Darko is free!
Well, kind of. The Minnesota Timberwolves are about to amnesty Darko Milicic, reports Ric Bucher of ESPN.
The Minnesota Timberwolves plan to amnesty center Darko Milicic in order to give an offer sheet to Portland Trail Blazers restricted free agent Nicolas Batum, a league source says. Milicic has two years and $10 million remaining on his contract but only $7 million is guaranteed.
Minnesota wants to make a big offer to Batum, the French swingman that a lot of GMs around the league covet because he is athletic, can hit the three, plays smart and is a plus wing defender.
Portland has said repeatedly it will match any offer to Batum (who is a restricted free agent). They mean it. But Batum’s agent badly wants him out of Portland and Minnesota will play along.
Minnesota also is reportedly trying to put together trade offers to tempt Portland, but the Blazers have no interest.
Darko struggled last season, in part due to injuries. While he has never lived up to his No. 2 overall pick status but he has been an NBA backup level big man.
If Darko is amnestied, teams under the salary cap would have 48 hours to bid on a portion of his contract, and the team with the highest bid would get his services (for example, if the Bobcats had the highest bid at $4 million then Darko would be a Bobcat and Charlotte would pay $4 million of his salary and the Timberwolves the rest of it).
If no team bids on him — not likely but not impossible — he would become a free agent and could sign wherever he wanted. Including Europe.
Apparently, all it takes is a little public discussion of LeBron James‘ “broken” jump shot to get him back on balance and knocking down the three ball — he was 4-of-6 from deep Wednesday.
Then again J.R. Smith was 7-of-13, Kyrie Irving 4-of-5, and as a team the Cavaliers knocked down a record 25 threes — while shooting 55.6 percent — as they wiped the floor with the Hawks in Game 2.
In case you’re curious where the Cavs were hitting from, here’s the team’s shot chart.
The Houston Rockets aren’t in any rush to hire a new head coach, preferring to interview a wide range of candidates to find the right one. Jeff Van Gundy has been widely believed to be at the top of their list, now that Tom Thibodeau and Scott Brooks are off the market, but ESPN.com’s Marc Stein is reporting another name that has entered the mix: Mike D’Antoni, who last held a head coaching job from 2012 to 2014 with the Lakers and currently serves as the Sixers’ lead assistant.
The Pacers, meanwhile, haven’t made a final decision on Frank Vogel’s future with the team, but all signs seem to point to him getting let go in the next few days. And if that happens, Stein reports that Vogel will also be on Houston’s list of candidates.
Given the Rockets’ massive drop-off on the defensive end this season, Vogel would seem to be a better fit than D’Antoni. But it sounds like the Rockets aren’t close to finding a replacement for J.B. Bickerstaff, although it would make sense to have a new coach in place by next month’s draft.
On Monday, the Hawks played the Cavaliers close and even led in the fourth quarter, leading plenty of optimism that Game 2 would be equally competitive, that the Hawks had something to build on.
The Cavs dominated from the start on Wednesday, with a 123-98 final score that was far closer than the game actually was — the Cavs led 74-36 at the half and led by as much as 38 at one point in the second half.
The Cavs also hit 25 three-pointers, which is the all-time record for a single game — regular season or playoffs. J.R. Smith hit seven of them, along with four each from LeBron James and Kyrie Irving and three for Kevin Love.
18 of Cleveland’s threes came in the first half, also a playoff record, and this was all Atlanta could do:
That’s the kind of night it was for the Hawks, who now trail 2-0 in the series as it heads back to Atlanta.
LeBron James has always been an incredible passer. In the midst of the Cavs’ Game 2 beatdown of the Hawks, he zipped this one-handed beauty into the paint to Kyrie Irving, who kicked it out to Kevin Love for a corner three:
The three was just one of the 18 Cleveland hit in the first half, which set an NBA playoff record.