Josh Childress expected to return to Hawks next season

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While his former teammates struggle to find a way to deal with Dwight Howard, Vince Carter and the rest of the Orlando Magic, Josh Childress is basking in the limelight in Paris.

His team, Olympiacos, is in the EuroLeague Final Four taking place this weekend in the city of lights. He is a key part of the Greek squad that is one of the favorites, averaging 15 points a game (behind only former Nugget Linas Kleiza).

But when the game ends Childress has a decision to make — does he opt out of the third year of his deal and return to the United States, or does he stay one more year in Greece. The Washington Post caught up with him in Paris and from those close to him it sounds like he is coming home.

Childress has an opt-out clause in his contract that will allow him to return to the NBA this summer with no penalty or buyout. That, naturally, has led to rampant speculation in basketball-mad Greece that he’ll be back in the States this fall. Greek journalists interviewed here were virtually unanimous in predicting that he will.

The Hawks maintain the rights to the 6’8″ swingman, who was the key sixth man on an emerging Hawks team a couple years ago.

Atlanta has played hardball with those rights. The Hawks followed the pattern of a lot of NBA teams, low-balling offers to restricted free agents. The theory is that they can get him to sign their offer for less because other teams will not make an offer assuming it would just get matched. So the player ends up with the one low offer and nothing else of substance.

Olympiacos changed that dynamic for Childress. With Atlanta trying to lowball him Childress took off for Greece, for a three-year, $20 million deal (where the team takes care of his taxes, housing, car and more). The Stanford-educated Childress jumped at it.

“Listen — it’s been an excellent two years,” he said. “It’s been a growing experience, yes, but I never saw this as a temporary fix. I thought of it as a three-year deal, and it could very well end that way.”

After watching the first two games against Orlando, don’t you think the Hawks could use some more depth, a quality swingman off the bench? The real question is, how much are they willing to pay for that. We’ll know by July 15, when Childress needs to tell his Greek team what he is doing next season.

Marc Gasol: If Grizzlies don’t share my goal of continued growth, we might have to revisit things

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The Grizzlies’ Grit & Grind era has ended.

Zach Randolph signed with the Kings, and Tony Allen appears likely to leave Memphis, too. The Grizzlies are prioritizing younger/cheaper players like Ben McLemore and Tyreke Evans.

Marc Gasol via Ala Carta, as translated by HoopsHype:

I’m very ambitious and I’ve wanted Memphis to be a great franchise. We’ve grown a lot the last 6-7 years, but we have to keep growing. If this is not lined up, maybe we may have to revisit things.

Gasol has been loyal to Memphis, and his first wish is probably winning there. But Giannis Antetokounmpo put it well: Teams must also do right by their players. Gasol is 32 and doesn’t have much time in his prime left. I see why rebuilding wouldn’t interest him.

But what will he do about it if the Grizzlies don’t prioritize the present? They made their push last summer with a max contract for Chandler Parsons, but because Parsons can’t stay healthy, that deal only inhibits team growth.

Gasol is locked up for two more years before a player option. He doesn’t have much leverage. This is part of the reason LeBron James keeps signing short-term contracts. Gasol doesn’t have the same ability to steer his team in his desired direction

On the potentially bright side, rebuilding teams often don’t have much use for 32-year-olds guaranteed more than $72 million over the following three years. If the fit devolves, Memphis becomes more likely to trade him.

Celtics to retire Paul Pierce’s number after Cavaliers game in February

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The Celtics already said they’d retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34.

Now, we know when.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they will retire Paul Pierce’s No. 34 after a mid-season game against the Cleveland Cavaliers on Sunday, Feb. 11

After? That’s apparently in response to a new rule that penalizes teams not ready to play after a 15-minute halftime. These ceremonies can drag on, and nobody wants to cut Pierce short. I wonder whether this will start a trend of number retirements coming after games.

DeMarcus Cousins on Confederate statues: ‘Take all them motherf—ers down’

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DeMarcus Cousins grew up in Alabama, played collegiately at Kentucky and now plays in New Orleans.

So, yeah, the Pelicans star has an opinion on Confederate statues.

Cousins, via TMZ:

“Take all them motherf*ckers down,” Cousins said … “Take ’em all down.”

These statues glorify people because they fought a war against the United States in the name of preserving the racist institution of slavery.

Not whom I want to honor, either.

Kevin Durant: Kyrie Irving-LeBron James situation ‘just a regular NBA problem’

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Kevin Durant knows something about star teammates not always getting along.

So, the Warriors forward is not freaking out about the disconnect between Kyrie Irving and LeBron James and Irving’s subsequent trade request.

Durant, via Chris Haynes of ESPN:

“It’s just a regular NBA problem, right? A lot of teams have gone through this before,” Durant told ESPN. “They’ll figure it out. That’s a great organization, a championship organization. They’ll figure it out.”

“It’s not the end of the world,” Durant said. “Both of those guys won a championship together. They love each other. If Kyrie wants to do something else, that’s on him. I’m sure whatever happens, it’ll work out for the best for both of them. But it’s just a normal NBA problem. It’s just two big stars that it’s happening to.”

Durant is definitely right in the larger sense. Teammates spat and requests trades more often than we realize. Remember, both Irving and the Cavaliers probably prefer this never became public.

But I’m not sure Cleveland will figure this out with the ease Durant suggests. David Griffin, who had proven so adept at putting out these fires, is gone. LeBron’s free agency looms. This could be extremely destructive to the Cavs.

The fact that this “regular NBA problem” became public only intensifies it – and raises it something greater.