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.

Russell Westbrook’s sixth straight triple-double leads Thunder past Hawks 102-99

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ATLANTA (AP) — Russell Westbrook extended his streak of triple-doubles to six games, leading the Oklahoma City Thunder to a 102-99 victory over the skidding Atlanta Hawks on Monday night.

Westbrook scored 32 points, grabbed 13 rebounds and doled out 12 assists, giving him the NBA’s longest streak of triple-doubles since Michael Jordan had seven in a row in 1989.

Westbrook’s run has sparked a six-game winning streak by the Thunder. He’s now reached double figures in all three categories in half of the Thunder’s 22 games.

By contrast, Jordan had 15 triple-doubles for the entire 1988-89 season.

Westbrook kept his streak alive with plenty of time to spare. Despite a poor start shooting, he already had 15 points and 11 rebounds when he picked up his 10th assist with 6:20 left in the third quarter.

Scooping up a loose ball after a turnover by the Hawks, Westbrook led a 2-on-1 that ended with a pass to Victor Oladipo for a layup that gave the Thunder a 69-59 lead.

Westbrook, who missed eight of his first nine shots, suddenly found his touch in the third quarter. He made five of his next seven shots, three of them beyond the arc, and finished with 16 points in the period as the Thunder stretched a one-point halftime lead to 83-69 heading to the fourth.

Atlanta rallied down the stretch, but Westbrook closed it out for the Thunder. He finished with 27 second-half points to send the Hawks to their seventh straight loss and 10th defeat in the last 11 games.

It’s the longest losing streak for the Hawks since they dropped eight in a row in February 2014.

Coach Mike Budenholzer decided to shake things up, sending Kyle Korver to the bench and putting Thabo Sefolosha in the starting lineup. The Hawks also were bolstered by the return of Paul Millsap, who had missed three straight games with a sore hip. He led five players in double figures with 24 points.

It didn’t matter. Westbrook made sure of that.

Atlanta had a shot to send the game to overtime after Korver forced a jump ball.

The Thunder clamped down defensively off the inbounds play, and Tim Hardaway Jr.‘s desperation 3-pointer at the buzzer failed to hit the rim.

MONSTER JAM

Oladipo wasn’t afraid to take on Dwight Howard in the lane.

During the second quarter, the 6-foot-4 Thunder guard drove the baseline and slammed one over Atlanta’s 6-11 center, rocking the rim and drawing gasps from the crowd.

Oladipo savored the moment, pumping his fists, stomping his feet and posing briefly in the lane even as the Hawks took off the other way.

RECRUITING DWIGHT

Billy Donovan made a recruiting pitch to Howard while coaching at Florida.

During his pregame chat with the media, the Oklahoma City coach recounted a visit to Howard and his father at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy.

Donovan quickly gave up any hope of getting Howard to attend college.

“All I had to do was watch one AAU game and then I stopped recruiting him immediately,” he quipped.

Howard, of course, went straight from high school to the NBA in the days before the rules required at least one year of college. He was the first overall pick of the Orlando Magic in 2004.

 

Follow Paul Newberry on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/paul-newberry .

Al-Farouq Aminu active for Trail Blazers

PORTLAND, OR - APRIL 25: Al-Farouq Aminu #8 of the Portland Trail Blazers celebrates with a teammate after hitting a three point shot in the first quarter of Game Four of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Los Angeles Clippers during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Moda Center on April 25, 2016 in Portland, Oregon. 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 Steve Dykes/Getty Images)
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CHICAGO (AP) — Portland Trail Blazers forward Al-Farouq Aminu is active for their game against the Chicago Bulls after being sidelined by a left calf injury.

Coach Terry Stotts says Aminu will be restricted to around 20 minutes Monday night “depending on how it goes.”

Aminu started the first eight games of the season before he got hurt Nov. 8 against Phoenix. He is averaging 6.4 points and 6.6 rebounds.

Victor Oladipo with the two-handed throw down over Dwight Howard (VIDEO)

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That. Was. Nasty.

After some good ball movement from the Thunder (which started with pretty much their entire team collapsing on Russell Westbrook), Victor Oladipo drove out of the corner aggressively, Dwight Howard tried to rotate over, but he was a step too late and… damn.

By the way, if your question is “did Westbrook get his sixth straight triple double” the answer is of course he did.

Report: LeBron James, other Cavaliers will not stay at Trump hotel in New York this week

NEW YORK, NY - MAY 02:  A view of the Trump International Hotel on May 2, 2016 in New York City.  (Photo by Rob Kim/Getty Images)
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There are a few regular hotels where NBA teams stay in the New York area, one of them is the Trump Hotel in Soho. It fits the general bill — high-end hotel that works to cater to the specialty needs of NBA players and teams, and it’s in a great location in the city.

It’s where the Cleveland Cavaliers were booked to stay when the team visited New York this week, but LeBron James and other Cavaliers have been excused by the team and will stay at another location, reports Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

A group of Cleveland Cavaliers players have been excused from staying at the team’s planned accommodations, the Trump SoHo hotel in lower Manhattan, when the defending champions visit New York City this week to play the New York Knicks, multiple team sources told ESPN.com.

Other members of the team’s traveling party will stay at the 46-story luxury building opened in 2010 and branded through a licensing agreement with President-elect Donald Trump, as the Cavs have a contract with the establishment…

LeBron James is included in the faction of players who will not be staying at the Trump SoHo, according to multiple sources. James publicly endorsed Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton about a month before Clinton lost the election.

Richard Jefferson, J.R. Smith, and Iman Shumpert have all expressed unhappiness with the election results publicly. Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert was a Trump supporter who conducted a fundraiser for the now president-elect.

These players are not the only ones making this move, and several teams have worked to shift away from Trump properties nationwide.

Of course, this is going to lead some people to freak out in the comment section — people who barely watched the NBA for the last decade will proclaim their boycott of the Cavaliers and league — but honestly, what LeBron is doing is what we should all do, support businesses and causes that align with our beliefs. Avoid those that don’t. If you don’t like the way they run their business and donate money, don’t eat Ben & Jerry’s ice cream. If you have issue’s with Donald Trump, don’t stay at his hotels and don’t golf at his courses. Speak with your dollars, it’s often the most efficient way to get a message across (hence the unending parade of “boycotts” of businesses across the nation).

So long as LeBron cleared this with the team and makes it to shootaround on time, this is no big deal. But, go ahead in the comments and tell us about how you’re disrespected.