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NBA Draft gets interesting starting with Bobcats’ hard choice

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Charlotte lost big in the NBA Draft Lottery.

You can say they only fell one space — they had the worst record, now they pick No. 2 — but that is a big fall from the nearly sure-fire Anthony Davis to a bigger risk.

Who do the Bobcats take starts to shape an entire draft — there are some very good players out there, but some with the highest ceilings come with the highest risks.

If you’re the Bobcats and need help, do you swing for the fences on the talented but mercurial Andre Drummond, or do you play it with one of the safer, steadier picks.

Our man Steve Alexander, who does mock drafts for Rotoworld, currently has the Bobcats taking Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at No. 2. CSNPhilly.com makes the same guess. Kidd-Gilchrist fills a need (well, every spot is a need for the Bobcats) and no doubt he is both talented and will work well in the NBA because of his effort and energy.

DraftExpress has the Bobcats taking Kansas’s power forward Thomas Robinson with the No. 2 pick (and Kidd-Gilchrist going No. 3 to the Wizards to pair with John Wall). Robinson is a very athletic, physical rebounding force with a good jumper, who can both score and defend. Bill Self compared him to Paul Millsap (who should have been an All-Star last year), I think he can be a better, bigger version. Thing is, he also is a little safe because you know he is going to be good.

But if you’re the Bobcats in need of a radical change to your franchise’s fortunes, don’t you take a swing on a the potential greatness of Andre Drummond of UConn? It’s a risk, and certainly Michael Jordan should be averse to talking risky big men with a high pick. And Drummond is a project that will take a few years to come along. But that’s what the Lakers took with Andrew Bynum and he has developed into the second best center in the NBA.

From there, the question is will teams pick to fill a need or take the best player on the board. Personally I think you take the best player — talent wins games. I’d rather have the “problem” of two great point guards as opposed to one great PG and one solid small forward. You draft talent, you can make things fit or move players later.

Looking down the draft board, things get interesting.

From Rotoworld’s Alexander:

3. Washington Wizards – Harrison Barnes (SF North Carolina)
4. Cleveland Cavaliers – Brad Beal (SG Florida)
5. Sacramento Kings – Thomas Robinson (PF Kansas)
6. Portland Trailblazers– Jeremy Lamb (SG UConn)
7. Golden State Warriors – Andre Drummond (C UConn)
8. Toronto Raptors – Dion Waiters (SG Syracuse)
9. Detroit Pistons – Perry Jones (PF Baylor)
10. New Orleans Hornets – Damian Lillard (PG Weber State)

DraftExpress rounds out this way:

3. Washington Wizards – Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (SF Kentucky)
4. Cleveland Cavaliers – Brad Beal (SG Florida)
5. Sacramento Kings – Andre Drummond (C UConn)
6. Portland Trailblazers– Jared Sullinger (PF Ohio State)
7. Golden State Warriors – Harrison Barnes (SF North Carolina)
8. Toronto Raptors – – Jeremy Lamb (SG UConn)
9. Detroit Pistons – John Henson (PF North Carolina)
10. New Orleans Hornets – Damian Lillard (PG Weber State)

WNBA rescinds fines regarding protest shirts

FILE - In this Wednesday, July 13, 2016 file photo, members of the New York Liberty basketball team await the start of a game against the Atlanta Dream in New York. The WNBA is withdrawing its fines for teams and players that showed support of citizens and police involved in recent shootings by wearing black warmup shirts before and during games. WNBA President Lisa Borders said in a statement Saturday, July 23, the league was rescinding penalties given to the Indiana Fever, New York Liberty, Phoenix Mercury and their players for wearing the shirts–which was a uniform violation. The players started wearing them to show solidarity after shootings in Minnesota and Baton Rouge, La. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)
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LeBron James, Kyrie Irving, and a number of Cavaliers and Brooklyn Nets players wore “I can’t breathe” T-shirts in warmups after the death of Eric Garner in New York. LeBron and his then Heat teammates wore hoodies for a photo shoot after the Travon Martin shooting. NBA players have made other protest fashion statements, with no repercussions from the league.

But when WNBA players wore black warmup shirts in support of Black Lives Matter and other anti-violence protests, the WNBA came down with fines for the Indiana Fever, New York Liberty and Phoenix Mercury ($5,000) and players involved ($500) for uniform violations. That led to a lot of backlash — including among WNBA players. Some refused to answer basketball questions with the media after recent games.

Saturday, the WNBA rescinded the fines. As they should have.

The women’s players’ union supported the move, via a statement from the director of operations Terri Jackson.

“We are pleased that the WNBA has made the decision to rescind the fines the league handed down to the players on the Fever, Liberty, and Mercury. We look forward to engaging in constructive dialogue with the league to ensure that the players’ desire to express themselves will continue to be supported.”

I want a league — for men or women — where player’s individuality and statements can be made — I don’t want the NBA to be the button-down, cookie cutter NFL. Let the players be themselves. And if players want to weigh in on the biggest social issue of our time, they should. Without fear of repercussion.

Good on the WNBA for coming around to that.

Meyers Leonard says he hopes to be ready by start of Blazers’ season

CLEVELAND, OH - DECEMBER 8: Meyers Leonard #11 of the Portland Trail Blazers takes credit for a foul call during the first half against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Quicken Loans Arena on December 8, 2015 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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Meyers Leonard could be poised for a big season in Portland. His minutes jumped last season because he provided spacing. With Portland adding Evan Turner on the wing to go with Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum, any big who can stretch the floor is going to get run, and Leonard has turned himself into a stretch four.

Leonard just hopes he can show what he can do at the start of the season — he’s still recovering from shoulder surgery. Here is what he told the Associated Press.

“My hope is to be ready right around the start of the season,” he said. “It’s a progression, first introducing rebounding, grabbing stuff overhead, then one-on-one, three-on-three, extending to the full court. We’ll see. You just never know.”

Leonard had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder in April (they could have used him in the playoffs), and the timeline then was to have him back around the start of the season. Before he was shut down, he proved enough to get a four-year, $41 million contract extension with the Trail Blazers this summer.

The Trail Blazers will start Al-Farouq Aminu at the four, and Moe Harkless can certainly play there too (I’m far less sold on the future of Noah Vonleh). Leonard wants to get back before someone starts to steal any of his minutes.

Pelicans sign Jones for 1 year, Frazier for 2 years

HOUSTON, TX - DECEMBER 21:  Terrence Jones #6 of the Houston Rockets reacts to a play as Cody Zeller #40 of the Charlotte Hornets looks on during their game at Toyota Center on December 21, 2015 in Houston, Texas. 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 Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
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NEW ORLEANS (AP) The New Orleans Pelicans say they have signed free-agent forward Terrence Jones and re-signed guard Tim Frazier.

A person familiar with the negotiations says Jones, a four-year veteran, signed a one-year deal Friday for the NBA minimum of about $1.14 million, while Frazier has signed a two-year deal worth about $4.1 million. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the Pelicans have not released contract terms.

The 6-foot-9 Jones, who was Anthony Davis‘ teammates on Kentucky’s 2012 national championship team, has spent his first four NBA seasons with Houston, posting career averages of 10.4 points and 5.8 rebounds.

Frazier played in 16 games for New Orleans late last season, averaging 13.1 points, 7.5 assists, 4.4 rebounds and 1.4 steals in 29.3 minutes per game.

Deron Williams says he is recovering well from sports hernia, will be ready to go at camp

DALLAS, TX - MARCH 01:  Deron Williams #8 of the Dallas Mavericks during the first half at American Airlines Center on March 1, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.   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 Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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Deron Williams will be back with the Dallas Mavericks next season — and be ready to go by the start of the season.

He’d like to say he’d be back for the next few seasons, but coming off a Sports Hernia injury his options were a little limited. However, his recovery is going well he told NBC Dallas in an interview from American Century Championships celebrity golf tournament in Lake Tahoe (which you can watch this weekend on NBC).

“Feeling really good. It’s healing pretty well, I’m doing a lot of work on and off the court. I haven’t got the full-go clearance yet, but that’s coming soon. I’ll be ready to go definitely by the time training camp rolls around.

“I’m running, I’m jumping a little bit. I’m just not going crazy. I kind of have to wait for August 1 for that, to go see the doc and get the go ahead. But it’s not much restriction right now.”

Williams averaged 14.1 points and 5.8 assists per game for the Mavericks last season and was solid at 32. His efficiency slipped a little (to be expected as he is on the wrong side of 30 and has plenty of miles) but he played well for Dallas.

Dallas signed him to a one-year, $10 million deal. Williams was hoping for a little more security.

“I was happy to come back. Would have liked a little longer deal but I’m back for one year and hopefully can build on last year and improve. I think there’s room for a lot of improvement. Hopefully I can stay healthy. I think that’s the biggest key but I’m excited about this year and this team.”

The one-year deal is more about Dallas than Williams — they could see a significant shift in plans when Dirk Nowitzki steps away (he inked a two-year deal but the second year is only $5 million guaranteed, so he could be in his final run if he wants).

Dallas added Harrison Barnes and Andrew Bogut from the Warriors to a starting five that also includes Nowitzki, Williams, and Wesley Matthews. If they can stay healthy — no little thing with that group — it’s a quality starting five that coach Rick Carlisle is going to love.