Sixers GM open to trading picks, but won’t shortcut the rebuilding process

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NEW YORK — The Sixers were slotted to receive the second and tenth overall picks in the upcoming draft before Tuesday night’s Draft Lottery took place, and once it was finished, the odds held almost true to form, with the team dropping just one spot after Cleveland’s stunning luck in landing the top pick continued for the second straight season.

Philadelphia now owns the third and tenth picks in the first round, but team GM Sam Hinkie was anything but discouraged by the results.

“I think it’s a good night for us,” he said. “I think it’s a lot to be hopeful for that we have two top-10 picks in a draft like this. It’s something a lot of teams would give a lot for, and we’re excited.”

The Sixers have seven picks in the upcoming draft — two in the first round, and five in the second. With needs all over the place that exist for a team that finished with the second worst record in the league and at one point snapped a 26-game losing streak to avoid making history, the abundance of selections will be put to good use.

Hinkie doesn’t currently envision trading his team’s top picks. But he expects to be active in seeing what might be out there, and is open to the possibility should the right offer present itself.

“I think you have to be open to sort of whatever may come along,” Hinkie said. “But you ask me today, on a night like this in New York, we’re excited about the players that we might get and being able to add them into our program.”

As for which players, Hinkie wasn’t about to reveal where the Sixers are in the talent evaluation process.

“Now we’re back to my stone face,” he said. “Because this is the time of the year where there is a lot of information to be gained and a lot to be lost by the more you say. We’re likely to be active all around the draft. That’s not unusual for us. But you have to be pretty careful that people don’t know what it is you are going to do.”

No matter who Philadelphia chooses, Hinkie believes that the foundation he’s building makes the team a desirable one to any top prospect.

“Most of the top players in this draft find Philadelphia a really attractive place,” Hinkie said. “Because they want to be in a place where they have opportunity. They want to play in a big market and they recognize what a platform it is to play in Philadelphia. And they want to get better. And they realize that Philadelphia, with our coaching staff and with our roster, you can come and play and get better.”

Player development has been valued above all else since Hinkie and head coach Brett Brown took over last season. Brown was regularly seen on the court before games working out Nerlens Noel, the sixth overall pick by the Pelicans last year whom the Sixers traded for on draft night, and Michael Carter-Williams was given 34.5 minutes per contest to learn the NBA game and eventually take home Rookie of the Year honors.

Brown maintained throughout his first year as coach that the Sixers would stay with a rebuilding process that was expected to last three-to-five years. While Hinkie would obviously like things to turn around more quickly, he’s more interested in building the franchise the right way in order to achieve a sustained level of success.

“I wish Brett would tell me what he knows sometimes that I don’t know,” Hinkie joked. “I think we’ve got a ways to go. That’s clear. I thought [Julius Erving’s] answer tonight when they talked about that was fantastic. The NBA comes in cycles sometimes, and a lot of the teams that were really good when we were last really, really, really good in the early 80s were up here on stage with him.

“It takes a while to sort of build it back up,” he continued. “And then the question is, do you want to lay a foundation that lasts, or do you want to take shortcuts? I’m not particularly interested in shortcuts, and our ownership group isn’t particularly interested in shortcuts. I think we’ll do the best we can do. How that goes, some of that hinges on tonight.”

Spurs disbanding all-female dance team in favor of co-ed hype team

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Is this the wave of the future?

Since then newly-minted owner Jerry Buss started the Laker Girls’ in 1979, all-female dance teams have become standard around the NBA. However, with how things are now viewed through the prism of the #metoo movement, and reports on how NFL cheerleaders were treated in places such as Washington and Miami, a lot of professional sports teams are re-thinking the concept of female dance teams.

The Spurs are apparently doing away with theirs, to be replaced by a 35-person co-ed “hype team.”

The Spurs have not said officially that this is the end of the Silver Dancers. “Lack of interest” is an odd reason to give — is there suddenly less interest now than there was five years ago? A number of teams have both female dance teams and co-ed “spirit” or “hype” teams.

Far more likely, this is about perception in what is a conservative state and marketplace.

The question is will this become a trend, both around the NBA and professional sports. As the teams try to evolve and make more dynamic their in-arena experiences, are the dance teams going to fade from view?

Just something to keep and eye on going forward.

Just a reminder: Spurs hope to repair relationship with Kawhi Leonard, offer-him $219 million

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It’s everyone’s favorite parlor game around the NBA: Where will Kawhi Leonard play next season? Philadelphia? Los Angeles? Somewhere else? Fans of 29 teams are posting their trade scenarios online, while GMs of 29 teams privately have tried to come up with offers that could tempt San Antonio.

The most likely answer: San Antonio.

While the relationship between Leonard and the Spurs is frayed — and with the people close to Leonard and in his ear seemingly trying to push him out the door — the Spurs would rather keep one of the five best players in the NBA (when healthy) in-house. From Tom Osbourne of the San Antonio Express-News.

Still, the Spurs hope to meet with Leonard and his representatives soon in a bid to mend fences and pave the way for Leonard to come to terms on a five-year $219 million supermax contract that he will be eligible to receive starting July 1. If attempts to patch up the relationship fail, the Spurs will be forced to explore trading a player coach Gregg Popovich once labeled “the future face of the franchise.”

The timing of that meeting has been slowed in part because of the death of Popovich’s wife and everyone involved understandably giving him all the space wants. It will happen.

Can the relationship be salvaged? Maybe, $219 million can mend a lot of fences. There are things the Spurs can and would be willing to do to promote Leonard more (although that all starts with him getting out of his comfort zone and building his brand, starting with speaking more in public). Also, Gregg Popovich was able to sooth LaMarcus Aldridge‘s ego when the big man demanded a trade, and not only did the player stay he had an All-NBA level season. Popovich and Leonard still have a strong relationship.

Is that enough? Time will tell, but people around the league think at best it’s a coin flip. Things are not good right now. However, the Spurs will get the first crack at fixing this before they are forced to consider a trade.

Julius Randle’s camp not convinced he’s a Laker priority

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Last November, Julius Randle walked into Staples Center wearing a sweatshirt that said: “pay me.”

Yet he and the Lakers could not come to terms on a rookie contract extension — the Lakers could have had him starting at $12.4 million a year, but wanted to keep their cap space and options open. Now, it’s going to cost a lot more to keep the restricted free agent who averaged 16.1 points per game on 55.8 percent shooting with eight rebounds a game. There are rumors that the previous contract negotiations left a bad taste in Randle’s mouth and he wants out.

Lakers’ fans want Randle back. The Lakers still have rights to match any offer and the front office has said Randle is a priority. Randle’s camp is not so sure about that last part, they haven’t seen the evidence, reports Tania Ganguli at The Los Angeles Times.

Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka told The Times on Friday that the Lakers’ front office is constantly in touch with Julius Randle’s representatives, and there has been “a mutual exchange of interest and hoping that we can work something out for both sides.”

Randle’s camp is unsure of how mutual the interest has been.

“We still have no indication of where Julius stands among the Lakers’ priorities, or if he is a priority at all,” Randle’s agent Aaron Mintz said Saturday in response to Pelinka’s comments. “We are looking forward to the marketplace in July, when we will get a clear picture of Julius’ future.”

That is negotiation posturing by Mintz, no doubt. He might as well have said, “show me the money.”

Don’t expect other teams to wait around on Randle offers while the Lakers figure out their free agent possibilities — Paul George, LeBron James (probably not him) — come July 1. Other teams are interested (Dallas among them) and are going to try to move quickly to force the Lakers’ hand.

Once those other offers are on the table, we’ll see where the Lakers’ priorities really are.

Rumor: Dallas to target big men — Cousins, Jordan, Randle — in free agency

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The Dallas Mavericks have been hunting for a center ever since they thought they had DeAndre Jordan, right before the Clippers locked him in a house and forced him to change his mind (that’s not really how it went down, but it makes a better story than the truth). It’s why Dallas has been linked to Mohamed Bamba in the draft — a big, defensive-minded, rim runner who could develop into a great pick-and-roll partner with Dennis Smith Jr.

However, the Mavericks may not want to wait for Bamba — or any other young big — to develop.

Expect the Mavericks to go after one of the name big men on the market in free agency this summer, reports Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer from the NBA Combine in Chicago.

Ever since word spread in league circles in March that Dirk Nowitzki would return to the Mavericks for his 21st season, there have also been rumblings that the Dallas front office will look to make additions this summer that can put the team back on a winning track. The Mavericks can create space to sign a max free agent, and multiple league sources expect them to pursue a trio of big men: DeAndre Jordan, DeMarcus Cousins, and restricted free agent Julius Randle.

Jordan has not yet officially opted out of the $24.1 million he is owed next season by the Los Angeles Clippers (although most observers expect him to). It is possible Dallas and other teams are not going to offer that much per season for Jordan, but if he can get three years starting at closer to $20 million per that’s a lot more guaranteed money. Also, does he want out of Los Angeles now that Blake Griffin and Chris Paul are gone and will he take a little less per year to get to a new team?

We know Dallas likes him and Jordan has a relationship with Mark Cuban and Rick Carlisle from the last go around.

How much money and how many years would Dallas be willing to risk on Cousins coming off a torn Achilles? More than the Pelicans (who don’t have the money to replace Cousins with anywhere near that level player if he bolts)?

Randle showed a lot of promise as a bully inside who can run some pick-and-roll with Smith, but do the Mavericks want to try to outbid the Lakers (which leads to the question of what other free agents Los Angeles might get and how much they are willing to pay to keep Randle)?

We know this, Mark Cuban does not sit quietly on the sidelines of free agency. Expect the Mavericks to be aggressive players this summer.