Is Doc Rivers about to squeeze his way into another primo job with the Phoenix Suns?

Wanna lose a Game 7? Here’s your guy

Anytime an upper-echelon NBA team is in need of fixing, you can always bet there will be a basketball exec standing over their roster bellowing for a Doc in the house. He’ll give your team a tracheotomy when you were just choking on a bone, but for the umpteenth time, Doc Rivers is in a position to answer the call and fail up. Unless The Athletic’s NBA scoop master Shams Charania is being misled, the 2008 Coach of the Year is among five candidates being considered for the job including Nick Nurse, Frank Vogel, Suns assistant Kevin Young and Sacramento Kings assistant Jordi Fernandez for the vacant Phoenix Suns job.

Since getting tapped to lead the Orlando Magic for the 1999 season, all Rivers has done is stalk the sideline for 23 of the last 24 seasons. The only season he missed was the 2003-04 campaign when he was assigned color commentary duty for the 2004 Finals on ABC, alongside Al Michaels.

Rivers didn’t have to work his way up the ladder as an assistant coach. Typically, the retired players who get access to the head coaching jobs pipeline with zero sideline credentials are ex-superstars borrowing off their name recognition. Rivers was selected by the Atlanta Hawks in the second round of the 1983 NBA Draft and parlayed a hustling role player’s existence into a prolific coaching career that has spanned decades.

During his prime in Atlanta, Rivers averaged a double-double once and was an All-Star reserve in ‘88. His middle name must be Spalding because I’ve never seen anyone bounce back — he also missed the final shot of the 1982 FIBA World Championships — so consistently from rock bottom.

Rivers has been touted as the ideal player-coach despite launching his coaching career by fumbling a Tracy McGrady, Grant Hill, and Tim Duncan super team by refusing to relent on his rule preventing spouses from flying on the team plane during his free agency visit during the summer of 2000. T-Mac and Hill still consider that the moment Duncan decided not to sign with the Orlando Magic. Duncan stayed in San Antonio and added four more titles to his coffers. Phil Jackson was savvy enough to let Dennis Rodman blow off steam in Vegas during the Finals and Rivers had to be a hardass to a family man at that moment. Rivers’ Helen of Troy career buried a few more ships over the next two decades.

Doc Rivers has lost more Game 7s than any other NBA coach

Rivers’ flubbed pitch during the Duncan recruitment foreshadowed what has come to define his mishap-filled coaching career — Rivers failing to adjust in crunchtime and his team losing out as a result. He oversaw a 3-1 series collapse against the Detroit Pistons the next year. After falling into the Celtics’ laps, he managed to stay out of the way in 2007 long enough for KG, Paul Pierce, Rajon Rondo, and Ray Allen to lead the Celtics to a title, but even that era is lamented as a disappointment because of their failure to win a second.

He escaped the Celtics’ collapse and rappelled to Lob City. Not only did the Clippers lust over Rivers, they gave up an unprotected first-round pick to acquire him. A year into the job, Rivers stumbled into the president of basketball ops role in the wake of Donald Sterling’s scandal. The Lob City Clippers always fell short, but Rivers’ brand kept its shine. After whipping up two Game 7 disasters in three seasons on Philly’s sideline, it appeared that the spell had finally worn off. But Rivers may have some juice left to squeeze out of another contender.

Rivers fails up like he was filled with helium. The only gasses capable of escaping his orifices now are gobs of hot air. Yet, he’s a respected figure off of reputation alone, but few ever ask why. Players supposedly like him, except James Harden, Ben Simmons, Chris Paul, Rasheed Wallace, and Blake Griffin. You get the point. His coaching prowess is smoke and mirrors courtesy of Kevin Garnett and since reaching the pinnacle in 2008, he’s been found wanting as a tactician too many times to count.

A Doc Rivers hiring may appease Chris Paul

For the sake of the Suns, Rivers may be on the final candidates list to appease Paul, who mended his relationship with Rivers years ago. Nick Nurse should be the obvious frontrunner, but he could ultimately decide to take the Milwaukee Bucks job or wind up in Philly, replacing Doc.

What then? Do Mat Ishbia and team president James Jones look around and realize their leading candidates are Rivers and Vogel because they can’t entrust Durant’s golden years to an assistant coach? Vogel has done yeoman’s work in Indiana and Los Angeles, but Rivers is the shiny object and Durant has an affinity for easy-going player-coaches without a system. The Suns’ new team owner has been known to lean on Isiah Thomas for advice and his name has been bandied about for a prominent role in the front office. To add smoke to that bustling fire, Rivers and Thomas were both Chicago high school basketball rivals. If Ishbia has any sense he’ll run from the Rivers talk, but his candidacy has better odds than you’d like. This is your warning.

Follow DJ Dunson on Twitter: @cerebralsportex

Don’t tune out the rest of the NBA playoffs just because the Lakers lost

The Denver Nuggets are must-see TV

Some of you American sports fans might be done with the NBA for the 2022-23 season. With the New York Knicks, Philadelphia 76ers, and Golden State Warriors all eliminated, some may feel that it’s time to prepare NFL fantasy draft strategies. Feel free, but with the Denver Nuggets playing the Los Angeles Lakers in the Western Conference Finals I am sure Nikola Jokić and Co. have gained some new fans. For those who can maintain some interest in a Mountain Time Zone storyline, the reward will be more of the best offensive basketball ever played.

As favorable of an opinion as I have had of the Nuggets throughout this season, their overall depth left me a bit uneasy about their postseason prospects. The only true threat off of their bench is Bruce Brown. Similar depth issues put a roadblock in front of the championship hopes of the 2014-15 Los Angeles Clippers.

Through three rounds of the 2023 NBA Playoffs, the Nuggets have been successful with a tight rotation. Only eight players have averaged double-digit minutes per game. At 11.8 minutes per game, Christian Braun has averaged the least amount of time in that group. No one else is playing less than 19 minutes per game.

Denver getting help from its role players, bench

Those Nuggets who do take the floor, any one of them can provide a key performance that can steady the team so Jokić and Murray don’t have to carry the load every single second. In Game 3 against the Lakers, Brown and Jeff Green provided a spark off of the bench that got the Nuggets to the point where Murray and Jokić could finish off the 3-0 lead — along with some hot third-quarter shooting from former Laker Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

In Game 4 it was starter Aaron Gordon whose paddling kept the boat on course. He has played at a near All-Star level for the Nuggets throughout this season, but only occasionally do his 3-pointers fall. Even though his team was up 3-0 on the Lakers, going into Monday night he had not made a single shot from behind the arc in the series.

With the Lakers giving Gordon whatever he wanted at the 3-point line, he went 3-of-5 from that distance on his way to a 22-point night in Game 4. Not only did he make his first 3-pointer of the series, but he also cracked 13 points for the first time. Those 3-point attempts were all converted in the second and third quarters. One of those 3rd-quarter threes kept the Lakers from reestablishing a double-digit lead, and the other gave the Nuggets a four-point lead near the end of the period.

Maybe Gordon doesn’t feel empowered to take those seismic shots if the series is closer, but considering he is one of several non-$100 million earning teammates who are all making timely offensive contributions, that is proof that the Nuggets as a whole are one of the greatest shows on earth.

The Nuggets left their comfy altitude advantage to play in front of 17 championship banners, the legends of Hollywood, the NBA’s all-time scoring leader, and four active players who hold a total of seven NBA Championship rings. The Lakers gave the Nuggets every bit of effort and talent they had at their disposal, and still were not able to hold off the offensive onslaught long enough to pull out a victory.

As the Miami Heat showed on Sunday night, shot-making is brutal. A team working through picks and a shot clock on defense and still getting a contested bucket buried on them, takes those like open blows to the chest. The Lakers fought with all of their might through one of the most competitive four-game sweeps ever witnessed, but they couldn’t land enough blows in return to stay in the fight with one of the four teams remaining from the defunct ABA.

For one of the best defensive teams in the league to put up its best effort and come 4-0 short, the victor has certainly earned some attention from the sports-watching public. There is no way to predict what will happen with this team in the future, so appreciate the 2022-23 version of the Nuggets while they are here.

They have two stars that produce the most dangerous pick-and-roll action arguably in NBA history. Accompanying that is a 6-foot-10 shooter — Michael Porter Jr. — who always has to be accounted for while defenses still have to stay on Jokić and Murray. With the attention that those three require, Caldwell-Pope, Gordon, Brown, and Green, are going to get ideal looks. Opposing defenses are forced to cut their losses and hope for the best.

So while Jack Nicholson and Denzel Washington won’t be courtside at Ball Arena in early June, there will still be a show playing worth the eyes of anyone with access to the ABC-aired NBA Finals. The team with the highest offensive rating in the NBA playoffs will have home-court advantage at a 5,280-foot elevation. Sports fans who decide not to watch will be missing a once-in-a-lifetime show.

The way the NBA provides injury updates shows a lack of regard for fans

Image for article titled The way the NBA provides injury updates shows a lack of regard for fans

NBA injury reports have turned into politician media availability. Expect everything except for a straight answer. The Philadelphia 76ers reportedly ran an MRI on Joel Embiid’s knee 10 days ago. He was expected to be able to play early last week if necessary and most certainly be available for the start of the second round. The Athletic’s Shams Charania and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported over the weekend that Embiid actually suffered a more serious knee sprain and is doubtful for Game 1 against the Boston Celtics.

This comes after the Los Angeles Clippers held Kawhi Leonard out for the final three games of their first-round series against the Phoenix Suns. The Clippers originally announced that Leonard had a sprain in the same knee as his surgically repaired ACL. Then last Wednesday, Charania reported that Leonard had actually suffered a torn meniscus.

In recent years the messaging around NBA injuries has become increasingly cloudy. Instead of a time frame of recovery from injuries teams now usually default to, “We’ll reevaluate in two weeks.” The New Orleans Pelicans announced that they were reevaluating Zion Willamson’s hamstring about 10 times in 2023 and the result was that he missed the entire rest of the season after Jan. 2.

Also, last season the Pelicans were cagey with information about Willamson’s foot injury. The organization originally said that he would be ready to play on opening night. He did not play a single game as the Pelicans trickled out information for an entire season.

In an ideal society, we probably should not have so much information about the condition of the bodies of professional athletes. Their health should be their own business, except for the fact their job is to perform in front of people. That’s literally what professional athletes are paid to do. The NFL pays out players’ yearly salaries by game checks.

Leagues sell to the public product of people playing live sports. The public pays to view it through cable bills, league packages, tickets, parking, concessions, and purchasing the products advertised during commercial breaks. If part of what the audience is paying for will not be available, they do deserve to know why.

When Donald Glover has to reschedule tour dates, the right thing to do is to inform those who paid for tickets that a broken foot is the reason. The product is him performing his songs live. Those of us who watch the NBA should get the common courtesy of a reasonable injury update.

Viewers want to watch basketball played at the highest possible level. We schedule our days around these games. Telling us that Joel Embiid is hurt but that it’s not serious, and then a week later doubling back on the original information is a disservice to those who watch the games.

NBA fans were likely relieved when the 76ers swept the Brooklyn Nets. It gave Embiid maximum time to recover and be ready for one of the most highly anticipated playoff matchups in recent years with the 76ers going up against the Boston Celtics. A historic NBA rivalry in two top-10 media markets, with several All-NBA performers, including one MVP candidate.

The league cannot control whether or not Embiid is healthy enough to play, but some clear messaging surrounding the injury would be appreciated. Dropping a bombshell the day before the series is supposed to start shows a lack of consideration for the people who consume this product.

With the way that the league messaging has gone this year, we have no idea if Embiid is going to be able to play at all in this series. With Leonard, the Clippers just ruled him out before each individual game. I find it hard to believe that when he was first examined by NBA-level doctors they somehow missed that he tore a meniscus.

It would have been nice to know that he would be out for likely the rest of the postseason to mentally prepare for what the viewing experience will be for the subsequent games. I have no problem watching an NBA game with key players in street clothes. What is annoying is being left in the dark about what level of quality to expect from the product.

So fair warning to all NBA playoff viewers, there will be no clean and clear message about how Embiid or Jimmy Butler are recovering from their injuries. Maybe they will play or maybe they won’t. That is all the information you will receive about an event that is watched by millions of people across the globe.

Steph, Jimmy, and the NBA players who are the reason their teams advanced to Round 2

Jayson Tatum with the rebound before sending the Hawks back from whence they came.

The first round of the NBA playoffs is over, and it was quite the show. From coast to coast, great players across the league made their presence felt in the least important round of the playoffs. Normally, the first round results in chalk, but many of the best teams of the 2022-23 NBA season have been eliminated from the postseason.

Maybe the NBA has finally achieved the parity that it has been seeking for decades, or injuries resulted in certain teams winning series that they wouldn’t have against a healthy opponent.

My thoughts are that some of the best players in the NBA showed their best stuff on national television for two weeks. Those performances resulted in some surprise results, but every team that has advanced to the second round deserves to be there.

With the second round underway, just like last season I am going to give credit to the players who played best in the recently-completed playoff series.

A reminder from last season, I am not beholden to positions or victorious teams.

Image for article titled Steph, Jimmy, and the NBA players who are the reason their teams advanced to Round 2

A magnificent Game 7 against the Sacramento Kings was simply another bullet point on Curry’s all-time great resume. He scored the most points in a Game 7 in NBA history with 50 against the Kings. Even that historical achievement does not do justice to how great he was.

At 35 years old, Curry might be playing the best basketball of his career. He has put on so much muscle that he is a real obstacle on defense. In his 15th NBA season Curry is not only better on defense, but he is also a force in the paint. His work there was just as important as what he did behind the 3-point line.

Magic, Michael, The Logo, Kobe, that is the club in which Curry belongs.

Image for article titled Steph, Jimmy, and the NBA players who are the reason their teams advanced to Round 2

He beat the No. 1 seed Milwaukee Bucks. Of course basketball is a team game, but the Miami Heat were down double digits in the fourth quarter of both Game 4 and Game 5. Butler scored 21 points in the fourth quarter of Game 4. In Game 6 poured in 14, including a suspended-in-air alley-oop play that sent that game to overtime.

Butler can play down his playoff performances all that he likes, but he rises to the occasion like arguably no other player in NBA history. The people who perform like he does in the playoffs are Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Shaquille O’Neal, etc. Butler plays at an all-star level when healthy in the regular season, but in no way does he perform like an all-time great. His play in the playoffs is what will get him to the Hall of Fame.

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I thought that the New York Knicks made at best an average move to sign Brunson in the offseason. In the 2021 playoffs the Dallas Mavericks went to Trey Burke before they went to him in a Game 7. He was great in the 2022 playoffs for the Mavericks, but that could easily be written off as one of the many dynamic contract-year performances that litter professional sports. Survival is always the most powerful human instinct.

Then the Knicks signed Brunson to a lucrative contract that made him nowhere within earshot of the highest paid guard in the NBA. In fact, the most money that he will make in a single season on that deal is in the 2022-23 season. With by far the highest usage rate of his career he still shot 49.1 percent from the field and averaged a career-high 24 points per game.

Brunson’s efficiency dropped against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round, but he made a plethora of humongous plays to lead the Knicks to a five-game victory without home-court advantage. In Game 4 he recorded eight points and two assists in the final quarter. The Cavs never figured out an answer for Brunson and it left them off balance for much of the series.

I was wrong.

Image for article titled Steph, Jimmy, and the NBA players who are the reason their teams advanced to Round 2

He took on a herculean task. It was bad enough that the Los Angeles Clippers were without Paul George for their first-round series against the Phoenix Suns. Then the Clippers only got two games out of Kawhi Leonard before a knee injury would keep him out of the rest of the series — while his status update was revealed game by game.

The Clippers lacked all of the star power that they spent young talent and draft capital to acquire and possibly make a run at an NBA Championship. Still, Westbrook did not operate with any lack of confidence with the Clippers best players in street clothes.

When Kawhi Leonard was healthy in Game 1, it was Westbrook’s offensive rebounds and heady plays that salted away the Clippers’ only victory in that series. In Games 3 and 4 Westbrook was a force. He scored 30-plus points in both games and a player who shot 43.6 from the field for the season was better than 47 percent twice. In Game 5 he scored 37 points on 58.6 percent from the field and 50 percent from the 3-point line.

With no Leonard or George the Clippers were destined to lose, but Westbrook was spectacular.

Image for article titled Steph, Jimmy, and the NBA players who are the reason their teams advanced to Round 2

For those curious on how a poor shooting team like the New York Knicks defeated a team with two all-star caliber players like Donovan Mitchell and Darius Garland, the answer is rebounding.

The Knicks destroyed the Cleveland Cavaliers on the glass. In the Pacific Time Zone, the Golden State Warriors did the same to the Sacramento Kings. For the Knicks, rebounding was a team effort led by Mitchell Robinson. The Warriors did rebound as a team, but it was Looney who owned the glass for most of their seven-game victory against the Kings.

The Warriors had a tough go in their first two games against the Kings on the road. They played well, but still came up empty twice in a row. In Game 3 in San Francisco, Looney grabbed 20 rebounds — nine offensive — in a 114-97 victory. From then on the glass belonged to Looney. He hauled in 22 rebounds in Game 5 and 21 in Game 7. The last three games of the series he grabbed no less than six offensive rebounds.

Image for article titled Steph, Jimmy, and the NBA players who are the reason their teams advanced to Round 2

Last season, I had no idea just how many awards that the NBA was adding. So, at the completion of the first round I had no reason to name the award for best player in the first round. With the NBA now flicking out crystal trophies the way Las Vegas blackjack dealer does cards, the MVP of this round needs a name.

Chris Paul is perfect for this award. He is an NBA legend, whose first-round performances — in best-of-seven series that many of his elders did not have to endure — are some of the best games played in NBA history. Regardless of how his current Phoenix Suns team that has maybe six playoff-level players on the roster will finish this season, Paul can always hold claim to being quite possibly the best first-round performer in league history.

The inaugural winner of this awards is Butler. Of course the Bucks choked, but the Heat were most certainly attacking their throat. Butler scored 56 points in Game 5, 21 of which came in a fourth quarter in which the Bucks were up by 13 points with less than 10 minutes remaining.

In Game 6, the Heat quickly erased a 16-point fourth quarter lead without Butler on the floor, but without his 14 points in that quarter they would not have been able to finish off the 2021 NBA Champions.

The NFL Draft will win the day, but the NBA has already won the week

The NBA has been putting on an absolute clinic in compelling television through its first playoff round.

Thursday night will be one of those evenings when sports fans show their appreciation for the inventor of the “previous channel” button. Round One of the 2023 NFL Draft will be on ABC, while Game 6 of the First Round matchup between the No. 2 Boston Celtics and the No. 7 Atlanta Hawks (Boston leads 3-2) will be on TNT. And given the speculation around the uncertainty of this draft and the way that this series is going, both are a must-watch.

A multitude of questions will be answered this evening, as 31 football players will find out where they’ll be playing this season, while hoops fans will learn if they’re getting a Game 7 between the Celtics and Hawks on Saturday.

Draft week is always a “thing,” and this year was no different. It’s been reported that the Carolina Panthers know who they’re taking at No. 1, but we won’t find out until the name is called. And between the 38,500 mock drafts that have been created — along with Aaron Rodgers’ introductory press conference with the New York Jets on Wednesday — as usual, the league has found a way to stay in the news.

While the NFL will dominate the NBA in television ratings tonight, it doesn’t mean that the association hasn’t conquered social media and water cooler talk all week. Look, nothing beats the NFL, especially given that the draft is the last “real” thing on the league’s calendar until preseason games begin. But let’s not act like the NBA hasn’t been where the fun is.


Jimmy Butler lost his mind when he dropped 56 points on the Milwaukee Bucks in Miami — tying the fourth-best scoring performance ever in an NBA playoff game — as he led a 14-point fourth-quarter comeback to take a 3-1 lead in the series. That was followed by LeBron James scoring 22 points, grabbing 20 rebounds, and dishing out 7 assists so that the seventh-seeded Lakers could take a 3-1 series lead over the second-seeded Memphis Grizzlies.


The Nuggets put the Timberwolves to bed, as Denver won that series 4-1. The Suns did the same to the Clippers as Devin Booker and Kevin Durant combined for 78 points. But the star of the night was Trae Young, as he ended up with 38 points, and 13 assists after scoring 16 in the fourth quarter before he sent the series back to Atlanta with a game-winning deep dagger.


New Yorkers are being their obnoxious and irrational selves because the Knicks beat the Cavs to advance to the second round of the playoffs for the first time since the Carmelo Anthony era. The Lakers ran out of gas against the Grizzlies, as that series is headed back to LA. And the overrated Sacramento Kings are one loss away from blowing a 2-0 lead to the Golden State Warriors because Mike Brown will always spoil a good thing. But, the talk of the night was Jimmy Butler — again. Miami’s leader converted on a horizontal layup at the buzzer to send the game to overtime, where the No. 8 Heat beat the No. 1 Bucks on their home floor to end the series in five.

The last three days in the NBA have been so wild that between the games, NFL Draft coverage, and Aaron Rodgers, many people ignored the fact that Ime Udoka — the man at the center of one of the biggest sports stories of the last year — had his introductory press conference in Houston as he’s back coaching in the NBA.

This week, the NBA proved that while the NFL’s Thursday night party might be bigger, their week-long festival has still been better. Following along with the draft on social media might be the way to go on Thursday, because you never know what Trae Young might do.

Clippers and Timberwolves fans should’ve been wearing cups

The NBA playoffs have turned into Yambag Yahtzee

The NBA Western Conference playoffs have been competitive to a point. The games themselves are good yet it looks like we’re only going to get one, maybe two Game 6s. The Los Angeles Clippers and Minnesota Timberwolves got bounced Tuesday, and as valiant as they fought — injuries or self-inflicted wounds be damned — it quickly became apparent that their 2023 playoff run was going to be short-lived. While that was telegraphed, what each organization does next is not.

If you’re unfortunate enough to be a fan of either of these two franchises, first, I’m sorry. And, second, woo boy, do you have some offseason-ing to do. Los Angeles can’t justify running back this roster as is, and the only way Minnesota can is because they have nothing to do after digging themselves a massive hole trading for Rudy Gobert.

If you empathize with LeBron James, Nick Claxton, or Royce O’Neale after getting their junk tenderized last week, you should send Wolves and Clippers supporters a bottle of bubbles, with the other Zalinsky promise — “Tough break, get drunk on us. Use the bucket to ice down your marbles, Yours, Z.”

However, times are tough, and my bank account can’t exactly finance get-well packages to both fan bases, so let’s look at who’s more deserving of some Mumms.

Ideally, the Clippers’ new arena is outfitted with Bacta tanks

News dropped Wednesday that Kawhi Leonard tore his meniscus, which would’ve been nice to know anytime within the past week. He joined Paul George in street clothes for the last three games of the Phoenix series, and Steve Balmer looked like he wanted to fire the entire team when they got down 20 in the second half on Tuesday.

The medical staff, and organization, have enabled a culture of load management, but no matter how stringent the regimen, Leonard and George’s knees and calves pop like tulips in late March and early April. All of the team’s aging role players are squarely in the grizzled veteran stages of their careers, and they have a shit load of contracts still on the books.

The good is those pieces are movable, the bad is they own one of their next four draft picks after this year, and the ugly is Leonard and George are set to make $90 million combined next year. A rebuilding team is going to want picks, and a contender isn’t going to part with their star for 10 cents on the dollar, so L.A.’s only real option is reconfiguring a bunch of fringe guys around the same flawed stars.

That’s rough, and I don’t expect a lot of patience from Balmer because he’s debuting 1,160 new toilets and urinals in Inglewood in 2024, and the crap jokes will overfloweth if he runs out a shit product.

Anthony Edwards isn’t Carl, not looking for a golden parachute

While the Clippers’ comeback was falling short, Karl-Anthony Towns committed four fouls in the final five minutes of Game 5, fouling out for the second time in as many games, and for the 11 millionth time in 16 career playoff appearances. Rudy Gobert also fouled out, and Anthony Edwards missed a game-tying three off the back iron as time expired.

The budding star then sprinted to the locker room, and got slammed by Nuggets fans for the “disrespect.” Edwards started the season being called out for his immature eating habits, and didn’t display much growth during his handshake-less exit to the showers or at the postgame media availability.

KAT joined Ant in the presser, but I don’t know if the guard heard the glowing things Towns said about him as he had his face buried in his arms on the table, hood up, with headphones on top of that. It was weird how much KAT went out of his way to praise Edwards, and maybe that’s because the 21-year-old shooting guard is eligible for his max rookie extension this summer.

We all assume nobody would be dumb enough to pass up that kind of money, yet you’d equally question Edwards’ mental capacity if he signed up for an extended future next to Towns and Gobert at those salaries.

Minnesota also has shit for picks, and even fewer quality role players than Los Angeles to dangle as trade bait. Nobody wants Gobert, and the only way you’re moving Towns is if he fetches a star of his caliber or better in return. Seeing as few of those names are out there right now, I don’t know what the Wolves do other than pray Edwards signs the extension and desperately try to move Gobert.

If Edwards does return, Alex Rodriguez and the rest of Minnesota’s ownership group will be allotting more than $100 million of their cap to three players, two of which don’t fit together and get played or play themselves out of playoff games.

So, yeah, I don’t know who’s more deserving of pity because, for the first time in NBA history, you can’t go wrong picking either the Wolves or Clippers. 

Misfortune has once again befallen the Clippers

Fate has come for Kawhi Leonard.

The poor Los Angeles Clippers have no luck. In 2019, they acquired what appeared to be the perfect tandem in Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. The Clippers are currently the No. 5 seed in the Western Conference and tied 1-1 with the Phoenix Suns in a first-round playoff series. On Thursday night at home, they will be without both George and Leonard.

ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk reported that Leonard will be out for Game 3 with a sprained knee. It is the same knee in which Leonard suffered a torn ACL during the 2021 playoffs. ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski is reporting that Leonard’s current injury is not related to the previous one.

George has been out of the lineup since late March after suffering a knee injury. There is no definitive timetable for his return, but he is expected to remain in street clothes for the entire first round.

The Clippers are stymied by injury again

In 2019, the Clippers were one of several teams who went all in to attempt to build a championship roster on the fly. They traded likely 2022-23 NBA All First-Team guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and five unprotected first-round draft picks to the Oklahoma City Thunder for George. The Clippers signed Leonard shortly afterwards. The Los Angeles Lakers traded away starters and picks to acquire Anthony Davis. The Brooklyn Nets signed Kevin Durant.

So far the moves have only paid off for the Lakers, who won the muted bubble championship of 2020 — and have produced more drama than winning since. Durant currently plays for the Suns, and the Clippers are stuck. The only postseason in which George and Leonard have been healthy the entire time was the Clippers 2020 choke job in the bubble. Fast forward to

2023, in a home playoff game that they desperately need to win, neither player is on the floor.

Even if Leonard can play again in this series, there is a good chance that this knee issue will not be a one game occurrence. The Clippers still don’t know when/if George will return, and they don’t have a first round draft pick until 2027.

They followed the wave in 2019, and had better hope that at some point either this season or next that George and Leonard can get out of the water and back on their surfboards. If not, that new Intuit Dome will be mighty quiet for the foreseeable future.

Chris Paul finally got one on Scott Foster

Phoenix Suns guard Chris Paul talks with referee Scott Foster during the second half of Game 2 against the Clippers.

It was supposed to be over for the Phoenix Suns. After a hard-fought Game 1 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, they were up against an even tougher opponent in Game 2 — Chris Paul’s nemesis Scott Foster.

Before Tuesday night, in playoff games with Scott Foster as an official, Paul’s teams hadn’t won since 2013. His overall playoff record with Foster as an official was 2-15, with 13 consecutive losses.

That record is now 3-15. In a must-win game at home, the Suns went on a run in the third quarter and never looked back. They tied the series with a 123-109 victory against the Clippers. The Suns shot markedly better in Game 2 both from midrange and the 3-point line. Devin Booker scored 38 points, 18 of which came during the Suns’ blistering third quarter.

CP3 also left his mark

Paul also put his imprint on the game scoring eight of his 16 points in the fourth quarter. He didn’t attempt a single three, and 2-pointed the Clippers right out of the building. Paul finally beat Jack Harlowe’s biggest fan. 

Was Paul happy after the game? He was most certainly pleased that the Suns didn’t drop the first two games of the series at home. As far as the relationship between Paul and Foster thawing, he was not ready to go that far.

“I’m sure it’s still gonna be a thing,” Paul said to the media after the game. “The league know what it is so… can’t control it. They ain’t been able to control all the other ones so it ain’t gonna change now.”

One might think Paul would be a bit more cheery after taking down his arch-rival. However, the former NBPA president has addressed his concerns about Foster’s officiating in the past. On Tuesday night, the Clippers attempted 31 free throws to the Suns’ 14. With just over three minutes remaining in the game, Foster charged Booker with a questionable personal foul. Less than a minute later, there was contact made on a Deandre Ayton layup and no foul was called.

In the NBA offices, Foster is their top man. He routinely grades out the highest even though NBA Twitter collectively groans when it is revealed that he is officiating a game. He blows that whistle as often as Michael Jordan shot the ball for the 1986-87 Chicago Bulls. Foster is like the kid in the church choir that oversings in the back row. He refuses to acknowledge there is a reason that certain people always sing the solos.

Until next time

The chances of Paul and Foster meeting again in these playoffs depend on how long the Suns stay in it. If this depth-deprived team gets tired quickly Foster probably won’t get the chance to see Paul again this season. If Booker and Kevin Durant can combine for 65-75 points on a couple of nights then maybe the two longtime foes will meet again for a Game 7.

The series started rough for Paul and he still has some hard feelings towards Foster, but for one night he was able to get the best of him. That may not be worthy of popping bottles, but I hope Paul at least gave Foster a wry grin before departing from the floor.