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Ranking the top 10 Anthony Davis trade suitors

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I feel like there is a better chance I could predict the outcome of the OSCAR for Best Documentary Short Subject than I do what will happen with Anthony Davis’ trade demand. And I have seen zero of those films.

There are two reasons that predicting the Davis situation is difficult:

1) What do the Pelicans want back? There’s been kind of an assumption New Orleans will go the rebuild path and seek picks and young players — and that would be the prudent basketball move. However, smaller market teams often don’t want to go all the way down to a 17-win season to chase draft picks, feeling it hurts them too much with a smaller fan base already. Indiana thought this, then nailed a trade of Paul George getting Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis back. Will the Pelicans be looking to rebuild or for guys who can keep them viable now (or, to walk the thin line of trying to do both)? That’s an ownership call, which brings us to issue No. 2…

2) Who is making the call on this trade? Ultimately trades of this magnitude have to be approved by the owner, and nobody has a good read on new owner Gayle Benson. Will she just want to get this circus over and trade Davis right away? Also, who is she trusting to make this call? Micky Loomis? Dell Demps? Will the Pelicans clean house and get a new front office? Nobody is really sure.

Those rather massive caveats aside, here are my rankings of the suitors.

1. Los Angeles Lakers. They have this top spot until 3 PM Eastern on Feb. 7 — the trade deadline. Once it passes they fall behind Boston, and potentially the Knicks (depending on the draft lottery). However, as of right now Davis’ agent Rich Paul has not-so-subtly set things up so the Lakers have a first shot at landing Davis (also Paul can — and likely will soon — pull out the “Davis will only re-sign with the Lakers” card).

The Lakers’ trade offer is simple: Anyone and anything you want not named LeBron James. Despite what some Lakers fans think, there is no sure-fire All-Star player in that young Laker core so the trade will have to be all of them: Kyle Kuzma, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, maybe Josh Hart, a first-round pick or two, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope to balance out the salaries. The question is do the Pelicans like that offer enough to move on it now? Especially since New Orleans knows the Lakers are all in and that same offer will be on the table in July. Sources have told me the Pelicans plan to be patient in making a decision, which is bad for the Lakers and good for the next team on this list.

2. Boston Celtics. After the trade deadline passes, they move to the front of the line because come July 1 they can make the best offer (Boston can’t trade for Davis right now because it has Kyrie Irving on the roster and teams cannot trade for two max-level contract extension players at the same time). The Celtics have the best young player on the board in these offers, the sure-fire future All-Star in Jayson Tatum (who has plateaued this season when forced to take a smaller role, but given the rock again with another team would thrive). The Celtics also have Jaylen Brown. And they have better picks to offer than the Lakers: The Kings first rounder this year (No. 1 protected, in which case it’s the Sixers’ pick), the Clippers pick (lottery protected, that may or may not convey this year), and the best pick on the board, the Memphis pick (top eight protected this year, top six next year, unprotected in 2021). The Celtics could pick whoever the Pelicans want with those slots and trade them after July 1 (or trade the picks if they do not convey this year).

Yes, Davis has said Boston is not his preferred landing spot and is expected to soon say he would not re-sign anywhere but Los Angeles. Danny Ainge would call his bluff. Get Davis and Irving certainly will re-sign, and with those two (and maybe Tatum, the Celtics wouldn’t want to give him up but may have no choice) the Celtics are contenders for years. They will bet AD will not walk away from that.

After those two, the quality of offers drops off.

3. New York Knicks. Their offer is not that interesting right now, but it could be fascinating come May. There’s just a lot of “ifs.” If Kristaps Porzingis comes back in the final weeks of the season, plays fairly well and shows he will bounce back from the ACL tear that has sidelined him. If the Knicks land a very high pick in the draft (No. 1 and the rights to Zion Willamson, or even top three if the Pelicans love another player). If the Knicks a back-channel nod that Kevin Durant will come if they get Davis. Again, a lot of ifs. But if all of that comes together then the Knicks can pull the trigger on an interesting offer and likely re-sign Davis.

4. Winner of the NBA Draft Lottery. Consider this the Zion Williamson card. Most of the teams that might win the lottery will keep the pick and take Williamson (who will likely spend at least seven or eight seasons with the team, as Davis did with the Pelicans), but if the Knicks or Bulls win the lottery they will at least consider making an offer with that pick and another star (Porzingis for the Knicks, Lauri Markkanen for the Bulls). It adds a little intrigue to the lottery night.

5. Toronto Raptors. Everyone loves Pascal Siakam this season, he is a frontrunner for Most Improved Player for a reason, and he could help finally propel the Raptors to the NBA Finals. But love him enough to trade Davis for him? Probably not. A package of Siakam, OG Anunoby, Jonas Valanciunas, and picks likely will not get it done, but it’s at least an offer the Pelicans would consider.

6. Houston Rockets. Rockets’ GM Daryl Morey is in win now mode, desperate to improve his team, and a guy who likes to make deals, so we can’t leave Houston off the list. The problem is, the Rockets are already in the tax and without players the Pelicans would want in a straight-up trade. This would need to be a three-team trade with Philly (Jimmy Butler to the Rockets, Davis to the Sixers?) or Miami or some other party. It would be very complex and may not interest the Pelicans, but expect Morey to try.

7. Philadelphia 76ers. Philly isn’t trading Joel Embiid, and the Pelicans are not going to do a Butler for Davis swap because Butler is a free agent this summer and would only be in New Orleans long enough to have a fried oyster po’ boy. How about Ben Simmons (and filler) for Davis — that’s very interesting on paper. However, both players are Rich Paul clients and he is working to get AD out of New Orleans, he doesn’t want another star client on that team. Hard to imagine that coming together.

8. Brooklyn Nets. It’s probably not enough, but Brooklyn could call up with an offer of Jarrett Allen, Caris LeVert, DeMarre Carroll and a first-round pick. With D’Angelo Russell, Spencer Dinwiddie and Davis the Nets would make a playoff push this season. Could they re-sign Davis? Probably not and they may have to flip him again this summer, but it’s worth watching.

9. Milwaukee Bucks. The Bucks are rumored to be offering anyone on their roster outside of Giannis Antetokounmpo for Davis. A trade would have to look something like Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, Malcolm Brogdon, Donte DiVincenzo, D.J. Wilson, Thon Maker, Sterling Brown and Christian Wood for Davis. Not sure that works for either team, the Bucks would have Davis and Antetokounmpo but almost literally nothing else. And for the Pelicans, do they want a bunch of players supposed to go around the Greek Freak but not really made to play on their own?

10. Portland Trail Blazers. In theory the two sides could do a C.J. McCollum trade for Davis, giving the Blazers a rental to chase a ring with Damian Lillard, and the Pelicans would not bottom out with McCollum. However, the buzz is Portland is not going down this road, and we don’t know what the Pelicans want back in a deal.

It’s kind of the same thing with Denver: It’s a fun thought exercise to put together a trade package around Jamal Murray, but the deal would almost certainly never get done.

Vanessa Bryant sues sheriff over Kobe Bryant helicopter-crash photos

Kobe Bryant crash site
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LOS ANGELES — Vanessa Bryant, the widow of basketball star Kobe Bryant, has filed a lawsuit against the Los Angeles County sheriff claiming deputies shared unauthorized photos of the crash that killed her husband, their 13-year-old daughter and seven others.

After the Jan. 26 crash, reports surfaced that graphic photos of the victims were being shared. Vanessa Bryant was “shocked and devastated” by the reports, the lawsuit states.

The suit seeks damages for negligence, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress.

The victims died when the helicopter crashed into a hillside in Calabasas, northwest of Los Angeles, during cloudy weather. They were traveling to a youth basketball tournament at Bryant’s sports facility in Thousand Oaks. The National Transportation Safety Board has not concluded what caused the crash on the outskirts of Los Angeles County but said there was no sign of mechanical failure in the Sikorsky S-76. helicopter.

Sheriff Alex Villanueva previously told news media that eight deputies took or shared graphic photos of the scene and he ordered the images deleted. The sheriff said the department has a policy against taking and sharing crime scene photos, but it does not apply to accident scenes.

“That was my No. 1 priority, was to make sure those photos no longer exist,” Villanueva previously told NBC News. “We identified the deputies involved, they came to the station on their own and had admitted they had taken them and they had deleted them. And we’re content that those involved did that.”

Vanessa Bryant’s lawsuit alleges the sheriff’s actions constituted a “cover-up” of the misconduct. The suit claims the photos could still exist.

“Mrs. Bryant feels ill at the thought of strangers gawking at images of her deceased husband and child and she lives in fear that she or her children will one day confront horrific images of their loved ones online,” the lawsuit states.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom has not yet signed a bill that would make it a misdemeanor for first responders to take unauthorized photos of deceased people at the scene of an accident or crime. The legislation was prompted by the crash photos.

A statement from the sheriff’s department Tuesday incorrectly said such actions are now criminal. The bill has not yet been signed into law.

“Shortly following this tragic crash, Sheriff Villanueva sponsored legislation which now makes it a crime for public safety personnel to take and share non-official pictures of this nature,” the statement said. “Due to the pending litigation, we are unable to offer further comment.”

Vanessa Bryant’s attorney, Gary C. Robb, declined to comment.

The Los Angeles Times first reported the allegations that the graphic photos had been taken and disseminated in February.

Bryant previously filed a claim, a precursor to a lawsuit, in May. The suit was filed Thursday.

Separately, Vanessa Bryant has also filed a lawsuit alleging the helicopter’s pilot, Ara Zobayan, was careless and negligent to fly in the fog and should have aborted the flight.

The brother of the pilot has said in a court filing that Bryant knew the risks of helicopter flying and his survivors aren’t entitled to damages from the pilot’s estate, while the helicopter company, Island Express, says it is not responsible for damages, calling the crash, among other things, “an act of God” and “an unavoidable accident” that was beyond its control.

Chicago Bulls hire Billy Donovan as coach

Billy Donovan coaches Thunder-Bulls
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Billy Donovan left the Thunder despite them offering a new contract. Maybe it wasn’t as much money as he desired to coach a team that could be entering rebuilding. But active head coaches rarely turn down an NBA job unless they know they’ll land on their feet.

Donovan will land on his feet – with the Bulls.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN first broke the story, the Bulls confirmed it soon after.

“We are very pleased to welcome Billy and his family to the Chicago Bulls. The success that he has sustained over the course of his coaching career puts him on a different level,” Chicago head of basketball operations Arturas Karnisovas said in a statement. “We feel his ability to help his players reach their potential, both individually and collectively, will mesh well with our roster. Whether as a player or as a coach, he has won everywhere his career has taken him, and we hope that will continue here in Chicago.”

This is a major credibility upgrade for Chicago, which fired Jim Boylen. Donovan is a solid NBA head coach who adapts to his players rather than putting them through extreme measures.

Considering they just hired Arturas Karnisovas as president, the Bulls might have the patience for a rebuild. Donovan will be tasked with overseeing the development of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen, Coby White, Wendell Carter Jr. and the No. 4 pick in the upcoming draft. Donovan’s time as a college coach at Florida shows he can help players progress.

But Chicago also frequently faces pressure, especially internally, to win sooner than later. Donovan inherits veterans like LaVine, Otto Porter Jr., Thaddeus Young and Tomas Satoransky. Donovan showed at Oklahoma City he could manage a team with immediate expectations.

Is this group’s long-term future inspiring? No. Is this group’s present inspiring? No.

But Donovan provides a little boost in both areas.

Celtics: Romeo Langford out rest of playoffs after wrist surgery

Celtics guard Romeo Langford
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The Celtics don’t have quite enough dependable players to fill a playoff rotation. So, beyond its core, Boston has juggled deep-bench minutes throughout the postseason.

One of those options – Romeo Langford – will no longer be available.

Celtics release:

Celtics guard Romeo Langford this morning underwent successful surgery to repair the scapholunate ligament in his right wrist. He will miss the remainder of the 2019-20 NBA season.

A rookie, Langford also suffered a right-hand injury last season at Indiana. A pattern? Probably not. But it’s another interruption in the 20-year-old’s development.

For Boston’s playoff hopes, this is a minor setback – one made even smaller by Gordon Hayward returning (and staying). Though more of a forward, Hayward clears the way for Jaylen Brown and Marcus Smart to handle more guard minutes, a few of which could have gone to Langford.

Adam Silver: It’s on U.S. government whether American companies, like NBA, operate in China

NBA commissioner Adam Silver
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Politicians have repeatedly criticized the NBA for its involvement in China.

NBA commissioner Adam Silver is defending his league.

Sopan Deb of The New York Times:

Senators have power to affect the United State’s foreign policy, including where American companies are permitted to operate. The NBA shouldn’t face unique scrutiny for acting like a business, seeking to maximize profit, within legal parameters.

Silver is generally right: There is value in exposing American values to countries with authoritarian regimes. Basketball can be a good vehicle for doing so. Those connections can inspire change for the better.

But the league has repeatedly failed to uphold American values it espouses in its dealings in China. That warrants criticism and leaves Silver’s response quite lacking.