Dan Feldman

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Rudy Gay says he’s no longer intent on opting out of Kings contract after injury

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Rudy Gay told the Kings he’d decline his $14,263,566 player option for next season and likely leave.

Then, he tore his Achilles in January.

Where does that leave Gay with his option?

Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee:

Gay said those plans could change due to the injury. He’s on course to be ready for next season but said he’ll decide what to do after an evaluation of his health and his agent’s assessment of the market.

“I’m looking at where I feel most comfortable, where I can showcase my talents and win,” Gay said. “Wherever I think I can do that at, that’s the best place for me.”

Gay has a fairly early exercise date — June 10 or five days after his team’s last game, according to Basketball Insiders. It’s unclear whether Gay’s deadline is the earlier or later of those two dates.

That still leaves Gay some time to evaluate his health, and his agent can likely gather some information. But Gay must decide well before free agency begins and likely well before he returns to the court.

It’ll be a close call and the money is only part of it. Remember, Gay reportedly coined the term “basketball hell” for Sacramento. But if Gay opts in, the Kings might trade him — which he probably wouldn’t mind.

After trading DeMarcus Cousins, their narrow window to rebuild is open. They owe the 76ers their 2019 first-round pick. So, tanking in 2017-18 could be the last clear path to fortifying a young core with Buddy Hield, Willie Cauley-SteinMalachi RichardsonSkal LabissiereGeorgios Papagiannis, Bogdan Bogdanovic and, ideally, two high 2017 picks.

Gay no longer fits the plan. He wouldn’t be able to control where Sacramento trades him, but only teams that value him would deal for him. At worst, he’s spending only one more season in an undesirable situation.

Then, he could pick his team in 2018 free agency — likely from a, literally, healthier place.

Agency fires Dan Fegan, hires Kevin Johnson

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DeAndre Jordan fired Dan Fegan. John Wall fired Dan Fegan. Dwight Howard fired Dan Fegan.

And now Independent Sports & Entertainment is firing Dan Fegan — which would be far more defensible if the agency weren’t hiring Kevin Johnson. (Chris Grancio will take on Fegan’s responsibility).

ISE represents several NBA players, including DeMarcus Cousins, Chandler Parsons, Ricky Rubio. This looms large for Cousins’ 2018 free agency, the next round of Rubio trade talks and the Mavericks, with whom Fegan has been closely (too closely?) linked.

I wonder what agent-critic Vlade Divac thinks about this shakeup.

Mostly, I wonder why ISE would hire Johnson with his baggage.

 

Potential No. 1 pick Markelle Fultz declares for NBA draft

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The two top 2017 draft prospects on lousy college teams are turning pro.

First, reportedly, North Carolina State point guard Dennis Smith Jr. And, now, Washington point guard Markelle Fultz.

Fultz is the most complete prospect in this draft. He scores inside and out, sets up teammates and defends — with size and athleticism that instill faith in his ability to translate to the pros.

That well-rounded game has Fultz in the running to be the No. 1 pick, though a late knee injury raises concern. Fultz’s main competition: UCLA point guard Lonzo Ball, who’s even taller and has more tantalizing athleticism.

Fultz’s season is over, Washington finishing 9-22. His case for the top pick is strong, and he’s probably favored right now. But Ball can keep building through the NCAA tournament and maybe set up an intriguing battle for the No. 1 pick during the pre-draft process.

Report: Jeanie Buss resented Jim Buss for breakdown in her relationship with Phil Jackson

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In 2012, Lakers vice president of basketball operations Jim Buss and general manager Mitch Kupchak courted Phil Jackson to become the team’s new coach. That delighted Lakers owner Jeanie Buss, who was dating Jackson. Jackson left a meeting with Kupchak and Jim with the impression he had a couple days to decide whether to accept a job offer. A day later, the Lakers hired Mike D’Antoni.

Jeanie was stunned. She and her brother reportedly stopped speaking.

Nearly a year later, Jeanie — who, by then was engaged to Jackson — and Jim insisted they had put the saga behind them.

But the story doesn’t end there.

The Knicks hired Jackson as president in 2014, complicating his and Jeanie’s relationship. Not only did they live on opposite coasts, they were leading opposing teams. Rumors of Jackson joining Jeanie’s Lakers were seemingly endless.

In December, Jeanie and Jackson called off their engagement. Last month, Jeanie fired Jim and Kupchak.

Least you think those developments are unrelated…

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

Jeanie Buss blamed her brother for forcing her to choose between the Lakers and the man she loved.

Long distance was far more of a strain on Buss and Jackson’s relationship than either of them anticipated, particularly because, due to the NBA’s policy against conflicts of interest, the couple couldn’t discuss anything related to their teams. If they ever decided to marry, the other NBA owners would have to approve it.

Each year that went by, Buss and Jackson grew further apart. Although Buss could’ve resigned her post as Lakers president to live with and marry Jackson in New York, that was never going to happen. She was far too proud of her career for that, and she always saw the Lakers as a civic treasure for which she was responsible.

The breakup in the fall of 2016 was hard on Buss. It brought back to the surface her resentment toward Jim Buss and served as a reminder of just how much her relationship with her brother and Kupchak had been poisoned by mistrust.

There were legitimate reasons to fire Jim Buss and Kupchak — the pie-in-the-sky ideas, stubbornness, poor signings and broken lines of communication.

Mixing professional and personal dynamics only muddies the water. Considering Jim Buss remains an owner, this isn’t cleared up just yet.

Shaq responds to Kevin Durant: ‘The league is soft and these guys are sensitive’

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Kevin Durant ripped Shaquille O’Neal over Shaq’s treatment of Warriors teammate JaVale McGee.

Now, Shaq is firing back.

He dismissed Durant for not winning a championship (yawn) then continued into Durant’s generation of players. Shaq, via Ben Golliver of Sports Illustrated:

 

“Just put it this way: The league is soft and these guys are sensitive, period. I was sensitive [as a player] too but I never went back at [older players]. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Wilt Chamberlain never said s— to [support] me. Did I cry about It? No. Kareem said in the paper one time, when they asked him, ‘Shaq is doing great, he has numbers similar to yours, what do you think?’ His response was, ‘Well, he hasn’t won a championship yet.’ I could have gone back at him, but I didn’t. I sucked it up like a real man and was like, ‘OK, watch this.’ A lot of guys, these days, when you say anything about them they start whimpering and crying.”

Retired greats ignoring up-and-coming players is one thing. Retired players going on television and frequently attacking current stars, as Shaq has done with Dwight Howard and others, is another. The latter cuts much deeper.

Besides, Shaq didn’t passively accept the (lesser) slights he received. In his book, Shaq bemoaned the way Abdul-Jabbar and Chamberlain treated him.