Magic, Nets, Knicks ask about trading for Chris Paul

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nba_paul_250.jpgUPDATE 4:42 pm: The Magic’s offer to get Chris Paul out of New Orleans had to at least make the Hornets pause — Jameer Nelson and Vince Carter for CP3 and James Posey.

That according to FanHouse’s Tim Potvik. That deal would save the Hornets money long term — this is the last year of Carter’s deal — and net them a pretty good player in Nelson.

However, nobody thinks the Hornets are interested. New Orleans has not been for several years now as offers have flowed in before for Paul. Nothing has changed, they say.

8:37 am: LeBron who? Suddenly it is Chris Paul mania in the NBA. Everybody wants to trade for him, since reports surfaced that he is available.

As evidenced, there is the report from Sam Amick at FanHouse that the Orlando Magic have inquired about Paul’s availability from the Hornets. The Daily News reports both the Nets and Knicks have interest, with the Nets even making an offer.

A few quick thoughts. First, calls like this are made all the time in the NBA. Teams call around all the time and ask about this player or that, guys who may well not be available. You need to upgrade at the point you call a team like the Hornets, where talks have apparently stalled to bring in new owner Gary Chouest — it doesn’t take this long to finalize a deal — and the old owner may want to cut more salary. You don’t know who is really available unless you ask, so teams ask. A lot more than you think.

(By the way, if you were a crafty owner looking to sell your team like
George Shinn, but you couldn’t get the new owner to take on as much debt
as you like, would leaking a rumor though a reliable source that Chris
Paul is on the block be a smart move to speed the process along? It
might well be.)

Second, I know what World Wide Wes is saying, but it really makes little sense for the Hornets to part with Chris Paul. Yes, he had some injuries and played just 45 games last year. Yes he makes nearly $15 million this year and $16.3 million next year (with a player option after that), and the Hornets are not a high revenue franchise and the sale talks have stalled. But Paul is the best point guard in the NBA and a guy who is at the heart of the Hornets marketing efforts. Chris Paul sells tickets and wins games. What he makes is a fair price for him (in the inflated NBA-realm of what is fair) and the Hornets would never get real value back.

Next, is it really any shock the Nets or Knicks would be interested? These are two teams looking for a big start to rebuild around and Paul would fit the bill. The Daily News reports that the Nets offered Devin Harris and the No. 3 pick in the draft for Paul, but were shot down.

Finally, the most interesting part of this may be Orlando’s interest. This shows Orlando is thinking the Jameer Nelson/Dwight Howard combo many not be the answer, and if they have to make changes it is not Howard that has to go.

Point guard was actually the weakest position statistically on the Magic last year, for example look at PER generated and PER against (not a perfect measure, but one that gives you some idea). Jason Williams coming off the bench was part of that issue, but it was also with Nelson. Nelson was just a +1.5 per 48 minutes on the court this season, a number well below Howard (+10.8) or even Vince Carter (+6.9). Simply, the Magic were not that much better than their opponents with the shoot-first point guard Nelson at the helm.

The Magic may have their eye on a more traditional point guard. Jameer Nelson is actually pretty movable making $8.1 million per year for two more years.

However, finding someone better than will not be that easy — he brings a lot to the table and Orlando would miss his scoring. This may have been just a one-time shot in the dark to ask about Paul. Or, it may be part of a plan we see unfold over the summer.

After Ricky Rubio’s triple-double, Russell Westbrook promises to “shut that s*** off”

Associated Press
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Ricky Rubio outplayed Russell Westbrook Saturday night in Utah and now the Jazz are up 2-1 in that series.

Rubio did his damage from the midrange — he was 5-of-5 between the key and the arc — on his way to 26 points, to go with 11 rebounds and 10 assists. All series the Thunder have dared Rubio to shoot and to beat them, Saturday he did. It was a stark contrast to Westbrook’s 14 points on 17 shots Saturday with eight turnovers.

When asked about Rubio’s big night postgame, Westbrook was looking ahead to Game 4 and using a little NSFW language (hat tip to Ben Golliver of SI, who loves him some playoff podium video).

There you have it, a personal guarantee.

Rubio struggled some in Game 1, taking 18 shots and mostly the ones the Thunder wanted him to. However, after that he has been better at getting to his spots and taking the shots in rhythm, and it’s worked — he’s averaging 20.3 points, 8.3 rebounds, and 8 assists per game this series. OKC has been focused on making life difficult for rookie Donovan Mitchell (with limited success) and it’s freed up Rubio to make plays.

More than just slowing the Spanish point guard, Westbrook and the Thunder need to figure out how to get their offense back on track against a Jazz defense that was best in the NBA once Gobert got healthy last season. Oklahoma City lost Game 2 when their big three — Westbrook, Paul George, Carmelo Anthony — went 0-of-15 in the fourth quarter. In Game 3, OKC averaged 100 points per 100 possessions (well below their season average of 110.2) and Westbrook shot 29.4 percent. Do that again in Game 4 and it will not matter what Rubio shoots, what matters is the Thunder could be looking at a 3-1 deficit. The Thunder need to even this series before it heads back to Oklahoma City.

Gregg Popovich will not coach Game 4 following death of his wife, Erin

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San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will not be on the sidelines again for Game 4 Sunday following the death of his wife, Erin, to a lengthy illness.

Ettore Messina will again coach the Spurs.

Popovich also missed Game 3. His San Antonio Spurs are down 3-0 to the Golden State Warriors in the first-round matchup. None of that matters compared to the loss of a woman he loved and was married to for four decades.

Erin Popovich’s passing has cast a pall over the series, especially with Warriors coach Steve Kerr being very close to the Popovichs dating back to his playing days with the Spurs.

The reaction and sadness about Erin’s passing has reached well beyond this series.

Our thoughts are with the Popovich family in this difficult time.

Anthony Davis’ 47 points, Pelicans sweep Trail Blazers out of playoffs

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Anthony Davis scored 33 of his franchise playoff-record 47 points in the second half, and the New Orleans Pelicans completed a first-round playoff sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers with a 131-123 victory on Saturday.

Jrue Holiday capped his 41-point performance with an 18-foot pull-up jumper that gave the Pelicans a six-point lead with 40 seconds left.

Rajon Rondo added 16 assists, and Davis also had 11 rebounds and three blocks for New Orleans, which is moving on to the second round of the playoffs for only the second time since the NBA returned to the city 16 seasons ago.

C.J. McCollum scored 38 for the Trail Blazers, who responded to a blowout loss in Game 3 by keeping Game 4 close until the final minute. Al-Farouq Aminu scored 27, Damian Lillard added 18 points and Jusuf Nurkic had 18 points and 11 rebounds before fouling out.

Lillard’s difficult driving layup had just tied the game at 60 when the Pelicans briefly pulled away, going on an 11-2 run capped by Davis’ 3.

Soon after, Nikola Mirotic added step-back 3. Davis, who scored 19 in the third quarter, then added a layup while falling down after a hard foul by Aminu, after which Davis flexed both biceps while still sitting on the court.

Holiday’s transition 3 made it 87-72, prompting Portland to call timeout while Holiday walked slowly toward mid-court, nodding and smiling wide as he soaked in the crowd’s adulation.

New Orleans led by 13 to start the fourth quarter, but Portland refused to wilt, opening the period on a 15-4 run that included Nurkic’s hook shot, 20-foot jumper and dunk. McCollum’s transition layup made it 104-102 with nearly nine minutes to play.

Portland got as close as a single point on Aminu’s layup with 5:08 to go, but Davis responded with 12 points over the final 4:56, starting with a layup as he was fouled and a 3-pointer. Holiday scored six points during the final 2:52, starting with his 3-pointer. The pair combined for all but one of New Orleans’ points during that pivotal stretch.

Leading up to Game 4, Lillard spoke of the need for the Blazers to ramp up their intensity and physicality. From the tip, it looked as though they’d done so.

In stark contrast to Game 3, when New Orleans led by 18 in the first quarter, this game was tight and testy.

Anthony and Ed Davis received double technical fouls after bumping one another following one of Anthony Davis’ dunks – and that was just the beginning.

McCollum was called for a flagrant foul when he stormed into the lane behind E'Twaun Moore and grabbed the Pelicans guard by the shoulders to thwart a driving layup attempt. Moore then shoved McCollum and was assessed a technical foul.

And in the final seconds of the half, double technicals were assessed to Rondo and Portland center Zach Collins after Rondo lowered his forehead into Collins’ chest and Collins shoved back.

When halftime arrived, New Orleans led 58-56.

 

 

Twins Marcus, Markieff Morris each fined by league for separate instances

Associated Press
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Twins Marcus and Markieff Morris have a special bond, one that includes doing so much together on the basketball court — playing at the same high school, the same AAU team, then going to college together at Kansas, and even playing together in the NBA for a while together with the Suns (they are now on separate teams).

That includes them both getting fined Saturday by the NBA for recent actions during the playoffs.

Washington’s Markieff Morris picked up a $25,000 fine for “attempting to escalate an altercation and pushing a game official,” the league announced. Here is the play in question, just minutes into Game 3.

Toronto’s OG Anunoby draws a foul knocking Morris to the ground, but Morris starts the incident with an elbow to Anunoby’s back, and he does push referee Kenny Mauer. Considering all that, a $25,000 fine is not that severe.

His twin Marcus Morris picked up a $15,000 for “public criticism of the officiating,” which he certainly did following the Celtics’ Game 3 loss to the Bucks. Here are his comments, and they are NSFW.

That $15,000 fine is pretty much the going rate for ripping the referees after the game.

Markieff outdid his brother on this one… if you consider getting the larger fine the “win.”