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#pounditWednesday, April 14, 2021

Stories by Darryn Albert:

Heat could still pursue Kyle Lowry in free agency?

Kyle Lowry

Kyle Lowry escaped from the Miami Heat’s clutches at the trade deadline buzzer, but the team may be hot on his trail once again this summer.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer reported Monday that the Heat could pivot back to the Toronto Raptors veteran if things do not work out with new acquisition Victor Oladipo. Both guards will be free agents in the offseason.

O’Connor notes that Lowry’s preference, if he had been traded, was to go to the Heat. This is because of his close friendship with Miami star Jimmy Butler, his former USA Basketball teammate.

The Heat may have some big money to spend on the upcoming free agent market. In addition to Oladipo, Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson are on expiring contracts. Two other newcomers, Trevor Ariza and Nemanja Bjelica, are also on one-year deals. Meanwhile, both Goran Dragic and Andre Iguodala carry team options for next season.

We know the 35-year-old Lowry came very close to landing with the Heat. Having just made the Finals last season led by Butler, another star who is in his 30s, Miami is a win-now team. That could be the perfect situation for Lowry as he gets closer to the end of his NBA career.

Photo: Chensiyuan/Wikimedia via CC-by-S.A. 4.0

Blake Griffin fires back at critics of Nets

Blake Griffin

With so many flavors out there, Blake Griffin finds it funny that people are being salty.

The new Nets big man pushed back this week at the negative reaction to him and LaMarcus Aldridge both signing with Brooklyn after receiving contract buyouts from their previous teams.

“It’s kind of funny to me, because for the last couple years all I’ve heard is how bad I am,” Griffin said, per Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “You sign with this team and everybody’s like, “That’s not fair!” People say whatever they want. I don’t put a whole lot of value in other people’s opinions.

“I trust the people I trust. If I don’t go to you for advice, then I’m probably not going to take your criticism,” he added. “So I have that circle of people. I have that group of people that I trust, real basketball people. That’s who I listen to. I just think it’s funny, I guess you could say that it’s amusing. I can’t speak for LaMarcus, I don’t know what people have been saying about him. That’s how I felt when I came here. I was hearing how bad I was, and now people care for some reason.”

The Nets’ latest signings to complement their superstar-studded core of Kyrie Irving, Kevin Durant, and James Harden generated major backlash. Cries of “the rich get richer” abounded, and many pointed to the moves as a prime example of the inequities that small-market teams face at the hands of juggernauts based in New York and Los Angeles.

It is true that Griffin and Aldridge are both having career-worst seasons or close to it. Both had also largely been written off before they signed with the Nets. But even if they are no longer the All-Stars that they once were, they will still be very valuable role players that Brooklyn essentially got for free. That is where the root of the criticism lies, not in the belief that Griffin and Aldridge will somehow return to being 20-and-10 players for the Nets.

Regardless, Griffin seems to be basking in all of the hatred. After all, he did do this in his first game with the Nets.

Bronny James had funny reaction to LaMarcus Aldridge signing with Nets

Bronny James

Bronny James can’t help but think that Brooklyn is assembling their squad of mercenaries in response to his father’s continued reign atop the NBA.

The 16-year-old son of Los Angeles Lakers superstar LeBron James took to Snapchat this weekend to react to the news of LaMarcus Aldridge signing with the Nets. Bronny reposted a viral tweet that read, “All this to stop a 36-year-old man in Year 18” over a picture of his father.

The Nets are the presumptive favorites in the Eastern Conference, and the addition of the former All-Star Aldridge further loads the boat for them. But they will still have to match up against the defending champion Lakers led by James and Anthony Davis.

The Lakers also just made a similar move of their own. That means that we could be in line for an Infinity War-like battle in the NBA Finals this year.

Photo: Colin Hass-Hill/Eleven Warriors via CC-BY-SA 2.0

Clippers players recruiting DeMarcus Cousins to team?

DeMarcus Cousins

The LA Clippers may be trying their best to become Kentucky West.

Clippers big man Patrick Patterson took to Instagram on Sunday to post a picture of himself with DeMarcus Cousins from their time together at Kentucky. The two were teammates in the 2009-10 NCAA season, culminating in an Elite Eight appearance for the Wildcats.

The Clippers also just traded for another Kentucky alum in Rajon Rondo. The veteran guard Rondo has twice been teammates with Cousins at the NBA level on the Sacramento Kings and the New Orleans Pelicans.

Cousins remains a free agent, and there may certainly be some recruitment efforts here on the part of the Clippers. They do not necessarily need the size with Serge Ibaka and Ivica Zubac already holding down their frontcourt. But the Clippers do have two open roster spots and are surely eyeing what their rivals have been doing lately.

Warriors GM Bob Myers defends Kelly Oubre’s recent comments about starting

Kelly Oubre

Bob Myers is apparently one heck of a crisis negotiator.

The Golden State Warriors GM spoke with reporters this week and addressed Kelly Oubre’s controversial recent comments. Oubre had indicated that he would be unwilling to come off the bench when Klay Thompson returns from injury.

“I like what [Oubre] said,” replied Myers, per Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle. “He should want to start.”

Myers added that he has spoken to Oubre’s agent about what Oubre’s role will look like if he returns to the team.

Oubre’s comments caused a strong reaction because he will be a free agent this summer. The Warriors also paid a hefty luxury tax bill to acquire him. The timing of Oubre’s remarks, right after the NBA trade deadline, fanned the flames even further.

The 25-year-old Oubre is a full-time starter on the wing for the Warriors this season, averaging 15.2 points and 5.8 rebounds per contest. Thompson’s return is looming for next season, but he may have to integrate slowly back into the lineup following back-to-back devastating injuries. Perhaps Myers can envision a future in which Oubre, Thompson, and Andrew Wiggins can all co-exist peacefully.

Kawhi Leonard likely to remain with Clippers?

Kawhi Leonard

The LA Clippers may not have much to worry about with the future of their fun guy.

Tom Haberstroh of TrueHoop reported this week that there is currently “no reason” to think that Kawhi Leonard will leave the Clippers this summer. Haberstroh quotes an anonymous non-Clippers executive who places the odds of Leonard leaving at less than one percent. The report also says that “most people” think Leonard will stay, noting how the Clippers afford him the luxury of commuting from his home in San Diego.

The 29-year-old Leonard has a $36 million player option for next season. Serge Ibaka, Leonard’s closest friend on the team, also has a player option of $9.7 million. But Leonard’s co-star Paul George recently signed a lucrative extension that will keep him with the Clippers through 2024, keeping a good foundation in place for the team.

Things can change quickly in the NBA, especially if the Clippers come up short again this postseason. But it is hard to imagine a cushier situation for Leonard, who already has two NBA titles and is given superstar concessions by the Clippers. While Leonard has been noncommittal on the subject of his free agency recently, there seems to be a very clear expectation that he will be staying put.

H/T HoopsHype

James Harden makes bold MVP proclamation

James Harden

James Harden is a part of a three-headed monster in Brooklyn. But he still thinks he has done enough individually to earn the NBA’s highest award.

After dropping 44 points in a win over the Detroit Pistons on Friday, the Nets star was asked if he belongs in the MVP conversation.

“I am the MVP,” he declared, per Malika Andrews of ESPN.

Harden, who arrived on the Nets in January, is averaging 25.4 points and 11.5 assists per game for his new team this year. That is a much lower scoring output than what he was putting up with the Houston Rockets when he won MVP in 2018. But Harden also has a higher field goal percentage now to go along with the higher assist numbers.

The 31-year-old Harden has held down the fort in Brooklyn while Kevin Durant has dealt with a hamstring injury and Kyrie Irving has been in and out of the lineup for personal reasons. Harden may also benefit in MVP voting from the time missed by players like Joel Embiid and LeBron James.

Still, Harden’s season is probably not as impressive as the ones that players such as Nikola Jokic and Giannis Antetokounmpo are putting together. But regardless of his place in the MVP race, Harden has had a massive impact for the Nets since his arrival in more ways than just one.

Tilman Fertitta traded his stars to rivals of Sixers to spite Daryl Morey?

Tilman Fertitta

James Dolan may have new competition for the pettiest owner in the NBA.

Bleacher Report’s Jason Dumas tweeted this week that the icy relationship between Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta and Philadelphia 76ers GM Daryl Morey encouraged Fertitta to send his star players to rivals of the Sixers. Dumas mentions James Harden, who was traded to the Brooklyn Nets, and PJ Tucker, who was dealt to the Milwaukee Bucks.

Something similar also happened with Victor Oladipo, whom the Rockets acquired as part of the Harden deal. Houston traded Oladipo to the Miami Heat, last season’s Eastern Conference champion, for pennies on the dollar.

Morey was GM of the Rockets for 13 years. But he had a falling out with Fertitta that helped lead to his departure from the team last summer.

We know Fertitta does not want to do business with Morey and the Sixers. But intentionally trying to sabotage them by helping out their rivals is on a different level of spitefulness entirely.

Photo: Diego Pimentel/Flickr via CC0