Report: Celtics, Clippers, Warriors “strongly engaged” in Chris Paul talks

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The New Orleans Hornets are going to move first — Chris Paul is the superstar most likely to be moved by the start of the season. (The Dwight Howard situation has more questions.)

And the Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers are at the front of the line, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

As the New Orleans Hornets push closer to making a decision on where to trade Chris Paul, the All-Star point guard has indicated the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors could significantly raise their chances of keeping him beyond this season if they also sign center Tyson Chandler, league sources told Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday.

Paul hasn’t promised he would re-sign with one of those teams following the 2011-12 season if they acquired Chandler, but league sources said Chandler could make a significant difference in ultimately swaying Paul to commit to a long-term deal.

While talk radio folks in Los Angeles scoff at the idea of Paul signing with the Clippers instead of the Lakers, that is the draw of playing with Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon — he may well agree to an extension with the Clippers if those two and Chandler are there. The Clippers would offer center DeAndre Jordan (a restricted free agent the Clippers are trying to re-sign), forward Al-Farouq Aminu, point guard Eric Bledsoe and the unprotected 2012 first-round pick of the Timberwolves.

Blake Griffin told ProBasketballTalk he would love to play with Chris Paul.

There is one huge hurdle, however — will Paul sign a long-term extension with a team owned by Donald Sterling? If this team had any other owner they might be the front runner, but his track record as an owner and person leave you to wonder if Paul really would sign there long term, Blake Griffin or not.

The Warriors offer is basically Stephen Curry — who the Warriors covet — and rookie Klay Thompson. The Celtics package is based around Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green is in the mix.

The questions there are, again, would Paul sign an extension with those teams? Does that change if they can bring in Tyson Chandler? (Remember that Paul and Chandler played three years together in New Orleans.) The Warriors have met with Chandler, but the Celtics have no real shot at getting him due to cap space restrictions.

Remember, Paul also wants to play for the Knicks and, so long as he is willing to take less money, can get there as a free agent this summer.

Wojnarowski says the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets remain on the outside but are trying hard to sway Paul and the Hornets.

LeBron James finishes left-handed alley-oop with head behind backboard

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We have reached the point with LeBron James and his legendary career that the incredible almost seems ordinary — he has made our jaws drop so many times it’s hard for him to clear the bar of amazing anymore.

He did Saturday night against Utah.

In transition, LeBron gave up the ball to Jeff Green, who returned the favor with an alley-oop pass. Just not a particularly good one, it was behind James.

So he reaches back with his left hand and throws it down as he ducks his head under the backboard. Then LeBron stops and stares at his left hand, like he can’t believe what he just did.

We can’t either.

Carmelo Anthony standing ovation in return to Madison Square Garden

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Knicks fans may have had their frustrations with Carmelo Anthony, but they know how much he has meant to the franchise over the years. He pushed to be a Knick and chose to stay, he carried the franchise for years.

Saturday night he returned to Madison Square Garden in an Oklahoma City Thunder uniform after a trade this summer, and he was welcomed with a retrospective video followed by a standing ovation from the crowd (you can see all of it above).

Well done Knicks fans. Well done.

Lakers’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will not travel with team for 25 days due to legal issue

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The Lakers’Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed his new team’s first two games this season due to a suspension for a DUI case in Michigan.

But that was not all. Caldwell-Pope’s came with probation, and to get out of it early the Lakers’ forward has to go through an intensive rehab program — one that does not allow him to leave California with the team for 25 days. He did not play against the Cavaliers and that is just the first of multiple games he will miss, a story broken by Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Caldwell-Pope was originally cited for operating a vehicle while intoxicated but pleaded guilty in May to the lesser charge of allowing someone to operate his vehicle while under the influence, which carried a 12-month probation.

On Thursday, Caldwell-Pope had to return to California to begin an intensive program over the next 25 days that will result in some travel restrictions and could cause him to miss additional games but will end his probation early.

The Lakers are in a home heavy part of their schedule, and by my calculations KCP would only miss one or two games (for sure against Houston Dec. 20, then maybe against Golden State Dec. 22, but that is in California). The Lakers next road game after that is Dec. 31 in Houston again.

Caldwell-Pope signed a one-year, $18 million deal with the Lakers last offseason, and he has gone on to become one of the few reliable three-point shooters on the team, hitting 36.1 percent from beyond the arc, taking 6.1 shots from there a game. He’s been solid on defense and a player the Lakers’ need, although his overall efficiency is closer to average.

If the Lakers are successful with their big game hunting during free agency next summer, Caldwell-Pope will not return to the team. In a tight free agent market, he may once again not see offers near what he sees himself worth next summer. That said, his play in Los Angeles has been good. And now he will not have this legal issue hanging over his head during free agency.

LeBron James is good with televising All-Star team selections

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From the moment the NBA announced changes to the All-Star Game team selection format for this season, most NBA fans — as well as most media members I know — have wanted a live team selection show.

As a reminder, this year (as in past years) fans will vote for their favorite All-Stars, and those votes will be combined with media and player votes to name the five starters from each conference. Then the coaches will vote to select the teams.

What’s different is the top vote-getters from each conference — let’s be honest, it will be LeBron James in the East and Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant in the West — will be named captains and they will then pick their teams from the pool of other selected players. No East vs. West. If LeBron gets to choose first and he picks James Harden, then Harden is on that team. Curry can go second and select Giannis Antetokounmpo or whoever he wants from the starters pool, then the captains move into the reserves pool. Old-school playground style team picking.

Who wouldn’t tune it to watch that selection show?

The NBA officially has not decided yet if the selection process will be broadcast, but it probably won’t be. The reason is some player is not going to like being picked last (or next to last) and his agent will like it less. It gets political (would Curry have to choose Durant or Draymond Green first to keep his teammates happy?).

LeBron basically said Saturday why not televise it? From Nick Friedell of ESPN, when LeBron was asked if it would bother him to go against teammates in the All-Star Game:

“I hope not,” James said after Saturday’s shootaround. “We’re all grown men. It doesn’t stop their paycheck from coming. It won’t stop you from playing time once the season starts.”

And is he good with the pick order being made public or done live.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” James said. “It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, if I’m rewarded to be a part of the All-Star Game again, that’s cool for me. It doesn’t matter. All that other stuff is extracurricular.”

That’s the right attitude, and whoever got picked last would say that publicly. But privately… who knows? Depends on the guy.

That selection show would be must-watch television. The NBA needs to broadcast this. But it won’t. Politics will win out.