Report: Hawks telling teams Paul Millsap is off trade market

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Of course, the real question becomes “is he really?”

The Atlanta Hawks have won seven in a row and moved into the four seed in the Eastern Conference, which is one reason some questioned why the Hawks would want to move their best player in Paul Millsap, but he was put on the trade market. After looking at that market, the Hawks have decided to pull him off it, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal Constitution added these details.

Which brings us back to the first paragraph above: Is Millsap really off the trade market, or is this an effort to extract more out of the teams calling in? It’s a fair question to ask, however, there are several reasons the Hawks may have reached a decision to keep Millsap.

• They really do want to compete in the East — they have an elite defense this season (fifth best overall this season, second best in the NBA the last 10 games) and with Millsap this is a solid playoff team with a chance to make the second round. There is a “get into the playoffs and maybe the breaks go our way” idea that could help sell the Hawks on this path. Management in Atlanta was torn on this issue from the start, not everyone wanted to move on from Millsap, and that may have combined with other factors to kill the trade idea. (The flip side of this argument is they are also not nearly on the level of Cleveland, and likely couldn’t beat Boston or Toronto in a series, so this gambit very likely does not mean a trip to even the conference Finals.)

The Hawks wanted a “substantial” first round pick for Millsap, and teams were not biting for a guy who is a free agent this summer and could be a rental, or they would have to re-sign with a max contract.

• Atlanta ownership is good with offering Millsap (age 32) the max next summer — as a 10-year veteran, that will start around $36 million a year — and believe they can keep him and be successful with him in the future. (They have been concerned Millap would leave and they would get nothing, as happened with Al Horford.)

• In the past couple of years, under new ownership, the team has become more financially successful, drawing in millennials and people living downtown and in the more urban areas of Atlanta to the games (they changed the focus from trying to get people in the suburbs to drive into town). Trade Millsap and this team is Dennis Schroeder, Kent Bazemore, Dwight Howard and not much else — it’s a rebuild/retooling. That could hurt the gate.

It likely is not be one of these things, but a few of these combined. Bottom line is for now, Millsap is officially off the table. Just don’t bet on that being permanent.

Kobe Bryant still has it, bounces shot in from near half court

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This was a Nike gala, an event with a basketball theme. The court was lit up from below, there were tables at half court, and people had drinks in their hands.

Kobe Bryant was there, stylishly dressed in black. So was famous model Winnie Harlow.

Know that regardless of the setting, Kobe still has game.

Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala cleared to play vs. Pelicans Friday

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Without Draymond Green in the fourth quarter Tuesday night in the opener, and with Andre Iguodala out for the game, the Warriors defense fell apart against Houston. The Rockets scored 34 points in the quarter and came from behind to beat a Warriors team that had been in control of the game up to that point. There was more to it than just Green’s balky knee, but without the Defensive Player of the Year they are not the same.

Bad news for the Pelicans: Green and Iguodala have been cleared to play in New Orleans Friday. Green had an MRI and it came back negative.

Green admitted he was concerned that the injury, via Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

Now it is the Pelicans who should be concerned. The Warriors will want to wash the feeling of that opening night loss off them.

Report: Kevin Love was frustrated with move to center

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With Derrick Rose having to start at point guard (until Isiah Thomas returns sometime in early 2018) and Dwyane Wade starting at the two, Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue had no choice but to move Kevin Love to starting at center. The Cavaliers desperately need the floor spacing to open up driving lanes and options for LeBron James. Start Tristan Thompson at the five (with Love at the four and Jae Crowder coming off the bench) and it adds another non-shooter to the mix that allows opposing defenses to just pack the paint and force LeBron to be a jump shooter.

That doesn’t mean everyone liked the change.

Love admitted to Chris Fedor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer he was frustrated with the move at first.

“It’s been a little bit of a change for me,” Love admitted. “I still find myself spacing a little bit wanting to roll a little bit more and on the defensive end just playing the primary big on their team the whole time on the defensive end. It’s been a little bit different figuring things out on that end, but it comes with the growth I’m talking about. We need to do that and hopefully be a machine when things start clicking.”

Lue put it this way.

“We’re going to try it out and see how it works. He was frustrated at first, but now he’s enjoying it.”

While in certain matchups, when the opposition has a more traditional center, the Cavs may go back to the Love/Thompson front line for a stretch. But the small ball lineup is the way Cleveland should be leaning, even with its clear defensive deficiencies. We saw that in the opener with Love’s dagger three in the fourth quarter.

Love is adjusting, he’s already sacrificed a lot to play with LeBron. This is just another step in that evolution.

Another wing down? Celtics’ Marcus Smart likely out vs. Sixers

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The horrific, probably season-ending injury to Gordon Hayward has left the Celtics with a shortage of players on the wing.

Going up against Philadelphia Friday night, that might be getting worse, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston.

Looking at the pictures, I doubt Smart plays.

As noted, Smart said he hurt both ankles in the second night of a back-to-back against Milwaukee, the left one in a collision with teammate Jaylen Brown. Smart started that game and played 32 minutes. That’s a lot of time to go to lesser players.

If he’s out Friday, that likely means either Terry Rozier or Abdel Nader get the start, and both are going to see a healthy bump in minutes. Whatever happens, the Celtics would miss Smart in a game where they need to defend Ben Simmons on the wing.