildly. He's difficult to get on the phone for a lot of GMs.
Zach Lowe: DeMarcus Cousins ruined Nik Stauskas, or almost did. I mean, the stories about DeMarcus Cousins berating Nik Stauskas, threatening to fight Nik Stauskas on the plane to China when they were going there for preseason two years ago or whenever that was..."
According to a league source, the team grew tired of the constant issues on the court. After promising the star big that they had no intentions of moving him during a private meeting on Feb 2, he went out two days later in an overtime win against the Golden State Warriors and picked up his 14th technical foul.
According to a league source, the entire basketball operations side was part of the discussion on the situation, including head coach Dave Joerger. The Kings have built their team around the talented big each of the last seven season with the hope of turning the franchise around. Despite being in the conversation for the eighth seed, the Kings sit nine games under .500 with 25 contest left. Even if they found postseason paydirt, the Golden State Warriors would be waiting in round one.
how pissed is he at vivek? Dave Carmichael: Let's just say he won't be exchanging Xmas cards with a few people
Ric Bucher: Source: no one act moved Kings to deal Cousins, but yelling "F*** Golden State" at fans after Feb 5 win over GS was a factor. That, & 17 Ts.
Ailene Voisin: I am told there is an additional roster move upcoming in Sacramento. No details. League studying prospective trade, expected to approve soon.
In recent weeks, Ranadive has become more open to the front office’s willingness to trade Cousins, passing on the commitment of a five-year, $209 million designated maximum contract extension this summer, league sources said. Cousins’ uneven behavior in recent weeks has softened Ranadive’s resolve to hold on to Cousins.
Two incidents in particular – an expletive-laced remark Cousins made about Golden State after Sacramento’s overtime win over the Warriors on Feb. 6 and the astonishing 17th technical foul this season, and resulting one-game suspension, against New Orleans on Feb. 12 – have caused Ranadive to have serious concerns about tethering the franchise to Cousins long term.
Ranadive has started to adopt management’s concerns about Cousins’ temperament to become a franchise pillar, sources said. Nevertheless, Ranadive has gone back and forth in recent days about his willingness to ultimately unload Cousins, sources said.
March 1, 2021 | 6:21 am EST Update
That even goes for Buddy Hield, who has an NBA 3-point shootout title to defend, although he was non-committal about the even. “Do you think I should go defend it?” Hield asked reporters when talking about the event. “I don’t know yet, to be honest, I’ve been having mixed emotions, you know, cover rules and especially I don’t have no time with my family. Just trying to see how the COVID rules and the boundaries are set up. No clear cut yes yet, I’ll just see in the next couple of days.” According to Hield, he received an invitation from the league to join the festivities, but he is still mulling it over.
“It was a play for me or P.J.,” Monk said. “I told [Ball] to pass it to P, and he was like, nah. I had to make something happen.” Hield, who finished with 30 points, missed a desperation heave from beyond midcourt as time ran out. Earlier Sunday night, he became the fastest player in NBA history to reach 1,000 career 3-pointers, doing so in his 350th career game. Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors was the previous fastest at 369 games.
Knicks general manager Scott Perry has been on a G-League mission presumably looking at center pieces. If the Knicks signed a free agent center they’d have to cut a player to make room. One team in contact with the Knicks said they want to hold down the fort with what they have for now.
Center DeMarcus Cousins, whose stock is low, is still a free agent after being unceremoniously waived by Houston. “That’s a Leon question,’’ Thibodeau said before the game. “We have more than enough on the roster so we’ll figure out a way. We have guys that can play multiple positions and then we’re going to have to take care of the rebounding, gang rebound. Everyone has to contribute in that area.’’
“It was individual pride,” Antetokounmpo said of joining teammate Khris Middleton in taking on the Clippers’ All-Star duo of Leonard and Paul George. “It is pride. It is an ego thing. Personally, I love that going down the stretch. “I feel like it’s greatness,” Antetokounmpo added. “When you go against the best in the world down the stretch and you are trying to get a stop and they are trying to score on you to win the game, it’s greatness developing at that moment.”
“As a team, I don’t feel like we’re there yet,” said Leonard, who remains positive about the Clippers building toward where they want to be. “We’re looking to the sideline for plays. I feel like our pace has pretty much slowed down. “You gotta give them credit though. They locked in and tuned in on us, and they got stops when they needed it. So just for us to get better, I feel like we gotta have a better stride, open the floor, just getting down and getting into a play. I felt like we got stagnant a little bit.”