Eight teams have room to sign max free agent

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Tom Ziller, writing for FanHouse, names the eight teams that will have room to give a free agent max money. Here’s my quick breakdown of the pros and cons of each free-agent destination:

New York: The Knicks may have the cap space to sign two major free agents. They also play in the Mecca of basketball, and the chance of bringing basketball glory back to New York could be very tempting. Players also love playing for Mike D’Antoni. However, the Knicks have few young pieces and draft picks, and have been a mess for some time now. They’d need to perform some serious magic in the summer of 2010 to become a title contender.
New Jersey: The team may be moving to Brooklyn, and have a billionaire owner with money to burn. They have a good young center in Brook Lopez, and Devin Harris could return to his previous form. They also have a high pick in the upcoming draft, and have the best chance of winning the John Wall sweepstakes. On the con side, this is one of the worst teams in NBA history. 
Chicago: The Bulls have cap space, a young star in Derrick Rose, and the legacy of Michael Jordan. They’ll likely make a concerted effort to get hometown product Dwyane Wade this summer, and could have a very good shot. The Bulls have been close to contending for a few years now. A superstar could return them to their former glory. 
Sacramento: The Kings have a budding superstar of their own in Tyreke Evans. They also have young pieces like Omri Casspi, and now feature Carl Landry in their frontcourt. Additionally, the Kings have one of the league’s most passionate fanbases, not to mention a pair of billionaire owners. The major cons for the Kings are their small market and their lack of success in recent years. 
Miami: The Heat have the best shot at keeping Wade, and could potentially add another big free agent to their nucleus. They don’t have much young talent or a high draft pick coming, however. Their market isn’t the best, but players do like playing in Miami. 
Los Angeles Clippers: The Clippers have Blake Griffin, Eric Gordon, and a high pick coming in the draft. They also play in one of the best markets in the league, if not the best. However, they’re currently a mess, and historically one of the worst franchises ever. They’ve also got a ways to go until they’re the most popular team in their own arena. Their ownership situation could also be a concern for potential free agents wary of throwing their hat in with Donald Sterling. 
Washington: The Wizards are having some serious problems. They’ll have a high draft pick, but have no core and the messy Gilbert Arenas situation hanging over the franchise. 
Minnesota: The Wolves have Al Jefferson, and do have the rights to Ricky Rubio. Kevin Love is also blossoming into a very fine NBA player. The issue is that the Wolves could have trouble enticing players to come to Minnesota, and the team hasn’t been constructed with any clear plan in mind so far. 
Those are the teams who will be bidding for the big free agents in the Summer of Doom. We’ll see which franchises end up getting the guys they want with their cap space. 

Reggie Bullock game-winner gives Pistons coach Dwane Casey victory in return to Toronto

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Revenge is a dish best served with two seconds left in a tie game.

Pistons coach Dwane Casey – certainly not thrilled with the Raptors firing him earlier this year – guided his new team to a 106-104 win in his return to Toronto tonight. Detroit erased a 19-point second-half deficit and got the ball with two seconds left, giving Casey and Reggie Bullock chances to shine.

Casey drew up a great play, an alley-oop to Glenn Robinson III. But Pascal Siakam made an even better play to knock the ball out of bounds.

The Pistons’ second play of the possession proved even more effective, as Bullock slipped toward the rim and hit the game-winner.

What a satisfying victory for Casey.

Reports: Steve Kerr chose and Warriors players supported suspending, not fining, Draymond Green

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The Warriors suspended Draymond Green one game for his argument with Kevin Durant during and after Golden State’s loss to the Clippers on Monday.

Sam Amick of The Athletic:

Jackie MacMullan on ESPN:

What about an internal fine? And what I was told this morning was that the rest of the players on this team didn’t support that, that the rest of the players on the team felt this had to be to done and that they’re all prepared, on that plane ride to Houston today, to get those guys together and put this behind them for now.

Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic:

Green was surprised by the heavy-handedness. A fine was expected. Green had just come back from injury, giving him a rest day for Tuesday’s game against Atlanta and a private fine would have been an acceptable rebuke of his behavior. He was fined a few thousand dollars when he went after Kerr in the locker room in Oklahoma City in 2016. He didn’t think this incident was nearly as bad, so the punishment being drastically worse was shocking.

I wonder whether Green will feel as if the Warriors are ganging up on him. Many see his suspension as Golden State’s attempt to appease Durant before free agency, and the original issue escalated because Green thought there was already too much emphasis on Durant’s free agency. This could push a stubborn Green deeper into a corner.

Or he could realize his peers wanted him suspended and see that as a wakeup call. He might put more stock in that than Kerr’s point of view.

It’s too early to determine how this will go, but the starting point is apparently a divide between Green and everyone else.

Kyrie Irving, teammate of 12-year-veteran Al Horford: Celtics need 14- or 15-year veteran for leadership

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The Celtics just had a 1-4 road trip, the lone win coming in overtime against the lowly Suns. Most Boston players (except Marcus Morris and, lately, Kyrie Irving) look out of sorts offensively.

Irving, via Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston:

Looking at this locker room, me being in my eighth year and being a ‘veteran’ as well as Al [Horford] and [Aron] Baynes. Right now I think it would be nice if we had someone that was a 15-year vet, a 14-year vet that could kind of help us race along the regular season and understand it’s a long marathon rather than just a full-on sprint, when you want to play, when you want to do what you want to do.

Al Horford is in his 12th season. His team, the Hawks then Celtics, have made the playoffs every season of his career.

I’m not sure Irving intended this as a slight of Horford. Irving certainly didn’t forget about Horford, whom Irving mentioned the sentence prior.

But I’d definitely understand if Horford felt slighted. He’s experienced enough to provide that veteran leadership. So is Irving for that matter.

Ultimately, these comments might prove benign, just more weird words from Irving. Still, they’re potentially significant enough to keep an eye on Boston’s leadership situation.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns: ‘I’m not one of the most important [players on the team]. I’m just a piece on this team’

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Jimmy Butler made the Timberwolves his team. He willed himself into being their best player despite having teammates with more talent and physical skills. He took a leadership position by talking over everyone (for better or worse). He even asked for top-contract status with a renegotiation-and-extension that would have required gutting the rest of the roster.

With Butler traded to the 76ers, who takes up the mantle in Minnesota?

Karl-Anthony Towns is the logical candidate. He’s now the Timberwolves’ best player. He just signed a max contract extension that will hit super-max salaries if he makes an All-NBA team this season. He’s even already one of Minnesota’s longest-tenured players.

Kent Youngblood of the StarTribune:

Karl-Anthony Towns took issue with the idea that, with Butler gone, he had to become the team’s leader.

“First of all, I’m not one of the most important [players on the team],’’ he said. “I’m just a piece on this team. Everyone is just as important as the next. So if everyone’s doing their job and everyone is working hard, doing the little things, we make a great product.

Somewhere, Butler is cackling, assured his doubts about Towns were correct.

But leading isn’t for everyone. That doesn’t make non-leaders bad people. The world needs followers, too.

That said, things generally flow much more smoothly on teams where the best player is the main leader. It creates an orderly culture. If Towns doesn’t want that role, it’ll be something for the Timberwolves to overcome.

Maybe Towns, 22, will grow into it. There’s still plenty of time left for him to develop both as a player and person.

But Butler’s exit created a natural entrance for Towns into leadership. Towns could have seamlessly seized the reigns right here. That he isn’t shows how far he is as a leader.