Report: Blake Griffin to sign with Nets

The Brooklyn Nets have another piece to the puzzle. According to The Athletic’s Sham Charania, Blake Griffin has cleared free agency waivers, and the six-time NBA All-Star is expected to sign with the Nets.

The 31-year-old Griffin and the Detroit Pistons agreed to a buyout on Friday. 

During three-plus years with the Pistons (2018-21), Griffin posted averages of 20.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 33.3 minutes over 138 games (all starts). He earned All-NBA Third Team honors and his sixth NBA All-Star selection while averaging a career-best 24.5 points and leading the Pistons to the NBA Playoffs in 2018-19.  

In 20 games with the Pistons this season, Griffin averaged 12.3 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game.

It should be interesting to see what role Griffin will have in Brooklyn, but the assumption is he will probably be a starter. With what they have in terms of Kyrie Irving, James Harden, and Kevin Durant, Griffin will get a lot of good looks. If he can stay healthy, Griffin can definitely help the Nets. He gives them depth and another guy who can score the ball.

Drafted first overall in the 2009 NBA Draft by the Clippers, Griffin holds averages of 21.4 points, 8.7 rebounds, 4.4 assists, and 34.7 minutes in 642 career NBA games.

Embiid, Simmons out of 2021 All-Star Game

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson will replace Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid in the starting lineup for Team Durant in the 2021 NBA All-Star Game, which will be played tonight at State Farm Arena in Atlanta (8 p.m. ET, TNT and ESPN Radio). Team Durant head coach Doc Rivers made the decision to go with Williamson to replace Embiid.

Embiid and his teammate, All-Star Ben Simmons, have been ruled out of the 2021 NBA All-Star game due to the NBA’s Health and Safety Protocols.

According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, Embiid and Simmons were exposed to COVID-19 through their personal barber, who had a positive test result and is awaiting another test. Both players traveled by themselves on private planes and had no exposure to other players or people down in the Atlanta bubble. 

Fortunately, both players did not come in contact with the other All-Stars in Atlanta.

Conley replaces injured Booker in 2021 NBA All-Star Game

Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley has been named by NBA Commissioner Adam Silver to replace injured Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker on Team Durant in the 2021 NBA All-Star Game, the league announced on Friday.

In addition, Conley will replace Booker in the 2021 MTN DEW® 3-Point Contest, which will be held on March 7 before the NBA All-Star Game.

This is the first NBA All-Star selection for Conley, who is in his 14th season.  He is averaging 16.1 points and 5.7 assists and shooting a career-high 42.2 percent from three-point range in 29 games this season. The 33-year-old Conley has helped the Jazz post an NBA-best 27-9 record.  He joins two Utah teammates, Team LeBron center Rudy Gobert and Team Durant guard Donovan Mitchell, in the NBA All-Star Game.

Booker is unable to play in the NBA All-Star Game or participate in the MTN DEW® 3-Point Contest because of a left knee sprain.  He was named to the NBA All-Star Game by the Commissioner as an injury replacement for Los Angeles Lakers forward Anthony Davis.  Booker is averaging 24.9 points and 4.4 assists in 31 games this season.

The NBA All-Star Game and MTN DEW® 3-Point Contest are part of NBA All-Star 2021, which will take place on one night.  TNT’s NBA All-Star coverage on March 7 will begin at 5 p.m. ET with TNT NBA Tip-Off presented by CarMax, followed by the Taco Bell® Skills Challenge and MTN DEW® 3-Point Contest starting at 6:30 p.m. ET.  NBA All-Star Game coverage will begin at 8 p.m. ET, with AT&T Slam Dunk taking place at halftime.

Mavs’ Porzingis, Richardson happy with team’s direction as they head into All-Star break

The Mavericks(18-16) go into the All-Star break playing some decent basketball. Dallas has won three straight and 10 of their last 13, including Wednesday night’s 87-78 home victory over the Thunder(14-21). 

Dallas was without their star Luka Doncic, who missed Wednesday’s game due to lower back tightness.

The Mavericks struggled with their shot against OKC and shot only 39% from the field, including 8-40 from three-point range. In the first half, Dallas was 1-19 from three-point range, but it was all about what Dallas did on defense. They held OKC to a season-low of 78 points.

After the game, Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle talked about the rough shooting night and the great defense.

“What a tough game,” Carlisle said. “It was going to be difficult, it was going to be physical, it was going to be tight,” Carlisle said. “The shooting wasn’t there, particularly in the first half. When I looked at halftime, it was hard to believe we were 1-for-19 from 3. But we just kept with the process, stepped into some shots in the second half. The defense was tremendous — maybe our second-best game other than one early on—three sub-20-point quarters. The defensive belt tonight went to the entire team, which is a bit of a departure but appropriate for the circumstance.”

Now, the focus is getting rest during All-Star weekend. The Mavericks had a lot of issues with COVID-19 in the first half of the season. Guys like Josh Richardson,  Jalen Brunson, Maxi Kleiber, Dorian Finney-Smith, and Dwight Powell all missed time due to health and safety protocols, but now those guys are healthy.

According to Kristaps Porzingis, who had 19 points and 13 rebounds against OKC, Dallas is starting to get a rhythm. 

“I started the season late. Maxi [Kleber] and Dwight [Powell] and everyone was catching the virus,” Porzingis said. “We didn’t have the whole team playing for a while. It just took time, and also the schedule was really tough. It was a combination of things. The good thing is that we are getting in a rhythm lately and want to keep it going after the break.”

Richardson, who had 16 points on Wednesday night, added: “We have had a lot of guys in and out of the lineup. We have had six-game skids, three-game skids and have just been all over the place. But I think we are starting to find good form, and hopefully, it carries over after the break.”

Dallas is playing good basketball right now, and you wonder if the break is coming at the wrong time because this team seems to have found a rhythm. The rest should be good for this team as they prepare to make a playoff push in the final 36 games of the regular season.

Photo: @dallasmavs/twitter

 

Blue Coats clinch playoff berth behind Paul Reed’s 10th double-double

The Delaware Blue Coats (9-4), the NBA G League affiliate of the Philadelphia 76ers, defeated the Canton Charge (4-9), 103-97, on Wednesday afternoon at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida. With the win and NBA G League Ignite’s loss to the Agua Caliente Clippers, the Blue Coats clinched a playoff berth for the first time in Delaware franchise history.

76ers two-way contract player Paul Reed scored 14 of his 26 points (10-17 FG, 2-4 3FG, 3-3 FT) in the fourth quarter, the most for any Blue Coat in a single quarter this season. He added 12 rebounds, including a season-high nine boards on the offensive glass. It was Reed’s 10th double-double in 13 games.

Delaware’s Justin Robinson tallied 17 points (7-16 FG 2-6 3FG, 1-4 FT), seven rebounds and a game-high eight assists in a game-high 35 minutes of action. Michael Frazier II scored 18 points (7-14 FG, 1-4 3FG, 3-4 FT) off the bench, while Jemerrio Jones posted a game-high plus-24 rating with five points, eight rebounds and four assists.

The Blue Coats overcame a 16-point deficit in the game. They won the rebounding battle, 52-49, and scored 20 more points in the paint (54-34). Delaware swiped at least 10 steals (11) for the ninth time in 13 games.

The NBA G League playoffs begin March 8. The Blue Coats will play two more games this week to complete their 15-game regular season schedule.

UP NEXT: Delaware will take on the Salt Lake City Stars on Friday at 7 p.m. ET.

Sexton on loss to Pacers: ‘We cut down on turnovers; hell, we win that game by at least 10, 12 points’

For most of the night, the Cleveland Cavaliers(14-22)were rolling against the Indiana Pacers. After Darius Garland made a driving layup plus the foul in the third quarter, Cleveland went up 77-60. However, Garland would leave the game with a groin injury, and Indiana(16-19) would outscore the Cavs by 20 points the rest of the way and win 114-111 at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse on Wednesday night. 

With the loss, Cleveland’s four-game winning streak is snapped. Indiana was led by Malcolm Brogdon, who had a team-high 29 points, and T.J. McConnell, who had a triple-double with 16 points, 13 assists, and 10 steals off the bench. McConnell set an NBA record with nine steals(first half) in a half and became the first player since Mookie Blaylock(1998) to have a triple-double with points, assists, and steals.

After Garland went out of the game, Cleveland’s offense struggled, and they committed seven of the team’s season-high 26 turnovers in the fourth quarter.

Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff discussed the struggles on offense without Garland.

“Darius is a heck of a playmaker,” Bickerstaff said after the game. “He’s a guy teams have to worry about as far as scoring and also making his teammates better. He was one of our primary ball-handlers and playmakers. And, without him in the game, it just became a little more difficult… We missed Darius a lot down the stretch.”

According to Collin Sexton, who had a game-high 32 points to go along with 10 assists, if the team would have limited the turnovers, they would beat the Pacers on Wednesday night.

“We just gotta be better,” Sexton said. “We had too many turnovers tonight. We cut down on turnovers; hell, we win that game by at least 10, 12 points.

Despite the loss, Cleveland has to be excited by how they played in the last few games before the All-Star break, especially when you consider they had a 10-game losing streak. Now, as they go into the break, Cleveland has to hope they can get it healthy, which could give this team a shot at a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. 

 

Spurs’ Keldon Johnson selected to 2021 Rising Stars roster

The NBA today announced that San Antonio Spurs forward Keldon Johnson has been selected to the 2021 Rising Stars Roster. Johnson is the first Spurs player to be selected for the Rising Stars Challenge since Jonathon Simmons in 2017 and the first player to be selected in his second season after appearing in less than 20 games as a rookie since Clint Capela in 2016.

In his sophomore campaign this season, Johnson is averaging career highs of 14.3 points, 6.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists in 29.4 minutes over 28 games. He is on track to become the first Spur in his second season to average at least 14.0 points and 6.0 rebounds since Tim Duncan in 1998-99.

Johnson, 21, is one of three Spurs in history (Duncan and David Robinson) to record multiple games with 25-plus points and 10-or-more rebounds in their first 50 career games. The former Kentucky Wildcat has posted five double-doubles on the season and has scored double figures in 21 games, including five games with 20-or-more. Among rookies and sophomores in the NBA this season, Johnson joins Zion Williamson and Michael Porter Jr. as the only three players averaging better than 14.0 points and 6.5 rebounds per game.

Johnson becomes the ninth player in San Antonio franchise history to be selected to the Rising Stars since the event’s inception in 1994.

Doncic, Paul headline Skills Challenge

NBA All-Stars Luka Doncic of the Dallas Mavericks and Chris Paul of the Phoenix Suns will display their vast array of talents in the 2021 Taco Bell® Skills Challenge on Sunday, March 7 at State Farm Arena in Atlanta.  The Taco Bell® Skills Challenge will take place before the 2021 NBA All-Star Game, airing on TNT.

Joining Doncic and Paul as 2021 NBA All-Stars in the field are New York Knicks forward Julius Randle, Indiana Pacers forward Domantas Sabonis and Orlando Magic center Nikola Vučević.  The six-player competition also features Portland Trail Blazers forward Robert Covington.

The 19th Taco Bell® Skills Challenge is an obstacle-course competition that tests players’ dribbling, passing, agility and 3-point shooting skills.  The event is part of NBA All-Star 2021, which will take place on one night.  TNT’s NBA All-Star coverage on March 7 will begin at 5 p.m. ET with TNT NBA Tip-Off presented by CarMax, followed by the Taco Bell® Skills Challenge and MTN DEW® 3-Point Contest starting at 6:30 p.m. ET.  NBA All-Star Game coverage will begin at 8 p.m. ET, with AT&T Slam Dunk taking place at halftime.

Doncic, who was named an NBA All-Star Game starter for the second year in a row, joins Sabonis (the 2020 runner-up) and Vučević as second-time participants in the Taco Bell® Skills Challenge.  Paul, an NBA All-Star selection for the 11th time, will make his record fifth appearance in the Taco Bell® Skills Challenge and his first since 2011.  Randle and Covington will make their event debuts.

The Taco Bell® Skills Challenge is a three-round competition with a single-elimination tournament format.  Two players will compete simultaneously on an identical course and the winner of each head-to-head matchup will advance to the next round.  Two of the six participants, as chosen by the NBA, will receive a bye in the first round and automatically advance to the second round.  First-round matchups will be announced at a later date.

Cavs’ McGee: ‘We’re not a team that just gives up”

It appears that the Cleveland Cavaliers(14-21) may have figured out their issues and have turned things around. Cleveland got their second straight road win and their fourth straight victory overall after defeating Houston(11-22) 101-90 on Monday night.

Collin Sexton was very dynamic against the Rockets. He was 12-20 from the field, including 4-8 from three-point range for 39 points. Sexton also added eight assists.

“He was not going to let us lose,” Cavs head coach J.B. Bickerstaff said about Sexton after the game. “And again, they do make it tough on you because they have some very good individual defenders, and they can switch with length. It turns into where you have to beat your man, and Collin has the ability to beat his man. He was awesome for us tonight.”

During the Cavs’ four-game winning streak, Sexton is averaging 29.8 ppg, and according to Sexton, he felt he needed to do more for his team.

“I put many hours in the gym each and every day,” Sexton said. “I knew I had to be better for my teammates.”

Two weeks ago, during their 10-game losing streak, it appeared the Cavs had lost their way and would struggle the rest of the season, but to the credit of the players and coaching staff, Cleveland has has not quit.

“We’re not a team that just gives up,” JaVale McGee said after scoring 10 points off the bench against Houston. “We are in the East right now, so maybe we’re three or four games out of the playoffs(2.5 games), which is crazy when you think about it after losing ten in a row.”

Cleveland plays their final game before the All-Star break at home against the Pacers on Wednesday night with a chance to make it five straight.

Spurs bounce back against the Knicks

The San Antonio Spurs bounced back on Tuesday night against New York’s other team, the Knicks. Behind a strong third quarter, where the Spurs outscored New York by 15 points, San Antonio routed the Knicks 119-93 at AT&T Center. The 26-point victory was the largest margin of victory for San Antonio this season. 

The Spurs were playing a back-to-back after falling to the Nets on Monday night in OT. Against the Knicks, who are number one in points allowed, San Antonio scored 36 points in the third quarter. Patty Mills(3-5 from three-point range) had nine points in the quarter, and Trey Lyles(2-2 from three-point range) had eight of his team and season-high 18 points, and in the end, San Antonio got back to their winning ways. The Spurs finished the game with 18 made threes. 

Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich was happy with the team’s effort.

“I think it was an impressive win on a back-to-back,” Popovich said. “Tough loss last night, and they just keep on trucking. An impressive win on a back-to-back came out and played a very physical team. Actually, the number one defensive team in the league right now. They should be pleased with their effort for now. “

Popovich was also happy with the play of DeMar DeRozan and Dejounte Murray. DeRozan had a double-double with 11 points and 10 assists, and he became the fifth player in Spurs history to record 11-plus assists in three straight games, while Murray had 17 points and six assists.

“Once again, Dejounte and DeMar, attacking, finding people,” Popovich said. “Between them, 17 assists and one turnover.”

The Spurs battle the Thunder at home on Thursday night, which is very winnable, and the final game before the All-Star break and the team’s four-game homestand. San Antonio is looking to avenge their loss to OKC, who beat the Spurs at the buzzer back in late February.