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Late night And-1 links: A few free agency rumors, more


Here is our regular look around the NBA — links to stories worth reading and notes to check out (stuff that did not get its own post here at PBT) — done in bullet point form. Because bloggers love bullet points more than NBA fans love free agency….

• Not long after free agency opened, the Lakers called former Sixer Nick Young.

• Big man Al Jefferson is in Charlotte and will spend a chunk of Tuesday meeting with the Bobcats (via Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports).

• The Bobcats also want to re-sign their own free agents Gerald Henderson and Josh McRoberts.

• With Jefferson clearly bolting Utah, the Jazz would like to re-sign Paul Millsap. The two sides met right after free agency opened. Still no deal in place. The Jazz have the right to match any offer Millsap gets from another team.

• Josh Smith will met with Atlanta on Tuesday.

• Reports are Milwaukee, Portland, San Antonio and Atlanta are meeting with Zaza Pachulia, trying to land him.

• The Bucks, Denver, Memphis are making a run at Tony Allen. At least so far.

• Brian Scalabrine has had conversations with the Bulls about being an assistant coach.

• In news that would shock nobody, the Celtics may look to trade Gerald Wallace and Kris Humphries.

• This is making a lot of buzz around the league: Bulls GM Gar Forman fired Bulls lead assistant Ron Adams over the objections of coach Tom Thibodeau. In general in the NBA, head coaches get to pick their assistants, the fact that Forman did this speaks to just how strained the relationship between coach and GM is in Chicago.

• Amar’e Stoudemire is part of a group of investors looking to buy an Israeli basketball team.

• In case you missed it (a lot of other things were going on), Malcolm Lee got traded twice on draft night, from the Timberwolves to Golden State then on the Suns.

• Minnesota’s rookie Shabazz Muhammad’s father was a concern for some teams — that he would be overly involved in his career. But Muhammad said his father is not working with him anymore.

• Speaking of the draft, but apparently James Harden mocked the Thunder taking Steven Adams.

• In case you missed it, Shawn Marion opted in with the Mavericks for $9.3 million next year rather than test the free agent market. That was wise.

• Kwame Brown opted in with the Sixers before free agency started, he will be with the team and make $2.9 million next season.

• Lou Williams is apparently doing well in his recovery from ACL surgery.

• New Orleans’ new rookie Pierre Jackson has a left patella injury and may have to skip summer league.

51Q: Does Ty Lawson vault the Rockets into the top tier of championship contenders?

DENVER, CO - MARCH 07:  James Harden #13 of the Houston Rockets controls the ball against Ty Lawson #3 of the Denver Nuggets at Pepsi Center on March 7, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Rockets defeated the Nuggets 114-100. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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I see five clear upper-echelon championship contenders –  Warriors, Spurs, Clippers, Thunder and Cavaliers.

Do the Rockets belong in that group, or do they fill the next tier by themselves?

Ty Lawson – acquired for pennies on the dollar – could put Houston over the top.

But, really, this premise might not be fair to the Rockets. They earned the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference last season and reached the conference finals last season. James Harden finished second in MVP voting. Dwight Howard looked like a star during the playoffs. The supporting cast – Trevor Ariza, Terrence Jones, Donatas Motiejunas, Patrick Beverley, Corey Brewer and even Jason Terry – played better than anyone expected. Young players like Clint Capela, K.J. McDaniels, Sam Dekker and Montrezl Harrell could make a leap at any moment.

There’s a case to be made we should have taken Houston more seriously even before trading for Lawson.

I didn’t, though, and I don’t think many others did either.

I suspect one of the biggest reasons is the Rockets’ balance. Houston – 12th in points scored per possession, sixth in points allowed per possession – was one of only two teams to win more than 51 games last season without ranking top five in either category. Of the seven teams with so many victories, the Hawks – sixth, seventh – were the only other. Atlanta was a darling team, winning 60 games after going 38-44 the season prior. The Rockets’ modest win increase, from 54 to 56, drew less attention.

But balance shouldn’t be punished. Houston’s surprisingly strong defense should be celebrated. Lawson might push its middling offense over the top.

There are reasons to question that, though.

The biggest is Lawson’s sobriety. If he’s not focused and engaged, this all goes out the window. His comments about going to rehab only because it was court-ordered raise doubts, though they hardly foretell anything.

Let’s say Lawson’s off-court problems are behind him. How big of an upgrade is he? The Rockets already had a pretty good point guard who fit well with Harden in Beverley. Lawson is a clear offensive upgrade, but in the biggest moments, the ball will still run through Harden. At that point, would you rather have Beverley or Lawson on the floor? Beverley is a far superior defender, and his off-ball offensive game isn’t far from Lawson’s. Beverley is is a fine spot-up shooter, and Lawson’s strengths involve having the ball and creating. Lawson’s biggest boost could come when Harden sits, but that was fewer than 12 minutes per game last season.

Sure, a secondary ball-handler could ease pressure on Harden throughout a long regular season. Lawson and Harden can take turns running the attack.

But we’re talking about title contention, and in those high-leverage situations, it’s Harden’s show. How much does Lawson matter then?

The Rockets have a chance to win a championship. As good a chance as the NBA’s five best teams? I’m not so sure.

UNLV following Kentucky’s lead with combine for NBA scouts

Goodluck Okonoboh, Patrick McCaw
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Kentucky held a two-day combine last season for NBA scouts.

Now, LSU and UNLV are following suit.

Rob Dauster of NBC Sports:

The Runnin’ Rebels will hold their event on October 23rd and 24th at the Mendenhall Center, UNLV’s practice facility, sources told The expectation is that all 30 NBA teams will be in attendance.

LSU has potential No. 1 pick Ben Simmons and another first-round prospect in Tim Quarterman.

UNLV features lottery prospect Stephen Zimmerman.

This won’t replace scouts attending games and watching practices, but the fact that all 30 teams plan to attend shows how seriously the pro league takes these. No college team wanted John Calipari to have that competitive advantage in recruiting, so the smart ones are leveling the field with their own combines. Soon, more college teams will follow.

As the calendar gets packed, NBA teams might have to pick and choose which they attend. At that point, we might get little clues about which prospects they’re scouting hardest.