Dan Feldman

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GM: Grizzlies not trading Marc Gasol or Mike Conley

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Grizzlies general manager Chris Wallace made clear that firing David Fizdale was about optimizing the present.

In case you didn’t get the picture of what that means for Marc Gasol and Mike Conley

Wallace, via Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

“We have no intention to trade Marc,” Wallace told ESPN when asked if the franchise might consider dealing the 32-year-old big man. “We never seriously considered that at all. We never placed any calls to any teams in that regard. So that’s not happening.

“It’s not just Marc that this whole equation is about. It’s also Mike Conley, when he comes back. We’ve got two guys among the elite in the league at their respective positions that are still very much in their window with an awful lot of tread left on their tires.”

File this under: What else is he supposed to say? Even if the Grizzlies were looking to trade Gasol and/or Conley, announcing it would only reduce leverage.

But I tend to take Wallace at his word here. Every signal points to Memphis remaining steadfast in its plan to keep Gasol and Conley.

That’s probably a mistake, though.

Gasol is 32 and has shown signs of decline. Conley is 30 and can’t stay healthy. With a weak supporting cast, the Grizzlies need both remain competitive. Gasol has shown he can’t do it alone, and I doubt Conley could, either.

Memphis has tried to move past its longstanding core to form a more dynamic team, but it’s not working. The Grizzlies are worse now without much more long-term upside.

There’s no sin in moderate goals, and with the right breaks, Memphis can sneak into the playoffs with Gasol and Conley. Next year, too. But if that’s the best-case scenario, maybe it’s time jumpstart a rebuild.

LaVar Ball: Julius Randle should’ve passed to Lonzo Ball for final shot of regulation against Warriors

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LaVar Ball has criticized Lonzo Ball‘s Lakers teammates and coaches before.

The preeminent sports dad did it again after the Lakers’ overtime loss to the Warriors last night.

With the game tied and about five seconds left, Julius Randle grabbed a defensive rebound and began to push up-court. Before the Lakers could attack, Luke Walton called timeout. Brandon Ingram then missed against a set Golden State defense, and the Lakers lost in overtime.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

@Lavar Ball to me on a “crucial” opportunity Lakers missed that could have defeated Warriors last night.

A post shared by Chris Haynes (@chrisbhaynesnba) on

LaVar:

I’ll tell you the crucial point. When Julius got that ball at the end, he should’ve threw it forward. Lonzo had a wide-open layup or a 3-pointer. That’s game. You wouldn’t have went to overtime. That was game.

Julius tried to take too many dribbles, and then they fouled him, or they called timeout. But if he would’ve threw the ball ahead, the coach wouldn’t have called timeout. Even if he did, he can’t call it, because the ball’s in the air. Lonzo was running the lane. Game over. That’s the best time to score, when it’s nine seconds left and your coach don’t call timeout.

Don’t call timeout, because that means you’re scared.

Do the Big Baller move. Don’t call no timeouts.

LaVar alludes to a good point in a vacuum: Scoring against a scrambled defense is easier than scoring against a set defense, even with time to draw up a play. Walton is actually more aggressive than most coaches at attacking in these situations. After the game, he explained his timeout:

Walton, via Lakers Nation:

I was debating that, and once the ball kind of was loose and I looked, it was four-point, maybe five seconds left. I just wanted to make sure that we got a good shot up. And I liked — Brandon was hot. He got to his right hand and got a good look. I think it was Draymond – or maybe Jordan Bell – came over and contested it late. But it’s a feel thing, and right then, normally, I would like to let that play go and let the players kind of use the momentum to try to get something. But it just looked a little too chaotic as we were grabbing the rebound and Julius had it. And I just wanted to make sure we got a good look up.

It was a questionable decision, and I mean that in the truest sense. There’s logic to both sides.

It’s not nearly as cut-and-dry as LaVar made it seem.

Three Warriors were closer to their basket than any Laker when Walton called timeout. Kevin Durant was so far back, he didn’t even appear on the screen:

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Lonzo kept leaking out after the whistle, giving the appearance of an advantage that didn’t really exist. The Warriors already stopped defending because of the timeout.

Walton’s out-of-timeout play didn’t go great. It was Draymond Green who contested Ingram’s shot, because, as Green said, “he always goes right.” That’s the drawback of playing against a set defense with time to focus on its strategy.

But just because Walton’s timeout didn’t work doesn’t mean not calling timeout would have. The Lakers would have been rushed.

The real question: Were the Lakers more likely to score with or without a timeout in that situation? The answer: I don’t know. We saw only one outcome.

But LaVar, in his typical know-it-all fashion, is using that to “prove” his point.

So much of what LaVar does is just attention-grabbing nonsense that doesn’t matter. See him saying Lonzo is better than Stephen Curry.

But I wonder whether these shots at Lonzo’s teammates and coaches – especially considering the large platform LaVar has built for himself – will ever wear thin in the Lakers locker room.

Magic: Terrence Ross out ‘significant amount of time’

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The Magic snapped an eight-game losing streak by beating the Thunder last night, but Orlando didn’t escape the game unscathed.

Terrence Ross will be out for a while.

Magic release:

After further evaluation, including an MRI, Orlando Magic guard/forward Terrence Ross has been diagnosed with a sprained right medial collateral ligament (MCL) and a non-displaced fracture of his right tibial plateau, President of Basketball Operations Jeff Weltman announced. Ross suffered the injury at the 4:38 mark of the second quarter during last night’s victory over Oklahoma City. He will be out indefinitely and miss a significant amount of time. His return to play will depend on how the injury heals and how he responds to treatment.

Ross – passive and ineffective for much of the season – had already been supplanted by Jonathon Simmons in the starting lineup, but Orlando was counting on Ross to provide a spark off the bench.

Now, the Magic will turn more to Arron Afflalo and/or Mario Hezonja. Neither bodes well for Orlando’s dwindling playoff chances. Perhaps, Jonathan Isaac gets more minutes on the wing once he gets healthy.

Rumor: Mavericks don’t see Nerlens Noel as hard worker

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These aren’t the first rumblings about Nerlens Noel‘s attitude.

They’re just the loudest since the Mavericks traded for him.

Newy Scruggs for The Dallas Morning News:

My sources tell me that Nerlens Noel is not known as a hard worker.

I’m told he doesn’t have a sense of hard play and that’s not going to fly with a head coach like Rick Carlisle who had to cut his teeth as a NBA player.

Until Noel shows a better work ethic other players will get minutes.

Noel is outside Dallas’ rotation, a terrible place to be in a contract year. He rejected a reported $17.5 million annually to sign his qualifying offer last summer, so he’ll be an unrestricted free agent next summer.

Noel isn’t getting a chance to showcase himself on the court. He’s removing the plausibility that his previous problems were due to the 76ers’ miserable situation. Not that the Mavericks are great, either, but they’re known for a far better environment for player development.

Perhaps, Dallas would treat him differently if he signed long-term. But the Mavericks are literally not invested in him. The onus is on him to force his way into the rotation.

It’s not necessarily too late for Noel in Dallas. The Mavericks still have his Bird Rights, and they were obviously quite interested in him just a few months ago.

But time is ticking to find common ground between the team and player. More importantly for Noel, potential suitors in free agency are watching.

Report: NBA executives expect 76ers to pursue LeBron James in free agency

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In 2010, LeBron James left the Cavaliers’ weak supporting cast to join Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh with the Heat.

In 2014, LeBron left declining Wade and Bosh to play with younger stars Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love in Cleveland.

Could LeBron make another proactive move next summer – specifically to join Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons with the 76ers?

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:

executives around the league believe Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo will attempt to sign James.

Do these executives know something we don’t, or are they just connecting dots? The possibility of the former makes this intriguing.

Philadelphia can relatively easily carve out max cap space next summer. Any team with so much room would want LeBron, though determination to chase him will vary. Some teams will bow out, not wanting to waste their time. Others – maybe including the 76ers? – will make harder pushes.

LeBron’s agent, Rich Paul, and manager, Maverick Carter, have both publicly emphasized that winning should be LeBron’s priority. There’s a case Philadelphia with LeBron would win more than Cleveland with LeBron.

The 76ers are overloaded with assets – Embiid, Simmons, Markelle Fultz (whatever you make of him at this point), Robert Covington, Dario Saric, several other young and an extra future first-round pick. Philadelphia also signed J.J. Redick in a bid to accelerate its timeline, and the team is 12-8. If LeBron comes, it’d be easy to flip young players and picks for more players capable of winning now.

Embiid and Simmons already appear to be on that level, and they’re just 23 and 21, respectively. The 76ers’ championship window could be open from the moment LeBron signs until he retires. That should intrigue him.

But it’s not so simple. LeBron also cares about his legacy, and leaving the Cavs again would compromise it. He doesn’t want to be known as a carpetbagger. On the other hand, another title would bolster his résumé, and Philadelphia offers the possibility of LeBron continuing his reign over the Eastern Conference.

I don’t know what LeBron will do next summer. He probably doesn’t know what he’ll do next summer. But between now and then, multiple teams will have their moment where speculation centers on them signing LeBron. This is the 76ers’.

It’s a long way from actually signing the superstar forward, but after years of tanking, Philadelphia ought to feel good it has established enough credibility where a LeBron pursuit is at least taken seriously.