Kurt Helin

Pacers get permission from Hornets to interview Chad Buchanan for front office spot

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Larry Bird has stepped aside in Indiana, and Kevin Pritchard has taken over as the head of basketball operations for the Pacers.

Now Pritchard is starting to round out who he wants in the front office, and he has reached out to Charlotte for that, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

Buchanan is well respected around the league and seems a good fit.

The Pacers face some big questions this summer, starting with do they trade Paul George, or keep him and try to convince him to stay? George can be a free agent in 2018 and has sounded frustrated with the direction of the team and them not being a contender (although the buzz is he wants to go to the Lakers, who even with George would not be a contender in two years).

Report: Hawks reach out to assistant GMs with Warriors, Wizards, to fill Atlanta’s top spot

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The Atlanta Hawks need a new General Manager/head of basketball operations, and they are not afraid to think big — they asked Portland if they could speak to GM Neil Olshey about a new job, but were shot down.

Besides the big name targets, they are looking at some of the more respected assistant GMs around the league as well, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

The Hawks likely have a fairly long list. On it is almost certainly David Griffin, the Cavaliers GM who is without a contract after this season (he is available July 1). Orlando also is waiting to see what is up with Griffin — will the Cavaliers pay him the going rate for a top GM? — before making their move.

Mike Budenholzer had been serving as head coach and GM, but he and assistant GM Wes Willcox both stepped away from their roles after a disagreement about the future direction of the franchise. Whoever gets the role next faces that same challenge. Paul Millsap is a free agent, should the Hawks max him out and re-sign him, likely making them a 4-6 seed, a good but not great team for the foreseeable future, or do they start the rebuild now. Budenholzer had wanted to rebuild, ownership may not want to go that direction, or maybe they wanted someone else to handle it.

Thunder’s Enes Kanter was held in, now released from, Romanian airport after Turkish government revoked passport

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Let’s start with a little background: Oklahoma City big man Enes Kanter is a native of Turkey, and he is also a supporter of the Gülen movement in that country. That movement has been in opposition to Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a man who recently won a disputed election in that country that gives him sweeping, almost dictatorial powers (and he has a long history of human rights abuses, so that power is a bad combination). Kanter has never been shy about expressing his political views. It was Gulen that Erdogan blamed for a failed 2016 coup attempt in Turkey. Kanter has been disavowed by his own family because of his political beliefs.

Kanter tweeted out a video Saturday morning from a Romanian airport, where he was being held because his Turkish passport had been canceled.

Kanter had optimistic he will be able to return to the United States and the Thunder are involved in getting him back, reports the Oklahoman.

Kanter, who turned 25 on Saturday, is on a global tour for his Enes Kanter Foundation….

The Turkish government, Fetic said, has been known to report citizens’ passports as stolen or missing in order to have them confiscated in foreign countries. Fetic’s understanding is that Kanter’s passport had been reported as missing or stolen.

“They can try to create a process where they can extradite you back to Turkey,” Fetic said.

If sent to Turkey he would almost certainly be arrested. Which is why everyone is working to get him to the United States.

Enes, for his part, seems to be in good spirits.

UPDATED: According to the New York Times, Kanter was allowed to leave on a flight to London. From there he likely can return to the United States.

Kawhi Leonard out for Spurs in Game 3 Saturday night; Zaza Pachulia out for Warriors

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Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich made it official at shootaround Saturday:

Kawhi Leonard is out for game three against the Warriors.

Leonard had been listed as questionable, and there was a sense he would give it a go if at all possible. Pop shot that down, here is his quote via the San Antonio Express-News.

“In the end, I guess it’s my decision,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said at shootaround Saturday. “He’s not thrilled that he’s not playing, but he’s not ready, so we’re not going to play him.”

Jonathon Simmons will start in Leonard’s place. Even though San Antonio is home for this game, it suddenly seems an uphill struggle as the Spurs have not been able to hang close to Golden State since Leonard re-injured his ankle in Game 1 — since that injury, the Spurs have been outscored by 65 points. The Spurs are already down 0-2 in the series and another loss would all but seal their fate.

Missing Leonard is especially bad for the Spurs because they are without Tony Parker, their second best playmaker, with an injury suffered in the last round.

On the other side of the court, Andre Iguodala is listed as probable for Game 3, while the Warriors will be without starting center Zaza Pachulia.

Cavaliers not happy LeBron James not among top three MVP finalists

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The three finalists for the NBA MVP award race are James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and Kawhi Leonard. Those three received the most votes, we just don’t know the order yet. The winner is going to be announced June 26 at an awards ceremony in New York.

Notice who is not on that list? LeBron James.

The man who has dominated the postseason, and who averaged 26.4 points, 8.6 rebounds, and 8.7 assists per game through the regular season likely finished fourth. As you might imagine, LeBron’s teammates thought he was robbed. Here’s what they said, via James Herbert of CBSSports.com.

“I think it started with Shaq,” Cleveland forward Richard Jefferson said. “It started with Shaq where every year he was the most dominant guy. Every year, you had to game plan. Every year there were teams going and signing guys to million-dollar contracts to compete against them, and he was just dominant, winning three championships, and he only had, what, one MVP? It started then. And like they say, nobody roots for Goliath.”

“It’s almost like when Jordan was playing, he could have won it every year but they wanted to give it to somebody else,” J.R. Smith said. “But it’s fine. I mean, it’s just another chip on his shoulder, which helps us.”

“He’s driven by a totally different monster,” Smith said. “He’s not playing for Russ or James. Like he said earlier, he’s chasing a ghost. Right now, that’s the only thing that can literally compare to him. I think he’s just in a totally different space, and when he’s playing like he’s playing, not hesitating on his jumpers, transition 3s, pull-up 3s, pull-up jumpers not even with his feet set, he’s just got an extreme, extreme confidence. It’s almost like a supreme being type of level.”

LeBron himself largely shrugged at the vote. A ring and a Finals MVP would mean more to him then a fifth regular season award.

LeBron had a fantastic season and, when focused, is the best player in the game right now. He unquestionably had a phenomenal season, the thing is so did the other three.

However, LeBron led a team that went 12-15 after the All-Star break, seemed to take the month of March off on defense, and in the process lost the No. 1 seed. While Westbrook/Harden/Leonard were pushing themselves and their teams to close out the season, LeBron and the Cavs were cruising. In a tight race (even for an individual award) that made the difference. LeBron will finish fourth (fifth is wide open).

Bottom line, there were four candidates who had the numbers to win the award this year, you can make a case for any of them, but the way the Cavs — with LeBron as their unquestioned leader — finished the season hurt his chances. Both he and the Cavs flipped the switch in the postseason, but this remains a regular season award.