San Antonio Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich, left, talks with forward Tim Duncan (21) during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Milwaukee Bucks, Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015, in San Antonio. San Antonio won 95-70. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
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PBT Power Rankings: Spurs take top spot away from Warriors

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For the first time this season, the Golden State Warriors are not in the top spot in our power rankings, that spot belongs to the San Antonio Spurs. The top five teams have separated themselves from the pack. There also is a new team at the bottom of the rankings — your Phoenix Suns.

 
source: 1. Spurs (36-6, LW 2). They have an 11 game winning streak — that makes six seasons in a row with at least a 10-game winning streak, an NBA record. The Spurs have a better point differential than the Warriors for the season, and in the last 10 games the Spurs are beating opponents by 18.1 points per 100 possessions, which is 8.6 more than Golden State.

 
source: 2. Warriors (37-4, last week No. 1). Andrew Bogut said the Warriors have had some slippage in recent weeks and that has caught up to them with a couple losses in the last seven days. That’s been true on the defensive end, where they have been pedestrian for a couple weeks. But also this is just the NBA balancing out — the Warriors have the point differential of a 33-8 team (according to Basketball-Reference.com), they had some losses coming.

 
source: 3. Cavaliers (28-10, LW 3). They went 2-1 on s swing through Texas, the only loss being to San Antonio (where their bench was exposed as an issue). Monday they host Golden State in another good benchmark game for where the Cavs stand in relation to the top contenders. Heavy stretch of home games ahead for the Cavs.

 
source: 4. Clippers (26-14, LW 4). The Clippers could get Blake Griffin back at the end of this week or early next week (if you go by his timetable). Their win streak ended at 10, not coincidentally when DeAndre Jordan was out and their defense slipped vs. Sacramento. On Thursday the Clippers head out on a tough five-game road trip, which starts against the Cavaliers in Cleveland.

 
source: 5. Thunder (30-12 LW 5). Note to Kevin Durant: Oklahoma City is not mentioned in the same breath with Golden State or San Antonio because you haven’t played as well as them this season. For the full season the Thunder are third in net rating behind those West powers, and in the last 10 games the Cavaliers and Clippers have been better. However, on a recent PBT Podcast Spurs writer Jabari Young said he thought the Thunder were a bigger threat to the Spurs than the Warriors.

 
source: 6. Raptors (25-15, LW 7). They won their one game last week, beating the Magic in London, but their starting lineup continues to be an issue with DeMarre Carroll out (their offensive spacing and efficiency is just not the same). They need to find an offensive groove with the Celtics, Heat and Clippers coming up this week.

 
source: 7. Hawks (24-17, LW 9).With the trade deadline approaching and teams looking for a point guard, expect to hear rumors about teams calling the Hawks to discuss Dennis Schröder. But it’s going to take some quality assets to get Atlanta to move him. Rough loss to the Bucks last week as Atlanta got pushed around on the front line for a night.

 
source: 8. Bulls (23-16, LW 6). I don’t believe Chicago is going to miss Joakim Noah as much as much as some pundits think — they are 8-2 without him this season, and the Bulls are 1.5 points per 100 possessions better when he sits (the defense is worse without him but the offense improves). With the emergence of Bobby Portis the Bulls have the depth up front, although in certain matchups they could have used Noah’s rim protection. Lots of road games ahead for Chicago.

 
source: 9. Grizzlies (23-19, LW 12). Coach Dave Joerger said Marc Gasol is tired and will likely get some rest coming up, although that is difficult with Mike Conley still out with a sore Achilles. Memphis has gone 4-2 in the six games Conley has missed, but their not really impressing in that stretch.

 
source: 10. Pistons (22-18, LW 13). Quality win against the Warriors, showing off an impressive defense against that high-powered attack. But this team is still up-and-down, losing to the Grizzlies last week, and a lot of that has to do with a lack of depth that bites them many nights.

 
source: 11. Mavericks (23-19, LW 8). They went 1-3 last week but the losses were to the Cavaliers, Thunder, and Spurs, not going to ding them too much for that. Still, the offense has struggled of late. Long Live Zaza Pachouli for the All-Star Team!

 
source: 12. Celtics (22-19, LW 14). After a slow start to the new year the Celtics have won three in a row, including an impressive comeback against the Pacers (aided by Indiana’s carelessness with the rock). This winning streak has them back as the eighth seed in the East and they will be in a fight the rest of the way to maintain that playoff position.

 
source: 13. Rockets (22-20, LW 15). They have won six of seven, using a more efficient but slower paced offense. They also have done it against teams they should beat (although the OT win against the Pacers and beating Memphis were good wins). Good measuring stick on Martin Luther King day against the Clippers on the road.

 
source: 14. Pacers (22-19, LW 10). Three losses in a row, including a tough one to Boston, but it was fun to see Myles Turner back and putting up numbers Sunday — 25 points on 11-of-13 shooting. On the road against the West this week, not expecting a win in Golden State but they need games like in Phoenix and Sacramento.

 
source: 15. Heat (23-18, LW 11). Three losses last week, but all in the road to the Warriors, Clippers, and Thunder. That happens. They got a win against Chicago and have the Wizards and Raptors on the road this week, those are the kinds of games the Heat need to win to solidify their playoff standing (they are just two games up on nine-seed Orlando).

 
source: 16. Magic (20-19, LW 16). Lost their only game of last week, to Toronto in London, but on the bright side they came from 16 down to force overtime in that one. They are just 1-6 since the ball dropped in Times Square on New Year’s Eve.

source: 17. Wizards (19-20, LW 17). With Bradley Beal back and the offense clicking, the Wizards have started to move into striking distance of a playoff spot in the East (just two games out), which is why the last-second loss to Boston hurt.

 
source: 18. Knicks (20-22, LW 18). Carmelo Anthony had to sit out two games and the Knicks lost both (including to Brooklyn), so it’s good news he is back on Monday against Philadelphia. Heavy stretch of home games and the Knicks are 11-8 on the season at Madison Square Garden, this is a chance to climb back into the playoff chase in the East.

 
source: 19. Kings (17-23, LW 20). They are 5-3 since Jan. 1, which is enough to push them to within one game of Utah for the final playoff spot in the West — wins against the Jazz and Clippers last week helped that cause. As I said on the PBT Podcast that dropped Monday talking All-Stars, I would have DeMarcus Cousins in for sure as a West reserve. He’s earned it.

 
source: 20. Jazz (18-22, LW 19). Utah has held onto its playoff spot but things are getting tight — Sacramento is just one game back, and Portland 1.5. They could use Derrick Favors back in the lineup, he was playing at an All-Star level but this recent injury and time off likely ends the hope the coaches would vote him onto the roster as a reserve.

 
source: 21. Bucks (18-25, LW 25). Khris Middleton and Giannis Antetokounmpo have played better in recent weeks, but that hasn’t saved a Bucks defense that has been surprisingly bad this season. On the road all week in Miami, Houston and New Orleans.

 
source: 22. Trail Blazers (18-25, LW 21). Damian Lillard has played well but in a deep West guard rotation he could be on the outside looking in once the fans and coaches have voted. I’m not sure he can make the roster over Klay Thompson or James Harden, and that’s what it may take (unless the coaches leave Blake Griffin off and add another guard).

 
source: 23. Nuggets (16-25, LW 24). They are in the middle of an eight-game homestead and are 3-1 so far, although the arrivals of the Thunder, Grizzlies, and Pistons will make this a challenging week no matter where the games are played.

 
source: 24. Hornets (18-22, LW 22). They are 1-9 in their last 10 games, they are playing terrible defense and Al Jefferson is still out hurting on the offensive end. After such a promising start to the season Charlotte has slid 3.5 games out of the playoffs in the East and I’m not sure they can make up that ground.

 
source: 25. Pelicans (13-26, LW 23). Despite the team struggles, Anthony Davis should be a lock to be voted in an All-Star by the coaches (he’s averaging 22.8 points and 10.6 boards a game. The Pelicans picked up an exciting win with the Jrue Holiday alley-ooo game winner to Davis, and they now have won two in a row. For this team this season, that’s something to build on.

 
source: 26. Timberwolves (12-29,LW 26). The nine-game losing streak ended thanks to the soft landing that is the Phoenix Suns right now. If you haven’t read coach Sam Mitchel’s two-part Q&A with the Minnesota Post, go do it right now.

 
source: 27. Nets (11-30, LW 27). Owner Mikhail Prokhorov sounds like a guy thinking short term fixes can turn this franchise around sooner rather than doing it via a slower rebuild. If so, if the new GM can’t convince him otherwise, I will pity Nets fans. On the court, their new starting five of Donald Sloan, Wayne Ellington, Joe Johnson, Thaddeus Young, and Brook Lopez has played fairly well together.

 
source: 28. 76ers (5-37, LW 30). How did it take so long for the Sixers to retire Dolph Schayes’ No. 4? He’s a top 50 NBA player all time. Better late than never, I guess. On the court, the Sixers are a respectable 4-7 since Ish Smith joined the team and became their point guard and have a better net rating in their last 10 than even teams like Porland and Orlando.

 
source: 29. Lakers (9-34, LW 29). All we want is Kobe Bryant to be healthy enough to play and walk off the court under his own power in his final game this April, so seeing him come out of games at the half then come back the next night is concerning. Good on Kobe for bowing out of Olympic consideration, even without him on the roster it’s going to be tough to fit all the good young players in that 12 (guys like Paul George, Kawhi Leonard, and Draymond Green are already on the bubble).

 
source: 30. Suns (13-29, LW 28). They are 1-9 in their last 10 and have been outscored by 16.5 points per 100 possessions in those games. This is ugly. The Suns have two first-round picks this June, but remember they traded the Lakers’ top-three protected pick to Philly in a move that had heads scratching around the league at the time.

Report: Lakers, Wizards will not get meeting with Kevin Durant. Knicks still hoping.

Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant reacts to a play during the second half in Game 3 of a first-round NBA basketball playoff series against the Dallas Mavericks on Thursday, April 21, 2016, in Dallas. The Thunder won 131-102. (AP Photo/LM Otero)
Associated Press
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The Thunder remain the front runners.

The Warriors are next in line. The Spurs, Clippers, Celtics, and Heat will get their chances.

Everyone wants a shot to pitch Kevin Durant, the only franchise-changing free agent on the market this year. Two teams who wanted a chance will miss out: The Lakers and Durant’s hometown Wizards, reports Sam Amick of the USA Today.

Despite years of speculation about Durant possibly signing with his hometown Washington Wizards or the Los Angeles Lakers, a person with knowledge of his situation told USA TODAY Sports that those two teams are not expected to land a meeting with the former MVP. As it stands, it’s the six aforementioned teams coming Durant’s way at a location that has not yet been determined.

The New York Knicks have earned their way onto Durant’s radar, having traded for Derrick Rose recently to create quite the combination with Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis. Yet as of now, it remains to be seen how that particular scenario will be handled. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because of the private nature of the situation.

Good on Durant for being up front with teams and saying who is in and out, not wasting time meeting with teams he would never sign with.

That said, it should worry the Thunder that he has opened the door this much.

Just not to the Wizards and Lakers.

Ever since LeBron James returned to Cleveland, there has been an expectation from some fans in other cities that players want to come home. That is not always the case — most players don’t like the added off-court demands and pressures that come with being a star in their hometown. That always stood in the Warrior’s way, more than just questions about the roster.

The Lakers are a year away from really getting into these conversations. The addition of Brandon Ingram to D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and Larry Nance — with Luke Walton coaching — has potential to grow into the kind of team stars will want to join and take over the top. But that’s going to be in 2017 and 2018, not this summer. This Lakers team still needs to jell, and that will take a little time.

Report: DeMar DeRozan only going to negotiate with Toronto, wants to return

TORONTO, ON - MAY 27:  DeMar DeRozan #10 of the Toronto Raptors reacts in the third quarter against the Cleveland Cavaliers in game six of the Eastern Conference Finals during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at Air Canada Centre on May 27, 2016 in Toronto, Canada. 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 Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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DeMar DeRozan has made it clear from the start — he loves Toronto. He wants to stay with the Raptors, here is what he said after they were eliminated from the playoffs:

“My mindset has always been Toronto… When we was terrible, I said I’m going to stick through this whole thing and I want to be that guy who brings this organization to where it is now. I definitely don’t want to switch up after we win.”

Good to his word, he’s not even going to meet with anyone but Toronto come the start of free agency next Friday, reports Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

Source: DeMar DeRozan will focus on getting a deal done to return to the Raptors as free agency opens. No plans to meet with other teams barring the unforeseen development of talks breaking down the Toronto.

While there had been rumors and talking heads pushing his return to his native Los Angeles, DeRozan always has put Toronto first. And the Lakers weren’t going to overspend on him anyway.

DeRozan knows how to get to the rim and averaged 23.5 points a game last season in Toronto, which got him both on the All-Star team and now on the Olympic team for Rio. It also got Toronto to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time. He, along with fellow Team USA member Kyle Lowry, drive the Raptors offense. Yes, he needs to become more comfortable taking (and hitting) the three ball, but he’s still a guy who puts up points. Toronto needs him.

DeRozan is going to get a max or near max deal from the Raptors and they will figure this out quickly, GM Masai Uriji wants to keep him and will not mess around with the negotiations.

Report: Kyrie Irving accepts invitation to join Team USA, rounds out Rio roster

2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup - Day Fourteen
Kyrie Irving
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This was expected. Kyrie Irving tore up the World Championships two years ago scoring 26 points in the gold medal game and being named tournament MVP. Also, the former Duke Blue Devil is one of coach Mike Krzyzewski’s favorites. USA Basketball wanted him in Rio. The question was, did he want to do it after a deep playoff run where he played his best in the Finals? There was an assumption he would, but so many players had bailed that the question was a legitimate one.

Yes, he’s in, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

While the announcement isn’t official until Monday, here is your USA Basketball team for Rio:

Kyrie Irving
Kyle Lowry
Jimmy Butler
Klay Thompson
DeMar DeRozan
Kevin Durant
Paul George
Draymond Green
Carmelo Anthony
Harrison Barnes
DeMarcus Cousins
DeAndre Jordan

You could form a better team with the guys out due to injury or understandably not wanting to deal with the Zika virus and other challenges in Brazil: LeBron James, Stephen Curry, LaMarcus Aldridge, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Kawhi Leonard, John Wall, Damian Lillard, Gordon Hayward, and Bradley Beal.

But that second team will keep Team USA’s 63-game international win streak intact and bring home the Gold again. No question.

Report: Lakers to “aggressively pursue” Hassan Whiteside in free agency

MIAMI, FL - JANUARY 19:  Hassan Whiteside #21 of the Miami Heat reacts to a play during a game against the Milwaukee Bucks at American Airlines Arena on January 19, 2016 in Miami, Florida. 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. Mandatory copyright notice:  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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Hassan Whiteside made $981,348 last season for the Miami Heat.

Next season he is going to make $22 million — the max salary he can get — playing somewhere. Maybe Miami, Pat Riley has said bringing Whiteside and his elite shot blocking plus efficient 14.8 points and 11.8 rebounds per game back is the team’s highest priority. But Golden State also is interested in Whiteside. So is Dallas. So is Portland. And that’s just the start of a long line of teams.

You can add the Los Angeles Lakers to the list, reports Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein of ESPN.

With rim protection and perimeter shooting ranking as the Lakers’ foremost areas of concern heading into the open market, sources told ESPN.com that Whiteside has emerged a priority target for L.A.

This is about as surprising as Hamilton winning a wheelbarrow full of Tony Awards.

The Lakers are likely refocusing their free agent targets after it appears they have not been able to get a meeting with Kevin Durant (and even if they do they are long shots to land him).

The Lakers certainly need rim protection inside. They like their young forwards Julius Randle and the just drafted Brandon Ingram, but in Luke Walton’s more Warriorsesque system someone has to protect the paint on defense and that is not those guys strength. Whiteside would do that, he could score a little, and he would fit the young, up-and-coming profile of the Lakers.

Whiteside will have options. While teams (including Miami) would like to get Whiteside for a little less than the max, with so many teams in the mix that seems unlikely. Simple supply and demand. In an NBA trending toward space bigs who are athletic and can protect the rim and cover in space are highly sought after and there are only a few of them. The Lakers want him.

Miami likely keeps Whiteside with a max offer, but as they are in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes they may want to stall a move on Whiteside (the Heat only have early Bird Rights on Whiteside, they need to use cap space to re-sign him, they can’t do that and max out Durant). Maybe that cracks the door open for another team. The Lakers will try to get their foot in that door.