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Top 10 free agents still on the market

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Most NBA teams’ rosters are set, maybe save for one minimum salary spot usually reserved for a young player the team is trying to develop. The big names, and even the medium and plenty of small names, are off the board.

However, in a tight market, there are still some recognizable names out there, unsigned veterans who could help teams looking to fill a particular role — wing defenders, big men, even some point guard help. They are available for a reason, but they can help a team.

Here is my Top 10 list of remaining free agents. The list is not complete, for example, Andrew Bogut doesn’t make my cut but if healthy he could help the right team, the same with David Lee. Also, not on this list are any restricted free agents such as JaMychal Green, Nikola Mirotic, or Mason Plumlee (in theory they are available, in practice no team has or would spend the cap money on an offer the team with their rights would not match).

1. Shabazz Muhammad. He’s a wing who gave Minnesota almost 20 minutes a night and 9.9 points a game last season, but lost out in the numbers game as that roster shifted (with Jimmy Butler coming in to take a lot of minutes at his spot). Muhammad is a power player who likes to post up, but he doesn’t space the floor well — almost 60 percent of his shots last season came within 10 feet of the basket, and he shot 33 percent on threes. He’s not a great defender and not focused on that end. The Lakers reportedly are interested, and he’s still talking to Minnesota.

2. Tony Allen. The heart of “grit n’ grind” in Memphis is still on the outside looking in as that team revamps a little. He still is a quality wing defender, although he has started to slow at age 35, and he does not bring much offense to the table. Memphis may well re-sign him after they figure out the JaMychal Green situation, but Allen thought he would get more than the minimum and that seems off the table now anywhere.

3. Dante Cunningham. I could see him as a glue guy who could space the floor and hit threes on the right team — he shot 39.2 percent on his 2.7 threes a game last season, that percentage may regress a little, but he can hit that shot and blend in on units. He’s not a bad defender on the wing, and can play the small ball four. The Bucks, Timberwolves, and Pelicans all have been mentioned as having interest in him.

4. Deron Williams. The former All-Star point guard has lost a couple of steps, and that was exposed in the playoffs with the Cavaliers last season (after he was bought out by the Mavericks). Cleveland hoped he could stabilize their second unit, but that didn’t work out like they expected. He can still dish the ball, hit threes, and be a floor general against regular season second units, and there are teams that could use that. As the stakes go up in the playoffs, his role has to be limited.

5. Thomas Robinson. He’s played for six NBA teams in five seasons, and he brings energy and effort. He is strong on the boards plus was the most efficient scorer he has ever been with the Lakers last season. However, while he can get buckets inside 10 feet but does not space the floor. He was not getting court time on a young team higher on other forwards on their roster in Los Angeles, but they have worked him out again recently.

6. Tyler Zeller. He moves well for a big man, but his inefficiency and limits on the offensive end had him struggling to get minutes on a Celtics team that needed help up front last season. He has an okay midrange game but needs to get easy buckets at the rim again. He struggles defensively in space. However, if he plays to his strengths he could be a decent backup big.

7. Gerald Green. He played decently in inconsistent minutes last season in Boston, but was left in the cold as the Celtics revamped their roster this summer. He is respectable from three (35.1 percent last season) and can play decent defense, plus is a joking veteran presence in the locker room. Oh, and he likes hot chocolate.

8. Matt Barnes. The Warriors brought in Barnes (after a buyout in Sacramento) last season to provide some stability after Kevin Durant‘s knee injury, and he did that for 20+ games. He plays hard, defends, and shot 33 percent from three. In a limited wing or small-ball four off the bench role, he can give a team solid minutes. How much does he have in the tank at age 37?

9. Trey Burke. He’s a score-first point guard who hasn’t made great decisions on when to shoot and when to set up teammates. He didn’t finish well around the rim last season, but on the nights he shot well he put up points (he had two 27 point games in Washington last season). However, on nights he didn’t he hurt the team, and there were more of those nights. Burke struggles to defend at an NBA level. The Wizards brought in Brandon Jennings last season as they decided Utah was right in cutting Burke out. The Knicks and Timberwolves have taken a look at Burke.

10. Anthony Morrow. If he can find his stroke again and get back to being a dangerous spot-up three point shooter he can help teams — he’s a career 41.7 percent shooter from three but hit just 30.8 percent last season. He was a throw-in on the Taj GibsonDoug McDermott trade and went from OKC to Chicago, but never found a rhythm there. He’s not much of a defender, he has to knock down threes to help a team.

Paul George on trade to Thunder: “I took it as it was a kick in the behind”

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Paul George and Russell Westbrook — now with Carmelo Anthony — form one of the more interesting teams in the NBA in Oklahoma City. Deep with quality role players and a defense that should be top 10 (if not top 5) in the league, if the three big names can learn to sacrifice and mesh, the Thunder will be dangerous.

Paul George sounds motivated to take it all on… which he should be the first day of training camp. Still, it’s a good sign for Thunder fans.

George opened up to Sam Amick of the USA Today in a lengthy interview at the start of camp, and among the topics he discussed was the trade to OKC (after George’s camp told Indiana he would test free agency next summer). Did getting sent to the Thunder motivate him?

“I took it as it was a kick in the behind, like, ‘Go ahead and go try to beat the Warriors. Go play alongside Russ and get your butt kicked against the Warriors.’ That’s how I looked at how that trade went down, because honestly we had no idea OKC was even interested or was in the trade until the trade actually happened. But again, I’m not here to trash Indiana. They have some of the best people I’ve ever met in their front office and in that organization. I grew up there. I could go on and on (with) the positives in Indiana, but that’s where my thought process and my – that’s where I, I guess, my opportunity to leave had opened up.”

There was some “go ahead and beat the Warriors” in that trade — it looks, from the outside, like the Pacers did not want George to land anywhere he wanted to go.

Thing is, as human beings, we by our nature try to make the best of situations. Even people who suffer genuine personal tragedies often come out the other side saying that it changed who they were for the better and they are happy with their new life. This is just basketball. George will adapt — and he’s on a very good team. If the bar is “can they beat a healthy Warriors team in a series” then the Thunder will fall short, as will every other team. But the Thunder are on that next tier in the NBA and could be a threat.

Plus, competitors like George always look at a trade as a challenge.

It’s going to be a fascinating season for the Thunder. We’ll see if all that talent is willing to make the sacrifices needed to win at the highest levels of the NBA.

When will Zach LaVine return to court for Bulls? Think Thanksgiving.

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When the Chicago Bulls traded Jimmy Butler — finally making a decision on the franchise’s direction — one of the centerpieces they got back from Minnesota was Zach LaVine. The wildly athletic two-guard had evolved into more than just a dunker, averaging 18.9 points per game and shooting 38 percent from three — he had become a legitimate scoring threat against any defense.

Then he blew out his ACL.

How that injury impacts his game remains to be seen… so when will the Bulls see him on the court? Coach Fred Hoiberg addressed that as Chicago started training camp, as reported by Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.

That’s just taking contact in practice. The Bulls will be cautious bringing back a guy they see as part of their future, so expect this to be closer to Thanksgiving or the end of the month before he plays. Which is the smart move to make.

Even then, ACL injuries take a long time to overcome, even for young players putting in the recovery work. It may be next season before we know if LaVine will continue on the trajectory he was on in Minnesota.

Magic Johnson shrugs off concern about Lonzo Ball realty series

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Lonzo Ball has yet to play in one NBA game, yet he has his own signature shoe line, and he — along with his father LaVar Ball and the rest of his family — have their own reality show on FaceBook. Lonzo told me he doesn’t foresee this show, nor his bombastic father, being a problem with his teammates or on the court.

Magic Johnson agrees with that. At least for now.

The head of Lakers’ basketball operations said as training camp opened that he’s not worried about the show Ball in the Family being a distraction. If it is, he’ll step in, he told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“Only time I am going to concern myself with what [Lonzo] does off the court is if it is affecting his play on the court,” Johnson said at the Lakers’ media day when asked about Ball’s reality Facebook series, “Ball in the Family.”

“Right now, I think it is awesome,” Johnson said. “His family is great. They came out Saturday, we had a big Laker picnic. … His dad is wonderful with me, and I am cool with him. … I think [Lonzo] is tired of all this [hype]. He is just like me; I just want to play and I think he wants to play, and then Saturday night [for the Lakers’ preseason opener], sold out, in Anaheim, wow!”

It’s Magic’s job to put a positive spin on things.

That said, he’s right. The Lakers (and every NBA team) have dealt with overinvolved parents before and know how to create some space for the player to focus on the game. Locker rooms have a way of sorting themselves out in these kinds of situations. Plus, the Lakers have been down the reality show road before (when Lamar Odom married Khloe Kardashian), and while that had an ugly ending, it wasn’t for lack of Lakers’ players and others in the organization trying to step in and help. (Odom just wasn’t yet in a place to accept help.)

Soon LaVar will be focused on his other sons and Lonzo, who appears practiced at tuning his father out and focusing on what is in front of him, will have the grind of the NBA schedule to worry about.

Former NBA player Chuck Person named in college basketball bribery scandal

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The recruitment of major college athletes — and then the steering of the handful that get to go pro to shoe companies and agents — is a sleazy business. It makes HBO’s “The Duece” look like Disneyland. It’s something sports fans know but largely turn a blind eye to until it forces its way into the headlines.

It turned up in the headlines Tuesday when four college assistant coaches from major universities were charged by federal prosecutors in a bribery scandal along with a representative of Adidas and others to steer players to specific agents or a financial handler.

Former NBA Rookie of the Year Chuck Person, now an assistant coach at Auburn, was among those named in the scandal.

Person is making headlines because he’s the biggest name in the scandal. He is charged with accepting approximately $91,500 from a business manager, who has flipped and is working with prosecutors. This “business manager, offered bribes to Person to steer players toward his services, as well as another person charged in the scandal.

Person told prosecutors he gave $18,500 of the money he took to two players’ families, according to the filings.

Person was the No. 4 pick in the 1986 NBA draft and went on to win Rookie of the Year, followed by a 13-year NBA career. He made $22.9 million over the course of his career.