Dan Feldman

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Report: Hawks signing Luke Babbitt to one-year contract

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The Hawks don’t want to bottom out.

To that end, Luke Babbitt should help.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Michael Scott of ESPN:

Babbitt’s minimum salary is $1,974,159. It sounds as if he’ll get that.

Between Marco Belinelli, Ersan Ilyasova, Miles Plumlee, Malcolm Delaney, Kent Bazemore, Dewayne Dedmon and now Babbitt, Atlanta is committing a lot of its roster spots to players who will be at least 28 when the season begins. For a likely bad team, that limits swings at players who can be developed for the future.

Babbitt is a good 3-point shooter whose defensive effort makes him passable on that end. There’s room in the league for players like that. On such a cheap deal, Babbitt might even fetch a better young asset before the trade deadline than the Hawks could have gotten now.

In the meantime, they probably hope Babbitt helps them win enough to remain relevant. That’s a longer shot.

Report: Doc Rivers finished as Clippers’ president

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The Clippers lured Doc Rivers – a championship-winning coach – in 2013 with the promise of autonomy and a roster led by Chris Paul and Blake Griffin.

They haven’t gotten what they bargained for.

For the last few years, the Clippers moved through Paul’s and Griffin’s primes without advancing past the second round. Despite a couple notable hits – J.J. Redick chief among them – Rivers repeatedly mismanaged the roster around the edges.

Now, the Clippers are stripping the president/coach of that first designation.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

LA Clippers owner Steve Ballmer is returning Doc Rivers to the primary duty of head coach, freeing him of front office responsibilities, the owner told ESPN on Friday.

Rivers, who held the title of president of basketball operations, will continue to have a strong voice in personnel and organizational matters and will partner with Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations Lawrence Frank, Ballmer told ESPN. Frank will now oversee basketball operations, including the general manager.

Both Frank and Rivers will report directly to the owner. Frank and Rivers enjoy a strong personal and professional relationship, which has allowed for them to cement a shared vision on the franchise’s future.

Sam Amick of USA Today:

https://twitter.com/sam_amick/status/893535296762949632

Rivers just never seemed able to grasp the complexities of roster construction. Among the lowlights:

  • Attaching a first-round pick just to dump Jared Dudley (who would’ve been productive for the Clippers) while still taking back and stretching Carlos Delfino (who would’ve productive for the Clippers) and Miroslav Raduljica – all to stay under a hard cap the Clippers seemingly unknowingly triggered
  • Trading for Austin Rivers, who – despite developing into a rotation-caliber player – invites charges of nepotism that contributed to a disjointed culture
  • Trading a first-round pick for the overrated Jeff Green, who was on an expiring contract then left the following summer

Rivers helped DeAndre Jordan reach his potential, but that was more a product of coaching than front-office work. Now, Rivers is back in a role where he’s a proven success.

This is a quick rise for Lawrence Frank, who joined the Clippers as an assistant coach, got promoted to the front office and will now run the operation. He apparently learned something about internal politics in his time with the Nets.

It’s unclear how Jerry West fits into the new structure.

Rivers’ job is now much more straightforward: Design and implement a game plan to succeed without Paul, who’s now with the Rockets. The Clippers have a hodgepodge of interesting new pieces: Danilo Gallinari, Patrick Beverley, Milos Teodosic, Lou Williams, Sam Dekker, Montrezl Harrell, Willie Reed, Jawun Evans and Sindarius Thornwell. How do they fit with Griffin and Jordan?

It’s on Rivers to answer that question – and no others. If Rivers can’t make it work, it’s on Frank to make the bigger adjustments.

Is LeBron James’ Instagram Story directed at Kyrie Irving?

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If Kyrie Irving and LeBron James have moved their seemingly real disconnect into social-media beef, you’ll have an easy time believing LeBron is taking a shot at Irving here.

The Cavaliers superstar posted a video of himself singing along to Meek Mill’s “1942 Flows.” Via Sports Illustrated:

LeBron:

Money, power, respect

I know these n—s upset

They ain’t see me fall yet

Wins and loss

You want to see me fall [while pointing at camera followed by hysterical laughter]

This isn’t necessarily about Irving. LeBron has noted his general critics before. He posts plenty of videos of himself singing — including a few in the gym today — and he might just like the song.

It’s unfair anything LeBron does will be construed as directed at Irving, but LeBron has been in the spotlight long enough to know how this works. So, either he didn’t care how it would be perceived – or cared exactly how it would be perceived.

Report: Suns willing to trade Eric Bledsoe, Dragan Bender, first-round pick for Kyrie Irving

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We keep hearing whom the Suns won’t trade for Kyrie Irving.

Not Josh Jackson. Not Devin Booker.

What would Phoenix trade for the Cavaliers point guard?

Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN:

The Phoenix Suns are the team to watch on Kyrie Irving. Now, they won’t offer Josh Jackson plus that Miami 2018 first and Eric Bledsoe. I’m told they’ll do Bledsoe. They’ll do the pick. Plus, Dragan Bender.

That’s not a bad offer value-wise.

Bledsoe, though a downgrade from Irving, is a good starting point guard when healthy. Bender, the No. 4 pick last year, is still just a teenager who was expected to be somewhat of a project. And that Heat first-round pick – top-seven protected in 2018 then unprotected in 2019 – could prove quite valuable.

But there are reasons Cleveland hasn’t pulled the trigger.

Bender looked out of place in the NBA last season. The Cavs’ title window is open right now, and they don’t have a clear way to develop him. Tristan Thompson, Channing Frye, Kevin Love, LeBron James and Jeff Green should leave very little playing time available at center and power forward. Even if Bender comes along more quickly than anticipated, his strengths – passing and shooting – matter less on a team that would never need to put the ball in his hands in key moments.

Jackson, on the other hand, could help the Cavaliers on the wing, where they need more depth. Though just a rookie, Jackson is actually older – and projects to be more ready – than Bender. Jackson’s defense would help a team with major deficiencies on that end.

But there are also reasons the Suns are offering Bender instead of Jackson.

Irving is locked up for just two more years, didn’t include Phoenix among his preferred destinations and won’t commit to anything beyond his current contract. The Suns might not win enough in the next two seasons with Irving to justify trading Jackson (under team control for five more seasons, though likely far longer if he pans out).

These teams sound close enough that a deal sounds plausible.

Maybe Phoenix relents and includes Jackson. After all, acquiring Irving is a special opportunity.

Perhaps, the Cavs loop in a third team and flip Bender for someone who fits better in Cleveland. But three-team trades are always difficult to pull off.

Still, it sounds as if the Cavaliers and Suns are at least in the ballpark of each other – something that can’t be said of other teams in the Irving sweepstakes.

Charles Oakley accepts deal on charges stemming from Knicks-game ejection

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Charles Oakley – ejected from a Knicks game as he fought security, arrested and charged with misdemeanor assault in February – rejected a deal that would have given him a clean record after six months of good behavior.

With his trial nearing, Oakley reversed course… to take essentially the same deal.

Ian Begley of ESPN:

Even if Oakley isn’t banned from Madison Square Garden by the Knicks, this deal will keep him out.

Though the NBA wants to move on, it seems a lawsuit is coming. I don’t know whether Knicks owner James Dolan would win that, but he can’t win in the court of public opinion against fan-favorite Oakley. The longer this drags out, the worse it is for Dolan.