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Grizzlies withstand Timberwolves



MINNEAPOLIS — It was a prizefight kind of game. Contact, pushing, shoving, elbows. So tough that Wolves forward Kevin Love struggled to even run during the final two quarters after turning his right ankle and physical enough that injured Memphis point guard Mike Conley watched the final six minutes from the bench.

Memphis was the last team standing.

Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph scored 13 of his 26 points in the fourth quarter to lead Memphis to a 94-90 victory over a Minnesota Timberwolves team that had seized momentum in the third quarter.

Randolph scored on three consecutive possessions, the second time a 6-footer with 2:06 left that put the Grizzlies up for good on their way to their fifth straight win and their 10th in 11 games.

This after Love, hobbled, scored 18 of his 28 points in the third quarter. The Timberwolves (23-23) turned a 13-point deficit into a 67-66 lead on Love’s jumper in the closing seconds of the quarter — only to have Randolph return the favor.

Punch, counterpunch.

“They made a run,” Randolph said. “They made a hell of a run. But we just withstood it, then went ahead and made plays.”

For Memphis (25-20), it truly was a team effort, with shooting guards Courtney Lee (16 points), Mike Miller and Tayshaun Prince (11 points) taking turns at the point with Conley (12 points) out with a turned ankle of his own.

Up one entering the fourth quarter, the Timberwolves — who also got 14 points from guard Kevin Martin and 12 each off the bench from guard J.J. Barea and forward Dante Cunningham — still led 83-80 after Love scored on a layup with 5:13 left. After that, it was all Grizzlies, who scored 11 of the next 13 points, with Randolph delivering six and Prince hitting a dagger 3-pointer from the corner that made it 91-85 with 59.6 seconds left.

“Just two different halves,” Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman said of his team, which committed 12 turnovers while falling behind by 13 points at halftime. “For whatever reason, everyone was trying to make the play themselves. We didn’t have near the movement we needed to have until the second half.”

That is when the Timberwolves made it a game, with Love leading the way, scoring 10 straight Minnesota points during one stretch.

It appeared the Timberwolves had seized the momentum, and they brought it with them into the fourth quarter, pushing the lead to 12 twice before the Grizzlies reasserted themselves, mainly in the form of Randolph, who led a powerful inside attack that accounted for 56 points in the paint.

“They were more in an attack mode in the third quarter and the shots started to go down for them,” Memphis coach David Joerger said. “I was proud of our guys that they took that punch, ’cause it was a pretty healthy punch.”

And punched back, with Randolph leading the way.

“He’s the man,” Joerger said. “He’s a go-to player. He’s a very proud man and he’s an extremely competitive man. He got down there and he got it done.”

Love said, “(Randolph) has one of the best touches in the league. He’s left-handed, which makes him a little unorthodox. But he’s been doing this his whole career. I think he saw me limping around out there and so they just threw the ball into him and let him go.”

So the Grizzlies remain the hot team. The Timberwolves entered the game having won two straight and five of six. Now they have to wonder if Love’s ankle will allow him to play Saturday night in Atlanta.

NOTES: It was a homecoming for Memphis coach Dave Joerger. Joerger grew up in Staples, Minn., not far from Minneapolis. It took him awhile to get back. A veteran of pro basketball’s minor leagues, Joerger got to the NBA as a Memphis assistant in 2007. Last summer, he was promoted to head coach after the Grizzlies and Lionel Hollins parted ways. “It’s certainly a dream come true to be able to coach here,” Joerger said. “I remember coming to games here, just the biggest deal in the world.” Joerger had between 40 and 50 family and friends in attendance, including his old high school coach. … Timberwolves F Kevin Love (27) and Grizzlies forward Zach Randolph (16) are first and fifth, respectively, in the league in games with 20 points and 10 rebounds. … It may be difficult with center Nikola Pekovic out with an injury, but Timberwolves coach Rick Adelman said he has to make sure not to play Love too many minutes. Love played a season-high 43:26 on Wednesday. … Memphis G/F Tony Allen, who missed his 13th game with a wrist injury, took part in a shootaround and could return in a game or two.

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.


Bulls’ guard Zach LaVine desires respect for new contract



According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, Chicago Bulls star Zach LaVine wants the respect he deserves for his contract extension. On Monday morning before Team USA’s practice to prepare for Tuesday’s match against Spain, the 26-year-old guard said to reporters, “I just want my respect, that’s the main thing. I outplayed my contract. I’ve been very loyal to Chicago. I like Chicago. I just want my respect. If that’s now or later, it’s something we’ve got to work out internally.” In the 2020-21 season, in 58 games played, LaVine averaged 27.4 points, five rebounds and 4.9 assists per game. He also shot 50.7 percent from the field and was selected to his first NBA All-Star Game.

Regarding the “outplayed my contract” comment, his argument his fair. Last season, with 200 three-point field goals made, he ranked ninth overall in the league. Despite the Bulls finishing 31-41 (.431) last season, he led the team in points and assists. Per ESPN, they are also reporting that Chicago is trying to work out a four-year, $105 million contract extension for their star guard. Though, this deal is expected to fall below his market value. In terms of signing available free agents this offseason, some Bulls fans are speculating the organization will pursue either Knicks’ shooting guard/small forward Reggie Bullock, Lakers’ power forward/center Markieff Morris or Pelicans’ point guard Lonzo Ball.

On July 13, 2018, the 2014 13th pick of the draft signed a four-year, $78 million contract with the Bulls. LaVine earned $19,500,000 last season, and he is set to earn $19,500,000 in the upcoming season. It is not urgent for Chicago to extend LaVine’s contract this offseason. The organization will have the full rights to re-sign him to a new deal for next season in 2022.

However, the guard will also become an unrestricted free agent next year, so the Bulls should work towards fixing their salary cap issues right now. Referencing Spotrac, center Nikola Vucevic has a cap figure of $24 million. Of this amount, his future guaranteed cash is $22 million. One notable 2021-22 cap hold is Lauri Markkanen. His qualifying offer is $9,026,952, and his cap figure is $20,194,524. On March 2, 2020, Markkanen was recalled from the Windy City Bulls of the G League.

Furthermore, on March 25, 2021, center Nikola Vucevic and forward Al-Farouq Aminu were traded by the Orlando Magic to the Bulls in exchange for Otto Porter, Wendell Carter Jr., a 2021 first-round pick and a 2023 first-round pick. This is quite the gamble for the Bulls organization, considering they traded away two future first-round picks. Vucevic is set to earn $24 million for the 2021-22 season. Chicago has $56,679,846 available in cap space. Their current luxury tax space is $29,405746.

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Rockets decline Avery Bradley’s $5.9 million team option



First reported by Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Houston Rockets are declining Avery Bradley’s team option for the 2021-22 NBA season. On November 23, 2020, the 30-year-old guard signed as a free agent with the Miami Heat. He signed a two-year, $11.6 million deal. On March 25, 2021, the Heat traded Bradley, Kelly Olynyk and a 2022 first-round pick to the Houston Rockets for two-time NBA All-Star guard Victor Oladipo. The 2022 first-round pick is an option to trade for a potential Heat or Nets pick. Plus, Houston received a trade exception, too.

Moreover, Bradley earned $5,635,000 this previous season; the Rockets declined his 2021-22 team option of $5,916,750 for next season. In other words, both sides have mutually agreed to part ways, so the six-foot-three guard is now an unrestricted free agent. In early February, it was first reported that the Washington native would miss three to four weeks due to a calf strain. Before this injury, he averaged 8.5 points, 1.8 rebounds and 1.4 assists per game for Miami. Furthermore, he also shot a career-high percentage of 42.1 percent from behind the arc last season.

Though, Bradley disappointed both of his teams last season, leading to the Rockets finishing 17-55 (.236), ranking 15th overall in the Western Conference. Last season was the first time since the 1982-83 season that Houston failed to win at least 20 games. Since the 2011-12 season, it was the first time the Rockets had failed to qualify for the playoffs. In only 27 games played, the 11-year NBA veteran averaged 6.4 points, 2.1 rebounds and 1.7 assists per game. He shot 37.4 percent from the field as well.

Likewise, the Miami Heat finished 40-32 (.556) last season, regressing from the team’s 44-29 (.603) record and sixth NBA Finals appearance from the 2019-20 season. Fans across social media are already speculating that the 2010 19th overall pick will end up playing for the Los Angeles Lakers next season. If this happens, he would join the team’s newly established big three: LeBron James, Anthony Davis, and Russell Westbrook.

After Bradley signed with the Lakers for the 2019-20 season, he joined the list of players in the league’s history who played for both the Celtics and Lakers. The list includes Brian Shaw, Clyde Lovellette, Mel Counts, Rick Fox, Don Nelson, Bob McAdoo, Isaiah Thomas, Charlie Scott, Gary Payton, Shaquille O’Neal and Rajon Rondo. According to Bleacher Report, the Lakers are also interested in signing Carmelo Anthony this offseason.

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Mavericks will pick up Willie Cauley-Stein’s $4.1 million option



Per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, the Dallas Mavericks are planning to pick up center Willie Cauley-Stein’s $4.1 million option for the 2021-22 NBA season. The deadline is tomorrow. Last season, in 53 games played, the seven-foot big man averaged 5.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. The sixth-year player also shot 63.2 percent from the field last season.

On July 8, 2019, Cauley-Stein signed a two-year, $4.46 million contract with the Golden State Warriors. Then, on January 25, 2020, Cauley-Stein was traded to the Mavericks for a 2020 second-round pick. If everything goes smoothly, the 27-year-old center is set to earn $4.1 million next season. The 2015 sixth overall pick’s contract consumes less than three percent of the team’s total salary cap.

This news comes right after Dallas received center Moses Brown from the Boston Celtics. Brown is a seven-foot-two, 2019 undrafted player out of UCLA. In 2021, Brown was named to the All-NBA G League First Team and All-Defensive Team. On March 28, 2021, the 21-year-old center signed a four-year, $6.8 million contract with the Thunder.

However, on June 18, 2021, the Oklahoma City Thunder traded Brown, Al Horford, and a 2023 second-round pick to the Celtics for Kemba Walker, a 2021 first-round pick and a 2025 second-round pick. With Boston, Brown was set to earn $1,701,593 next season. Of course, the Mavs organization is finalizing a trade to send Josh Richardson to the Celtics as well. In other news, today is Mavs owner Mark Cuban’s 63rd birthday.

Referencing Spotrac’s 2021-22 luxury tax totals, the Mavs’ current luxury tax space is $52,326,531. The 2021 NBA salary cap maximum is $112,414,000. Their current cap space is $27,595,632. Cauley-Stein’s contract is recognized as a club option, not a player option or guaranteed money. Richardson’s deadline is also tomorrow, so because he is getting traded to Boston, the team will not collect his $11,615,328 player option.

Plus, Jalen Brunson’s deadline is also August 1st. His guaranteed value is $1,802,057. Leading into the 2021-22 season, Kristaps Porzingis has the highest cap figure on the team, which is an amount worth $31,650,600, consuming 22.73 percent of the team’s total salary cap. At the moment, Porzingis is a popular name in trade rumor articles. Bettors and NBA analysts are predicting a possible trade to the Brooklyn Nets, Sacramento Kings or Philadelphia 76ers.

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