Danny Granger understands trade is possible, but seems to want to stay with the Pacers

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Danny Granger finds himself in an interesting position with the Indiana Pacers.

After being the team’s best player and franchise cornerstone for nearly his entire career, he missed most of this season with chronic knee pain that forced him to have surgery. With him on the bench for the entire playoffs and all but five regular season games, the Pacers took another step forward as a team by advancing to the Conference Finals, ultimately falling in 7 grueling games to the Miami Heat.

As Granger sat on the bench, he saw younger teammates — Paul George and Roy Hibbert specifically — step up and take up the mantle as the new franchise cornerstone players. And now, he enters into the final year of his max contract with no clear defined role and an uncertain status.

In a sit-down with David Aldridge that appears in Aldridge’s must read Morning Tip column, Granger seems to understand that his days in Indiana may be numbered:

I’ve been here my whole career. I look at things objectively, and it’s very rare for a player to stay with a team his whole career. It just don’t happen. So when the trade talks come, you can say, okay, it’s my time to go. I love the organization and I had a great time here [but] we understand it’s a business. You get older and you move on. That’s just the way it is. There’s no hard feelings about it; you don’t get your feelings hurt. I take it as a business arrangement, basically.

It is clear that Granger can see the writing on the wall. After all, as much of a history he has with the Pacers, they have a team to continue to build and trading him in order to find more, better fitting pieces is a real possibility. In this era of a new CBA, Granger’s expiring deal may net the team more than one useful player who could step in and provide the Pacers some much needed depth on the wing and/or in the front court.

All that said, Granger also seems to understand that there’s a new pecking order and expresses some level of comfort that he would need to take a step back in order to fit into the team that went so far without him:

I’m not 25 anymore. Going to get 22, 23 points a game, it’s tough, it’s hard, when you have teams gunning for you. I’m 30 now. I’ll gladly defer to the younger teammates and put more of the burden on them than on myself. I can still carry a heavy load, but not as much as I did in the past. And I don’t want to. It’s not even a question.

What the Pacers decide to do is still unknown. But if Granger really is willing to take a back seat to George, maybe even accepting a bench role, the Pacers could be an even more dangerous team than they were this season. Granger is no longer the 20 point per game scorer he was pre-injury, but he is a viable perimeter threat who can do damage as a shooter and slasher when playing off of George and Hibbert.

On the other hand, the Pacers still could try to maximize Granger’s trade value and try to get more parts who could help the team take that next step. How much value Granger has after his injury limited him to so few games remains to be seen, but the Pacers could be willing to simply cut bait and continue to add to the roster who was so close to the Finals.

Either way, Granger seems to be good with the outcome.

Portland GM makes it official, Festus Ezeli will not be back with team next season

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This season the Portland Trail Blazers found their center of the future (and the present) in Jusuf Nurkic.

Which makes the next step fairly obvious: Portland will not pick up the option on Festus Ezeli for next season, GM Neil Olshay confirmed at the team exit meetings Tuesday.

Portland signed Ezeli on what they thought was a great contract (one-year, $7.4 million, with a team option for the second year) because he was coming off knee surgery last summer. However, Ezeli was never healthy, needed a second surgery, and never got on the court. After taking it slow over last summer he practiced with the team twice in mid-October, there was more swelling, so he pulled back.

This summer Ezeli will not draw any guaranteed money from teams, but some teams may take a look at him. Athletic bigs get a lot of chances in the NBA.

Gordon Hayward will play for Jazz in Game 5 without minutes restriction

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Gordon Hayward has averaged 20.5 points a game in these playoffs — and that includes a 40 point outburst in Game 3 — but what has been more impressive is he has done it efficiently, with a true shooting percentage of 61.1. While Joe Johnson and others have stepped up, Utah will need Hayward’s shot creation if they are going to win this series.

They will have it Tuesday night in Game 5.

After missing the second half of Game 4 due to food poisoning (he tried to play but was ineffective in the first half), he is back and ready to go this time around.

So is Rudy Gobert. The Jazz will be at full health, while the Clippers remain without Blake Griffin for the remainder of the playoffs.

Having those two back is a boost for the Jazz, they need to score more consistently against the Clippers, but the bigger key will be defensively trying to deal with Chris Paul on the pick-and-roll. He has been masterful this series, and the Jazz need to keep him in check to give their offense a chance.

When NBA switches to Nike uniforms next season, Hornets will move to Jordan Brand

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There are not going to be dramatic changes to the look of the NBA when Nike takes over the apparel contract for next season, replacing Adidas. Instead of the Adidas logo, there will be a swoosh, sleeved jerseys will fade away, and some teams will modify their alternate jerseys, but the league is not getting a total uniform makeover next season. Things will look basically the same.

Except in Charlotte — they will not have a swoosh, they will have the Jordan Jumpman logo.

The why is obvious — Michael Jordan is the primary owner of the Hornets and, obviously, the guy the Jordan brand was named after. The Jordan Brand is part of Nike. The Hornets made the announcement this week buried in a press release about moving the fan shop at the arena, hat tip to Sole Collector for finding this. Here is what the release says:

The re-opening of the Hornets Fan Shop will coincide with the launch of the team’s new Jordan Brand uniforms as Nike becomes the NBA’s uniform provider beginning this season.  The Hornets will be the only team in the NBA wearing Jordan Brand uniforms, and with the agreement taking effect, the Hornets Fan Shop will have even more of the popular Jordan Brand Hornets merchandise than it has had previously.

While it’s not like the Lakers or Celtics are going to be changing up their traditional uniforms, even teams like the Hornets will keep a similar look under Nike.

What should be interesting to see is what the Christmas Day and All-Star uniforms look like under a Nike touch.

Allen Iverson breaks down MVP race (he’d give it to Westbrook)

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The polls are closed, and the voting is already in on the NBA Most Valuable Player race, however, we’re all going to have to wait until June 26 to find out the result. So the debate rages on, with playoff performances shaping the narrative.

Why not ask a former MVP and Hall of Famer?

Allen Iverson told Bleacher Report he would pick Westbrook for MVP. Then he broke down the candidates.

I just think (Westbrook’s) headed to doing something that we never thought would happen again [in averaging a triple-double throughout a season]…

[Kawhi Leonard]’s the best two-way player in the league, plays the game the right way. Well, if you play with Pop [Gregg Popovich], then you’re going to play the game the right way anyways. But he does everything on the floor to help his team win. Right there in the MVP race. In any other season, I think him or James [Harden]—LeBron [James], you could give it to him every year.

But this year, it’s just one of those years for Westbrook, and we should cherish it and love it for what it is, because we never thought this would happen again, just like we never thought nobody will score 100 points like Wilt [Chamberlain] again.

It’s one of them years like you’re supposed to give that to him hands down with the great season those guys are having. I mean, Isaiah [Thomas] has been playing the way he’s been playing. [Kevin] Durant’s been playing the way he’s been playing. A lot of guys are having MVP seasons, but this guy’s just having a special season.

The MVP debate isn’t over because there isn’t one right answer — Westbrook, James Harden, and Kawhi Leonard all have a legitimate case. One is not vastly superior to the other, and LeBron James should be in the discussion as well (but the late fade by the Cavs hurt him). That said, a lot of former players seem to side with Iverson in the Westbrook camp.

You should read the entire interview, Iverson talks about his crossover and if Isaiah Thomas should be called for it (you have to know how AI answered that), the evolution of the game, and much more.

It’s a great read. Regardless of who you think should be MVP.