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Rumor: Warriors to pursue Paul George

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Remember when Klay Thompson‘s dad/Los Angeles sportscaster Mychal Thompson brought up the Warriors chasing Kevin Durant more than a year before they actually signed him?

It seems Tim Kawakami and Marcus Thompson of The Athletic are doing something similar with Paul George and Golden State.

Kawakami on Posting Up:

Marcus and I have teased this for more than a year. We think they’re going to go after Paul George, somehow. I think Joe Lacob is going to try to find a way to get Paul George. I don’t know how that would happen, but I didn’t know how it was going to happen when they were – three years ago, when they said they were go after Durant. Well, they didn’t say it. But they might have whispered it.

The Warriors could have had George already – if they would’ve traded Klay Thompson to the Pacers. But there’s obviously a huge difference between acquiring George on an expiring contract and signing him outright in free agency next summer.

As far-fetched as Golden State landing Durant seemed, the impending salary-cap spike always made it plausible. The Warriors had to dump Andrew Bogut and let Harrison Barnes walk, but that was small potatoes for getting Durant.

Signing George would almost certainly require very large potatoes.

A little perspective: The salary cap projects to be $102 million next summer, but it won’t be determined until then. Even if they trim their roster to just Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green, the Warriors wouldn’t have enough cap room to pay George his max unless the salary cap eclipses $118 million. The NBA’s salary-cap projections can fluctuate, but a $16 million increase within a year is nowhere near heard of. And that would leave just the room exception – which would be about $5 million in this scenario – for Kevin Durant, who would have presumably opted out. He might be taking an unexpectedly large discount this year, but that’d be a monumentally large sacrifice by Durant next year.

More realistically, Golden State could use Andre Iguodala and Shaun Livingston to sign-and-trade for George. But that’d require appeasing the Thunder, no easy task. The Warriors would also have to stay below the hard cap – which is barely feasible, unless George and/or Durant take large discounts. Even then, it’d be a tough squeeze.

Golden State could also try to trade for George before the trade deadline, acquiring his Bird Rights then spending any amount to re-sign him and Durant. But Oklahoma City would have even more leverage than the offseason. How could the Warriors entice the Thunder? If good enough, Oklahoma City might not be at-all willing to deal Russell Westbrook‘s co-star. (This could be a reason Westbrook has yet to sign a contract extension. If he waits to re-sign until next summer, he implicitly demands the Thunder not sell during the season – or leads to them trading Westbrook, too).

If George hits free agency, Golden State’s realistic chances of landing George likely evaporate. The Warriors would probably have to trade one of their top four players to get George. But doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose?

Report: Spurs hearing out Kawhi Leonard trade offers, including from Lakers

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The Spurs shot down Kawhi Leonard trade offers before the trade deadline. They brushed off Leonard trade offers earlier this offseason.

Then, the already strained situation got even worse.

Leonard put out word he wanted to leave San Antonio, ideally for the Lakers. He met with Gregg Popovich this week in San Diego, reportedly directly telling the president-coach he wants out.

What are the Spurs doing now?

Chris Mannix of Yahoo Sports:

The Lakers are in that mix.

The Spurs can try to mend their relationship with Leonard. They could even use a super-max contract – projected to be worth $219 million over five years – to aid that process. They don’t have to trade him.

But the clock is ticking toward tonight’s draft, teams using their cap space in other ways and Leonard’s 2019 free agency.

San Antonio has no choice but to get more aggressive in handling Leonard’s future. This is a small step in that direction.

Report: Nets to buy out Dwight Howard

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The Magic, Lakers, Rockets, Hawks and Hornets all grew tired of Dwight Howard.

The Nets did it in record time.

After acquiring Howard in a trade from Charlotte yesterday, Brooklyn is moving toward shedding him.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

In the trade, the Nets dumped Timofey Mozgov‘s $16.72 million salary for 2019-20. Now, they could get a reduction on Howard’s $23,819,725 expiring contract. Brooklyn is doing a great job of unloading bad money.

Next year, the Nets will have their own first-round pick for the first time in six years. Though he has declined considerably from his Hall of Fame peak, Howard can still play some. Brooklyn didn’t need him interfering with its tanking and culture.

Instead, the Nets can focus on developing Jarrett Allen and losing enough to secure the best draft position possible.

It’ll be interesting to see how much Howard surrenders and where he goes. Again, he can still play. But the league is moving away from traditional centers, and he’s high maintenance.

Report: Cavaliers not planning to trade Kevin Love, no matter what LeBron James does

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The Cavaliers spent considerable time bemoaning a Kevin Love trade last summer falling through.

Will they deal him this offseason?

The No. 8 pick and Love are Cleveland’s best assets for upgrading their roster around LeBron James. If LeBron leaves, moving Love could jumpstart a rebuild.

But apparently the Cavs are now projecting attachment to Love, either way.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

The Cavaliers are not actively shopping All-Star forward Kevin Love heading into Thursday’s NBA draft, multiple sources told ESPN on Wednesday. Furthermore, regardless of what decision LeBron James makes about his future in Cleveland, the Cavs have interest in keeping Love next season, sources said.

File this under what else are they supposed to say? Even if the Cavaliers want to trade Love, insisting they won’t maximizes his trade value, forcing other teams to offer enough to pry him away.

But I also believe this accurately reflects the Cavs’ plans.

They just seem so determined to compete if LeBron leaves, and Love is their only other star. Love proved himself worthy of being the best player on a good team with the Timberwolves. (They were playoff quality when he played. They just completely fell apart whenever he sat.) In Cleveland, Love has fluctuated in his ability to bend his game around LeBron. If LeBron leaves, that’d no longer be a problem.

But Love will turn 30 before the season. He has declined out of his athletic peak, and I’d bet against him ever nearing his Minnesota levels again. And the other Cavs stink. It’s hard to see a LeBron-less Cavaliers team, even with Love, competing for the playoffs.

If LeBron stays, keeping Love makes some sense. With his $24,119,025 salary for next season and $25,595,700 player option for the following year, he probably doesn’t hold elite trade value. He doesn’t match up well with the Warriors, but good players who do come at a major cost.

Report: Lakers call meeting to warn employees about tampering

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Magic Johnson got the Lakers fined for tampering while still holding a ceremonial title. Once he actually took over the front office, he really got to work tampering. He got warned for blinking at Paul George on national television. Then – due to general manager Rob Pelinka’s communication with George’s agent and Johnson’s previous warning – the Lakers received one of the largest fines in NBA history. Johnson himself got the Lakers fined for praising Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo. The league investigated and cleared assistant coach Brian Shaw for tampering with George.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver has said the Lakers’ previous transgressions have put them under tighter scrutiny.

The Lakers just want this to end.

Ramona Shelburne of ESPN:

Lakers co-owner and governor Jeanie Buss called the meeting, which was led by president of basketball operations Magic Johnson.

Sources said Johnson and Lakers general manager Rob Pelinka spoke to a large group of team employees, warning them about tampering.

Other employees received written notices on the matter that referenced possible termination as punishment for anyone who does not adhere to NBA rules.

Tampering often takes much more benign forms than a president or general manager recruiting a star player before free agency. It could be an offhand comment by a coach, an overzealous ticket pitch or a speculative article on the team website.

If Johnson’s and Pelinka’s tampering increases the Lakers’ odds of landing a star, that’s just the cost of doing business. If a lower-level staffer tampers, that’s an avoidable mistake.

Really, it’s comical this meeting is even newsworthy, and that’s a product of the Lakers’ previous violations.

But, as they pursue stars, they don’t want to chance the league imposing any additional restrictions.

So, the Lakers, in some ways are right back where they started.