Ainge says impending free agency led to Rondo deal (Yahoo Sports)

BOSTON (AP) — Rajon Rondo wanted to avoid rush-hour city traffic so he met at the Boston Celtics suburban practice facility with the man who traded him.

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Jermaine O’Neal Rumors: Latest Buzz and Speculation Surrounding Free Agent

Now in need of frontcourt depth after reportedly shipping Brandan Wright to the Boston Celtics, the Dallas Mavericks are targeting free agent Jermaine O’Neal.    

MavsMoneyBall.com’s Tim Cato has the report:

According to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, Wright, Jae Crowder and Jameer Nelson are all on their way to Boston in exchange for Rajon Rondo and rookie Dwight Powell. 

Wright is quite clearly the most important departure of the bunch. The 27-year-old has served as the main backup to Dirk Nowitzki and Tyson Chandler, averaging 8.8 points on a league-best 74.8 percent shooting, 4.1 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in just 18.7 minutes per game. 

Not only has he been incredibly valuable on both sides of the court, owning a spectacular player efficiency rating (PER) of 26.1 (via Basketball-Reference.com), but his absence also means Dallas’ primary frontcourt backups are now Greg Smith and Charlie Villanueva. That’s not going to cut it for a contender in the West, especially when Nowitzki in his 17th NBA season and Chandler has missed 43 games over the last two years. 

Enter O’Neal, who makes a lot of sense as an addition, as D210TV’s Tamara Jolee and KPRC-TV’s Adam Wexler explained:

Last season with the Golden State Warriors, O’Neal averaged 7.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in 20.1 minutes per contest. Per NBA.com, opponents shot 59.2 percent from inside six feet against him, more than nine percentage points worse than the league average. 

O’Neal, 36, isn’t a flashy option, but he’s exactly what Dallas needs. He’s a veteran who can come off the bench, defend the rim, rebound and provide 18-20 minutes of reliable play. 

Of course, as Warriors general manager Bob Myers recently confirmed, via the Bay Area News Group’s Diamond Leung, the Mavs may have some competition:

Either way, Dallas’ sudden need for depth down low should expedite talks across the board, and it doesn’t sound like it will be long before O’Neal is back on an NBA roster.  

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Kevin Durant Latest to Call ‘BS’ That Kobe Is Driving Free Agents from Lakers

Kobe Bryant is not keeping notable free agents from signing with the Los Angeles Lakers, despite his tough-love policies and occasionally abrasive personality. 

The state of the roster may be doing that. The time of year probably has something to do with it as well right now, though that’s neither here nor there. It’s tough for marquee free agents to sign with a team that seems to have an established culture of losing in recent years, even if there’s an abundance of historical appeal and brand appeal. 

But it’s not Bryant who’s driving anyone away, and you can add Kevin Durant to the list of people to claim that, as he told USA Today‘s Sam Amick

Excuse my language, but that’s (expletive). I want to play with a winner every single night, especially somebody who wants to win that bad, who works that hard, who demands a lot, who raises up your level. I’d want to play with a guy like that every day. … (His style) may make people uncomfortable, how he acts and just how he approaches the game, but I love that type of stuff. I think (the accusation) is BS.

Durant—who texted Bryant to congratulate him on passing Michael Jordan on the career scoring leaderboard, per Amick—later said the following: 

Just his work ethic, just his demeanor man. He doesn’t mind being an (expletive), and he comes to work man. He’s intense. He demands a lot out of his teammates, and I’ve seen that just playing alongside him in the Olympics (in 2012). He demands a lot out of everybody. He makes them better. Everybody out on the court. You’ve got to respect that. As a player, I study guys like that. We might not have the same personality, but I think we approach the game the same way and I’ve learned a lot from just watching him.

The NBA‘s reigning MVP isn’t the only notable figure to dispute the now-infamous report by ESPN.com’s Henry Abbott, one that unequivocally blamed Bryant for the downfall of the once-proud franchise. 

Jeanie Buss came to her star player’s defense. Carmelo Anthony disputed the notion that he avoided signing with the Lakers because of Bryant’s presence. Even Phil Jackson, Paul George and Flea, the bassist for the Red Hot Chili Peppers, thought the claims were ridiculous, taking to Twitter to express their disbelief: 

As Matt Moore writes for CBS Sports, perhaps the blame shouldn’t fall on Bryant, but rather the management of this suddenly dysfunctional franchise: 

Bryant has been the target for the blame about the Lakers’ troublesome direction, but if players do actually want to play alongside the future Hall of Famer, then maybe the blame should be more on the leadership of the Lakers’ organization. Jim Buss taking over the basketball operations while Jeanie Buss commands the business side of it all hasn’t been a good combination for attracting or keeping the biggest names that Dr. Jerry Buss never had issues getting for this team.

Durant isn’t in a position where he can throw the management of the Lakers under the bus, but he can at least defend his fellow superstar. His words don’t exactly leave much wiggle room, and he easily could have declined to go down that route of questioning in the first place. 

Of course, the Lakers may not land any of their big targets during next summer’s free-agency frenzy. That’s a distinct possibility, tough as it may be for purple-and-gold supporters to admit it.

But if that happens, let’s avoid blaming Bryant for the misfires of his lifelong team. He might be clanging plenty of jumpers, watching the ball on defense and playing a highly inefficient and sometimes detrimental brand of basketball, but his play and attitude isn’t exactly driving off free agents. 

Hopefully, now that Durant has spoken up, that narrative can be firmly put to rest. 

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Ray Allen drawing free agent interest from Warriors

Ray Allen is in no hurry to sign a contract, but at least one NBA team has already pondered adding the most prolific 3-point shooter of all time.
 
The Golden State Warriors have contacted Allen’s representatives about signing the free agent guard, Warriors general manager Bob Myers confirmed to 95.7 The Game in San Francisco. No contract was offered and Allen gave no indication of his plans, according to Myers.
“Here’s the problem,” Myers said, via CSN Bay Area. “We don’t have enough minutes as it is, so it’s just a question of chemistry.”
Allen has been without a team since the two-year deal he inked with the Miami Heat in 2012 expired last July. He is believed to be waiting for a legitimate championship contender to call, possibly sometime around February, to add him for the stretch run.
The Warriors (19-2) currently boast the best record in the NBA and have won 14 consecutive games, the longest streak in the league this season.
Thumbnail photo via Brian Spurlock/USA TODAY Sports Ima

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Penn State Player Gets Free Layup After Everyone Else Forgets to Play

In a cloud of apparent confusion, Penn State’s Shep Garner was just handed two points on a nice, shiny silver platter. Way to pay attention, kid.

Nittany Lions forward Payton Banks was fouled late in the first half of Wednesday’s game against Virginia Tech, which was the Hokies’ ninth foul of the half. That meant that Banks would go to the line for a one-and-one.

It appears as though every player except Garner thought that Penn State was in the double bonus, because he was the only one on the court who moved after Banks missed the free-throw attempt. That led to an easy two points for the Nittany Lions.

Not even Garner was too sure that his basket counted. After he drove in for the uncontested layup, he went back to get in position for a second free-throw attempt by Banks.

It took a few more seconds before anyone realized what was going on, but eventually, the players got on the same page as the referees.

Every point ended up factoring into this tight ACC-Big Ten matchup. Penn State held on for a 61-58 victory.

[cjzerovids, h/t USA Today's FTW]

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NBA Free Agents 2014: Analyzing Latest Rumors, Predictions on Available Talent

Ray Allen is still the most prominent and potentially important NBA free agent available. It seems several teams are interested in signing the future Hall of Famer, but Jesus Shuttlesworth might be waiting until midseason to pick his team, per A. Sherrod Blakely of CSN Northeast.

Blakely quoted Boston Celtics general manager Danny Ainge from an interview with 98.5 The Sports Hub. Ainge said:

“Ray can really help [Cleveland], but I anticipate that Ray will wait and see the landscape of the NBA. I just think he might wait and see how everybody’s clicking. There’s a handful of teams that would love to have Ray on their team right now that are trying to win a championship.”

With two championship rings to his credit, nearly 3,000 made three-pointers and 24,505 points, the 39-year-old future Hall of Famer has earned the right to take his time.

As it turns out, Allen could have his pick of just about any team considering he’d be signing for a veteran’s minimum contract. The Cleveland Cavaliers, Chicago Bulls, Washington Wizards, Oklahoma City Thunder, Los Angeles Clippers, Portland Trail Blazers and San Antonio Spurs could use him.

There was obviously talk about Allen possibly retiring, but that doesn’t seem likely. If he were going to go that route, he could have made that announcement months ago.

There seems to still be a desire there. I’m expecting Allen to pick a squad somewhere near the All-Star break.

 

Tyrus Thomas Inching Closer to NBA Return

Believe it or not, Thomas is only 28 years old. It seems like eons ago the Bulls foolishly traded the Blazers the rights to LaMarcus Aldridge for Thomas. It sounds preposterous right now, but on the strength of a strong NCAA tournament run with the LSU Tigers back in 2006, Thomas had the looks of a Shawn-Marion type player.

After an uneventful stint with the then Charlotte Bobcats, Thomas has found himself out of the NBA.

He didn’t get any offers to play for a team last season, and has yet to latch on with a club this year. Prospects are seemingly improving, though.

Quoting sources, Basketball Insiders’ Alex Kennedy reports that Thomas has worked out for the Memphis Grizzlies and Los Angeles Lakers. No deal has been struck as of yet, but Thomas is clearly trying to resurrect his career.

At 6’8″, Thomas is an athletic, long-armed forward who never seemed to be given or accept a defined role. Had he accepted an identity similar to what Philadelphia 76ers rookie K.J. McDaniels is adopting—especially with the Bulls—Thomas could have been a force.

Perhaps now that he’s older and more mature, Thomas can find his niche in the NBA.

If he’s persistent, Thomas will get another shot. The league isn’t exactly filled with athletic forwards who have averaged as many as 10 points, 6.4 rebounds and just two blocked shots per game in their careers.

 

Lakers Unlikely to Sign a Free Agent

Despite working out Thomas and others, Dsvid Pick of Basketball Insiders (h/t Kennedy) says it doesn’t appear as though the Los Angeles Lakers will sign a free agent any time soon.

The primary reason is that L.A. would have to release someone on the current roster to make room.

The Lakers are playing better having won their last two games. The thought process might be to wait and see how the current group grows and comes together before a signing takes place.

Perhaps the biggest key for the Lakers to maximize their talent is for Kobe Bryant to simply pass the ball more. During the Lakers five wins this season, Bryant is averaging 20 field-goal attempts per game.

In the losses, he’s taking 24.8 shots. I’m just saying. It seems as though the Lakers will probably wait until they are bit by the injury bug to make a move. 

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Los Angeles Lakers: Free agency options

It may still be early in the season, but it has become readily apparent that the Los Angeles Lakers are going nowhere. The team currently has as many players out for the season as it does wins. It will be a rough season with the only highlight being Kobe climbing the scoring list. Aside from that, all there is to look forward to is next season and the improvements the Lakers will make. There are several free agents that the Lakers could add next season that would go a long way towards turning the team around.
The first option for the Lakers to add in free agency is Suns point guard Goran Dragic. Dragic won last year’s most improved player award, averaging 20 points a game and making over half of his shots. Dragic has a player option that would make him a free agent next offseason and he would be an excellent option for the Lakers. Jeremy Lin will be a free agent and Dragic would be a big upgrade over him. Dragic also might be very inclined to leave the Suns since they have too many point guards with Eric B

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76ers fans can get free tickets with a box of Mac & Cheese

The Philadelphia 76ers, not surprisingly, are not drawing well so far this season. The team is 0-5 at home (0-11 overall) and are bringing in an average of 14,856 fans per game, bad enough for 28th in NBA attendance rankings, although the fact that nearly 15,000 fans each game speaks to the undying dedication of…Read More
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76ers fans can get two free tickets with a box of Mac & Cheese

The Philadelphia 76ers, not surprisingly, are not drawing well so far this season. The team is 0-5 at home (0-11 overall) and are bringing in an average of 14,856 fans per game, bad enough for 28th in NBA attendance rankings, although the fact that nearly 15,000 fans each game speaks to the undying dedication of…Read More
The post Philadelphia 76ers fans can get two free tickets with a box of Mac & Cheese (pic) appeared first on Sportress of Blogitude.

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It’s Up to the Oklahoma City Thunder to Keep Kevin Durant in Free Agency

If Kevin Durant leaves in 2016, the Oklahoma City Thunder will have nobody to blame but themselves. 

Fortunately, the Thunder have a season and a half to prove to the reigning MVP that it’s in his best interest to stick around. Unfortunately, the rest of the league has the same time frame to come up with ways to lure KD away from the only NBA team he’s ever known. 

There hasn’t been this much premature anticipation surrounding a free agent since the lead-up to LeBron James’ “decision” in 2010.  For the next two years, Durant is the prettiest girl at the bar, and every team will be putting its best pitch together. It will be like men lining up after hearing Kate Upton will be on The Bachelor. 

While a lot can change between now and 2016, Grantland’s Zach Lowe reported that the battle for the four-time scoring champion may already be a two-team race:

Some teams are optimistic it will be open season, and others have heard rumblings that Durant has already made it known it will come down to the Thunder and Wizards.”

The allure of the Washington Wizards is understandable. For starters, it’s close to home. The nation’s capital is a half hour away from Durant’s hometown of Seat Pleasant, Maryland. The Wizards also play in the weaker Eastern Conference, and have two rising stars in John Wall and Bradley Beal

Oklahoma City isn’t too shabby, either. The Thunder have two star sidekicks of their own in Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka. They have also been a title contender for most of Durant’s tenure. Still, with no championship to speak of, the franchise still has work to do to retain its best player’s services. 

 

Where OKC Has Gone Wrong

In 2012, Oklahoma City was faced with a very tough choice. With the finances of a small-market team limited, the franchise had to choose between paying big money to a blossoming shot-blocker in Ibaka or a potential star in key reserve in James Harden.

Inevitably, the club picked Ibaka, and the move to trade Harden to the Houston Rockets prior to the 2012-13 season is one of basketball’s greatest “What if?” debates. 

What if the Thunder chose to wait another year to move their star sixth man and made one last run with Harden, Durant, Westbrook and Ibaka? At the time, the team was coming off its first Finals appearance, losing in five games to the Miami Heat

Would the Thunder have won a title if they kept the band together for one more season? Who knows. 

However, the decision to deal Harden doesn’t haunt this franchise as much as the return. In exchange for “The Beard,” Oklahoma City received Kevin Martin, Jeremy Lamb and a 2013 lottery pick that became center Steven Adams. 

Martin would eventually bolt for the Minnesota Timberwolves after a modest lone season with the Thunder (14 points, 45 percent from the field, 42.9 percent from three). Lamb has been slow to develop, while the jury is still out on Adams. 

As for Harden, he hit the ground running in Houston. He’s averaged at least 25 points per game in his first two seasons with the Rockets and has blossomed into the league’s best shooting guard. 

The Thunder find themselves in a similar situation this year. Like Harden heading into 2012, Reggie Jackson is a starter-quality sixth man angling for a new deal. Unlike with Harden, the team is letting Jackson play out his walk year. 

Oklahoma City would like to keep Jackson, but the price may be too steep. According to Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, the 24-year-old could nab a deal that would pay him $13-14 million annually. 

After coming up short on the Harden trade, it’s crucial for the team to make the right move with Jackson. If he walks, you let your fourth-best player leave for nothing. If he’s traded, the return will have to be good enough to compensate for Jackson’s absence. 

If it’s not, the team’s championship window becomes even smaller, and Durant could feel compelled to chase a title elsewhere. 

 

What OKC Should Do

In his HBO documentary, The Offseason: Kevin Durant, the star small forward made it abundantly clear what he wants out of his time in Oklahoma City (h/t to SI.com’s Ben Golliver for the quotes):

“I’m in this league to win a championship,” Durant said. “I have no doubts about us getting there. I feel confident we can get there one day. … That’s the biggest thing in this league: winning a championship. It’s time to get it done.” 

For the better part of the last seven years, Durant has been the NBA’s second-best player. During that time, he’s watched James leave the team that drafted him to go make four straight trips to the NBA Finals with the Miami Heat. 

The difference between Durant now and James’ first stint in Cleveland is KD has a better core around him. When healthy, this is a championship team. While injuries have decimated the roster this season, it has also opened up opportunities for guys like Jackson and Perry Jones to step up. 

Still, the Thunder need to do whatever it takes to reinforce their standing as a title contender inside Durant’s mind. That means better coaching from Scott Brooks, who has done a masterful job rallying the troops in the face of adversity. 

It may also mean making a move or two to bring in guys who can contribute right away. Call it “The Reverse Harden.” While building for the future is always important, the next 19 months supersede that. With the clock ticking until Durant hits the market, the Thunder can’t afford to keep waiting for players to develop. 

If that means moving someone like Lamb or Andre Roberson, so be it. Earlier this week, I wrote that Oklahoma City should consider moving Jackson. With the team ill-equipped to get into a bidding war this summer, why not sell high on the 24-year-old’s hot start (team-leading 22.8 points)? 

In the past, teams have been successful in mortgaging the future to win now. In 2007, the Boston Celtics packaged young players to acquire Kevin Garnett from Minnesota. They won the title later that year. Last season, the Wizards traded a first-round pick for Marcin Gortat and ended their five-year postseason drought. 

For the Thunder, a two-way guard like the New York KnicksIman Shumpert or a veteran shooter like the Denver Nuggets‘ Arron Afflalo could come in handy. Even with the 3-6 start, the Thunder can still make a playoff run. One or two proven contributors could put them over the top. 

For the next two years, Kevin Durant’s free-agency plans will be the main narrative in Oklahoma City. Up to this point, the Thunder have done almost everything in their power to keep their star player happy. 

Except win a championship. 

With James winning his titles in South Beach, Durant now becomes the best player in the league without a championship ring. The longer he goes without one, the more nervous the Thunder and their fans should become. 

As with any human being, when you aren’t getting what you want somewhere, you’re going to look for it elsewhere. Durant wants to win it all. It’s up to the franchise to do whatever it takes to make that dream come true. 

If you’re Oklahoma City, you don’t want to look back and wonder what you could have done. There should be no more “What ifs.”

The future for the Thunder starts now and ends in the summer of 2016. 

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