Report: Paul George, Pacers finalizing five-year max contract

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Of the 15 players who made the All-NBA first, second or third team last season, Paul George was the youngest.

On a related note, the 23-year-old is also arguably the most raw star in the league. Even though he just won Most Improved Player, George can become a a more-polished ball-handler and take his game to an even higher level.

That’s what the Pacers, whom George already led within a game of the NBA Finals, are apparently banking on.

Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports:

All-Star forward Paul George and the Indiana Pacers are finalizing a five-year, $90 million-plus maximum contract extension, league sources told Yahoo Sports.A deal is expected to be signed this week, league sources told Yahoo.For the Pacers and George, who was voted the 2013 NBA Most Improved Player, the five-year deal will cement the gifted young forward as Indiana’s designated franchise player.

George joins Derrick Rose, James Harden, Blake Griffin and Russell Westbrook as the only players to receive the “designated” player tag. The distinction, created in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, allows teams to give one player a five-year extension rather than a four-year extension.Because George made the All-NBA third team last season, he could be eligible for even more money than otherwise allowable. Most players with six or fewer seasons of experience can make only up to 25 percent of the salary cap. But George, if he makes another All-NBA team (first, second or third), would be eligible to receive up to 30 percent of the salary cap. Because the extension will be signed before the season’s award votes are tallied, George and the Pacers will agree to stipulations based for both scenarios.

No matter how the final details shake out, George will earn a lot of money, and Indiana is happy to pay him. It had been clear a deal was coming, both sides committed to each other.

The Heat are aging, and as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh show their wear and tear (or leave in free agency), the East becomes more wide open. The Pacers are in the mix, but George was integral to that.

With George to be locked up, Indiana ensures it will contend next season and maybe even play favorite down the road if George improves as hoped. If he doesn’t, it’s still possible this is a decent deal for the Pacers. He’s that good.

Watch Orlando’s Terrence Ross drain halfcourt buzzer beater just before half

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Back on their home court, the Orlando Magic are hanging right with the Toronto Raptors in Game 3 of the 1-1 series.

This helped.

It looked like the Magic would go into halftime down by at least six, and then Terrence Ross did this.

Ross’ name came up a lot just before the trade deadline when other teams thought the Magic would decide to tank and move on from their players who could bring back assets to help the rebuild. The Magic were 10 games below .500 and four games out of the eight seed. Orlando decided instead to push for the postseason, and they made their first playoffs since the Dwight Howard era, climbing all the way to the seven seed. That would not have happened without Ross.

Now they are making the most of their opportunity.

Joel Embiid listed as doubtful for 76ers’ Game 4 vs Nets Saturday

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NEW YORK (AP) — The Philadelphia 76ers are listing Joel Embiid as doubtful for Game 4 of their first-round series against the Brooklyn Nets.

Embiid has been bothered by a sore left knee, but was able to play in the first two games of the series. He warmed up before Game 3 on Thursday night before it was decided that he couldn’t play.

Embiid worked out Friday at the 76ers’ practice in New York but coach Brett Brown said he didn’t know and didn’t have a gut feeling about whether his All-Star center would be able to go Saturday afternoon.

The 76ers rolled to a 131-115 victory without Embiid and lead the series 2-1. Greg Monroe started at center and had nine points and 13 rebounds, although is role was limited as the game wore on.

Lakers GM Rob Pelinka reportedly meets with Tyronn Lue as coaching search continues

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Rob Pelinka seems to have all the front office power in Los Angeles — whether that is wise is another conversation entirely — and he is continuing full speed ahead with the search for the next Lakers’ coach.

Pelinka reportedly has already been in Philadelphia and met with Sixers assistant Monty Williams, who is still busy coaching a playoff team. Miami assistant coach Juwan Howard also reportedly in the mix and is supposed to meet with Pelinka next week.

Friday came the report Pelinka was about to meet with former Cavaliers coach Tyronn Lue, via Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. This has been expected.

Lue and Williams are considered the frontrunners, and both have a relationship with LeBron James that would net a thumbs up from the Lakers’ star. Lue coached LeBron to a championship in Cleveland, and while a lot of casual fans like to rip his coaching by the end of his time with the Cavaliers he was running some pretty creative stuff and getting players into good matchups and positions.

Williams is a former Pelicans’ head coach who also has a strong relationship with Anthony Davis (not that the hiring of a coach would have any impact on where Davis is traded, however, if he leaves where he is traded as a free agent in 2020 the coach could be a factor). Williams has spent time in the Spurs front office and on the coaching bench for the Sixers and Thunder. Williams’ strength is the perception he is not LeBron’s guy, unlike Lue.

Wojnarowski also said that Lue is pushing back on the idea he is LeBron’s coach, saying he would be coaching the Lakers not just one player. In Cleveland, Lue had the trust of LeBron and that allowed the coach to challenge his star at points.

Minnesota to meet with Chauncey Billups, Trajan Langdon for lead front office job

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Minnesota may have settled on its coach for next season — Ryan Saunders seems to have a lock on the position — and are now working backward to hire his boss, the new president of basketball operations.

That could be former Pistons legend and current ESPN analyst Chauncey Billups, or Nets assistant GM Trajan Langdon, both of whom have interviews coming up with Minnesota’s leadership, according to reports.

Billups has the most recognizable name of the group and a high basketball IQ, but he also has zero front office experience. While Billups has shown interest in other GM/basketball ops jobs before, there are some around the league questioning if Minnesota owner Glen Taylor is going to pay what it would take to get Billups out of ESPN. That said, there will at least be a conversation.

Minnesota also has met with Clippers GM Michael Winger, Rockets’ No. 2 Gersson Rosas, and Nuggets assistant GM Calvin Booth. This is a strong lineup of people from the “guys who have paid their dues and deserve a shot” file.”

Whoever takes over the job will fill the shoes of Tom Thibodeau, who was let go mid-season and who hamstrung the roster with his win-now decisions. In the positives column, Minnesota has All-NBA level player in Karl-Anthony Towns at the heart of the roster. After KAT there is work to do. Andrew Wiggins will make $27.5 million next season and has four more seasons after that at max money (right now that contract is as close to untradable as any in the NBA). Gorgui Dieng will make $16.2 million, and Jeff Teague opted into his $19 million. Lowering the cost of this roster while turning the Timberwolves back into a playoff team will require a lot of creativity.