Al Horford

Report: Boston, Indiana “in serious talks” about Paul George trade, but deal seems stalled

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UPDATE: Now Wojnarowski is reporting that talks have stalled out. Again. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. But it’s something to watch.

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The Boston Celtics just took Jayson Tatum with the No. 3 pick in the draft.

The question is will he ever play a game wearing Celtics green, or is he bound for Indiana.

With Jimmy Butler off the board and headed to Minnesota, the Celtics appear to have gotten serious in talks with the Pacers about Paul George, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of the Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The question — and what could hang this deal up — is what goes back to Indiana. Tatum is likely part of that mix, but what other player or picks are involved. Boston has plenty of assets, but Danny Ainge is loathed to give up too much for a rental.

And that’s what George could be — he is a free agent in the summer of 2018 and the people around him have made no secret of the fact he has interest in playing for the Lakers.

However, with George Boston can be right there with Cleveland at the top of the East, competing for a chance to go to the Finals. Isaiah Thomas, George, Al Horford and a deep bench (with more players potentially added) could be enough.

Will the winning, the history, the way players love being on a Brad Stevens team, and the fans be enough to keep George from their hated rivals in Los Angeles? That’s the risk, is Ainge willing to take it?

Report: Hawks exploring sign-and-trade options for Paul Millsap

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This may be too little, too late.

A year after losing Al Horford for nothing, the Atlanta Hawks are on the verge of losing Paul Millsap the same way in free agency. Then GM Mike Budenholzer traded Kyle Korver and was moving toward a Millsap trade at the deadline when that rug was pulled out from under him by ownership. Now the Hawks have traded Dwight Howard and seem committed to the rebuild, but now they would like to get something back for Millsap after ownership killed plans to trade him at the deadline.

They are trying to find a sign-and-trade that works, reports Brian Windhorst of ESPN on SportsCenter (hat tip SLAM).

There are three or four teams out there that are willing to give Millsap a max contract, and sources have told me that the Hawks have begun getting some feelers on sign-and-trades.

Teams like the Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings and Denver Nuggets are interested in Paul Millsap.

Under the rules of the CBA, Millsap cannot make more money with a sign and trade (the days of a team signing a guy to a five-year max in a sign-and-trade are gone, now that contract can only be for the four-year deal another team could offer as a free agent). Which means the only motivation for these other teams is to clear out some cap space needed to sign Millsap, or to get other value.

The Hawks don’t have much leverage here. If he wants to go to Denver and they work it to sign him outright, Atlanta has no leverage. However, if the Nuggets want to clear out space or move someone like Wilson Chandler, they can do it through a sign-and-trade. It’s more up to the Nuggets than the Hawks.

It’s something to watch as the Hawks try to salvage something from their two biggest stars leaving.

It doesn’t sound as if Hawks will offer Paul Millsap a max contract

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Hawks owner Tony Ressler said Atlanta would “make every effort imaginable” to re-sign Paul Millsap.

And then the Hawks hired Travis Schlenk as general manager.

Schlenk, via Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

“We are going to make Paul our best offer,” Schlenk said this week. “Will he have better offers? I don’t know. Do we want to keep Paul? Sure. I said last week, if you are building a team with all the things I’ve said, Paul checks all those boxes. He’s a hard-worker. He’s a good guy. He’s high-character. Skilled. He does all that stuff. We’d like to have him. The reality is, he might get better offers than we can make him.”

The Hawks are in a pickle.

Locking a 32-year-old Millsap into a max contract, projected to be worth $205 million over five years ($41 million annually), isn’t ideal. Most players decline at that age, and Atlanta isn’t even ready to win more than a playoff or series during the front end of that deal.

But losing Millsap, projected for a max elsewhere of $152 million over four years ($38 million annually), would also bring complications. The Hawks aren’t positioned to replace him in the short-term, and Dwight Howard would be wasted on a team rebuilding around Dennis Schroder and Taurean Prince. The Atlanta market might not tolerate rebuilding, anyway.

There are different people on both sides of the negotiating table, but the Hawks just lost Al Horford after offer him only a little less than the full max. That gives Millsap room to leave and frame the organization as the problem rather than taking the brunt of the blame from Atlanta fans himself.

I don’t envy the Hawks. There’s no good answer here.

Adrian Wojnarowski: Celtics ‘really the danger’ to sign Blake Griffin from Clippers

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The Celtics’ plan to add frontcourt talent – with Jazz forward Gordon Hayward reportedly the top target – is coming into focus. And it includes Blake Griffin, who’s increasingly rumored to be open to leaving the Clippers in free agency.

Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical Podcast with Woj:

I think the Clippers may think this too, and certainly some other teams. Boston is really the danger for Blake Griffin.

I think Boston’s two primary free-agent targets right now are Gordon Hayward and Blake Griffin. Now they’re not going to get both of them, but they’re both players who would potentially have interest there and who Boston I think looks at in different ways with their future.

The Clippers can offer more money and a bigger market. But Chris Paul‘s dalliance with the Spurs adds an interesting wrinkle. It’s unclear whether keeping Paul would help or hurt the Clippers’ Griffin pursuit. Griffin and Paul have butted heads over the years, but Paul also elevates the Clippers at least near the fringes of contending. (Likewise, there’s little telling what Griffin’s decision would mean for Paul.)

The Celtics are an intriguing draw – a good team with the No. 1 pick and the Nets’ first-rounder next year. They have a bright future and plenty of room to upgrade at power forward, even if Griffin and Al Horford would be an odd fit.

The odds are against Griffin signing with Boston, but I can see why both sides would at least want to explore it.

Luke Walton admits what many teams thinking: Warriors make this good time for slow rebuild

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There is an inpatient segment of Laker fandom — and just about every other fan base — that wants then to go after Jimmy Butler, Paul George, Russell Westbrook (if he becomes a free agent) and any other star they can. Do whatever it takes to become a contender again as fast as they can, it’s what they see as the Lakers’ rightful place in the universe.

The problem is the Golden State Warriors.

They have dominated these Finals, have been to the Finals three straight years, every one of their core players is younger than 30, and after they re-sign Stephen Curry and Kevin Durant this summer their core four are locked in for at least two more seasons (Klay Thompson is the next free agent, in 2019). They are the Mount Everest nobody may be able to scale for a few years.

That has up-and-coming teams in the West thinking three, four, or five years out with their rebuilds. It’s something teams don’t generally talk about publically but admit privately. Which is why it was nice to hear Lakers’ coach Luke Walton say on Bleacher Report’s “The Full 48” podcast he recommends a patient rebuild right now (hat tip Eye on Basketball).

“I joke a lot. I said ‘if there’s a time to be rebuilding, this is the time to do it.’ The Warriors don’t look like they’re going anywhere for a while. They’re pretty darn good right now,” said Walton….

“Obviously there’s players in this league that if you can get, it’s really tough to say no to because the superstars in this league are good enough to make you a contender or not. It’s the difference between having a very good team with lots of role players or having a team that can actually, legitimately win an NBA championship…

“My only caution would be let’s not give up too much of our young core for one superstar because, like we just talked about before, let’s not forget that those Golden State Warriors are just a little bit north of us and it’s going to take a lot more than one superstar to dethrone them from the West. There’s that fine line in trying to get there quicker rather than developing our own guys. I think Rob (Pelinka) and Magic (Johnson) are very aware of that. They’re constantly looking at the best way to get us to be a true contender, not just on paper.”

To use an “it’s never going to happen” example, trade D'Angelo Russell and one of the Lakers’ oversized contracts (say Timofey Mozgov), draft Lonzo Ball, and where are the Lakers? They jump from 26 wins to maybe 36 (depending upon the improvement of Brandon Ingram and others), and they miss out on the playoffs by a few games (and George has shifted to essentially Pacers West). The Lakers are better drafting Ball (or whoever), developing their young players, then in the summer of 2018 — or better yet, maybe 2019 — target big free agents. Build a core and a system that works, then add to it, as Boston did (they won 41 games before adding Al Horford). Think a few years out.

Maybe by then, the Warriors will not look like quite as daunting a force.