Paul George

Pacers get permission from Hornets to interview Chad Buchanan for front office spot

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Larry Bird has stepped aside in Indiana, and Kevin Pritchard has taken over as the head of basketball operations for the Pacers.

Now Pritchard is starting to round out who he wants in the front office, and he has reached out to Charlotte for that, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Buchanan is well respected around the league and seems a good fit.

The Pacers face some big questions this summer, starting with do they trade Paul George, or keep him and try to convince him to stay? George can be a free agent in 2018 and has sounded frustrated with the direction of the team and them not being a contender (although the buzz is he wants to go to the Lakers, who even with George would not be a contender in two years).

Cavaliers embarrass Celtics 130-86, take dominant 2-0 lead in series

Associated Press
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Are we sure the Cavaliers are not the Monstars?

Boston switched up their starting lineup, putting Gerald Green in the mix. The Celtics gang rebounding a focus and switched up their defensive coverages. They played with more energy.

It didn’t matter. Boston started the game shooting 0-of-7 from the floor, trailed by 14 after one quarter as the Cavaliers went on a 28-6 run spanning the first and second, and by halftime Boston had scored just 31 points and trailed by 41 (an NBA record for largest halftime deficit in a playoff game).

“It was honestly just embarassing,” Avery Bradley said after the game. “They came out not only playing harder, they knocked down shots, and I think that made it that much worse.”

Actually, things still got worse: Boston’s Isaiah Thomas strained his right hip late in the first half and missed all of the second half. His status going forward is unknown, but the injury is considered “significant” according to Chris Mannix of The Vertical (he also works for Comcast Sports Net which broadcasts Celtics games). Thomas was 0-of-6 shooting for two points in this game and was again completely smothered by the Cavaliers defense.

The Cavaliers won 130-86 to take a commanding 2-0 series lead as the series now heads to Cleveland for Game 3 on Sunday.

LeBron James had 30 points, his 18th career and eighth straight 30-point playoff game (the latter of those tying Michael Jordan for the most all time). And he didn’t even play the fourth quarter. Kyrie Irving added 23, Kevin Love had 21 points and 12 rebounds.

“We’re very focused,” Irving said in a televised interview after the game, and maybe understating things a bit. “We have a lot of confidence in what we have as a team and when we come out and play like this, anything’s possible.”

This loss had to devastate Boston’s confidence. It’s hard not to imagine this ending in a sweep. Right now the Cavaliers are 10-0 so far this postseason.

In Game 2, we could talk about how Boston had no answer for the LeBron at center lineups, or how Cleveland’s passing was crisp while Boston was slow to recover, or a host of other things, but the real issue for Boston is they just cannot find a way to score on a suddenly-focused Cavaliers defense. They had no flow to their sets, everything they tried they got taken out of by the Cavaliers. The Celtics had an offensive rating of 75 points per 100 possessions in the first quarter, and the second quarter was worse. Things like this kept happening.

There has been a lot of talk this week about the Celtics future, especially with them now holding the No. 1 pick in the draft. As ugly as the losses have been for Boston in this series, they validate GM Danny Ainge’s decision to not to trade that pick and other players at the deadline for Paul George or Jimmy Butler — they would have not changed the outcome of this series. Made it closer, maybe gotten Boston a win, but that’s it for what would have been a high price. Boston has been patient and now you can see why, and you can see the path forward: Draft Markelle Fultz, make a hard run at Gordon Hayward in free agency, but if he decides to stay in Utah then make a run at someone else in 2018. Make sure the fits are right, find some guys who can be stronger inside and on the glass, and continue to improve. Boston made a step forward this season to get the No. 1 seed and reach the conference finals, just continue to build off that. Don’t panic and rush things.

For Cleveland, just stay healthy. The biggest test is yet to come.

James Harden, LeBron James headline All-NBA Teams

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James Harden was a unanimous First Team choice.

LeBron James and Russell Westbrook came within one vote of the same (one voter each had them on the second team).

While we aren’t going to know who won MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, or other NBA awards until their new ceremony June 26 (after the Finals and Draft), the All-NBA teams had to be different. Because it impacts bonuses and future contracts — most notably if players qualify for Designated Player max deals this summer — teams needed to know early, before the Draft. So on Thursday the NBA released the prestigious All-NBA team, a snapshot of the best in the game.

Here are the three All-NBA teams:

Other players receiving votes, with point totals (First Team votes in parentheses): Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota, 50 (2); Chris Paul, LA Clippers, 49; Marc Gasol, Memphis, 48 (2); DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans, 42 (2); Paul George, Indiana, 40; Gordon Hayward, Utah, 27; Hassan Whiteside, Miami, 18; Kyrie Irving, Cleveland, 14; Klay Thompson, Golden State, 14; Nikola Jokic, Denver, 12 (1); Damian Lillard, Portland, 12; Paul Millsap, Atlanta, 3; LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio, 1; Blake Griffin, LA Clippers, 1; Al Horford, Boston, 1.

These were voted on by 100 members of the media, their votes will be made public June 26 with the rest of the award voting. (Full disclosure, I was one of those voters.)

The big takeaways: Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook, John Wall, and Stephen Curry (already an MVP) are eligible for Designated Player max contracts. In the case of Leonard it would be five years at around $217 million, and while he would sign next summer it wouldn’t kick in until the summer of 2019. Wall can sign his extension this summer (he has more experience) but his deal will not kick in for a couple.

However, Paul George and Gordon Hayward did not make an All-NBA team, which could impact their summers because now the Pacers and Jazz cannot offer their stars those Designated Player max contracts. (That contract is only for players who make the team the past year or two of the last three, or are a former MVP.)

In the case of George (who made all-NBA regularly before his leg injury, now has not made it two of the last three), that means the Pacers may consider trading their star this summer. George is a free agent in 2018 and there is a lot of buzz he is going to leave (either to a contender or the Lakers), and Indiana’s new man in charge Kevin Pritchard may feel he needs to get something for George rather than just let him walk. However, the trade market for George will not be robust because teams feel he wants to be a free agent in 2018, so he could be a one-year rental.

For Hayward, it means the Jazz can only offer a little more than other teams — about $2 million a year more on average over the deal, but also a guaranteed fifth year, so it works out to $46 million more guaranteed (but Hayward would get paid somewhere that fifth season, just not as much). That may be enough to keep him, he likes Utah, but it’s known Boston — with Hayward’s college coach Brad Stevens — and other teams are going to come hard at him.

Some will question putting Anthony Davis at center, but he spent 64 percent of his time on the court this past season at the five (as tracked by Basketball-Reference.com). That likely will not be the case next season with DeMarcus Cousins in the picture.

Gordon Hayward misses All-NBA, making opting out inevitable

Gene Sweeney Jr/Getty Images
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All-NBA voters just pushed Gordon Hayward into free agency.

There was a narrow path to Hayward exercising his $16,736,710 player option with the Jazz for next season, but that’s out the window with Hayward missing this season’s All-NBA teams. Not eligible for a designated-veteran-player extension this offseason, Hayward is a virtual certainty to opt out and hit unrestricted free agency, where he could command a max deal projected to start at more than $30 million.

Because Hayward has played just seven seasons, he would have had to opt in to be eligible for a designated-veteran-player extension. But Hayward making an All-NBA team was another requirement of the super max deal – projected to pay $224 million over the next six years, including the option year – so there’s no good reason to opt in.

Here’s how much Hayward could have earned with a designated-veteran-player extension (green) or can earn by re-signing (yellow) or signing elsewhere (blue):

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Hayward, coming off a career year, will have an abundance of good options available.

The Jazz, who beat the Clippers in the first round, have an impressive young core centered around Rudy Gobert. Keeping Hayward and George Hill could make Utah a real threat to win multiple playoff series annually for years to come.

The Celtics – coached by Hayward’s former Butler coach, Brad Stevens – are already in the conference finals and just landed the No. 1 pick. As much as the Jazz’s breakout 51-win season gives them a selling point to Hayward, Boston’s future looks even brighter.

Beyond the two teams to which he’s most commonly linked, plenty of other suitors will throw their hats in the ring if Hayward indicates a willingness to look around. Remember, he never picked Utah. The Jazz drafted him then matched an offer sheet he signed with Charlotte during his first free agency.

Hayward could sign a 1+1 deal with Utah, which would allow him to sign a designated-veteran-player contract next year if he makes an All-NBA team next season. That’d be a substantial bet on himself, but the upside his high – an extra $13 million next season plus the same designated-veteran-player rate he could’ve qualified for if he made All-NBA and opted in this year.

Will the 27-year-old make All-NBA next season? He finished eighth among forwards this year – behind LeBron James (first team), Kawhi Leonard (first team), Giannis Antetokounmpo (second team), Kevin Durant (second team), Draymond Green (third team), Jimmy Butler (third team) and Paul George.

Here’s betting Hayward locks into a long-term deal this summer, but where? The Jazz, without the ability to keep Hayward from free agency altogether with a designated-veteran-player extension, will have to sweat it out.

Paul George misses All-NBA, throwing Pacers’ future into peril

Andy Lyons/Getty Images
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The Pacers’ recent mediocrity and the lure of his hometown Lakers threaten to end Paul George‘s tenure in Indiana.

The whims of a few media members just drove the wedge a little deeper.

The NBA released All-NBA voting today, and George – who’s now almost certain to opt out and become an unrestricted free agent in 2018 – fell short. The voting points at forward:

As a result, George will be ineligible for a designated-veteran-player extension – removing an arrow from the Pacers’ quiver. They can still offer him more money than other teams, but the advantage is not as significant as it would have been had George made an All-NBA team.

Here are the projected amounts George, who’s under contracted for $19,508,958 next season, could earn or could have earned with:

  • A designated-veteran-player extension (black)
  • Re-signing (gold)
  • Signing elsewhere (blue)

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What do the Pacers do now?

It’d be foolish for George to sign an extension this offseason. The most he could sign for is $104,880,158 over four years. He could earn more by opting out next year and signing a new contract, with Indiana or another team.

George could still get the designated-veteran-player rate (a projected $207 million over five years) on a new deal next summer – if he makes an All-NBA team next season. But the Pacers won’t know whether he qualifies until this time next year, when it’s too late to trade him.

Would they rather deal him first and guarantee a return? Or would they ride this out until the end, risking losing him for nothing?

No matter what happens with 2017-18 All-NBA, George’s max with another team next summer projects to be $132 million over four years (about $33 million annually). His max with the Pacers projects to be $177 million over five years (about $35 million annually) or, if he qualifies as a designated veteran player by making an All-NBA team, $207 million over five years (about $41 million annually). So, Indiana will have a financial advantage if it lets George play out his contract and hit free agency – just not necessarily one large enough to persuade him to stay.

George might prefer remaining in Indiana another year. It’d keep the door open for a massive designated-veteran-player contract, which only the Pacers – who drafted him and kept him through his first four seasons – can offer. However, a trade now would transfer George’s Bird Rights to his new team, allowing him to re-sign there for the projected $177 million over five years rather than the projected $132 million over four years if he leaves his previous team.

Potential trade partners will heavily weigh George’s likelihood of re-signing next summer. His expiring-contract status will hurt his trade value, though plenty of teams could use his excellent two-way contributions.

There’s little certainty with George now. Everyone involved – the Pacers, Lakers, other potential trade partners and George himself – must weigh their appetite for risk.