Associated Press

Report: Thunder don’t plan to trade Paul George, Pelicans same with DeMarcus Cousins

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Last year at the trade deadline, New Orleans’ GM Dell Demps went all-in and traded for DeMarcus Cousins to pair with Anthony Davis, going big in a small-ball league.

Last summer, Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti went all-in acquiring Paul George from the Pacers, in a move to get Russell Westbrook to re-sign (it worked) and make the Thunder a contender again (not sure about that one yet).

With the trade deadline approaching, both teams could bail on those plans, trade their stars for pennies on the dollar, and start their next phase building around the star they have locked up.

Neither team plans to do that — the Thunder are keeping George, and the Pelicans are keeping Cousins, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

For now, the Thunder are fully committed to playing out the season with impending free agent Paul George. They still have hope that a strong run in the playoffs could convince him to re-sign in Oklahoma City….

So far, New Orleans is determined to re-sign center DeMarcus Cousins and hasn’t invited trade offers on him.

If you want big names not going anywhere at the deadline, Marc Gasol in Memphis may need an invite to the party.

Teams are curious to study Memphis’ plans with center Marc Gasol, but so far, the Grizzlies say they’re planning to keep him.

For the Thunder, the team’s play has improved of late, guys are accepting their roles (we’re looking at you, Carmelo Anthony), and they look like a team that can make the second round of the playoffs. Then they likely run into the Warriors. Is that enough to keep George? The Pacers and other teams were told last summer he wanted to be a Laker when he was a free agent in 2018, but as George looks at that struggling team and the LaVar-induced circus around it, is the draw of home the same? Oklahoma City is not backing off its plans now, they want to keep him.  Although if George wants to stay (at a max salary) and Carmelo Anthony does the expected and opts into his $28 million (and Russell Westbrook is already maxed out), this is a small market team headed deep into the luxury tax. We’ll see what kind of stomach ownership has for that tax.

The Pelicans want desperately to make the playoffs this season, keeping Cousins — who is having a fantastic year — is the only way they do that. New Orleans is currently the eight seed in the West, 2.5 games up on the L.A. Clippers.

Memphis fired their coach in a futile effort turn their season around, and the injury to Mike Conley (and, I supposed, Chandler Parsons, but we all expected that one) has certainly kept them down. We can debate whether getting the band back together in Memphis is really a good idea, but ownership doesn’t seem ready to trade Gasol and move on yet.

Another LeBron James mural vandalized in Los Angeles

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Most of Los Angeles — and the vast majority of Lakers fans — are fired up that LeBron James is coming to Los Angeles. They see a return to glory for the franchise (well, once they get the rest of the roster right… sorry Lance Stephenson).

However, there is a segment — particularly the die-hard Kobe fans — who are having trouble assimilating to the new reality.

So when an artist did a LeBron James mural near Venice in Los Angeles recently — a really well-done tribute — it was quickly vandalized. Then eventually covered up.

This week another artist did another impressive LeBron/Lakers mural — this one with LeBron looking up at the Lakers’ legends — and once again, it was vandalized.

I’m not shocked by any of this, but it is depressing. If you’re vandalizing art, you are a cowardly buffoon.

There’s no way to really know the motivation behind the second attack, although the smart money is on it being the same as the first one — a few people think they are protecting the Lakers’ brand by not welcoming the best player on the planet to a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in five years. It’s incredibly flawed logic, but frankly flawed logic has become trendy in recent years, it can get you elected to all kinds of offices.

If you can’t embrace LeBron joining the team, I’m not sure how you could call yourself a Lakers fan. But to take that another step and deface a mural is another level of idiocy.

AP Source: Thunder trading Dakari Johnson to Orlando

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — The Oklahoma City Thunder are trading reserve center Dakari Johnson to the Orlando Magic.

A person with knowledge of the details confirmed the move to The Associated Press on Friday. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the situation publicly.

Yahoo Sports, which first reported the deal, said Oklahoma City will get guard Rodney Purvis in the deal. Purvis averaged 6.0 points and 1.7 rebounds in 16 appearances for the Magic last season. The Orlando Sentinel said the Thunder also sent cash to the Magic.

Johnson played 31 games last season for the Thunder with six starts. He averaged 1.8 points and 1.1 rebounds per game. The 7-footer averaged 23.3 points and 10.3 rebounds in 10 games for the Oklahoma City Blue, the Thunder’s G-League affiliate, last season.

Center Alex Len reportedly reaches contract deal with Atlanta

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Five years ago, the Phoenix Suns had just drafted Alex Len at No. 5 overall and thought he would be the big man in the middle the team would build around. It didn’t work out that way, he never averaged double figures in either scoring or rebounding for a season. While Len has said he thought he was not used correctly, and there has been plenty of change and inconsistency in Phoenix, he never grabbed hold of the top job, either.

When the Suns drafted Deandre Ayton No. 1 last June, there was no chance they were bringing back Len next season. The unrestricted free agent is headed to Atlanta instead, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Free-agent center Alex Len has agreed to a two-year, $8.5 million deal with the Atlanta Hawks, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Len received interest from several teams in recent days before finalizing an agreement with the Hawks on Saturday.

Len is not going to space the floor, 73 percent of his shots came at the rim last season, but he’s become an efficient finisher there. He is good as a roll man, will work off the ball, and can post guys up on offense. He’s also strong on the offensive glass and gets points via putbacks. His game is not that of a modern NBA center, but he’s become efficient at what he does.

Len is going to have to earn his minutes in the ATL, rebuilding team or not there is some quality along the front line. John Collins, who made the All-Rookie team last season and was one of the standouts of Summer League, will start up front, possibly at the four with Dewayne Dedmon at the five. The just-drafted Omari Spellman showed potential at Summer League and could be the backup four, which means Len gets the backup center minutes.

Len is getting his new chance on a team that can give him some run, we’ll see if a change of scenery is what he needed.

Gordon Hayward posts new workout video, he is moving pretty well

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Player workout videos on Instagram are a lot like how your life (or, your parent’s life) appears on Facebook — everyone looks their best, is always having fun and doing something interesting, and the daily grime of life has been scrubbed away.

That said, Boston’s Gordon Hayward looks good — he seems to be moving very well — in this latest workout video he posted.

It’s a good sign to see Hayward moving like that in July, months before that reconstructed ankle needs to be put to the test on the NBA hardwood.

With Hayward and Kyrie Irving healthy, the Celtics start the season as the favorites in the East — but Toronto is a sudden, serious challenger if Kawhi Leonard is all the way back and healthy. Philadelphia is talented and in that mix as well if Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons can take strides forward with their game.

The top of the East is going to be very interesting next season.