Boston reportedly not a “top target” for Davis, but would that matter?

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It’s obvious that Anthony Davis‘ agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, is trying to push his client to the Lakers.

For one thing, why else would he leak it that he told the Pelicans Davis will not re-sign and wants to be traded? Paul could have said that to the Pelicans, kept it quiet, and let them work the market into the summer. However, leaking it now puts pressure on the Pelicans — is Davis going to get booed at home games? — and gives the Lakers and other teams a window to get a deal done before the Celtics can really get involved (the CBA prevents them from being active in this trade until July 1 because they traded for Kyrie Irving and teams can’t trade to have two players with max rookie contract extensions at the same time).

Then comes this report from the well-connected Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Regarding team preferences, Boston is not a top target for Davis, sources said. There’s a growing belief of uncertainty that Kyrie Irving will re-sign with Boston, sources said, even though he vowed to do so at the beginning of the season.

I will say that “uncertainty” and rumors of a parting of the ways between Irving and Boston are all over the league. There’s nothing concrete, but a lot of teams think that could be the direction things go this July when Irving opts out and becomes a free agent. Even though Irving did say he would re-sign in Boston.

This looks like part of a push from Davis’ camp to get the 25-year-old big man to Los Angeles.

Will it be enough is another question.

The Pelicans do not have an obligation to trade Davis where he wants to go, they have to get the best deal for their franchise that they can. If Davis were traded to Boston he could walk after a season, but he’d be leaving a lot of money on the table (if Davis signs short-term contracts wherever he is traded he can get close to the $240 million New Orleans can offer).

Sources I spoke to said the Pelicans are not feeling rushed to get a deal done (others, including Haynes, have reported the same thing). Maybe an offer comes in that blows them away and they take it, but they can wait this out until after the draft (see who gets the No. 1 pick and the rights to Zion Williamson) and after July 1, when Boston and its trove of assets (Jayson Tatum, Jaylen Brown, draft picks) can get in the mix.

What it really comes down to is this: How much do the Pelicans value Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, and Kyle Kuzma? Is there a future All-Star in that group? Opinions around the league are divided, there are still fans of Ball and Ingram in front offices, who seem them guys who can develop into second or, more likely, third options on a very good team. Kuzma is loved as a scorer. But there are a lot of front office people who think none of them are ever an All-Star. Throw in the fact Ball is out for at least another month with a sprained ankle, and it seems unlikely the Pelicans will pull the trigger on that deal without waiting out other options.

But the Pelicans have done plenty of unpredictable things. Nobody knows how this is going to play out.

Zion Williamson’s attorneys work to avoid him answering questions about improper benefits at Duke

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MIAMI (AP) — Attorneys for NBA rookie Zion Williamson seek to block his former marketing agent’s effort to have the ex-Duke star answer questions about whether he received improper benefits before playing for the Blue Devils.

In a Florida court filing last week, Williamson’s attorneys say those questions are “nothing more than a fishing expedition aimed at tarnishing Williamson’s reputation” and designed to “maximize potential embarrassment and media coverage in an attempt to improperly gain settlement leverage.”

“Plaintiffs’ irrelevant and invasive requests are designed to harass and not calculated to lead to discovery of relevant evidence,” Friday’s filing states.

It is the latest exchange in the fight over the No. 1 overall NBA draft pick’s endorsement potential.

Prime Sports Marketing and company president Gina Ford filed her lawsuit last summer in Florida, accusing Williamson and the agency now representing him of breach of contract. Williamson filed his own lawsuit a week earlier in North Carolina to terminate a five-year contract with Prime Sports after moving to Creative Artists Agency LLC.

Ford’s attorneys had submitted questions this month asking whether the New Orleans Pelicans rookie or anyone on his behalf sought or accepted “money, benefits, favors or things of value” to sign with Duke. Those filings – offering no evidence of wrongdoing by Williamson or his family – sought answers within 30 days to establish facts under oath in the pretrial discovery process.

Williamson’s attorneys seek a stay while appealing the December denial of their motion to dismiss the Florida case based on lack of jurisdiction, or a protective order as an alternative.

At the heart of the dueling lawsuits over Williamson’s marketing rights is this: Williamson says the contract he signed with Prime Sports is illegal under North Carolina’s Uniform Athlete Agent Act (UAAA) because Ford was not registered with North Carolina to negotiate with amateur athletes (which Zion was at the time, having just played for Duke). Ford and Prime dispute that, saying this was a legal and binding negotiation.

One key reason NBA may return with 22 teams: Players want regular-season games

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Nothing is set in stone about an NBA return — at least not until next Thursday — but momentum seems to be building behind a plan that would bring 22 teams to the Orlando bubble.

That plan brings every team within six games of the playoffs when the season was halted into the competition, a total of 22 teams (13 from the West and nine from the East, the playoff teams plus Portland, New Orleans, Sacramento, San Antonio, Phoenix, and Washington). There would be some regular-season games played, likely five to eight, followed by a play-in tournament for the final playoff seeds, then the playoffs with full seven-game series each round. Exactly what that play-in tournament would look and if the NBA would stick with the conference playoff alignment or seed 1-16 is up in the air (although the conference alignment seems to have more backing).

Why that plan? For one, it gets more cities and more fan bases involved — and it happens to bring Zion Williamson and the Pelicans into the mix, a big television draw. It also could help a few teams reach a 70-game broadcast threshold with local broadcasters.

Mostly, however, the players want it because they get some games under them before the playoffs start, something Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne reported on at ESPN.

Regardless of how many teams are ultimately included in the playoffs, the National Basketball Players Association has consistently stressed that it wants several regular-season games to be played prior to the start of the playoffs, sources said. That has been a prevailing sentiment among several contending teams that prefer a tuneup before beginning the postseason, sources said.

A lot of players — influential players — have pushed for some regular season or meaningful games before the playoffs start. It’s about health, as trainers told us at NBC Sports, go from zero to 100 jumping straight into the playoffs and teams are asking for injuries. Players understand that.

Maybe only 20 teams end up in Orlando, that plan is on the table as well, but either way expect some regular-season games before the playoffs start. If the powerful players want it to happen, it will.

PBT Podcast: 2020 NBA Mock Draft crossover podcast, Part Deux

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We’re back at it… and not just drinking beer during a podcast. Although we do that, too.

For the third consecutive season, Rob Dauster of College Basketball Talk and I collaborated for a first-round mock draft. Rob knows the prospects better than anyone; I provide some knowledge about what the teams might be looking for. The result is a unique listening experience breaking down who will be picked where based on fit.

The first ten picks can be found over on the College Basketball Talk feed.

Here we finish off the lottery and run through the entire rest of the first round.

As always, you can check out the podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google play, or check out the NBC Sports Podcast homepage and archive at Art19.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.

LeBron James, Stephen Curry, Kevin Durant make top 10 of Forbes highest-paid athletes list

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LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and Kevin Durant make more money off the court in endorsements than they do in salary from their teams. Which is not a surprise.

It’s enough money to vault them into the top 10 of FORBES Magazine’s list of highest-paid athletes for the last year.

LeBron is fifth at $88.2 million, of which $37.4 million is salary (although Forbes lists it as much less). Stephen Curry is sixth at $74.4 million, and Durant is seventh at $69.3 million.

Rounding out basketball players in the top 20 are Russell Westbrook at 12th ($56 million), James Harden at 17th $47.8 million, and Giannis Antetokounmpo at $47.6 million. Overall, 34 NBA players are in the top 100, including rookie Zion Williamson at 57th ($27.3 million).

Tennis legend Roger Federer topped the list at $106.3 million, and he was followed by soccer stars Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionel Messi, and Neymar, before we got to LeBron.

Despite all the work that goes into them, these Forbes estimates have a reputation for being off the mark. That said, it makes for a fun debate and ranking, and we could all use that right now.