Suns trade Luis Scola to the Pacers for Gerald Green, 2014 first round pick

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UPDATE 2:48 p.m.: Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports the deal has been agreed to, and will send Gerald Green, Miles Plumlee, and a lottery protected 2014 first round draft pick to Phoenix in exchange for Luis Scola.

“The trade is consistent with our stated plan to continue to acquire young assets,” said Suns President of Basketball Operations Lon Babby, in the team’s official release.  “With this trade, we now have the potential for three first-round picks in the 2014 draft and five first-round picks in the next two drafts.”

“Although Luis’s time here in Phoenix was short, he certainly ingratiated himself to all of us in Phoenix with his hard work and professionalism. He will be an important contributor to a contending team in Indiana.”

“We are excited to add Miles and Gerald to our young core group of players,” said Suns General Manager Ryan McDonough.  “Miles was one of the best players in the Orlando Summer League, and Gerald’s scoring ability and athleticism will help us as we continue to build a team that plays an exciting, up tempo brand of basketball.”

12:54 a.m.: As the Suns continue to look at deals that will get them younger while they attempt to rebuild from the ground up, another one of the team’s veteran players is on the verge of being sent out of town.

The Pacers are close to completing a deal with Phoenix to acquire Luis Scola, according to a report from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports.

The other players or picks involved beyond Scola on both sides are unclear at this point, but the details are expected to be worked out overnight and finalized at some point on Saturday.

An early stage of the discussions may have involved Danny Granger, but Marc Stein of ESPN.com reports that Granger is now not part of the package.

Scola can still play a bit, and his decrease in minutes last season in Phoenix should be viewed in context of what was going on there, and not as some sort of indication that Scola’s skill set had diminished so rapidly. The Suns threw in the towel once they replaced Alvin Gentry with Lindsey Hunter mid-season, and once that happened, the rotations were so erratic that nothing could be gleaned positively or negatively from a particular player by simply looking at the minutes he received.

In Indiana, Scola will only need to do better than Tyler Hansbrough did for them off the bench, which is setting the bar relatively low, even for a player like Scola who will be 33 years old while entering his seventh NBA season.

Scola has a low cap number of just $4.5 million this year, and is only partially guaranteed the $4.8 million in the final year of his deal the following season. That makes players like Gerald Green or Ian Mahinmi a match to come back to Phoenix in a trade from a salary standpoint, although the Suns will no doubt try to get draft picks in the deal, as well.

Scola has carer averages of 14.2 points and 7.5 rebounds per game, and appeared in all 82 contests for the Suns last season.

Marcus Smart returns, helps Celtics win Game 5 over Bucks

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Marcus Smart returned to the Boston Celtics after suffering a thumb injury earlier in the year, and boy was it just in time.

The Celtics guard came off the bench, doing what he does best: attacking opposing guards, grabbing rebounds, and making hustle plays for his squad. Smart thoroughly annoyed the Milwaukee Bucks, and as Giannis Antetokounmpo failed to make a push in the second half (and as Khris Middleton‘s shooting slowly deteriorated) it was Boston who came out with a win in Game 5, 92-87.

Milwaukee’s offense failed to show up early. According to NBA TV, it was the second-lowest halftime total for the Bucks this season, and the away team scored just 37 points at the break. Milwaukee struggled mightily as a team, shooting just 21 percent from 3-point range. Despite the issues, both Antetokounmpo and Middleton had 11 points by half.

Boston’s attack was balanced, with nine players scoring in the first half but none reaching double figures. Smart was effective off the bench, playing 12 minutes in the first half. Smart’s presence was felt elsewhere on the floor as well; in those minutes he racked up two blocks, two rebounds, and two assists.

The Celtics stalled to start the third quarter, at times going several minutes between baskets. The intensity level was still high, particularly during one tussle with 9:33 left in the third. Eric Bledsoe and Terry Rozier got into a bumping match on the baseline away from the ball, resulting in one player getting pushed into an official. Bledsoe earned a Flagrant 1 for his efforts, and Rozier was assessed a technical.

Milwaukee began to battle back on surprising baskets by Shabazz Muhammad. The former Minnesota Timberwolves wing dropped two 3-pointers to help the Bucks make a run at the Celtics all the way into the fourth quarter.

The critical play of the game came with 80 seconds left. With the shot clock winding down, Al Horford was allowed by officials to shoot a long jumper. The refereeing crew didn’t blow the whistle, and Boston took a second possession after a backtip.

Then, with 28 seconds left as the Bucks were trying to steal or foul the Celtics, came the play Boston fans had been waiting for from Smart. At first it appeared Milwaukee had shot at a turnover as they hustled Smart to the floor on a trap. Thinking quickly, Smart leapt on the lost ball, flipped over, and sent a pass to a wide open Horford for the basket, all but sealing the game.

Milwaukee tried to play the foul game in the final minute or so, but weren’t able to come up with a win. Antetokounmpo finished with just 16 points and Middleton with 23. Horford led the Celtics with 22 points, 14 rebounds, and three assists.

Boston now leads the series, 3-2, as they head back to Milwaukee for Game 6 on Thursday.

Meek Mill gets out of jail, takes helicopter to 76ers-Heat, rings bell pregame

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Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid had been one of the most notable NBA players leading the charge for the #FreeMeekMill movement. The rapper Meek Mill, a Philadelphia native and Sixers fan, has been incarcerated for violating the terms of his probation multiple times.

At the heart of the movement to free Meek Mill is the idea of comparative justice, that he has been unfairly targeted because of his race as an absorber of punishment from the penal system despite it being a decade since he committed his crime. People from Embiid to New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft have made their voices heard on the subject.

Today, Meek Mill was released from prison and was sent a special gift: the opportunity to fly via helicopter, provided by 76ers minority owner Michael Rubin, to Game 5 between the Sixers and Miami Heat.

When he arrived at the game, the rapper rung the ceremonial bell before tip-off.

Not a couple of hours fresh out of the joint.

Russell Westbrook fined $10,000 for confrontation with Gobert, no suspension

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The rule in the NBA is clear and strictly enforced (just ask Amar’e Stoudemire and the Suns): Leave the bench during an altercation and you get suspended for a game.

Monday night, in the fourth quarter of the chippy game Monday where the Jazz beat the Thunder, Russell Westbrook was set to check into the game when there was a little dust-up between Rudy Gobert in Raymond Felton, and Westbrook came in and escalated it. Did he leave the bench, or was he coming into the game and that’s different.

The NBA decided he was coming into the game already — Westbrook got a $10,000 fine and an after-the-fact technical, but no suspension.

OKC needs Westbrook — and an aggressive Westbrook who is knocking down his midrange shot — to have a chance to avoid elimination in Game 5 Wednesday. The Thunder have had their strengths turned against them, and have not shown the versatility to adjust in this series, and if Westbrook and company cannot change that Wednesday their season will end.

Nets hire Pablo Prigioni as assistant coach, Tiago Splitter as scout

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NEW YORK (AP) — The Brooklyn Nets have hired former NBA player and Argentine guard Pablo Prigioni as an assistant coach.

The Nets also announced Tuesday that former Spurs center Tiago Splitter was hired as a pro scout.

Prigioni spent most of his professional career in Spain and won a bronze medal with Argentina in the 2008 Olympics before coming to the New York Knicks in 2012 as a 35-year-old rookie. He spent four years in the NBA with the Knicks, Rockets and Clippers.

Splitter helped San Antonio win the 2014 NBA championship before spending the final two seasons of his seven-year career with Atlanta and Philadelphia. The Nets said Splitter, who also played for Brazil’s national team, will have added duties related to player on-court development.