Archive for June 26th, 2013

sacramento kings

From owner to general manager to coach, no other NBA management team has had as little time to prepare for the draft this year as the Sacramento Kings.

The Kings have had so much turmoil and turnover since the season ended that focusing on the future has been an ever-present process of acceleration. The uncertainty that clouded the franchise for so long hit its peak May 21, when Keith Smart represented the Kings at the draft lottery at the request of the Maloof family.

Smart has since been fired as coach and replaced by Mike Malone. Pete D’Alessandro took over as general manager for Geoff Petrie last week. And new owner Vivek Ranadive has wiped away just about every memory of the Maloofs inside Sacramento’s suburban arena as part of the franchise’s ”new era.”

The Kings can begin adding to that next chapter on the court come Thursday night, when they have the seventh and 36th overall picks in the draft.

”I see real potential in this draft,” D’Alessandro said.

Reported by Antonio Gonzalez of the Associated Press

carl landry

Power forward Carl Landry has opted out of the final year of his two-year, $8 million deal with the Golden State Warriors to become a free agent.

Landry’s agent, Mark Bartelstein, said Wednesday that his client was coming off a big season and it only made sense for him to hit the open market in hopes of landing a long-term deal. He added that Landry could still return to the Warriors.

The Warriors had expected Landry to become a free agent.

Reported by Antonio Gonzalez of the Associated Press

Jodie Meeks

The Los Angeles Lakers have exercised a team option on Jodie Meeks’ contract for the 2013-14 season, it was announced today by General Manager Mitch Kupchak.

“Jodie is not only a gifted three-point shooter who helps us space the floor on the offensive end, but he is also a very active and underrated player defensively who continues to work on and improve all aspects of his game,” said Kupchak.  “He was an important member of our team last year and we look forward to having him back for the 2013-14 season.”

In 78 games (10 starts) last season with the Lakers, Meeks averaged 7.9 points, 2.2 rebounds, 0.9 assists and 0.74 steals in 21.3 minutes.  With 34 multiple three-point games, including a career-high tying seven three-point field goals made 11/30/12 vs. Denver, Meeks finished among the league’s top-50 in three-point field goals made per game (49th/1.6) as well as total three-point field goals made (43rd/122).

An early entry candidate out of Kentucky in the 2009 NBA Draft, Meeks, who holds the Wildcats single-season record for three-point field goals made in a season (117) as well as UK’s single-game record for points (54), has career NBA averages of 8.0 points, 2.2 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.64 steals and 21.9 minutes in 278 games with Milwaukee, Philadelphia and the Lakers.

Trail Blazers

The Portland Trail Blazers hope to strike gold for a second consecutive year during Thursday night’s draft.

A year ago, Portland used the No. 6 pick to select Weber State guard Damian Lillard, who became the NBA’s Rookie of the Year. The Blazers pick at No. 10 this year.

What Blazers management has thought about this year’s draft in recent weeks is anyone’s guess. Portland general manager Neil Olshey and coach Terry Stotts haven’t spoken to the media since the team’s first individual draft workouts in late May. But Olshey has often said the team’s preference is to take the best available player over need.

The Blazers’ needs include a defensive-oriented post player and depth. During a season in which Portland went 33-49, starters LaMarcus Aldridge, Nicolas Batum and Lillard ranked among the NBA’s top 10 in minutes played because of a thin bench.

Though some have tabbed this year’s draft as weak to average, the Blazers believe there are players available who can improve their roster.

Reported by the Associated Press

Larry Bird returning as Pacers president

larry bird

The Indiana Pacers announced Wednesday that Larry Bird will return to the team as President of Basketball Operations. Bird agreed to a multi-year deal.

Donnie Walsh, who held that position the last year, will be a consultant to the franchise and Kevin Pritchard remains as the Pacers’ General Manager.

“We are all very happy to have Larry back,” said Pacers’ Owner Herb Simon. “When he left last July, Donnie and I both told him the door would be open for him to come back when he’s ready. Larry had a huge impact on this team and where it is now so it’s fitting that he comes back at this time. Donnie has been a friend and a valuable contributor to the franchise and will continue to be both. I wanted him to agree to stay in some capacity as I believe with Larry and Kevin, it gives us three of the best basketball minds in the business.”

Bird was President of Basketball of Operations for the team from 2003 until June 27, 2012. He returns to the position Monday, July 1.

“The year off gave me a chance to reflect, to rest, to take care of some health issues and it re-charged me,” said Bird. “Donnie and Kevin did a great job and I will lean on both heavily as we move forward toward the goal of competing for a championship.”

Walsh was President of the Pacers from 1988-2008, when he left to assume a similar position with the New York Knicks. After three years in New York, Walsh returned last year when Bird stepped down.

“I met with Larry when he wanted to leave last year and I said I would do this until he was ready to come back,” said Walsh. “Well, he’s ready and I couldn’t be happier. I had a great year last year with this team. It is a great group of guys who have the potential for some great things and to remain a part of this, with two people who I love to work with and respect greatly, is very special.”

phoenix suns

The Phoenix Suns won’t have any problem drafting to meet a need. They have needs everywhere.

New general manager Ryan McDonough and new coach Jeff Hornacek brought in 74 players in preparation for their first draft.

With the exception of a few who were exempt due to injuries, the players went through strenuous workouts, usually in a 3-on-3 situation. Two of the players, shooting guard Ben McLemore and point guard Trey Burke, worked out individually at the insistence of their agents.

”You only draft 60,” McDonough said, ‘’so if nothing else, I guess we’re thorough.”

With a roster that compiled the second-worst record in franchise history, just about anybody they pick at No. 5 will help.

Reported by Bob Baum of the Associated Press

”We’re the fugitive and they’re still coming after us,” said Riley, the Heat president. ”And that motivates the hell out of me. It really does, because I don’t want to get caught, not with what we have. And I don’t the players feeling like they can get caught, either. That’s why the improvement needs to come from within and we need to be smart about what we’re doing.”

Riley wrapped up the season with a 40-minute interview session Wednesday, opining on everything from his ninth championship season (”I’ve been lucky,” he said in a clear understatement) to coach Erik Spoelstra’s story that his boss came knocking on the door of his hotel suite after the 113-77 loss in Game 3 of the NBA Finals against San Antonio with three bottles of wine (”The wine was already there - and it was opened,” was Riley’s recollection).

Occasional laughs aside, Riley also pointed out repeatedly that the work awaiting the Heat in the coming months is serious.

”We’re just going to keep everything very fluid,” Riley said. ”I think that’s the key. What we just experienced, three straight years, (297) games, two consecutive world championships, we are so giddy about that and proud of our team and also excited that what we did three years ago has led us to this. The challenge is not ‘Can we win another championship?’ The challenge is how to manage it within the confines of a very punitive collective bargaining agreement.”

None of Riley’s proclamations about his hopes for next season’s roster were exactly surprising. First, as expected, he announced that the team is exercising its $4 million option on point guard Mario Chalmers, who has started every game in which he’s appeared in the past two seasons, with a knack for coming up big in the biggest moments.

Reported by Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press

mario chalmers

The Miami HEAT announced today that they have exercised their team option on guard Mario Chalmers for the 2013-14 season.

Chalmers appeared in 77 games this season (all starts) and averaged 8.6 points, 3.5 assists, 2.2 rebounds, 1.53 steals and 26.9 minutes while shooting 42.9 percent from the field and 40.9 percent from three-point range. Among league leaders, he finished 12th in steals-per-turnovers (0.99), 20th in steals per game and 25th in three-point field goal percentage. He made 10 three-point field goals at Sacramento on January 12, tying for the most during a single game in HEAT franchise history with Brian Shaw on April 8, 1993 at Milwaukee.

He started in all 23 postseason games during Miami’s 2013 championship run, averaging 9.4 points, 3.1 assists, 2.3 rebounds and 28.3 minutes while shooting 41.5 percent from the field. He surpassed Tim Hardaway (80) as the franchise all-time leader in career postseason three-point field goals made on May 8 vs. Chicago, capping the playoffs with 102 total. Additionally, he scored 20 points while shooting 7-of-11 from the field, including 4-of-5 from three-point range, vs. San Antonio in Miami’s Game Six win of the NBA Finals.

Chalmers was originally acquired in a draft night trade in 2008, signing with Miami on July 9, 2008 and then re-signing on December 9, 2011.

Once again, the Cavaliers are facing a major summer ”decision.”

The last one was hard to accept. This one is difficult to make.

And while it doesn’t quite stack up with LeBron James’ infamous announcement that he was bolting from home three years ago and leaving Cleveland heartbroken and short of a title, the Cavs are faced with the challenge of picking another top-flight player to get them back to respectability.

For the second time in three years and third time over the past decade, the Cavaliers hold the No. 1 overall draft pick.

This year, it’s both a blessing and burden.

With no player emerging as the consensus first choice, the Cavs, who also own the No. 19 pick and two second-round selections (Nos. 31 and 33) have spent the past month doing their due diligence by meeting with players, assessing their needs and weighing their many options.

They’ve discussed several trades to rid themselves of the top pick, move down and acquire veterans for one of the league’s youngest teams…

Kentucky center Nerlens Noel, Maryland center Alex Len, Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore, Georgetown forward Otto Porter Jr., UNLV power forward Anthony Bennett and Indiana guard Victor Oladipo are all in the mix and under consideration by the Cavs, who went 24-58 last season, finished 25 1-2 games out of first place and haven’t sniffed the postseason since James left.

Reported by Tom Withers of the Associated Press

Chris Paul

Doc Rivers is one of only four active coaches who have won an NBA title — with Boston in 2008. His Celtics also reached the Finals in 2010, losing to the Lakers in seven games.

“Of all the coaches that were available, he was the best in my opinion,” All-Star forward Blake Griffin said by phone from a plane bound for Europe. “I’m really excited about this. I haven’t been this excited in a while. It gives us a strong guidance from a coaching staff.”

With Rivers officially on board, the Clippers’ next priority is to re-sign Chris Paul, who will become an unrestricted free agent Monday. They are expected to offer the All-Star point guard a maximum five-year contract worth $107.3 million. Rivers’ hiring almost certainly enhances the team’s chances of retaining Paul.

When the Clippers and Celtics first began negotiations, the proposed deal had Rivers and forward Kevin Garnett coming to L.A. for Clippers center DeAndre Jordan and a first-round pick.

But NBA Commissioner David Stern rejected that deal, saying it was illegal under the collective bargaining agreement for a player to be traded for a coach.

Reported by Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times

Nets call Celtics about Kevin Garnett

Kevin Garnett

The Nets have done what likely every team in the NBA has done this week: Put in a call to the Celtics about the availability of Kevin Garnett.

A league source confirmed the Nets have inquired about whether Garnett would be available in a trade in the wake of the Celtics losing coach Doc Rivers to the Clippers and seemingly heading for a full-on roster rebuild and potentially the end of the Big Three Era in Beantown.

Garnett undoubtedly would fill a hole for the Nets at power forward, as well as providing an intimidating defensive presence alongside All-Star center Brook Lopez and giving Jason Kidd one of the NBA’s most respected locker-room presences to aid him in his first season as a head coach. But it’s unclear whether Garnett would be willing to waive his complete no-trade clause for a trade to the Nets — or whether the Celtics would be willing to deal him to a division rival.

The same likely goes for Paul Pierce, who also is expected to be on the trading block.

Reported by Tim Bontemps of the New York Post

There was nothing preliminary about what the Sacramento City Council did Tuesday night.

By a 7-2 vote, the council agreed to set aside $6.5 million in public funding on a new downtown arena for the Sacramento Kings – the first large investment in a facility that city officials have touted as the most significant redevelopment project in the history of downtown.

The decision was the first push forward on a preliminary, nonbinding plan approved by the council in March to help finance a $448 million arena at the Downtown Plaza. That term sheet will not be formalized until the City Council votes on a final spending plan next year, following the conclusion of an environmental review of the arena project.

Still, Tuesday’s vote means the City Manager’s Office will immediately have $1.755 million to spend on a team of consultants as the intense predevelopment stage of the project begins. The remaining $4.7 million would be used on the arena’s eventual design and construction.

Reported by Ryan Lillis of the Sacramento Bee

Despite NBA rules that prohibit players from playing in organized street summer leagues prior to July 1, Brooklyn Nets backup point guard Tyshawn Taylor stepped on the Dyckman Park court Monday night for a handful of minutes.

Taylor, who played opposite New York City high school star Isaiah Whitehead, a Lincoln point guard, said he had no knowledge of such rules. The league office recently levied fines on Lance Stephenson and Kemba Walker for playing in the same city basketball courts where they once honed their games.

“I didn’t know that. That’s my story, I’m sticking to it,” Taylor told after his squad Taylor Made nearly sent the game into overtime after trailing by 10 points with two minutes left.

The Hoboken, N.J., native who just averaged just under six minutes in 38 games could see extensive time in Brooklyn’s backcourt spelling starter Deron Williams if C.J. Watson opts out of his contract and goes elsewhere.

Reported by Adry Torres of ESPN Deportes

Dwight Howard

Bringing back free agent center Dwight Howard is the Lakers’ top priority this off-season.

“Dwight is in the category of the great of the great,” Kupchak said. “He’s over his back injury and there’s no reason he can’t play seven, eight more years at that position. There’s no doubt in my mind if he does, he’s in the Hall of Fame. Those players are just hard to come by.”

Howard struggled through the first half of the season as he tried to return early from back surgery.

“I don’t think he got as much credit for the season as he should have gotten,” Kupchak said.  ”Big men are different. They can’t bring the ball up the court. They really rely on their teammates to make them look good.”

The Lakers can sign Howard for a $118-million, five-year deal in July — if he chooses to stay. Other teams can offer just four years (up to $88 million), but tax advantages in Texas (Houston, Dallas or San Antonio) would help offset some of the lost wages.

Reported by Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times

J.R. Smith declines option with Knicks

JR Smith

Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith has informed the New York Knicks that he will decline the option in his contract for next season and become a free agent.

A team spokesman also says Tuesday the Knicks extended a qualifying offer to forward Chris Copeland, making him a restricted free agent and allowing them to match any offer he receives.

Smith’s decision was not a surprise given that he can make much more than the $2.9 million he was scheduled to earn next season.

The New Jersey product is happy in New York and is a longtime teammate of Carmelo Anthony so he would likely want to stay with the right offer.

Reported by Brian Mahoney of the Associated Press

Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge thought Doc Rivers was going to be the next Gregg Popovich, Jerry Sloan or even Red Auerbach - coaches who stayed with one team for decades.

Rivers got the nine-year itch.

”He felt like it was time for a change. He felt like we all needed a change,” Ainge said on Tuesday night after the deal to allow Rivers out of his contract to coach the Los Angeles Clippers was final. ”That was his rationalization, or justification, for going to the Clippers: that this was better for everybody.”

After weeks of negotiations that at one time had Boston stars Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce joining Rivers in Los Angeles, the Celtics announced on Tuesday that the NBA approved the deal to allow their coach to go to the Clippers in exchange for a first-round pick in 2015. Ainge said in a news conference that he had not begun looking for a new coach because he couldn’t believe until late in the on-again, off-again process that Rivers was actually leaving.

Reported by Jimmy Golen of the Associated Press

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