Sacramento, Toronto will futilely attempt to lure Tyson Chandler in free agency

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With the NBA a bit short on Dwight Howards these days, the prototype for an effective center has shifted to a slightly more attainable model: Tyson Chandler. The Mavericks’ center anchored an impressive half-court defense that could switch from man-to-man to zone and back effortlessly and fluidly, and has for the moment Chandler has become exactly the kind of mobile, athletic big man that any team would love to have.

Coincidentally, those very teams will have their chance to chase Chandler, an unrestricted free agent, this off-season. From Marc Stein of ESPN.com:

Besides big-spending rivals such as Miami and New York that sources say would love to try to steal Chandler from the Mavs if they had any financial flexibility, sources likewise indicate that at least two teams projected to have some salary-cap space in the NBA’s new frontier — Sacramento and Toronto — are already making plans to go hard after Chandler when they are finally granted that opportunity.

The good news for Dallas is that Chandler, by all accounts, wants to stay in Big D and would presumably have little interest at this point in playing for any team that isn’t in the championship mix. The teams with the lowest projected payrolls for next season (Sacramento, Indiana, New Jersey, Washington, Los Angeles Clippers and Toronto) are all lottery teams.

Free agency rests on a somewhat faulty premise; the teams with cap space are typically those coming off of poor seasons, and thus have the means to sign players but little else in the way of a lure. There are obvious exceptions — market, talented young players, prominent roles, and piles of money can bring great players to not-so-great teams — but for the most part we’ve seen quality players sign with teams in a position of strength.

Chandler would make a lot of sense for a team like the Kings or the Raptors. Both are aching for the kind of smart interior defense that Chandler provides, to say nothing of his leadership and intensity. Unfortunately, as Stein mentions, that likely won’t be enough. Fit is incredibly important when it comes to potential free agent signings, but it’s more of a facilitator than a motivator. Most big-minute players won’t sign with teams that aren’t ready to grant them immediate playing time, and while that puts franchises like Sacramento and Toronto in the running from a need standpoint, it doesn’t do much to balance the stink that surrounds non-playoff teams.

A return to Dallas is hardly certain for Chandler, but it’s considerably more likely than the possibility of him signing with an up-and-coming club. The Kings and Raps can daydream all they’d like about how a long, athletic center would change everything for them, but they’ll likely have to find that misleadingly rare commodity elsewhere.

Kobe Bryant says LeBron James has earned the right to take a rest (VIDEO)

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Former Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant was a pretty consistent player in the NBA. Save for his final injury-laden seasons and the lockout year of 2011-12, Bryant played in no fewer than 65 regular season games in a single season.

Coaches also had no reason or want to ask Bryant — a notorious worker — to sit out in order to rest. That wasn’t really on the menu, and Bryant knew that.

Speaking to ESPN’s First Take, Bryant said no coach really asked him to ever take a rest, “I’ve never been approached by a coach and asked to rest.”

Bryant remarked that he took queues from Michael Jordan during tough stretches of the season — back-to-backs or four games in five night scenarios — where he could switch his game up, floating from perimeter to post, in order to save energy during those matchups.

Bryant also said during the same interview that he understands the complexity of the modern game, and that players like LeBron James deserve to take a rest if they’ve earned it.

“LeBron has done so much for the game. He’s earned the opportunity to take a rest,” said Bryant.

The debate on this subject will continue, it seems.

Phil Jackson’s reaction to Kristaps Porzingis getting turned upside down feels about right

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New York Knicks big man Kristaps Porzingis is the future of the franchise, so any time he’s upended and nearly lands on his noggin it’s a cause for concern. To say the least.

That’s what happened on Monday night, as Porzingis got turned upside down during a play near the basket during a game against the Detroit Pistons.

Porzingis was OK on the play, and Detroit big man Andre Drummond did his best to help catch him so nothing too scary happened.

Still, Knicks president Phil Jackson had a pretty hilarious reaction to the whole thing. I guess that’s what happens when you watch your basketball life flash before your eyes.

Porzingis was unhurt and played a full 37 minutes. New York beat Detroit, 109-95.

Jimmy Butler won’t pick LeBron over Durant as toughest matchup in NBA, and for good reason

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Chicago Bulls star Jimmy Butler is a smart dude. He’s spent years of offseason work turning himself into a max-level player, and that shows he knows not only how to work but how to attack the game of basketball.

He’s also smart enough to know he shouldn’t go poking the bear when it comes to two future Hall of Fame players in LeBron James and Kevin Durant.

When asked whether the Cleveland Cavaliers star or the Golden State Warriors scorer was the toughest matchup in the NBA, Butler made sure he wasn’t adding any kind of blackboard material to rile up either player.

Via Twitter:

The best way to defend LeBron or Durant: don’t make them angry.

Smart move, Jimmy.

Likely top-10 pick Dennis Smith Jr. of North Carolina State declares for draft

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This had long been expected, but now it is official.

North Carolina State freshman point guard Dennis Smith Jr. has declared for the NBA Draft. He made the announcement on ESPN saying playing in the NBA is his dream, reports the News & Observer.

“It was definitely an obtainable dream for me,” said in an interview on SportsCenter. “I knew I would chase it with all of my might.”

Smith is considered a top-10 pick (DraftExpress.com has him going seventh currently).

Smith had missed his senior year of high school ball with an ACL injury, but was named ACC Freshman of the Year after averaging 18.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game. He had two triple-doubles as a freshman. He was also inconsistent. Smith had brilliant games and ones where he looked disinterested.

Smith is unquestionably explosive and athletic, and that makes him a threat both in the open court and getting to the rim off a pick-and-roll. He’s got good handles, he knows how to draw fouls, and you can see his potential to get buckets at the next level. His jump shot needs to be far more consistent to thrive at the next level, however. The questions about Smith are more about his ability to make good decisions and be a floor general. He knows how to survey the floor and create for himself, but can he figure out when to pass to set up teammates? Can he defend consistently? He needs smooth out the rough edges of his game, but the potential to be very good is there.