Report: Celtics, Mavericks among four teams trying to work Cousins trade

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Know this — the scenario about to be laid out tells you what DeMarcus Cousins and his people are thinking and hoping for. What it does not do is tell you the reality of the situation. Not in the least.

The reality here is a complex dynamic that starts with Cousins firing his long-time agent and hiring Dan Fegan, the guy who brought us the Dwightmare and an agent known for getting his players traded if they want out of somewhere.

I don’t think there is any doubt Cousins wants out of Sacramento, which leads us to a report from the well-connected Kentucky Sports Radio (hat tip to Tom Ziller for this one):

Today KSR has spoken with a source close to DeMarcus Cousins both that confirms trade talks are ongoing and Cousins is hoping a deal will be worked out soon. According to the source, the four teams that are most likely to end up making such a deal for cousins are Boston, Dallas, Orlando and Charlotte. The USA Today story reported that Detroit, Houston and Washington are also potential destinations, but the source tells KSR that Cousins has been told those are all unlikely for a variety of reasons.

Let’s start here — it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that KSR’s sources here are pretty one sided. This is Cousins dream scenario, to get traded to a team where he can win and/or be a franchise anchor going forward.

What this ignores is the entire Kings side of the equation. There we have the Maloof brothers, who own the team, are big fans of Cousins and are not interested in trading him, reports Sam Amick of USA Today.

The decision to reinstate Cousins on Dec. 24 was made unilaterally by the team’s owners and went against the wishes and planned protocol of the team’s front office, according to three people with knowledge of the situation who spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the situation. Specifically, one person with knowledge of the situation said Kings co-owner Gavin Maloof initiated a dialogue with Cousins on Dec. 23, had him discuss the situation with Smart and then made it clear that Cousins would return to the team the following day at practice…

The team’s uncertain status in remaining in Sacramento could be causing a ripple effect here, as well. The Maloofs have long since targeted Cousins as the prized asset of their organization and have been extremely reluctant to trade him thus far.

All this has reportedly frustrated long-time general manager Geoff Petrie, but Petrie is essentially a lame-duck GM who will not be back with the team after his contract expires this summer.

So the problem with trading Cousins start with the owners don’t really want do and may well veto any deals.

Next problem: The offers the Kings will get. The deals the listed teams can offer are not going to thrill Sacramento — they are giving up a potential franchise player and in return they will want good young players and picks to rebuild with. What’s more, the Kings are not loaded with horrific oversized deal to balance out a big trade. Plus the Kings have a full roster of guaranteed deals so they are not looking for 3-for-1 deals.

Boston can offer two nice role players where there are injury concerns in Avery Bradley (coming off shoulder surgery) and Jared Sullinger (his medical red flags at the draft were about how long he could last in the league). Then who you going to throw in, Fab Melo? The Celtics are desperate for big man help but are leaving him in the D-League. Nobody wants Jeff Green on his contract. Honestly, the only player that fits the Kings needs is Rajon Rondo and obviously Boston isn’t moving him.

Then go down the list, Dallas has squat on that roster in terms of young quality players. Orlando can throw out there Andrew Nicholson, Mo Harkless and maybe Gustavo Ayon, but that shouldn’t get the job done without a lot of picks. And even them probably not. Charlotte has Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and squat else.

All of which is to say, there is going to be a lot of Cousins trade talk as Fegan tries to work his “magic” but he has a long way to go. First he has to find a deal that doesn’t totally suck, which doesn’t easily appear among the teams mentioned. Then he has to convince Kings ownership — which is distracted by trying to find someone to build them an arena in another city — to give up the guy they want to build around. Good luck with that.

A trade of Cousins is certainly not impossible, but the idea of soon and to the teams currently in play is highly unlikely.

More likely, this just ends badly.

Report: Mikhail Prokhorov ‘warmed’ to selling controlling stake of Nets

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Mikhail Prokhorov bought 80% of the Nets in 2010. A couple years ago, he tried to sell his stake, but decided to keep it. Then, he bought 100% of the franchise and its arena. After last season, he said he was selling 49% of the team.

Now?

Josh Kosman and Brian Lewis of the New York Post:

Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, while focused on selling a minority stake in the franchise, has warmed recently to the possibility of offering a controlling slice of the team, sources close to the situation said.

The change of heart comes after the initial reaction to the minority stake sale was weak — and with interest in the Houston Rockets sale heating up, one source said.

The Rockets’ sale could shake out potential Nets buyers, and Prokhorov selling a controlling stake could also help. It’d cost more money than the 49% he’s offering now, but people with the money to buy an NBA team tend to value control.

This might be a good time to sell for Prokhorov, who lost a ton of money as the team paid major luxury tax for an all-in championship pursuit that flopped spectacularly. The NBA’s popularity is rising, and the league is reaping huge revenue from its national-TV contracts.

However, he shouldn’t assume the Rockets’ sale price will predict the Nets’. Buyers might prefer a good team with James Harden and Chris Paul to a bad one short on young talent after years of mismanagement. At least Brooklyn’s payroll is now tolerably low.

The big loser here: Leslie Alexander, who’s trying to sell the Rockets. The supply of NBA teams now available might have just doubled, and unless there’s no overlap in demand for those franchises, that can only drive down Alexander’s eventual sale price.

Report: Clippers paid $3.2 million – second-most ever – for draft pick (Jawun Evans)

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The Warriors set a record by paying $3.5 million for a draft pick, buying the Bulls’ No. 38 pick and using it on Jordan Bell this year.

That eclipsed the $3 million spent by each the Thunder in 2010 (to the Hawks for the No. 31 pick, Tibor Pleiss) and Nets in 2016 (to move up 13 spots for Isaiah Whiteside).

So did the Clippers’ purchase of the No. 39 pick (Jawun Evans) from the 76ers this year.

Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders:

The Clippers also paid the Bucks $2 million for the No. 48 pick (Sindarius Thornwell).

I rated Evans a low first-rounder due to his speed and drive-and-kick game, so getting him in the second round is good value. I’m not as keen on Thornwell, who’s already 22 and built so much of his success at South Carolina on being more physical than younger opponents.

But the more swings the Clippers take on young players, the more likely they are to find long-term contributors. More power to owner Steve Ballmer for greenlighting this expenditure.

Importantly, as players acquired through the draft, Evans and Thornwell will count for the luxury tax at their actual salaries. Players signed otherwise, even if their actual salaries are lower, count at at least the two-years-experience minimum.

Under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, teams can spend $5.1 million in cash this season. That amount will increase (or decrease) in proportion with the salary cap in coming years. So, expect the previous record for draft-pick purchase price – $3 million – to fall again and again.

There’s just more leeway now for the NBA’s haves to separate themselves from the have-nots.

Jeannie Buss says she didn’t understand why Lakers signed Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov

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Last summer, the Lakers signed Luol Deng (four years, $72 million) and Timofey Mozgov (four years, $64 million) to contracts that immediately looked like liabilities.

At worst, Deng and Mozgov would help the Lakers win just enough to lose their top-three protected 2017 first-round pick – which would have triggered also sending out an unprotected 2019 first-rounder – then settle in as huge overpays. At best, Deng and Mozgov would provide a little veteran leadership while the team still loses enough to keep its pick… then settle in as huge overpays.

The Lakers got the best-case scenario, which was still pretty awful.

They had to attach D'Angelo Russell just to dump Mozgov’s deal on the Nets. Even if he no longer fit long-term with Lonzo Ball, Russell could’ve fit another asset if he weren’t necessary as a sweetener in a Mozgov trade. Deng remains on the books as impediment to adding free agents (like Paul George and LeBron James) next summer.

Who’s to blame?

Jeanie Buss was the Lakers’ president and owner. Jim Buss, another owner, ran the front office with Mitch Kupchak.

Bill Oram of The Orange County Register:

Within the walls of the Lakers headquarters, Jeanie’s grand corner office had begun to feel like a cell. She could not make sense of the strategy employed by her brother and Kupchak. They had cycled through four coaches in five seasons and under their watch the Lakers won a combined 63 games in three full seasons. Last summer, they spent $136 million of precious cap space on veterans Luol Deng and Timofey Mozgov, who made little sense for the direction of the team.

“I just didn’t understand what the thought process was,” she said, “whether our philosophies were so far apart that I couldn’t recognize what they were doing, or they couldn’t explain it well.”

No. Nope, nope, nope. I don’t want to hear it.

Jeanie empowered Jim and his silly timeline, which made it inevitable he place self-preservation over the Lakers’ best long-term interests. That’s why he looked for a quick fix with Mozgov and Deng, who’s still hanging over the Lakers’ plans.

She deserves scrutiny for allowing such a toxic environment that yielded predictably bad results (even if family ties clouded her judgment).

That said, she also deserves credit for learning from her mistake. She fired Jim and Kupchak – admittedly too late, but she still did it – and hired Magic Johnson. There’s no guarantee Johnson will direct the Lakers back to prominence, but he clearly has a better working relationship with Jeanie than Jim did and, so far (in a small sample), looks more competent in the job.

Reports: Heat pessimistic about/uninterested in trading for Kyrie Irving

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Kyrie Irving, in requesting a trade from the Cavaliers, reportedly listed the Heat among his preferred destinations. Though Irving – without a no-trade clause and locked up for two more years – holds only minimal sway, teams would logically offer more for him if they believe he’d re-sign.

Will Miami trade for Irving?

Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald:

And while the possibility certainly cannot be ruled out, the Heat does not have considerable optimism about being able to strike a deal, multiple league sources said.

One Eastern Conference official who spoke to the Heat said Miami considers itself something of a long shot.

Tim Reynolds, the reputable Associated Press Heat and NBA writer, said on Steve Shapiro’s Sports Xtra on WSVN-7 that he does not believe Miami is interested in acquiring Irving.

Like the Kings, though to a far lesser extent, the Heat might not be interested because they know they stand no little of landing Irving.

Goran Dragic would almost certainly have to go to Cleveland in a deal, supplanted by Irving in Miami. Dragic would upgrade the Cavs at point guard over Derrick Rose and Jose Calderon, but at 31, Dragic would also significantly shorten Cleveland’s window.

The Heat would have to send much more. It’s just not clear what.

The Cavaliers, with Tristan Thompson, might not have much interest in centers Hassan Whiteside and Bam Adebayo. Justise Winslow‘s weak 3-point shooting makes him a tough fit with LeBron James, and Winslow’s shoulder injury last season damages his stock anywhere. Tyler Johnson and Josh Richardson are helpful contributors, but Johnson’s salary skyrockets north of $19 million each of the following two seasons, and Richardson will hit free agency (and get a raise) after this season. James Johnson, Dion Waiters and Kelly Olynyk – who all signed this summer – can’t be traded until Dec. 15. (I’m not sure which prospect is funnier, Waiters returning to Cleveland or playing with Irving in Miami.) The Heat also owe the Suns two future first-round picks – one top-seven protected in 2018 and unprotected in 2019, the other unprotected in 2021.

It’s difficult, maybe impossible, for Miami to assemble a suitable trade package given those constraints.

At least the Heat would keep open the possibility of LeBron returning if they don’t trade for Irving.