Nikola Pekovic will miss EuroBasket while waiting on new NBA contract

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Nikola Pekovic will not be competing for Montenegro in next month’s EuroBasket championships. The Minnesota Timberwolves’ center was expected to be an important part of his team’s attempt to qualify for next year’s FIBA Championships and eventually the 2016 Olympics, but his contract situation with the NBA will prevent that from happening this year.

Pekovic is currently a restricted free agent, but his management and the Wolves haven’t been able to come to terms on what will reportedly be a four-year extension worth between $12 and $15 million  per year. Because of the ongoing negotiations, Pekovic’s representatives have apparently recommended he doesn’t participate in the upcoming FIBA tournament in order for him to stay injury-free, according to a report on the official website of the Basketball Federation of Montenegro.

The club apparently put an August 5th deadline on Pekovic reporting for duty in order for him to get into shape and in sync with his teammates prior to the early-September start of the FIBA Europe Championship tournament. That deadline came and went without a new NBA deal for the 27-year-old center, however, so the team’s officially decided to move on with the roster they already have assembled.

The Montenegrin team’s only other NBA player is fellow big man Nikola Vucevic of the Orlando Magic and he’s expected to play, but the squad will definitely feel the absence of Pekovic as he works on figuring out his NBA contract. They’re grouped with Germany, Italy and Croatia in the first round of pool play, meaning they could be facing the Knicks’ Andrea Bargnani and new Detroit Pistons signee Luigi Datome along with possible future NBAers Bojan Bogdanovic, Mario Hezonja and Dario Saric. That isn’t exactly a murderer’s row of European players, but it certainly wouldn’t have hurt to have Pekovic available to protect the paint against them.

The fact that Pekovic’s missing the EuroBasket tournament, by the way, likely means that he and the Wolves aren’t as close to getting a deal done as some have reported. Because, if that were the case, it’d seem something could’ve been done to make sure he was available to represent his country in their bid to qualify for the next Olympics.

Report: Celtics focused on adding All-Star-caliber frontcourt player

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Isaiah Thomas said he he’d happily forgo a renegotiation-and-extension if the Celtics use their cap space to upgrade their roster.

Where are they looking?

A. Sherrod Blakey of CSN New England:

Multiple league sources have told CSNNE.com in recent weeks that the Celtics are focused on landing an All-Star caliber talent in the frontcourt.

In the last three years, 22 frontcourt players have been All-Stars. Boston already has one: Al Horford. Could the Celtics land any of the other 22?

Almost certainly unavailable

Free agency

Trade

Free agency or trade

  • Pau Gasol (Though Gasol said he’d opt in, San Antonio might try pushing him out to pursue Paul. If Gasol opts in, the Spurs could also trade him to clear space for Paul.)
  • Dirk Nowitzki (The Mavericks have a $25 million team option on Nowitzki for next season. Nowitzki going to Boston, via trade or free agency, would probably require a mutual agreement between Dallas and him that pursuing a title elsewhere is the right way for him to end his career.)

Report: Spurs exploring Chris Paul pursuit

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The Clippers are taking the Chris Paul-to-Spurs rumors seriously.

And apparently so are the Spurs.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The San Antonio Spurs are exploring the feasibility of making a free-agent run at All-Star point guard Chris Paul, league sources told ESPN.

San Antonio must complete three difficult objectives to land Paul:

  • Clear cap space. Even if they trim their roster to Kawhi Leonard, LaMarcus Aldridge, Pau Gasol, Danny Green and Tony Parker, the Spurs would still have to dump two of them to clear max room. Can they convince Gasol to reverse course and opt out, maybe re-signing at a major discount? Would they trade Parker, who has meant so much to the franchise? Would they deal Aldridge or Green, players who would make major contributions to a Leonard/Paul-led team?
  • Convince Paul to accept a projected max of $152 million over four years rather than the projected $205 million he could get over five years from the Clippers. Although the annual difference is just $3 million and Paul could sign another deal in four years, it’s unlikely he recoups that at age 36.
  • Convince Paul to leave big-market L.A. for small-market San Antonio. Remember, Paul forced his way from small-market New Orleans then ascended into one of the NBA’s biggest endorsement stars.

The Spurs boast a fantastic basketball culture, and Leonard and Popovich make great partners in a championship chase. There are reasons San Antonio is gaining traction with Paul.

But there’s still a lot for the Spurs to overcome. Will they? At least they’re trying rather than just dismissing the plot as unfeasible.

Cleveland GM David Griffin: “I hope everybody says we have no chance”

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The Golden State Warriors are heavy favorites to win the NBA title. According to bovda.lv, bet $100 on the Warriors to win the title and you get $41.7 dollars. Bet $100 on the Cavaliers and you get $200. And that number is likely to get worse for Warriors fans.

The Cavaliers are okay with that. They like being the underdogs. Look at what GM David Griffin said in a televised interview after they eliminated the Celtics in Game 5, via Cleveland.com.

“I hope everybody says we have no chance,” General Manager David Griffin said during a TV interview following the Cavaliers’ 135-102 win Thursday night against the Boston Celtics, clinching a third straight NBA Finals appearance.

“Obviously the team we’re playing is as good as you can possibly put together, it’s going to be an unbelievable battle for us, but I think [the Cavs] love battling together. The greater the odds, the better we seem to play together. We really do rally around each other in that sense.”

There is some truth to that.

There’s also a difference between that truth and slowing Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant. How the Cavaliers are going to do that will be the interesting part of these playoffs.

Detroit’s Van Gundy honored for cooperation with media, fans

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AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Stan Van Gundy of the Detroit Pistons has won the Rudy Tomjanovich Award, which honors an NBA coach for his cooperation with media and fans, as well as excellence on the court.

The Professional Basketball Writers Association announced the winner Friday. Van Gundy was one of five finalists for the award. The others were Steve Clifford of the Charlotte Hornets, Mike D’Antoni of the Houston Rockets, David Fizdale of the Memphis Grizzlies and Brad Stevens of the Boston Celtics.

Dwane Casey of the Toronto Raptors won the award last season.