Eight teams have room to sign max free agent

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Tom Ziller, writing for FanHouse, names the eight teams that will have room to give a free agent max money. Here’s my quick breakdown of the pros and cons of each free-agent destination:

New York: The Knicks may have the cap space to sign two major free agents. They also play in the Mecca of basketball, and the chance of bringing basketball glory back to New York could be very tempting. Players also love playing for Mike D’Antoni. However, the Knicks have few young pieces and draft picks, and have been a mess for some time now. They’d need to perform some serious magic in the summer of 2010 to become a title contender.
New Jersey: The team may be moving to Brooklyn, and have a billionaire owner with money to burn. They have a good young center in Brook Lopez, and Devin Harris could return to his previous form. They also have a high pick in the upcoming draft, and have the best chance of winning the John Wall sweepstakes. On the con side, this is one of the worst teams in NBA history. 
Chicago: The Bulls have cap space, a young star in Derrick Rose, and the legacy of Michael Jordan. They’ll likely make a concerted effort to get hometown product Dwyane Wade this summer, and could have a very good shot. The Bulls have been close to contending for a few years now. A superstar could return them to their former glory. 
Sacramento: The Kings have a budding superstar of their own in Tyreke Evans. They also have young pieces like Omri Casspi, and now feature Carl Landry in their frontcourt. Additionally, the Kings have one of the league’s most passionate fanbases, not to mention a pair of billionaire owners. The major cons for the Kings are their small market and their lack of success in recent years. 
Miami: The Heat have the best shot at keeping Wade, and could potentially add another big free agent to their nucleus. They don’t have much young talent or a high draft pick coming, however. Their market isn’t the best, but players do like playing in Miami. 
Los Angeles Clippers: The Clippers have Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon, and a high pick coming in the draft. They also play in one of the best markets in the league, if not the best. However, they’re currently a mess, and historically one of the worst franchises ever. They’ve also got a ways to go until they’re the most popular team in their own arena. Their ownership situation could also be a concern for potential free agents wary of throwing their hat in with Donald Sterling. 
Washington: The Wizards are having some serious problems. They’ll have a high draft pick, but have no core and the messy Gilbert Arenas situation hanging over the franchise. 
Minnesota: The Wolves have Al Jefferson, and do have the rights to Ricky Rubio. Kevin Love is also blossoming into a very fine NBA player. The issue is that the Wolves could have trouble enticing players to come to Minnesota, and the team hasn’t been constructed with any clear plan in mind so far. 
Those are the teams who will be bidding for the big free agents in the Summer of Doom. We’ll see which franchises end up getting the guys they want with their cap space. 

Report: Pelicans have discussed offering DeMarcus Cousins less than max over 2-3 years

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Last month, Anthony Davis said he heard DeMarcus Cousins planned to re-sign with the Pelicans. Cousins was out a torn Achilles, and New Orleans was rolling with Davis playing more center. But New Orleans’ ceiling looked higher with Cousins, and Davis made clear he wanted to keep Cousins – in itself a big deal. More important than keeping Cousins is keeping Davis, which requires keeping Davis happy.

Then, the Pelicans swept the Trail Blazers, becoming the lowest seed to sweep a first-round series.

Is everyone still sure Cousins warrants a max contract, which projects to be worth about $176 million over five years?

Zach Lowe of ESPN:

The Pelicans have broached internally the idea of offering Cousins a two- or three-year deal at less than the max, per sources familiar with the discussions. I would not expect that to go over well with Cousins’ camp. But the Pelicans have the dual leverage of winning without Cousins and a tepid market for him.

Only a half-dozen or so teams have max-level space this season, and most won’t pursue Cousins at that level, sources say.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Pelicans leaked this to test the waters. Word will get back to Cousins, and they can gauge how strenuously he objects. If they want, they can deny ever considering this and try to avoid offending Cousins.

But New Orleans has leverage.

It will be a tight market. Many of the teams with significant cap space are young and rebuilding, and they won’t want Cousins’ attitude. Even teams ready to win might not bring him into the locker room. Returning from a torn Achilles – hard for any player – will be especially difficult for the 6-foot-11, 270-pound Cousins.

That said, Cousins has leverage on the Pelicans, too. He’s extremely talented, and players that talented are hard to come by. New Orleans would still essentially be capped out if he walked, left with only the mid-level exception to replace him. Cousins and Davis play well together, and Davis – who can become an unrestricted free agent in 2020 – wants Cousins around.

Confronted with a similar situation with Jrue Holiday last summer – capped out and no mechanism to adequately replace him – the Pelicans spent big. But Holiday wasn’t hurt and didn’t have any fit concerns with Davis.

For New Orleans, it’s clearly worth securing the 27-year-old Cousins for the next couple years. The upside is too high. But, especially given the injury, guaranteeing him money into his 30s is undesirable.

On the flip side, Cousins should want long-term security. This might be his last chance to get it.

So, maybe both the Pelicans and Cousins can meet in the middle. But finding that point is never simple.

Judge grills Suge Knight – facing murder charge – on NBA-champion pick (Rockets)

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Suge Knight is facing a murder, threat and robbery charges in three separate cases.

The former rap mogul was in court yesterday to set a trial date for the murder charge.

Marisa Gerber of the Los Angeles Times:

A few minutes later, during a separate hearing in the criminal threats proceeding, another judge asked Knight to return to his courtroom in May. The judge then turned to Knight, asking who he thought would win the NBA playoffs.

“At this time…” Knight said, before the judge cut him off, saying he wanted a once-and-for-all answer.

“Houston,” Knight responded.

“Alright, Houston. Good pick,” the judge said.

Knight smiled.

What?

Milwaukee taco restaurant releases security footage showing manager greeting Giannis Antetokounmpo

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Shortly after Giannis Antetokounmpo led the Bucks to a Game 4 win over the Celtics on Sunday, someone eating at a Milwaukee taco restaurant tweeted a photo of the Greek Freak waiting for a table. According to the tweeter, nobody helped Antetokounmpo at all.

The picture went viral.

But!

The restaurant claims a manager greeted Antetokounmpo and released surveillance footage to prove it:

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“We appreciate everyone’s passion for treating Giannis and all customers with great customer service,” Monday’s follow-up read. “It is something we strive to do every day. We reviewed the entryway footage from last night, and we are proud to reaffirm that Giannis was promptly greeted by our manager and told the wait time. Giannis has been a customer many times and he has graciously accepted our apology for not being able to seat him and other customers more quickly last night.  Our focus is now on supporting our team on this playoff run. Go Bucks.”

The release concluded with the hashtag #TacoBoutAMisunderstanding.

TacoBoutAMisunderstanding, indeed.

For his part, Antetokounmpo never griped publicly about the taco restaurant. The wait was longer then he wanted so he went elsewhere.

He has more important issues to focus on – like Game 5 in Boston tonight.

Kevin Durant: Liking anti-Russell Westbrook Instagram comment was ‘total accident’

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Kevin Durant liked an Instagram comment critical of Russell Westbrook.

Here we go again?

Royce Young of ESPN:

I’m not inside Durant’s mind. He could be lying to cover another burner Instagram snafu.

But I tend to believe him. It’s easy enough to accidentally click like, and the greater context is on his side.

Durant has always tried to downplay a feud with Westbrook. Even at the personal rivalry’s peak, Durant just seemed as if he wanted Westbrook to like him. So, it’s nearly impossible to believe Durant – even for a button-pushing moment – wanted to publicly slight Westbrook.

But maybe Durant wanted quiresultan or some other alter-ego to do so? Maybe, as beaten down as he looked by the controversy over those deleted tweets last summer, Durant didn’t learn his lesson and still uses burner accounts. I certainly wouldn’t rule that out.

Again, though, this would be a weird message. Last summer’s deleted tweets praised Westbrook while slamming the rest of the Thunder. Durant was going to have a burner account take the opposite stance now? That doesn’t really add up.