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Dan Feldman

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 30: Jahlil Okafor #8 and Nerlens Noel #4 of the Philadelphia 76ers play in the game against the Utah Jazz on October 30, 2015 at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
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76ers GM Bryan Colangelo ‘absolutely not’ comfortable starting season with Nerlens Noel, Jahlil Okafor and Joel Embiid on roster, but…

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There’s an obvious reason Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor have come up so frequently in trade talks.

The 76ers have too many big men.

With Joel Embiidwho might finally be healthy — Philadelphia has three highly touted young centers. Sliding one to power forward is untenable because that spot is occupied by No. 1 pick Ben Simmons, maybe Dario Saric and the 76ers’ wings capable of playing down.

The situation led to a blunt assessment from Philadelphia general manager Bryan Colangelo when asked whether he’s comfortable starting the season with Noel, Okafor and Embiid on the roster.

Colangelo, via SiriusXM NBA Radio:

Absolutely not.

But I think what we are comfortable doing is saying we’re not going to make a bad deal just to make a deal. So when I say in a playful way, ‘No, I’m not comfortable,’ I think we could  be a better basketball team if we could distribute that talent better and maybe take one of those assets and address other needs on the roster.

But I think, right now, again, it’s best to say we like all of them. We want to see if we can make the most out of each of them in terms of their contributions to this team.

But at the end of the day, the reality says probably one has to go at some point — but only when the deal is right.

This is a good way to put it. Are the 76ers comfortable with all three centers on the roster? No. Are they comfortable selling low on one of them? No.

Philadelphia is probably going to have to make an uncomfortable decision at some point.

The key is making the best of the tough choices available, and that means answering some difficult questions.

Which of the three will become the best player? Noel (22), Okafor (20) and Embiid (22) are still young and developing.

Which of the three can play together? Noel and Okafor struggled mightily together last season, but the 76ers’ weak perimeter players didn’t help. Embiid obviously hasn’t played with either yet.

What will other teams offer for each of the three? Philadelphia’s perceptions aren’t the only ones that matter. Potential trade partners have a big say in this process.

Colangelo might have an idea of the market for each center, but the other questions are impossible to answer definitively. At what point should the 76ers stop gather more information and make a trade? It’s an incredibly fine line. They don’t want to expose shortcomings that lower trade values. And they don’t want to trade before players establish peak value.

Obviously, Colangelo hasn’t heard an offer he likes so far. That might just mean the uncomfortable route of starting the season with Noel, Okafor and Embiid on the roster.

When the alternative is another uncomfortable option, that’s not so bad.

Report: Rival GMs expect Thunder to trade Russell Westbrook, most likely to Celtics

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 23: Russell Westbrook #0 of the Oklahoma City Thunder stands under the hoop prior to the game against the Boston Celtics on November 23, 2012 at TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)
Jared Wickerham/Getty Images
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The Thunder — in the wake of losing Kevin Durant to the Warriors — are not trading Russell Westbrook right now, according to one report.

Not many people buy it.

Howard Beck of Bleacher Report:

I don’t think anybody knows for certain what Russell Westbrook wants to do or intends to do, next summer. But that said, let’s just say there’s a very strong suspicion, a strong belief, among rival GMs that Russell Wesbtrook is not intending to stay, that he would leave next summer when he hits free agency. And because of that, the logical next step is that Sam Presti — who is always ahead of the curve on these things — will look to trade him. Now, I don’t know that that’s happening right this moment.

What I’m hearing here in Las Vegas from some GMs is that, not only do they think that Westbrook will get traded, that it will be sooner than later — probably before the season starts — and that the most likely destination right now would be the Boston Celtics.

The Thunder should trade Westbrook. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent in 2017, and their biggest selling point — competing for championships with Durant — is out the window. Oklahoma City no longer holds enough appeal where it should feel confident in re-signing Westbrook.

Trading him before the season would also maximize the Thunder’s return. Westbrook’s next team will value his ability to help it win immediately, so getting another 50-or-so games from Westbrook before the trade deadline should improve the package suitors are willing to offer.

The Celtics make a ton of sense on paper.

They’re trying to challenge LeBron James and the Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference, and Al Horford puts Boston in second place. Westbrook could make the Celtics a legitimate threat.

Boston also has a deep and talented roster and a treasure trove of draft picks, including control of the Nets’ first-round pick the next two years. Unlike the Lakers, the Celtics have enough assets to trade for Westbrook and assemble a quality roster around him.

It also seems Boston, unlike Los Angeles, would gain a bigger advantage over outside challengers by possessing Westbrook’s Bird Rights. The Celtics might not have the sway to lure Westbrook in free agency without the advantage of higher raises and an extra season.

But that’s up to Westbrook, and that’s where this gets tricky.

It’s probably impractical to offer a trade package that appeases the Thunder without some assurance Westbrook will re-sign. Will he give that to Boston? To which teams?

That’s why this speculation from front offices goes only so far — unless they’ve heard from Westbrook’s camp. He needs to send some signals for this process to proceed.

Adam Silver: If NBA moves 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte, it’ll happen soon

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 02:  NBA Commissioner Adam Silver addresses the media before Game 1 of the 2016 NBA Finals at ORACLE Arena on June 2, 2016 in Oakland, California. The Cleveland Cavaliers take on the Golden State Warriors in the best of seven series. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
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The NBA has demurred and demurred and demurred and demurred on moving the 2017 All-Star game from Charlotte due to North Carolina’s anti-gay laws.

That strategy can’t last.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver, via ASAP Sports:

We also discussed the situation in Charlotte, North Carolina, again, as to whether we will, in fact, be conducting the 2017 All-Star Game there. This is an issue that has been going on for several months now. In essence, Rick Buchanan, our general counsel, gave an update to the board on what happened in the most recent legislative session down in North Carolina, and the Hornets, of course, spoke to the issue as well. I’d only say we’re not prepared to make a decision today, but we recognize that the calendar is not our friend here and that February is quickly approaching, and especially in terms of big events like All-Star Games. If we are going to make alternative plans, we are going to need to do that relatively soon.

Silver has broadcasted pretty clearly that the game will be moved if the laws don’t change to the league’s satisfaction. If North Carolina values hosting this event — and protecting the freedoms of its citizens — the clock is ticking.

Mark Cuban says he voted against new Hack-a-Shaq rules: ‘Rewarding incompetence is never a good business strategy’

DALLAS, TX - APRIL 21:  Owner, Mark Cuban before game three of the Western Conference Quarterfinals of the 2016 NBA Playoffs at American Airlines Center on April 21, 2016 in Dallas, Texas.  NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
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The NBA enacted slightly more punitive rules against teams that employ Hack-a-Shaq.

Surprise, surprise: Mavericks owner Mark Cuban and the league office don’t see eye-to-eye.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

That’s one way to frame it.

Another: The NBA is no longer rewarding the incompetence of teams that defend so poorly, intentionally fouling is their optimal strategy.

Hacking is the only “skill” I can execute on an NBA level, which suggests it’s not much of a skill at all. I’d rather watch Andrew Bogut defend an Andre Drummond pick-and-roll rather than Bogut intentionally fouling Drummond. The ensuing free throws, admittedly, can be entertaining — but not enough to outweigh the cost of a longer and choppier game.

And that’s what this is really about. Presenting consumers with a product they desire is always a good business strategy. If they draw more fans and keep existing fans more engaged, the new rules will pay off.

One more way to frame it: Maybe Cuban holds a grudge.

Adam Silver: Perception of Warriors and Cavaliers as overwhelming favorites not good for the league

OAKLAND, CA - JULY 07: Kevin Durant speaks to the media during the press conference where he was introduced as a member of the Golden State Warriors after they signed him as a free agent on July 7, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
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The Warriors — featuring Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson — are favored over the field to win the 2017 NBA title.

The Cavaliers — with LeBron James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love — are favored over the field to win the Eastern Conference in 2017.

Is that a problem?

NBA commissioner Adam Silver, via ASAP Sports:

I’ll say, and I’ve read several stories suggesting that that’s something that the league wants, this notion of two super teams, that it’s a huge television attraction. I don’t think it’s good for the league, just to be really clear. I will say whoever is the prohibitive favorite, try telling that to the 430 other players who aren’t on those two teams. I mean, we have the greatest collection of basketball players in the world in our league, and so I’m not making any predictions, but there’s no question, when you aggregate a group of great players, they have a better chance of winning than many other teams. On the other hand, there are lots of things that have to happen.

We’ll see what happens in Golden State. You had a great, great chemistry among a group of players and you’re adding another superstar to the mix, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens. But just to be absolutely clear, I do not think that’s ideal from a league standpoint.

I mean, for me as I discussed earlier, part of it is designing a collective bargaining agreement that encourages the distribution of great players throughout the league.

On the other hand, I absolutely respect a player’s right to become a free agent, and in this case for Kevin Durant to make a decision that he feels is best for him, and I have no idea what is in his mind or heart in terms of how he went about making that decision. But we’ll see. As I said, in a way the good news is that we are in a collective bargaining cycle, so it gives everybody an opportunity, owners and the union, to sit down behind closed doors and take a fresh look at the system and see if there is a better way that we can do it.

My belief is we can make it better.

This is a great answer. Someone can respect Durant’s decision while still desiring a system that doesn’t produce similar decisions.

But what is that system?

It needs to be something both owners and players agree on, which obviously removes some draconian options.

Eliminating individual max salaries might be the best compromise.

The Warriors had max cap room for Durant. They could not have kept their other stars and cleared enough cap space to compete with a mega offer from, say, the Nets. Perhaps Durant still would’ve chosen Golden State’s talent and culture. He took less money to leave the Thunder. But if the difference in money were far more significant, it would’ve given him more to consider.

Now is the time to resolve this issue (if it is an issue). Either side can opt out of the Collective Bargaining Agreement by December 15, which would cause it to expire after the season.

The more money the NBA is making, the less likely a lockout becomes — and the league is making unprecedented money.  Neither owners nor players will want to forgo that huge income for any amount of time.

But that’s not the only factor. If either side believes there’s more money to be made, it will push for it.

Silver’s answer suggests the owners believe increased parity is a better business model. Some players outside Golden State and Cleveland might agree, though, as Silver said, they’ll still play hard in the meantime to prove the oddsmakers wrong.

A third straight Warriors-Cavaliers Finals is not nearly as inevitable as it seems to many right now. A compelling season, despite initial reservations, could change the tenor of this conversation.

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