NBA Draft rumors roundup: Len or Noel No. 1; Nets/Celtics talk deal

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On the day of the NBA Draft rumors fly fast and furious — a lot of it fueled by agents trying to create false demand for their clients (hoping other teams pick them even higher), some fueled by teams throwing out smokescreens. Every once in a while there is a kernel of truth.

So take everything with a big grain of salt, but here are the latest rumors around the NBA. We will update this post throughout the day.

7:15 pm (Eastern):

• Up until the final minutes, the Cavaliers were listening to offers from the Oklahoma City Thunder and others. No deal got done…. at least yet.

6:25 pm (Eastern):

• The potential trade between the Celtics and Nets — sending Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn — is moving along quickly, but does not include any picks from this draft.

• More and more reports are that the Orlando Magic are happy at No. 2 and are taking Victor Oladipo out of Indiana. The Oklahoma City Thunder are trying to trade into that spot.

• If Oladipo goes No. 2, Ben McLemore could slide all the way to the five spot, where Sacramento would love to trade with Phoenix and grab the Kansas shooter.

• Miami point guard Shane Larkin could get snapped up by the Jazz (No. 14) and the Bucks (No. 15). (Ken Berger, CBSSports.com)

• Why is Anthony Bennett of UNLV sliding down draft boards (10 or lower maybe)? Concerns about his defensive effort and his weight.

4:30 pm (Eastern):

• The Sacramento Kings are pushing hard to move up in the draft (and there are picks available). The target is apparently Ben McLemore. I like that, personally in a down draft give me the guy who can shoot. (Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports)

• If the Kings do move up, it could be with the Suns at No. 5 (providing their target guy is still there. (Ken Berger, CBSSports.com)

• Don’t be shocked if the Jazz pick up German point guard Dennis Schroeder at 14 (or 21). A number of teams like him farther down the draft but his stock is rising and will not fall to the mid-20s. (Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports)

3:15 pm (Eastern):

• It was long thought the Wizards would take Otto Porter at No. 3, but Anthony Bennett is in the mix, too. However, that is not the general consensus around the league, more people think Bennett is falling and could slip down to 10.  (SherridanHoops)

• The Celtics are looking for a way to get into the second round. (A. Sherrod Blakely, CSNNE.com).

• There are going to be trades with this draft, but expect them to come much closer to the start of the draft and when teams are on the clock. Right now teams have high asking prices for their picks, those prices will come down as we get into the draft itself.

• Dennis Schroeder, the point guard out of Germany, is one of the Euros a lot of teams have their eyes on, however he does not want to be stashed overseas. He wants to come to the NBA and play now.

1:37 pm (Eastern):

• The Nets and Celtics are talking blockbuster deal that would send Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce to Brooklyn for Gerald Wallace and a lot of picks. There are a lot of hurdles and questions, but it’s out there being discussed. (Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports)

• The hot international player on the board is Sergey Karasev, a 6’7” small forward, Russia. He was good enough to make the Russian Olympic team at 18 and may not be an explosive athlete but is seen as a good shooter, a solid future role player and a “safe” pick in a draft filled with uncertainty. (Marc Stein ESPN)

• Point guard Trey Burke says he expects to go somewhere between numbers 2 and 8 in the draft. Probably closer to 8 if you ask me.

• The Nuggets really want out of the No. 27 spot. The guy they draft there will not see the court much at all on a deep team, and the Nuggets would be locked into a three-year. $2.8 million total rookie scale deal if they pick a guy. (Denver Post)

• Virginia Tech’s Erik Green had a second workout with the Spurs. That team always finds shooters and deploys them wisely. (Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports)

11:40 am (Eastern):

• The Cavaliers are choosing between Nerlens Noel and Alex Len for the No. 1 overall pick, but they are still shopping that pick around hoping someone takes it off their hands.(Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports)

• If the Cavaliers do make the No. 1 pick, they will still shop that player around after the draft. (Chad Ford, ESPN)

• At No. 2, the Magic are leaning heavily towards Victor Oladipo. However, they will have a real decision to make of Noel is available. (Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports)

• The Bobcats have interest in Cody Zeller at the No. 4 spot, but they’d rather have Alex Len. (Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports)

• What teams are trying to move up in the draft? The Jazz, Timberwolves and Thunder.  (Chad Ford, ESPN)

• Flip Saunders is trying to shoot down reports he is trying to trade Derrick Williams. Of course, if you were trying to trade Williams that is what you would say to try and keep your leverage. (Star-Tribune)

• Dallas has had multiple offers for the No. 13 pick and will move it, but they are waiting to see if a better offer comes along closer to the draft. (Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports)

• Among the offers the Mavs have discussed, the Bucks have suggested swapping first-round picks so Milwaukee could select Sergey Karasev. (Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports)

• The Celtics are trying to acquire a late first, early second round pick. (Chad Ford, ESPN)

• One thing you will not see traded today — 2014 picks. At least not from teams that have even a chance of being in the lottery. (Chad Ford, ESPN)

Report: 76ers open to trading if they hire Mike D’Antoni

76ers forward Al Horford and Tobias Harris
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The 76ers said they wouldn’t trade Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons.

Which makes it confounding they reportedly want to hire Mike D’Antoni as coach.

D’Antoni has typically succeeded with teams that can play small to spread the floor and pressure opponents through speed… and struggled otherwise. Post-based Embiid and non-shooting Simmons don’t fit D’Antoni’s demonstrated style.

Maybe Philadelphia’s roster could change.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

Keith Smith:

The 76ers could trade Al Horford and Tobias Harris to reduce their glut of bigs. But Horford was already on the block (good luck convincing anyone to take his contract), and Harris is also expensive. For what it’s worth, Harris could thrive as a small-ball power forward in D’Antoni’s system, but Harris is often pigeonholed as a small forward on this roster.

The Embiid-Simmons pairing is a fundamental issue, though. Whatever Philadelphia does with Horford and Harris, Embiid and Simmons just haven’t played like they’d fit well together under D’Antoni.

If the 76ers remain insistent on not trading Embiid or Simmons, there are only so many roster moves that can be done to help D’Antoni.

Adding further complications, Philadelphia might be seeking a new lead executive. That could explain why Tyronn Lue has also gotten so strongly linked to this job. It’s not even clear who’ll oversee the coach and roster, let alone what plan that person will have.

So, yes, it’s meaningful if the 76ers are advancing trade talks with other teams to make their roster fit D’Antoni. But there are still plenty of questions about what will actually happen in Philadelphia.

For NBA players, Breonna Taylor grand jury decision ‘not enough’

Grizzlies forward Anthony Tolliver wears Breonna Taylor shirt
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — LeBron James sent the word to the Los Angeles Lakers in a group text on Wednesday afternoon, and basketball suddenly seemed irrelevant.

A grand jury in Kentucky had finally spoken. And James was letting his team know that NBA players, who have spent months seeking justice for Breonna Taylor, did not get what they wanted.

“Something was done,” Lakers guard Danny Green said, “but it wasn’t enough.”

Wednesday’s decision by the grand jury, which brought no charges against Louisville police for Taylor’s killing and only three counts of wanton endangerment against fired Officer Brett Hankison for shooting into Taylor’s neighbors’ homes, was not unexpected by many NBA players and coaches. They had a sense it wasn’t going to go how they hoped.

“I know we’ve been using our platform down here to try to bring about education and a voice in a lot of players on our team, especially also spoken out on justice for Breonna Taylor,” Denver coach Michael Malone said. “We have not gotten that justice.”

Teams came to Walt Disney World to finish the season and crown a champion, and hoping that the platform of the NBA’s restart bubble could help amplify calls for change. Players and coaches have used the NBA spotlight to make statements at a time when the demand for racial equality and an end to police brutality is resonating as loudly as it has in generations.

And Taylor’s story – the tale of a 26-year-old Black woman who was killed March 13 by police in Louisville when they burst into her apartment on a no-knock warrant during a narcotics investigation centered around a suspect who did not live there – has captivated NBA players. Many have met, virtually, with members of her family to offer support. They say her name in news conferences, wear it on shirts, scrawl it onto their sneakers.

“We have moms. We have sisters, nieces, aunties. And just like men of color have experienced traumatic instances, so have women,” Boston forward Jaylen Brown said. “That is an example of some things that happen to women in our country. So, we wanted to stand alongside them, but also make it that it’s not just us. I think the future is female, so it’s important to show our sisters that we care. That’s why it’s been important.”

Even for teams not in the bubble, it mattered. Atlanta coach Lloyd Pierce leads a committee of NBA coaches tasked with finding new ways to use their own platform to create change, and he’s encouraged his own players – Black and white alike – to speak out and take action, whether in Atlanta or their own community.

Pierce took Wednesday’s news hard.

“Yeah, there was a grand jury and yeah, they went through the information and yeah, they have facts to support whatever the claims may be,” Pierce said. “But that doesn’t provide any justice for those that are on the outside, those that feel like the police and law enforcement are there to protect them. … What currently is happening isn’t good enough.”

Jazz guard Donovan Mitchell:

Clippers big Montrezl Harrell:

National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts went a step further. “Sadly, there was no justice today for Breonna Taylor,” Roberts said. “Her killing was the result of a string of callous and careless decisions made with a lack of regard for humanity, ultimately resulting in the death of an innocent and beautiful woman with her entire life ahead of her.”

The league shut down for three days last month when a boycott that was started by the Milwaukee Bucks – in response to the shooting by police of a Black man, Jacob Blake, in Kenosha, Wisconsin – nearly caused players to end the season because they felt their pleas for change were not being taken seriously enough.

And Wednesday’s news was another disappointment for them.

“We feel like we’ve taken a step back, that we haven’t made the progress we were seeking,” Green said. “Our voices aren’t being heard loud enough. But we’re not going to stop. We’re going to continue. We’re going to continue fighting, we’re going to continue to push, we’re going to continue to use our voices.”

Report: Celtics were ‘very much enamored’ with Tyler Herro, whom Heat took one pick before Boston

Heat guard Tyler Herro vs. Celtics
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The Celtics – holding the Kings’ first-round pick – lost a tiebreaker with the Hornets and Heat in last year’s draft. Charlotte picked No. 12, Miami No. 13 and Boston No. 14.

The Heat took Tyler Herro No. 13.

A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston:

On NBA draft night last year there was a collective moan among the Boston Celtics brass right about the time the Miami Heat used the No. 13 pick to select Tyler Herro.

The Celtics were very much enamored with the 20-year-old leading up to last June’s draft

The draft is full of smokescreens and disinformation, especially from Boston. So, this can’t be taken as gospel.

But it’s still another fun chapter in the Pat Riley-Danny Ainge rivalry, which includes a previous example of the Heat drafting a player the Celtics coveted.

Herro made the All-Rookie second team and is now helping Miami against Boston in the Eastern Conference finals – no small feat for a rookie.

The Celtics settled for Romeo Langford, who had a far less productive first season and is now out for the year.

Of course, it’s far too early to declare either player will absolutely have a better career than the other. Besides, Boston never chose between Herro and Langford. The Heat got the choice and took the player both teams seemingly agreed was better.

Down 2-1 to Lakers, Nuggets sense a familiar bubble series pattern

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Mike Malone thinks he’s been here before.

Not just down 2-1 in an NBA bubble playoff series and having to come from behind, but the pattern of it — his team getting stronger and figuring things out while the opponent falters.

“This is to me kind of similar to the last series,” Malone said after the Nuggets’ Game 3 victory. “Game 1 the Clippers blew us out. Game 2 we win. Game 3, we felt we gave that game away against the Clippers.

“[The Lakers] blew us out in Game 1. Game 2 we gave away at the end. We had to right that wrong and try to get a game under our belt, which we did tonight. This gives us that much more confidence going into this series letting them know that we’re here, we’re in this for the long haul. We’re going to continue to fight and do whatever we can.”

“You definitely learn more about your opponent, what to try to look for, tendencies, and all that…” Jamal Murray said about why Denver improves as the series gets longer. “Like I said, just taking care of stuff that we can control, whether it’s turnovers, communications, switches, rebounding. Areas that we should control, we got to do that if we want to win. If we’re consistent in our play, like we touched on earlier, we can win a lot of games, put a lot of pressure on other teams.”

Those tendencies and patterns, that history of success, has Denver feeling more and more like this is a series they can win. There is a confidence that is brimming from the Nuggets stars, especially Murray. He has stepped up his game, and it’s not just the three-point shooting — 34.6% in the regular season  47.7% in the playoffs — it’s his aggressive attacks and finishing at the rim. Murry, an inconsistent finisher at the rim even during this regular season, has been lights out when he gets inside in the playoffs. It stems from confidence.

“I think what I’ve seen from Jamal this year, aside from the growth defensively, which has been tremendous, I’m so proud of him in that regard, but now I know every night what I’m getting from Jamal,” Malone said. “Last year we knew what we were getting from Nikola, but what kind of game would Jamal have. That’s no longer the case. We have two superstars in Nikola and Jamal and a lot of young, talented players behind them.”

It should not be a surprise to anyone that the Nuggets played their best basketball with their backs against the wall — this team has been in four straight seven-game playoff series, winning three. They are used to the pressure. Nor should it have caught anyone off-guard that they would not go away quietly. Some in Lakers’ nation thought Anthony Davisgame-winning three to put the Lakers up 2-0 was a gut punch that would floor the Nuggets.

Malone made sure that was not the takeaway from the game.

“[Monday] when we met and we watched the film, I started off by watching the last play of the game,” Malone said. “Get the elephant in the room out of the way. Let’s talk about the play, what happened. When we’re in this situation again, let’s learn from it. Yes, we all take ownership. Let’s learn from it.

“After that, my goal was when we got done with that film, they saw so many positive clips of us doing the right things, which put us in a position to win. Now we had to do that for more than just a second half. We had to do it for four quarters.”

They did it for three, but that was enough to get the win thanks to some late heroics from Murray.

The key to the remainder of this series is defense. For both teams.

Denver is not an elite defensive team, they were middle of the pack for the regular season. What they can do throughout a series is become more disruptive. They have done it this series, quieting the Lakers’ halfcourt offense. The Lakers scored less than a point per possession — 92.8 points per 100 possessions — in their halfcourt in Game 3 (stats via Cleaning The Glass). Add to that the fact LeBron James is fading as games go on — he is dominant in the first quarter but struggling more in the fourth. Denver got a fantastic game from Jerami Grant in Game 3, they will need more of those games, but the Nuggets have a plan that works and that they can execute.

The heart of that plan is keeping the Lakers out of transition, which brings us to the other side of the equation: The Lakers intensity and physicality on defense almost won them Game 3. The Lakers forced turnovers — six in a row at one point — and turned those into transition buckets. The Lakers are as good a transition team as there is in the league and the Nuggets are terrible at defending it. When the Lakers run, they win. It’s just harder to do that when you’re taking the ball out of the basket each time down, the Lakers need stops.

Expect the Lakers to come out with intensity in Game 4, maybe helping them race out to a big lead. Maybe.  But even if that happens, the Nuggets will not be phased — they came from 16 and 19 back against the Clippers to win last round.

Denver has seen this movie before, and they liked the ending.