Gary Neal

Who are the best free agents left on the board? Here are seven.

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There’s not much left out there. By this point in the summer the guys left as free agents are flawed and are still free agents for a reason.

That said, there are still quality players out there who could help teams. Guys with skill sets that if used properly can bring real value to a team — and at this point you can get them at a good price.

Here are my seven best players left in free agency.

• Gary Neal (restricted, San Antonio Spurs guard). The Spurs gave Neal a qualifying offer but are reportedly about to pull it. If that happens someone will quickly snap up the guy who is the best three point threat still out there and who showed on the NBA Finals stage that he can really play. Last season he averaged 9.5 points a game, can knock down threes, can shoot off the dribble or the catch, and he plays smart defense.

• Mo Williams (Utah Jazz point guard). Williams isn’t great but he’s pretty solid — 12.9 points and 6.2 assists a game last season, plus he shot 38 percent from three. With the need for solid point guards around the league, it’s a surprise he is still on the market.

• Gerald Henderson (restricted, Charlotte Bobcats guard). Another guy who has shown he can play — he scored 15.5 points a game for the Bobcats last season — and play efficiently. There are a number of teams that could use him but nobody is putting in an offer, so the Bobcats may get him back at a steal of a price.

• Brandon Jennings (restricted, Milwaukee Bucks point guard). We’ve broken down his game before — he gets you a lot of points but he over dribbles, takes bad shots and isn’t much of a defender. While we’ve pointed to his flaws he can still play and it’s a surprise someone hadn’t found an offer he would accept (Jennings has long overvalued his own contributions, that may be part if it). Looks like he could be headed back to Milwaukee on the $4.5 million qualifying offer for one year in what would be a forced marriage neither side will be happy about.

• Nikola Pekovic (restricted, Minnesota Timberwolves center). This is a case of the restricted tag working against a player a lot of teams like — no offers came in like he expected because other teams expected (rightfully) the Timberwolves would just match. So now Minnesota and Pekovic are trying to hammer out a deal. It is possible he will just play for the $6.1 million qualifying offer for this year and be an unrestricted free agent next season. But the Timberwolves would like to keep him as the big next to Kevin Love doing all the dirty work, it’s just a question of if they can afford him.

• Kenyon Martin (New York Knicks, forward). For the second straight year Martin is sitting out on the market and someone is going to get him at a steal of a price. Last season with the Knicks he shot 60 percent from the field (only taking smart shots) and was a great big man paint defender. He likely ends up back with the Knicks.

• Mike Miller (Miami Heat forward). When he’s on the court he is a great stretch player who can knock down threes, make smart passes and play solid defense. He’s also banged up so the question is how much he can really give a team (he has played in 60 percent of his teams’ games the last three seasons). The Miami Heat used the amnesty on him and the buzz is Oklahoma City and Memphis — two teams that could use shooting — are going for him the hardest.

Watch Kevin Hart be Kevin Hart at the NBA All-Star Celebrity Game

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Kevin Hart has a movie to promote decided to come out of retirement to play in the NBA All-Star Friday Night Celebrity Game.

And, he did what Kevin Hart does.

Well, except win MVP of the game, that went to Win Butler (the Canadian lead singer of Arcade Fire). Butler led Canada to a 74-63 win over Hart and the USA.

Drake to introduce players for All-Star Game Sunday

Drake stands in front of Canada's bench before the Celebrity Game, part of NBA basketball's All-Star weekend, in Toronto on Friday, Feb. 12, 2016. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)
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You knew Canadian hip-hop star Drake was going to be involved directly in the All-Star Game in a way more than just having his back-and-gold OVO owl gear sold at the Air Canada Centre. Now we know how.

Drake will introduce the NBA All-Star players Sunday.

Drake has experience with this, he has introduced the Raptors — for whom he is a “global ambassador” — before.

This works for me. However, just to be clear, Drake is going to be introducing the players and Sting will headline the halftime show Sunday. Because nothing says NBA and millennials like “Fields of Gold.”

LeBron James says he’s undecided on 2016 Rio Olympics

US forward LeBron James celebrates after
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TORONTO — LeBron James has played in three Olympics, won two gold medals (and a bronze), and has done his duty representing his country internationally.

But it’s why he might skip this summer’s Rio Olympics that turned heads in the last couple days — he is reportedly pissed that Kobe Bryant will not be making his farewell with another gold on the international stage.

As you might expect, LeBron was asked about that during All-Star media day Friday in Toronto. Also, as you might expect, he dodged the question, saying he doesn’t know what he’s going to do this summer.

“Well, for me, I haven’t quite decided if I’m on the fence of going or not,” LeBron said. “But I’ve always loved representing my country. I’ve been playing in the Olympic games since 2004. So, no, I haven’t made a decision yet.”

My guess is LeBron’s body would love him to take the summer off — he’s played in five straight Finals with an Olympics in that mix — but his brand managers (and Nike) would love to see him play.

With him, the USA will win a gold medal. Without him, the USA will win the gold medal. The Americans are clear and away the best team in the world and only they can beat themselves. LeBron’s leadership can help make sure that happens, but it’s not required.

In the end, LeBron needs to do what’s required to bring a championship “to the ‘Land.” The playoffs, and how he feels after them, will likely determine where LeBron is in early August more than anything else.

Jerry Colangelo: Don’t be surprised if Sixers add more voices, experience to front office

PHILADELPHIA, PA - DECEMBER 7: Jerry Colangelo (R) is introduced as special advisor to managing general partner and chairman of basketball operations for the Philadelphia 76ers by general manager Sam Hinkie (L) and owner Joshua Harris (M) on December 7, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 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 Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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TORONTO — Everyone wants to be like the Golden State Warriors. Jerry Colangelo, the Chairman of Basketball Operations for the Philadelphia 76ers, wants his Sixers to be more like the Warriors, too.

Not on the court in style of play (although he’d like all those wins). He means in the front office.

The Warriors front office is a place where a diversity of opinions — from the legendary Jerry West to assistant GM Kirk Lacob, through the analytics team, and on down the line — debate everything with each other and GM Bob Myers. Every idea is welcome, but you need to defend it. Out of those sometimes fierce debates has come an NBA championship roster.

That’s what Colangelo wants to bring to Philadelphia.

“(Golden State) proves the point,” Colangelo said after a ceremony the naming of the Hall of Fame Finalists Friday in Toronto. “If you have the right mix of people you can have a collaborative effort because people respect one another, and usually that comes from people who have had experience, who’ve been around the track. You add all of that to the mix and it could work.”

The Sixers may be looking to add experience and voices, Colangelo admitted, while not saying specifically what that would mean for analytics-driven GM Sam Hinkie’s role.

I think that any time you have an opportunity to enhance your organization, and you bring people in to accomplish that, you consider it. Big time. You really do,” Colangelo said. “And I think in our case we have a very bright young guy in Sam Hinkie, who holds the title of president and GM, and in his space he’s really strong. One could build a case for saying you’d like to have more people added who have experience in other aspects of those jobs. That’s the kind of conversation that’s going on. 

“The first step was me being asked to come in, because of my experience, to maybe help and add to the mix. And the question you’re asking is, ‘is there a need or requirement for someone else?’ Maybe. Probably. That’s all being discussed….

“I’m just saying adding people to the front office. And that’s not demeaning who we have. You want to be strong. If your goal is you want to be in the Finals… you have to take all the steps required to become that. I’d like to hear people say ‘they’ve got the strongest front office in the league.’ That’s a goal. That’s an objective. So it’s going to require more people to make that happen. That’s all.”

This doesn’t mean the Sixers will completely abandon Hinkie’s draft-for-the-future plan — they likely will have three, maybe four, first round picks this season, and multiple ones next season as well. The Sixers aren’t going to just trade those away to become average. That’s not smart. But they have already shown how some experienced, veteran players on the court — Ish Smith, in particular – can lead to significant improvement.

The goal is to do the same with their front office.

That style of management — listening to a diversity of opinions and voices — can certainly work, not just in basketball but in any business. However, at the end of the day, someone has coalesced those voices and have the hammer to make a decision based on those debates.

“If there’s a pecking order, it’s going to start with ownership and it’s going to funnel down,” Colangelo said.

The question is who Sixers owner Joshua Harris gives the hammer to? Colangelo seems to have it now.

Bottom line is expect more changes in the Sixers front office.

“I don’t think we’re where we might be six months from now. I don’t know,” Colangelo said.