Adreian Payne

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Magic two-way player Adreian Payne fractures hand in practice

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Adreian Payne had played 102 games across four NBA seasons mostly based on the potential of what he could be — a pick-and-pop big that would fit the modern game. The problem is his shot has not fallen while in the NBA.

Still, Orlando thought enough of that potential to give Payne a two-way contract this year.

Now Payne faces another setback, a broken hand.

Hopefully, he will be able to get back on track this season.

Magic decline C.J. Wilcox’s fourth-year option

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The Magic have a troubling recent history of squandering positive assets with no real discernable return. Orlando has dumped:

Could C.J. Wilcox fit the trend?

The Magic declined Wilcox’s fourth-year rookie-scale option, letting him become an unrestricted free agent next offseason rather than guarantee his $2,183,328 salary for 2017-18.

Wilcox shot well beyond the arc in limited minutes in two years with the Clippers before they traded him to Orlando in July, and he has shown enough penetrating ability to complement his outside stroke. On the other hand, he settles for too many long 2s, and his defense causes concern for his own team.

I’m not ready to write off the 25-year-old, though to date, he has not been worth his option-year salary. He’s so cheap, I probably would’ve exercised his team option, but the Magic have more information than I do after evaluating him throughout training camp.

Wilcox joins Adreian Payne,James Young andTyler Ennis as the players who had their fourth-year options declined this fall while remaining on a team. Between the four, I bet at least one makes his team regret the decision.

Report: Timberwolves declining Adreian Payne’s fourth-year option

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A few players – Mitch McGary, Jordan Adams and R.J. Hunter – had their rookie-scale-contract team options declined as their teams waived them this offseason. Another player, P.J. Hairston, had his third-year option declined last fall.

But only one player that we know of so far from the 2013 and 2014 draft classes remains on a team but won’t finish his rookie-scale deal:

Timberwolves forward Adreian Payne, the No. 15 pick in 2014.

Minnesota will decline his $3,100,094 team option for 2017-18, a decision that will become official Tuesday.

Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN:

Payne will become an unrestricted free agent next summer. The Timberwolves can re-sign him, but only at a starting salary up to $3,100,094. Any other team can offer up to the max.

Payne probably won’t be worth $3,100,094 next summer. He’s a stretch four without 3-point range and a long 2-point jumper that is expectedly inefficient. He doesn’t move well enough in any direction, including vertically, to defend well. The concern on him coming out of Michigan State – that he relied too heavily on beating up on younger players – looks valid. Payne will be a 26-year-old free agent.

But $3,100,094 is a small amount against a large salary cap. Is it really worth letting Payne hit the open market without seeing what he does this season first?

This is the problem the Pacers ran into with Solomon Hill. They declined his $2,306,019 2016-17 team option, and he had a breakout year. He signed a four-year, $52 million contract with the Pelicans this summer as Indiana could do nothing but watch.

I don’t expect Payne to duplicate Hill’s emergence, but the Pacers obviously didn’t see it coming with Hill, either. As long as Payne remains on the team, it’s probably worth Minnesota buying itself an extra year of potentially cheap labor.

If Payne develops, he could be an irreplaceable bargain. If he doesn’t, it won’t cost much to waive him – especially because the Timberwolves can stretch him.

Even if the odds are against that plan bearing fruit, the upside is high enough to justify exercising the option.

But Minnesota apparently feels differently. Barring a sudden change of plans in the next few days, Payne will be on an expiring contract.

Craig Sager hangs tough in leukemia battle

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HOUSTON (AP) — Craig Sager’s once lustrous chestnut hair is down to a few unruly strands because of chemotherapy, and on this day of hope a simple green T-shirt and blue shorts adorn the broadcaster known by millions for his ostentatious wardrobe and easy rapport with the NBA’s elite.

He methodically extended a long, skinny arm to an IV pole holding the stem cells he is counting on to save his life. There was silence as he cradled the tube, watching the crimson liquid drip, drip, drip in a perfect cadence into the cannulai that feeds it into his cancer-stricken body.

TNT’s beloved basketball broadcaster received a rare third bone marrow transplant on Wednesday to fight an aggressive form of leukemia. The 65-year-old Sager has battled acute myeloid leukemia since 2014 and announced in March he was no longer in remission.

Sager knows the odds are against him. Yet, he seems unfazed.

“I like to gamble,” he told The Associated Press. “I like to bet on horses, I like to bet on dogs, I like to bet on a lot of things. I’ve bet on a lot of things with a lot higher odds than this.”

Sager has twice before received a bone marrow transplant with stem cells and each time he went into remission for several months. His son, Craig Sager II, was the donor then. This time, an anonymous 20-year-old donor was considered a perfect match.

Sager has been hospitalized for a month and has another monthlong stay ahead. He hasn’t thought a lot about the man whose bone marrow could change everything for him. But when he learned of his age, he expressed a half-serious concern.

“My only thing was I was afraid that when he signed up to be the donor, he may have been in some drunk fraternity house trying to impress his date,” said Sager, with a smile. “And they call him up the next day and say: `Want to come down to the hospital?’ and he’s like: `What?”‘

His fears turned out to be unfounded.

“He came through,” Sager said.

The latest of nearly 100 procedures Sager has endured in his well-publicized fight was performed at MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and took more than 10 hours to complete. Dr. Muzaffar Qazilbash, Sager’s stem cell transplantation physician, researched thousands of such transplants at MD Anderson over the last 15 years.

“It’s less than 1 percent of the total number of transplants,” Qazilbash said. “It’s very rare to have three transplants.”

Sager, who has worked for TNT for more than three decades, says he’s open to trying anything doctors think might help.

“I’ve had every chemo in the alphabet, most of them more than once,” he said. “Some of them that aren’t even in the alphabet, they’re just numbers – clinical trials. But I bet if you added all those up it would have to be like 60- or 70-something. I’ve had 23 bone marrow aspirations. Having one isn’t fun and I’ve had 23. So that’s been tough.”

Despite the rigors of treatment and how they can ravage his body, he’s never thought about giving up. He gets angry when he meets other patients who say they’ve grown weary of fighting.

“Man, life is too beautiful, too wonderful, there’s just too many things,” he said. “It’s not just you. It’s your family and kids and all. Fight. Fight until the end. Fight as hard as you can.”

With his radiant smile and TV-perfect persona, it takes time to peel back the layers of positivity and catch a glimpse of how hard that fight can be.

“His attitude is, nobody wants to hear it,” said his wife Stacy, his full-time caregiver and No. 1 fan. “And so it makes you reflect on yourself and the things that you say when you’re complaining about little things in life and trivial things, and it just puts things in perspective.”

But there are times, often as night creeps into early morning, where it all becomes too much. No medication can help.

“I’ve never had any of those days where I’ve actually said `why me,’ or `I can’t do it,”‘ he said. “But I’ll have some dark nights where I’ll be here by myself and maybe getting some medicine that’s making me jump around like a rabbit. And I’m in pain and I’ve got chills and I’ve got fever and I’ve got everything mixed into one and I’m throwing up and have diarrhea … and I’ll just say: `Stacy, I need you. I need you.’

“And she’ll come to me and just hold me and it just makes it better,” he said.

A few days before his transplant, Stacy came down with a bad cold and doctors sent her home, fearful she’d transmit her illness to her husband. Hall of Famer and TNT colleague Charles Barkley heard she couldn’t be there for a couple of days and hopped on a plane from Phoenix.

However, Sir Charles had hip replacement surgery less than a month ago and wasn’t cleared to travel. He said his doctor was livid when he learned Barkley had defied orders and flown halfway across the country. Barkley informed the doctor that it was an emergency.

“Craig Sager is one of the most interesting people I’ve ever met,” Barkley said. “We go to see Sager to cheer him up and by the time you leave you’re like, `Is anything wrong with him?’ He has the most positive attitude … When you go to try and cheer him up his attitude is so upbeat he cheers you up.”

Sager found inspiration in a girl who lost her fight with cancer before her ninth birthday. He befriended Lacey Holsworth and her family while working on a story about her illness and remained friends with her parents after she died in April 2014. Holsworth had cheered on the Michigan State basketball team and had a close friendship with star Adreian Payne.

Last weekend, her parents visited Sager in his Houston hospital room. They left him with a more tangible reminder of her bravery.

“They brought me little Lacey’s boots that she used to always wear to games and a picture of her wearing them,” said Sager, clutching the high-top cheetah footwear with laces made from silk ribbons. “That little girl was so amazing. Fought for all of those years, was always positive, always cheerful, always brought other people’s spirits up. So if I’m laying here feeling bad, I just think about Lacey and it puts everything in perspective.”

Sager’s also bolstered by his drive to be back on the sideline for the NBA season. He doesn’t expect to have recovered from the transplant in time for the season-opener on Oct. 25, but aims to return by early November for more of gentle sparring with the likes of San Antonio Spurs’ coach Gregg Popovich .

It would be a victory not just for him, but for all the people his fight has inspired.

“It means that you’re surviving and you’re winning,” he said. “That you’re knocking down obstacles and clearing hurdles that are put in front of you and you’re doing them with flying colors.”

On Wednesday, five colorful balloons were tied to one side of his hospital bed. Several had birthday greetings and two said: “Happy birthday, it’s your big day.”

Festive, yes. But Sager was born in June.

“When you get stem cells they say it’s your new birthday,” Stacy explained. “So this is his fourth birthday.”

Sager tried to downplay the pageantry surrounding the event, saying it wasn’t “a big deal.”

That earned a sweet, yet stern, admonishment from his beloved wife.

“It is a big deal,” she said. “It’s giving you life.”

Tyus Jones, Denzel Valentine set up T-Wolves-Bulls Summer League final

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A look at the two semifinal games Sunday in the Las Vegas Summer League:

TIMBERWOLVES 93, SUNS 83

Tyus Jones fought through an injured left wrist and thumb to lead Minnesota to the final of the tournament with 29 points, six assists and three rebounds. Jones had 18 points in the first half, but was injured when he landed hard on the court before halftime. The 2015 No. 24 pick came out of the break heavily bandaged, but continued to play as the Timberwolves outscored the Suns 24-18 in the third quarter to take a 67-66 lead. Jones’ floater kicked off a 12-3 run to start the final quarter that effectively put things away.

Adreian Payne, the 2014 No. 15 pick, had a double-double with 18 points and 10 rebounds for Minnesota. Troy Williams led the Suns with 24 points and six rebounds, and Askia Booker had 19 points off the bench. Tyler Ulis was held to 11 points on 5-for-21 shooting after hitting the winner Saturday night.

No. 4 pick Dragan Bender and All-Rookie first-team Devin Booker did not play for the Suns.

BULLS 85, CAVALIERS 79

Denzel Valentine banked in a 3-pointer that started an 8-0 run to go to give Chicago an 80-75 lead with 1:14 remaining that the Cavaliers never recovered from. The 2016 No. 14 pick finished with 13 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Cristiano Felicio led the Bulls with 18 points, and Bobby Portis added 16 points, nine rebounds and three assists. Chicago needed a 10-1 run in the third quarter to get back in the game after trailing 46-36 at halftime.

Kay Felder continued to impress with 22 points on 8-for-14 shooting as he pushes for a backup spot being Kyrie Irving. He did a little bit of everything throughout the game, including handing out five assists, but got out of control and missed a wild layup trailing 80-77 with 27.9 seconds remaining, forcing the Cavs to foul to extend the game. Jordan McRae was the only other Cavs player to reach double digits. He ended the night with 16 points and five rebounds, but shot 6 for 16 from the field.