Associated Press

Danny Ainge makes it clear he will explore trades for No. 1 pick, but may keep it


Danny Ainge and the Celtics are in a strong spot, but they have questions to be answered.

They earned the No. 1 seed in the East, they are unquestionably a team on the rise, but they are in a conference where LeBron James dominates the postseason and has for going on seven years. Do the Celtics want to make a big move this summer to bring in one more star player and make a run at the brick wall that is whatever team LeBron plays on? Or do they continue to be patient and try to be the best team in three years when, in theory, LeBron starts to fade?

Landing the No. 1 pick in this draft gives Ainge options.

On a conference call after getting the pick, Ainge was far too smart to tip his hand. He might well keep the pick (and if you listen to the comments from Boston ownership on the night, this is the likely option).

“We’re looking for the best overall player, and that hasn’t been decided yet…” Ainge said, adding he wants to work out and take a closer look at a number of players, although almost everyone has Markelle Fultz on the top of their draft boards.

“I’ve thought about that with all our players and how (the potential top picks) fit with our core. The beauty of Isaiah (Thomas) is he can play any system.”

But what about the rumors that the Celtics will move the top for an elite player to help them win now? Someone such as Jimmy Butler from Chicago or Paul George from Indiana, two guys Boston reportedly discussed the pick with at the trade deadline.

“At the trade deadline we were trading away the possibility of the No. 1 pick, a 25 percent chance of the No. 1 pick, but that’s a 75 percent chance of not having that pick, and that’s how teams look at it, which is probably why we didn’t get a deal done,” Ainge said. “Now we have the No. 1 pick and we will explore the value of it.”

Trading the pick makes sense if Ainge feels LeBron and the Cavaliers are a little vulnerable, and if one more key player puts them into serious competition in a best-of-seven playoff series (the Eastern Conference Finals will make a good benchmark for him).

Keeping the pick and drafting either of the top guards in the draft — Fultz or Lonzo Ball — creates another question for Ainge: What to do about Isaiah Thomas in the future? He is a free agent in the summer of 2018 when he will command max money at age 29. Does Boston want to pay him that if Fultz/Ball is seen as the point guard of the future? Do they let him walk at that point? How much does Thomas being a fan favorite play into this? The Celtics could use cap space to extend him this summer to a deal they like better, but it’s unclear if Boston would do that (probably not) or if Thomas would go for that. No simple decisions there, as a four-year max may be longer than they want to go with him.

The choices aren’t simple, but by winning the lottery the Celtics have plenty of options now.

Just don’t expect Ainge to tip his hand until all the chips are on the table draft night.

James Dolan’s MSG threatens to sue Steve Ballmer’s Los Angeles Clippers

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This story requires a little background.

The Forum in Inglewood was best known for decades as being both fabulous and the home of the Los Angeles Lakers, back from the Jerry West era and through Magic’s “Showtime” teams. Then in 2001 the Lakers moved downtown to Staples Center, and after that the Forum went through some rough times. It was a number of things, including a mega church for a while, but mostly it was empty. Then several years ago the Madison Square Garden company (owned by Knicks owner James Dolan) bought the Forum, fixed it up, and started booking it again. Now the Forum is one of the hot major concert/event spaces in Los Angeles again, and it’s about to get a boost because it’s adjacent to where Stan Kroenke is building the new Los Angeles Rams stadium. Hello gentrification!

Now enter Steve Ballmer. The Clippers’ owner wants out of Staples Center and the Lakers’ shadow, so he has proposed to build his new arena in Inglewood in another space adjacent to the Rams stadium — land that MSG used to lease. As you might imagine, Dolan’s MSG is not thrilled — they are already battling with Staples to fill their space, now a state-of-the-art arena is moving in down the street.

In a proxy Knicks/Clippers battle, MSG may sue to Clippers and Inglewood in an attempt to block the new building. Here is what Dolan’s attorney in the case, Marvin Putnam, told the Daily Breeze in Los Angeles.

“The mayor made it extremely clear that he needed that piece of land back for a kind of ‘Silicon Beach,’ ” said Marvin Putnam, a partner with the law firm Latham & Watkins, which filed the damage claim that serves as a precursor to a lawsuit. “They’re attempting to flat-out trick people.”

(Inglewood Mayor James) Butts declined to comment, and there is no proof that he made those statements. But when Madison Square Garden Co. relinquished the parking lease to the city, its approved contract states that the land would not be used for anything that would hurt the Forum’s business, according to documents.

Right now the Clippers and Inglewood are in an exclusive negotiating agreement to come to terms on the sale and plans for the property. Putnam told the paper — and the Inglewood City Council — that if the deal goes forward they will sue to block it.

It’s impossible to say how this will turn out, although as a former government reporter I will say these cases tend to be decided in favor of the side about to spend a ton of money on a new building.


Jaylen Brown’s #drivebydunkchallenge video is awesome


I love the drive by dunk challenge (if you prefer, the #drivebydunkchallenge), it would be the best thing on NBA Twitter this summer, if it wasn’t for Kyrie Irving.

But the best one yet comes from Boston’s Jaylen Brown.

He steals the ball, and the best part is the guy who comes over like he’s going to stop Brown from throwing it down.

Nets’ Jeremy Lin: ‘We’re making the playoffs. I don’t care what anybody else says’

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The Nets went 20-62 then traded their best player (Brook Lopez) for a worse player (D'Angelo Russell). Brooklyn’s biggest free-agent signing this summer (Otto Porter) plays for the Wizards. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson and Caris LeVert are nice developmental pieces but hardly seem on the verge of breakthroughs.

Still, Nets guard Jeremy Lin expects big things next season.

He set expectations in an Instagram Live video (hat tip: AJ Neuharth-Keusch of USA Today):

We’re making the playoffs. I don’t care what anybody else says.

The Nets are on the right track given their asset constraints. Though worse than Lopez now, Russell – eight years younger and on a low-paying rookie-scale deal – is more valuable. Brooklyn made the favorable swap by absorbing Timofey Mozgov‘s awful contract, a wise use of assets considering the difficulty of attracting free agents. An aggressive offer sheet for Porter was a reasonable swing in that situation, as well.

But that’s all helpful in the long run. In the short term, the Nets are almost certainly stuck as lousy. Maybe they can sneak into the playoffs in a weak Eastern Conference, but even that is a huge longshot.

Not that Lin cares what I say.

Check out Top 10 blocks from Summer League (VIDEO)

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When you think of Summer League basketball, sharp defensive rotations is not the first thing that comes to mind. Defense, in general, tends to be an after thought.

But there were some great blocks.

Here are the top 10 blocks from the Las Vegas Summer League. Enjoy the flashes of defense from Vegas.