Report: Deron Williams will only choose between Dallas and Brooklyn

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They are the obvious choices, and now, it would appear, they are the only choices.

ESPN’s Marc Stein reports:

When NBA free agency begins at midnight July 1, Brooklyn Nets star guard Deron Williams will be choosing from a two-team list that only features the Nets and the Dallas Mavericks, according to sources close to the situation.

Sources told ESPN.com on Saturday night that, while this summer’s No. 1 free agent remains “up in the air” about which team he’ll ultimately chose, Williams already has made the decision to narrow his list of potential destinations to those two franchises.

via Deron Williams only interested in signing with Brooklyn Nets or Dallas Mavericks, sources say – ESPN New York.

This has seemingly been the case for a while, but having it confirmed by a source so close to the Mavericks in Stein is significant. Typically a lot of action in terms of both free agency and trades is held up for the biggest move. Teams want to make sure they’re out of the running for a star before making moves for the future. Knowing that it will definitely be one of those two teams makes life easier for the other franchises, of which Stein lists the Blazers, Rockets, Suns, and Lakers as interested parties.

The smart money’s on New Jersey. Which, you know, isn’t that smart at all.

The Nets can offer the most money and years by re-signing Williams under the new CBA, and their move to Brooklyn means more financial opportunities for the All-Star. Stein also reports Williams was scouting a locker at the new Barclay Center on a tour this week. There is every reason to believe that Williams will re-sign with the Nets and make Brooklyn his home, sending Dallas in a drastic new direction for the future.

Some helpful information about the Nets team Williams is so sure of:

  • They went 22-44 last year, but that’s OK, because it’s an improvement on the 24-58 record they had the year before. I mean, not much of one, but still!
  • Their next best player at the moment is a center with a severe foot injury that limited him all last season and has significant rebounding problems.
  • Their next best player would be Gerald Wallace, but he’s opting out into free agency. But that’s OK, because there’s a good chance he’ll re-sign. At age 30.
  • They only have six players on roster for next year (assuming they re-sign Lopez in restricted free agency for eight figures), but that’s OK, because one of them is Johan Petro for $3.5 million.
  • Their front office has swung out in the past two years in luring LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Amar’e Stoudemire, Carmelo Anthony, and Dwight Howard to their team, but that’s OK, because they traded their first-rounder to bring in Gerald Wallace who’s now a free agent last year.

Look, I’m not throwing this stuff out there to bag on the Nets. I want the Nets to be good. It’s good for the league. A New York-Brooklyn rivalry featuring multiple stars would be great for the league. Prokhorov being in the limelight would be hilariously good for the league. But Williams has stated he wants to contend. So why is this team even an option?

I know, I know. Dwight Howard. The plan, apparently, is for the Nets to sign Williams, then sign a bunch of free agents that Orlando wants, then trade those pieces plus Lopez who the Magic are “eh” about in order to get Howard. And that could happen. But is that going to be enough? Do they have anything resembling a supporting cast? Even if Wallace re-signs, is that enough? Is Williams, Howard, Wallace, and a poor supporting cast going to be better than what the Knicks have, let alone Miami?

But that’s where Williams’ mind is at. Dallas represents challenges, too, but it also features Dirk Nowitzki and an owner and management team with a proven track record that won the title a year ago.

Either way, there isn’t a perfect choice. At least Williams can limit that choice down to those two teams, though.

Dikembe Mutombo to receive Sager Strong Award

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NEW YORK (AP) — Hall of Fame basketball player Dikembe Mutombo will receive the Sager Strong Award at this year’s NBA Awards show.

The award is named for longtime Turner Sports sideline reporter Craig Sager and presented annually to an individual who has been a trailblazer while exemplifying courage, faith, compassion and grace.

Mutombo’s honor was announced Tuesday by the NBA and Turner.

The four-time Defensive Player of the Year created the Dikembe Mutombo Foundation to improve conditions for people in his native Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Biamba Marie Mutombo Hospital has treated nearly a quarter of a million people since opening in 2007.

He will receive a colorful suit jacket, the kind Sager fashioned during his years on air before dying of leukemia. The award will be presented on June 25 in Santa Monica, California.

Former New Orleans coach Monty Williams was last year’s inaugural recipient.

Kyle Kuzma says Lonzo Ball hitting weight room hard this offseason

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It wasn’t just Lonzo Ball‘s awkward jumper that was a problem for him, so was his finishing around the rim — Ball shot less than 50 percent in the restricted area and 43.6 percent inside eight feet. In today’s NBA, he has to become more of a consistent scoring threat to open up his passing lanes.

Part of that is Ball getting physically stronger, something that also would help him avoid injuries and play in more than 52 games (what he did as a rookie). That part he is working on already, Kyle Kuzma told Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN.

“Consistency in the weight room, that is the biggest thing,” Kuzma said on Tuesday of what he has seen out of Ball this offseason so far. “He has been in there pretty much every day I have been in here around this time. You can tell he is taking the weight room a lot more serious and that is going to help him by allowing him to recover faster and hopefully next year be on the court more because of that weight room.”

The Lakers are counting on the development of their young core — Ball, Kuzma, Brandon Ingram, etc. — as well as free agents they can attract this summer to lift them into the playoffs next season.

Magic Johnson told Ball this is going to be the most important summer of his life, that now he has to put in the work to take his body and game to the next level. To play like a No. 2 pick.

So far, so good.

Re-watch highlights from the final minutes of Houston’s series-tying win

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After the game, Warriors coach Steve Kerr said his team ran out of gas, which is what led to their 3-of-18 fourth-quarter shooting and just 12 points. There’s some truth to that, particularly with Andre Iguodala out forcing other guys into the rotation and a heavier load on the stars.

But give the Rockets credit here.

Part of what wore down the Warriors was fantastic pressure defense from Houston that made Golden State really work on offense. As Golden State got tired, players settled for midrange jumpers, not getting to the rim much (three times in the quarter) and not having the legs under their threes (0-of-6 in the quarter).

Meanwhile, it wasn’t pretty, but James Harden and Chris Paul were making plays.

Check out those plays again in the video above — we finally got a good game in a series, we should savor that.

Steve Kerr on Warriors’ late possession vs. Rockets: “I wanted the timeout”

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The Houston Rockets leveled the Western Conference finals against the Golden State Warriors on Tuesday night by a margin of 95-92. The win for the Rockets was ugly, but it leveled the series at 2-2 heading back to Houston.

It was a close game down the stretch, and it looked like Golden State’s last chance to get the win was going to come on a possession with 11 seconds to go following a missed James Harden jumper.

The Warriors immediately turned up the floor and did not call a timeout. The resulting possession was messy, and it wound up ending on a difficult Klay Thompson turnaround jumper. Golden State would get another shot at a 3-pointer with half a second left thanks to a foul on Thompson’s miss, but many were still left wondering why Steve Kerr did not choose to call a timeout during the possession before.

Kerr addressed the decision after the game.

Via Twitter:

You sort of have to side with Kerr in principle, but if you’d seen the way the Warriors played the rest of that fourth quarter you would probably err on calling a timeout and letting them set something up. Curry was 1-of-8 in the fourth, Durant shot poorly most of the game, and Golden State scored 12 total points in the final period.

When you consider Curry got a look at a wide open 3-pointer in the corner with 0.5 seconds left on the clock when the Warriors did call a timeout on the next possession, it makes it look even worse.

In any case, Houston beat out Golden State in a close game and we’re headed back to Texas for Game 5 on Thursday.