Report: Lakers, Nuggets have preliminary Carmelo Anthony talks

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UPDATE 12:28 pm: Jim Buss — the son of owner Jerry Buss and the guy who is the real day-to-day head of the Lakers basketball-side operations — turned down a Carmelo Anthony for Andrew Bynum trade, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News (on twitter). He adds that Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant were dismayed.

Drafting Andrew Bynum was something the younger Buss pushed for — a lot of people thought it a reach at the time but, despite all the injuries, it has worked out well. Buss is fiercely loyal to Bynum and it would make sense if he turned down this trade.

ESPN’s Broussard acknowledged this but said that the talks are not dead.

12:02 pm: There are a lot of questions, a lot of reasons to be suspicious of this, but it is out there.

The Lakers and Nuggets have had preliminary discussions of a Carmelo Anthony for Andrew Bynum trade, according to ESPN’s Chris Broussard. (To be fair, he was one of the first to have LeBron going to Miami.)

The Lakers’ package would be built around center Andrew Bynum. Denver has no interest in Ron Artest and isn’t particularly interested in Lamar Odom either, sources said. A straight-up deal of Bynum for Anthony works financially, but there could be other players involved since Denver would look to shed more salary if possible.

Sources described the talks as in their infancy, and a three-way deal between the Knicks, Nuggets and Wolves is very much alive.

He says the Nuggets are not interested in Lamar Odom or Ron Artest, which makes sense as they want to get young and rebuild and those guys are older with long-term deals. Denver throughout this has looked for ways to shed more salary — hello Al Harrington — and with that they may want to add players to any such deal.

Would ‘Melo sign an extension with the Lakers? He already has an off-season home in Los Angeles and it is a big entertainment industry city for his wife’s career. So the smart guess is yes, he would.

Here’s my first question: Who gains by leaking this? Denver does. They want to get a better deal than what the Knicks are offering right now. They need leverage now that the Nets are out of the picture. The big, bad Lakers and their actual quality asset in Andrew Bynum is that kind of leverage. So you could see the Nuggets making the call to the Lakers then leaking it.

Also remember when the Lakers stole Pau Gasol from Memphis (although it wasn’t quite the fleecing some thought) that the trade came out of the blue. The Lakers are better than most organizations at not having leaks. That this is out there adds to the suspicion.

However, the Lakers have talked about needing a shakeup to this roster. (Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak is not the kind of GM to simply say things to the media for effect.) This certainly would be a major shakeup.

The trade makes little sense for the Lakers in one key sense — they need to improve their defense if they want to defend their title, and Bynum is the anchor of their defense. Anthony can fill it up and is a great shooter late in games, but the Lakers offense already the most efficient in the league the Lakers have their closer.

Don’t bet on this happening. ‘Melo is much, much more likely to land in New York. But it’s out there and being discussed.

Suns’ GM says there is “overwhelming likelihood” team keeps No. 1 pick

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It takes a rare kind of courage, an extraordinary level of organizational backing, and a special kind of draft to do what Danny Ainge did a year ago trading the No. 1 pick. While a consensus had formed around Markelle Fultz as the best player in the draft, Ainge was a Jayson Tatum guy. Doubts about the top pick are common, but that alone is far from enough to trade that pick away — most GMs don’t have the job security to know if they miss on moving the pick and sliding down they will not be let go. Ainge had that, and he had his confidence in his scouting, so he made the move to trade the No. 1 pick to Philadelphia. (While it looks good now for Ainge, it’s too early to judge how that pick plays out — Fultz has barely played, we don’t know what extra pick the Celtics will get out of this, it takes time to fully judge these kinds of moves.)

This year is different. DeAndre Ayton is more of a clear No. 1, a guy with franchise changing potential. Plus Suns’ GM Ryan McDonough may not be standing on the kind of bedrock that allows for the trade of a No. 1 pick.

Recently McDonough said he’d listen to trade offers for the pick. That’s very different from trading it, as Scott Bordow of the Arizona Republic had the GM saying Friday.

Because they should do their due diligence, the Suns will look at Luka Doncic (who does have a relationship with new coach Igor Kokoskov) and Marvin Bagley III, among others. Rumors may leak, spun by agents or other teams. However, at the end of the day, good luck finding anyone around the league who thinks Phoenix will not take Ayton — who attended college in Arizona — to be the inside to Devin Booker‘s outside. It’s the smart play.

Kokoskov and the Suns have a lot of work to do to build a foundation for success with this franchise. However, that almost never starts by trading away the top pick in the draft.

Rumor: Paul George’s agent telling people client will re-sign with Thunder

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That rumor Paul George will leave the Thunder?

How about the exact opposite?

Dean Blevins of News 9:

Allegedly, apparently, Paul George plans to stay with the Thunder. I know. It’s not what people believe. But in separate conversations, I’m told P.G.’s agent has told people associated with the NBA that P.G. believes the injury loss of Andre Roberson was huge and he’s staying. Disclaimer, though: Believing everything that agents allegedly say can be dangerous to your health.

This, by Blevins’ own admission, isn’t the staunchest reporting. Nonetheless, I appreciate him sharing and contextualizing it. We can evaluate it for what it’s worth.

George is known to share his plans – though the previous example was him planning to sign with the Lakers. And he might have really believed it at the time, when he was still with the Pacers.

But throughout the season, George seemingly went out of his way to profess his affection for Russell Westbrook, Carmelo Anthony and the Thunder. That only raised expectations in Oklahoma City of George staying, and if he leaves after doing that, he’d be inviting even more backlash. I think he’s smart enough to understand that, which is why I thought he made those especially strong pro-Thunder comments only after deciding he’d likely stay.

On the other hand, even if my assessment was correct, conditions change. The Jazz brutally exposed Oklahoma City’s flaws, and if George re-signs and Anthony opts in, the Thunder will have minimal cap flexibility to upgrade the roster. In fact, they might take a step back with the supporting cast to keep the luxury-tax bill manageable. George could see free agency as his chance to escape that mess.

Roberson was a huge loss, and if George is focused on that, that would bode well for Oklahoma City. Though Roberson was just a role player, he was pivotal to the Thunder’s defense. And his teammates had learned how to play around his offensive shortcomings. Oklahoma City didn’t have any good replacements for him on the roster. Roberson getting healthy is the clearest way for the Thunder to improve next season.

Of course, that’s predicated on George returning, too. Will he?

One last note of caution: People often believe what they want to hear. It’s easy to see someone in Oklahoma City hearing George bemoan the loss of Roberson and elevate that to George planning to re-sign, even George wasn’t going that far.

Draymond Green guarantees Warriors will beat Rockets in Western Conference finals

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Warriors coach Steve Kerr is confident despite his team trailing the Rockets 3-2 in the Western Conference finals.

Golden State forward Draymond Green goes further.

Green, via Marcus Thompson II of The Athletic:

“We still winning this,” Draymond Green said. “Book it.”

Of course, Green is confident. He’d never say he expects his team to lose.

But he didn’t need to frame it this way. He could’ve said he was just focused on the next game rather than make such a bold proclamation.

He’s taking pressure upon himself and putting his reputation on the line. If Golden State loses, especially in Game 6 at home with Chris Paul out, Green will be widely mocked.

If he and the Warriors pull through, he’ll probably deserve praise for setting a tone that helped them advance.

Danny Green: Kawhi Leonard told me he wants to stay with Spurs

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The Spurs are reportedly worried Kawhi Leonard‘s camp wants to get him to the Lakers, Clippers, Knicks or 76ers.

Leonard hasn’t said much himself – except apparently to San Antonio teammate Danny Green

Get Up on ESPN:

Green:

I talk to him here and there, check up on him, see how he’s doing.

I think he wants to be in San Antonio. He’s let me know that. He’s let me know verbally he wanted to be there. So, we’ll see what happens.

Green has tried playing peacemaker throughout this saga – going as far as denying tension that clearly exists. He’s not the most reliable source.

And even if Leonard explicitly told Green he wants to remain in San Antonio, I’m not sure Leonard is confrontational enough to tell Green he wanted out, even if he did.

Those caveats acknowledged, this could be a huge revelation.

If Leonard wants to stay with the Spurs, the next step is meeting with them, mending their relationship and convincing them he deserves a super-max extension (which projects to be worth $219 million over five years). No matter how Leonard feels about San Antonio right now, if the Spurs don’t trust investing so much in him, that could lead to a fractured relationship and his exit.

So, there’s still a lot to sort out. But Green saying this means something.