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Five Takeaways from NBA Sunday: Even the Warriors have off days.

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What you missed from a strange Sunday around the NBA:

1) Warriors take a vacation in Los Angeles, fall to Lakers for sixth loss of season. First, we need to give the Lakers credit here — Julius Randle attacked and owned the glass early, the Lakers bigs played the pick-and-roll about as well as you can against GSW, D'Angelo Russell has played well of late and found that groove again, and Jordan Clarkson was hitting threes. The real sign it was there day is this — when Nick Young is hitting step-back threes under pressure, it’s just your day. That was as well as the Lakers can play, and it’s a sign of the strides they are making (I would say in spite of Byron Scott, but that’s another discussion).

That said, it was a one-off bad shooting day by Golden State. Yes, they miss Andre Iguodala (hamstring). Yes, they have been playing down to the competition more lately then getting bailed out that shooting. But at the end of the day, they went 4-of-30 from three — Stephen Curry went 1-of-10 — and many were shots they just usually knock down. It was just a bad shooting day. It happens to everyone. Steve Kerr tried to use this to send a message about showing up ready to play every night, and I pity what will happen to Orlando Monday because of it, but it still just felt like a one-off.

The Warriors need to go 18-3 the rest of the way to beat the ’96 Bulls record. If you are saying “the Warriors aren’t as good as the Bulls” because of this loss, remember those Bulls lost to an expansion Raptors team that year, and had a couple of other ugly losses. The Warriors have still not lost to the elite of the NBA, and that’s a bigger deal.

2) James Harden went off in the fourth, and the Rockets upset the Raptors. Saturday, Houston looked terrible in losing to the Bulls. Dwight Howard was a mess, the rest of the Rockets were not good enough. Sunday James Harden was not going to let that happen — he had 20 of his 40 points in the fourth quarter to lead the Rockets to a win over a good Raptors team. In Toronto. Harden was pretty good in Chicago (except when Jimmy Butler covered him), but he got help in Toronto — Corey Brewer had five threes, Howard had 21 points and 11 boards. The Rockets have been up and down, but they needed this win to keep their hold on the eighth seed in the West.



3) LeBron James is becoming the king of cryptic tweets.
Last season LeBron James sent out a tweet he later admitted was aimed at Kevin Love trying to get him on the same page with the rest of the team. You can be sure LeBron is targeting someone on the roster again the last few days with these.

Maybe LeBron is just messing with the media (and fans), that is how he’ll spin it, but he’s too savvy in my mind to do this. He is sending a message. I’m not going to speculate from far away about whom that message is for, but he’s sending one.

4) Reggie Jackson deserved a high-five for his performance against Portland — and Stan Van Gundy left him hanging. Reggie Jackson and the Pistons need wins to make the playoffs but going up against the Damian Lillard/C.J. McCollum backcourt is a real challenge — and Jackson was up to it. He dropped 30 on them and controlled the game in a Detroit win. He was phenomenal. The man deserved a high-five and Stan Van Gundy left him hanging.

5) Giannis Antetokounmpo continued his run of great play, but it wasn’t enough against the Thunder. Oklahoma City was better than Milwaukee and deserved the win — they opened the game with a 22-4 run and never trailed, while Kevin Durant had 32 points. That said, the Greek Freak had 26 points, 12 rebounds, 10 assists, and one dunk on Serge Ibaka. Antetokounmpo has played fantastic ball lately, and it’s a good sign for Bucks fans looking ahead to next season.

Why timing of Anthony Davis trade matters so much for Lakers

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The Lakers will get Anthony Davis.

That’s clearly the only thing that matters to them.

Not only will they send the Pelicans a massive haul of draft picks and young players, the Lakers could lose significant cap space with the trade’s structure.

Los Angeles and New Orleans can’t complete the reported deal until the league year turns over June 30. Then, the NBA immediately goes into a moratorium in which most transactions aren’t allowed. The moratorium ends July 6. That’s when two main options emerge.

Option 1: Trade July 6

Let’s start with Davis’ trade kicker, a bonus paid to him if traded. Davis’ base salary next season is $27,093,018. His 15% trade bonus could raise his salary $4,063,953 to $31,156,971. Davis could waive all or a portion of the bonus. The Pelicans would pay the bonus, but the Lakers can also include enough cash in the trade to cover the full bonus amount.

The Lakers will send Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram and Josh Hart (combined salary: $17,918,965) and the No. 4 pick (which will count about $7 million against the cap) to New Orleans.

Davis’ salary will be between $27,093,018 and $31,156,971 next season, depending on his trade kicker.

Simply, the Lakers’ incoming salary in the trade will be about $2 million-$6 million higher than their outgoing salary in the trade.

That works just fine under the cap rules. The Lakers will have way more than $2 million-$6 million in cap space. As far as salary matching, teams can always trade when they end up under the cap.

So, after this deal, the Lakers would have about $24 million-$28 million in cap space.

But there’s another path that would give the Lakers even more flexibility.

Option 2: Trade July 30

On July 6, if they renounce all their free agents and waive Jemerrio Jones‘ unguaranteed salary, the Lakers project to have about $33 million cap space.

That’s about enough for a max salary for a free agent with fewer than 10 years experience – someone like Kemba Walker, Jimmy Butler, Kawhi Leonard or Kyrie Irving. Or multiple helpful role players.

The Lakers could spend all that money then trade for Davis.

Here’s how they could get Davis after reaching the cap line:

They’d sign the No. 4 pick June 30. (Signing first-round picks is one of the few moves allowed during the moratorium.) He couldn’t be traded for 30 days after being signed. Hence, the July 30 date on this trade. But his actual salary would count toward the trade. Unsigned draft picks count $0 in trades.

In this salary range, the Lakers could acquire 125% of the outgoing salary in the trade plus $100,000. Aggregating Ball, Ingram, Hart and the signed No. 4 pick would allow the Lakers to acquire about $31 million of salary. That covers Davis’ full salary and most, if not all, of his trade bonus.

But why would the Pelicans wait?

That’d mean the No. 4 pick can’t play for them in summer league. There’d also be complications flipping the No. 4 pick to another team.

It’d also tie up a portion their cap space until the trade is completed, as they’re the ones holding the more-expensive Davis through July. Most good free agents will be off the market by July 30.

New Orleans could always reach an unofficial agreement with a free agent then make the deal official after the Lakers trade. But that requires trust, and some free agents might not go for that.

There’s no upside in waiting for the Pelicans. The only question is how much downside.

What’s at stake?

A quick recap:

If the Lakers trade for Davis sooner, they’d project to have $24 million-$28 million in cap space (depending on his trade bonus).

If the Lakers trade for Davis later, they’d project to have about $33 million in cap space.

That extra $5 million-$9 million could go a long way.

What now?

It doesn’t sound as if the Lakers pressed New Orleans to wait until July 30 before accepting the trade.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Tania Ganguli of the Los Angeles Times:

For now, the plan is to execute the trade on July 6, right after the moratorium ends on the start of free agency — and it’s unlikely that will change.

The Lakers could always negotiate with free agents June 30-July 5 then decide. If they want the additional cap space, the Lakers could try to entice the Pelicans with extra draft picks to delay. But that’d make the trade even more costly to Los Angeles.

The alternative might be even more grim – the Lakers not finding worthy players in the first week of free agency. Los Angeles could even view that as a face-saving move to justify the timing of this trade.

But if the Lakers make this trade July 6 then claim they didn’t have good use for an extra $5 million-$9 million in cap space, they’ll only be telling on themselves.

Report: Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has griped about Chris Paul’s contract in front of rival executives

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In 2017, Chris Paul opted in to facilitate a trade to the capped-out Rockets. By forgoing free agency and a max salary, Paul sacrificed $10,083,055 that season. With Paul and James Harden, the Rockets became a championship contender and pushed the Warriors in the 2018 Western Conference finals.

The bill came due last summer.

Houston re-signed the aging Paul to a four-year max contract worth $159,730,592. That deal always looked like it could age poorly, and Paul – now 34 – is already slowing.

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta has noticed.

Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

Fertitta has grumbled about Paul’s contract, expressing regret to Rockets staffers and even in front of rival executives, according to league sources.

Fertitta bought the Rockets after they traded for Paul. Though the sale was completed before they re-signed Paul, it seems the contract terms were at least discussed as far back as the opt-in-and-trade.

So, Fertitta didn’t necessarily sign off on this arrangement.

But it was good for Houston! It made the Rockets the biggest threat to the Kevin Durant-supercharged Warriors to that point. Re-signing Paul helped keep Houston in title contention this year. The Rockets were limited in that pursuit by Fertitta’s spending limitations, not by locking Paul into this contract.

Yes, there’s downside to Paul’s deal. Houston is feeling it now. Paul will be difficult, though not impossible, to trade this summer.

But as much as Fertitta talks about winning, he yet again shows why that’s all bluster.

Kawhi Leonard wears ‘Board Man Gets Paid’ shirt to Raptors’ championship parade (video)

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NBA championship celebrations have become defined by the shirts (or lack thereof).

The clear winner at the Raptors’ parade today: Kawhi Leonard and his ‘Board Man Gets Paid‘ shirt:

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MVP!

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Second place goes to Kyle Lowry, the Raptors’ all-time franchise player honoring Toronto’s original franchise player, Damon Stoudamire:

As expected, Julius Randle will opt out of contract with Pelicans, become free agent

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The math on this is very simple.

After a couple of impressive seasons in a row, Julius Randle‘s stock is going up. The 24-year-old forward averaged 21.4 points and 8.7 rebounds per game for the Pelicans last season, using his strength and athleticism to bully his way to buckets. That said, he also shot 34.4 percent from three, you have to respect him at the arc. He’s impressed a lot of teams.

Randle had a player option for $9.1 million with the Pelicans next season. On the open market, he likely will get a multi-year deal starting in the low teens ($13 million at least). So what do you think he was going to do?

The Pelicans are okay with this move. While they like Randle, they have Zion Williamson coming in playing a similar role (and they hope better).

A few teams to keep an eye on rumored to have interest in Randle are the Phoenix Suns, Brooklyn, Nets, and Dallas Mavericks. Others will throw their hat in the ring as well.

It’s going to be a good summer to be Julius Randle.