Utah Jazz look to future without injured Gordon Hayward

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — The Utah Jazz began life without Gordon Hayward on Saturday with the first practice since the franchise player broke a finger on his non-shooting hand. There is no set timetable for his return.

Hayward went down Friday when his finger got caught in another player’s jersey during practice. Coach Quin Snyder was already tinkering with lineups with the addition of veterans George Hill, Joe Johnson and Boris Diaw and now must be even more creative.

Snyder explained that everyone and everything can be impacted, from Rodney Hood to Johnson to Dante Exum. How Snyder can put together situation-specific lineups, such as small-ball, will also be affected.

“You don’t want to wallow over things you can’t control,” Snyder said. “More than anything I feel bad for Gordon. It’s not a pity part for the team. Guys have to step up. We’ve got good players and they’re capable of picking up the slack collectively and individually.

“But that doesn’t change the fact that Gordon’s been our best player.”

The ninth overall pick in the 2010 NBA draft led the team with a 19.7-point average and 3.7 assists last season. Hayward also averaged 5.0 rebounds and 1.2 steals in 2015-16.

The 26-year old missed just two games in 2015-16 and total of 13 in the last three seasons combined. Hood may be most affected as the team’s second-best perimeter scorer. He could slide to small forward in the starting lineup with Hill and Exum starting at the guard positions. Johnson could start at small forward with Hood remaining at shooting guard. Either way, Hood will likely need to pick up some of the offensive load.

“I’ve got to be more aggressive, I think that’s obvious for our team,” said Hood, who averaged 14.5 points in his second season. “Everybody’s got to do more on both ends. We’ve got some time to figure out before the actual season hits.

“Scoring is not really the focus. … It’s about defense and scoring off our defense and doing the little things.”

Injuries are nothing new to the Jazz in the last 12 months. The team lost starters Rudy Gobert, Derrick Favors and Exum and top wing reserve Alec Burks for long stretches last season. Favors is currently dealing with knee soreness and missed the last preseason game. Burks still hasn’t returned from arthroscopic surgery to his knee and ankle in June.

Fortunately for the organization, the Jazz have four more preseason games and don’t start the regular season until a road game against the Portland Trail Blazers on Oct. 25.

Hill played the last five seasons with the Indiana Pacers and was on the roster when their franchise player, Paul George, missed most of the 2014-15 season with a broken leg. Hill averaged a career-high 16.1 points that season.

“It’s just a feel thing,” Hill said. “You don’t try to come in and say, hey, I’m going to do this or that because someone went down. You take what’s there. If the feeling’s there that they need you to step up and score some more points, then that’s what you have to do.

“But it gives everybody a good opportunity to come out and improve their game a little bit more and expect a lot out of other players. … It’s going to take a group effort.”

Report: Markelle Fultz was available in trade packages on draft night

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The Philadelphia 76ers are saying all the right things about Markelle Fultz — they are patient, they believe in his work with his new trainer to rebuild his jump shot, and they see him as part of the future. Plus, his handles look sharp.

That doesn’t mean the Sixers are not willing to trade him in their pursuit of a star player. In fact, he was available on draft night in packages, reports Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Sixers say they aren’t shopping him. However, there was a report that they had internal discussions about packing him with Nos. 10 and 26 picks to move up into the Top 5 in Thursday’s draft. And multiple league sources have said that Fultz was available to be traded.

But it’s hard to get equal value in return for trading someone relearning how to shoot. The Sixers know that. They also know that if things do come together, Fultz will be a special player. He has the potential to become the type of player they would regret trading away.

Outside of a handful of superstars, every player in the NBA is available in a trade, at least in theory. Fultz is no different. The question in his case is what do they see as an upgrade vs. his potential?

Kawhi Leonard would be an upgrade, unquestionably. Fultz could be part of a package to land Leonard in a trade (Fultz, Robert Covington, the Miami 2021 first rounder, and probably more picks would be a starting point). Once the Spurs get serious about a potential Leonard trade (they are not there yet) how enticing that offer might be comes down to what they think of Fultz and his potential.

The Sixers are not shy about their desire to land an established All-Star to pair with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. If they don’t get Leonard, they will be looking at the next All-Star who becomes available, and Fultz could be part of those deals, too.

Fultz is not playing in Summer League for the Sixers, but if he comes back this fall trusting his jumper and starting to look like the player who was drafted No. 1 that trade value goes way up (and the Sixers may be less inclined to move him).  It may be then before the Sixers can get a respectable return on any Fultz trade.

Report: Indiana to retain Bojan Bogdanovic, he could start again next season

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Bojan Bogdanovic is the kind of floor spacing shooter the Pacers need next to the attacking Victor Oladipo. He started 80 games for the team, scored 14.3 points per game and shot 40.2 percent from three.

Bogdanovic is due $10.5 million next season, but the Pacers can buy him out before next Friday (June 29) for $1.5 million.

They’re not going to do that, the Pacers are going to retain Bogdanovic, reports Ben Gibson at the Pacers site 8points9seconds.com.

The Indiana Pacers currently plan to retain Bojan Bogdanovic — whose contract is only partially guaranteed for next season — and would be comfortable going into next season with him as a starter, according to a source familiar with the Pacers offseason plans.

There’s no surprise here, it was expected. Bogdanovic provides genuine value to the team — they need him on the court as a shooter, he averaged the second most threes per game on the squad. And, as an expiring contract, he could be used in any potential trades for another star.

The Pacers also have a decision to make on Darren Collison, who is owed $10 million next season but has a $2 million buyout by July 1. They will probably keep him around.

Al Jefferson is owed $10 million next season but can be bought out for $4 million before next January 10. Expect the Pacers to exercise that option and buy him out well before that date.

Carmelo Anthony sends message to haters: ‘Take A Step Back… And Enjoy Life’

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When the expected became official and Carmelo Anthony opted to take the $27.8 million contractually owed him next season, there were groans from the Thunder faithful.

It was Anthony’s right — and everyone knew he was going to take the cash (we all would have done the same) — but his value on the court has shrunk and that’s what eats at the OKC faithful. Anthony’s response on Instagram was, essentially, “relax, it’s just basketball.”

It will be interesting to see if Anthony is back with the Thunder next season, or if he gets bought out. If he does return, how do they better fit him in the offense?

Anthony’s defense has long been a concern, but his offense used to be efficient enough, and his ability to create shots important enough, that teams lived with the defense. However, his efficiency has slid in recent years and, as we saw in the playoffs in April, it’s not enough anymore. The Thunder played better with other lineups. To which Anthony responded he has to get back to his old style of play more.

It’s going to be a wild summer in OKC. Whatever happens.

Suns to sign French point guard Elie Okobo to first-round style contract

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The Suns have an impressive young core four: Devin Booker at the two, Mikal Bridges at the three, Josh Jackson at the four, and Deandre Ayton at center.

The hole: Who will be the point guard?

The Suns like Elie Okobo of France a lot. They drafted him 31st overall, the top pick of the second round, but they will give him a first-round style contract with two guaranteed seasons and two team options after that, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Suns hinted they were going to do this, and it’s a smart move at a fair price if they can develop Okobo (even as a backup).

Okobo has potential. Last season, at the highest level of the athletic French league he averaged 13.2 points on 57 percent shooting (38 percent from three) plus 4.4 assists per game. Okobo is an NBA level athlete who has all the tools to be a good NBA point guard — and he already knows how to score (he had 44 points in a playoff game this season). He’s going to have to round out his game and adapt to the NBA style, but the Suns think they have something.

And they are betting they have with a nice sized contract.