Ian Clark

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Pelicans trying to keep up with all the problems they’ve created for themselves

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NBCSports.com’s Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

The entire operation could have cratered if Jrue Holiday left in free agency, as the Pelicans would have had only moderate cap space to replace him.

That didn’t happen.

Otherwise…

Years of roster mismanagement caught up to New Orleans, which had its meager wing depth eviscerated when Solomon Hill suffered a long-term injury. Complicating matters, the Pelicans had already hard-capped themselves by signing Rajon Rondo and Darius Miller to a combined salary above the taxpayer mid-level exception. Holiday used his leverage to get a massive contract – worth up to $150 million over five years – that pushed New Orleans close to that hard cap.

Rondo might be a decent value as a $3.3 million backup point guard. But his ego complicates the situation, and the Pelicans will start him at point guard – pushing Holiday to shooting guard, where the team’s third-best player will make less of an impact.

Miller washed out of the NBA two years ago after three seasons in New Orleans. The former second-rounder went overseas and then drew a salary above the minimum. I’m curious to see what the Pelicans see in him now.

In a pinch on the wing – where Hill, best at power forward, was already playing out of position – New Orleans sent a second-rounder and cash to the Bulls to dump Quincy Pondexter. Presumably, the injury problems that have kept Pondexter from playing the last two seasons meant he couldn’t help the Pelicans on the wing this season. Otherwise, this deal was a farce. But it allowed the Pelicans to sign Tony Allen and presumably one other player. Re-signing Dante Cunningham would help, but even he is better at power forward than small forward.

Allen is still a strong defender at age 35, but he’s a poor shooter. Rondo generally has been, too.

Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins will have to be comfortable from deep for this team to have adequate spacing. The situation behind those two stars is woeful.

New Orleans spent a lot of time picking around the edges at point guard, though. In addition to re-signing Holiday and signing Rondo, the Pelicans traded effective backup point guard Tim Frazier (on a reasonable $2 million salary) to the Wizards for the No. 52 pick. Then, New Orleans essentially dealt the Nos. 40 and 52 picks and $800,000 to move up to No. 31 for injured point guard Frank Jackson, who’s already hurt again. The Pelicans also signed Ian Clark (defends point guards, handles the ball and distributes like a shooting guard). Combo guard E'Twaun Moore returns, too.

Between Davis, Cousins, Omer Asik and Alexis Ajinca, New Orleans is paying $57,396,659 this season to players most effective at center.

Meanwhile, small forward is a wasteland.

This is not the team I’d want to send into battle during Cousins’ contract year. Lose him, and how will that color Davis’ long-term view of the franchise?

The Pelicans keep bandaging major wounds, and it’s already catching up to them. The difficult situation entering the offseason must be taken into account.

They started the summer in a jam. Then, they got jammed.

Offseason grade: C-

Ian Clark wants, will get chance to show what he can do with Pelicans

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When you buried on the depth chart behind the best backcourt in the NBA — Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson — minutes and opportunities can be hard to come by. Ian Clark will get a ring for his efforts with the Golden State Warriors last season, but what he longed for was more opportunities. And that was going to be hard to come by with the deep Golden State roster.

Clark signed with New Orleans in free agency — a team where good guard play and shooting will get him a lot of the opportunities he seeks. He spoke about it with the Pelicans team website.

“Being able to show what I can do in the minutes I get, I want to be able to expand on that this year,” said Clark, who averaged 14.8 minutes last season for the 67-15 Warriors. “I want to show that I can do that in extended minutes and be consistent at it, and help my team win, whether that’s on the defensive or offensive end. I want to show that it wasn’t just because of that team (that I played well).”

The Pelicans need shooting and perimeter defense around Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. Coach Alvin Gentry is committed to starting the season with a Rajon Rondo and Jrue Holiday backcourt, but facing tremendous pressure to win and win early we will see how long that lasts. If Clark or E'Twaun Moore or Tony Allen play well early, they will get a lot of run. Clark will get a chance with the ball in his hands.

“Utilizing my shooting and scoring ability is something I do well,” Clark said. “I’ve never really been a true point guard, but handling the ball and initiating offense are things I can do. I couldn’t do too much of that in Golden State, but that’s how I view myself. Also being able to defend multiple positions is important. Obviously there are bigger wings in the league, so being able to make sure I can defend different matchups is something that can help the team.”

Clark has shown flashes of being able to run an offense, but he’s also been turnover prone. He shot 37.4 percent last season from three, and he can be better. If he can take his game to the next level, he can be part of the future in New Orleans (whatever that looks like).

Clark is one of those players who bet on himself this summer. He’s going to get the chance to prove that was smart.

Report: Pelicans will sign Tony Allen to one-year contract

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Shooting? Who needs shooting in today’s NBA?

The New Orleans Pelicans were in a bind with the injury that will sideline Solomon Hill for most of the season — he has proven to be a solid wing defender, and they were going to count on him for that and a little shooting. Without him, the Pelicans were woefully thin at the three spot and have been looking for help. They have found it in Mr. grit n’ grind Tony Allen, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Earlier in the day, I had called Allen the second best free agent still on the market. He makes sense for the Pelicans in that he can defend the opposing team’s best wing player and do a good job. Also, a one-year, minimum contract is not a bad deal for a guy who can contribute.

But I’m glad I’m not Alvin Gentry trying to figure out the Pelicans’ rotations. The Pelicans have committed (as of now) to starting Rajon Rondo next to Jrue Holiday in the backcourt (and the front court is, of course, Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins). With those four the Pelicans cannot start Allen — he and Rondo are non-shooters, and that will allow teams to pack the paint on Davis and Cousins. I expect E'Twaun Moore will get start and get a lot of run because he’s more of a shooting threat, but he’s not the same level of defender. Ian Clark is getting a real opportunity and needs to come up big for the Pelicans. Allen helps the defense, but he plays better with guys who can space the floor around him.

If things go sideways early in New Orleans — and a lot of people around the league expect them to — it is going to get interesting. Including Cousins possibly being traded again.

LeBron James, for better or worse, drives Cavaliers in Game 1 loss

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LeBron James drove 1-on-3, and Ian Clark picked his pocket from behind. The Warriors pushed the ball the other way, getting Kevin Durant an open 3-pointer.

LeBron never even crossed mid-court.

Cleveland called timeout, and LeBron finally crossed half-court to take a seat for the rest of the night. He finished with a monster stat line – 28 points, 15 rebounds and eight assists – but a troubling Game 1 loss.

The Cavs’ offense? Sloppy. Their defense? Lazy and uncoordinated.

And LeBron contributed majorly to those problems.

He committed eight turnovers and allowed his primary assignment, Durant, to go off for 38 points. LeBron’s help rotations were even less impressive.

LeBron has now posted 28-15-8 in the Finals more than anyone else combined over the last 25 years (thrice to once each by Draymond Green and Shaquille O’Neal). But this wasn’t the LeBron who put the Cavaliers on his back in last year’s Finals. He wasn’t nearly sharp enough, setting the tone for a Cleveland team that committed 20 turnovers and eventually broke down on numerous defensive possessions.

Asked what stood out about the Warriors performance, LeBron gave a two-letter answer before elaborating.

“K.D.,” LeBron said.

“You take one of the best teams that we had ever assembled last year, that we saw in the regular season and in the post-season, and then in the off-season you add a high-powered offensive talent like that and a great basketball I.Q. like that, that’s what stands out.”

If that were an admission of his own team’s inferiority, LeBron snapped out of it quickly.

“I mean, it’s no if, ands, or buts. It is what it is. We got to figure out how to combat that, which is going to be a tough challenge for us,” LeBron said. “But that’s what stands out.”

If it means his own individual performance fades into the background, LeBron might gladly give Durant center stage.

LeBron’s dominant start – 13 points, four shooting fouls drawn, on aggressive drives, five rebounds and three assists in the first quarter – turned into an uneven showing. The Warriors pestered LeBron with the ball, took away his passing lanes and exposed his defense. LeBron’s big traditional numbers will mask some of his shortcomings, but there were reasons LeBron was -22, his worst plus-minus game in this Finals trilogy.

LeBron wasn’t bad tonight. It’s hard to be bad with a 28-15-8.

But the Cavs need him to be so much crisper to have a chance against Golden State.

Warriors could eclipse $260 million in spending next season

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Kevin Durant is reportedly willing to accept less than a max contract next season.

That, ironically, could get very expensive for the Warriors.

Golden State would need to clear cap space to pay Durant his max – the system working as intended to limit spending. But if Durant takes less than his max, the Warriors could operate as an over-the-cap team, sign players like Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston with Bird Exceptions and spend into the stratosphere.

Just how high could Golden State’s payroll get next season? Let’s make a few assumptions:

  • The luxury-tax line is the projected $121 million
  • Durant opts out and re-signs for the Non-Bird Exception ($31,848,120 starting salary)
  • Stephen Curry re-signs on a designated-veteran-player contract (more than $35 million projected starting salary)
  • Iguodala re-signs for a starting salary of $18 million
  • Livingston re-signs for a starting salary of $9 million
  • Zaza Pachulia re-signs for the full Non-Bird Exception ($3,477,600 starting salary)
  • Ian Clark re-signs for the full Early Bird Exception (about $6.5 million projected starting salary)
  • David West re-signs for the full Non-Bird Exception ($2,794,382 starting salary)
  • JaVale McGee re-signs for the full Non-Bird Exception ($2,540,346 starting salary)
  • Golden State keeps its players already under contract (Klay Thompson, Draymond Green, Kevon Looney, Damian Jones and Patrick McCaw)
  • The Warriors use the full taxpayer mid-level exception ($5,192,000 starting salary)
  • Golden State rounds out its roster with a minimum-salary player

That’d give the Warriors a payroll of about $155 million and a luxury-tax bill about $106 million – a total of about $261 million.

For perspective, the Cavaliers are in line to spend about $151 million this season, about $127 million on salaries and about $25 million in luxury tax (rounding explains the seemingly incorrect math).

Now, this is obviously a rough projection, and the Warriors won’t be forced to spend so much. Maybe Golden State re-signs Iguodala or Livingston for less or lets one walk. I doubt the Warriors use the full taxpayer mid-level exception, especially if they keep both Iguodala and Livingston. Golden State might also view Clark as more of a luxury than it could afford. Pachulia and McGee could seek more elsewhere and be replaced by minimum-salary players.

But if Durant is taking a discount, it’s not to save Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber money. It’s to help his team win. Durant shouldn’t take less unless the owners commit not to scrimp around the edges – and that could lead to a monstrous payroll.