Report: Lakers and Mavericks interested in Lance Stephenson if they strike out on LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony

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LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony are keeping NBA free agency in a holding pattern. Those two are so much ahead of the rest of the field, teams will wait for them before pursuing fallback options.

Melo will likely choose his new team soon, though LeBron could take much longer.

Whenever it shakes out, Lance Stephenson – unhappy with the Pacers’ five-year, $44 million contract offer – will get plenty of looks.

Chris Broussard of ESPN:

Stephenson has drawn interest from the Dallas Mavericks and Los Angeles Lakers, though both teams have other free agents prioritized above Stephenson, according to sources.

The Lakers are one of the top contenders for Melo, so getting him would likely take them out of the race for Stephenson. But if Melo returns to the Knicks or anywhere else outside Los Angeles, I love the idea of Stephenson on the Lakers.

The Lakers owe the Phoenix a top-five protected first-round pick next season, and I doubt they tank hard enough to keep that. With their high ticket prices and big sponsorship deals, they need to be competitive.

Offer Stephenson a two-year max contract with the second year fully unguaranteed. He’d make the Lakers better, and he’s one of the NBA’s most exciting players, too. He’d also have huge trade value even if he tanks due to that large expiring contract.

The Mavericks would also make an interesting suitor with Jose Calderon, traded to the Knicks, vacating a starting backcourt spot. Stephenson and Monta Ellis can both handle on-ball duties, though I’m not sure they combine into a capable point guard. Dallas has made a habit of finding undervalued free agents, so I’d guess Stephenson signs there only if the market dries up elsewhere.

Of course, Indiana remains in the mix to retain its near-All-Star.

Since I last covered how much the Pacers can pay Stephenson, they signed Lavoy Allen. Assuming Allen is on a one-year contract, I projected Indiana can offer Stephenson just $38,445,570 over five years – $15,445,570 to remain below the luxury-tax line.

The good news for the Pacers? Stephenson is in no rush. That should give Larry Bird time to shop Roy Hibbert or take other cost-saving measures.

Small moves like waiving Luis Scola, waiving Donald Sloan, waiving Shayne Whittington, stretching Ian Mahinmi and/or waiving Allen if his deal isn’t fully guaranteed might create room for Indiana to increase its offer to Stephenson.

But if the Pacers are unwilling or unable to appease Stephenson, he’ll have other options.

LaVar Ball confronts wrestler at WWE event (video)

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — LaVar Ball has brought his Big Baller Brand from the basketball court to the wrestling ring.

The outspoken father of NBA draft No. 2 pick Lonzo Ball showed up with the newly minted Los Angeles Laker and another son, 15-year-old LaMelo, for a live segment on Monday’s “WWE Raw” at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.

During the segment, LaMelo Ball twice used the n-word, which was broadcast over the air. WWE says in a statement to the Los Angeles Times that the language “was not scripted nor reflects WWE’s values.”

For LaVar Ball’s appearance, the ring was decorated with mannequins displaying his Big Baller Brand clothing line. He got in a heated confrontation with WWE wrestler The Miz, and took his shirt off to cheers from the crowd.

Bulls, with Michael Carter-Williams, first team to decline extending qualifying offer to Rookie of the Year

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Just four years ago, Michael Carter-Williams won Rookie of the Year.

Now, the Bulls don’t even see a $4,187,599 qualifying offer as worth extending.

David Kaplan of CSN Chicago:

Credit Sam Hinkie for trading Carter-Williams (to the Bucks) at just the right moment, netting the 76ers a valuable Lakers first-round pick that Philadelphia used to trade up for Markelle Fultz. Carter-Williams hasn’t nearly lived up to the typical production of a former Rookie of the Year.

The Bulls got Carter-Williams far cheaper from Milwaukee, for Tony Snell (who had a breakout year with the Bucks). But Carter-Williams continued to regress in Chicago. It’s just hard for a point guard with such a shaky outside shot, and Carter-Williams’ injuries haven’t helped.

With a smorgasbord of point guards that now includes Kris Dunn and Cameron Payne, the Bulls can move on.

Carter-Williams can probably latch on as a backup point guard somewhere. As an unrestricted free agent, teams will have greater comfort pursuing him. But this is a blow for someone with such a big accolade on his résumé.

Celtics’ reported plan: Sign Gordon Hayward, trade for Paul George

AP Photo/George Frey
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The Celtics are trying to sign Gordon Hayward.

They want to trade for Paul George.

It seems those goals are not mutually exclusive.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

The Boston Celtics are pursuing an aggressive summer plan of sequencing the signing of free agent Gordon Hayward and relinquishing the assets needed to complete a trade for Paul George, league sources told The Vertical.

For salary-cap purposes, Boston wants a Hayward commitment before it can finalize a trade for George and secure the most dynamic free-agent coup in franchise history, league sources said.

For Boston, here’s the hitch: While Indiana believes Boston can offer the best possible package, the Pacers may be unwilling to wait until the start of July free agency on Boston’s timetable and could turn toward making a deal elsewhere for George, league sources told The Vertical.

The Celtics can clear cap space to sign Hayward. They have the ammo to trade for George. They could do both.

But, as covered before, there’s probably not a path to signing Hayward and extending George’s contract.

So, how much would Boston surrender for George on an expiring contract? The risk he walks in a year, particularly for the Lakers, should lower the Celtics’ offer.

Still, Boston could trade for the Pacers star and roll the dice on re-signing him. Playing with Hayward – and Isaiah Thomas and whichever other players the Celtics keep in this arrangement – would be pretty appealing.

Rumor: LeBron James would ‘never’ join Clippers

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The Clippers hired Jerry West, in part, to help lure LeBron James.

But even with LeBron-to-Los Angeles (Clippers or Lakers) rumors swirling, that plan might not even get off the ground.

Mike Wise of The Undefeated on Freddie and Fritz:

I’m going to give you something on this show, and this is breaking news. Nobody else is going to have it.

I got from a very good authority – a very good authority – that LeBron James will never be a Clipper. I can’t tell you who, but I’m going to tell you it’s somebody that knows, and LeBron James will never be a Clipper. I don’t know if that’s because he remembers what the Clippers used to be, or he just doesn’t want to put his lot in there, or he thinks Steve Ballmer is just too animated on the sideline.

He’s never going to be a Clipper. I’m just telling people right now, for your edification. I’m breaking this on the Freddie Coleman and Fitz show.

I don’t believe in “never” in situations like this. As Jerry Seinfeld would say, teams are just laundry. The Clippers can change owners, general managers, coaches, players. LeBron would remain absolutely opposed to joining?

Maybe, but I won’t go that far without knowing his reason for resisting the Clippers. A lot can change between now and 2018, when LeBron can opt out.

One of the Clippers’ biggest selling points was always going to be Chris Paul, LeBron’s close friend. Reading the tea leaves, maybe this is a sign Paul will leave this summer – for the Spurs, Rockets or somewhere else.