Even if they could, should the Lakers go after ‘Melo to pair with Kobe, Nash? No.

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We start this exercise in the hypothetical with this grounded in reality caveat — very few people around the league think Carmelo Anthony is leaving New York next summer as a free agent. Yes, he certainly will opt out of his current deal as he told the New York Observer, and anything can happen in a year, but the conventional wisdom around league front offices is he stays put. He worked too hard to get to NYC and would leave a guaranteed year and $30 million on the table to bolt.

That said, if he leaves, the Lakers are the most likely landing spot. Kobe and Anthony are buddies, he lives there in the off-season, his wife loves it there, the Lakers have cap space… we can go on if you want.

Yes, Dallas is a potential landing spot as are a bunch of other teams with cap space (Charlotte, Philadelphia, Orlando and so on). Plus other teams with trade chips could try to get in the mix (Greg Monroe in Detroit?). But the Lakers are the team most people point to when they talk about ‘Melo leaving the Big Apple.

To me, the bigger question is: Would that really a smart idea for the Lakers?

No, not really.

Not if they are trying to build a title contender.

First, it’s going to take a salary cap high wire act to get Anthony to the Lakers. While it well documented the Lakers only have $12 million on the books next season ($9.7 million of that belonging to Steve Nash) they have massive cap holds for Kobe Bryant ($32 million) and Pau Gasol ($20.2 million). (This assumes the Lakers do not trade Gasol mid-season.) There are also cap holds for Steve Blake, Jordan Hill and others the Lakers might renounce.

The only way for the Lakers to use all that cap space to bring in Anthony is to either renounce the rights to Kobe or Gasol, or get one of them to take a reduced contract and let the other one walk. That second option is the more likely scenario — the Lakers aren’t going to let Kobe go but they will ask him to take a Kevin Garnett/Tim Duncan pay cut down to the $10 million range (and despite his earlier comments I expect he will). If that happens the Lakers can sign ‘Melo to a max deal, pair him with Kobe and Nash.

Again, there are a host of ways it could go down but that is the most likely scenario….

And it’s a  terrible one if the Lakers are chasing a ring.

Look at what LA would have: The Lakers would start the 2014-15 season with 30-year-old Anthony, 36-year-old Kobe Bryant and 40-year-old Nash surrounded by a bunch of role players. The best part is all of them are likely running Mike D’Antoni’s system that Anthony chaffed against in New York.

Even if they change systems it wouldn’t matter. The Lakers would have two unconscious gunners who love (and make a fair amount of) bad shots, plus they would be a defensive mess. Their best players would be old, injury prone and in a deep West this roster likely is a middle of the pack seed that would be one-and-done. Even if they keep Gasol somehow it doesn’t change the dynamic. Then in a few years they could try to rebuild around Anthony and his massive contract as his skills are deteriorating.

How would this seem like a good plan to anyone?

The Lakers can take a meeting with Anthony next summer, but he is a terrible rebuilding plan. They can find a better one.

Three things to watch: Boston Celtics vs. Washington Wizards

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1. How much will these teams’ disdain for each other color the series?

Back in January, the Wizards wore all black for a figurative funeral while arriving for a game against the Celtics then buried Boston in a 123-108 win.

But the Celtics are still alive and ready for the next stage in a rivalry that has included:

Both teams appear primed for more hijinks. The Wizards taunted the Hawks throughout their first-round series, and Boston crossed the line with the Bulls.

2. Which team is actually better?

The Wizards outpaced the Celtics in my adjusted-for-playoff-rotation rankings before the postseason began. But getting a clear picture of who’s in the teams’ playoff rotations and counting the first round turns the tables.

Here’s both teams’ offensive, defensive and net ratings from the regular season to counting only lineups (regular season and first round) comprised of five players projected to be in the teams’ rotation this series:

1. Boston Celtics

  • Offensive rating: 112.4 to 116.2
  • Defensive rating: 109.8 to 110.4
  • Net rating: +2.6 to +5.8

4. Washington Wizards

  • Offensive rating: 111.7 to 115.6
  • Defensive rating:  110.0 to 110.5
  • Net rating: +1.7 to +5.1

Even with the flaws in these numbers – small sample sizes and no control for competition – the question of which team will put a better team on the floor in this series isn’t everything. Boston has home-court advantage, and that matters.

The complete updated playoff-rotation-adjusted ratings will be released Monday, after the first round ends.

3. How will the MVP-vote-getting point guards match up?

Both the Celtics and Wizards are reasonably deep, but good luck keeping your eyes off their star point guards. Isaiah Thomas and John Wall both received fifth-place MVP votes, tributes to their importance to their teams.

Thomas is Boston’s lone reliable scorer, and that brings a heavy fourth-quarter burden – which he has answered all year. Even when opponents know he’ll get the ball, they haven’t stopped him. Wall also drives Washington’s offense, though he does it with a more balanced passing and scoring attack throughout the game.

But Wall’s primary argument for superiority over other big-name point guards – including Thomas – is his defense. The 6-foot-4 Wall will have an opportunity to show that against the 5-foot-9 Thomas. Likewise, Thomas has a chance to pester Wall enough to show the defensive gap isn’t too wide.

Warriors hope to get Shaun Livingston, Matt Barnes back for second round

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OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — The Golden State Warriors hope to get injured reserves Shaun Livingston and Matt Barnes back from injuries for the second round of the playoffs after getting more than a week off between series.

The Warriors said Saturday that Barnes has been upgraded to probable for Tuesday night’s Game 1 and Livingston remains questionable but is hopeful he will be ready to return. Star forward Kevin Durant is expected to be a full go after missing two games and being limited to 20 minutes in Game 4 last round because of a strained left calf.

Barnes has been sidelined since April 8, while Livingston sprained a finger on his right hand in Game 1 of the first-round against Portland.

Golden State begins the second round at home on Tuesday night against the winner of Sunday’s Game 7 between the Los Angeles Clippers and Utah Jazz. The Warriors have been off since sweeping the Trail Blazers last Monday, giving them more than a week between games.

“I’m trying to make sure I rest it as much as I possibly can, because when I do come back I plan on staying all the way back,” Livingston said Saturday. “Hopefully it will be ready for Tuesday.”

After taking Tuesday and Thursday off following their first-round sweep, the Warriors practiced for a second straight day Saturday. They plan to practice again on Sunday and then again Monday once they know their second-round opponent.

There is no update on the status of coach Steve Kerr, who missed the final two games of the first round because of complications from two back surgeries. Kerr talks daily with interim coach Mike Brown and took part in coaching meetings Friday but was not at practice on Saturday.

PBT Extra: Rockets vs. Spurs far more than Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden

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Kawhi Leonard vs. James Harden. Two MVP candidates matching up in the second round of the NBA playoffs.

However, the San Antonio Spurs vs. Houston Rockets is much more than that.

It’s a battle of pace. It’s a chess match between two of the best coaches in the game. It’s about which team’s role players are going to step up.

I talk about all of that in this latest PBT Extra. Plus, of course, when Leonard will guard Harden.

How to start your Saturday night: Watching 15 minutes of best plays from NBA season

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There are no NBA playoff games Saturday night, the first night since the start of the postseason there hasn’t been one game. Don’t worry, there are two games on Sunday, including Game 7 between the Jazz and Clippers.

But if you need a Saturday night fix, this will have to do: 15 minutes of the best plays from last season, as compiled by NBA.com.

Go ahead, watch it. You’ve got nothing better to do.