Houston Rockets v Portland Trailblazers - Game Six

Damian Lillard’s desired free agent targets: Mo Williams, Channing Frye, Vince Carter, Spencer Hawes, Trevor Ariza

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LeBron James indicated a fondness for Shabazz Napier, and the Heat traded up to draft him.

No NBA player wields the power of LeBron. Seriously, I wonder whether Pat Riley needed any scouting beyond LeBron’s tweet to get Napier. When the King asks implies, especially when he’s headed into free agency, you listen.

Damian Lillard doesn’t have the same pull, but he’s definitely emerging as one of the NBA’s most marketable stars. If he wants to coerce the Trail Blazers into making a move, they should listen.

I’m not sure whether the guard is doing that here or just being a 23-year-old with an opinion.

Either way, Lillard is making his preferences known.

Chris Haynes of CSN Northwest:

Sunday night when CSNNW.com asked All-Star point guard Damian Lillard if there are any free agents of his preference, first and foremost, he went with his dynamic backup.

“Yeah…Mo Williams,” Lillard responded in a text.”

When pressed for other players he’d like the team to bring in or at least look at, Lillard sent a response text that included four names.

“Channing Frye, Vince Carter, Spencer Hawes, Trevor Ariza,” read Lillard’s text in that order.

Carter is “open” to the idea of coming to Portland and helping boost the bench up, we’re told by someone close to the veteran guard.

The Trail Blazers will have the non-taxpayer mid-level exception ($5,305,000) and bi-annual exception ($2,077,000) to spend on free agents. Everyone Lillard mentioned is likely to receive offers in the MLE range.

They’re also all quality shooters who would accentuate Portland’s offensive firepower. Either Lillard is taking responsibility for elevating the Trail Blazers’ defense himself, or he’s still not thinking enough about that end.

Williams gave Portland’s bench some life last season following a year of historic ineptness. It’d make sense to bring him back, but Portland would be wise to pay the declining 31-year-old based on what he’ll do during his next contract, not what he did last year.

If the Trail Blazers pay Williams more than $3,325,608 next season, they’ll have to use the mid-level exception to re-sign him. Otherwise, they can use the non-bird exception and save the MLE for someone else. As Lillard points out, there are plenty of quality options available.

PBT Podcast: Derek Fisher fired, plus your trade questions from Twitter

Derek Fisher
Associated Press
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Derek Fisher is out as coach of the New York Knicks.

In this latest podcast, NBC Sports’ Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman discuss the odd timing of that move — we expect another shoe to drop as to why. It’s not that Fisher was a great coach, but replacing him with Kurt Rambis mid-season is not an upgrade. And Luke Walton isn’t available until this summer.

After struggling to figure out what the Knicks are thinking, Helin and Feldman answer questions off Twitter from readers/listeners on the coming trade deadline including discussions of Blake Griffin, Jeff Teague, the Pistons, the Jazz, the Knicks, and more.

As always, you can listen to the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunesdownload it directly here, or you can check out our new PBT Podcast homepage, which has the most recent episodes available. If you have the Stitcher app, you can listen there as well.

Warriors’ center Festus Ezeli to have knee surgery, out indefinitely

Golden State Warriors center Festus Ezeli, left, of Nigeria, looks to pass the ball as Denver Nuggets forward Darrell Arthur defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Sunday, Nov. 22, 2015, in Denver. Golden State won 118-105. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
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Festus Ezeli has been a rock-solid backup for the Warriors this season, playing almost 18 minutes a night behind Andrew Bogut giving the team 7.5 points and 5.9 rebounds a contest. Golden State’s defense is 3.6 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court, and he’s part of the team’s long-term plans.

But he’s going to be out for a while now following knee surgery, the team announced and as reported by Monte Poole at CSNBayArea.com.

http://www.csnbayarea.com/warriors/festus-ezeli-undergo-knee-surgery

The surgery is exploratory, which is why the Warriors say there is no timeline for recovery yet.

The surgery is on his left knee; it was his right one that had reconstructive surgery and forced him to miss all of two seasons ago.

This is a blow to the Warriors’ depth, but little has slowed their march this season. More Mo Speights is not ideal, but the Warriors can just go small more often and run teams out of the building that way.

Ezeli is a restricted free agent this summer and the Warriors would like to keep him on the roster and expand his role, particularly if they do not retain Andrew Bogut. The severity of this knee injury could impact Ezeli’s ability to earn a big contract this summer, but hopefully for him, it’s not that serious.

Russell Westbrook stands behind Kevin Durant, mimics him during interview (video)

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Russell Westbrook, right, gestures after scoring as forward Kevin Durant stands by during the second half of an NBA basketball game, Friday, Jan. 8, 2016, in Los Angeles. The Thunder won 117-113. (AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill
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Choose your spin.

This is why Kevin Durant is leaving the Thunder. Russell Westbrook doesn’t respect him.

or

This is why Kevin Durant is re-signing with the Thunder. He and Russell Westbrook have so much fun together.

Report: Magic open to talking Tobias Harris trade, looking to add experience

Memphis Grizzlies guard Tony Allen (9) grabs the uniform of Orlando Magic forward Tobias Harris (12) in the first half of an NBA basketball game Monday, Jan. 25, 2016, in Memphis, Tenn. (AP Photo/Brandon Dill)
AP Photo/Brandon Dill
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Tobias Harris signed a four-year, $64 million contract with the Magic just last summer.

Now, just 50 games later…

Marc Stein of ESPN:

I’m skeptical this is significant. Teams discuss trades for many players for a variety of reasons. That doesn’t mean the player is likely to be dealt.

Orlando in particular has a roster of players who cause significant debate about their value. It’s helpful to know what other teams think of Harris, and soliciting trade offers is a good method to learn his worth.

It’s more intriguing the Magic are looking to add experience. They should probably go the opposite route, but they’ve tried (and failed) for years to accelerate their rebuild. At 22-28 – four games and three teams from playoff position – now is not the time to seek shortcuts. Spend the rest of the season developing young players – and probably securing a higher draft pick in the process.

One of Harris’ best traits is his youth. He’s just 23. See what other teams would offer for him, sure. But, in all likelihood, it’s better to let him grow into the veteran Orlando needs rather than trading him for one when the rest of the team isn’t ready to win, anyway.

My guess is that’s what Orlando will do. Remember, always consider who has incentive to leak this information anonymously and what they’d be positioned to know.