Kevin Durant won’t play vs. Spurs

Kevin Durant won't play today against the San Antonio Spurs.

Kevin Durant won’t play today against the San Antonio Spurs.

From NBA.com staff reports

The first meeting between last season’s Western Conference finalists, the San Antonio Spurs and Oklahoma City Thunder, will be lacking in some star power today.

According to ESPN.com, reigning MVP Kevin Durant will not play in today’s game (2:30 p.m. ET, ABC) as he continues to mend from a sprained right ankle:

Oklahoma City Thunder star Kevin Durant has been ruled out for the team’s Christmas Day game against the defending champion San Antonio Spurs.

This will be the fourth straight game Durant will miss after spraining his right ankle. He also missed 17 games to begin the season with a broken right foot.

Durant sprained his ankle last Thursday against the Warriors after stepping on Marreese Speights‘ foot shortly before halftime.

Durant, 26, is averaging 22.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 3.6 assists this season.

The Thunder (13-16) have lost their past two games and are 7-2 with Durant on the floor and just 6-14 without the reigning league MVP.

Reports: Josh Smith to sign with Houston Rockets

HANG TIME HQJosh Smith, a versatile 6-foot-9 power forward recently waived by the Detroit Pistons, will sign with the Houston Rockets when he clears waivers, according to a report from Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarwoski:

Josh Smith has agreed to sign a deal with the Houston Rockets, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The Detroit Pistons on Monday released Smith with two years and $26 million left on his contract, unable to find a trade partner and unwilling to move forward with him on the roster.

Smith will likely sign a deal with the Rockets for the biannual exception of $2 million once he clears waivers at 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday. His agents, Brian Dyke and Wallace Prather, informed the Rockets of the decision on Wednesday afternoon, sources said.

The Rockets believe Smith can step into the starting power forward spot.

For the Rockets, the addition of Smith closes a several-year pursuit of the talented but enigmatic power forward and moves him onto a frontline with his childhood friend, center Dwight Howard. The Rockets had a history with Smith, including a free-agent pursuit in 2013 that factored significantly into Smith’s choice of Houston over the Dallas Mavericks, Los Angeles Clippers, Miami Heat and Memphis Grizzlies.

Smith signed with Detroit in the summer of 2013 after nine seasons with the Atlanta Hawks. In just over one season in Detroit, Smith averaged 15.5 points per game to go along with 6.9 rebounds per game. He shot just over 41 percent from the floor, and 29 percent from the three point line. The Pistons waived Smith with two full seasons and $26 million left on his contract.

“We are shifting priorities to aggressively develop our younger players while also expanding the roles of other players in the current rotation to improve performance and build for our future,” said Pistons coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy. “As we expand certain roles, others will be reduced. In fairness to Josh, being a highly versatile 10-year veteran in this league, we feel it’s best to give him his freedom to move forward. We have full respect for Josh as a player and a person.”

Since being waived, Smith was linked to several teams, including Houston, Dallas and the Los Angeles Lakers. In Houston, Smith will play alongside his former AAU teammate and close friend Howard.

ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard has more on what influenced Smith’s decision:

Wanting to play for a winning team with a chance to win the title, Josh Smith has decided to join the Houston Rockets, sources told ESPN.com on Wednesday.

The veteran forward, let go Monday by the Detroit Pistons less than halfway into his four-year, $54 million contract, cleared waivers Wednesday.

The Dallas Mavericks, Miami Heat, Sacramento Kings, Los Angeles Clippers and Memphis Grizzlies all had been listed as potential suitors for Smith’s services.

As ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported late Tuesday, Houston ‎assured Smith that he would start if he joined the Rockets, which essentially clinched his decision.

Sources said Wednesday that Smith made it known that he would only consider teams that would guarantee him a starting spot, which essentially made it a choice between Houston and Miami.

Reports: Anderson Varejao out for the season


VIDEO: Anderson Varejao suffers a torn Achilles vs. the Timberwolves

HANG TIME HQ — Cleveland Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao will miss the rest of the season after suffering a torn left Achilles, according to a report from the Cleveland Plain-Dealer‘s Chris Haynes:

Cavaliers center Anderson Varejao is out for the season after tearing the Achilles’ tendon in his left leg, a league source confirmed to Northeast Ohio Media Group.

The injury happened in the third quarter of Tuesday night’s 125-104 victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves. After battling for the ball under the Cavs’ offensive basket, he fell to the floor and was down for an extended time. After being helped to his feet, he walked to the locker room and tried to avoid putting weight on his left leg.

Varejao posted averages of 9.8 points and 6.5 rebounds in 26 games this season and has been effective scoring on pick-and-roll plays with LeBron James.

After Tuesday’s game, Cavs coach David Blatt said: “He has an ankle injury of some sort,” Blatt said. “I really don’t know right now.”

Varejao left The Q with his leg in an air cast and underwent an MRI on Wednesday morning.

Varejao injured his leg during Cleveland’s 125-104 win over Minnesota on Tuesday night. The 32-year-old Varejao was in his 11th season with the Cavs, and was averaging 9.8 points and 6.5 rebounds per game. Varejao was also Cleveland’s best interior defender through their 17-10 start.

Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reports on how the move may affect the Cavs’ roster going forward:

For Varejao, it is another in a series of leg injuries that have curtailed his career with the Cavaliers. For the team, it is a devastating loss of its best interior defender and a tested playoff performer. The Cavaliers will intensify what had already been a determined search for a center who can help protect the rim.

The loss of Varejao will move Tristan Thompson into the starting lineup for Cleveland.

Rockets sign Kevin McHale to extension

ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — The Houston Rockets have signed coach Kevin McHale to a three-year contract extension, according to reports. The news was first reported by Yahoo’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Houston Rockets coach Kevin McHale has agreed to a three-year contract extension, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The three-year deal is worth nearly $13 million, league sources told Yahoo.

McHale had been in the final season of his original four-year contract and completed an agreement on a new deal on Wednesday morning, sources said.

Under McHale, the Rockets are 20-7 to start the season and stand fourth in the Western Conference standings.

According to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, the deal is for three full seasons with no team option in the final year…

McHale, who entered this season in the final year of his current contract, took over the Rockets in 2011, and has never finished a season below .500. Last season the Rockets finished 54-28 but lost a thrilling first-round series to the Portland Trail Blazers. This season the Rockets are off to a 20-7 start, good for fourth place in the Western Conference.

UPDATE, 2:12 p.m. ET: The Rockets confirmed McHale’s contract extension a news release

Morning shootaround — Dec. 24


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Dec. 23

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Rockets, Heat, Mavs pining for Smith | Report: Cavs fear long-term injury to Varejao | Knicks interested in Monroe? | Pau bracing for first game vs. Lakers

No. 1: Nelson confident Mavs will land Smith or O’Neal; Heat stars lobbying for J-Smoove; Howard makes his plea in Houston — Another day has come and gone and the list principal parties interested in signing ex-Pistons forward Josh Smith hasn’t changed much. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reports that Dallas Mavericks president Donnie Nelson is confident the team will ink either Smith or free-agent big man Jermaine O’Neal (or, perhaps both). Out in Miami, Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem are also pushing for J-Smoove to join them, writes Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald.  And, lastly, out in Houston, Dwight Howard says he’s been in contact with his former AAU teammate to join him in Texas, writes Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle.

Here’s Stein’s report on the Mavs angle on things:

President of basketball operations Donnie Nelson expressed confidence that the Dallas Mavericks would soon bolster their bench with the addition of Jermaine O’Neal or Josh Smith.

The Mavs, who are searching to replace traded backup center Brandan Wright in their rotation, are among several teams who have expressed interest in O’Neal and Smith, a pair of high-profile available veterans.

“I feel pretty good that we’ll be able to come to terms with one,” Nelson said Tuesday on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM. “Certainly to come up with both would be just hitting a grand slam home run. Look, there’s a long line for suitors on both fronts.

“I think the fact that Jermaine has chosen Dallas to be his home in the long term certainly has its place and resonates with time with family and such. And here’s a guy who has a long history not only with our coach but with our point guard/quarterback. That certainly has a place.

“With Josh, again, we’re one of a number of potential teams and suitors. It’s got to be right with him and with us. We’re kind of in the swings of putting our best foot forward. If we’re able to hit that one home, it just would be a real, real nice get for us.”

Sources told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein that the Houston Rockets are confident that they have the inside track who land Smith, who was released by the Detroit Pistons on Monday less than halfway into his four-year, $54 million contract and is expected to clear waivers Wednesday.

The Rockets have their biannual exception, valued at $2.1 million, to offer Smith. The Mavs can only offer the veteran’s minimum of $1.45 million.

And here’s Goodman’s report on the Heat angling for J-Smoove, too:

Wade and Haslem would like Smith to join Miami and help fill in for injured power forward Josh McRoberts. Smith was released by the Pistons on Monday and is expected to clear waivers on Wednesday. McRoberts underwent season-ending knee surgery on Monday, and the Heat applied for the Disabled Player Exception in hopes of using $2.6 million on Smith.

“He’s an amazing talent,” Haslem said. “He definitely could help us. He’s another big guy who can handle the ball and make plays similar to what Josh can do.”

Smith fell out of favor with Pistons coach and president Stan Van Gundy, but Wade said Smith could thrive in the right environment. His implication, of course, is that Miami is the right environment for the free-shooting forward.

“My initial thoughts with Josh Smith is the same as anyone’s initial thoughts,” Wade said. “He’s a very talented guy who can, in the right situation and right place, can help a team and a team can help him.

“From there, he has a decision to make. A lot of teams will be open arms for a guy like that and we’re no different, but that’s pretty much all I’ve got to say about that until the decision is made.”

And, lastly, here’s Creech on Howard pitching for his buddy to join him in Houston:

“I would really love to see him here, Howard said. “I think he would bring some more defense to our team.

“He is one of those guys who can play the three, four or the five. We played together back in high school and he actually played the three. We were very successful as a unit together.”

Howard said he thought Smith could bring another dimension to the Rockets’ defense.

“I would be great to have him here,” Howard said. “He could do a lot of stuff for us on the defensive end. Blocking shots, rebounding, playing against some of those big two and three guards in the league. I think having him would take some of the pressure off of some of our other wing defenders.”

Howard said he has had some communication with Smith about the Rockets.

“Yeah I’ve been in his ear,” Howard said. “The only thing I told him was if you want to win this would be a great place for you. We are headed in the right direction as a team. We have won together in AAU. Let’s get another one.”


VIDEO: Which team would be the best fit for Josh Smith?

 

Hang Time Podcast (Episode 182) Featuring Steve Holman

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Hawks fans want to believe. They really do. They want this to be real, this current mercurial stretch that has seen the Hawks elbow their way into the conversation of true contenders.

If winning 14 of 15 games, five straight over the likes of the Chicago Bulls, Cleveland Cavaliers, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and most recently the Los Angeles Clippers, doesn’t do the trick, maybe the Hawks’ 13-2 home record (tops in the Eastern Conference and second only to the Golden State Warriors) will do the trick?

The best stretch of Hawks basketball in years should be more than enough to convince not only Hawks fans but any skeptics that this team is for real. And no one knows that better than Steve Holman, the longtime radio voice of the Hawks, who joins us on Episode 182 of the Hang Time Podcast to talk all things Hawks. And our conversation includes former Hawks star Josh Smith, who was waived in Detroit just days before Christmas while his former team emerges as a legitimate contender.

We get into all of that and more on Episode 182 of the Hang Time Podcast featuring Steve Holman … Merry Christmas!

LISTEN HERE:

As always, we welcome your feedback. You can follow the entire crew, including the Hang Time Podcast, co-hosts Sekou Smith of NBA.com,  Lang Whitaker of NBA.com’s All-Ball Blog and renaissance man Rick Fox of NBA TV, as well as our new super producer Gregg (just like Popovich) Waigand and the new best sound designer/engineer in the business,  Andrew Merriam.

– To download the podcast, click here. To subscribe via iTunes, click here, or get the xml feed if you want to subscribe some other, less iTunes-y way.

VIDEO: The Hawks just keep on trucking over the competition

Lakers sit Kobe Bryant against Warriors

The Lakers began the process of resting Kobe Bryant more, deciding to keep him out Tuesday against the Warriors in Los Angeles two days after Bryant missed 22 of 30 shots and coach Byron Scott admitted he was concerned about Bryant’s workload.

The 36-year-old Bryant is averaging 35.4 minutes, the 15th most in the league heading into Tuesday’s games, as Scott tries to balance wanting the production of the only Laker scoring more than 16 points a game with not wearing out Bryant before the season reaches the midpoint.

Scott did not rule out the possibility Bryant could miss multiple games this week. Whatever the immediate plans, it is apparent the Lakers will be assigning the future Hall of Famer more days off as the season progresses.

Wayne Ellington started at shooting guard Tuesday.

Sixers put out APB on absent ‘AK-47′

The Dude of “The Big Lebowski” fame knew how to make a white Russian disappear, but that offers no help as far as the Philadelphia 76ers are concerned in their desire to have veteran NBA forward Andrei Kirilenko report for duty.

Kirilenko, acquired by the Sixers on Dec. 11, has been on leave for “personal reasons” reportedly related to a family member’s medical situation. But the team’s intent in swinging the deal with the Brooklyn Nets was that the 33-year-old would join their squad, work his way into the rotation and play well enough that he might attract some bids from contending teams prior to the league’s February trading deadline.

So at some point, Kirilenko is going to be AWOL. For now, Philadelphia Inquirer columnist Bob Ford just had some fun in putting out an APB on AK-47. Because, after all, one has to take fun where one finds it around the Sixers these days:

I am looking for Andrei Kirilenko, but he is hard to find. This should not be the case because Kirilenko is a 6-foot-9 Russian. He should either be on a basketball court or in a James Bond movie. I have searched the basketball courts and movie theaters. No Kirilenko.

The 76ers are not helping at all. They traded for Kirilenko this month and I see his smiling face on the roster page of their website. The blue and red of the team colors have been drawn onto the uniform top he is wearing in the photo. Kirilenko is number 47, as he has always been during his 13 seasons in the NBA. That’s part of his “AK-47″ nickname, which someone came up with in reference to the Kalashnikov rifle, although at this point of his career Kirilenko isn’t even a pop gun.

This season, he played 37 minutes spread over seven games for the Nets, took five shots from the field and didn’t make any of them. Brooklyn coach Lionel Hollins had no further use for him and general manager Billy King, whose team is trying to get out of luxury tax jail, looked desperately for someone to take Kirilenko’s $3,326,235 salary off his books. Hello, Sixers.

The nuts-and-bolts of the situation are getting a little dicey, however, given the loggerheads at which the brief relationship between the player and his new team appears to be. As Yahoo! Sports reported Tuesday:

For now, Kirilenko and his representatives are resisting the Sixers’ overtures, preferring the organization waive Kirilenko and let him become a free agent, sources said.

After Philadelphia and the Brooklyn Nets completed a trade for Kirilenko on Dec. 11, Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie has repeatedly expressed to Kirilenko’s camp that there are no immediate plans to cut him loose, league sources said.

Kirilenko, 33, wants the balance of the $3.3 million owed to him this season, and ultimately the freedom to sign elsewhere on a new deal this season, sources said. So far, he’s been unwilling to join the rebuilding Sixers, but eventually could be mandated to report to the team to collect on his contract.

Seeing has how Kirilenko cost himself serious money in the NBA marketplace prior to 2013-14 – when he turned down a $10 million player option with Minnesota to sign with the Mikhail Prokhorov-owned Nets on a two-year, $7.4 million deal – this could be about the dough. As in, Kirilenko might not be willing to negotiate down for a buyout, considering what he’s lost already on his Brooklyn gamble.

It’s hard to know what Kirilenko has left. He didn’t play for the Nets for a month before the trade, appearing in just seven of their first 20 games, so he pretty much has maintained his pace with the Sixers (0-for-5 possible games).

There’s always the possibility that the trade came at a particularly bad time, synching up unknowingly with the one time a year his wife Masha Lopatova allows him to stray beyond the vows of their marriage. Still, even if she lets him test the waters of personal free-agency, Kirilenko won’t have that freedom from Philadelphia until next summer.

Morning shootaround — Dec. 23


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Dec. 22

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Start up the J-Smoove sweepstakes | Wade: No boos for LeBron, Heat fansBulls at their best with Butler and Rose | No timetable for Leonard’s return

No. 1: Report: Heat angling for Smith; Rockets may have best shot at him — Shortly after the Detroit Pistons waived forward Josh Smith yesterday, the rumor mill and Twitter speculation started up about where he might land next. (Our Fran Blinebury detailed six possible destinations here.) The Houston Rockets and Dallas Mavericks are thought to be the favorites to land Smith due to his connection with various players on each team (Rajon Rondo, Dwight Howard) and the free-spending/roster-altering ways of each team’s GM (Mark Cuban and Daryl Morey). ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reports that the Miami Heat may also be in the mix after they made a small roster move last night:

The Miami Heat have formally applied to the league office for a Disabled Player Exception in the wake of Josh McRoberts‘ season-ending knee injury in a move they hope will help them land free agent Josh Smith, according to league sources.

Sources told ESPN.com on Monday night that the Heat have launched the application process in hopes of being granted the exception before Smith picks his next team once he clears waivers.

At present, Miami can offer only a $1.4 million veteran minimum contract to Smith, but a DPE after losing McRoberts would be valued at $2.65 million.

Sources say the Houston Rockets, however, remain confident they have the inside track to land Smith even if Miami is granted a DPE this week, given Houston’s clear need at power forward and Smith’s close friendship with Rockets center Dwight Howard.

Sources say the Rockets, with Howard leading their recruiting pitch, believe Smith will ultimately choose Houston over Miami and the Dallas Mavericks, whose recruiting effort is being spearheaded by guard Rajon Rondo — another of Smith’s close friends.

“He’s just as close to Dwight as he is to Rondo,” one source said late Monday, “and Dwight wants him.”

ESPN.com reported earlier Monday that the Sacramento Kings and Los Angeles Clippers were also in the mix for Smith with Houston, Dallas and Miami. Grantland’s Zach Lowe subsequently reported that the Memphis Grizzlies had also joined the race.

Prior to Monday’s game, Mavericks owner Mark Cuban confirmed to local reporters that his team was trying to lure Smith to join the newly acquired Rondo as a power forward and small-ball center off the bench. Despite the fact it can offer him only a minimum salary, Dallas will try to sell Smith on the idea that he would assume the role of Brandan Wright.

“Josh is super talented and he fits the profile of the guy we love to bring in here,” Cuban said. “He’s one of those guys that gets a bad rap … and we have a great track record of bringing the truth out about guys like that: Monta [Ellis], Stack [Jerry Stackhouse], Jet [Jason Terry].”

But the Rockets, sources say, are convinced that their status as a title contender — along with Howard’s presence and the minutes they can offer Smith at his preferred position of power forward — will ultimately win out once Smith clears waivers.

The Philadelphia 76ers are the only team in the league with sufficient salary-cap space to claim Smith before he becomes a free agent Wednesday at 5 p.m. ET. But sources said Monday the Sixers have no plans to do so.

Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reports that the Rockets are the clear-cut favorite to pick up Smith and Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle writes that the Rockets admit they have interest in Smith:

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey’s holiday shopping did not end with last week’s three-team deal.

Following the Detroit Pistons’ stunning decision Monday to release 6-9 forward Josh Smith, the Rockets will make a run at Smith once he clears waivers Wednesday, a person with knowledge of their thinking said.

The Rockets have long sought Smith, 29. They tried to acquire him as a free agent in 2013 but could not work out the sign-and-trade agreement with the Atlanta Hawks that was necessary after signing Dwight Howard.

Smith instead signed a four-year, $54 million deal with the Pistons.

The Rockets have had talks with the Pistons about a trade, but with Howard and James Harden, the Rockets’ highest-paid players, off-limits, there was no way to put together a deal with an exchange of corresponding salaries.

Though the Pistons were unable to deal Smith, the Rockets could have stiff competition to land him if they pursue it. The Mavericks have room in the frontcourt after dealing Brandan Wright. Also, Smith played at Oak Hill Academy with new Mavericks guard Rajon Rondo.

The Clippers also are expected to show interest.

The Sacramento Kings often have tried to trade for Smith and also would pursue him as a free agent.

Teams may not talk to Smith or his representatives until he clears waivers Wednesday, but players are permitted to speak to one another. At least one Rocket has his number.

And, lastly, don’t count on the Philadelphia 76ers surprising everyone by landing Smith …


VIDEO: GameTime’s crew discusses the future for Josh Smith

 

Rockets likely lead contenders for recently waived Josh Smith


VIDEO: Where might Josh Smith wind up next?

The only way Josh Smith could be more of a target is if he had a glow-in-the-dark bullseye painted on his back.

After all, when the Pistons waived him Monday, he was on pace to become the first NBA player to shoot less than 40 percent from the field and 50 percent from the free-throw line while taking at least 12 shots per game.

However, that doesn’t mean there won’t be a line of prospective employers from coast-to-coast as soon as the 11-year veteran hits the free-agent market when he clears waivers on Wednesday.

Here’s a look at the leading candidates:

Rockets — Probably tops on the list. Houston general manager Daryl Morey went after Smith in the summer of 2013, but could not close a sign-and-trade with Atlanta to get a deal done. With Terrence Jones sidelined, the Rockets still have the need for him at the four as a rebounder and long defender and Smith’s penchant for those wild 3-pointers might get lost in Houston’s long distance barrage. Smith could easily envision himself playing for a true title contender this season if he joins a lineup with his good buddy Dwight Howard and NBA leading scorer James Harden. Howard and Smith became close when they played on the same AAU team. Howard was also best man in Smith’s wedding. According to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle, the Rockets would offer their $2.077 million bi-annual exception. Likely preferred destination.

Mavericks – That in-state Texas rivalry between Dallas and Houston that has already seen Chandler Parsons head north over the summer and then the Mavs win out last week in the Rajon Rondo Derby is only likely to get hotter. With Brandan Wright sent to Boston in the Rondo swap, the Mavs definitely have a need for a big body up front to come off the bench. There’s another personal connection here. Smith and Rondo played on the same Oak Hill Academy high school team. Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News caught up with Mavs coach Rick Carlisle: “My opinion on Josh Smith? He’s a player whose ability I respect a lot,” Carlisle said. “And he’s had enough big games against us. He’s the kind of guy who can put a team on his back and beat you. He’s done it to us a lot of times. So I don’t know details of what happened there. But he’ll be picked up soon, I know that.” The all-in-for-this-season-Mavs should never be counted out.

Grizzlies – While two straight losses still have Memphis sitting as the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, the grit and grind Grizzlies are always looking for ways to juice up their offense and get easy baskets. Smith’s size could fit in on an already bruising front line with Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol and when motivated to run the floor, he can finish and take some of the pressure off to toil through the shot clock for buckets.

Heat — The season-ending injury to Josh McRoberts has Miami crying out for help on the front line and in terms of raw talent, packages like Smith don’t often drop down your chimney at this time of the year. The Heat don’t have that “you’re joining a title contender cachet” as the top three pursuers in the West. But the thought is that Smith could join a lineup that really needs him and he’d be asked to play in a system suited to his skill set and not necessarily one where a squeeze would be needed to make him fit. Miami hopes to get a $2.65 million disabled-player cap exception with McRoberts headed for knee surgery. The Heat would figure they could keep the wild side of Smith’s game under wraps with the influence of team president Pat Riley, coach Erik Spoelstra and the on-court presence of veterans Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade among others.

Clippers — When asked about his interest in Smith at the team’s shoot around in San Antonio Monday, coach and president of basketball operations Doc Rivers simply said: “I don’t know.” The Clippers have been searching for help at the three all season, but would have only have the minimum to offer Smith. Since they are at the 15-man roster limit, they would have to waive a player before they could sign Smith. The personal connection in L.A. is assistant coach Mike Woodson, who was the head man in Atlanta when Smith had his most productive NBA seasons with the Hawks.

Kings – ESPN.com reported last summer that Sacramento tried to trade for Smith, offering various packages that included names such as Jason Thompson, Derrick Williams and Carl Landry. At the time it was said to be Kings owner Vivek Ranadive that wanted Smith to team up with DeMarcus Cousins and Rudy Gay in would certainly have been an oddly-matched Kings’ frontcourt. Sacramento could only afford to offer the veterans minimum of $1.4 million. But the biggest handicap the Kings have compared to the other Western is not being a contender.