Associated Press

Pelicans’ David Griffin downplays idea of draft, any deadline for Anthony Davis trade

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This is all part of the spin, the efforts to gain leverage in the Anthony Davis trade talks going on.

Yesterday the spin came from two sides of this saga. First, there was a report saying the Pelicans are interested in multi-team deals to maximize their return for Davis. That was countered by a report clearly leaked from the Davis camp saying he was narrowing his focus to the Lakers and Knicks. It was all about trying to gain leverage in the talks going on between the Pelicans and, I was told, more than half the league (some talks are far more serious than others). There’s a sense from teams the Pelicans would like to get a trade made before the draft (even if they can’t execute it until July).

Now comes the spin that pushes back on that perceived timeline via Andrew Lopez, who covers the Pelicans for the Times-Picayune.

This isn’t that hard to sort out. Would the Pelicans like to get a deal done by the draft a week from Thursday? Yes. Is a smart GM like David Griffin going to treat that as a hard-and-fast deadline and take a lesser offer then just to get it over with? Of course not. He has to say there is no deadline to keep some leverage.

Here’s update on those trade talks, at least as it pertains to the Knicks.

As we had told you before, the Pelicans are not in love with the Knicks’ offer, which is in line behind at least the Celtics and Lakers. So the Knicks are talking to teams, reports Marc Berman of the New York Post.

According to a source, the Pelicans need a third team with the Knicks in a trade more than any other potential club in the mix. Pelicans brass doesn’t find all the Knicks’ young assets attractive enough for a package…

Kevin Knox is the closest to a potential All-Star, but he went through a roller-coaster rookie season. According to a source, the Pelicans consider the Celtics to have the best young assets.

This has been the sense around the league all along, the question is with Kyrie Irving likely leaving Boston as a free agent, how many of those assets will they throw in?

Nobody knows how this is going to shake out, and the Kevin Durant injury complicates all of it.

What we do know is everybody will keep spinning things trying to gain leverage.

Kentucky guard Tyrese Maxey, likely lottery pick, declares for NBA draft

Kentucky guard Tyrese Maxey
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Kentucky sophomore Ashton Hagans declared for the NBA draft yesterday.

Now comes the main attraction from Lexington.

Tyrese Maxey:

Maxey will likely be a lottery pick, though that requires significant projection to justify.

The guard sometimes looks like a premier scorer. He handles the ball well and create his own shot. He shot well from outside before Kentucky and made 83 percent of his free throws last season. But he connected on just 29 percent of his 3-pointers. That 3-point percentage must – and could – increase majorly in the NBA.

Maxey’s inside game is more advanced. He can change speeds, and his floater is effective.

He’s also a solid defender who plays hard. His approach to the game is commendable – and it has to be. Maxey is not an especially explosive athlete. That gives him a narrow needle to thread as he enters the NBA.

At 6-foot-3 with a 6-foot-8 wingspan, Maxey could settle in at either guard position. His potential is highest at point guard, where he’d have the ball in his hands more. But he must distribute better – another skill he showed flashes of but didn’t sustain consistently.

2020 PBT Awards: Rookie of the Year

Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson and Grizzlies rookie Ja Morant
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The NBA regular season might be finished. Heck, the entire NBA season might be finished. Even if play resumes with regular-season games, there’d likely be an abridged finish before the playoffs (which will also likely be shortened).

So, we’re making our 2019-20 award picks now. If the regular season somehow lasts long enough to reconsider our choices, we’ll do that. But here are our selections on the assumption the regular season is over.

Kurt Helin

1. Ja Morant, Grizzlies

2. Zion Williamson, Pelicans

3. Kendrick Nunn, Heat

That Zion somehow lived up to — if not surpassed — his over-the-top hype is “Ripley’s Believe It or Not” stuff. He is (barring injury) going to be the best player out of this class. That, however, is not what Rookie of the Year is based upon, it’s the best rookie of this past season. Morant wins that based on one simple stat: 59 > 19. Or, to use a coaches’ cliché, availability is the greatest ability. Williamson was injured much of the season while Morant averaged 17.6 points and 6.9 assists a game, turning a team that was expected to be one of the NBA’s worst into a playoff team (as of when play was suspended). Morant is special too, and he had the better season.

Dan Feldman

1. Ja Morant, Grizzlies

2. Zion Williamson, Pelicans

3. Kendrick Nunn, Heat

Ja Morant is my runaway winner. I want to reward the rookie who produced the most this season. That was clearly Morant, who led the Grizzlies into playoff position – a rarity for a rookie point guard. He was electric. Zion Williamson was even better, but in just 19 games, he didn’t come close to matching the overall contributions of Morant in 59 games.

The actual close race was between Williamson, Nunn and Memphis big Brandon Clarke for the rest of the ballot. Even in his limited availability, Williamson still significantly altered more games than the other two.

Kendrick Nunn gets credit for carrying a much bigger load than Clarke, who was exemplary in his more-limited role.

Keith Smith

1. Ja Morant, Grizzlies

2. Zion Williamson, Pelicans

3. Kendrick Nunn, Heat

Had Zion Williamson been able to play the rest of the season, and if he dragged New Orleans past Memphis and into in the playoffs, I may have given him the nod. As it stands, it’s Ja Morant’s award to win. Not only was his play terrific all season, but he had Memphis as the surprise of the year. No one had the Grizzlies as a playoff team, and when the season was suspended, they had a 3.5 game lead. A lot of that is owed to Morant. Kendrick Nunn is a distant third, but his first year in the NBA has been one of the biggest surprises in recent memory for a single player. A G League player who had to scrap his way into the league and a full-time starter, Nunn earned this third-place finish.

Top seeds continue to fall while Bucks, Lakers dominate NBA 2K Players Tournament

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We’re through the first round of the NBA 2K Players Tournament — eight players are out, eight remain — and a few trends have emerged.

Starting with: Being the best at basketball does not make you the best at 2K.

This tournament was seeded based on the players’ 2K player rankings, and the top seeds have fallen hard. Sunday, the latest was Utah’s Donovan Mitchell, who was the No. 4 seed overall but fell to No. 13 Rui Hachimura of the Wizards 74-71. Mitchell missed a three — taken by Spencer Dinwiddie — at the buzzer to tie it. But he handled it well.

That means the top seed (Kevin Durant), three seed (Hassan Whiteside), and now four seed have lost. The only top-four seed remaining is Trae Young.

Another trend: Players want the elite teams. In the eight first-round games, the Bucks or Lakers were selected four times each. After that, the Clippers were selected twice (once by Montrezl Harrell on Sunday). Only a couple of players have chosen their own team, and Devin Booker was not about to be one of those.

Here are the first-round results:
• No. 16 Derrick Jones Jr. 78, No. 1 Kevin Durant 62
• No. 10 Deandre Ayton 57, No. 7 Zach LaVine 41
• No. 2 Trae Young 101, No. 15 Harrison Barnes 59
• No. 14 Patrick Beverley 84, No. 3 Hassan Whiteside 54
• No. 8 Montrezl Harrell 71, No. 9 Domantas Sabonis 53
• No. 13 Rui Hachimura 74, No. 4 Donovan Mitchell 71
• No. 5 Devin Booker 85, No. 12 Michael Porter Jr. 75
• No. 6 Andre Drummond 101, No. 11 DeMarcus Cousins 49

Drummond used the Lakers to crush Cousins, but still doesn’t understand the power of Alex Caruso. Boogie tried to explain.

As for insights into actual basketball games, Booker said he would rather go up against the Bucks than the Lakers in a series.

Play in the tournament returns Tuesday night.

Mike Tirico hosts new NBC Sports’ daily talk show ‘Lunch Talk Live’

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We’re all missing our connection to sports right now.

A new show on the NBC Sports Network is here to help restore some of that connection. Today “Lunch Talk Live” hosted by Mike Tirico launches at noon ET on NBCSN, or you can stream it by following this link or on the NBC Sports app.

Lunch Talk Live focuses on the current state of the sports world and the impact of the coronavirus pandemic, providing guests with a platform to discuss the state of sports, voice their personal stories and detail how they are adapting their daily lives during this challenging time.

“In these challenging times, we are all missing sports and the people who make sports memories,” said Tirico. “Hopefully, we can bring a midday connection with some of them to help fill the void.”

“We’re excited to bring viewers fresh programming every day with unique, topical conversations from prominent individuals in all corners of sports,” said Sam Flood, NBC Sports Executive Producer & President of Production. “This will be a daily lunch date to share sports and stories we miss during these unique times.”

Guests on the first show Monday will include Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, Peter King, Cris Collinsworth, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and more. Later in the week the guests will include NASCAR drivers Denny Hamlin, Kyle Petty, and Dale Jarrett, announcers Al Michaels and Doc Emrick, plus many more.

The hour-long show — hosted remotely — debuts today and will be on five days a week in that time slot.

For updates on guests and to keep up with the show, you can follow along on Twitter.