Posts Tagged ‘Steve Aschburner’

Cavaliers could help Spurs’ pursuit of Aldridge, but should they?


If the Cleveland Cavaliers make it back to the Finals next June and find themselves facing a familiar LeBron James nemesis, the San Antonio Spurs, remember this day.

This is the day, on the eve of NBA free agency 2015, that scenario began to seriously take root.

The LaMarcus Aldridge-to-San Antonio speculation already had a good head of steam, but clearing sufficient cap space — sending off Tiago Splitter or Boris Diaw, for instance, and likely more — to sign Aldridge away from the Portland Trail Blazers while taking care of the Spurs’ other summer business was going to be a challenge. If they didn’t get creative, GM R.C. Buford, coach Gregg Popovich and the rest might wind up dredging a rut in their roster so deep, they could end up taking two steps forward, one back.

Then this emerged Tuesday, the day before the week of free-agent moratorium:

By trading for Haywood and his non-guaranteed salary, the Spurs could cut him loose and use the salary cap space it frees up to take care of more pressing priorities beyond Aldridge. Like keeping Danny Green, the 3-point shooter and solid perimeter defender so essential to their Finals runs in 2013 and 2014. This would, of course, require precise bookkeeping and expert timing in a concrete if/then arrangement triggered first and foremost by Aldridge. As noted by Spurs beat writer Jeff McDonald:

It sounds great for the dynasty lovers down in Texas and, presumably, the Cavaliers would get something they want in return, either from San Antonio or a third team. But would it be enough to prompt them to facilitate the makeover ambitions of a serious rival for the NBA championship? The Spurs qualify as that pretty much every year, but landing Aldridge, re-upping Kawhi Leonard and not tearing down the rest of the roster would have them on the extremely short list that already has James and the Cavaliers, the Golden State Warriors and maybe one other team or two.

Do you really want to have to beat a formidable opponent in June that you could have undermined way back in July, if only you hadn’t served up exactly what its architects and capologists were seeking?

Report: Calipari denies he is in running for Kings’ coaching, front-office gigs

The total number of players any NBA team can have under contract at one time is dictated both by roster limits and the salary cap.

There is no such restriction on coaches, however, or other front-office personnel. And boy, doesn’t Sacramento’s Vivek Ranadive seem to know it.

Despite having Kings head coach George Karl signed up for three more years and about $10 million, the impulsive Sacramento owner reportedly has explored the possibility of having University of Kentucky coach John Calipari take over both on the sidelines and in the front office, Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reported.

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“Probing” was the verb Wojnarowski used, which meant the whole thing could be disavowed easily from either side. And that’s precisely what began happening almost immediately Tuesday morning, from both sides:

Even if there isn’t fire, there apparently was some smoke. Wojnarowski cited sources claiming it would cost the Kings $10 million annually to pry Calipari loose from the Wildcats. At Kentucky, establishing his successful “one-and-done” program built around the NBA’s draft eligibility rule, Calipari has steered the team to a 190-37 (.837) record with one national title and four trips to the Final Four. In his only previous NBA stint, he lasted two-plus seasons with the Nets, posting a 72-112 mark.

This has been fueled by the recent schism between Karl and All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins, with folks within the team and in the two principals’ camps choosing up sides to exacerbate the situation. What follows is a snippet of the original Yahoo! report. But first, let it be known that the Kings already have had five, count ’em, five different coaches – in reverse chronological order, Karl, Tyrone Corbin, Mike Malone, Keith Smart and Paul Westphal – work their past 306 games:

Calipari coached Cousins at Kentucky for a season in 2009-10, and Ranadive believes Calipari could help serve as a mechanism to convince Cousins to back away from his desire to be traded to the Los Angeles Lakers, sources said. As much as anything, Calipari represents one more potential change of direction, as well as a public-relations splash for Ranadive.

Sacramento ownership, dismayed over Karl’s fractured relationship with Cousins, has had lawyers studying Karl’s contract, trying to determine if there’s a way to terminate him for “cause,” and free themselves of the three years and nearly $10 million left guaranteed on his deal, league sources told Yahoo Sports. If the Kings cannot convince Calipari to come to Sacramento – or never make a formal offer – Karl could simply remain as coach.

Sacramento’s case on trying to get out of paying Karl his contract would be based in part on his involvement in mounting a campaign to get Cousins traded, sources said. The possibility of getting Karl ousted without pay is remote.

Calipari signed a seven-year, $54 million extension a year ago to stay at Kentucky. He turned down an eight-year, $60 million-plus offer to run the Cleveland Cavaliers before LeBron James made his return in free agency last year.

The courtship of Calipari could become one more dramatic turn of events for the Kings, who have struggled under Ranadive to set forth on a direction and stay the course. Around the NBA, senior league officials and confidants of Ranadive have pleaded with him to stop these sharp changes in direction, sources said.

As one league official familiar with Ranadive’s mindset told Yahoo Sports, “He’s trying to find a magic button to push that’ll fix everything.”

Bulls shift focus to frontcourt when Portis falls to them


VIDEO: Instant analysis on Bulls’ draft pick Bobby Portis

CHICAGO – The Bulls went shopping for a point guard and came home with a power forward.

Landing Bobby Portis, a jack-of-all-trades forward from Arkansas, was too good, and too unexpected, to pass up, which is why Chicago grabbed him at No. 22 in the first round of Thursday’s NBA Draft. But most of the Bulls’ focus had been on point guards, both as backups to Derrick Rose and – given that it is Rose we’re talking about – injury insurance.

Anyone who fills that role next season, however, will come via trade or free agency, much the way the Bulls have plugged the spot before (Aaron Brooks, D.J. Augustin, Nate Robinson). Portis brings a bundle of skills, but he’s more likely to be the picker and the roller than the ball handler.

“I can do a lot of different things,” Portis told reporters late Thursday. “I don’t have to have the basketball to score. I’m a guy who moves well without the basketball. I’m a guy that picks and pops, picks and rolls.”

Various scouting reports cast Portis as a big man skilled in multiple areas, without being dominant in any one. He’s 6-foot-11 with a 7-2 wingspan, the Bulls said. Multiple mock drafts penciled him in for Milwaukee at No. 17, with most projecting him to go between Nos. 13-20. With veteran Taj Gibson recently undergoing ankle surgery and center Joakim Noah coming off a down season limited by knee trouble, Portis brings depth the Bulls would rather not need.

Fred Hoiberg, the Bulls’ new head coach, faced Portis last season when his Iowa State team hosted the Razorbacks. He recalled Portis hitting six of seven shots in the first half, “all from the perimeter,” and finished with 19 points and eight rebounds.

“They play a different system at Arkansas – it’s a lot of pressure,” Hoiberg said. “It’s the ’40 minutes of hell,’ with a lot of pressing and he was in the back of that press quite a bit. With the turnovers they created, he probably wasn’t able to show his full package.

“The thing I’m excited about is his ability to play all over the floor,” Hoiberg added. “He was a guy who can hurt you from inside and out. … He moves very well for a kid that size, which is very important for the pace we’re going to want to play with.”

Portis also plays with an edge, Bulls GM Gar Forman said, that his employers welcome. An admirer of Kevin Garnett, Portis – who will have to lose his college headband, given Bulls tradition – said he tries to play as angry as that NBA veteran. “I envision that the player on the [other] team slapped my Mom,” he has said.

Speaking of edge, Forman addressed reports circulating after the Bulls were eliminated by Cleveland in the Eastern Conference semifinals that Rose and Jimmy Butler – the 2015 Most Improved Player and his team’s No. 1 priority to re-sign when he hits unrestricted free agency July 1 – chafed in the playoffs as competing alpha dogs.

“I’ve read about the friction,” Forman said. “I haven’t seen it. I think in all of our minds, you’ve got two guys who can attack, that want to run, that can play off the dribble, can play-make for themselves and for others. They haven’t had a chance to do it a whole lot because of injuries, but there’s no reason those two shouldn’t be able to play at a high level and, in our opinion, be one of the best backcourts in the league.”

Opt-out decision by Cavaliers’ Love likeliest scenario all along


VIDEO: Kevin Love on Cleveland’s fanbase

Kevin Love has decided to opt out of what’s left of his contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers and explore the options available to him in free agency.

Which, of course, is strictly business and should come as a surprise only to those who put too much stock in Love’s previous comments. In January, he told the Northeast Ohio Media Group he planned to opt-in this offseason to stick with Cleveland. On May 31, he told reporters he expected to be “suiting up by Game 1 of next year” with the Cavaliers.

That might be exactly what happens, anyway. The news — first reported Wednesday by ESPN.com’s Marc Stein but long expected — that Love would opt out of his current deal just happens to be his best move financially whether he stays in Cleveland or goes. It’s his best move, too, whether he wants to commit long-term to the Cavaliers’ and teammate LeBron James‘ plans or prefers to work from a shorter horizon while keeping other possibilities open.

Certainly, Cavaliers fans who think Love’s presence next season could make up the gap between Finals runner-up and NBA champions might be a bit nervous. So too might those who don’t want to watch Andrew Wiggins‘ career dwelling on that trade with Minnesota as a one-year, rent-a-player thing.

Still, the bigger news would have been if Love had opted in for the final season of his existing contract, without working the shifting NBA financial landscape in his favor. Here’s a quick summary of his options, as laid out by Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com’s Cavs expert, soon after Love’s postseason-ending shoulder injury in April. Love can:

  • Opt in on the last year of his current deal for $16.7 million.
  • Sign a five-year deal with the Cavaliers this offseason for about $109 million.
  • Sign a four-year deal with another team this offseason for about $80 million.
  • Sign a one-year deal with Cleveland or another team for about $19 million this summer, then hit free agency again next summer.

By the time Love came due again one year from now, what he could get from another team ($106 million) would be significantly more than this year and approach the best deal available now from the Cavaliers. If he stayed in Cleveland then for the full five-year max, that contract might be worth as much as $143 million.

And by going short term now, either in Cleveland or elsewhere, Love could buy time to synch up with the NBA’s expected big jump in salary cap (thanks, TV revenues!). He also could make the shortie a “one-and-one” deal with an opt-out clause next summer, expecting to exercise it but holding an extra year of guaranteed salary for injury insurance.

That’s why Love’s decision as his June 25 opt-in deadline loomed isn’t a surprise.

The only unfortunate thing is that Love chose to misdirect inquiring minds, whether to tamp down any panic or just get the media off of him. A better tactic might have been: “I’m not thinking about that now, but probably I’ll do whatever looks to be the best basketball and the best business move.” Even the nosiest media folks likely would have respected that.

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.

Blogtable: Who’s going No. 1-5?

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


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



VIDEODraft HQ’s crew holds a mock draft for the first three picks

> Who are you picking 1-5 in tomorrow night’s Draft? And, which player in this year’s Draft will be its Stephen Curry (i.e. the player most consider to be the best in the Draft class) a few years from now and why?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.comI get the top five? Wow, talk about a quick rebuilding and a friendly salary-cap hit.

1. Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. Jahlil Okafor (Lakers)
3. D’Angelo Russell (Sixers)
4. Emmanuel Mudiay (Knicks)
5. Kristaps Porzingis (Magic)

I think Russell emerges as the “Curry” of this draft, by virtue of his skills and the fat opportunity he’ll have to showcase them should he wind up, as many expect, in Philadelphia. Michael Carter-Williams won a Rookie of the Year award that way.

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com

1. Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. Jahlil Okafor (Lakers)
3. D’Angelo Russell (Sixers)
4. Kristaps Porzingas (Knicks)
5. Emmanuel Mudiay (Magic)

Sometimes you don’t have to look past the obvious. Karl-Anthony Towns has the most varied skills to go with his size and has the most upside in the draft. In a few years we’ll look back at the No. 1 pick in 2015 and say, “Of course.”

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.comIf you mean what I think should happen and not what I think will happen …

1. Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. D’Angelo Russell (Lakers)
3. Kristaps Porzingis (Sixers)
4. Jahlil Okafor (Knicks)
5. Mario Hezonja (Magic)

Towns has the highest ceiling, the best chance to impact on both sides of the ball. He won’t be the best player in two years, but he will be for the career. I might go Hezonja second, then Russell.

Shaun Powell, NBA.com

1. Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. Jahlil Okafor (Lakers)
3. D’Angelo Russell (Sixers)
4. Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks)
5. Mario Hezonja (Magic)

Obviously Mudiay could be in the top 5. My “next Curry” is Cameron Payne, who like Curry is a point guard form a small school who did rather big things. That is, if all the pre-draft raves about Payne are true.

John Schuhmann, NBA.com

1. Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. Jahlil Okafor (Lakers)
3. D’Angelo Russell (Sixers)
4. Emmanuel Mudiay (Knicks)
5. Kristaps Porzingis (Magic)

I’m going chalk with both answers (because my knowledge of these guys is limited), believing that Towns will ultimately be the best player from the Draft. He’s 7-feet tall, has the skills to help his team on both ends of the floor in today’s game, and is a good fit in Minnesota next to Andrew Wiggins.

Sekou Smith, NBA.com:

1. Karl Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. Jahlil Okafor (Lakers)
3. D’Angelo Russell (Sixers)
4. Emmanuel Mudiay (Knicks)
5. Kristaps Porzingis (Magic)

The Steph Curry of this Draft will be Justise Winslow, the most versatile and NBA ready player available in the entire pool. He’ll get the Steph Curry Award for having the game and impact most similar to what Draymond Green did for Curry and the recently crowned champion Golden State Warriors. Winslow is the best potential two-way player in this Draft (I’m thinking Jimmy Butler), with Arizona’s Stanley Johnson ranking just behind him in my book. That means something in the small-ball, pace-and-space evolution/revolution that’s going on right now.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com

1. Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. D’Angelo Russell (Lakers)
3. Kristaps Porzingis (Sixers)
4. Jahlil Okafor (Knicks)
5. Mario Hezonja (Magic)

Russell figures to be rookie of the year, but Towns should be the best player based on his potential to lead his NBA team defensively while providing versatile offense.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog

1. Karl-Anthony Towns (Timberwolves)
2. Jahlil Okafor (Lakers)
3. D’Angelo Russell (Sixers)
4. Kristaps Porzingis (Knicks)
5. Emmanuel Mudiay (Magic)
I’m not sure that there is a player like Curry, in the sense that a player is passed up by a few teams and matures into being the best player in his class. To me, Towns is the clear best player in the Draft, and it seems like he’ll go No. 1. Some of the other guys may be great at one facet or another, but I think Towns has the ability to be the best all-around player.

 

Blogtable: Riley’s pitch to Wade?

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


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



VIDEOWould Dwyane Wade consider leaving the Heat in free agency?

> If you’re Pat Riley and you’re meeting with Dwyane Wade at some point in the next few days, what is your pitch to get him to opt in/re-sign with Miami?

Steve Aschburner, NBA.com: I appeal to Wade the businessman and try a little role reversal: “Dwyane, if you were in my seat, would you overpay for a gimpy backcourt player who turns 34 next season and has missed 30 percent of his team’s games the past two years?” OK, maybe I’d sugarcoat it a little better than that, but that’s the crux of the matter. Wade doesn’t have to go the Tim Duncan/Dirk Nowitzki route with his paychecks if he doesn’t want to – assuming he can get what he wants elsewhere – but then he might end up in a situation similar to Kobe Bryant‘s, with too much dough committed to the aging star and not enough left for sufficient help. Also, Riley still has this hole card to play: “You’re Mr. Heat, Dwyane. You can make up the money difference over the next 30 years by being a part of this franchise and letting the Arisons pay you from the non-salary-capped budget.”

Fran Blinebury, NBA.com: I’d tell him, yes, we’ve used you, yes, we’ve taken you for granted. But the fact is we are still able and willing to pay you more than anybody else in the league. Plus, if we keep Goran Dragic and Hassan Whiteside and you stay healthy, we’re a pretty good team in the East.

Scott Howard-Cooper, NBA.com: “Dwyane, this is home. So few players get the chance to play their entire Hall of Fame career with one team. That’s special. You know we’re going to do whatever it takes to surround you with a good roster again. We’ve proven that. We have paid you well before. We will continue to pay you well. It may not be the number you have in mind, but your loyalty is being rewarded. Be part of something big. Again.”

Shaun Powell, NBA.com: Riley should give his grass-isn’t-greener speech and remind Wade that, aside from Dan Marino, nobody registers louder in South Florida sports. Miami is Wade’s home, and anyway, Riley should also explain to Wade that he’ll be a part of the Heat family long past retirement, like Alonzo Mourning, and the organization will find a way to keep him on payroll for many years. Owner Mickey Arison will take care of Wade.

John Schuhmann, NBA.comWe can give you the most money. The Dragic/Bosh pick-and-pop is going to be deadly. We’re in the Eastern Conference. And you’ll continue to live in ****ing Miami. But I could really use some flexibility next year to add a new player, so let’s do a two-year deal with an opt out, OK?

Sekou Smith, NBA.com: We know that whole throwing the rings on the table thing won’t work this time. I’m not sure there is a reasonable pitch to be made to Wade when you’re preparing a max offer for Goran Dragic, the heir apparent to the throne as the Heat’s best player. Wade has already swallowed one sizable pay cut in the past five years to ensure the Big 3 era took off in Miami. Asking him to take another hit for the team this time seems like a tough way of showing the greatest player in franchise history how much you love and respect him for what he’s done to help make the Heat what they have been throughout Wade’s tenure in Miami. The last four years of Finals appearances doesn’t happen without Wade’s financial, emotional and on-court sacrifice to accommodate LeBron James and Chris Bosh.

Ian Thomsen, NBA.com: Sell him on the long-term: How few players of this era are going to spend an entire career with the same team? How important will that be over the remaining decades of Wade’s life after basketball? But there is only so much selling that can be done in this relationship that has lasted so long already.

Lang Whitaker, NBA.com’s All Ball blog Well, first of all, I’d have the meeting on my yacht, cruising in the twilight along Biscayne Bay. Then I’d point out that Wade is a 33-year-old guard who can’t shoot threes and can’t stay healthy. So good luck getting anyone else to pay you $16 million this season. Also, with the Heat in a weird salary situation right now, it actually helps the Heat for Wade to opt-in. Last thing: It would be cool for Wade to stick with the team that he’s played for his entire career. Now, let’s park the yacht over near South Beach and enjoy the night.

Blogtable: Future for Cousins, Kings?

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


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Veterans Duncan, Pierce still loom large as free-agent dominoes

If this were, say, 10 years ago and both Tim Duncan and Paul Pierce were hitting free agency July 1, the NBA landscape already would be quivering in anticipation. At 39 and 37 years old, however, and with 2,980 regular season and playoff games behind them, Duncan and Pierce aren’t the A-listers they once were.

But their situations still will have ripple effects on several teams, and potentially players such as LaMarcus Aldridge, Marc Gasol, Otto Porter Jr., Mike Dunleavy Jr., and rookies from the Class of ’15.

First, consider Duncan and the difference now from a year ago. Back then, lots of people thought that a successful title defense in 2014-15 by San Antonio might prompt the greatest of all Spurs to walk away this summer. The repeat didn’t happen but Duncan had a strong season – eerily so, if you look at the consistency of his per-36 stat – and now looms large in San Antonio’s plans. Here is Mike Monroe of the San Antonio Express News on Duncan’s pivotal role in seeking and signing other talent:

It is how, and when, the Spurs and Duncan agree on a new deal that will determine how the club approaches the most important summer since 2000, when a 24-year-old Duncan became a free agent for the first time and received an offer from the Orlando Magic that was too good not to consider seriously.

With 10 players hitting free agency on July 1 the Spurs have only six players under contract for next season. Those six — Kyle Anderson, Boris Diaw, Patty Mills, Tony Parker, Tiago Splitter and Reggie Williams (non-guaranteed) — have salaries totaling about $34.2 million.

But NBA rules require all teams to “hold” at least 12 players at all times, and the Spurs can only retain their free agency rights to Duncan, [Manu] Ginobili, Jeff Ayres, Aron Baynes, Marco Belinelli, Matt Bonner, Danny Green, Cory Joseph and Kawhi Leonard by putting them on their player list with salary cap hold figures that presume salary increases.

The cap holds put the Spurs way over the projected $67 million salary cap.

There are several NBA player personnel executives who believe the Spurs will offer Duncan a two-year contract that begins between $6 million and $7 million, with a partial guarantee and a player option in the second season.

If Duncan doesn’t exercise the option, he gets, say, 50 percent of that season’s salary. In effect, his salary for next season would remain over $10 million, the partially guaranteed portion of the second season’s salary remaining on the Spurs team salary after the cap explodes with the NBA’s new TV money kicking in for 2016-17.

“You can call it a ‘wink-wink’ deal if you want to,” said an Eastern Conference team executive.” It’s what they did with [Antonio] McDyess, so why not for Duncan.”

Then there is Pierce, who sounded on the verge of retirement after his last-second shot against Atlanta in Game 6 of their East semifinals series barely missed beating the buzzer. According to Wizards beat writer Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Pierce is definitely planning to play again next season, with the big question being where: Washington or Los Angeles, for his old pal Doc Rivers and the Clippers?

Here is a taste of Castillo’s report, which delves into the impact of Pierce’s choice on Porter, on the Wizards and on assorted free agents or player Washington could select in Thursday’s talent roundup:

Pierce emphasized he loved his year with the Wizards, guiding the Wizards’ young core and getting another crack at the postseason in a more diminished role. And just because he opts out his contract doesn’t mean he won’t stay in the District; Pierce, who turns 38 in October, could sign a one-year deal for more than $5.5 million to stick around, which would also help the Wizards keep the flexibility they desire for the much anticipated summer of 2016.

The Clippers will likely only be able to offer Pierce the mini-mid-level exception of $3.37 million, but they are arguably closer to hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy than the Wizards — even in the tough Western Conference — and provide Pierce two amenities the Wizards cannot: A return home and a reunion with Rivers. Pierce grew up in Los Angeles and Rivers, now the Clippers’ maestro as the organization’s coach and general manager, coached him for nine seasons with the Boston Celtics. They won the title together there in 2008.

Rivers had a chance to nab the future Hall of Famer last summer, but opted to give the Clippers’ full mid-level exception to Spencer Hawes. The decision proved to be catastrophic as Hawes was buried on the Clippers bench for most of the campaign and was traded along with Matt Barnes to the Charlotte Hornets for swingman Lance Stephenson earlier this week.

Like his arrival, Hawes’s departure could have a direct impact on Pierce: In a radio interview Wednesday, Rivers said he prefers Stephenson coming off the bench and will look for a starting small forward elsewhere this summer. ESPN then reported the Clippers are considering Pierce.

So what would the Wizards do if Pierce decides to take a pay cut and return to the City of Angels for one final hurrah?

One thing is almost certain: Porter Jr., who enjoyed a breakout in the playoffs, would start at small forward. But Washington’s depth and scoring would take a hit regardless. Rasual Butler is a 35-year-old free agent. Martell Webster is entering the final guaranteed year of his contract but the 28-year-old was ineffective after his third back surgery in four years. Garrett Temple is a wing option but is better suited as a two-guard and emergency point guard.

Morning shootaround — June 20


VIDEO: Curry addresses fans at Warriors victory parade

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Sixers court doctor ‘Dream Team’ for Embiid | Lakers face limited choice at No. 2 | Did Warriors’ exuberance trump league memo? | Avery coulda been a contendah

No. 1: Sixers court doctor ‘Dream Team’ for Embiid — The Philadelphia 76ers have done so ding-dong-dandy well at drafting a basketball team with all their high picks lately that they apparently are branching into another field: medicine. The team’s front office is sparing no expense in rounding up the best possible sports physicians and orthopedists to examine the right foot of untested 7-foot center Joel Embiid. Keith Pompey of the Philadephia Inquirer wrote about the latest in Embiid’s unnerving foot plight:

76ers CEO Scott O’Neil said on the Breakfast on Broad show Friday that three more doctors will evaluate the latest setback in the healing of Joel Embiid’s right foot.

“We’re still waiting,” O’Neil said. “We have another three doctors to come see him. The nice thing about jobs like these – you can literally get the best experts in the world. All you have to do is call and they love to see us.”

He added that the franchise could get an answer about the 7-foot center’s future in “a couple of weeks.”

The team announced last Saturday night that Embiid had a setback in his recuperation. The 2014 first-round draft pick from Kansas missed what would have been his rookie season after undergoing surgery last June to repair a stress fracture in the navicular bone in his right foot.

It is unknown if Embiid, 21, will have to undergo another surgery, which could sideline him for part of next season. The team is still gathering information, and nothing has been ruled out.

The Cameroonian big man is not expected to participate in the two NBA summers leagues the Sixers will participate in next month although O’Neil said his status is not known. It’s also not known how long he will be sidelined.

O’Neil confirmed that Embiid has been shut down from working out.

There’s a chance this injury will hinder Embiid’s career the way it has for other 7-footers. Like Embiid, Yao Ming suffered a stress fracture in a navicular bone in 2008 and again in 2009. That injury forced Yao to retire in 2011.

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No. 2: Lakers face limited choice at No. 2 — The Los Angeles Lakers appear to want no part of any “We’re No. 2! We’re No. 2!” chant, whether it pertains to their status as basketball tenants at Staples Center or to the spot in which they’re sitting for Thursday’s NBA Draft. They’re in the semi-awkward position of having to wait for the Minnesota Timberwolves to choose their man – most likely between Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns or Duke’s Jahlil Okafor – before getting their five minutes on the clock. And while 28 other teams would be more than accommodating to welcome Okafor into their fold, the sense that he’s being forced on them – the way a cheap magician forces a certain playing card when doing his parlor tricks – has the Lakers already feeling a little snubbed. After all, they’re the Lakers and Minnesota is the Timberwolves. And yet… As Mark Medina writes for the Los Angeles Daily News:

In less than a week, the Lakers will embark on an NBA draft that could significantly influence the pace of their massive rebuilding project. So with six days remaining before that date on June 25, the Lakers have scheduled numerous workouts in hopes for more clarity involving their No. 2, 27 and 34th picks.

The Lakers [were scheduled to] host a private workout for Duke center Jahlil Okafor on Friday afternoon at the team’s practice facility in El Segundo, marking the second individual workout Okafor has had wearing a purple and gold practice jersey. The Lakers also plan to host a private workout on Saturday both for Ohio State guard D’Angelo Russell and for prospects that might be available at the No. 27 and 34th draft slots. The Lakers will then have private workouts next Monday and Wednesday just for prospects they would consider with the 27th and 34h picks.

The Lakers also held a second workout on Thursday for point guard Emmanuel Mudiay, though his session entailed training with prospects slated for the second round. On Monday, the Lakers invited Latvian forward Kristaps Porzingis for an individual workout after seeing him train last weekend in Las Vegas.

The Lakers have also become increasingly doubtful they will have a workout for Kentucky center Karl-Anthony Towns. The Lakers believe their lack of progress with those efforts stem from most NBA mock drafts predicting the Minnesota Timberwolves will select with their No. 1 pick. But the Lakers will accommodate their workout schedule should Towns and his representatives express interest in a workout.

It isn’t likely this sort of stuff will buoy the Lakers’ hopes, a sighting by the Twins beat writer for MLB.com:

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No. 3: Did Warriors’ exuberance trump league memo? — A league directive is a league directive, right? When the NBA sends out an advisory to all its member teams to tread lightly when talking about restricted free agents – as ESPN and other outlets have reported – you’d expect that to be taken seriously and heeded. After all, there has been and can be a chilling effect to RFA players’ market value if prospective bidders are convinced their time is being wasted, thanks to the players’ most recent teams going big with the we’re-gonna-match rhetoric. The National Basketball Players Association doesn’t think that’s right and is said to be monitoring such talk, with the possibility of legal action against teams that engage in it. It’s not just some made-up problem, either, according to CBSSports.com‘s Matt Moore:

It’s a smart move by the NBPA. The comments generally fall inside two categories. One, to make a player feel loved and let fans know that they’re not going to let a key member of a team go, and two, to discourage teams from putting a bid in on a player knowing they’ll only be tying up their cap space while setting the bar of an offer for the player’s team to match.

In a broader sense, this speaks to a larger problem of the general lowdown underhandedness implicit with the restricted free agency device. A player is granted free agency at the end of his rookie contract, but he’s not actually free in the agent sense — he can negotiate with other teams, can sign offer sheets, but doesn’t actually control where he goes. New Orleans guard Eric Gordon very badly wanted to go to Phoenix several years ago, and the Suns’ training staff might have done wonders for his unreliable body. Despite public angst over the deal and a plea for the Pelicans to not match, New Orleans decided to keep the player they in essence traded Chris Paul for.

A more nefarious situation occurred without such a public stance in 2009. Josh Smith of the Atlanta Hawks –before he was the reclamation project that was waived by the Pistons and became an unlikely playoff contributor for Houston — was a restricted free agent in 2009. Teams knew that the Hawks would match any offer, though, and Smith just sat there on the free agency pile before eventually signing an offer sheet with the Grizzlies in the hopes Atlanta would let him go. They did not, and instead got Smith back on a bargain. Meanwhile, last summer the Suns pulled the same trick with Eric Bledsoe, forcing a nasty holdout that stretched on until August. Bledsoe eventually got the kind of big-money deal he was after, but it took the threat of the qualifying offer in order to force the Suns to move.

Banning public comments about a team’s determination to keep their restricted free agency star won’t stop word of a team’s intentions from getting around and impacting value. But it at least keeps it in the behind-curtains world of league rumors and provides a few more percentage points of leverage for a player as he and his agent negotiate a better position.

So then we get to Friday and the Golden State Warriors’ championship parade in downtown Oakland. Looks like somebody forgot about the memo:

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No. 4: Avery coulda been a contendah — Because Avery Johnson, former NBA point guard, one-time NBA champion (1999) and two-time head coach (Mavericks and Nets), is a pretty good self-promoter, one’s first response is to chalk his comments up to bluster. When he says he likely would have landed one of the four recent open coaching jobs if only he’d held off on moving into the college ranks to coach Alabama, it’s easy to think, “Yeah, and my Uncle Fred can say the same thing now that the jobs are all filled.” But Johnson, a New Orleans native who interviewed with that team before it hired Monty Williams in 2010, sounded pretty convincing when he talked with John Reid of the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

”I know without a shadow of a doubt, that if I had waited, there would have been a high probabiliity I would have got an NBA job based upon the conversations my agent was having with some people,” Johnson said by telephone Thursday. ”But the main thing is that there is no turning back. I’m here at the University of Alabama and this is the right situation.”

Jonnson, 50, would not disclose what NBA teams his agent had exploratory conversations with.
The Pelicans were one of four teams, which included the Orlando Magic, Chicago Bulls and the Denver Nuggets, that had coaching vacancies last month. However, all of those jobs have been filled now.

The Pelicans hired Alvin Gentry on May 30 to replace Monty Williams, who was fired after five seasons. Gentry will be formally introduced by the Pelicans on Monday afternoon. He took part in the Warriors’ parade celebration in Oakland, Calif., on Friday. The Warriors won their first NBA championship in 40 years on Tuesday night after beating the Cleveland Cavaliers in six games in the NBA Finals.

Johnson is close friends with Pelicans executive vice president Mickey Loomis and he is a longtime friend of Saints and Pelicans owner Tom Benson.

”Sometimes change is hard,” Johnson said. ”But from what I’ve heard, Alvin did a nice job interviewing for the job. I think his experiences with the different head coaching jobs that he has had and assistant coaching jobs, he brings a wealth of experience to the franchise.”

Johnson said it is just a matter for the Pelicans to put the right pieces around star power forward Anthony Davis to win big in the Western Conference. [Davis] ended the season with the league’s highest player-efficiency rating at 30.8, which is the 11th highest for a single season in NBA history.

Davis also was a first-team All-NBA selection, finished fifth for the league’s MVP award and averaged 24.4 points and led the league in blocks with a 2.9 average during the regular season.
”I tell you what, his plays are going to work a whole lot better with Anthony Davis,” Johnson said.”I’m happy for Alvin.”

Johnson last coached in the NBA in 2012,when he was fired by the Brooklyn Nets after a 14-14 start.

Johnson was the NBA Coach of the Year in 2006 after leading the Dallas Mavericks to their first NBA Finals appearance but they lost to the Miami Heat. In almost seven seasons as an NBA coach, which included four seasons with the Mavericks starting in 2004, Johnson compiled a 440-254 record.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Melvin Hunt, the interim Denver Nuggets coach who won’t be returning under Mike Malone, has found a spot on Dallas coach Rick Carlisle‘s staff. … Portland guard Steve Blake has exercised his player option to stick with the team next season for a reported $2.1 million. Blazers fans still await decisions on Arron Afflalo (his, if he wants to be back for $7.3 million) and Chris Kaman (theirs, if they want him back for $5 million). … Taj Gibson‘s ankle surgery is going to sideline the Chicago Bulls backup big for an estimated four months. … If Steve Nash is a future Hall of Famer, so is Shawn Marion. Huh? That’s ESPN.com’s claim and they’re sticking to it. … Former GM Danny Ferry‘s buyout and exit from the Atlanta Hawks moved forward with approval of the team’s board. … J.R. Smith didn’t do enough for the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Finals but he has done wonders for the “phunkeeduck.” Yes, the “phunkeeduck.”