Rumor: Nets will target Pistons’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope this summer

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This much we know: The Brooklyn Nets are going to have $33 million or so in cap space this coming summer. Last summer when the team had space, Nets GM Sean Marks tried to poach restricted free agents Tyler Johnson away from Miami and Allen Crabbe out of Portland (both clubs matched).

Who will the Nets target this summer? Otto Porter? Mason Plumlee? Kelly Olynyk?

Put the Pistons’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope at the top of the list, according to a report in the New York Post.

Both scouts and former teammates told The Post that Caldwell-Pope, who had 19 points and four rebounds in a 98-96 loss to the Nets Tuesday, has become the most important piece on a Pistons roster that features All-Star Andre Drummond, and young standouts Reggie Jackson and Tobias Harris. That’s why Brooklyn is expected to make the two-way wing a top priority this summer….

Caldwell-Pope, 24, will be a restricted free agent, after he demanded more than $20 million annually and no deal was reached. The Vertical reported Detroit doesn’t want to give him a max contract, but it may not have a choice. The Post has confirmed the Nets’ interest and ESPN intimated they would go that high to get him.

“I’m impressed,’’ Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said when asked about Caldwell-Pope. “I love how he competes, how he competes on the defensive end. That’s really the essence of what I see when I watch him play. He plays with force, he competes on the defensive end.”

Next year’s salary cap is expected to be $102 million, with a luxury tax line of $122 million. The Pistons already have $94 million in guaranteed contracts on the books. While they can shift some money around (trading Reggie Jackson and his $16 million comes to mind), adding $20 million or more to the payroll right now takes them into the luxury tax area. Which means if the Nets come in with a big offer, the Pistons have some thinking to do.

That said, the Pistons almost certainly match. Caldwell-Pope is too key to what they do.

A lot of players in Caldwell-Pope’s position would have taken the security of the Pistons’ offer, but he bet on himself and this summer it’s going to pay off.

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook go head-to-head, literally (video)

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This sure didn’t look like just another game for Kevin Durant – and not only because the Thunder beat the Warriors for the first time since he left.

The 108-91 Oklahoma City victory didn’t look like just another game for Russell Westbrook (34 points, 10 rebounds, nine assists and four steals), either.

Harrison Barnes banks in game-winning, buzzer-beating 3-pointer (video)

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With the shot clock off in the fourth quarter and the game tied, Grizzlies big JaMychal Green put back Tyreke Evans‘ miss with a clutch flush. There’s a very fine line between ensuring the last shot and leaving time for an offensive rebound, and Memphis threated it almost perfectly.

Emphasis on “almost.”

The Grizzlies left the Mavericks 0.5 seconds, which Harrison Barnes used to bank in a 3-pointer – off a pinpoint bounce pass by Dennis Smith Jr. – to give Dallas a 95-94 win.

Heat snap Celtics’ 16-game winning streak

AP Photo/Lynne Sladky
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The Celtics didn’t have another comeback in them.

After overcoming a 13-point fourth-quarter deficit against the Mavericks on Monday to extend its winning streak to 16 games, Boston lost to the Heat tonight, 104-98. The streak ends as the NBA’s longest since the Hawks won 19 straight during the 2014-15 season.

The Celtics trailed Miami by 16 in the fourth quarter then cut the deficit to only one with three minutes left. But Dion Waiters hit back-to-back 3-pointers, helping the Heat pull away.

Goran Dragic (27 points) and Waiters (26 points) led Miami, which needed a reason to feel good after losing three of four to fall to 7-9.

The Celtics, on the other hand, still have a four-game cushion over the rest of the Eastern Conference. This might help them regain focus.

Serge Ibaka gets dunked on by Enes Kanter, hit in face by ball (video)

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Is Enes Kanter mad Serge Ibaka rifted with his family?

(No, not this family. That family.)