Posts Tagged ‘Orlando Magic’

Morning Shootaround — July 29

VIDEO: Grizzlies ‘ecstatic’ to have Barnes in Memphis


New Bucks arena bill passes in Wisconsin | Grizzlies feel Barnes is perfect fit | Orlando’s Gordon working on game

No. 1: New Bucks arena bill passes in Wisconsin New ownership took over the Milwaukee Bucks in 2014, and they began making over the franchise, changing personnel, uniforms, and beginning a campaign to get some public funding for a new arena. After a few months of public posturing and conversation with local and state lawmakers, the state assembly passed a bill yesterday that seems to guarantee the Bucks future in Milwaukee

Almost seven months after Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker proposed public money for the new Milwaukee Bucks arena, the Assembly Tuesday returned a $250 million bill to him, completing the last of the legislative challenges the presidential candidate laid out this year.

The Assembly approved the bill on a bipartisan vote of 52-34, leaving a healthy margin to spare because of absent lawmakers. The measure passed the Senate 21-10 on a bipartisan vote on July 15 and so it now goes to Walker.

While campaigning at two South Philadelphia cheesesteak joints, the governor said he would sign the much-revised measure, calling it a good deal for Wisconsin.

“It’s critical not only for those who love sports, but the main reason I got into it was because it protected state revenues,” Walker said, citing the income taxes Wisconsin would lose if the team leaves the state. “That just creates a big hole for everything else. … This was really about protecting the taxpayers of the state.”

Next up for the team is working out a land sale with Milwaukee County and getting approval for the arena from the Milwaukee Common Council. Speaking at the Capitol after the Assembly vote, Bucks head coach Jason Kidd and team president Peter Feigin praised the deal and said the remaining pieces could be assembled in time for construction to start in the fall.

“I’m not overly confident, but I’m confident,” Feigin said of reaching the land deal and getting city approval.

After months in which the measure struggled to gain support, the Assembly debate was anticlimactic, lasting about an hour and including not even a single floor speech by an opponent. In the end, 35 Republicans and 17 Democrats voted for the measure.

Two lawmakers from the greater Milwaukee area, Democrat Daniel Riemer of Milwaukee and Republican Adam Neylon of Pewaukee, missed the vote Tuesday while they were in Turkey as part of a cultural exchange for legislators but said they would have both voted against it. Regardless of party, most lawmakers from in and around the city voted for the proposal, except Democrats David Bowen and Jonathan Brostoff of Milwaukee and Republicans Chris Kapenga of Delafield and David Craig of Big Bend.

Assembly Speaker Robin Vos (R-Rochester) kicked off the final debate by thanking both Democratic and Republican lawmakers and stressing that he believed that state taxpayers would get a good return on their share of the total subsidy package. Doing nothing would leave the city and state with a “black eye” and the loss of a promising team, he said.

“It is cheaper for us to pass this bill than defeat it and let the team leave,” Vos said.


No. 2: Grizzlies feel Barnes is perfect fit After a few years of playoff runs but not being able to get past the Conference finals, the Memphis Grizzlies have made moves to strengthen their bench this season. And perhaps the most important addition to the Grizzlies may be forward Matt Barnes, who the Grizz feel is a perfect match for their grit and grind mentality…

“This is a whole – not just team but city – with my ideal, a grind mentality,” Barnes said Tuesday. “I’ve been on teams that run-and-gun and dunk and shoot a lot of 3’s, but I’ve never been on a team that everyone has the same mindset I do. That’s very exciting from a player’s standpoint.”

The Grizzlies acquired Barnes, 35, from the Charlotte Hornets last month in exchange for guard Luke Ridnour.

Charlotte had picked up Barnes along with center Spencer Hawes less than two weeks earlier in a trade that sent guard Lance Stephenson to the Los Angeles Clippers. Barnes averaged 10.1 points, 4 rebounds and 1.5 assists while playing a career-high 29.9 minutes per game with the Clippers last season.

Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace said the 35-year-old Barnes “wears his heart on his sleeve,” an approach that could make the 6-foot-7 forward an ideal fit for a franchise that relies on hustle and defense.

“If there’s any player that was destined to be a Grizzly, it’s Matt Barnes,” Wallace said. “He’s a guy that we had our dustups with when he was on the other side of the fence – particularly the Clippers – but now he’s one of us and we’re ecstatic to have him.”

The Grizzlies actually drafted Barnes in the second round in 2002, but they immediately traded him to Cleveland in a draft-night deal. Barnes has been moving around ever since. He’s played for both Los Angeles franchises as well as Sacramento, New York, Philadelphia, Golden State, Phoenix and Orlando.

This latest move has his twin sons somewhat confused.

“They’re just like, ‘Daddy, so do you not like DeAndre (Jordan), Chris (Paul) and Blake (Griffin) anymore?’ ” Barnes said. “I’m like, ‘No, they’re still my friends. They’re the enemy when the ball goes up.’ I’m a competitor. I have friends on the other team obviously, but for 48 minutes my only friends are my teammates.”

Barnes irritates opponents with his tenacious defense and fiery personality. The Grizzlies already have one of the league’s top defenders in guard Tony Allen. Having both could make the Grizzlies even peskier.

“The best compliment you can give somebody is that you just don’t like playing against him,” Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger said. “Matt’s a guy we just did not like playing against. … We want those kinds of guys on our team.”


No. 3: Orlando’s Gordon working on game The Orlando Magic entered a rebuilding campaign a few years ago and have amassed quite a collection of young talent, from Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo to Nikola Vucevic and Tobias Harris. Another player showing promise is Aaron Gordon, who followed his rookie season with a big Summer League performance, and is still looking to improve, writes’s Fran Blinebury

His rookie season became a virtual washout almost from the moment last November when Gordon fractured a bone in his left foot and missed two months. Despite the first double-double of his career in April, there was plenty of work to be done.

But it was a different, a more comfortable, a more confident Gordon who took the floor for the Magic at the Orlando Summer League and began to show why he was the No. 4 overall pick in the 2014 draft.

Gordon beat defenders off the dribble and finished with power dunks. He pulled up off the dribble and stroked jumpers like they were his calling card. He even nailed 3-pointers.

Put all those newfound skills together with the 6-foot-9, 230-pound body, explosive leaping ability and assorted athletic moves and Gordon is a candidate to make big strides next season.

“Last year there was a lot of being uncomfortable,” Gordon said. “This year I’m a lot more comfortable. So it’s easy for me.”

The transformation was only “easy” because Gordon has logged countless hours of hard work inside the Magic practice gym at Amway Center and on the West Coast near his home in San Jose, Calif.

“A lot of people don’t see the work that Aaron puts in,” said Mario Elie, one of the new members of Scott Skiles‘ Orlando coaching staff. “When I first came here in June, he’s in the gym working on his shot. I’m in the office all day. He’ll go home and come back to work on his game again and I’m not surprised he was one of the top scorers in the Summer League.

“He’s a young player who wants to be great. He has the right frame of mind, the right attitude,” Elie said. “He’s like a sponge. You tell him to do something, he goes out and does it. He can be a great leader for this young ball club. At 19 years old? This guy It’s fantastic to see.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: LeBron James answered questions from fans on Twitter … Festus Ezeli moved from Africa to California to become a doctor. Instead he became an NBA champCraig Hodges has been let go as coach of the Knicks’ D-League team … Damien Wilkins is hoping to build off of his experience with the Pan-Am team …

Morning shootaround — July 15

VIDEO: The Starters break down the playoff seeding tweaks


Silver speaks on several topics | USA Basketball casts wider net | Paul George the power forward? | Is Porzingas perfect for NYC?

No. 1: Silver speaks on several topics Last night in Las Vegas at Summer League, NBA commissioner Adam Silver held a press conference to discuss topics discussed at the Board of Governors meeting. This served as de facto state of the league address, as Silver discussed topics ranging from playoff seeding to future labor relations to intentional fouling rules. As our Steve Aschburner writes, perhaps the most immediate topic addressed was next season’s playoff seedings, where winning a division from now on may carry a little less weight

Winning an NBA division might get a lot less satisfying next season.

It’s not the most prestigious accomplishment as it is, once the postseason revs up and conference championships feeding The Finals render forgettable those modest crowns of the Atlantic, the Central, the Southwest and so on.

But if a recommendation out of the Board of Governors meeting Tuesday in Las Vegas gets enacted as soon as this autumn, division titles would lose more than cachet. They wouldn’t carry the guarantee of a Top 4 berth in the Eastern or Western conference playoffs.

Instead, the qualifying teams in the East and West would be seeded 1 through 8 according to regular-season records. That is the likely outcome, based on NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s comments after the annual summer meeting of the league’s owners.

“It wasn’t voted on yet,” Silver said, “because we wanted all the owners to have an opportunity to go back and discuss that recommendation with their general managers and their coaches, and we’ll vote on it before the beginning of the season. It’s my expectation that that change will be adopted.”

Under the current system, the three division winners in each conference are assured of a Top 4 spot in the seedings, regardless of record. Last season, for example, that put Portland at No. 4 even though the Trailblazers’ 51-31 record ranked sixth-best in the West.

The Blazers didn’t get homecourt advantage in the first round — that went to No. 5 seed Memphis, with the Grizzlies beating Portland in five games. But the format didn’t seem to reward Memphis’ 55-27 performance, it dropped San Antonio to No. 6 despite an identical 55-27 record and it might not even have served the Blazers or their fans.

In winning its first division title in 16 years, Portland clinched the Northwest with two weeks left in the regular season thanks partly to the absence of other threats. Oklahoma City was the only other team in the division to top .500 and the Thunder were hampered by injuries in missing the postseason for the first time in six years.

Silver didn’t offer any specifics beyond the general goal of 1-through-8 seeding. There apparently still is enough sentiment among the owners that the divisions be retained — an Atlantic banner hanging in the rafters or at a practice facility might not mean much to Boston or New York, but it still might matter in Toronto, for instance.


No. 2: USA Basketball casts wider net The next Olympics are still a year away, but USA Basketball is already looking at some of the NBA’s brightest younger players in looking to assemble the 2016 Olympic team. As ESPN’s Marc Stein writes, expect to see some new faces at Team USA’s mini-camp in August

Sources told that USAB has extended invitations to Chicago’s Jimmy Butler, Memphis’ Mike Conley, Golden State’s Draymond Green and Harrison Barnes, Orlando’s Tobias Harris and Victor Oladipo and Utah’s Trey Burke to its Aug. 11-13 camp on the campus of UNLV.

USAB managing director Jerry Colangelo, meanwhile, tells that next month’s camp will actually serve as more of a “reunion” for various players who have worked under Colangelo and Team USA coach Mike Krzyzewski in the past two Olympic tournaments and the past two world championship-level events. As opposed to the full-scale practices and the intrasquad scrimmage that Team USA would typically hold in preparation for a major competition, Colangelo said Tuesday that next month’s gathering will instead feature two days of noncontact workouts and “an all-star game of sorts” on Aug. 13 that will feature the various marquee players in attendance who are healthy enough to play.

Yet Colangelo stressed that USA Basketball is making attendance at the three-day event mandatory for invited players if they are interested in securing a spot on the Yanks’ 12-man roster for next summer’s Olympics in Brazil, even if the player is rehabilitating from an injury or otherwise not yet cleared to join in on-court activities.

USAB already knows that Oklahoma City’s Kevin Durant, Indiana’s Paul George and the Cleveland Cavaliers duo of Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving will not be ready to take part in basketball activities at the camp, because they are recovering from their various serious injuries from the past year. But Colangelo’s view is that “it’s important for everyone to be here as a sign of commitment for ’16.”

VIDEO: Managing Director Jerry Colangelo talks USA basketball


No. 3: Paul George the power forward? After seeing the Golden State Warriors rely on a small lineup in their run through the NBA Finals, NBA teams around the league are considering their own smaller lineups. The Indiana Pacers expect a healthy return from Paul George, who has already publicly registered his disinterest in playing major minutes at power forward. But as Pacers president Larry Bird said at a press conference yesterday, George doesn’t make those decisions for the Pacers …

Larry Bird’s sales pitch was good enough to get two free agents to sign with the Pacers.

He’s still trying to convince Paul George that playing power forward will be a good move, too.

After announcing the signings of three players Tuesday, Indiana’s president of basketball operations made his most extensive and direct comments yet about playing the 6-foot-9, 220-pound swingman at a new spot.

“I’m not going to get into a battle about where Paul George will play,” Bird said. “He’s a basketball player and we can put him anywhere out there.”

Bird believes George will be freed to do more offensively and be healthier if he’s not chasing players around the court.

But the debate has raged all summer.

While critics contend the two-time All-Star could get overwhelmed by bigger, stronger opponents inside, Bird believes the two-time all-NBA defensive player will hold up just fine and will actually be a more productive player.

The flurry of offseason moves has left no doubt that George will get some time as a stretch four. The question is how much time?

Before heading to Florida to watch the Pacers’ summer league team play, coach Frank Vogel told reporters he had not determined how much time George would log at power forward. On Saturday at a local basketball camp, George said that while he’s willing to play anywhere, he didn’t anticipate playing 30 minutes per game at that spot.

Bird made one thing clear Tuesday.

“He don’t make the decisions around here. But I did it, and I loved it after I did it,” Bird said, drawing laughter.


No. 4: Is Porzingas perfect for NYC? When the Knicks selected Latvian big man Kristaps Porzingas fourth overall in the 2015 NBA Draft, boos rained down from the crowd in Brooklyn, mostly from Knicks fans unfamiliar with his name and his game. But in just a few Las Vegas Summer League appearances, as’s Shaun Powell writes, Porzingas is showing he may be a perfect fit for New York City

When asked how he handled his nerves in his debut, Porzingis said quickly: “I told myself to chill out.”

His English is amazingly sharp and he carries himself well. Basically, he gets it, even at a very young age. of course, there’s still the big question: Can he play?

Well, that won’t be known in summer league, which should be taken for what it’s worth. Still, after four days in Vegas, he hasn’t backed down. He’s built like a Twizzler but isn’t afraid to mix it up. He goes in traffic with the ball and also after the ball for rebounds. He has challenged players at the rim and is showing a knack for blocking shots. Again, Summer League is all about learning if the player has the basics to survive in the NBA, and Porzingis is showing that.

The main drawback for Porzingis is his lack of strength. He’ll get easily boxed out for rebounds when the real games begin. And his dribble game is merely adequate.

The Knicks were smitten by his height, his athletic ability and his jumper, and so far have no reason to be disappointed. Porzingis has the shooting range to stretch defenses. He can be very useful in the pick-and-pop (assuming his body can withstand the pick part) and can be dangerous behind the 3-point line. And he gets to the free-throw line. Again, this is Summer League, and Porzingis is a work in progress. but the more you watch, the more you get the feeling that Phil Jackson didn’t draft the next Andrea Bargnani.

“He’s really interesting to watch and his growth is going to be interesting to see,” said Jackson. “It looks like he can hold his own out there. I think he’s going to find a comfort zone.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: John Wall thinks he should be making more money than Reggie Jackson … The Lakers are making moves to strengthen their analytics department … The Thunder traded Perry Jones III to Boston … Catching up with former Knicks lottery pick Frederic Weis

Blogtable: Some Summer League musings

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: Knicks or Lakers worse off? | Toughest (and easiest) division? | Talkin’ Summer League

VIDEOKarl-Anthony Towns reflects on achieving his NBA dream

> Las Vegas Summer League is just days away. Which rookie are you most excited to see perform on the big stage? Which veteran will most benefit from Summer League play? And, which player in Summer League in Orlando and/or Utah has most impressed you?

Steve Aschburner, Among the rookies in Las Vegas, I’m going straight chalk. I want an up-close look at Karl-Anthony Towns simply because he is that rarest of species this side of the Tasmanian tiger: A Timberwolves No. 1 overall Draft pick. We’ve never had one before, but most insiders believe the Wolves got it right, so I want to see more than a glimmer of potential in Vegas. … Among returning players, it’s important for Chicago’s Doug McDermott to play as well as or better than he did last summer (and he was very good). McDermott’s rookie season was washed out by injury and bench splinters, but he has a new coach (Fred Hoiberg) friendly to his style of play and he has vowed the sort of dramatic, freshman-to-sophomore improvement that wowed ’em at Creighton. … As for Orlando/Salt Lake City, Indiana’s Myles Turner has opened some eyes, averaging 16.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 4.5 blocks while hitting 14-of-22 shots in his first two games. With Roy Hibbert gone, and only Ian Mahinmi and Lavoy Allen ahead of him on the depth chart, Turner – while needing to tighten up defensively – might grab some “stretch-5” opportunities in coach Frank Vogel‘s promised quicker attack.

Fran Blinebury, This could be the start of a decade or more of comparing Karl-Anthony Towns and Jahlil Okafor. At a time when people are saying it’s a “small ball” league, I want to see the big dogs hunt. Before he went down with an ankle injury, I was looking forward to seeing Dante Exum’s progress from year 1 to 2. Last year’s first round Thunder pick Mitch McGary is coming back from a fractured foot, a virtually lost rookie season and has now lost nearly 30 pounds and looking like the player OKC drafted. Have to like what Okafor showed, especially in the second half, of his first game in Utah. Along with the totally changed body of McGary, the Magic’s Aaron Gordon has come back for Year 2 with a shot, an energy level that could be contagious and an intensity that’s fun to watch.

Scott Howard-Cooper, I am most interested to see Kristaps Porzingis and Emmanuel Mudiay in Las Vegas. Karl-Anthony Towns goes somewhere high on the list as well because there’s always the added excitement of seeing the No. 1 pick, but Mudiay has faced very little competition the last year. Porzingis has been challenged, but this will be a big step in a big spotlight. The veteran who will benefit most from summer league? The one that doesn’t get hurt and plays his way into a contract somewhere. As far as Orlando and Utah, Aaron Gordon has jumped out in early play. Not exactly a veteran, but not a rookie either.

Shaun Powell, In Vegas, I’d love to see how D’Angelo Russell handles himself and how he can elevate a roster full of dreamers by making them better. It’ll be the first step in proving the Lakers did right by passing up Jahlil Okafor, or not. As for the “veteran” I suspect the Jazz would love to receive some reassurance from Dante Exum in Vegas. In Utah, Okafor had the kind of debut you’d expect from the No. 2 overall pick, especially with his soft touch around the rim. The Sixers are feeling better already. In Orlando, Aaron Gordon and Stanley Johnson clearly stood out. Gordon is flush with confidence after a so-so rookie season and Johnson is clearly a feisty baller, although a ‘tweener.

John Schuhmann, I’m curious to see D’Angelo Russell, because he’ll be handed the keys in L.A. right away. Noah Vonleh is a top-10 pick from last year who got injured in training camp, never got a chance to play with the Hornets, and could have a real opportunity in Portland. So these couple of weeks could be big for him. So far, I’ve been most impressed by Myles Turner, a skilled big who could make Pacers fans forget about Roy Hibbert pretty quickly.

Sekou Smith, It will be all eyes on D’Angelo Russell in Vegas, and rightfully so. The Lakers put that on him when they passed on Jahlil Okafor. The veteran who will benefit most from summer school is Mitch McGary of Oklahoma City. He reshaped his body and is healthy and showed that his relentless motor is his greatest tool. The Thunder will be loaded with a healthy roster to start the season. I always think Summer League is a better place for second-year guys to show off the improvement in their game than it is an indicator of what’s to come from any rookie, even the ones who dazzle in summer league. Great first impressions from Stanley Johnson, Justise Winslow, Frank Kaminsky and Myles Turner in the early stages of summer have highlighted things for me. They all look like instant impact contributors for their respective teams, based solely on what we’ve seen thus far.

Ian Thomsen, I want to see Kristaps Porzingis run the floor, defend and shoot from distance for the Knicks, who are desperate for young talent. Summer league is easy to dismiss but Porzingis’s blend of skills, length and agility should speak for itself – for better or for worse. I was going to cite Dante Exum as a veteran with the most to gain; but now that he has suffered a sprained ankle, I want to see whether James Young has matured defensively and off the ball for the Celtics. The breakout player so far has been Aaron Gordon, who has developed a jump shot to go with his driving athleticism.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: Let’s see what Karl Anthony Towns can bring at this next level. Is he just a defender, as has been purported, or can he be a two-way player with stretch-5 range? And his teammate, Zach LaVine, was one of the most exciting players I saw a year ago in Vegas, so I’m looking forward to seeing his evolution. LaVine’s incredible explosiveness really lends itself to the pace of Summer League. One guy has stood out to me so far has been Charlotte’s Frank Kaminsky. He can shoot from the outside, but also can pump fake and get to the rim and finish. He already looks ahead of their previous lottery forward, the since departed Noah Vonleh.

Reports: Magic to send Ridnour to Grizzlies for Euro Timma

While speculation swirled about this trade and that the trade would likely happen before, during or after the NBA Draft Thursday, the Magic and the Grizzlies actually put a ball in play, with veteran guard Luke Ridnour reportedly heading from Orlando to Memphis.

The move, with Orlando receiving the draft rights to Latvian guard/forward Janis Timma, was first reported by Yahoo! Sports‘ Adrian Wojnarowski:

Timma, the No. 60 pick in 2013, played last season for VEF Riga in Latvia’s pro league. The 6-foot-7 swingman will turn 23 next week.

Ridnour served as a backup and mentor last season to the Magic’s young backcourt players Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo after serving in that capacity to Ricky Rubio (Minnesota) and Brandon Jennings. With Memphis, working with Mike Conley Jr. and Beno Udrih, the 34-year-old won’t have much mentoring to do.

Ridnour also has a contract for $2.75 million in 2015-16, the Orlando Sentinel reported, that is not guaranteed if he is waived before July 10. So in addition to being packaged as an asset in another deal, Ridnour also could be cut loose for salary-cap relief.

Morning shootaround — June 23

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


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’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’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’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

Blogtable: Assessing the new coaches

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: Under pressure in The Finals? | Could Wade, Heat split up? | Assessing new coaches

VIDEOCan Scott Skiles turn the Magic around after several awful seasons?

> The Bulls, Magic and Pelicans all got new coaches in the last five days. Which of those hires will still be on the bench in five years?

Steve Aschburner, I’m thinking Fred Hoiberg still will be coaching Chicago in five years. Obviously Scott Skiles has a reputation for flaming out one way or another in shorter time frames, and the Magic might need a different type of coach once they reliably become a different type of team. Alvin Gentry didn’t quite last five seasons with Phoenix and might not in New Orleans, depending on Anthony Davis‘ long-term whereabouts or the bruising he and his Pelicans take in the West. Meanwhile, I expect Hoiberg to do well enough to stick around on his own merits, and I also think Chicago goes from contender to rebuilder on his watch, which will buy him more time. Bulls management has burned through a few good coaches in recent years and might want to show the public it’s them, not them who are at fault.

Fran Blinebury, I’m going with “Mayor” Fred Holberg. He’s been the apple of Gar Forman and John Paxson’s eye for quite some time and they’ll give him all the time to succeed. Scott Skiles‘ personality tends to have an expiration date of less than five years and I’m not sure Alvin Gentry is going to take the Pelicans to the next level, as is hoped.

Scott Howard-Cooper, Fred Hoiberg in Chicago for sure and Alvin Gentry in New Orleans maybe, but not Scott Skiles in Orlando. Very good basketball mind, but unless his personality has changed, that won’t play for five seasons. It’s easy to see Hoiberg as a very good fit for the Bulls, and Chicago has the roster in place to keep winning for years. Similarly, if Gentry delivers the up-tempo style of play New Orleans wants and he has used in other stops as a head coach and assistant, and if he connects with Anthony Davis, the Pelicans have a lot of potential into the next decade.

Shaun Powell, Hoiberg will still be in Chicago. Alvin Gentry‘s time in New Orleans will last as long as Anthony Davis‘ and I suspect Davis will sign his next contract elsewhere. And we all know Scott Skiles comes with an expiration date because that’s his history, wearing out his welcome after roughly 15 wonderfully productive minutes. Well, OK, 20.

John Schuhmann, Fred Hoiberg. Bulls brass is under a lot of scrutiny for the way they handled the dismissal of a highly regarded coach who brought them, by far, the most success they’ve had since Michael Jordan retired the second time. So, even if Hoiberg struggles at times, they’ll have to be patient, or be forced to admit that they made a mistake by firing Tom Thibodeau. Furthermore, Hoiberg is only 42 years old, nine years younger than Scott Skiles and 18 years younger than Alvin Gentry. He should be in it for the long haul.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comI’d love to see Alvin Gentry, one of my favorite people in the league, have a long and prosperous tenure in New Orleans. But things have never really been stable there for whoever is coaching that team. I wouldn’t bet the kids’ lunch money on Scott Skiles lasting that long in Orlando. So, Fred Hoiberg wins by default. That’s mostly because he was the long-rumored and hand-picked choice of a Bulls front office that just bounced a coach (Tom Thibodeau) who piled up 50-win seasons on the regular. They almost have to give Hoiberg one of those Brad Stevens-like deals, if for no other reason than to justify the move.

Ian Thomsen, Alvin Gentry has a chance to build the kind of relationship with Anthony Davis that could keep him in New Orleans. He has the experience and the personality to make it work: To be on the same page with both his front office as well as with his best player. Gentry’s potential to build a working rapport with Davis is crucial. The Pelicans made a terrific hire.

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: Not Scott Skiles — I think he’ll make the Magic a playoff team but to me he’s clearly a coach who takes a team from point A to point B, but not much further. As affable as Alvin Gentry is, he also has a track record of not being much of a defensive coach, and I’m not sure how that will fly in the Western Conference. Which leaves Fred Hoiberg, a former Bulls player, who has been rumored to be part of the Bulls plans forever and has long-lasting relationships with the Bulls front office. I’m not sure if the Bulls will actually be better under Hoiberg than they were under Tom Thibodeau, but the front office relationship can’t be worse.

Orlando hires original-Magic player Skiles as coach

HANG TIME BIG CITY – The Orlando Magic are going back for the future.

The Magic announced today that they hired former Magic point guard Scott Skiles as their next coach, replacing interim coach James Borrego, who himself replaced fired coach Jacque Vaughn.

According to a release from the Magic, Skiles’ history developing young players was a major factor in his landing the Magic job.

“Scott clearly distinguished himself as a tremendous fit,” Magic GM Rob Hennigan said. “Our young roster will benefit greatly from Scott’s extensive head coaching experience and commitment to teaching smart, physical, unselfish basketball. We believe in Scott’s ability to establish a culture of winning habits and accountability that will help guide our team in a positive direction.”

“As we began our search, our internal discussions centered on finding a head coach with a solid resume of NBA head coaching experience, great leadership qualities, a motivating communication style, and someone with a strong strategic acumen,” Magic CEO Alex Martins said. “We feel Scott brings a balanced approach in all those qualities and we look forward, with great confidence, to him leading our young men in helping us reach our collective goal of sustainable success.”

As 13 seasons as a head coach with the Suns, Bulls and Bucks, Skiles has accumulated a NBA regular-season record of 443-433 (.506), along with six playoff appearances. The same qualities that made Skiles effective as a player have marked his tenures on the sideline: a fiery demeanor, a relentless work ethic. But Skiles’ intensity has also been his gift and his curse – at each stop along the way, his terms have left some in the organizations looking for a breath of fresh air.

In Orlando, Skiles will have one of the NBA’s youngest rosters to mold. Orlando’s dynamic backcourt of Elfrid Payton and Victor Oladipo appears set for years to come, and restricted free agent forward Tobias Harris should be a hot property this summer, although the Magic have plenty of cap room to keep him. Productive big man Nikola Vucevic agreed to a long-term extension, and the Magic also hold the fifth pick in the 2015 Draft.

Skiles helped the Orlando Magic get off the ground in 1989 as their point guard, playing for the Magic for five seasons. Now, as the twelfth head coach in franchise history, Skiles has the chance to mold this group into the kind of teams he’s built at his previous stops – gritty and gutty, and focused on defense.

The rebuilding effort in Orlando has taken a few years to find its footing and get off the ground, but they’re moving in the right direction. Now it’s up to Skiles to push them into a perennial playoff team.

Morning shootaround — May 28

VIDEO: Highlights from Game 5 of the Western Conference finals


Thompson develops concussion-like symptoms | Reports: Magic, Pelicans interested in Skiles | Report: Bulls mull firing Thibodeau

No. 1: Thompson develops concussion-like symptoms after Game 5 — Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson took an accidental knee to the head by Houston’s Trevor Ariza late in Game 5. He suffered a cut, from which blood was coming out of, and had to leave the game, but eventually did return. After the Warriors wrapped up their Finals berth, however, Thompson said he wasn’t feeling well and developed concussion-like symptoms. has more on the story:

Golden State Warriors shooting guard Klay Thompson developed concussion-like symptoms after Wednesday night’s series-clinching Game 5 win over the Houston Rockets, the team announced.

“Klay Thompson was evaluated by the Warriors medical staff immediately after suffering an injury during tonight’s game and was put through a concussion evaluation,” the team said. “At the time he did not show any concussion-like symptoms. After the game he began to not feel well and developed concussion-like symptoms. He will continue to be evaluated by the team’s medical staff tonight.”

Thompson said in a televised postgame interview that he was “feeling a little dizzy,” before adding, “We got a week off — or close to it. I’ll be all right. I’ll get my health back.”

The injury occurred when Ariza, caught in the air on a shot fake, hit the right side of Thompson’s head with his right knee. Ariza was called for a personal foul on the play.

Blood coming out of the cut prevented Thompson from checking back in to the game upon his return to the Warriors’ bench. He ended up needing three stitches to close the wound.

“He was definitely shaken up. We’ll evaluate him tomorrow. It was a bizarre night for him,” Warriors coach Steve Kerr said in his postgame news conference before Thompson’s concussion-like symptoms were revealed. “Huge first half that really got us going, and then I left him in too long, he got his fourth foul and I thought I’d buy one possession, see if we could get him a shot, and when he picks up his fifth and when I do bring him back, he immediately gets hurt and out for the rest of the night.

“The break will be good for him. It’ll probably be good for all the guys with the run we’ve been on, but especially for Klay.”


VIDEO: Thompson suffers accidental blow to head in Game 5

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Blogtable: Coaching Carousel

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: Playoff injuries | Lottery team(s) in 2015-16 playoffs? | Coaching carousel

VIDEO: Inside the NBA on Monty Williams’ firing

> We have a coaching vacancy in New Orleans (and possibly in Denver and Orlando, too). Who are the best candidates out there, and which job is most attractive?

Steve Aschburner, I don’t think there’s any big hire just waiting to happen. Our man Sekou Smith is a believer in John Calipari for New Orleans, though I remain skeptical about the college peacocks who try to tackle this league. I think Scott Skiles would be a great fit in Orlando, but the Magic allegedly are waiting to see if they can scoop up Tom Thibodeau if he and Bulls management get divorced (with the Bulls eyeballing Iowa State’s Fred Hoiberg). Monty Williams and Scott Brooks are in some conversations, though they might prefer to get paid to decompress. I’m wondering if we’re ever going to see Jeff Van Gundy coaching again. Let’s not forget top assistant coaches like Cleveland’s Tyronn Lue and Miami’s David Fizdale. As for the best job of the three currently open, that’s a Big Easy – only one offers the privilege of coaching Anthony Davis, the NBA’s Next Big Thing. Fly, Pelicans, fly.

Fran Blinebury, Another layup.  The best job available is coaching Anthony Davis as he moves into the MVP phase of his career.  If the Bulls, as everyone expects, are dumb enough to show Tom Thibodeau the door, he’s just the guy to get the Pelicans to actually play defense and put some sharp edges on A.D.’s game.  The top candidates will be Alvin Gentry, Mike D’Antoni and Michael Malone and probably Fred Hoiberg out of the college ranks.

Scott Howard-Cooper, Since Monty Williams is suddenly, unexpectedly “out there”: Monty Williams. And obviously anyone who works, has worked for or may one day work for the Spurs. Automatic hire, right? Also, the list changes when/if the Bulls break up with Tom Thibodeau. Keep an eye on Scott Brooks, Michael Malone, Tyronn Lue, Alvin Gentry and Adrian Griffin. They are all attractive jobs, a pretty atypical statement for teams changing coaches. Going to New Orleans is walking into a playoff team with an All-Star centerpiece. Denver can be good next season and, depending on the offseason moves, push into the postseason conversation. Orlando has an attractive foundation and the chance to coach in the Eastern Conference with an easier path to the playoffs.

Shaun Powell, The Pelicans job comes with The Next Tim Duncan and therefore has that going for it. But: I’m not sold on Anthony Davis re-signing with New Orleans and there are questions about management and ownership. If the Orlando job comes open, that could be the most attractive because there’s growth on the roster, no pressure to win right away, the benefit of playing in the weak East, another lottery pick coming and a smart GM in charge.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comIf Tom Thibodeau’s days in Chicago are over, he should be the No. 1 candidate. Scott Brooks would help a young team (like Orlando) develop, Mike Malone could straighten out a team defensively, and assistants David Fizdale and Tyronn Lue look ready to sit in the big chair. Anthony Davis obviously makes the New Orleans job most attractive. And because the Pelicans ranked 22nd defensively and didn’t get Davis the ball enough, there’s room for immediate improvement.

Sekou Smith, NBA.comThere are dozens of quality candidates for these openings, many of them serving in the same role as the reigning Coach of the Year, Atlanta’s Mike Budenholzer, did for years alongside Gregg Popovich. So it’s not hard for a quality organization to identify good candidates. It’s what they do once they have done so that matters. Too often ownership and management get caught up in the name game when they should do what the Memphis Grizzlies did in identifying a guy like Dave Joerger, a longtime assistant ready to take that next step, and making it happen. The best of the best out there right now would be Cleveland’s Tyronn Lue (he who saved the season over the weekend by doing David Blatt’s job) and the Orlando job is the perfect match. If the college route is your preference, John Calipari and New Orleans is a no-brainer, if you want to keep Anthony Davis in the Big Easy.

Ian Thomsen, The highly-coachable Anthony Davis makes the Pelicans’ job No. 1. If you’re seeking a proven winner then go with Mike D’Antoni (four seasons of 54 or more wins in Phoenix), who will heighten the market value of your players like no other coach. If it’s a new look you want, then consider Ettore Messina, the Italian winner of four Euroleague championships who served as the Spurs’ lead assistant this season. You should also consider Scott Brooks, Alvin Gentry, Nate McMillan, Scott Skiles and Spurs assistant Jim Boylen. (And Tom Thibodeau, if the imminent rumors turn out to be true.)

Lang Whitaker,’s All Ball blog: Well, of course the most attractive candidate is probably the guy still coaching right now that everyone assumes will be a free agent by July. I don’t want to name any names, out of respect for the living, but his name rhymes with Dom Dhibodeau. There’s also the complement of assistants ready for their big shot, like Atlanta’s Kenny Atkinson, or a D-League mastermind like Nate Bjorkgren, or a college coach like Billy Donovan, who already got swept up by the Thunder. The best gig out there? That’s easy: Which team is it that has Anthony Davis? New Orleans? OK, I’ll go with them.

Morning shootaround — May 3

VIDEO: Clippers advance with thrilling Game 7 win over Spurs


Paul has legacy game | Questions loom over Spurs’ summer | As Wall goes, so go Wizards | Banged-up Conley key for Grizzlies

No. 1: Paul has legacy game — It wasn’t quite a Bill Mazeroski or Joe Carter moment, but it was close. While Chris Paul‘s series-winning bank shot that beat the San Antonio Spurs in Game 7 wasn’t a “walk-off” highlight – to use popular baseball lingo that describes Mazeroski’s and Carter’s World Series-grabbing home runs – it did come with just one second left on the game clock at Staples Center Saturday. That, according to the folks at the Elias Sports Bureau, made it the latest Game 7-winning field goal in NBA history. Paul’s balky left hamstring will crowd out that scrapbook play over the next 24 hours, as his Clippers prepare to face the Rockets in Houston with the possibility he won’t be available, but it’s worth a recap of the career night that forever will be part of Paul’s story, per Dan Woike of the Orange County Register:

After playing the kind of game they’ll talk about when he enters the Hall of Fame one day, Chris Paul went and found older brother C.J.

The two men have been together since Day One of Chris’ NBA career, and Saturday after Paul hit a winner to knock out the San Antonio Spurs at Staples Center, he hobbled over to his friends, his family and his brother. They embraced, and Paul finally exhaled while his brother shook his head in agreement.

“He said, ‘Finally,” C.J. Paul said.

Paul’s winner gave the Clippers a 111-109 win over the Spurs – the league’s defending champions and a team that has knocked him out of the playoffs twice before.

“I’m just glad to see him beat those guys,” C.J. Paul said. “We’ve been in the Western Conference for 10 years, and they’ve dominated for all 10 years really. For us to beat them like this … ohhh.”

Here’s how he did it – with 27 points on 13 shots, six assists, two steals, a block and one hamstring.

Chris Paul limped off the court late in the first quarter, burying his head into his hands before heading back to the locker room.

Paul had played in all 82 games this season for the first time in his career, and here he was, in the year’s biggest contest, wondering if his body had just failed him.

“We do everything we can to prepare for a game. You get your rest, you train, you work out, you eat right, try to take care of your body,” Paul said. “And I was just overcome with emotion because I was frustrated, because I was like, all this time, all season long, and then Game 7 my body is going to let me down.

“That’s what it was all about right there.”


No. 2: Questions loom over Spurs’ summer — Pressing Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili, the oldest of San Antonio’s veteran core, on their respective future plans might have seemed premature to some, in the immediate wake of their lost back-to-back championship hopes. But that franchise’s aging (or ageless) stars were part of both the storyline and the appeal of the series against the Clippers and Game 7 specifically. Besides, these guys have a way of disappearing for most of the offseason, putting on pressure to grab-and-ask when one can. Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express-News tackled the look ahead as best he could:

The conventional wisdom has Duncan, who recorded his sixth double-double of the series with 27 points and 11 rebounds, coming back for more given that he continues to play at such a high level even at such an advanced age. The same cannot be said for Ginobili, who had his moments in Game 7 with eight points and seven assists but otherwise struggled in the series after averaging 10.5 points during the regular season, his lowest since his rookie year.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said after the game he expects both them and himself to be back for a 14th season together in 2015-16.

“The paycheck’s pretty good,” he joked. … But whatever thought the players have put into retirement were kept largely to themselves during postgame, with neither tipping their hand about their plans.

“It’s too early to think about that,” Duncan said.

Said Ginobili, “(Retirement) could happen, easily. I still don’t know what I want to do, and I don’t want to make big decisions after a disappointment like this. I’ll sit with my family, try to evaluate what happened this year. The Spurs have a decision to make, too. It’s not a topic for right now.”

The Spurs could conceivably reload with the potential of more than $20 million in cap space this summer when the free agent period opens in July. But to reach that threshold, they’d have to bid farewell to both Duncan and Ginobili, who along with Tony Parker have been the foundation of the team since they first joined forces in 2002.


No. 3: As Wall goes, so go Wizards — Slotted into a Nos. 4-5 matchup with Toronto in the first round, on the heels of an underwhelming second half to the regular season, the Washington Wizards haven’t grabbed much of the playoff spotlight so far. Sweeping Toronto, impressive as that was, only served to send Washington back to the practice gym while others played more desperate games. But the Wizards’ talent is lurking, and whatever they accomplish will be orchestrated largely by point guard John Wall, who’s ready for his close-up, according to contributor Ian Thomsen:

As he turns the corner on a career that is just now coming into focus, Wall is giving his Wizards a transcendent advantage. The recent negatives and traditions of their long-suffering franchise are suddenly not so important as his leadership. What his teammates have seen from their young point guard has led them to believe that their tomorrows will eclipse the yesterdays. Wall’s understanding of his teammates inspires them to believe in him.

“That’s what you go through training camp for,” says Wall, his voice deep and scratchy as if revealing the hard past. “That’s why, when you go on the road, you hang out as a team. You do little things to get the feeling, to know how they are. Some people are going to have certain mood swings and not have good days, and you’ve got to know how to talk to those guys and try to get them out of their slump, and to just lock in for those two or three hours that you’re playing the game.”

Wall’s physical talents are not to be taken for granted. But something else about him is driving and uniting his team. The reason he is fulfilling his own potential is because he is recognizing their potential.

The other bracket in the East is brimming with star power: LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and their depleted Cavaliers are surrounded by Derrick Rose, Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Jimmy Butler. In that series, the leaders are fighting to uphold reputations that have already been established.

The No. 5 Wizards, by contrast, have nothing to defend and everything to gain in their conference semifinal against the No. 1 Hawks. The Wizards are just now realizing how good they can become by playing through Wall. Their future is as unpredictable as his past.


No. 4: Banged-up Conley key for Grizzlies — Pretty vs. ugly: OK, that’s probably too reductive. Certainly there’s a lot more that will go into the Golden State-Memphis showdown in the Western Conference semifinals that begin Sunday afternoon in Oakland, but the contrast in styles between the Warriors’ high-flying, long-range offensive attack and the Grizzlies’ oversized mule team down low is as stark as anything we’ve seen or likely will see in the 2015 postseason. Few experts are giving Memphis much of a chance, Michael Wallace of notes, but its prospects perk up considerably if point guard Mike Conley is able to participate from the start. The facial injury he suffered against Portland in Round 1 might intrude, and likely will require a mask, but as soon as Conley is capable of helping his teammates, they’ll happily take him, Wallace writes:

Conley still had significant facial swelling when he attended Wednesday’s series-clinching victory over Portland two days after a surgery in which plates were inserted below and above his left eye. He sustained the injury in a Game 3 victory April 25 in Portland, when he was inadvertently elbowed in the face by Blazers guard C.J. McCollum. Conley has indicated he hopes to return at some point against the Warriors, but his coach and teammates have remained coy — perhaps strategically — about his progress.

Memphis coach Dave Joerger was asked before the team left Memphis if he expected Conley to play.

“I don’t,” Joerger said. “But only because that’s the way I look at the world as a head coach: Expect the worst, and if something better happens, then … You don’t want to go through the doctoral thesis of playoff prep, scouting-wise, without a guy with you. You want to absorb that and get the adjustments being made on the practice court or shootaround court, seeing stuff live. He’s definitely all-in mentally.”

Depending on the teammate questioned, Conley either spent the past two days practicing and on the verge of a return or nowhere to be found. All-Star center Marc Gasol suggested he hadn’t seen Conley and knew nothing about rumors his point guard had been testing protective masks, a step that wasn’t expected until swelling subsided substantially. But then shooting guard Courtney Lee told reporters Conley would be back and the Grizzlies would be facing the Warriors “with a full army” for Game 1.

“We’ll have Mike back,” Lee said. “We feel good about our chances. Just having him back is a boost.”


SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: LeBron James and Cavaliers coach David Blatt would be more surprised if Chicago’s Joakim Noah were not excited about getting Cleveland in the Eastern Conference semifinals. …Before Steve Kerr, before Stephen Curry and definitely before the Golden State Warriors started winning big, they had the NBA’s most loyal, noisy and arguably knowledgeable fans. … Brook Lopez looms literally and figuratively as the biggest of the Brooklyn Nets’ free-agent decisions. … Then there’s Nets guard Deron Williams, whose coach, Lionel Hollins, has downgraded him from any lofty “franchise player” status. Nice of Lionel to catch up to the rest of us on that. … Portland’s multiple free agents will boost the NBA market overall, but they pose challenges for the Blazers. … If the Bulls cut loose Tom Thibodeau, the Orlando Magic will be waiting with a net. The Magic are determined to hire a coach with considerable experience. …