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NBA Commissioner Emeritus David Stern: ‘Dell Demps is a lousy general manager … and he may lose Anthony Davis’

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David Stern’s blamed the Rockets and Lakers for the fallout from the vetoed Chris Paul-Lakers trade. Stern blamed former Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak specifically for the deal falling through.

And now Stern is blaming Pelicans general manager Dell Demps.

A refresher on events: In 2011, Stern was serving as both NBA commissioner and owner representative of the New Orleans franchise (then called the Hornets). George Shinn had sold the Hornets back to the league, which was in the process of re-selling the franchise. Chris Paul requested a trade from New Orleans, and Demps agreed to send him to the Lakers in a three-way trade with the Rockets. The Hornets would have gotten Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and a first-round pick. But Stern – acting as New Orleans’ owner representative, not commissioner, he says – vetoed the deal. It’s standard for owners to exercise final say on deals of that magnitude, but Stern’s dual roles opened many questions about his true agenda. The Hornets then traded Paul to the Clippers for Eric Gordon, Al-Farouq Aminu, Chris Kaman and a first-round pick (eventually used on Austin Rivers).

It depends how much hindsight and supposition you want to apply, but Stern probably got New Orleans a better deal. Dragic developed into a star, and Martin and Scola remained quality contributors for a while, but Odom fell way off, and the Hornets would have likely been middling-to-bad with the initial trade. Younger players like Gordon and Aminu and Kama’s large expiring contract gave New Orleans far more flexibility. And though Gordon battled numerous injuries there, Aminu didn’t blossom until he left and Rivers was a disappointing top-10 pick (who also hit his groove after leaving), New Orleans got something else in the trade – a clear rebuilding direction. New Orleans was bad the following season and got the No. 1 pick, Anthony Davis.

Still, the episode casts a shadow over Stern’s legacy – from people who don’t understand Stern’s unique place as commissioner/owner and from people who do understand but are suspicious of Stern’s unknowable motives in keeping Paul from the Lakers.

So, Stern is still fighting perception.

Stern, via Chris Ballard of Sports Illustrated:

“I didn’t do a great job of explaining it at the time. There was a trade that [New Orleans GM] Dell Demps wanted us to approve and I said heck no, but he had told [Rockets GM] Daryl Morey and [then Lakers GM] Mitch Kupchak he had authority to do it and he didn’t. I said no. We just settled a lockout and you want me to approve a basketball trade?”

“[Demps] had agreed to [trade Paul to the Lakers for] Kevin Martin and Luis Scola or something, and I said we can do better than that…. And the next trade was [to the Clippers for] Eric Gordon and Al-Farouq Aminu and what we thought was a really great draft pick, the 10th pick, which turned out to be Austin Rivers. At least those three and someone else [center Chris Kaman]. But Dell Demps is a lousy general manager and none of those players are currently with the team anymore, and he may lose Anthony Davis.”

This is wild! Forget for a moment whether Stern was right or wrong in his handling of the situation. He still holds a title with the league, “Commissioner Emeritus.” Though je has criticized teams before, for someone in his position to so strongly attack a sitting general manager by name like this is so extreme.

Just as Stern wasn’t wrong about the trade, he isn’t necessarily wrong here. Demps has a dismal track record, though he has upgraded his performance to questionable recently. And Davis might leave the Pelicans, a potential outcome that hangs over the franchise.

But – wow. This hell of a message from Stern, even considering his blunt and confrontational manner (which is on full display in Ballard’s excellent profile, which is worth reading in full).

Warriors first team to win five straight conference titles

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Presenting the Western Conference-championship trophy in 2015, former Warriors coach Al Attles worried about dropping it. He told Stephen Curry to pick it up directly, avoiding a potentially troublesome lift and handoff. Curry raised the trophy to a jubilant Oakland crowd.

Golden State hasn’t lost control of the trophy since.

The Warriors won their fifth straight conference title – the longest streak of all-time – with a 119-117 Game 4 win over the Trail Blazers in the Western Conference finals Monday. Only the Boston Celtics, who won 10 straight division titles 1957-1966 before the NBA adopted conference in 1971, have gone to so many consecutive NBA Finals.

Here are the longest streaks of NBA Finals appearances:

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Blazers start hot, again. Warriors come back, again, win in OT to eliminate Portland

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Monday night saw the third film in the Portland/Golden State movie franchise. We had seen this same plot in the last two games— Portland races out to an early lead thanks to unexpected hero, Golden State comes back and executes better down the stretch, then Golden State wins

Monday night was just more dramatic.

It was almost the Meyers Leonard game — he had a career-best 25 points before the half and finished with 30 points on 12-of-16 shooting.

Adding to the drama, the Warriors delayed their comeback to the fourth quarter, but comeback they did.

Stephen Curry — who had a triple-double on the night and had 37 points to lead all scorers — sparked the comeback but was almost remembered for traveling with an exaggerated Harden step back rather than taking a potential game-winning two (and his brother Seth Curry was all over the travel call).

In the end, none of that mattered.

It was Draymond Green — who also had a triple-double with 18 points, 14 rebounds, and 11 assists — that hit a dagger three in OT off a Curry assist, and that proved to be too much for the Trail Blazers to overcome.

Golden State win 119-117 in a game of little defense, and with that takes the series 4-0.

The Warriors will now have nine days off to get Andre Iguodala, Kevin Durant, and DeMarcus Cousins healthy — all three sat out this game — before taking on either the Bucks or Toronto in the Finals (which will start in the East city).

Portland is done for the season, but they should look back with pride on the growth this team has shown. They found a third star in Jusuf Nurkic, and then without him still made it all the way to the Western Conference Finals. This season was a step forward for Portland, something to build on.

Portland just did not have the matchups or answers for Golden State.

Steve Kerr, without three guys who started Game 1 of the playoffs against the Clippers, threw out the kind of rotations usually seen on the second night of a back-to-back in January, but the Warriors depth came through. Kevon Looney had a strong game with 12 points and 14 rebounds. Shaun Livingston had eight points, Jordan Bell started and had 7.

More than depth, what separated the teams in this series was Golden State could crank up the defense when it needed it. The Warriors played with more defensive intensity in the fourth, holding the Trail Blazers to 6-of-23 shooting. In overtime, Portland shot 3-of-10.

The Warriors shot just 3-of-12 in the fourth, but had five offensive rebounds and Green’s dagger three, and that was enough. They won a tough game without their stars.

It’s a movie we have seen before.

Unstoppable Meyers Leonard drops 25 on Warriors in first half (VIDEO)

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Stephen Curry had an I-don’t-want-to-play-Game-5 kind of first half for Golden State, scoring 25 points and hitting 5-of-7 from three.

However, he was the second best player on the court because Meyers Leonard held that crown.

Yes, Meyers Leonard.

He had 25 points of his own on 10-of-12 shooting.

Fans broke out a “Mey-ers Leon-ard” chant.

All that had Portland up 69-65 at the half in a defense-optional Game 4 where it is win-or-go-home for the Trail Blazers.

Knicks Frank Ntilikina reportedly wants to be traded, switches agents

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When the Knicks acquired Emmanuel Mudiay last season — a player Denver just released outright — Mudiay instantly jumped past Frank Ntilikina on the point guard depth chart. Then, when the Knicks traded for Dennis Smith Jr. at the deadline (part of the Kristaps Porzingis deal), the future of Ntilikina in New York was thrown into uncertainty.

Ntilikina sees that, wants out, and is getting a new agent as well, reports Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News.

Knicks guard Frank Ntilikina dropped CAA as his agency last season and planned to sign with French agent Bouna Ndiaye, the Daily News has learned.

Ntilikina, who was drafted eighth overall by Knicks in 2017, is on the trading block and desires a relocation, a source told the News. The Knicks declined offers to move Ntilikina at the trade deadline in February, acquired another point guard in Dennis Smith Jr., and Ntilikina quickly decided to change agents.

Ndiaye represents several French players in the NBA, including Rudy Gobert and Evan Fournier.

The Knicks are expected to try to trade Ntilikina, either at the draft or next summer. Mostly other teams will view him as a way to save money — if teams do not pick up his 2020-21 option by Oct. 31 he comes off the books after this next season — but also Ntilikina played good defense and other teams may try to take a flier on him.