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Report: DeMar DeRozan only going to negotiate with Toronto, wants to return

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DeMar DeRozan has made it clear from the start — he loves Toronto. He wants to stay with the Raptors, here is what he said after they were eliminated from the playoffs:

“My mindset has always been Toronto… When we was terrible, I said I’m going to stick through this whole thing and I want to be that guy who brings this organization to where it is now. I definitely don’t want to switch up after we win.”

Good to his word, he’s not even going to meet with anyone but Toronto come the start of free agency next Friday, reports Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

Source: DeMar DeRozan will focus on getting a deal done to return to the Raptors as free agency opens. No plans to meet with other teams barring the unforeseen development of talks breaking down the Toronto.

While there had been rumors and talking heads pushing his return to his native Los Angeles, DeRozan always has put Toronto first. And the Lakers weren’t going to overspend on him anyway.

DeRozan knows how to get to the rim and averaged 23.5 points a game last season in Toronto, which got him both on the All-Star team and now on the Olympic team for Rio. It also got Toronto to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time. He, along with fellow Team USA member Kyle Lowry, drive the Raptors offense. Yes, he needs to become more comfortable taking (and hitting) the three ball, but he’s still a guy who puts up points. Toronto needs him.

DeRozan is going to get a max or near max deal from the Raptors and they will figure this out quickly, GM Masai Uriji wants to keep him and will not mess around with the negotiations.

Report: Kyrie Irving accepts invitation to join Team USA, rounds out Rio roster

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This was expected. Kyrie Irving tore up the World Championships two years ago scoring 26 points in the gold medal game and being named tournament MVP. Also, the former Duke Blue Devil is one of coach Mike Krzyzewski’s favorites. USA Basketball wanted him in Rio. The question was, did he want to do it after a deep playoff run where he played his best in the Finals? There was an assumption he would, but so many players had bailed that the question was a legitimate one.

Yes, he’s in, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.

While the announcement isn’t official until Monday, here is your USA Basketball team for Rio:

Kyrie Irving
Kyle Lowry
Jimmy Butler
Klay Thompson
DeMar DeRozan
Kevin Durant
Paul George
Draymond Green
Carmelo Anthony
Harrison Barnes
DeMarcus Cousins
DeAndre Jordan

You could form a better team with the guys out due to injury or understandably not wanting to deal with the Zika virus and other challenges in Brazil: LeBron James, Stephen Curry, LaMarcus Aldridge, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Kawhi Leonard, John Wall, Damian Lillard, Gordon Hayward, and Bradley Beal.

But that second team will keep Team USA’s 63-game international win streak intact and bring home the Gold again. No question.

Report: Lakers to “aggressively pursue” Hassan Whiteside in free agency

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Hassan Whiteside made $981,348 last season for the Miami Heat.

Next season he is going to make $22 million — the max salary he can get — playing somewhere. Maybe Miami, Pat Riley has said bringing Whiteside and his elite shot blocking plus efficient 14.8 points and 11.8 rebounds per game back is the team’s highest priority. But Golden State also is interested in Whiteside. So is Dallas. So is Portland. And that’s just the start of a long line of teams.

You can add the Los Angeles Lakers to the list, reports Ramona Shelburne and Marc Stein of ESPN.

With rim protection and perimeter shooting ranking as the Lakers’ foremost areas of concern heading into the open market, sources told ESPN.com that Whiteside has emerged a priority target for L.A.

This is about as surprising as Hamilton winning a wheelbarrow full of Tony Awards.

The Lakers are likely refocusing their free agent targets after it appears they have not been able to get a meeting with Kevin Durant (and even if they do they are long shots to land him).

The Lakers certainly need rim protection inside. They like their young forwards Julius Randle and the just drafted Brandon Ingram, but in Luke Walton’s more Warriorsesque system someone has to protect the paint on defense and that is not those guys strength. Whiteside would do that, he could score a little, and he would fit the young, up-and-coming profile of the Lakers.

Whiteside will have options. While teams (including Miami) would like to get Whiteside for a little less than the max, with so many teams in the mix that seems unlikely. Simple supply and demand. In an NBA trending toward space bigs who are athletic and can protect the rim and cover in space are highly sought after and there are only a few of them. The Lakers want him.

Miami likely keeps Whiteside with a max offer, but as they are in the Kevin Durant sweepstakes they may want to stall a move on Whiteside (the Heat only have early Bird Rights on Whiteside, they need to use cap space to re-sign him, they can’t do that and max out Durant). Maybe that cracks the door open for another team. The Lakers will try to get their foot in that door.

 

Pau Gasol says he wants to play in Rio Olympics for Spain despite Zika

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MADRID (AP) — Chicago Bulls star Pau Gasol says he wants to play in the Rio de Janeiro Olympics despite concerns over the Zika virus.

The 35-year-old center announced in an article for Spanish newspaper Marca on Saturday that he’s available for the Spanish national team in what will be his fourth Olympics.

Gasol said last month he was considering not playing in Rio because there was too much uncertainty about Zika. He later said he was considering freezing a sperm sample.

The mosquito-borne disease has been linked to severe birth defects in infants born to infected women.

Two-time silver medalist Gasol called Zika “a serious issue” and said it was his duty to make people aware of it.

Pau Gasol is a free agent this summer but will try to have a destination and contract signed long before the Olympics start Aug. 5.

Report: Harrison Barnes accepts spot on Team USA for Rio Olympics

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Our natural recency bias is going to have people rolling their eyes at this one, even though it is a good pick.

Golden State’s Harrison Barnes has accepted a spot with Team USA to play in the Rio Olympics, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

Golden State Warriors forward Harrison Barnes has been selected as a member of the final 12-man Team USA roster for the Rio Olympic Games this summer, league sources told The Vertical….

Barnes had a poor NBA Finals, shooting 25 of 71 (35.2 percent) in the seven-game series loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers… Barnes averaged 11.7 points and 4.9 rebounds for the Warriors last season, but shot only 38 percent in the NBA playoffs.

Barnes is a good defender, is long and athletic, can run the floor like Mike Krzyzewski wants to do, and he can hit threes — he shot 38.3 percent in the regular season. And the defenses he will see in Rio are generally not as good as those he sees nightly in the NBA. He will play better than he did in the Finals, when he couldn’t throw a pea in the ocean for a couple of games.

Barnes is also a restricted free agent this summer — a lot of players who are free agents balk at playing for free over the summer, although Barnes will join Kevin Durant in that spot this summer. Barnes will try to get his status resolved before the start of Team USA camp in Las Vegas on July 18. If the Warriors can land Durant in free agency, they will not match any offers for Barnes, and he will be on the move.

Here is the USA Basketball roster for Rio as we understand it (the official announcement is Monday):

Kyrie Irving (not confirmed yet but expected)
Kyle Lowry
Jimmy Butler
Klay Thompson
DeMar DeRozan
Kevin Durant
Paul George
Draymond Green
Carmelo Anthony
Harrison Barnes
DeMarcus Cousins
DeAndre Jordan

Yes, that’s a Team B roster because of the number of players who were injured or backed out — LeBron James, Stephen Curry, LaMarcus Aldridge, Russell Westbrook, James Harden, Anthony Davis, Blake Griffin, Chris Paul, Kawhi Leonard, John Wall, Damian Lillard, Gordon Hayward, and Bradley Beal.

No, it will not matter, that roster will still win the gold medal. It may not be seriously tested in Brazil.