Is DeMarcus Cousins a max player next summer? Next season will have say.

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LeBron James is going to get a max salary next summer, wherever he plays. Same with Kevin Durant (who will stay a Warriors). Russell Westbrook and Paul George are lock max contracts. Chris Paul, too. Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid probably will (if Embiid stays healthy).

DeMarcus Cousins?

Probably. Cousins is the best traditional center in the game right now: 27 points and 11 boards a game last season, he can hit midrange shots and threes (36.1 percent from deep last season) and is a solid defensive presence in the paint. He also has never led a team to the playoffs, has been seen as selfish, rubbed some teammates/coaches/executives the wrong way (to put it kindly), and there are questions about his fit in an evolving NBA.

Cousins will be paired with Anthony Davis in New Orleans next year, and more than one executive told Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports how that relationship goes could impact Cousins free agent value.

“This season is huge,” said a Western Conference team executive. “He has to prove he can win. He has never played with anyone near the talent of Davis. He has to show he is willing to sacrifice for the team and do what is best for the team first. He really needs to turn a corner. If he acts up, he will cost himself a lot of money.”

Added another Western Conference exec, “There’s no way to overstate it – there is huge money on the line.”

Cousins refuses to address anything beyond next season. “I’m not real concerned,” Cousins said. “I know people know my talent. I’m past all that.”

The max for Cousins will be at 30 percent of the cap, this season that would start at around $29.7 million (if the cap remains flat next season that would be his number). The max another team could offer was four-years, around $128 million, while the Pelicans could offer about $5 million more over the course of four years plus one guaranteed additional year (a fifth) at around $40 million.

However, it is going to be a tight financial market next summer — only nine teams are expected to have space for a max contract, and not all of them will need centers. If potential suitors are hesitant after this season, Cousins would still make a lot of money ($25 million a year?) but teams would be reluctant to go fours years. He may not get more than three.

The Pelicans are going to be battling for a playoff spot in the bottom of a crowded West — going against good teams such as Denver, Portland, Memphis, and the L.A. Clippers — and if things go sideways, there are a lot of executives around the league who think Cousins could get traded again. Who makes the postseason at the bottom of the West is going to come down to health and chemistry.

The Pelicans think they can zig while the league zags — everyone is going small and versatile, they are betting on big. If it doesn’t work, Cousins will likely get blamed, but there also likely will be a house cleaning in New Orleans of the front office and coaching staff. A lot of jobs are on the line with this bet.

And also a lot of money for Cousins.

Aging Pelicans’ owner couldn’t remember Anthony Davis’ name in deposition

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Tom Benson, the now 90-year-old owner of the New Orleans Pelicans and the NFL’s Saints, a few years back changed around the succession of control of the team after his passing — his wife Gayle will take control. Rita Benson LeBlanc, Benson’s granddaughter and former handpicked successor, sued saying Benson had been manipulated. After meeting privately with Benson, a judge ruled that while Benson suffered some “cognitive impairment” he was capable of making his own decisions and that Gayle remained the successor.

Benson has been sued multiple times since then, including by former Saints employee Rodney Henry, and the then-89-year-old Benson was deposed in that case last year.

Someone broke the gag order and sent a copy of the deposition to The Advocate of New Orleans, and it shows that Benson’s mental acuity is fading. He couldn’t remember who Anthony Davis was by name.

During another set of questions, apparently aimed at establishing how close Benson and Henry had been, Benson was shown a photo of the two men with Pelicans star Anthony Davis.

“Who is this?” Williams asked.

“It’s Rodney and a basketball player,” Benson said. “Oh, hell, I forget his name. Let me — he’s a great player for us. Tell me his name, and I will tell you yes or no.”

When asked “is it Anthony Davis,” Benson said yes. The man is 90, I’m not sure that we should expect much. He had the foresight to bring in people to run his businesses — including his sports teams — and set up a line of succession for when he does pass. Smart moves.

Would Benson’s mental state impact potential changes coming to the Pelicans? Probably not. New Orleans’ GM Dell Demps bet big on going big in a league trending smaller, pairing Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. If that doesn’t work out, plenty of people around the league expect a house cleaning on the basketball side with the Pelicans. Benson’s mental state, whatever it may be, does not impact that.

The deposition leak came from an anonymous source (and anonymous email account, the paper verified the document before publishing). Who leaked it? It may be nearly impossible to find out, but only one side benefits from all this becoming public. And it’s not Benson.

K.J. McDaniels signs with Raptors for camp, can he make roster?

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A few years back in Philadelphia, the athletic K.J. McDaniels was a highlight factory and looked like a guy who could develop into a role player on the wing in the NBA.

Except, he never actually developed. Houston gave him a chance (three years at a total of $10 million), and it didn’t work out, then last season Brooklyn had him for 20 games, but they decided to move on.

Now Toronto is going to give him a chance, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

McDaniels’ agent later confirmed the news. This is a training camp, make-good contract for McDaniels. But unlike a lot of those contracts being handed out around this time, there is space on the Raptors roster for a player or two.

McDaniels will compete with Alfonzo McKinnie, Kennedy Meeks, and Kyle Wiltjer for one of the final roster spots in Toronto. Of that group, I’d most likely want to keep McDaniels because of the shot blocking and his potential — but his outside shot has to improve.

The Raptors can carry 15 on the roster and very possibly will until at least Jan. 10, which is the date these partially guaranteed deals become fully guaranteed for the season. Toronto is flirting with the tax line, and ownership is not going to want to pay the tax for this team, so if they do carry 15 they likely will cut it to 14 by that date.

Watch James Harden do the #DriveByDunkChallenge from a speed boat (VIDEO)

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The #DriveByDunkChallenge has been a fun distraction this summer. If you don’t know what it is, it essentially involves NBA players jumping out of their cars to dunk on regular folks on community basketball hoops.

Players like Boston Celtics wing Jaylen Brown have led the charge in the social media video fad, and now it appears that Houston Rockets guard James Harden is setting a new trend.

That trend? Doing the #DriveByDunkChallenge from dang boat.

Yup, seriously.

Via Twitter:

I can’t think of anything more baller than dunking on somebody from a speed boat, so congrats to Harden for winning the NBA offseason.

Photoshop no more: here’s Gordon Hayward in a Boston Celtics uniform (PHOTO)

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I suppose it will take some time to get used to seeing Gordon Hayward in a Boston Celtics jersey. This photo is the first step on that journey.

In a photo posted to Hayward’s Instagram on Wednesday, many of us got our first look at the former Utah Jazz forward in his new digs.

Specifically, the new Celtics Nike jersey in green with the GE patch on the left shoulder.

Via Instagram:

🍀🔥

A post shared by @gdhayward on

There are still some serious doubts about whether the Celtics will be able to unseat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference, but perhaps they won’t need to wait for long. Rumors are starting to trickle in about LeBron James leaving Ohio, so maybe by the time we are used to seeing Hayward in Celtics green next season they will have less competition out east.