Associated Press

GM Dell Demps: Julius Randle, Elfrid Payton additions make Pelicans better

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METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Whether the Pelicans are better off with Julius Randle and Elfrid Payton than they were with DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo remains to be seen.

All general manager Dell Demps could do on Friday, as he sat between his two new players, was offer assurances that New Orleans All-Star Anthony Davis was an ardent advocate for signing Randle and suggest that the “two-way” abilities of Payton and Randle give the Pelicans a promising opportunity to build on a formula that served them well late last season.

“When we finished the season last year, we felt like found a rhythm, found an identity,” Demps said, alluding to the playoff push and first-round sweep of Portland that the Pelicans pulled off without Cousins, who was rehabilitating his torn left Achilles tendon.

“We feel like the team’s improved,” Demps said. “On paper, everything looks really good. But, obviously, we have to do it on the court.”

Before Cousins spurned New Orleans in favor of a one-year, reported $5.3 million deal to join defending champion Golden State this month, the Pelicans’ party line had been that they wanted Cousins back.

But with Cousins still recovering from a serious injury, the Pelicans would not offer the maximum allowable contract for NBA free agents who are eight-year veterans: Five years and around $177 million. They tried to negotiate a shorter deal instead, to no avail.

Cousins, who turns 28 next month, was named a 2018 All-Star before his injury in late January. He averaged 25.2 points and 12.9 rebounds in 48 games last season. But Cousins also averaged five turnovers and regularly could be seen lingering near the basket after missed shots, expressing dissatisfaction with officiating while opponents raced five-on-four the other way.

After Cousins’ injury, the Pelicans improved defensively, played with a faster pace and went 21-13 to finish the regular season sixth in the Western Conference.

“Obviously we want to build off the success we had last year,” Demps said, emphasizing that Randle and Payton “are two-way players” who can “push the ball in transition.” In addition to talking up Randle’s and Payton’s defensive play, Demps highlighted their relative youth and repeatedly referred to them as “unselfish.”

The 6-foot-9 Randle, who turns 24 in November, averaged 16.1 points and eight rebounds in just 27 minutes per game with the Los Angeles Lakers last season. He also led Los Angeles in assists seven times.

Demps said he heard from Davis the moment word spread that the Lakers had decided to let Randle go after agreeing to terms with LeBron James.

“I was like, `Yeah, we’re on it,”‘ a grinning Demps recalled.

Randle said Davis also called him “like three times in a row to pretty much get the job done.”

Randle called Davis’ outreach a “very important” factor in his decision.

“It’s their star player,” Randle said of Davis, whom he also knew because they both played in college at Kentucky. “So for him to see me fit in well to that plan A and a part of their future means a lot.”

Randle also said he expects his game to improve alongside a dynamic front-court player like Davis, who Randle said will be “the best player in his prime that I’ve played with.”

Randle also played one full season with Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles in 2015-16, but that was the last of Bryant’s 20 seasons.

Like Randle, the 23-year-old Payton is entering his fifth NBA season, having averaged 12.7 points and 6.2 assists last season Orlando and Phoenix.

Rondo, who will turn 33 next season, averaged 8.3 points and 8.2 rebounds last season. But his production spiked in the playoffs, when he averaged 10.3 points and 12.2 rebounds – and displayed a knack for finding Davis with lobs at the rim.

While the 6-4 Payton is a New Orleans native who played in college at Louisiana-Lafayette, he downplayed how much his Louisiana ties influenced his decision to sign with the Pelicans.

“It didn’t matter if this team was in – wherever,” Payton said. “I just felt like this was the best fit.

“I’m best in transition, when we’re pushing the ball,” Payton added. “It definitely fits my strengths.”

Demps said he had studied Payton since before the guard turned pro and “always felt like he was a great fit for our group, especially the way we want to play.”

Was Stephen Curry just using his moon landing comments to promo his new shoe?

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The current social media marketing landscape is sort of a gross place to be. People will do anything for clicks, views, and the idea of “all PR being good PR” is taken to the extreme by many parties.

We live in a world where Kanye West, who made a couple of good albums a decade ago, says something patently crazy in advance of any new marketing campaign as a way to keep his name in the news (and in search engines) prior to the release of a shoe or a new song. It’s not very subtle.

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry appears to have done much the same this week. Curry proposed that he didn’t believe that humans had landed on the moon, prompting widespread discussion of the kind of negative impact those comments can have. NASA wasn’t happy about it.

Both ESPN’s “PTI” and “The Jump” issued commentary on it that was out of the ordinary, and fans denounced Curry for setting a bad example and being “anti-science” and “anti-history”.

And now, just a couple of days later, Curry has a new shoe for you to buy from Under Armour. Imagine that!

Tuesday night Curry was at an event showing off the new shoes, and he even did a Q&A on Twitter. Perfect timing, don’t you think?

Steph, let me tell you buddy. This is not the way to sell a shoe. Well, it is one way to sell a shoe in 2018, but as the two-time NBA MVP and a three-time NBA champion, it’s definitely not the right look for a guy of your stature. This is gross, and inappropriate, and honestly damages the legacy of how people will write about you and view you in the future.

Say it was a bad joke and move on. It’s not worth it to look like you’d sell your soul just to huck some rip-off Kobe 10 All-Stars anyway.

The UA Curry 6 drops soon but I’m not telling you where.

Rumor: Suns not interested in Markelle Fultz

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We finally have a diagnosis for Philadelphia 76ers point guard Markelle Fultz. According to doctors, Fultz suffers from thoracic outlet syndrome, which has hampered his ability to shoot a basketball and be functional on an NBA floor.

There have been rumors that the Sixers want to move on from Fultz. Those rumors have been shot down, but a public denial is not a guarantee against a private admission.

Meanwhile the NBA sphere has started to churn about where Fultz could fit in and start over. An obvious landing spot would be the Phoenix Suns, who have needed a point guard for some time and come with less pressure than Philadelphia.

But according to at least one report from Arizona, the Suns aren’t interested in Fultz. Phoenix radio host John Gambadoro said as much on Twitter on Tuesday.

Via Twitter:

This doesn’t say much. Any information sourced to reporters at this juncture could just as easily be Phoenix driving down the cost of a Fultz trade as it is true information about them not having interest.

Still, the idea of Fultz in Phoenix does make some sense on paper, and if the Suns aren’t interested it adds another layer to the story about where the young point guard might eventually end up. The future doesn’t seem bright for Fultz and the Sixers, but for now we’ll just have to wait.

Kevin Durant on legacy of current Warriors stars: ‘We’ll probably all get statues’

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Will Kevin Durant stay with the Golden State Warriors after this summer?

That’s the question on the mind of everyone in the NBA and particularly the basketball fans in the Bay Area. Durant is rumored to desire a change of scenery, especially if he wins another championship at the end of this year with the Warriors.

If Durant does leave Oakland, what will his legacy be with Warriors fans? It’s hard to determine that right now, just as it would be difficult to know how the organization would deal with honoring Durant after he retires.

No matter what, Durant thinks the best players on this current roster will have their jerseys retired and have statues put up out front of the new arena in San Francisco.

“I know for a fact that we’ll all get out jerseys retired,” said Durant. “We’ll probably all get statues in front of the Chase Center. We’ll be Bay Area legends forever.”

Via Twitter:

There’s no indication from Durant’s comments that he is going to decide to stay with the Warriors, so take them with a grain of salt. I think the Durant is one of the most enigmatic stars to have graced league in the last 30 years, so any assumptions about what he wants is pure speculation.

But, if he leaves, do you really think Golden State would give him a statue?

Rudy Gobert says if officials don’t start protecting him from fouls ‘it’s gonna get ugly’

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Utah Jazz big man Rudy Gobert has been no stranger to NBA officials this season. The Frenchman has already been fined for his comments on what he believes is poor officiating, and he doesn’t appear to be letting up anytime soon.

After the Jazz lost a heartbreaker to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Monday, 122-113, Gobert again decided to make it known how he felt about the folks in gray.

Specifically, Rudy Gobert said that if officials weren’t going to start protecting him against other players fouling him with disregard, he would have to take it into his own hands.

Via the Salt Lake Tribune:

“Tonight, someone grabbed my arm, pulled me down — that was a very dangerous play, and I got called for the foul. So if I gotta do justice myself, I’m gonna do justice myself. And it’s gonna get ugly,” Gobert said. “Hopefully I don’t have to do that. I just want to play basketball.”

That’s about as close as we’ll ever get to fighting words in the NBA, and Gobert was probably pretty heated after the loss when he said those things.

Still, officiating has been a question around the league this season, and it’s possible that Gobert has some legitimate complaints. Hopefully the coaching staff and front office in Utah is doing what they can to lobby the league so that Gobert doesn’t take it out on his fellow players. He’s already slapped a water bottle off the scorer’s table this year, and the Jazz can’t afford Gobert boiling over.