Report: Kings reject Rockets’ offer of Lowry for No. 5 pick

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UPDATE 9:18 pm: David Aldridge of NBA.com reports that the Kings have shot down the Rockets’ offer to get the No. 5 pick.

But their offer of guard Kyle Lowry along with the 16th pick overall to the Sacramento Kings in exchange for the fifth pick overall and forward Chuck Hayes was rejected Wednesday by Sacramento, according to league sources.

He may not be in this deal, but expect to see Lowry in some trade either in the next 24 hours or later this summer. His relationship with coach Kevin McHale has been strained, the Rockets like and want to re-sign Goran Dragic to run the point after how he closed out the season, and Lowry is a borderline All-Star with a very affordable contract.

7:24 pm: You know Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has a master plan in mind. He always does.

As he’s been making moves and stockpiling picks — the No. 12, 16 and 18 as of this writing — everyone has been trying to figure out the end game. It’s not just getting a pick or two in the top 10 (that’s obvious) but is he targeting a player. Maybe one in the draft, maybe one via trade (besides Dwight Howard, that’s a Hail Mary.)

Ken Berger of CBSSports.com is reporting some possibilities along those lines.

Among several avenues the Rockets are exploring would be a trade with Sacramento for the No. 5 pick in a deal that likely would send Tyreke Evans to Houston, sources said. The teams have discussed several scenarios, and while one person briefed on the talks described the deal as “getting close,” rival executives have gotten the strong impression that the Kings are steadfastly resisting the Rockets’ overtures.

Word in front office circles has been consistent that the Rockets’ target is Connecticut 7-footer Andre Drummond, although some executives openly wondered Wednesday if that was a smokescreen. Welcome to the 24 hours before the draft.

The smokescreen would be because they want point guard Damian Lillard, who the Trail Blazers plan to grab at No. 6 (allegedly).

Lillard makes more sense than Drummond, who is a huge gamble, boom or bust. But maybe a big gamble works for Morey, who doesn’t want to live in the NBA’s middle ground anymore. If Drummond pans out he has a contender, if he doesn’t he falls and ends up with high draft picks to build on.

But I just have a gut feeling it’s not Drummond and it may not be Lillard. There may be other targets out there.

One thing Berger confirms that is being reported consistently now — the Rockets are out of the Pau Gasol sweepstakes. They made a run last year (Gasol would have been a Rocket in the scuttled Chris Paul trade) but they have moved on.

NBA reacts to Suns’ Devin Booker dropping 70 on Celtics

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Devin Booker was the story of the NBA Friday night.

The 20-year-old Suns’ guard — who never scored more than 19 points in a game at Kentucky in college — dropped 70 on the Boston Celtics in a losing effort. He becomes only the sixth player in NBA history to score at least 70 in a game. At the end the Suns were fouling and calling time outs to stop the clock and get the ball back to Booker, but as Phoenix coach Earl Watson said to those who complained, “You got a problem with that? Do something. Simple as that.”

NBA Twitter exploded at what Booker did.

Booker himself responded this way.

Lonzo Ball makes expected official, declares for NBA Draft

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There was no hesitation. None was expected.

After UCLA was eliminated from the NCAA Tournament in the Sweet 16 by Kentucky, the Bruin’s Lonzo Ball — who is expected to be a top-three pick — declared for the NBA draft this June.

Ball is expected to go second or third in the upcoming NBA draft. Speaking with people around the league Washington’s Markelle Fultz is a clear No. 1, but after that if the Lakers — the team with the second-worst record in the league — have the No. 2 pick they are expected to snap up Ball. Depending on how the lottery shakes out the top of the draft, Ball could fall a little — there are teams that like Josh Jackson — but not much.

Ball is a 6’6″ point guard who averaged 14.7 points, 7.6 assists and 6.1 rebounds a game for UCLA last season. He has fantastic passing vision, impressive shooting range (although he can take some questionable shots), and a great sense of floor spacing and how to run an offense, particularly in transition. However, his weaknesses were exposed in his final game some as De’Aaron Fox of Kentucky completely outplayed Ball. Defensive pressure took Ball (and the Bruins) out of rhythm, forced them to play in the half court (where Ball is not as strong), and it’s one of the things Ball is going to have to adapt to at the next level where everyone is more athletic. Also, he’s going to need to get more consistent defensively.

The potential for Ball to be special is there, which is why he will go high in the draft.

And no, the rantings of his father will not change that. Teams see the father as a distraction that can be handled, they aren’t going to let him get in the way of drafting talent.

Watch highlights of Shaquille O’Neal’s statue unveiling outside Staples Center

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Kobe Bryant said “Thank you. I learned so much from you as a player.”

Jerry West said he loved him like a son.

Jeanie Buss said “No one celebrates a championship like you, but please no more asking Mark Madsen to dance.”

The Lakers unveiled a new statue for Shaquille O’Neal Friday night, one flying high over a Staples Center entrance, and the stars were on hand for the event. Phil Jackson was there making Snoop Dogg jokes. Shaq and Kobe were sharing laughs. It was a big night for a big man with a big personality. And a big heart.

Check out the highlights above.

Report: Knicks’ Joakim Noah to be suspended 20 games for violating league drug policy

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Joakim Noah hasn’t set foot on an NBA court since Feb. 4, and his season was all but ended when he had knee surgery at the end of February. Last summer, Phil Jackson took a $72 million gamble on an aging Noah that has not worked at all, and left New York with an anchor of a contract for three more seasons after this one.

Tomorrow it will be official Noah is done for this season, but not because of the Knicks or his injury.

During his recovery, Noah violated the NBA’s drug policy and will pay for a 20-game suspension, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Noah tested positive for an over-the-counter supplement that is prohibited under the outgoing Collective Bargaining Agreement, league sources said.

Noah, 32, is expected to serve 10 games of the suspension to finish out the 2016-17 regular season and 10 games to start the 2017-18 season, league sources said.

The National Basketball Players Association’s investigation concluded that Noah hadn’t “knowingly or willingly” violated the policy and cooperated fully with the league’s probe, league sources said.

According to reports, this is not a substance banned in the new CBA that kicks in July 1, but was covered in the previous CBA. Over-the-counter supplements could be something put in his regular workout recovery drinks that he was unaware of, although we are unsure of the details.

Traditionally, the player has to be healthy enough to play before the league starts the suspension. Noah has been out for more than a month, but if a league doctor says he is healthy enough to play the then the clock on the suspension can start. The 10 games this season is no big deal for the Knicks, he wasn’t going to play anyway, but the 10 at the start of next season could sting (depending on how they plan to use him).