Every weekday, SI’s Chris Mannix will check in with his Bubble Bits, a quick hit on something notable from inside the NBA’s campus
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla.—News, notes and observations as we officially enter the second round in the bubble …
· Among Oklahoma City’s offseason questions will be the future of Billy Donovan, who coached the last game of his contract Wednesday. Thunder GM Sam Presti is on the record: He wants Donovan back. Donovan has been terrific since jumping to Oklahoma City in 2015, winning better than 60% of his games over five seasons. Chris Paul will, deservedly, receive plenty of credit for the Thunder's overachieving this year, but Donovan’s steady hand and commitment to player development were instrumental in OKC’s success.
Does Donovan want to be back? That could depend on the direction Oklahoma City decides to go this summer. Donovan took over a Thunder team headlined by Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, one with championship expectations. He coached this team through a bridge year. It’s likely Donovan will want to know how the team plans to build over the next few years before committing to anything. Donovan and Presti, who have a strong working relationship, tabled any discussions about the future until after the season. That outcome of that conversation will likely determine whether Donovan is on Oklahoma City’s sideline in 2021.
· With Jay Wright's announcing he is not a candidate for the 76ers head coaching job, expect Philadelphia to move aggressively on Clippers assistant Ty Lue. As Sports Illustrated has reported, there is mutual interest between Lue and the Sixers, who intend to continue building around the duo of Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
· In 2018, a dozen teams passed on Michael Porter Jr. The Clippers did twice. Porter, whose college career was derailed by a back injury, was medically red flagged by several teams, including the Clippers, sending the highly skilled forward into a free fall on draft night. L.A., with the 12th and 13th picks, drafted Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Jerome Robinson. Gilgeous-Alexander would go on to become a centerpiece in a deal that netted the Clippers Paul George. Robinson played sparingly for the Clippers before being shipped to Washington as part of the trade that brought back Marcus Morris.
It was brutal for us,” says Clippers coach Doc Rivers, recalling the decision to pass on Porter. “We had him on our board. Just the medical report, the red flag was so hot. We had two picks. We got the one guy we wanted in Shai. And then we had that second pick. And I tell you, when he was on the board, it was a brutal pass. Everyone in the room knew his talent.”
Porter missed the 2018–19 season while rehabbing his injury. He played 55 game this season, showcasing flashes of brilliance. In the first round, Porter was a fixture in the Nuggets rotation, playing 26 minutes per game and averaging 12 points.
On Wednesday, I asked Porter: With the Clippers holding two first-round picks, did he think he could end up there?
“[The Clippers'] doctor was the one who wrote the report on me,” Porter said. “I think he wrote some stuff like he thought that I would never play basketball again so I didn't think they'd pick me.”
I asked Porter: Does getting passed over—twice—by the Clippers give him any extra juice in this series.
“I mean, it's going to be fun to play against them,” Porter said. “For sure."