Report: Pacers making ‘strong push’ for Shawn Marion with Paul George out

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Here’s a full list of remaining unrestricted free agents worth more than a minimum salary:

1. Shawn Marion

2. Ramon Sessions

3. Ray Allen

4. Andray Blatche (in the right environment only)

The pickings are slim. That’s why the Pacers are especially ill-suited – if there is such a thing when your franchise player suffers a season-ending injury – to replace Paul George. So, they’re going hard at, not only the most appealing name on that short list, but the player who fits best into the role George vacates.

Shams Charania of RealGM:

Marion is a huge upgrade over a couple other Indiana targets, MarShon Brooks and Gary Forbes. But Marion will also likely be costlier.

The Pacers have already used their full mid-level exception on C.J. Miles and Damjan Rudez, and they used the bi-annual exception on C.J. Watson last year.

Indiana can get a disabled-player exception by convincing an NBA-selected doctor George is “substantially more likely than not” to be out through June 15.” I don’t think that’s a tough case to make.

A disabled-player exception would be worth $5,305,000 and could be used to give Marion a one-year contract. That would definitely trump the minimum-salary contract ($1,448,490) Marion’s most-prominent other suitor, the Cavaliers, could offer.

However, the Pacers – even if they waive Donald Sloan’s unguaranteed contract to drop below 15 players – would be just $2,570,314 below the tax line. That small amount, barely larger than a minimum salary, probably won’t tempt Marion to help Indiana try to make the playoffs rather than help LeBron James try to win a championship.

Maybe the Pacers would clear more room below the tax line by waiving Luis Scola and/or Shayne Whittington, both of whom have partially guaranteed contracts, but they can’t afford to trim much depth with George sidelined. Without star power, a deeper rotation becomes more important.

That’s why Indiana is pushing for Marion, but as the team is constructed, making a tempting offer will be difficult.

Warriors say Kevin Durant doing non-contact drills, could return before end of season

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Kevin Durant has been working out on the court before the last couple of Warriors road games, and people watching have taken note — he was moving well, shooting, and generally looking healthy for a guy coming off a grade 2 MCL sprain and a bone bruise.

Reports were out that Durant was on target to return before the end of the season.

Wednesday the Warriors confirmed that.

Teams are vague, realistically what is that timeline?

Durant likely would be on a minutes restriction for those game, but just getting to shake the rust off and work on his conditioning in a real game would help Golden State heading into the playoffs.

Not that they need much help, having won eight in a row. The Warriors have a 2.5 game lead over the Spurs for the top seed in the Western Conference heading into the game between the two Wednesday night.

Check out Lakers’ stretch of hitting 15 straight shots to end third quarter (VIDEO)

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The Lakers lost to the Wizards because they are young, inconsistent, and defend like traffic cones at times.

But that young Lakers core also has its moments.

Los Angeles strung together 15 straight made buckets to end the third quarter Tuesday night. Some of it was flukey, like Corey Brewer driving and finishing contested layups like he’s Kyrie Irving, but there were things Lakers fans should want to see such as D'Angelo Russell draining threes, Jordan Clarkson working hard off the ball and his teammates finding him, and Julius Randle just attacking.

After this run the Lakers led by 13 going into the fourth, but lost the game.

It’s official: Joakim Noah cleared to play, 20-game suspension starts tonight

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What this ultimately means is next season the Knicks should have Joakim Noah available just before Thanksgiving.

Noah has been suspended 20 games for testing positive for a banned substance, but because he was out due to knee surgery the suspension did not start until he was “physically able to play.” Noah said on Tuesday that he had been cleared, but that was just by the team doctors. He also had to be cleared by the NBA’s doctors (because if teams could cheat they would).

That happened Wednesday, according to Ian Begley of ESPN.

Noah’s first season in New York after signing a four-year, $72 million deal has been a disappointment. To put it kindly. He’s not been completely healthy, and any observer of him the past few years had to wonder if he would ever be fully healthy again. He had lost a step from the 2014 Defensive Player of the Year before the Knicks signed him. The Knicks don’t need him to necessarily be that dominant a force again (although it would be nice), but they need to get more out of him and see if he is a fit next to Kristaps Porzingis for now as the Knicks try to build a roster for next season that can play a little defense. And the triangle.

Report: Pacers bring back Lance Stephenson in time for playoffs; deal for three-years, $12 million

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The Indiana Pacers need healthy bodies for their playoff run, and they had three rotation guys injured between Al Jefferson, Glenn Robinson III, and Rodney Stuckey. Wednesday, the Pacers waived Stuckey to create an open roster spot to bring in some help (they were not going to pick up his option for next season anyway).

Who are they bringing in? The prodigal son Lance Stephenson returns, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

The surprising part of the deal was the security Stephenson got, as first reported by Adam Zagoria at his blog — three years, $12 million, with a player option for the final year. (This has since been confirmed by other sources.) Other teams were looking at giving Stephenson a 10-day contract, the length of the Pacers’ offer is a surprise.

Stephenson played in six games for Minnesota recently, averaging 3.5 points per game off the bench, but an ankle sprain kept the Timberwolves from really having to decide whether to keep him for the season. Stephenson knows how to create shots for himself and can be a good defender when focused, something we saw with the Pelicans at the start of this season — he became a key part of their rotation averaging 9.7 points and 4.8 assists per game until he tore his groin.

It’s a little strange to see him back in Pacers colors. It will be particularly strange if the Pacers stay in the seven seed and the Cavaliers remain the two-seed setting up a first-round playoff series. Because I don’t think any of us need to see this again.

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