Pistons’ Johnson already aims at LeBron


VIDEO: Stanley Johnson leads the way in the Pistons’ win

ORLANDO, Fla. — The summer league crowd has been looking forward to Monday’s scheduled matchup between Stanley Johnson and Justise Winslow.

There’s plenty of intrigue and backstory. Detroit took Johnson with the No. 8 pick in the June 25 draft, allowing Winslow to slide to Miami at No. 10. Did the Pistons make a mistake? Will the Heat rookie seek to prove them wrong?

Never mind that the pair are long-time friends. They ate dinner together Saturday night and planned to take in a movie Sunday and couldn’t care less about the so-called showdown.

Besides, after a silky smooth and effective 24 points and nine rebounds in the Pistons’ 77-69 win over the Clippers on Sunday at the Orlando Pro Summer League, Johnson has his sights set on bigger game than a rookie buddy he’s played with an against about a dozen times.

“Play against LeBron [James] — that means something,” Johnson said flatly. “He is the best player in the league and I want to be the best player in the league too, so I have a target on him. I will keep reaching for that goal. … He is a team player so I have to be a better team player to be on the same level as him. Did you see that Game 6 against Chicago where he had like 14 points and 14 assists and controlled everything? The best players win a lot of games, so it is not about your points or your rebounds.”

But in case anybody is counting, Johnson has plenty of both in the first two days of Summer League play. He came off the bench in the opener and now has 37 points, 13 rebounds and four assists and is shooting 15-for-22 from the field in two games.


VIDEO: Stanley Johnson on his big game vs. the Clippers

He started on Sunday and showed the complete package of skills that had the Pistons rank him as the No. 2 small forward on their draft board and make Johnson the pick ahead of Winslow. He battled through contact to finish strong around the basket, pulled up to nail a 3-pointer and was coolly confident late when he drove and stepped back to nail a short jumper.

“He is a really smart player,” said Pistons summer league coach Bob Beyer. “He is always grabbing coaches and wants to look at additional tape. He wants mistakes pointed out to him. He really is a sponge. He wants to learn everything he can. He absorbs everything.

“I think the thing that’s most impressive it’s the calmness to his game right now. We’ve thrown a lot at him in a very short time and for any player it’s quite the adjustment from college to the NBA. But he has really has grasped concepts very quickly. And he spends a lot of time off the court trying to become a really good NBA player.”

Johnson has not tried to do too much, making simple, effective passes rather than forcing things to happen.

“That goes back to his poise as a player,” Beyer said. “Some guys don’t want the ball in that position. Stanley is starting to demonstrate that he does want that ball. He has confidence in his abilities that’s been kind of an added plus.”

Johnson’s confidence comes off as less swagger than merely being certain of who he is and can become.

“To me, I have no pressure here,” he said. “I’m not out here trying to have the best game of my life. I’m not trying to have the worst game of my life. I’m just trying to be myself. Coach [Stan] Van Gundy tells me, ‘You don’t have to score a point.’ That was his words. ‘All you have to do is play defense and play hard.’ At the end of the day, what he says matters and that’s it.

“I think I should dominate every game, honestly. I’m not gonna sell myself short because it’s Summer League or it’s the Cavs or playing the Lakers. To me, it’s about every game having the same effort. Just keep with that, keep with that and if I can dominate, I’ll dominate. But as long as I give the same effort, that’s all the matters.”

Cavs talk Joe Johnson trade


VIDEO: The New York Post’s Tim Bontemps talks Nets

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The Cleveland Cavaliers already have one of the best starting lineups in the league (assuming that they re-sign LeBron James). Could they get even better by adding Joe Johnson?

ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reports that the Cavs are thinking about acquiring Johnson and the final season on his giant contract…

The Cleveland Cavaliers are considering trading for Brooklyn Nets star Joe Johnson with their Brendan Haywood contract chip, sources told ESPN.com.

Haywood has a $10.5 million non-guaranteed contract if waived before Aug. 1, an asset that has gained value over the last several days as other teams use up their cap space. The Cavs have been looking for perimeter help, and Johnson would certainly provide a major boost as an additional scoring and shooting option.

The Nets are actively looking to move Johnson to reduce their tax burden this upcoming season as they are facing paying the repeater tax, which would be the most punitive luxury penalty in league history. The Nets have held talks with several teams, including the Memphis Grizzlies, sources told ESPN’s Marc Stein.

A trade of Haywood (with a salary of $10.5 million for 2015-16) and Anderson Varejao ($9.6 million) for Johnson would work under the league’s trade rules. Haywood’s contract is completely non-guaranteed, so the Nets could waive him, erase that $10.5 million from their books and save almost $70 million next season ($19.5 million in salary and $49.1 million in luxury tax, because they would be subject to repeater levels).

Of course, Johnson has been a very good and very durable player for the Nets over the last three years. The deal represents a decision of saving money vs. competing for a playoff spot.

It also represents a choice between saving money this season and saving cap space for next summer. Johnson has just this coming season left on his contract, but Varejao has three more years left on his deal. His 2017-18 salary is completely non-guaranteed, but $9.4 million of his $10.4 million salary for 2016-17 is guaranteed and would eat into their 2016 cap space.

The Nets could trade Varejao for an expiring contract. One suggestion from the Twitterverse: Varejao to the Los Angeles Clippers (who are desperate for a center to replace DeAndre Jordan) for Jamal Crawford, who has just one year left on his deal at $5.7 million. (The Clippers would have to include an additional piece).

Of course, the Cavs could make that swap themselves if they choose not to go for Johnson, who would take their own luxury tax to the sky. They will surely have other options with Haywood’s non-guaranteed contract. But this deal would create one heck of a lineup.

Oh, brother: Harrisons go head-to-head


VIDEO: Aaron and Andrew Harrison weigh in on their Summer League matchup

ORLANDO — For Venus and Serena Williams, sibling rivalry is becoming old hat. They’ll square off again in the Round of 16 at Wimbledon.

But going head-to-head rather than side-by-side is all new to Andrew and Aaron Harrison. The rookie twins were in different colored jerseys on Sunday when Andrew’s Grizzlies beat Aaron’s Hornets 79-75 in the Orlando Pro Summer League.

“Besides the combine, I don’t think we ever have done it before, to be honest with you,” said Andrew, who shot 3-for-8 to score nine points, grabbed six rebounds and dealt two assists. “We are used to supporting each other, pulling for each other and we’re still doing that. But you know, you want to win and I did.”

It seems brothers are all the rage in the NBA these days. From Markieff and Marcus Morris to Goran and Zoran Dragic to Myles and Mason Plumlee to Tyler and Cody Zeller to Jrue and Justin Holiday, you almost couldn’t turn around in the league last season and not bump into a pair off the same family tree.

Now come the Harrisons, who starred together at Travis High in Richmond, Texas, and spent two years in the lineup at the University of Kentucky before entering the 2015 draft. Andrew was the 44th pick by the Suns and immediately traded to Memphis. Aaron was undrafted and signed on to join Charlotte in the Summer League.

Aaron had 16 points, eight assists, four rebounds and three turnovers for the Hornets, who trailed by 17 points going into the fourth quarter, but rallied to make a game of it down the stretch.

Winning the head-to-head matchup wasn’t enough for Aaron.

“I would have rather got the win,” he said. “It was pretty different, just playing against a guy you’ve been playing with your whole life. It was pretty fun, actually.”

The brothers only guarded each other occasionally off switches on defense. In a reversal of their roles at Kentucky, Aaron was the point guard for Charlotte while Andrew was on the wing for Memphis.

“It’s just tough growing with somebody and wanting to see them do so well, but having to play against them yourself and compete against them, it’s just tough to explain,” Andrew said.

“I’m playing a new position and trying to get comfortable. Whatever coach tells me to do, I’m going to try to do it. There really wasn’t much time out there today to keep track of what the other one was doing.”

Once in the second quarter, Aaron went around the wing and tried to put up a lefty banker, but Andrew fouled him to send him to the line.

During the late comeback when the Hornets went on a 17-0 run to cut Memphis’ lead down to two points, Aaron slipped through a crack in the Grizzlies defense and went by Andrew for a layup. He scored eight of his points in the fourth quarter.

“No, there won’t be any talking or rubbing things in on each other,” Aaron said. “We’re not like that. We did a little trash talking out there on the court. Just a little. Just fun stuff. Like when he held me at the end of the game and should have been called for an intentional foul.

“But we’ll never get on each other in a mean way or a cheap way. We’re brothers.”

The Harrisons are not just making the adjustment from being separated, but also to the moving up to the NBA level where they have to prove themselves all over again.

“We both have chips on our shoulders,” Andrew said. “We both want to be one of the best players in the league. So we’re pushing each other, but at the same time we’re not together. So we have to be self-motivated. And we’re just praying for each other, and hoping for each other the best.”

Report: Lakers got somebody – Lou Williams


VIDEO: Video: Charles Barkley discusses the Lakers adding Roy Hibbert

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — The Los Angeles Lakers finally got a free agent to say he’ll play for them. Multiple reports say the Lakers have reached an agreement with Kia Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams on a three-year deal worth $21 million. Those are the same terms that have been reported for Rodney Stuckey in Indiana.

The Lakers now have some semblance of a rotation. Williams will join rookie D’Angelo Russell and second-year point guard Jordan Clarkson in the backcourt. L.A. has Kobe Bryant and Nick Young on the wings and will add Roy Hibbert (via trade) and Brandon Bass (see below) to a frontcourt that includes Julius Randle, Robert Sacre and Ryan Kelly.

Even with Hibbert, it looks like defense will be a struggle. Depth is still a major issue and it will be fascinating to see if Bryant, Williams and Young (or any pairing of the two) can share the ball.

According to SportVU, the Lakers took 283 more contested jumpers than any other team last season, even with Bryant playing only 35 games. Add more Bryant plus Williams and L.A. could lap the field in that category. Among 166 players who attempted at least 300 jumpers, Bryant ranked first (69 percent), Young ranked second (68 percent) and Williams ranked 20th (46 percent) in regard to what percentage of their jumpers were contested. And Clarkson ranked 30th at 43 percent.

Raptors lose depth

The Raptors have added DeMarre Carroll to give their perimeter defense (which was a big problem last season) a boost. But the departures of both Greivis Vasquez (via trade to Milwaukee) and Williams make them a little thin in the backcourt.

Behind All-Stars Kyle Lowry and DeMar DeRozan, the Raptors now have rookies Delon Wright (the 20th pick) and Norman Powell (the 46th pick), unless they decide to keep Luke Ridnour (who’s contract becomes guaranteed on July 11).

With Carroll at small forward, Terrence Ross can now play some at shooting guard, but that would keep the Raps from playing much small ball. So look for Toronto to add another guard as free agency rolls on.

Bass is coming, too

Mavs want Lin (with some help)

With the addition of Russell, free agent Jeremy Lin is obviously on his way out. Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski writes that Dallas wants Lin, but may need the Lakers help to get him

The Dallas Mavericks are exploring sign-and-trade possibilities with the Los Angeles Lakers to acquire free-agent point guard Jeremy Lin, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Lin, 26, sees the Mavericks as the best opportunity to reignite his career, especially with a chance to become the starting point guard, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Lin could join a free agent class that already includes center DeAndre Jordan and guard Wes Matthews. The Mavericks have exhausted most of their salary-cap space to sign those players and have only an exception of $2.8 million available if the team doesn’t use that to sign free agent J.J. Barea.

Jeremy Evans to Dallas

With or without Lin, the Mavs will have a pretty strong starting lineup (whenever Wes Matthews can play), but they need to fill out their bench. They started to do that by reaching an agreement with a former dunk champ.

Report: Stuckey re-signs with Pacers


Just because teams now are solidly entrenched in the second tier of NBA free-agent shopping – with the exception of Marc Gasol and LeBron James, whose presumed re-upping with Memphis and Cleveland still haven’t happened – doesn’t mean there aren’t interesting names in play. The Indiana Pacers took one off the market Sunday by reportedly retaining the services of a moderately attractive shooting guard, Rodney Stuckey, at a more-than-moderate raise:

Last season Stuckey had little leverage and wound up signing with the Pacers for just $1.2 million. He had a solid year for a team that, thanks to Paul George‘s season-long injury, slid from contender to lottery. Stuckey started 36 games, averaged 17.2 points, a career-best 4.8 rebounds and 4.2 assists per 36 minutes for Indiana, and shot (141) and made (55) career highs in 3-pointers, hitting a surprising 39.0 percent.

Indiana figures to fall somewhere between its 38 victories of last season and the 56 games it won in 2013-14, and with team president Larry Bird and coach Frank Vogel committed to a faster pace, Stuckey might be even more valuable with his combo guard skills. It keeps him away from maybe a half dozen other teams that had indicated interest, including Cleveland and Chicago.

Phoenix looks to rise from ashes of failed Aldridge pursuit


Finishing second in a free-agent sweepstakes is worse than doing the same in a pageant, where they at least gussy up the term as “first runner-up” and the penultimate person at least has a shot at ascending to the crown or tiara, pending a felony or a scandal.

You miss out on a premium free agent – the way Phoenix did in hoping to land LaMarcus Aldridge – and you’re stuck sifting through rubble and licking your own wounds. Whatever good comes of it from that point on, it’s on you. No one’s going to award Aldridge to the Suns, for instance, even if Gregg Popovich or Tim Duncan gets abducted by aliens a week from Thursday.

The Suns — on the preferred short list for NBA free agents 10 or 15 years ago — did reach an agreement with center Tyson Chandler, a solid acquisition, but that would have meant even more had it enticed Aldridge to suit up next to him. Now, as laid out by Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic, it’s on Phoenix to get busy sifting and licking, while hoping some secondary moves or near-moves in pursuit of Aldridge don’t produce unpleasant ripple effects:

There is not a remaining free agent who could come close to the talent or fit that Aldridge would have given the Suns and their quest to end a five-year playoff absence. The best free agents – LeBron James, Marc Gasol and Tristan Thompson – are staying with their teams. Others like Reggie Jackson, Lou Williams and Rodney Stuckey do not appear to be fits. Kosta Koufos was possible until the Suns stocked center with Tyson Chandler alongside Alex Len. David West has been Suns small forward T.J. Warren’s mentor, but he is a veteran seeking a last shot with a top team. Josh Smith? There is a better chance of Aldridge changing his mind to Phoenix than the Suns pursuing him.

The Suns do have roster balance now with the 11 players soon to be under contract – Eric Bledsoe and Brandon Knight at point guard, Archie Goodwin and Devin Booker at shooting guard with Jerel McNeal (non-guaranteed), P.J. Tucker and T.J. Warren at small forward, Markieff Morris and Jon Leuer at power forward and Chandler and Len at center. It is not a mix that would have many predicting much of a rise in the West after last season’s 10th-place finish and expected improvement from the teams around them (San Antonio, Dallas, Oklahoma City, New Orleans and Utah).

The Suns still will look to add shooting, experience, frontline help and a third point guard in free agency. They will remain open to using their cache of draft picks and young talent in a trade that lands an elite player, which they acknowledge needing to reach the next tier. Until that type of deal becomes available, it appears they will tweak the roster in free agency with role players and count on maturation from their young standouts.

That could mean pursuit of a free agent power forward like Brandon Bass, Jordan Hill, Darrell Arthur or Andrea Bargnani, a wing shooter like Rasual Butler or Dorell Wright, a defensive wing like Luc Richard Mbah a Moute and a backup point guard like Ish Smith or a Euroleague player. There also are sentimental free agency options, like a Suns return for Amar’e Stoudemire, who is interested in doing so, or a hometown career finish for Richard Jefferson.

The Suns also now have an interesting situation with four-year power forward Markieff Morris. They clearly were trying to replace him with Aldridge. They traded away his twin and best friend, Marcus, to Detroit for next to nothing to clear the cap room for a possible Aldridge deal.

Markieff also knows he might have been the player the Suns would have dealt in a sign-and-trade with Dallas for Chandler.

Morning shootaround — July 5


VIDEO: Kevin Durant on Summer League and the move by LaMarcus Aldridge

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Durant foreshadows own free agency? | Spurs can thank LaTim for LaMarcus | Tale of two centers, Pt. I (Jordan) | Tale of two centers, Pt. II (Hibbert)

No. 1: Durant foreshadows own free agency?Kevin Durant, the Oklahoma City All-Star and 2014 MVP whose 2014-15 season largely was lost to foot injuries, showed up in Orlando on Saturday to catch the Thunder’s entry in that city’s Pro Summer League. He took the time to talk with reporters about his offseason, his rehab after two surgeries on his right foot and his thoughts on OKC and its ambitions for the coming season. But a lot of folks will zero in on his comments about LaMarcus Aldridge agreeing to a deal with San Antonio – Aldridge was the big free-agent catch of 2015, with Durant slated for that role next summer –and project 12 months out. Here are pertinent quotes, as provided by our own Fran Blinebury:

“You could kinda tell once this whole thing started that he was trying to go somewhere else,” Durant said. “In those decisions, man, you got to respect the guy for making the decision that was right for him. I know a lot of fans are probably upset in Portland at the decision. But at this point in your life and your career you’ve got to focus on you. I said this last year when Mr. (LeBron) James made his decision, it’s pretty cool to see a guy really do what he wants to do and not worry about what everybody else thinks.

Of course, it will be his decision next summer, when Durant becomes a free agent that will put him in the center of the storm.

“I haven’t thought about it, though I hear it all the time,” he said. “I’m really just focusing on rehab. I can’t get there unless I take care of today. That’s how I look at it. Even though I hear from every side thinking past to next summer. But I’m not even trying to focus on that. I’m excited about our team, our new coaches and just trying to get back right.

There is lots more in there, though, don’t hesitate to click on through for the no-longer-so-Thin Man’s thoughts on the Western Conference and his eagerness to get going again in games that matter.

***

No. 2: Spurs can thank “LaTim” for LaMarcus — Following in the massive footsteps of Tim Duncan as the San Antonio Spurs’ dominant and beloved big man didn’t scare off Aldridge. One reason: He won’t be “following” right away, instead playing alongside the Hall of Famer-to-be. An orderly transition was one of the things, in fact, that sold the four-time Portland All-Star on his stunning team-change back to his native Texas. That’s how veteran columnist Buck Harvey of the San Antonio Express-News sees it, at least, and he wrote about that and what looks to be the Spurs’ ability to retool without rebuilding:

That is why Saturday’s news felt as if the Spurs had won a sixth title. They hit the reset button. With only one losing season since 1989, the Spurs reached a remarkable and unparalleled position for a franchise that has been successful for so long. The downturn still remains so far in the future that there is no timeline for it.

But this doesn’t happen if Duncan, once a free agent himself, had chosen Orlando in 2000. This doesn’t happen if Duncan had refused to change his role years later, or opted for the couch instead of taekwondo, or wasn’t as effective at age 39.

This also doesn’t happen now, this month, if Duncan wanted his rightful salary.

Duncan instead remained who he has been. Not coincidentally, that’s the kind of person Aldridge said he grew up idolizing.

[Coach Gregg] Popovich reportedly sold as much to Aldridge during their Friday meal. From ESPN’s Marc Stein in a tweet that same day: “Sources say pitch LaMarcus Aldridge got from Pop today about playing with Duncan AND taking over when Timmy’s gone resonated strongly.”

There are several layers to this, and one is basketball. Duncan makes everyone better, and he will make Aldridge better next season, too.

Duncan’s influence on Aldridge will also be felt in the locker room. Duncan can be quiet, and Aldridge took that further in Portland. Reports suggest he could be distant and insecure.

Duncan, always a nurturing leader, can fix that. His nature has always set a tone among teammates. He expects a certain professional behavior, and he gets it. Aldridge should be drawn to this.

Meanwhile, a veteran NBA personnel man provided the Express-News with an informal scouting report on Aldridge in San Antonio. Here’s a snippet:

On Aldridge’s reliance on the outside shot:

“When you have guys who are so good at something, you have to play to your strengths. Like Tim with the elbow jump shot, or Dirk [Nowitzki] with the pick and pop — that’s a shot you want them to take. That might go against what the new NBA trends are. But sometimes those concepts…it’s easier to find guys who get inside for layups or shoot 3s. It’s not easy, but it’s easier than to find a go-to, game-changer offensively who has a gift for putting the ball in the hole regardless of what defense you throw at them. Like Tony [Parker]; [as an opponent] you can say we’ll live with his jump shot, but if he’s making them he can kill you. (Aldridge) gives them more offensive firepower.

“Obviously his bread and butter is the jump shot. Being an offensive guy, I think if you get a good look in our league…do you wish it was a 3? Yes. Do you wish it was a layup? Yes. But if it’s an open look you know your guy can make, those are good, quality shots. I know Houston takes it to an extreme (with avoiding mid-range shots). But it’s easier to find a guy like Corey Brewer than it is a James Harden. So I think the Spurs got an offensive game-changer, without a doubt. They’re going to mesh his strengths to what the team is, which is one of the best passing teams in the league. Now you have to make a decision when him and Tim are on the floor, him and Boris [Diaw]. Those combinations are going to be lethal.”

***

No. 3: Tale of two centers, Pt. I (Jordan) — One tent-pole NBA center switches teams, his new team celebrates, his old team scrambles. Another tent-pole NBA center switches teams, his old team celebrates, his new team … shrugs? That was the dynamic in play this weekend involving DeAndre Jordan and Roy Hibbert. First, we’ll look at Jordan through the eyes of the Dallas Mavericks and the Los Angeles Clippers, the teams that signed and lost him, respectively. Beat man Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News wrote about Jordan and his big-man game that should continue to blossom with the Mavericks:

When he was a raw NBA rookie, his one season at Texas A&M still a fresh memory, DeAndre Jordan was an unknown commodity.

Scouts wondered if he really had NBA skills beyond simply being 6-11 and 250 pounds.

Coaches wondered if he had the want-to.

Fans and critics wondered if he was another Erick Dampier.

As a rookie, Jordan had trouble getting on the court. He played behind Marcus Camby and Chris Kaman with the Los Angeles Clippers. He was looking very much like the second-round draft pick (35th overall) that he was.

He was an offensively challenged, can’t-shoot-free-throws project on a team that went 19-63.

This is one of the NBA’s best examples of why it’s dangerous to draw knee-jerk conclusions about young players.
Six years after the conclusion of that first season, Jordan is joining the Mavericks as the major piece of the organization’s new, young core, an $80-million cornerstone who qualifies as the most lucrative free-agent signee in the team’s history.

“We see him as the future of the franchise,” owner Mark Cuban said.

The Mavericks believe Jordan, who turns 27 on July 21, has untapped potential on the offensive end of the court. His defense and rebounding are not open to debate. He’s as good as anybody in the league in those areas.
Is his offense ready to take off, too?

Coach Rick Carlisle and Cuban believe it will. And that makes sense from the Mavericks’ perspective.

The league is going toward interchangeable players who can guard multiple positions. One area that is in decline is low-post scoring. When nobody else is doing it, that’s when Cuban and Co. try to pounce on an asset that makes the Mavericks unique.

Only Houston, with Dwight Howard, and perhaps Memphis with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph, have what would be considered strong offensive forces in the paint. San Antonio’s LaMarcus Aldridge, who agreed to terms with the Spurs on Saturday, and New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, are more hybrid big men that can take their game outside the paint.

The Clippers, meanwhile, are hopeful they can find someone – uh, JaVale McGee? – to beef up a front line that suddenly looks awfully nekkid without Jordan. Until they do, and perhaps for some time after, folks might want to blame somebody for this blow to the Clippers’ title dreams. Jeff Miller of the Orange County Register pointed directly at point guard Chris Paul:

Never in his 10-year NBA career – not even in the disastrous deciding moments of Game 5 against Oklahoma City in 2014, not even in horrifically blowing Game 6 and then the series to Houston in May – has Paul looked as bad as he does right now.

One of the most gifted point guards in the league just had his worst turnover as a pro.

Jordan is officially leaving the Clippers for Dallas as a free agent, and, by all indications, the player who has led the NBA in assists per game the past two seasons, assisted mightily in Jordan’s franchise-stunting decision.

No one is saying that on the record, of course, but no one really has to say it on the record. The record speaks for itself.

Jordan is known to revere Doc Rivers and cherish his relationship with Blake Griffin. The Clippers were a team famously building toward something bigger, with an owner puffing money and optimism into a franchise that traditionally has had neither.

It is common knowledge that Paul and Jordan didn’t always get along, that Paul’s on-court edginess and demeanor agitated Jordan. Paul also reportedly thought Jordan was entirely too lax in addressing his free-throw deficiencies.

“Things aren’t good there,” a source told Fox Sports in May, referring to the Paul-Jordan dynamic. “(Jordan) might leave,” the source also was quoted as saying…

The concept of players struggling to coexist is only as old as the games themselves. Paul is hardly the first star to alienate a teammate, Kobe Bryant being another convenient example of someone who has left those around him begging for less.

Funny, though, how a teammate like Bryant, one who has won five championships, might be tolerated a little easier than a teammate like Paul, who never has advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs.

***

No. 4: Tale of two centers, Pt. II (Hibbert) — There was a different, nearly opposite vibe swirling about Hibbert’s trade – for a future second-round pick — from the Pacers to the Lakers. Back home in Indiana, the move was celebrated as a huge step forward in basketball boss Larry Bird‘s vision to have the Pacers playing faster; now both Hibbert and veteran power forward David West (who opted out) both are gone. Shedding Hibbert’s $15.5 million salary for the coming season, along with what might have become a brooding, distracting situation if the two-time All-Star wound up anchored to the bench, also suggested a going-away party without an invitation for the honored guest. As for Hibbert’s impact on the Lakers, no one was touting his arrival as the latest entry in the franchise’s famous timeline of great centers (Mikan, Chamberlain, Abdul-Jabbar, O’Neal). First, here’s Gregg Doyel of the Indianapolis Star, rather harshly, on the Pacers’ side of this swap:

From something ugly, something beautiful is growing. You know the ugly. Paul George‘s gruesome broken leg, nearly a year ago, which triggered the Indiana Pacers’ slide out of the 2015 NBA playoffs, which led to …

Something beautiful growing at Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The Pacers have done so much right, and gotten a little luck as well, and the result is pretty much every single thing falling their way since George fell so horribly, horribly wrong.

The departure of fraudulent center Roy Hibbert is the latest, greatest thing to happen to this team, the cherry on top of a sundae that will see the Pacers contend not just for a playoff spot next season, but for a top-four seed that would give them homecourt advantage in the postseason.

Hibbert is going to the Lakers, which takes his $15.5 million off Indiana’s books. What will the Pacers get for Hibbert, and what will they do with the leftover money? As of this writing I don’t know, and I don’t care. Get a backup power forward, a third-string guard, a lump of used ankle tape. Whatever.

Hibbert leaving is addition by subtraction, only it’s better than that. It’s multiplication by subtraction. Hibbert wasn’t going to play much this season, he wasn’t going to be happy about it, and he was going to prevent the Pacers from replacing his salary with one or — more likely — two or three players who can fill the team’s depth. A veteran point guard off the bench. Another power forward to spell George.

This, meanwhile, was the lukewarm coverage generated from the Los Angeles side, as chronicled by L.A. Times beat writer Mike Bresnahan:

They didn’t miss out only on Aldridge. They also met with DeAndre Jordan, who chose Dallas, and Greg Monroe, who curiously picked Milwaukee over the Lakers.

The Lakers netted Hibbert for a future second-round draft pick, giving them a post player with legitimate NBA experience, though he was coming off a poor season.

Hibbert, 28, is a good shot-blocker but an erratic scorer and a below-average rebounder for being 7 feet 2. His days in Indiana were numbered when team President Larry Bird all but guaranteed he would play a lesser role next season.

Hibbert has enjoyed some solid seasons, making the Eastern Conference All-Star team in 2014 and 2012. He had one of the more unique lines in recent years, compiling 10 points, 11 rebounds and 11 blocked shots for a triple-double against New Orleans in 2012.

He is not an accurate shooter from the field outside and made only 44.6% of his attempts last season, very low for a center, while averaging 10.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks.

Hibbert will be in the last season of his contract and eligible for free agency in a year. He joins a threadbare Lakers frontcourt that had Robert Sacre and Tarik Black as the only post players with NBA experience.

The addition of Hibbert, who has a trade kicker that increases his actual cap number to $17.8 million, leaves the Lakers with less than $5 million to spend on a dwindling free-agent market.

It’s hard to detract the focus from an unsettling pattern, the 16-time NBA champions unable to sign anybody of worth to upgrade their team in recent off-seasons.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Either there is a need in Cleveland for former Indiana forward David West or there isn’t, depending on which analysis — this one or that one — you prefer. … Here is a breakdown of the teams that still have salary-cap space to use on the players left in NBA free agency. … The Washington Wizards have gone about their offseason maneuvers with one eye on the team to beat in the Eastern Conference. … Might Lou Williams be a sign-and-trade possibility for the Miami Heat? … No less an authority than Patrick Ewing says Charlotte’s lottery pick Frank Kaminsky has gone from a “deer in the headlights” to potentially a deer to fear – for the Hornets, of course. … Aldridge is gone and now so is Portland assistant coach Kim Hughes for rankling the Blazers organization with some off-hand remarks. … Whether it says “Welcome!” or not, the New York Knicks got the floor mat treatment from the NBA’s free-agent A-listers, according to the New York Post.

Report: Kings reach deal with Koufos

The Kings and Kosta Koufos reached agreement on a four-year, $33-million contract Saturday, Marc Stein of ESPN.com reported, the third free-agent strike by Sacramento in two days.

Koufos, who has played for four teams in seven seasons, most recently the last two campaigns with the Grizzlies, will back up center DeMarcus Cousins and joins a big-man rotation in transition. Jason Thompson and Carl Landry were both traded to the 76ers, while the Kings spent their lottery pick on Willie Cauley-Stein, who begins summer league next week in Las Vegas with a good chance to become the opening-night starting power forward.

The Koufos deal, which can become official Friday, comes a day after the Kings agreed to terms with Rajon Rondo and Marco Belinelli.

 

Report: Knicks get Kyle O’Quinn

The Knicks continued to re-work their front line Saturday by reaching a contract agreement with Kyle O’Quinn as part of a sign-and-trade that will send him from Orlando to New York, Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reported.

The contract is worth $16 million over four seasons, Yahoo said, with the Magic to receive money and the right to swap second-round picks in 2019.

The Knicks had previously drafted power forward Kristaps Porzingis with the No. 4 choice and agreed to terms on a four-year, $54-million deal with center Robin Lopez, the Trail Blazers’ starter in 2014-15.

O’Quinn averaged 5.8 points and 3.9 rebounds in 16.2 minutes over 51 appearances last season as a reserve power forward-center in Orlando.

The deal will be made official when the league-wide moratorium is lifted Thursday.

 

Report: Lakers, Pacers finalizing Hibbert deal

The Lakers and Pacers were deep into discussions Saturday on a deal that would send center Roy Hibbert to Los Angeles and at least temporarily solve a problem for both, Marc Stein of ESPN.com reported.

Whether other players would be involved was not immediately clear. The Lakers would be able to absorb the $15.5 million on the final season of Hibbert’s contract into available cap space — room that had been set aside for failed attempts to land a marquee free agent — making it possible they would only be sending draft picks to Indiana in return.

Hibbert fell out of favor with the Pacers last season after years of undependable play, including in the playoffs, that left the front office unusually outspoken about wanting to move forward with him in at least a reduced role and possibly completely gone. Larry Bird, the head of basketball operations, essentially encouraged Hibbert to exercise a clause in his contract to become a free agent.

When Hibbert instead chose to stay in the deal, understandable with $15.5 million on the table, he instantly became an obvious trade candidate, even more after Indiana draft Texas center-power forward Myles Turner in the lottery. Since the free-agent market opened July 1, Hibbert had been linked as the fallback plan to most every team that might miss out on LaMarcus Aldridge or Kevin Love. When the Lakers officially made that list, and with Jordan Hill a free agent and Robert Sacre and Tarik Black the returning centers, their search led to Indiana.