Posts Tagged ‘Marc Stein’

Morning shootaround — March 29



VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played March 28

NEWS OF THE MORNING
Beverley tears miniscus | LeBron wowed by mega-baseball contract | Not just L.A. on Love’s mind | Curry buries the Grizzlies | Wolves eye Hoiberg

No. 1: Rockets point guard out indefinitely — Houston Rockets starting point guard Patrick Beverley, the man who collided with Oklahoma City point guard Russell Westbrook and tore his meniscus in last year’s first-round playoff series, is out indefinitely after tearing the meniscus in his right knee Thursday against Philadelphia. The Rockets will now have to make do without their top perimeter defender. Our own Fran Blinebury details how Beverley’s absence will affect Houston’s title aspirations:

For a team that has ridden the All-Star exploits of James Harden and Dwight Howard to the No. 4 spot in the Western Conference playoff race, Beverley plays a critical role.

The 25-year-old Chicago native who was drafted and cut by Heat, then toiled overseas in Russia, puts significant bite into the face of the Rockets’ defense.

Jeremy Lin can step back into the starting lineup and give the Rockets offense, but he is not the tenacious, in-your-face type defender that the Rockets will need in the playoffs to go against elite level point guards such as Westbrook, Tony Parker, Chris Paul, Damian Lillard, Stephen Curry and Mike Conley.

While Lin is flashy and creative and can fill up the basket with points when he gets on a roll, it is the just plain down-to-earth toughness of Beverley that often stands out, especially in a backcourt where Harden does not especially like to play defense.
Coach Kevin McHale said it would be 7-10 days before the Rockets would know a timetable for Beverley’s return.

Beverley has played in 53 of the Rockets’ 71 games, missing time with a hand injury. He has averaged 9.9 points in 31.3 minutes while taking over the starting role from Lin this season, but it’s that defensive bite and overall toughness that the Rockets would miss most. Sometimes it’s the littlest pieces of the puzzle that are hardest to replace.

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No. 2: LeBron would take Cabrera deal — Major League Baseball does not have a salary cap and that means some mighty contracts never even imagined in the NBA become reality. Detroit Tigers slugger Miguel Cabrera was the latest example Friday when he inked a contract that will pay him $292 million over the next 10 years. It makes LeBron James‘ $19 million this season seem like charitable donation. ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst puts it into context:

“I said ‘wow,’ ” James said before the Miami Heat played the Detroit Pistons on Friday. “I wish we (the NBA) didn’t have a salary cap.”

James will earn $19 million this season with the Heat, tied with teammate Chris Bosh for the ninth-highest in the NBA as part of a six-year, $109 million deal he signed in 2010.

“He’s the best player in baseball, and the best players in each sport should be rewarded,” James said. “It’d be nice to sign a 10-year deal worth $300 million.”

James earns about $40 million per year off the floor in endorsements, most of that coming from his deal with Nike, which reportedly is worth $19 million per year.

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No. 3: Not only L.A. on Love’s mind? — If Timberwolves double-double machine Kevin Love, set to become a free agent in 2015, makes it clear to management he won’t re-sign, Minnesota president Flip Saunders might be forced to look for a trade. The former UCLA Bruin has long been rumored to be headed for the Lakers, but Los Angeles might not be the only big city suitable to arguably the game’s top stretch power forward. ESPNLA.com’s Dave McMenamin has more:

After the league endured the “Dwightmare” and “Melodrama,” get ready for “Lovesick.”

The six-year veteran, only 25 years old, is the apple of just about every team set to have cap space in the summer of 2015’s eye.

Timberwolves president Flip Saunders will do everything he can to keep Love, who is fourth in the league in scoring at 26.3 points per game and third in rebounding at 12.6 per game this season. And Minnesota will have the advantage of being able to offer a five-year extension, versus a four-year deal from any other team.

But if Love makes it clear that he has no intention to re-up with the Wolves, Saunders will be forced to shop Love or risk seeing him walk for nothing in return.

Which is where the Lakers come in.

Love’s ties to L.A. are undeniable. He went to college at UCLA. His father, Stan, played for the Lakers — and coincidentally was on the 1974-75 team, a.k.a. the worst team in Lakers history up until this season, so his son could help make up for that. And Love was born in Santa Monica, to boot.

“You know, my parents live there and they had me there,” Love said of L.A., after his Wolves beat the Lakers for the third time in four tries to win the season series Friday. “It’s not my fault. So, I don’t really care about that right now. I just go out there and play and don’t think about it.”

While Love downplayed his interest, the Lakers clearly could use a player of Love’s caliber to jump-start their rebuilding process. Especially with Kobe Bryant recently putting the screws to management to turn things around as soon as possible so he can contend for another championship in the twilight of his career.

ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reported Friday the Lakers would be willing to trade their upcoming pick in the heralded NBA draft — likely to be in the top half of the lottery — to land Love.

While Minnesota could certainly decide to go that route and hit the restart button, there is no assurance that the Lakers are truly Love’s most desired destination.

A source familiar with Love’s thinking told ESPNLosAngeles.com that it’s not just L.A. that is appealing to Love; he’s enamored with the idea of being “big time in a big city,” and that list of potential places he’d seek includes New York and Chicago, as well.

Love himself told GQ in February that his situation in Minnesota might be better than L.A. could offer anyway.

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No. 4: Curry’s 33 fends off Grizzlies — The Golden State Warriors were minutes away from the No. 6 seed they’ve held for the majority of the season slipping away to the visiting and hard-charging Memphis Grizzlies. Then Stephen Curry came to the rescue yet again. The All-Star swished a 3-pointer and dropped in a scoop shot as the Warriors, playing without forward David Lee and center Andrew Bogut, who left the game in the first quarter, closed out the Grizzlies with a 14-0 run in the 109-103 win. It sent the Grizzlies from the verge of the 6-seed to No. 8. Diamond Leung of the Oakland Tribune was there:

“We’ll never quit and understand we have the weapons to pack a heavy punch at any given time,” Curry said.

Coach Mark Jackson demanded that Curry have the ball in crunch time, and the star guard delivered with the go-ahead 3-pointer with 1:21 left and a subsequent scoop shot to pad the lead. Memphis could not muster a response, missing its final seven shots.

Marreese Speights added 15 points and eight rebounds in his first start with the Warriors while replacing an injured David Lee (right hamstring strain). The Warriors were still able to grab a 43-33 rebounding edge without their top two rebounders for most of the game, pleasing Jackson with the way his team competed in difficult circumstances.

Bogut was injured after getting kneed and ran the court with an obvious limp before checking out of the game for good with 7:59 left in the first quarter. He did not return and was scheduled to undergo an MRI exam Saturday, according to Jackson.

Jermaine O’Neal had 10 points and six rebounds in 34 hard-fought minutes. Also off the bench, Draymond Green had 12 points and nine rebounds, hitting two 3-pointers in the fourth quarter and providing strong defense on Memphis leading scorer Zach Randolph.

“There’s a guy that came into this league, and people probably said, ‘Why is he shooting threes? He should stop shooting threes,’ ” Jackson said. “And he’s winning ballgames with us, knocking down shots and making huge plays on the defensive end. The guy is a tremendous warrior.”

The Warriors would have taken a tumble down the standings with a loss but instead kept pace with the rest of the Western Conference and remained 1½ games ahead of No. 7 seed Phoenix. The win also evened up the season series 2-2 with Memphis, which dropped to No. 8 with the loss.

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No. 5: A return to the Timberwolves? — Speculation is growing that Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman will invoke his right to opt out of his contract this summer. If he does, the franchise is expected to go after one of its former executives and current Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein provides the background:

If Adelman indeed walks away this time, at 67, there are two natural courses for the Wolves to pursue.

The obvious response is [Flip] Saunders, part-owner as well as team prez, heading downstairs to reclaim his old floor seat to see if he can be the guy who finally brings a halt to the league’s longest postseason drought, which dates to the Wolves’ 2004 Western Conference finals team coached by Saunders.

But that might be too obvious.

There have been no clear-cut signals that Saunders is prepared to leave the executive suite to return to coaching.

There is also another textbook candidate out there for Minnesota to chase with long-standing Wolves ties: Iowa State coach Fred Hoiberg.

Widely regarded as the most NBA-ready college coach in the game, Hoiberg was a Wolves executive for four years before leaving the pros to coach the Cyclones. It should be noted that Saunders is close with Michigan State’s Tom Izzo, as well, but the rumbles out of Sota are getting louder that the Wolves are going to court Hoiberg hard if they, as expected, have an opening.

An opening, rather, that Saunders declines to fill himself.

And all of that makes Friday one of the more pertinent days left on the 2013-14 calendar for long-suffering Wolves fans.

That’s because Hoiberg will be coaching Iowa State against UConn in a Sweet 16 game at Madison Square Garden … and because Saunders will be there watching.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Lakers make (the wrong kind of) history again in epic loss … Anthony Davis leaves game in first quarter with a left ankle injuryVince Carter thinks he’s earned the right to re-sign with DallasKevin Durant scores 29 and streak creeps closer to overtaking Michael Jordan … TNT analyst Steve Kerr is the frontrunner to coach the Knicks under Phil JacksonShane Battier reiterates that he will retire after this seasonDirk Nowitzki‘s mentor and personal coach believes he has three or four high-level seasons left.

Report: Knicks’ Dolan In No Hurry To Make Trades, Change Coaches


VIDEO: Knicks coach Mike Woodson: ‘I’m pushing our team to win our division’

By sticking with the status quo, New York Knicks chairman James Dolan is betting on anything but from his beleaguered basketball team.

According to a report from ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, Dolan gathered the troops, a number of them sidelined by injury, before the first practice following the embarrassing Christmas Day blowout by the visiting Oklahoma City Thunder. The message Dolan sent: Coach Mike Woodson will not be fired, so get behind him and turn this still-salvageable season around.

Stein reports:

Knicks chairman James Dolan told New York players in a meeting Thursday that there are no trades or changes to the coaching staff forthcoming, ESPN.com has learned.

Sources close to the situation told ESPN.com that Dolan gathered the team before the first practice in the wake of New York’s embarrassing 29-point home loss to Oklahoma City on Christmas Day largely in an attempt to hush the growing speculation about coach Mike Woodson’s job security following the Knicks’ 9-19 start.

It’s believed Dolan took the step in an attempt to persuade Woodson’s players to band together and throw their full support behind the embattled coach to help dig New York out of the sizable hole it finds itself with essentially one-third of the regular season in the books, the sources said.

Despite its 9-19 record, accrued in no small part by a devastating number of injuries, the Knicks remain in the thick of the Atlantic Division race, just three games behind leader-by-default Toronto (11-15) and 2 1/2 games behind second-place Boston (12-17).

Ground can be quickly made up (or lost) starting tonight when the Knicks begin a home-and-home series with the Raptors at Madison Square Garden (7:30 ET, League Pass), where New York is just 4-11. Saturday night the teams will meet in Canada.

When Woodson spoke with reporters after Thursday’s practice, the first after the 29-point beat down by the Thunder, the coach said he still believes his team can reverse its fortunes and overtake the division:

“We won it last year, and I expect us to win it this year. The beauty about all of this that we’re going through is nobody’s running away with it in our division and I’m pushing our team to win our division still. … Eventually we’ll get healthy, and we’ll see how it all plays out.”

A significant push in the health department would include the return of leading scorer Carmelo Anthony, who missed the OKC game with a left sprained ankle suffered in Monday’s win over Orlando. He remains day-to-day heading into tonight’s game.

Starting point guard Raymond Felton (groin) does not look good to play in the next two games and possibly beyond. Pablo Prigioni (fractured right big toe) announced after Thursday’s practice that he’s still not ready to go.

Without their best players, the Knicks might not stand much of a change no matter who is coaching the team. How critical is the two-game set against Toronto? After it, the Knicks hit the road for three games: at San Antonio (Jan. 2), Houston (Jan. 3) and Dallas (Jan. 5). Those squads are a combined 28 games over .500 and 26-6 against the Eastern Conference.

Then the Knicks return home to face Detroit (Jan. 7) and Miami (Jan. 9).

Durant Has Earned The Right To Make His Own Free-Agency Decision




VIDEO: Durant burns Nuggets for 36 points in preseason

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The drum beat has already begun for Kevin Durant.

The endless line of questioning, the non-stop speculation and the outright rumors (and lies) about what he’s going to do as a free agent three summers from now is officially a part of our daily NBA conversation. I hate it for Durant and I hate for his Oklahoma City Thunder, whose organic quest for a championship has been one of the better storylines the league has seen in recent seasons.

“Small-market superstars dig in and battle the big-city superstars for supremacy.” It had the makings of great drama from the very start … Durant and Russell Westbrook — and James Harden and even Jeff Green at one time — joining forces in OKC to challenge the establishment.

But like all good things, the reality and the bottom-line nature of the business threatens to derail it completely. ESPN’s Jalen Rose has already fired the first shot, predicting that Rose will bolt for Houston and a seat alongside Harden and Dwight Howard on a championship quest those two stars are just starting.

“I think that after he plays out the couple years on his contract that he goes to Houston to play with Dwight Howard and James Harden,” Rose said in this clip on Grantland.com’s video YouTube channel.

That’s a bold statement indeed, and based on the recent history of stars like LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony and Howard, one that should not be dismissed. The reality for all of these stars is that they will be faced with a similar stay-or-go dilemma at some point in their careers. And the entire drama will be played out in public, with a huge assist from social media.

I’m not nearly as convinced as Rose is about Durant bolting. Durant’s response to Rose’s claim in an interview with the Oklahoman‘s Darnell Mayberry should calm any immediate fears:

Q: Did you hear what Jalen Rose said about the Houston thing?
A: Yep.

Do you have any thoughts on that?
Nah, I’m here for the Thunder (laughs). I mean, that’s all I can say. I’m not thinking far down the line at all. It’s about today. Today we got better against the Chicago Bulls. I can’t tell the future. I can’t speak on that. That’s his opinion. I’m just going to keep playing for the Thunder. I love playing here.

People probably will continue to say that for the next three years.
Unfortunately.

How do you deal with that?
I mean, just let them know I’m not thinking that far down the line, I guess. I mean, I love my teammates. I love where I live. I love playing for this organization. So I’m just taking it a day at a time.

But whatever the three-time scoring champ decides to do, whatever choice he makes in free agency in the summer of 2016, he will have earned the right to make a decision of his own. He’s given the Thunder everything a city and its fan base could ever dream of, short of that Larry O’Brien trophy he is still pursuing.

If Durant decides in two years that he’d rather chase it elsewhere, so be it.

Thunder general manager Sam Presti lives with that reality daily. He knows that there are no guarantees in free agency, not even with a transcendent talent like Durant, whose loyalty to the Thunder has never wavered.

The doesn’t meant these next two seasons won’t be an absolute nightmare for Presti and his crew. That speculation that drives the day for so many will be magnified behind the walls of the Thunder’s headquarters. The way LeBron left Cleveland, Carmelo left Denver and Dwight left Orlando has forced every team to take stock of their situations a bit differently.

And unlike a hometown star like Chicago’s Derrick Rose, Durant’s roots in Oklahoma City don’t run deeper than the six seasons he’s spent with the franchise.

The Thunder also have to deal with the reality of their own situation. There have been some dents in the organization’s armor of late. When Westbrook suffered his knee injury during the 2013 playoffs, the entire world (and more importantly, the rest of the league) got a glimpse of just how vulnerable OKC can be when one of their big two is out.

That deep team that had home-court advantage in The Finals against the Heat two years ago is no more. They’re no longer viewed as that precious team on the rise. They are now a part of the very establishment they were challenging just three years ago.

The perception of what this team is and the reality of what this team is presents the dilemma for Durant that is no doubt coming. Fearless predictions or not, Durant will be a free agent in the foreseeable future. He and his representation, as well as the Thunder’s brain trust, need to be prepared to address it.

Whatever the final outcome, it is (and was) Durant’s decision to make. If he’s learned anything from his contemporaries and the way they handled their business, that should be at the forefront of his mind when we actually get closer to July of 2016. He has to own this decision!

Pekovic, Wolves Agree To Deal



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HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – You can finally close the door on the free agent summer of 2013 now that restricted free agent big man Nikola Pekovic has agreed to a five-year, $60 million deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves (as first reported by Marc Stein of ESPN.com and confirmed by Wolves boss Flip Saunders).

Pekovic was the last big name on the marquee without a deal this summer, a group headlined by now Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard and Los Angeles Clippers point guard Chris Paul.

By locking up Pekovic long-term the Timberwolves are now set with a core of All-Star power forward Kevin Love, Pekovic in the middle and point guard Ricky Rubio as the headliner in the backcourt. That’s an excellent place for Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman to start with his playoff plan for the 2013-14 season, provided all of his major players stay healthy. Love missed all but 18 games last season with injuries and Rubio played in 57 games as he returned from knee surgery of his own.

Pekovic emerged as a low-post force for the Timberwolves last season, averaging 16.3 ppg and 8.8 rpg while starting in all 62 games he played in last season. A skilled, 6-foot-11, 290-pounder, Pekovic is the ideal counterpart to pair with Love, whose range extends beyond the 3-point line. They’ll form a dynamic inside-out big man duo for a Timberwolves team that has legitimate playoff aspirations next season.

Signing Pekovic was work Saunders needed to get done as well. After a busy summer that saw them add quality veterans like Corey Brewer, Chase Budinger, Kevin Martin and Ronny Turiaf, keeping Pekovic from unrestricted free agency next summer was an absolute must. Even more important, a deal with Pekovic gives the Timberwolves some much-needed security at the center position going forward.

Report: Wall, Wizards Close On Extension



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LAS VEGAS – John Wall is still in the formative stage of his NBA career but the Washington Wizards believe the best is certainly yet to come for their star point guard. The next step, of course, is working on a long-term extension for Wall, a process that has progressed rapidly.

The two sides are reportedly close to a deal for five years and $80 million. Wall, who is in town this week for USA Basketball’s Men’s National Team mini-camp,  and the Wizards could have the deal locked down by Aug. 1, according to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein.

The sides have until Oct. 31 to come to an agreement on an extension or Wall would be a restricted free agent during a loaded summer of 2014. But that’s a scenario the Wizards are clearly trying to avoid by offering Wall, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 Draft, a monster deal.

Wall, 22, dazzled the second half last season, returning from a knee injury to average 18.5 points, 7.6 assists and 4.0 rebounds in the final 49 games of the 2012-13 season. Wall is the linchpin to the Wizards’ franchise revival and the this sort of contract is proof that the Wizards are convinced that he is indeed the franchise player they thought he was when they drafted him.

Ellis Gives Dallas A Badly Needed Jolt

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HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – The Dallas Mavericks finally appear to have their big-name free agent and Monta Ellis finally gets his big contract.

Only neither is as big as originally hoped. The Mavs dearly wanted Dwight Howard. He’s in Houston. Ellis opted out of $11 million with the Milwaukee Bucks for one final season. He didn’t find the market he expected. Now he’s headed to Dallas for a reported three years at between $25 million and $30 million.

He joins a roster under extreme reconstruction that, at the moment, is stacked with newcomers in the backcourt. The athletic, volume-shooting Ellis figures to start at shooting guard next to high-IQ point guard Jose Calderon, who signed on for four years and $29 million. Dallas will pay those two around $15 million next season.

ESPN.com’s Marc Stein first reported the Ellis agreement. Stein also reported that the three-year deal that Devin Harris (who has dislocated toe) and Dallas agreed to has been shelved.

Sixth man Vince Carter is the lone returnee and only producer from last season’s train-wreck backcourt. He enters the final year of his deal at $3.2 million.

Dallas also brought in guards Wayne Ellington on a two-year deal, plus rookie free agent Gal Mekel and draft picks Shane Larkin (who will miss possibly three months with ankle injury) and Ricky Ledo. After realizing top free agents (Deron Williams last summer and now Howard) weren’t enamored with a thin roster that wasn’t winning any trades either, the Mavs are in the asset acquisition business.

It’s a different approach than the last two offseasons when owner Mark Cuban sought short-term bang for his buck, and consistently said he would save his money for foundation-type players. Perhaps the Mavs now believe that the 27-year-old Ellis, who has played in two postseasons in his eight-year career, is one. He was certainly the last remaining “impact” free agent on the market.

At the moment, eight of the 12 players Dallas has or soon expects to have under contract are guards. Talk about going small-ball. Dirk Nowitzki, Shawn Marion and Jae Crowder fill the forward position and second-year center Bernard James, a low-minute player when he got off the bench, is the only big man in the middle.

That has to change, although how is the big question considering the Mavs’ cap situation. Dallas remains in pursuit of stop-gap veteran Samuel Dalembert (a sign-and-trade with Milwaukee could be an option) and they’ve been in discussions with their own hybrid forward-center Brandan Wright. Elton Brand also remains a possibility.

The agreement with Ellis seemed unlikely just a couple days ago when president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson said he didn’t expect more backcourt additions. With all eyes focused on the depleted center position, Ellis did perk up a fan base wondering where the franchise was headed after missing out on Howard a week ago.

Ellis doesn’t turn the summer around for the Mavs, but he does bring with him some needed swag back to Big D. The roster had been virtually bare of playmaking electricity. He gives Dallas excitement, if not also unpredictability, and he’ll happily fill the role as the second — and sometimes lead scorer — the Mavs so desperately need next to Nowitzki.

The 6-foot-3 Ellis averaged 19.2 ppg and 6.0 apg sharing the backcourt in Milwaukee last season with Brandon Jennings. He shot just 41.6 percent overall and 28.7 percent from beyond the arc, but he can light it up on any given night and seemed to have a knack for fireworks when he played Dallas.

A rim protector must be on the way, though, or the Mavs’ defensive standing at No. 27 in scoring (101.7 ppg) last season could get worse. Ellis’ defensive efficiency last season benefited from the Bucks’ swat machine Larry Sanders. Ellis consistently ranks high in steals, but his overall defensive prowess is not considered a strong suit, and starting next to Calderon could cause coach Rick Carlisle to go completely bald.

The Mavs aren’t done massaging their roster. Friday at least provided a jolt and a little more intrigue for a proud franchise that was quickly looking lottery-bound for a second consecutive season.

Bobcats Pay Up To Nab Jefferson

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From NBA.com staff reports

In a potentially perception-altering move for one of the NBA’s most moribund franchises, the Charlotte Bobcats reached a verbal agreement Wednesday with one of the most sought-after big men after Dwight Howard, Utah’s Al Jefferson, who agreed to a three-year, $40.5 million deal.

The 28-year-old Jefferson was Charlotte’s top priority in free agency, as the Bobcats sought to finally find a low-post presence that would help their perimeter players get move driving and shooting space.

Jefferson will receive $13.5 million in each of the three seasons of the contract. He will have a player option for the third season.

The Bobcats, according to a source, will amnesty forward Tyrus Thomas in order to create enough cap room to sign Jefferson, who will, along with first-round pick Cody Zeller, give Charlotte a bolstered frontcourt next season, along with second-year small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Last season, Byron Mullens (when healthy) was the de facto starting center for Charlotte, notching 41 starts in 53 games played. But the Bobcats also gave playing time in the middle to second-year big man Bismack Biyombo as well as veterans Thomas, Brendan Haywood, DeSagana Diop and Josh McRoberts.

The Bobcats are finally free of Diop, a monumental bust who played in just 92 games over the past four seasons after Charlotte took him off the Dallas’ Mavericks’ hands, and they did not make a qualifying offer to Mullens, setting the forward-center free.

Haywood and Biyombo, who started 65 games last year and will enter his third season, are both on the books at bargain rates for next season. Charlotte signed Haywood before last season after Dallas used the amnesty clause to release him. He’ll be paid $2.05 million by the Bobcats next season. McRoberts is an unrestricted free agent.

The 6-foot-10, 289-pound Jefferson is a low-post tactician on the offensive end, but he certainly is no Bill Russell on the defensive end. He averaged 17.8 ppg, 9.2 rpg and 1.1 bpg last season with the Jazz.

Acquired by Utah from Minnesota in a July, 2010 trade, Jefferson could be the kind of acquisition for Charlotte that Vlade Divac was for Sacramento in 1998, when he left the Charlotte Hornets for the Kings in a free agent deal. With Divac aboard and Chris Webber coming from Washington, the Kings turned their up-to-then terrible fortunes around, becoming one of the league’s most exciting teams.

Charlotte has a way to go to get to that level, but Jefferson’s presence will make things easier for everyone. Averaging 16.4 ppg over nine NBA seasons, Jefferson has never shot less than 49.2 percent from the floor. He offers a creative low-post game that utilizes both hands along with an improved jumper.

Now with four centers on the roster for next season, it will be interesting to see Bobcats owner Michael Jordan’s next move is in a possible attempt to thin out the position and seek help elsewhere for the club.

Jordan has been criticized for poor drafts and seeming unwillingness in recent years to spend money, but in signing Jefferson and eating the final two years and $18 million of Thomas’s contract, Jordan is making a significant investment in trying to turn around the Bobcats’ fortunes. They’ve been the worst team in the league the last two years, with a combined 28-120 record, including a 7-59 season in the Lottery-shortened 2011-12 campaign.

Jefferson averaged 17.8 points and 9.2 rebounds last season for the Jazz, who could also lose their other free agent big man, Paul Millsap. The two sides met in the opening minutes of free agency on Monday but Utah did not make an offer to Millsap.

NBA.com’s Jeff Caplan and TNT analyst David Aldridge contributed to this report

After Midnight Free-Agent Madness





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Who’s waiting on Dwight Howard?

Not the Detroit Pistons, who have bypassed the Howard free agency sweepstakes for a chance to snag Josh Smith, the versatile forward who ranks as the hottest commodity on the market not named Howard in the first hour since free agency began at 12:01 a.m. ET.

Pistons boss Joe Dumars and his brain trust met with Smith and his camp shortly after midnight with the sides discussing a significant four-year deal that would see Smith join an already impressive young frontcourt group that includes Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond.

The Pistons would be the “surprise” team mentioned at the bottom of this report from Sunday morning and per Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, who highlights the Hawks’ willingness to work a sign-and-trade deal for Smith rather than re-signing him themselves.

Anything is possible now that we have crossed the threshold into what some folks like to call the NBA’s silly season.

Only in the minutes immediately after midnight do we find out that a guy like Chase Budinger, a fine player, could end up being targeted by more teams than a player the likes of Al Jefferson.

Crazy season is more like it. (more…)

Doc Rivers And The Clippers Courting?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The idea of Doc Rivers coaching an All-Star point guard and big man during the 2013-14 NBA season is a given, right?

But will it be Rajon Rondo and Kevin Garnett … or Chris Paul and Blake Griffin?

Bewildered and confused Boston Celtics fans have to be wondering what the future holds with reports that there could be mutual interest between the Celtics’ coach and the Clippers, per The Los Angeles Times and ESPN.com.

It’s a speculation party that is sure to leave Celtics fans with indigestion as they await the fate of their proud (but clearly rebuilding) team. Rivers left the door ajar at season’s end, saying that he wasn’t sure what was in store with Rondo (knee injury), Garnett (age) and Paul Pierce (age, final year of contract) all in the crosshairs during a huge summer.

The idea of Rivers forgoing the final three years and $21 million of his deal with the Celtics was sparked by a nugget from ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard that indicated Rivers is contemplating a change.

While it wouldn’t be a complete shocker, it would confirm rumblings that began in May, when the Celtics were eliminated from the playoffs by the New York Knicks. Celtics boss Danny Ainge quieted that chatter early on, but the ensuing coaching carousel that has left the Clippers without a replacement for coach Vinny Del Negro has circled around to this possibility that Rivers could be a potential option, as ESPN.com‘s Marc Stein and Ramona Shelburne detail here:

Sources told ESPN.com on Thursday that Rivers is highly intrigued by the idea of coaching the Clippers in the event that he and the Celtics part company after nine seasons together and one championship in 2008. Sources say the Clippers, meanwhile, would immediately vault Rivers to the top of their list if he became available as they continue a coaching search that, to this point, has focused on Brian Shaw, Byron Scott and Lionel Hollins.

The Los Angeles Times, citing several NBA executives, reported Wednesday that if Rivers decides he doesn’t want to coach in Boston anymore, the Clippers would be interested in him and he would become their No. 1 choice.

ESPN.com has also learned the Celtics and Clippers — in an offshoot of February’s Kevin Garnett-to-L.A. trade talks — discussed expanded trade scenarios that could have sent both Garnett and close friend Paul Pierce to the Clippers before the league’s Feb. 21 trade deadline.

Sources say those talks, before breaking down, were centered on Boston getting back both prized Clippers guard Eric Bledsoe and young center DeAndre Jordan and did not involve Clippers star forward Blake Griffin.

It is not yet known whether the Clippers intend to revive those trade discussions and pursue either Garnett or Pierce — or both — in conjunction with this month’s NBA draft. But one source familiar with the Clippers’ thinking told ESPN.com the club plans to be “very aggressive” and “shake every tree” in terms of upgrading the roster this offseason. Acquiring Garnett or Pierce — or both — would make Rivers even more of a natural coaching target for the Clippers.

If that’s not enough speculation for you, this all comes at a time when the Clippers are in the midst of interviewing Shaw, Scott, Hollins and Nate McMillan.

The Clippers also have to consider that whoever they select needs to be someone who will help them recruit Paul to stick around this summer in free agency. With rumors that Paul and Dwight Howard, this summer’s other marquee free agent prize, have been in contact about teaming up together in the future, the frenzy will kick into overdrive.

Rivers certainly has a history of coaching superstars in those sorts of situations and the respect that comes along with being a championship coach.

It should be noted that Rivers has been courted several times before during his decade-long tenure in Boston and in the end decided to stick with the Celtics. Orlando, where the Rivers family resides, tried to lure him back to Central Florida with an offer to run the Magic’s entire basketball operation. Rivers considered his options, but in the end decided that loyalty to his players and the Celtics outweighed whatever opportunities might have awaited him in Orlando.

It’s unclear right now whether or not he’ll have to make a similar decision about what to do with the Clippers, but that won’t stop the speculation from spreading.

The Return Of The Dwightmare?





HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Here we go again.

The Feb. 21 trade deadline is fast approaching and guess whose name is at the top of the list, just like last season? That’s right, Dwight Howard.  The formerly disgruntled Orlando Magic star has apparently been replaced by Dwight Howard, the disgruntled Los Angeles Lakers star. The Magic’s Dwightmare of a year ago now becomes the Lakers’ burden this time around.

And that means the wheels are turning in front offices around the league, what with the prospect of Howard becoming available before he becomes a free agent at season’s end, which for the Lakers could very well be mid-April.

These latest developments thrust other teams into the thick of the Howard sweepstakes, with prospective summer free-agent players Dallas and Atlanta joining the usual suspects (the Lakers and Brooklyn Nets) in the conversation. The Lakers’ pitiful season is what has reignited the Dwightmare dilemma … plus the fact that Brooklyn was his preferred destination all along.

And depending on who you listen to and what you read, there’s a dizzying array of possibilities being considered by the different sides in this saga.

RealGM.com’s Jarrod Rudolph reports the Nets are ready to finish what they started last season and finally bring Howard to Brooklyn, with Brook Lopez (and a third team needed to help facilitate a deal) as the return piece. Of course, there is the obligatory return volley that says Lopez is safe, from Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, the best part coming at the end: “It’s not the same as it was last year,” said a Nets source. “We don’t need Dwight.”

Interesting. But that won’t slow down the stream of rumors suggesting otherwise.

With the Lakers stuck in the 12th spot in the Western Conference playoff chase, no one outside of Kobe Bryant and Steve Nash should feel comfortable in that Lakers’ locker room.

And if Kobe’s words, tweets and facial expressions mean anything, something has to change. Because it’s clear, as ESPN.com‘s Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein point out, that the real crack in the Lakers’ foundation is the rift between its two biggest stars:

“Obviously, this isn’t working,” Lakers star Kobe Bryant told Yahoo! Sports after the Chicago loss.

“I’ve tried to go out of my way to get (Howard) the ball. Sometimes I end up looking like an idiot, because I get up in the air, I’ve got a shot, but I try to find him. But he thinks I’m going to shoot, so his back is turned. I’m trying to think about getting him the ball a lot — take care of him as much as I possibly can. It takes me out of rhythm a little bit, but I’m fine with that. If that’s going to help our team, I’m more than willing to do that.

“I’ve constantly tried to help him out, tried to talk to him,” Bryant continued. “Two o’clock in the morning, three o’clock in the morning. Texting him. Sharing reading materials. Anything to try and help him.

“He’s coming off a major surgery in a market where it’s just merciless; where there’s demands and responsibilities of athletes. It’s been tough on him.”

The blame in L.A. has been widespread, with both Howard and Gasol facing criticism for not battling through these tough times with the needed resolve. D’Antoni getting second-guessed with rising volume for not tweaking his spread-the-floor system to accommodate his marquee players and Bryant critiquing himself this week for missing too many shots on an 0-2 road trip that has spiraled into six straight losses away from Staples Center and three straight losses overall heading into Thursday’s game at Memphis.

If Lakers fans have to pick a side, Howard might as well start packing his bags now. In the past, they’ve chosen Kobe in landslides over former big man Shaquille O’Neal and ex-coach Phil Jackson, among others. Howard doesn’t stand a chance in winning over the fan base, the franchise and perhaps most importantly, the locker room.

It seems pretty obvious that Kobe and Nash have gone out of their way to make Howard feel as comfortable as possible and still these issues persist. With time running out on their season and that Feb. 21 escape hatch getting closer and closer, something has to give …