Report: Nene will come off bench for Wizards

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The Wizards reportedly tried trading Nene this summer.

Unable to find a taker, they’re keeping him – but apparently demoting him.

Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post:

Barring injury or a sudden strategy revision, Nene, a 13-year NBA veteran who has been a starter his entire career, will regularly come off the bench and play center — an assignment he has not exactly enjoyed in the past — behind Marcin Gortat. The expected change comes as the Wizards switch to a new read-and-react, pace-and-space offense that will utilize lineups with four three-point shooters and one big man more often.

“I have no clue,” a blunt Nene, 33, said Saturday. “That’s the coach’s decision.”

It had been clear the Wizards would use Nene and Gortat together less often this season, but it seemed the duo would still start.

Apparently, the preseason changes will be permanent. Gortat started Washington’s first two preseason games at center, and Nene got the nod against Bauru last night. Kris Humphries started at power forward in all three.

The Wizards mostly went big during the regular season last year, but they went small in last year’s playoffs – playing Otto Porter over Nene and sliding Paul Pierce to power forward – to great success. Here’s Washington’s offensive/defensive/net ratings in the postseason:

John Wall, Bradley Beal, Pierce and Gortat:

  • With Nene: 91.5/103.6/-12.1 in 92 minutes
  • With Porter: 125.2/103.9/+21.3 in 51 minutes

Even after Wall got hurt and Ramon Sessions become the Wizards primary point guard, the big/small splits remained similar.

Sessions, Beal, Pierce and Gortat:

  • With Nene: 99.0/109.8/-10.8 in 36 minutes
  • With Porter: 123.9/116.6/+7.3 in 27 minutes

But who becomes the stretch four now that Pierce is with the Clippers?

Humphries has more range than Nene, but not all the way to the 3-point arc. Drew Gooden has shown improved shooting as he has aged.

Those are both somewhat traditional big men, though.

If the Wizards really want to duplicate their success with Pierce, they have a few wings who could slide down – Jared Dudley (once healthy), Martell Webster and Porter. Their ability to play power forward will depend on the production of Washington’s other wings – Alan Anderson, Gary Neal and Kelly Oubre. The rookie Oubre is a particular wildcard.

Good for Randy Wittman working outside his comfort zone. He has often preferred to play big, even when statistics indicated it was a mistake. He’ll surely use Nene and Gortat together when matchups dictate, but there’s clearly a new normal in Washington.

Pierce, who has excelled at power forward the last couple years, set the stage for this transition. The Wizards aren’t quite as equipped to play this way without him, but their ceiling rises as a small, running team. It’s on Wittman to mix and match player combinations to find the right fit.

Rumor: Patrick Beverley may meet with five teams before Clippers

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The Los Angeles Clippers want to bring Patrick Beverley back next season, his spark was at the heart of why this team made the playoffs and impressed with their potential.

First, however, the Clippers are going big game hunting for the likes of Kawhi Leonard and/or Kevin Durant (even with the Achilles injury). Beverley isn’t just going to sit around and wait for them, reports longtime NBA reporter Sean Deveney Tweeted.

The Bulls need a point guard and Beverley — a Chicago native — has said he is interested.

The Lakers also are reportedly big game hunting, but Beverley is the kind of guard they could use around LeBron James and Anthony Davis. Phoenix and other teams have been mentioned.

Beverley is going to have options, but he loved his time with the Clippers last season, and that means something.

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.