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NBA AM: Are The Kings Targeting George Karl?

Are the Kings targeting George Karl to replace Mike Malone?

Steve Kyler

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Kings Fire Mike Malone:  While this one seemed a little out of left field, the Sacramento Kings decided to part ways with head coach Mike Malone. The truth behind the curtain is, this one wasn’t nearly as shocking as it may seem despite the Kings’ hot start and somewhat improved situation.

Malone is a defensive-minded coach that was hired by new Kings owner Vivek Ranadive before he had hired his front office. There was a sense at least initially that Malone would be dictating a lot of the structure of the Kings, however over time that’s changed somewhat dramatically.

Ranadive has become much more hands on. He is much more involved in the day-to-day than your typical NBA owner in a very Mark Cuban kind of way. Malone’s defense-first mindset has been problematic for Ranadive for some time.

Sources close to the process say while Ranadive respects how important defense is, the stagnation of the Kings’ offense and the massive lapses the team has endured are placed more on Malone as a coach than on the players and it seemed Ranadive had enough.

Malone was hired in the summer of 2013 on a three-year, $9 million deal that was to pay him a bit more than $2 million per season. Malone has this year and next year fully guaranteed, unless he takes a job with another team.

The Kings have named assistant coach Ty Corbin the interim head coach, although they reportedly have eyes on former Nuggets head coach George Karl.

Given General Manager Pete D’Alessandro’s history with Karl and his style of play, he’s a natural fit. D’Alessandro was hired after Malone in 2013 and had no say in the hire. This time he will and he has a comfort level and trust in Karl that he was never able to form with Malone.

Karl has said numerous times he’d like to get back into coaching and has been visible during the offseason scouting players and being around the league’s offseason process.

Karl parted ways with the Nuggets after a highly successful season that yielded the Coach of the Year award in 2013. His contract was oddly structured, giving him three fully guaranteed years as a single team option. The Nuggets were interested in keeping Karl for one more season. However, the option locked in three years, something the Nuggets were unwilling to do and Karl was unwilling to negotiate.

Karl is currently 63 and was diagnosed with neck and throat cancer in 2010. Karl underwent treatment and was declared cancer free.

Karl was a panelist during last year’s Sloan Analytics Conference and joked that he had gained a reputation as being someone who could win a bunch of regular season games, butn his style had the a reputation that it couldn’t win playoff games.

Karl played professionally for the San Antonio Spurs both in the ABA and the NBA in the late 70’s. He began his coaching career in 1978 and has coached the Cleveland Cavaliers, Golden State Warriors, the former Seattle Sonics, Milwaukee Bucks and Nuggets. Karl also coached two stints in the defunct CBA with the Albany Patroons and internationally with Real Madrid.

In his 25 seasons as a NBA head coach Karl has amassed an 1131-756 record in the regular season and is 80-105 in the postseason, qualifying for the playoffs in 22 of 25 seasons.

While Karl is viewed as the primary target for the Kings, there is no guarantee that he’ll take the job, especially in-season. That’s why the Kings are giving Corbin the chance to earn the job long-term this season.

The Kings are currently 11-13 on the season and have lost three straight games and eight of their last ten games.

Kings big man DeMarcus Cousins is recovering from viral meningitis. He has missed the last nine games and has been at practice trying to work himself back into game shape.

One Of The Greatest To Have Done It:  Last night Lakers star Kobe Bryant passed Michael Jordan on the career scoring list, placing himself as the third highest scorer in NBA history with 32,310 points – now 18 more than Jordan.

After knocking down two free throws and passing the milestone, the game was stopped and Bryant was presented with the game ball.

Bryant now sits 4,618 points behind second place Karl Malone and 6,077 points behind first place Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. To put those figures into perspective since the 2007-2008 season Bryant has scored 2323, 2201, 1970, 2078, 1616, 2133, 83 and 610 points.

To eclipse Malone, Bryant would need to continue to score at his average rate this season and roughly two more seasons after that.

After passing Jordan, the Charlotte Hornets owner and retired star released a statement congratulating Kobe on the accomplishment:

“I congratulate Kobe on reaching this milestone,” Jordan said. “He’s obviously a great player, with a strong work ethic and has an equally strong passion for the game of basketball. I’ve enjoyed watching his game evolve over the years, and I look forward to seeing what he accomplishes next.”

Bryant, 36, is playing in his 19th NBA season and is averaging 25.4 points per game on 38.6 percent shooting from the field a career low by a little more than three percent. Bryant’s career average is 45.2 percent from the field.

Bryant has one more year remaining on his contract after this season and there has been massive speculation that he would retire when his current contract is up.

Among Bryant’s many career accomplishments, he has won five NBA championships, been the Finals Most Valuable Player twice, the NBA’s regular season Most Valuable Player once, made an All-Star selection 16 times and won the NBA’s scoring title twice in his career.

Ironically, Bryant was drafted 13th overall by the Charlotte Hornets in 1996 and was part of a pre-arranged draft-day trade with the Lakers.

The Lakers are 8-16 so far on the season, Jordan’s Hornets are 6-17 on the season.

The Dance With Lance:  Today marks the first day that the majority of players signed this summer become trade eligible. The NBA, via the Collective Bargaining Agreement, blocks teams from trading players they obtained in free agency for 90 days or December 15, whichever is later.

This becomes meaningful for teams that signed guys who no longer fit or for teams that are looking to make changes and need more roster parts included to make a deal work under the cap.

The Charlotte Hornets are said to have explored trades involving free agent signee Lance Stephenson and have kicked the tires on a number of options. The Hornets are finding, much as Stephenson’s representation did this summer, that the market for him isn’t exactly steaming with interest.

Add in the season he is having and what’s being viewed as a desperation sale by the Hornets and few teams are expressing real interest or offering serios value.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports is reporting that the Hornets have reached out to Brooklyn and Indiana about a possible deal, but are finding that Stephenson by himself won’t return much, in fact the Pacers are believed to be asking for a first round draft pick in exchange for taking back Stephenson.

The Nets become an interesting destination, mainly because there is a sense in Brooklyn that the Nets want to part ways with center Brook Lopez, who is struggling to find a groove that works for head Coach Lionel Hollins.

The Hornets had eyes for Lopez when he was a free agent in 2012, however Lopez has the option to become an unrestricted free agent this summer and that’s something both the Nets and inquiring teams have to weigh in making trying to make a deal.

Lopez has a player option on his deal this summer worth $16.7 million, which he likely trades in for a chance at looking in more long-term security.

Wojnarowski also mentions that the Hornets and Nets have discussed the potential of a larger deal that could include Nets swing man Joe Johnson.

Johnson is owed $23.1 million this season and has a final year next season worth $24.89 million left on his deal. His contract becomes problematic in trade simply because his current $23.1 million accounts for 36 percent of Charlotte’s $64.094 million payroll.

NBA trade rules restrict the variance between swapped salaries fairly significantly once the outgoing salaries pass the $19.6 million mark, meaning teams have to get the combined salaries within 125 percent plus $100,000.

Said differently, for Brooklyn to move Johnson and Lopez, who combined make $38.89 million the Hornets would have to move off roughly $31 million in their own salary, which could only be achieved by trading multiple players – arguably six depending on how things get structured – which the Nets could not absorb without culling their own roster.

The Hornets posture seems to indicate they want Lance off the roster, the problem is moving off $9 million in salary this year and a fully guaranteed $9 million next year is tough to do, especially when the players is shooting 38.9 percent from the field, 16.7 percent from the three-point line and 65.3 percent from the foul line and is being portrayed as a toxic influence in the locker room.

More Twitter:  Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @SusanBible @TommyBeer, @JabariDavisNBA , @NateDuncanNBA , @MokeHamilton , @JCameratoNBA, @iamdpick, @jblancartenba, @johnzitzler, @marypazstevens and @YannisNBA.

Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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NBA PM: The Wizards Are “More Than Ready” For A Big Year

Washington Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal says his team is “more than ready” for the start of the NBA season.

Buddy Grizzard

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With several teams in the Eastern Conference taking a step back, the Washington Wizards will be one of the beneficiaries due to roster continuity. Shooting guard Bradley Beal, one of several key Wizards signed to a long-term contract, said the team is “more than ready” for the season and has large expectations.

“This is going to be a big year for us,” said Beal after a Monday practice. “We’re healthy. There’s no excuse for us [not to] get off to a good start.”

Beal added that, while health is a key for the entire roster, it’s especially important for him after struggling with injuries in the past.

“It’s really a confidence booster, realizing my potential, what I can be, the type of player I can be when I had a healthy season,” said Beal of last year’s campaign. “That’s probably what I was more proud of than anything, playing 70-plus games and then playing in the playoffs every game.”

In Basketball Insiders’ season preview for the Wizards, we noted that Beal was Washington’s most efficient ball handler in the pick and roll last season. Beal said that creating for teammates is something he’s worked on in the offseason and will continue to be a point of emphasis.

“That was great for me and the strides I made throughout the year, working on my ball handling, working on creating for other guys and getting my own shot,” said Beal. “Those are the primary things I’m focused on … being able to create better, getting guys easier shots than before, getting more assists and improve everywhere.”

Wizards coach Scott Brooks said after Friday’s preseason finale in New York that he’s been encouraged by the ball movement he has seen since the start of camp.

“I thought a lot of good things happened in training camp,” said Brooks. “The ball movement was outstanding. Guys were sacrificing for one another on the offensive end.”

One thing that should help the ball movement of the second unit is the arrival of backup point guard Tim Frazier, who missed most of the preseason due to a strained groin. Frazier had nine assists and no turnovers in his preseason debut against the Miami HEAT.

“I feel very comfortable with Tim,” said Brooks. “He finds corner threes, which we like.”

Beal added that one area he hopes to improve, both individually and as a team, is rebounding.

“I think I only had like three rebounds [per game] last year,” said Beal. “I obviously love scoring the ball. That’s something I never worry about. I want to continue to fill up the stat sheet a little bit more and contribute to the game in different areas. I think rebounding was something that hurt us a little bit last year.”

The Wizards host the Philadelphia 76ers to open the season Wednesday, and Brooks said it will take a team effort to defend emerging star Joel Embiid.

“He’s a problem,” said Brooks after Sunday’s practice. “His athleticism is off the charts. We’re going to have to do a good job of staying in front of him. You’re talking about a guy that can put the ball on the floor, that can get to spaces and spots that normally a 6-10 guy doesn’t.”

With a revamped bench, roster continuity and good health entering the season, the Wizards look like a team that could challenge the Cavaliers, Celtics and Raptors for supremacy in the East. Beal certainly seems to think so.

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NBA Opening Night Storylines

Hours before the 2017-18 season gets set to tip off, here are some storylines to follow for Tuesday’s games.

Dennis Chambers

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The long summer is over. We finally made it. NBA opening night is upon us.

Rejoice, hoop heads.

Because the NBA is a perfect concoction of chaos at all times, Tuesday’s opening night slate has some can’t-miss built in headlines that the entire league is going to be glued to.

With a new year set to begin, everyone is on the same page. Whether that page includes the likes of Kevin Durant and Steph Curry or Doug McDermott and Tim Hardaway Jr. is a different story. But still, Tuesday marks day one for all teams and as it stands they’re all equal.

As we get set to sit down and dissect these opening game matchups on Tuesday, let’s highlight the most intriguing storylines that will be followed for the rest of the season. There’s nothing like watching a story grown in the NBA from its inception, right?

Boston Celtics vs. Cleveland Cavaliers — 8 p.m. ET (TNT)

This is the game we’ve all been waiting for since late June, when Kyrie Irving let it be known to Cavs owner Dan Gilbert that he wanted out from under LeBron’s shadow.

Three years of NBA Finals appearances, the greatest comeback in basketball history, and a ring to show for was all Irving wanted to walk away from. For him, he felt it was his time to shine.

And because the NBA is the perfect mix of beautiful insanity, it would only make sense that Irving would get dealt to the very team that is jostling for position to unseat the Cavs and King James.

The Irving-led Boston Celtics will have to wait a grand total of one second in the new NBA season to begin their matchup with their point guards old teammates and the team that stands in between them a Finals appearance. With Gordon Hayward and Irving together for the first time against meaningful competition, there’s no better way than to check their fit from the jump than by challenging the conference champions in their building.

But Irving’s homecoming isn’t the only storyline heading into the first game of the season. There are some changes on Cleveland’s end as well.

While the main return for Irving — Isaiah Thomas — won’t be suiting up for the Cavs anytime soon due to injury, there are still plenty of new faces to keep an eye on Tuesday night. First and foremost, Flash is in town. After having his contract bought out by the Chicago Bulls, Dwyane Wade joined forces with his buddy in The Land in hopes of recapturing some of the magic that led them to two championships in South Beach.

By teaming up once again, James and Wade provide some of the best chemistry in the league. Yes, Wade isn’t the player he once was when he and James were winning rings. But something is to be said for knowing exactly where someone will be on the court at all times, and that’s the trait exactly that Wade and James share.

Along with Wade, James and the Cavs are hoping to get some type of resurgence from Derrick Rose and Jeff Green off of the bench. Once Thomas returns to the court for Cleveland, this is arguably the deepest team James has ever been around in Cleveland.

Even with Irving and Hayward on board, Boston will be relying on some role players of their own — namely Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown. The back-to-back third overall picks will occupy most of the time at the forward spots opposite of Hayward. As the season moves on, the development of both of these wings will be crucial to how dangerous the Celtics can be past their two star players.

Tuesday night will be must-see television at Quicken Loans Arena. New eras for the Eastern Conference heavyweights are about to begin.

And as James told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, “The Kid” will be just fine.

Houston Rockets vs. Golden State Warriors — 10:30 p.m. ET (TNT)

On the Western side of the basketball landscape Tuesday night, the potential conference finals matchup will see its first act when the revamped Rockets head to the Bay Area.

Last season at this time, the basketball world was bracing for what the Warriors would look like after adding Kevin Durant to a 73-win team. And as expected, they dominated. Not even LeBron James could put a stop to them, managing just one win in their finals bout.

This year brings in more of the same questions. Can anyone stop the Warriors? Will Golden State just steamroll their way to another championship, effectively sucking the fun of competition out of the entire league?

Well, a few teams this offseason did their best to try and combat that narrative. One of them being the Rockets, who they added perennial all-star point guard Chris Paul to their backcourt.

Putting Paul in the same backcourt as superstar James Harden has the potential to create some of the biggest headaches for opposing teams. The constant ball movement and open looks the two star guards can provide are nearly endless.

While the league swoons over the Warriors’ ability to hit shots from well beyond the arc, it should be noted that it was Houston last year that led the NBA in three-point shooting, not Golden State. It’s certainly not wise to try and go toe-to-toe with the Warriors at their own game, but if there’s ever a team equipped to do it, it’s Houston. Tuesday night will provide a nice preview look at how things in the Western Conference could shake out in the coming months.

Aside from the barrage of scoring that will take place in this matchup, what would a big game be for the Warriors without a little Draymond Green trash talk?

After Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni told ESPN that, “You’re not gonna stop them. It’s just not gonna happen. They’re not gonna stop us, either,” Green clapped back with a comment of his own, as he always does.

“I don’t know how serious they take defense with that comment,” Green said. “But they added some good defensive players.”

It’s true, the Rockets aren’t considered a defensive stalwart by any means. Last season, Houston was 26th in points allowed, compared to second in points scored. Green may be onto something when it comes to questioning how serious his opponents take defense.

That being said, last year’s Rockets didn’t feature Paul. Even at the age of 32, Paul is still one of the league’s best on-ball defenders. And no matter his age, he’ll always possess that competitive fire he’s been known for over the last 12 years.

Going up against the Warriors at Oracle is usually nothing short of impossible, but if there’s going to be a team to challenge their supremacy this season, we’ll get a good look at how they stack up on night one.

With all of this in mind, let’s not forget that the world’s best league is finally back in action. Give yourself a pat on the back, you made it. Now, go enjoy some basketball.

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NBA AM: Is It Smart To Bet On Yourself In This Market?

Many extension-eligible players opted to bet on themselves and a questionable free agent marketplace next summer.

Steve Kyler

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No Big Surprises On Draft Extensions

The big news yesterday wasn’t a new extension for a 2014 first round draft pick, it was the news that the San Antonio Spurs reached a three-year, $72 million extension with veteran LaMarcus Aldridge.

The news was surprising for a couple of reasons. The biggest being the Spurs had shopped Aldridge in trade scenarios this offseason under the idea that he was a problematic fit for the Spurs.

Ultimately, Aldridge and the Spurs ended up in the same place on his deal. The Spurs were not going to be big free agent players and locking Aldridge in now gives them some security as well as trade leverage later. In Aldridge’s case, his camp saw the marketplace this past summer and all of the mouths that need to be fed in July and realized he wasn’t likely getting more money on the open market come free agency.

One of the things the Spurs found out was that trading a player with a player option is not an easy task as teams that would give up value want to know what comes next, either way. Over the past few years, player options have become almost toxic in trade, mainly because there are two classes of trade partners, one that wants the ending contract and a player for a stretch run in the postseason and teams that want the player for next season. The options make valuing the player sticky at best.

In doing a deal for Aldridge, the Spurs basically lock him into their roster for this season but give themselves a trade chip next summer, if they need it. This was smart for both sides. The Spurs locked in the player and the trade asset, Aldridge locked in money he likely wouldn’t have gotten in the open market.

For those players drafted in the first round of the 2014 NBA Draft, yesterday closed the window on the “Early Extension Period.” While there were talks all the way to the wire on several players, the bulk of the deals that didn’t get done didn’t get close enough to seal the deal.

The Boston Celtics and Marcus Smart frequently talked about an extension, and his camp labeled the talks as getting “close” but ultimately, future luxury tax concerns killed a possible deal before the extension deadline, meaning Smart will hit free agency in July.

The Celtics will have a couple of months to see if Smart continues to evolve before they have to make decisions, and they now know what a deal would take for Smart to sign outright. Given the Celtics tax concerns, there is a window for a team with cap space to poach him in July if they come with the right kind of offer sheet. While the Celtics can obtain the right to match Smart with a $6.53 million qualifying offer, the tax issues won’t go away without a cap dump of a trade. Equally, the Celtics roster is loaded with point guards, so the C’s have the luxury of seeing what unfolds in the next three months before the February 8 trade deadline.

The Orlando Magic and their pair of 2014 draftees, Aaron Gordon and Elfird Payton, talked about extensions, mostly out of courtesy. The Magic would have done deals if it favored the team, but the new front office in Orlando has been open and honest that they are still very much in evaluation mode on the roster and were not going to pay a premium at this point.

The Magic’s reluctance to do a deal wasn’t about valuing either player as both are said to have been very good so far, this preseason. The Magic don’t have a clear-cut direction yet and inking a long-term deal with either would have been counter to their goal of flexibility. Equally, the Magic also know that both players are unlikely to get huge free agent offers unless they blossom this season, which would make matching an easier decision after seeing how they play this season.

Neither player entered the process expecting to reach a deal, so there is no ill-will about not getting an extension. Both players have said publicly and privately they knew they had to earn their next deal and came into camp with that mindset.

The Utah Jazz and guard Rodney Hood engaged on an extension most of the summer. The Jazz are very committed to Hood, but would not commit to a deal at this point for a bunch of reasons, the biggest being they don’t really know what the team is yet. Hood is going to get a big opportunity this year, and the Jazz want to see if he can handle the increased load and stay healthy. Injuries have ravaged the Jazz lately, and they were reluctant to lock in a big number to a player that hasn’t been durable.

Of the bunch, Hood is the most likely to get a deal without the restricted free agent offer sheet process next summer—the Jazz may simply pony up and pay him if he can fill the void they hope he can for the team.

The Milwaukee Bucks and injured forward Jabari Parker did talk about an extension despite him having torn his ACL for the second time. The Bucks looked at the idea of locking Parker in at a value, but ultimately, neither side got close enough for it to be realistic. Parker is expected to return to action sometime in February, meaning he may log enough games for a big deal in July to be realistic, especially if the Bucks are as good as they project to be this year and land home court in the postseason.

The big hurdle for all of the players that did not get an extension is that the free agent marketplace in July does not project to be as robust as it was even last year. A number of agents urged their clients to take the security of money on the table this summer, and many players opted to bet on themselves, which always sounds like a great idea until the reality of restricted free agency sets in.

Nerlens Noel and JaMychal Green were both causalities of a shrinking marketplace this past summer. It will be interesting to see if some of the players that got close this week get less in the open market in July.

More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @MikeAScotto, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton@jblancartenba, @Ben_Dowsett, @SpinDavies, @BuddyGrizzard, @JamesB_NBA, @DennisChambers_ and @Ben__Nadeau.

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