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Gregg Popovich strongly supports LeBron’s courage to speak out

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CLEVELAND (AP) — San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich hopes LeBron James never stops speaking up.

Long an admirer of Cleveland’s superstar, Popovich praised James for his activism and for being a role model to “millions” of kids. Popovich also defended James’ right to speak after he was recently criticized by Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham, who said the NBA’s most high-profile player should “shut up and dribble” after he criticized President Donald Trump.

“To me, when I heard about that, it was just an unbelievable show of arrogance for a talking head to try and tell someone else if they can speak, what they can speak about and when and where to do it,” Popovich said before the Spurs faced James and the Cavaliers. “It’s just ludicrous, but to not have a feel for who this guy is.

“I mean, think about when he came into public view, how young was he? And to this day he hasn’t missed a step, he hasn’t fallen off the ledge and he’s been a brilliant example for millions of kids, especially kids with lesser opportunity and haven’t had the same advantages as others.

“They see in this guy somebody who has consistently exhibited excellence in the workplace and gives them a voice and lets them know that you can speak about anything.”

James and Popovich have developed a strong bond during their years together, facing each other three times in the NBA Finals. Popovich also was an assistant coach to James on the 2004 U.S. Olympic team.

Popovich shrugged off his links to James.

“His career is way bigger than he and Pop,” Popovich said with a laugh. “There’s a great respect that goes both ways, for sure. I love the guy. But I guess we’ve both been around for a while and competed a few times and we’ve each won and lost. But it’s never been an individual sort of thing. He’s always been a team guy and hopefully I’m the same way.”

Popovich said he’s never been around a player like James, who doesn’t seem to be showing any signs of slowing down at 33. And while Popovich marvels at James’ physical gifts, he’s more impressed by how the four-time MVP carries himself off the floor.

James has had a major impact in Northeast Ohio with his community efforts. His foundation has supported kids in the Akron area to attend college tuition free, which is why Popovich was so put off by Ingraham’s remarks.

“It’s kind of like the `Black Panther’ movie,” Popovich said. “How cool is that for kids to see that, to have that superhero? Well, LeBron’s been that for a long time. For somebody to be totally numb to that and attack him in such a childish way really speaks more volumes about that individual than it does LeBron. He’s very, very special. We should all be very proud that we have someone like that who’s willing to speak about a variety of topics and you listen to them all.”

PBT Extra: One last mock draft of NBA lottery

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DeAndre Ayton will go No. 1 to the Phoenix Suns Thursday night. Marvin Bagley III probably goes second to Sacramento (but that’s not a lock).

After that, things get wide open in the 2018 NBA Draft. Teams value different players at very different levels this year, and there are going to be a number of trades.

Which makes putting together a mock draft for this year more random than a roulette wheel. Not that it stopped me. Here is my final mock draft for the 14 lottery picks. I present it without much confidence, but I’m throwing it out there anyway.

Report: Dewayne Dedmon opts in for $6.3 million with Hawks

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The Hawks’ rebuild got going with big John Collins. Though they’re reportedly eying Luka Doncic with the No. 3 pick, they could easily draft another big – Jaren Jackson Jr., Mohamed Bamba, Marvin Bagley or Wendell Carter.

And then there’s veteran center Dewayne Dedmon.

He no longer fits in Atlanta (never did, really). But he’s not bypassing a chance to earn $6.3 million.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

There just wasn’t going to be that much money for the 28-year-old Dedmon in a tight market this summer.

Dedmon is a good defender, and he developed his ball skills – as a 3-point shooter and passer – in Atlanta last season. The Hawks could look to trade him. Maybe, in a deal primarily about his expiring contract, he adds extra value to the other team due to his playing ability.

If Atlanta doesn’t move him, Dedmon will be a fine player on a likely tanking team. At least he’s not good enough to subvert the Hawks’ tank, especially with the new lottery format.

Nick Young says ‘everybody needs to do cocaine,’ later insists he was joking

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Nick Young will say and do nearly anything for attention.

Empowered by the Warriors’ championship, he swung for the fences when asked about Canada passing marijuana legalization.

Young, via TMZ:

“I want people to pass cocaine,” the NBA star told TMZ Sports outside 1 OAK on Tuesday night … “Everybody needs to do cocaine!”

Predictably, that caused a bit of an uproar. Then, Young backtracked:

Chill. You know I was just joking

A post shared by Nick Young (@swaggyp1) on

Too late, Nick. People are already asking questions you don’t want asked.

Report: 76ers trade No. 39 pick to Lakers

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The 76ers have too many 2018 draft picks – Nos. 10, 26, 38, 39, 56 and 60.

Philadelphia already has 11 players under contract for next season. Plus, the 76ers have the space to add premier players. There just isn’t room for everyone on the roster.

So, Philadelphia unloaded one of those selections.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

This is good return for the 76ers, who everyone knew had to trade a draft pick. The rebuilding Bulls could easily land a higher second-round pick than No. 39 next year.

Why do the Lakers want an extra second-rounder this year? Second-round picks don’t count against the cap until signed, and they can always slightly sweeten a trade offer. They’re helpful for a team with big plans and little wiggle room.