Dan Feldman

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Report: Desperate at small forward, Pelicans work out Josh Smith

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Solomon Hill is out for most of the season, and Dante Cunningham could sign with the Timberwolves.

The Pelicans are in dire straights at small forward.

They’re down to Quincy Pondexter and Darius Miller, neither of whom has played in the NBA the last two years. Pondexter was hurt, and Miller fell overseas after struggling in his first stint stateside.

But New Orleans is searching for help.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN on The Woj Pod:

They have a workout there with, I’m told, Josh Smith, Chase Budinger, Martell Webster.

The last time Smith played small forward, it did not go well.

Smith played in China last season, and Budinger (one) and Webster (two) are also at least a full year removed from their last NBA season. None of these options are encouraging – but Smith is the most comical.

Now 31 and in the modern NBA, the 6-foot-9 Smith is probably more center than power forward. His clunky jumper and lagging speed/agility definitely leave him ill-suited to play small forward. (Maybe Wojnarowski meant the other Josh Smith, but that Smith is even more a center.)

How amazing would it be if the Pelicans start two point guards and three centers?

Kyrie Irving addresses trade: I want to be happy and maximize my potential

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Kyrie Irving requested a trade about two months ago. The Cavaliers shopped him, sparking rumors about half the league. Anonymously sourced reports about why he wanted to leave Cleveland, which been to three straight NBA Finals, focused on LeBron James. Irving appeared in a video laughing along as Stephen Curry mocked LeBron (though with no ill intent, Curry insists). The Cavs finally reached a deal with the Celtics only for it to take nearly another week to be completed.

All the while, Irving stayed silent publicly on the trade saga.

Until now.

Irving posted a video called “Thank you Cleveland.” It’s a bit rambling, but this excerpt was my key takeaway:

When you get to that point, and you understand that the best intentions for you – and, ultimately, to being your truth – and find out what you really want to do in your life and how you want to accomplish it – that moment comes, and you take full advantage of it. And there are no other ulterior reasons other than being happy and wanting to be somewhere where you feel like it’s an environment that’s conducive for you maximizing your potential as a human being and as a player perfecting their craft. I put a lot of hours in and a lot of work into just trying to accomplish things that I have dreamt of as a kid.

Irving also posted to Instagram:

"My special thank you to Cleveland" *Link in Bio. My love extends way beyond the court I have for Cleveland and it will always be a place thats special because of the great people and experiences. The Ups and downs, we stand and fight no matter what the circumstances are, and that's what being in Cleveland embodies, it is all Love and a whole lotta pride. To the incredible individuals I've met who support the Cleveland organization and help allow us as Players to feel a special bond to the State/City and shared countless moments with, keep being YOU and know that my appreciation is eternal. Thank you From my whole being for being there as I was a 19 year old kid coming into the league, to now where I start another step in the journey as a 25 year old Evolving man. It will Always be Love and respect Cleveland. "The journey is always the Reward" #KyrieWick

A post shared by Kyrie Irving (@kyrieirving) on

There’s still plenty left unsaid – namely, why Cleveland was no longer a place he could be happy and feel like he was optimizing his potential. But there’s still time to sort all that out.

For now, it’s just nice to hear straight from Irving after hearing so much about Irving these last couple months.

Lakers receive one of largest fines in NBA history for Paul George tampering

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The NBA’s Pacers-prompted investigation into the Lakers tampering with Paul George is complete.

The unsurprising result? The Lakers tampered. The unsurprising result? The league actually did something about it.

NBA release:

The NBA announced today that it has fined the Los Angeles Lakers $500,000 for violating the league’s anti-tampering rule.  This action followed an independent investigation by the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.

The conduct at issue involved communications by Lakers General Manager Rob Pelinka with the agent representing Paul George that constituted a prohibited expression of interest in the player while he was under contract.  The penalty reflected a previous warning issued by the NBA to the Lakers regarding tampering, following comments made by Lakers President of Basketball Operations Earvin Johnson about Paul George during an April 20 national television appearance.

The investigation did not reveal evidence of an agreement or understanding that the Lakers would sign or acquire Mr. George.

The NBA’s anti-tampering rule prohibits teams from interfering with other teams’ contractual relationships with NBA players, including by publicly expressing interest in a player who is currently under contract with another team or informing the agent of another team’s player of interest by one’s own team in that player.

The Lakers got off relatively clean.

Sure, the fine is large. The Timberwolves getting fined $3.5 million for an under-the-table agreement with Joe Smith is the only larger one I know of. (There have been other $500,000 fines – Heat owner Micky Arison for tweets during the lockout, Vladimir Radmanovic for injuring his shoulder while snowboarding, the Knicks and Nuggets each for their brawl, Joe Dumars for leaking confidential league memos and, of course, Mark Cuban for criticizing officiating.)

But that pales in comparison to the potential consequences the Lakers faced – losing draft picks and/or being prohibited from signing George. This fine will barely slow the operation. Other penalties could have.

Lakers president Magic Johnson was presumed to be at fault, because he had gotten the Lakers fined for tampering before (while still holding a ceremonial front-office title) and because he went on television to wink at George. But it was actually general manager Rob Pelinka, a former agent, caught red-handed. If his efforts help lure George from the Thunder, it will have been worth it.

The Buss family might miss the $500,000, but here’s the big story for everyone else: The Lakers are still in the thick of the Paul George sweepstakes and still have the picks they’d need to unload Luol Deng‘s and maybe Jordan Clarkson‘s contracts to clear cap space.

Magic’s Jonathon Simmons details Harvey escape: Ride a boat, walk through muddy water, ride on back of dump truck

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Magic forward and Houston native Jonathon Simmons left his downtown condo to avoid Hurricane Harvey’s wrath, but the storm and its subsequent floods still reached Richmond, Texas, where he was staying with a friend.

Simmons, via John Denton of the Magic’s official website:

“Saturday night it started raining about 8 o’clock, but we had gotten over there about 3 o’clock just to be safe,’’ Simmons recalled on Wednesday morning. “I had bought all of these air mattresses and covers and blankets and food and water for everybody. We were good for three days, but my other friend’s house had started getting flooded early, so he came there to the house, too. So that gave us another 11 extra people and most of them were kids. We had to let the kids eat first, so most of the last two days it was kind of rough (without food).

“There was at least 20 people in the house and probably eight of them were kids,’’ Simmons added. “When I was little, my mom always kept the fridge full of stuff (during hurricanes). This time, I ate a pack of ramen noodles and that’s all for like a day-and-a-half.’’

“Trae the Truth, the rapper, is from Houston and we know a mutual friend from San Antonio. They brought a boat to Houston because (Trae) had to evacuate as well,’’ Simmons said of the rapper, who has gained additional notoriety recently in Houston for helping dozens of others evacuate flooded areas. “They came and got (Trae) and then he came and got us right away. Luckily, I had a friend in the area who could help us out.’’

“We still had to ride a boat, walk through muddy water and ride on the back of a dumpster truck for like five miles. It was crazy,’’ Simmons recalled. “I had to hold up my people and I had some kids with me. Most of the kids were old enough to walk, but one of them I had to carry with me.’’

And to think, Simmons was one of the fortunate ones in the area.

Read Denton’s full article for more details of the ordeal.

Rumor: Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert called shots on Kyrie Irving-Celtics trade

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Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert publicly said the Pacers “could have done better” in trading Paul George.

So, when it came to Cleveland trading its own star – Kyrie Irving, who requested out – Gilbert apparently took matters into his own hands.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer:

Koby Altman may be the latest person to call himself Cleveland Cavaliers general manager—the fourth in the last 12 years since Dan Gilbert bought the team—but multiple sources have told me that the Cavs owner was the one calling the shots on the trade that sent Irving to Boston, and he’s the one dealing with the fallout.

Multiple sources told me that Gilbert is operating under the assumption that LeBron will opt out of his contract next summer and leave Cleveland. So Gilbert and Altman targeted Irving trade packages that set up the franchise for the post-LeBron era

Dealing with the fallout of receiving an amazing return for Irving? Sign me up.

Gilbert is often blamed for the Cavs’ problems, sometimes fairly and sometimes unfairly. It’s not difficult to find people eager to tarnish him.

But good luck turning this trade against him. The Cavaliers aced it.

If healthy, Isaiah Thomas is nearly as good right now as Irving. Irving’s higher value stems from his age and contract status, but on the court this spring, the point guards are very close – again, if healthy. Thomas’ hip is the major risk, but Cleveland also got Jae Crowder – an underrated 3-and-D forward who can defend multiple positions and is on a ridiculously team-friendly contract for the next three years. The Cavs might have improved in the short-term, especially with how they match up against the Warriors.

And the Cavaliers still got the Nets’ unprotected 2018 first-rounder, a valuable asset that might net Cleveland its next franchise player or could be flipped for someone more capable of helping now. Ante Zizic, who’s just beginning his rookie-scale contract, is a solid developmental piece.

If LeBron James leaves – we previously heard the Cavs are operating under that assumption for purposes of the Irving trade – they’re better off than they would have been without this deal. If LeBron stays, they’re better off than they would have been without this deal.

Want to pin this trade on Gilbert? I think that will work out fine for him.

Another theory: Seeking additional compensation after the trade was agreed upon – especially because the Celtics acknowledged Thomas’ hip issue, and Cleveland reportedly found no new information in its physical – could stain Altman in future trade negotiations. Nobody wants to announce a trade, alienate outgoing players then have the other team threaten to veto the deal. This might have been an isolated incident where there was genuine disagreement about Thomas’ hip, but it’s also Altman’s only trade so far.

Better everyone blame Gilbert and allow Altman to do his job without that cloud hanging over him.