Report: Deron Williams will only choose between Dallas and Brooklyn

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They are the obvious choices, and now, it would appear, they are the only choices.

ESPN’s Marc Stein reports:

When NBA free agency begins at midnight July 1, Brooklyn Nets star guard Deron Williams will be choosing from a two-team list that only features the Nets and the Dallas Mavericks, according to sources close to the situation.

Sources told ESPN.com on Saturday night that, while this summer’s No. 1 free agent remains “up in the air” about which team he’ll ultimately chose, Williams already has made the decision to narrow his list of potential destinations to those two franchises.

via Deron Williams only interested in signing with Brooklyn Nets or Dallas Mavericks, sources say – ESPN New York.

This has seemingly been the case for a while, but having it confirmed by a source so close to the Mavericks in Stein is significant. Typically a lot of action in terms of both free agency and trades is held up for the biggest move. Teams want to make sure they’re out of the running for a star before making moves for the future. Knowing that it will definitely be one of those two teams makes life easier for the other franchises, of which Stein lists the Blazers, Rockets, Suns, and Lakers as interested parties.

The smart money’s on New Jersey. Which, you know, isn’t that smart at all.

The Nets can offer the most money and years by re-signing Williams under the new CBA, and their move to Brooklyn means more financial opportunities for the All-Star. Stein also reports Williams was scouting a locker at the new Barclay Center on a tour this week. There is every reason to believe that Williams will re-sign with the Nets and make Brooklyn his home, sending Dallas in a drastic new direction for the future.

Some helpful information about the Nets team Williams is so sure of:

  • They went 22-44 last year, but that’s OK, because it’s an improvement on the 24-58 record they had the year before. I mean, not much of one, but still!
  • Their next best player at the moment is a center with a severe foot injury that limited him all last season and has significant rebounding problems.
  • Their next best player would be Gerald Wallace, but he’s opting out into free agency. But that’s OK, because there’s a good chance he’ll re-sign. At age 30.
  • They only have six players on roster for next year (assuming they re-sign Lopez in restricted free agency for eight figures), but that’s OK, because one of them is Johan Petro for $3.5 million.
  • Their front office has swung out in the past two years in luring LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwight Howard to their team, but that’s OK, because they traded their first-rounder to bring in Gerald Wallace who’s now a free agent last year.

Look, I’m not throwing this stuff out there to bag on the Nets. I want the Nets to be good. It’s good for the league. A New York-Brooklyn rivalry featuring multiple stars would be great for the league. Prokhorov being in the limelight would be hilariously good for the league. But Williams has stated he wants to contend. So why is this team even an option?

I know, I know. Dwight Howard. The plan, apparently, is for the Nets to sign Williams, then sign a bunch of free agents that Orlando wants, then trade those pieces plus Lopez who the Magic are “eh” about in order to get Howard. And that could happen. But is that going to be enough? Do they have anything resembling a supporting cast? Even if Wallace re-signs, is that enough? Is Williams, Howard, Wallace, and a poor supporting cast going to be better than what the Knicks have, let alone Miami?

But that’s where Williams’ mind is at. Dallas represents challenges, too, but it also features Dirk Nowitzki and an owner and management team with a proven track record that won the title a year ago.

Either way, there isn’t a perfect choice. At least Williams can limit that choice down to those two teams, though.

Rumor: NBA executives think Rockets have shot at signing LeBron James

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LeBron James is now rumored to be headed to about 29 NBA teams this summer when he can opt out of his current contract and become a free agent. Earlier this week, we heard rumblings that LeBron could be interested in sharing a Los Angeles Lakers roster with Dallas Mavericks center-at-large Nerlens Noel.

Now we’re hearing that NBA executives think the Houston Rockets have a chance of nabbing The King in the summer of 2018.

All aboard the Banana Boat.

According to USA Today’s Sam Amick, both the Rockets themselves and rival execs think Houston is a real landing spot for James thanks in part to how well they are playing this season. James Harden is having another MVP-caliber year, and Chris Paul has played beautifully in his return.

Via USA Today:

While James has made it clear that he won’t deliberate his uncertain future until the Cavs’ season is complete, there is strong belief in Rockets circles that they’ll have a legitimate shot at landing the four-time MVP this summer. Rival executives also believe the Rockets will have a real chance. And once you really look at it, when you get past all the noise about the Lakers and even the compelling case for the up-and-coming Philadelphia 76ers, it makes all sorts of sense.

The only team we haven’t heard connecting rumors about is the Cleveland Cavaliers themselves. LeBron — whose family lives in LA — recently bought a new house there and all signs point to James heading to the Western Conference. Well, unless he goes to the Philadelphia 76ers, of course.

Then again it felt like a certainty that LeBron would head to the New York Knicks nearly a decade ago, an idea that seems hilarious in retrospect. The NBA is weird, and if LeBron dips from Cleveland expect it to get even weirder.

Sixers’ Robert Covington to miss at least one game after crashing into stands

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NBA fans love hustle from their players, but sometimes things go awry.

That’s what happened on Saturday night after Philadelphia 76ers forward Robert Covington dove into the stands to try to save a loose ball against the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The play came in the fourth quarter with under two minutes left and the Sixers down by just one point. Covington leapt into the far sideline just near the Cavaliers bench. He appeared to turn his ankle and land awkwardly on his back. The Cleveland floor has a small lip after the first row of seats that may have played a part in the injury.

Cleveland would go on to score on the play, and Covington had to be helped off the floor. The Cavaliers went on to win, 105-98.

Meanwhile, the 76ers will play Sunday in New Orleans against the Pelicans. According to NBC Sports Philadelphia, Covington will miss the game with a lower back contusion.

Via NBCSN Philadelphia:

X-rays and a CT scan came back negative. Covington is with the team in New Orleans and is doubtful for Tuesday’s game in Minnesota.

Covington tumbled out of bounds and over courtside seats while he tried to save a possession during a Sixers comeback attempt. There is an approximate four-to-five inch drop between the court and the area where Covington landed. Many of his teammates were unaware of Covington’s injury at first because it was out of their vision.

“It’s scary to see your teammate like that,” guard JJ Redick said. “They said he fell on his back. I wanted to make sure he’s walking and not in too much pain. But I just wish the best for him and hope he’s OK.”

Back injuries can be a complete hassle to recover from, especially when you’re deep in the middle of the season. Let’s hope the Sixers get Covington back soon.

Giannis Antetokounmpo dunked all over Rudy Gobert (VIDEO)

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Giannis Antetokounmpo dunks a lot. The Milwaukee Bucks forward is big, strong, and aggressive when it comes to attacking the rim.

But he doesn’t typically dunk this hard or this emphatically over perennial Defensive Player of the Year candidates like Rudy Gobert.

That’s what made this one special.

As time was winding down in Milwaukee’s eventual 117-100 win over the Utah Jazz on Saturday night, Antetokounmpo put the exclamation point at the end of the sentence for the Bucks.

Gobert took the brunt of it. Via Twitter:

Goodness.

Gordon Hayward on playing this season: “It’s definitely in the back of my mind”

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Boston Celtics forward Gordon Hayward has been going through some grueling physical therapy to aid his recovery from a horrible leg injury he suffered during his first game with the team back in October. Hayward wound up breaking his ankle, likely putting him out for the season.

Meanwhile, whether Hayward plays or not during the 2017-18 campaign is still up for debate. Hayward is making progress in his recovery — he recently was able to take his walking boot off and go for a smaller ankle brace.

For his part, Hayward has said that he is still thinking about the possibility of returning this season to the Celtics, who have earned themselves the top spot in the Eastern Conference in his absence.

Speaking to Adam Himmelsbach over at the Boston Globe, Hayward detailed not only his recovery routine but his thinking when it came to planning his return.

Via The Boston Globe:

“It’s definitely in the back of my mind,” Hayward said. “I’m definitely pushing to get back as fast as I can, while making sure that I still have a lot of good years of basketball in me. And coming back early and hurting something else is not part of that plan. So I’m making sure that if I come back, I’m 1,000 percent confident in myself and my leg. I hope more than anything I can play this season. That would be awesome. But that’s not something I’m stressing about. I’m stressing about what I can do today to help myself get better.”

That’s smart thinking on Hayward’s part. Too often it seems like guys are jonesing to come back, and when they do it’s cause for concern that they’re damaging their long-term playing health.

Hayward is making some real progress — the Globe story details him doing tasks like picking up marbles with his toes and shooting baskets from a chair as part of his PT — but whether he’ll be ready this season is doubtful.

It doesn’t sound like Hayward wants to rush things, but you never know. His agent did say that his return this year is unlikely, but another report has said that his earliest return would be March. Just in time to make a run for an Eastern Conference Finals showdown against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers?

We’ll have to wait and see.

UPDATE: Shortly after this story and the Boston Globe one was published on Sunday morning, Celtics coach Brad Stevens said the team isn’t planning for Hayward to come back. The plot thickens!