Hornets trade Okafor, Ariza to Wizards for Lewis, pick

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The New Orleans Hornets are freeing up some salary cap room — by trading for the worst contract in the league so they can buy it out.

From Jonathan Givony DraftExpress:

New Orleans trades Emeka Okafor and Trevor Ariza to Washington for Rashard Lewis and the #46 pick.

This has been confirmed by the teams and league.

The Hornets do this to save money — Lewis is supposed to make $23.8 million next season but can be bought out for $13.7 million before July 1. You can bet that happens (and Lewis becomes a free agent). The move also takes Okafor out of the lineup to clear space for future No. 1 pick Anthony Davis in the starting rotation. It also gives the Hornets room to chase some quality (not max deal, but quality) free agents.

Basically, this is a good move for a building team in New Orleans. They are building something.

For the Wizards, this is a move for the right now, and not a great one. They now have now made their bed with a starting lineup of John Wall at the point, whoever they draft No. 3 (shooting guard Bradley Beal seems likely), Ariza on the wing, Okafor and Nene up front. I say made their bed because Nene is owed $52 million over the next four years while Okafor and Ariza are owed a combined $43 million in the next two. The Wizards are pretty locked into this roster for a couple years.

Is that a playoff quality team in the East? Maybe if Wall finally makes the leap it is a decent, but it’s not a young team building up to be a contender like we expected them to build. It’s a team with a ceiling below the Heat/Bulls, and frankly below the Pacers and others. Rather than using their amnesty on Lewis and creating cap space to go after free agents thinking long tern they went this route. Interesting. I don’t love it, but the Wizards’ success really comes back to Wall and his growth.

Victor Oladipo’s practice dunk better than anything he – or maybe anyone – did in dunk contest (video)

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Victor Oladipo has grown into far more than just a dunker.

In fact, in Saturday’s dunk contest, he didn’t look like a dunker at all.

The Pacers star missed all three attempts of his first dunk, and a Black Panther mask was by far the biggest draw of his second. Oladipo was eliminated after the first round.

Maybe Dennis Smith Jr. wasn’t the only eliminated dunker who left something in his bag. This Oladipo dunk – 180 degrees, throwing ball off the backboard with his left hand while in mid-air, dunking with his right hand – while preparing in Los Angeles was awesome.

Larry Nance Jr. had the contest’s best dunk. This would have rivaled it.

Pelicans owner Tom Benson hospitalized with flu symptoms

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — New Orleans Saints and Pelicans Owner Tom Benson has been hospitalized with flu symptoms.

A statement released Wednesday by the NFL and NBA clubs says their 90-year-old owner is resting comfortably at Ochsner Medical Center, a hospital which also serves as a major sponsor and which owns naming rights to the teams’ training headquarters.

Benson has owned the New Orleans Saints since 1985 and bought the New Orleans Pelicans in 2012.

In recent years, Benson has overhauled his estate plan so that his third wife, Gayle, would be first in line to inherit control of the two major professional franchises.

 

Report: Seattle hosting Kings-Warriors preseason game

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Kevin Durant spent his rookie season in Seattle, before the SuperSonics moved to Oklahoma City and became the Thunder. He has said Seattle fans deserved to see him grow up in the NBA after supporting his promising start.

They’ll get their chance.

Ailene Voisin of The Sacramento Bee:

The Kings and Golden State Warriors have scheduled a preseason game next season in Seattle, according to multiple league sources.

The Oct. 6 meeting between Northern California teams will be the first NBA game in the Key Arena since the Sonics moved to Oklahoma City after the 2007-08 season and became the Thunder.

This game will be loaded with storylines. Not only Durant, but the Kings considered moving to Seattle a few years ago. And of course, the return of NBA basketball to Seattle.

At some point, Seattle will get its own team again. For now, this preseason game creates intrigue there.

Report: Kawhi Leonard cleared medically, seeking second opinion

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Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said he’d be surprised if Kawhi Leonard played again this season, a stark reversal from just a month ago. Back then, even while announcing Leonard was out indefinitely with a quad injury, the San Antonio coach said Leonard wouldn’t miss the rest of the season.

What’s going on?

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

After spending 10 days before the All-Star break in New York consulting with a specialist to gather a second opinion on his right quad injury, All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard bears the burden of determining when he’s prepared to play again, sources told ESPN.

Leonard has been medically cleared to return from the right quad tendinopathy injury, but since shutting down a nine-game return to the Spurs that ended Jan. 13, he has elected against returning to the active roster, sources said.

The uncertainty surrounding this season — and Leonard’s future which could include free agency in the summer of 2019 — has inspired a palpable stress around the organization, league sources said.

At first glance, this sounds like Derrick Rose five years ago. Even after he was cleared to play following a torn ACL, the then-Bulls star remained mysterious about when he’d suit up. His confidence in his physical abilities seemed to be a major issue, and he was never the same player since (suffering more leg injuries).

But the Spurs famously favor resting players to preserve long-term health. They seem unlikely to rush back Leonard. They might even sit players who want to play more often. And Leonard isn’t Rose.

Still, it’s clear something is amiss in San Antonio. Maybe not amiss enough to end Leonard’s tenure there, but the longer this lingers, the more time for tension to percolate.