Joe Johnson trade to Nets nearly complete, Brooklyn out of Dwight Howard chase

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The Nets seem to be thinking about having an interesting team to open the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn with next season, the years beyond that be damned.

And Dwight Howard be damned. He has said Brooklyn is the place he wants to be but when this trade for Joe Johnson goes through they would be out of the running to trade for Howard or get him as a free agent next summer. That scream you just heard was not Howard injuring his back again, it was him realizing his plans have blown up and left him looking the fool. With few options.

Multiple reports have a long-rumored Joe Johnson to the Nets trade about to happen. David Aldridge of TNT broke the story and Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports and NBC Sports Network confirmed it. The deal is set in principle but cannot be completed until July 11, when league moratorium ends.

Despite earlier reports this deal is going forward regardless of whether or not Deron Williams decides to commit to Brooklyn or not.

The deal would send Johnson — an All-Star but with maybe the worst contract in the NBA — from the Atlanta to the Nets for Jordan Farmar, Anthony Morrow, DeShawn Stevenson, Jordan Williams, Johan Petro, plus the Rockets lottery protected first round pick for next draft.

The Nets just inked Gerald Wallace to a four-year, $40 million deal. If Deron Williams signs and the Nets retain Brook Lopez (a restricted free agent), that makes an interesting team in Brooklyn. They will put points on the board, be pretty good, depending on how the fill out the rest of the roster, but they have gone from having $38 million in cap space to $9 million. The team gets maybe 50 wins, a three to six seed in the East, catch a break and they can get to the second round of the playoffs.

But that’s it. They will not be better than the Heat or Bulls. They are not contenders. We can debate where they would rank among the Pacers, Celtics and Knicks, but the fact is they are a second tier team in the East that would take on Johnson’s anchor of a contract — four years and $89 million left for a player who is good now but no longer on the front end of his career.

And with all that money they took on Brooklyn is fully out of the Dwight Howard sweepstakes. They don’t have a trade that the Magic want to make now, and the Magic aren’t taking on Joe Johnson’s deal (the Nets can’t just instantly flipped him anyway). They don’t have the money to sign him next summer. Which leaves Howard screwed — he has a public relations disaster on his hands and can’t land where he wants. His list will open up to more teams fast and could include Dallas, the Lakers and… Atlanta? For Al Horford? We shall see.

Why did the Nets do it? They had to have something they could count on heading into Brooklyn, they could not open the building with a rebuilding team. They are now a playoff team. They had to take that over the risk of Howard because of the move into a new market.

For the Hawks — new GM Danny Ferry has the orders to clean house and change the fortunes of this team. He is tearing it down to rebuild and that is the right thing to do. Plus he still has Al Horford and Jeff Teague, and they can keep or shop Josh Smith to see what the market will offer up. Well done.

Rumor: Dell Demps out, Joe Dumars in with Pelicans?

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Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry is on shaky ground.

What about New Orleans general manager Dell Demps?

A long-swirling rumor is getting renewed.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:

A few league sources peg the New Orleans Pelicans as a team that is going to make sweeping changes once their season ends in eight games.

The Pelicans have long been rumored to be the next stop for former Piston’s executive Joe Dumars, who is a Shreveport, Louisiana native and has close ties to the ownership and leadership of the Pelicans and Saints organization.

League sources said recently that Dumars has been active in the NBA front office circles, scouting players and reconnecting to the process.

Demps has done a lousy job building a supporting cast around Davis. Part of the reason trading for the risky DeMarcus Cousins made so much sense: The Pelicans were so underwhelming, they wouldn’t be much worse off if Cousins destroyed their culture and/or bolted in 2018 free agency.

But it’s not too late to salvage Davis’ tenure in New Orleans. He’s locked up for three more seasons, and Cousins is an extremely talented No. 2.

Is Dumars the right man to bring it all together?

He masterfully built the Pistons into the 2004 NBA champions. He also played an integral role in the team’s downfall.

Another factor: There appears to be a mutual respect between Cousins and Dumars, who coveted the big man since he was coming out of Kentucky. That could help the Pelicans re-sign Cousins in 2018.

Dumars’ success should get him general-manager job interviews, but his more-recent failings demand tough questions. I’m unconvinced the Pelicans are scrutinizing Dumars enough, and they’d probably benefit from a more-thorough search.

But Dumars might be a fine hire. Dumping Demps would at least be step in the right direction.

Maryland star Melo Trimble declares for NBA draft

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Maryland guard Melo Trimble declared for last year’s NBA draft but withdrew.

This time, he’s not turning back.

Don Markus of The Baltimore Sun:

Trimble, less than three weeks removed from finishing his junior season with the team’s first-round loss to Xavier in the NCAA tournament, announced Wednesday he will make himself available for the NBA draft.

Unlike a year ago, when Trimble went through the pre-draft process without signing with an agent and then decided to return to school hours before the deadline, the 6-foot-3 point guard will forego his senior season.

“The deciding factor was that I felt there was nothing more I could do,” Trimble told the Baltimore Sun from the Stamp Student Union during a lunch break. “I felt like I did everything I could for the program. We went to the [NCAA] tournament three years in a row, and I had the same amount of points three years in a row. I felt that if I wanted to hopefully get to the next level, I had to leave at this time.

Trimble’s scouting report hasn’t changed much in the last year. He’s a scoring guard whose size (6-foot-3) will require him to play point guard in the next level, but he hasn’t shown the necessary distributing skills.

The biggest difference: He’s now 22, not 21.

Trimble had a superb college career, but at this point, his range is second round to undrafted.

DeMarcus Cousins answers first several Kings-related questions same way (video)

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DeMarcus Cousins had a bitter exit from the Kings, but that won’t be the last they see of him.

Cousins’ Pelicans will host Sacramento tomorrow night.

Not that Cousins rushed to talk about the matchup.

Justin Verrier of ESPN:

Cousins is pretty funny when joking with the media, and his smile is contagious. Just listen to all the laughs Cousins generates as he goes through his shtick.

Bonus points to Cousins for eventually breaking down and providing real answers. Some of his relationships in Sacramento were clearly meaningful to him, and he wanted to acknowledge those — even if he’d prefer just to get past this awkward game and all the talk it invites.

Report: Sweet-shooting 7-footer Lauri Markkanen leaving Arizona for NBA draft

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Lauri Markkanen is 7-foot and made 42% of his 3-pointers this season.

That combination alone will have NBA teams drooling, and the Arizona freshman will capitalize.

Evan Daniels of Scout:

Arizona’s Lauri Markkanen is declaring for the NBA Draft and is expected to sign with an agent, multiple sources told Scout.

Markkanen seems pretty certain to get picked in the lottery, likely in the top 10.

Calling him a good shooter for his height undersells him. It’s not just he shoots so efficiently from deep, it’s that he can generate 3-pointers in so many ways — pick-and-pops, spot-ups, off off-ball screens and even running pick-and-rolls himself. Having the height to shoot over defenders is his most noticeable asset, but don’t undersell his mobility.

Markkanen also finishes well at the rim and offensively rebounds at extremely impressive clip for someone who spends so much time on the perimeter. Those interior skills instill belief he will eventually become a suitable defender.

There are a couple red flags. He’s old for a freshman, turning 20 before the draft. He leaves plenty to be desired defensively, especially due to his lack of strength.

But his size and shooting are tantalizing. That’s plenty for now.