Celtics loom large as Anthony Davis sweepstakes head to offseason

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The Cavaliers traded Kyrie Irving 0 games after his trade request. The Spurs traded Kawhi Leonard 0 games after his trade request. The Timberwolves traded Jimmy Butler 13 (nearly unbearable) games after his trade request.

The Pelicans will keep Anthony Davis at least 32 games after his trade request.

By holding Davis past today’s trade deadline, New Orleans set the stage for an unprecedented firestorm. One of the NBA’s biggest stars is caught in limbo. Opposing teams – Celtics now at the front of the line – will continue to jockey for him. Rumors will fly.

And it can’t be resolved for months.

The Pelicans didn’t create this chaos alone. Unlike Irving, Leonard and Butler, Davis requested his trade during the season. Cleveland and San Antonio spent a while soliciting and evaluating trades in the seclusion of the offseason. (Minnesota had the same option but stubbornly chose not to.) The Collective Bargaining Agreement effectively prevented Boston from trading for Davis now. Many circumstances contributed to this holding pattern.

Yet, we’re in it now primarily because of one factor – the Celtics.

Interest in the elite center won’t diminish. His desire to leave the Pelicans likely won’t change. But the Celtics are powerful enough to shift the landscape significantly.

Boston couldn’t realistically trade for Davis now, because both he and Kyrie Irving are designated rookie scale players, and teams can acquire only one via trade. But Irving’s contract status will change this offseason, allowing a trade for Davis then.

The Celtics are loaded with assets to send New Orleans. The big prize: Jayson Tatum. Boston has reportedly refused to directly dangle him while still making clear anyone besides Irving will be discussable. Will the Celtics actually include Tatum in an offer for Davis? They surely explained their intent to the Pelicans by now. It was on New Orleans to judge Boston’s specific words and tone. Any promise would be non-binding, anyway. The Celtics can’t officially trade for Davis until July 6.

In the meantime, everyone must handle this waiting period.

The Pelicans must determine how to manage Davis. They made him a healthy scratch the last couple games and are reportedly considering shutting him down the rest of the season. The five games New Orleans has already played after Davis’ trade request have been filled with awkwardness. But he reportedly wants to play, and it could get contentious. Sitting Davis the rest of the season would be a huge shame. He’s in the midst of an excellent season. I understand protecting an asset and tanking for a higher pick, but keeping such a talented player off the court that long would be a black eye for the NBA.

The Lakers must regroup in their playoff push. Trade rumors have seemingly disrupted chemistry, but this team is still capable of a deep run. LeBron James is that good, even without his desired co-star.

Boston must try to win over Davis. The timing of his trade request, when the Celtics effectively couldn’t deal for him, was a transparent attempt to avoid them. Davis’ camp furthered the push by leaking he was concerned about Kyrie Irving leaving Boston. The coup de grace: Davis’ father saying he’d never want his son on the Celtics after how they treated Isaiah Thomas.

Davis must convey what he wants. He won’t sign an extension anywhere, which means his team must ride it out into 2020 unrestricted free agency with him. That gives Davis leverage. He can say where he would and wouldn’t re-sign, incentivizing and de-incentivizing certain teams to trade for him. Anyone can still make New Orleans the best offer, but that’s extremely risky without Davis on board.

Once the season ends, everyone will be off to the races.

A wildcard team could try to trade for Davis, a la the Thunder with Paul George and Raptors with Kawhi Leonard. But Davis’ value is diminished by no longer being available for the 2019 playoffs.

A team will win the lottery and could use the No. 1 pick and right to draft Zion Williamson as trade bait for Davis. It’d have to be the right team winning the lottery, but that’s a head-turning asset.

The Knicks will chase Kevin Durant and Irving and then could try to trade for Davis. Or New York could just try to trade for Davis without having superstars already in place.

The Lakers could push again for Davis, but their offer wasn’t good enough now. How will it improve in the summer? With LeBron’s prime years dwindling, they might not be able to afford to wait for Davis’ free agency after yet another season. They’ll likely prioritize pursuing other stars.

And the Celtics will make their offer clear. No more hedging about what they might do. It’ll be time to put their cards on the table.

That’s when we’ll finally see real action.

Marc Gasol completes historic double, Spain wins World Cup

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BEIJING (AP) — Marc Gasol looked to the sky as confetti fell, some sticking to his massive shoulders, and then cradled and kissed the giant golden chalice that goes to the World Cup champions.

He’s getting good at hoisting trophies.

Gasol got to bask in a championship celebration for the second time in three months — and this time, he did it for his country. Tournament MVP Ricky Rubio scored 20 points, Sergio Llull added 15 and Spain won the World Cup for the second time by topping Argentina 95-75 on Sunday.

“We weren’t the most talented team,” Rubio said. “We weren’t the bigger team. Put anything you want, but we were the team with the biggest heart and we showed it tonight and we showed it during the whole tournament.”

Gasol scored 14 for the winners, who never trailed and added this crown to the one it claimed in 2006. And for him, 2019 will go down as a year the likes of which few others have enjoyed.

The Toronto Raptors center becomes the second player to win an NBA title and a FIBA world gold medal in the same year, joining Lamar Odom — who did it for the Los Angeles Lakers and USA Basketball in 2010. Gasol also became the 19th to win either an NBA or WNBA crown along with a gold medal, either of the Olympic or World Cup variety, in the same year.

The first 18 all did it for the U.S.

This time, Vamos España!

“NBA champion and a World Cup champion as well,” Gasol said. “What can I say? How does it sound to you? I feel very fortunate to be in this position and be able to play this game and help these guys be part of history of Spanish basketball.”

Llull and Rudy Fernandez — the team captain, the one who initially got to accept the Naismith Trophy — went to cut down the nets shortly after the final buzzer. Gasol carried the game ball to the gold-medal ceremony, and Spanish fans wept in the stands during the national anthem.

Gabriel Deck scored 24 points for Argentina (8-1), which got off to a slow start and played uphill the rest of the way. Luis Scola was held to eight points, shooting 1 for 10 from the floor.

“We’re sad right now. We’re very sad,” Scola said. “But I feel confident, in hours, we’ll be able to look back and be very proud. They just played better than us. They were better. They deserved to win. They were the better team in the game and the tournament.”

Spain led 43-31 at intermission, after putting together a 14-2 run to open the game and a 17-1 run later in the half.

“This is basketball,” Argentina coach Sergio Hernandez said. “If you play better than the other team, you win the game. And Spain was the best team today.”

Scola, even at 39 years old still Argentina’s best player throughout the tournament, didn’t get on the scoresheet until he made a pair of free throws with 2:57 left in the third quarter. But they only cut the Spain lead to 19, and by then the Argentinian fans who stood, sang and chanted for much of the game were relatively quiet.

The day belonged to Spain.

And the year belongs to Gasol.

“It’s unbelievable,” Gasol said.

Watch highlights from France taking bronze at World Cup, beating Australia 67-59

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Just as they did five years ago at the last World Cup, France has come away with the bronze medal.

The French came from 15 down at one point to beat Australia 67-59 and win the third-place game at the FIBA World Cup in China. Former Spur Nando De Colo led the way for France with 19 points, Orlando’s Evan Fournier added 16 but on a rough shooting night (5-of–17), and Charlotte’s Nicolas Batum added nine points and six assists. You can see the game’s highlights above.

After the game, Fournier was talkative, including slamming the travel and schedule of this World Cup, spread all across China.

Utah was led by 17 points from Utah’s Joe Ingles and 15 from San Antonio’s Patty Mills.

Michael Jordan sells portion of Hornets to two new partners

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Michael Jordan is adding two partners to the Charlotte Hornets’ ownership group, selling them each a portion of the NBA franchise.

Gabe Plotkin, founder and chief investment officer of Melvin Capital, and Daniel Sundheim, founder and chief investment officer of D1 Capital, have joined the Hornets as partners, pending NBA approval.

Jordan, a six-time NBA champion, will remain the majority owner.

Jordan said in a statement released by the team Saturday that he’ll continue to be the man making decisions about the direction of the Hornets.

“I’m excited to welcome Gabe and Dan as my partners in Hornets Sports & Entertainment,” Jordan said. “While I will continue to run the Charlotte Hornets, make all decisions related to the team and organization, and remain the team’s NBA Governor, Gabe and Dan’s investment in the franchise is invaluable, as we continue to modernize, add new technology and strive to compete with the best in the NBA. Both Gabe and Dan are industry standard-setters and proven leaders, with a belief in philanthropy and a passion for the game of basketball. They share my commitment to Charlotte and the Carolinas, and I look forward to working with and learning from them.”

Marc Gasol goes for history when Spain meets Argentina in World Cup final

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BEIJING (AP) — Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen, Lamar Odom, LeBron James, and Kyrie Irving.

Those are the only five players to win an NBA title and a gold medal in the same year, whether it was in FIBA or Olympic competition, with Pippen doing it twice.

It is an exclusive club – one that Marc Gasol is on the cusp of joining.

A mere three months after helping the Toronto Raptors win the NBA Finals, Gasol has led Spain to the gold medal game at the World Cup. It’ll be Spain against Argentina on Sunday, with both nations looking for their second title. Spain won the world championship in 2006 when Gasol was a 21-year-old backup, and Argentina won the inaugural tournament in 1950.

“I’m so deep in the rabbit hole right now that I don’t get to see much light,” Gasol said. “You’re so focused on your opponent, your next rival, recovering, doing whatever’s necessary to win games that you don’t look at the big picture. It’s been great. I’m very fortunate.

“I knew that committing to the national team this summer would not be easy physically. But it’s so worth it, and not just because we’re in the final game.”

He simply willed Spain into the final game.

Gasol scored 33 points – his career-high for any of the 18 FIBA-sanctioned or Olympic tournaments he’s played over the last 18 years – in Spain’s double-overtime win against Australia in the semifinals. He gave up his NBA offseason to be part of this team, a group that failed to medal at the last World Cup in Spain five years ago, and knows he might not have too many more years left on the international stage.

“It’s the responsibility of passing along that commitment, that loyalty to the team,” said Gasol, who still remembers the thrill of getting invitation letters from the Spanish federation to be part of youth teams when he was 11 or 12. “Those values that we were taught so many years with the older players, now it’s our turn to pass on the legacy to the next generation. And that’s not talent, that’s just commitment.”

Argentina has one of those passing-legacy-on players, too.

Luis Scola, 39 years old, was part of the team that won gold for Argentina at the 2004 Athens Olympics – and he’s been the best player for his team at the World Cup. He scored 28 points in the semifinal win over France, and on a team that has flashy guards who aren’t afraid to throw behind-the-back passes in any situation Scola has been the steadying force in the biggest moments.

“I’m only 27,” France center Rudy Gobert said as he lauded Scola after the semifinal matchup. “Maybe when I’m 39, I’ll know the secrets that Scola knows.”

Here’s some of what to know going into Sunday’s final:

DOUBLING UP

Pippen’s double-gold years came in 1992 and 1996 with Chicago. Jordan’s was in 1992 with the Bulls, James’ was in 2012 with Miami and Irving’s was in 2016 with Cleveland – all of those being Olympic years. Odom played on the U.S. world championships team in 2010, after his Los Angeles Lakers won that year’s NBA Finals.

OTHER DOUBLES

There have been 14 U.S. women who won a WNBA title along with a World Cup or Olympic gold medal in the same year, led by Sue Bird – who did it three times (2004 Olympics, 2010 world championship, 2018 World Cup).

UNBEATENS

Spain and Argentina are the only unbeaten teams left in the World Cup, each 7-0 so far. This is the fourth time that the gold medal will be decided in a game between unbeaten teams. The others: U.S. over Turkey (both 8-0 entering) in 2010, Spain over Greece (both 8-0) in 2006, and Argentina over the U.S. (both 5-0) at the first world championship in 1950.