Wholesale Orlando Magic Jerseys

The Orlando Magic signed Amile Jefferson off his two-way contract to meet the roster minimum requirements, still rewarding a hard-working player.

The Orlando Magic have signed forward Amile Jefferson to a two-year contract, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. The team confirmed the move in a press release Friday night.

The move will help the Magic hit the 14-player roster minimum before the league’s deadline to do so next week.

Amile Jefferson has played sparingly for the Magic since joining the team on a two-way contract last year. He appeared in 68 minutes across 12 games, and only one of those games did he play in meaningful minutes — albeit in the mostly meaningless season finale against the Charlotte Hornets.

Jefferson did most of his work in the G-League for the Lakeland Magic where he was an All-G-League player averaging 18.1 points and 11.3 rebounds per game. Jefferson has always drawn praise from coach Steve Clifford for his work ethic and ability to stay ready.

“He’s so deserving because, from last year, he’s a hard-working, very reliable, dependable player,” Clifford said about the signing before Friday’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks. “Last year he was with us after [Mohamed Bamba]‘s injury. He can play both the 4 and the 5. He didn’t get much time on the court and yet in the last game of the year against Charlotte when Vooch got hurt he played 18-19 minutes [sic] and played well. If he has to play well tonight, he’ll play well. We’ll function well when he’s out there.”

Jefferson scored six points and grabbed seven rebounds in 24 minutes of that win over the Hornets in the season finale. So at least for one game, he delivered a strong effort in meaningful minutes.

Clifford continues to sing Jefferson’s praises. But he remains a “break glass in case of emergency” player. The Magic are not going to put him in the rotation or play him above their slew of forwards. Even if they have faith in his ability if he needs to be called upon.

As a matter of using a roster spot, the Magic spending it on another forward feels a bit redundant — especially since the team’s biggest weaknesses are three-point shooting. Amile Jefferson is not beating out Nikola Vucevic, Mohamed Bamba and Khem Birch at center nor is he beating out Aaron Gordon, Jonathan Isaac or Al-Farouq Aminu for power forward minutes.

What this move does is it gets the Magic to the NBA’s mandatory roster minimum.

The league requires each team to carry 14 standard contract players (not including two-way contracts). A team can only be under that amount for two weeks at a time. So the Magic would have been required to sign a player to reach that minimum by Monday.

Jefferson likely signed a non-guaranteed deal, giving the Magic the flexibility to cut him and sign someone else if they choose or cut him to acquire someone in a trade. Orlando still has an open roster spot if they choose to add anyone.

He gets the extra money of a NBA minimum contract though, so for him it is a big deal.

Jefferson’s salary amount is not likely enough to get them close to the luxury tax, but the team is and should be aware of how close it is to the tax line — roughly $3 million. The non-guaranteed deal gives the Magic some flexibility to stay well below this line.

Orlando also now has an extra two-way spot the team can fill. It seems likely the team might sign B.J. Johnson, who got two separate call-ups from the Lakeland Magic last year. Johnson is a player flirting with the NBA.

It is not clear where Orlando will go or if Orlando will use this second two-way spot quite yet. The Lakeland Magic’s season is just getting ready to start in the next few weeks.

Jefferson has certainly earned a full roster spot and a shot somewhere in the NBA. The Magic are probably not the team to give him that opportunity. And, even with a full contract, Jefferson could still see some time in the G-League with Lakeland.

This is certainly a reward for Jefferson’s hard work. And he provides another big body — and a more traditional power forward — for practice at the very least.

This move is more procedural than impactful for the Magic, however.

Wholesale New Orleans Pelicans Jerseys

There was no need for delayed gratification. Not even two minutes into the first quarter of the New Orleans Pelicans’ preseason debut against the Atlanta Hawks, Zion Williamson soared to the basket to deliver his first dunk against an NBA team.

Williamson didn’t even need two hands.

Even the Hawks’ boisterous “Sixth Man Section” couldn’t stifle gasps as Williamson, the most highly anticipated rookie in recent memory, rammed the ball through the hoop in the Pelicans’ 133-109 win. Williamson rose to dunk celebrity during his lone season at Duke University, but on Monday night he proved to be more than a walking dunk machine.

“I don’t think dunking would have just gotten me here,” Williamson said after the game. “Had to be like somewhat of a good basketball player to get here.”

His first points came on a drive to the basket, where he was fouled. He sank a free throw en route to scoring the Pelicans’ first five points of the game. He finished with 16 points, seven rebounds and three assists in 28 minutes of playing time.

Williamson’s first-quarter slam wasn’t his only dunk of the night. In fact, it wasn’t his only dunk of the quarter. He delivered two more.

“I saw the lane open up,” Williamson said of his first dunk. “This isn’t high school or college anymore; you gotta go up strong. So I went up strong and was able to finish.”

The Pelicans’ front office and coaching staff have done their best to quiet the hype surrounding Williamson. During his draft night news conference, president of basketball operations David Griffin told reporters that giving Williamson room to be a teenager was imperative. Jrue Holiday, Griffin said, was the face of the franchise. Coach Alvin Gentry doubled down on that sentiment at Monday morning’s shootaround, dismissing any comparisons to Lakers star LeBron James.

“I’m not comparing a 19-year-old to that right now,” Gentry told ESPN. “I’m going to protect him, because we’re not drinking that Kool-Aid. We’re not going to say that he’s LeBron James or any of those guys. Hard to take a 19-year-old kid and say this is what you are going to be until he experiences all those things. We are just making sure we’re not putting extra pressure on him.”

Still, fans holding “We love you, Zion” signs lined the tunnel leading to the Pelicans’ locker room. When Williamson stopped and signed a young girl’s jersey, she burst into tears. Clearly, Williamson hasn’t been received as just another rookie by basketball fans.

It wasn’t a flawless debut. He missed both of his 3-point attempts. A missed free throw prompted heckling fans to chant, “You can’t shoot” — a poke at his less-than-consistent distance shooting percentages in college.

“He has work to do defensively,” Gentry said. “But that’s pretty much any young kid who comes into the league.”

Wholesale Minnesota Timberwolves Jerseys

As training camp draws ever closer, Minnesota Timberwolves wing Josh Okogie is busy starring for Nigeria in FIBA World Cup play.

The Minnesota Timberwolves haven’t officially announced the date of media day and details for training camp, but it’s fair to assume that we’re under three weeks from everything kicking off.

Josh Okogie has been busy representing Nigeria in the FIBA World Cup. Nigeria went 1-2 in the first round and did not advance in the bracket but is 2-2 overall, and Okogie was one of the best players for his squad.

Overall, Okogie was the second-leading scorer and was easily the per-game assists leader, putting up 11 points and 4.8 helpers per contest. He also logged 2.3 steals and a block in each of the four games in which he appeared.

Perhaps most encouraging, Okogie shot the ball at a 42.1 percent clip from beyond the arc, draining 8-of-19 on 3-point attempts. It goes without saying that it’s a painfully small sample size, but let’s just say that would play in the NBA.

Okogie was tasked with being a much larger part of Nigeria’s offense then he ever will be with the Wolves, and he stepped up, for the most part. The overall field goal percentage of 39.4 percent was a bit disappointing and more representative of his output at Las Vegas Summer League, when he was also in more of a high-usage role.

Here’s hoping that Okogie continues improving his outside shot as he’ll need every edge he can get to maintain consistent rotation minutes in Ryan Saunders’ new grouping of wings.

Elsewhere, the Timberwolves announced that open tryouts are upcoming for the Iowa Wolves of the G League.

While the Wolves don’t have a history of signing players out of open tryouts, there are certainly some success stories to draw from elsewhere in the league. As Kyle Ratke notes at the above link, Jonathan Simmons is the most famous example.

So, if you fancy yourself a pro-level ball player and can make it to Minneapolis on September 7 or Des Moines on September 21, then what are you waiting for?

The Wolves need another point guard, after all.

Wholesale Milwaukee Bucks Jerseys

The Milwaukee Bucks brought most of the band back and added some key pieces. What can we conclude from the 2019 NBA offseason?

The Milwaukee Bucks entered the 2019 NBA offseason with a host of decisions ahead of them. Although they locked up Eric Bledsoe to a contract extension during the season, five of the top eight players from their playoff rotation were free agents this summer.

Bringing everyone back was financially punitive, but other than Nikola Mirotic (who left the NBA to play in Europe) there was a path to bringing everyone back.

For a small-market team that historically avoided the luxury tax, many wondered whether the team would wade into the tax to bring the gang back.

Before the free agency fireworks began the Bucks flipped the 30th pick in the NBA draft to the Pistons to move Tony Snell, increasing their cap space in order to free up room for Brook Lopez. The returning player in that deal, Jon Leuer, was on an expiring deal and was stretched.

The biggest splash of the offseason was re-signing All-Star Khris Middleton to a contract worth $178 million over five years, shaving about $12 million off of a full max.

That was followed by new contracts for Brook Lopez and George Hill, as well as bringing in Robin Lopez at backup center on the room exception and wing Wesley Matthews for the minimum.

Starting 2-guard Malcolm Brogdon, fresh off a superb shooting season and a strong Eastern Conference Finals, found himself highly sought after by potential suitors in restricted free agency.

Rather than play the matching game, the Indiana Pacers and Bucks worked out a sign-and-trade deal that brought compensation back to the Bucks and let Brogdon join the Pacers on a four-year, $85 million deal that makes him the second-highest paid player in team history.

Around the rest of the league superstar movement and wild surprise moves leave a very different landscape than the one we saw at the end of the season.

As Milwaukee leans into continuity and gears up for a repeat of last year’s strong season, what are three takeaways from the 2019 NBA offseason?

3. The Bucks are building for the long-term

The Milwaukee Bucks handed out a lot of money in contracts over the past few months, paying high annual salaries on long-term deals for a number of veteran players. This team is clearly focused on contending next season.

Yet many are criticizing the Bucks for not matching the contract of Malcolm Brogdon, specifically criticizing their ownership for not being willing to pay the tax for a contending team.

There is some validity to that, as the Bucks could have matched Brogdon’s contract and still brought back Brook Lopez and Khris Middleton.

If the Bucks were simply focused on convincing Giannis Antetokounmpo to sign the designated player extension coming his way next summer, they may have focused on maximizing their production next season.

But the Bucks are not focusing on the short-term with this team. With Antetokounmpo, the reigning MVP of the league, just 24 years old, the Bucks want to be set up to contend with him for years to come.

Bringing back Brogdon by matching his exorbitant offer sheet would almost certainly have been an overpay. He is an excellent player with a modern game, the perfect off-ball piece to put around Antetokounmpo.

But paying over $21 million per season for such a player is a very steep price, one most acknowledge is an overpay.

Milwaukee also did not simply let Brogdon walk, but instead brought back three draft picks from the Pacers. With two first-round picks outstanding from recent trades this helps to rebuild their cupboard and give them ammunition for a potential in-season trade.

Losing Brogdon for nothing would have been painful; trading him for draft capital, avoiding his onerous contract and signing Wesley Matthews to replace him in the short-term looks like a smart, future-focused move.

The Bucks are building for this year and the future and there is wisdom in that.

2. The Bucks are leveraging familiarity in building their roster

Familiarity is a common thread through a number of NBA transactions, from players returning to teams or coaches they have previously played for, to cities they previously lived in, or to team up with players they are friends with.

Never has that been more apparent than in the 2019 NBA offseason, and the Bucks leveraged those connections as well.

First, their major moves in free agency were to bring back the core of their contending team from last season. The Bucks won 60 games last season and are set up to once again be near the top of the league. Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez and George Hill are all back on new deals.

Secondly, they made signings along family connections. In the case of signing Thanasis Antetokounmpo, that was more of a favor to their superstar, a goodwill gesture they hope will make him even slightly more willing to re-sign in Milwaukee long-term.

They also went back to the sibling-well in signing Robin Lopez to play backup center behind his brother, Brook.

The room exception is probably the right salary level for Lopez, but he could have signed elsewhere to have a more significant role as a starter with teams such as the Golden State Warriors or Boston Celtics.

To play with his twin brother Robin is accepting a more limited role with Milwaukee.

Finally, the team added a strong piece in Wesley Matthews for the veteran’s minimum. Although Matthews has never played for the Bucks or head coach Mike Budenholzer, he does have a connection to the team.

Matthews went to high school in Madison, Wis., and played college basketball at Marquette University. Not only is Marquette located in Milwaukee, they play home games at the same arena as the Bucks.

Matthews should have a solid role in the rotation for a team replacing Malcolm Brogdon, but surely there was a team willing to sign him for more than the minimum. He becomes just one of many players to sign or re-sign with the Bucks with a level of familiarity with the franchise.

1. The Milwaukee Bucks should be the title favorites for next season

Last season the Milwaukee Bucks put together the best regular season in the league, with a dominant point differential and a slew of marquee wins. No part of their profile suggested fluke; they were the real deal.

A tough series with the eventual champion Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals came after an equally dominant 8-1 record in the first two rounds.

That alone should give the Bucks confidence going into next season, as they brought back the majority of that team. They swapped out Malcolm Brogdon, Tony Snell and Nikola Mirotic for Wesley Matthews and Robin Lopez, with at least two roster spots still to play with.

In addition, the Bucks are young enough to expect growth at multiple positions.

Older veterans such as George Hill and the Lopez brothers will more likely stay at a similar level (or slightly decline) in their late-prime, and Eric Bledsoe and Khris Middleton don’t seem to harbor huge upside and are already established as solid starters.

The team’s superstar, Giannis Antetokounmpo, is just 24 and still brimming with potential. Every year of his career he has taken a strong step forward, and even as the reigning MVP has room to grow.

It’s likely that he will come in next season with an improved outside shot, a truly deadly and terrifying proposition for opponents. His passing vision has grown steadily over the years, as have his help instincts on defense.

On the bench the Bucks have a number of young pieces still growing as well. Sterling Brown, Pat Connaughton and D.J. Wilson all had solid years in 2018-19, and rising sophomore Donte DiVincenzo is expected by many to pop next year after an injury-plagued rookie campaign.

Losing Brogdon hurts, but the Bucks can reasonably expect to be similarly dominant this season. What also helps is the clearing out of the greatest obstacle in their way to the top.

With Kawhi Leonard in Los Angeles the Toronto Raptors will take a large step back next season. With Boston losing Al Horford and Brooklyn in a waiting year due to Kevin Durant’s injury, there is only one other true contender in the East other than the Bucks.

The Philadelphia 76ers are built like the Mon-Stars, with huge size at every position. They swapped J.J. Redick and Jimmy Butler out for Josh Richardson and Al Horford, adding Matisse Thybulle in the draft.

There is size everywhere on that team, and defensively they are equipped like no other team to slow down the Bucks.

Yet offensively the Sixers have serious questions, such as who is going to space the floor in a rotation mostly stocked with inside scorers. The Bucks have continuity on their side, while the Sixers are figuring out a new rotation.

Philadelphia will be a serious opponent, but the Bucks should be favored.

With the Western Conference stocked 10-deep with strong teams, no single team should feel confident emerging from their side of the bracket.

Both teams in Los Angeles look formidable, but the Utah Jazz, Houston Rockets, Denver Nuggets and Portland Trail Blazers all made moves to improve this summer. And everyone should count out the Golden State Warriors at their peril.

Given the jumble out West and the clear path in the East, the Milwaukee Bucks should be the title favorites next season. With the other contenders all swapping All-Stars like a game of Pit, the Bucks’ continuity should give them a leg up next year.

Most importantly, the Bucks employ the services of Giannis Antetokounmpo. At the end of the day, all the offseason moves around the league cannot change that fact.

With Giannis the Bucks are a title contender, and the summer may have unfolded in just the right way for them to be title winners as well.

Wholesale Miami Heat Jerseys

Gonzaga forward Brandon Clarke (15) was third in the NCAA in shots blocked last season at 3.16 per game. He auditioned for the Heat on Monday.

A six-pack of Heat notes on a Monday:

▪ The Heat began a series of pre-draft visits and workouts at AmericanAirlines on Monday by hosting Gonzaga forward Brandon Clarke, according to a league source.

Clarke is one of about 10 players in the mix for Miami with the 13th overall pick. He averaged 16.9 points, 8.6 rebounds and shot 68.7 percent from the field last season.

Most of his shots were in the basket area; he shot 4 for 15 on threes. He would be considered a safe pick among options at 13.

Heat forward Kelly Olynyk, who also attended Gonzaga, took a photo with Clarke inside the Heat’s locker-room (the photo was taken on Monday, according to a source) and posted it in Instagram with the words: “Ran into a young Zag. Yute, good luck with the process family.”

ESPN’s Jonathan Givony, in his latest mock draft released Monday, has Miami taking Kentucky power forward PJ Washington at 13, and Clarke going 14th to Boston.

Clarke “will turn 23 prior to his first NBA game, and he was one of the most productive players in college basketball this past season, meaning he should be ready to step in and help right away,” Givony said. “He also has some untapped upside left thanks to his freakish athleticism and budding shooting ability, and he doesn’t need any plays called for him, making him a strong match for the existing pieces already in place.”

Givony, in that mock draft, says of Miami: “With Bam Adebayo likely being suited to seeing significant minutes at the center position, it’s difficult to point to another long-term option at the power forward spot that the team can build around, which could make a player in Washington’s mold make sense. Washington has the length to defend multiple positions on the interior, he can stretch the floor from the perimeter and he brings plenty of long-term upside. His toughness and versatility will fit well on any team.”

▪ That mock draft also has Southern California guard Kevin Porter Jr. slipping all the way to 22nd and Oregon center Bol Bol falling to 20th.

Of Porter, Givony said: “Porter will start getting looks as high as the late lottery, but the question marks about his approach to the game appear to have taken a toll on his draft stock. At this stage of the draft, the rewards likely outweigh the risks, as Porter can become another creator on the perimeter who can shoulder some scoring load. Porter has the size and versatility to slot into a variety of lineup configurations.”

The Heat has invited Texas center Jaxson Hayes for a workout and visit at AmericanAirlines Arena but at this point, he has no plans to work out for Miami, according to a league source.

NBA.com suggests it’s unlikely Hayes falls that far and Givony has him going to 10th to Atlanta.

Drew Packham of NBA.com said “one player who is seeing some stabilization is Jaxson Hayes. Previously, the big man was all over the board, but now there’s a near consensus that he’ll wind up with the Hawks. Eight of the 10 mock drafts see Atlanta grabbing him at No. 10.”

Hayes averaged 10 points, 5 rebounds and 2.2 blocks last season.

▪ The Heat also summoned Cal State Fullerton guard Kyle Allman Jr. to AmericanAirlines Arena workout early this week, as first reported by the Orange County Register’s James Williams.

Allman, 6-5, averaged 17.5 points last season, shooting 45.4 percent from the field and 34.9 percent from the line.

▪ Two Heat executives last week scouted an agent-organized workout for 7-6 UCF center Tacko Fall, who averaged 11.1 points, 7.6 rebounds and 2.6 blocks last season and had 15 points, six rebounds and three blocks in the narrow Round of 32 NCAA Tournament loss to Duke….

The Heat has shown some interest in Georgia Southern guard Tookie Brown – the Sun Belt’s Player of the Year last season –as a possible summer addition. He averaged 17.3 points last season but is only 5-11.

▪ The Heat has had guard Charles Cooke stick around South Florida and has invited him to informal workouts. He remains in play for Miami’s summer program.

Cooke, who went undrafted out of Dayton in 2017, appeared in 15 games for New Orleans in 2017-18 and had a 10-day contract with the Heat last season. He averaged 14.4 points on 46.4 percent shooting last season for the Heat’s G-League team in South Dakota.

▪ Quick stuff: The Heat gave Duncan Robinson a $250,000 guarantee and Yante Maten a $100,000 guarantee in their two-year contracts, with additional guarantee trigger dates for both… Givony says the Suns are dangling the sixth overall pick in exchange for a veteran point guard, though it’s somewhat difficult to envision Phoenix pursuing Goran Dragic again after he pushed to be traded years ago… The Heat will hold a June 20 draft party, with Alonzo Mourning and Glen Rice among those in attendance. Cost is $1, with details on heat.com.

Wholesale Memphis Grizzlies Jerseys

Rob Fischer, who recently parted ways with Sports 56 WHBQ, has found a new venture in addition to his continued work as the TV sideline reporter for Fox Sports Southeast broadcasts of Grizzlies games.

The iconic local sports voice will work as media and communications director for a new locally-based sports management group called MPower.

“Rob brings deep professional and personal experiences to MPower and values that align with MPower’s mission and vision for its clients,” MPower owner Rebecca Adelman said in a media release. “His roots in Memphis will further MPower’s goal for the Bluff City to be a training mecca for professional athletes.”

Memphis Grizzlies broadcasters Rob Fischer (left) and Brevin Knight (right) joke with each other as they discusses a Grizzlies victory over the New York Knicks during the post game show at the FedExForum.

Adelman launched MPower in 2018 as a full-service agency. Adelman is certified to represent NBA, WNBA and FIBA players. Fischer said MPower is the only female-owned NBA player agency.

Fischer will be responsible for media relations with MPower and its clients, as well as community relations and promotion.

“I truly believe in the vision and leadership of MPower and am looking forward to this new and exciting opportunity in my career,” Fischer said. “The team at MPower can truly make a difference in athletes today. I’m proud to be part of the movement.”

Fischer just completed his 12th season as the sideline reporter for Grizzlies television broadcasts. For 17 years, Fischer hosted a show on Sports 56 WHBQ. His run there ended earlier this year, when he and the station did not come to terms during a contract negotiation.

He will continue his role as sideline reporter and said he has another local media project in the works.

Eric Hasseltine moves on from 92.9

The Grizzlies’ radio voice also moved on recently from his daily radio show on 92.9 FM. Eric Hasseltine announced on April 26 that the day’s show would be his last.

“I have decided it is time for me to step in another direction,” Hasseltine said. “It’s not an easy decision as you may be able to tell in my voice.”

Hasseltine hosted the program from 2 to 4 p.m. for seven and a half years. He will continue as the Grizzlies’ play-by-play announcer.

First pre-draft workout

The Grizzlies hosted a closed pre-draft workout on Wednesday that was expected to include Marlon Hunter Jr. (Jacksonville State), Anthony Lawrence (Miami), Skylar Mays (LSU), Matt McQuaid (Michigan State), Juwan Morgan (Indiana) and Josh Reaves (Penn State).

Wholesale Los Angeles Clippers Jerseys

Right now the focus might be on the NBA Playoffs but the Los Angeles Clippers potentially have big things in store for this offseason as well.

The Los Angeles Clippers have shocked the NBA world and are heading to the NBA Playoffs despite this year appearing to be an “in-between year” for the franchise.

Backed by some great performances and some excellent coaching from Doc Rivers, the Clippers are the sixth seed in the Western Conference and with just four games remaining appear to have that spot locked in.

Right now the Clippers’ first-round matchup in the playoffs would be the Portland Trailblazers, who certainly are a beatable team with Jusuf Nurkic out. However, tied with Portland is the Houston Rockets, who would give the Clippers a tough (but fun to watch) challenge.

Nobody really expects the Clippers to make it that far in the playoffs but it would be nice to see the team win in the first round, especially if it means shocking former Clipper Chris Paul and the Rockets.

And while that would be great to see, the real focus of the team is not to win a title this year, it is to capitalize on the cap space the team is set to have this offseason and bring in some superstar free agents.

The Clippers have quite the competitor in the other massive media market, the New York Knicks, who also have the cap space to add two superstars. Both Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving have been tied to the Knicks, although the Clippers are the much better destination.

First of all, the roster is simply better in LA. While that could change if the Knicks get the first overall pick and Zion Williamson, as it stands right now the Clippers are better.

The team has a potential future all-star point guard in Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and the best sixth man (and probably a top-six shooting guard), Lou Williams. Montrezl Harrell brings the intensity down low, Ivica Zubac was a sneaky good pick up and Danilo Gallinari is playing lights out.

The most promising players returning to the Knicks are Dennis Smith Jr, Kevin Knox, Allonzo Trier and Frank Ntilikina. All four of those guys are just promising at this point and are not the most compelling young players.

And let’s not even get started with ownership and coaching. Although he burned Blake Griffin and that could have left a lasting impression, Steve Ballmer is an involved owner who has really seemed to figure out how to properly conduct himself as the owner of an NBA team.

Meanwhile, the Clippers have James Dolan, who does not have a great reputation around the league. Doc Rivers is a coach of the year candidate for the Los Angeles Clippers while David Fizdale, although he is respected, has not proven himself as a good NBA head coach.

The one issue with the Clippers is that despite it being in Los Angeles it still is the second team to the Lakers and whoever plays for the Clippers would naturally be in LeBron’s shadow.

However, this would be a great opportunity for a star like Kevin Durant to come to the Clippers, but LeBron in HIS shadow and finally give the Clippers the respect the team deserves in Los Angeles.

We try to call everything down the middle here at LA Sports Hub and right now the Clippers are the better team but the Lakers still rule the media landscape and the fanbase dwarfs the Clippers’. That could change with another great period like Lob City in which the team actually wins it all.

The City of Angels is just as appealing as the Big Apple and will produce more entertainment opportunities and outside revenue, which is just another stake in the Los Angeles Clippers’ claim to two stars.

Wholesale Indiana Pacers Jerseys

The primary answer to what’s ailing the Pacers was not to be found on the practice court at St. Vincent Center on Monday. That is, until coach Nate McMillan gathered the players for the closing huddle and lecture and Domantas Sabonis walked out of the training room, with no shoe covering the sprained ankle wrapped in tape.

The Pacers dropped three of their four games last week, all to losing teams. They lost at Detroit on Monday, at Dallas on Wednesday, rallied to beat Minnesota on Thursday, and lost to Orlando at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on Saturday. It doesn’t require in-depth analysis to get to the bottom of those dispiriting defeats. They were outrebounded on the offensive glass and took fewer field goal attempts in each of those games, the victory included, and were outscored on second-chance points in three of them.

Saturday’s loss to Orlando was the most obviously symptomatic. The Pacers gave up 11 offensive rebounds while grabbing only three and were outscored on second-chance points 20-5. Three of Orlando’s offensive rebounds came in the fourth quarter, when it outscored the Pacers 34-25 to overcome a four-point deficit.

Had Sabonis not sprained his ankle with 8:41 left in the game at Detroit the previous Monday it might have turned out differently. He’s their best rebounder by a wide margin (9.3 per game despite playing just 25 minutes on average), their best scorer on a per-minute basis other than Victor Oladipo and their most accurate field goal shooter (61 percent).

So, yes, he likely would have made a difference against the Magic, and probably against the Mavericks as well. The case isn’t as strong for the loss at Detroit, where the Pacers trailed by seven points when he went down, although he was having a strong game — 23 points and seven rebounds in less than 26 minutes.

“We miss him big-time,” McMillan said. “He does a good job of just doing everything.”

Wholesale Indiana Pacers Jerseys

Sabonis won’t play in Tuesday’s game against Chicago and is highly questionable for Thursday’s game at Milwaukee. Ideally he would participate in a full practice before playing again, but the Pacers might not have that luxury. The opportunities for full-scale practices in the remaining five weeks of the season will be few.

So, the Pacers will have to make the most of a difficult situation. But it could be worse. They could be somewhere far south of third place in the Eastern Conference and fighting for a playoff spot, rather than fighting to uphold their preseason goal of homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

Accomplishing that would win McMillan a lot of votes for Coach of the Year. But it also will require more raw effort than was displayed in last week’s losses. The margin for error without Oladipo and Sabonis is small, particularly against the 10 winning teams the Pacers will be facing later this month.

Even without their top two offensive threats, the Pacers have scored enough to win — 109 at Detroit, 101 at Dallas, 112 against the Magic. The defensive effort hasn’t been as strong as earlier in the season, but hasn’t been as bad as the scores indicate, either. It’s mostly been a matter of rebounding, particularly on the defensive board to prevent second-chance points.

“We’re scoring enough to win,” Wesley Matthews said. “And we’re actually getting stops. We just have to limit (opponents’) shots.”

And get to loose balls, something they’ve done well most of the season but not as well lately.

“We got out-scrapped,” McMillan said of the loss to Orlando. “They (got) all the 50-50 balls. That’s who we want to be. That’s how we win. You have to make those plays in the fourth quarter and we didn’t do that.”

That’s who we want to be.

Sixty-four games into their season, the Pacers are in the undesirable position of trying to establish an identity. Losing Oladipo for the season on Jan. 23 forced a major shift. So did the acquisition of Matthews two games before the All-Star break. Turner’s recent injury, Tyreke Evans’ two-game absence, and Sabonis’ current absence all have required adjustments as well. The Pacers have had Matthews, Turner and Sabonis together in just one game since the All-Star break: at Detroit, when Sabonis went down in the fourth quarter.

McMillan talked with the players at the end of Monday’s practice for longer than usual. He also waited longer than usual to meet with the media after talking with Thad Young in his office.

“Who are we? That’s the question I asked them today,” McMillan said.

The players were not as upbeat, not as talkative at the end of Monday’s practice, neither among themselves nor with the media. The atmosphere was more serious than usual, almost solemn. Were they chastened? Angry? Contemplative? Resolute?

Time will tell.

“We want to finish strong,” McMillan said. “Every game, every possession is important. It’s time to get serious. It’s been time to get serious.”

Wholesale Detroit Pistons Jerseys

The Detroit Pistons didn’t exactly have the year they wanted to in 2018. Here are a few goals for this team to reach for in 2019.

The Detroit Pistons head into 2019 playing some of their worst basketball of the season.

After losing by 37 points to the Indiana Pacers and getting beat by the lowly Orlando Magic on an Evan Fournier game winner, the Pistons will start 2019 looking to turn things around.

2018 was a rocky year for the Pistons, however making these three New Years Resolutions will go a long way towards a 2019 filled with much more success.

Stay healthy

This is one of the biggest variables that affects the Pistons on court success.

Reggie Jackson and Blake Griffin are two of their most important players, and both are known to be injury prone.

Reggie Jackson’s injury last season derailed what looked to be a successful season, causing them to miss the playoffs for the second straight season.

Blake Griffin is the player that needs to be monitored this season.

He has been the Piston’s most important player, and losing him would be even worse than losing Reggie last season. There has been a lot of talk about limiting Blake Griffin’s minutes, and this should be something Dwane Casey focuses on in 2019.

Keeping Blake and their other players healthy for the full length of the season will be very beneficial to a team looking to get back into the playoffs.

Be smart at the trade deadline

A lot of fans have been calling for roster overturn in light of the team’s recent struggles.

The Detroit Pistons have very limited assets to trade, and giving up too much could set this team back years.

While the team does need immediate help (especially in the back court), not mortgaging their entire future for this season is important.

Making a trade for Bradley Beal would help this team tremendously. Giving up Luke Kennard, Stanley Johnson, and multiple first round picks might be too high of a price to pay.

Giving up Kennard and first round picks limits this teams ceiling in the future as well as limiting their ability to acquire cheap help via the draft.

The Pistons should look to make at least one win now move, but the trade must be a no-brainer for the Pistons to give up either Kennard or a first round pick.

Make the playoffs

This should be the Pistons number one priority for 2019.

Getting back to the playoffs after a two-year drought will validate all of the roster moves they made, and help bring a winning culture back to the team.

The Detroit Pistons are currently the eighth seed with only a half game up on the Orlando Magic.

There was a lot of reasons for optimism prior to this season after installing Coach of the Year Dwane Casey as head coach and giving Blake Griffin a full season with the team.

Missing the playoffs would be a massive disappointment and could force the Pistons to start over again.

Making the playoffs would give this team momentum heading into next season and help Dwane Casey build a winning culture in Detroit.

The Detroit Pistons have largely had a 2018 to forget, but making those three New Years Resolutions will go a long way towards a 2019 filled with success.

Wholesale Denver Nuggets Jerseys

The Denver Nuggets were 9-1 to start the season and had the second best record in the Western Conference.

I suspect that many critics expected the Denver Nuggets to fall back down to earth and they did with a 1-6 stretch that gave them a 10-7 record that begged the question if they were a true playoff team again this year.

But, the Nuggets are back they’re on a 5 game winning streak that just so happened in my previous articles could be a five game stretch that I thought the first half could hinge on.

Now the Nuggets have to avoid slippery rocks so as to not fall back down the mountain that is the Western Conference Standings.

The Next five games begin with a tough matchup against the top team in the East, the Toronto Raptors and that Kawhi Leonard guy.

After that it’s the Magic, Hornets, Hawks, and a revenge game with the Memphis Grizzlies. So, these next five games too could hold a lot of weight in the standings.

Outside the Denver area it’s likely expected that the perennial contenders like Golden State, Houston, and Oklahoma City will blow by these Denver Nuggets and they’ll be left to scrap it out for the last few playoff spots.

It’s up to guys like Jamal Murray whose played some of his best basketball in clutch moments recently to stay on top. Luckily for him, he’ll have plenty of help.

Paul Millsap has been outstanding on this win streak looking the part of an all star and/or all NBA defensive player.

Nikola Jokic has been contributing in his Swiss army knife fashion, and Gary Harris returned to the lineup red hot against Portland (including a clutch three point shot with 16 seconds left in the game which gave the Nuggets a three point lead). Juan Hernangomez and Trey Lyles each averaged double digits during this winning streak.

Every player in the rotation deserves credit for the Nuggets winning streak and place in the standings and they’ll need everyone to keep contributing if they hope to maintain their winning ways.