Author: Dan Feldman

Nerlens Noel, Joe Johnson

Jahlil Okafor throws alley-oop way up for Nerlens Noel (video)

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Of the many questions facing the 76ers, one of the biggest: Can Jahlil Okafor and Nerlens Noel thrive together?

They looked pretty good on this play.

Knicks plan to start Kristaps Porzingis at power forward opening night


The Knicks liked Kristaps Porzingis enough to draft him No. 4 overall.

They liked his summer performance.

And after a relatively pedestrian preseason, they still like him.

Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News on New York coach Derek Fisher:

Fisher started preseason with Porzingis as the starting power forward, and, as of Saturday, the coach hadn’t hedged — “we like him there,” he said.

Marc Berman of the New York Post

Fisher wants Porzingis to be the starting power forward opening night

If Porzingis has earned the starting power forward spot, that bodes well for his future. He’s just 20, so if he’s already better than his intra-team competition, he’s further along than I thought he’d be.

The Knicks have other options, including Kyle O'Quinn or starting another wing and sliding Carmelo Anthony down to power forward.

But it’s also possible New York is just starting Porzingis to aid his development – which is OK. However, one of the biggest benefits to that strategy is getting a higher draft pick. The Knicks already traded their 2016 first-rounder.

Porzingis, a knockdown shooter with impressive hops, projects to play well in the years ahead. But his thin frame could limit him – and New York’s playoff chances – in the short term.

If he gets pushed around, will the Knicks bring him off the bench? Porzingis starting provides a clue about his development and New York’s plan.

If he responds well, great. He and the Knicks would be in great shape.

But if he doesn’t, we’ll learn a lot more about how New York values the present vs. the future.

Report: Cavaliers didn’t pull Tristan Thompson’s five-year, $80 million offer

2015 NBA Finals - Game Five

The Cavaliers reportedly pulled their five-year, $80 million offer to Tristan Thompson once he let the qualifying offer expire.

Or not.

Chris Haynes of

Cleveland’s offer is still in the ballpark of five years for $80 million, give or take. The Cavs did not withdraw the offer once the qualifying-offer deadline passed.

I don’t know which is the case, but Haynes has been plugged into this situation all along. I tend to trust him.

As long as the sides aren’t talking, though, this means only so much.

Something will have to give. Either Thompson must accept less than his desired max, or Cleveland must offer more.

Pulling the $80 million offer probably would have made sense in a vacuum. The Cavs had to pay in order to prevent Thompson from accepting the qualifying offer, which would have made him an unrestricted free agent next year. With that scenario off the table, they hold significantly more leverage.

But this is where LeBron James – who shares an agent, Rich Paul, with Thompson – comes into play. His presence can keep negotiations cordial.

There still might be a long road to a deal, but if an $80 million offer is still on the table, Thompson and the Cavaliers are much closer to a resolution.

Michael Jordan: Jeremy Lin will be Hornets’ biggest acquisition

Jeremy Lin Pablo Prigioni

Jeremy Lin is playing pretty well in the preseason, and Hornets owner Michael Jordan is excited.

Jordan, via Xinhua News Agency:

We just got Jeremy Lin, who I think is going to be our biggest acquisition. His penetration, his shooting capability, his point guard savvy, he can really pass the basketball, his energy about the game of basketball something,” Jordan said.

What about Nicolas Batum? Frank Kaminsky? Spencer Hawes?

Lin is a nice player and one of the NBA’s better backup point guards, but he’s not Charlotte’s biggest acquisition.

That’s Batum, whom the Hornets got for the promising Noah Vonleh and Gerald Henderson. Batum, especially after Michael Kidd-Gilchrist‘s injury, figures to play a big role in the starting lineup. Lin is stuck behind Kemba Walker.

Evan Kaminsky, the No. 9 pick, can make a case as the biggest acquisition of the offseason. Charlotte rejected the Celtics’ offer of four first-round picks – including an unprotected Nets pick – to select Kaminsky. I can concede that Jordan might have been talking about this season only, and rookies rarely make big impacts.

But in that case, Hawes should be in the running. He’s Al Jefferson‘s primary backup, and he could play plenty of power forward to space the floor next to Jefferson, especially if Marvin Williams plays up at small forward with Kidd-Gilchrist out.

For Kaminsky and Hawes, the battle to be known as Charlotte’s biggest acquisition is pretty academic. If I’m Batum, a pending free agent, I’m wondering what my new boss thinks of me.

51Q: How long will the Spurs need to mesh?

LaMarcus Aldridge, Tim Duncan

The San Antonio Spurs and LaMarcus Aldridge are undertaking a rare experiment – one that has produced a championship more often than not.

Just five players in NBA history have changed teams in the offseason after averaging as many points per game as Aldridge did last year (23.4) and gone to a team that won as many games as the Spurs did (55):

  • Walt Hazzard, traded from the Seattle SuperSonics to the 56-win Atlanta Hawks after averaging 24.0 points in 1968
  • Oscar Robertson, traded from the Cincinnati Royals to the 56-win Milwaukee Bucks in 25.3 points in 1970
  • Charlie Scott, traded from the Phoenix Suns to the 60-win Boston Celtics after averaging 24.3 points in 1975
  • Moses Malone, traded from the Houston Rockets to the 58-win Philadelphia 76ers after averaging 31.1 points in 1982
  • Jeff Malone, traded from the Washington Bullets to the 55-win Utah Jazz after averaging 24.3 points in 1990

Scott, Robertson and Moses Malone all won a championship in their first season with their new team.

The bar is no lower in San Antonio this year.

Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili might be in their final seasons. Tony Parker could be over the hill soon, if he isn’t already.

Aldridge, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Gregg Popovich give the Spurs a bright future beyond this season, but to reward the old guard with one more title, the time is now.

Unfortunately, recent history suggests growing pains.

The only scorers as proficient as Aldridge to change teams in the last eight years were LeBron and Kevin Love to the Cavaliers last year and LeBron and Chris Bosh to the Heat in 2010. Cleveland started 19-20. Miami began 8-7.

But the Cavaliers were awful before LeBron’s return, and the Heat didn’t get out of the first round the year prior to LeBron’s arrival. Plus, both teams added two new stars, more upheaval.

The Spurs, on the other hand, are a model of consistency. They’ve reached the playoffs 18 straight seasons and will mostly rely on other returners, though David West will contribute. Their system is solidified.

And so is Aldridge’s. He works methodically with the ball. He shoots mid-range jumpers, ideally working from the left side. He prefers power forward to center.

He also seems to believe the Spurs won’t change him, a notion they’ve fueled.

But there will have to be change. After trading Tiago Splitter to clear cap space, San Antonio needs Aldridge to play some center. His new teammates might be willing to defer offensively, but there will still be a push for Aldridge to pass more in Popovich’s scheme.

The Cavaliers and Heat reached the Finals their first seasons with their new stars, though both teams were more open to a shakeup.

The Spurs want to do things their way. Aldridge has known only how to do things his way.

Where that doesn’t intersect, both sides must find common ground – ideally while Duncan, Ginobili and Parker are still around.