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#pounditSunday, September 19, 2021

Basketball

Blake Griffin explains why jokes about not dunking bothered him

Blake Griffin

During the first part of the 2020-21 NBA season, it was popular to take cracks at Blake Griffin. More specifically, it was pretty much open season on Griffin’s lack of in-game dunking.

Griffin, once revered as one of the best athletes in the league and one of its most accomplished dunkers, went a year and a half between in-game dunks. Between Dec. 2019 and March 2021, Griffin didn’t throw one down, and plenty of people were eager to point that out.

Griffin admitted that the narrative bothered him, in part because he didn’t have the chance to dunk while he wasn’t even playing.

“It bothered me a little bit. Because the stat was, ‘He hasn’t dunked in 400-something days.’ Sure,” Griffin said on JJ Redick’s “The Old Man & the Three” podcast. “I had surgery in January. I played my last game for the Pistons before the pandemic hit December 28, 2019. And then we didn’t go to the bubble. So I didn’t play again until December 24, 2020. Everybody’s like, ‘He hasn’t dunked in over a year.’ I’m like, ‘I haven’t played in over a year.’ Yeah, I played those 19 games with the Pistons and didn’t dunk.

“But that just pissed me off because you guys know the stat, you’re just choosing to be like, ‘Let’s do days instead of games.’ Because games is still like, ‘Oh, he hasn’t dunked in 19 games.’ ‘Or… Hear me out… We can just do just straight days!'”

Griffin’s manager had a somewhat similar explanation to why he wasn’t dunking with Detroit. Once Griffin got to Brooklyn, he proved pretty quickly that he may not be in his prime anymore, but he can still throw it down when he gets the chance. The jokes started to fade pretty quickly after that.

Former All-Star defends Ben Simmons over shooting struggles

Ben Simmons

One of the purest jump shooters of the last decade is offering an interesting take on Philadelphia 76ers star Ben Simmons.

Speaking this week with TMZ Sports, former NBA swingman Joe Johnson, a seven-time career All-Star, pushed back on the notion of Simmons’ jumper being broken.

“I honestly don’t think nothing’s wrong with it,” said Johnson. “Obviously, you see him playing pickup basketball shooting jumpers, fadeaways, threes. So we all know it’s there.

“He just has to take that same confidence that he has in pickup and translate it to an NBA game,” Johnson added. “That’s it. You’re gonna miss and make shots. You can’t worry about the misses. He’s just got to continue to take them. It’s a psyche thing. It’s confidence. When he step on the court, he has to have the utmost confidence because talent-wise, it’s there.”

Johnson, who played 18 years in the league, was a solid three-point shooter. He hit 37.1 percent for his career from deep, topping 40 percent in multiple seasons, and even competed in the Three Point Contest a couple of times.

Simmons has a long way to go to get there, to say the absolute least. He has only attempted 36 threes in his entire career, regular season and playoffs, connecting on a whopping five of them. Simmons’ extreme hesitance to even think about attempting a shot outside of the paint severely caps his team’s upside and has led to countless jokes and memes. If Johnson is right that Simmons’ problem is one with confidence, even that may be too much for Simmons to overcome entering his fifth career NBA season.

Marc Gasol could end up signing with Warriors?

Marc Gasol

Just when you thought that we had seen the last of Marc Gasol in the NBA, he could be dropping back down from the rafters like Sting.

Anthony Slater of The Athletic reported on Wednesday that Gasol is a name to watch for the Golden State Warriors’ final roster spot. Slater says the ex-Defensive Player of the Year almost signed with the Warriors last summer and very well might have had Klay Thompson not ruptured his Achilles and effectively ended the the team’s chances at competing for the 2021 title.

Gasol received a trade from the Los Angeles Lakers to the Memphis Grizzlies earlier this month but secured his release from the Grizzlies shortly after. The expectation was that Gasol would sign with a team in his native Spain, where he has been spending this offseason with family. But the 36-year-old ultimately remains undecided on his future.

Golden State’s current starting center, James Wiseman, is a decent piece but does not fit well with the team’s core of 30-somethings. Gasol, on the other hand, would fit well with his ability to stretch the floor, move the ball, and play plus team defense.

Slater adds that Gasol could possibly join the Warriors midseason. The team would be armed with the taxpayer midlevel exception to offer. Golden State also seems set on complementing rather than shaking up their current core.

Photo: Chensiyuan/Wikimedia via cc-by-sa 4.0

Kyrie Irving calls out reporter over retirement claim

Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving thinks something smells fishy with the latest report about him.

The Brooklyn Nets guard called out FS1’s Nick Wright in a tweet this week. Wright reported that Irving would retire if the Nets decided to trade him, citing what Irving’s agents had allegedly been asserting.

Irving fired back by calling Wright “a puppet.”

Wright responded by saying that the ire should be directed towards Irving’s own representation instead of towards him.

The trade rumors about the seven-time All-Star Irving seemed to come out of the blue. But Wright’s report at least sounded plausible given Irving’s skillset overlap with Kevin Durant and James Harden as well as Irving’s noted openness to retiring from the game early.

That said, we know that Irving has a major problem with the media, which manifested itself multiple times last season. This latest back-and-forth with Wright is just another example of that.

Rockets unlikely to find trade partner for John Wall?

John Wall

John Wall and the Houston Rockets would like to go their separate ways, but unfortunately it may not be quite that simple.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said this week on “SportsCenter” that Houston will likely be unable to find a trade partner for the former All-NBA guard.

“I think trading John Wall, with two years left and over $90 million, is almost impossible unless the Rockets all of a sudden decide that they’re willing to attach a number of first round picks,” he said. “I don’t see that scenario. I think he’s going to be in Houston a while unless he’s willing to take money and agree to a buyout, but he doesn’t want to do that right now.”

Wojnarowski’s comments come amid a report that Wall and the Rockets will work together to try to find a new home for the five-time All-Star. Wall had been one of the biggest negative assets in the league coming off his lengthy Achilles injury absence but rebuilt his value somewhat with 20.6 points and 6.9 assists per game last season for Houston.

It would not make sense for the Rockets, a rebuilding team, to surrender valuable assets like first-rounders just to dump Wall’s contract. Meanwhile, a buyout of that magnitude is difficult but not unprecedented. That may be the 31-year-old Wall’s best option if he really wants to leave the Rockets.

H/T NBA Reddit

Report: 76ers only willing to trade Ben Simmons for specific players

Ben Simmons

If the Philadelphia 76ers are determined to trade Ben Simmons this offseason, they are doing a fairly good job of hiding it.

Simmons has made it clear that he wants out of Philly, but the 76ers are holding firm with their high asking price for the former first overall pick. Not only that, but Tom Moore of The Intelligencer reports that they would want one of roughly a handful of specific players in a potential trade involving Simmons. If they can’t get any of those players, they are fine with Simmons remaining on their roster.

Moore also notes that the Sixers do not want to trade for draft picks and then try to flip those picks for one or more players. Of course, a trade involving more than two teams would be a work-around to that.

It has been widely reported that Damian Lillard would be the ultimate prize for Daryl Morey and the 76ers, but the Portland Trail Blazers star is not currently on the trade block.

Simmons is not planning to show up to training camp even though he could be fined more than $1 million for skipping. All indications are that he has no intention of helping the Sixers trade him, but he does not plan to play for them again.

Kyrie Irving criticized over viral mask tweet

Kyrie Irving

Kyrie Irving was criticized on Twitter Wednesday over a viral mask-related tweet he sent.

Irving tweets infrequently, but he sent one on Wednesday encouraging people to take off their masks and live without fear.

Mask-wearing during the time of the COVID-19 pandemic has been a controversial topic in society. So Irving telling people his mask is off and encouraging others to do the same sparked backlash.

Of course, there were many people who argued that Irving was just using the term “mask” as a metaphor for not being one’s true self.

Irving later tried to clarify that that was what he meant with his tweet.

Even if he meant it as a metaphor, there is no way Kyrie didn’t know that his tweet would stir up some attention during COVID times. He probably left it intentionally vague so that he would receive extra attention, and only later issue his clarification. Even many of those who recognized the tweet was likely a metaphor felt the timing of the message was poor.

Recall, Irving later backtracked after making his notorious claim four years ago.

Tyson Chandler’s wife files for divorce from him

Tyson Chandler

Tyson Chandler’s marriage appears to be heading for a divorce.

Chandler’s wife Kimberly filed for a divorce, citing irreconcilable differences, TMZ Sports reported on Wednesday. The two have been married for 16 years and separated in August.

Chandler, 38, was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2001 NBA Draft. The 7-foot center was known as a defensive star in the middle and made one All-Star team. He played 19 seasons in the league but did not play last season.

The Chandlers have three children together. Kimberly has not posted on Instagram for over a year but shared a few photos of her and Tyson together in 2020

Chandler’s career NBA earnings were just shy of $190 million. He made one All-Star team during his career.

James Harden still not fully recovered from hamstring injury?

James Harden

James Harden has been an iron man of sorts to this point of his NBA career, but his recent injury may still be providing a cause for concern.

A video clip of the Brooklyn Nets star speaking to campers at former NBA guard TJ Ford’s basketball academy this week went viral. In the clip, Harden stressed the importance of having a strong work ethic. The former MVP also mentioned in passing that he had just gone through “a light day” because he was “kinda still in rehab.”

We know that Harden was plagued by a hamstring issue last season. He first suffered the injury during the regular season, missing over a month’s worth of games. Harden then reaggravated his hamstring in Game 1 of Brooklyn’s second-round series against Milwaukee. While he sat out of the next three games, he returned to play in the final three games of the series, logging a steep 46.2 minutes per game.

Hamstring injuries are notorious for lingering, especially if a player tries to rush back from them. Training camp does not begin for another couple of weeks though, and Harden sounds pretty confident about next season. But the nine-time All-Star’s workload and effectiveness will still be worth monitoring as Opening Night 2021 nears.

H/T NetsDaily

Former top-five pick Dante Exum attempting to revive NBA career with this team

Dante Exum

One-time top-five pick Dante Exum has had his NBA career derailed by injuries, but is getting the chance to prove himself once again.

Exum is signing a three-year non-guaranteed contract with the Houston Rockets, according to ESPN’s Tim McMahon. The incentive-laden deal could be worth up to $15 million.

The 26-year-old Exum skipped college and was picked fifth overall by the Utah Jazz in the 2014 NBA Draft. He played all 82 games as a rookie, but tore his ACL playing for Australia in August 2015. Further injuries to his knee, shoulder, and ankle have limited him to just 97 NBA games in the last four seasons.

Exum averaged 9 points and 20.6 minutes per game for Australia in the Olympics, hinting that he could still contribute in the NBA. A rebuilding Rockets team would be a good place to do it, as he should have ample opportunity to play. The Rockets will want Exum to succeed too, considering he’s the only player they acquired in the infamous James Harden trade still on the roster.