And now, 29 teams will start chasing the champion Warriors

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The alarm was sounded loud and clear by LeBron James not long after the NBA Finals ended, and every other player, coach and general manager around the league who did not end this season drenched in champagne surely agreed with what he was saying.

The Golden State Warriors are a problem.

And they’re probably going to stay that way.

There will be one question inevitably asked this offseason by most of the 29 other teams in the NBA whose fingers didn’t get to smudge the golden surface of the Larry O’Brien Trophy this year. That question will not have a good answer for many, if any. Basketball’s offseason is here, a draft and free agency loom, and for the second time in three years everyone is chasing the Warriors.

Good luck, everybody.

You’re going to need it.

“They’re going to be here for a while,” James said after the Finals ended , his words coming as the Warriors’ celebration was still going in earnest. “They’re going to be around for a while. Pretty much all their guys are in their 20s. Pretty much all their big-name guys are in their 20s, and they don’t show any signs of slowing down.”

Boston has the No. 1 pick in the draft to add to a team that went to the Eastern Conference finals this season. Miami will have around $37 million in spending money once Chris Bosh comes off the books. James will try and lure more help to come to Cleveland. Chris Paul, Dwyane Wade, Derrick Rose, Gordon Hayward, Paul George and Blake Griffin may all be changing addresses. The Knicks have openly been begging Carmelo Anthony to seek a trade elsewhere.

No, quiet will not happen in July 2017.

It’s unclear if any of this summer’s moves will matter come June 2018.

The Warriors might be that far ahead of the field already.

“There’s going to be a lot of teams that’s trying to figure out ways to put personnel together to try and match that if they’re able to actually face them in a playoff series, both Eastern Conference and Western Conference,” James said. “Because they’re built for … from my eyes, they’re built to last a few years.”

Technically, the Warriors have some work to do in order to remain the Warriors.

Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, Shaun Livingston, Zaza Pachulia, David West and JaVale McGee will be among many Golden State players in the free-agent waters, and Kevin Durant will likely join them. Even though it will cost the Warriors big money – remember, Curry is in line for an enormous raise and made “only” $12 million this season – it’s more than possible for them to keep their core intact.

There also are some other matters of business around the league to clear up this season.

Many players have opt-in decisions coming before the July 1 shopping spree opens. Some of those decisions could affect what happens on draft night, when Markelle Fultz will likely go to the Celtics with the No. 1 overall pick. And there is still all the awards that need to be handed out, like settling the Russell Westbrook versus James Harden race for MVP.

There hasn’t been a coaching change in more than a year, which is an incredibly rare occurrence for the league. But some front offices have undergone recent overhauls, and more of that could be on the way – especially if Cleveland does not retain GM David Griffin, whose contract with the Cavs is expiring.

Rosters, though, will definitely change. They always change. The Warriors won’t be the same when Commissioner Adam Silver hands them their rings next October (when the league’s longer season designed to give more rest over the 82-game span) begins. The Cavaliers won’t be the same either. Nobody will have the same 15 players they ended the season with.

But the Warriors look like they’re on the brink of something dynastic.

No team had a winning record against Golden State this season – five were .500 against the Warriors – and 16 of the 29 other teams in the league didn’t beat them even once. The best example of how far the league has to go to catch the Warriors might be the Portland Trail Blazers, a very solid team with two great scorers in Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum.

Portland played Golden State eight times this season. The Blazers went 0-8.

Again, good luck, everybody else.

“We’re obviously just getting started,” Curry said. “This is something that we want to continue to do.”

 

Markelle Fultz’s steal, slam secures Orlando win against Washington (VIDEO)

Associated Press
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ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) β€” Markelle Fultz is fitting in nicely with the Orlando Magic.

The former No. 1 overall pick had a career-high 19 points and the deciding defensive play in a 125-121 victory over the Washington Wizards on Sunday night.

Nikola Vucevic had 30 points and 17 rebounds and Evan Fournier added 25 points and nine assists, but the Magic nearly squandered an 18-point fourth quarter lead before Fultz stopped Washington’s rally.

Fultz made all six shots from the field in the first half, including a pair of 3-pointers, and finished 8 for 10 from the field. However, it was his defensive play that decided the game.

With Orlando leading 119-116, Fultz stole a pass and was fouled as he dunked the ball with 36.1 seconds left. His free throw finished the 3-point play and gave Orlando a six-point cushion that stood up for the team’s fourth win in its last five games.

“That was definitely fun,” said Fultz, who was drafted No. 1 by Philadelphia 76ers in 2017 before being traded to Orlando midway through last season. “You live for moments like that when the game is on the line and you’re out competing to see what everybody is made of. I love it that I got a chance to make a big-time play and I finished it off.”

Orlando needed it to withstand a couple of fourth-quarter rallies by Washington and its 3-point shooting team. The Wizards made 10 of 15 3-pointers in the final period and scored 44 points, but couldn’t play enough defense to overtake Orlando.

Bradley Beal scored 34 points and had eight assists for Washington, which absorbed its fourth loss in five games. The Wizards got 21 points from C.J. Miles and 15 from Davis Bertans.

“We are 10 games in (to the season) now so we have to dial back the amount of excuses we have,” Beal said. “We compete hard enough to win every game. We are top five on offense, so we know that’s not the problem. We just have to get stops.”

 

Sixers rout Cavaliers 114-95 behind 12-of-14 shooting night from Tobias Harris

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CLEVELAND (AP) β€” Tobias Harris scored 27 points, Joel Embiid had 14 and the Philadelphia 76ers routed the Cleveland Cavaliers 114-95 on Sunday.

Cleveland nearly pulled off an upset in Philadelphia on Tuesday before falling 98-97, but the 76ers ended quickly ended any hope of a repeat.

Philadelphia went ahead midway through the first quarter and steadily built the lead, shooting 67% in the half. The lead reached 75-44 early in the third quarter.

Harris was 12 of 14 from the field, missing only one of 12 2-point attempts. Ben Simmons had 10 points and 11 assists, and the 76ers had six players score in double figures.

Cavaliers forward Kevin Love took a hard fall after being flattened by Furkan Korkmaz while shooting in the lane in the first quarter. Love got up after being on the floor for a couple of moments and gave the thumbs-up sign to the crowd, remaining in the game.

Love scored 12 points in 25 minutes. Collin Sexton had 17 points for Cleveland, which has lost three straight and opened a stretch of five games in seven days.

The Cavaliers were ahead of the 76ers by five points late in Tuesday’s game, but couldn’t hold the lead. Love missed an open 3-pointer on the final possession.

Philadelphia shredded Cleveland’s defense this time with 33 assists on 46 baskets. The 76ers followed an 11-0 run with a 14-3 spurt to take a 60-31 lead on Harris’ dunk with four minutes to play in the second quarter.

Philadelphia had dropped five of seven going into the game, including consecutive losses in Orlando and Oklahoma City, but finished its road trip on a high note.

Marcus Smart’s potential game-winner sits on rim, rolls off, gives Kings win

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Boston came in on a 10-game winning streak where they had played well on both ends of the court, but they also got some lucky rolls of the basketball.

Not Sunday.

With Boston down one, Marcus Smart put up a floater as time expired in Sacramento, it looked like the shot would fall, and…

Give the Kings credit, at a rough start they have gone 5-2 in November, and that despite injuries to Marvin Bagley Jr. and De'Aaron Fox. Buddy Hield had 35 points to lead the Kings, including going 7-of-12 from three.

The Celtics had a balanced attack with six players in double figures, but their offense was not as sharp as it has been. This was the first game it looked like they missed Gordon Hayward, who is out with a fractured hand.

Report: Last summer the Lakers, among others, were hoping Suns would buy out Aron Baynes

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Aron Baynes has been critical to the Suns racing out to a 7-4 start with the fourth-best net rating in the NBA. When Deandre Ayton was suspended for 25 games (after testing positive for a diuretic, a banned substance), Baynes has stepped up and been exactly what the Suns needed. He is scoring 15 points per game, shooting 46.5 percent from three (which is opening up the floor for guys like Devin Booker), and providing a big body defensive presence in the paint.

You can see why the Lakers and other teams were hoping Baynes would hit the market this summer. From Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Suns center Aron Baynes has emerged as a cornerstone piece for Phoenix early this season, supplying defense, leadership and, yes, shot-making. Phoenix acquired Baynes on draft night, and in the weeks to come contenders such as the Lakers hoped Baynes would reach a buyout with the Suns to hit the open market, sources said. Suns general manager James Jones and new head coach Monty Williams wanted Baynes β€” and are now receiving the rewards for the offseason move. Through 11 games, Baynes is averaging 15 points, 5.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 46.8 percent 3-point shooting (two 3s made per game). Baynes will enter free agency next July, and as one team executive said, β€œHe is positioning himself for well over $10 million per year.”

Smart move by Phoenix’s management to hold on to Baynes as an Ayton insurance policy (one they ended up needing). Plus, when trying to change a team’s culture (as Jones and Williams are working to do in Phoenix), you can’t have enough hardworking professionals in the locker room. Baynes brings that.

The Lakers thought they would have DeMarcus Cousins in the paint, but he tore his ACL over the summer. The tag team of Dwight Howard and JaVale McGee has worked surprisingly well for Los Angeles to start the season.

In what will be a down free-agent market next summer, Baynes is going to be in demand. His payday is coming.