Blake Griffin thinks Kawhi Leonard choosing the Clippers is “good for basketball” … but warns the superstar that L.A. definitely has it’s ups and downs! Griffin would know … he spent 8 seasons with the L.A. Clippers before being traded to the Detroit Pistons in early 2018. In fact, Blake still spends a bunch of his time in Los Angeles — he was at the famous Comedy Store on Friday night — so, we asked him about Kawhi’s big move.
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“I think it’s good for basketball, good for L.A.,” Griffin told TMZ Sports … “I think it’ll bring a little bit more balance to the Los Angeles basketball scene, so its good!” But, when we asked Blake if he preferred L.A. to other cites, the 30-year-old didn’t try and sugarcoat his answer. “No, to be honest. I think playing in another city now I see the advantages and disadvantages to playing in different places.” He added, “Everything has a positive and a negative. It just depends on what you value.”
Enter Paul George, the Oklahoma City star who sources say was heavily recruited by Leonard in those days leading up to his trade demand and this blockbuster deal that pairs the two of them with the Clippers. Talk about the least likely of pitchmen. The league’s quietest talent, the man whose one-of-a-kind laugh has been dissected like the Zapruder film and who so many were still convinced was a cyborg because of his robotic ways, got this deal done by selling a fellow Southern California native in the kind of way that left the Thunder with no choice but to make this move. “Kawhi recruited the hell out of him,” one source close to the situation said. “He did a number on Paul.”
Chris Haynes: Kawhi Leonard and his camp found it comical throughout the process that he was “reportedly” headed to every team but the Clippers. In the end, his small circle kept everyone guessing. And that’s what occurred: guessing.
Adam Wexler: Pat Beverley & Lou Williams tonight after they added two new teammates (Kawhi & Paul George). (via Pat Bev’s IG).
Marc Stein: OKC acquired THREE unprotected first-round picks from the Clippers in this trade (2022, 2024 and 2026), league sources say, PLUS two firsts from Miami (2021 unprotected and 2023 protected 1-to-14) … AND the right to swap picks with the Clips in 2023 and 2025. Staggering
Michael Lee: Clippers made their intentions known how much they wanted Kawhi. Had a pro personnel scout at every game. Doc Rivers took a tampering fine for him. For a loyal guy who chose San Diego State over bigger programs because of its early interest & persistence, this makes so much sense
Ryan Wolstat: Kawhi Leonard lost $90 million (Spurs and Raptors) to eventually team up with Paul George with the Clippers. Would never have happened in the old days when contracts weren’t so high. Would have been way too much money to leave on the table. In era of $30-40M+/yr deals not as big.
Quincy Pondexter: Will drake make a diss track?..
Adrian Wojnarowski: Sources: Leonard and George met in LA earlier in week. Clippers had long been frontrunners for Leonard, but it is unlikely he would’ve made final leap to sign without PG trade. Clippers imagined Leonard as part of a Lakers Big 3 — and knew they had no choice. They did OKC deal.
Adrian Wojnarowski: In the end, Kawhi Leonard didn’t want to construct a Super Team with the Lakers. He wanted a co-star across the Staples corridor with the Clippers, and made it clear to Steve Ballmer and Lawrence Frank: Get PG, and I’m coming.
Sam Amick: Source, to @TheAthletic: After a heavy recruiting effort from Kawhi Leonard, Paul George made it very clear to OKC in recent days that this Clippers trade is what he wanted. He gets his trade demand fulfilled, and now Russell Westbrook’s future is certainly in question.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Sources: As expected, Kawhi Leonard: four-year, $142M maximum contract.
Brett Dawson: Per a league source, the Thunder were caught off guard by Paul George’s desire to play with Kawhi Leonard after a strong recruiting effort from Leonard. The whole situation unfolded in recent days.
Oleh Kosel: Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN right now: “Paul George came to the Thunder in the last couple of days and asked to be traded to the Clippers. He wanted to play with Kawhi Leonard.”
Chris Haynes: Free agent forward Kawhi Leonard will sign with the Los Angeles Clippers, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Free agent forward Kawhi Leonard has informed runners-up teams of his plans: He’s signing with the Clippers, league sources tell ESPN.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Oklahoma City is trading All-Star Paul George to the Los Angeles Clippers for a record-setting collection of draft choices, league sources tell ESPN.
Adrian Wojnarowski: Kawhi Leonard has been recruiting Paul George to find a way to get to the Clippers and LA pulled it off tonight: George goes to the Clippers with Leonard, and together they walk into Staples Center to go head-to-head with LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
Windhorst still believes the Los Angeles Clippers are the favorites to sign Leonard, but says the Lakers are lurking. “We don’t know where Kawhi is going,” Windhorst said on ESPN radio. “I am feeling more like the Lakers are a chance. I wouldn’t have thought that was a chance. I thought it was Clippers for a long time and then I thought maybe he’ll stay in Toronto. “I do believe there is some real traction towards the Lakers. I still think the Clippers are the pick, but I admit I don’t know at this point.”
“I’m in total agreement with you, Brian,” said Jackie MacMullan. “Clearly, there’s too much smoke for there not to be a little bit of fire here.”
Colin Cowherd: “You’re tied to the Lakers/Clippers stuff, so what are your sources telling you today about how the Lakers feel?” Arash Markazi: “They’re not nervous right now. They are not as nervous as you would think they would be with all these names they could potentially sign if they don’t get Kawhi coming off the board. They are 100% all in on Kawhi. It doesn’t mean that they know they’re going to get him, but they didn’t create this cap space for a hail mary. They were cautiously optimistic and don’t view themselves as a dark horse pick. They think they have a real chance.”
Chris Broussard: “I’m being told the Lakers are Kawhi Leonard’s first choice. He and his camp spoke with Magic yesterday and laid out what they want from the Lakers. Nothing crazy, just some additions to the staff and asking ‘Is Kawhi going to be treated like LeBron in the organization?’, and all of that. As long as Jeanie doesn’t do anything to screw it up in the meeting I’m told that’s his first choice.”
Kendrick Perkins: Just heard that Kawhi is meeting with the Clippers tonight but the Lakers hold the upper hand, unless Doc work his Magic tonight it’s looking very strong that Kawhi will be in Purple and Gold!!!
Moe Harkless: Anybody got kawhi number??
Marc Stein: The Clippers are exploring the feasibility of signing both Kawhi Leonard and Jimmy Butler in free agency, @NYTSports has learned
Marc Stein: Leonard wants to be joined by a top-flight free agent if he decides to leave Toronto for the Clippers and Butler’s rugged two-way game makes for an intriguing pairing. Clippers adviser Jerry West is also a known admirer of Butler
Marc Stein: How high is the bar for the Clippers now? They might not only have to beat out Toronto … they might have to convince Kevin Durant to choose the Clippers to then convince Kawhi to choose the Clippers over the Lakers. League sources insist that the Laker threat is that significant
Toronto Raptors star Kawhi Leonard intends to grant the Los Angeles Lakers and the Los Angeles Clippers meetings when free agency opens on June 30, league sources told Yahoo Sports. The meetings would be held in Los Angeles, sources said.
Lowe: It seems like it’s a two-team race. Is that fair at this point? Woj: Yeah. Toronto, the Clippers, and listen, I think they’ve kept their eye on the Lakers, and what that’s going to look like. The Lakers, financially, what number are they going to get to in free agency in terms of cap space? Is Anthony Davis going to give up that $4 million trade bonus? He still has time to do that before this deal goes through. “But this has been a Raptors/Clippers race. And you gotta give the Raptors and Masai Ujiri, that organization, all the credit in the world, because when they traded for him, he had no intention of ever staying in Toronto, and now it is a serious consideration. “I think he has really given them every opportunity to sell him, and two things that have worked in Toronto: They sold him on health, they proved they could keep him healthy, and they sold him on winning. And those are priorities for Kawhi Leonard. He has shown he is all about winning.”
Frank Isola: Kawhi and the Clippers meeting tentatively scheduled for July 2nd is what I’m hearing. LA has a home court advantage but Toronto can get him another title next year.
Davide Chinellato: .@gallinari8888 on Kawhi Leonard to the Clippers: “I don’t think a player who just won a championship in Toronto wants to come back home more than stay in a team he just won with” Then, joking: “I’m pretty sure he’s signing with us tomorrow” #NBA
Los Angeles is wasting little time pitching Kawhi Leonard on a potential move to the Clippers. Two digital billboards went up over Interstate 5 in Downey, about 10 miles southeast of Staples Center, encouraging the Southern California native to come home.
But there are a handful of teams who could secure a meeting with the 2019 NBA Finals MVP, sources said. The appeal of returning home to Southern California is enticing to the two-time NBA Defensive Player of the Year, but with the trust the Raptors built while Leonard led the franchise to its first NBA title by upsetting the Golden State Warriors, rival executives view his current team as the favorite to land him when the free-agent negotiating period begins June 30, sources said.
Get Up: “Kawhi Leonard’s focus [is] on Los Angeles, but it’s the Clippers not the Lakers.” —@wojespn pic.twitter.com/AbOpm0aJ0E
“The reality is Kawhi Leonard’s focused on Los Angeles, but it’s the Clippers, not the Lakers. No. 1, they don’t have the money to sign him. And two, the idea of him being a third wheel on a team trying to create a superteam, that has not been Kawhi’s M.O. The Clippers are poised to be able to lure him from Toronto. This will be a Raptors-Clippers fight down to the end. He may take meetings with more teams; it’s not even certain he’d even take a meeting with the Lakers right now.”
“But there was always the risk of him going back west. The L.A. Clippers are at the very top of that list, and I think the Raptors still have work to do between now and June 30 and the start of free agency to keep Kawhi Leonard in Toronto.”
The team most associated with Leonard as far as a landing spot in free agency are the Clippers. Their confidence in Leonard picking them in a few weeks has been reportedly high for much of the year. But, league sources said over the last few days, the Clippers are seeing what we’re seeing — Leonard leading the team for which he currently plays to the brink of its first title. The Clippers, those sources said, feel confident Leonard will answer the phone when they call on June 30, but beyond that there is no way to know what impact Leonard’s Finals run will have. Those sources said the Clippers spend most of their time in meetings preparing for scenarios in which he doesn’t come to L.A.
Kawhi Leonard is also a priority for the Knicks this summer. The Knicks will not be shy in their courting of the Raptors star. But the Clippers and Raptors are widely seen as the most logical options for Leonard in free agency. But people close to Leonard viewed New York as a potential destination for the star two-way player when he was engineering a trade out of San Antonio. So the Knicks should at least get a meeting with Leonard once free agency begins on June 30.
One of the better Kawhi Leonard anecdotes of the season, not surprisingly, involves the team that will be trying as hard as any to steal him from the Toronto Raptors after the N.B.A. finals. The Los Angeles Clippers are said to have quietly looked into the feasibility of purchasing the portion of the rights to Leonard’s “Klaw” logo that is still owned by Nike. The Clippers did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday, but such an acquisition would theoretically enable them to bestow full control of the logo upon Leonard as part of their anticipated free-agency pitch meeting with the Toronto superstar.
Forget for a moment that the financial outlay necessary to complete this kind of purchase, by any team, would most likely be considered a salary-cap violation. Let’s also briefly tune out that Nike, as emphasized to me recently by a top official from the sportswear giant, is intent on rebuffing all approaches and retaining its rights to that logo for as long as it can — to assure that it would not appear on gear made by Leonard’s new contract partners at New Balance.
“[Leonard] is the most like Jordan that we’ve seen,” Rivers said. “There’s a lot of great players. LeBron is phenomenal, KD is phenomenal. Not that [Leonard] is Jordan or anything like that, but he’s the most like him. Big hands, post game, can finish. Great leaper, great defender, in-between game. If you beat him to the spot he bumps you off, and then you add his three-point shooting.”
Tomer Azarly: . @ramonashelburne on @ESPNLosAngeles about Kawhi Leonard – “I still think he’s coming to L.A. I think the #Clippers are in the driver’s seat. I’ve thought that for a long time just because he seems to be a guy who wants his own team.”
ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski explained that Leonard could take meetings with teams that could pay him his much-awaited max contract, but ultimately would be narrowed down to two front-runners: “I think teams like New York, Philadelphia, Brooklyn, teams who potentially have significant cap space, he might take meetings with them,” Wojnarowski said of Leonard as a guest on ESPN’s “Get Up!” “But I think by the time you get to July 1, typically players have a really strong idea about where they’re gonna go and usually their eyes are not getting opened in a one- or two-hour meeting with a team they haven’t given great consideration to. I think this is Clippers and Raptors. “The Raptors can pay him more, they can pay him a $200-million-plus deal if he wants to stay in Toronto.”
If you want rumors and predictions, they’re not hard to find in this gossipy league. Rival executives will tell you, without hesitation, that Durant is bound for the Knicks; that Irving is likely to join him; that Leonard likes the Clippers; that Butler might choose the Lakers—unless he chooses the Nets. Of course, they all might stay put. (Well, except for Durant. Virtually everyone believes he’s leaving the Warriors.) No one knows for sure. Predictions are flimsy.
The Los Angeles Clippers are expected to make the most aggressive push for Leonard, and they’ve made little secret of it. The Clippers have had representatives at many Raptors games this season, home and away, ranging from scouts, to assistant general manager Mark Hughes – who attended Friday’s game against Oklahoma City – to team president Lawrence Frank and billionaire owner Steve Ballmer.The Clippers – like the Lakers, who some league insiders believe to be less of a draw to Leonard – can offer at least a few things Toronto can’t. They can offer a warmer climate and an opportunity for the California native to play closer to home. If those are the factors that end up powering Leonard’s decision, the Raptors don’t stand a chance and likely never did.
Leonard, of course, is a Southern California guy. It’s no secret that Toronto will always be at a disadvantage in keeping Leonard because of the weather, and while the Lakers were targeting Leonard last summer, talk with folks in the Clippers’ ranks, and there is an obvious confidence that they could lure Leonard into the blue-and-red next summer.
Asked to handicap Leonard’s future, one front office executive from another team said, “I think the Lakers are out, but the Clippers are the ones who think they have a shot at him if they decide to go that route. You hear a lot, he still wants to be on the West Coast. But give that group in Toronto all the credit in the world. They’re making it a tough decision for him. “It might come down to just, ‘All right, how did the playoffs go, and how far are we from a championship?'”
Leonard will become an unrestricted free agent this summer once he declines his 2019-20 player option with the Toronto Raptors. “I do not,” Wright said when asked if he believes Leonard would have interest in playing with James on the Brian Windhorst & The Hoop Collective Podcast. “That’s just what I’ve been told. It’s what I’ve been told going back to last summer. I don’t see that as something that’s happening. “I think he goes to the Clippers.”
Marc Stein: “Every time I’m in the Clippers orbit all season long, they’re confident in terms of getting Kawhi Leonard. You feel it when you’re around them. They think they’re getting Kawhi.“
Michael Grange: Yes, Kawhi Leonard knows who Steve Ballmer is. No he did not see him courtside at the Raptors-Clippers game: “I don’t really pay attention to who’s at the game or anything like that unless … there’s a dead ball or something like that and they make an announcement.”
Those are two things the LA Clippers can offer, which is part of why their pursuit of Leonard has drawn so much attention. Some aspects of it have been overt, such as the Clippers’ presence at many of his games this season in a scouting capacity. Others have been less so, such as their decision to hire former Sports Illustrated writer Lee Jenkins. The popular opinion among league executives six months before Leonard makes his decision is that he’ll choose between the Raptors and the Clippers. If it comes down to those two teams, the chance for Leonard to come home and to stay away from snow could be the Clippers’ strongest argument.
A day later in Oakland, where the Raptors had gone to face Golden State, I circled back with Leonard to make sure I read the situation right. Sure enough, as he confirmed, he didn’t know the man who had been standing there when we said hello. “No, who was it?” he asked. “Lawrence Frank, the head of the Clippers’ front office,” I replied. “Oh, that was Lawrence Frank?” he said with a smile (and no, to answer the obvious question, he didn’t share one of his legendary laughs).
This chatter fills sports talk radio shows, Twitter debates, message boards, broadcast airwaves, and more. The noise also ramps up when Leonard goes to places he has been linked, such as Los Angeles. “I focus on what we’re doing,” Leonard said of his reaction to all the speculation prior to his Raptors knocking off the Clippers Tuesday night (without him due to a sore hip). “I don’t buy into reading media, don’t have no social media, so just focus on what’s in front of me. At that time it’s either my family or playing basketball.” Does what is being said bother him? “Not at all. I don’t watch TV too much,” Leonard said, adding he uses apps to watch movies and TV shows.
The Clippers, it seems, closely watch every Raptors and Warriors game this season. Even though they are having a terrific season of their own — experiencing the rare joy of expectation-free success in the NBA — the Clippers are rather transparently obsessed with chasing Kawhi Leonard and Kevin Durant in free agency next summer.
But even by these modern standards, the Clippers’ pursuit is still a little revolutionary. Raptors officials have noticed a Clippers employee at roughly 75 percent of the team’s games thus far this season. That has included president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank, which is rare. Presidents and general managers are almost never seen attending a game that doesn’t involve their teams.
As time has gone on, those rumours have focused more on the Los Angeles Clippers. The Los Angeles Lakers boast LeBron James and the greatest marketing advantage in the sport, but there are some around the league who feel that James’ shadow looms too large and that the impatience the Lakers are already showing with their four-year plan could erode their sales pitch. They will always be the Lakers, which carries weight, even if Leonard promptly shut down questions about any Laker fandom in his childhood. (He was an Allen Iverson fan, which could point to a willingness to go against the grain and be his own person. Or, you know, it could point to very little, because it’s just fandom. Leonard is not the type to tip his hand in any sort of way by answering gratuitous questions, or to answer them much at all.)
A survey of several league executives this weekend had the Lakers trailing, even among Staples Center tenants, in the competition to get Leonard, with the LA Clippers universally being placed ahead of them. Rather than seeking to team up with James, the thinking is that Leonard would prefer to have control of his own team, which the Clippers would offer, while still giving him the ability to return to his native Southern California.
It doesn’t help Toronto that plenty of people in the league don’t think Leonard is going to stay. That’s not binding either, just ask those who had Paul George ticketed out of Oklahoma City a year ago. Still, the LA Clippers are already rotating scouts through Raptor games like Leonard is a college prospect and they have the No. 1 pick. The Raptors can say anything. One thing they aren’t is naïve.
Farbod Esnaashari: Ramona Shelburne: The #Clippers are the number one ranked team for Kawhi Leonard next season. The #Raptors are number two, and the #Lakers are number three. Via: 710 ESPN Mason and Ireland
Ramona Shelburne: “The Clippers are doing everything they can right now to get ready to make this pitch to Kawhi Leonard and some of the other big-time free agents next summer.”
So far, Leonard’s preference is to sign in Los Angeles with either the Lakers or Clippers next season, sources told Wojnarowski.
Bowen appeared on The Dan Patrick Show Thursday and confirmed he was not brought back because of the critical comments he made about Leonard during a SiriusXM NBA Radio interview in June. Bowen said an individual within the Clippers organization told him his contract would not be renewed. “It was basically we don’t view your views that way, because of your comments of Kawhi Leonard, we are choosing to go a separate way,” Bowen told Patrick.
Bowen proceeded to criticize the Clippers: “Kawhi never said ‘I want to play for the Clippers.’ Kawhi said he wanted to play for the Lakers. Unfortunately, if you’re going to run your organization based on hopes, maybe, and getting rid of others, now if I tore him down and if I was disrespectful to him, that’s one thing. But that’s not the case. As an analyst, I’m supposed to talk about what I see and what I feel for this game that I love. If you can’t do that, what does that say about your organization?”
Bowen had a final shot at the Clippers when Patrick told him that someone with the Clippers said Bowen knew he should not have been talking about Leonard because they wanted to sign the former Spurs all-star forward, and have a difficult time getting free agents to Los Angeles. “If you can’t get free agents in California, in Los Angeles that is, that has nothing to do with Bruce Bowen, that has more to do with the organization,” Bowen said.
As has been well-documented, the task for Toronto in the coming year is to persuade Leonard to stay in a place and perform for a team for which he had no desire to play just a few short weeks ago. It’s a tall order, and if the Raptors can do it, the massive gamble they took this month will have paid off. Most around the league still expect that Leonard will look to return home to Southern California, either to join LeBron James with the Lakers or bring his star power to the Clippers.
Bruce Arthur: “One thing I was told last night is that Kawhi Leonard has already been planning out his free agency for next year and he’s already been in contact with other star players in the league, saying, ‘hey, where might you want to play with me? What are we looking at?’ And it wasn’t just L.A. he was talking about. Brooklyn was maybe somewhere that’ll have a ton of cap space. That’s a possibility.”
MARC STEIN: But I did hear enough chatter in various Vegas conversations to believe that the Raptors have given legit consideration to gambling on a trade for Leonard, with three obvious problems to contend with: 1) Leonard can leave in free agency at season’s end, even if the Raptors are fortunate enough to trade for him. 2) Leonard’s camp has given no indication to any interested team that he plans to sign anywhere but Los Angeles (with either the Lakers or the Clippers) in July 2019. 3) Leonard’s readiness for next season, thanks to the quadriceps injury that limited him to nine games last season, has to concern teams in Toronto’s position as much as the idea of trading for him and losing him months later.
Peter Vecsey: Before calling Kawhi a wrap, an additional inaccuracy needs to be corrected. Despite what you may have read or been told by two national columnists, Kawhi has absolutely no reservations about playing with LeBron James. “He’d be glad to play with him,” the associate stresses. “If not, he would do the Clippers.”
Adrian Wojnarowski: “I’ve been told that one of the reasons [Kawhi Leonard] looks at going to the Clippers – is a little less motivated [to go to the Clippers] is because initially, the idea of Los Angeles was fine to him – he preferred the Lakers but was all right with the Clippers – but now that LeBron James is there, the idea of going head-to-head with LeBron – to have Kawhi with the Clippers and LeBron with the Lakers, and to maybe feel dwarfed by that – I’m told that’s become far less appealing for him.”
Leonard wants a trade to Los Angeles, preferably the Lakers over the Clippers, league sources said. He has privately maintained that he no longer wants to play in San Antonio, and will eventually alert rival teams considering trades for him that his intentions are to sign in Los Angeles — preferably with the Lakers — when he can become a free agent in 2019, league sources said. The Spurs are unlikely to be motivated to facilitate a deal to the Lakers, league sources said.
The star forward’s willingness to leave the Spurs became clear Friday morning, when the San Antonio Express News first reported he wants to be traded. According to sources not authorized to speak publicly, the Lakers have long been Leonard’s preferred destination, though the Clippers are among the teams he would consider.
The Clippers have more to offer than the Lakers. They would be willing to create a package with forward Tobias Harris and the 12th or 13th pick in this year’s draft, according to a source not authorized to speak publicly.
But once they reach that breaking point, the Spurs still don’t need to acquiesce to Leonard’s wishes regarding where he wants to play. League sources have long felt that Leonard would prefer to play close to home. Leonard was born in Los Angeles, grew up in nearby Riverside, and went to college in San Diego, where he still spends each summer.
Marc Stein: The Clippers indeed intend to be aggressive trade bidders for Kawhi Leonard, league sources say, if/when San Antonio actually makes him available. That obviously hasn’t happened — yet
Kevin O’Connor: Expect the the Sixers, Celtics, Lakers and Clippers to be the main four teams pursuing Kawhi Leonard, per sources. Teams with top picks could always jump into the sweepstakes, but the risk would be significant considering Leonard has just one more season left on his contract.
Sources: So far, Leonard has expressed nothing directly to Spurs about future. Lakers and Clippers interest Leonard — and both teams would move quickly to assemble packages to acquire Leonard. Spurs won’t rush. Leonard and his camp had shown interest in $219M super max deal.
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July 28, 2021 | 7:51 am EDT Update
And two players from the Bucks are not only also on the American team, but circumstances were such that the three had to share a private plane ride across the Pacific last weekend — a day after the Bucks’ championship parade. “The memories are there, but it’s nothing personal between us,” Booker said. “We lost and that’s it, and I’m man enough to accept that and move on. There’s no hate towards Jrue or K Mid.”
Months after LeBron James lost a Finals, he’d always say it was something he’d never get over. Good thing he never had to be Devin Booker, who barely had 10 minutes to try and put it behind him. “I’m a forward thinker and able to move onto the next thing, and be able to take my ‘L’ and move on,” Booker said Wednesday, in his first comments since the night his Phoenix Suns lost to the Milwaukee Bucks in Game 6 of the NBA Finals, eight days ago.
Booker’s coach on Team USA, Gregg Popovich, and teammate Draymond Green (not to mention assistant coach Steve Kerr, but we digress) have been in Booker’s shoes, having lost a Finals. He said Popovich and Green discussed it with him “in short conversation.” “Talkin’ about it with Draymond, and him stressing the fact that it’s not gonna be that easy to get back to the Finals,” Booker said. “I remember us as a team saying that in the locker room after we lost — you know we’ve got to understand, it’s going to be even harder to make it to the point we were at. … But I’m excited for the experience. It was great. I am glad I got to do it, obviously ended up on the wrong side of the stick, but that’s life.”
“It’s a HUGE deal,” former NBA player Raja Bell said of the international ball in a text with CBS Sports on Tuesday. “I’ve always said that FIBA balls affected my shot and other NBA players’ shots tremendously. I HATE that ball! “It’s lighter, feels smaller, different texture,” Bell continued. “I mean, when the art of shooting is based on muscle memory, and you change all the factors except the rim size and height, it’s going to be difficult.”
In another exchange with a Western Conference scout, the conclusion was similar. “[The ball is] definitely a factor,” the scout said. “How big a factor I guess depends on the particular player. But it’s an adjustment for everyone. Some guys are going to make [the adjustment] easier than others.” And another text from an Eastern Conference scout with international playing experience: “It’s pretty different, and it takes some getting used to. It’s much softer than NBA or college basketballs.”
It should be comforting for Jalen Johnson to know he’ll be a first-round selection in Thursday night’s NBA draft. What should be more stressful for the former Nicolet High School standout is where he’ll actually be chosen. Johnson, a talented 6-foot-9 forward, has elicited a wide-range of opinions from NBA draft personnel. Said one longtime NBA personnel director of Johnson: “He is, to me, the biggest wild-card in the draft. I wouldn’t be shocked if he went in the lottery, like around 12 or so, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he fell into the 20s.’’
“Part of the evolution of African interest and passion for the game goes back to Hakeem’s entry into the game,” said Victor Williams, chief executive of NBA Africa. “Giannis is doing the same thing for today’s generation of African kids — and they do recognize him as African.” Antetokounmpo is known as “The Greek Freak” because he was born in Athens, but he grew up in a Nigerian home. His mother, Veronica, is Igbo. His late father, Charles, is from the same Yoruba tribe as Olajuwon. His last name — Adetokunbo — was Hellenized when he finally became a citizen of Greece and received his passport, one month before the Bucks drafted him 15th in 2013.