- HOOPSWORLD | Basketball News & NBA Rumors - http://www.hoopsworld.com -
NBA PM: Clippers Want to Add a Piece
Posted By Eric Pincus On February 9, 2012 @ 7:00 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
The Los Angeles Clippers took a harsh blow on when guard Chauncey Billups tore his Achilles’ tendon, knocking him out for the season.
Billups, more so than point guard Chris Paul, has that crucial championship experience that the Clippers will need as they head into what could be an unprecedented postseason run. The Clippers will be able to replace Chauncey’s production, to an extent, throughout the regular season but having an NBA Finals MVP on the floor in the closing moments of vital playoff games?
That’s tough to overcome.
Initially the Clippers have a loaded roster of guards including Randy Foye, Mo Williams, Eric Bledsoe, rookie Travis Leslie and Paul. Caron Butler can guard the position when size is needed. Even Kenyon Martin, historically, has spent time at the two defensively – notably in a playoff series against the Los Angeles Lakers covering Kobe Bryant.
According to sources, the Clippers feel it’s imperative they improve the roster before the March 15th trade deadline.
That’s no easy task given the only real bait they’re willing to offer is salary savings by taking on a player with either of the team’s two trade exceptions. The Clippers can bring in a player making up to $3,931,184 (Eric Gordon) or $2,855,560 (Al-Farouq Aminu), both exceptions acquired in the Paul trade.
While it’s been clear for some time that Williams is not happy with his role after the team made so many changes this offseason (detailed in part by HOOPSWORLD’s Bill Ingram), LA is steadfast that he’s not available in trade.
The Clippers feel that what Williams brings to the team on the court is invaluable and that’s certainly not diminished with the loss of Billups.
The same could be said of second-year point guard Eric Bledsoe who has recently returned from offseason knee surgery. Given Billups and Foye will be free agents and Williams can opt out of his contract, Bledsoe is a player the Clippers are also very reluctant to part with.
That means LA doesn’t have much sweetener to offer when it comes to adding a guard to the roster. As things stand today, the Clippers have no intention to give another first-round pick. The Clippers have already dealt their 2012 first-round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder (Bledsoe deal) – although that pick has since been conveyed to the Boston Celtics (Kendrick Perkins/Jeff Green swap). The earliest they can send out a first is for the 2014 NBA Draft (though there are protection issues on the 2012 pick that could complicate matters).
So it’s essentially the trade exception(s) and perhaps a second-round draft pick.
That stance would make it difficult to acquire a player like Courtney Lee, a capable shooting guard and defender from the Houston Rockets with NBA Finals experience. While he’s a good fit for both the roster and trade exception (Lee makes $2.2 million this year), the Rockets are asking for a first in return after failing to close an extension with Courtney.
As detailed on Tuesday, J.R. Smith Looking for a Big Contract, free agent guard J.R. Smith will be able to return from China relatively soon but is looking for more than a minimum salary. He’s also looking for a primary scoring role.
Sources confirm it would be difficult for LA to land Smith, barring J.R. changing his priorities.
Beyond Lee, what other available two-guards would fit within the Clippers’ strict parameters?
Pieces like Nicolas Batum, Nick Young, Jerryd Bayless and Rudy Fernandez make the right salary for LA’s exception but their respective teams have greater demands than what the Clippers would be willing to offer.
How much would veterans like Marquis Daniels, Mickael Pietrus, Anthony Parker and Dahntay Jones do for the Clippers? Would their existing teams let them go and are they even worth LA’s time?
Oddly, Mike Dunleavy isn’t a bad fit in that he can shoot and pass (though not much of a defender) but he has a steady role in Milwaukee and the Clippers happened to have fired his father and the matter ended up going to court. That’s probably going to be a no . . .
Raja Bell of the Utah Jazz is coming off of a down season with solid shooting numbers from the field (45.9%) and three (36.5%) from three but he’s already 35-years old and has another year on his deal.
Raja starts for the Jazz, would they move him? Bryant recently noted that he considered Bell of the better defenders against him in the league but he still may not be overly appealing to the Clippers.
Another player thought by some to be on the trading block is O.J. Mayo but he makes more than the Clippers’ trade exception and the Memphis Grizzlies are certainly looking for a solid return.
Going bigger, the Clippers do have interest in Ray Allen but he would clearly take more resources from LA and there’s no telling if the Boston Celtics are seriously ready to split up their big three.
The Clippers have until the deadline to get something done, although a free agent signing is always a possibility. Perhaps more and better options will be revealed in that time.
For now Coach Vinny Del Negro will play with his rotation, starting Randy Foye in place of Billups, as the team plays five of the next seven on the road. Up next for the Clippers will be the surging 76ers (18-8) on Friday night in Philadelphia.
Steve Blake Readying a Return
The Los Angeles Lakers are expecting Steve Blake back in uniform as early as Thursday night in Boston against the Celtics.
Blake was initially injured on January 10th against the Phoenix Suns but it worsened significantly the following night against the Utah Jazz. An MRI revealed a cartilage fracture in the ribcage, which has kept Steve sidelined for almost exactly a month.
Prior to losing Blake, the Lakers won eight of their first 12 games but have since lost seven of 13. At 14-11, they’re currently seventh in the Western Conference, three games behind the second-seeded San Antonio Spurs but also just three ahead of the 12th-place Phoenix Suns.
Initially Coach Mike Brown turned to rookie point guard Darius Morris for Blake’s minutes but Darius struggled. The shift to fellow-rookie Andrew Goudelock at the point, despite the fact that he’d never manned that position before in organized sports, proved to be a more suitable answer.
Look for the Lakers to run a Blake/Goudelock backcourt off the bench as Steve works his way back into the rotation.
The Lakers visit the Celtics in Boston tonight. LA has lost two straight; Boston is playing some of their best basketball of the year and have won five in a row.
A Few Clarifications on the Gasol/Rondo Story
If there are any specific notes to take out of Tuesday’s topic, “NBA PM: Rondo for Gasol a Possibility?”, keep the following in mind:
General Manager Mitch Kupchak may have not been speaking literally when he mentioned he would love to get a 25-year old, All-Star, ball-handling guard, of which Rajon Rondo is the only player in the league who matches that exact description . . . but that was not the source that led to the article.
Instead, the origination was reflected here, “Additionally, sources have told HOOSPWORLD that the Boston Celtics do have interest in Gasol for their All-Star point guard.”
Both the Lakers and Celtics, along with the 28 other teams, are fielding options. Neither is sitting and waiting on one single deal.
Naturally it would create other issues for both the Lakers (at power forward) and Celtics (at point guard) but building a workable roster rarely happens in one move. Both teams would have other options and opportunities.
While a three-player trade would be legal (Gasol for Rondo and Jermaine O’Neal), certainly other pieces could be involved (Brandon Bass, Steve Blake, Darius Morris, Josh McRoberts, etc.) but HOOPSWORLD has no indication of anything beyond the initial two names of Gasol and Rondo.
The key date that needs to pass is March 1st, as it allows for players who signed over the summer to be dealt. As the original article noted, there’s nothing close to a done deal at this point between the two teams, but there is indeed mutual interest.
Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to insure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @jfleminghoops, @TheRocketGuy, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @alexraskinNBA, @TommyBeer and @YannisHW.
Article printed from HOOPSWORLD | Basketball News & NBA Rumors: http://www.hoopsworld.com
URL to article: http://www.hoopsworld.com/nba-pm-clippers-want-to-add-a-piece
Copyright © 2012 HOOPSWORLD | Basketball News & NBA Rumors
Part of the USA TODAY Sports Media Group.