James Harden, LeBron James headline All-NBA Teams

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James Harden was a unanimous First Team choice.

LeBron James and Russell Westbrook came within one vote of the same (one voter each had them on the second team).

While we aren’t going to know who won MVP, Defensive Player of the Year, or other NBA awards until their new ceremony June 26 (after the Finals and Draft), the All-NBA teams had to be different. Because it impacts bonuses and future contracts — most notably if players qualify for Designated Player max deals this summer — teams needed to know early, before the Draft. So on Thursday the NBA released the prestigious All-NBA team, a snapshot of the best in the game.

Here are the three All-NBA teams:

Other players receiving votes, with point totals (First Team votes in parentheses): Karl-Anthony Towns, Minnesota, 50 (2); Chris Paul, LA Clippers, 49; Marc Gasol, Memphis, 48 (2); DeMarcus Cousins, New Orleans, 42 (2); Paul George, Indiana, 40; Gordon Hayward, Utah, 27; Hassan Whiteside, Miami, 18; Kyrie Irving, Cleveland, 14; Klay Thompson, Golden State, 14; Nikola Jokic, Denver, 12 (1); Damian Lillard, Portland, 12; Paul Millsap, Atlanta, 3; LaMarcus Aldridge, San Antonio, 1; Blake Griffin, LA Clippers, 1; Al Horford, Boston, 1.

These were voted on by 100 members of the media, their votes will be made public June 26 with the rest of the award voting. (Full disclosure, I was one of those voters.)

The big takeaways: Kawhi Leonard, Russell Westbrook, John Wall, and Stephen Curry (already an MVP) are eligible for Designated Player max contracts. In the case of Leonard it would be five years at around $217 million, and while he would sign next summer it wouldn’t kick in until the summer of 2019. Wall can sign his extension this summer (he has more experience) but his deal will not kick in for a couple.

However, Paul George and Gordon Hayward did not make an All-NBA team, which could impact their summers because now the Pacers and Jazz cannot offer their stars those Designated Player max contracts. (That contract is only for players who make the team the past year or two of the last three, or are a former MVP.)

In the case of George (who made all-NBA regularly before his leg injury, now has not made it two of the last three), that means the Pacers may consider trading their star this summer. George is a free agent in 2018 and there is a lot of buzz he is going to leave (either to a contender or the Lakers), and Indiana’s new man in charge Kevin Pritchard may feel he needs to get something for George rather than just let him walk. However, the trade market for George will not be robust because teams feel he wants to be a free agent in 2018, so he could be a one-year rental.

For Hayward, it means the Jazz can only offer a little more than other teams — about $2 million a year more on average over the deal, but also a guaranteed fifth year, so it works out to $46 million more guaranteed (but Hayward would get paid somewhere that fifth season, just not as much). That may be enough to keep him, he likes Utah, but it’s known Boston — with Hayward’s college coach Brad Stevens — and other teams are going to come hard at him.

Some will question putting Anthony Davis at center, but he spent 64 percent of his time on the court this past season at the five (as tracked by Basketball-Reference.com). That likely will not be the case next season with DeMarcus Cousins in the picture.

San Antonio Spurs retire Tony Parker’s number

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Tim Duncan went up first. Then Manu Ginobili.

Monday night it was Tony Parker’s turn — all of the Spurs’ big three have now had their jerseys retired.

This is obviously well deserved.

The No. 28 pick of the 2001 NBA Draft, Parker went on to win four NBA titles, was named Finals MVP with one of those, plus was a six-time All-Star and four-time All-NBA player. He was part of core that turned the Spurs into a dynasty.

Everyone was on hand for the ceremony, with coach Gregg Popovich, Duncan, and Ginobili all speaking before Parker, and all of them talking about their bond.

It was an emotional and touching night.

The next stop for Duncan, Parker and Ginobili? The Hall of Fame.

 

Kings’ point guard De’Aaron Fox out at least 3-4 weeks with ankle sprain

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The Sacramento Kings — everyone’s League Pass favorites — have been snake bitten this season. First it was Marvin Bagley III, who broke his right thumb in the season opener.

Now point guard De'Aaron Fox will be out at least 3-4 weeks (that’s when he’ll be re-evaluated) after suffering a grade three ankle sprain in practice Monday. From the official Sacramento press release:

An MRI conducted this afternoon on Kings guard De’Aaron Fox confirmed that he sustained a left ankle sprain at the end of practice on Monday. He will be re-evaluated in 3-4 weeks and his status will be updated as appropriate.

After a breakout season a year ago, this season Fox had come back to earth a little in new coach Luke Walton’s system — his turnovers were up and his efficiency had slipped, a 52.8 true shooting percentage that is close to the league average, for example — but he was still putting up 18.2 points and dishing out 7 assists a game. He has been the focal point of the Kings’ offense.

This is a blow to the Kings and their development. Sacramento had won 3-of-4 and seemed to be finding more of a groove.

Sacramento does have depth at the point guard spot, however. It signed Cory Joseph over the summer to a three-year, $37 million contract, plus it picked up a team option on Yogi Ferrell. They have some depth at the spot.

However, those players do not have Fox’s explosiveness. The Kings just will not be the same until he returns.

Greece coach Rick Pitino plans to enter 2020 Olympic qualifying without Giannis Antetokounmpo

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ATHENS, Greece (AP) Greece coach Rick Pitino is planning on trying to qualify for the 2020 Olympics without Milwaukee Bucks forward Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Pitino officially took over as coach of the Greek national basketball team on Monday. He said he would leave a roster place open for Antetokounmpo in qualifying games but is not sure if he will be able to rely on his best player.

Greece will try to reach the Tokyo Olympics by winning a qualifying tournament. But the dates could clash with the NBA schedule, probably ruling out Antetokounmpo.

“It is a possibility he will not be playing with us in the qualifying round if he goes far (in the playoffs). I understood that coming into this situation, and that’s why it’s such a high mountain to climb,” Pitino said. “But Giannis is something, it’s a bridge we have to cross later on. But we are going to leave a roster spot even if he has to take my place.”

Pitino said he hoped to meet Antetokounmpo and his brother, Milwaukee teammate Thanasis Antetokounmpo, in March when the Bucks travel to Miami.

The 67-year-old Pitino is a veteran of the college game and the NBA, coaching the Boston Celtics and the New York Knicks as well as Kentucky and Louisville. He has returned to Greece after coaching Athens club Panathinaikos last season and remains popular.

Pitino said he also felt that attachment.

“(Coaching Greece) is the crown jewel for me as a basketball coach,” Pitino said. “This is one of the greatest honors I’ve had as a coach. I consider this so special because it’s a mountain that is so worth climbing.

“And for the next eight months. I’m not American. I’m not Italian. I’m Greek. And that’s the way I’m going to carry myself. You won’t see anybody who will bleed every possession like I will bleed to try and win a game.”

LeBron James rips AAU workload: ‘AAU coaches couldn’t give a damn about a kid’

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Last week, during the pointless debate about Kawhi Leonard missing a game for load management, the most salient point came from former Suns coach Earl Watson.

He echoed a must-read story (from Baxter Holmes at ESPN) that reverberated around the NBA this summer (but for many fans got lost in the shuffle of player movement): How NBA team medical staffs — as well as just doctors working on young athletes — were noticing the extreme wear and tear on the body of AAU basketball players. The volume of games, often without enough training and conditioning to properly strengthen their young bodies or let them recover, sets young players up for injuries later in their playing career. NBA teams and doctors, with their load management techniques, are trying to make up for damage that started long before.

LeBron James, with two sons playing AAU ball right now, is in full agreement.

LeBron ripped the volume of games played in the youth basketball culture, speaking to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

“These kids are going into the league already banged up, and I think parents and coaches need to know [that] … well, AAU coaches don’t give a f***,” James told Yahoo Sports. “AAU coaches couldn’t give a damn about a kid and what his body is going through…

“I think [AAU] has something to do with it, for sure,” James told Yahoo Sports. “It was a few tournaments where my kids — Bronny and Bryce — had five games in one day and that’s just f- – -ing out of control. That’s just too much… So, I’m very conscious for my own son because that’s all I can control, and if my son says he’s sore or he’s tired, he’s not playing.

“Because a lot of these tournaments don’t have the best interest of these kids, man. I see it. It’s like one time, they had to play a quarterfinal game, a semifinal game and a championship game starting at 9 a.m., and the championship game was at 12:30 p.m. Three games. I was like, ‘Oh, hell no.’ And my kids were dead tired. My kids were dead tired. This isn’t right. This is an issue.”

It is an issue. A big issue. The NBA can talk about reducing the number of games — they are, and they should, the season is too long, but cutting the number of games becomes a complex financial issue — but it goes beyond just the NBA level.

There needs to be fundamental changes in youth basketball in the NBA, down to the AAU level. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has talked about this.

“So, where historically it’s been an area, particularly AAU basketball, that the league has stayed out of, I think these most recent revelations (from the NCAA scandal) are just a reminder that we’re part of this larger basketball community. I think ultimately, whether we like it or not, need to be more directly involved with elite youth basketball,” Silver said a couple of years ago. Since then, the league has taken steps in that direction.

However, like shortening the NBA season, there are a lot of competing interests in a complicated situation. A lot of people are making money the way things are now and don’t want them to change.

For the health of players, it needs to.