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Clippers executive Jerry West calls Celtics’ Gordon Hayward ‘a very good player’

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Clippers executive Jerry West raved about Warriors stars Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green – which sounded a lot like the comments that got Lakers president Magic Johnson fined for tampering with Bucks star Giannis Antetokounmpo.

But Johnson previously received a tampering warning for winking at Paul George. Maybe West got warned for his Golden State remarks.

After all, NBA commissioner Adam Silver explained the Johnson fine: “What we’ve said to him, and it’s a clear message to other team executives, is that stop talking about star players on other teams. There are plenty of other issues they can address.”

Well, West again talked about a star player on another team. This time it was Celtics forward Gordon Hayward.

West, via Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald:

“I’ll just say that every once in a while, there’s a chance that people get to take advantage of someone,” West said. “I don’t think that will ever happen again, but what Brooklyn did almost should be legislated against, to be honest with you.

“It’s very much like when Stepien was in Cleveland,” he added, referring to former Cavs owner Ted Stepien, who traded away so many first-round picks that the league no longer allows teams to trade first-rounders in consecutive years. “We got the No. 1 pick in the draft (James Worthy in 1982) out of it, who helped us win championships.

“But Danny’s done a nice job back there. Are they good enough? They had a terrible break with a very good player (Gordon Hayward), and are they good enough now? At the end of a couple of years, they’re going to be judged by that, by how they’re doing then — not by now. They’ve got some good young players. They’ve got a terrific coach. They’ve got a lot of positive things going, that’s for sure.”

I promise I’m not trying to pick on West. I appreciate his perspective, as a former great player and longtime executive. I don’t think he should be punished for this.

But I wouldn’t blame the Lakers one bit if they feel they’re being held to a different standard. The NBA has created an unease around the most benign forms of tampering – the most meaningful still go largely unchecked – thanks to a selective enforcement.

Moving onto to the substance of West’s quote, he might be right about a rule change to prevent another Brooklyn situation.

It’s easy to say the NBA shouldn’t protect teams from themselves, but that’s probably counter to the league’s financial interests. The Nets have been hopeless for three years, and it’ll probably take multiple more seasons to dig out of this hole. A large market is going to waste. The NBA is a money-making enterprise more than anything else, so that’s a big problem.

The Nets found a loophole in the Stepien Rule with pick swaps, allowing the team to keep a first-rounder every other year – just not the high one their lousy record would otherwise entitle them to. It was a clever workaround, one that effectively nullified the Stepien Rule.

There’s a case that Brooklyn’s plight will dissuade teams from ever trying such a plan again. But a similar case could have been made about Stepien’s Cavs, and the league decided that type of trading must be specifically prohibited.

The Stepien Rule exists for a reason, and if that reason is valid, the rule doesn’t go far enough.

Fixing that would be a much better use of the league’s time than (sometimes) turning harmless mentions of opposing players into the high crime of tampering.

Report: Markelle Fultz was available in trade packages on draft night

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The Philadelphia 76ers are saying all the right things about Markelle Fultz — they are patient, they believe in his work with his new trainer to rebuild his jump shot, and they see him as part of the future. Plus, his handles look sharp.

That doesn’t mean the Sixers are not willing to trade him in their pursuit of a star player. In fact, he was available on draft night in packages, reports Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

The Sixers say they aren’t shopping him. However, there was a report that they had internal discussions about packing him with Nos. 10 and 26 picks to move up into the Top 5 in Thursday’s draft. And multiple league sources have said that Fultz was available to be traded.

But it’s hard to get equal value in return for trading someone relearning how to shoot. The Sixers know that. They also know that if things do come together, Fultz will be a special player. He has the potential to become the type of player they would regret trading away.

Outside of a handful of superstars, every player in the NBA is available in a trade, at least in theory. Fultz is no different. The question in his case is what do they see as an upgrade vs. his potential?

Kawhi Leonard would be an upgrade, unquestionably. Fultz could be part of a package to land Leonard in a trade (Fultz, Robert Covington, the Miami 2021 first rounder, and probably more picks would be a starting point). Once the Spurs get serious about a potential Leonard trade (they are not there yet) how enticing that offer might be comes down to what they think of Fultz and his potential.

The Sixers are not shy about their desire to land an established All-Star to pair with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. If they don’t get Leonard, they will be looking at the next All-Star who becomes available, and Fultz could be part of those deals, too.

Fultz is not playing in Summer League for the Sixers, but if he comes back this fall trusting his jumper and starting to look like the player who was drafted No. 1 that trade value goes way up (and the Sixers may be less inclined to move him).  It may be then before the Sixers can get a respectable return on any Fultz trade.

Report: Indiana to retain Bojan Bogdanovic, he could start again next season

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Bojan Bogdanovic is the kind of floor spacing shooter the Pacers need next to the attacking Victor Oladipo. He started 80 games for the team, scored 14.3 points per game and shot 40.2 percent from three.

Bogdanovic is due $10.5 million next season, but the Pacers can buy him out before next Friday (June 29) for $1.5 million.

They’re not going to do that, the Pacers are going to retain Bogdanovic, reports Ben Gibson at the Pacers site 8points9seconds.com.

The Indiana Pacers currently plan to retain Bojan Bogdanovic — whose contract is only partially guaranteed for next season — and would be comfortable going into next season with him as a starter, according to a source familiar with the Pacers offseason plans.

There’s no surprise here, it was expected. Bogdanovic provides genuine value to the team — they need him on the court as a shooter, he averaged the second most threes per game on the squad. And, as an expiring contract, he could be used in any potential trades for another star.

The Pacers also have a decision to make on Darren Collison, who is owed $10 million next season but has a $2 million buyout by July 1. They will probably keep him around.

Al Jefferson is owed $10 million next season but can be bought out for $4 million before next January 10. Expect the Pacers to exercise that option and buy him out well before that date.

Carmelo Anthony sends message to haters: ‘Take A Step Back… And Enjoy Life’

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When the expected became official and Carmelo Anthony opted to take the $27.8 million contractually owed him next season, there were groans from the Thunder faithful.

It was Anthony’s right — and everyone knew he was going to take the cash (we all would have done the same) — but his value on the court has shrunk and that’s what eats at the OKC faithful. Anthony’s response on Instagram was, essentially, “relax, it’s just basketball.”

It will be interesting to see if Anthony is back with the Thunder next season, or if he gets bought out. If he does return, how do they better fit him in the offense?

Anthony’s defense has long been a concern, but his offense used to be efficient enough, and his ability to create shots important enough, that teams lived with the defense. However, his efficiency has slid in recent years and, as we saw in the playoffs in April, it’s not enough anymore. The Thunder played better with other lineups. To which Anthony responded he has to get back to his old style of play more.

It’s going to be a wild summer in OKC. Whatever happens.

Suns to sign French point guard Elie Okobo to first-round style contract

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The Suns have an impressive young core four: Devin Booker at the two, Mikal Bridges at the three, Josh Jackson at the four, and Deandre Ayton at center.

The hole: Who will be the point guard?

The Suns like Elie Okobo of France a lot. They drafted him 31st overall, the top pick of the second round, but they will give him a first-round style contract with two guaranteed seasons and two team options after that, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

The Suns hinted they were going to do this, and it’s a smart move at a fair price if they can develop Okobo (even as a backup).

Okobo has potential. Last season, at the highest level of the athletic French league he averaged 13.2 points on 57 percent shooting (38 percent from three) plus 4.4 assists per game. Okobo is an NBA level athlete who has all the tools to be a good NBA point guard — and he already knows how to score (he had 44 points in a playoff game this season). He’s going to have to round out his game and adapt to the NBA style, but the Suns think they have something.

And they are betting they have with a nice sized contract.