Report: Celtics, Clippers, Warriors “strongly engaged” in Chris Paul talks

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The New Orleans Hornets are going to move first — Chris Paul is the superstar most likely to be moved by the start of the season. (The Dwight Howard situation has more questions.)

And the Boston Celtics, Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers are at the front of the line, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports.

As the New Orleans Hornets push closer to making a decision on where to trade Chris Paul, the All-Star point guard has indicated the Los Angeles Clippers and Golden State Warriors could significantly raise their chances of keeping him beyond this season if they also sign center Tyson Chandler, league sources told Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday.

Paul hasn’t promised he would re-sign with one of those teams following the 2011-12 season if they acquired Chandler, but league sources said Chandler could make a significant difference in ultimately swaying Paul to commit to a long-term deal.

While talk radio folks in Los Angeles scoff at the idea of Paul signing with the Clippers instead of the Lakers, that is the draw of playing with Blake Griffin and Eric Gordon — he may well agree to an extension with the Clippers if those two and Chandler are there. The Clippers would offer center DeAndre Jordan (a restricted free agent the Clippers are trying to re-sign), forward Al-Farouq Aminu, point guard Eric Bledsoe and the unprotected 2012 first-round pick of the Timberwolves.

Blake Griffin told ProBasketballTalk he would love to play with Chris Paul.

There is one huge hurdle, however — will Paul sign a long-term extension with a team owned by Donald Sterling? If this team had any other owner they might be the front runner, but his track record as an owner and person leave you to wonder if Paul really would sign there long term, Blake Griffin or not.

The Warriors offer is basically Stephen Curry — who the Warriors covet — and rookie Klay Thompson. The Celtics package is based around Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green is in the mix.

The questions there are, again, would Paul sign an extension with those teams? Does that change if they can bring in Tyson Chandler? (Remember that Paul and Chandler played three years together in New Orleans.) The Warriors have met with Chandler, but the Celtics have no real shot at getting him due to cap space restrictions.

Remember, Paul also wants to play for the Knicks and, so long as he is willing to take less money, can get there as a free agent this summer.

Wojnarowski says the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets remain on the outside but are trying hard to sway Paul and the Hornets.

Report: Hornets rookie Miles Bridges to compete in dunk contest

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Want to see more dunks like this and this?

Watch the dunk contest during All-Star weekend.

Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

Miles Bridges, the No. 12 pick in last year’s draft, has quickly proven himself as belonging in the Hornets’ rotation. He’s active, capable of getting to the rim and picks up defensive concepts quickly.

But like most rookies picked in the middle of the first round, he hasn’t yet earned a national profile.

The dunk contest will be his opportunity to change that.

Bulls’ Wendell Carter reportedly out 8-12 weeks following thumb surgery

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Wendell Carter Jr. has had a strong rookie season in Chicago: 10.3 points a game, 7 rebounds, showing real strength and touch inside and getting 67 percent of his shot attempts in the paint. The advanced stats like him: He’s got an above average PER and Value over Replacement Player, something very rare for a rookie. He looks like a key part of the future in Chicago.

And he’s out for the next two-to-three months.

K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune first reported that Carter might have ligament damage in his left thumb requiring surgery, and that coach Jim Boylen said Carter was seeing a specialist. Shams Charania of The Athletic took it to the next step.

That’s a blow to his development but doesn’t really change the trajectory of a Bulls team that will pick high in next June’s draft.

This does not change the Bulls’ plans heading into the trade deadline — big man Robin Lopez is still available (but likely will end up a buyout candidate) reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Bobby Portis will get more run with Carter out.

The young Bulls have been hit hard by injuries this season.  Kris Dunn, Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Portis have all missed time, and Denzel Valentine has yet to play a game for Chicago this season.

Wizards owner Ted Leonsis: ‘We will never, ever tank’

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Before the season, Wizards owner Ted Leonsis stated his goals: 50 wins and the conference finals.

Washington is 19-26 and 11th in the Eastern Conference.

Time to shift priorities?

NBC Sports Washington:

Ben Standig of NBC Sports Washington:

The Wizards are too talented to tank right now. Led by Bradley Beal, they have a roster of capable veterans. They just traded for Trevor Ariza, making that even more true.

As bad as they’ve been, the Wizards are just 2.5 games and three teams out of playoff position. They will likely miss the postseason, but there’s no alternative better than trying to get there. They’re too far down the road toward winning now to simply pivot into a rebuilding.

But what about if the Wizards get eliminated from playoff contention with games left in the season? They won’t tank down the stretch to improve their draft position? What’s the point of that?

And what about future seasons? Washington will have a tough time building a satisfactory winner after signing John Wall to a super-max extension that kicks in next season. That difficult-to-move contract almost mandates the Wizards prioritize the present. A healthy Wall is good enough to ensure Washington can’t bottom out – for now.

Wall be 32 in the final year of that deal. The Wizards could be in ruins by then. Taking the option to tank off the table would be a mistake.

To be fair, I’m not totally sure Leonsis is doing that. Owners almost never admit to tanking. Most deny it.

But this goes a level beyond. This is far more forceful than Leonsis had to be, which makes me believe it’s actually his plan.

That’s fine right now. Eventually, it could make a futile situation far worse.

Agent: LeBron James would play if it were playoffs

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LeBron James‘ agent, Rich Paul, gave a 3-6-week recovery timeline for LeBron’s groin injury, which the Lakers superstar suffered just over three weeks ago.

Chris Broussard on Fox Sports 1 on Wednesday:

I was in contact with Rich Paul this morning, and he told me, if this were the playoffs, that LeBron would be playing.

The Lakers have gone 5-7 without LeBron, slipping into a tie for eighth place in the Western Conference. What if LeBron feels Los Angeles could miss the playoffs without him? Would he return before fully healthy? That’s the big question.

Ideally, LeBron rests until fully recovered. Groin injuries can worsen and linger longer if played through. The only way for LeBron to get this completely behind him is sitting.

But this is also apparently an injury he could play through. It’d be hard for LeBron to watch from the sideline as the Lakers’ playoff odds drop precipitously.

Right now, they’re hanging in the mix. But any slump over the next few weeks will immediately turn attention to LeBron and how he’ll respond.