Dan Feldman

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Shabazz Muhammad changing name to Bazz

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Timberwolves forward Shabazz Muhammad has a complicated history – most infamously, scheming with his father (Ron Holmes) to present himself as a year younger than he actually is.

Soon, Muhammad will put some of that history – or at least the name associated with it – behind him.

Jerry Zgoda of StarTribune:

Reserve forward Shabazz Muhammad’s just reads “Bazz” for a reason.

Muhammad said before Friday’s 119-116 victory over Oklahoma City that he intends to legally change his name to just the short, single nickname.

“I just like it,” he said. “Everybody calls me that anyway.”

He said he’s not sure how involved the process is and now long it will be before the name change becomes official and he will be introduced at Target Center and elsewhere as such.

Name changes are not unheard of by NBA players. Rockets center Nene, formerly Nene Hilario, also started going by a single name, though that’s more common in his native Brazil.

I doubt Muhammad’s decision is as simple as he makes it sound. Name changes usually aren’t. But if he’s more comfortable as just Bazz, more power to him.

Draymond Green calls out team executive (reportedly Trail Blazers’ Neil Olshey) for giving finger

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Warriors forward Draymond Green, defending himself after his scuffle with the Wizards’ Bradley Beal, brought up a Clippers-Trail Blazers game.

After Clippers forward Blake Griffin hit the game-winning 3-pointer Thursday, Trail Blazers president and former Clippers general manager Neil Olshey can be seen sitting in the first row to the right of the basket and making a gesture.

Green, via Chris Haynes of ESPN:

“They got presidents of teams giving middle fingers on national TV and nothing’s said,” he said. “You don’t want to shine the light on somebody else. They got someone else to be the bad guy, so, I’ll just keep being me. I guess I’m not supposed to be me. I tried that. That s— don’t’ work, either. So, it is what it is. I wish I had a better answer, but I really don’t have a better answer. Failing to disengage? I don’t know what that means. Getting punched, grabbed and slammed is maybe what that means.”

The executive Green was referring to, sources tell ESPN, was Portland Trail Blazers president of basketball operations Neil Olshey. After LA Clippers power forward Blake Griffin nailed a game-winning triple in Portland on Thursday, Olshey was seen on camera along the baseline making a nondescript hand gesture.

Sources said the league looked into the matter and learned that Olshey’s hand gesture was directed at a close friend, who is a fan of the Clippers, which is why no punishment was issued.

A little weird Green brought up an opposing executive’s actions during a game not involving Golden State? Yup. But we’ve long realized Green isn’t wed to traditional boundaries, especially when it furthers his agenda.

Also, avoiding a fine because the gesture was directed at a close friend? Bet Josh Jackson wish he thought of that excuse.

Former Warriors executive: Golden State tanked to get Harrison Barnes

AP Photo/Paul Sakuma
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The NBA is so concerned about tanking, it passed lottery reform – to curb actual tanking or at least the perception of it.

But people in the league keep admitting to tanking.

The latest: Hawks general manager Travis Schlenk, who was previously the Warriors’ assistant general manager

In middle of March 2012, Golden State had a better record than two Western Conference teams and every Eastern Conference team outside playoff position. Continuing at that pace would have given the Warriors just a 4% chance of keeping their first-round pick, which was top-seven protected. Far more likely, they would have conveyed the No. 10 pick to the Jazz.

So, Golden State traded its consensus best player, Monta Ellis, for an injured Andrew Bogut, lost 17 of its last 20 games and “fell” to the No. 7 seed in the lottery – nabbing a 75% chance of keeping its pick. The Warriors stayed at No. 7 and drafted Harrison Barnes.

Schlenk, via the CBS Sports Flagrant Two podcast:

We made that deal knowing two things. One, we’d never had a center in Golden State or a rim protector, when I was there anyway. So, with eyes on the future, if we can get him healthy, get him back. We shut Steph down at the time. And we knew that we had to fall into those bottom seven spots to get our pick, and that was really important to us. Tanking? I guess. It was a conscious decision we made to shoot for next year.

I think you have to, as a franchise, do what’s best for the franchise. And sometimes, that means securing your draft pick if you can.

I think the problem with tanking or the perception of tanking is when teams go out there from day and don’t show any intention of winning. We’re not doing that here in Atlanta.

Bogut was central to the Warriors’ defensive resurgence, and they sent Utah the No. 21 pick the next year. Barnes became a key player on Golden State’s 2015 title team, and the franchise’s rise with him and Bogut helped lure Andre Iguodala and eventually Kevin Durant in free agency.

This is the problem with tanking: It works.

It’s not the only way to win, and it doesn’t always work, though I’d argue that many teams that fail while tanking would fail through other methods of team-building because they’re poorly managed. There are also different types of tanking, Golden State’s seen as more permissible.

I define tanking as any decision a team makes that is at least partially driven by a desire to lose more in order to improve draft position.

The Warriors’ trade (and subsequent strategies down the stretch) clearly fit. So does the most-egregious example – the 76ers’ Process. But setting out a season to tank is rare. Doing it multiple years was unprecedented.

Yet, Philadelphia gets so much attention in these tanking discussions. What Golden State did – wasting the final quarter of its season once the first three quarters produced mediocre results – happens far more often. That’s what the league ought to fight against.

One possible solution: Eliminate the ability to protect draft picks within the lottery. That’d remove incentive for teams to nosedive for artificial – and highly important – cutoff points.

But I’m also unconvinced this is a huge problem. As Schlenk said, his Hawks aren’t tanking (not yet, at least). He wants to develop a winning culture. We’ll see whether that strategy is to their benefit, but many general managers take a similar approach. There’s a level of self-policing happening – even by prior tankers.

Report: Nikola Mirotic’s camp unhappy with Bulls’ response to Bobby Portis’ punch

AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez
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Nikola Mirotic‘s reported desire for the Bulls trade him or Bobby Portis, who hospitalized his teammate with a practice punch, might not be just about bitterness toward Portis.

Mirotic seemingly resents the response of the Bulls, who laid blame on both players and suspended Bobby Portis eight games.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune:

Between the organization making public its view that Mirotic acted as an aggressor leading up to Portis’ inexcusable act, plus the fact Portis is being allowed to practice during the suspension, there’s dissatisfaction within the Mirotic camp that his plight is being understood, sources said.

Keeping Portis from practice would only hurt the Bulls and him. It might placate Mirotic, who understandably could want Portis banished. But as long Mirotic still isn’t around as he recovers and Portis’ other teammates don’t have a problem with him, Portis should practice.

Were the Bulls correct to characterize Mirotic as an aggressor? No idea. Only those who saw the incident can say, and if other Bulls aren’t distraught about Portis practicing, that’s an indicator he’s not solely to blame.

But Mirotic’s perception matters, too. And if he’s unhappy with how Chicago is handling this, a complex situation becomes even more difficult to manage.

Report: Suns exploring including Tyson Chandler in Eric Bledsoe trade

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
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The Suns are working on trading Eric Bledsoe – and maybe Tyson Chandler.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

With Bledsoe headed out, Chandler fits even less than he did before in Phoenix – and the center didn’t fit before. He’s 35 and maybe still capable of helping a winning team with his rebounding and finishing (and rim protection still if he gets to a team that demands more effort?). To maximize his complementary skills, Chandler must play with savvy teammates.

The Suns don’t have many of those. They’re young and still learning how to play, losing a lot while they do. Already headed toward the basement anyway, Phoenix has made habit of tanking to maximize its lottery position.

But Chandler is due $26,585,000 over this season and next, sinking his trade value. If the Suns include him in a Bledsoe deal, they’ll get less return that if Chandler weren’t involved.

Problematically for Phoenix, even dumping Bledsoe (due $29.5 million the next two years) and Chandler won’t leave the team with a clean cap sheet. Brandon Knight is owed $43,893,750 the next three years, and Jared Dudley is due $19,530,000 over the next two. It’ll take more cap-clearing to create room for a major haul.

Perhaps, shedding Bledsoe and Chandler is the right start, but it’d be just a start – and one that brings in fewer positive assets than trading just Bledsoe would.