Posts Tagged ‘DeMarcus Cousins’

Morning shootaround — June 29


VIDEO: The Lakers’ selected D’Angelo Russell over Jahlil Okafor in the NBA Draft

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Lakers boxed into a big man box? | Dollars and sense for LeBron | Garnett, Saunders definitely back in Minnesota | Ginobili will take his time making up his mind

No. 1: Lakers boxed into a big man box?  The selection of D’Angelo Russell on Draft night was celebrated by Los Angeles Lakers’ fans, luminaries and pundits alike. But did that risky move, passing up Duke’s low-post load Jahlil Okafor in favor of Russell, come at a larger price than expected? Marc Gasol has already made it clear that he is not interested in following in the footsteps of big brother Pau in a Lakers uniform. So that leaves slimmer pickings than expected for the Lakers (and Kobe Bryant) in free agency. Mike Bresnahan of The Los Angeles Times explains:

The Lakers have enough money for only one big-name free agent, gathering about $23 million in spending power after declining the $9-million option on free-agent center-forward Jordan Hill in a couple of days. Aldridge would make almost $19 million next season after pulling down $16.3 million last season.

The Lakers’ only big men going into free agency are Tarik Black and Robert Sacre after they presumably make the latter’s sub-$1-million contract guaranteed by Tuesday’s deadline.

They boxed themselves into a big-man corner by passing on Duke center Jahlil Okafor to draft Russell, putting the Ohio State point guard next to promising Jordan Clarkson while setting up the Lakers’ backcourt “for the next 10 years,” according to a near-giddy team source.

Perhaps a quick shot of reality is needed.

The Lakers have had problems getting free agents to take their money in recent years. Dwight Howard spurned them for less money in Houston, Carmelo Anthony said thanks but no thanks, and Pau Gasol took less to go to Chicago.

The only big name they signed lately was Kobe Bryant, who accepted a two-year, $48.5-million extension in 2013 before returning from a torn Achilles’.

The Lakers need a Plan B if Aldridge says no. Two teams from his home state, San Antonio and Dallas, will reportedly court him too.

It would take some persuasion to get Clippers center DeAndre Jordan to take less money and leave L.A.’s more talented team. The Lakers love his rebounding and shot-blocking, like many teams, and Dallas will also recruit him heavily.

It’s harder to figure what to make of Love, who had an off year in Cleveland and said in February there was not a scenario where he’d play for the Lakers. He might meet with them next week even if it’s only a ploy to ensure a maximum offer from the Cavaliers, reportedly the favorites to retain him.

Marc Gasol has no interest in the Lakers because of the uneasy last few years his brother spent with them, according to numerous people familiar with the situation. Versatile big man Greg Monroe, oft-injured Brook Lopez and his workman-like brother, Robin, are other alternatives at center.

If the Lakers strike out, they could try re-signing Hill for less and chase swingman Jimmy Butler, who could ease into the hole vacated soon by Bryant. The problem is Chicago’s expected action of matching any offer sheet the restricted free agent signs.

Whatever happens, it’s simple table-setting for a year from now. The Lakers will have double the fun when Bryant’s contract is off the books ($25 million next season) and the salary cap jumps from $67 million to about $90 million with the NBA’s gigantic new TV deal.

***

No. 2:Dollars and sense for LeBron — Cleveland Cavaliers fans need to get used to hearing the words LeBron James and free agency in the same sentence. They’ll be married this time of year, every year, at least for the foreseeable future. Our very own John Schuhmann of NBA.com explains how the free agent dollars will make sense for the best player on the planet:

News broke Sunday afternoon that LeBron James has reportedly informed the Cleveland Cavaliers that he will opt out of the second year of the contract he signed last season.

This news was expected and doesn’t mean that James is leaving Cleveland again. All indications are that the best player in the world intends to re-sign with the Cavs. But even if he wants to stay with the wine and gold for the rest of his career, he’s probably going to become a free agent next summer and the summer after that, too. And it’s mostly about the money.

Free agency does give James some leverage. It keeps the pressure on Cavs management to do everything it can to give him the best supporting cast possible.

It also makes James a richer man.

James’ option for the 2015-16 season was for a little less than $21.6 million. A new contract this summer (for a player with at least 10 years in the league) could start at at maximum of about $22.0 million. (We’ll know the exact number when the 2015-16 salary cap is officially announced on or around July 8.) That’s not a huge raise (especially when you take income taxes into account), but it’s worth the paperwork.

James will have much more incentive to become a free agent in 2016 and 2017, when the salary cap is expected to make two big jumps, thanks to the new TV contract.

Assuming James signs another two-year, max deal with an option in the second year (a one-plus-one contract) again this summer, the ’16-17 option would be for about $23.0 million. But a new, max contract next summer could have a ’16-17 salary of more than $29 million.

That deal could have a second-year option (for ’17-18) of about $30.5 million. But a new, max contract in 2017 could have a starting salary of more than $35 million.

***

No. 3: Garnett, Saunders definitely back in Minnesota — Kevin Garnett and Flip Saunders aren’t going anywhere. They’ll be back in Minnesota to oversee the rebuilding job that is underway with young talent like Andrew Wiggins, Zach LaVine, new No. 1 Draft pick Karl-Anthony Towns and hometown kid Tyus Jones as the building blocks. Charley Walters of TwinCities.com provides some context:

Although it hasn’t been announced, pending free agent Kevin Garnett definitely will re-sign with the Wolves, and Saunders definitely will return as coach.

Terry Kunze, who was a Timberwolves season-ticket holder for 25 years, knows basketball. He figures the Wolves, who won just 16 games last season, were smart to draft Jones.

“I knew they would get Jones,” Kunze said. “The Wolves aren’t stupid — he’s a local kid and he’ll sell tickets. The best thing about losing 66 games is that 18,000 people watch.

“I think (the Wolves) are going to sell a lot of tickets. Tyus Jones has a big name, and I think he’s a good player. He’s under control.”

Kunze was a star guard for 1961 undefeated state champion Duluth Central, went on to start for the Gophers, was drafted by the then-St. Louis Hawks but opted for Europe for three times the salary, then played for the ABA’s Minnesota Muskies, then was a Gophers assistant who recruited Kevin McHale before coaching at East Carolina, then became head coach of the Minnesota Fillies women’s team.

“I like the pick of Towns,” said Kunze, 71, who resides in Fridley. “It was a good (Wolves) draft not only for players, but for public relations.

“What’s the most important thing for a pro franchise? Sales No. 1, winning No. 2. That’s true.”

Jim Dutcher, who coached the Gophers to the 1982 Big Ten championship before becoming a peerless Big Ten TV analyst, said of the Wolves’ drafting of Towns and Jones, “They couldn’t have scripted it better.

“They got the player they wanted in Towns,” Dutcher said.

Saunders had Dutcher, 82, watch some private workouts of draft prospects.

“And being able to tie in Tyus Jones, he’s a perfect fit for them with (Ricky) Rubio‘s health and his end-of-game turnovers in critical situations,” Dutcher said. “In critical situations, they’re directly opposite — Tyus is strongest in key situations at end of games, and to have a young point guard with his potential, particularly a kid from Minnesota, it couldn’t have been better for the Timberwolves.”

***

No. 4: Ginobili will take his time making up his mind (and will do it in Spanish) — Manu Ginobili will inform the world of his intentions — to either come back for another season in San Antonio or to retire — on his own clock. And he’ll do so in his native tongue, via the Argentinian newspaper “La Nacion” in self-written letter. Take that LeBron James. Mike Monroe of the Express News has the details:

Spurs fans anxious to know if Manu Ginobili will be back for another season may want to brush up on their Spanish and bookmark the website for the Argentine newspaper, ‘La Nacion.’

The 37-year-old guard on Sunday told the Express-News he will announce his decision in a self-written sports column in ‘La Nacion’ “when the time comes.”

Presumably, that time will be before he hits the free agent market at the stroke of midnight, EDT, on Tuesday.

Ginobili acknowledged after the Game 7 loss to the Clippers that ended the Spurs season on May 1 that retirement “could happen easily.” He pointed out that the effects of a pro career that began in Argentina in 1995 has taken a physical toll that sometimes makes him question his ability to compete.

“Some days you feel proud and think you did great and other games I say, ‘What the hell am I doing here when I should stay home and enjoy my kids?’ ”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Mason Plumlee could be the perfect fit for the Trail Blazers … The challenge issued in Orlando, Magic need to dare free agents to be different this summer … Houston rookie Sam Dekker‘s not too big to mow his Mom’s lawn … Time for ‘Melo to put up or shut up? …

Report: Kings, Lakers talking Cousins deal

When is “zero interest,” well, slightly more than that?

It was just Monday when team owner Vivek Ranadivé flatly said the Kings were not interested in trading center DeMarcus Cousins.

But now with the 2015 NBA Draft just hours from starting, it seems talks between Sacramento and the Lakers are heating up.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, the two Pacific Division rivals exchanged the broad framework of a deal involving Cousins and talks could gain momentum Thursday.

The Kings started to engage with teams and explore possible trade scenarios beyond the Lakers on Wednesday, league sources said. Sacramento management has publicly said it won’t trade Cousins, but that stance has increasingly softened and the franchise is proceeding further on moving him, league sources said.

Whether the Kings are making a sincere effort to accommodate Cousins with a trade – or simply trying to placate him that they tried and were unable to find a suitable deal – will become more apparent in tne next few days.

Kings vice president of basketball operations Vlade Divac has pursued a possible deal that would include a bevy of assets, including the Lakers’ No. 2 pick in Thursday’s NBA draft, rookies Julius Randle and Jordan Clarkson and other draft assets, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Sacramento also would want to unload the remainder of forward Carl Landry’s two years, $13.5 million contract, league sources said.

While for most teams the notion of moving out a 24-year-old center who is coming off a season of averaging 24.1 points, 12.7 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.7 blocked shots would be beyond the pale, Kings management had its hand forced by coach George Karl, who doesn’t believe the emotional Cousins is capable of being the foundation to a team.

When word began to circulate that Karl was pushing Divac to trade the starting center, Cousins felt betrayed and tweeted a not-so-veiled reference to the coach as a “snake in the grass.”

Once Karl’s request for a trade became known, it was a virtual certainty that Cousins would have to be moved. The only questions now is where and when.

Blogtable: Future for Cousins, Kings?

Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes across the globe to weigh in on the most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.


BLOGTABLE: Who’s going No. 1-5? | Future for Cousins, Kings? | Riley’s pitch to Wade?



VIDEODavid Aldridge says a trade of DeMarcus Cousins isn’t likely before the Draft

> You’re the Kings’ front office … on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being most likely, where does the notion of trading DeMarcus Cousins rank? Also, is it too late to fix whatever kind of rift there is between Cousins and coach George Karl?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I don’t like the idea for the Kings, so I give it a 3. To turn their backs on a player this talented, and still so young, is reckless enough to be considered dereliction of duty. Trouble is, Sacramento has had enough of the big changes – management, coaching, teammates – that ought to have corrected or at least placated Cousins by now, yet he remains a headache. As for Karl, I’m a little surprised he hasn’t bothered to, or been able to, make some sort of peace with the big man. He has dealt with hard cases before (Gary Payton, Sam Cassell). Cousins’ impact on his preferred playing style really must rankle him. Still, Cousins will be putting up 20-10 games long after Karl has his feet up, sipping a cool beverage, visiting Nellie in Maui after coaching his last game.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: I would never have gone as far as the zero chance that is coming from upper management now and probably wouldn’t have rated it more than a 5. But that was before George Karl significantly roiled the water by offering Cousins around the league. With a volatile personality that already had to be handled with kids gloves, the bridge has probably been blown up by this round of events. If the Kings don’t trade him know, things will only explode at the first sign of trouble next season. Just another day, just another rebuild in Sacramento.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: The notion of trading him is a 1. It’s not a move I want to make as the GM. DeMarcus Cousins has a chance to be the best center in the league into the next decade. But the chances of having to do it are more like a 6 or 7 now with the possibility of quickly escalating to a 9. Not before the Draft, though, unless someone blows me away with an offer. (Which should have been the case anyway, regardless of the latest developments.) And as the person in charge of the Kings front office, I will comment on specific trades offers, not the vague question or statement you media jackals use. “Would you trade DeMarcus Cousins?” is a bad way to start. Bring me an offer, then I will tell you if I would do it.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: I’d rate it a 6. I just don’t think it’s easy to move talented big men, even one with warts, and get decent value in return. The Kings aren’t in position to make any bold move without some rather safe assurances that a Boogie trade will help, not hurt, them. Also, I’m not so sure it’s too late to fix anything between Cousins and Karl. The season’s a long ways off. Besides, Cousins is under contract for a few more years and therefore doesn’t have much leverage, at least not right now.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com It’s 5 for me. Let’s not pretend that Cousins is Tim Duncan, in regard to coachability or leadership. And I don’t know that we can make the playoffs in the Western Conference with him as our best player. Still, I’m not sure why we’d want to trade our best player unless we’re getting an incredible package in return. I’m not sure how the Cousins/Karl relationship can be irreparable when they’ve only had 30 games together, but Karl doesn’t have a great history when it comes to player relationships.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: I’ll give the notion of trading DeMarcus Cousins a 3 at best, and that’s being generous. We all know how this plays out, George Karl wanting to move someone because they don’t see eye to eye and what not. All this does is serve to completely shred whatever was left of the chance these two stubborn fellas had of mending whatever outstanding issues remain between them. Don’t get me wrong, I love the honesty from both sides. They don’t share the same sensibilities about the fundamental meaning of the words “basketball team.” I think we all get that. Still, this could have been handled better all around. Whatever happens, it’ll be messy when it does end … for whoever must go.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: The answer is 1. They should not trade him. If they choose to do so, then they will regret it for a long time. If they are forced to trade him – if their impulsive changes in leadership have convinced him that he has no future with the Kings – then they will be left to blame themselves. How is small-market Sacramento ever going to come up with a replacement as talented as Cousins?

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog If I’m the Kings’ front office? I would go with 0. Cousins is the kind of player you build around long-term. But of course, that makes too much sense — it feels like the Kings’ front office has multiple ideas and can’t decide where they stand on any of this. Too many cooks? Too many cooks. And maybe I’m too much of an optimist, but I feel like it’s never too late to fix a rift, but it does seem suspicious that there are so many stories about people not getting along with George Karl.

Morning shootaround — June 24


VIDEO: Are the Warriors looking to make a trade before Thusday’s draft?

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: 90 percent chance Ellis opts out | Divac, Karl address Cousins trade chatter | LeBron staying upbeat after Finals loss

No. 1: Report: 90 percent chance Ellis opts out; Mavs interested in trading him if he opts in — In the two seasons he’s spent in Dallas, Mavericks guard Monta Ellis has done some serious career rehab work. He played in 162 of a possible 164 games in that span, a plus for him after injuries curtailed his career in the past. He meshed nicely with star forward Dirk Nowitzki and was an integral part of two playoff teams in Dallas. Ellis can opt out this summer and pursue free agency, but what if he decides not to do that and stay with the Mavs?

Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News reports that it is 90 percent likely Ellis will opt out and try the free-agent waters:

If he had opted in for the final season of his three-year contract with the Mavericks, there’s a better-than-decent chance he would have been traded, perhaps before Thursday’s draft.

And so, according to a source, Ellis is going to opt out of the final year of his deal and become an unrestricted free agent July 1. The Mavericks are not expected to make a serious run at re-signing him.

Ellis had until Wednesday night to make a decision on his option, to either take the third year of his contract at $8.7 million, or turn that down and try his luck on the open market.

The decision apparently was made late Tuesday night after news broke that the Mavericks were considering trade options if Ellis were to take the final season of his original $25 million deal signed before the 2013-14 season.

Nothing is official until Ellis declares his intentions. But the source said it is 90 percent certain that Ellis will opt out.

Could he change his mind? Possibly. But that would reopen the chance of the Mavericks finding a trade partner and perhaps pairing Ellis with the No. 21 pick they have in Thursday’s draft to try to move up.

Earlier on Tuesday, it appeared the Mavericks were angling to trade Ellis and their draft pick.

Numerous teams have had interest in Ellis in the past.

The New York Knicks have had an affinity for Ellis. Other teams, such as Denver, Indiana, the LA Lakers and Sacramento, would seem to be logical fits for Ellis. Those teams all have higher draft picks than the Mavericks.

ESPN.com’s Tim MacMahon reports that the Mavs would definitely look to move Ellis should he opt in so as to free up salary cap space to chase LaMarcus Aldridge and DeAndre Jordan:

The Dallas Mavericks will explore trade scenarios for shooting guard Monta Ellis if he exercises his player option for next season, sources told ESPN.com.

If Ellis opts in, Dallas would attempt to trade him for a draft pick, a source said, allowing the Mavs to maximize their cap space entering free agency.

Dallas intends to pursue All-Star power forward LaMarcus Aldridge and third-team All-NBA center DeAndre Jordan in free agency, hoping to sign one of them to a max contract. If Ellis’ salary isn’t on the books, the Mavs likely will have enough cap space to re-sign center Tyson Chandler to pair with Aldridge or a shooting guard who is a better fit with small forward Chandler Parsons if Jordan comes to Dallas.

The 6-foot-3 Ellis, an undersized shooting guard who is one of the league’s most dynamic off-the-dribble threats, played a key role in the Mavs winning a total of 99 games and advancing to the playoffs in each of the past two seasons after Dallas’ one-year postseason absence.

But Dallas doesn’t intend to give Ellis the raise he’d want if he tests free agency, sources said. The Mavs, who plan to use Parsons as more of a point forward in the second season of his three-year, $46 million deal, want to have a bigger shooting guard who is a better defender and 3-point threat than Ellis. Potential fits in free agency include Danny Green and Wesley Matthews.

***

No. 2: Karl responds to Cousins rumors; Divac says no deal imminent Whether or not the Sacramento Kings end up trading their All-Star center, DeMarcus Cousins, before the start of 2015-16 remains to be seen. Coach George Karl responded to the rumors yesterday during a kids golf clinic at the U.S. Senior Open at Del Paso Country Club, (the transcript is below) and Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee has more details on the relationship between Cousins and Karl:

Q: There’s so much flying around your team right now. Will you set the record straight where you and DeMarcus are at this point.

George Karl: I think its just a lot of crazy, crazy fibs and lies. It’s a situation where we won 29 games last year. For us as a basketball organization we want to get better. Cousins is our best player, we know that. We want him committed and dedicated to playing in Sacramento and leading us to the first playoffs in Sacramento in six, seven, eight, nine years.

Q: You are not interested in trading DeMarcus Cousins?

George Karl: My interest is commitment, trust and building a team that’s excited about being in Sacramento and excited and committed to being a good basketball team and representing the city of Sacramento.

Q: That includes, in your mind, Cousins staying here?

George Karl: If he comes committed, I’m 120 percent into making him the best basketball player he could ever be.

Q: Do you have some question about his commitment?

George Karl: Well no. In the 30 games I coached him we were all frustrated with losing. I was here for 30 games and so the frustration, I’m sure, was double that for Cuz and all the players here for the whole season.

Additionally, Ailene Voison of the Sacramento Bee caught up with vice president of basketball and franchise operations Vlade Divac and Karl, who both seem committed to keeping Cousins in town and happy:

Owner Vivek Ranadive and Divac, the vice president of basketball and franchise operations, continue to insist Cousins will not be traded. Distracted from his preparation for Thursday’s NBA draft, an irritated Divac responded to reports from ESPN and Yahoo early Tuesday by forcefully saying, “It is not happening. I don’t care what the agents or the media people are saying. I don’t know why we are wasting time talking about something that is not going to happen.”

For now, Cousins stays put. Ranadive is holding firm to the final three years of his contract. Divac is similarly intent on building around his gifted big man. In a meeting with Cousins’ agents a few weeks ago in Los Angeles, the Kings’ top basketball executive struck right at the heart of the matter: Karl is the coach, and he isn’t going anywhere.

While Cousins has complained he has not heard from his coach, in an ominous sign, Karl said he has sent an estimated 10 texts or phone calls since the season ended, none of which has initiated a response. In a brief conversation Tuesday, Karl sounded as exasperated as Divac.

“I want to get better,” Karl said. “I’ve had more conversations with my staff about ‘How we are going to coach him (Cousins), how we are going to motivate him, connect with him?’ than anything else.”

Asked about speculation he has been pressuring management to trade the All-Star center, Karl replied, “We won 29 games last year. Cuz is our best player. We know that, and we want him committed. My interest right now is commitment, trust and building a team that’s excited about being in Sacramento, excited and committed to being a good basketball team. Rudy (Gay) is just like Cuz. They’re our two best basketball players, and 99, 95 percent of this (trade) stuff is just a bunch of innuendo, gossip and somebody putting two and two together until it becomes six. But two and two comes out four, and they’re going to be on our basketball team.”


VIDEO: How likely are the Kings to trade DeMarcus Cousins?

***

No. 3: LeBron staying upbeat, even after Finals loss The Cleveland Cavaliers are about a week removed from their loss in Game 6 of The Finals that clinched the title for the Golden State Warriors. LeBron James was otherworldly in the series, but his play wasn’t enough to get Cleveland a title and while that all still stings for him, he’s keeping a good perspective on the defeat. ESPN.com has more from James, who shared his post-Finals thoughts on Facebook:

LeBron James vowed improvement but said he has been buoyed by the Cleveland Cavaliers’ fans after a disappointing NBA Finals loss to the Golden State Warriors.

“It hurt to lose,” James wrote Tuesday in captioning a Facebook photo of children in his LeBron James Family Foundation at the Cedar Point amusement park. “I’ve been in a funk lately, but this… this is what motivates me to do what I do. How can I ever be down when I know my kids and my fans have my back?

“Being back home and back with my fans is everything that I dreamed of. Thank you for an incredible season. I’m not satisfied… I’m not happy with the way things turned out… I PROMISE to get better. #StriveForGreatness #ILoveTheseKids #GodBlessOurFans.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Our Scott-Howard Cooper reports the Golden State Warriors are trying to trade up in the Draft … The Boston Celtics are reportedly going to keep pushing for a DeMarcus Cousins trade up through the Draft … Speaking of the Celtics, they reportedly dangled two of their first-round picks and Marcus Smart to the 76ers in hopes of moving up to No. 3 (Philly passed on the deal) … Are the Milwaukee Bucks shopping Michael Carter-Williams in hopes of moving up in the Draft? … Fantastic long read by Joe Posnanski on the impact Dell and Stephen Curry have had in Charlotte …The Sacramento Kings may be interested in trading for JaVale McGee

Morning shootaround — June 23


VIDEO: Draft HQ’s experts discuss the top 3 prospects in the Draft

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Reports: Lakers trying to land Cousins | Report: Wolves shopping Bennett | Conflicting reports on potential Wade-Heat meeting

No. 1: Reports: Lakers interested in trading for Kings’ Cousins; Karl and Cousins on outs? — Guys like Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins are hard to find in the NBA. He’s an All-Star big man, a legit low-post threat on offense, a solid shot-blocker and a double-double player in three of his five seasons to date. It’s not surprising, then, that teams are interested in prying him away from Sacramento, and as ESPN.com’s Marc Stein and Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski report, the Los Angeles Lakers are at the front of that line.

Stein had the first information on the trade, so here’s his report on what the Lakers are attempting to do (and some other teams interested in Cousins, too):

Sources told ESPN that the Lakers have been actively pursuing trade scenarios in recent weeks in attempt to construct a deal that would convince the Kings to part with Cousins.

The Kings, though, continue to insist that Cousins is not available. The team’s new lead decision-maker, Vlade Divac, told the Sacramento Bee in Sunday’s editions that dealing away his best player “is not happening.”

Sources say that the Lakers, Kings and Orlando Magic have had exploratory dialogue on a three-way Cousins trade that would land the 24-year-old in Los Angeles. All three teams hold top-6 picks in Thursday’s NBA draft, and Orlando has a young top-flight center of its own in Nikola Vucevic, who could theoretically fill the Cousins void.

Yet since assuming control of the Kings’ front office in April, Divac repeatedly has downplayed the idea of parting with Cousins, who has three seasons left on an extension he signed during the summer of 2013.

The Lakers would appear to have limited assets to get into the trade sweepstakes for Cousins — in the event that Sacramento’s stance changes — beyond surrendering prized young big man Julius Randle, young guard Jordan Clarkson and the No. 2 overall pick in Thursday’s draft. The Lakers, furthermore, could not legally trade the No. 2 pick until after making the selection and introducing that player as a Laker, since teams are precluded from trading first-round picks in consecutive drafts and the Lakers’ 2016 first-rounder is already owed to Philadelphia.

Orlando holds the fifth pick in Thursday’s proceedings but would presumably expect a lot to be willing to part with Vucevic, who signed an extension of his own last October and has become the most consistently productive player from the four-team blockbuster trade in August 2012 that sent Dwight Howard from the Magic to the Lakers.

Wojnarowski’s report digs into how the rocky dynamics between Cousins and coach George Karl may be driving a trade:

Despite Sacramento Kings management’s public insistence that DeMarcus Cousins is unavailable in deals, coach George Karl’s intense desire to trade the All-Star center has made it increasingly unlikely this coach-star partnership can peacefully co-exist next season, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Karl has been recruiting Kings vice president of basketball operations Vlade Divac and multiple players on the Kings’ roster to unite with him in making the case to owner Vivek Ranadive that Cousins needs to be traded, league sources said.

Since the end of the 2014-15 season, Cousins has become aware of Karl’s campaign to move him – including teammates telling Cousins, sources said. All around the Kings and Cousins, there is a growing belief the coach-player relationship is irreparable. Trust is a constant theme with Cousins, and he’s been unable to build any with Karl, sources said.

No one in the Sacramento organization – not coaches, nor players, nor support staff – wants to imagine the combustible scenario awaiting Karl and Cousins should the Kings try to reunite them in training camp.

Ranadive has remained the biggest Kings advocate for holding onto Cousins, and several sources indicate he has become irritated with Karl’s insistence that the coach doesn’t believe he can manage the supremely skilled and strong-minded star. Cousins has held a firm loyalty to former Kings coach Michael Malone, whom Ranadive fired shortly into last season. Under Karl, that relationship couldn’t begin to be duplicated in the final weeks of the season.

For now, the Kings are pursuing trade scenarios for everyone on the roster, including talented forward Rudy Gay, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Sacramento officials believe it will be difficult to find a trade partner that can give the Kings the value it wants for Cousins – and has a better chance to find a deal for Gay, sources said.


Sacramento is motivated to find a way to create more salary-cap space with possible deals, something that the Kings will need to pursue Dallas Mavericks free-agent point guard Rajon Rondo, league sources said. The Kings and Rondo have a mutual interest, with Rondo intrigued with the idea of a potential one-year deal in Sacramento that could help to rebuild his league-wide value, sources said.

Cousins took to Twitter late last night to respond to the talks with a simple message some are implying as meaning a snake in the grass:

And one more Kings thing to note: they may be interested in working a trade with the Denver Nuggets …

***

No. 2: Report: Wolves shopping Bennett — The Minnesota Timberwolves have reason to be excited about Thursday night’s NBA Draft. They have the No. 1 overall pick, and whoever they choose will play alongside the reigning Kia Rookie of the Year, Andrew Wiggins. But as they ready to make the top choice in the Draft, is another former No. 1 overall pick on their roster about to be moved? According to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, power forward Anthony Bennett — the No. 1 overall pick in 2013 by the Cleveland Cavaliers — is being shopped about:

The Minnesota Timberwolves have made former No. 1 overall pick Anthony Bennett available via trade in advance of Thursday’s NBA draft, according to league sources.

Sources told ESPN that the Timberwolves, who are widely expected to make Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns the No. 1 overall selection Thursday night, are trying to find a new home via trade from Bennett, who unexpectedly went No. 1 overall in 2013 and was acquired by Minnesota last summer from Cleveland in the Kevin Love trade.

The Cavaliers sent Andrew Wiggins and Bennett to Minnesota for Love while also surrendering a future first-round pick to the Philadelphia 76ers, which landed then-Sixer Thaddeus Young with the Wolves as well.

In February, Minnesota swapped Young for Kevin Garnett to bring home the most famous player in franchise history.

***

No. 3: Conflicting reports that Wade, Heat have meeting set — Miami Heat star Dwyane Wade has a player option on his contract this summer and his decision must be made, per NBA rules, by next week. Of late, there has been talk of he and the Los Angeles Lakers having mutual interest in each other, and more things have cropped up since then.

According to ESPN.com’s Ramona Shelburne and Brian Windhorst, Wade and the Heat are supposed to meet next week to discuss his contract:

Wade has until next Monday to decide on whether he’s going to opt in for next season and earn $16.1 million or become an unrestricted free agent.

Wade and the Heat sit far apart on their desires; the Heat would prefer for Wade to opt into the deal and Wade would prefer a new, richer and longer-term contract, sources said.

The sides have not formally spoken in some time. They had discussed a new contract for around $10 million per year for up to three years beyond his current deal, sources said.

Wade, who took a pay cut in 2010 when LeBron James and Chris Boshsigned and again last summer to help make cap space to sign Luol Deng, is interested in a pay raise and not a pay cut.

It is Wade’s desire to stay in Miami and finish his career with the Heat, sources said. However, the gulf between the sides has led to acrimony in recent weeks and cast doubt on Wade’s future. Wade has been disappointed at the team’s initial overtures considering the money he has left on the table in his past two free agencies, sources said.

James, who is Wade’s close friend, has expressed an interest in reuniting with him. However, that scenario is unlikely with the Cleveland Cavaliers. The Cavs will not have salary-cap space this summer and could offer Wade only a maximum of a $3.4 million from the taxpayer midlevel exception.

Wade also is interested in the Los Angeles Clippers, sources said, but they are as limited by their commitments and the salary-cap rules as the Cavs. Getting to the Clippers would take either a massive pay cut or the Heat’s unlikely cooperation in a sign-and-trade.

As for the Heat, they have several other roster issues they have to deal with before they might be able to make their best offer to Wade. One is Deng, who has his own opt-in option on next season for $10.1 million that he must decide on by the end of the month.

According to multiple league sources, the Heat are attempting to trade guard Mario Chalmers and big man Chris Andersen to help free up some salary that could ultimately be diverted to Wade. Both going into the final years of their contracts, Andersen and Chalmers are contracted to make a combined $9.3 million next season.

Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel reports, however, that there is no scheduled meeting between Wade and Miami’s brass:

Despite reports to the contrary, a source familiar with the situation told the Sun Sentinel on Monday night that there currently is no meeting scheduled between Dwyane Wade and the Miami Heat as the clock ticks toward Wade’s Monday opt-in deadline.

In the wake of a previous ESPN report of such a meeting, a source close to the process said no such meeting between Wade and Pat Riley or other members of the Heat front office has been set.

The source said any meeting with Wade would be more likely to come after the July 1 start of free agency, since the Heat are not allowed to discuss contract parameters until then.

For Wade’s part, his representatives said he will bypass his annual media sessions at the adult basketball camp he is hosting this week at the Westin Diplomat Resort and Spa in Hollywood.

The Heat have remained mum on their personnel issues to the point of bypassing their annual pre-draft media session, with no one from the team’s scouting department scheduled to be made available in advance of Thursday’s NBA Draft, with the Heat holding the No. 10 selection.

Agent Henry Thomas told the Sun Sentinel three weeks ago that he expected upcoming contract discussions with the Heat in advance of Wade’s option deadline.

“We’ll just have to see how things continue to develop with the Heat,” he said.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Detroit Pistons coach/team president Stan Van Gundy shot down rumors the team is trying to trade for New York Knicks guard Tim Hardaway Jr. … According to a report, the Oklahoma City Thunder have shopped Perry Jones and Jeremy Lamb in hopes of moving up in the Draft … Top prospect D’Angelo Russell recently made his pitch to the Los Angeles Lakers for them to take him No. 2 overall … Brooklyn Nets small forward Thaddeus Young is opting out of his deal to test free agency this summer … Dallas Mavericks guard Raymond Felton opted in with the team for 2015-16

Morning Shootaround — May 2


VIDEO: All the highlights from Game 6 of Hawks-Nets

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Hawks finally move on | Spurs, Clippers face off in Game 7 | Billy Donovan meets Oklahoma City
| Report: Kings not interested in trading Cousins

No. 1:Hawks finally move on — Most observes figured the top-seeded Atlanta Hawks wouldn’t have much trouble in the first round of the playoffs against the eight-seed Brooklyn Nets. Instead, it took the Hawks six games and one overtime session to eliminate the Nets, which finally happened last night as the Hawks won Game 6 in Brooklyn, 111-87. As NBA.com’s John Schuhmann writes, it may have taken them a while, but the Hawks finally looked like a No. 1 seed again …

With the Eastern Conference well in hand once they beat the Cavs for a third time in early March, Atlanta lost some of its momentum over the final month of the season. And they didn’t look like a 60-win team for much of this series.

But Game 6 was clearly their best. And the short turnaround before the conference semifinals might allow them to take some momentum into Game 1 against Washington.

“We lost Game 4, and you never want that to happen,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said. “But I think we were moving in the right direction, 4, 5, 6. At the end of the day, you got to get back to work and get prepared for Game 1. If you assume anything, you’re in trouble. But I think this was great for us, to play playoff basketball, to compete like you have to in the playoffs.”

“We didn’t play that well the first three games,” Kyle Korver added. “I didn’t think we had our edge. I think coming here and losing two kind of woke us up. I think we can still play better, but we come out of this series playing better than we did going into the playoffs, for sure.”

***

No. 2:Spurs, Clippers face off in Game 7 — Today is being billed as one of sports’s biggest days: The Kentucky Derby, Mayweather/Pacquiao, the NFL Draft, Yankees/Red Sox. But the day’s biggest event may just be Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and the San Antonio Spurs. The Clips and Spurs were arguably the two hottest teams in the NBA over the last few weeks of the NBA season, and their improbable first matchup has not disappointed. And as Sekou Smith writes, looking at the numbers in the context of history just adds interest to tonight’s game…

Doc Rivers has a 5-5 career record in Game 7s, 5-2 at home. Gregg Popovich is 3-2 in his career, 1-1 on the road.

Doc and the Clippers have the most compelling numbers on their side is the 79.8 percent winning percentage (95-24) home teams own in Game 7s. But on the flip side, there has been a road win in a Game 7 in each of the past three postseasons and all in the first round (Brooklyn over Toronto in 2014, Chicago over Brooklyn in 2013 and the Clippers over Memphis in 2012).

Does it mean anything?

Not really. At least not in a tangible way that either the Clippers or Spurs will be able to use after opening tip.

Both Pop and Doc won Game 7s on their home floors last season, the Spurs beat back Dallas in the first round last season and the Clippers did it a day earlier against Golden State. So they have fresh memories of what needs to be done in this situation, as do their teams.

For all of Pop’s playoff experience, no active NBA coach knows the rigors of Game 7s the way Doc does. The Boston Celtics played in seven of them during his time running the show there, his veteran crew tested in each and every way imaginable during their glory days together.

All that said, the Spurs’ lone Game 7 win on the road in four tries, came in 2008 against the New Orleans Hornets and their All-Star point guard … one Chris Paul.

If you believe in any of the minutiae, that any of these numbers have a story tell, that should be more than enough to chew on between now and game time.

***

No. 3:Billy Donovan meets Oklahoma City — Eight years after a one-day stint as the head coach of the Orlando Magic, Billy Donovan is back in the NBA as the new head coach of the Oklahoma City Thunder, replacing the recently removed Scott Brooks. And in his introductory press conference yesterday in Oklahoma City, Donovan showed that while he may not have much NBA experience, he’s willing to put in the work to succeed, writes Darnell Mayberry

But on several occasions in his near 40-minute introduction to the local media Friday afternoon, Donovan tackled each and every question posed to him about the challenge he faces in jumping from college to the pros. And with each answer, Donovan was confident and candid, thoughtful and thorough.

When it was all over, Donovan had said plenty to make you believe he has what it takes to be an exception to rule and find success as a college-to-pro coach.

“One of the things with me is I’m going to work extremely hard,” Donovan said. “I’m curious to learn and grow. I think there’s unbelievable people that are going to be around me. I’m excited about learning and growing. That’s really, really important to me. And I hope I can put people inside the organization, and even the players, in a position where they can learn and grow as well.”

Donovan acknowledged that there will be an adjustment period. He was so frank about that reality that he referred to his transition as “starting from scratch.” But he maintained a presence about him that exuded self-assurance and left a room full of reporters, family, friends, players, assistant coaches and Thunder chairman Clay Bennett with little doubt that he could do the job.

“I feel very strongly about the game of basketball and what I’ll be able to learn and how quickly I’ll be able to learn it,” Donovan said. “And there’s no question it’s going to be a transition period. I don’t anticipate that. But that’s something that I think that I’ll go through and work through and I’ll have great people around me to help me if I come to any road blocks or things like that that are a struggle. And I feel very confident with the people inside the organization.”

***

No. 4:Report: Kings not interested in trading Cousins — The idea that an NBA team would be interested in trading for Sacramento center DeMarcus Cousins shouldn’t be surprising. After all, Cousins is that rarest of combinations in today’s NBA: A sturdy 7-footer who seems to relish playing under the rim, collecting buckets and rebounds. So rumors yesterday of interest in Cousins from the Boston Celtics made sense, particularly for a team like Boston with a treasure trove of draft picks and in need of a superstar to go along with their role players. But as Bill Herenda writes for CSNBayArea.com, the Kings have their own plans for Cousins …

The Kings want to make a playoff run next season with DeMarcus Cousins as the centerpiece of the franchise, league sources told CSNCalifornia.com.

The Celtics reportedly have significant interest in Cousins and are expected to utilize their bevy of draft picks to secure the center from Sacramento, according to an ESPN report.

Cousins, a first time All-Star this season, averaged career-highs of 24.1 points per game and 12.7 rebounds per game, while finishing tied for third in the NBA with 47 double-doubles despite missing 23 games due to illness and injury.

The NBA can be a fickle, mercurial place and nowhere was that more apparent than in Sacramento last season.

The Kings fired Michael Malone, who had bonded with Cousins, after an 11-13 start to the season. Assistant coach Ty Corbin took over, but Sacramento stumbled to an 18-34 record before a long, public courtship with George Karl was finally consummated at the All-Star break.

With contradicting media reports that Cousins was against the hiring of George Karl, the 24-year-old issued a statement in February stating that he was not against playing for the sixth-winningest coach in the history of the NBA.

Karl lead the Kings to an 11-19 record over the final 30 games of the season.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Do the Spurs and Mavericks have a legit chance of signing LaMarcus Aldridge in free agency? According to Marc Stein, they feel like they do … Things in Brooklyn haven’t exactly gone to plan for the Nets … Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer finished third in executive of the year voting, even though he had basically nothing to do with building the Hawks roster. According to Ken Berger, GMs voted for Bud as a reflection of their admiration of the work done by Danny FerryKevin Love could get a nice raise by opting out of his contract this summer, even if he intends to stay in Cleveland …

Morning Shootaround — April 12



VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played April 11

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Clippers get tough | Gasol goes down | Surgery for Rubio | Rose is blooming | Cousins, Gay sidelined

No. 1: Clippers grit and grind over Grizzlies — There’s nothing like a big win in front of the boss and that’s what the Clippers got with first-year team owner Steve Ballmer enjoying himself from courtside at Staples Center. There’s nothing like a big win coming down the stretch and that’s what the Clippers got with a victory that jumped up to the No. 3 seed in the West. And there’s nothing like using your opponent’s style against him, which is what the Clippers did by getting tough in their 94-86 victory over the Grizzlies. Ben Bolch of of the Los Angeles Times had the blow-by-blow:

“We just had to grit and grind a little bit,” Clippers shooting guard J.J. Redick said, using the catchphrase favored by Memphis.

The Clippers (54-26) moved into a three-way tie with the Grizzlies and San Antonio Spurs for the second-best record in the West, though the Grizzlies would own the No. 2 seeding by virtue of holding the tiebreaker that puts them atop the Southwest Division.

The Clippers hold a tiebreaker with San Antonio by virtue of having a better record against West opponents, provided the Spurs do not win their division.

“I guess it’s more confusing now,” Clippers Coach Doc Rivers joked of the playoff picture. “When you figure it out, let me know.”

***

No. 2: Gasol joins Grizzlies’ growing injury list — It was painful and difficult for the Grizzlies to lose a vital clash — aren’t they all right now? — with the Clippers as they jockey for position in the jam-packed Western Conference playoff race. But more significant may have been center Marc Gasol leaving the game in the first quarter with a sprained ankle. He joins Mike Conley and Tony Allen on the injury list with the start of the playoffs just a week to go. Ron Tillery of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal has the details:

Falling in the Western Conference standings might now be the least of the Grizzlies’ concerns.

They keep losing key players to injury.

Grizzlies center Marc Gasol suffered an ankle injury in the first quarter Saturday night and didn’t return in a 94-86 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers in Staples Center.

Gasol logged nearly 10 minutes. He tried to continue playing but eventually asked out of the game and went to the locker room for treatment. Gasol returned to the Grizzlies’ bench in the second quarter. However, the 7-footer never re-entered the game and was ruled out at halftime

***

No. 3:  Ankle surgery shuts down Rubio — Though there were a couple of big pluses to the Timberwolves’ season — Andrew Wiggins and Zach LaVine — the season is coming to a painful finish. In the same week that center Nikola Pekovic went under the knife, guard Ricky Rubio now faces surgery for an ankle injury that has nagged him for months. Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune tells the tale:

That’s the ankle Rubio so badly sprained in a game at Orlando at season’s beginning, an injury that has never really healed even though he played 22 games on it this season before he was essentially shut down for the season nearly a month ago.

Rubio visited a specialist in Los Angeles when the Wolves played the Lakers there Friday. The Southern California Orthopedic Institute’s Dr. Robert Ferkel will perform surgery in Van Nuys, Calif., that’s intended to give Ferkel and the Wolves’ medical staff more information about what is still causing Rubio soreness and pain.

Wolves coach and chief basketball executive Flip Saunders said the surgery will “clean up” tissue around the ankle and give everyone involved a better look.

“We don’t know how minor or major it is,” Saunders said before Saturday’s 110-101 loss at Golden State in which Wolves rookie Zach LaVine scored a career-high 37 points and Warriors MVP candidate Stephen Curry again dazzled with circus shots and 34 points of his own. “It wasn’t responding the way we’d expect it to respond. We’ll know more after they get in there.”

The Wolves won’t know a recovery timetable or an expected return to basketball work until after the surgery. Rubio said recently he is fully committed to getting healthy so he can play again for a Wolves team that’s invested $55 million in him for the next four seasons.

***

No. 4: Rose is looking Bullish — With the playoffs fast approaching, the Bulls need Derrick Rose to round back into his All-Star form and their franchise player took another step Saturday night. Playing in his third game since Feb. 23 and first at home, Rose took another step on the road to recovery with a solid performance in a win over the Sixers, and Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com was there to see it:

“Every game I play is a stride,” Rose said. “Every day I go in there and work out, do my rehab or training, it’s a stride. It’s a step forward. So every day is a positive day, even if I have a bad game or if I’m having a bad day, I try to erase it the next day.”

Rose has played better every time he has stepped on the floor this week since playing 19 minutes in Wednesday night’s loss to the Orlando Magic. The biggest difference in this contest is that Rose played more minutes — almost 29 — than the 20 he had been averaging in his first two games. Rose also got the feel of playing in the fourth quarter, something he hadn’t done in the past two contests.

He doesn’t seem to be surprised with how well he’s seeing the floor, despite the fact he has missed so much time over the past few years. According to ESPN Stats & Information, Saturday’s game marked just the fourth time in Rose’s career that he had at least 20 points, five assists, five rebounds and zero turnovers. It’s the first time he has accomplished that feat since the 2011-12 season.

“When you miss three years, damn near, you see everything,” Rose said. “I’m just being patient a little bit more and there’s no point in me forcing anything by the way that they’re playing me. They’re not double-teaming me, they’re letting me do whatever I want to do, it’s just all about me catching rhythm.”

***

***

No. 5: Cousins, Gay done for the season — In reality the Kings have been in “wait-til-next-year” mode for quite some time, losing games, changing coaches twice and sinking back down toward the bottom of the standings. But coach George Karl seems to have made that official with the announcement that DeMarcus Cousins and probably Rudy Gay will join Darren Collison on the bench as the Kings play out the string on the season. Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee has the scoop:

DeMarcus Cousins (sore right foot), Rudy Gay (concussion) and Darren Collison (core muscle injury) have all been out, with Collison not playing since Feb. 5. Cousins has missed the last three games and Gay has missed five of the last six games.

“DeMarcus, I think, is done for the year,” Karl said. “I don’t know what’s going to be sent out but the report I got is it looks like they want him to stay off his legs for the rest of the year. I don’t think as an organization we’re going to take a chance on Darren. I would say Rudy is borderline out for the season, too. We’re hoping maybe for a game but I don’t think he’ll play tomorrow. Because he doesn’t play tomorrow, I think they’ll go into the protocol, the concussion protocol, that I don’t understand but I think it’s going to be difficult to get him in either game against the Lakers (next week).”

Cousins leads the Kings averaging 24.1 points and 12.7 rebounds. The Kings are 4-16 this season without their All-Star center.

Gay is averaging 21.1 points and 5.7 rebounds in 68 games.

Collison, who had surgery to repair his injury last month, averaged 16.1 points and a team-high 5.6 assists in 45 games.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Word is the Knicks are already zeroing in on free agent Greg Monroe … Patrick Beverley is determined to return from wrist surgery to join Rockets in the playoffs … Brett Brown wants to see Joel Embiid play in the Summer League … Lakers plans to bring back Tarik Black next season … The Knicks and Magic make history with a historically bad quarter … Clippers pick Lester Hudson over Nate Robinson … It’s all over but the shouting for the once-great Heat.

Is Vlade Divac the new ‘lead voice’ in Sacramento?

divac

Sources say Vlade Divac has supplanted both GM Pete D’Alessandro and ex-Kings adviser Chris Mullin as Sacramento’s lead basketball decision-maker. (USA Today)

ALL BALL NERVE CENTER — The Sacramento Kings began this season 5-1, and it looked as though they were on their way to playoff contention. But ever since it’s been mostly upheaval, with DeMarcus Cousins contracting menegitis, Kings coach Mike Malone being fired, the firing of interim coach Tyrone Corbin, the hiring of George Karl, and the departure of former adviser Chris Mullin to become coach at St. John’s. With five games remaining in the season, the Kings are currently 27-50.

Now, according to a report from ESPN’s Marc Stein, former Kings center Vlade Divac has emerged as the lead voice to owner Vivek Ranadive. As Stein writes

The Kings have yet to formally announce their new power structure, but sources say that Divac has supplanted both general manager Pete D’Alessandro and former Kings adviser Chris Mullin — who just jumped to the college game as the new coach at alma mater St. John’s — as Sacramento’s lead basketball decision-maker.

The future of D’Alessandro in Sacramento, especially after the departure of his closest ally in the organization in Mullin, is unclear. Sources say, however, that the Kings have already launched a search to add another front-line basketball executive to work alongside Divac whether D’Alessandro stays or departs.

Other high-ranking officials in the Kings’ current setup include assistant GM Mike Bratz, scouting director Chris Gilbert and director of player personnel and analytics Dean Oliver, who left a position at ESPN to join Sacramento’s front office entering this season.

Sources say that Mullin began to lose sway with Ranadive after refusing the owner’s offer to replace Mike Malone as coach when Malone was abruptly fired in mid-December. As ESPN.com reported at the time, Mullin had interest in the position but did not want to begin his coaching career after the season had already begun, without the opportunity to assemble a veteran coaching staff or hold training camp.

Yet when the Kings lost 21 of their first 28 games under interim coach Tyrone Corbin, Ranadive could no longer stomach waiting until the offseason to undertake the more expansive coaching search that had been planned. The Kings instead ramped up their pursuit of George Karl and hired him away from ESPN, where the 63-year-old was working as an analyst, during the All-Star break.

The hiring of Karl as coach, followed by Divac’s surprise appointment in March, were Ranadive-driven decisions. The chain of events thus marks the second time in Ranadive’s brief tenure as Kings owner that he has hired a coach before hiring his lead basketball decision-maker, as seen with Malone and D’Alessandro.

Hawks rest their case with Schroder

One of the benefits of clinching a playoff spot before April is sitting key people. In that sense, the Hawks earned the right by virtue of claiming best record in the East days ago.

And now, there’s perhaps a chance we won’t see Dennis Schroder for the rest of the season. Not that the German point guard is an injury case — his left toe damaged the other night against the Bucks was diagnosed as sprained — but it’s just another reason for the Hawks to play it safe here in the season’s final two weeks.

While the Hawks played their usual starting five tonight against the Pistons, none were scheduled to play 30-plus minutes. From now until mid-April, expect to see lots of Mike Muscala, Kent Bazemore and Shelvin Mack.

Other teams aren’t so lucky, especially those chasing playoff spots. For example: You think Miami would love to give Dwyane Wade a break? Well, not if they want to get the No. 7 or 8 seed in the East. With three teams chasing those spots, the Heat can’t afford to give Wade’s chronically-sore body a rest here down the stretch. Same goes for David West and the Pacers, Russell Westbrook and OKC (although that might change in a week) and a few other teams.

Still, the “rest” controversy is here to stay. Weeks after the lottery-bound Nuggets sat three players, the Kings gave DeMarcus Cousins a night off.

 

Morning shootaround — Feb. 21


VIDEO: Highlights of Friday’s 26-team extravaganza around the NBA

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Warriors whip the champs | Atlanta’s kryptonite … the Raptors | Statement game for Cavs | Kupchak: Kobe not the Lakers’ problem

No. 1:  Warriors whip the champs — Watching the craziness of the trade deadline and refraining from diving in might have been the right call for the Golden State Warriors. The best team in the league didn’t feel the pressure to get involved on the busiest deadline day in NBA history. If Friday night’s whipping of the San Antonio Spurs is any indication, we know why. They are rock solid up and down the roster and continue to play like a team destined for big things in the postseason. Beating the champs was just business as usual for a team that has soared this season. Diamond Leung of the Bay Area News Group explains:

After the 110-99 victory Friday, the Warriors collectively shrugged at the significance of defeating their nemesis in a season during which they’ve sustained excellence and focused on fine-tuning for the playoffs.

“For us, we’ve been playing so well this season that we can’t really get distracted by the opponent as much as what we’re trying to do,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said.

“It wasn’t just, ‘We’re beating the Spurs.’ It was, ‘We’re back to how we’re playing.’ ”

Curry, in an MVP-caliber performance, dazzled with 25 points and 11 assists. Klay Thompson added 20 points, and Andre Iguodala scored 14 off the bench as the Warriors improved to 43-9.

The league-leading Warriors showed deference in pregame comments about the Spurs. Coach Steve Kerr, who has borrowed elements of San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich‘s offense, called them “the gold standard.” Iguodala said San Antonio was Golden State’s “big brother.”

The Spurs cruised to a win at Oracle Arena in November, but the Warriors exacted a measure of revenge in dominating them this time.

The Warriors shot 17 for 33 from 3-point range. Curry and Thompson combined to hit seven 3-pointers, but the barrage didn’t end there as Iguodala was 4 for 6 from long distance and Draymond Green 3 for 6.

“We’re not going to make it like that (win) is a big deal,” Green said. “It’s not like we really made a statement to anyone that no one else didn’t know.”

On defense, the Warriors clamped down as the Spurs committed 16 turnovers playing in their second game of a back-to-back. San Antonio needed more than four minutes to score its first field goal in the second half as the Warriors added to their halftime advantage to take a 14-point lead.

By the end of the quarter, it became clear that a rout was in store for the Spurs as the Warriors bench came alive. David Lee then had a stretch where he threw down a dunk, came up with a steal and dished off an assist to Iguodala for a 3-pointer that gave the Warriors an 83-68 lead. Curry and Iguodala followed with back-to-back 3-pointers that sent the Warriors sideline and crowd into a frenzy.

“It’s pretty simple for us,” Kerr said. “Defend like crazy, take care of the ball, move the ball. When we do that, we have enough weapons where we’re going to score enough points.”

***

No. 2: Atlanta’s kryptonite … the Raptors — No one has toppled the Eastern Conference-leading Atlanta Hawks more than once this season, until Friday night. The Toronto Raptors popped them for the third time, this one an ugly home loss coming out of the All-Star break, a 1-2 matchup that made the challenger look like the kryptonite that could potentially derail the hawks’ postseason dreams. Mark Bradley of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution explains just how ugly it was Friday night at Philips Arena as the Hawks laid a royal egg in their stretch run opener:

Say this for the Atlanta Hawks: They don’t stink often, but when they do, they reek to high heaven. They lost Friday to Toronto by 25 points — the final was 105-80 — after trailing by 35, and full credit to the Raptors. They were primed. They became the first team to beat the Hawks three times. (Toronto was also the first to do it twice.)

And now you ask: Should Hawks fans be concerned? And the answer is: Nah.

This was almost a set-up game. The Hawks had spent the All-Star break living the All-Star life, to which few of them were accustomed. They had eight days to lose the rhythm that had carried them to 19 consecutive victories and 35 of 37, and they didn’t just lose it: They buried it at the bottom of the deepest ocean.

Speaking of oceans: As the saying goes, the Hawks couldn’t throw the ball in one. They missed 59 of 88 shots, 30 of 38 3-pointers. (It was their worst shooting night of the season.) Kyle Korver, on pace to have one of the greatest shooting seasons ever, had one of the worst games — and not only at shooting; he also had two egregious turnovers — in the history of the sport. When last did you see an All-Star actually throw up his hands in self-disgust?

They also missed seven of 21 free throws, including a Paul Millsap air ball. Holy moley.

The third quarter was comic. The Hawks missed 16 of 19 shots, including all eight of their treys, and made nine turnovers, off which the Raptors scored half of their 28 points. Five Hawks shots were blocked. Five Toronto shots were, too. In one screwball stretch, the visitors had three layups blocked — and still they stretched a four-point halftime lead to 19.

“They gave it to us good tonight,” Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer said, and here we note that his team had done something similar in Toronto last month, winning 110-89 on Jan. 16. That loss sat poorly with the Raptors.

“They were really ready to play,” Al Horford said. And his team? “Some of it has to be rust,” he said. “We threw the ball all over the place.”

Budenholzer: “I don’t think we played with the energy and activity we’ve gotten accustomed to night after night.”

When last the Hawks looked this awful, it was on the night after Christmas. They lost 107-77 here to Milwaukee after a two-day break. Then they won the next 19, going undefeated in January. That streak began, as fate would have it, in Milwaukee. And where do the Hawks play Sunday?

In Milwaukee. Just sayin’.

***


VIDEO: Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel provides a Chris Bosh/Heat update

***

No. 3: Statement game for Cavs — Don’t let the record or their place in the Eastern Conference standings fool you, the (LeBron James-led) Cleveland Cavaliers are a legitimate championship contender. Everyone knows that by now. Don’t believe it? Just watch a few minutes from their demolition of the Washington Wizards from Friday night. It was all Jason Reid of The Washington Post needed to see to be convinced that the Cavs truly are the team to beat in the Eastern Conference:

History tells us it takes star power to win championships, and no one possesses more than the game’s best player. With the long all-star break over, James is back at work and focused on playing in the NBA Finals for the fifth consecutive season. It appears the Cleveland Cavaliers can help him get there.

Their slow start a distant memory, the surging Cavaliers rolled again Friday night, dismantling the listless Wizards, 127-89.

While dominating Washington and moving ahead of it in the conference standings, Cleveland won for the 15th time in 17 games. It was a familiar story, James shining as the catalyst and producing 28 points, five rebounds and six assists. The Cavaliers led by as many as 40 points, overwhelming the Wizards in another sharp performance.

Although Washington still was without injured guard Bradley Beal, you got the sense that Cleveland, which only would be seeded fourth if the playoffs began today, is the team to beat in the East. There’s much to like about the Cavaliers.

Everything revolves around James, who, in his 12th season, is as great as ever. But the four-time NBA most valuable player also was outstanding while the team struggled early in his return to Cleveland after a four-year run with the Miami Heat. What’s different now? A lot.

Increasingly, guard Kyrie Irving and power forward Kevin Love — the other members of the Cavaliers’ Big Three — have become more comfortable playing alongside James. It was silly to think that the all-stars would immediately click after James and Love arrived in the offseason. This isn’t fantasy basketball. The awkwardness apparently behind them, though, the high-profile co-workers are getting it figured out.

On Friday, Irving supported James with a 25-point, seven-assist effort. Love contributed eight points, six rebounds and toughness. The Wizards could have used some of that.

“We’ve lost that edge of nastiness that we played with,” Wizards Coach Randy Wittman said. “We came out and felt, again, we’re going to warm our way into this game. They had other ideas. They hit us in the mouth right from the jump ball, and we couldn’t recover from it.”

Yep. That pretty much sums it up.

For Cleveland, James, Irving and Love, as expected, have provided the foundation to potentially build something great this season. Cleveland’s in-season remodeling has paid off, too.

***

No. 4: Kupchak: Lakers will begin anew, with Kobe — Even if it is for just one more season, perhaps Kobe Bryant‘s final season, the Los Angeles Lakers will start over again next season with their biggest star in the middle of the mix. So says Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak, who made it clear that the plan is to build for the long-term future after this dismal season ends. Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times explains:

As bad as the Lakers are this season, Kupchak said they aren’t going to tank the last 28 regular-season games just to be ensured of getting that top-five pick.

“I just don’t know how you send that message to a coaching staff or players,” Kupchak said. “That’s not just something that we want people to think that we would do.”

The Lakers will get Bryant, who had season-ending rotator cuff surgery on his right shoulder, and rookie Randle, who is recovering from a broken right leg, back next season.

But Kupchak is not sure how much longer Bryant, 36, will play. Bryant is due to make $25 million next season.

Kupchak acknowledged the All-Star, who will be embarking on his 20th season in the NBA, is nearing the end of his career.

That means at some point the Lakers will have to start preparing for the future without Bryant.

“So at some point we have to start a new run,” Kupchak said. “That’s definitely going to include Kobe next year. Beyond that…. So to jeopardize the next five or seven years and bring in old veterans that make a lot of money just to win one more year because that’s Kobe’s last year or could be his last year, I’m not sure that fits into doing things the right way.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Mavericks swingman Chandler Parsons injured his ankle Friday night … Chicago Bulls star Derrick Rose apologized for the “travel issues” that dogged him after the All-Star break … Miami Heat star Chris Bosh is in “great spirits” but his season could be over due to blood clots in his lungs

ICYMI: Who says DeMarcus Cousins can’t thrive under George Karl? He looked just fine Friday night


VIDEO: DeMarcus Cousins goes to work in George Karl’s debut as head coach in Sacramento