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).

Cavaliers embarrass Celtics 130-86, take dominant 2-0 lead in series

Associated Press
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Are we sure the Cavaliers are not the Monstars?

Boston switched up their starting lineup, putting Gerald Green in the mix. The Celtics gang rebounding a focus and switched up their defensive coverages. They played with more energy.

It didn’t matter. Boston started the game shooting 0-of-7 from the floor, trailed by 14 after one quarter as the Cavaliers went on a 28-6 run spanning the first and second, and by halftime Boston had scored just 31 points and trailed by 41 (an NBA record for largest halftime deficit in a playoff game).

“It was honestly just embarassing,” Avery Bradley said after the game. “They came out not only playing harder, they knocked down shots, and I think that made it that much worse.”

Actually, things still got worse: Boston’s Isaiah Thomas strained his right hip late in the first half and missed all of the second half. His status going forward is unknown, but the injury is considered “significant” according to Chris Mannix of The Vertical (he also works for Comcast Sports Net which broadcasts Celtics games). Thomas was 0-of-6 shooting for two points in this game and was again completely smothered by the Cavaliers defense.

The Cavaliers won 130-86 to take a commanding 2-0 series lead as the series now heads to Cleveland for Game 3 on Sunday.

LeBron James had 30 points, his 18th career and eighth straight 30-point playoff game (the latter of those tying Michael Jordan for the most all time). And he didn’t even play the fourth quarter. Kyrie Irving added 23, Kevin Love had 21 points and 12 rebounds.

“We’re very focused,” Irving said in a televised interview after the game, and maybe understating things a bit. “We have a lot of confidence in what we have as a team and when we come out and play like this, anything’s possible.”

This loss had to devastate Boston’s confidence. It’s hard not to imagine this ending in a sweep. Right now the Cavaliers are 10-0 so far this postseason.

In Game 2, we could talk about how Boston had no answer for the LeBron at center lineups, or how Cleveland’s passing was crisp while Boston was slow to recover, or a host of other things, but the real issue for Boston is they just cannot find a way to score on a suddenly-focused Cavaliers defense. They had no flow to their sets, everything they tried they got taken out of by the Cavaliers. The Celtics had an offensive rating of 75 points per 100 possessions in the first quarter, and the second quarter was worse. Things like this kept happening.

There has been a lot of talk this week about the Celtics future, especially with them now holding the No. 1 pick in the draft. As ugly as the losses have been for Boston in this series, they validate GM Danny Ainge’s decision to not to trade that pick and other players at the deadline for Paul George or Jimmy Butler — they would have not changed the outcome of this series. Made it closer, maybe gotten Boston a win, but that’s it for what would have been a high price. Boston has been patient and now you can see why, and you can see the path forward: Draft Markelle Fultz, make a hard run at Gordon Hayward in free agency, but if he decides to stay in Utah then make a run at someone else in 2018. Make sure the fits are right, find some guys who can be stronger inside and on the glass, and continue to improve. Boston made a step forward this season to get the No. 1 seed and reach the conference finals, just continue to build off that. Don’t panic and rush things.

For Cleveland, just stay healthy. The biggest test is yet to come.

Report: Hawks offered Pacers 4 first round picks for Paul George at the trade deadline

AP
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Paul George has been the subject of much discussion recently as talks of trades and his impending free agency have followed his absence from an All-NBA team on Tuesday. George has a year left on his deal with the Indiana Pacers, and some rumors even place him with the Los Angeles Lakers.

But it was an Eastern Conference team that looked to trade for George in February, and for quite a hefty price. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst reported that the Atlanta Hawks offered four first round picks for George back at the deadline.

That’s serious.

Meanwhile, it’s not clear whether George will play out his contract in Indiana or if Pacers GM Kevin Pritchard will somehow convince him to stay. The team is in a tough spot given they seem unlikely to extend George and because any team trading for George could lose him the following summer.

It’s hard to imagine a haul of four first rounders for a player, but as we’ve seen for the Boston Celtics in the most recent NBA Draft Lottery, that kind of swap can be fruitful.

Rumor: Lakers told not to trade for Paul George – because he might just sign anyway

AP Photo/Alex Gallardo
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Paul George and the Lakers are rather publicly flirting with each other.

It sounds as if there’s more backchannel communications going to Los Angeles about the Pacers forward, who can opt out of his contract in 2018.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

For the Lakers, they are pretty confident and have a great deal of belief that they’re in position to get Paul George in 2018. Whether he stays in Indiana or he’s traded elsewhere, he’s going to be a free agent in 18 if he doesn’t re-sign this summer in Indiana. They don’t have to give assets up to go and try to trade for him. In fact, I think they’ve been encouraged to do just the opposite. If Paul George is going to go there, he wants them to have assets. He wants them to be as good of a team as they can when he walks in.

With George missing  the All-NBA teams, an extension this year is completely illogical. Whether he remains in Indiana or gets traded, he’ll almost certainly become an unrestricted free agent in 2018.

George could earn more on his next contract if the Lakers trade for him first and then he re-signs in Los Angeles rather than leaving a prior team for the Lakers. The difference – $177 million over five years (about $35 million annually) vs. $132 million over four years (about $33 million annually) – is real, but it’s not necessarily enough to outweigh playing for a better team.

The Lakers have some nice young building blocks: D'Angelo Russell, Brandon Ingram, Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson, Larry Nance Jr., Ivica Zubac and the No. 2 pick in the upcoming draft (Lonzo Ball?). George could join them just as they’re ready to win and reap outsized credit for turning around the franchise. There’s value in that.

But this doesn’t necessarily mean George will sign with the Lakers.

Even if he or someone from his camp instructed the Lakers not to trade for him, George could just be getting his ducks in a row just in case. If George is even considering the Lakers, why not use his leverage to make Los Angeles as desirable an option as possible? He could also tell numerous teams, including Indiana, what would please him the most. That would just increase his chances of finding an ideal team in 2018, even if he doesn’t yet know which team that will be. Remember, Kevin Durant told the Celtics (and, I’d guess, other teams) what players he wanted to join him and then signed with the Warriors.

Or maybe George doesn’t want to be pigeonholed into Los Angeles yet. If the Lakers trade for him, he’d face immense backlash if he leaves his hometown team in free agency. This could just be George’s way of biding time as he evaluates options.

The Lakers’ optimism means something. But, even after regime change, it doesn’t mean everything.

James Harden, LeBron James headline All-NBA Teams

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James Harden was a unanimous First Team choice.

LeBron James and Russell Westbrook came within one vote of the same (one voter each had them on the second team).

While we aren’t going to know who won MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, or other NBA awards until their new ceremony June 26 (after the Finals and Draft), the All-NBA teams had to be different. Because it impacts bonuses and future contracts — most notably if players qualify for Designated Player max deals this summer — teams needed to know early, before the Draft. So on Thursday the NBA released the prestigious All-NBA team, a snapshot of the best in the game.

Here are the three All-NBA teams:

Other players receiving votes, with point totals (First Team votes in parentheses): Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota, 50 (2); Chris Paul, LA Clippers, 49; Marc Gasol, Memphis, 48 (2); DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans, 42 (2); Paul George, Indiana, 40; Gordon Hayward, Utah, 27; Hassan Whiteside, Miami, 18; Kyrie Irving, Cleveland, 14; Klay Thompson, Golden State, 14; Nikola Jokic, Denver, 12 (1); Damian Lillard, Portland, 12; Paul Millsap, Atlanta, 3; LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio, 1; Blake Griffin, LA Clippers, 1; Al Horford, Boston, 1.

These were voted on by 100 members of the media, their votes will be made public June 26 with the rest of the award voting. (Full disclosure, I was one of those voters.)

The big takeaways: Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook, John Wall, and Stephen Curry (already an MVP) are eligible for Designated Player max contracts. In the case of Leonard it would be five years at around $217 million, and while he would sign next summer it wouldn’t kick in until the summer of 2019. Wall can sign his extension this summer (he has more experience) but his deal will not kick in for a couple.

However, Paul George and Gordon Hayward did not make an All-NBA team, which could impact their summers because now the Pacers and Jazz cannot offer their stars those Designated Player max contracts. (That contract is only for players who make the team the past year or two of the last three, or are a former MVP.)

In the case of George (who made all-NBA regularly before his leg injury, now has not made it two of the last three), that means the Pacers may consider trading their star this summer. George is a free agent in 2018 and there is a lot of buzz he is going to leave (either to a contender or the Lakers), and Indiana’s new man in charge Kevin Pritchard may feel he needs to get something for George rather than just let him walk. However, the trade market for George will not be robust because teams feel he wants to be a free agent in 2018, so he could be a one-year rental.

For Hayward, it means the Jazz can only offer a little more than other teams — about $2 million a year more on average over the deal, but also a guaranteed fifth year, so it works out to $46 million more guaranteed (but Hayward would get paid somewhere that fifth season, just not as much). That may be enough to keep him, he likes Utah, but it’s known Boston — with Hayward’s college coach Brad Stevens — and other teams are going to come hard at him.

Some will question putting Anthony Davis at center, but he spent 64 percent of his time on the court this past season at the five (as tracked by Basketball-Reference.com). That likely will not be the case next season with DeMarcus Cousins in the picture.