Morning shootaround — Sept. 24

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Is Garnett completely gone from Wolves? | Bosh needs to concede and move on | Donovan remains with OKC for long haul

No. 1: Is Garnett completely gone from Wolves? — He announced his retirement Friday after 21 years in the NBA, fitting since that was his uniform number, and Kevin Garnett will be forever linked to the Wolves perhaps more than the Celtics. But what’s in his next chapter? There was always scuttlebutt about Garnett becoming a part-owner of the Wolves but that doesn’t appear likely. And the coaching position is filled. Maybe Garnett should cut the cord completely if he’s not involved in ownership, so says Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune

It was such a nice story, evoking nostalgia and promise in the same swoop of the pen.

Flip Saunders employed all of his charm to woo Kevin Garnett back to Minnesota, offering trunks of money, a voice at practice, a place in the starting lineup and a future in franchise decision-making.

When the Minnesota Timberwolves were desperate for validation and credibility, Flip’s seduction of the greatest player in franchise history made sense. Then everything changed.

Flip passed away, leaving Garnett without his greatest champion and intermediary in the organization.

Garnett played a career-low 15 minutes a game in a career-low 38 games, undermining his ability to lead by example on the court.

Wolves owner Glen Taylor hired Tom Thibodeau and Scott Layden to run his basketball operation.

In the old Wolves world order, every former employee of any pedigree had a virtual lifetime contract, renewable whenever convenient for the employee.

Flip’s passing and the arrival of the best cache of young talent in Wolves history, and perhaps the most authoritative coach in franchise history, converted the Wolves from the best version of their old self under Flip to the New Wolves Order.

Flip built relationships and sometimes avoided conflict. For him, Garnett could be the ideal partner — a superstar who was also taskmaster and intimidator.

Thibodeau likely wants his voice to be the loudest in every practice and huddle. He is the alpha male in the organization, and by nature of his personality needs little help yelling out defensive instructions or wielding power.

If Garnett is not going to become a part-owner or assistant general manager or loud voice at the end of the bench, he has no role in the New Wolves Order. He’s no longer even needed to sell tickets or lead marketing campaigns. That falls to Karl-Anthony Towns, a fast-rising star who is also as likeable and marketable as was the young Garnett, before he grew quills.

Channeled rage made Garnett great, and would make him an uncomfortable member of the NWO.

Now is the right time for Garnett to move on. The method by which that would happen is a matter for Taylor and Garnett. It would be best for the Wolves if Garnett simply retired, but let’s not go so far as to say that Garnett owes that to the Wolves. He carried the franchise for a decade, brought the Wolves their greatest success and had to be coaxed into accepting the trade to Boston.

Taylor (the owner of the Star Tribune, by the way) needs to do whatever it takes to buy out Garnett, to give Thibodeau a locker room where his voice will be the loudest.

If Garnett departs, the NBA and Minnesota sports will officially be changed places. The NBA could find Garnett, Tim Duncan and Kobe Bryant in the same Hall of Fame class. Minnesota will have experienced the retirements of Torii Hunter, Jerry Kill and Garnett, and career-threatening injuries to Teddy Bridgewater and Adrian Peterson.

Garnett would retire as the only player in NBA history to reach at least 25,000 points, 10,000 rebounds, 5,000 assists, 1,500 steals and 1,500 blocks. He may also be the rare NBA superstar to have punched multiple teammates during practices over the course of his career.

Perhaps Garnett could have written a sweeter ending to his career than a buyout, but old knees don’t understand story lines.

Garnett was great, and he should have played his entire career in Minnesota, and nothing guarantees a happy ending, not even when a superstar comes home.

***

No. 2: Bosh needs to concede and move on — After failing his physical with the Miami Heat reportedly due to blood-clot complications, Chris Bosh remains in limbo. He won’t report with the team for training camp and all along the Heat have kept themselves at arm’s distance regarding Bosh and his medical condition. Almost everyone, even former teammate Dwyane Wade, has dropped hints that maybe Bosh should seriously rethink his desire to play this season, or ever again. Meanwhile, Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside are looming as the core of a team that once featured Bosh, Wade and LeBron James. Here’s Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald with the latest …

The question, with camp opening Tuesday: Can their on-court chemistry continue to improve?

The off-court dynamics between the two were so off kilter at times last season that Erik Spoelstra, last February, ordered them to go to dinner or do absolutely whatever was necessary to improve their chemistry.

Their collaboration improved almost immediately after that, and it will never be more important than it this season, with the departure of Dwyane Wade, who had better synergy with Whiteside than anybody, and the loss of Bosh.

Whereas Wade assisted on 92 Whiteside baskets and 29 alley-oops, Dragic assisted on just 65 of Whiteside’s hoops and 14 of his alley-oops.

But 50 of Dragic’s 65 assists to Whiteside came in 28 games after the All-Star break, compared with just 15 in 54 games before.

One reason why: The two teammates started talking a lot more, both off the court and during games, and the results have been noticeable. Whiteside started setting better screens for Dragic, which helped free him offensively.

“It was great,” Whiteside said this offseason, via Heat.com. “Each game me and Goran got better. He’s easy to talk to. He’s a really good point guard. As the season went on, me and Goran understood each other better.

“[This] year is going to be even bigger. More of me and Goran communicating on that basketball level and getting to know each other better.”

Spoelstra said earlier this year that the key was they both “committed to working together, before practice, after practice. Two guys that want to do it right and they understand they’re involved in a lot of collaborations together and they have to spend time working on it.

“It’s not going to happen through osmosis. They both wanted to make it better. They just didn’t necessarily know how to make it better. Just spend time together and you’ll figure it out.”

Dragic said he never ended up going “alone with Hassan” to dinner, but they did spend more time together in groups with teammates, and it helped because “you discuss things. You get to know the guy better and where he comes from. He opened up to me and vice versa. You know what the guy is thinking now.”

Also helpful: Dragic said he and Whiteside practiced pick-and-rolls alone, after practice.

Though they’ve always gotten along, Dragic, from Slovenia, and Whiteside, from North Carolina, don’t necessarily have a lot in common.

“He likes to play video games; I don’t do that,” Dragic said. “I have a family [with kids]; he doesn’t. But we both love basketball.”

The upshot, Dragic said, is they now they mastered non-verbal signals, to the point where Whiteside can anticipate a Dragic alley-oop before the defense knows it’s coming.

“It was hard” to get to this point, Dragic said. But the improved communication “has helped us function.”

Said Whiteside: “I know it looks like sometimes we’re out there arguing or fussing. But every time I see something, I tell him. And it goes both ways.”

***

No. 3: Donovan sees himself with OKC for long haul — When the Thunder lost Kevin Durant to free agency, it created a rather weird reality for coach Billy Donovan. He came to the Thunder two summers ago fully realizing that he might have only one season coaching Kevin Durant and that the team’s identity (and title chances) could drastically change overnight if Durant left. Maybe Donovan would regret leaving a comfortable gig with the Florida Gators. Well, when the Thunder opened camp Friday, Donovan was fully committed to the present and the future. Berry Tramel of the Oklahoman spoke with Donovan about this…

Billy Donovan’s second NBA season begins Saturday with Thunder training camp. Perhaps you’ve heard, Kevin Durant won’t be there.

The team that Donovan signed up for 17 months ago — a superstar-heavy, NBA-title-contending roster — has changed. Still talented. Still interesting. Still a winner. But not a title contender unless the basketball gods bestow upon us the sports story of the century.

Makes you wonder if Donovan laments coming to town. Makes you wonder if Donovan wonders what in the heck he’s gotten himself into.

This week, I asked Sam Presti how Donovan has responded to the different landscape. From knowing exactly what he had to not sure what he has. From NBA overdog to NBA underdog. From two superstars to one.

Presti said to ask Donovan. But then Presti told us what he thinks of the coach who leads the Thunder. “I think it is the same situation he signed on for, because the things that make a Billy Donovan a Billy Donovan is he wants to be the coach of the Thunder,” Presti said. “He wants to coach in Oklahoma City. He wants to coach with an organization that is committed to the values that I’ve covered … I think those are the things that drive a person like Billy Donovan. He wants to be a part of something. He wants to be a part of representing a city and the values of a city. And he wants to work his craft.”

Well, working his craft is not going to be a problem. To whatever extent Donovan was able to roll out the basketball and let Durant and Russell Westbrook perform their magic, that will happen no more. Donovan will be free to coach his butt off this season.

Truth is, Donovan did just that last season, when the Thunder traversed repeated valleys and emerged as a playoff force. No team played better in the 2016 playoffs than did Donovan’s Thunder. In the month of May, OKC went 7-6 against teams with 67 (Spurs) and 73 (Warriors) wins.

Donovan pushed all the right buttons, and the Thunder’s eventual fall had nothing to do with the quality of the coaching. Durant and Westbrook just famously locked up in the final five minutes of the Western Conference Finals’ Game 6.

The Thunder won’t get that close this season. Donovan won’t admit that, of course. He also talks like it’s OK if it is true.

Donovan said Clay Bennett and Presti made it clear that Durant’s return was no sure thing. Said he came to OKC not because of the dual superstars, but the values and culture that had been created.

“I believed in the vision of the organization,” Donovan said. “Those things resonated with me.”

You know the drill. All the things that Presti talks endlessly about. All the things that now will be put to the test in the post-Durant era. Hard work. Holistic approach to people. Trusting the process.

“Nothing’s really changed here,” Donovan said, words that will be tested on Oct. 25, when Durant dons a Warrior jersey for his first real game with Golden State. “The principles, the vision, those things haven’t changed. It’s not like the mission and the values have changed here.”

Donovan says he’s used to player departures. Nineteen years at Florida taught him to adjust. Players graduating. Players transferring. Players going pro early. Donovan went to Final Fours with virtual all-star teams and went to Final Fours with virtual no-name teams.

Truth is, Oklahoma City is a lot more accustomed to Durant than Donovan is to Durant. We had the tall drink of water for eight glorious seasons. Donovan coached him for one.

“When players leave, you gotta be aligned with the people that are in charge and the people you’re working with every single day,” Donovan said.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Jrue Holiday and wife had their baby and now Lauren Holiday awaits surgery for a brain tumor … Russell Westbrook still hasn’t spoken with you know who … Knicks are staying mum about the charges against Derrick Rose for now … Yao Ming is having his jersey retired by the RocketsNik Pekovic may never play for the Wolves againJeff Teague is getting to know his new teammates in his hometown of Indy … Mitch McGary is very, very sorry.

Rockets expect, respect protesters

With the playing of the national anthem before the first preseason game still more than a week away, the Rockets like many other NBA teams are aware of the social protests that have swept through other sports, led by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

“I don’t know, man,” said point guard Pat Beverley. “Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, to demonstrate the way they want to demonstrate. Everyone has their own right.

“When it comes to a situation like that, you’re free to demonstrate the way you want to do it. I do think everybody goes about it different ways. That’s the greatest things about America, freedom that we have.”

So will Beverley, who played in Ukraine, Greece and Russia before signing with the Rockets in 2013, protest in any way?

“No. I’m good,” he said. “I’m happy to be here. I remember being overseas for five years, never hearing The National Anthem. I appreciate America for sure.”

Shooting guard James Harden said he expects to see some form of protest in the NBA.

“Guys are expressing their opinions, their beliefs,” Harden said. “A lot going on, we all know that.

“For our team it’s an individual preference. I don’t know what those guys are thinking in their heads…It’s a free country, so it’s how you feel.”

Harden respects Kaepernick.

“It’s a powerful statement,” he said. “He’s standing up for what he believes in. It’s devastating that all these people are just dying, dying for no reason. Families are grieving. It’s a tough situation, especially with the men and women who are supposedly protecting us. Like I said, each individual has their own beliefs and how they go about handling it and you got to respect it.”

NBA players react to Kevin Garnett’s retirement

After 21 seasons in the NBA, Kevin Garnett has officially retired from the NBA. The Timberwolves released a statement with the announcement, while Kevin Garnett posted a video on Instagram saying ‘farewell.’

To be continued…

A video posted by Kevin Garnett (@tic_pix) on

Current and former players around the league also took to social media to share their reactions on yet another legend walking away from the game in 2016.

I mean where do I start. First watching you play at the Solon Cage Classic in Ohio with Team Michigan when u were in HS, I believe I was 10 years old and I was like dang this dude nice!! Then a lil time passed and u were drafted straight out of HS to the pros so I felt like man whoever get him is a lucky team. And I surely wasn't wrong! The KID nickname was fly, swaged out and made a 10 year old kid from Akron believe he could run with the big boys himself! Fast forward 8 years later that kid you inspired entered the draft fresh out of HS as well. Thank you!! Competing vs you in whatever uniform u were in at the time meant the world to me because of two distinctive trait u had. Passion and commitment to just compete every single possession. U showed me what it took and we never played on the same team(All-Star games is different). Thank you! Congratulations to The Big Ticket on a helluva career! HOF is your next stop to cap it all off, the cherry on top!! 1 Love

A photo posted by LeBron James (@kingjames) on

Lost another real one today @tic_pix greatest power forward ever

A photo posted by The Truth (@paulpierce) on

KG adds to loaded Hall class for 2021

Kevin Garnett turned the projected Class of 2021 at the Hall of Fame from magical to amazing when he announced his retirement Friday and started the clock on the five-year wait period to be enshrined with fellow first-ballot automatics Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan and possibly wild card Gregg Popovich.

The look will change if Duncan, Bryant or Garnett return to the NBA, but the certainty of the moment, that all three have retired since the end of 2015-16, makes them eligible to be nominated in 2020 for the election and induction that would come in ’21. While it would not be the most star-studded enshrinement ever — the 2010 group included the 1992 Dream Team, Jerry West and Oscar Robertson as part of the 1960 Olympic team and Karl Malone and Scottie Pippen as individuals — the Class of 2021 in its current form will be historic.

And that’s just among the candidates with strong NBA ties and the certainty of players on a set schedule. Popovich, eligible to be nominated at any time but having discouraged the recognition, could decide entering the Hall with Duncan is the best outcome, much the same way Jerry Sloan made it clear he did not want the spotlight but finally gave in to be enshrined with John Stockton in 2009. (That 2009 ceremony, like 2010 and probably 2021, could have been held on Mt. Olympus as well, with Michael Jordan, Stockton, David Robinson and Sloan.)

Plus, Tamika Catchings should be easily elected by the Women’s committee in 2021, scheduled to be her first year on the ballot.

The developments for a class five years away comes in the wake of another highly publicized group, the 2016 group headlined by Shaquille O’Neal, Allen Iverson and Yao Ming. The candidates for 2017 are slim, with Ben Wallace the biggest name among players eligible for the first time, an opening for carryover candidates Kevin Johnson, Tim Hardaway and Chris Webber. Jason Kidd, Grant Hill and Tracy McGrady, among others, can be nominated for 2017.

 

Garnett retires after 21 seasons

Fifteen-time All-Star Kevin Garnett has reached terms on a buyout with the Timberwolves, according to Kent Youngblood of the Minneapolis Star Tribune, and is has retired from the NBA.

The 40-year-old Garnett, who has played 21 seasons in the league, was drafted out of high school by the Timberwolves in 1995 and played with the franchise for a dozen seasons until he was traded to the Celtics in 2007. Garnett won his only NBA championship with Boston in 2008.

Garnett was traded to Brooklyn in 2013, then returned to the Timberwolves in 2015.

If Garnett has indeed decided to retire, he will join Kobe Bryant and Tim Duncan in the prospective 2021 Hall of Fame class.

Garnett announced his decision on his Instagram page.

 

 

Bosh fails physical due to continued clotting

HANG TIME, N.J. — With training camp set to start on Monday, Chris Bosh will not be on the floor with the Miami Heat.

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald has more

A complication has arisen in medical tests involving Heat forward Chris Bosh, derailing his attempted comeback, according to a source.

The complication involved evidence of some continued clotting and is believed to be related to one of two previous blood clot episodes. Those episodes sidelined Bosh after the All-Star break each of the past two seasons.

Though the complication is not considered life-threatening if treated, it requires medication and playing with it is considered unrealistic.

….

The Heat had gone into this week expecting to clear Bosh to resume his career this season, according to multiple sources briefed on the situation. But his clearance by the Heat always was contingent on Bosh passing his physical and no issues surfacing during a battery of Heat-administered medical tests this week.

And when an issue arose in blood work this week, the Heat concluded he could not be cleared to return.

Bosh is under contract for two more seasons after this one. Blood clots ended each of his last two seasons at the All-Star break and now, won’t let this season get started.

Morning shootaround — Sept. 23

NEWS OF THE MORNING

League, teams hoping to create social change | D’Antoni needs buy-in from Rockets | Lue’s hesitation was worth more than $25 million | Road back-to-backs most dangerous

No. 1: League, teams hoping to create social change — In the wake of more deaths of black men at the hands of police and protests in Charlotte, the NBA and the Player’s Association sent out a joint letter to players about plans to take action and promote social change. Charlotte Hornets owner Michael Jordan released a statement calling for peace in the city. And talking with the media on Thursday, Golden State Warriors GM Bob Myers said that his team will put together a panel to discuss the issue. Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle has the story…

As police-involved fatal shootings of black men continue to rock the nation and spark protests in cities and on playing fields, Myers recognizes that Golden State has a unique platform to create positive change.

But before players and coaches can be part of the solution, they must understand the issues. Myers and head coach Steve Kerr recently brainstormed ways to raise awareness of social injustices. Among the ideas is a panel of civic leaders, a list of names for which already has begun.

“We need to practice to play basketball,” Myers said. “But if one day, Steve walked in and said to (our players), ‘We’re not practicing today. We’re actually gonna go meet with these four people.’ That’s much more important and the players, we feel, will carry that with them.”

“What’s happening out in society, that’s not good,” Myers said. “It’s much more important than dribbling the basketball and making shots. What we’re going to try to do as an organization is take some opportunities to try to have these conversations.”

***

No. 2: D’Antoni needs buy-in from Rockets — After a successful, five-year run in Phoenix, Mike D’Antoni had less-than-mediocre results in New York (where he went 121-167) and L.A. (67-87). Now D’Antoni is in Houston and as it does in every other NBA gym at this time of year, optimism abounds. The key for the Rockets, according to D’Antoni, is getting the players to buy in and believe in the system. Bleacher Report‘s Maurice Bobb spoke to the coach and Rockets GM Daryl Morey about their hopes for the season …

D’Antoni says he doesn’t think too much about his time in L.A. and New York, but he’s certainly aware of the main issues that plagued those locker rooms.

“I could never get the guys from the beginning to buy into the way we want to play,” D’Antoni told Bleacher Report. “We never got everybody going into the same direction. That was my fault. It happened. That’s in the past. This is a new team. Guys want to play the way we all want to play.”

Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is betting that a change of scenery is all D’Antoni needs to flourish again. To Morey, a career .650 winning percentage over five years in Phoenix speaks louder than the well-publicized flameouts in the NBA’s biggest markets.

“The players are improved under him, the teams have improved,” Morey told B/R. “After he’s left, the teams have done worse. We also have had a lot of success playing an uptempo, spread-floor style. Our players fit that, and having his level of experience and knowledge added to our personnel, which is already set up for his style of play, was a huge factor in us hiring him.”

***

No. 3: Lue’s hesitation was worth more than $25 million — When the Cavs fired David Blatt with a 30-11 record in January, they didn’t want to just make Tyronn Lue an interim coach. They offered him a three-year contract. But Lue never signed it, and it wasn’t necessarily because he thought he could get more money if he won a championship. As Joe Vardon writes for Cleveland.com, Lue wanted to make sure the job was right for him. And his hesitation resulted in a much more lucrative deal after the Cavs won their first title…

Lue, 39, knew what he was getting into when he took over for David Blatt last January. He knew Blatt was fired (Lue was Blatt’s chief assistant) despite a 30-11 record and a trip to the 2015 Finals.

He knew of the heightened scrutiny and brighter lights that come with coaching a team led by James, whose every word is dissected by media and fans and who can set off a firestorm with a simple Tweet.

That’s why Lue, born in little Mexico, Missouri, never signed a three-year, $9.5 million contract he had verbally agreed to with the Cavs when they promoted him to take Blatt’s job.

It wasn’t so much that Lue was betting on himself, although the gamble paid off handsomely. He steered Cleveland to the largest comeback in Finals history to win the franchise’s first title, and thus earned an annual raise of more than $4 million.

Lue held off, he said, because “I wanted to make sure it was the “right fit.”

“Was I right for this job?” Lue said, rhetorically. “I hate being on TV, hate dealing with media on TV. All that stuff, I don’t like that. Being with LeBron, who draws all kinds of attention, I knew I was going to see myself on TV. I hate that. I like to fly under radar. I wanted to make sure the fit was right.”

***

No. 4: Road back-to-backs most dangerous — ESPN‘s Tom Haberstroh has the numbers on the increased frequency of occasions where healthy players get a day off to rest, from 19 in 2012-13 to 146 last season. He also talks to professor Masaru Teramoto, who has done a study on injuries in the NBA…

In a study provided to ESPN.com that will be published publicly in the Journal of Science and Medicine in Sport later this month, Teramoto researched three seasons of NBA injury data, from 2012-13 through 2014-15, in an attempt to determine if certain aspects of the schedule — in particular, back-to-backs and travel — led to players getting injured in games.

What Teramoto found surprised him: Back-to-backs alone are not associated with greater instances of in-game injury, but back-to-backs that are played on the road are significant predictors of in-game injury, generating 3.5 times the injury rate as those played at home.

The problem? Two out of every three back-to-backs are on the road.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Paul Millsap has a knee issue that will keep him sidelined for the next few weeksThe Kings have questions at point guard … Grizzlies.com caught up with a few of the team’s key players to get an update on their recovery from last season’s injuriesDorell Wright is going to camp with the Clippers … and Jason Terry doesn’t think Klay Thompson is in James Harden‘s league.

Millsap gets a checkup

It’s never a good time to get medical attention but at least Paul Millsap won’t miss any regular season time while the Hawks addressed issues with his right knee.

The team announced that Millsap just underwent a “preventative procedure” to reduce swelling and already declared him out of the team’s first two preseason games. That essentially means Millsap is on the shelf for three weeks at minimum.

“We agreed … that this was the best method and time to ensure his complete readiness for the start of the regular season,” said Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer in that statement.

That’s good news for the Hawks and Millsap, who was an ironman last season, missing only one game (rest) and hasn’t had a significant injury in his time with the Hawks. Millsap is also in a contract year, with the option of nixing next year’s guaranteed money ($21 million) and becoming an unrestricted free agent.

The only downside of Millsap missing half of the Hawks’ preseason is timing; Dwight Howard has replaced Al Horford in the starting lineup and needs to develop chemistry with Millsap.

Millsap led the Hawks’ in scoring and rebounding last season in what was yet another solid season in Atlanta.

 

Bucks get Beasley from Rockets

The Bucks say they were already working on a deal before Khris Middleton suffered a torn hamstring that will keep him on the shelf for six months. But a timely trade that brings in forward Michael Beasley from Houston could help fill that sudden hole in the offense.

The trade that sends point guard Tyler Ennis to the Rockets was first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical.

Beasley, 27, the former No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 draft, will be joining his fifth NBA team. After washing out in his second go-round with the Heat in 2015, Beasley resurrected his career in China last season, averaging 31.9 points, 13.2 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 2.0 steals for the Shandong Golden Stars. He was signed by the Rockets in March and averaged 12.8 points and 4.9 rebounds per game in 20 games.

Ennis was the 18th pick in the 2014 draft by Phoenix. Last season, he appeared in 46 games with seven starts for the Bucks.  Over the final 18 games, he averaged 7.6 points, 3.7 assists and 2.8 rebounds in just 23.6 minutes per game while shooting 48.3% from the floor.

With the signing of free agent Matthew Dellavedova over the summer, 6-3 point guard was going to have a tough battle for playing time in Milwaukee. Ennis will provide the Rockets with depth behind veteran Pat Beverley at the point.

The trade of Beasley could be a signal that the Rockets are confident in reaching a deal with restricted free agent Donatas Motiejunas, who is still unsigned less than 24 hours before the club’s media day on Friday.

Morning shootaround — Sept. 22

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Pacers committed to George | Wall’s health a question | Sixers not shopping

No. 1: Bird says Paul George going nowhereLarry Bird drafted Paul George and has helped him blossom into an All-Star and the foundation of the Pacers franchise. Now the team president says he has no intention of letting George play anywhere but Indiana with a flat declaration that the team is ready to step up and pay the forward whatever it takes. Bird told the Indianapolis Star that the ball is in George’s hands:

The Indiana Pacers president wants to sign George to a max contract – and he’ll do it as soon as his star player is ready.

“I know he don’t want to talk about it all year and I don’t either,” Bird said. “We want Paul here and we know what it’s going to cost and what it’s going to take. If Paul wants to get a deal done, we will. It’s a max deal. There’s no others, so there’s no use talking about it. If he wants it, he’s got it.”

George would not discuss his contract situation Wednesday but is expected to give an update Monday during the team’s media day. Before George left for the Summer Olympics in August, he had conversations with Bird and the front office about his renegotiation options. George said then that the conversations were a good sign, but that a new deal was not close to being reached.

George, 26, is entering the prime of his career and is under contract for $18.1 million this upcoming season. He is set to earn $19.3 million next season with a player option for $20.5 million in 2018-19, according to HoopsHype.com. George can decline the player option and sign a four-year extension beginning Sunday, as Houston Rockets star James Harden did earlier this summer.

***

No. 2: Brooks not sure if Wall will be ready — With just days before the start of his first training camp as coach of the Wizards, coach Scott Brooks says he is not sure if All-Star point guard John Wall will be healthy enough to go. Following a pair of offseason knee surgeries, Wall has been cautiously preparing for the 2016-17 season, according to the Washington Post:

When asked if Wall would be available for the Wizards’ first training camp practice, Tuesday on the campus of Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Brooks expressed uncertainty, though he didn’t appear too concerned at this point.

“Don’t know that but he’s doing some one-on-one, he’s doing some three-on-three. Not really worried about that,” Brooks said. “Like all of our athletes, I want them to be ready but he’s definitely moving towards that direction.”

Before arriving for his meeting at The Post, Brooks said he had watched Wall that morning in a workout. Wall, who had two knee operations this offseason, has progressed from playing against younger assistant coaches to facing off against teammates, going one-on-one for roughly 25 minutes. In spite of the improvement, Brooks hesitated to provide a date when Wall will be cleared for five-on-five contact.

“I don’t like to put a timetable [on it] because if he doesn’t meet it [then] we’re saying, ‘Oh, he’s still hurt,’ ” Brooks said. “He’s improving. His body looks great [but] his conditioning is going to be behind.

“Once you step into an NBA practice, the level goes way up,” Brooks continued. “Especially in a training camp situation where you have guys trying to make it, guys trying to fight for minutes, trying to fight for starting jobs, but we have to make sure [about Wall] because that’s when things can go sideways. I saw him this morning for an hour, he looked great, but I don’t know -– we’ll find out soon.”

***

No. 3: Colangelo denies shopping big men — Despite all the talk, rumors and his own previous statements that have filled the offseason, Sixers general manager Bryan Colangelo says he has not been shopping Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor or Joel Embiid as the team faces a logjam of big men for the upcoming season. In a wide-ranging interview with The Vertical, Colangelo said he is now comfortable letting things play over 2016-17:

“Making a statement that absolutely something will be done is not necessarily the case,” Colangelo said during the podcast, which was released Wednesday morning. “I think what I said over the course of the summer is there is no doubt that we got three talented players. It’s a high-class problem to have.” He appeared to back off the absolutely-not-comfortable statement.  Colangelo pointed out that the unknowns regarding the three centers’ health – in particular, Embiid  (foot) – put the Sixers in a situation in which they will entertain trade discussions if they make sense.

“But I never felt compelled that we have to do something, because it will work itself out over the course of time,” he said. “Some of it will work itself out with contract negotiations and free agency. There’s different things that are staggered in terms of time line.”

“First up, Nerlens Noel. Second up, Joel Embiid. Third would be Okafor, in terms of contract staggering. So there’s some of that that’s in play.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Mo Williams says he’s returning to the defending champion Cavaliers for one final NBA season…LeBron James and Mark Wahlberg are talking about making a movie together…Former All-Star and current Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson took a pie to the face on Wednesday…Robert Horry didn’t hesitate to say that Hakeem Olajuwon was better than Shaquille O’Neal and Tim Duncan…Metta World Peace signs another one-year deal with the Lakers…Tyronn Lue says he already misses J.R. Smith...