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NBA AM: Is Denver The Front Runner For Love?

With the 2014 NBA Draft just a week away, the talk surrounding Kevin Love is heating up and some new names have entered the fray with some interesting offers… Some NBA Draft notes.

Steve Kyler

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The Pursuit Of Love:  With the NBA Draft just a week away, teams have not only ramped up their decision making process on draft picks, but several teams have ramped up their pursuit of trades involving veteran players and none of them are bigger than Minnesota’s Kevin Love.

For a few weeks it seemed as though the Boston Celtics would win out in the race to nab Love, not only because they had a hefty offer, but because Love’s camp has apparently indicated re-signing in Boston could work for him.

The Celtics’ offer is believed to be centered on their two draft picks this year (the sixth pick and the 17th pick) and a choice of either Jared Sullinger or Kelly Olynyk. Boston’s offer is also believed to include at least two future first rounders, including the pick the Celtics hold from the Brooklyn Nets deal last summer.

Unfortunately for Boston, that does not seem to be enough to get a deal done.

The Golden State Warriors are apparently offering a package built around David Lee and Harrison Barnes and possibly future first-round draft picks. There has been talk that the Wolves would want star guard Klay Thompson in the deal, which apparently is a no-go for the Warriors.

The Chicago Bulls have a seat at the table with an offer built around Taj Gibson, Tony Snell and/or Jimmy Butler and possibly both of their first-round picks this year (the 16th pick and 19th pick).

The Denver Nuggets are reportedly offering forward Kenneth Faried, swingman Wilson Chandler and either their 11th pick or involving a third team to net the Wolves another veteran in their package. It’s possible Danilo Gallinari gets included, however he is several months removed from surgery and still somewhat questionable on whether he’ll be ready for training camp.

Timberwolves president Flip Saunders is apparently more interested in landing established players for his star asset, and believes that the return for Love could go up in the coming days, which is likely why the details of offers are leaking out.

Need To Read: Should Celtics Be Pro Kevin Love or Carmelo Anthony?

The Celtics are very much still in the mix on this, as are the Cleveland Cavaliers, who hold the top overall pick and a roster filled with younger talent.

The Houston Rockets and the Brooklyn Nets are said to be at the table with the Wolves, but do not appear to have the kinds of assets that it will take to land Love, given what’s being offered elsewhere.

Love is scheduled to earn $15.71 million this season and can opt out of his contract in July of 2015. His camp has made it clear that Love would like a change of scenery and that hitting free agency in 2015 was the goal.

Most of the teams at the table are willing to take the risk on Love, but there continues to be a defiant stance from the Minnesota side that they may not trade him at all.

This could be some poker playing on Minnesota’s part, but there is inevitability to the idea that the Wolves have to trade Love at some point. Although their stance has been if they cannot get the right level of return for Love, their best course may be to play out the start of the season with him and look to dump him at the deadline.

You can expect the heat on Love trades is only going to increase, especially with seven more days until the NBA Draft gets underway.

Need To Read: Would Carmelo Anthony Actually Be Miami’s Best Bet?

Get the 2014 NBA Draft Issue of Basketball Insiders Magazine. The magazine can be purchased in three ways: You can buy it on the web, and the magazine will work on all devices. | You can buy it from the iTunes app store (for Apple users) | You can buy it from the Google Play store (for Android users). Get yours today!

From The Grape Vine:  There are a number of smaller tid bits related to the draft, so let’s get into those:

Smart Off The Board In Orlando?:  For a while it seemed as though Oklahoma State’s Marcus Smart was the Orlando Magic’s guy with the fourth pick. However, after two workouts there is a sense that neither went particularly well and that Smart may no longer be the guy. No one will say he had a bad showing, but there is a sense that there were things the Magic expected to see and did not. On the flip side, both Noah Vonleh and Dante Exum were said to have impressed in their workouts, which is why there was so much hype about Vonleh to the Magic over the last week and why Exum is still very much an option at four.

The Magic are holding a “vet camp” this week in Orlando and are looking at potential summer league invites that includes Kalin Lucas, Josh Magette, Cam Jones, Kelvin Lewis, Matt Bouldin, Mfon Udofia, Scott Suggs, Marcus Johnson, Derwin Kitchen, Edwin Ubiles, Seth Curry, CJ Williams, Michael Bramos, Josh Selby, Rodney Williams, Trey McKinney-Jones, Bogdan Radosavljevic, Zach Graham, Ivan Aska, Zeke Marshall, C.J. Leslie and Ahmad Nivins.

Most NBA teams use “vet camps” to audition players for summer league and possible training camp spots.

The Magic open Summer League play in Orlando on July 5.

Need To Read: Whose Draft Stock is On the Rise?

Vonleh to See The Sixers:  How high is Noah Vonleh’s stock? He is getting a look from the Sixers with their number three pick. Now before we get silly here, the Sixers have been talking about trade down scenarios so this may be covering their bases, but sources close to the process said Vonleh’s camp wanted assurances that he was genuinely an option for the third pick before they would agree to come in, which they received and he is doing.

The Sixers are said to be extremely high on Andrew Wiggins and have talked about trade up scenarios. However, there is a scenario that should things go massively awry that Philly wouldn’t be opposed to trading down a few spots, if they cannot get their guy.

It’s believed the Sixers have Wiggins, Joel Embiid and Dante Exum at the top of their board, so the Vonleh workout may be an exercise in covering bases, although Voneleh’s camp believes he is a genuine candidate.

Need To Read: 2014 NBA Mock Draft: Consensus Ver 7.0

Randle’s Foot:  Let’s get to the point on Kentucky big man Julius Randle’s foot. There is nothing wrong with it today. In fact there was nothing wrong with it all season at Kentucky. What surfaced in the medical review at the combine is that while in high school he had what’s called a Jones fracture of the fifth metatarsal of his right foot. He had a screw inserted to stabilize the foot; he missed three months and has had no issues since. The problem is that apparently the MRI’s at the combine revealed a “malunion,” which is a fracture that has healed, but that it has healed in less than an optimal position.

There is a belief among some teams that Randle will at some point need a surgical procedure to remove the screw and re-align the bone.

The best way to think about this, is knowing you need your tonsils out. Until it becomes a problem, Randle is likely fine; however, there is a chance that at some point the “malunion” causes a problem, such as swelling or soreness and it will need to be addressed.

The concern among teams is that he should have this done this offseason and ensure that the 82-game grind doesn’t turn this small routine problem into something major.

Randle, of course, is playing defense on this, telling reporters this week that he consulted with the top foot doctor in the country and that doctor said nothing was wrong and that no corrective measures were necessary.

NBA teams are going to go with what their medical staff is telling them, and that’s going to impact Randle’s draft stock, however there is a reality. He can play today, he can play tomorrow and he might be able to play for five years and it never be an issue and that’s something teams will consider. The flip side is he could get into day three of Summer League and require surgery.

This is a routine part of broken bone surgery, so this is nothing to kill the kid over, but with so many top-tier prospects that do not have the the red flag of surgery, there is a chance Randle is going to land in the six to ten range in the draft, which frankly is where he was likely going to land any way.

Elfrid Payton At No. 7?:  Every draft there is an improbable rise into the top ten. This year it looks like Elfrid Payton. He has been crushing workouts everywhere he goes and while other more prominent names are getting talked about, Payton seems to be on the fast track to the green room next Thursday.

It’s believed that his floor is now 12 to the Orlando Magic and that Philadelphia at 10, Charlotte at nine, Sacramento at eight and the Lakers at seven are all seriously pondering Payton with their pick.

Considering when this process started in April most had Payton in the mid-to low 20s, he has done very well for himself.

He still has to get drafted there, but his stock seems to have moved the most dramatically in the process.

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Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal

The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz

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It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.

Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.

There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.

Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.

Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.

That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.

Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.

At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.

One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.

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NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind

Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.

Dennis Chambers

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When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.

“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.

Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.

That didn’t last long.

“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”

With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.

As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.

After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.

In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.

“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”

Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.

“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”

Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.

“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”

After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.

Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.

“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”

All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.

“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”

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Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team

Basketball Insiders

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Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.

“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”

Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN

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