HT News

Morning shootaround — July 12

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Horford opens up on why he left Hawks | Kidd regrets not signing with Spurs | Lin not looking to recreate ‘Linsanity’

No. 1: Horford explains why he left Hawks for Celtics — At his introductory news conference with the Celtics, center Al Horford was understandably excited about the new opportunity and NBA world ahead of him in Boston. That said, though, Horford was leaving the only NBA team he’d known — the Atlanta Hawks. Why did Horford decide to stay in the Eastern Conference? What led him to make his decision? What were his thoughts on Atlanta? In an interview with Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Horford answered those questions and more:

Q. In the end, what did it come down to for you to leave?

A. It was extremely difficult but at the end looking at the future of the team and having an opportunity to win in a different scenario for me. It wasn’t an easy decision for me but I think at the end Boston just felt it was the best fit for me when looking at everything from their players top to bottom, the amount of players they had and the potential there.

Q. When you said opportunity to win, did that mean not with the Hawks?

A. No, in Atlanta for many years we won and were able to be real successful. I think that in Atlanta I was hoping that things would have worked out. Once I saw that things weren’t going to work out, I saw what was going to be the best situation for me to try to win an NBA championship. Like I said, I would have liked for everything to have worked out in Atlanta but it just didn’t happen that way. This is a big opportunity in front of me in Boston.

Q. Were you still with the Hawks right up to the end?

A. At the beginning my plan was to stay (in Atlanta). I started to see that when the team stepped up and did what they had to do, I didn’t think we were on the same page. That’s when I was forced to start looking at other options.

Q. Are you talking about the Hawks signing Dwight Howard?

A. No, it was more from a financial standpoint.

Q. I talked to Kyle (Korver) and he said you reached out to him a little bit. Who else did you talk to or rely on during the process?

A. I talked to Kyle a little bit. I talked to Kent Bazemore. Both of those guys over the years I’ve grown close to, especially with Kyle. At the beginning we were all hoping it was going to work out (in Atlanta) and everything was going to be fine. I know the Hawks were trying to make it work. They were trying to make an effort. I was hoping we could have come to a happy medium and it just didn’t happen.

Q. You’ve had some time to reflect and process it all. When you look back on your time in Atlanta, what will you remember most?

A. It’s more the relationships that I’ve built here – the people, the city. They’ve always embraced me. I really care for them. They embraced me and my family. It’s something that I’ve always been very appreciative of because I’ve always known they’ve embraced me and my family. I’ve always been very happy with that because I know that’s very rare in professional sports.

Q. So you are not leaving bitter?

A. No, no no. I love the fan base here. I thank coach (Mike Budenholzer) for giving me an opportunity to grow as a player and develop. He always had that confidence in me. I know it’s extremely hard for him. This was a hard decision for me.

Q. There are a couple reports out there that I’d like to get your response or to clarify. One was that you didn’t like Dwight, you didn’t want to play with Dwight. True?

A. No, no, no. Not at all. I don’t have a problem with Dwight at all. I think that he is a great player and he has a lot of ability and a lot of potential. It has nothing to do with not wanting to play with Dwight. I don’t know if you remember but there was a time when I wanted to play power forward. With a guy like him, that would have been easier. It had nothing to do with Dwight. He’s a good guy.

Q. Another thing was your dad said some things about one of the reasons you wanted to leave was the fans in Atlanta were not as good as the fans in Boston. Was that true?

A. That made me really upset. I was angry when I heard about that because I never felt that way. I’ve been here a long time. I’ve actually gotten to know a lot of our fans, a lot of our season-ticket holders with the Hawks. They’ve always been great to me. I’ve always been very content and happy with the way they’ve treated me and my family. Parents are sometimes a little more passionate about their sons and daughters. I can relate because I have a son now. So my dad, with him, sometimes he would come to the games and get frustration. His frustrations don’t reflect on me with the fan base.

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Toronto to host ’17 D-League Showcase

LAS VEGAS — The 2017 D-League Showcase will be held in suburban Toronto barring an unlikely late snag on final minor points, NBA.com has learned, the first time the premier in-season event for the NBA’s minor league will be held outside the United States.

An announcement is expected within two weeks.

Playing in Mississauga, home of the Raptors’ affiliate, will come 11 months after Toronto hosted the NBA All-Star game approximately 20 miles away. That is more coincidence than anything. The actual appeal is that the return to Canada addresses two priorities for officials: Taking the event to a different region after the last five years in California or Nevada and to play in a facility with more than one court to accommodate the growth of the league.

While it has not been decided whether more than the main court will be used, the Hershey Centre does provide the option of more than one game at a time in the same building, an important consideration as the D-League grows from 19 teams last season to 22 in 2016-17 with the addition of affiliates from the Hornets, Bulls and Nets. and Nets. The positive of expansion has forced executives to either play two games at a time in close proximity, similar to summer league in Las Vegas, or add days to the Showcase.

The event, heavily scouted by NBA and international teams, has mostly been held in the western United States starting in 2005, from South Dakota to Idaho to Utah, Texas, Nevada and, the last two Januarys, Santa Cruz, Calif. The league has also gone to Columbus, Ga., and Fayetteville, N.C., and wanted to branch out on the map, much as it is growing in general.

 

The NBA reacts to Tim Duncan’s retirement

HANG TIME BIG CITY — The NBA world learned today that San Antonio Spurs forward Tim Duncan is officially retiring after a career that spanned 19 seasons. Hailed by many as the greatest power forward of all-time, Duncan leaves behind a towering legacy of accomplishments accumulated over two decades with the Spurs: five NBA titles, two MVPs, three NBA Finals MVPs, fifteen All-Star appearances, and seventeen appearances on an All-NBA first, second or third team.

With Duncan walking away, today many around the NBA took to social media to share their respects …

I've been waiting all day for someone tell me it was a joke or a lie….I feel like one of the luckiest guys of my generation to be able to share the court with you for 5 years…you were and still are one my biggest idols since I was in middle school…I will forever cherish these moments and the countless times you've been the guy to encourage me and lift me up with confidence as if the roles were reversed…you truly are the greatest most humble teammate and person I've ever come across…I can go on for days about how much you've taught me, you are the ultimate professional and the reason why the spurs organization has been the best in sports for 20yrs…the league/game won't be the same without you, you will be truly missed…and I will miss you the most, because you were also the guy to have my back when pop cussed me out lol…and a final note, I would like to call…Dibs! On your parking space, seat on the plane, locker, everything! Lol I'm lucky to be able to call you family, much love tiny Tim #Thank you #Thebigfundamental #21 #GPFOAT #Legend

A photo posted by Danny Green (@greenranger14) on

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Blazers sign Leonard to 4-year deal

The Trail Blazers believe that last season was an anomaly and that Meyers Leonard’s best years are still ahead of him. That’s why they agreed to terms with the restricted free agent on a four-year, $41 million contract.

Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical first reported the deal.

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The 7-1 Leonard battled injuries and inconsistency throughout the 2015-16 campaign, 8.4 points and 5.1 rebounds. He began the season in the starting lineup, but struggled to produce on a consistent basis.

Leonard suffered a dislocated shoulder in November, eventually returned and then tore his labrum in March, which required surgery that ended the season. He did not participate in the playoffs. Following surgery, he has been cleared to embark on a rehab program and expects to be ready for the start of training camp.

The Blazers made Leonard the No. 11 pick in the 2012 draft and believe that his size, shooting ability and athletic skills make him a good fit in head coach Terry Stotts’ offense.

Blazers, Heat match Nets’ offers on Crabbe, Johnson

HANG TIME, N.J. — On Sunday, the Portland Trail Blazers and Miami Heat matched the Brooklyn Nets’ offer sheets on restricted free agents Allen Crabbe and Tyler Johnson, respectively.

Those were steep prices to pay for players who have started a total of 24 games in the NBA, but the Nets were looking for any way to add young talent as they begin to rebuild under new general manager Sean Marks.

And as it turns out, the prices weren’t too high to pay for Portland and Miami. Crabbe, who shot 39 percent from 3-point range in his third season in the league and his first in the regular rotation, rejoins a team that surpassed all expectations last season with a trip to the conference semifinals. The Blazers have already upgraded their bench this week with the additions of Evan Turner and Festus Ezeli.

Johnson has played only 68 career games and had shoulder surgery in February. With Dwyane Wade, Luol Deng and Joe Johnson leaving Miami, the 6-4 combo guard will be a part of the Heat’s young core that includes Hassan Whiteside, Josh Richardson and Justise Winslow. The Heat announced the additions of Wayne Ellington, James Johnson and Derrick Williams on Sunday.

The Nets have added Jeremy Lin and Trevor Booker in free agency and have some young talent on the wings, but Brook Lopez remains their only legit NBA starter (though that wouldn’t have necessarily changed had they got Crabbe and/or Johnson). They have more than $30 million in cap space, but are left with slim pickings on the free agency market and aren’t likely to hit the minimum team salary of $84.7 million.

New head coach Kenny Atkinson has his work cut out for him as he takes over a team that won just 21 games last season, traded Thaddeus Young to Indiana for the draft rights to Caris LeVert, and doesn’t control its own first round pick until 2019.

Sunday’s moves by the Blazers and Heat benefit the Boston Celtics, who can swap first rounders with the Nets in 2017 and own the Nets’ first round pick in 2018, thanks to the trade that sent Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn three years ago.

France completes Olympic field

HANG TIME, N.J. — Both Canada and France blew chances at Olympic berths last summer. Canada led Venezuela by seven with three minutes to go in the FIBA Americas semifinals, but lost in the final second. France, meanwhile, led Spain by nine with six minutes to go in the Eurobasket semifinals, but lost in overtime.

Only one of the two would be able to make up for their 2015 collapse, as both Canada and France were placed in the same Olympic qualifying tournament and faced off in the final on Sunday.

And it was France that earned the final ticket to Rio, beating Canada 83-74 in Manila. The Spurs’ Tony Parker led the way with 26 points, scoring 15 of them in the fourth quarter. His step-back 3-pointer that gave France a seven-point lead with 2:13 left was the biggest shot of the day. Former Spur and Raptor Nando De Colo added 22 points and was named tournament MVP.

The Raptors’ Cory Joseph led Canada with 20 points and six assists, but also had seven of his team’s 21 turnovers. The Cavs’ Tristan Thompson dealt with foul trouble in the first half and finished with just eight points and seven rebounds. Canada was without several of its other NBA players, including Andrew Wiggins and Kelly Olynyk.

Serbia and Croatia earned trips to Rio by winning their qualifying tournaments on Saturday. Denver Nuggets big man Nikola Jokic and Philadelphia 76ers draftee Dario Saric were named their respective tournament MVPs.

After France’s win, France and Serbia were placed in Group A of the Olympic field with Australia, China, the United States and Venezuela. Croatia was placed in Group B with Argentina, Brazil, Lithuania, Nigeria and Spain. The Olympic basketball competition tips off on Saturday, Aug. 6.

The United States’ roster is headlined by Kevin Durant and will be looking to earn its fifth straight gold medal in major international competitions. France, Serbia and Spain should also be competing for medals.

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Morning shootaround — July 10





NEWS OF THE MORNING
Noah’s Knicks connection | Rockets extend Harden | Walton ready to grow | Wade no hard feelings

No. 1: Noah and Jackson have a historyJoakim Noah had been to Madison Square Garden many times as a kid to watch the likes of Patrick Ewing and Larry Johnson in the glory days of the ’90s. But it was an unexpected and daresay unusual visit to Montana that providing the first meeting between Noah and Phil Jackson and eventually led to them reuniting now in New York. Christian Red of the New York Daily News detailed the long and winding road that brought them together:

About five years ago, Noah says he visited Phil Jackson at the Zen Master’s Montana retreat, after Jackson had left the Lakers’ bench and was semi-retired. The trip, which was sparked by mutual friends of both Noah and Jackson, now seems to have been a hint of things to come.

“My father used to make me read (Jackson’s) books when I was a kid. I hate reading books, but I read his books,” says Noah. “I had an opportunity to go to Montana and meet (Jackson). So I took the plane, went to Montana, and I knock on his door. We start talking and he goes, ‘Why are you here?’ I said, ‘I don’t know.’ It was a great couple days. I got an opportunity to meet one of the legends and spend time with him. Life works in mysterious ways. Now we’re here.”

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No. 2: Rockets bet on Harden — With the ill-fated Dwight Howard era in the rearview mirror, the Rockets have wasted no time in re-establishing James Harden as the face — and The Beard — of the franchise by extending the contract of the All-Star guard through 2020. Calvin Watkins of ESPN.com says Harden is looking to establish a lasting legacy in Houston:

Harden did some good on Saturday by staying. He keeps the team relevant with his superstar stature and he also displayed a sense of loyalty. No need for the Rockets to head to the Hamptons for visits with free agents.

“It’s just that feeling where everything feels comfortable,” Harden said. “You felt loved and people want you to be here, and that feeling right there outweighs anything.”

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No. 3: Walton will grow with young Lakers — To twist a lyric from his father’s favorite rock and roll band, what a short, strange trip it’s been. But even though he’s just 36 years old and doesn’t have a long resume of coming up through the ranks and paying dues, Luke Walton says he’s up to the task to rebuild the Lakers. Our own Walton watched his young players get their first taste of summer league action in Las Vegas and our own Scott Howard-Cooper was there to catch up to him:

If someone told him nine months ago he would be coaching the Lakers, Walton would not have believed them. He would have taken it. But he wouldn’t have believed them. Yet there he was, walking through the black curtains of Thomas & Mack before their summer-league opener against the Pelicans, about to watch D’Angelo Russell and Brandon Ingram, two of the new franchise cornerstones, paired for the first time.

“It was unusual,” Walton said of the insta-path that led him from novice on the bench to the chance to be the No. 1 with a franchise and a front office he knows well in an area he loves and had kept his permanent home. “It happened faster than I would have guessed. I think obviously Steve’s health issues and being the interim head coach up there for 40-plus games this year was the main reason the process has sped up and obviously the success we’ve had up there. I know I still have a lot to learn, but I think everybody does, no matter how long you’ve been doing any job. I’m excited and I feel like I’m ready for this and I’m looking forward to it.”

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No. 4: Wade-Riley have ties that bindDwyane Wade has read and listened to all of the analysis of the break-up with Heat president Pat Riley that led to his departure from the only NBA franchise he’s ever known. But the All-Star guard and three-time champion told Shandel Richardson of the Sun Sentinel that there are no hard feelings over the break-up and there will always be love for Riley:

There were reports Wade and Riley were at odds during negotiations. Wade turned down the Heat’s two-year, $40-million contract, joining the Bulls for a deal worth roughly $7.5 million more.

“Because you love somebody so well, you guys love each other, but the business side comes out,” Wade said. “You know? And we have to deal with that. I’m not saying we’ve hugged and cried and shared tears at this moment. But I love Pat and I will always love Pat. And I know he feels the same way about me.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Grizzlies pick up another shooter in a trade for Troy Daniels … After helping Croatia punch its ticket to the Rio Olympics, Dario Saric said his next stop is Philadelphia to join the 76ers … Little Isaiah Thomas is looking for a big payday from the Celtics … The Warriors make it official with veteran forward David West … Darrell Arthur re-signs with Nuggets … Pelicans remembering Bryce Dejean-Jones.

Serbia, Croatia earn trips to Rio

HANG TIME, N.J. — Serbia and Croatia earned bids to the 2016 Olympics on Saturday, winning their respective qualifying tournaments.

Serbia cruised to a 108-77 victory over Puerto Rico after a 37-11 first quarter on its home floor. They were led by the Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic (23 points, eight rebounds, six assists) and Bogdan Bogdanovic (26 points, eight assists, 6-for-10 from 3-point range), whose draft rights are held by the Sacramento Kings. Jokic was named the tournament MVP.

After leading Italy by as many as nine points in the first half and by six with less than four minutes to go, Croatia needed overtime to punch its ticket. The Brooklyn Nets’ Bojan Bogdanovic led all scorers with 26 points and hit the biggest shot of the night, a right-wing three with 1:14 left in OT off some nice ball movement. Philadelphia 76ers draftee Dario Saric was named tournament MVP and had 18 points, 13 rebounds and a big steal in the final minute.

Danilo Gallinari and Marco Belinelli combined to shoot just 9-for-28 for Italy. Gallinari fouled out in regulation and Italy (coached by Spurs assistant Ettore Messina) was left with little offensive firepower in the extra period.

The final spot in the Olympic field will be determined in the Philippines on Sunday (9 a.m. ET on Watch ESPN), when Canada and France face off.

Two of the qualifying tournament winners will be played in Group A with Australia, China, the United States and Venezuela. One will be placed in Group B with Argentina, Brazil, Lithuania, Nigeria and Spain. The Olympic basketball competition tips off on Saturday, Aug. 6. The U.S. will be looking to extend its 45-game winning streak and earn its third straight Olympic gold.

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Rockets sign Harden to extension

HANG TIME, N.J. — Another surprise in free agency: The Houston Rockets announced Saturday afternoon that they’ve agreed to a four-year contract extension with James Harden, keeping the star under contract for at least three more seasons.

Houston used its cap space to give Harden a raise for both next season (2016-17) and the following season (’17-18). The extension adds two more years after that, though Harden will have a player option in the summer of 2019.

Houston parted ways with Dwight Howard this summer, but has added Ryan Anderson, Eric Gordon and Nene via free agency. It still has some work to do to bring back restricted free agent Donatas Motiejunas.

Harden is the only player to average at least 27 points and seven assists each of the last two seasons and one of only seven players in NBA history to do it multiple times. Under new Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni, Harden could see even bigger numbers next season.

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Morning shootaround — July 9

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Bird uses trade market to rebuild Pacers | Familiarity a key for Parsons’ move to Memphis | Knicks “activate” to get ‘Melo back to the playoffs | Ezeli’s journey leads him to Portland

No. 1: Bird uses trade market to rebuild Pacers — While other teams have made big changes through free agency, Larry Bird has taken the Indiana Pacers down a new path via the trade market. The Pacers did sign Al Jefferson this week, but they also added two new starters by making trades for point guard Jeff Teague and power forward Thaddeus Young, who give Indiana a quicker and more versatile roster, as Nate Taylor of the Indianapolis Star writes:

Rebuilding in the NBA can be a painstaking, rigorous process. The usual years of losing, the hopes and fate of the franchise decided by lottery balls.

A free agency signing can bring jubilation. A rejection in free agency can be crushing.

Indiana Pacers President Larry Bird has chosen a different path.

Every year for Bird is about winning, improving, contending. Forget a conventional rebuild. Bird, in many ways, is unconventional. The way the Pacers’ roster was built is the latest example.

For 24 months, Bird has been on a quest. He has transformed the Pacers from a big, traditional, lumbering team into a modern one that will spread the court and run whenever given the opportunity. Bird’s design, after two years and a long list of transactions, appears to be close to completion.

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No. 2: Familiarity a key for Parsons’ move to Memphis — Chandler Parsons made his second free agency move in three years this week, leaving Dallas after just two seasons for Memphis. And for him, it was an easy decision thanks, in part, to his familiarity with new Grizzlies head coach David Fizdale and assistant J.B. Bickerstaff. Tom Schad of the Memphis Commercial Appeal was there as Parsons was introduced in Memphis on Friday:

Parsons picked Memphis over Portland, which also reportedly offered him a max contract, in part because of trust. He played for Fizdale during the 2013 Rising Stars Challenge and said they immediately established a rapport. He also spent three years in Houston with Bickerstaff, who is “like family to me,” Parsons said.

Former high-school teammate Nick Calathes and close friend Courtney Lee gave Parsons rave reviews about playing in Memphis, he said. The opportunity to play with point guard Mike Conley, who helped recruit him with text messages over the past several weeks, was another major factor.

“Any time that you’re comfortable with someone that’s already here, it makes things a lot easier,” Parsons said. “That’s someone that I wanted to talk to and I know who would shoot me straight and someone who I greatly respect. He’s been here for nine years. He’s had a great career here.”

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No. 3: Knicks “activate” to get Melo back to the playoffs — Since last year’s Draft, the New York Knicks have been in a position where the timeline of their best player (Carmelo Anthony) hasn’t aligned with the timeline of their best asset (Kristaps Porzingis). But with the trades and free agency additions that he’s made this summer, Knicks president Phil Jackson has clearly decided to prioritize short-term success over the long-term outlook. Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News writes that, even with all the changes the Knicks have made, it’s still all about Melo at Madison Square Garden:

It’s a player’s league. Not a coach’s league or a system league. The triangle doesn’t win a championship in Chicago without Michael Jordan, and the Knicks weren’t winning much of anything the last two seasons.

So Phil Jackson reached the correct conclusion after a recent meeting with an increasingly impatient Carmelo Anthony: As long as Anthony is here and All-Star capable, the 31-year-old’s career timeline should be placated. If not, what’s the point of paying him $124 million with a no-trade clause?

“One of my questions to Carmelo was, you know, we haven’t made the playoffs and now this is three years, two years, since I’ve been here — are we moving quickly enough for you and your anticipation of trying to be into a competitive playoff situation?” Jackson said. “I think that was our conversation and established the fact of his desire, the idea that he is getting into an age where things have to happen for him. So we decided to activate ourselves.”

This is Anthony’s responsibility now. His burden to win games. No more excuses or demands through the media. That was the implication Friday from Jackson, who reversed the roles after a year of Anthony publicly pleading that the team president be better at his job.

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No. 4: Ezeli’s journey leads him to Portland — Festus Ezeli didn’t start playing basketball until he was 14 years old and has had some bumps in the road along the way. But after winning a championship with Golden State, Ezeli is expected to bring some toughness to the Trail Blazers. The Oregonian’s Joe Freeman chronicles the path that Ezeli took to get to Portland:

Ezeli chose Vanderbilt over several colleges because it offered an excellent blend of education and basketball. Also, coach Kevin Stallings agreed to his only request — that Ezeli be allowed to redshirt his first year to learn the game. It was an easy decision for Stallings, who knew he had a project on his hands.

“He had no basketball playing experience, so it was like having this really big, awesome piece of clay that we could help mold,” Stallings said Friday. “In the beginning, he was extremely raw and inexperienced. He literally didn’t know a lot of the rules of the game.”

And even after sitting out that first year, Ezeli was raw. Forget grasping the nuances of the pick-and-roll. Never mind figuring out when to leave your man on defense to offer help on the weakside. Initially, Ezeli couldn’t handle playing in front of a crowd. One of Stallings’ favorite stories about the challenges Ezeli faced on his path to the NBA came early during his redshirt freshman season, when Vanderbilt participated in a closed, preseason scrimmage against eventual-champion North Carolina. Ezeli played so well, Tar Heels coach Roy Williams was amazed.

“Who is that guy and where did you find him?” Williams asked Stallings after the scrimmage, during which Ezeli held his own against the likes of Tyler Hansbrough, Ty Lawson and future Blazers big man Ed Davis.

A week later, however, during an exhibition game against the University of Alabama in Huntsville, a tiny Division II school, Ezeli was a shell of the player that had impressed Williams. He was so bad, Stallings had to pull him early in his first shift.

“He comes to the bench and he’s hyperventilating,” Stallings said. “I’m like, ‘We scrimmaged North Carolina and you were fine. What’s wrong?’ He goes, ‘I know Coach, but all these people weren’t there.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Kings are looking to make a trade … Damian Lillard is one of many players speaking out about the violence that has happened around the U.S. this week … Jackson wants Brandon Jennings to be the Sixth Man of the Year.