Dan Feldman

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Report: Spurs finalizing contract with Manu Ginobili

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Gregg Popovich started Manu Ginobili in the Spurs’ season-ending loss to the Warriors “out of respect,” and San Antonio fans gave him a sendoff befitting his great career.

But Ginobili isn’t retiring just yet.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Ginobili, who turns 40 later this month, is the NBA’s second-oldest player (after Vince Carter). They’ll be the first players to play an entire season in their 40s since Grant Hill and Kurt Thomas in 2012-13. The last player to play even 40 games in his 40s? Dikembe Mutombo.

Though there’s no guarantee with anyone at that age, Ginobili has a chance to match Mutombo’s late-career contributions. Ginobili remains a helpful reserve, using his incredible basketball intelligence to compensate for declining athleticism. He doesn’t get to the rim like he once did, but he’s a steadier 3-point shooter and still a crafty passer.

Ginobili earned a $14 million salary last season after the 76ers drove up his price. His production now isn’t worth that much, but he previously took discounts for the Spurs, who still hold his Bird Rights. So, they can pay him anything up to the max. We’ll see how they reward him in his potential swan song.

Paul Pierce wore Nets shorts to final Celtics signing

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Paul Pierce signed with the Celtics to retire, a nice moment.

He made it much more fun.

Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:

He showed up at his old haunt, the Boston Celtics practice facility in Waltham, Massachusetts, wearing a throwback Inglewood T-shirt and a pair of Brooklyn Nets basketball shorts.

“Hey Danny, see this?” said Paul Pierce, tugging at the silver and black of the Nets. “This is where you sent me!”

When the Celtics retire Pierce’s number, I hope Danny Ainge points out Jaylen Brown and Jayson Tatum to Pierce. Heck, I hope Ainge brings back James Young for the ceremony.

Report: Cavaliers were close to trading for Jimmy Butler on day they ousted David Griffin

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LeBron James is reportedly frustrated with the Cavaliers’ offseason.

It’s not just the moves the Cavs made, but the moves they didn’t – like trading for Jimmy Butler.

Perhaps, LeBron is being unreasonable. How often do teams as constrained as Cleveland was – deep into the luxury tax, multiple future first-round picks already owed, aging roster – trade for a relatively young star?

But the Cavaliers were pursuing Butler when they parted ways with general manager David Griffin, which certainly didn’t help their chances of nabbing the Bulls wing. Did dropping Griffin cost Cleveland getting Butler?

Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:

Further exacerbating James’ frustration is the Cavs were close to making a deal for then-Chicago Bulls All-Star Jimmy Butler the day Gilbert decided to mutually part ways with Griffin and Redden, two people familiar with negotiations told USA TODAY Sports.

Griffin reportedly left the Cavaliers plans for a Butler trade, but Chicago obviously sent him to the Timberwolves instead.

We’ll never know what would have happened if Cleveland kept Griffin. It’s easy to imagine the Cavs beating the piddling return the Bulls got from Minnesota in a three-team trade involving Kevin Love.

But it was already easy to imagine several teams offering more than the Timberwolves did. Maybe Chicago is just that infatuated with Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and Lauri Markkanen. I’m also unsure Love’s value around the league – especially to teams who could flip the young players the Bulls coveted.

How close teams were to a deal is often overstated by one side that thinks it was close to a deal. The other team might have disagreed but not fully conveyed how far it was from accepting.

But, to a certain degree, perception matters here. If LeBron believes the Cavaliers could have Butler if they kept Griffin, that’s a problem for Cleveland.

Leslie Alexander selling Rockets surprised even those within organization

AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki
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Leslie Alexander selling the Rockets came out of nowhere.

For nearly everyone.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

This is the Tim Hardaway Jr. signing of sales.

I wonder whether potential buyers are equally shocked, because that could affect the timeline. Perhaps, a few single bidders can afford the price – Forbes valued the franchise at $1.65 billion – but others will try to assemble groups to purchase the team. If they also had no warning, it will take longer to assemble those groups.

And if they did have warning, it’s even more stunning this remained secret to Rockets employees.

Carmelo Anthony not a central figure to Steve Mills’ Knicks

AP Photo/Seth Wenig
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New/old Knicks president Steve Mills opened his introductory by saying the team was committed to building around:

“And,” Mills said before pausing and unwittingly building suspense, “fortunately for us moving forward, we still have all of our first-round draft picks.”

No mention of Carmelo Anthony.

Of course, Mills – who preceded, worked under and now succeeds Phil Jackson – faced numerous questions about Anthony. Mills was tight-lipped on many topics, none more so than the high-priced star.

The Knicks reportedly hope to urge Anthony, who possesses a no-trade clause, to expand his list of acceptable destinations beyond Houston and Cleveland. Anthony reportedly still expected to be traded to the Rockets (though Rockets owner Leslie Alexander selling the team might put a wrench into the works).

“Carmelo could easily be a part of our team next year,” said Mills, who stressed veterans will still be important as mentors in the new direction.

“We’re going to move forward. It may be with Carmelo. It may be without Carmelo.”

Asked about buying out Anthony, Mills gave a one-word answer: “No.”

Mills just didn’t sound too concerned about the 33-year-old who’s due $26,243,760 this season and $27,928,140 if he opts in next year.

“If Carmelo is with us, we will continue to develop our young players,” Mills said. “If he’s not here, we’ll continue to develop our young players.

“[It] will take longer to do. But I think it’s something that the fans of New York are ready for and will accept as long as the guys come together and play hard.”

Long-overdue patience or a way for Mills to retain job security even as the team loses? Probably some of both.

But as usual, the Knicks sound all-in on the plan as it’s introduced. They also introduced new general manager Scott Perry, who’s on a five-year contract.

Though it’s believed Mills will still hold final authority in running basketball operations, it still remains to be seen how he and Perry will balance power. Decipher Mills’ explanation however you’d like:

“I’m going to give Scott the room to make basketball decisions and make recommendations to me,” Mills said. “He’s going to have a chance to manage the coaching staff, manage the scouting staff and make recommendations as to where we should go as a basketball organization. I think we’ll be partners in that in the sense that he’ll come to me with his recommendation, and we’ll debate it back and forth. But, at the end of the day, I’m giving him room to make those decisions.”

Mills made one big move before Perry arrived – signing Hardaway to a four-year, $71 million contract. In his first public appearance since, Mills defended the shocking price tag by saying he believed Hardaway is a starting shooting guard – an exceedingly low bar for someone making $17.75 million annually.

Perry piped in: “We applauded the move from afar when I was in Sacramento at that time.” So a team run by Vivek Ranadive and Vlade Divac supported the signing? Cool, cool, cool.

Mills said he has spoken with Porzingis, who seemed unhappy late in Jackson’s tenure, a few times this offseason. Mills also said he would have selected Ntilikina, whom Jackson drafted No. 8, if he were drafting himself.

The new general manager praising a signing that occurred before he was hired. The new president defending the drafting of the old president, whose mess the new president and new general manager are left to clean up.

There’s all the usual intertangled drama in New York – even without considering Anthony, which Mills’ Knicks might not have to do for much longer.