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How much will D’Angelo Russell get as free agent? One report suggests $20 million per year.

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D'Angelo Russell has played up to his No. 2 pick status this season. He’s averaging 20.5 points per game, shooting 36.8 percent from three, and dishing out 6.7 assists a night — he played well enough to be an All-Star in the East this season.

It’s the kind of season he wanted to have before he hits restricted free agency this summer.

What is Russell going to make on the open market this summer, one where a lot of teams have cap space to burn. Russell can work out a deal to stay in Brooklyn, or he can sign an offer sheet with another team this July and the Nets will have the rights to match. The Nets have tried to use restricted free agency in recent years to poach talent —  making oversized offers to Otto Porter, Tyler Johnson, Allen Crabbe — that forced teams to pay big. One executive told Michael Scotto of The Athletic that could come back to bite the Nets with their own coveted free agent.

“I think D’Angelo is worth around $20 million (annually),” one long-time Eastern Conference executive said. “Is this payback time for the Nets? Will teams offer him the way they (Nets) did for Crabbe, Porter, and Johnson? I think he turned the corner. I think he has a chip on his shoulder.”

“He’s going to be in high demand and will get close to max with his overall improvement,” a Western Conference executive said.

If a team thinks this season’s Russell is what they will get going forward, $20 million for an All-Star player at the most important position on the floor is about right. If not a little low.

The question is will the Nets pay it? After extending Spencer Dinwiddie for three-years, $34 million starting next season at the same position (in what may be a below-market deal for a Sixth Man of the Year candidate), do the Nets look at that price tag for Russell and think they would be better spending their money elsewhere?

The Nets have max cap space, a good young core, and are in New York — they are going to be free agent players this summer.

One last note on Russell: In the wake of their struggles this season, Magic Johnson and the Lakers have taken a lot of heat for sending Russell out in a trade that was really about dumping Timofey Mozgov‘s mistake of a contract. To the point Nets fans started a “thank you Magic” chant during a recent game at the Barclays’ Centre.

Russell almost certainly would not have developed into the player he is now if he hadn’t been given the shock of a trade and a clean slate in Brooklyn. Russell had created problems for himself in Los Angeles that went beyond the well-publicized Nick Young Snapchat incident. Sometimes players need a new environment to grow, mature, and thrive. That was Russell.

He took full advantage of that opportunity and is about to get paid for it.

Harden on fit with Westbrook: ‘When you have talent like that, it works itself out’

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It was the question everybody asked about 30 seconds after they heard Russell Westbrook had been traded to the Houston Rockets for Chris Paul (after the initial shock of the deal wore off):

Do Westbrook and Harden, two of the most ball-dominant, isolation heavy players in the NBA, actually fit together?

Harden says yes. Of course, what else is he going to say, but he was earnest about it in comments to Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle at the Adidas and James Harden ProCamp event last Friday.

“When you have talent like that, it works itself out. You communicate. You go out there and compete possession by possession. You figure things out. Throughout the course of the season, you figure things out. That’s just what it is. When you have talent, you have guys with IQ, you have guys willing to sacrifice, it always works itself out.”…

“It works,” Harden said. “It’s that trust factor. I trust him; he trusts me. And with the group that we already have and the things we already accomplished, it should be an easy transition for him to be incorporated right in and things are going to go.”

That is essentially is what Mike D’Antoni said, and what Rockets GM Daryl Morey is betting on.

Will Westbrook, and to a lesser degree Harden, be willing to make sacrifices and adjust their games? It is the question that will define the Rockets’ season.

My prediction: The duo works it out on offense and becomes one of the hardest teams to stop in the NBA. They will work it out. However, having to play Harden and Westbrook together on defense for extended stretches will cost Houston in the playoffs earlier than they planned.

George King, Suns two-way player last season, signs to play in Italy

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For players on the fringe of the NBA, there is a choice to be made at some point:

Keep the NBA dream alive and close by making less money (the base salary for most is $35,000 a year) and play in the domestic G-League, where teams have ties to NBA organizations and scouts are watching. Or…

Go overseas, where the money gets better (six figures for most, seven figures for the best) and they will be one of the best players on a team, putting up big numbers and playing a starring role.

George King, who spent last season on a two-way contract with Phoenix — but played just six total minutes with the Suns — has chosen overseas.

George spent most of last season in the G-League with Northern Arizona, where he averaged 15.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, and 2.6 assists a game. He was on the wrong end of a numbers game on the wing with the Suns at the start of the season, but when injuries hit he had not earned enough trust with the coaches to get a real opportunity.

So he went where there is an opportunity.

Same with former NBA player Tyler Cavanaugh, who spent most of last season with the Salt Lake G-League team and is now headed to Berlin.

Plenty of players spend time overseas then come back and are ready for the NBA — Patrick Beverley was in the Ukraine and Greece before coming to the NBA, for example — while others find a very good career playing overseas.

James Harden broke one of his youth camper’s ankles (VIDEO)

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It’s around the time of summer when NBA players (and coaches, and college coaches, and a whole lot of other people) are holding youth basketball camps.

I went to them as a kid (John Wooden’s was the best) and like me, these youth will have the memories of a lifetime, even if they move away from playing hoops someday. Especially this boy, who will forever be able to look back at this video from camp of James Harden breaking his ankles. (Via Houston Rockets Instagram)

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Meanwhile at @jharden13’s camp…😅

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Meanwhile, over at Dwyane Wade‘s camp, he was reminding some young children he is the best shot blocking guard of all time.

 

Could Anthony Davis someday play for hometown Bulls? ‘I’d definitely consider it’

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Not every player wants to go home.

LeBron James returned to Cleveland (for a while). Kawhi Leonard and Paul George pushed to get back to Southern California. However, plenty of players see the return to their home town as more curse than blessing — it takes a maturity to be the face of the city, to not let hanging with your old buddies get in the way of off-season workouts, to handle everyone you went to high school with asking you for tickets to the game. A player has to be ready for a lot to go home.

Would Anthony Davis consider a return to Chicago to lead the Bulls?

He wouldn’t rule it out. Someday. Here’s what Davis said to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.

“I mean, (this is) definitely hometown,” he said. “If the opportunity ever presents itself and when that time comes, I’d definitely consider it.”

That does not mean next summer. Technically Davis is a free agent next summer, however, he is all but certain to re-sign with the Lakers (it’s possible things go Dwight Howard/Steve Nash bad in Los Angeles and Davis wants out, but it’s highly unlikely). Davis pushed his way to Los Angeles to win and lead the biggest brand in basketball down the line, to have his name in the rafters with legendary big men (Wilt, Kareem, Shaq). He’s not bolting that after one season.

Could he finish his career in Chicago? Maybe. I’d say the same thing about Stephen Curry with Charlotte, but we are too many years from that to make any kind of prediction.

However, Davis didn’t slam the door shut. Maybe someday that will be good news for Bulls fans.