Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (Nov. 15): Steve Kerr addresses Klay Thompson trade talk

Kerr shoots down Thompson trade rumors | Nowitzki praises Porzingis | Gortat apologizes for bench comments | Clippers keep on rolling

No. 1: Kerr shoots down Thompson trade talk — The Boston Celtics are 5-5 after last night’s road loss to the New Orleans Hornets, which is a bit of a slower start than most had projected for them. The Golden State Warriors are 8-2 and No. 2 in the Western Conference, but All-Star shooting guard Klay Thompson has experienced shooting struggles all season. Yesterday, a trade rumor involving Thompson and the Celtics was floated, but Warriors coach Steve Kerr paid it no mind, writes Anthony Slater of The Mercury News:

At some point this past Friday, The Morning Ledger, an obscure website, posted an article titled ‘Boston Celtics trade with Golden State Warriors for Klay Thompson?’ In it, Justin Bautista, the writer, mused about a potential Thompson to Celtics swap for Avery Bradley and Amir Johnson.

There was no inside information. No rumblings from either front office. Nothing of credibility. Just a link to another obscure website, called Sportsrageous, and a bunch of uninformed speculation. Dozens of these pop up each week. They nearly all die without gaining any legitimate traction.

But at some point over the past 72 hours, Brian Scalabrine read it. Then on Monday morning, he went on his Sirius XM radio show and brought it up without revealing exactly where he got the information.

Scalabrine is a former player, a Celtics TV analyst and a respected voice within the league, who, you’d expect, talks to plenty of NBA insiders, particularly within the Celtics organization.

So people took it serious. Plus it was spicy. Could there be trouble in paradise? Klay Thompson has had his early-season shooting struggles. Could the Warriors really be shopping him around?

“Brian hasn’t called me yet,” Steve Kerr joked when asked about it after Monday’s practice. “If Brian wants to call, I’ll get Bob (Myers) on the phone and Bob and I can pick his brain and figure out what we should do.”

It’s no surprise that, once a credible voice put it out there, the rumor gained traction. Sports fans have become enthralled with personnel movement. It’s why free agency and trade deadline nuggets are often followed more obsessively than regular season games.

But human beings are involved. This is Thompson’s (and Bradley’s and Johnson’s) life and career. Family and friends will text and tweet. This news will get back to them. So no matter the credibility, once the rumblings go viral, does Kerr have to have a conversation with Thompson?

“I think our guys know that most of that stuff is almost always just BS,” Kerr said. “If that became a story, I would probably talk to Klay. But I didn’t know it was a story until just now. I’ll go home, get on the Internet and decide whether to call Klay or not. There’s a lot of fake news.”


No. 2: Nowitzki offers praise for Porzingis — Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks is in the twilight of a career that saw him garner multiple All-Star trips, an NBA MVP, a Finals MVP and other accolades. On the flip side is Kristaps Porzingis of the New York Knicks, who is a young phenom (much like Nowitzki was back about 15 seasons ago). As the Knicks and Mavs squared off last night at Madison Square Garden, the still-healing Nowitzki (Achilles injury) had praise for Porzingis and his career prospects. Ian Begley of has more:

Kristaps Porzingis paid a tribute of sorts to Dirk Nowitzki in the fourth quarter of the New York Knicks’ win over the Dallas Mavericks on Monday.

He also made sure that Nowitzki was watching.

“He was staring me down. That was cold-blooded,” said Nowitzki, who was watching the game from the bench due to an Achilles injury.

Porzingis mentions Nowitzki as a player who inspired him when he was younger in Latvia.

So he’d appreciate the praise Nowitzki heaped on him Monday night.

“He’s not only a 7-footer but he is like 7-4 out there with an 8-5 wingspan,” Nowitzki said. “He’s got an incredible touch. He can move. He can dribble. He can put it on the floor more now. He is going to be a great player in this league for a long, long time.”

Nowitzki said that after watching Porzingis score 24 points and grab 11 rebounds in the Knicks’ win. He may see more of Porzingis this summer.

Knicks coach Jeff Hornacek tried to arrange a workout with Nowitzki and Porzingis before the season, but it didn’t come together due to scheduling conflicts. The players hope to work out together in the coming offseason.

“I am a huge fan of his game. Obviously the sky is the limit for him,” Nowitzki said. “He’s got the deep ball. He’s got the in-between game. He is working on his post-ups. He is the real deal.”


No. 3: Gortat sorry for comments about team’s bench — After the Washington lost in Chicago last week to the Bulls, Wizards veteran center Marcin Gortat didn’t pull any punches afterward. Specifically, he took some pretty pointed shots at the team’s bench, calling it “one of the worst benches in the league right now.” Monday’s practice brought a chance for Gortat to make right on his words and he did exactly that, writes Ava Wallace of The Washington Post:

Wizards Coach Scott Brooks wasted little time in addressing Marcin Gortat’s comments about Washington’s second unit Monday morning.

After Gortat proclaimed the team’s reserves “one of the worst benches in the league right now” following Washington’s seventh loss in nine games Saturday against Chicago, Brooks and Gortat stood together in front of the team before practice Monday. Gortat apologized, and Brooks preached unity to a team that can’t afford to waste energy pointing fingers.

“I look at things from a whole, because this is how — when I played, I was a backup, and I didn’t like to be divided,” Brooks said. “We don’t have two teams here, we have one basketball team, and right now we’re not happy and content on being 2-7.”

Still, Brooks said it’s difficult to evaluate the group as a true second unit, he reasons, when they’re busy plugging holes left by Wall and Beal (who together average 37.7 points per game) and missing backup center Ian Mahinmi, who had surgery on his left knee to repair a partially torn medial meniscus in October.

“It puts a lot of pressure on our team to compete against the tough schedule that we’ve had – and I’m not making an excuse and nor have our guys made an excuse – but we’ve stayed competitive,” Brooks said. “I want to get everybody back in the mix so we can really judge how we play and how we can put the units together and we can find out a good rotation.”

Beal, on the other hand, views his and Wall’s injures as perfect opportunities for his teammates to gain experience. Rookies Sheldon McClellan and Tomas Satoransky played well Saturday in Chicago. Beal thinks others should follow their lead.

“They have to take advantage of the opportunity,” Beal responded when asked how the second unit could be more active. “You know, I’m not playing right now so this would be a perfect time for the young guys to get in practice, get their rhythm, get their flows and get used to the plays, get used to playing.

“Because Coach is gonna need everybody throughout the season. Everybody’s not gonna be healthy; it’s 82 games. … You gotta go out there and step foot just knowing that you belong here and we have a great team. And we gotta believe that we’re a great team and just play with some confidence.”


No. 4: Could this be Clippers year? — The LA Clippers have never been short on talent in this era led by Blake Griffin, Chris Paul and a host of other household names. But come playoff time, the Clippers have always seemed to not live up to expectations they had themselves or others had for them. After winning last night to run their record to an NBA-best 10-1, this might be the year that changes. Mark Whicker of the LA Daily News has more:

rst Leicester City, then Cleveland, then the Cubs.

Will there be another year of the blue moon? Will 2017 shine upon the Clippers?

Judging by their ignition and liftoff, maybe so.

They came into Monday night’s game against Brooklyn with the best record in the NBA (8-1), the best point differential (15.1 points), the best points-against (91.1) and the best field goal percentage-against (40.6).

Then they rolled up leads of 26-5 and 37-14, as if they were selling themselves to College Football Playoff committeemen.

On Friday they won in Oklahoma City. The next game was the next night, at Minnesota, straight out of a computer’s cold, cold heart. Coach Doc Rivers saw it in preseason and thought it was a “scheduled loss”

Instead, the Clippers won by 14.

“That might have been a game we wouldn’t have won in the past,” Jamal Crawford said. “It was a professional approach. It shows growth.”

Even the casual students of Clipperology are wary of all this. The Clippers had their hands on Western Conference Finals in 2015 and 2014 and dropped them, even blowing a 3-1 lead to Houston and a 19-point third-quarter lead in Game 6 of the semis.

Last year was a reversion to the Sterling Curse. The Clippers led Portland 2-0, then lost Game 3. Then came word that Stephen Curry had sprained his ankle. The Warriors were next in the playoff bracket. Gee, if the Clippers finish off this series, what do you think?

You think you’re about to step on a rake, which they did. Chris Paul and Blake Griffin both got hurt in the same game, and Portland won in 6 even though Crawford and Austin Rivers played beyond themselves.

“That’s why I didn’t feel as bad after last year,” Crawford said. “Sure, the injuries were tough because of when they happened. But we left everything we had on the floor against Portland. We’ve had some mess-ups that were self-inflicted. That wasn’t one of them.”

Crawford also noted that the Clippers began learning better defensive habits in the second half of the season. Those have carried over. No opponent has shot over 46 percent.

Some of that comes from continuity. In a deck-shuffling league, Paul, Griffin, Crawford, DeAndre Jordan and J.J. Redick have been here since 2013-14.

“When we went to camp this year we hit the ground running,” Crawford said. “We don’t have to learn each other every year. We look out for each other, we cover up from each other. That’s been a big advantage.”

But Crawford, Speights, Austin Rivers and Wesley Johnson have restored the Clippers’ own bench. And there are teams in every sport who keep hatcheting the base of the tree, year after year, until it finally falls. This year’s example was the San Jose Sharks, who had a closet full of fallow Presidents’ Trophies and now fly a Western Conference Champions banner.

“Sure, it feels different,” Rivers said. “I said that from the beginning. But you can just put it this way. If we’re as good as we’re going to be, then we’re not good enough.”

Another blue moon could take the Clippers to a June they’ve never known.


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Miami Heat guard Goran Dragic is out of his walking boot, but his return date remains unknown … Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson says he’s joining the group that’s helping to bring an NBA arena (and team) back to Seattle … Former All-Star Amar’e Stoudemire, who is now playing in Israel, offered up his goggles to a ref after a call … Sacramento Kings forward Omri Casspi will reportedly meet with GM Vlade Divac to discuss trade rumors …