Marc Stein: Los Angeles Clippers
Sources told ESPN.com on Friday that Grant Hill and Yao Ming are working separately to line up investors to lodge bids for the Clippers when the team is ultimately made available.
Donald Sterling has agreed to allow his wife, Shelly, to negotiate a forced sale of the Clippers, sources with knowledge of the situation told ESPN.com on Friday.
Hill is just completing his first year in retirement after a 19-season career that ended with the Clippers after seven All-Star berths. Sources say Hill has made it known within league circles that he is in the process of putting a consortium together.
Read the full story here.
This has yet to be 100 percent confirmed -- as we did earlier this week with Jamal Crawford's forthcoming Sixth Man Award trophy -- but even LeBron James would surely tell you that's what he's expecting.
So when will Durant's coronation actually be official?
All signs point to early next week.
The most likely scenario, I'm told, is a Monday or Tuesday news conference and a pregame ceremony Tuesday or Wednesday right before Game 1 of the second round ... provided that Durant's Oklahoma City Thunder win their Game 7 at home Saturday night against the Memphis Grizzlies.
If the Thunder lose, chances are we're going to have to wait a bit for the most uncomfortable MVP news conference since Dirk Nowitzki's in 2007 after the Dallas Mavericks, who went 67-15 that season, were bounced in Round 1 by Golden State.
As of Friday afternoon, there were no signals to suggest that Durant would be receiving his widely anticipated MVP trophy before the Memphis game. For one, this Game 7 falls on a Saturday. Such a ceremony, before such a tense win-or-go-home game, could also conceivably create a scene even more awkward than what Durant would have to go through if he ends up having to go the Dirk route.
The NBA decided to take a week off from the awards circuit in the wake of the Donald Sterling scandal. But we already know Crawford is scheduled to receive his Sixth Man Award next week, with the same expected now as well for the Rookie of the Year winner. Philadelphia's Michael Carter-Williams ranks as the heavy favorite in that race.
That's the extent of the grace period Adam Silver -- the NBA's rookie commissioner, who started Feb. 1 -- was plunged into his first crisis.
The scope and furor of the scandal brought on by the racist comments made allegedly by Los Angeles Clippers owner Donald Sterling is such that Silver is already facing what's being described as a defining moment for both his own tenure and the league.
What happens next?
Once an investigation into the authenticity of the tapes implicating Sterling is completed, Silver says he'll use his "broad powers" to assess a "range of sanctions" against Sterling. After conversations with high-level league sources possessing knowledge of the issues Silver is considering, ESPN.com offers the following Q&A, examining where things stand as the Clippers return to Los Angeles for Tuesday's Game 5 of their first-round playoff series with the Golden State Warriors.
Q: What are Silver's specific and immediate options for sanctioning Sterling?
A: The NBA is not going to try to snatch Sterling's team away from him before Game 5. Not that quickly.
The league might never have the gumption to try that step, thanks to the various legal hurdles that stand in the way of the course that seething Clippers players and coaches are hoping for.
A lengthy suspension for Sterling is believed to be the ceiling on Silver's authority in the short term, and only when the NBA's official investigation is complete. That includes the complicated process of confirming that the male voice on the recordings obtained and distributed by TMZ is indeed Sterling's.
Click here for the full Q&A
If you don't overtly violate league rules -- or clearly break the law -- you can dodge league discipline like Sterling always has.
But the depths of Sterling's alleged latest new low, replete with that shameful audio soundtrack provided by TMZ, slams home how painfully overdue his ouster is.
Everybody can hear it now as opposed to just reading it.
And there simply has to be a point when years and years of conduct detrimental to humanity supersedes any and all inadequacies of the system or fears of legal reprisal.
If it is confirmed that the voice on the recording is Sterling's, it will be time.
Time for rookie commissioner Adam Silver and Sterling's fellow owners to step up to the plate collectively and make it clear that repeated violations of common decency -- and the damage they've done to the NBA's image -- are sufficient grounds for an indefinite suspension. Or more.
Many in the media have failed here, too. The anti-Sterling outrage has never been louder than it is this weekend, when the truth is that there have been countless missteps previously -- as my ESPN The Magazine colleague Peter Keating chronicled in 2009 -- that could and should have generated the same sort of disgust from our side of the floor.
Yet this time, with public pressure turned up to 11, there will be no respite for the NBA's widely loathed Donald if the audio is authenticated.
There have been rumblings in NBA circles for some time now that Sterling, who is believed to be 80, has been inching closer to finally walking away on his own after a three-decade run filled with sordid off-court accusations on top of all the basketball mismanagement.
But the wait for that day has undeniably reached the unbearable stage. If the NBA can't legally force him out, surely it can muster enough internal momentum -- combined with that public pressure -- to forcefully convince Sterling that he has no choice but to go through with those retirement plans once and for all. Which would clear wife Shelly to install long-rumored successor Eric Miller, Sterling's son-in-law, as the new boss.
Late, even way late, is not the same as too late.
Not when it comes to Sterling.
• It bears repeating even though I'm guessing you've probably already heard this one a few times by now: This was the first time in the history of the 16-team playoff format, introduced in 1983-84, that five road teams won Game 1.
• Indy's Game 1 defeat at home to Atlanta might be an even more worrisome omen than the Pacers fear. The last two No. 1 seeds to drop the opener to the No. 8 both ended up losing the series: San Antonio in 2011 to Memphis and Dallas in 2007 to Golden State.
• The Bulls have quietly lost five consecutive playoff games. And after erasing a 13-point deficit in the third quarter, Washington is just the second team to crack triple-digits in Chicago since the All-Star break.
• It wasn't by accident that Memphis faced the biggest halftime deficit in its playoff history Saturday night at OKC. The Grizzlies missed their first 18 shots outside the paint.
• The Clippers, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, were 33-0 at home this season in games in which they led at any point during the fourth quarter until Saturday's disheartening loss to Golden State. No other team was undefeated in that situation during the regular season.
• Another Elias gem: LaMarcus Aldridge is the first player with at least 46 points and 18 rebounds in a postseason road win since (whoa) Elgin Baylor in Game 5 of the 1962 Finals. Baylor had 61 points and 22 rebounds in the Lakers' triumph at Boston.
• The Blazers showed up for the postseason with 114 games of combined playoff experience, which accounts for the lowest cumulative total in these playoffs.
• The next shot Roy Hibbert converts outside of the paint will be his first since April 4.
Eastern Conference scout on the Clippers' credentials as a contender and the state of Blake Griffin's game:
"The team that's made the big jump in the West is the Clippers. They've taken a major step forward defensively. Really, really impressive last time I saw them.
"It's living proof that you shouldn't pre-judge things 30 or 40 games into the season, because he looked absolutely confused back then. You would sit there wondering: 'Are they ever gonna get there?' But now you watch them and they definitely seem to understand what they're doing as a group. They play with good energy [defensively].
"That doesn't mean they're gonna lock the other team down every time. Nobody does that in the regular season. But now you can tell that this is a team that can really amp it up. They seem to have each other's backs now [on defense] and I think they have another gear to show us when the playoffs come.
"A lot of it has to do with DeAndre Jordan's development. When you talk about players who've improved since last season, he's a big part of their success. But I just see a team that's more in sync. Everyone talking on D, everyone's anticipating rotations, moving on the flight of the ball. The makings are there for them to ramp it up another notch.
"The question with these guys is going to be: Can they can make enough outside shots to compete for the title? But they're a real threat. And you have to give Blake Griffin a lot of credit for that, too.
"He's improved a little bit every year. Some of the kinks in his shot have been ironed out, which is a really long process. That doesn't happen in a month.
"But specifically what jumps out at you is his footwork is really good. You can tell he's put a lot of work in there. He's an undersized post player, but he can have success against taller guys because he pivots with both feet so well. He's under control and his balance is so good that he can create angles and get shots up against longer players."
The Los Angeles Clippers met with the representatives of swingman Danny Granger during Wednesday night's game against the Houston Rockets and have nudged ahead of the San Antonio Spurs in the race for Granger's services, according to sources close to the process.
The Clippers are widely regarded as the team best positioned to provide Granger the playing time and the championship contention he craves.
And they've stepped up their pursuit of the former All-Star, sources told ESPN.com, at least partly due to growing concern within the organization about the status of guard J.J. Redick, who has missed the last nine games and is out indefinitely with a back injury.
To potentially further increase L.A.'s need for another front-line player at the wing positions, Jamal Crawford left Wednesday's win over the Rockets with a calf injury. Crawford has been starting in place of Redick and has played a huge part -- alongside star forward Blake Griffin -- in keeping the Clippers among the West's top four teams while star guard Chris Paul was out with a separated shoulder.
Read the full story here
And the trade deadline.
And with individual scoring brilliance in this particular February.
It came to our attention late Sunday, via the peerless Elias Sports Bureau, that five different players are averaging better than 30 points per game this month.
Which is the most witnessed in any given month in the NBA, according to Elias, since February 1962!
Here are the two lists:
Sources told ESPN.com that the Nets -- who have made Davis their top frontcourt target -- still intend to make a signing soon if they can't convince Davis to choose them over the Los Angeles Clippers.
The teams in the hunt for Davis, sources said, expect a decision Sunday. The league office, meanwhile, has confirmed to ESPN that Davis will officially become an unrestricted free agent Sunday at 5 p.m. ET if, as expected, he is not claimed off waivers by another team.
One source close to the process made it clear Saturday that the Nets "will be ready to move on" should Brooklyn lose its recruiting faceoff with the Doc Rivers-coached Clippers.
Sources indicate Davis will likely make his choice based on available playing time and the situation he likes best, given that the salary he receives from his new team will simply be subtracted from the amount Orlando owes him after the buyout.
See the full story
The Brooklyn Nets will not decide on whether to proceed with their interest in signing free-agent center Jason Collins until letting the sudden free agency of Glen "Big Baby" Davis play out over the weekend, according to sources close to the process.
Davis will officially hit the open market as an unrestricted free agent Monday assuming he clears waivers after finalizing a contract buyout Friday with the Orlando Magic.
Sources told ESPN.com that Davis is the Nets' top choice for the opening in their frontcourt rotation. But Brooklyn's attentions could shift quickly back to Collins if the Nets miss out on Davis, who is being recruited hard to join the Los Angeles Clippers by former coach Doc Rivers.
Read the full story »
But sources told ESPN.com on Wednesday night that the talks had been tabled until Thursday, which is Deadline Day in the NBA. The league's annual trade buzzer sounds at 3 p.m.
And the centerpiece of the Knicks' offer to the Clippers -- swingman Iman Shumpert -- suffered a sprained left knee Wednesday in New York's 98-91 win over New Orleans that could further impact talks. Yahoo! Sports reported the injury was a sprain to the MCL, citing league sources.
Yet sources close to the situation told ESPN The Magazine's Chris Broussard late Wednesday that the Knicks were still hopeful of re-engaging with the Clippers before the deadline to try to push the trade through.
See the full story
Sources with knowledge of Odom's thinking told ESPN.com that the 34-year-old has reached an agreement in principle to sign a deal with Laboral Kutxa in Spain's top league.
Such deals typically contain out clauses that allow established veterans such as Odom to return to the NBA if the opportunity arises, but sources said Monday that Odom's plan is to play out the rest of this season in Spain before determining whether to attempt an NBA comeback.
Misko Raznatovic, who heads up European operations for the agency that represents Odom (Excel Sports Management), hinted at the signing by tweeting that "the biggest bomb on European market is coming for this year!!!" on Tuesday.
See the full story
Eastern Conference scout on the Warriors' credentials as title contenders:
“Maybe it’s just me, but I’m not a believer. I’m not buying it in the playoffs. Their defense is better with [Andre] Iguodala, but I don’t see it as championship-level.
“When we play Golden State, we’re not worried about scoring. The focus of the game plan is taking away their 3-point shot. When the playoffs come, I think the Warriors will be just like Houston. Good show, fun to watch, great excitement ... but I don’t see them getting past the second round. I know the stats say otherwise, but they haven’t changed their spots completely.
“When you play Chicago or Miami, you know you’re going to run into a buzz-saw defense. San Antonio is one of the few teams -- maybe the only team -- that has an equal dose of both. They’re not great defensively or great offensively, but they’ve got the best combination of both. I would personally say Golden State isn’t there yet.
“Iguodala has made a difference, but he’s also thinking about his offense more than he used to playing with those guys. He wants to score, too. Bogut, to me, is more the defensive anchor than Iguodala. [Bogut] can block a shot, takes charges, he’s really cerebral, he uses his 2.9 seconds [before refs can whistle for illegal defense] to really get back and forth. He covers up for a lot of mistakes.
“But I think the Clippers have a better chance than the Warriors to go deep [in the playoffs] as long as Chris Paul comes back healthy. [The Clippers'] point guard is as tough as nails and their style of play is more conducive to playoff basketball.”
Click here for more Scouts Takes »
The race to sign Andrew Bynum appears to be unfolding at a slower pace than Bynum hoped.
The 26-year-old became a free agent Thursday night after clearing waivers, but the latest rumblings on the league's personnel grapevine suggest that more teams are backing away from the idea as opposed to gambling on the talented but undependable 7-footer.
ESPN.com reported Thursday that the Brooklyn Nets (after losing Brook Lopez) and Atlanta Hawks (after losing Al Horford) were likewise planning to pass on the idea despite their clear need at center, with sources subsequently adding that the Oklahoma City Thunder are not preparing a bid on Bynum in the wake of the recent trade that shed the contract of Ryan Gomes to take the Thunder nearly $2.3 million away from the luxury-tax threshold.
Teams with a known interest, sources said, include Dallas and New York, but both of those suitors, like the Clippers, are restricted to offering a minimum salary. Bynum, meanwhile, is said to be looking for an offer above the league minimum to recoup more of the $6 million he lost when Chicago waived Bynum immediately Tuesday after acquiring him in a trade for Luol Deng.
Sources said Sunday that the Indiana Pacers are also among the original eight teams to have expressed exploratory interest in Bynum, but it remains to be seen whether Indy's involvement progresses to the point of a formal offer.
Sources say the Pacers, to this point, have not made an official offer and are interested in Bynum more as a measure to keep him away from Miami than they actually want to test the limits of their treasured team chemistry by adding such a wild card halfway through this championship-or-bust season.
The Miami Heat were widely considered co-favorites in the Bynum hunt -- along with the Clippers -- as soon as the injury-riddled big man became a free agent. Miami still has its taxpayer midlevel exception of nearly $3.2 million available to chase Bynum, but how much of that the Heat are willing to spend is another source of uncertainty given their luxury-tax situation.
ESPN's Chris Broussard reported last week that Bynum's decision will be based on playing time, playoff prospects and the money being offered by the teams that lodge formal bids.
ESPN's Chris Broussard reported Wednesday morning that eight teams called Bynum's agent, David Lee, in the wake of Bynum's immediate release by Chicago, which followed the Bulls' acquisition of the enigmatic center and his cap-friendly contract from Cleveland shortly after midnight Monday night in exchange for Luol Deng and three future draft picks.
Broussard's report listed playing time, contender status and money as the three main factors Bynum is weighing as he decides where to head next.
According to the latest rumbles here at the D-League Showcase in Reno, Bynum is confident of landing an offer from an upper-tier team that will provide both minutes and a salary above the league minimum.
That would appear to rule out the Dallas Mavericks, who took a long look at Bynum in the summer and who, according to Stein Line Live sources, are among the eight teams that have registered interest in Bynum this week. The Mavs only have the league minimum to offer; Bynum's camp clearly believes it can get more.
The two-time champs from Miami, who've been widely presumed to be interested from the moment it became apparent right after Christmas that Bynum's time in Cleveland was coming to an end, still have mid-level exception money to spend if the Heat are inclined to add a second reclamation project to their center rotation alongside Greg Oden.
Other top contenders with mid-level money still available to spend, for the record, include Indiana and Oklahoma City.
The Los Angeles Clippers, meanwhile, are the other team frequently mentioned along with Miami as Bynum's foremost suitors. The Clips, though, share the same problem as Dallas in terms of limited funds to offer.
Clippers coach Doc Rivers, furthermore, stopped well short of saying L.A. would be at the front of the line when he was asked about Bynum on Tuesday, insisting that he and his front-office staff have "had very few discussions about anyone big right now" and that the Clips are "far more focused on the perimeter part of our team" after losing Chris Paul for up to six weeks.
Is that merely a smokescreen from Doc?
All the latest signals suggest we'll have an answer to that one sooner rather than later, perhaps as early as Friday.