GM Danny Ainge calls Celtics’ blockbuster trade “unlikely”

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The San Antonio Spurs want the Celtics to go all-in on the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes — an offer of Jaylen Brown, Marcus Morris (for salary balancing), and next year’s Kings’ first-round pick (No. 1 protected only) could win the bidding.

Danny Ainge and the Celtics are not moving fast on this — nor should they be. Do nothing this summer and the Celtics are still probably the team to beat in the East next season (let’s see how free agency shakes out before getting to formal with rankings). Sources say that Boston is not eager to include Brown in any deal, and they are not doing anything without both fresh medical reports on Leonard’s quadriceps tendonitis, and talking to the man and his representatives. Which is wise.

Boston president Ainge also admitted it makes a deal getting done unlikely. Here is what he said, via Chris Forsberg of ESPN.

“If I feel like it’ll help our team — we explore every trade of players of certain magnitude or superstar, first-ballot Hall of Fame-type of players,” Ainge said Friday after the Celtics formally introduced first-round pick Robert Williams at the Auerbach Center. “We’re going to take a look and kick the tires and see if there’s something there. But that’s all.

“I think those things are unlikely.”

Right now the Lakers and Sixers are the teams pushing hard to get a deal done, both feeling pressure because they believe that if they land Leonard, LeBron James will shortly follow.

The Lakers appear to be the frontrunner. Los Angeles is trying hard not to put all their best assets on the table — reportedly they have been slow to offer Brandon Ingram. It’s going to take him to get a deal done (I have been told the Spurs do not want Lonzo Ball), and probably Kyle Kuzma as well, plus a third team to absorb Luol Deng‘s contract (and that team will want a serious sweetener in the mix). For the Lakers, that is worth it if it lands Leonard and LeBron, but they are rightfully trying to extract the best deal they can. Los Angeles is also reported to be talking to Denver and other teams looking to unload a bad contract and would surrender a first-round pick the Lakers could give the Spurs as well, but taking on that contract would likely mean no Paul George (who, according to sources, is seriously considering a short contract to stay in OKC).

Philadelphia’s offer is reportedly Dario Saric, Robert Covington, and the Miami Heat unprotected 2021 pick. The Sixers ould include Markelle Fultz instead of Saric, if the Spurs wanted, and they have other picks and options to throw in the mix.

It’s in the Spurs hands right now, and they are going to be patient and wait for the best offer they can get. They can afford to wait on Boston, putting pressure on L.A. If the Lakers think they can get Leonard and not give up Ingram or other key assets, this could drag out. Complicating LeBron’s decision.

Still, things are trending the way Lakers fans want.

LeBron James finishes Rajon Rondo alley-oop to close out half (VIDEO)

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One of the reasons LeBron James leads the league in assists — other than the fact he can do anything on the basketball court he wants — is that he was the Lakers’ only quality playmaker to start the season. He had to set guys up.

Until Rajon Rondo returned recently from injury.

Now Rondo is setting up everyone — including LeBron for this monster alley-oop just before the half Tuesday night.

LeBron can still finish with the best of them.

Just don’t ask him about doing the dunk contest.

 

New Orleans spoils Carmelo Anthony’s Portland debut in 115-104 Pelicans win

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NEW ORLEANS (AP) — Jrue Holiday had 22 points and 10 assists, Brandon Ingram added 21 points, and the New Orleans Pelicans spoiled Carmelo Anthony’s Portland debut with a 115-104 victory over the Trail Blazers on Tuesday night.

Anthony finished with 10 points while Portland leading scorer and four-time All-Star Damian Lillard missed his first game of the season with back spasms.

Starting at forward and playing across the street from where he led Syracuse to the 2003 NCAA championship over Kansas, Anthony scored the Blazers’ first points of the game on a 3-pointer from 26 feet out. However, he wound up missing 10 of 14 shots in what was the first game of his 17th NBA season.

Ingram looked spry in his return from right knee soreness that sidelined him four games, particularly on an authoritative, driving, one-handed dunk that got the crowd roaring in the opening quarter.

J.J. Redick hit 4 of 9 3-pointers and scored 14 points for New Orleans, which has won two straight and three of four. Kenrich Williams, who got the start at forward, filled the stat sheet with hustle plays, grabbing 14 rebounds to go with three steals and a blocked shot. He also scored eight points.

Holiday highlighted his night with a spinning dribble around Nassir Little for a driving dunk. In the second half, he scored on an unusual play in which he remained under his own basket, re-tying his shoes while his team advanced 4-on-5 into the offensive end. Holiday then came sprinting down court, took a handoff from Nicolo Melli near the 3-point line and exploded toward the rim for a layup.

C.J. McCollum led Portland with 22 points, while Hassan Whiteside added 14 points and 14 rebounds.

Anthony wasted no time getting his first shot off. His miss from 20 feet came within the opening 30 seconds and was Portland’s first shot of the game. Anthony also took Portland’s second shot, hitting his first of two made 3s.

But when Anthony tried to rise for a two-handed dunk in the first half, he was met with resistance by a member of the NBA’s rookie class when eighth overall draft pick Jaxson Hayes rejected the attempt.

Hayes closed out the half with his third block, swatting away a driving floater by Anfernee Simons to keep Portland’s lead at 54-53.

New Orleans seized momentum in the third quarter, going up by 13 on a sequence that began when Melli hit a 3 and then got the ball right back in a largely vacated Portland back court after Nickeil Alexander-Walker dove to swipe the ball away from McCollum. Melli went straight in for a dunk that made it 83-70.

Portland responded with three quick 3s — two by Kent Bazemore — during a 9-2 run that trimmed New Orleans’ lead to six before Alexander-Walker, who had hit 11 3s in his previous two games, ended the period by banking in a straightaway 3 to make it 88-79.

Watch Carmelo Anthony’s first bucket as a Trail Blazer

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That Carmelo Anthony started the first game he played for Portland speaks to why they signed him in the first place — this team is so shorthanded along the front line that the guy they just signed got thrown into the fire.

Anthony responded with a solid level of play. His first bucket was a wing three where both defenders went to CJ McCollum and left ‘Melo wide open.

Anthony played 12 minutes in the first half and had 7 points, 3 rebounds, 1 block, and three fouls. The team was looking to keep him at around 20 minutes for his first game back.

Portland led New Orleans 54-53 at the half.

How a single computer folder and dogged HR official exposed former Kings executive’s $13.4M embezzlement scheme

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Just how close did Jeff David come to getting away with embezzling $13.4 million from the Kings while working for them? He already secured a new job with the Heat and was in the process of moving from Sacramento to Miami.

Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN:

On this Monday, walking through the Davids’ new front door is a dizzying procession of cable guys, utility workers and movers. Amid all of this, Jeff receives a phone call from a former co-worker with the Kings. Her name is Stacy Wegzyn, and she works in HR. Jeff last remembers sitting in her office in Sacramento just months earlier, being told that the Kings were going to eliminate his position. After a few pleasantries, she gets down to business. She tells Jeff she’s been going through his old files, and in doing so she found one labeled “TurboTax” that references an entity called Sacramento Sports Partners.

“I was just curious what that is and if those are documents that should go to somebody else,” Wegzyn says.

It’s a seemingly innocuous inquiry from an HR lifer. But it’s one that will dictate the rest of Jeff David’s life. If he knows that — or senses it — he doesn’t let on.

“No, no, no,” Jeff responds. “That was a … man, this is taking me back. Maybe 2015?”

Wegzyn presses on. She asks Jeff whether the documents contain anything that anyone with the Kings needs to see. Jeff assures her they can trash them because the entity isn’t around anymore. A few minutes after he hangs up, his mother-in-law, Nancy, is standing at the front door when an FBI investigator appears, asking to speak to Jeff.

If you like the NBA or true crime – let alone both – I HIGHLY recommend reading Arnovitz’s full piece. It’s riveting!