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Top 10 free agents still on the market

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Most NBA teams’ rosters are set, maybe save for one minimum salary spot usually reserved for a young player the team is trying to develop. The big names, and even the medium and plenty of small names, are off the board.

However, in a tight market, there are still some recognizable names out there, unsigned veterans who could help teams looking to fill a particular role — wing defenders, big men, even some point guard help. They are available for a reason, but they can help a team.

Here is my Top 10 list of remaining free agents. The list is not complete, for example, Andrew Bogut doesn’t make my cut but if healthy he could help the right team, the same with David Lee. Also, not on this list are any restricted free agents such as JaMychal Green, Nikola Mirotic, or Mason Plumlee (in theory they are available, in practice no team has or would spend the cap money on an offer the team with their rights would not match).

1. Shabazz Muhammad. He’s a wing who gave Minnesota almost 20 minutes a night and 9.9 points a game last season, but lost out in the numbers game as that roster shifted (with Jimmy Butler coming in to take a lot of minutes at his spot). Muhammad is a power player who likes to post up, but he doesn’t space the floor well — almost 60 percent of his shots last season came within 10 feet of the basket, and he shot 33 percent on threes. He’s not a great defender and not focused on that end. The Lakers reportedly are interested, and he’s still talking to Minnesota.

2. Tony Allen. The heart of “grit n’ grind” in Memphis is still on the outside looking in as that team revamps a little. He still is a quality wing defender, although he has started to slow at age 35, and he does not bring much offense to the table. Memphis may well re-sign him after they figure out the JaMychal Green situation, but Allen thought he would get more than the minimum and that seems off the table now anywhere.

3. Dante Cunningham. I could see him as a glue guy who could space the floor and hit threes on the right team — he shot 39.2 percent on his 2.7 threes a game last season, that percentage may regress a little, but he can hit that shot and blend in on units. He’s not a bad defender on the wing, and can play the small ball four. The Bucks, Timberwolves, and Pelicans all have been mentioned as having interest in him.

4. Deron Williams. The former All-Star point guard has lost a couple of steps, and that was exposed in the playoffs with the Cavaliers last season (after he was bought out by the Mavericks). Cleveland hoped he could stabilize their second unit, but that didn’t work out like they expected. He can still dish the ball, hit threes, and be a floor general against regular season second units, and there are teams that could use that. As the stakes go up in the playoffs, his role has to be limited.

5. Thomas Robinson. He’s played for six NBA teams in five seasons, and he brings energy and effort. He is strong on the boards plus was the most efficient scorer he has ever been with the Lakers last season. However, while he can get buckets inside 10 feet but does not space the floor. He was not getting court time on a young team higher on other forwards on their roster in Los Angeles, but they have worked him out again recently.

6. Tyler Zeller. He moves well for a big man, but his inefficiency and limits on the offensive end had him struggling to get minutes on a Celtics team that needed help up front last season. He has an okay midrange game but needs to get easy buckets at the rim again. He struggles defensively in space. However, if he plays to his strengths he could be a decent backup big.

7. Gerald Green. He played decently in inconsistent minutes last season in Boston, but was left in the cold as the Celtics revamped their roster this summer. He is respectable from three (35.1 percent last season) and can play decent defense, plus is a joking veteran presence in the locker room. Oh, and he likes hot chocolate.

8. Matt Barnes. The Warriors brought in Barnes (after a buyout in Sacramento) last season to provide some stability after Kevin Durant‘s knee injury, and he did that for 20+ games. He plays hard, defends, and shot 33 percent from three. In a limited wing or small-ball four off the bench role, he can give a team solid minutes. How much does he have in the tank at age 37?

9. Trey Burke. He’s a score-first point guard who hasn’t made great decisions on when to shoot and when to set up teammates. He didn’t finish well around the rim last season, but on the nights he shot well he put up points (he had two 27 point games in Washington last season). However, on nights he didn’t he hurt the team, and there were more of those nights. Burke struggles to defend at an NBA level. The Wizards brought in Brandon Jennings last season as they decided Utah was right in cutting Burke out. The Knicks and Timberwolves have taken a look at Burke.

10. Anthony Morrow. If he can find his stroke again and get back to being a dangerous spot-up three point shooter he can help teams — he’s a career 41.7 percent shooter from three but hit just 30.8 percent last season. He was a throw-in on the Taj GibsonDoug McDermott trade and went from OKC to Chicago, but never found a rhythm there. He’s not much of a defender, he has to knock down threes to help a team.

Attacking Jamal Murray sparks Nuggets, who hold off Lakers for Game 3 win

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Down 0-2 to a LeBron James team, the Denver Nuggets backs were against the wall.

The Lakers learned — like the Jazz and Clippers before them — that the Nuggets have a couple more gears when their season is threatened.

Jamal Murray attacked from the opening tip, set the tone for Denver, then when the Lakers made it interesting late, stuck the dagger in the Los Angeles.

“I didn’t have any doubt we were going to show up tonight,” Nuggets coach Mike Malone said postgame. “The reason I didn’t have any doubt is we won six straight elimination games…

“For some reason, this team loves the bubble.”

Denver pulled away from the Lakers in the second quarter and held on at the end to take a 114-106 win in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals.

The Lakers still lead the series 2-1, with Game 4 Thursday night.

Murray was the best player on the floor in Game 3, scoring 28 points, dishing 12 assists, grabbing eight rebounds, and forcing the Lakers’ defense to adjust to him.

“When you look at these three series we’ve played so far, he’s starting to get the respect from the other teams, and they’re game-planning, they’re blitzing him, they’re double-teaming.”

Both Denver and the Lakers came out attacking the paint early: The teams combined for 56 first-quarter points, and they scored 34 of them in the paint (60.7%)

In the second quarter, however, the Lakers started settling for jumpers while the Nuggets kept attacking. Denver went on a 15-2 run to start the quarter — with Nikola Jokic on the bench — and Denver went on to dominate the next two quarters, leading by as many as 20.

The Nuggets got a big night from Jerami Grant, who had career playoff hight 26 points. Jokic added 22 plus 10 rebounds.

Meanwhile, the Lakers could not get jump shots to fall. Los Angeles was 6-of-26 from three (23.1%), and worse, they scored 12 points on 24 spot-up shot attempts (stat via Synergy Sports).

LeBron James did his part — a triple-double of 30 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists — and Anthony Davis added 27, but the Lakers defensive energy, and with that transition buckets, were not there.

Until the fourth quarter.

The Lakers got much more physical and aggressive defensively, and the Lakers went on a 19-2 run, which included six straight Nuggets turnovers at one point. The Lakers went to a zone defense that flummoxed Denver.

Eventually, Murray and Jokic righted the ship. Denver stretched the lead back out and got the win. After the game, the Lakers to a man said they needed to bring that fourth-quarter energy all game on Thursday.

One thing talked about after the game was Murray’s elbow to LeBron.

“I don’t think it was blatant. I don’t know his mindset, but I don’t think he did it on purpose,” LeBron said postgame.

The other thing talked about postgame — now we have a series.

Zach LaVine reacts to Chicago hiring Billy Donovan: ‘Wow, that’ll be good’

Zach LaVine Billy Donovan
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Zach LaVine learned about the Chicago Bulls hiring Billy Donovan as their head coach while playing Call of Duty.

Which means there is a recording of his real-time reaction to the news.

“Damn, we just got Billy Donovan as our next head coach… wow, that’ll be good.”

LaVine also Tweeted about the hire.

He wasn’t the only Bulls’ player excited about the hire.

Bradley Beal, a former Donovan player at Florida, loved the hire.

Donovan takes over a Chicago team that seems on the cusp of something. How big a something remains up for debate. The roster has young talent: Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Coby White, Wendell Carter, and the No. 4 pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. Donovan is an upgrade over Boylen, both in terms of player relations and tactics, making the Bulls better.

Even with Donovan, what is the ceiling for these Bulls? Next season they are not going to be better than the Celtics, Bucks, Heat, or Nets, and likely not the 76ers or Raptors either (unless Toronto tears down the roster). That’s six. And a lot of people would put the Indiana Pacers on a level above the Bulls as well. Bottom line: Even with a coaching upgrade and player improvement, the Bulls are likely scrambling for a bottom playoff spot in the East.

The Bulls are looking beyond next year. Expect Chicago head of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas to spend the next season deciding who fits and who doesn’t, and shake up the roster accordingly. By then the Bulls may be in a better place to be a threat in the East.

Whatever happens, the Bulls got better with this hire, and their biggest star likes it.

Vanessa Bryant sues sheriff over Kobe Bryant helicopter-crash photos

Kobe Bryant crash site
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LOS ANGELES — Vanessa Bryant, the widow of basketball star Kobe Bryant, has filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County sheriff claiming deputies shared unauthorized photos of the crash that killed her husband, their 13-year-old daughter and seven others.

After the Jan. 26 crash, reports surfaced that graphic photos of the victims were being shared. Vanessa Bryant was “shocked and devastated” by the reports, the lawsuit states.

The suit seeks damages for negligence, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The victims died when the helicopter crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, northwest of Los Angeles, during cloudy weather. They were traveling to a youth basketball tournament at Bryant’s sports facility in Thousand Oaks. The National Transportation Safety Board has not concluded what caused the crash on the outskirts of Los Angeles County but said there was no sign of mechanical failure in the Sikorsky S-76. helicopter.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva previously told news media that eight deputies took or shared graphic photos of the scene and he ordered the images deleted. The sheriff said the department has a policy against taking and sharing crime scene photos, but it does not apply to accident scenes.

“That was my No. 1 priority, was to make sure those photos no longer exist,” Villanueva previously told NBC News. “We identified the deputies involved, they came to the station on their own and had admitted they had taken them and they had deleted them. And we’re content that those involved did that.”

Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit alleges the sheriff’s actions constituted a “cover-up” of the misconduct. The suit claims the photos could still exist.

“Mrs. Bryant feels ill at the thought of strangers gawking at images of her deceased husband and child and she lives in fear that she or her children will one day confront horrific images of their loved ones online,” the lawsuit states.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has not yet signed a bill that would make it a misdemeanor for first responders to take unauthorized photos of deceased people at the scene of an accident or crime. The legislation was prompted by the crash photos.

A statement from the sheriff’s department Tuesday incorrectly said such actions are now criminal. The bill has not yet been signed into law.

“Shortly following this tragic crash, Sheriff Villanueva sponsored legislation which now makes it a crime for public safety personnel to take and share non-official pictures of this nature,” the statement said. “Due to the pending litigation, we are unable to offer further comment.”

Vanessa Bryant’s attorney, Gary C. Robb, declined to comment.

The Los Angeles Times first reported the allegations that the graphic photos had been taken and disseminated in February.

Bryant previously filed a claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, in May. The suit was filed Thursday.

Separately, Vanessa Bryant has also filed a lawsuit alleging the helicopter’s pilot, Ara Zobayan, was careless and negligent to fly in the fog and should have aborted the flight.

The brother of the pilot has said in a court filing that Bryant knew the risks of helicopter flying and his survivors aren’t entitled to damages from the pilot’s estate, while the helicopter company, Island Express, says it is not responsible for damages, calling the crash, among other things, “an act of God” and “an unavoidable accident” that was beyond its control.

Chicago Bulls hire Billy Donovan as coach

Billy Donovan coaches Thunder-Bulls
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Billy Donovan left the Thunder despite them offering a new contract. Maybe it wasn’t as much money as he desired to coach a team that could be entering rebuilding. But active head coaches rarely turn down an NBA job unless they know they’ll land on their feet.

Donovan will land on his feet – with the Bulls.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN first broke the story, the Bulls confirmed it soon after.

“We are very pleased to welcome Billy and his family to the Chicago Bulls. The success that he has sustained over the course of his coaching career puts him on a different level,” Chicago head of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said in a statement. “We feel his ability to help his players reach their potential, both individually and collectively, will mesh well with our roster. Whether as a player or as a coach, he has won everywhere his career has taken him, and we hope that will continue here in Chicago.”

This is a major credibility upgrade for Chicago, which fired Jim Boylen. Donovan is a solid NBA head coach who adapts to his players rather than putting them through extreme measures.

Considering they just hired Arturas Karnisovas as president, the Bulls might have the patience for a rebuild. Donovan will be tasked with overseeing the development of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Coby White, Wendell Carter Jr. and the No. 4 pick in the upcoming draft. Donovan’s time as a college coach at Florida shows he can help players progress.

But Chicago also frequently faces pressure, especially internally, to win sooner than later. Donovan inherits veterans like LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky. Donovan showed at Oklahoma City he could manage a team with immediate expectations.

Is this group’s long-term future inspiring? No. Is this group’s present inspiring? No.

But Donovan provides a little boost in both areas.