Al Jefferson

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Paul George trade just the start of a pathetic Pacers offseason

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The Pacers would have been better next season if they just kept Paul George.

They also might have been better in 2019-20.

Indiana got a head start on 2018-19 and little else this offseason.

George said he planned to leave in 2018 free agency, so dealing him was certainly reasonable. But for Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis? That paltry return sent shockwaves beyond just scorned Cleveland.

It’ll be tough for Oladipo to provide surplus value as he makes $84 million over the next four years. Sabonis is as pedestrian as a second-year lottery pick can get.

The Pacers also lost Jeff Teague and C.J. Miles in free agency and waived – and stretched! (more on that later) – Monta Ellis, three players who started in the playoffs last season. Their replacements: Bojan Bogdanovic, Darren Collison and Cory Joseph.

Bogdanovic ($1.5 million of $10.5 million) and Collison ($2 million of $10 million) have small guarantees for 2018-19. So does returning center Al Jefferson ($4 million of $10 million). Essentially, Indiana will keep those players if they have value at those salaries or clear cap space otherwise.

Though Miles, essentially acquired for free in a trade with the Raptors, has a $7,945,000 player option for 2018-19, the Pacers will have his Bird Rights.

This is shaping up to be a 30-something-win team, where the “something” will determine whether Indiana sneaks into the playoffs in a down Eastern Conference or picks in the low lottery. Though not stuck in that position with several long-term contracts, it’s still a lousy place to be even for a season or two.

The Pacers might have felt George’s declared plan to depart sent them down this path, but it didn’t have to.

If they kept George, one of two things would have happened:

  • He’d re-sign. Despite his insistence that he was leaving, he could have always reversed course. If he made an All-NBA team this season, he would have been eligible for a super-max contract. Indiana could have dared him to turn that down.
  • He’d leave. The Pacers probably still would have been in better long-term shape than they are now. Though I’m high on Myles Turner, they probably could have tanked around him in his fourth year and launched a proper rebuild.

Either way, Indiana would have been better in the interim. The Pacers wouldn’t have been postseason locks with George this season, but they would have been more likely than this rag-tag bunch. They also could have cut bait on George and dealt him before the trade deadline – likely for more than they got this summer.

Indiana just doesn’t want to slip too far, though. That’ll pay off next summer, when the Pacers have Oladipo and Sabonis locked up, team control over Bogdanovic and Collison in unguaranteed salaries and Bird Rights for Joseph if he opts out.

Starting after the lopsided George trade, this wasn’t bad execution of the plan. It’s just a bad plan.

Striving for mediocrity with established veterans just inhibits meaningful growth. That’s especially evident with stretching Ellis, who will count $2,245,400 against the cap through 2022.

The Pacers cleared nearly $9 million in cap space with the move, but their guaranteed salaries still land about $7.5 million below the salary cap, and the $4,328,000 room exception remains unused. Though the cap space and room exception can’t be combined, the space created by stretching Ellis didn’t go to great use. If Indiana offered Bogdanovic and/or Collison just $1 million or so less, they wouldn’t have signed? It would have been better to play hardball with those free agents and lose one than to stretch Ellis.

Indiana isn’t going anywhere significant this season, anyway. The right move was paying Ellis his entire $11,227,000 this season and getting it over with.

The Pacers aren’t completely bereft of young talent. Turner, a stretch center with impressive defensive potential, is now their franchise player. Oladipo is just 25. Draft picks T.J. Leaf (No. 18), Ike Anigbogu (No. 47) and Edmond Sumner (No. 52) are all fine.

But Indiana lost George, its most valuable asset, without getting a single draft pick or high-end young player. Now, the Pacers are just headed toward a couple uninspiring years before inevitably undergoing the rebuild they could have gotten a head start on this summer or next.

Offseason grade: F

Russell Westbrook wins union’s Players Voice MVP

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The players union released its long-anticipated long-overdue awards, and there are some doozies. First of all, I still can’t figure out what Chris Bosh – who was announced as the “host” of the Twitter-released awards – has to do with this. But let’s get to the actual winners.

Here are the major awards, with the traditional award/Players Voice equivalent:

No surprise Westbrook won both MVPs. He deserved them. Still, James Harden could’ve hoped for a split result like in 2015, when Stephen Curry won actual MVP and Harden won the players’ version.

There’s obviously slight differences in the other categories. I think Green had the best defensive season and deservedly won Defensive Player of the Year, but I also think Leonard is the NBA’s best defender and therefore deserved this honor. I would’ve picked Andre Iguodala for Best off the Bench (and Sixth Man of the Year, for what it’s worth), though that’s a minor quibble. But how on earth did Joel Embiid not win Best Rookie? He was the best rookie in years, let alone this season. I picked Brogdon for Rookie of the Year based on his overall contributions in far more playing time, but there should have been no question about the best rookie.

The union also released several awards without a corresponding NBA honor:

  • Comeback Player of the Year: Joel Embiid
  • Hardest to Guard: Russell Westbrook
  • Clutch Performer: Isaiah Thomas
  • Global Impact: LeBron James
  • Player You Secretly Wish Was On Your Team: LeBron James
  • Most Influential Veteran: Vince Carter
  • Best Dressed: Russell Westbrook
  • Best Social Media Follow: Joel Embiid
  • Coach You’d Most Like to Play For: Gregg Popovich
  • Best Home Court Advantage: Warriors

LeBron winning Player You Secretly Wish Was On Your Team has to be an implicit slap in the face to Kyrie Irving. I’m glad to see Thomas and Carter deservedly recognized.

Lastly, the union awarded a Teammate of the Year on each team:

Dirk Nowitzki won the NBA’s Teammate of the Year – which is voted on by current players after a panel of former players selects nominees – then didn’t even win for his own team here? That’s just weird.

Complete NBA award voting results

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The NBA, finally, announced its award winners last night –  Most Valuable Player, Defensive Player of the Year, Rookie of the Year, Most Improved Player, Sixth Man of the Year, Coach of the Year, Executive of the Year, Teammate of the Year and Sportsmanship Award.

How individual media voters will be released later today, but for now, here are the completing voting results for each award:

Most Valuable Player (first-second-third-fourth-fifth-total points)

Russell Westbrook (OKC) 69-19-13-0-0-888

James Harden (HOU) 22-69-10-0-0-753

Kawhi Leonard (SAS) 9-9-52-28-3-500

LeBron James (CLE) 1-4-19-63-11-333

Isaiah Thomas (BOS) 0-0-4-8-37-81

Stephen Curry (GSW) 0-0-3-1-34-52

John Wall (WAS) 0-0-0-1-4-7

Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL) 0-0-0-0-7-7

Anthony Davis (NOP) 0-0-0-0-2-2

Kevin Durant (GSW) 0-0-0-0-2-2

DeMar DeRozan (TOR) 0-0-0-0-1-1

Defensive Player of the Year (first-second-third-total points)

Draymond Green (GSW) 73-22-3-434

Rudy Gobert (UTA) 16-53-30-269

Kawhi Leonard (SAS) 11-23-58-182

Robert Covington (PHI) 0-1-1-4

LeBron James (CLE) 1-1-0-3

Hassan Whiteside (MIA) 2-0-3-3

Andre Roberson (OKC) 3-0-3-3

Patrick Beverley (HOU) 4-0-1-1

LaMarcus Aldridge (SAS) 5-0-1-1

Rookie of the Year (first-second-third-total points)

Malcolm Brogdon (MIL) 64-30-4-414

Dario Saric (PHI) 13-59-24-266

Joel Embiid (PHI) 23-9-35-177

Buddy Hield (SAC) 0-1-18-21

Jamal Murray (DEN) 0-1-5-8

Willy Hernangomez (NYK) 0-0-8-8

Marquese Chriss (PHO) 0-0-3-3

Rodney McGruder (MIA) 0-0-1-1

Jaylen Brown (BOS) 0-0-1-1

Yogi Ferrell (DAL) 0-0-1-1

Most Improved Player (first-second-third-total points)

Giannis Antetokounmpo (MIL) 80-8-4-428

Nikola Jokic (DEN) 14-26-13-161

Rudy Gobert (UTA) 1-30-18-113

Otto Porter Jr. (WAS) 1-10-8-43

Isaiah Thomas (BOS) 0-7-14-35

James Johnson (MIA) 1-6-11-34

Bradley Beal (WAS) 1-3-5-19

Devin Booker (PHO) 1-3-4-18

Tim Hardaway Jr. (ATL) 0-3-5-14

Mike Conley (MEM) 1-0-0-5

Dion Waiters (MIA) 0-1-1-4

Kristaps Porzingis (NYK) 0-1-0-3

Dennis Schroder (ATL) 0-1-0-3

Jusuf Nurkic (POR) 0-1-0-3

Gordon Hayward (UTA) 0-0-3-3

Seth Curry (DAL) 0-0-2-2

Harrison Barnes (DAL) 0-0-2-2

Myles Turner (IND) 0-0-2-2

Gary Harris (DEN) 0-0-2-2

Hassan Whiteside (MIA) 0-0-1-1

Joe Ingles (UTA) 0-0-1-1

John Wall (WAS) 0-0-1-1

Clint Capela (HOU) 0-0-1-1

Avery Bradley (BOS) 0-0-1-1

DeMar DeRozan (TOR) 0-0-1-1

Sixth Man of the Year (first-second-third-total points)

Eric Gordon (HOU) 46-40-8-358

Andre Iguodala (GSW) 43-34-9-326

Lou Williams (HOU) 5-10-15-70

Zach Randolph (MEM) 2-6-18-46

James Johnson (MIA) 1-3-11-25

Greg Monroe (MIL) 1-1-13-21

Jamal Crawford (LAC) 1-3-6-20

Enes Kanter (OKC) 1-1-6-14

Patty Mills (SAS) 0-1-11-14

Tim Hardaway Jr. (ATL) 0-1-0-3

Vince Carter (MEM) 0-0-1-1

Tyler Johnson (MIA) 0-0-1-1

Malcolm Brogdon (MIL) 0-0-1-1

Coach of the Year (first-second-third-total points)

Mike D’Antoni (HOU) 68-17-9-400

Erik Spoelstra (MIA) 9-28-24-153

Gregg Popovich (SAS) 8-19-18-115

Brad Stevens (BOS) 7-16-13-96

Scott Brooks (WAS) 5-7-17-63

Quin Snyder (UTA) 1-8-8-37

Steve Kerr (GSW) 1-1-6-14

Jason Kidd (MIL) 1-2-2-13

Dwane Casey (TOR) 0-1-2-5

David Fizdale (MEM) 0-1-1-4

Executive of the Year (first-second-third-total points)

Bob Myers (GSW) 9-4-2-59

Daryl Morey (HOU) 7-6-4-57

Dennis Lindsey (UTA) 6-5-4-49

Danny Ainge (BOS) 4-1-6-29

Ernie Grunfeld (WAS) 1-3-1-15

R.C. Buford (SAS) 0-3-1-10

John Hammond (MIL) 1-1-1-9

David Griffin (CLE) 1-1-0-8

Sam Presti (OKC) 0-1-5-8

Tim Connelly (DEN) 0-2-0-6

Gar Forman (CHI) 1-0-0-5

Neil Olshey (POR) 0-1-2-5

Jeff Bower (DET) 0-1-0-3

Dell Demps (NOP) 0-1-0-3

Masai Ujiri (TOR) 0-0-2-2

Sean Marks (BRK) 0-0-1-1

Pat Riley (MIA) 0-0-1-1

Teammate of the Year (first-second-third-fourth-fifth-total points)

Dirk Nowitzki (DAL) 41-51-31-35-30-1057

Tyson Chandler (PHO) 50-29-38-27-28-1002

Udonis Haslem (MIA) 27-41-37-25-33-850

Jason Terry (MIL) 33-19-45-42-23-837

Mike Miller (DEN) 36-29-28-31-31-827

Manu Ginobili (SAS) 16-39-35-42-22-756

Kyle Korver (CLE) 24-25-25-32-27-663

Kyle Lowry (TOR) 31-22-22-17-35-660

Boris Diaw (UTA) 21-22-28-27-45-630

Shaun Livingston (GSW) 19-23-18-20-18-519

Al Jefferson (IND) 24-15-15-22-19-505

C.J. Watson (ORL) 9-16-9-11-20-300

Sportsmanship Award (first-second-third-fourth-fifth-sixth-total points)

Kemba Walker (CHA) 88-63-78-46-31-20-2424

Kyrie Irving (CLE) 52-88-38-43-46-59-2042

Shaun Livingston (GSW) 70-43-54-48-38-73-1962

Anthony Davis (NOP) 28-57-68-53-89-32-1861

Andrew Wiggins (MIN) 32-47-49-87-62-48-1787

DeMarre Carroll (TOR) 56-28-39-49-60-94-1660

Kyrie Irving scores 37, Cavaliers hold on to beat Pacers 117-111

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CLEVELAND (AP) Kyrie Irving scored 37 points, Kevin Love added 27 and the Cleveland Cavaliers avoided another fourth-quarter collapse in Game 2, beating the Indiana Pacers 117-111 on Monday night to take a 2-0 lead in the series.

After squeaking out the opener by a point, LeBron James and Co. showed more intensity on defense, more swagger in general and won their 10th straight first-round game over the past three seasons.

However, they nearly blew an 18-point lead in the fourth as the Pacers got within four before Cleveland closed it out at the line.

James added 10 rebounds and seven assists, but had eight of Cleveland’s 19 turnovers.

Game 3 is Thursday night.

Paul George scored 32 and Jeff Teague 23 for Indiana, which showed more fight, but now has a steep hill to climb to get back in the series. Cleveland is 12-0 when starting 2-0 in the postseason.

The Cavs vowed they would play better after their near-disaster in Game 1 and they backed up their talk, delivering the kind of performance that was routine last season but very rare in 2017.

Love scored 10 straight and drew a charging foul on Lance Stephenson in a span of two minutes as the Cavs opened an 89-70 lead. Irving closed the quarter by draining a 3-pointer over Stephenson and the All-Star made sure Indiana’s antagonizing guard knew about it, yapping in his direction long after the horn sounded.

The Cavs still led 109-91 with 6:09 left, but the Pacers ripped off 13 straight points and were within 113-109 when George hit a 3-pointer with 20 seconds left.

It continued a disturbing trend for the Cavs, who have been giving up late, big leads with regularity.

The other hitch for Cleveland was that starting guard J.R. Smith didn’t play in the second half because of a left hamstring injury. Iman Shumpert, who sat the opener, replaced Smith and played 20 solid minutes.

Despite losing the opener, Pacers coach Nate McMillian insisted his team hadn’t lost any confidence.

“We believe,” he said. “We came in believing, we still believe.”

It just got a lot harder.

TIP-INS

Pacers: Glenn Robinson III returned after missing the past 12 games with a strained left calf. He scored four in nine minutes. … C Al Jefferson was active, but didn’t play. He’s been out since March 26 with a sprained left ankle. … George has made at least one 3-pointer in 19 consecutive playoff games. … McMillan said the team was told by security officials to stay in their hotel Sunday night while Cleveland police searched for a suspected killer, who randomly murdered an elderly man while posting the shooting on Facebook. … Indiana is 0-9 when dropping the first two games in a series.

Cavaliers: James (357) jumped Magic Johnson (358) for third place in career playoff steals and hopped Robert Parish for eighth in rebounds. … A moment of silence was observed for Robert Godwin Sr., the 73-year-old tragically gunned down by the Facebook assailant. … Stephenson had a strong workout with Cleveland in January before latching on with Indiana, but coach Tyronn Lue said his recent injury issues – groin surgery and an Achilles issue – dissuaded the Cavs from signing him. … James has scored at least 30 points with 10 assists in 13 career playoff games, trailing only Jerry West (14) and Michael Jordan (15).

UP NEXT

After two days off, the series resumes in Indianapolis on Thursday. The Pacers went 29-19 at home during the regular season.

More NBA basketball: https://apnews.com/tag/NBAbasketball

Despite Paul George ejection, Pacers beat 76ers 120-111 to close in on playoff spot

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Paul George scored 17 of his 27 points in the opening quarter and the Indiana Pacers inched closer to clinching a berth in the NBA playoffs with a 120-111 victory over the Philadelphia 76ers on Monday night.

Thaddeus Young added 20 points, Myles Turner scored 18 and Kevin Seraphin had 17 to give the Pacers (41-40) their fourth straight victory and push them one win away from guaranteeing a playoff spot for the sixth time in the past seven years.

The 76ers (28-53) lost for the seventh straight time and finished with a home record of 17-24. They conclude their fifth straight season out of the playoffs Wednesday night at Madison Square Garden against the New York Knicks.

Timothe Luwawu-Cabarrot paced the Sixers with 24 points and Richaun Holmes had 17 points.

The Pacers ran out to a 16-4 lead and built a 21-point lead with 1:55 to play in the first quarter. George had nearly half Indiana’s 35 points.

The Sixers used a 14-2 run late in the second quarter, including an alley-oop dunk by Holmes and a 3-pointer from Luwawu-Cabarrot, to draw within seven points.

That was as close as Philadelphia would get until 3:36 remained in the fourth quarter, when a 3-pointer by Alex Poythress cut it to 111-104. The Pacers then ran off five of the next six points to regain control.

The Pacers shot 61.4 percent to the Sixers’ 45.2 percent to carry a 64-54 lead into the half. Overall, the Pacers shot 56.7 percent to the Sixers’ 46.7 percent.

George finished the first half with 19 points on 7-for-11 shooting.

TIP-INS

Pacers: Guard Aaron Brooks left the game in the first half with a sore right knee and did not return. He played 7 minutes, making a 3-pointer. … Guard/forward Glenn Robinson III (left calf strain) sat out his ninth straight game. Veteran center Al Jefferson (sprained left ankle) missed his seventh in a row. Jefferson was in uniform and on the bench and is expected to be back in the rotation for the playoffs.

76ers: The Sixers will end the season with six players on the injured list: Joel Embiid (left knee surgery), Jahlil Okafor (right knee soreness), Ben Simmons (acute fracture, right foot), Sergio Rodriguez (left hamstring strain), Robert Covington (right knee injury) and Jerryd Bayless (left wrist surgery).

DRAWING A CROWD

The Sixers saw a sizeable bump in attendance this season. Heading into their home finale they were averaging 17,398 fans at the Wells Fargo Center, about 2,500 more than last season. “They’ve cheered for us throughout some of the toughest circumstances, just kept us going, kept us fighting,” Holmes said.

WHERE HE STARTED

Young was selected by Philadelphia with the 12th overall pick of the 2007 NBA draft and played seven seasons with the Sixers, appearing in 516 games and averaging 13.7 points and 5.5 rebounds in 30.1 minutes per game.