With an eye to 2011 free agency, the Pacers are looking point guard

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Barring a massive and lopsided trade, the 2010-2011 Pacers are going to be pretty bad. Paul George has serious NBA potential, but he’s not exactly ready to be a franchise-changing player in his rookie season. Other than that, Indy is set to let go of a few low-profile players (Earl Watson, Luther Head) while working the trading block and doing what they can with the mid-level exception. Woe is the existence of a middling team too good to win the lottery but too inept to make the playoffs.

What’s worse, the Pacers don’t have any cap space whatsoever to play with this summer. However, looking forward to next year, the Pacers are set to have all kinds of salary flexibility. If Larry Bird and David Morway elect to let their expiring contracts actually expire, the Pacers will have just over $25 million in committed salary in 2011 (not including the salary for their draft picks next season) with which to assemble their new team.

Alternatively, Bird could attempt to flip those expiring contracts during the 2010-2011 season to get a jump-start on a true rebuild. That process actually starts right now, as Indiana will look to assemble a few relatively low-cost assets with the exceptions they have.

If the draft day rumors linking the Pacers to the Nets’ Devin Harris didn’t tip you off, they’re clearly looking to begin their reboot at point guard. According to Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star, the Pacers will pursue unrestricted Laker free agent Jordan Farmar and restricted Rocket free agent Kyle Lowry to fill the void (yes, that’s what I call a position manned by T.J. Ford) at the 1. Both are sound candidates, though whether or not they’re viable starting PGs has yet to be determined.

Farmar could really thrive in an offensive system like Indiana’s, as his talent has been stifled somewhat by the triangle offense. His shooting and passing would really be better served in a more flexible, fast-paced offense. Lowry has often seemed better served to be a back-up PG, but he’s also never been given full freedom to run an offense of his own. If Lowry does end up signing with the Pacers, he’d have to compete with T.J. Ford for the immediate reins of the offense, but in the long-term? He could be unleashed as the bull of a point guard to run Indy into the future.

Marreese Speights opts out of Clippers contract

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The Clippers are unraveling.

Of course, whether they can re-sign Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are the big questions. But they also must deal with smaller matters in free agency – like Marreese Speights.

Speights will opt out, his agent tweeted:

The Clippers will hold Speights’ Non-Bird Rights (technically a form of Bird Rights), allowing them to give him a starting salary up to $2,540,346 without using cap space or the mid-level exception.

The 29-year-old Speights, a stretch five who takes charges, fits the modern NBA. He could probably get more if he seeks it.

The Clippers won’t have cap space unless they lose Paul and Griffin, and at that point, re-signing a veteran like Speights is of little use. So, it would likely require the taxpayer mid-level exception or Speights taking a discount to keep him.

Luc Mbah a Moute can and likely will also opt out, and he’ll fall in the same Non-Bird situation. The Clippers would likely prioritize their mid-level exception for him – if it’s enough for either player.

Keeping Paul and Griffin is of the utmost importance, but that’s not the Clippers’ only challenge. Even if they keep those two stars, assembling even a decent supporting cast will difficult. Possibly losing J.J. Redick is the main issue there, but handling Speights’ and Mbah a Moute’s roster spots will also be pivotal.

Warriors struggle to get Zaza Pachulia’s 2017 NBA Finals hat on his big head (video)

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Zaza Pachulia became the villain of the Western Conference finals when he injured Kawhi Leonard and torpedoed the Spurs chances of upsetting the Warriors.

But his teammates stood by him – then shared this fun moment with him after Golden State won the West.

Reporter asks Spanish-speaking Manu Ginobili whether he just announced retirement (video)

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Manu Ginobili received an emotional sendoff in the Spurs’ season-ending – and maybe Ginobili’s career-ending – loss to the Warriors last night.

The postgame press conference featured a lighthearted moment when, after the Argentinian guard answered a couple questions in Spanish, an American reporter – not wanting to miss big news – asked whether Ginobili had just announced his retirement.

No, Ginobili assured the reporter. He says he plans to take a few weeks to consider his options.

Warriors make most dominant playoff run ever to NBA Finals

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Moses Malone famously predicted the 76ers team would go “”Fo’, Fo’, Fo'” in the 1983 playoffs, sweeping all three rounds in four games. Philadelphia didn’t quite do it – sweeping the Knicks, beating the Bucks in five then sweeping the Lakers for the title.

Thirty-four years later, an NBA team went “”Fo’, Fo’, Fo'” for the first time.

Golden State swept the Trail Blazers, Jazz and Spurs in four-game series. But with an extra playoff round, the Warriors’ 12-0 run merely gets them to the Finals.

It’s the ninth undefeated run to the Finals, third since the league adopted four playoff rounds in 1984 and first since the first round became best-of-seven. The Lakers went 11-0 in the playoffs en route to the Finals in 2001 and 1989.

By winning an extra game and outscoring opponents by 16.3 points per game, Golden State now claims the most dominant postseason run to the NBA Finals ever.

Here are the top paths to the Finals, with Finals results, by playoff…

Record (point difference per game in parentheses):

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Point difference per game (record in parentheses):

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This doesn’t guarantee Golden State a championship. The Cavaliers (10-1, +11.9) are on track for an elite run to the Finals themselves, and they have LeBron James.

But the Warriors put ridiculous expectations on themselves by signing Kevin Durant to join a 73-win team featuring Stephen Curry, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. I’m unsure a Golden State title this year will be properly appreciated, but so far, the Warriors are doing all they can to clear a bar set unreasonably high.