NBA Mailbag: Klay Thompson return, Damian Lillard ‘all in’ with Blazers next season, and more

Klay Thompson return

Last fall NBA Fans were eager for a Klay Thompson return after a crushing blow in the 2019 NBA Finals, but the returning date was pushed back when he tore his Achilles in a workout. Now after two seasons on the sidelines, a date is available to mark on your calendars accordingly. According to Ramona Shelburne, the Golden State Warriors are targeting Christmas Day’s game vs. Phoenix. Shelburne of ESPN reported the news on The Jump not long ago.

“He’s doing well in his recovery, but the Warriors are targeting that Christmas day game against the [Phoenix] Suns for his return,” Shelburne said on ESPN’s “The Jump” on Friday. “He could come back a little bit before that, but in terms of getting his conditioning right, they are targeting the Christmas day game against the Suns. I know that sounds a little late to people, but he was injured on November 18th, so this is 13 months from an Achilles injury.”

“A lot of this is conditioning,” Shelburne explained when Malika Andrews asked asked why Dec. 25 is the target date, “He’s doing well in his rehab, but he’s missed two seasons in a row now. So you don’t bring him back [early]. This is a conservative target. If he does well and his conditioning is up, and he feels like he wants to come back earlier, he will. But this is a conservative target of Christmas day because you need time to build your conditioning back up when you’ve missed two NBA seasons.”

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Golden State’s holiday game is 32 games into the season, allowing Klay to return to somewhat peak levels for the remaining 50.

Marc Gasol on his way out from LA?

Report: Lakers in market for big man because Marc Gasol experience hasn't  gone as well as hoped - Lakers Daily
Photo by Daniel Dunn/USA Today Sports

Marc Gasol announced that he would return to the Los Angeles Lakers for the final year of his 2-year contract that was signed in 2020, but he may have second thoughts. The writing is on the wall and it may be in the Lakers best interest to part ways with Gasol given the rocky season. According to NBA Insider Marc Stein, Gasol is ‘not a lock’ to return to Los Angeles.

“I’m hearing that Marc Gasol is not a lock to return to the Lakers, even after Gasol said following Spain’s quarterfinal loss to the United States in the Olympics that he intends to play out the final year of the two-year deal he signed with Los Angeles, Stein wrote on his SubStack. “It’s not yet clear if that means Gasol is poised to be set free to play elsewhere in the NBA or if he would ultimately opt to finish his career in his home country like brother Pau.”

The divorce between Gasol and the Lakers has been a longtime coming. In the Lakers busy opening 24 hours of free agency, a trade involving Alex Caruso and Marc Gasol to the Timberwolves was discussed and Gasol openly considered asking for a buyout of his own before recommitting to the team after being benched for Drummond.

Damian Lillard ‘all in’ with Blazers for new season

Denver Nuggets v Portland Trail Blazers - Game Six
Photo by Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty Images

The rumored trades centered around Damian Lillard feel endless after a report connecting him to a potential trade request, but Lillard constantly removed any ideas of him forcing his way out of Portland.

Lasting teammate CJ McCollum seems to think that Lillard is committed to suiting up for his 10th season with the Blazers. The 8-year teammate of Dame joined Adrian Wojnarowski’s “The Woj Pod.”

“I have a pretty good sense of where he’s at, and I think his goal is to win a championship. At the end of the day, that’s what we all want. We want to put ourselves in the best position to win a championship,” McCollum told Wojnarowski. “He’s all-in. I think, at this stage, I can say that he’s all-in. He just wants to win at the end of the day.”

Lillard has expressed numerous times that he wants to stay in Portland, but he desires a championship the most. He urged the franchise to assemble a championship caliber roster around him in July.

“Right now, I’m not sure what I’m going to do,” Lillard said. “My intention, my heart has always been set on being in a Trail Blazers uniform for my entire career. But I think over time, you want to win it all. I want to win it all in a Trail Blazers uniform. We all have to be making strides toward that.”

“We have had so many teams in the league that don’t make dramatic changes to their roster, they change coaches and the team improves,” Lillard said. “Maybe because they needed a fresh voice, somebody new to follow. Sometimes a coach is just that great. I don’t disagree that maybe Chauncey can really change our team and make us a better team and get us going in that direction. [But] I think if you look at our team as it is, going into next season, I don’t see how you can say ‘this is a championship team, it just needed a new coach’ when we just lost in the first round to a team that was hurt.”

Rajon Rondo – Memphis Grizzlies

Rajon Rondo #9 of the Chicago Bulls looking on from the bench in the final minutes of their 115-107 loss to the Atlanta Hawks at Philips Arena, on Nov 9, 2016, in Atlanta, Georgia.
Photo by AFP

A Rajon Rondo buyout or trade from the Grizzlies is looming, opening the door for a move to a contender. Rondo, Patrick Beverley, and Daniel Oturu were all sent to the Grizzlies in exchange for Eric Bledsoe. Rondo tends to land on a contender, but not this time. Last season, Rondo found himself on the Clippers midseason for a chance at another championship… And in 2020 the 15-year NBA veteran won the title as a valuable piece to the Los Angeles Lakers adding to his collection with Boston.

According to Drew Hill of the Daily Memphian it seems likely that both sides will part ways before the start of the season. “There are simply too many players for a 15-man roster, and Memphis added two more following the trade that sent Patrick Beverley to Minnesota. The Grizzlies will have to find a way to get players off the roster, potentially by buying players out, trading or waiving them,” Hill penned. “Will Rajon Rondo be part of the team at the season’s beginning? Probably not. What about Sam Merrill? Seems unlikely.”

Memphis has 19 players under contract and Rondo is expected to be dealt away in the coming weeks whether it’s through a buyout or a trade.

Paul Millsap

Photo by Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images

Paul Millsap remains on the free-agency wall after a 4-year tenure with Denver. Millsap has had vast experience in the playoffs after solid runs with the Jazz, Hawks, and Nuggets. Millsap brings a veteran presence, defensive asset, and spacing of the floor.

Mike Singer of the Denver Post reports that Millsap is drawing interest from a couple of contending rivals. “Veteran Paul Millsap is still out there in free agency. Have heard both Golden State and Brooklyn are interested,: Singer said on Twitter.”

Considering Millsap is past his prime years, he’s likely to take a paycut for another crack at the championship. The highest the Nets can offer is a minimum contract, while the Warriors could potentially sign Millsap for up to $5.9 million using the taxpayer mid-level exception. If Millsap is committed to taking a paycut, he’s likely to land on a championship-caliber franchise.

Kevin Garnett Jersey Retirement

Photo by Andrew D. Bernstein/NBAE via Getty Images

The Boston Celtics are raising another jersey to the rafters, a highly anticipated one. The 17-time NBA champions will retire Kevin Garnett’s number 5. Garnett will become the 24th player in Celtics history to have the honors on March 13th when Boston hosts Dallas.

“I’m honored and thankful to have my number retired with the Celtics,” Garnett said of the jersey retirement. “I will always have immense respect and appreciation for ownership, Danny Ainge, Doc Rivers, my past teammates and Celtic Nation!”

Garnett joined the Celtics in 2007, spent 6 seasons with the franchise, and led the team to the 2008 title alongside Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. Garnett added to his already exceptional hall of fame case with 2 finals appearances and 5 All-Star competitions. The 45-year-old was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame earlier this year and had career averages of 15.7 points, 8.3 rebounds, 1.2 steals, and 1.0 blocks per game with Boston.

“You come into the NBA wanting to win, and losing is part of it. But that doesn’t mean you have to accept it,” Garnett said. “Getting with a storied franchise like Boston, gave me light, gave me breath, gave me purpose. And the players that you’re playing with actually make the experience monumental, made it magical. The city is — the city was waiting for something big or for something different to happen versus where it was, and when we went we just never looked back.”

“The fanbase in Boston was over the top. People following you home, people standing outside your gate when you get home, people wanting to pump your gas. The fan level in Boston was just another level, but I learned to embrace it. My only regret in any of this is that I should have came to Boston a little earlier, other than that it was magical.”  

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