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Pelicans’ Anthony Davis to show off New Orleans to fellow stars

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) Anthony Davis is tiring of the narrative that his pro basketball career would be better served if he played somewhere other than New Orleans.

During All-Star weekend, the face of the Pelicans franchise will have a chance to exhibit why building a winner in the Big Easy matters to him. And if his enthusiasm for his adopted hometown proves contagious among some of the elite talent gathering in the NBA’s Gulf South outpost, all the better for the “Brow.”

“I was definitely excited for All-Star to come to New Orleans again; New Orleans is a fun place,” said Davis, who was a second-year pro and first-time All-Star when the NBA’s annual marquee event last came to the city in 2014. “It will be a good chance for other players to experience our city, the culture in New Orleans with Mardi Gras and all, and see why we feel New Orleans is one the best places to play basketball as far as the fan base that we have and the culture of the city and everything like that.”

The All-Star game wasn’t supposed to return to New Orleans quite this quickly, but the league pulled the game Charlotte earlier this year because of a North Carolina state law that limits protections of LGBT people.

But this All-Star weekend will be different for Davis than his first, when he was still getting comfortable with pro basketball and life in New Orleans. Davis, nicknamed “the Unibrow” since his college days at Kentucky, was a Western Conference reserve in 2014. Now he’s among the most popular players in the world and an All-Star starter boasting gaudy statistics of nearly 28 points and 12 rebounds per game – not to mention season highs of 50 points, 22 rebounds and six blocks.

What Davis needs now is more help. The Pelicans missed the playoffs in three of his first four pro seasons, and their postseason prospects are in doubt again. Entering Wednesday night’s action, New Orleans was 12 games below .500 and 3 + games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

While Davis doesn’t expect to spend the whole weekend recruiting, he acknowledged that playing host to the NBA’s elite gives him an opportunity to help them envision what it might be like if, via a trade or free agency, they wound up joining him.

“There definitely is a time for that,” Davis said. “The main focus is for everybody to just go out there and have fun.”

Davis was pleased that this year’s All-Star festivities coincide with Mardi Gras. Normally, the NBA schedule takes the Pelicans away from New Orleans during most of pre-Lenten Carnival, which draws millions of tourists to New Orleans for rollicking festivities centered on parades and balls.

“I’m excited to actually be in town,” Davis said.

Then there’s the food. Davis expects to double as a restaurant guide this week. Growing up in Chicago, Davis was all about pizza, which he still eats when he goes home. But in New Orleans, he’s refined his palette, sampling the city’s renowned creole cuisine and fresh Gulf seafood.

“The food is amazing. The little spice it has to it is amazing. The gumbo is amazing,” Davis said. “When you go to other cities and they have New Orleans gumbo or New Orleans-style food or whatever, it tastes nothing like it. I’ve been around the city and got a chance to experience all types of food.

“I actually eat seafood now.”

Davis’ strengthening ties to New Orleans go well beyond fun and flavor. He arrived in the first decade after Hurricane Katrina, an epic disaster from which rebuilding is not entirely complete. Some of the hardest-hit neighborhoods needed help before the storm and even more so afterward, and Davis has immersed himself charitable and community endeavors. His AD’s Flight Academy features events with kids such as basketball camps, bowling and movie nights.

“He keeps himself involved in the community whether that’s helping kids or building up the city. He truly cares,” said Pelicans forward Terrence Jones, who won a NCAA national title with Davis at Kentucky in 2012 and rejoined his college teammate in the NBA this season.

“People have so much joy when they see him at any events we have for the Pelicans,” Jones said. “He’s excited to be able to represent the city.”

Pelicans general manager Dell Demps got a sense of Davis’ commitment to New Orleans when the star big man seized the earliest possible opportunity to sign a five-year, $127 million extension that runs through 2020-21.

Said Demps: “Although Anthony’s from Chicago, he treats New Orleans like it’s his home.”

He wouldn’t mind if one or two of his fellow all-stars did, too.

New Bulls advisor Doug Collins: ‘I am woke’

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The Bulls hired Doug Collins as an advisor.

Is Collins, who has coached only one winning season in the last 20 years and often sounds analytically disinclined, too behind the times?

Collins:

I’m old. Let me finish. But I’m not old school. I’ve got a young brain. And I think you get pigeonholed: That guy is old school because he’s old. Now, if being on time and working hard and doing all those things are old school, then yes, I’m old school. But I will match my wits with anybody in terms of young people, in terms of what’s going on now and what’s happening. So, I am woke.

Suddenly, Kyrie Irving‘s statement on ESPN – “Oh, if you’re very much woke, there’s no such thing as distractions” – has a challenger for the most awkward use of “woke” by NBA personnel this week.

Report: Andre Iguodala nearly left Warriors for Rockets

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Remember those mid-June rumors about Andre Iguodala already agreeing on a salary to re-sign with the Warriors?

The tide sure changed in a hurry.

Iguodala put out word that he was open to leaving, pressuring tax-conscious Golden State. He met with the Lakers, Spurs, Kings and Rockets.

Houston particularly intrigued him despite reportedly offering just four years, $32 million. The Rockets could have offered $37,658,880 with the mid-level exception, though they wanted to save a sliver to give Zhou Qi a four-year deal – and that still would’ve fallen short of other offers. They also discussed signing-and-trading for Iguodala, but they pitched him on a defensive unit that included him, Chris Paul, Eric Gordon and Trevor Ariza. What else would Houston have intrigued the Warriors with?

And would Iguodala really have left Golden State, an all-time great team that positioned him to win 2015 NBA Finals MVP and a team that played near Silicon Valley?

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

The Warriors had been in the dark for a day and a half and contacted representatives of free-agent small forwards Rudy Gay and Gerald Henderson as a contingency plan. But Myers immediately hopped on a plane from the Bay Area and Kerr was already in Los Angeles, having recently visited with free agent Nick Young. They didn’t know it, but Iguodala’s objective in sitting down with them was to personally say goodbye, sources with knowledge of the situation told ESPN.

Myers and Kerr came prepared to offer him a fully guaranteed, three-year deal worth $45 million and reiterated that their latest offer still wasn’t indicative of what they believed to be his true worth. Their hands were just tied.

There was little hope for a resolution at this point. Iguodala wasn’t budging from his request to make at least $16 million per year. If the Warriors didn’t improve their offer, he was signing with the Rockets, sources said.

After an hour, both sides departed and a breakup appeared likely. Iguodala’s camp proceeded to discuss their options. The Warriors’ top reserve was inching closer to becoming a top reserve for the Rockets. But before Rosenthal was to call Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Antonio and Golden State to notify them of his client’s decision, sources said Iguodala elected to make his final, most defining move yet: calling Golden State one more time.

That of course ended with the Warriors stepping up with a three-year, fully guaranteed $48 million contract, which Iguodala signed.

I recommend reading Haynes’ captivating look into Iguodala’s free agency in full. But keep this in mind: Iguodala won his negotiation with Golden State, and it’s in his best interest to continue a harmonious relationship with the organization. That means, if he were bluffing about leaving in order to secure a bigger offer from the Warriors, he’s incentivized not to show his cards now. He’s better off keeping up the story, making the Warriors believe they didn’t pay more than necessary to keep him.

Enes Kanter counters Kevin Durant on Thunder organization, ‘those cats’

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Kevin Durant – criticizing the Thunder organization in third-person tweets that seemingly were intended to come from an alternate account – wrote, “Kd can’t win a championship with those cats.”

Of course, Oklahoma City center Enes Kanter piped up:

The Durant-Russell Westbrook relationship has obviously gotten the most attention. But Kanter has repeatedly painted himself as a foil to Durant, piggybacking off the Warriors star’s infamy.

I wonder whether Thunder management also views Kanter as family – or whether the team might try to dump his hefty salary and avoid the luxury tax.

Three questions the Denver Nuggets must answer this season

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The NBC/ProBasketballTalk season previews will ask the questions each of the 30 NBA teams must answer to make their season a success. We are looking at one team a day until the start of the season, and it begins with a look back at the team’s offseason moves.

Last Season:
40-42, missed the playoffs.

I know what you did last summer: Denver snatched up Paul Millsap on a 3-year, $90 million deal. They also re-signed Mason Plumlee to a 3-year deal worth $41 million. In June they swapped out Donovan Mitchell for Trey Lyles. Drafted Tyler Lydon, Monte Morris, and Vlatko Cancar.

THREE QUESTIONS THE NUGGETS MUST ANSWER:

1) Who is going to pass, and when, and how much? After adding Paul Millsap and re-signing Mason Plumlee, the Nuggets have a plethora of passing big men to choose from. We all know that Nikola Jokic is the future of the center position in Denver, so that gives you at least three big men to choose from in the offense. However, as we’ve seen on teams with great passing players before, it’s possible to get into the habit of over sharing the ball at the detriment of simply putting it in the hoop.

Plumlee is probably going to be in a major backup role on this team if everyone stays healthy, so that could simplify things a bit. Still, you have the potential here of things getting a little overworked when it gets into the hands of the big men, so making sure they understand when to stick to the sheet and when to play jazz will be important. We’re all excited to see Millsap and Jokic play together but it might take a few weeks against live competition to sort out the passing lanes.

2) Will there be any semblance of defense? Denver finished just 29th last season in defensive efficiency rating. Kenneth Faried is still somewhat of an issue on that end, and despite what some statistics suggest, Plumlee is not a good defender. Jokic and Millsap should help that out a little bit, but much of this team remains the same from last year.

The question will be in the continued development of the young players, particularly Jamal Murray, Emmanuel Mudiay, and whatever you can squeeze out of Will Barton on the defensive end of the floor. For as “sneaky” as this team is going to be when it comes to the playoff race this season, I still believe that defense will be an issue. Think of the Portland Trail Blazers teams of the last few years and how much they have had to be a stellar offense of team if only because their defense has been abysmal. The Nuggets might slot right into that archetype this season if they aren’t careful.

3) What are they doing with Kenneth Faried? There has been a lot of chatter around the league wondering if very Faried is ever going to get traded. The question, of course, is whether he has any value with his cap hit and whether that is still a smart thing for the Nuggets to do.

Faried had a statistical down season last year, if only slightly, but in his move to a bench role he was effective as an offensive weapon. Certainly, if he remains in that role next season he will be a wrecking ball against some of the backup lineups that get trotted out in the NBA. However, he does have the third-highest salary on the team and it is a question whether he will ever fully develop into a more complete player as he heads into his seventh season.

The question of what to do with Faried isn’t just about the trade market. It’s also about, if he stays, what kind of role he has and what work he has to do on a team that needs to strengthen its defense if it wants to be in the playoff race.