The Los Angeles Clippers and team owner Steve Ballmer hope to keep the team’s core together but think that Blake Griffin might fly the coop, reports ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz:
Ballmer says the Clippers don’t have any interest at present of blowing it up. “I love those guys, and I want those guys back,” Ballmer says, adding that he’s amenable to swallowing a large luxury-tax bill, which would come due with new contracts for his players.
“If we’re in it and we’re playing for a championship, I don’t mind the tax,” Ballmer says.
If the Clippers lose in the first round, though, that premium might be steep for a man who excels at investment strategy. Paul and Griffin haven’t declared their intentions. Sources close to the Clippers say that they expect Paul to re-sign with the Clippers. He’ll be eligible for a five-year contract in excess of $200 million. Griffin’s return is less certain, sources say.
One premise volunteered in good humor suggests that Paul is more likely to take a slew of meetings in a public process but ultimately re-sign with the Clippers, while Griffin is more likely to mull the decision privately under the guise of night, but announce he’ll be playing elsewhere in 2017-18.
There’s something to be said for keeping the Clippers together sans Blake Griffin. Griffin is an elite talent but injuries have taken – and continue to take – their toll on his body. It was not so long ago that Griffin was regarded as the most athletic player in the NBA. When was the last time he put a player on a highlight-reel poster?
Griffin has become much more skilled and versatile as his career has progressed; he’s a tremendous passer and is a deadly threat from the midrange. Is he a better, more impactful player than he once was, though? He’s rarely healthy, he’s lost much of his bounce, and his presence on the board isn’t what it once was.
The Clippers without Blake Griffin are still a good team, and losing him would free up some salary to sign some better role players, particularly on the wing. Chris Paul is still Chris Paul, and the Paul-DeAndre Jordan pick-and-roll is one of the most effective offensive weapons in basketball. The Clippers’ success is also contingent on whether or not J.J. Redick – who will also be a free agent – sticks around. Redick is one of basketball’s premiere role players. If the Clippers can retain all of their core apart from injury-plagued Blake Griffin, that’s a win.
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