Boston Celtics v Los Angeles Lakers

Agent denies report Ron Artest wouldn’t mind being traded

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UPDATE 3:44 pm: In a predictable response, Ron Artest’s agent denied that his client wants to be traded from the Lakers and told that to the Los Angeles Times Lakers blog.

“Ron is not looking for a trade,” (David) Bauman said. “The frustration is there among everyone on the team. But Ron is a Laker, and he just wants to win. Ron is frustrated with the losing, as everybody is.”

Is this just an agent wisely covering for his client? Maybe. Does this mean Artest never really wanted to be traded? Maybe. Does this mean Ron Artest’s mind changed in the last couple hours? Maybe.

Predicting the ever shifting reality of Ron Artest is a fools errand I do not wish to participate in.

1:07 pm: The Lakers front office has talked openly about trying to shake things up by a trade.

Ron Artest has raised his hand and volunteered, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.

One source close to the situation insists that Ron Artest wants out.

Asked to react to that, Artest’s agent David Bauman declined comment….

I’ve nonetheless been assured this week that Artest — though he hasn’t outright demanded a trade and is likely to publicly deny it — is serious about wanting to be dealt somewhere “he can have fun again” less than a year removed from the pivotal role he played in that ring-clinching Game 7 with Boston that the Lakers so nearly squandered.

Why? Ron Artest is basically offensive option number four in L.A. — go stand in the corner and knock down threes. He’s struggled on offense this season, and traditionally when he struggles on that end of the floor he doesn’t defend as well. Plus, Artest probably takes on more than his fair share of the criticism when things go wrong on the Lakers.

Also, he’s Ron Artest. Not sure he was ever meant to put down basketball roots somewhere forever.

One little problem with this:

There is almost zero chance the Lakers can trade Artest. (I would say there is a better chance of Middle East peace but if the Gilbert Arenas situation taught us anything it’s that no deal is untradeable.)

Ron Artest is in the second year of his contract at age 31 — he has three years and $22 million left after this season. That is the big problem. Heading into an uncertain economic future for the NBA — nobody knows what the new Collective Bargaining Agreement will look like — teams are not going to take on that kind of salary. Especially for a player having the worst offensive year of his career, implying his skills are slipping (whether that is Artest or a function of the offense you can debate amongst yourselves).

To use an easy example, Detroit’s Tayshaun Prince would be a good fit for the Lakers at the three. He’s an expiring $11.1 million deal, so technically a deal like Artest and Luke Walton or Steve Blake would work — but why would Detroit do that? They are a team trying to rebuild, and Walton has two years and Blake three after this season on their deals. Detroit would be committing to salary for years to get players that are not young and not providing more value than they have now. It makes no sense for them at all.

That basic problem repeats itself around the league.

Artest is one guy whose mood can swing quickly and by this time next week he could be loving life with the Lakers again. And with that, his play could pick up.

Right now, if Artest really would be happy to say goodbye to Hollywood, it would not be a shock. But it’s not going to happen. So he needs to find a way to get his head screwed on right before the playoffs, when the Lakes will again need him as they did during Game 7 of the finals last season.

TNT to cover NBA games with only former players, no traditional play-by-play men

LOS ANGELES, CA - MAY 19:  Grant Hill #33 of the Phoenix Suns looks to move the ball as Derek Fisher #2 of the Los Angeles Lakers defends in the first quarter of Game Two of the Western Conference Finals during the 2010 NBA Playoffs at Staples Center on May 19, 2010 in Los Angeles, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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NEW YORK (AP) — TNT will use broadcast teams featuring only former players and no traditional play-by-play men during five NBA doubleheaders later this season.

The “Players Only” schedule runs Monday nights from Feb. 27 to March 27 and includes matchups such as Golden State-Oklahoma City on March 20 and Cleveland-San Antonio a week later.

Brent Barry will serve as the primary host of one team with Derek Fisher and Grant Hill, while Greg Anthony partners with Kevin McHale and Richard Hamilton on the other.

Lisa Leslie and Dennis Scott will serve as reporters.

Turner Sports says Thursday that Chris Webber will anchor the studio coverage with Isiah Thomas and Baron Davis, and that additional NBA players will contribute to the five-week program.

James Harden presents fan with game ball on her 100th birthday (video)

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HOUSTON (AP) — James Harden took some time out after the Houston Rockets’ win over the visiting Milwaukee Bucks to give a fan a present on a her 100th birthday.

Video shows Harden signing a ball for the woman and spending a few moments sitting next to her in her courtside seat and posing for pictures Wednesday night.

Harden told ESPN’s Doris Burke in an interview that he told the woman how “blessed” he was to be able to have a chance to meet her.

The Houston guard also put on a good show for the fan during the game, scoring 38 points in a 111-92 victory over the Bucks.

Paul George dunks on DeMarcus Cousins while getting whacked in the face (video)

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Kings center DeMarcus Couins appears set to become the first player to sign as a veteran designated player. The Pacers hope Paul George will follow.

But in the Pacers’ win over the Kings yesterday, George beat Cousins.

Not even Cousins thwacking George in the face could stop this dunk.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.