Dan Feldman

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Report: Jazz waiving Boris Diaw

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The Jazz were good for Gordon Hayward. He decided another team would be better for him going forward.

Boris Diaw was good for the Jazz. They decided another player would be better for them going forward.

Following Utah’s emotional reaction to Hayward leaving for the Celtics, the Jazz are back to the cold business decisions teams and players make all the time.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

Utah’s recent additions of Thabo Sefolosha and Jonas Jerebko – whose salaries combined exceed the mid-level exception and individually surpassed the bi-annual exception – necessitated dumping Diaw. Diaw’s $7.5 million salary is fully unguaranteed and becomes fully guaranteed Saturday. The Jazz could always trade him if a deal presents itself before Saturday, but this report suggests they’ve already canvassed and found no takers.

Utah has plenty of options to take Diaw’s minutes, in big or small lineups: Derrick Favors, Jonas Jerebko, Joe Ingles, Joe Johnson and Ekpe Udoh. None possess Diaw’s playmaking ability, but Ricky Rubio‘s talent as a singular distributor make that less of a concern.

The 35-year-old Diaw has shown significant signs of decline, but he has so much basketball intelligence and is so well-liked, he’ll likely land with a contender.

Paul George: ‘Of course’ I wanted to play in Los Angeles

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Paul George always seemed to realize he couldn’t control where he’d play next season. The Pacers could have kept him, hoping he’d make an All-NBA team and giving them a chance to offer a super-max contract. They could have traded him to the Celtics or Cavaliers or Rockets. They obviously did deal him, to the Thunder.

But, next summer, he’ll have complete control as an unrestricted free agent. And every indication said the Southern California native planned to sign with the Lakers.

Now, we hear that straight from George.

George, via ESPN:

Of course, I wanted to come home. I wanted to play in L.A. and play for my hometown. But then a lot of me looked situation – like, if a team comes in and you absolutely love it, why walk away from it?

This is the baseline Oklahoma City is trying to overcome.

The Thunder offer Russell Westbrook (at least if signs a designated-player extension this summer or re-signs next summer) and a welcoming environment. George sounds open to staying – if Oklahoma City wins.

George has competing priorities. Playing in his hometown matters. Winning matters.

We’ll see how George balances everything, but it’s hard to see the anyone but the Lakers as the default option, the team he’ll join unless another situation looks nearly perfect.

Maybe the Thunder will be that appealing – George’s mature approach gives them a real chance, and they’re doing as well as they can so far – but they’re still starting from behind.

Report: Jazz signing Ekpe Udoh to two-year, $6.5 million contract

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The Jazz reached deals with Thabo Sefolosha and Jonas Jerebko that exceed the mid-level exception, meaning Utah will likely waive Boris Diaw – whose $7.5 million salary is fully unguaranteed and becomes fully guaranteed Saturday – to create cap room. That move would leave the Jazz with another $3 million or so to spend.

The other shoe dropped today on that space – with center Ekpe Udoh coming to Utah.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

Udoh has his ups and downs in five NBA seasons with the Warriors, Bucks and Clippers. He went to Turkey and really shined.

Has Udoh developed into a player who will succeed in the NBA, or did he just find the right competition level for himself overseas? That’s the open question he and Utah are facing.

The NBA’s shifting landscape bodes well for Udoh. At 6-foot-10 with a 7-foot-5 wingspan, he is a versatile switching defender. He has good timing on blocking shots inside, and he moves his feet well on the perimeter. Udoh’s underwhelming rebounding still concerns, but the league is less preoccupied with his lack of interior strength.

The 30-year-old Udoh should be more ready to contribute than No. 28 pick Tony Bradley. Whether Udoh cracks the rotation might depend whether Derrick Favors is Utah’s starting power forward or backup center. At minimum, Udoh will be a nice change of pace behind Rudy Gobert, who holds up relatively well on switches for a more-traditional center but still carries that old-school size.

Paul George: Oklahoma City ‘feels like home’

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The Lakers have been one of the worst teams over the last few years. They’re probably too young to improve much next season. Luol Deng‘s contract gets in the way of clearing cap space for two max free agents next summer.

But they’re Paul George‘s hometown team.

That, with the intertangled fact of playing in a huge market, was always going to be their biggest selling point in the George sweepstakes.

They might not hold exclusive rights on that hometown feeling, though. (And I’m not talking about the Clippers.)

Oklahoma City fans enthusiastically greeted George at the airport, and the Thunder made him feel even more welcome before his introductory press conference.

George:

It’s been awesome. It’s really been awesome. You can’t script this up any other way of saying that this has really been an unbelievable trip here. I’ve been wild ever since we landed. I got a real welcoming, and this feels like home.

George also said all the expected things about focusing on this season, not free agency. And I believe him. Why rush this choice before it must be made? George will spend the season forming his opinion of the Thunder. There’s much more to assess than day one.

A key question: How will George play with Russell Westbrook? Working off the ball-dominant point guard was sometimes difficult for Oklahoma City’s last star forward, Kevin Durant, who spoke to George after the trade.

It sounds as if George is trying to keep an open mind.

George:

What KD and Russ had, from my understanding, was nothing major. Guys, brothers necessarily – you fight. This is a job where you want the best out of everybody, and you’re going to bump heads. That’s as far as I know – and as far as I care to know – about their relationship.

But George isn’t entering the season with a completely blank slate. He’s already forming impressions of Oklahoma City, clearly positive ones.

It’ll still matter how the Thunder and Lakers – and other potential suitors – play this year. It’ll still matter whether the Lakers can clear cap room to sign two stars without infringing on their young core.

But, at this point in its year-long recruitment of George, Oklahoma City should feel as optimistic as can be.

Russell Westbrook, LeBron James, Kevin Durant, Warriors win ESPYS

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Russell Westbrook won best male athlete at The ESPYS.

Westbook was the NBA MVP, led the league in scoring and set a record for most triple-doubles in a season with 42. The Oklahoma City Thunder star won the trophy over Kris Bryant of the Chicago Cubs, Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins and Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps.

“It’s been an unbelievable journey for me,” said Westbrook, a fashion fiend who adjusted his black shirt and green pants with wide white stripes before he spoke. “I want to make sure I look good first.”

LeBron James, a five-time winner last year, was named best NBA player. The NBA champion Golden State Warriors earned best team honors, while Warriors newcomer Kevin Durant received the championship performance trophy.

“It was an unbelievable year,” Warriors guard Stephen Curry said. “A lot of noise and hype around it from the beginning of the year, but we tried to keep our head down and focus on the process. Hope to represent exactly what a team means.”

The 25th annual show honoring the past year’s top athletes and sports moments was hosted by Peyton Manning, who humorously mocked his reputation as a control freak and an overexposed commercial pitchman in the retired NFL quarterback’s opening monologue.

Olympic gymnast Simone Biles earned best female athlete honors Wednesday night.

Biles became the most decorated U.S. Olympic gymnast at the Rio de Janeiro Games, winning five medals, including four golds and a bronze. She beat out Olympic swimmer Katie Ledecky, WNBA star Candace Parker and Serena Williams for the honor.

“Ever since Rio it has been an amazing year,” Biles said. “I want to thank you all for believing in me.”

She was one of three double winners. Biles also won best female Olympic athlete.

Phelps won record-setting performance for extending his record Olympic medal haul and as best male Olympic athlete.

Aaron Rodgers won best NFL player and shared best play with then-Green Bay Packers teammate Jared Cook. Another Packer, Jordy Nelson, earned best comeback honors.

The biggest ovation of the night belonged to former first lady Michelle Obama, who posthumously honored Eunice Kennedy Shriver with the Arthur Ashe Courage Award for championing the rights and acceptance of people with intellectual disabilities through her founding of Special Olympics. Her son, Tim Shriver, accepted the trophy.

“Once a great first lady, still a great first lady,” Shriver told Obama as the crowd roared its approval.

The Patriots and Falcons shared the best-game award for the Super Bowl, won in a furious comeback by New England.

Mike Trout of the Los Angeles Angels won best MLB player, while Crosby won best NHL player.

The show’s most bizarre bit involved Bill Murray accepting the best moment award for the Chicago Cubs’ World Series victory that ended a 108-year championship drought.

Wearing a red party hat on top of a backward Cubs cap, Murray cracked, “One hundred eight years of waiting is hardly a moment. This is the culmination of 108 years of momentum by momentous men.”

The actor and comic plucked a bottle of champagne out of a mop bucket being pushed by retired Cubs catcher David Ross disguised as a janitor. Murray used a sword to open the bottle and took a swig. He gave presenter Nick Offerman a bottle to open with the sword, and the longtime Cubs fans toasted and drank.

Ross eventually shed his disguise and writhed on the stage mimicking moves from his “Dancing With the Stars” appearance. Ross opened his own champagne bottle with the sword and chugged as Cubs owner Tom Ricketts watched from the audience at Microsoft Theater. The trio then poured champagne on each other’s heads.

 

Actor Bryan Cranston presented the Icon Award to 89-year-old Vin Scully, who retired in October after a record 67 years broadcasting for the Dodgers.

“Hi everybody and a very pleasant good evening to you,” Scully said, drawing cheers at his signature greeting. “I hope you don’t mind, but I wanted to hear it one more time.”

Comedian Jon Stewart gave the Pat Tillman Award for Service to Air Force Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro for his strength through adversity and continued service to his country.

The Jimmy V Award for Perseverance was given to 15-year-old New Orleans Saints superfan Jarrius “JJ” Robertson, who is fighting a rare and chronic liver disease.