What next for Clippers after season of promise ends?

admin   •   May 29, 2015   •   2681

REUTERS FILE PHOTO: LA Clippers’ Chris Paul and Blake Griffin

As the Cleveland Cavaliers and Golden State Warriors prepare to battle for the NBA championship, the Los Angeles Clippers can only reflect on what might have been after a season of rich promise ended abruptly.

A year after their playoff hopes were rocked by a racism scandal that left previous owner Donald Sterling with a life ban from the NBA, the Clippers seemed set to make a run at a title as they made a stirring start to the postseason.

They came back from a 3-2 series deficit to beat the defending NBA champion San Antonio Spurs in a pulsating opening round, then closed in on a first ever conference final by taking a 3-1 series lead over the Houston Rockets in the second round.

At that point, the Clippers were widely acclaimed as the best team remaining in the playoffs and former Lakers great Magic Johnson predicted they would go on to win the coveted Larry O’Brien NBA Championship Trophy.

“I’ve watched all the teams in playoffs and right now the Clippers are playing better than any team left!” five-time NBA champion Johnson tweeted.

“They have a little bit of everything…the Clippers have outside shooting, Blake is dominating, the best leader and coach in Chris Paul & Doc Rivers and great team defense!”

Die-hard Clippers fans savored the prospect of a maiden Western Conference final when only a year ago their team’s playoff run ended weeks after racist comments made by Sterling surfaced, sparking public outrage and causing sponsors to quit.

Following protracted legal wrangling, a California appeals court rejected Sterling’s last-ditch attempt to block the sale of the Clippers to Steve Ballmer for a record $2 billion, and the tech billionaire took over as the new owner in August.

BLEW COMMANDING LEAD

Immediate redemption in their very next season was not to be, however, as the Clippers blew their commanding lead over the Rockets, who became only the ninth team to come back from a 3-1 deficit and win an NBA playoff series.

“It was very frustrating how this season came to an end, with that late collapse against the Rockets,” 15-year Clippers fan Griffin Thomas, a medical trainer and physiotherapist aid from Thousand Oaks, told Reuters.

“I definitely thought that they were going to be achieving a little bit more the way the playoffs were unfolding. For whatever reason, the Clippers are just stuck in that same plateau, they’re not yet among the elite teams of the league.”

Clippers head coach Doc Rivers could only reflect on opportunities lost after his team were ousted from the Western Conference semi-finals for a second straight season.

“We had our chances, there’s no doubt about that,” he said. “It’s funny, we went from good enough to now everything I hear is that we weren’t good enough. It’s amazing how that flips in sports. We just didn’t get the job done.”

However, Rivers expressed optimism about the team’s immediate future.

“You have the whole summer to get over this,” he said. “There have been so many examples of this, where you keep getting close, keep getting close and then you break through. Once you break through, this is forgotten.

“My guess is this’ll make our guys work harder this summer, not only physically, but mentally, too.”

Asked whether the Clippers’ playing staff could undergo big changes before next season, Rivers replied: “We were a quarter away from the Western (Conference) finals, so I don’t think we need to blow this thing up.

“We need to add pieces, but it’s going to be hard because we are restricted.”

The Clippers, spearheaded by All-Stars Chris Paul and Blake Griffin, expect DeAndre Jordan, who has been the NBA’s top rebounder for the past two seasons, to re-sign with the team.

That would then leave the Los Angeles franchise with only the ‘mini’ mid-level exception of $3.37 million per year for up to three years to offer free agents, along with a few veteran’s minimum contracts.

(Editing by Frank Pingue)

Vince Carter retires after NBA record 22-season career

UNTV News   •   June 26, 2020

Atlanta Hawks guard Vince Carter officially announced his retirement from professional basketball on Thursday (June 25) after an NBA record 22-season career during which his high-flying dunks made him one of the game’s top players in his prime.

Carter, widely regarded as one of the greatest dunkers of all time, had previously said the 2019-20 NBA campaign would be his last but had not addressed his playing status since the NBA suspended its season in mid-March due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

“I am officially done playing basketball professionally,” Carter, 43, told the “Winging It” podcast.

Carter, the first NBA player to feature in four different decades, signed a one-year deal with the Hawks last August.

However, their season is over as they did not qualify for the NBA’s 22-team format for restarting action in late July at Disney World amid the novel coronavirus.

Carter played for eight teams during his career but will be most remembered for his time with the Toronto Raptors, where he put the Canadian city on the basketball map and earned the nickname “Air Canada” for his feats above the rim.

After his first season in Toronto, Carter was named the NBA’s rookie of the year in 1999. He was then named an All-Star for each of the following eight seasons.

In his second season, Carter won the Slam Dunk Contest during All-Star Weekend with a dazzling display that further increased his stardom and helped ignite basketball’s popularity in what had otherwise been an ice hockey-mad country.

Carter, who ranks 22nd on the NBA’s all-time scoring list, averaged 16.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.1 assists per game during a career that also included stops in New Jersey, Orlando, Phoenix, Dallas, Memphis, Sacramento and Atlanta.

He also helped USA Basketball win gold medals at the 2000 Sydney Olympics and 2003 FIBA Americas tournament. (Reuters)

(Production; David Grip)

League approves plan to resume NBA season in July at Disney World

UNTV News   •   June 5, 2020

REUTERS – The National Basketball Association (NBA) Board of Governors have approved a plan to restart the suspended season with a tentative July 31 start at Disney World, Florida amid the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic, the league said on Thursday (June 4).

The plan would see 22 of the NBA’s 30 teams play eight games to determine a 16-team playoff field that would follow the traditional post-season format with four best-of-seven series that would crown a champion no later than October 12.

The league said approval from its Board of Governors, which came on the day originally scheduled for the start of the NBA Finals, is the first formal step among the many required to resume the season.

According to ESPN, the vote on the format was 29-1, with the Portland Trail Blazes voting against the proposal.

All games, practices and housing would be at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex which is inside the Orlando resort and has multiple hotels and arenas, and would allow the league to limit outside exposure.

The NBA was the first North American sports league to suspend its season due to the COVID-19 pandemic after one of its players tested positive for the new coronavirus in mid-March.

The 22 returning teams would be comprised of the eight teams from each of the two conferences currently in playoff positions plus the six clubs that are six games or fewer behind the eighth seed in their respective conferences.

If everything goes according to plan, the NBA said the 2020-21 season would begin on Dec. 1.

The league also said it plans to hold its 2020 NBA Draft Lottery to determine the order of the first 14 selections on Aug. 25. Lottery teams would be comprised of the eight clubs that do not participate in the restart and the six that go to Florida but do not qualify for the playoffs.

The actual NBA Draft, typically held in June, is now scheduled for Oct. 15.

(Production: Kurt Michael Hall)

Jordan’s autographed game-worn sneakers from his rookie season sold for record $560,000

UNTV News   •   May 18, 2020

NBA great Michael Jordan’s autographed game-worn sneakers from his rookie season fetched a record $560,000 (463,380 pounds) in an online auction, Sotheby’s said on Sunday (May 17).

The Air Jordan 1s, designed for Jordan in 1985 and the first ever signature sneakers, were expected to sell for between $100,000 and $150,000 in the auction.

Known for selling multimillion-dollar art, Sotheby’s held its first auction dedicated entirely to sneakers last year and had then set a world record of $437,500 for a pair of 1972 Nike running shoes known as the “Moon Shoe.”

“We saw tremendous bidding up until the moment the sale closed, with the value more than doubling in the final hour alone,” said Brahm Wachter, Sotheby’s director of eCommerce development.

“That coupled with strong international bidding from six countries on four continents shows not only the incredible appeal of Michael Jordan… but also that sneaker collecting is truly a global and growing market.”

Like most of Jordan’s basketball shoes, they are a mismatched pair in a size 13 (left) and size 13.5 (right).

The auction coincided with the 35th anniversary of the Air Jordan brand and the screening of the 10-part ESPN documentary “The Last Dance” about the Chicago Bulls and Jordan. The final two episodes of the show are set to air later on Sunday.

The shoes were sold by collector Jordan Geller, the founder of the sneaker museum Shoezeum in Las Vegas. (Reuters)

(Production: David Grip)

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