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Law Murray | Los Angeles Clippers Insider, The Athletic

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The Truth Network Radio
February 27, 2023 6:17 am

Law Murray | Los Angeles Clippers Insider, The Athletic

Amy Lawrence Show / Amy Lawrence

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February 27, 2023 6:17 am

LA Clippers insider for The Athletic Law Murray joins the show to talk a pair of tough OT losses, the addition of Russell Westbrook, and how the Clippers stack-up in a competitive Western Conference.

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Evan Matt talks with Matt Hardy. Law Murray joins us now from Denver, covers the NBA and the clips for the athletic. Well, you used your words for a living, Law.

Thank you so much for a couple of minutes. How would you describe this weekend that was for the Clippers? Absolutely bizarre. I mean, to have three overtimes over the course of two games, and to lose them like the Clippers have, to score 175 American points in one of them, and 124 in the other, and to lose those two games. I mean, on one hand, this offense is really good. The fact that they have all this talent, I think it's coming out on the offensive end. But it's always a concern when you're calling yourself a contender, have championship aspirations, and you can't get key stops, key rebounds, situational basketball to close games out.

And it's a real shame for the Clippers. Missed opportunities, not just this weekend, but really the entire season has been full of these events. Missed opportunities. Gosh, it feels like that could apply to most of the teams in the West, though. Thinking about the Mavericks, we just spoke with a member of the Mavericks organization last week, and he said the same exact thing.

Missed opportunities. But you could look up and down the Western Conference where it's so crowded outside of, say, the top couple teams. And every team seems like they are going to circle dates on their calendar where they've missed opportunities to kind of plant their flag, if you will. How tired do you think they were after, because they're the road team in both of these situations, after the double overtime game late on Friday? Well, the Clippers are at home Friday night. And the thing is, however tired the Clippers might have been, this is two games against two teams that had to travel on the second night of the back to back. The Kings before that double overtime game Friday night, they were at home beating the Trailblazers Thursday night. And then the Nuggets, they got spanked in Memphis Saturday night and had to travel back home to Denver. So, I mean, the Clippers, they had, again, a weird weekend, like their frickin' plane gets hit by lightning from LA to Denver. And it had nothing to do with the Denver part of the travel. Like the weather in Southern California has been just, yeah, Earth has been earthing, Amy, let's just put it that way. And so you talked about, this is the oldest team in the league of, you know, Friday night, Saturday, Sunday night, they've started five guys who are all on the other side of 30.

I think we all can respectfully acknowledge what that other side is, right? So there's a level of, and the concern with the Clippers, Amy, is they come back in games, but do they have enough to finish? That was Sunday night against the Denver Nuggets.

Friday night, they were up 14 against this Kings team with four minutes to play. You hit another bucket after that, and the Kings might throw the towel and say, you know, good job, good effort. And what is stopping any team facing the Clippers right now from, no matter how much they're down by, no matter what the situation in the game is, just running it, running it down the Clippers throats, like just play fast and see what happens. Maybe you get a three pointer out of it. Maybe you get a layup.

Maybe you get some free throws for some turnovers. I mean, Jamal Murray just threw a ball at half court in desperation because the shot clock was running down and it wound up winning the game for the Denver Nuggets. But that's the concern with the Clippers. When you lose games like this, there's that second thought of no matter how well you play through three and a half quarters, is a game really over? And that's a heck of a hump for the Clippers to get over.

Gosh, isn't that part of their history though, too? You think about some of their biggest failures in the postseason and it's happened in those dramatic moments where they can't protect a lead. You can say that, but so many, you got to worry about the team on the floor now. And I think fans relate to that more. You know, I know the star players are in the bubble, for example, but this is a new group, a new identity of guys.

And that's why I say what happens this year matters more than what happens in previous years for a lot of them. They have successes in the playoffs, too. That's the same team that down 02 against the Dallas Mavericks found a way to force and win a game seven down 02 to the Utah Jazz. The next series losing Kawhi in the middle of that, they found a way to win that series. So it works both ways.

This is the same. I mean, I saw this weekend like the Clippers were down 18 against a Denver team that blew them out and embarrassed them last month in Denver. They could have I don't want to say they could have thrown a talent. I don't think that was an option, but you could see where that game was going.

But they came back. They made this a competitive game. They had a small lead. And that's the thing. It's like they did outplay the Nuggets by 20 points over the course of this game.

They just couldn't close it. And so, you know, this is called the team is a good team. They have no reason to feel like they're they're they're done or they can't they can't be successful. There's plenty of time to work things out. It's just that the time that they've had suggests that there's no guarantee that they're going to work it out.

So it's in the middle, you know. It's tough to lose, but you can't worry about that too much. You got a game Tuesday night. That is life in the NBA, right, where it just keeps coming. LaMurry of The Athletic joining us to talk Clippers in Denver after their third overtime in the span of 48 hours.

It's After Hours with Amy Lawrence on CBS Sports Radio. You use the word identity. What is it for the Clippers law? I think the identity for the Clippers is a really deep team that needs to maximize the pieces better.

We kind of know what they are at this point. They're an incredibly powerful offensive team and they have the capability of playing some of the best basketball of any team in the NBA. I saw them win 10 out of 14 games going into the All-Star break. That was the best in the West. So their ceiling is incredibly high.

It's just that the floor is concerningly low. So the identity of this team is honestly one where they're inconsistent from quarter to quarter. They can give you knockout punches, but they can also put lineups on the floor that are absolutely baffling. Where does Russell Westbrook fit into the mix? Well, I think that's been the lightning rod for the LA Clippers over this past week. I mean, Russell Westbrook is a comfort zone player for the head coach and the two stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. I mean, Russell and Paul played in Oklahoma City. That worked out well for Paul. I'm not sure it worked out well for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

They didn't want to play on series there, but there's that comfort there. Kawhi has always, since the bubble, said he wants a point guard and they tried. They gave this team, or John Rondo, they gave this team Eric Bledsoe while Kawhi was rehabbing.

John Wall started the year of the team. Now Russell is here, a former MVP. Not an MVP or even an All-Star caliber player now, but certainly an upgrade in ability compared to the previous iteration of the veteran point guard who's come into this program. And then you've got T. Lou, a former point guard who's won a championship as a player and as a coach.

He keeps saying he wants a traditional point guard. Well, now Russell Westbrook is a traditional point guard that he can feel comfortable starting, a guy who he has a good relationship with personally. And Russ gives him an opportunity to push the pace, take that ball handling pressure away from Paul George and Kawhi Leonard. The ideal is for Kawhi and Paul to be better at the end of games.

Ironically, we have not quite seen that result in wins just yet. Russell didn't play in the fourth quarter at all after he played most of the fourth quarter, most of the two overtimes Friday night. So we've seen very, very different uses of Russ, but I actually think Russ has done a nice job of staying in control. He's made more than 50% of his field goals. The turnovers were a big issue Friday night. He had seven of them.

That has already improved in a matter of 48 hours. And he's been a great matter of 48 hours, only two turnovers to go with four assists. He had five skills. So that's a level of pressure and playmaking defensively. And Siwoo said he probably should have played Russ more.

So it's going to be a balance. It's going to take some acclimating and it's going to come against some really good teams. But I do think overall, Russell can be good. It's just a matter of, I don't look at Russell Westbrook as this team savior or this team's pariah. I look at Russell Westbrook as another piece that Siwoo just has to figure out how to use. And Russell Westbrook is a support for the guys who this team needs to be judged by. This team shouldn't be judged by Russell Westbrook.

It needs to be judged by Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. What has Russ had to say about being home? I mean, he played his college ball there as well at UCLA and he's talked about in the past how much he loves that part of the country and how much he wanted to play there. Well, he got to play at home for Los Angeles Lakers.

How'd that work out? Yeah. I mean, the thing is though, it's a different fit as you point out. It's almost ironic that he and Paul George and Kawhi end up playing together there when originally it was Oklahoma City, but we know that the rumblings were there for them to all team up in LA.

Right. And I think the thing with Los Angeles, the Lakers had him come in as a $47 million max contract player who was supposed to be not just a third best player next to LeBron James and Indian Davis, but with a roster that was not going to fit because the general manager had to be perfect with how he put that team together and they very clearly weren't. The head coach had to find a way to click with all those guys when they already weren't a good offensive team and that did not happen. And then LeBron didn't click with Russ anymore. Darvin Ham comes in, communicates better with Russ than Frank Vogel probably could have, but if your star player is basically advocating for another star player to come to your team while that player is still on the team, the vibes are probably not going to be very good. So it was doomed almost from the start for the Lakers, whereas Russell Westbrook being a minimum contract player on a team that already was incredibly deep on a team where you got the buy-in from the stars, the head coach, maybe not the front office, but the front office, they still opened the door for Russ even before the signing because they traded the previous and incumbent veteran point guards on the team. I saw Reggie Jackson tonight in Denver, like Reggie, and you kind of saw the writing on the wall, maybe not related to Russ specifically, but knew that something had to give for the Clippers. I think the situation is better for Russell Westbrook. The question is, is the situation the best for the LA Clippers?

And we're going to find that out over the next six weeks. I guess I am happy for him though that he didn't have to leave LA, that he gets to stay home, change locker rooms and change uniforms obviously, but yeah, good. I'm glad to hear that because if you think about his journey over the past five years, the stability and the rock that he was for the Thunder, the year that he averages the triple-double and is an MVP, and since then it has been crazy.

Five different franchises now in the span of just a couple of seasons, so at least he didn't have to move and gets to stay in LA and doesn't have to pick up his family and go somewhere else again. Right, and that is something where Russ has to be grateful for that and at the same time, you know, I think Russ is going to play some of his most focused ball and I've already seen it. He's played with a level of poise in his first two Clippers games and I feel really bad for him that the Clippers have lost these games because the conversation and narrative is going to remain that Russ is not an easy player to cover. He's a player who either loves him or hates him. There's not a lot of middle ground on Russ.

I'm trying to change that to be honest with you. I don't have a reason to stand Russ Westbrook. He's been in the league for 15 years. I can be critical and objective, but at the same time that's going to sound like I'm caping for him because of how toxic the coverage around him has been and so I'm interested to see how he does, but I'm not covering him like a star player.

I'm covering him like a piece of a deep team that has bigger goals than to satiate one player or two or three players and that's going to be what's fascinating. I'm happy that Russ got to stay here. It's a great opportunity for him.

It's one that he's never been in. Has Russ Westbrook ever been not one of the three best players on the team? Has the team ever needed his success to drive their success? No, and the Clippers, they were a good team already without Russ.

That's never been the case for any of the teams that he's been on except maybe the Houston Rockets and the Houston Rockets literally traded him as their last chance. So this is a big opportunity for him. It's something new and hopefully people can cover it like it's something new and not something that is just going to result in previous events that have already happened. We've got Law Murray with us from Denver covering the Clippers and the NBA for the athletic.

It's after hours on CBS Sports Radio. So Russ being a new piece, we know what the Clippers have done. As you point out, it's inconsistent. They can be extremely good. They also can fail to play the full 60 minutes and end up giving up or giving away a win. When you think about the Western Conference as a whole and I feel like that kind of embodies most of the West, but what are your thoughts on the West as we get to about 19 games to go?

Thoroughly unserious conference. I don't trust anybody in the West except Denver. Denver doesn't have 20 losses. They're 43 and 19 and they still have holes. There's a reason Reggie Jackson and Thomas Bryant were bought in from the other LA teams.

Their bench was unsettled. Bruce Brown is probably their only reliable bench player and so that's a team that even they have another step. No one gives Nicole Jukic the respect of a back-to-back MVP who has a very good chance to win a third. I've seen Denver lose in the first round, get to the second round lose there. They got to the conference finals by beating this Clippers team coming back from 3-1 in back-to-back series. The only thing left for Denver to do really is to get to the finals and I think this is their best chance to do it, not just because of how good they are, but the rest of the West has shown that they are not trustworthy. The Memphis Grizzlies, every time you see them on national TV, what happens? Sacramento Kings like the beam, but this is going to be the first time that beam gets lit in 17 years in the playoffs.

That is a big step. I'm excited to see the Sacramento Kings in the playoffs, but also the Kings are on their maiden trip there. None of those dudes are going to be experiencing this for the first time. The Phoenix Suns, they have four guys who on paper are like wow Kevin Durant with book eight and CP3, but I mean shoot Kevin Durant is hurt right now. Chris Paul is untrustworthy as soon as his birthday hits in the playoffs and I say that the nicest way possible.

Respectfully as possible. CP3 is a legend, but we've seen what has happened in the playoffs with CP3. Something unfortunate always happens and he's only getting older. Devin Booker has missed time with soft tissue injuries. That's going to be something that makes their breath and then DeAndre Ayton, we saw how they collapsed against the Phoenix Suns last year and Ayton's role in that. That's their team and then there's a severe drop off after that because of the KV trade. We saw what happened when Kyrie Irving and Luka Doncic Sunday against the Lakers. They've won one out of four games together. One out of five if you count the All-Star game and you probably should count the All-Star game at this point. You probably should. You probably should. If you thought oh man at least they get to be on team LeBron together, yeah it didn't work.

No it did not. Like the goal to say where's our defending champs, but they also are barely over 500. There's a lot of players on these Western Conference teams that can scare you in an individual playoff series, but who do you trust to keep it together on a team level right now? The West is a thoroughly unserious conference, but it's going to make for an entertaining basketball that's for sure. That is for sure. You don't want to miss it.

All right before I let you go Law, I'm sure it's been a long evening for you. You just saw the Nuggets. You just saw Niko Jokic. 99th career triple-double. 14 in his last 19 games which is just dumb. He's become automatic. Is there another player you would hold up next to him as the NBA MVP?

You know what? As of right now I would say that Jokic is probably your MVP, but I think you got to look at what's happening in Boston with Jason Tatum. That's the best team in the league and Jason when he has everything. He scores. He defends.

He's available. He hasn't won it so you can't talk about voter fatigue. I think Tatum is a really good contender for what is arguably the most prestigious award even though people like to now crap on MVPs called the Russell Westbrook effect. So honestly if I don't have a vote, I don't know who controls those things, I'd give it to Niko Jokic today.

The plus-minus doesn't lie. His impact is felt all over the floor, but I think Tatum is the number one contender. Right. Well he certainly is doing whatever Boston needs which is impressive and his game has become so all around that there's a lot of different ways that he can hurt you. And yes, the NBA All-Star Game MVP, the Kobe Bryant Award.

It's a nice thing to have on your mantle, but come on man. It's like they're running, I don't know, through cones. It's a layup line. It's a glorified layup line. Have you seen the NBA this season?

What's the difference? No, I know. It's insane. The way the scoring is skyrocketing. I actually said this law on my show earlier.

Somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but I actually am convincing myself. It may not be many more years before we see another player hit 100 considering the way that scoring is going and the fact we've got two guys with 70 plus this year. I don't know. It could happen with the way that threes have changed the game. I'm thinking three years. I'll give it three years.

Shoot, it might be three weeks. I mean this one needed overtime and a blown call to score his 71. Damian Lillard did his in a blowout. Can you imagine if the Rockets were competitive and that game went to overtime?

Damian Lillard didn't even touch 40 minutes to score 71 points. It's not just the threes. It's the fact that it's fast-paced. It's the fact that these guys are incredibly skilled and I don't mean to disrespect defense. Defense is incredibly hard in the NBA. It's hard on bigs. It's hard on guards.

You need a bunch of switchable guys, but then you need those guys to be athletic and still be aware and keep being on the same page. If that sounds like a lot on the radio, imagine doing it at the highest level of basketball there is in the land. So, I'm here for it. Honestly, it's going to be very entertaining. Anyone who's going to duck out the NBA to watch college hoops, just know that the most competitive brand of basketball is going to be played over the next five weeks. For sure.

Cannot wait until we get to that postseason, but still a lot to be settled between now and then. So, follow Law Murray on Twitter at LawMurrayVNU. So, that's his Twitter handle.

He covers the Clippers, covers the NBA for the athletic. I enjoy the humor. Enjoy this conversation. We hope to have you on again, Law. Thank you so much. Thank you so much, Amy. Y'all take care.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-02-27 08:56:58 / 2023-02-27 09:05:42 / 9

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