It’s official: Pacers sign Andrew Bynum for rest of season

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UPDATE  #2 11:02 a.m.: It’s official, the Pacers have announced that Andrew Bynum has signed with Indiana for the remainder of the season.

Bynum had wanted to play for more than the league minimum (we don’t yet know the details of the contract yet but the Pacers could offer more than the minimum) and for a contender, he got those things in Indiana.

“It really wasn’t a hard decision, I think it’s the right fit for me and, in all honesty, I think we’ve got the best chance of winning,” Bynum said in a statement released by the Pacers. “It will be great to back up Roy and I’ll do whatever I can to help this team.”

“We are obviously happy to have him join our team,” Pacers President of Basketball Operations Larry Bird said in a statement. “He gives us added size, he is a skilled big man and he has championship experience. With the minutes he gets, he should be a valuable addition.”

 This gives the Pacers an even bigger and more formidable front line. They start Roy Hibbert up front with David West and now off the bench can bring Bynum, Ian Mahinmi, Luis Scola and Chris Copeland. Just as importantly for them, the Miami Heat can’t sign Bynum and throw him at Indiana in what seems an inevitable Eastern Conference Finals matchup. 

UPDATE 8:53 a.m.: Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports reports that “barring an unforeseen snag,” Indiana will sign Andrew Bynum today.

8:00 a.m.: Conventional wisdom has been the only reason the Indiana Pacers were in the discussion to sign Andrew Bynum was to keep him away from the Heat. However, since Greg Oden has played fairly well in limited minutes for Miami, talk of signing Bynum to bring him to South Beach kind of cooled and interest in Bynum overall seemed lukewarm.

Now it appears the Pacers are close to inking a deal with Bynum.

At least that’s the report from the Indy Star, something confirmed by Brian Windhorst of ESPN. Bynum and his agent met with the Pacers Friday night, according to the Indy Star.

Bynum’s agent David Lee told The Indianapolis Star that he and Bynum were in town. According to Lee, Bynum and the Pacers have not reached a contractual agreement.

“(Bynum) has not signed as yet,” Lee said on Friday night.

The Pacers have All-Star center Roy Hibbert as the starter and bring Ian Mahinmi off the bench in a rotation that has worked very well — the Pacers at 35-10 have the best record in the East. They are strong up front, a defensive force — they are not signing Bynum to plug a hole in their rotation. Which makes the signing curious, if it goes through.

Bynum started the season injured under contract with the Cleveland Cavaliers. He went on to play 24 games for them, starting 19, and he averaged 8.4 points a game on just 41.9 percent shooting, plus he grabbed 5.3 rebounds a game. On the court he was limited and with that lost favor with coach Mike Brown. Off the court he was enough of a distraction that the team suspended Bynum the day after Christmas. The Cavaliers traded his contract at the deadline to the Bulls, who instantly waived him.

Bynum has ongoing knee issues which have required multiple surgeries and there are questions of if Bynum has the will, dedication and love for the game to push through them in play.

Bynum was a free agent for more than two weeks and what was holding teams back was both the concerns about his desire and that he reportedly wants more than the league minimum to play (and teams were loath to offer that)

If the Pacers do sign Bynum at whatever may get a little run, but mostly this would be a preventative strike.

Russell Westbrook trade to Houston official, Thunder praise him on way out door

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Whatever their long-term intentions, after Paul George was traded the Oklahoma City Thunder changed focus. General Manager Sam Presti sat down with Russell Westbrook and his agent, talked about the future, what the former MVP wanted, then worked on trading him where he wanted to go.

That was Houston.

The Westbrook to the Rockets trade for Chris Paul — with Oklahoma City picking up two first-round picks and two pick swaps — is now official.

In announcing the trade, the Thunder praised the greatest player in their franchise history on his way out the door.

“Russell Westbrook is the most important player in the brief history of the Oklahoma City Thunder. He has left an indelible mark on this team, city and state,” Presti said in a statement. “None of us could have anticipated the player he has become, and we are all deeply proud of what he has contributed to the success of the franchise and to our community. Russell and his wife Nina, their three children, his brother and his parents will always remain part of the Thunder family. We wish them nothing but happiness and success in the future.”

“I have a great deal of respect for Russell and there is no way to adequately describe our appreciation for what he has meant to Oklahomans,” said Thunder Chairman Clayton I. Bennett. “His legacy here is immense, and he will be honored by the team for all he has done. We wish he and Nina and their family all the best. While this era of Thunder basketball now comes to an end, I’m confident our talented team of people will once again position the Thunder for success in the future.”

While Presti and the OKC front office are still working on a CP3 trade, they are entering a rebuilding phase.

The Rockets are banking on Westbrook and James Harden being able to work out any fit issues — and finding a way to defend with both of them on the court — to keep them as title contenders.

Anthony Davis dances around question about re-signing with Lakers

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After the drama around his push to get to Los Angeles, league executives and other sources around the NBA expect Anthony Davis to re-sign with the Lakers on a max contract next summer.

However, Davis has paired up with LeBron James, and rule one of the LeBron contract playbook (and agent Rich Paul’s, too) is to keep the pressure on a franchise. Make the team improve and keep itself in title contention.

So it’s not a surprise that when ESPN’s Rachel Nichols asked Davis about re-signing with the Lakers, he didn’t answer the question directly.

Nichols: You’re only signed through this season. Do you think you will be a pillar of the Lakers for years and years to come?

Davis: Honestly, Rachel, I’m just focused on this season. I don’t know what’s going to happen. I have one year here, so I’m going make the best of this year. And when that time comes around in the summer or, you know, whenever the season’s over — hopefully, around, you know, mid-June, after we just had a parade, and I need a couple days to think — then we can talk about that. But until then, I’m trying to do whatever I can to help this team win this year.”

That a well-handled scripted answer hitting all the talking points.

After the NBA summer we have just gone through (and continue to see with Chris Paul), nobody sane will say Davis would never leave the Lakers after one season. Cut to Kevin Garnett screaming “Anything Is Possible.”

However, he came to the Lakers to win rings (now and in the future), to take over as the face of the franchise when LeBron steps away in a few years, to get the kind of recognition and endorsements he felt were not coming his way in New Orleans, and ultimately to have his jersey up in the rafters with Wilt and Kareem and Shaq. That’s the plan. Which means AD will re-sign with the Lakers next summer.

He’s just not going to say that right now.

Kendrick Perkins: ‘Pelicans better lock Zion in the House’ because of great New Orleans food

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Zion Williamson‘s weight became a discussion point during Summer League.

The general consensus going into the draft was that Williamson would ultimately want to play a little lighter in the NBA than he did in college (but without losing his strength). Since then Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski came out and said the No. 1 pick was not in Summer League shape and should not have played. Some broadcast analysts said he looked heavy. In the hallways and behind-the-basket defacto meeting space of Summer League there was a lot of talk among league watchers about the Pelicans needing to get Zion with their trainers and dietitians to prepare him for the 82 game grind.

Kendrick Perkins warns that’s not going to be all that easy in the Big Easy.

As a wannabe foodie, let me just say that Perkins is spot on about the food in New Orleans. It may be my favorite food city in America, it is home to the ultimate comfort foods, and the portions are not small. From muffulettas to gumbo to po’ boys to fried every-kind-of-protein-you-can-name, New Orleans cuisine is both undeniably delicious and not the foundation of a healthy diet.

It’s going to take some discipline from Williamson, who also can afford his own chef now to keep the meals at home healthy and tasty. Then gumbo can be a splurge-day treat.

Rockets coach Mike D’Antoni: ‘If the superstars want to play together, then they will make it work’

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James Harden and Chris Paul worked reasonably well together on the court, but they played through a lot of tension.

Now, the Rockets are going to a new star backcourt that invites even more questions.

How will Harden and Russell Westbrook fit?

Houston coach Mike D’Antoni on The Woj Pod:

If the superstars want to play together, then they will make it work.

To be able to win a title now, you have to get superstars together – and whether it’s two or three or how many else you can get. And then it becomes a chemistry. Because everybody’s ball-dominant. When you’re a superstar, you’ve been the main guy for sure. Now, you’ve got to make it work. And sometimes personalities, it doesn’t work. Sometimes, it works for a while. Sometimes, it’s hard to manage, sometimes. Again, if they’re not on the same page totally 100 percent, I think the organization has to look and see what’s best for the organization.

D’Antoni was asked about Harden and Westbrook. (Best I can tell, D’Antoni never named Westbrook on the podcast, which should allow the coach to avoid a fine.) But D’Antoni could have easily been describing Harden and Paul.

It seems Harden and Paul no longer wanted to make it work. Those two played better together than most people realized. The Rockets were one of the NBA’s best teams each of the last two years, and they had an elite offense. But Harden and Paul clearly grated each other.

Now, Harden and Westbrook will get a fresh start together. They sound eager to re-join forces after beginning their careers together with the Thunder.

D’Antoni is correct: Harden’s and Westbrook’s desire to make this work will go a long way.

But Harden and Paul were once enthusiastic about pairing, and that went south. An initial commitment to teaming up is important. It can also wane quickly.

It also can’t overcome every fit issue. Sometimes, stars just don’t match, no matter their intentions.

D’Antoni is also right about super teams generally require ball-dominant stars to sacrifice for the greater good. There are always diminishing returns on grouping stars.

But other situations have included stars with more complementary skills. So much of what Harden and Westbrook provide involves having the ball in their hands. The diminishment of returns will likely be greater in Houston.

Harden’s and Westbrook’s talent give the Rockets a huge leg up. Those two wanting to play together will push each to do his best to make it work.

It’s still far more complicated than that.