Marc Stein: The Jazz will be pressing hard to re-sign Mike Conley, league sources say, and are preparing an offer estimated in the three-year, $75 million range. More coming soon in my This Week In Basketball column you can get directly by signing up here: marcstein.substack.com
March 22, 2023 | 9:21 pm EDT Update
Walt “Clyde” Frazier said he’d been “meandering” all day on Wednesday, one day after the loss of his longtime friend, captain and championship teammate, Willis Reed. “It took me so long to get dressed today,” the famously fashionable Frazier said softly before working Wednesday’s game between the Knicks and the Heat as the longtime analyst for MSG Networks. “It’s been devastating. After seeing him on the video for the 50th anniversary, I didn’t know he was that far gone. Everybody was really surprised.”
Law Murray: Clippers injury report for Thursday night: – Paul George (right knee) out – Norman Powell (left shoulder) out – Brandon Boston Jr. (tailbone) out – Jason Preston (G-League) out – Moussa Diabaté (2-way) out – Xavier Moon (2-way) out
Damichael Cole: A loud standing ovation for Ja Morant in his return to the floor. pic.twitter.com/0LrY2x5Afb
March 22, 2023 | 8:24 pm EDT Update
Mike Brown on Domantas Sabonis: He's as close to Draymond Green as a big man
Sabonis leads the NBA in rebounding and is dishing a career-high 7 assists per game. Every teammate — even Fox — knows to run the wings when Sabonis grabs a defensive board. “He is as close to Draymond Green as any big man I’ve seen in terms of someone who can get it off the glass, bring it up, and make the right play,” says Brown, who coached Green as an assistant in Golden State for six seasons.
During Sabonis’ rookie year in Oklahoma City, Russell Westbrook invited Sabonis to early-morning workouts to go through the nuances of pick-and-roll, says Billy Donovan, who coached that Thunder team. They drilled how to read a defender’s feet, when Sabonis could slip screens, how Sabonis could make himself available for pocket passes. (One of Sabonis’ rookie duties was supplying Westbrook with Snapple for team flights, Sabonis and others on that team recall.) Sabonis was astonished that Fox ceded so much ball handling to him right away, including letting Sabonis rush the ball up after rebounds. “I was really surprised,” Sabonis says. “He has been with the Kings forever. This is his team. He really let me do my thing. Not many franchise point guards would let their big man bring the ball up. He ran with me. He set screens for me. That’s what shocked me most. That’s what made the transition so easy. Neither of us care who is who. We just want to win.”
Sabonis suffered an avulsion fracture in his right thumb and ligament damage in his hand. Fixing it required surgery that would cost between six and eight weeks. The Kings were 17-14, sixth in the West, only a couple games ahead of No. 11. Sabonis wanted to keep playing. “In my mind, sitting out was not an option,” he says. “Six to eight weeks — we can’t risk that.” He asked the team’s medical staff to wait to see if the swelling would subside. It did — enough. He joked that he didn’t use his right hand anyway. After consulting with doctors, trainers, and Sabonis’ agents, the decision was made: He’d play on. The training staff nicknamed him “Wolverine” for his apparent imperviousness to pain.
“He didn’t always understand — this should come from you,” Brown says. “To tape that thumb up and say ‘I’m playing,’ it sets the tone for the whole team. If he and De’Aaron are doing things like that, everyone else falls into line.”
In the weeks before the trade, Thunder officials had talked to Sabonis about playing him more at center — the position he preferred. He pictured himself in Oklahoma City long-term. As free agency approached, Sabonis heard rumors the Thunder might sign Blake Griffin and worried he could end up traded as a result. When news broke that the Clippers had re-signed Griffin, Sabonis was relieved and went to bed to rest up for his summer league game the next day. Minutes later, Thunder officials called to tell him he had been traded. “I was in shock,” he says. “Like, are you joking? I was not so happy.”