New Orleans Hornets win NBA Draft Lottery, rights to Anthony Davis

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Tom Benson is a good luck charm for New Orleans.

He is in the process of buying the struggling Hornets franchise to keep the NBA’s smallest market from losing its team — now the biggest star to come out of college in years is headed there.

The New Orleans Hornets have won the NBA Draft Lottery. Which means they will be drafting Kentucky’s Anthony Davis, the consensus No. 1 pick many scouts think could have a Kevin Garnet-like career. He is a franchise changing pick. He led Kentucky to a national championship — won in the Superdome in New Orleans.

“New Orleans right now needs a lot of help but we’re getting better every day,” Benson said on the broadcast. “Between the Saints and the Hornets, wow, no telling what’s going to happen.”

The Hornets had been run into the ground by former owner George Shin, the NBA itself had to buy the team and run it for a year, and the Hornets were forced to deal Chris Paul before the season (or lose him after it for nothing to free agency).

The fact the league owns New Orleans will spawn 1,000 new conspiracy theories on how the lottery is rigged. I’ll just say this — if it was rigged the biggest star to come out of college in years would not be headed to the league’s smallest market.

The Horents have some nice young pieces, led by guard Eric Gordon, and new coach Monty Williams turned them into a team that played hard. Now they just got really interesting.

The Hornets had a 13.7 percent chance of winning the lottery, and their move up the board was the only shake up in the draft order. The rest of the draft stayed to form.

1. New Orleans
2. Charlotte Bobcats
3. Washington Wizards
4. Cleveland Cavaliers
5. Sacramento Kings
6. Portland Trail Blazers (via Nets)
7. Golden State Warriors
8. Toronto Raptors
9. Detroit Pistons
10. New Orleans Hornets (via Minnesota)
11. Portland Trail Blazers
12. Milwaukee Bucks
13. Phoenix Suns
14. Houston Rockets

A few quick notes:

• New Jersey’s pick, the sixth overall, goes to Portland as part of the Gerald Wallace trade. Wallace is a free agent, if the Nets don’t resign him they will have given the pick away for a three-month rental. That is very Nets.

• The Warriors did not get leapfrogged by a team below them, so they get to keep their pick — if it was 8 or lower the Jazz got the pick. Golden State’s tanking at the end of the season really paid off.

• Notice the Hornets will also have the No. 10 pick, that via Minnesota.

Basketball Hall of Famer John Kundla dies at 101

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MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — John Kundla, the Hall of Fame coach who led the Minneapolis Lakers to five NBA championships, died Sunday. He was 101.

Son Jim Kundla said his father died at an assisted living facility in Northeast Minneapolis that he has called home for years.

Kundla coached George Mikan and the Lakers in the 1940s and 1950s, helping them become the NBA’s first dynasty. He went 423-302 before retiring at the age of 42 and went on to coach his alma mater, the University of Minnesota.

Kundla was the oldest living Hall of Famer in any of the four major pro sports.

Kundla was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1995. A year later, he was named one of the league’s 10 greatest coaches as part of the league’s “NBA at 50” celebration.

 

Report: Magic signing Marreese Speights to one-year, minimum contract

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It’s a tough market for free-agent centers, as Marreese Speights learned the hard way.

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:

I wonder whether Speights regrets opting out with the Clippers, who were also slated to pay him a minimum salary. Not only is he stuck with a low-paying deal, he’s on a worse team and one with center depth.

Nikola Vucevic and Bismack Biyombo should play only center, where Speights is best. Speights can also play power forward, but Aaron Gordon should get all his minutes there. Maybe Jonathan Isaac should, too, though it’s more tolerable to play him at small forward while the rookie adjusts to the NBA.

Simply, there won’t be much playing time for Speights unless Orlando makes a trade (maybe this is a harbinger) or plays too big of lineups (a lesson it should have learned last season).

Likewise, the Clippers will be fine, though less versatile, without Speights. The acquired Willie Reed (free agency) and Montrezl Harrell (Chris Paul trade) to play behind DeAndre Jordan.

Speights clearly isn’t essential, but he has expanded his range beyond the 3-point arc. He defends with effort, though not necessarily well. There’s a place in the league for stretch fives like him. But he turns 30 in a couple weeks, and his stock is clearly low. At least he’ll have a chance for a bigger payday next summer.

Kristaps Porzingis on Knicks: “This is where I want to stay… this is where I want to win”

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There were multiple, connected reasons it was time for the Knicks to move on from the Phil Jackson era — a triangle of reasons, really — but this one should have been at the top of the list:

He was alienating Krisptaps Porzingis.

We don’t know yet if Porzingis can be a franchise NBA player, however, he shows the potential to do it. He could become a top five NBA player you can build a contender around. You endear yourselves to those kinds of players, not get into power struggles that lead to said player blowing off end-of-year meetings and being guided out the door.

With Jackson gone, Porzingis has more motivation to stay a Knick and be the guy that turns the franchise’s fortunes around. KP was running a youth hoops camp in his native Latvia and was taking questions from the children when one kid got in a question the New York media would have loved to ask: Are you going to abandon New York? Here is Porzingis’ answer, translated and obtained by the New York Post.

“I feel that it is the best place to win. And if you win in New York, you are king. For the last two years, I have had so many positive emotions here that this is where I want to stay and that this is where I want to win.”

The Knicks have their cornerstone big. Now they need a guy on the outside (Kyrie Irving will get mentioned, but he is not the only answer), they need to get and develop young players to go with their stars. It’s the next phase for the Knicks.

But if they can keep Porzingis happy, they can lock him up to a max rookie extension after next year and have that piece in place. Then it’s up to Steve Mills and Scott Perry to put the pieces around him.

Report: LeBron James won’t waive his no-trade clause

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They Cavaliers have had a frustratingly lousy offseason.

They ousted trusted general manager David Griffin. Since, they’ve watched Golden State load up while their roster stagnates, as stars like Paul George and Jimmy Butler have landed elsewhere. Now, Kyrie Irving is requesting a trade and reportedly blaming LeBron James for that leaking.

LeBron has practically thrown up his hands and left ownership and management to figure out everything.

But LeBron – with rumors swirling about him leaving in 2018 free agency – won’t take an earlier exit.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

LeBron James will not waive his no-trade clause for any teams at any point during the 2017-18 season, league sources tell ESPN.

Cleveland essentially has two options with Irving:

1. Trade him for better, older players

2. Trade him for worse, younger players

No. 2 becomes much more palatable if the Cavs can also flip LeBron (and Kevin Love) and launch into a full rebuild. But as long as LeBron is around, it’s hard not to contend for a title.

But if they trade Irving for immediate help and LeBron leaves next summer, the Cavaliers could be left with a ghastly roster. That might be the risk they’re forced to take now.

It’s hard to believe the Cavs would trade beloved LeBron, even if he didn’t hold veto power. It would turn owner Dan Gilbert and general manager Koby Altman into Cleveland villains, co-conspirators in LeBron leaving again. If Gilbert and Altman dare LeBron to leave in free agency, LeBron would have to own the decision himself.

Still, if LeBron and Irving would return incredible hauls of younger players and draft picks – I can’t even imagine what LeBron would draw in a trade – Gilbert and Altman should at least consider it. It just doesn’t seem the Cavs will have that option.