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Potential first-rounder Rodions Kurucs withdraws from 2017 NBA draft

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The first – and most important – withdrawal deadline for the NBA draft came last month, but that’s set by the NCAA for players to maintain eligibility.

The NBA’s withdrawal deadline was this week, and that’s the relevant one for international players not shackled by the NCAA’s ever-shifting definition of “amateurism.”

Before the NBA’s deadline, 38 more players (oddly including two college players) withdrew from the draft. The most notable: Rodions Kurucs, a 19-year-old forward who appeared to have a solid shot of going in the first round.

Kurucs has mostly played for FC Barcelona’s lower teams. He needs more experience and to get stronger. But he has the size, athleticism and shooting stroke to project in the NBA.

It seemed he could develop in the NBA or even D-League while on an NBA contract. Alas, he went another route.

Here’s a full update on draft bookkeeping. NBA release:

Here is the list of international players who have withdrawn their names from consideration for the NBA Draft 2017 presented by State Farm:

 

PLAYER                                              TEAM (COUNTRY*)

Ege Arar                                                Galatasaray (Turkey)

Laurynas Beliauskas                              Neptunas (Lithuania)

Terrence Bieshaar                                  Joventut (Spain)

Laurynas Birutis                                    Vytautas (Lithuania)

Leo Cizmic                                            Sevilla (Spain)         

Berkan Durmaz                                      Tofas (Turkey)

Martynas Echodas                                  Siauliai (Lithuania)

Cyrille Eliezer-Vanerot                          Levallois (France)

Aquiles Ferreira                                     Pinheiros (Brazil)

Diego Flaccadori                                    Trento (Italy)

Tolga Gecim                                          Banvit (Turkey)

Yoan Granvorka                                    Nancy (France)

Egemen Guven                                      Karsiyaka (Turkey)

Karlis Helmanis                                     RTU Riga (Latvia)

Aleksa Ilic                                             Buducnost (Montenegro)

Verners Kohs                                         GBA Sparta (Czech Republic)

Antonios Koniaris                                  PAOK (Greece)

Arnoldas Kulboka                                  Baunach (Germany)

Rodions Kurucs                                     Barcelona (Spain)

Axel Louissaint                                      Lugano (Switzerland)

Michail Lountzis                                    Panathinaikos (Greece)

Gytis Masiulis                                        Zalgiris (Lithuania)

Lovro Mazalin                                       Zadar (Croatia)

Regimantas Miniotas                              Vytautas (Lithuania)

Kostja Mushidi                                      Mega Leks (Serbia)

Margiris Normantas                               Lietuvos Rytas (Lithuania)

Elie Okobo                                            Pau Orthez (France)

Viny Okouo                                            Unicaja (Spain)

Ayberk Olmaz                                         Istanbul BSB (Turkey)

Lucas Pereira                                          Pinheiros (Brazil)

Martynas Sajus                                        Starogard (Poland)

Borisa Simanic                                        Crvena Zvezda (Serbia)

Nik Slavica                                             Cibona (Croatia)

Berk Ugurlu                                            Fenerbahce (Turkey)

Kristupas Zemaitis                                   Vytautas (Lithuania)

Zou Yuchen                                            Bayi Fubang (China)

 

Here is the list of additional players from colleges who have withdrawn their names from consideration for the NBA Draft 2017 presented by State Farm:

 

PLAYER                                              SCHOOL

Darin Johnson                                        CSU-Northridge

Maverick Rowan                                   North Carolina State

 

Following is a list of players from colleges who remain early entry candidates for the NBA Draft 2017 presented by State Farm:

 

PLAYER                                              SCHOOL

Edrice Adebayo                                     Kentucky

Jarrett Allen                                           Texas

Ike Anigbogu                                         UCLA

OG Anunoby                                         Indiana

Dwayne Bacon                                      Florida State

Lonzo Ball                                             UCLA

Jordan Bell                                            Oregon

James Blackmon Jr.                               Indiana

Antonio Blakeney                                  LSU

Tony Bradley                                         North Carolina

Isaiah Briscoe                                        Kentucky

Dillon Brooks                                        Oregon

Thomas Bryant                                      Indiana

Clandell Cetoute                                    Thiel College (PA)

John Collins                                          Wake Forest

Zach Collins                                          Gonzaga

Chance Comanche                                 Arizona

Tyler Dorsey                                         Oregon

PJ Dozier                                               South Carolina

Jawun Evans                                          Oklahoma State

Tony Farmer                                          Lee College (TX)

De’Aaron Fox                                        Kentucky

Markelle Fultz                                       Washington

Harry Giles                                            Duke

Isaac Humphries                                    Kentucky

Tre Hunter                                             Mt. San Jacinto College (CA)

Jonathan Isaac                                       Florida State

Frank Jackson                                        Duke

Josh Jackson                                          Kansas

Justin Jackson                                        North Carolina

Jaylen Johnson                                       Louisville

Ted Kapita                                             North Carolina State

Marcus Keene                                        Central Michigan

Luke Kennard                                        Duke

Kyle Kuzma                                          Utah

TJ Leaf                                                  UCLA

Tyler Lydon                                          Syracuse

Lauri Markkanen                                   Arizona

Eric Mika                                               BYU

Donovan Mitchell                                  Louisville

Malik Monk                                           Kentucky

Johnathan Motley                                  Baylor

Austin Nichols                                       Virginia

Semi Ojeleye                                         SMU

Cameron Oliver                                     Nevada

Justin Patton                                          Creighton

L.J. Peak                                                Georgetown

Ivan Rabb                                              California

Xavier Rathan-Mayes                             Florida State

Devin Robinson                                     Florida

Josh Robinson                                       Austin Peay

Kobi Simmons                                       Arizona

Dennis Smith Jr.                                    North Carolina State

Edmond Sumner                                    Xavier

Caleb Swanigan                                     Purdue

Jayson Tatum                                        Duke

Matt Taylor                                            New Mexico State

Trevor Thompson                                  Ohio State

Melo Trimble                                         Maryland

Craig Victor II                                        LSU

Antone Warren                                      Antelope Valley CC (CA)

Nigel Williams-Goss                              Gonzaga

D.J. Wilson                                            Michigan

 

Following is a list of international players who remain early entry candidates for the NBA Draft 2017 presented by State Farm:

 

PLAYER                                              TEAM (COUNTRY*)

Simon Birgander                                    Clavijo (Spain)

Luka Bozic                                            Zagreb (Croatia)

Vlatko Cancar                                        Mega Leks (Serbia)

Wesley Alves Da Silva                           Paulistano (Brazil)

George de Paula                                     Paulistano (Brazil)

Isaiah Hartenstein                                  Zalgiris (Lithuania)

Jonathan Jeanne                                     Nancy (France)

Alpha Kaba                                           Mega Leks (Serbia)

Tidjan Keita                                           Cegep de Thetford (Canada)

Frank Ntilikina                                      Strasbourg (France)

 

*Country indicates where team plays, not country of players nationality

Doc Rivers out as Los Angeles Clippers coach

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When the Clippers blew a 3-1 lead to the Denver Nuggets and never got out of the second round of the NBA playoffs, changes were going to be coming to Los Angeles. A team with lofty aspirations — and that gave up a lot of their future to contend now — can’t fall on its face like that without consequences.

But nobody saw Doc Rivers being out as the Clippers head coach.

That’s just what happened, a story broken by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. Both Rivers and the Clippers have since confirmed the decision.

“Doc has been a terrific coach for the Clippers, an incredible ambassador, and a pillar of strength during tumultuous times,” Clippers owner Steve Ballmer said in a statement. “He won a heck of a lot of games and laid a foundation for this franchise.”

Rivers helped lead the Clippers through the disastrous end of the Donald Sterling era and into the Ballmer era. In the bubble, Rivers also was a loud voice in support of social justice.

Kawhi Leonard came to the Clippers as a free agent in part to play for Rivers, and the coach was instrumental in recruiting Leonard to Los Angeles. That was the reason most around the league thought Rivers’ job was safe despite some questionable coaching rotation moves against the Nuggets (staying small and trusting Montrezl Harrell against Nikola Jokic when that clearly was not working).

There is no way Doc Rivers is out without Leonard giving his okay to the move.

Rivers signed an extension a year ago and Woj said he had two years remaining on his contract. That suggests a firing, but the Clippers called it a mutual parting of the ways.

Both the Pelicans and 76ers have already reached out to Rivers about their open coaching positions, reports Marc Spears of ESPN.

As for who is next in L.A., Tyronn Lue has been the Rivers’ lead assistant and makes a logical choice to step in and take over. He is popular with the team’s players and has won a ring as a coach before.

However, it’s possible the Clippers look elsewhere. Jeff Van Gundy was suggested by Wojnarowski. Mike D’Antoni is out there if the Clippers want to make a radical move.

“I am also extremely confident in our front office and our players,” Ballmer said. “We will find the right coach to lead us forward and help us reach our ultimate goals. We will begin the search and interview process immediately.”

The new coach will take over the ultimate win-now team. Los Angeles has elite talent in Leonard and Paul George, the Sixth Man of the Year depth (Harrell, a free agent, and Lou Williams), and quality perimeter defenders. In the clutch, they could turn to the two-time Finals MVP. 

Except all that talent really never meshed together, in part due to injuries and other things keeping the team’s core from playing much together. Yet there was a sense of entitlement around this team — the Clippers acted like they could flip the switch and win.

“I think a lot of the issues that we ran into, talent bailed us out; chemistry it didn’t,” Williams said after the Clippers were eliminated. “In this series, it failed us. We know this is our first year together. We are a highly talented group and we came up short. Chemistry is something that you’ve got to build. You build it over time.”

The Clippers are all in with this roster. To get George (and with him, Leonard as a free agent), Los Angeles traded Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, their own first-round picks in 2022, 2024, and 2026, two other first-round picks belonging to Miami (2021 and 2023), and agreed to pick-swaps with Oklahoma City 2023 and 2025. 

The Clippers pushed all their chips into the middle of the table to get two years, two playoff runs with those stars. They wasted the first one of them.

The new coach, whoever it is, will have a lot of pressure not to let another season slip away.

Report: Victor Oladipo looking to leave Pacers this offseason

Pacers star Victor Oladipo
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Victor Oladipo was reportedly leaning toward leaving the Pacers in 2021 free agency.

He might prefer to exit sooner.

Jared Weiss of The Athletic:

Victor Oladipo looking to move on this offseason, according to sources

Oladipo has had an enjoyable and fruitful time in Indiana.

It’s also easy to see how he’d hold bigger ambitions on and off the court.

The Pacers control the situation for now. Oladipo is under contract next season at $21 million. But the specter of him leaving in 2021 unrestricted free agency applies implicit pressure. Indiana could trade him rather than risk him walking for nothing.

Of course it’s not fait accompli Oladipo would leave the Pacers in 2021 free agency. They’re looking for a new coach, and maybe that hire would help motivate Oladipo to stay. Indiana could take the upcoming season to sell him on a new direction. If going that route, the Pacers could still pivot before the trade deadline. That plan would allow Oladipo time to get healthy and boost his trade value (or suffer a setback and tank his stock).

Oladipo’s impending free agency also gives him some leverage in trade talks. He can signal an intent to re-sign with only certain teams, motivating those teams to trade for him (and dissuading other teams).

But at this stage, even if Oladipo is ready to leave, Indiana still holds most of the cards.

LeBron James first star in decades to face former team in NBA Finals

Lakers star LeBron James vs. Heat
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When LeBron James left the Heat in 2014, he claims someone from Miami told him, “You’re making the biggest mistake of your career.”

Heat president Pat Riley said his plan for Miami “all of a sudden came crashing down.”

Six years later, LeBron and the Heat are in the NBA Finals.

LeBron remains a driving force of championship contention. After Miami, he led the Cavaliers to the 2016 title (proving wrong his doubter with the Heat). Now, he’s flourishing with the Lakers. Even at age 35, LeBron is a superstar who held the allure to recruit a co-star in Anthony Davis. That’s a championship recipe.

The Heat have nearly completely turned over their roster since LeBron left. (Only Udonis Haslem remains.) Riley remained committed to winning immediately throughout this post-LeBron era and hit on the right combination of players for this moment. Miami lured Jimmy Butler, drafted and developed Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro, traded for capable veterans Goran Dragic, Jae Crowder and Andre Iguodala and found undrafted gems Duncan Robinson and Kendrick Nunn. It’s a remarkable story of team-building.

Now, LeBron and his former team meet on the biggest stage.

This is just the third time an All-Star has faced his former team in the NBA Finals:

  • LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers) vs. Miami Heat in 2020
  • Wilt Chamberlain (Philadelphia 76ers) vs. San Francisco Warriors in 1967
  • Ed Macauley (St. Louis Hawks) vs. Boston Celtics in 1957

After years of coming up short, Wilt Chamberlain and the Warriors grew tired of each. San Francisco traded him to Philadelphia, bottomed out and drafted Rick Barry. Barry and Nate Thurmond – who moved from power forward to his more-natural center with Chamberlain’s exit – lifted the Warriors to the 1967 NBA Finals, where they lost to Chamberlain and the 76ers.

The Celtics were so smitten with a young center from University of San Francisco, they traded star center Ed Macauley to the St. Louis Hawks for the No. 2 pick in the 1956 NBA Draft… Bill Russell. Russell led Boston to more than a decade of dominance, NBA Finals trips in his first two seasons coming against Macauley’s Hawks. The teams split, the Celtics winning in 1957 and St. Louis winning in 1958.

A few other players were All-Stars in another season and still producing near – using that term generously in some cases – that level when facing their former team the NBA Finals:

  • Adrian Dantley (Detroit Pistons) vs. Los Angeles Lakers in 1988
  • Paul Westphal (Phoenix Suns) vs. Boston Celtics in 1976
  • Charlie Scott (Boston Celtics) vs. Phoenix Suns in 1976
  • Paul Silas (Boston Celtics) vs. Phoenix Suns in 1976
  • Dick Barnett (New York Knicks) vs. Los Angeles Lakers in 1970
  • Ed Macauley (St. Louis Hawks) vs. Boston Celtics in 1958

It’s obvious why these situations are rare. When on a team that could be good enough to reach the Finals without him, stars usually stay put. After losing a star, teams usually fall off.

But these are unique circumstances.

A Northeast Ohio native, LeBron wanted to win in Cleveland. Then, he wanted to live in Los Angeles. He still has the talent to dominate and the power to get his teams to mortgage their futures to surround him with immediate talent.

Riley is one of the greatest executives in league history. He created a culture in Miami that helps the Heat get through thick and thin. It’s one of the reasons LeBron joined the organization. Even after he left, the Heat focused on winning quickly and player development – then hit enough right breaks on this run through the bubble.

Make no mistake: Miami is the underdog of this story. LeBron’s continued reign was far more predictable. The Heat have been in precarious situations over the last few years before coming out ahead now.

That’s why Riley was so upset in 2014. He said he even considered going Dan Gilbert until a friend talked him out of it.

In his infamous letter, Gilbert wrote, “I PERSONALLY GUARANTEE THAT THE CLEVELAND CAVALIERS WILL WIN AN NBA CHAMPIONSHIP BEFORE THE SELF-TITLED FORMER ‘KING’ WINS ONE.” Of course, the Cavs came up comically short. They were awful while LeBron won two titles in Miami.

And LeBron has already won a ring since leaving the Heat. But Miami has the opportunity for revenge that Gilbert could only dream of.

LeBron has an opportunity, too. In 2016, when the Cavaliers and Heat had a chance to play in the Eastern Conference finals, LeBron called it his preferred matchup. That was somewhat about his friendship with Miami star Dwyane Wade, who has since retired. But there are are still plenty of familiar faces in the Heat organization.

You know what they say about familiarity…

Report: 76ers stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons don’t get along

76ers stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons
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76ers stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons aren’t the cleanest on-court fit. Occasionally, they’ve shown signs of personal animosity.

But is there a full-blown rift between Embiid and Simmons?

Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (writing about Tyronn Lue’s coaching candidacy, which has taken a backseat to Mike D’Antoni’s):

As a Los Angeles Lakers player, Lue won NBA titles in 2000 and 2001 while playing with Hall of Famers and Kobe Bryant and Shaquille O’Neal, who like Simmons and Embiid didn’t get along.

The Shaq-Kobe feud cut wide and deep. Does the Embiid-Simmons situation really match that?

It doesn’t have to in order to be a problem.

Shaq and Kobe were such good basketball players, they won three championships together despite their issues. Winning cures most ills. Shaq and Kobe worked through their differences while the Lakers were on top.

Though premier young talents, Embiid and Simmons aren’t Shaq and Kobe as players. The 76ers lost in the first round, a disappointing result that only increases pressure and tension.

For years, Philadelphia has committed to building around Embiid and Simmons. That appears to remain the plan.

That’s tricky enough simply based on their skill sets. It’s even more difficult if those two don’t get along.