JaKarr Sampson

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Report: Nuggets signing D.J. Kennedy, who just won $2 million The Basketball Tournament

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You know that open basketball tournament with a $2 million grand prize for the winning team?

The Nuggets apparently do.

Fresh off winning $174,000 in leading his team to its second straight The Basketball Tournament victory, D.J. Kennedy is headed to Denver.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Nuggets already have 15 players – the regular-season roster limit – with guaranteed salaries plus JaKarr Sampson and Axel Toupane. That works against Kennedy sticking.

But Denver also lacks its own D-League affiliate. So, the Nuggets aren’t signing Kennedy just to waive him and assign his D-League rights. Maybe they’re considering deals that’d open a roster spot.

Kennedy, a strong wing, went undrafted out of St. John’s in 2011. He has played in the D-League and overseas since.

I’m not sure how he’d fit in Denver, which already has Danilo Gallinari, Gary Harris, Will Barton, Wilson Chandler, Mike Miller, Jamal Murray and Malik Beasley. But there’s a shortage of quality wings around the NBA as the league gets smaller. If he plays well in the preseason, Kennedy could draw interest from other teams.

LeBron James’ triple-double leads Cavaliers to division title

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CLEVELAND (AP) — LeBron James scored 33 points and recorded his 41st career triple-double as the Cleveland Cavaliers clinched their second straight Central Division title with a 124-91 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Monday night.

James added 11 rebounds and 11 assists before checking out with 6:02 left to a thunderous ovation. He scored 17 in the first quarter, helping the Cavs build a 19-point lead and erase the memory of an embarrassing loss on Saturday in Miami.

The Nuggets fought back and briefly led before the Cavs regrouped, scored 68 after halftime and easily notched their 50th win.

J.R. Smith added 15 points and Channing Frye 14 for Cleveland, which played without starter Kevin Love (illness).

Will Barton scored 27 for the Nuggets, who concluded a 1-4 road trip. Denver’s Kenneth Faried missed his third straight game with a sore lower back.

The Cavs were playing for the first time since being battered by the Heat, who led by 33 in the fourth and won by 21. It was a humiliating night for James, who sat out the final 12 minutes against his former team, and the loss raised more questions about Cleveland’s chemistry and chances of returning to the NBA Finals.

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James got the Cavs back on track and to 50 wins, a milestone coach Tyronn Lue said shouldn’t be taken for granted.

“It’s something we embrace,” he said. “It’s not every year that you can do that, unless you’re the San Antonio Spurs and teams like that. It just shows the hard work the guys have put in to get to this point. All is not bad.”

Cleveland has more work to do but this is a start.

James was aggressive from the outset and finished the first quarter with 17 points, five rebounds and three assists. The Cavs had their highest-scoring opening quarter of the season and it appeared they would be able to rest some starters in the second half.

But with Barton leading the way, the Nuggets went on a 17-0 run and took a 43-41 lead in the second quarter while James was on the bench.

James returned and with Lue using a lineup that featured the four-time league MVP, Frye, Smith, Timofey Mozgov and Matthew Dellavedova, the Cavs reeled off nine consecutive points and led 56-48 at halftime.

Cleveland’s starters blitzed Denver to start the third and the Cavs pushed their lead to 30 before James left.

After James picked up his 11th assist for his second triple-double this season, Lue sent in a substitute and Cleveland’s bench and crowd applauded as he left the floor.

TIP-INS

Nuggets: F JaKarr Sampson strained his left shoulder in the first half and didn’t return. He attended James’ high school, Akron’s St. Vincent-St. Mary, for three years. … Coach Mike Malone spent five seasons as an assistant with the Cavaliers. He said Cleveland’s run to the 2007 finals, which included James’ epic performance in Game 5 of the conference semifinals at Detroit – he scored 28 of the Cavs’ final 30 points – is his fondest memory. “One of the best performances by a player in postseason history,” Malone said.

Cavaliers: Cleveland has won at least 50 games nine times. … James has scored 20 points or more in 16 straight games against Denver. … G Mo Williams has been cleared to practice after missing nearly a month with an injured left knee. Williams, who has not played since Feb. 24, has been bothered by soreness in his knee for most of the season. He took part in Monday’s shootaround and could play in games later this week. … The Cavs also won division titles in 1975-76, 2008-09, 2009-10, 2014-15.

 

Report: Pistons voiding Donatas Motiejunas trade with Rockets, 76ers

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With the Donatas Motiejunas trade and Joel Anthony trade wrapped into a single transaction involving the Pistons, Rockets and 76ers, Detroit asked for more time to evaluate Motiejunas’ back injury.

The writing was on the wall, and confirmation of a failed physical is sure to disappoint the Rockets and 76ers.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The effects of negating this trade are wide-reaching.

With Motiejunas and Thornton returning to Houston, the Rockets are back above the luxury-tax line. They’re now projected to pay $4,841,505 in taxes – and no longer receive the share of taxes typically distributed to non-taxpaying teams.

The 76ers, who lost JaKarr Sampson to the Nuggets after waiving him to create a roster spot for Anthony, fall $2,630,651 below the salary floor. Watch for them to claim a waived player who makes about that amount, count his full-season salary toward the floor and pay only the prorated portion of the remaining salary (about 30%). Teams with a superfluous player making that amount could even waive him knowing Philadelphia might take that guaranteed salary off their hands. A candidate: Joel Anthony, who’s now back with Detroit (though the Pistons, as non-taxpayers, have less of a need to shed salary).

The Rockets would surely love to trim that amount, but they have no contracts so easily expendable that the 76ers would claim. The biggest incentive for Houston to make this trade was the first-round pick the Pistons were sending. The Rockets didn’t want just to dump Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton. Houston now has both players to help with a playoff push, but that doesn’t mean so much to the Rockets.

Ethically, this decision should focus only on player heath – and it might have. Motiejunas’ bad back is scary, and it was somewhat surprising the Pistons surrendered such a valuable pick for the pending free agent in the first place. But it’s worth wondering whether Detroit, 0-2 since the trade deadline and facing increased playoff competition with the Wizards (Markieff Morris) and Hornets (Courtney Lee) upgrading before the deadline, made this decision with ulterior motives.

The Pistons also traded for Tobias Harris, and they might have determined they’d face more difficulty than expected integrating its newcomers. That could lead to the top-eight-protected pick they dealt Houston more likely landing in the lottery. At that point, they could’ve re-thought the deal designed to acquire two players more helpful this season than Joel Anthony. Now, Detroit can keep its first-round pick and still pursue Motiejunas as a restricted free agent.

Other teams might hesitate to deal with the Pistons after this, so the onus is on Stan Van Gundy to defend his reputation. I think he’ll do that, but the questions must be asked first. At minimum, the Pistons avoid what all along appeared to be too risky of a trade. Detroit still has plenty of flexibility to build from here – again, including the possibility of trying to sign Motiejunas this summer.

With the trade deadline past, Houston and Philadelphia are much more stuck.

Report: Nuggets signing JaKarr Sampson to two-year contract

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The 76ers waived JaKarr Sampson to clear a roster spot for a trade that might not even happen.

Philadelphia originally planned to acquire Joel Anthony in the Donatas Motiejunas deal with the Pistons and Rockets, waive Anthony and then sign another player – maybe even Sampson. The sequence would have netted the 76ers an extra second-round pick and saved them money by meeting the salary floor while paying only the remaining amount of Anthony’s salary.

But with the trade still pending, the Nuggets might have interrupted part of those plans.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

JaKarr Sampson is finalizing a two-year contract with the Denver Nuggets, Sampson’s agent, Seth Cohen, confirmed to The Vertical.

Sampson’s deal with Denver will be non-guaranteed in the second year.

Sampson is like many 76ers – young and talented enough to potentially become a rotation player on a good team, but not ready to help a team win. He’s a nice addition for Denver, which also isn’t ready to win.

Philadelphia might feel a little scorned if it lost Sampson for nothing, but the chance at the pick and savings justified the move. Trades are just so rarely voided. And the 76ers can turn to their deep crop of similar players without Sampson.

Jahlil Okafor helps 76ers rout Trail Blazers 114-89

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PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Jahlil Okafor had 25 points and 10 rebounds to help the Philadelphia 76ers snap a four-game losing streak with a 114-89 rout of the Portland Trail Blazers on Saturday night.

Richaun Holmes added 17 points off the bench and Ish Smith and Robert Covington scored 16 apiece for the Sixers, who enjoyed a rare blowout victory. They improved to 5-37 with their most lopsided win of the season.

Damian Lillard scored 14 points to lead the Blazers, who dropped to 18-25 as their three-game winning streak ended. C.J. McCollum finished with 13 and Mason Plumlee and Miles Leonard had 12 apiece.

Portland, in the midst of a three-game East Coast swing, looked flat from the opening tip.

Okafor torched the Blazers for 10 points in the first four minutes and 17 in the first quarter – as many as the entire Portland team. With a mixture of post moves and jumpers, the rookie center only missed one of his nine shot attempts in the opening quarter to help Philly take a 29-17 lead.

The Sixers extended their lead to 22 with 7:45 left in the second quarter on a Covington transition 3-pointer, moments after a Nerlens Noel block on the other end. Covington hit another three less than two minutes later to put Philly up 25 and the Sixers went into halftime with a comfortable 68-43 advantage after Smith hit a runner right before the buzzer.

The Sixers blew a 24-point lead in an overtime loss to the Bulls on Thursday but didn’t suffer the same fate two days later. They continued to put their foot on the gas coming out of halftime, going up 29 on a Smith-to-JaKarr Sampson alley oop midway through the third and 31 on a Covington three with two minutes left in the quarter.

Lillard and McCollum, the league’s highest scoring guard combo, shot 10 for 36 while combining to score nearly 20 points below their season average.

TIP-INS

Trail Blazers: Portland lost to Philadelphia for the first time in four straight matchups. … The Blazers shot just 16 for 43 from the field and 2 for 14 from 3-point range in the first half. … Lillard has led the team in scoring in each of the last seven games. … The Blazers were denied their first four-game win streak since last March.

76ers: Starters Nik Stauskas (shoulder) and Jerami Grant (calf) both missed the game with injuries. Head coach Brett Brown said he hopes both will be back for Philly’s next game. … Elton Brand was inactive. He’s yet to make his season debut after the Sixers signed him on Jan. 4. . The Sixers trotted out their 22nd different starting lineup in 42 games this season. … Smith and Canaan combined to score the Philly’s final 13 points of the first half.