Associated Press

DeMarcus Cousins scores 35, Kings top Hornets 109-106

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP)  — While DeMarcus Cousins had another huge night, the All-Star was more excited about getting some big-time help from his teammates.

Cousins had 35 points and 18 rebounds, and four others Kings had at least 13 points as the Sacramento Kings beat the Charlotte Hornets 109-106 on Saturday night for their third win in the last four games.

Darren Collison had 17 points, Anthony Tolliver added 14 and Aaron Afflalo and Willie Cauley-Stein chipped in with 13 apiece for the Kings (19-28).

“It makes my job a whole lot easier,” said Cousins, who has 27 double-doubles this season. “Guys have been great lately. They are believing. Their confidence is high, which we need, and we’re just on the right path and we feel it.”

Cousins scored the go-ahead basket with 14.3 seconds left on a driving layup from the right side of the lane, saying the only thing he saw was “the basket.”

“We are realizing what is going to win us games and it’s not iso(lation) basketball,” Cousins said. “When we are making the defense work and getting the best shot for the team and just finding the open man, we are realizing that is working for us.”

But Cousins proved again why he is a dominant force inside with seven offensive rebounds.

“Even when they did miss he got the rebound and put it in,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said.

The Hornets had a chance to take the lead in the closing seconds as Kemba Walker dished out to an open Frank Kaminsky at the top of the key, but the 7-footer shot an airball with 1 second remaining. Cousins grabbed the rebound and was fouled, making one free throw for the final margin.

“DeMarcus understands that the defense is giving him all sorts of looks,” Collison said. “The good thing about DeMarcus that I’ve seen if he’s not scoring ball, he’s telling guys to continue to hit their shots. He understands the game.”

TIP-INS

Kings: Outscored the Hornets 48-38 in the paint. … Tolliver provided a big lift off the bench in the first half with 11 points on three 3-pointers.

Hornets: Walker has 34 20-point games this season. … Clifford picked up his eighth technical foul of the season in the second quarter after arguing for a charge on Cousins against Walker. … Walker moved into third place in franchise history in field goals made (2,586), passing Gerald Wallace. He is behind only Dell Curry and Larry Johnson.

STOPPING KEMBA

Walker had 20 points in the third quarter and appeared to be heating up for a big fourth. But the Kings held him to one shot attempt and no points in the final quarter.

When asked what his team did to stop Walker, Kings coach Dave Joerger joked, “Put some stuff in his water down at their bench down there.”

“He carries a big load for this team,” Joerger said. “He’s well-deserving of the honor of being an All-Star. I’ve seen it only twice a year, but it always seems like especially in the last three minutes, you don’t want the ball in his hands in a close game. Maybe we got into his legs. We tried to be up in pick-and-rolls and give him looks where you know, smaller guys don’t like playing in small spaces. We just tried to take it out of his hands.”

TURNOVER ISSUES

The Hornets paid Nic Batum $120 million to make plays, and he’s certainly doing that with 19 points, seven assists and seven rebounds.

But Batum’s turnovers are beginning to become a concern. He has 31 in the last eight games, including four games with at least five.

 

Jazz center Rudy Gobert hits super-max criteria for extension projected to be worth $250 million over five years

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Anthony Davis signed a max rookie-scale contract extension in 2015, between his third and fourth seasons. Based on the Collective Bargaining Agreement at the time, the extension called for him to earn a higher salary if he was twice voted an All-Star starter or made two All-NBA teams during his first four seasons. Davis was voted an All-Star starter and made the All-NBA first team in his third season.

Unfortunately for Davis, he missed both honors his fourth year. The All-NBA and All-Star-starter tracks ran independently. Davis couldn’t qualify for a higher max salary by earning one of each.

That cost him $19,683,908 over the four pre-player-option seasons of his extension, which will end next year.

The current CBA’s more significant adjustments to super-max eligibility – changing the years for qualification, using Defensive Player of the Year instead of All-Star starter – obscured a minor tweak. The tracks now run together. A player can qualify with one Defensive Player of the Year and one All-NBA selection. He needn’t achieve two of one category.

So, Jazz center Rudy Gobert – who won won Defensive Player of the Year in 2018 and made All-NBA this year – quietly became eligible to sign a super-max extension in the 2020 offseason. The extension’s highest-allowable value projects to be $250 million over five years. The first four years would follow the structure of the super-max Damian Lillard and the Trail Blazers are set to sign.

Newsflash: Gobert isn’t Lillard.

Gobert is elite defensively and underrated offensively. But paying him $50 million per year from ages 30-34 in a league overflowing with good centers? That’s a recipe for disaster for Utah.

But Gobert earned eligibility. That makes it harder for the Jazz to tell him they don’t deem him worthy. That tension is an unintended consequence of the super-max rules.

There is room for negotiation. In this case, Gobert’s designated-veteran-player extension must be for five seasons and have a starting salary between 30% and 35% of the 2021-22 salary cap. But his salary can increase or decrease annually by up to 8% of his first-year salary. The deal can be partially guaranteed.

Still, the lowest possible designated-veteran-player extension for Gobert projects to be $155 million over five years. If fully guaranteed, that’d be expensive for a player of his age. If not fully guaranteed, the Jazz would get savings only by waiving him, and that’d mean dropping the cheaper latter years.

Because he doesn’t have enough experience to qualify, Gobert can’t sign a super-max extension until the 2020 offseason. He met the award criteria, but a player must have seven or eight years of experience. Gobert just finished his sixth year. He’s also under contract for two more seasons – locked into salaries of $24,758,427 next season and $26,275,281 the following year.

So, there’s time to figure this out.

But this is the most uneasy super-max situation so far – unless Gobert just doesn’t insist on the money. Good luck with that.

Rumor: Wizards interested in Trail Blazers president Neil Olshey

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The Wizards struck out on luring Nuggets president Tim Connelly.

Washington’s next choice?

Ben Standig of NBC Washington:

As for the rumor mill, one name stands out: Neil Olshey.

Numerous sources told NBC Sports Washington of the Wizards’ interest in Blazers President of Basketball Operations

Olshey has done a good job in Portland. He drafted Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum then built a winner around those two after LaMarcus Aldridge left. Trading for and re-signing Jusuf Nurkic to a reasonable contract looks great. Olshey also overpaid Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard, Allen Crabbe and Festus Ezeli, but many teams spent wildly in 2016. It was a weird summer.

The Wizards would do well to hire such a proven executive.

Would Olshey leave the Trail Blazers? Their ownership situation remains uncertain following the death of Paul Allen in October. Wizards owner Ted Leonsis has demonstrated extreme loyalty to his executives.

Portland will also reportedly sign Damian Lillard to a super-max extension – a move that practically must be made, but one that carries massive downside risk. However, if he goes to Washington, Olshey would be trading uncertainty in Damian Lillard’s value on the super-max for certain negative value with John Wall on his super-max extension.

A couple years ago, Olshey signed his own extension through 2021. Maybe he’s ready to move on.

Or maybe he’s ready to use the Wizards as leverage for a raise.

Rumor: Lakers hired Jason Kidd to lure Giannis Antetokounmpo

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New Lakers coach Frank Vogel said he wanted Jason Kidd because Kidd is a good coach.

Steve Popper of Newsday:

the person familiar with the Lakers process said something else: that Kidd was brought to Los Angeles to attract Giannis Antetokounmpo to the Lakers when he becomes a free agent in two years when the Bucks star could become an unrestricted free agent.

Things I believe:

1. This plan probably wouldn’t work. Not only does Antetokounmpo appear happy in Milwaukee, he has specifically said he could never see himself playing for Los Angeles. And though I believe Antetokounmpo respected Kidd while Kidd coached him, look at the Bucks now. They’re so much better under Mike Budenholzer. You think Antetokounmpo is itching to play for Kidd again after seeing the other side?

2. The Lakers might just try this wild plan anyway. Remember when they were waiting to hire a coach in 2014 so free agent LeBron James could pick? Aside from signing LeBron last year, who seemingly had his eye on Los Angeles for years and for reasons other than basketball, the Lakers have struck out on star free agents. The franchise is getting desperate.

3. People want to believe the Lakers would do something crazy like this, and that makes the rumor spread faster – whether or not it’s true. The Lakers, because of their stature, tactics and general manager have made many enemies around the league. Plenty of folks are enjoying piling on.

Drake says Raptors ‘are like a college sports team’ (VIDEO)

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The Toronto Raptors are just one win away from their first ever NBA Finals appearance. Kawhi Leonard helped Toronto beat the Milwaukee Bucks, 105-99, on Thursday night in game 5. That gave the Raptors a 3-2 Series lead over the Bucs as they head back to Canada on Saturday.

Meanwhile, rapper Drake and a bunch of fans watched the victory over Giannis Antetokounmpo in the Jurassic Park outside of Scotiabank Arena. Elated with the win, Drake of course made statements to local television and to the crowd itself, saying the Raptors were “like a college team”.

Via Twitter:

Game 6 is on Saturday in Ontario at 5:30 p.m. PST.