Dan Feldman

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Hornets’ Michael Carter-Williams could miss start of season after knee surgery

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The Hornets plugged their hole at backup point guard with Michael Carter-Williams, who’s just three years removed from winning Rookie of the Year but whose uneven play has him on his third team in three years. He isn’t the safest answer behind Kemba Walker, but Carter-Williams was a reasonable choice for a team trying to stay under the luxury tax.

Unfortunately for Charlotte, the patched hole is already leaking.

Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer

If Carter-Williams can’t play, that puts a lot on the shoulders of Julyan Stone, a fringe NBA player. At least Stone’s size (6-foot-6) will help him mesh with rookie Malik Monk, a small scoring combo guard, in the backcourt.

The Hornets were dreadful when Walker sat last season, getting outscored by 7.0 points per 100 possessions. If they can improve that mark just moderately, it’d go a long way toward returning to the playoffs. This isn’t the most encouraging development.

Report: Jabari Parker seeking max contract extension from Bucks

AP Photo/Jeffrey Phelps

The Bucks have Giannis Antetokounmpo, one of the NBA’s youngest true stars. They have Khris Middleton, who deserves fringe-All-Star status based on his production (but won’t get it because of his style of play). They have Thon Maker, a second-year center with incredible upside.

They also have Jabari Parker.

Earlier this year, Parker would have been on the list of Milwaukee’s valuable young players. But then he tore his ACL, his second such injury.

The timing was devastating considering Parker is eligible for a rookie-scale contract extension this offseason. However, the setback apparently isn’t altering his starting point in negotiations.

Gery Woelfel of Woelfel’s Press Box:

multiple sources claim Parker will be seeking a contract similar to the one he expected to receive prior to his latest injury – a max contract of five years

A max extension projects to be worth $148 million. The Bucks and Parker could even agree to a clause that says, if Parker makes All-NBA or wins Defensive Player of the Year this season, his extension would be worth more – a projected $177 million.

Parker can seek that much. The Bucks just can’t give it to him. No way, no how. Not with that injury.

I wouldn’t have paid Parker that much even before he tore his ACL again. After, it’d be unconscionable. Players who’ve done that twice have typically seen their careers derailed. They were older than the 22-year-old Parker, so that helps. But I’d want to see him prove it before extending him.

If it doesn’t extend him, Milwaukee could make Parker a restricted free agent next offseason. So, there’s no risk of him getting away.

There might be room for a deal now. Parker could get financial security, and the Bucks could get a discount on a starter if he recovers well. But that compromise can’t occur if Parker insists on the max.

Lakers on the brink of a breakthrough

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The Lakers have been fined for tampering two years in a row.

Magic Johnson’s banal tweets while holding a ceremonial front-office position last year barely caused a murmur. The Lakers’ Paul George pursuit, seemingly comprised of commonly accepted tactics, became a major storyline because the Pacers – and, implicitly, their legion of backers – pushed the issue.

The subtext to the differing responses: The Lakers are again striking fear in their opponents.

The Lakers aren’t back, but a savvy summer has positioned them to regain their status as behemoth. After years of being saddled by Kobe Bryant’s extension and Jim Buss’ pledge, the Lakers can see a light at the end of the tunnel. Johnson has them poised to burst out of the darkness in 2018.

For now, the Lakers added two players better (Brook Lopez and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope) and another more valuable (Lonzo Ball) than anyone they had last season while clearing considerable cap space for next summer. They dumped Timofey Mozgov‘s toxic contract and held firm on not offering multi-year guarantees to anyone besides their three first-round picks.

The retooling came at a cost – chiefly 2015 No. 2 pick D'Angelo Russell, who was sent to the Nets with Mozgov for Lopez and a late first-rounder. But the upside justifies the risk in Los Angeles, where cap space goes further.

Though market matters, nothing recruits like winning, and the Lakers are better positioned to do that, too. Lopez is a good center whose floor spacing will help his new teammates. Caldwell-Pope is far better than anyone the Lakers could have expected to sign this summer while limiting themselves to one-year contracts, but a late entrance into unrestricted free agency and no satisfactory offers left him willing to sign short-term in Los Angeles and hit the market again next year. The Lakers should have their best season in five years, which could open doors.

George? LeBron James? Russell Westbrook? DeMarcus Cousins?

Two of those stars could be on the table next summer.

There’s still plenty of heavy lifting left to do. The Lakers want to dump Luol Deng (three years, $54 million remaining) and maybe Jordan Clarkson (three years, $37.5 million). They also face a decision on Julius Randle, who’ll have a $12,447,727 cap hold as a restricted free agent next summer. Renouncing him to sign a star would obviously be fine, but the Lakers might try to trade him before the deadline and get value for him rather than hedging their bets next summer.

Signing a star is clearly the priority, but even if the Lakers strike out, rebuilding around Ball, Brandon Ingram, Randle and Larry Nance Jr. is fine. The Lakers have multiple paths to a bright future.

They even got the smaller moves right. The early returns on No. 27 pick Kyle Kuzma are promising, though I’d caution against reading too much into hot summer-league shooting. Josh Hart was a sound selection at No. 30. Re-signing Tyler Ennis for two years with the second unguaranteed was excellent value.

Johnson looks like he knows what he’s doing – especially because the Lakers avoided the harshest tampering penalties, like losing draft picks or being prohibited from signing George.

Ultimately, this summer was just a precursor to next. But everything is starting to line up.

Offseason grade: B+

Isaiah Thomas: Celtics teammates told me ‘that’s how they do you’ after trade to Cavaliers

AP Photo/Elise Amendola

Celtics president Danny Ainge is ruthless.

He traded Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce after those two led Boston to a title. Then, after a rebuilt team won 53 games and reached the conference finals, Ainge turned over 11 of 15 roster spots – including sending Isaiah Thomas to the Cavaliers in a package for Kyrie Irving.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Isaiah Thomas said the Boston Celtics he left behind were as shocked as he was when he was traded to the Cavaliers.

“After all you did, that’s how they do you,” Thomas said to cleveland.com. “That was everybody’s text message. … I can’t control that and my teammates know what I meant to that team and the organization knows and that’s what matters the most. The people I was around each and every day.

“But I think not just myself, everybody was surprised. Everybody.”

This is a prime example of someone using “people are saying” to convey their own thoughts. Thomas – who played his heart out and sacrificed his body while earning far less than he was worth – admitted he was hurt by the trade.

But Thomas also knows this is how the business operates. The Celtics were well within their rights to trade him just before he came due for a new contract. So, Thomas isn’t going to gripe publicly.

He apparently has many players willing to do so on his behalf.

This could ultimately hurt Boston’s reputation, especially if current Celtics feel the franchise did Thomas wrong. But I suspect it will pass, especially because Boston looks poised to win big in the foreseeable future. Despite what happened to Thomas, players will likely still sign with the Celtics if they make the best offer.

Bulls: Cameron Payne out 3-4 months

AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast
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Cameron Payne suffered another foot injury, making the Bulls’ trade for him look even worse.

And that’s when it was reported Payne would be sidelined until late November.

The post-surgery prognosis has him out even longer.


That timeline would cause him to miss 23-40 games. That’s barely a problem for Chicago, which has Kris Dunn and Jerian Grant at point guard and is headed toward a high lottery seed regardless.

But this could significantly affect Payne, who faces a $3,263,294 team option for 2018-19. He hasn’t been the same since his foot injuries began, and the Bulls could decline the option. They’ll have until Oct. 31 to decide, but it doesn’t sound as if he’ll have much opportunity to sway them between now and then.