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NBA AM: The NBA Free Agency Flurry Begins

There we no shortage of phone calls made last night as teams try and line up meetings with some of the top tier free agents… Kyrie Irving agrees to new five-year $90 million deal with the Cavs.

Steve Kyler



And So It Begins:  As expected, the free-agent flood gates came open at 12:01 a.m. ET, as NBA teams were free to make contact with free agents and try to lure in some meetings and ultimately some deals.

While it’s unlikely that anyone agrees to something in the first 24 hours of free agency, there are usually some early dominoes that fall. Here is what we know this morning.

Pau Gasol:  It is not a big surprise that Pau Gasol is in demand, as free agency opened. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN reported that Gasol received inquiries from the Lakers, Mavericks, Bulls and Warriors. The Knicks are also expected to get a meeting with Gasol, but with the teams at the table likely offering bigger deals than the Knicks can offer, the odds remain fairly small that Gasol ends up in New York.

The Lakers still hold Gasol’s Bird rights and can offer him the most money and years; however, it’s unclear what value the Lakers place on Gasol. One of the interesting side notes to Gasol and the Lakers is that they could complete a sign-and-trade deal for Gasol if he wanted to land with a team with limited cap space. Such a deal would return the Lakers a hefty Traded Player Exception, however there is a real sense that the Lakers want Gasol back and may pony up the cash to make that happen, even in the short-term.

Gasol is expected to take meetings later this week.

Carmelo Anthony:  The first stop on Carmelo Anthony’s tour of free agent suitors is with the Chicago Bulls. As our own Alex Kennedy is reporting, Bulls big man Joakim Noah is planning to not only recruit Carmelo, but is expected to meet with him during the visit to Chicago. Despite saying he was not going to be involved in free agent recruiting, Noah is expected to bring Bulls star Derrick Rose along for the meeting with Carmelo.

The Bulls would have to pull off a series of cap moves to get the cap space necessary to sign him out right, and even then they may not be able to get to the expected $20 million price tag.

Carmelo is expected to meet with both the Rockets and the Mavericks on Wednesday in Dallas, and will wrap up his meetings with the Lakers likely on Thursday.

According to sources close to the Carmelo process, he is still weighing a return to the Knicks. However, this may be his last chance to survey the landscape through free agency. His view is he does not want to have any regrets that he did not look and listen to options before making a decision.

Kyle Lowry:  As expected Kyle Lowry had no shortage of phone calls last night. The Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks, L.A. Lakers and Toronto Raptors logged calls with Lowry’s representatives. He is expected to schedule meetings in Philadelphia later this week, possibly as early as tomorrow.

The Miami HEAT did log a call to Lowry, indicating that Pat Riley likely has an agreement in his pocket from his existing players that would get him a significant amount of cap room. Lowry is expected to command a salary in the $10 million per year range.

Lowry told Basketball Insiders last week that his first priority in free agency was being in a position to win a championship and given the suitors that have reached out, he seems to have plenty of options.

The Raptors are not at all out of the picture. ESPN’s Marc Stein is reporting that the Raptors are considering offering Lowry a fifth guaranteed year as inducement to re-sign after seeing how aggressively other teams are pursuing their star guard.

Paul Pierce:  The L.A. Clippers were one of the first teams to contact Nets free agent Paul Pierce last night, with Clippers president Doc Rivers leading the charge. The Portland Trail Blazers, Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets are also reported to have logged interest.

There is a sense that Pierce may consider a return to Brooklyn, simply because they have his Bird rights and could offer the most money and out of some loyalty to Kevin Garnett.

There is also a belief that Pierce may look towards both the Lakers and the Clippers and return to L.A. for his final years in the NBA.

Pierce, who will turn 37 this summer, has played 16 seasons in the NBA and averaged a career-low 13.5 points per game last season.

Shaun Livingston:  Nets free agent Shaun Livingston had no shortage of suitors last night after a tremendous campaign in Brooklyn last season. Livingston logged calls from the Sacramento Kings, Charlotte Hornets, Minnesota Timberwolves, Orlando Magic and San Antonio Spurs.

The Nets have been holding out hope that they could re-sign Livingston; however, they are extremely limited on what they can offer him financially.

With teams like Orlando, Charlotte and San Antonio at the table, it seems likely that Brooklyn is going to get outbid by teams with far more cap flexibility.

Luol Deng:  Word is that Deng is out of the country, so most of the contact with Deng was through his agent with meetings expected in the next couple of days. Deng had no shortage on interested parties including the HEAT, Clippers, Mavericks, Lakers and Hawks.

Sources close to the process peg Deng as Atlanta’s top free agent target, and given that they just completed a cap clearing move with Toronto, they may have as much as $20 million to shop with.

The HEAT’s pitch, according to sources, is to bring both Deng and Lowry to South Beach, although that seems a bit ambitious even for Pat Riley.

Chandler Parsons:  Rockets forward Chandler Parsons is a restricted free agent so some of the interest he’s going to draw in the marketplace is a little misplaced, mainly because Houston is more than likely going to match anything Parsons is offered. That has not stopped teams from trying, especially with Houston sort of on the clock with other free agents.

The Rockets are in a somewhat unique situation in that they can clear cap space to sign a major free agent, and then use Parsons’ Bird rights to ink his new deal. The nature of his contract comes with a very low ($2.8 million) hold, meaning the Rockets can be players right up to the salary cap, and then exceed it to sign Parsons. However, if a team can persuade Parsons to sign an offer sheet early in the process, they could potentially steal him away or at least gum up Houston’s free agent plans by forcing them to match an offer before they completing their other moves.

That’s an unlikely scenario. What is more likely is Parsons gets a little more cash out of Houston for helping them along, but that hasn’t stopped teams like the Lakers, Mavericks, Bulls and Timberwolves from trying to schedule meetings.

For the very latest on the moves of NBA Free Agency, make sure to check out the 2014 NBA Free Agency Diary. It is updated throughout the day with the very latest news, notes and rumors on the deals that may get done.

Kyrie Is All In For Cleveland:  The Cleveland Cavaliers have landed their big fish of the offseason, getting a verbal agreement from Kyrie Irving on a new five-year, $90 million contract extension.

The Cavs flew to New Jersey yesterday for a sit down with Irving and his representatives. Their pitch included both new head coach David Blatt and new associate head coach Ty Lue along with general manager David Griffin and owner Dan Gilbert.

The group laid out their big-picture plans, and the role Irving would play in it. Their message was that the team would not only position themselves for postseason play but plan to be aggressive in adding another star level talent next to Irving with the goal of competing for a championship.

However farfetched that might sound on the surface, the pitch and the full max offer, which was always expected, was agreed to in principal and will be signed on July 11 when teams can ink new deals.

The biggest part of the meeting was the Cavs’ request of Irving. There has long been a belief that he was unhappy and wanted out of Cleveland and one of the things the Cavs wanted to hear from Irving was that he was wholeheartedly committed to what the Cavs are trying to do. They received that during their meeting.

With Irving locked in, the Cavs are expected to explore trade scenarios with fellow guard Dion Waiters and have already reached out to their own free agent Spencer Hawes as well as several others.

Irving’s contract extension will not kick in until 2015 leaving the Cavs with roughly $36 million in salary commitments and almost $27 million in possible cap space.

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, @TheRocketGuy, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @SusanBible @TommyBeer, @JabariDavisNBA , @NateDuncanNBA , @MokeHamilton , @JCameratoNBA and @YannisNBA.


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Emeka Okafor Impacting 2018 Western Conference Playoff Race

Sidelined for several years with a neck injury, Emeka Okafor is back in the NBA and helping the Pelicans fight for a playoff seed.

Jesse Blancarte



When DeMarcus Cousins ruptured his Achilles tendon, most people in and around the league assumed the New Orleans Pelicans would eventually fall out of the Western Conference Playoff race. It was a fair assumption. In 48 games this season, Cousins averaged 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.6 blocks while shooting 47 percent from the field and 35.4 percent from beyond the arc.

Anthony Davis and the Pelicans had other plans. Davis put the team on his shoulders, played at an elite level and, arguably, has forced his way into the MVP race. Behind Davis’ efforts, the Pelicans are currently 39-29, have won 7 of their last 10 games and hold the sixth seed in the Western Conference.

While Davis has been carrying the team since the loss of Cousins, he has received significant help from his teammates, including Emeka Okafor.

More recent NBA fans may be less familiar with Okafor since he has been out of the league since the end of the 2012-13 season. For context, in Okafor’s last season, David Lee led the league in double-doubles, Luol Deng led the league in minutes per game and Joakim Noah made the NBA All-Defensive First Team. However, Okafor entered the NBA with a lot of excited and expectations. He was drafted second overall, right behind Dwight Howard. Okafor played in 9 relatively successful NBA seasons until being sidelined indefinitely with a herniated disc in his neck prior to the start of the 2013-14 season.

Okafor was medically cleared to play in May of last year and played in five preseason games with the Philadelphia 76ers but was ultimately waived in October, prior to the start of the regular season. However, with the injury to Cousins, the Pelicans were in need of help at the center position and signed Okafor to a 10-day contract. Okafor earned a second 10-day contract and ultimately landed a contract for the rest of this season.

Okafor has played in 14 games so far for the Pelicans has is receiving limited playing time thus far. Despite the lack of playing time, Okafor is making his presence felt when he is on the court. Known as a defensive specialist, Okafor has provided some much needed rim protection and has rebounded effectively as well.

He has been [helpful] since the day he got here,” Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry said about Okafor after New Orleans’ recent victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. “I think his rim protection has been great. But, he’s capable of making a little jump shot and you can see that today. But just having him in there, his presence there has been great.”

Okafor has never been known as an elite offensive player, but he did average 15.1 points per game in his rookie season and has shown glimpses of an improved jump shot in his limited run with the Pelicans.

“You know, I’m happy it’s falling,” Okafor said after he helped seal the victory over the Clippers. “Kept in my back pocket. I was invoked to use it, so figured I’d dust it off and show it.”

Okafor was then asked if he has any other moves in his back pocket that he hasn’t displayed so far this season.

“A little bit. I don’t want to give it all,” Okafor told Basketball Insiders. “There’s a couple shots still. But we’ll see what opportunities unveil themselves coming forward.”

Okafor will never have the elite offensive skill set that Cousins has but his overall contributions have had a positive impact for a New Orleans squad that was desperate for additional production after Cousin’s Achilles tear.

“It’s impossible to replace a guy that was playing at an MVP level,” Gentry said recently. “For us, Emeka’s giving us something that we desperately missed with Cousins. The same thing with Niko. Niko’s given us something as far as spacing the floor. Between those guys, they’ve done the best they could to fill in for that. But we didn’t expect anyone to fill in and replace what Cousins was doing for us.”

Okafor is currently averaging 6.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game while shooting 54.5 percent from the field. While his averages don’t jump off the page, it should be noted that his per minute production is surprisingly impressive. Per 36 minutes, Okafor is averaging 13.4 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.9 blocks. Those numbers are nearly identical to his averages from the 2012-13 season, though he is averaging twice as many blocks (up from 1.4).

The Pelicans have exceeded expectations and currently are ahead of teams like the San Antonio Spurs, Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers in the extremely tight Western Conference Playoff race. Okafor is doing more than could have reasonably been expected when he first signed with the Pelicans, though he would be the first person to pass the credit toward Anthony Davis.

When asked about Davis’ recent play, Okafor enthusiastically heaped praise toward his superstar teammate.

“It’s to the point where it’s like, ‘Alright, he has 40 doesn’t he?’ It’s impressive,” Okafor said about Davis. But it’s becoming so commonplace now.

He’s just an impressive individual. He gives it all. He’s relentless. And then off the court too, he’s a very, very nice kid. He really takes the leadership role seriously. I’m even more impressed with that part.”

There is still plenty of regular season basketball to be played and even a two-game losing streak can drastic consequences. But the Pelicans have proved to be very resilient and Okafor is confident in the team’s potential and outlook.

“I think we’re all hitting a good grove here and we’re playing very good basketball, said Okafor.”

Whether the Pelicans make the playoffs or not, it’s great to see Okafor back in the NBA and playing meaningful minutes for a team in the playoff race.

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NBA Daily: Nothing’s Promised, Not Even For The Warriors

The Warriors are wounded, and with Chris Paul, the Rockets may be equipped to take advantage.

Moke Hamilton



The Warriors are wounded, and for those that thought their waltzing into a four consecutive NBA Finals was a given, the Houston Rockets may have other ideas. Especially when one considers that the beloved Dubs are trying to buck history.

Steph Curry has ankle problems, Klay has a fractured thumb and Kevin Durant—the most recent of the team’s lynchpins to find himself on the disabled list—has a rib injury.

Sure, the Dubs might shake off their injuries and find themselves at or near 100 percent once the playoffs begin, but seldom do teams in the NBA get healthier as the year progresses.

Winning in the NBA is difficult. In order to take all the marbles, teams need a bunch of different ingredients, chief among them are good fortune and health. And in many ways, the two are entwined.

Simply put: the human body isn’t built to play as often and as hard as NBA players do. Those that we recognize as being among the greatest ever—Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone, Kobe Bryant and LeBron James among them—had one thing in common. They were all exceptionally durable.

Over the years, we’ve seen attrition and fragility cost the likes of Anfernee Hardaway, Yao Ming and Derrick Rose what seemed to be careers full of accolades and accomplishments. And the simple truth is that you never know which player, players or teams will be next to be undercut by injuries and progressive fatigue.

Just to keep things in perspective, the Warriors are attempting to become just the fifth team since 1970 to win at least three NBA championships in a four-year span.

The Los Angeles Lakers won the NBA Finals in 1985, 1987 and 1988 before Michael Jordan and his Chicago Bulls completed their three-peat from 1991-93. The Bulls would again do the same between 1996 and 1998, and Shaquille O’Neal and his Los Angeles Lakers accomplished the same from 2000 to 2002.

There are reasons why so few teams have been able to win as frequently as the Lakers and Bulls have, and health is certainly one of them. That’s especially interesting to note considering the fact that the Warriors may have been champions in 2016 had they had their team at full strength. Mind you, both Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala were severely limited in their abilities, while Andrew Bogut missed the fateful and decisive Game 6 and Game 7 of those Finals with injuries to his left leg.

At the end of the day, injuries are a part of the game. The best teams are often able to overcome them, while the luckiest teams often don’t have to deal with them. To this point, the Warriors have been both the best and incredibly lucky, but at a certain point, the sheer volume of basketball games is likely to have an adverse effect on at least a few members of the team.

We may be seeing that now.

En route to winning the 2015 NBA Finals, the Warriors turned in a playoff record of 16-5. In 2016, they were 15-9 and in 2017, they were 16-1. In total, the 62 playoff games would have worn a bit of tread off of their collective tires, just as their 73-9 regular season record may have.  In becoming a historically great team, the Warriors have expending the energy necessary of a team wishing to remain a contender, and that’s not easy.

As an aside, those that understand the difficulty in competing at a high level every single night are the ones who rightfully give LeBron James the respect he’s due for even having the opportunity to play into June eight consecutive years. Win or lose, in terms of consistent effort and constant production, James has shown as things we’ve never seen before.

Today, it’s fair to wonder whether the Warriors have that same capability.

We’ll find out in short order.

* * * * * *

As the Houston Rockets appear headed toward ending the Warriors’ regular season reign atop the Western Conference, there’s something awfully coincidental about the fact that the team seems to have taken the next step after the addition of Chris Paul.

Paul knows a thing or two about attrition and how unlucky bouts with injuries at inopportune times can cost a team everything. As much as anything else, it probably has something to do with why Paul continues to believe in the ability of the Rockets to achieve immortality.

On the first night of the regular season, mind you, in one horrific moment, Gordon Hayward and the Boston Celtics reminded us that on any given play, the outlook of an entire season—and perhaps, even a career—can change.

A twisted knee here, a sprained ankle there, and who knows?

With just over three weeks remaining in the regular season, the Warriors—the team that everyone knew would win the Western Conference again this season—has some concerns. Their primary weapons are hurting, their chances of securing home court advantage throughout the Western Conference playoffs are all but nil and their road to the Finals may end up being more difficult than they could have possibly imagined.

If the season ended today and the seeds held, the Warriors would draw the San Antonio Spurs in the first round and the Portland Trail Blazers in the second round before squaring off against the Rockets in the Western Conference Finals.

Of all teams, the Spurs are probably the last team the Warriors would want to see in the playoffs, much less the first round. While the outcome of that series would be determined by the health of Kawhi Leonard, there’s no doubt that Gregg Popovich would at least be able to effectively game plan for Golden State.

While the Blazers might not provide incredible resistance to the Warriors, the Oklahoma City Thunder will enter play on March 18 just two games behind the Blazers for the third seed out West. With the two teams squaring off against one another on March 25, it’s possible for Russell Westbrook and his crew having the opportunity to square off against the Dubs in the playoffs.

For Golden State, their path to the Finals having to go through San Antonio, Oklahoma City and Houston would absolutely be a worst case scenario. The only thing that could make it even more terrible for Steve Kerr would be having to do it with a platoon that was less than 100 percent.

Funny. In yet another season where everyone thought that it was the Warriors and everyone else, there are quite a few questions facing the defending champs heading into the final few weeks of the regular season.

Indeed, the Warriors are wounded. And whether they can be nursed back up to full strength is perhaps the most interesting thing to watch as the calendar turns to April and playoff basketball draws nearer.

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NBA Daily: The Golden State Warriors Need to Enter Rest Mode

With a bevy of injuries to their stars, the Golden State Warriors should rest up the remainder of the regular season to avoid any playoff letdowns.

Dennis Chambers



After a three-year-long run of dominating the NBA, the Golden State Warriors are showing some cracks in their armor.

Granted, those cracks aren’t a result of a botched system or poor play, but rather the injury bug biting the team in full force as they come down the regular season stretch.

First, it was Steph Curry and the ankle that’s bothered him all season — and for most of his career — when he tweaked it yet again on March 8 against the San Antonio Spurs. Golden State announced he would miss at least four games. Then it was Klay Thompson, who fractured his thumb three days later against the Minnesota Timberwolves — he’ll miss at least two weeks.

Now it’s Kevin Durant. Last year’s Finals MVP suffered an incomplete rib cartilage fracture and was ruled out of Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings. Durant is expected to be sidelined for at least two weeks. The Warriors would go on to lose that contest 95-93.

In about two weeks time, the Warriors went from having one of the most formidable offenses and scoring trios in the entire league, to having  Quinn Cook and Nick Young logging starter minutes.

Luckily for the Warriors, they’ve built up a big enough lead in the standings to achieve a 52-17 record, good for second place in the Western Conference. But the issue for the remainder of the season now becomes how healthy will the Warriors be come playoff time?

Curry and Durant have injury histories. Curry particularly has been bothered by this ankle since he entered the league. Without either of them, the Warriors — while still incredibly talented — will be on a completely even playing field with the Houston Rockets, and possibly other teams in the gauntlet that will be the Western Conference playoffs.

The bigger issue on top of the pending injury concerns becomes whether the Warriors should just pack it in for the rest of the regular season, and regroup for another expected title run.

Steve Kerr doesn’t seem to be thinking that way, however.

“All these injuries seem to be temporary,” Kerr told reporters. “A couple weeks, a week, two weeks – whatever. We’re in good shape. We’ve just got to survive this next slate of games and hopefully, start getting guys back and get rolling again for the playoffs.”

That’s true. None of the aforementioned injuries seem to be anything more serious than a few weeks of rest and relaxation. But that’s assuming the best case scenario for these players.

Should we assume that the Warriors are without their scoring trio for the next couple of weeks as their health updates have indicated, that would put their return roughly around April 1. At that time, Golden State would have six games remaining on their schedule. Four coming against playoff teams (Oklahoma City, Indiana, New Orleans, and Utah) with the other two games against Phoenix.

After missing the last few weeks on the court, with injuries that most likely won’t be at 100 percent, tossing their most valuable contributors back into the fray against a slate of playoff teams probably isn’t the smartest idea.

At this point, the Warriors postseason position is locked up. They likely won’t take the top seed away from Houston, and their lead is big enough to keep their second seed intact regardless of who’s on the court. The only thing left now is the determining who Golden State will play in the first round. With the revolving carousel that is the playoff standings out West, that’s anybody’s guess right now.

The only thing that’s certain is whichever team coming into Oracle Arena for that first round will be battle tested and talented based off of the dogfight they had to survive just to make the playoffs. The last thing the Warriors need to be is a banged up in a postseason with their first opponent smelling blood in the water.

In all likelihood, the Warriors — should everything go according to plan — will play the Houston Rockets for a chance to return to their fourth straight NBA Finals. Only this time, a potential Game 7 won’t be at Oracle Arena. It will be in downtown Houston, at the Toyota Center.

An advantage as big as the Warriors’ homecourt can never be understated. Operating in a do-or-die situation away from home will be newfound territory for this bunch. Regardless of talent or team success, at that point, it’s anybody’s game.

It won’t be easy for the Golden State Warriors as they try to extend their dynasty’s reign. This might be their most difficult year yet.

Durant, in his own words, can’t even laugh right now without feeling pain. The league’s only unanimous MVP is operating on one and a half ankles, and the team’s second Splash Brother has an injury on his shooting hand.

Resting up the team’s stars should be the team’s top priority right now, at risk of entering the postseason hobbled. Track record means nothing if the Warriors don’t have their full arsenal at disposal when the games matter most.

Hey, a 16-seed finally won a first-round game in the NCAA Tournament. Anything is possible on a basketball court, and the Warriors should do everything possible to ensure they’re not the next major upset candidate in line.

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