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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.

Report: Pacers interview former Thunder coach Billy Donovan

Billy Donovan coaches Thunder vs. Pacers
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The Pacers were reportedly expected to hire Mike D’Antoni as coach.

But if set on the former Rockets coach, Indiana isn’t acting like it.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Former Thunder coach Billy Donovan interviewed for the Pacers last week, sources said. The Pacers are expected to interview a pool of around 12 candidates, trim the candidates approximately in half, and conduct in-person interviews.

Donovan joins a list of known candidates that’s already way longer than 12:

  • Former Thunder coach Billy Donovan
  • Former Kings and Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger
  • Former Pistons and Nuggets star Chauncey Billups
  • Warriors assistant and former Cavaliers and Lakers coach Mike Brown
  • Nets assistant and former Magic coach Jacque Vaughn
  • Spurs assistant Becky Hammon
  • Spurs assistant Will Hardy
  • Heat assistant Dan Craig
  • Heat assistant Chris Quinn
  • Mavericks assistant Jamahl Mosley
  • Mavericks assistant Stephen Silas
  • Bucks assistant Darvin Ham
  • Bucks assistant Charles Lee
  • Magic assistant Pat Delany
  • Timberwolves assistant David Vanterpool
  • 76ers assistant Ime Udoka
  • Trail Blazers assistant Nate Tibbetts

Leaving the potentially rebuilding Thunder, Donovan clearly expected to land on his feet. The Pacers are equipped to win now, but maybe only moderately.

Donovan has shown impressive adaptability to his roster. That’d come in handy if Indiana is set on continuing the talented but challenging Domantas SabonisMyles Turner pairing.

Report: Clippers teammates rolled eyes at Paul George’s postseason calls for togetherness

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Paul George and Montrezl Harrell reportedly had a heated exchange on the bench during the Clippers’ loss to the Nuggets.

Apparently, that wasn’t an isolated incident.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Paul George had a disappointing series against Denver, and had several moments that left him in compromising positions with his teammates — beyond just his production. Multiple teammates had verbal spats with George throughout the postseason, citing in their exchanges a lack of accountability from him.

In the postgame locker room Tuesday night, George was preaching to teammates to remain committed, for all the players to return to the team this offseason and stay ready to make another run. It was met by some eye rolls and bewilderment, sources said, because George did not back up his words with action in the series and the team has multiple free agents with decisions to make.

George wanted more time with his teammates. They already had enough of him.

This had been a simmering problem – George and Kawhi Leonard getting preferential treatment, their teammates resenting it. Harrell sounded particularly bothered by the dynamic.

Losing exacerbates issues like that, and getting upset by Denver was a big loss. Both George and Harrell faced oncourt and offcourt stressors – only further contributing to squabbling.

Harrell will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. The Clippers should try to keep him. He’s a good player, and they wouldn’t gain much cap flexibility without him.

But the 26-year-old might also want to explore the market and secure the most lucrative deal. It’d be reasonable for him to resent a teammate pressing him just to take the Clippers’ offer – especially if Harrell felt George wasn’t as committed to the team in the first place.

George and Leonard have earned preferential treatment. Leonard in particular has shown he benefits from load management.

However, that can annoy teammates. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad plan. It just means that downside should be accounted for.

It’d be nice if Leonard were more vocal or George rubbed fewer people the wrong way. But their basketball talent means dealing with their shortcomings. It’d be nice if George’s eye-rolling teammates realized that, too.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers bears responsibility for managing this tension. A this best, he connects well with players and gets everyone pulling for the same goal. That’s his job as the Clippers try to make the next step.

Miami’s Meyers Leonard adjusting to going from starter to out of rotation

Meyers Leonard
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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Meyers Leonard was bent forward at the waist, standing a few feet away from Miami coach Erik Spoelstra on the Heat sideline, screaming with every bit of the volume that his deep and booming voice can generate.

This is his role right now for the Heat.

His only role.

Leonard is in a tough spot these days; a full-time starter during the regular season, he is now out of the rotation as the Miami Heat have made their run to the Eastern Conference finals. It is a bitter pill for him to swallow — yet to his credit, he hasn’t acted the least bit bitter about his current reality.

“My team knows this, and our coaching staff knows this,” Leonard told The Associated Press. “I would do anything to be out there. And I’d be lying if I said that I’m not competitive as hell. I wish I was impacting the game on the floor. I’m not, but as a person and as a player, I want what’s best for everybody.”

So for now, the 7-foot, 260-pound, chiseled center is the tallest, strongest and best-paid assistant coach in these playoffs. He calls out what he’s seeing on every possession, pulls aside teammates for quick one-on-one chats when necessary, and on off days he’s getting his on-court work in just in case he’s needed to play.

Leonard has started 49 of his 51 appearances with the Heat this season, more starts than he made in his seven seasons with Portland combined. But in the playoffs, he’s logged a total of nine minutes, all in one appearance.

“Meyers is one of the most special people I’ve ever had the opportunity to coach and to be around,” Spoelstra said. “He is just an incredible human being and teammate. He has all our hearts. We will do anything for him because he is so pure.”

Leonard, more than anything else, got unlucky at the worst possible time.

He badly sprained his left ankle in early February and wasn’t anywhere near being ready to return to the lineup when the NBA season was suspended March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic. And then when team facilities shut down as a precaution, Leonard’s rehab process had to be amended as well.

That was the first issue. The second was Miami became a different team a few days after he got hurt, pulling off a trade to bring Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill to the Heat. Crowder has become a starter, and Spoelstra told Leonard before Miami resumed play in the NBA’s restart bubble that he was taking the rotation in a different direction.

It was tough on Leonard mentally. He was struggling when he got to the bubble because of his ankle, then spent days wrestling about whether he should stand for the national anthem or kneel with his teammates, and on top of all that he essentially lost his job as well.

“There’s just two things that I won’t ever let be questioned and that’s character and work ethic,” Leonard said. “Every day when I walk through the door, I’m going to be a great guy, a great teammate. It’s not fake. So I’m trying to make my impact now from the sideline.”

There are a few starters who aren’t in the same roles that they were for the four teams remaining in this NBA season. Avery Bradley opted out of joining the Los Angeles Lakers in the bubble. Will Barton — who led Denver in minutes per game this season — has a knee injury and has missed the Nuggets’ entire postseason run. Gordon Hayward has missed much of Boston’s playoff stint while recovering from a sprained ankle. Heat rookie Kendrick Nunn, a starter all season, is in Miami’s second unit now.

Leonard saw the Heat change, and his role change with it. He didn’t sulk, lash out or complain.

“It’s not easy, being in this kind of situation, going through the injury he went through and having the hiatus where he didn’t get the full opportunity to rehab it,” Spoelstra said. “But he’s making the most of it, and if he gets his opportunity, he will be ready.”

Leonard also sees the reason why he should be helping the Heat however he can right now. He’s never been this close to an NBA championship; the Heat lead the Celtics 2-1 in the East finals, with Game 4 on Wednesday night.

He’ll be ready to scream some more then, too.

“I am, in the best way possible, the most jealous of watching our team’s success,” Leonard said. “I literally said this to my wife the other night. I said, ‘Elle, we are six wins away from a ring.’ That is so damn special.”

Anthony Davis yelled “Kobe” after he sank game winner

Anthony Davis Kobe
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The Lakers played in the Kobe-designed Black Mamba jerseys on Sunday night, when Anthony Davis did about the most Kobe thing possible — he drained a buzzer-beater game-winner.

When Davis did it, he yelled “Kobe.”

The Los Angeles Lakers have talked a lot this season about honoring the legacy of Kobe with their play and effort this season, and coach Frank Vogel did after this game.

“That’s a shot Kobe Bryant would hit,” Vogel said. “AD flying to the wing like that, catch and shoot with the game on the line, the biggest moment of the season, nothing but net? That’s a Mamba shot.”

The Lakers are now 3-0 in those black Mamba jerseys these playoffs. Expect to see them again.