Winderman: Lose a free agent? You should get another draft pick.

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Among counterproposals offered recently by the National Basketball Players Association during collective-bargaining negotiations were various means to make it easier to facilitate trades.

That, of course, is the type of item you put on the table as a means to eventually remove it when it comes down to cash concerns.

But last summer, and this season, are showing there does have to be a fundamental change when it comes to devastating personnel losses, and it has nothing to do with trades.

The sense of loss that Cleveland, Toronto and Phoenix had in common last summer is one all three teams currently also have in common. They are going nowhere, and they desperately need help.

That is why the NBA needs to adopt a compensatory system similar to what football and baseball offer in the wake of the loss of free agents.

The NBA’s rebuke might be that free-agent losses of players such as LeBron James, Chris Bosh and Amare Stoudemire often are followed up by agreements that result in salary-cap trade exceptions. The problem there is a trade exception requires a trade partner. It is not a quick-fix solution, nothing a team can execute on its own.

No, just like other sports, the NBA needs to assign some sort of metric value on free agents and attach an ensuing draft value.

The problem is the NBA Draft generally is not a deep pool, one that only includes two rounds.

The answer is to slot teams that lose prime free agents in after the lottery teams. For teams such as the Cavaliers, Raptors and Suns, it essentially would allow them to double-dip in the range of the lottery, or provide some sort of trade chip in the devastating wake of a major free-agent loss.

At least that way, teams would have the option of taking a compensatory post-lottery pick or working out a sign-and-trade deal for a trade exception.

From there, line up teams that lost what we’ll call Class A free agents in inverse order of finish right after the lottery teams. For a successful team such as Utah, which lost Carlos Boozer, tweak the rule so that if you lose a Class A free agent but make the playoffs, there is no compensatory pick.

The NBA already has a degree of discretion when it comes to the draft, having vacated first-round selections, with Minnesota’s dalliance with Joe Smith the prime example.

No, it’s not going to get any better any time soon for the Cavaliers, Raptors or Suns.

The least the NBA could offer is a token of sympathy for their heartfelt losses.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.

Victor Oladipo’s practice dunk better than anything he – or maybe anyone – did in dunk contest (video)

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Victor Oladipo has grown into far more than just a dunker.

In fact, in Saturday’s dunk contest, he didn’t look like a dunker at all.

The Pacers star missed all three attempts of his first dunk, and a Black Panther mask was by far the biggest draw of his second. Oladipo was eliminated after the first round.

Maybe Dennis Smith Jr. wasn’t the only eliminated dunker who left something in his bag. This Oladipo dunk – 180 degrees, throwing ball off the backboard with his left hand while in mid-air, dunking with his right hand – while preparing in Los Angeles was awesome.

Larry Nance Jr. had the contest’s best dunk. This would have rivaled it.

Pelicans owner Tom Benson hospitalized with flu symptoms

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — New Orleans Saints and Pelicans Owner Tom Benson has been hospitalized with flu symptoms.

A statement released Wednesday by the NFL and NBA clubs says their 90-year-old owner is resting comfortably at Ochsner Medical Center, a hospital which also serves as a major sponsor and which owns naming rights to the teams’ training headquarters.

Benson has owned the New Orleans Saints since 1985 and bought the New Orleans Pelicans in 2012.

In recent years, Benson has overhauled his estate plan so that his third wife, Gayle, would be first in line to inherit control of the two major professional franchises.

 

Report: Seattle hosting Kings-Warriors preseason game

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Kevin Durant spent his rookie season in Seattle, before the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. He has said Seattle fans deserved to see him grow up in the NBA after supporting his promising start.

They’ll get their chance.

Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee:

The Kings and Golden State Warriors have scheduled a preseason game next season in Seattle, according to multiple league sources.

The Oct. 6 meeting between Northern California teams will be the first NBA game in the Key Arena since the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City after the 2007-08 season and became the Thunder.

This game will be loaded with storylines. Not only Durant, but the Kings considered moving to Seattle a few years ago. And of course, the return of NBA basketball to Seattle.

At some point, Seattle will get its own team again. For now, this preseason game creates intrigue there.

Report: Kawhi Leonard cleared medically, seeking second opinion

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard played again this season, a stark reversal from just a month ago. Back then, even while announcing Leonard was out indefinitely with a quad injury, the San Antonio coach said Leonard wouldn’t miss the rest of the season.

What’s going on?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

After spending 10 days before the All-Star break in New York consulting with a specialist to gather a second opinion on his right quad injury, All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard bears the burden of determining when he’s prepared to play again, sources told ESPN.

Leonard has been medically cleared to return from the right quad tendinopathy injury, but since shutting down a nine-game return to the Spurs that ended Jan. 13, he has elected against returning to the active roster, sources said.

The uncertainty surrounding this season — and Leonard’s future which could include free agency in the summer of 2019 — has inspired a palpable stress around the organization, league sources said.

At first glance, this sounds like Derrick Rose five years ago. Even after he was cleared to play following a torn ACL, the then-Bulls star remained mysterious about when he’d suit up. His confidence in his physical abilities seemed to be a major issue, and he was never the same player since (suffering more leg injuries).

But the Spurs famously favor resting players to preserve long-term health. They seem unlikely to rush back Leonard. They might even sit players who want to play more often. And Leonard isn’t Rose.

Still, it’s clear something is amiss in San Antonio. Maybe not amiss enough to end Leonard’s tenure there, but the longer this lingers, the more time for tension to percolate.