Petteri Koponen, seven years after getting drafted in first round, still planning jump to NBA

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Earlier this summer, the Mavericks were pressed to create cap space to sign Chandler Parsons and Devin Harris.

They renounced Vince Carter and Shawn Marion, but that still left everything tight. Another way to gain cap room would have been renouncing Petteri Koponen, the No. 30 pick in the 2007 draft who has yet to sign in the NBA and whose rights Dallas holds.

Thankfully for the Mavericks, Dirk Nowitzki accepted a below-market offer – even further below market than the below-market deal that was initially reported.

That allowed Dallas to keep Koponen, who represents a $911,400 cap hit (not actual money he’s paid but that counts against the cap).

Will it ever pay off with an NBA player?

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Finnish point guard Petteri Koponen hopes to be playing in the NBA by the 2015-16 season.

Here at the 2014 FIBA World Cup, Koponen told ESPN.com he intends to make the jump to the NBA after completing the final season on his contract with BC Khimki in Russia.

"I always said my dream is to play in the NBA," Koponen said. "Every summer we talk a little bit with Dallas to see what the situation is and what they think. I’ve got one more year left on my contract in Russia and then of course I would like to come over. I hope I get some options to go there and show I can play at that level."

Team sources say that the Mavs have not ruled out importing Koponen themselves in the future, but there was no discussion of doing so for this season with four point guards already on the roster: Devin Harris and Gal Mekel as returnees and Jameer Nelson and Raymond Felton as the newcomers.

Harris, Mekel, Felton (player option) and Nelson (player option) all have guaranteed contracts for 2015-16, so Koponen won’t necessarily fit any better in Dallas a year from now.

The Mavericks might look to trade Koponen’s rights – a task made easier by his comments here. If Koponen wants to jump to the NBA, Dallas might extract an asset from another team in a deal.

For now, Koponen remains an answer to a trivia question. Who are the only first-round picks prior to this season actively playing outside the NBA without ever signing in the NBA?

In addition to Koponen, the other two: Livio Jean-Charles (No. 28 in 2013 by Spurs) and Fran Vazquez (No. 11 in 2005 by Magic).

For a couple grand, Warriors fans can have Larry O’Brien Trophy visit their suite

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There’s so much money floating around the Bay Area right now thanks to another tech boom, this price almost seems low.

If you have a suite for the Golden State Warriors home games this season — and those are pretty much sold out, the Warriors draw big from the Silicon Valley crowd — you can have the NBA championship Larry O’Brien Trophy visit your suite. All for just a couple grand. From Gilbert Lee, via ESPN’s Darren Rovell.

The best part is it includes champagne… do you get to spray each other with it as you hold up the trophy? Now that would be perfect (goggles included, of course).

Have an issue with this? Why? To the victor goes the spoils. The Warriors may be able to sell this package for years.

Sixers new “Spirit of 76” court is fire

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First, the Sixers nailed the Nike “statement” jersey.

Now, they have announced a new “Spirit of 76” promotion, with seven tribute nights this season honoring the history of the franchise and of the Philadelphia area (and there is plenty of history to honor).

The best part — the “Spirit of 76” court with the bell logo.

Here is the promo vid

I just hope the Sixers team can live up to all the hype.

Wizards’ Markieff Morris to have sports hernia surgery, miss start of camp

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When the Washington Wizards open training camp next Tuesday, starting forward Markieff Morris will not be on the court.

That’s because he will have surgery to repair a sports hernia, a story broken by Candice Buckner of the Washington Post and since confirmed by Chase Hughes at CSNMidAtlantic.com.

While we don’t have details on the surgery, often recovery time for this is just a few weeks, and Morris could well be ready for the start of the season.

Morris averaged 14 points and 6.5 rebounds a game last season, and the Wizards offense was 5.7 points per 100 possessions better when he was on the court last season. With him out, coach Scott Brooks can lean on Jason Smith or Mike Scott for traditional lineups, but don’t be shocked if he tries a little small ball with Otto Porter and/or Kelly Oubre at the three or four.

Morris also is in the midst of a felony assault trial in Arizona (one where he does not need to attend).

Sixers enter camp with Joel Embiid not cleared for 5-on-5, Jahlil Okafor on trade block

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This is the season the 76ers make the leap from team with potential to playoff team fast on the rise.

Maybe.

That’s the plan in Philly, but there are a lot of questions for this team to answer. While a couple of these issues are answered already — Ben Simmons and Markelle Fultz are cleared to play and practice with teammates — a couple big ones still hang around. At the top of the list is “how healthy is Joel Embiid?” Coach Brett Brown doesn’t even have that answer yet, reports Derek Bodner of The Athletic.

It’s this simple: The Sixers outscored opponents by 3.3 points per 100 possessions when Embiid was on the court last season, he was a dominant force defensively who scored 20.2 points a game. When he was off the court the Sixers were 11.5 points per 100 possessions worse. They need him to play and play consistently if the Sixers have playoff dreams. It’s unclear when Embiid will return, but know that the Sixers will be cautious with his minutes again when he does get cleared (he has played just 31 games in three seasons).

Does that mean more Jahlil Okafor? Maybe not, the Sixers are still willing to trade him.

The Sixers have shopped Okafor for most of a year and found no deal they like. Okafor battled knee issues last season and, after a summer working to get healthy, other teams will want to see him play a little before talking trade. If he comes to camp slimmed down and his knee looks right, it could revive trade talks. Using a back-to-the-basket game, he averaged 11.8 points a night shooting 51 percent last season, he’s efficient, and some teams could use what he does (off the bench).

It’s going to be an interesting season in Philly. Are they playoff bound?