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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 past 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.
|Danny Granger keeps an offseason home in Los Angeles and has been known to train at the Clippers' practice facility in the summertime.|
The Clippers, at the behest of coach Doc Rivers, have already made multiple in-season signings, including Stephen Jackson, Hedo Turkoglu and Sasha Vujacic, to try to spruce up his perimeter rotation.
Rivers quickly confirmed his team's interest in Granger before Wednesday's victory, saying "Of course!" when asked if L.A. would like to sign him, but then added: "That'll be up to Danny."
ESPN.com reported Tuesday there is mutual interest between San Antonio and Granger that positions the Spurs as the biggest threat to the Clippers in the Granger hunt. The Spurs are said to see Granger as an ideal fit with their culture, but they also don't appear to have a role to offer as big as L.A.'s now that young swingman Kawhi Leonard is back from a 14-game injury absence.
Granger, who keeps an offseason home in Los Angeles and has been known to train at the Clippers' practice facility in the summertime, was officially waived Wednesday after completing a contract buyout with the Philadelphia 76ers. Granger and the Sixers parted ways less than a week after the 30-year-old swingman was acquired from the Indiana Pacers just before the trade deadline for Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen.
Sources told ESPN.com on Wednesday that Granger, after playing in Indiana for the first nine seasons of career, is determined to hear out all of his suitors before making a commitment, with the other two teams in Texas - Houston and Dallas - also trying to wedge their way into contention alongside the Clippers and Spurs by registering bids of their own.
But sources also indicate that Granger is likely to verbally commit to a team before he formally clears waivers Friday at 5 p.m. ET and becomes an unrestricted free agent.
Sources say teams interested in Granger have been consistently told in recent days that the free agent-to-be -- if he were to surrender his Bird rights by securing his release from the Sixers -- would be looking for a new team that could offer not only a shot at a championship but also guaranteed playing time.
According to league rules, any player who has appeared in a regular-season game this season must be waived by midnight Saturday to remain eligible to appear in this season's playoffs with another team.
Philadelphia's prime interest in dealing for Granger and his $14 million expiring contract was the second-round draft pick it also acquired from the Pacers. The Sixers acquired five second-rounders last week through various deals before the deadline.
Said Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie in a statement: "His accomplishments and accolades to this point of his NBA career more than speak for themselves, so I would like to express that I have a great deal of respect for Danny Granger as a person. ... Given Danny's future goals and his desire to pursue them, we worked to fulfill his requests and have come to a resolution we feel is mutually beneficial to Danny and our organization."
The Miami Heat have also been mentioned as a potential Granger suitor, but ESPN.com reported Tuesday the two-time defending champs have to this point focused their efforts on clinching a deal with former Heat draft pick Caron Butler, whose buyout from the Milwaukee Bucks, sources said, was also progressing toward completion Wednesday.