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.

Pau Gasol calls joining Spurs “an interesting option”

INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA - MARCH 29:  Pau Gasol #16 of the Chicago Bulls watches the action during the game against the Indiana Pacers at Bankers Life Fieldhouse on March 29, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. 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 Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
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Marc Gasol thinks his brother Pau Gasol — who will opt out to become a free agent this summer and bolt Chicago — should join the San Antonio Spurs.

Pau doesn’t think that’s a bad idea.

Speaking with the Spanish sports publication Marca, Gasol said the Spurs would be “an interesting option for me.” (Hat tip Eye on Basketball)

Gasol put up numbers — 16.5 points and 11 rebounds a game — at age 36, he still has great post moves, can still pass, and is still fairly efficient on offense. He was an All-Star for a reason. But he’s also a liability at the defensive end. Where he lands as a free agent should be about fit.

Pau would fit with the Spurs — if he was willing to come off the bench. Which is probably what should have happened in Chicago (with Joakim Noah starting for defensive reasons). As a first big off the bench Gasol can lift a team up, but if he’s out there 31 minutes or more a night as a starter — as he was in Chicago last season — he’s going to get exposed a lot defensively.

Do the Spurs want him is another question?

Is Gasol willing to accept coming off the bench behind LaMarcus Aldridge? Or does he need to be a starter? And will he take less money to contend? Gasol has some questions to answer.

Stephen Curry says he will try to return faster than two weeks

Golden State Warriors' Stephen Curry watches while standing on the bench during the first half in Game 2 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Houston Rockets Monday, April 18, 2016, in Oakland, Calif. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
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So far, the Golden State Warriors have looked just fine — thank you very much — without one Stephen Curry in the lineup. And as Dan Feldman and I discussed in the latest PBT podcast, they likely will be able to handle the Portland Trail Blazers without him as well. They don’t need to rush him back.

But Curry is rushing himself back and wants to beat the two-week timeline for his strained MCL that the doctors put out there, reports Monte Poole of CSNBayArea.com.

Coach Steve Kerr said Curry looked good in treatment but did not do any work on the court.

Athletes are the worst people to ask about their own recovery timelines; they don’t get to top levels of their sport without supreme confidence and a certain feeling of invulnerability. They are always sure they can bounce back faster than the doctors say — sometimes that’s true, but not often.

So long as the Warriors are not pressured by Portland (sorry Clipper fans, you’re not advancing without CP3 and Griffin), they are under no pressure to rush him back. That second round series is expected to start Sunday in the Bay Area, if the Warriors can hold serve through the first two games then they can keep Curry on the sidelines for a couple of weeks, let the knee rest completely, and bring him back on their own terms.

The Warriors will need him back for the Conference Finals and beyond, but more than that this is a Golden State team set up to be a contender for the next four or five years, you don’t want to create a bigger problem for future years pushing too hard for a title this season if he’s not right.

PBT Podcast: Thunder/Spurs, Hawks/Cavs, and Game 6s talk with Dan Feldman

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - OCTOBER 28:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder tries to block Kawhi Leonard #2 of the San Antonio Spurs during the third quarter of a NBA game at the Chesapeake Energy Center on October 28, 2015 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. 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 J Pat Carter/Getty Images)
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Friday night sees some big Game 6s across the NBA playoffs — Indiana has the best chance of forcing a Game 7 — but everyone is looking ahead to Oklahoma vs. San Antonio in the next round.

That includes Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman of NBCSports.com, who in this latest podcast discuss that series and the Atlanta and Cleveland series that tips off next week. Also they talk about the Friday night Game 6 matchups, and if Portland could beat Golden State if the Warriors do not get Stephen Curry back.

As always, you can listen to the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunesdownload it directly here, or you can check out our new PBT Podcast homepage, which has the most recent episodes available. If you have the Stitcher app, you can listen there as well.

Report: Celtics believe they’ll get meeting with Kevin Durant

Oklahoma City Thunder's Kevin Durant (35) looks to move on Boston Celtics' Marcus Smart (36) during the first quarter of an NBA basketball game in Boston, Wednesday, March 16, 2016. The Thunder won 130-109. (AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)
AP Photo/Michael Dwyer
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The Celtics will chase Kevin Durant this summer.

Will it work?

Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports:

Ainge will be aggressive in free agency, team sources told The Vertical, and yes, that means a run at Kevin Durant. The Celtics believe Durant will meet with them this summer, but they know that meeting won’t accomplish much unless there are significant moves leading into it.

The Celtics are optimistic about meeting with Durant. The Warriors are optimistic about signing Durant.

That might just speak to different mindsets within the organizations – why shouldn’t Golden State be confident about everything? – but it also might handicap the odds of Durant’s next team. The Warriors definitely appear more likely than the Celtics.

Boston has plenty going for it: Brad Stevens, a solid young roster, extra draft picks (including the Nets’ first-rounder this year) and cap flexibility. But Durant wants to win now, so those more youthful assets mean only so much. It’s on Danny Ainge to prove he can turn that cap space into another helpful player, deal a Brooklyn pick or two for a veteran. That would become much easier if the Celtics win the lottery.

There’s a lot happening at once. If Durant isn’t coming, Boston might prefer to keep its draft picks and build slowly. Other free agents might not come. But if Durant is on board, that makes trades preferable and other free agents landable.

Of course, Durant should be the top option.

It appears the Celtics at least have their foot in the door.