Winderman: NBA should bring order to free agency chaos

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If the NBA was smart, it would swoop collectively upon Dallas, claim the already-booked hotel space and tell Major League Baseball that, at this moment, they need winter meetings far more than any other sport.

In 2010, when the NBA actually had time to conduct an orderly free-agent process, most of the league found itself camped in Chicago. That’s where the Heat, Nets, Knicks, Bulls and other teams wined and dined Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Carlos Boozer and other prime free agents, while also having planes at the ready for the quick flight to Cleveland for the LeBron-a-thon.

This time around, order has given way to bedlam. And while the Free Agent Class of 2011 pales in comparison to what 2010 had to offer, it is likely that there will be more than a few sight-unseen dollars spent Friday when free agency and camps open.

If they open.

As of the weekend, a pair of agents said they weren’t sold that the Friday would be the definitive starting point of the process, with a final collective-bargaining agreement still being completed and votes by the owners and players not scheduled until Thursday.

One of the agents said he has been told that if he wants to get his players in front of general managers and to work at the various sessions being conducted at NBA arenas, that the athletes or agents would have to pay such travel expenses out of pocket.

Considering how much has been done on the fly since an agreement in principle was reached Nov. 26, each day along the path to a lockout resolution seemingly has brought its own rules.

“Last week they said nothing is starting until Dec. 9 and all of a sudden they said, ‘Oh, at 9 a.m. tomorrow we’re open for business,’ ” the agent said of last Tuesday’s NBA change of heart when it came to free-agent negotiations. “I think the same thing is going to happen. I think they’re going to say you can fly guys there on the seventh and things are going to change. I think they’re going to give us direction.”

Some of that direction came with word that contact between coaches, executives and players could resume Monday. But, even then, workouts alongside coaches or in front of team executives remain off-limits until Friday.

In other words, players coming off injury, such as Dallas Mavericks free-agent forward Caron Butler or Portland Trail Blazers center Greg Oden, would have to be signed off medical records. For now, there can be no eye test before Friday.

With signings on hold until Friday, some teams are planning to drain D-League rosters for what effectively could be considered training-camp “seat fillers,” players who will work for $1,500 a week during camp for the opportunity for some face time in front of NBA coaches.

What the NBA truly needs is its own version of the winter meetings, a high-priced whirlwind job fair to create a greater sense of order at week’s end.

That, of course, is not happening. Bud Selig isn’t giving up that Dallas hotel space.

“It’s going to be chaotic,” an agent said.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/IraHeatBeat.

Meyers Leonard delivers all-time out-of-nowhere playoff performance

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In 1967, Richie Guerin retired. The former Knicks star had been the St. Louis Hawks’ player-coach a few years, and he shifted fully into coaching. He even won Coach of the Year that season. As the Hawks moved to Atlanta the next year, he occasionally returned to the lineup, but played sparingly while focused on coaching. He played even less the following season, scoring just seven points in eight games.

But when the Hawks were facing injuries, inexperience and a 3-0 deficit to the Lakers 1970 Western Division finals, a 37-year-old Guerin stepped up on the court. He scored 31 points in Game 4, though Los Angeles completed the sweep.

Afterward, Hawks publicity director Tom McCollister called in the game’s stats to the league office:

”Guerin played 35 minutes,” reported McCollister, quietly, ”made 12 of 17 field goal attempts, 7 for 7 free throws, had 5 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 personal fouls. Thirty-one points.” Pause. ”They are burying him tomorrow morning at 10 o’clock.”

That was a rare time someone with a lower scoring average than Meyers Leonard scored 30 points in a playoff game.

Leonard – who averaged 5.9 points per game in the regular season – scored 30 points in the Trail Blazers’ Game 4 loss to the Warriors last night. He scored 25 in the first half!

This was the same Leonard who was in and out of the rotation all season, who had a DNP-CD in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals, who had a previous career high of 24 points. That came in 2015, preceding a much-maligned four-year, $41 million contract.

But when Portland needed a more-mobile defender at center, Leonard started. He played well in Game 3, scoring 16 points and dishing four assists. That wad already an unexpectedly good night for him.

Yet, Leonard upped the ante yesterday. For a while, he was going shot-for-shot with Stephen Curry. Though he couldn’t keep up with Curry (37 points), Leonard went 12-of-16, including 5-of-8 on 3-pointers.

Here are the players to score 30 points in a playoff game with the lowest regular-season scoring averages:

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The only other player besides Guerin to drop 30 in a playoff game after scoring so little in the regular season was Daniel Gibson. Boobie averaged 4.6 points per game his rookie year then scored 31 points on 5-of-5 3-point shooting in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Pistons, helping send the Cavs to their first NBA Finals.

“If I’m dreaming, please don’t wake me up,” Gibson said. “This was perfect, to win it for Cleveland.”

The most recent player to crack the leaderboard was CJ McCollum, who averaged 6.8 points per game in 2014-15 then scored 33 in a season-ending Game 5 loss to the Grizzlies in the first round. McCollum won Most Improved Player the next year and has remained a near-star ever since.

Could Leonard make a similar jump for the Trail Blazers? Don’t count on it. McCollum was in only his second season. Leonard, who just finished his seventh season, has been in the league even longer than McCollum now.

But appreciate Leonard’s scoring binge for what it was – one heck of an outlier.

Giannis Antetokounmpo pays for basketball court in fire-ravaged Greece

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek NBA star Giannis Antetokounmpo has agreed to fund the construction of an indoor basketball court in a fire-ravaged area outside Athens where at least 100 people were killed last year.

The mayor of the Rafina area where the fire occurred last July said on Monday the local authority accepted the offer from the Milwaukee Bucks player to build the court at a new recycling park that is being planned. The mayor, Vangelis Bournous, gave no details of the construction cost but said the venue would ready at the end of this summer.

The blaze gutted the seaside resort of Mati, east of Athens, and other coastal areas, destroying more than a thousand homes.

Antetokounmpo’s Bucks are leading in the NBA Eastern Conference finals 2-1 over the Toronto Raptors.

Report: Dallas’ Dwight Powell to turn down $10.2 million player option

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Dwight Powell came to Dallas as a seeming throw-in with the Rajon Rondo trade back in 2014, but he evolved and grew into a solid rotation player for Rick Carlisle’s team. Last season he averaged more than 21 minutes a night off the bench, averaging an efficient 10.6 points and 5.3 rebounds a game.

Now he’s going to be a free agent, turning down the $10.2 million player option on the final year of his contract, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Don’t expect him to leave Dallas, they want to keep him and now will have even more cap space to do so (Dallas already has enough cap space to re-sign Kristaps Porzingis and look for a max or near-max player to put next to KP and Luka Doncic). This is most likely a situation where Powell will make a little less than the $10.2 million he would have made next season but will get more money locked in over three or four years.

Dallas wants to keep him, not only is he a trusted part of their rotation but also he is very active in the Dallas community. He’s an excellent ambassador for the Mavericks.

That said, other teams likely will inquire about a solid rotational big man, Powell will have some options.

 

 

 

Warriors hit new heights with 5th straight conference title

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Presenting the Western Conference-championship trophy in 2015, former Warriors coach Al Attles worried about dropping it. He told Stephen Curry to pick it up directly, avoiding a potentially troublesome lift and handoff. Curry raised the trophy to a jubilant Oakland crowd.

Golden State hasn’t lost control of the trophy since.

The Warriors won their fifth straight conference title – the longest streak of all-time – with a 119-117 Game 4 win over the Trail Blazers in the Western Conference finals Monday. Only the Boston Celtics, who won 10 straight division titles 1957-1966 before the NBA adopted conferences in 1971, have gone to so many consecutive NBA Finals.

Here are the longest streaks of NBA Finals appearances:

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