It’s official: Pacers sign Andrew Bynum for rest of season

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UPDATE  #2 11:02 a.m.: It’s official, the Pacers have announced that Andrew Bynum has signed with Indiana for the remainder of the season.

Bynum had wanted to play for more than the league minimum (we don’t yet know the details of the contract yet but the Pacers could offer more than the minimum) and for a contender, he got those things in Indiana.

“It really wasn’t a hard decision, I think it’s the right fit for me and, in all honesty, I think we’ve got the best chance of winning,” Bynum said in a statement released by the Pacers. “It will be great to back up Roy and I’ll do whatever I can to help this team.”

“We are obviously happy to have him join our team,” Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird said in a statement. “He gives us added size, he is a skilled big man and he has championship experience. With the minutes he gets, he should be a valuable addition.”

 This gives the Pacers an even bigger and more formidable front line. They start Roy Hibbert up front with David West and now off the bench can bring Bynum, Ian Mahinmi, Luis Scola and Chris Copeland. Just as importantly for them, the Miami Heat can’t sign Bynum and throw him at Indiana in what seems an inevitable Eastern Conference Finals matchup. 

UPDATE 8:53 a.m.: Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reports that “barring an unforeseen snag,” Indiana will sign Andrew Bynum today.

8:00 a.m.: Conventional wisdom has been the only reason the Indiana Pacers were in the discussion to sign Andrew Bynum was to keep him away from the Heat. However, since Greg Oden has played fairly well in limited minutes for Miami, talk of signing Bynum to bring him to South Beach kind of cooled and interest in Bynum overall seemed lukewarm.

Now it appears the Pacers are close to inking a deal with Bynum.

At least that’s the report from the Indy Star, something confirmed by Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Bynum and his agent met with the Pacers Friday night, according to the Indy Star.

Bynum’s agent David Lee told The Indianapolis Star that he and Bynum were in town. According to Lee, Bynum and the Pacers have not reached a contractual agreement.

“(Bynum) has not signed as yet,” Lee said on Friday night.

The Pacers have All-Star center Roy Hibbert as the starter and bring Ian Mahinmi off the bench in a rotation that has worked very well — the Pacers at 35-10 have the best record in the East. They are strong up front, a defensive force — they are not signing Bynum to plug a hole in their rotation. Which makes the signing curious, if it goes through.

Bynum started the season injured under contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He went on to play 24 games for them, starting 19, and he averaged 8.4 points a game on just 41.9 percent shooting, plus he grabbed 5.3 rebounds a game. On the court he was limited and with that lost favor with coach Mike Brown. Off the court he was enough of a distraction that the team suspended Bynum the day after Christmas. The Cavaliers traded his contract at the deadline to the Bulls, who instantly waived him.

Bynum has ongoing knee issues which have required multiple surgeries and there are questions of if Bynum has the will, dedication and love for the game to push through them in play.

Bynum was a free agent for more than two weeks and what was holding teams back was both the concerns about his desire and that he reportedly wants more than the league minimum to play (and teams were loath to offer that)

If the Pacers do sign Bynum at whatever may get a little run, but mostly this would be a preventative strike.

Marcus Smart wants to be back for Game 6 vs. Bucks

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Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart has been out for some time after injuring his thumb earlier in the year. The absence of one of Boston’s most important guards has been felt even more so after Kyrie Irving went down following knee surgery.

In short, the Celtics would like to have Smart back on the floor.

We’re now close enough that Smart has begun to give solid timeframes to reporters. Speaking to media on Sunday, Smart said that his plan is to be back for Game 6 against the Milwaukee Bucks. Boston took on Milwaukee on Sunday in Game 4.

Via ESPN:

Right now, [a Game 6 return is] the plan and we’re still on the same track,” Smart said before Game 4 on Sunday. “I’ve been doing everything but contact, so I will be able to go and start that.”

Smart said he believes the thumb is ready for contact.

“The surgery did its job,” said Smart, who injured himself March 11 while diving for a loose ball in a game against the Indiana Pacers. “Thumb is holding up well. I feel ready, I feel strong enough to get back out there. I’m just waiting on the OK.”

The series between the Celtics and Bucks has been tumultuous, a back-and-forth affair as an injury-riddled Boston squad takes on a healthy but offensively-sluggish Milwaukee team. Smart could add a shot of life for Boston in a much-needed way.

The Bucks won Game 4 and the series is now tied, 2-2. Game 6 would be on Thursday, April 26 if need be.

Manu Ginobili leads Spurs over Warriors

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Although the San Antonio Spurs were outmatched against the Golden State Warriors, Manu Ginobili was an integral part of the Spurs staving off elimination against the reigning champs on Sunday. San Antonio beat the Warriors, 103-90, to put the series at 3-1.

The 40-year-old wingman scored 10 of his 16 points in the fourth quarter in San Antonio as Ettore Messina logged a playoff win at the helm of the team. Gregg Popovich, who sadly lost his wife this past week, did not coach.

Ginobili was 5-of-10 off the bench, adding five assists and three rebounds in the win. LaMarcus Aldridge led all Spurs scorers with 22, notching a double-double with 10 rebounds.

Meanwhile, the only Warriors player to score more than 12 points was Kevin Durant, who rose above all scorers with 34 points to go with 13 rebounds. Klay Thompson shot an embarrassing 25 percent from the field, scoring just 12 points.

Ginobili put the dagger on the Warriors with 90 seconds to go, hitting a spinning flip shot over Draymond Green to give San Antonio a 10-point lead.

The series heads back to Oakland for Game 5 with the Spurs trailing, 3-1.

Kevin Durant on Giannis Antetokounmpo: ‘I would tell him to play for himself’

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Kevin Durant was once the big star in a little city. The former Oklahoma City Thunder star now plays for the Golden State Warriors, and has a championship ring to his name after making a switch in 2016.

So Durant has at least some experience similar to that of Milwaukee Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo. The Greek Freak is currently leading the charge for the Bucks against the Boston Celtics in the first round, and he’s seen as the future in Milwaukee. Antetokounmpo signed a 4-year, $100 million contract in the summer of 2016, so presumably he’ll be in Wisconsin for some time.

Meanwhile, Durant had some advice for Antetokounmpo, should he ask for it. In a feature on ESPN, Durant was quoted as saying he felt Antetokounmpo should be sure to have fun, and to play for himself.

Via ESPN:

What I would say to him, I would tell him to play for himself,” Durant said. “Because he’s the one out there putting in the work, he’s the one out there getting up in the morning staying committed to the game. Obviously [the comments about staying put] sounds good to the fans in Milwaukee and to the ownership, because he cares so much about wanting to please them and play well for them, and I get it. But his career is about him; it’s about whatever he wants to do and however he feels is right for him. And what type of basketball does he want to play? He’s not going to stay in Milwaukee if he’s not having fun playing the game.

That’s some pretty good advice, although factors surrounding Antetokounmpo will likely weigh the same as they did on Durant in OKC. The Bucks presumably need a new coach once their season ends. They’re currently helmed by interim coach Joe Prunty, who took over when Jason Kidd was fired earlier this year.

The Bucks also need to fill out their roster and find a way to stay healthy. The Thunder famously had roster issues (read: the James Harden trade) and eventually the lack of playoff success drove Durant to switch teams.

Milwaukee doesn’t seem close to that kind of juncture, although eventually things will flip for the young Bucks and fans and management will expect some kind of production in the postseason.

Giannis Antetokounmpo beats Celtics with late-game tip-in; series tied 2-2

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It was an exciting finish in Milwaukee on Sunday, where the Bucks took home a win on their home court to level the series against the Boston Celtics, 2-2.

The game came down to the wire, with 2016-17 NBA Rookie of the Year Malcolm Brogdon giving the Bucks the lead after a corner 3-pointer with just 33.5 seconds left. The Celtics responded with a sideline out of bounds play that resulted in Al Horford tying the game with free throws.

On their final possession, the Bucks again went to Brogdon, who missed on a layup driving to the left side of the floor. Luckily, Giannis Antetokounmpo was there to follow with the tip-in with just five seconds left.

Via ESPN:

Boston was unable to convert on a final play, and Milwaukee grabbed the win, 104-102.

Game 5 will be in Boston on Tuesday.