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#pounditWednesday, April 14, 2021

Stories by Darryn Albert:

Ex-Clippers announcer Ralph Lawler fires back at Charles Barkley’s diss of team

Charles Barkley

At 82 years old, Ralph Lawler is coming out of retirement just to dunk on Charles Barkley.

The TNT analyst Barkley ripped the LA Clippers at halftime of their game Thursday against the Phoenix Suns. Barkley referred to them as pretenders rather than contenders and joked that “the Clippers have always sucked.”

Lawler, who was the voice of the Clippers for 41 seasons before retiring in 2019, tore into Barkley over the diss. Lawler wrote on Twitter that he was done sending Christmas cards to Barkley. He then clowned Sir Charles for having just as many NBA championships as the Clippers do.

Barkley is obviously known for some humorous and outspoken takes. But even if the Clippers have not made the conference finals in their franchise’s history, they have regularly put together 50-plus win seasons over the last decade. They are clearly no longer the cellar-dwellers that they used to be.

As for Lawler, this is just the latest example of his savagery on social media.

Steve Kerr responds to rumors linking him to Arizona job

Steve Kerr

Steve Kerr’s alma mater is looking for a new head coach. But unfortunately for them, Kerr is happy right where he is.

The Golden State Warriors coach responded this week to the recent rumors linking him to the University of Arizona job. The Wildcats just fired Sean Miller, who had coached the team for the last 12 seasons.

“I have a great job right now,” said Kerr, per Kendra Andrews of NBC Sports Bay Area. “I love coaching the Warriors, so I’m not going anywhere. But I am very interested in what happens, and I have a lot of love for my alma mater and definitely want to thank Sean for his 12 years.

“It’s well known that I’m quite happy here,” Kerr continued. “I have great relationships with people at the U of A and have stayed in touch over the years, so that’s already understood.”

Kerr, who is in his seventh season with Golden State, is one of the most accomplished head coaches in the NBA today. He already has five Finals appearances and three championships under his belt. While the Warriors have fallen on tougher times lately, there is really no reason for Kerr to abandon the good thing that he has going on in the NBA.

The 55-year-old Kerr was a five-year senior at Arizona from 1983 to 1988. He helped lead the team to the Final Four in the 1987-1988 season, and his 38 consecutive games with a three-pointer that year is a Division I record that still stands today. But if the Wildcats want to hire a famous alum to be their next head coach, this guy is probably a much better bet.

Lance Stephenson attempting NBA comeback?

Lance Stephenson

The man known as “Born Ready” is ready for his next shot in the NBA.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald reported on Thursday that the Miami Heat recently became aware that veteran swingman Lance Stephenson is looking to get back into the league. The Heat had been looking to fill a vacant roster spot, which ultimately went to big man Dewayne Dedmon.

Nevertheless, Stephenson is reportedly shooting 500 three-pointers a day and is making about 85 to 90 percent of them. Associates also say that he has matured after being teammates with players like LeBron James and Rajon Rondo on the Los Angeles Lakers, Jackson adds.

Stephenson is still only 30 years old. But he has been out of the league since his stint with the Lakers in the 2018-19 season. His numbers for the Lakers (7.2 points and 2.1 assists in 16.5 minutes per game) were decent but far from spectacular.

Since then, Stephenson has been trying his hand overseas. But as a versatile 6-foot-6 wing with some 3-and-D skill, it can’t hurt to see if he can land a 10-day contract with some depth-needy NBA team.

Tristan Thompson hits back at report claiming he is disliked by Celtics

Tristan Thompson

Tristan Thompson has got 99 problems, but being disliked by his teammates is not one.

The Boston Celtics big fired back this week at a recent report suggesting that he is unpopular in the team’s locker room.

“I laughed,” said Thompson of the rumors, per Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe. “In my 10 years of playing basketball, I don’t there’s one teammate that doesn’t like me in the locker room. I know that was full of s—.

“I’m not going to let some guy with Twitter fingers bring down what I’ve built,” he went on. “Good attempt but I’m Teflon steel, you can’t bring me down. I’m too blessed and I’m too covered to be put down by your negativity or your reach.”

The first-year Celtic Thompson just returned from a nearly month-long absence, which he confirmed was due to a bout with COVID-19. During that stretch, the report about Thompson’s supposed unpopularity in the locker room emerged. Other Celtics players were quick to shoot it down though.

Thompson had been starting at center for the team but is now coming off the bench behind 23-year-old Robert Williams. Regardless, Thompson does not appear to be the troublemaker that he is being portrayed as in Boston.

DeMar DeRozan likely to leave Spurs in free agency?

DeMar DeRozan

DeMar DeRozan is the last man standing of sorts in San Antonio. But that may not be the case for long.

Sam Amick and John Hollinger of The Athletic reported Wednesday that the Spurs veteran will take a “wide open” approach this summer with regard to possible landing spots. DeRozan is set to become an unrestricted free agent.

The four-time All-Star guard has reinvented himself into a more complete player in San Antonio. His 21.0 points and career-high 7.0 assists per game this year reflect DeRozan’s growth over his three seasons with the Spurs.

But at 31 years old, this could be DeRozan’s last chance for a big contract. There is little reason to believe that it will come from San Antonio, a team barely treading .500 in a brutal Western Conference landscape. They just parted ways with fellow veteran mainstay LaMarcus Aldridge, and head coach Gregg Popovich appears to be nearing retirement. That could all signal the start of a more dedicated rebuild for the Spurs.

DeRozan was also recently rumored to be unhappy in San Antonio. All factors considered, it seems like a team with more cap space and a better shot to win DeRozan his first NBA title would be a better move for him.

Photo: Game Face/Flickr via cc by-sa 2.0

Joel Embiid has insane goal for himself as big man

Joel Embiid

Joel Embiid appears to be inching his way towards true unicorn territory.

The Philadelphia 76ers star shared this week the insane goal he has set for himself as a big man — he wants to become a 90 percent free throw shooter.

“I love getting to the free throw line, and I don’t spend any energy doing so,” said Embiid, per Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philly. “I actually rest more, so I should just take my time and knock them down. At some point in my career, I want to become a 90 percent free throw shooter and just knock them down every single time, because I go there so many times.

The four-time All-Star Embiid is actually closer to his goal than you might think. He is shooting a career-high 84.9 percent from the stripe this season, which is an absurd number given that he attempts 11.8 free throws a game.

Seven-footers who can hit foul shots at an elite level are extremely rare. Only players like Dirk Nowitzki (87.9 percent career shooter from the free throw line) and Yao Ming (83.3 percent) come to mind. Among Embiid’s peers, just Karl-Anthony Towns (83.5 percent for his career) and Nikola Jokic (83.1 percent) are even close.

But Embiid has always done ridiculous things for a player of his size. Don’t be surprised if he reaches his goal of 90 percent from the line one day.

Damian Lillard has funny reaction to Kyrie Irving teasing his celebration

Kyrie Irving Damian Lillard celebration

Kyrie Irving came close to stealing Damian Lillard’s swag on Monday, and now Lillard is having a little bit of fun with it.

The Brooklyn Nets star Irving exploded for 40 points in a win over the New York Knicks. After hitting a clutch shot in the fourth quarter, Irving teased Lillard’s famous “Dame Time” celebration before ultimately stopping short.

The Portland Trail Blazers star Lillard had a great reaction to the moment. Lillard tweeted that he was getting Dragonfly Jones vibes from Irving, referencing the old Martin Lawrence character.

Despite being rival point guards, Irving and Lillard do seem fairly close. The former apparently recognizes the sanctity of “Dame Time” as well.

Kevin Durant advising James Wiseman on how to fit in with Warriors

Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant knows as well as anybody the adjustment that it takes to fit into the Golden State Warriors’ one-of-a-kind system. Now he is trying to pass his knowledge on to the next generation.

Warriors rookie James Wiseman said this week that he regularly exchanges texts with Durant, who has offered him guidance on playing for the team.

“We talk about the system, how he was able to fit into the system here,” said Wiseman of the former NBA MVP, per Wes Goldberg of The Mercury News. “He just gave me a lot of advice.”

Goldberg notes that Wiseman met Durant as a teenager when he filmed a video for a Durant-backed startup.

The four-time scoring champion Durant played three seasons with the Warriors, netting three NBA Finals appearances and two championships. He had to learn how to integrate into the team’s free-flowing, three-point-happy attack led by Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson as well as their switch-heavy, positionless defense led by Draymond Green. The results speak for themselves though, as Durant was able to achieve basketball nirvana in Golden State.

As for Wiseman, he has had a shaky start to his NBA career. His 11.4 points and 5.8 rebounds per game on 51.0 percent from the field seem decent. But Wiseman leaves a lot to be desired with his post-ups and screen-setting and often looks lost on the defensive end as well.

Durant’s relationship with the Dubs has not always been rosy since he left. But he at least appears to have an interest in Wiseman’s success for them.