TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 13: DeMarcus Cousins #15 of the Sacramento Kings handles the ball during the Taco Bell Skills Challenge as part of NBA All-Star 2016 on February 13, 2016 at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario 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.  Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE (Photo by Joe Murphy/NBAE via Getty Images)
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DeMarcus Cousins has spent All-Star Weekend playing defense on trade, George Karl rumors

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TORONTO — DeMarcus Cousins is an All-Star and he just wants to enjoy it. Hang out with other elite players, take part in the Skills Competition, have dinner at Sotto Sotto, play in the ASG itself, chill with friends. Chill being the operative word considering the weather.

But for parts of the weekend, he has had to play defense, swatting away attempts to get him to slam coach George Karl or talk trade rumors that have him leaving Sacramento. Mention his friend Isaiah Thomas making it to All-Star Game and you get the gregarious Cousins, but when the other topics come up you can feel his frustration, and hear it in his clipped answers.

“First of all, I can’t control the trade (rumors) and I can’t control if I’m traded or not…” Cousins said. “But I do want to be in Sacramento, and I know everybody in Sacramento knows that.”

Cousins isn’t getting traded. Teams may call the Kings, but they get shot down quickly (then those teams leak the rumor they called, making them look good to their fan base for trying). For one, the Kings have a franchise cornerstone piece under a reasonable contract, that’s not someone you trade unless forced to. Second, owner Vivek Ranadive loves him. Third, and this is key, the Kings open a new arena in downtown Sacramento next season — you don’t trade your best and most popular player, the face of your marketing program in the city, while you’re trying to sell luxury boxes and sponsorships in a new arena.

Cousins has also batted down questions attempting to get him to slam George Karl.

“I can go long term with any coach, but that’s not my decision….” Cousins said. “He’s a free, open-minded coach, he lets his players play. I think every player appreciates that.”

He was more direct with deserving new basketball Hall of Fame journalist David Aldridge of NBA.com in a video (and he’s laughing more and in more of a joking mood in the video than how this quote reads):

“I’m tired of it. Stop trying to make a story out of it, we’re fine. Our only goal this season is to make the playoffs. That’s it. All the other stuff, just stop, it’s not necessary.”

Undoubtedly there is some tension in and around the organization with Karl, although he will be around through the end of the season. However, the one thing that was clear with this team going back to Summer League — when the core guys bonded on a plane trip together to Las Vegas (and doing the other things one might do in Vegas) — the locker room is pretty solid.

“Throughout all this, the one thing that’s been good about the whole situation is the guys in the locker room stay together,” Cousins said. “There hasn’t been any separation.”

It seems Karl has never found a way to reach and inspire that group.

Ask Cousins about the rest of the season and you get some variation of “just stay positive.” He admits that’s not been easy after some tough losses of late, but it’s what they need to do to make a run.

“We’ve had a lot of ups and downs over the season, but just find a way to remain positive and get over the hump,” he said. 

That may be easier said than done.

But, at least, Cousins will get the chance to enjoy All-Star weekend.

Report: Jazz agree to two-year deal with seven-time All-Star Joe Johnson

TORONTO, ON - MAY 11:  Joe Johnson #2 of the Miami Heat passes the ball in the second half of Game Five of the Eastern Conference Semifinals against the Toronto Raptors during the 2016 NBA Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre on May 11, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario, 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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The Utah Jazz’ backcourt play was a source of weakness last season, and they’ve made some nice moves in the past few weeks to fortify it. They traded for George Hill before the draft as a starting point guard, and now NBA.com’s David Aldridge is reporting that they’ve agreed on a two-year, $22 million deal with seven-time All-Star Joe Johnson.

This is great value for the Jazz in this market. Johnson isn’t a high-minutes player anymore, but he’s still a capable shooter (he shot 41.7 percent from three-point range with the Heat last season after taking a midseason buyout in Brooklyn) and has a track record of solid playoff performances. Ideally, he isn’t starting, but he’s a great option as a veteran scorer on an up-and-coming Jazz team. GM Dennis Lindsey did good work here.

Report: Dwyane Wade fielding $20 million-per-year offers from Bulls, Nuggets, Bucks, Mavericks

MIAMI, FLORIDA - APRIL 07:  Dwyane Wade #3 of the Miami Heat drives to the basket during a game against the Chicago Bulls  at American Airlines Arena on April 7, 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.  (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
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The plot thickens on the Dwyane Wade saga. After previous reports linked him to the Knicks and BucksThe Vertical‘s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Wade is fielding offers from at least four teams, some of which are in the range of $20 million annually.

The Chicago Bulls, Dallas Mavericks, Denver Nuggets and Milwaukee Bucks have started a courtship process that has included offers in length of two and three years and upward of $20 million a season – a salary the Heat so far have been reluctant to offer, league sources said.

The Nuggets and Bulls have been among the most aggressive pursuers of Wade, league sources said.

Milwaukee has been open to sitting down and talking with Wade, but it doesn’t have the salary-cap space – nor yet the full inclination – to make that kind of a commitment to Wade, league sources said.

Wade grew up in Chicago and played college basketball at Marquette in Milwaukee.

Wojnarowski’s report also indicates that the Heat lowballed Wade on their initial offer, which was in the neighborhood of $10 million annually.

The Heat’s initial offer of $10 million annually – which would’ve constituted a 50 percent pay cut from his $20 million 2015-16 salary – deeply angered Wade, league sources told The Vertical. Even with the Heat planning to counter to a higher figure, league sources said, Wade has been insistent on starting to explore the market and meet with teams once he returns from an overseas vacation, league sources said.

Wade has taken pay cuts several times over the years in Miami — first in 2010 to allow LeBron James and Chris Bosh to come over in free agency, and again in 2014 to allow the Heat to re-sign Bosh. He signed a one-year, $20 million deal last summer.

Wade, of course, has every right to feel slighted by the Heat’s current offer after everything he’s sacrificed for them. And if this is all about money, then going to one of those other teams would be the move. But none of the four teams pursuing Wade are guaranteed to be playoff teams, and in the case of the Bulls and Nuggets it’s highly unlikely they’re in the postseason. So Wade will have to weigh that against the financial side of it if he does decide to leave Miami, which is still tough to imagine.

It’s done (reportedly): Joakim Noah reaches four-year, $72 million deal with Knicks

BOSTON, MA - DECEMBER 09:  Joakim Noah #13 of the Chicago Bulls looks on during the second half against the Boston Celtics at TD Garden on December 9, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts. The Celtics defeat the Bulls 105-100.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)
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New York has made a big bet on a body that has been seemingly breaking down.

As has been expected since before free agency opened, the New York Knicks have signed former Bulls’ center Joakim Noah to a four-year, $72 million contract. Ramona Shelburne of ESPN broke the story.

This reunites Noah and his Bulls running mate Derrick Rose, who was traded to the Knicks recently (for Robin Lopez, which opened up the New York center slot for Noah). Combine those two with Carmelo Anthony and Kristaps Porzingis (who should take a step forward in his second season) and the Knicks look like a playoff team in the East. The long-term picture in New York is still fuzzy (save for Porzingis) but the team should win more games.

However, four fully guaranteed years of Noah is a big risk by the Knicks.

Noah played 29 games last season due to shoulder surgery. Because of back and foot issues he has played more than 70 games in just one of the last five seasons. Due to the injuries, when he has played he hasn’t been quite the same guy the past couple of seasons.

When healthy Noah still brings value. He is an elite rim protector and rebounder, he is a long and athletic defender, and he knows how to quarterback a defense. He’s not going to score much, but he is an excellent passing big who works well from the elbow/high post. Just a few years ago when healthy, he won Defensive Player of the Year.

The Knicks are betting he can be that guy again, or at least close to it. A lot of other teams were not willing to take that gamble.

Even if they get a year or two of quality play, but the fourth year of that deal it could be a mess.

Jared Dudley returns to Phoenix on three-year, $30 million deal

OAKLAND, CA - MARCH 29:  Jared Dudley #1 of the Washington Wizards shoots the ball against the Golden State Warriors at ORACLE Arena on March 29, 2016 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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Jared Dudley is heading back to Phoenix. The veteran forward and podcast superstar tweeted on Friday night that he’s going back to the team where he played four-plus seasons, from 2009 to 2013:

The Vertical‘s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Dudley’s deal with the Suns is worth three years and $30 million.

The deal is fully guaranteed, according to the Arizona Republic‘s Paul Coro:

A Suns locker room that was at times tumultuous last season needs a solid veteran for the locker room like Dudley, and he can still contribute on the court, too. This is a good value deal considering some of the other deals that have been signed today, and Dudley goes back to an organization he’s comfortable with. Good deal for both sides.