Paul George

Report: Pacers to apply for disabled-player exception after Paul George’s injury

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Paul George is reportedly out for the season after his horrific leg injury.

Sometimes, those evaluations are inspired by public-relations – rather than medical – reasons. (See Serge Ibaka.)

The Pacers surely don’t want people repeatedly asking when George will return. Better to just put the matter behind them, for a season at least, by declaring him out now. If he comes back earlier, all the better, and a year of incessant questions will be avoided in the meantime.

But now Indiana will put that diagnosis before an impartial physician.

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

The Indiana Pacers are expected to apply to the NBA for a disabled player exception in the wake of forward Paul George’s gruesome broken leg, according to a league source.

The Pacers must convince an NBA-selected doctor George is “substantially more likely than not” to be out through June 15 to get the disabled-player exception (DPE). It would allow the Pacers to sign a player to a one-year contract worth up to $5,305,000, or they could trade for or claim off waivers a player who makes up to $5,405,000 and is on the final year of his contract.

There’s really no harm in applying. If the request is denied or Indiana gets, but doesn’t use, the DPE, there’s no consequence.

And it’s certainly possible the Pacers wouldn’t use it, especially not in full.

For one, they also have 15 players under contract, the regular-season limit. But Donald Sloan’s contract is fully unguaranteed, and Shayne Whittington’s is just $25,000 guaranteed. It wouldn’t be difficult to clear a roster spot.

The luxury tax presents a much larger problem.

Indiana is just $1,622,151 below the tax line. That room would almost assuredly increase if the Pacers take the necessary step of clearing a roster spot to make room for another player – to $2,570,314 if they waive Sloan for example. But even with the DPE, George would continue to count against the cap. Maybe Indiana also waives Whittington and/or Luis Scola, another player with a partially guaranteed contract, but that’s a lot of trimming.

And for what?

The best and best-fitting free agent on the market, Shawn Marion, is leaning toward signing with the Cavaliers. No other unrestricted free agents makes sense above the minimum with the exception of Ray Allen, but I sure don’t see him in Indiana.

The trade market could reveal more possibilities – Marco Belinelli (Spurs), Dorell Wright (Trail Blazers) and Luc Mbah A Moute (Timberwolves) to name a few ideas – a trade partner’s desired return and the tax-avoiding gymnastics necessary to facilitate a deal are probably too much for the Pacers.

Indiana would be wise to seek the DPE in case it proves useful. Even if the Pacers get it, George could return earlier than expected, and the player they acquired with the DPE would remain eligible.

But the most significant outcome of the application very well could be the public learning what a neutral doctor really thinks of George at this point. If that doesn’t seem very significant, that’s because it’s not (unless the request is denied).

Spurs honor Kobe Bryant in his last game in San Antonio (VIDEO)

LOS ANGELES - MARCH 30:  Kobe Bryant #8 of the Los Angeles Lakers stands next to Tim Duncan #21 of the San Antonio Spurs on March 30, 2006 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, California.  The Spurs won 96-85. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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The Kobe Bryant farewell tour has gone all around the NBA, but some stops are more emotional than others. His final trip to San Antonio certainly qualifies — the Spurs and Lakers have played each other in the playoffs eight times in his career, including twice in the Western Conference Finals (the Lakers won both times). The only player who has rivaled Bryant’s longevity is Tim Duncan, and the Lakers and Spurs were the two most dominant teams of the 2000s, winning nine of the 12 championships from 1999 to 2010 between them.

So, of course, the Spurs had an elaborate tribute video planned for Bryant. The video ran two and a half minutes and featured narration from Gregg Popovich, Tony Parker and Manu Ginobili. Watch it below:

Report: Clippers’ Austin Rivers has broken hand, out 4-6 weeks

LOS ANGELES, CA - JANUARY 29:  Austin Rivers #25 of the Los Angeles Clippers scores on a layup past D'Angelo Russell #1 of the Los Angeles Lakers during a 105-93 win at Staples Center on January 29, 2016 in Los Angeles, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and condition of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
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The Clippers are without Blake Griffin for the next few weeks as he recovers from a broken hand stemming from an altercation with an equipment manager. Now, the Clippers have lost backup point guard Austin Rivers to the exact same injury, albeit not in the same circumstances, obviously.

The loss of Rivers isn’t as devastating as the loss of Griffin, but given the Clippers’ lack of depth, it’s certainly not ideal. Now, Chris Paul‘s only backup is Pablo Prigioni.

Warriors hold off late Thunder run to remain undefeated at home

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For once, a marquee matchup involving the Golden State Warriors lived up to its billing. Their much-hyped meetings with the Cleveland Cavaliers and San Antonio Spurs were anticlimactic blowouts nearly free of drama. And for the first half on Saturday night’s 116-108 win over the Oklahoma City Thunder, it seemed like the defending champions were headed for another snoozer. They led by as much as 20, and completely outmatched the Thunder on both ends of the floor.

But the Thunder rallied behind a surprising defensive effort in the second half and some solid play from Enes Kanter. Plus, you know, Kevin Durant, who led all scorers with 40 points and gave the normally unflappable Draymond Green fits defensively. They tied the game at 104 before Golden State pulled away.

Despite the huge first-half lead, the Warriors weren’t their usual selves. Stephen Curry shot 1-for-8 from behind the three-point line, and triple-double machine Draymond Green scored just nine points. Golden State’s most consistent player was Harrison Barnes, who has probably read the speculation that the Warriors would have to dump him to land Durant this summer. He hit three three-pointers and shot 8-for-14 overall on the way to 19 points.

The Warriors’ bench carried them for stretches, outscoring Oklahoma City’s reserves 42-17.

Despite the Thunder’s late run, this was a statement win for the Warriors. They sent the message that, even when they aren’t in total control from start to finish, they can still pull away from other elite teams. The Thunder have given them the toughest challenge of any team they’ll likely have to face in the late rounds of the playoffs this spring, and it’s to their credit that they took the first-half punch and came back to make it a game. But the Warriors are on a different level from the rest of the league, and they showed that clearly on Saturday.

Kevin Durant brushes off free-agency speculation: “Once that time comes, I’ll make that decision”

OAKLAND, CA - JANUARY 05:  Kevin Durant #35 of the Oklahoma City Thunder drives on Harrison Barnes #40 of the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on January 5, 2015 in Oakland, California.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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It goes without saying that with the Thunder and Warriors playing each other for the first time on Saturday night, Kevin Durant free-agency talk has been at an all-time high. The hot rumor this week is that the Warriors are the frontrunners to land Durant this summer, which would shake up the league like nothing since LeBron James going to Miami.

Obviously, all parties were going to be asked about it before the hotly anticipated game. And obviously, all parties were going to downplay it. That’s exactly what happened.

Here’s what Durant said, via the San Francisco Chronicle‘s Rusty Simmons:

“Once that time comes, I’ll make that decision. I’ll sit down and talk to my closest friends and family and figure it out, but right now, I’m just trying to be the best basketball player I can be every single day. I have to be at a high level to lead every day at practices, shootarounds and games, and that’s a tough task. I can’t focus on anything else, other than that.”

Warriors coach Steve Kerr also downplayed the speculation:

“I don’t know why anybody would talk about anything but the fact that we’re 45-4 and have a hell of a team,” said Kerr, who hasn’t addressed rumors about Durant favoring the Bay Area as a future destination with his players. “Why would anybody talk about some different team, future stuff and other players?

“Focus on our team. We’re pretty good.”

On both sides, that’s the appropriate way to respond publicly. Not that this is going to go away anytime soon. They play each other two more times this season, once in Oklahoma City and once more in Oakland, and this is going to get brought up then, too. And just like Saturday, nobody will give a definitive answer. Nor should they. Nobody will know anything until July 1. But until then, it will be impossible to quiet the chatter.