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Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov says he’s selling 49 percent of Nets

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MOSCOW (AP) — Brooklyn Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov has told Russian media he’s selling a 49 percent stake in the NBA club.

The Russian billionaire announced his intention to sell a minority stake in December, and now says “49 percent of the Brooklyn shares are up for sale,” in comments reported by R-Sport.

He adds that “currently the process is going on and we are looking for a buyer.”

Prokhorov took an 80 percent stake in the then-New Jersey Nets in 2010, moved the team to Brooklyn in 2012, and took full ownership in 2015.

Brooklyn went 20-62 this season, which was the worst record in the NBA and its third consecutive season below .500.

The Nets last made the playoffs in 2015, losing to the Atlanta Hawks in the first round.

Report: Pistons plan to match any Kentavious Caldwell-Pope offer sheet, even a max

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Bad news for the Nets or any team planning to pursue Kentavious Caldwell-Pope in restricted free agency this summer.

Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

The Pistons are prepared to match any offer sheet he receives, even if it produced a maximum contract, according to multiple persons with firsthand knowledge of the franchise’s thinking.

One person told the Free Press: “We can’t lose him.”

This is the right course for Detroit.

If the Pistons let Caldwell-Pope walk, they’d have just the $8,406,000 mid-level exception or so to replace him. That’d yield a far lesser player, which is untenable for Detroit with too many players – Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson, Tobias Harris, Marcus Morris and Jon Leuer – under contract and at least theoretically ready to win now.

The 24-year-old Caldwell-Pope should remain productive through his next contract, which makes paying him major money less risky. He’s a strong defender, solid 3-point shooter and fantastic transition threat. Teams can’t get enough two-way wings as small ball gains popularity. His recent DUI arrest is unlikely significantly affect his stock, because his blood-alcohol content registered barely above the legal limit and he has an otherwise solid reputation as a diligent worker.

Caldwell-Pope would likely  get max offers if he were an unrestricted free agent. By putting word out now, the Pistons might dissuade other teams from wasting their time pursuing him. More likely, Detroit opens the door to negotiating a five-year deal with Caldwell-Pope rather than matching a shorter offer sheet from another team, which can be for a max of four years.

Interestingly, the next Collective Bargaining Agreement bans teams from declaring an intent to match all offers for a restricted free agent. It’s unclear how the league will enforce anonymously sourced reports like this, because the Pistons have plausible deniability they didn’t provide Ellis the information. More importantly in this case, the next CBA has not yet taken effect. The Pistons have wide latitude for another couple months to publicly negotiate Caldwell-Pope’s next contract – a deal that increasingly appears will return him to Detroit.

Despite 60-loss season, Nets not looking to rush the rebuild

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NEW YORK (AP) — The Brooklyn Nets own two first-round draft picks, though not the one that has a 25 percent chance of being No. 1 overall.

They have money to spend in free agency, if they want to go that route.

So there are ways to upgrade the worst team in the NBA.

They just won’t rush it.

“Listen, I know we have big strides to make and 20 wins, not enough. It’s not good enough for any of us, but I do think we’re going to reap the benefits of going through this struggle,” coach Kenny Atkinson said Monday.

The Nets finished 20-62 in their first season under Atkinson, getting most of those victories during the final two months of the season. It was expected to be a rough season and it was, as they undertake a rebuilding process under general manager Sean Marks after years of sometimes reckless spending that never brought them close to a championship.

They won’t get near one anytime soon, either. Marks used the work “strategically” about a half-dozen times Monday in his season-ending news conference to describe the way he will build the team.

The easiest chance for an immediate score in a promising draft is long gone, because the Nets have to swap picks with Boston as they continuing paying for the trade that landed them Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. So the Celtics will have no worse than the No. 4 pick in the draft.

But the Nets do have the Celtics’ pick and acquired Washington’s during the season, giving them two selections later in the first round.

“I like having two picks, that’s for sure,” Marks said. “I think it just gives us another swing at it.”

Beyond that, the Nets could try to sign a veteran star to become the headliner of the team, but that doesn’t sound like the plan.

“I think we’ve got to really evaluate the roster and if you go after one of the top-tier guys, you obviously would hope to get them – you hope to get all your targets that you go for – but does that really make you better? Does it get you to 30 wins, 35 wins?” Marks said.

“The objective here is for us to be in the playoffs. When that comes, we’ll have to wait and see, but you don’t want to go and sign free agents and next thing your payroll is capped out and so forth and you’re a 25-win team.”

Nets executives are bound this week for Europe, where they will meet with Russian owner Mikhail Prokhorov and do some scouting. The makeup of the roster for next season seems wide open beyond point guard Jeremy Lin, with center Brook Lopez perennial trade bait even as he adapted his game well this season to fit Atkinson’s offense.

Prokhorov, who once longed to win a championship within five years, now seems on board with a gradual rebuild.

It took time to get the Nets into the situation they’re in, and they’re prepared to take time to get out.

“Obviously the losses weren’t easy but I did understand, I think we understood what we’re getting into and I know in the long run that the adversity that we had to face, it’s almost like you deserve to face that,” Atkinson said.

“So I kind of like that process and looking back on it, having to fight through some tough times, I think that’s going to make us better in the long run. But I know it’s one foot in front of the other.”

Five out: NBA entering era of 3-point-shooting centers

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In 2014, the Atlanta Hawks snuck into the playoffs with a 38-44 record. Their reward? A matchup with the top-seeded Indiana Pacers, who boasted the NBA’s best defense.

Roy Hibbert, a mountain of a center, anchored Indiana’s defense by using his 7-foot-2, 270-pound frame to wall off the paint.

On the other hand, Atlanta’s starting center, Al Horford, suffered a season-ending injury in December. The Hawks rotated three replacements: Pero Antic, Elton Brand and Gustavo Ayon. Ayon suffered his own season-ending injury in February, leaving Atlanta to choose between a past-his-prime, but veteran, Brand and Antic, a 31-year-old rookie who liked to shoot 3-pointers but converted them at a below-average clip.

The Hawks started Antic – and told him to bomb away.

"Even though Pero wasn’t a great 3-point shooter, we told him to shoot it, because we needed Hibbert out of there," said Kenny Atkinson, who was then a Hawks assistant coach. "That was the only way we were going to score.

"We had to take some risk."

Antic hoisted 42 3s in 170 minutes – the highest rate ever in a postseason by someone who started all his team’s games at center. But he made just 7-of-42, a dreary 17%.

Yet, the scheme worked anyway.

Antic pulled Hibbert from the paint, scrambling the Pacers. Hibbert was lost on the perimeter, and his teammates didn’t know how to play without an elite rim protector behind them. Indiana was on tilt, and its offense collapsed as everyone bore the weight of new defensive challenges.

Atlanta outscored the Pacers by 30 with Antic on the court and got outscored by 37 otherwise. Though the Hawks lost the series in seven games, they pushed the Pacers far more than anyone anticipated.

"That was kind of a little bit of an epiphany," Atkinson said. "This can help. This can help draw a great rim protector away from the rim."

The stretch-five revolution was underway.

Atkinson and the Hawks, coached by Mike Budenholzer, had become full believers. The next year, Horford shot and made more 3-pointers than he did in his first seven years combined. The following year, he again trumped his growing career totals – and he wasn’t alone. The shift spread beyond Atlanta by then.

Anthony Davis also shot and made more 3-pointers last season than he had in the rest of his career combined. So did DeMarcus Cousins, who topped his new career totals again this year. Marc Gasol and Nikola Vucevic did it this year, too.

But perhaps the biggest domino to fall was Brook Lopez.

Atkinson became the Nets’ head coach this season and inherited Lopez, an archetypical center who made just 3-of-31 3-pointers in his first eight seasons. In his first year under Atkinson, Lopez has made 134-of-386 3-pointers (35%).

If Lopez can shoot 3s, what is the limit?

We’re progressing toward finding out.

Centers made 1,479 3-pointers this season – more than double any other year, more than the last four years combined, more than the first 17 years of the 3-point arc combined.

Here are number the of 3-pointers made (orange) and attempted (blue) per game by centers, as classified by Basketball-Reference:

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Season 3P 3PA 3P/G 3PA/G 3P%
2017 1479 4183 1.20 3.40 35%
2016 544 1662 0.44 1.35 33%
2015 331 1020 0.27 0.83 32%
2014 429 1310 0.35 1.07 33%
2013 118 485 0.10 0.39 24%
2012 115 443 0.12 0.45 26%
2011 176 588 0.14 0.48 30%
2010 481 1463 0.39 1.19 33%
2009 368 1080 0.30 0.88 34%
2008 500 1519 0.41 1.23 33%
2007 305 945 0.25 0.77 32%
2006 64 301 0.05 0.24 21%
2005 253 785 0.21 0.64 32%
2004 150 559 0.13 0.47 27%
2003 150 497 0.13 0.42 30%
2002 317 896 0.27 0.75 35%
2001 86 364 0.07 0.31 24%
2000 100 382 0.08 0.32 26%
1999 44 199 0.06 0.27 22%
1998 128 535 0.11 0.45 24%
1997 219 686 0.18 0.58 32%
1996 148 528 0.12 0.44 28%
1995 247 799 0.22 0.72 31%
1994 74 339 0.07 0.31 22%
1993 91 353 0.08 0.32 26%
1992 101 396 0.09 0.36 26%
1991 117 504 0.11 0.46 23%
1990 197 677 0.18 0.61 29%
1989 170 607 0.17 0.59 28%
1988 34 191 0.04 0.20 18%
1987 12 101 0.01 0.11 12%
1986 16 129 0.02 0.14 12%
1985 11 129 0.01 0.14 9%
1984 21 147 0.02 0.16 14%
1983 18 139 0.02 0.15 13%
1982 22 112 0.02 0.12 20%
1981 14 88 0.01 0.09 16%
1980 10 95 0.01 0.11 11%

For the first time in history, the average NBA game featured a center making a 3-pointer. But the opening weekend of the playoffs sent the trend into overdrive.

In eight Game 1s, centers combined to shoot 12-for-16 on 3-pointers (75%).

That doesn’t even count all the time teams used players listed at forward, like Serge Ibaka and Draymond Green, at center – a strategy that becomes much more popular this time of year. Teams have embraced small ball more quickly than positional designations can keep up.

"A stretch five," said Grizzlies coach David Fizdale, who implored Marc Gasol to become one, "is a serious luxury."

Enjoy it while it lasts.

It wasn’t long ago that stretch fours were a novelty. Teams had to create special game plans to defend them, because they popped up on the schedule so irregularly. Now, it’s a change of pace when a team starts two traditional interior bigs.

Stretch fives are the new frontier.

Coaches are quick to point out how much trouble opposing 3-point-shooting centers cause, but not every team has developed its own. As long as the former remains true, the latter will change.

The current crop of high-volume stretch fives all have their own origin stories. Davis started shooting 3s under Alvin Gentry, who saw the value of a playmaking center while coaching Draymond Green with the Warriors. Cousins didn’t like being labeled a center and wanted to expand his game. Gasol listened to Fizdale, who was a Heat assistant when Miami – due to injury – learned the value of small ball and then turned Chris Bosh into a center. Vucevic played for Frank Vogel, who coached that Pacers team torched by Antic.

Eventually, there won’t be anything special about a center who shoots 3-pointers. It’ll be the norm.

To be fair, it was hardly unpresented pre-Antic. Mehmet Okur, who retired in 2012 is the all-time leader in 3-pointers by a center (460). Channing Frye set the single-season record for 3-pointers per game by a center (2.1) in 2010, when he played for Gentry’s Suns. That broke the record by Al Harrington for the 2008 Warriors (1.9).*

*Counting only seasons players were listed as centers by Basketball-Reference

That 2010 Phoenix team, coached by Gentry, was still running Mike D’Antoni’s spread scheme. Harrington was primarily a forward during his career, but then-Golden State coach Don Nelson frequently used him at center.

D’Antoni and Nelson were seen as mad scientists, bending basketball into an unholy style. But they were actually visionaries not appreciated in their time.

Stretch fives have not become conventional, but they’re no longer such a rarity. Nine centers made more than one 3-pointer per game this season. No more than three had done that in any other year.

Here’s every center ever to average more than one 3-pointer per game:

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Other players could join their ranks next season.

Big forwards who already shoot plenty of 3s, like Ibaka and Kristaps Porzingis, could soon be primarily centers. Young stretch fives like Myles Turner could take more 3s in bigger roles. Centers with established mid-range games – like Robin Lopez, Brook’s twin brother – could venture beyond the arc.

There’s so much incentive to experiment.

It’s not just the added value of a more efficient shot than a long two. It’s not even just the value of generally spacing the floor.

It’s that centers are often the best rim protectors, so there’s exponentially more value in a stretch five pulling an opposing center from the paint than a stretch four pulling an opposing power forward from the paint.

Stretching the floor has enhanced existing skills for these centers, too. Getting the ball on the perimeter with the threat of shooting has made Brook Lopez an even more effective driver. Gasol can survey the floor from beyond the arc, with a defender pressed closed to him rather than disrupting the passing lanes, and zip dimes from even more angles.

Lopez has embraced his new skill dutifully, though he didn’t want to talk much about himself late in Brooklyn’s awful season. Gasol has unleashed his 3-point shooting with joyous flair – at least once he got going.

"He laughed at first because I told him I want him shooting four a game, and he thought I was joking," Fizdale said. "But as you can see it’s not a joke."

Gasol came close, finishing with 3.6 3-point attempts per game. But there’s always next year.

The stretch-five revolution has just begun.

Magic fire general manager Rob Hennigan

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Everyoneeven Rob Hennigan — saw this coming.

The underwhelming-turned-embarrassing tenure of the Magic general manager has ended.

John Denton of the team’s official website:

Magic CEO Alex Martins announced the firings of General Manager Rob Hennigan and Assistant GM Scott Perry.

Assistant GM Matt Lloyd, a Magic employee for five years, will serve as the franchise’s interim GM until a full-time successor is chosen. Lloyd, who worked for the Chicago Bulls for 13 years prior to joining the Magic, is expected to be a candidate for the long-term position.

The Magic went 20-62, 23-59, 25-57, 35-47 and 29-53 and missed the playoffs every year under Hennigan, which is bad enough. Compounding problems: None of the first-round picks gained by those poor records — Andrew NicholsonVictor Oladipo, Aaron Gordon, Elfrid PaytonMario Hezonja — have become stars.

That didn’t stop Hennigan from trying to push in his chips this season. Last summer, he acquired Serge Ibaka (via trade of Victor Oladipo, No. 11 pick and Ersan Ilyasova), Bismack Biyombo (four-year, $72 million contract), Jeff Green (one-year, $15 million contract) and D.J. Augustin (four-year, $29 million contract).

The result? Gordon, Orlando’s most promising player, spent most of the season playing out of position, at small forward rather than power forward. And the Magic kept losing. Hennigan flipped Ibaka to the Raptors for Terrence Ross and a later first-round pick, but the damage was already done.

It’s still not too hard to find someone who still believes in the 35-year-old Hennigan’s acumen. But five years was plenty of time to show it, and he never did.