Clippers fans, book your flights to Oklahoma; Grizzlies’ Zach Randolph suspended

Assuming the Clippers advance to the next round of the Western Conference playoffs with a Game 7 victory over the Warriors on Saturday, fans of the team should book their flights to Oklahoma.

Why? Because the Memphis Grizzlies’ Zach Randolph has been suspended for Game 7 of his team’s series with Oklahoma City for punching Thunder center Steven Adams in the jaw in Game 6, the NBA announced Friday afternoon.

Since Game 7 of that series is at OKC, it’s hard to imagine Memphis prevailing without Randolph, who averaged 18.2 points and 8.7 rebounds in the six games in which he played in the series.

 

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Blake Griffin signs

It’s been a foregone conclusion for a while now that Blake Griffin would join the Clippers.

Since May 19, to be exact, when the Clippers jumped two teams and won the first overall pick in the NBA’s draft lottery.

On June 25, the team took a big step to that end, selecting the 6-foot-10 forward in the draft.

Thursday, the Clippers finally made it official, announcing the signing of the 20-year-old Griffin.

Although terms of the deal were not announced, the league’s collective bargaining agreement stipulates that Griffin will get a three-year contract with a team option for the fourth year.

Under the agreement, Griffin will make between four and five million this season. The Clippers will also have the opportunity to make a qualifying offer after four seasons of the deal.

Griffin averaged 22.7 points and 14.4 rebounds for Oklahoma in his sophomore season as he garnered AP Player of the Year honors. He now joins a Clippers team that was 19-63 last season and has won one playoff series in its history in Los Angeles.

“I’m not worried about it,” Griffin said on draft day. “I feel like we have a great group of guys on the Clippers and I’m looking forward to helping them win games.”

The Clippers have had a fairly active offseason thus far, selecting Griffin and extending a qualifying offer to forward Steve Novak. They also agreed to a deal with the Memphis Grizzlies that would net former Clipper Quentin Richardson in return for Zach Randolph. Although the deal has not been finalized, it should create an opportunity for the 20-year-old Griffin to develop on the job. While he won’t have to be the team’s No. 1 option — Baron Davis, Eric Gordon, and Al Thornton are all expected to be back healthy — Griffin should be the starter at power forward.

“The good thing for Blake is he’s walking into a team where the roster composition is playoff caliber,” assistant general manager Neil Olshey said after the lottery. “I don’t think anybody’s expecting him to have to play forty minutes a night and take twenty shots. He can kind of find his way and find ways to contribute.”

The Clippers will hold their first of three summer league practices today at their training center in Playa Vista.

The summer league team — with a roster featuring Griffin, Gordon, and DeAndre Jordan — will play a slate of five games in Las Vegas, beginning with a Monday match-up with the Lakers.

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Z-Bo trade should be completed by Thursday

The Zach Randolph-Quentin Richardson trade hasn’t been completed just yet, due to “timing,” according to a source. This has a lot to do with the reported trade involving Shawn Marion between Dallas-Toronto-Memphis. Basically, Memphis has cap space to help facilitate the deal, but will lose that space when Randolph goes onto their books. Hence the “timing.”

My source indicated the deal should go through by tomorrow at the latest however.

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Media chimes in on Randolph trade

Evidently, 77% of you think the Zach Randolph trade was good for the Clips, and local and national media outlets largely share the same opinion.

Kevin Arnovitz at Clipperblog, also at ESPN: “For the Clippers, moving Randolph isn’t just about clearing minutes — it allows the franchise to press rewind on what was a diastrous cultural acquisition in Randolph.”

BIll Simmons: Dunleavy turns Z-Bo into Q’s expiring deal for 8 mill less + copious 2010 cap space? All is forgiven! Red Auerbach lives!”

Steve Perrin at Clips Nation: “Frankly it’s about as good as the Clippers could have hoped for…they’ll clear cap space for the 2010 off season when some huge names are going to become free agents.”

Interestingly, though, only 38% of national fans think the Clippers got the better of the trade, according to a poll by Foxsports.

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Clippers trade Randolph for Richardson

Make room for Blake Griffin.

On Wednesday the Clippers agreed to a deal that would send starting power forward Zach Randolph to the Memphis Grizzlies in exchange for guard Quentin Richardson, according to an NBA source with knowledge of the deal, thus clearing the way for Griffin, the No. 1 overall pick in last week’s draft.

Due to league rules, the deal can not be completed until next week.

Randolph was the team’s leading scorer and second-leading rebounder last season. He averaged 20.9 points and 9.4 rebounds in 39 games after coming over in a midseason trade with the New York Knicks.

When the Clippers won the lottery however, there was no longer room in the frontcourt for Randolph, Chris Kaman, Marcus Camby and now Griffin, a 6-foot-10 power forward.

The deal also creates an interesting homecoming with Richardson, who played four seasons with the Clippers from 2000-04, before signing a rich free agent contract with the Phoenix Suns.

Richardson averaged 10.2 points for the New York Knicks last season, but was shipped to Memphis in a draft-day trade for Darko Milicic.

The Clippers also benefit financially from the deal, getting out from under the $33 million owed to Randolph over the next two seasons, while taking back only Richardson’s $9 million salary next season.

Because of the difference in Randolph and Richardson’s salaries, the Clippers also receive an $8 million trade exception, which they can use later.

Randolph’s agent Raymond Brothers said that his client was disappointed to learn of the deal, because he felt he had found an NBA home with the Clippers.

“It’s tough getting traded but that’s part of this business,” Brothers said. “It’s just unfortunate because Zach really felt comfortable in L.A. and felt like he’d found a home. He wanted me to thank the Clippers and (owner) Donald Sterling for the opportunity to play with them for a year.”

The two teams had discussed a deal involving Randolph on draft day,
but it fizzled, a league source said, because the Grizzlies insisted
on the Clippers taking either Marko Jaric or Greg Buckner along with
Milicic.

The Clippers insisted on taking back a player with an expiring
contract, in order to justify parting ways with a proven frontcourt
player like Randolph.

The Clippers also weren’t completely sold on adding Milicic, the
former No. 2 overall pick who has had an underwhelming NBA career,
because it would’ve added another player to an already-crowded
frontcourt.

When the Grizzlies dealt Milicic for Richardson, it reignited trade
talks.

Richardson had the best season of his career playing for the Clippers
in 2003-04, when he averaged 17.2 points and 6.4 rebounds.

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More from Olshey on offseason plans

About the trade rumors involving Zach Randolph, Olshey said:
I think my owner summed it up best: you don’t give away guys averaging 20 and 10. I think the plan is, right now, not to give up a guy who’s averaging 20 and 10. One of the things Blake talked about on the stage was his versatility, and we think he can guard multiple spots on the floor. The pace we want to play at, there’s gonna be minutes, because guys aren’t gonna be able to play 43 minutes a game flying up and down the floor, up-tempo, in attack mode all the time. Baron called the other day — he’s lost weight — and he’s working out every day, he’s in phenomenal shape.

More past the jump.

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