Nuggets plan to keep Felton

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Carmelo Anthony’s move to the Big Apple may be taking up all the headline real estate, but Raymond Felton’s departure is also quite notable. He was neither a star nor a New York establishment, but like former-Knicks, now-Nuggets Danilo Gallinari and Wilson Chandler, Felton is a quality player and a legitimate starter.

However, the Anthony deal puts Felton in a decidedly less favorable situation. Not only does he lose his status as one of New York’s favorite basketball sons, but the Nuggets have no remaining players on-par with Felton’s former teammate Amar’e Stoudemire, and may not even have a starting job available for him. All signs point to Ty Lawson taking over Chauncey Billups’ role as Denver’s starting point guard, which puts an overqualified Felton into some kind of super-sub role. There’s nothing wrong with the Nuggets being deep at point guard; there are certainly far bigger problems in the NBA than having two starting-caliber players slotted at the same position. However, given the Nuggets’ need to actively rebuild, having that much talent at point guard isn’t necessarily the best way to establish a foundation for the team’s future.

That’s why — despite reports indicating that the Nuggets intend to hang on to Felton — another move seems imminent. It makes sense, and as followers of the game, we all crave order; every point guard should fall to a team in need of one, and every rebuilding team should liquidate all non-essential talent for assets. It’s just not that simple.

Masai Ujiri has some kind of plan in place here, and whether it works out or not, it apparently involves keeping Felton for the time being. It seems likely that the Nuggets will trade Felton before his contract expires, but for now Ujiri is content to sit on Felton’s trade value and call it a day. Considering the ways a new collective bargaining agreement could limit how teams go about upgrading their rosters, keeping Felton could be a wise move. It’s tough to evaluate this decision without knowing exactly how the structure of the CBA will look a few months from now, but it’s a low-risk proposition that could end up paying off handsomely for Denver.

So sorry Atlanta, Houston, or any other team that could use Felton’s services. You’ll have to wait.

Kevin Durant’s brother says Instagram comment wasn’t about star leaving Warriors this summer

AP Photo/Ben Margot
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Rumors about Kevin Durant leaving the Warriors are intensifying. Even people within the Golden State organization are bracing themselves for him to depart in free agency next summer.

Not even the Warriors collecting their championship rings could stop the momentum.

In fact, last night’s celebration contributed to the noise.

Kevin’s brother, Tony, commented on Kevin’s Instagram post featuring the rings, “Filling the hand up before we get outta here!”

Rob Perez of The Action Network:

My best guess was “here” meant the Warriors’ arena in Oakland. This is their last season there before moving to a new arena in San Francisco Francisco.

Or maybe “here” meant in the NBA. Careers in the NBA are finite.

Another thought that crossed my mind: “Here” could have meant in this world. Lives, too, are finite.

The only clear part: Tony wants Kevin to win a handful of rings. The deadline is nebulous.

Of course, the loudest speculation was “here” meant playing for the Warriors and this being the last run. But Tony sharply denied that.

Perez:

If you want to be a conspiracy theorist, perhaps Tony meant leaving Golden State after this season but Kevin just instructed him to downplay it to quiet chatter. I suppose that’s possible, though it wouldn’t jibe with Kevin’s tell-the-truth-about-free-agency approach.

Occam’s Razor suggests taking Tony at his word, and that’s what I’ll do.

Report: Tom Thibodeau raised asking price for Jimmy Butler after infamous practice

AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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After sitting out while awaiting a trade rehabbing after injuring his wrist, Jimmy Butler practiced with the Timberwolves for the first time last week. He reportedly showed up late, talked a ton of trash and led third-stringers to a win over the starters then left early.

Amidst widespread speculation they had to trade Butler after that, the Tom Thibodeau-run Timberwolves put out word they considered it their best practice of the year.

Maybe Thibodeau is that insanely competitive. Maybe he was just trying to preserve leverage.

If it were the latter, he sure stuck to his story.

Adrian Wojnarowski on ESPN:

Teams who talked to Minnesota after his first practice, literally the day after his practice, Minnesota was asking for more then than they were before the day. Which tells you this: Minnesota is not trading him. They’re asking for packages that know teams aren’t going to agree to.

The Timberwolves are in a though spot. Butler is an excellent player, but everyone knows he wants out. I don’t blame them for trying to maximize their limited leverage.

How will Butler react to this revelation, though? Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor said he told Butler the team would seek a trade. Butler pledged to play hard in the meantime.

But if Butler playing hard just makes it less likely Minnesota will trade him, will he feel as if the team isn’t holding up its end of the bargain? Then what?

It has long seemed Taylor and Thibodeau are on different pages on several issues. Though Taylor just backed Thibodeau, Butler could drive a wedge even deeper between the owner and president-coach.

Russell Westbrook sneak-snacking steals show on NBA’s opening night

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NBA’s opening night was quite tame. The Celtics and Warriors won as expected, neither the 76ers nor Thunder mounting much of a challenge.

That allowed Russell Westbrookout with an injury — to have the most fun moment when he looked around deviously, turned to his side and ate something.

What did did Westbrook eat? Was he not supposed to be eating? Did he not want to share? Big questions remain unanswered surrounding this important incident.

Joel Embiid on 76ers-Celtics: ‘This is not a rivalry … They always kick our ass’

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The 76ers-Celtics rivalry is being renewed.

But it’s not there yet, according to Philadelphia center Joel Embiid.

The 76ers are 3-19 against Boston since drafting Embiid, and though that includes multiple tanking years, Philadelphia hasn’t fared much better since getting good. The 76ers went 2-7 against the Celtics last season, including 1-4 in their second-round playoff series. Philadephia followed that with a season-opening loss to the Celtics last night.

Embiid, via Matt Haughton of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

“JJ (Redick) mentioned it earlier, this is not a rivalry,” Embiid said to reporters after the Sixers’ 105-87 season-opening loss to the Boston Celtics (see observations). “I don’t know our record against them but it’s pretty bad. They always kick our ass.”

I appreciate Embiid’s directness. We can all see the problem. There’s no point denying it.

The subtext is Embiid’s motivation to change this status quo, and a lot of it does fall in Embiid. Al Horford has given him fits. Even Aron Baynes worked him at times last night. Embiid is talented and far younger than those two. He’ll eventually get there.

In the meantime, he’s not mincing words.