Report: Clippers plan to stretch Carlos Delfino, waive Miroslav Raduljica

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The Clippers traded Jared Dudley and first-round pick, and all they’ll have to show for it is a little – and I mean a little – roster flexibility.

In the deal with Milwaukee, the Clippers netted Carlos Delfino and Miroslav Raduljica. Initially, there were questions about Delfino’s health and where Raduljica fit into Los Angeles’ center rotation.

But those concerns are probably irrelevant.

Sam Amick of USA Today:

Yet according to a person with knowledge of the Clippers’ situation, it’s likely that Delfino – who is owed $3.25 million next season and has a team option for the 2015-16 campaign – will be waived using what’s deemed the "stretch provision."

One strong free agent possibility is 27-year-old shooting guard Chris Douglas Roberts, though he can’t sign until the aforementioned moves are made. Roberts averaged 6.9 points and 20.7 minutes for the Charlotte Hornets last season in 49 games. Another possibility is big man Ekpe Udoh, the 27-year-old who visited with the Clippers on Tuesday. Udoh, who was taken sixth overall by the Golden State Warriors in the 2010 draft, spent the last three seasons coming off the bench for the Milwaukee Bucks. Raduljica is also likely to be waived by the Clippers.

If you’re wondering why the Clippers didn’t just stretch Dudley, they couldn’t because his contract was signed under the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement (hat tip: Kevin Pelton of ESPN).

When a team stretches a player, his remaining guaranteed salary counts against the cap evenly across double the number of years remaining on his contract plus one. Delfino has two years remaining, including a fully unguaranteed season. Opinions are split on whether Delfino’s remaining guaranteed salary ($3.25 million) would be spread over five years (which would account for his unguaranteed season) or three years (which wouldn’t). I believe, though I see logic behind both interpretations, it would be spread over five years, but it’s not totally clear.

The Clippers are hard-capped due their signing of Spencer Hawes for the non-taxpayer mid-level exception, and they currently lack room to sign another player. If they stretch Delfino – regardless of whether his salary is spread over five or three years – they could sign three players to minimum one-year contracts.

It’s unclear whether the Clippers plan to stretch or Raduljica, who is owed $1.5 million this season followed by an unguaranteed year, or eat his entire salary this season. But stretching him and Delfino – again regardless of whether their salaries are spread across three or five years – would allow the Clippers to add a fourth minimum-salary player.

Because the Clippers have already used their full mid-level and bi-annual exceptions, they have no mechanism to offer free agents more than minimum salaries. Perhaps, though, they have a trade up their sleeve. Hopefully they do – because free agents are slim pickings.

No unrestricted free agent left on the market justifies sending away a first-round pick. Not Douglas-Roberts and Udoh, both of whom are fine but available for a reason.

Doc Rivers clearly wasn’t fond of Dudley, but this was far too steep of a price to pay for the ability sign a couple extra minimum-salary players. Had they just kept Dudley, the Clippers could have fit one more minimum-salary player under the hard cap.

Beyond losing a first-round pick, the Clippers will also face a cap hit for Delfino (and maybe Raduljica) multiple years in the future. That negates some of the savings scheduled for next summer, when Dudley’s contract remains guaranteed and Delfino’s and Raduljica’s don’t.

Yes, Dudley is gone, but at some point the Clippers must show what they gained. It apparently won’t be Delfino or Raduljica.

Pelicans reportedly pick up option year on coach Alvin Gentry

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David Griffin, the guy with the hammer in New Orleans, likes Alvin Gentry. They have a relationship that goes back to Phoenix, where Gentry was the coach and Griffin was in the front office (and was eventually GM).

Gentry also has a style of play — he wants to run and be up-tempo. That should fit very well with soon-to-be No. 1 draft pick Zion Williamson.

So it shouldn’t be a surprise the Griffin and the Pelicans want to keep Gentry around, as reported by Malika Andrews of ESPN.

This is another smart, stabilizing move by Griffin. The Pelicans want to build an athletic, fast-paced team and Gentry is the right coach for that style.  Maybe it doesn’t pan out, maybe the Pelicans ultimately need to go another direction with their coach, but right now this seems a good fit.

Report: Utah “frontrunner” to land Mike Conley Jr. if Memphis trades him this week

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Utah feels like it is close — a 50-win team two seasons in a row, an elite defense, an All-NBA center in Rudy Gobert and an elite shot creator in Donovan Michell. They look at the West next season, with a depleted Warriors team, and see an opening.

Yet when Utah fell to Houston 4-1 in the first round of the playoffs this year, it was reminded of what is keeping the team from being truly elite, and another shot creator and shooter is at the top of that list.

Enter Mike Conley Jr. He averaged 21.1 points and 6.4 assists per game last season, shot 36.4 percent from three, and plays strong defense. Conley would be an upgrade over Ricky Rubio at the spot.

The almost All-Star point guard out of Memphis is available via trade. He’s the kind of veteran floor general, shooter, and shot creator Utah could use. The Jazz and Grizzlies talked but couldn’t come to an agreement at the trade deadline, but the sides are talking again and conversations are “intensifying” in the run-up to the NBA Draft Thursday, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Grizzlies are intensifying talks to potentially move franchise cornerstone Mike Conley Jr., league sources told The Athletic. Memphis has been in conversations with the Jazz and Utah is a frontrunner to acquire Conley should the Grizzlies trade the point guard during draft week, league sources said.

What would be in a trade package? Certainly the No. 23 pick in this draft, plus some young players the Grizzlies like (maybe Grayson Allen, Royce O’Neal, and even someone like Jae Crowder. Reports say Derick Favors is not part of the discussion.

While anything can happen the week of the draft — and things change quickly — don’t be surprised if some version of this trade gets done.

Kawhi Leonard wins day with last laugh — his viral laugh — at end of speech

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Kawhi Leonard just won again.

He won his second NBA title leading the Toronto Raptors to the franchise’s first crown. He earned his second Finals MVP in the process.

Then on Monday he had the last laugh and won the Raptors’ championship parade in Toronto by ending his speech with his laugh, the same one that went viral at the start of the season.

Of course, what Leonard will do on July 1 was a cloud hanging over the parade, Leonard is a free agent this summer. Kyle Lowry at one point started a “five more years” chant during the parade, which is the maximum number of years Toronto can re-sign Leonard for.

Leonard, exactly as we all should have expected, dodged the question, while praising his time in Toronto.

Unfortunately, this was a parade marred by more serious concerns.

How corrosive is tension between James Harden and Chris Paul in Houston?

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Golden State is not going to be contending for a title next season. Sorry Stephen, but you’re just not.

That throws open the doors to the West crown and, eventually, the NBA title, and teams will be lining up to take their shots. The Lakers just added Anthony Davis to go with LeBron James. Denver should improve and is looking for wing help. Utah feels just one playmaker away. The Clippers are big game hunting, and if they land one they become a threat.

Houston, however, should be at the front of that line… if they don’t shoot themselves in the foot. Contract extension talks with coach Mike D’Antoni are stalled, and at ESPN Tim MacMahon put together a fascinating inside look at the tension between at his isolation-heavy and at his peak James Harden and the intense but declining Chris Paul.

But Paul noticeably lost a step last season, as evidenced by analytics and the eye test. Paul pushed for more plays and sets in the Houston offense, more screening and deception, despite Harden being in the process of putting together a historically dominant individual offensive season.

“Chris wants to coach James,” says a source familiar with the stars’ dynamic. “James looks at him like, ‘You can’t even beat your man. Just shut up and watch me.'”…

It has reached a point, team sources say, where Paul cherishes the chance to play without Harden on the floor. On several occasions, according to team sources, Paul barked at D’Antoni to keep Harden on the bench while he was running the second unit. Harden simultaneously would lobby — or demand — to check back into the game.

There’s tension there, but is it corrosive to the point of the team unraveling? Or, as GM Daryl Morey and everyone else with the Rockets says, is this just blown out of proportion? Time will tell.

Two things to point out.

First, tension between two stars and alpha personalities is far from new in the NBA (or any other professional sport), and it does not mean a team is in trouble. These things can be worked out, they just flared up more in the wake of the round two loss to the Warriors.

Second, these guys are stuck with each other. Obviously, the Rockets aren’t trading Harden. They would be open to trading CP3, but at age 34 and owed $124 million over three more seasons, there are no takers (unless the Rockets want to throw in a sweetener, which they don’t). The players around them may change, the coach could change, but Harden and Paul have years left together.

This team is so close to a title, it’s hard to envision them really coming apart at the seams next season. These guys are too professional for that… although in wild NBA crazier things have happened.