Posts Tagged ‘Vlade Divac’

Report: Divac offers Peja job with Kings

Those were the best of times in Sacramento, when Vlade Divac was making passes out of the post to Peja Stojakovic to bury another 3-pointer and the cowbells were clanging and Arco Arena was rocking.

The Kings never quite got over the top or past the Lakers for Western Conference supremacy, but it was definitely fun to watch them play and to soak in the atmosphere.

Now it seems Divac wants to recapture some of the old spark and magic. According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, Divac has asked his Serbian countryman and ex-Kings teammate to help him turn around their old NBA team by offering him a player personnel job with the franchise:

Sources said new Kings vice president of basketball operations Vlade Divac has asked his former NBA and international teammate Stojakovic to leave Europe and move back to the United States to assist him in a player personnel role.

Stojakovic’s No. 16 jersey was retired by the Kings in December. He attended Summer League in Las Vegas with the Kings in a consulting role to Divac earlier this month, but sources say a firm decision on whether the 38-year-old joins them on a permanent basis might not come before September.

Stojakovic, 38, was drafted by the Kings in 1996 and joined them as a player before the lockout-shortened 1999 season, which was also Divac’s first as a King. Together with Chris Webber and Jason Williams, Sacramento’s Serbian duo helped transform the franchise’s fortunes and made them one of the West’s strongest teams for a half-decade.

Morning shootaround — July 14


VIDEO: What to make of the DeMarcus Cousins-George Karl situation

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Karl, Cousins meet | Blatt reflects on year one | Nets begin youth movement | Change in playoff seeding?

No. 1: Karl, Cousins meet One of the running subplots all summer has involved the Sacramento Kings, who continue to try and rebuild their roster. Coach George Karl and All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins have publicly disagreed this summer, but yesterday at the Samsung Las Vegas Summer League, the two finally were face-to-face. As Marc Spears writes for Yahoo, Karl says they can make the relationship work

“I just said hello to him this afternoon,” Karl told Yahoo Sports. “I don’t think it’s something we have to rush through. You got two guys that are very frustrated with losing, two guys that are somewhat stubborn and two guys that love to compete.

“Sometimes, that doesn’t work the first time you hang around. But you have to take your time to make it work. I’m very confident to make it work.”

Karl was given a four-year, $14 million deal to coach the Kings on Feb. 8. Days later, Cousins made his first NBA All-Star appearance. Karl had an 11-19 record coaching the Kings last season.

The rift between Cousins and Karl grew after Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski reported before the NBA draft that Karl wanted Cousins traded. Cousins responded by tweeting out an emoji of a snake in the grass. A day later, Karl said Cousins was the Kings’ best player but the franchise needed him to be “committed and dedicated to being in Sacramento.”

Kings owner Vivek Ranadive was so upset with Karl that he seriously considering firing him, a league source said. Cousins wanted to be traded before the draft, a source told Yahoo Sports, but no deal was consummated.

“Cousins felt like if Karl wanted [him] to be traded then he wanted to be traded, too,” a source close to the situation said.

Cousins declined comment when asked about Karl by Yahoo Sports on Sunday and simply said he was “straight” [good]. New Kings general manager Vlade Divac told Yahoo Sports that he expects Karl to be the coach when next season begins.

When asked what he needed to do to reconnect with Cousins, Karl told Yahoo Sports: “Communicate. Get everything honest. Come to whatever you want to say, an agreement on what he wants from me and what I want from him. Just be professional about our jobs and communicate.”

Divac said he would play a strong role in helping Cousins and Karl get on the same page before next season.

“It’s going in a good direction,” Divac said. “I have a goal for the two to be in a great place. And they will be.”

***

No. 2: Blatt reflects on year one Last season was Cleveland Cavaliers coach David Blatt‘s first season as an NBA head coach. He’d spent decades as a coach in Europe, but as Blatt explained yesterday in Las Vegas, coming to the NBA was a completely different experience, writes Tim Reynolds for The Associated Press

Blatt – a wildly successful coach in Europe before getting his long-awaited chance to lead an NBA team for the first time last season – was a panelist on Monday at a scouting school in Las Vegas, part of a group that was discussing some of the ways coaches prepare for games at various levels. And he detailed several differences between the European game and the NBA one.

“When I came to the NBA I was under the impression that this was going to be a breeze,” Blatt said. “I’ve been coaching for 23 years at the highest level in Europe. I coached in the national-team environment, coached professional teams, coached Euroleague teams and I thought I thought I knew basketball and I thought I knew how to coach. Which, in my mind, I did.

“But I realized that when I came over here it was a very, very different game with a whole new set of problems and a whole slew of things to deal with inside and outside of the game.”

He figured out some of it, apparently, on the fly. The Cavaliers struggled for the first half of the season, then wound up rolling to the Eastern Conference title behind LeBron James. They fell in the NBA Finals to Golden State, a loss that came with point guard Kyrie Irving out for most of the series and forward Kevin Love out for all of it because of injuries.

“We were playing every game with a different team,” Blatt said. “We started off with one team, then we lost one guy so we had to change a little bit of the way we played. Played a few more games and another guy went down, played with a different team, that guy came back, then all of sudden we were playing with half of our old team and it just kind of went like that as we went along.

“I’m really (angry) we didn’t play the final series with all of our players,” he added.

***

No. 3: Nets begin youth movement The Brooklyn Nets attempted to start in Brooklyn with a splash, assembling a high-priced team and promising to win a title. Three seasons later, after that big money dream didn’t come to fruition, the Nets are now going in a different direction, shedding contracts and going after young and athletic players. As Alex Raskin writes in the Wall Street Journal, the Nets’ new path is a youth movement

They still have Brook Lopez, who last week re-signed for three years and $60 million to remain the Nets’ longest-tenured player. But now general manager Billy King is pivoting away from the model that had the team spending an NBA record $90.57 million in luxury taxes in 2013-14 as it lost a reported $144 million.

Because of last week’s buyout of point guard Deron Williams, the Nets saved more than $40 million in wages and luxury taxes and are now under the luxury-tax threshold for the first time since moving from New Jersey. And instead of losses, the Nets’ profit margin might finally resemble their black uniforms.

According to several sources within the Nets’ various ownership groups, there is real hope that the team will turn a profit for the first time in over a decade.

Being profitable wasn’t necessarily the goal of the Nets’ new strategy. Billionaire owner Mikhail Prokhorov can afford to pay the losses. What he and the team can’t afford is another disaster like the 2013 trade that brought Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce over from Boston while denying the Nets control of their first-round pick until 2019.

Pierce wasn’t re-signed last summer and King officially began picking up the pieces at the Feb. 19 trade deadline when he dealt Garnett to Minnesota for power forward Thaddeus Young.

Now, after re-signing both Lopez and Young—Young’s deal is for four years and $50 million— for the foreseeable future, the Nets are on a completely different path.

“We needed to come to Brooklyn with a team that, I thought, could win a championship,” King said. Thursday when the Nets announced the deals. “Now we’re in the mindset of: we don’t have a lot of [draft] picks so we’re trying to find a lot of diamonds in the rough and guys that can bridge the gap for us, so to speak, with the youth movement.”

***

No. 4: Change in playoff seeding? Each conference in the NBA has three divisions. Win your division, and you’re guaranteed a top-four seed in the NBA playoffs. Except, maybe not anymore? According to CBS Sports’ Ken Berger, at yesterday’s meeting of the NBA’s Competition Committee, first steps were taken that could potentially change the NBA’s playoff seeding rules

The NBA’s competition committee closely examined the league’s playoff seeding procedures on Monday, potentially paving the way for a change to the rule that currently gives a top-four seed to a division winner regardless of record, league sources told CBSSports.com.

The Board of Governors, which meets Tuesday, will be updated on the discussion, though it’s possible that a specific change won’t be recommended to the Board for a vote until October, a person familiar with the discussions said.

As part of the discussion about whether a division winner should automatically qualify for a top-four seed, the committee also examined whether a division winner should get a tiebreak over a non-division winner with a better record. No consensus was reached on the issue, sources said.

This season, Portland received the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference by winning the Northwest Division with 51 victories. The Blazers were seeded higher than the Grizzlies (No. 5) and Spurs (No. 6), who each won 55 games.

Commissioner Adam Silver, who was present for the meeting, said during his pre-Finals address that giving a seeding advantage to division winners was a rule that could be changed “fairly quickly.”

“We are very focused on the divisional seeding process, and I think we are going to take a very close look at whether we should seed at least 1 through 8 by conference as opposed to giving the division winner that higher seed,” Silver said. “That is a vestige of a division system that may not make sense anymore.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Seth Curry is using Summer League to make his own nameLarry Nance Jr. has quickly emerged as a fan favorite in Las Vegas … Patty Mills will miss the Australian National Team’s upcoming tour …

Morning shootaround — July 11


VIDEO: Anthony-Towns, Russell square off in Vegas

D-Will departure leaves Nets rebuilding | Clash of the titans in Summer League | Jordan apologizes publicly | Evolution of the Kings

NEWS OF THE MORNING

No. 1: D-Will departure leaves Nets rebuilding — The Brooklyn Nets planned to make a splash when they hopped a few rivers to get from Jersey to the city, and part of that impact was supposed to come from building around point guard Deron Williams. As our own John Schuhmann details, the Nets gave up a lot to get Williams, both in terms of finances and personnel, but things never quite worked out the way they’d hoped. With Williams’ departure (via buyout) for his hometown of Dallas, it’s time for the Nets to look for a different path to success…

Williams was dealing with ankle issues for most of his Nets tenure, missing 32 games over the last two seasons. He shot a career-low 39 percent in 2014-15.

Of course, he was still the Nets’ best point guard by a wide margin. The offense fell apart when he was replaced with (or played alongside) Jarrett Jack. Though Brooklyn was outscored by 236 points over the course of the season, Williams was just a minus-14 in more than 2,000 minutes. Jack was a minus-315.

So the move to part ways with Williams takes the Nets’ offense down a notch. But it also saves Prokhorov a ton of money. With Williams’ full salary on the books, the Nets were set to pay another $44 million in luxury tax this coming season, subject to the repeater tax levels.

With a buyout that reduces the $43 million they owe him to $27.5 million, and with the stretch provision that stretches the remaining money over five years instead of two, Brooklyn’s 2015-16 payroll can get below the luxury tax line completely. That’s a big thing for this year and going forward.

The damage isn’t completely done. They’ll still be paying Williams $5-6 million each year through the 2019-20 season, and they still owe Boston those picks in 2016 and 2018, with the potential pick swap the year in between.

The Nets still haven’t competed for a championship since Kidd was the point guard. They went 153-159 in Williams’ four full seasons with the franchise, winning just 10 playoff games. Health was an issue. Williams and Brook Lopez played just 159 (47 percent) of a possible 337 regular season games together.

The past is the past, though. Now, the Nets can finally move on. They still have some veteran talent – Johnson, Lopez and Thaddeus Young – on the roster. They’re building around the two re-signed bigs and are making a clear effort to get younger and more athletic.

***

No. 2: Clash of the titans in Summer League — It didn’t take long for the Las Vegas Summer League to produce drama: Just minutes into the tourney, number 1 overall Draft pick Karl-Anthony Towns and his Minnesota Timberwolves faced off against number 2 pick D’Angelo Russell and the Los Angeles Lakers. And by all accounts, as Marc Spears writes for Yahoo, both players produced, and showed they have room to grow…

With a record-setting crowd of 12,422 fans in attendance at the Las Vegas summer league, all eyes were on Minnesota rookie Karl-Anthony Towns as he took his first shot as an NBA player.

Air ball.

“I didn’t even want to shoot the basketball,” Towns said on his first shot — a 3-pointer — as a pro. “It’s just rookie jitters. Even though I’m the No. 1 pick, I’m not going to be perfect.”

It was a forgettable first attempt but the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NBA draft will likely laugh about it one day.

Towns finished Friday’s game against the Los Angeles Lakers with 12 points on 4-of-10 shooting from the field, missed both 3-point attempts and made all but one of five free throws. The 6-foot-11, 250-pounder averaged 21.1 minutes per game as a true freshman on a University of Kentucky team deep in talent.

In his Minnesota summer league debut, however, the 19-year-old played a challenging 31 minutes.

While Towns didn’t have the monster debut he hoped for, the Timberwolves finished with an 81-68 victory over the Lakers in a battle against No. 2 pick D’Angelo Russell.

“I started out like any other rookie,” Towns said. “I ain’t going to lie. I had a lot of butterflies. I was very nervous. My legs felt heavy. It’s your first game out.”

***

No. 3: Jordan apologizes publicly — DeAndre Jordan‘s 11th hour change of heart may have saved the immediate future for the Los Angeles Clippers, but it did something like the opposite for the Dallas Mavericks, making them scramble to change course and make the best out of what was left on the free agent market. Last night, Jordan took to Twitter to apologize to Dallas owner Mark Cuban and Mavs fans, as well as tell Clippers fans he was excited to be returning…

***

No. 4: Evolution of the Kings — No one said it would be easy. Despite their best efforts, the Sacramento Kings have been stuck on the outside of the Western Conference playoff race the last few years. In their latest iteration, the leadership of Vlade Divac and George Karl hasn’t seemed to connect with star center DeMarcus Cousins. As Shaun Powell writes, that relationship may just remain a work in progress…

George Karl wouldn’t discuss the state of his relationship with DeMarcus Cousins — “I’m not authorized to speak about that,” he said on the first day of the Samsung NBA Summer League — which means the mending remains a work in progress. The hectic summer in Sacramento turned loopy when Cousins used a snake-in-the-grass emoji on Twitter last month to characterize Karl as disloyal and distrustful. Cousins, according to those close to him, is charging Karl of trying to get him traded and has refused to speak with Karl. That in turn raised the issue of whether Karl and not Cousins would be shipped out of town. It became a big mess and it doesn’t appear the two have a working relationship or that it’ll be settled soon if ever.

Both are notoriously stubborn, which makes you wonder if Karl or Cousins are willing or even able to patch things up. Karl has had disagreements with players before, yet managed to win games (though not a championship). Cousins has rubbed his previous coaches raw, and hasn’t won anything. Karl wanted to change the culture when he arrived in the middle of last season and his methods obviously didn’t sit well with Cousins. And five months later, here they are.

Both have put Vlade Divac, the Kings’ new general manager, in a tight spot, if not in the role of peace maker and referee. Divac was coy when asked about their relationship.

“Every day it’s getting better,” he said.

That’s it?

“That’s it.”

Clearly, Divac is siding with Cousins if only because there aren’t many centers averaging 23 points and 11 rebounds and with Cousins’ skill set. Although troubled in the past by his lack of maturity and fragile temper — Cousins has led all players in technical fouls over the last 3 years — Cousins made strides over the last season to reduce his disruptive tendencies. Making Team USA last summer and then the All-Star team have sedated him, made him more coachable, although some of his sharp edges remain.

Sensing a desperate franchise led by a first-time GM, plenty of teams tried to get Cousins by offering 50 centers on the dollar this summer once the Karl-Cousins relationship took another wicked turn, and wisely, Divac didn’t bite.

“He’s a great kid with great potential and I”m happy to work with him,” Divac said. “There’s nothing out there that would make me pull the trigger.”
And what about the status of Karl, who has three years left on his contract? Curiously Divac shrugged his way through his response.
“Well, we’ll see. He has to win the games. He’s a coach who brings a lot of experience. He knows how to fix things, so we’ll see.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Today Becky Hammon will make history as the first female head coach of an NBA team in a Summer League game … Perhaps overshadowed by the debut of Towns and Russell was the return of Julius RandleLeBron James hosted a premiere for his new movie Trainwreck in his hometown of Akron … Kevin Garnett is officially back in Minnesota

Karl, Cousins remain work in progress

VIDEO: Kings coach George Karl talks the team’s off-season.

LAS VEGAS — The good news is they remain on the same team. The bad news is they’re not yet on the same page. Welcome to the world of the Sacramento Kings and life with their head coach and franchise player, who are stuck with each other, for better or worse, at least for the moment.

George Karl wouldn’t discuss the state of his relationship with DeMarcus Cousins — “I’m not authorized to speak about that,” he said on the first day of the Samsung NBA Summer League — which means the mending remains a work in progress. The hectic summer in Sacramento turned loopy when Cousins used a snake-in-the-grass emoji on Twitter last month to characterize Karl as disloyal and distrustful. Cousins, according to those close to him, is charging Karl of trying to get him traded and has refused to speak with Karl. That in turn raised the issue of whether Karl and not Cousins would be shipped out of town. It became a big mess and it doesn’t appear the two have a working relationship or that it’ll be settled soon if ever.

Both are notoriously stubborn, which makes you wonder if Karl or Cousins are willing or even able to patch things up. Karl has had disagreements with players before, yet managed to win games (though not a championship). Cousins has rubbed his previous coaches raw, and hasn’t won anything. Karl wanted to change the culture when he arrived in the middle of last season and his methods obviously didn’t sit well with Cousins. And five months later, here they are.

Both have put Vlade Divac, the Kings’ new general manager, in a tight spot, if not in the role of peace maker and referee. Divac was coy when asked about their relationship.

“Every day it’s getting better,” he said.

That’s it?

“That’s it.”

Clearly, Divac is siding with Cousins if only because there aren’t many centers averaging 23 points and 11 rebounds and with Cousins’ skill set. Although troubled in the past by his lack of maturity and fragile temper — Cousins has led all players in technical fouls over the last 3 years — Cousins made strides over the last season to reduce his disruptive tendencies. Making Team USA last summer and then the All-Star team have sedated him, made him more coachable, although some of his sharp edges remain.

Sensing a desperate franchise led by a first-time GM, plenty of teams tried to get Cousins by offering 50 centers on the dollar this summer once the Karl-Cousins relationship took another wicked turn, and wisely, Divac didn’t bite.

“He’s a great kid with great potential and I”m happy to work with him,” Divac said. “There’s nothing out there that would make me pull the trigger.”

And what about the status of Karl, who has three years left on his contract? Curiously Divac shrugged his way through his response.

“Well, we’ll see. He has to win the games. He’s a coach who brings a lot of experience. He knows how to fix things, so we’ll see.”

Divac would prefer that Karl be the adult in this situation because, well, that’s his job. Also, Divac didn’t hire Karl, who was chosen by Pete D’Alessandro, who then lost his job to Divac. In the ideal Kings world, Karl and Cousins would break bread — and not over each other’s head — and call a truce sometime this summer. There’s too much at stake for the Kings in their development for something to go wrong next season and force the franchise to take a step backward, Already, bringing Rajon Rondo to this situation is being met with snickers from around the league; Rondo clashed with Doc Rivers and Rick Carlisle, a pair of coaches with NBA titles, how will he cope with Karl?

“He will help us,” Divac said. “I have confidence in him.”

But the real issue is Karl and Cousins. More and more, this appears to be a carbon copy of Chris Webber vs. Don Nelson two decades ago. The star player and veteran coach refused to seek a common ground and their feud changed the direction of a franchise. The Warriors traded Webber and soon began a sad, cursed stretch that lasted almost 15 years.

 

Morning Shootaround — July 6



VIDEO: Pistons rookie Stanley Johnson is confident and focused on the challenge and his goals

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Desperate Clippers target McGee, Stoudemire | Casspi sticking around in Sacramento’s overhaul | Joe Johnson to the Cavaliers? | Joseph’s homecoming more than just a good story | Don’t blame Aldridge for breakup with Trail Blazers

No. 1: Desperate Clippers target McGee, Stoudemire — Desperation has set in for the Los Angeles Clippers, much like it did late last week for the Los Angeles Lakers, in free agency. With DeAndre Jordan bolting for Dallas and the four-year, $80 million deal they offered, Doc Rivers and the Clippers are left to scour the big man market for a replacement. They’re not exactly fishing in the same waters that Jordan swam in last season for the Clippers, when he was building block in the middle for a championship contender. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports has more:

The Clippers, who lost center DeAndre Jordan to the Dallas Mavericks in free agency, are taking a strong look at [JaVale] McGee, league sources told Yahoo Sports. The Clippers have roughly $2.2 million in exception space left to pay a player beyond the league’s minimum salary slot of $1.4 million.

Rivers also is expected to speak with free agent Amar’e Stoudemire on Sunday, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Stoudemire strongly considered the Clippers before signing with the Dallas Mavericks after the New York Knicks agreed to a buyout of his contract in February. Stoudemire has interest with several teams, including the Clippers, Mavericks and Indiana Pacers, league sources said.

For McGee, the Clippers could be an opportunity with a contender to re-start his career. McGee had a couple promising years with the Washington Wizards and Denver Nuggets before injuries and inconsistent play limited him to just 28 games over the past two seasons. The Nuggets traded him, along with a first-round draft pick, to the Philadelphia 76ers midway through last season. He played in six games for the 76ers before being waived.

McGee, 27, was close to signing with the Boston Celtics last season, but wanted a player option for the second season to preserve his flexibility with this summer’s free-agent market.

McGee signed a four-year, $48 million contract with the Nuggets prior to the 2012-13 season.

In seven NBA seasons with the Washington Wizards, Nuggets and Sixers, McGee has averaged 8.4 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.8 blocks.

***

No. 2: Casspi sticking around in Sacramento’s overhaul — Omri Casspi is one player who is apparently on board with the master plan in Sacramento. The veteran forward broke the news of his agreement on a deal to return to the Kings and continue working as a role player in a rotation headlined by DeMarcus Cousins, who is fond of his sweet-shooting forward (Casspi shot 40 percent from deep last season). Casspi handled the general news (via Twitter). This is just a small piece of the drastic overhaul Vlade Divac is trying to engineer. Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee provides some context:

The mandate for Vlade Divac was clear.

The Kings must improve drastically in 2015-16.

So the vice president of basketball and franchise operations has been overhauling the roster in an effort to boost the Kings from Western Conference doormat to playoff contender.

Adding point guard Rajon Rondo, small forward Marco Belinelli and center Kosta Koufos in free agency and drafting center Willie Cauley-Stein give the Kings a new look and appear to address the Kings’ biggest weaknesses.

Divac isn’t necessarily done. The Kings will try to add wing depth, which Sunday night entailed the re-signing of Omri Casspi, who confirmed via Twitter a two-year deal worth $6 million.

And All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins could be traded, as his issues with coach George Karl have not been resolved.

But as the roster is, the Kings expect to improve. Maybe not enough to make the playoffs but to win more than the 29 games they did last season.

With the new downtown arena set to open for the 2016-17 season, the Kings need an improved product to sell tickets.

The Kings wanted better passing, perimeter shooting and defense. Rondo was brought in to improve the passing and give Karl another ballhandler and facilitator.

Belinelli will be expected to help Sacramento’s shaky three-point shooting. Koufos and Cauley-Stein add depth, size and defensive versatility.

If Cousins stays, he and forward Rudy Gay are the only players certain to start. Divac has said Gay will play “a lot” of power forward this season, which necessitated adding another small forward.

Darren Collison was signed last summer to start at point guard, but with Rondo set to make $9.5 million next season, it seems unlikely the four-time All-Star will be a backup.

Karl wants to run more sets with two point guards, but Collison is only 6 feet, and Rondo is 6-1.

Ben McLemore started at shooting guard last season but could come off the bench or play small forward if Gay starts at power forward.

***

No. 3: Joe Johnson to the Cavaliers? — Don’t let that little detail of LeBron James not having agreed to a deal yet deter the Cleveland Cavaliers from doing his bidding. The reported interest in Brooklyn veteran swingman Joe Johnson is legitimate and a very real possibility, given the Cavaliers’ ability to make it happen with the existing contracts of one of their prized (and another not-so-prized) big men. Our numbers man John Schuhmann breaks it down:

A trade of Haywood (with a salary of $10.5 million for 2015-16) and Anderson Varejao ($9.6 million) for Johnson would work under the league’s trade rules. Haywood’s contract is completely non-guaranteed, so the Nets could waive him, erase that $10.5 million from their books and save almost $70 million next season ($19.5 million in salary and $49.1 million in luxury tax, because they would be subject to repeater levels).

Of course, Johnson has been a very good and very durable player for the Nets over the last three years. The deal represents a decision of saving money vs. competing for a playoff spot.

It also represents a choice between saving money this season and saving cap space for next summer. Johnson has just this coming season left on his contract, but Varejao has three more years left on his deal. His 2017-18 salary is completely non-guaranteed, but $9.4 million of his $10.4 million salary for 2016-17 is guaranteed and would eat into their 2016 cap space.

The Nets could trade Varejao for an expiring contract. One suggestion from the Twitterverse: Varejao to the Los Angeles Clippers (who are desperate for a center to replace DeAndre Jordan) for Jamal Crawford, who has just one year left on his deal at $5.7 million. (The Clippers would have to include an additional piece).

Of course, the Cavs could make that swap themselves if they choose not to go for Johnson, who would take their own luxury tax to the sky. They will surely have other options with Haywood’s non-guaranteed contract. But this deal would create one heck of a lineup.

***

No. 4: Joseph’s homecoming more than just a good story — The Raptors continued their summer revival with the addition of Cory Joseph, a native son formerly of the San Antonio Spurs. Joseph’s return to The North is more than just a good story, writes Michael Grange of the SportsNet:

At about 11:15 Sunday night Joseph announced to his 61,700 Twitter followers that he was leaving the San Antonio Spurs in free agency to sign with Toronto.

It was a simple message for an athlete who is known for his no-nonsense approach, but it spoke volumes about how far Canadian basketball has come and where it’s going. Joseph will be just the second Canadian to ever play for the Raptors, following Jamaal Magloire who suited up for one season at the end of his career.

He left as part of the first wave of elite Canadian basketball players who were convinced rightly or wrongly that if they wanted to make it to the top of the sport they needed to head to the United States as teenagers.

For Joseph it couldn’t have worked out better. He won national recognition at Findlay and a scholarship to the University of Texas, and in 2011 became the first Canadian guard to be drafted in the first round of the NBA draft since Steve Nash when the San Antonio Spurs took him 29th overall. He learned his craft in one of the most respected organizations in any sport and has a championship ring to show for it.

The difference is that while Magloire was an outlier, Joseph represents the front edge of the wedge. Masai Ujiri has always said he won’t put a passport ahead of talent when building his team, but the number and quality of Canadians coming into the NBA – eight first-round picks in the past five years with more coming – means that recruiting homegrown players could provide the Raptors a competitive advantage going forward.

Calls to the Raptors GM and Joseph’s agent Rich Paul weren’t immediately returned but Joseph has been on the Raptors radar for years now. It’s believed they tried to trade for him twice but were rebuffed by San Antonio.

According to ESPN’s Chris Broussard the Raptors let their money do the talking, with Joseph signing a four-year deal worth $30-million, a huge jump in salary for a career backup who has earned just $5.3 million total in his four NBA seasons.

Is it worth it?

The Raptors love Joseph’s defensive acumen. By their analysis he immediately becomes their best perimeter defender. Moreover they love the humility he brings to the job and his simple passion for his craft. He made a believer out of Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich when – as he was struggling for playing time as a rookie – he asked to be sent down to the NBA D-League to get some run.

But the Raptors see upside as well. The term of his deal extends past that of all-star Kyle Lowry’s, who will likely opt out of his contract two summers from now. While no one within the organization is prepared to declare Joseph ready to push Lowry as a starter, the dollars and term they gave him suggest they are betting that he’s still improving and could provide them an option there in time.

***

No. 5: Don’t blame Aldridge for breakup with Trail Blazers — The finger-pointing in Portland figures to go on for months, years even, in the aftermath of LaMarcus Aldridge’s decision to head home to Texas and the San Antonio Spurs in free agency. He said he wanted to be the best Trail Blazer ever, only to depart as soon as it became a possibility. There will no doubt be hard feelings, but John Canzano of the Oregonian insists Aldridge is not to blame for this breakup:

This all brings us back to the Blazers, ultimately. They have a difficult time attracting free agents. They’ve struggled with continuity. They have a general manager in Neil Olshey eager to make his draft picks shine, cementing his legacy. And I wasn’t surprised the news of Lillard’s five-year, $125-plus million contract extension was leaked on the opening day of free agency.

The Blazers had all summer to make that announcement. But it came on a day when a league record $1.4 billion in contracts were handed out in other NBA cities and — down deep — the Blazers knew Aldridge was a ghost.

Olshey long ago hitched the franchise wagon to Lillard. He drafted him in 2012, and when he became Rookie of the Year the following season, he was marketed and promoted to the point that it chapped Aldridge.

He was Bat Man. Lillard was Robin. Right? But the organization, led by Olshey’s own narrative, prematurely flip-flopped those roles. It cost them today.

I wrote a column two seasons ago about Portland alienating Aldridge by going too far with the Lillard-palooza. Aldridge reached and out told me how much he liked the column. The Blazers decided prior to last season that they’d spend Aldridge’s final season under contract celebrating his milestones, pitching him as the all-time Mr. Trail Blazer.

To their credit, Aldridge and Lillard worked well enough together on the court. They’re both too intelligent and socially aware to take their philosophical differences public. But they were co-workers, and not great friends. Those deeply entrenched in both camps told me on multiple occasions, basketball aside, that the two men were not huge fans of each other. Which only makes Lillard’s inability to get a face-to-face sit-down with Aldridge in that 11th hour trip to Los Angeles less shocking.

Aldridge and Lillard played together three seasons. Aldridge gave the Lakers and Kobe a few minutes of face time. He met with the Suns. He dined publicly with Gregg Popovich. Anyone else find it telling that Aldridge and Lillard didn’t even meet up? That he treated Lillard like the Knicks? That the franchise’s “Thing 1″ and “Thing 2″ weren’t in solid contact from the end of the season says a lot.

Even if Lillard and Aldridge had been tight, turning down the Spurs and the chance to finish your career in your home state would have been difficult. It’s why you can’t really blame Aldridge, can you? This is business, after all.

This break-up of the Blazers was bound to happen. You had Olshey’s players (Lillard, Meyers Leonard and CJ McCollum, in particular) and you had a leftovers from all the general managers of owner Paul Allen’s basketball past. Last season had the feel of a finale all along. That Popovich and the Spurs benefit from the chaos inside another NBA franchise should come as no surprise. Uniformity of vision is what sets the Spurs apart. It’s part of how he’s built an empire.

Olshey won’t much like this column. Neither will Lillard or even Aldridge. But as long as we’re handing out blame for the breakup of a team that won 50-plus games, what’s fair is fair.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Free agent fever is proving the value of “3 and D” skillsets  The Hawks continue the house cleaning by firing long-time training staffers … Oh, and Happy Birthday Pau Gasol …

Report: Kings, Lakers talking Cousins deal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Blogtable: Future for Cousins, Kings?

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


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Morning shootaround — June 11


VIDEO: The Starters preview Game 4 of The Finals

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Lee ready for his Finals opportunity | Green: Warriors need to play with more desperation in Finals | Why Kings, D’Alessandro parted ways

No. 1: Lee ready for his opportunity in Game 4 — There’s no doubt LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers have taken control of the last two games of these NBA Finals. Yet even as the Cavs were wrapping up their Game 3 win on Tuesday, though, the opposing Golden State Warriors found a reason for some Game 4 hope in the person of David Lee. The little-used power forward sparked the Warriors’ mini-rally late in Game 3 and is due for a bigger role tonight, writes Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News:

Who else could pull this off so calmly? Who else could be this ready after being such a tiny part of the team’s rotation… until Game 3 of the NBA finals on Tuesday?

Who else could tie all of this together so surprisingly, neatly and completely—all while knowing he could be traded this summer?

Nobody except Lee, who has risen and fallen in his four seasons as a Warrior and now is rising out of nowhere again.

Yes, with the Warriors down 2-1 to Cleveland and Thursday’s Game 4 set up as a stand-or-fall championship moment, the biggest Warriors wild-card is none other than their former All-Star power forward.

Who was that playing center and working the pick-and-roll so effortlessly with Stephen Curry during the Warriors’ mad and ultimately failed fourth-quarter rally on Tuesday?

The same guy the Warriors are now counting on to keep triggering the pick-and-roll, to keep freeing up Curry and to help keep this season alive.

“I’d love to say this is some big comeback story or something like that,” Lee said Wednesday of his remarkable 13-minute stint in Game 2.

Steve Kerr has left little doubt that Lee has earned more playing time in this series, which comes after Lee didn’t play a single minute in Games 1 and 2 and only 12 total minutes in the five-game Western Conference finals.

And Lee’s teammates, who watched Lee gracefully accept losing his job to Draymond Green early this season, absolutely want to see what Lee can do with his last second chance.

“He’s a pro; he’s a true pro,” Green said. “To come in—haven’t played the entire series, I don’t think he’d played against Game 3 or 2 against Houston… to come in and have the impact on the game the way he did was huge.

“I’m sure he’ll continue to play now, because he gave us a huge spark.”

“Thankfully, he’s stayed professional, said the right things, done the right things, and was ready in a big moment for us,” general
manager Bob Myers said. “And probably will see some more time as a result of how he performed.

“It’s really a testament to him. A lot of times players can go in the other direction and he certainly didn’t.”

So, David, is this a nice way to wrap up such a mixed-up season—mostly sitting on the sidelines watching the greatest run the franchise has made in 40 years?

“We’ll see what happens,” Lee said. “All I can really do is bring the same attitude.

“With all I’ve been through this year, I really felt last night that if I got my opportunity, that good things were going to happen. And I had that confidence, and fortunately they did.

“We weren’t able to get a win, which is the most important thing, but hopefully some of the momentum we created last night can carry over into this next game and we can get one on the road here.”


VIDEO: Can David Lee change the direction of the NBA Finals?

*** (more…)

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

divac

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Divac aiming for NBA return next season

Former beloved Kings center and Shaq tormentor Vlade Divac hopes to join an NBA coaching staff soon.

Former beloved Kings center and Shaq tormentor Vlade Divac hopes to join an NBA coaching staff soon.

TREVISO, Italy — This was pure Vlade Divac, awash in endless optimism while dealing with the latest in a life of personal tragedies, expressing hope he will soon return to the NBA, smiling a lot and volleying that, honestly, he didn’t get a good seat on the Spurs bandwagon because Divac is Serbian and Gregg Popovich has Serbian roots.

Divac was sitting in a chair on the baseline of one of the three gyms at the La Ghirada Sports Complex a few days ago after an appearance as a guest speaker at the adidas Eurocamp. It is a time of particular upheaval, five months after his father had been killed in a car crash in Serbia that also injured his mother, possibly a few months before he will move back to the United States to join a front office, all while serving as head of the Serbian Olympic committee as his daughter attends high school in Belgrade, one son is in college in California and another in New York. But one of the most-likable players of his or any other NBA generation seems as at ease as ever.

He grew up in the former Yugoslavia, lived through a war there that caused death and destruction all around him with the collateral damage of an emotional divide that ended friendships. He had a 16-year NBA run and a highly decorated international career. And now he is trying to get back to the future.

NBA.com: What would you like to do when you come back to the U.S.?

Divac: I would definitely find some involvement in the NBA with some team. Right after my retirement, I was doing some scouting for the Lakers. I tried to see how management works. I went to Real Madrid, worked for them for a year. That helped me to kind of develop some interest in management. So now my second term on the Olympic committee of Serbia — and I’m so proud of that, we did a great job — so something in management.

NBA.com: Have you had any conversations with anybody?

Divac: With the Kings, yeah. We’ll see.

NBA.com: What do you think you would do with them?

Divac: My ultimate goal is one day — it doesn’t have to be tomorrow or two days, three days — I want to be a GM. Go level by level.

NBA.com: Have they told you “When you’re ready to come over, we definitely want you”?

Divac: No. We just talked. I told them my view about plans. We’ll see.

NBA.com: I know it’s been a difficult time the last few months. How are you doing with the tragedy in your personal life?

Divac: OK. Life is a roller-coaster. You just have to balance. There’s always tomorrow.

NBA.com: Has it been difficult?

Divac: Sometimes, yeah. Sometimes. But when you look, there’s a lot of different stories, worse stories, than my life. What are you going to do?

NBA.com: And you’ve lived through a lot of those in your younger days.

Divac: Yeah. Absolutely.

NBA.com: Do you think you have a unique perspective, different than a lot of other people because of what you (grew up around) in your
youth?

Divac: Of course. If you went through things like that, you just learn how things can change the next day. Either positive or negative. Even when you’re so high and positive, you have to keep a balance.

NBA.com: Do you still watch a lot of NBA?

Divac: I do.

NBA.com: What jumps out to you about the game now compared to when you played?

Divac: It’s obviously more physical and faster. What bothers me is the tendency for low-post guys to not play with their back to the basket. It’s more facing. I think basketball needs that inside-outside game. If it doesn’t have that, that’s like taking heart from basketball.

NBA.com: Do you have a favorite player?

Divac: No. But I have a favorite team. I think the Spurs is a team that plays basketball the way it’s supposed to be. Sharing the ball. Gregg is a great coach.

NBA.com: What’s his background? What’s his heritage?

Divac: He’s a Serbian. But I’m not saying that because of that. You know how many people I met in the NBA. Jerry West, Gregg Popovich — that’s my two favorite guys. Even though they are totally, completely different, I have a lot of respect for them.

NBA.com: How much would your game have been changed by these new flopping rules that are in place now?

Divac: They wouldn’t take that away from me. Especially playing against Shaq. I mentioned that’s not my rule. That’s Shaq’s rule. He forced us to do that. I think it’s good that they changed because whenever you overdue it, it just takes away from the game.

NBA.com: How much money would you have been fined? How much money would you have lost over the years?

Divac: Not that much. I was doing that just against the Lakers, when I played Shaq. I don’t know. I think it’s good that they put it in. Games, that’s the way it’s supposed to be.

NBA.com: You would have had to get a new contract, right, just to pay all your fine money?

Divac: The agent would make a clause. ‘The team pays the fine.’ Because I was doing that for the team, not for me.