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DeMarcus Cousins on re-signing with Pelicans: ‘I’m very open to that’

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New Orleans Pelicans big man DeMarcus Cousins is still nursing a torn Achilles injury, the one that kept him from being part of his team’s sweep of the Portland Trail Blazers in the first round of the playoffs this year. But he’s getting better, and this summer should be a big one for the 27-year-old. It’s the first time Cousins will be a true free agent, having signed an extension with the Sacramento Kings back in 2013.

There have been rumblings that the Pelicans might not want or need Cousins back. They played incredible small ball against the Blazers, although they fell apart while matched up against the Golden State Warriors in the second round. Cousins, meanwhile, is one of the best centers in the NBA and should demand a sizable salary. Signing Cousins would put the Pelicans deep into the luxury tax without other moves to cut money from the books.

Then there’s the question of whether Cousins wants to be back in New Orleans. He’s said all the right things, but Cousins recently unfollowed the Pelicans on Instagram and it caused folks around the NBA to shift their biases every so slightly on his re-signing in Louisiana.

Still, Cousins says he would gladly return to New Orleans. Speaking to The Undefeated, Cousins maintained that he was going to look out for himself but that he did not hold any grudges, and he would be happy to be a Pelican.

Via The Undefeated:

Are you open to re-signing with New Orleans if the deal is right?

Oh yeah, for sure. This is my first time in free agency, but I’ve been around this business long enough. I know how things work. I’m not out here trying to hold a grudge or anything like that. I’m going to make the best decision for me, and I believe teams are going to do the same thing.

What’s your mindset, your view of how to approach free agency? Do you feel like you owe it to yourself to do your due diligence and hear what everybody has to say?

Yeah, like I said I don’t plan on rushing through this process. I’m going to make the absolute best decision for DeMarcus Cousins. We’ll see what that is. As of right now, I don’t really know. I can’t answer that. Would I like to go back to New Orleans? I’m very open to that. I love what we created. I love what was created after I went down. I would love to be part of it. But I’m going to do what’s best for me, and I feel they’ll do the same.

These are basically the things you expect to hear from a pending free agent, but the NBA is a business and obviously Cousins made reference to that several times.

The “grudge” part is the most interesting part to me. Why would Cousins hold a grudge against the Pelicans? Or is this a reference to the fact the Kings have significant cap space this summer?

I’m mostly kidding about that, but the NBA is crazy. Where Cousins ends up is anyone’s guess, and it’s hard to get true free agents to sign there, even with Anthony Davis on board. The Pelicans are in a position like many other teams in the NBA, where the harsh reality is you need to pursue the best talent you have available to you.

This summer is going to be wild, man.

Suns GM says team ‘open’ to idea of trading No. 1 pick

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Last year, Celtics’ man in charge Danny Ainge traded the No. 1 pick in the draft, landing the No. 3 pick (Jayson Tatum) and either Sacramento or Philadelphia’s No. 1 next year (the better of the two, unless it is the No. 1 pick).

Could we see two years in a row where the No. 1 pick is traded?

Don’t bet on it, but Suns’ general manager Ryan McDonough said on ESPN’s broadcast from the Draft Combine exactly what he’s supposed to say, that he’s open to the idea (hat tip Rob Lopez of DefPen).

“We’re certainly open to that. We’ll consider it. I think we’ll have more information closer to the draft than we do today after we go through the workout process and the interview process. We’re open to that. I think if you look around the NBA, as far as the veteran players, there are probably a few we’d consider trading the pick for, outright, just pick for player.”

Hint: He was aiming that at Gregg Popovich and the San Antonio Spurs, if Kawhi Leonard does become available. Or at Dell Demps the Pelicans suddenly decide they don’t want Anthony Davis anymore. Or at Tom Thibodeau if he decides to test the market for Karl-Anthony Towns (that is less insane than you might think, but not likely).

Outside of something highly improbable like any of that happening (it’s hard to imagine Leonard forcing his way out of San Antonio just to tell Phoenix he’d be happy to sign there long term), expect the Suns to keep the pick.

Ainge traded the pick last year because he didn’t believe in Markelle Fultz the way most did, he liked Tatum better. (BTW, it’s too early to fully judge that trade: We haven’t seen what Fultz will become, and we don’t know what pick the Celtics get next year.)

This year Arizona center Deandre Ayton is on top of everybody’s draft board and he is seen as a potential franchise center by most, a guy who could have a Joel Embiid/Towns kind of impact on the Suns (Ayton’s game is different from those two, we’re just talking what he could mean to the franchise). Nobody is trading that unless they are getting a franchise cornerstone piece back. Sure, if a team calls with an offer McDonough will take the call and politely listen, that’s what a GM should do, but don’t expect him to pull the trigger on anything.

This is the Suns’ first No. 1 pick in franchise history, McDonough is not going to trade that away for anything less than a Godfather deal.

NBA announces awards finalists

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The NBA will reveal its major individual honors June 25 in a televised award show.

For now, the league has announced finalists. Click the name of each award for more analysis of the race:

James Harden, LeBron James, Anthony Davis finalists for Most Valuable Player

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James Harden will almost certainly win Most Valuable Player this season.

It doesn’t matter that LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo advocated for themselves. It doesn’t matter that Harden’s style of play grates. It doesn’t matter how he performs in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals tonight.

The Rockets superstar will likely claim the NBA’s premier regular-season award when it’s presented June 25.

Until then, we just know he’s one of three finalists:

James Harden (Rockets)

LeBron James (Cavaliers

Anthony Davis (Pelicans)

Harden scored an NBA-high 30.4 points per game, maintaining his efficiency and distributing, to lead the league’s best offense. Add improved defense in Houston’s switching scheme, and Harden was the main reason the Rockets finished with the NBA’s best record.

LeBron was mostly awesome, but his effort and focus waned in January. Davis did a great job lifting the Pelicans into the playoffs after DeMarcus Cousins got hurt.

The Bucks’ Giannis Antetokounmpo is a tough exclusion. I bet LeBron, Davis and Antetokounmpo were 2-4 in varying orders on many ballots (which called for five selections).

Rudy Gobert, Joel Embiid, Anthony Davis finalists for Defensive Player of the Year

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The NBA delaying revealing its regular-season awards until after the playoffs comes with one major upside – a TV special that can be monetized.

But it also sucks the enthusiasm out of the honors. After the drama of a lengthy and high-stakes postseason, who cares about the best performances in a relative mundane regular season?

That can perhaps be felt most strongly in Defensive Player of the Year. Nobody produced an elite defensive season that a national audience will be excited to celebrate months later, and all three finalists have already been eliminated from the playoffs:

Kawhi Leonard missed nearly the entire season. Draymond Green didn’t bring full effort. Andre Roberson got hurt after a strong start to the season.

And with that, three prime candidates didn’t become (or deserve to be) finalists.

I’d pick Gobert, but even he missed 26 games. Nobody sustained elite defense for a large portion of the regular season. How many people will care June 25 who voters deemed came closest?