I’m definitely not leaning towards picking up the player option.
Grant appeared bound for a raise. He’s a good finisher who active seeks opportunities at the basket and has improved his 3-point shooting. His versatile defense is valuable in any system. And he has the track record of hard work that should make teams comfortable investing in the 26-year-old.
But the NBA’s coronavirus-caused revenue decline presents a major variable. We’ll have to see where the salary cap lands. If the wrong teams have space, Grant could be stuck with just the mid-level exception, which – depending on the cap – could be less than $9,346,153.
In any cap environment, Denver has optionality. Millsap is still solid, though at 35, it’s unclear how many more good years he has left. Porter is exciting, though he’s still raw, and health remains a concern. Another impending unrestricted free agent, Mason Plumlee plays in plenty of two-center lineups with Jokic.
The Nuggets – who just traded a first-rounder for him – surely want to keep Grant. But they have other options, which gives them leverage.
Grant’s leverage comes with declining his player option and exploring unrestricted free agency. He’s setting that stage now.
Kevin Durant and beyond, Prince George’s County’s basketball shines
The DeMatha Catholic High School basketball program has been renowned for decades. Longtime coach Morgan Wootten won so much, he made the Basketball Hall of Fame. His most famous victory came in 1965, when DeMatha snapped the 71-game winning streak of Lew Alcindor and Power Memorial (N.Y). DeMatha has produced several NBA players, including Adrian Dantley and Danny Ferry.
Victor Oladipo grew up near DeMatha, attending elementary school just down the street.
Yet, he never even heard of DeMatha until eighth grade.
“Growing up, I was a little anti-social,” Oladipo said. “My parents didn’t really let me go anywhere, go out, hang out with friends. That’s not really our forte. That wasn’t really our speed.”
After attending a DeMatha game with someone, Oladipo was intrigued. He researched the school, became impressed with its pedigree and wanted to enroll. He went to the office to get a registration form and bumped into current DeMatha coach Mike Jones. Jones asked whether Oladipo was signing up for summer league.
“What’s summer league?” Oladipo replied.
Oladipo learned quickly about the basketball scene in Prince George’s County, Md. – the elite talent, year-round infrastructure and deep passion. For anyone else unfamiliar with PG, a new documentary (“Basketball County: In The Water,” 9 p.m. Eastern on Friday, Showtime) showcases the county’s rich basketball legacy.
With a population of about 900,000, Prince George’s County sits just east of Washington D.C. PG is one of America’s wealthiest majority-black areas. Though the wealth tends to be concentrated outside the Beltway (a highway that encircles D.C. and cuts through Prince’s George’s), there’s plenty of socioeconomic diversity throughout the county.
A common link: Basketball.
The documentary explores several key reasons basketball thrives in PG – including a population shift from D.C. (which took to basketball from the early days of the sport), a robust parks-and-rec system and a strong network of support.
Writing for ESPN in 2008, Chris Palmer described PG as a place where “a new status symbol has gained traction: a son who is a big-time prospect.” Beyond parents, there are legions of coaches willing to help (and share in the glory).
Curtis Malone stood out.
Co-founder of D.C. Assault, Malone built one of the nation’s strongest AAU programs. He helped numerous players, guiding some through rough childhoods, many to college and even some to the NBA. He was also a drug kingpin. His complicated tale is the most fascinating section of the documentary.
“Y’all can say whatever the f— y’all want about him. Y’all can talk dirt,” former Assault and NBA player Michael Beasley said in the documentary. “He always had the kids first, man. He always put the kids first. He always fed the kids before he ate.”
The documentary has an issue similar to that of “The Last Dance,” ESPN’s 10-part series on Michael Jordan and the Bulls. The subjects hold creative control. Durant, Oladipo and Cook are executive producers.
The documentary also curiously includes Steve Francis, who sometimes trained in Prince George’s but can more accurately claimed by bordering Montgomery County. There’s no need to exaggerate PG’s legitimately extraordinary basketball output. The county’s NBA ranks were even stronger just a few years ago, before Beasley, Ty Lawson, Thomas Robinson, Dante Cunningham, Roy Hibbert and Chinanu Onuaku fell out of the league.
But, overall, the documentary presents a highly enjoyable look into a hoops hotbed that rivals any in the country.
In many ways, that’s thanks to Durant.
Durant’s Thirty Five Ventures is behind the film directed by John Beckham and Jimmy Jenkins. More importantly, Durant carries the superstar draw that boosts a project like this.
Durant fulfilled his promise unlike else from PG. Many thought that’d be Len Bias, who tragically died of a cocaine overdose two days after the Celtics drafted him No. 2 in 1986. Other highly talented players like DerMarr Johnson and Beasley never optimized their potential for varying reasons.
But Durant became an NBA MVP behind a uniquely PG upbringing.
According to his business partner, Rich Kleiman (another “Basketball County” executive producer), Durant likes to tell a story. Durant would play all day in his local rec center. When the court was cleared to host bingo for senior citizens at night, Durant hid behind a curtain. After bingo, Durant emerged to shoot even more.
Durant wasn’t alone in his dedication. Many PG County kids grow up dreaming of playing at DeMatha or another area private-school power. That instills focus and determination from a young age. Well-organized teams and leagues offer opportunities for passionate players to advance.
“Basketball is, in our area, a way for us to separate ourselves,” Oladipo said. “People from our area, we’re very confident. We believe in ourselves.
“We believe in the game of basketball.”
Mock NBA expansion draft: Nuggets, Timberwolves, Thunder, Trail Blazers, Jazz
The NBA season is on hiatus. NBC Sports is not – even if we have to venture into fantasy.
We’re holding a mock NBA expansion draft. Keith Smith is setting protected lists for existing teams. Kurt Helin and Dan Feldman will run two new teams as this project culminates in an expansion draft.
Current teams can protect up to eight players. Each team must make at least one player available. If selected, restricted free agents become unrestricted free agents. Pending options can be decided before or after the expansion draft at the discretion of the option-holder. Anyone selected in the expansion draft can’t return to his prior team for one year. Players entering unrestricted free agency and players on two-way contracts are essentially ignored.
Analysis: Denver had maybe the easiest protections decisions in the NBA. Two rotation players (Paul Millsap and Mason Plumlee) are ineligible, so the Nuggets simply protect their other rotation players.
Keita Bates-Diop is the exact type of player an expansion team should snag. He’s shown some upside in limited minutes. Vlatko Cancar has the benefit of an additional year on his contract, and will be only 23 years old at the start of next season.
Analysis: The Wolves are keeping guys who might be a part of the future. Most were no-brainers. The decision point was Omari Spellman v.s Juancho Hernangomez. Keeping Hernangomez doesn’t mean Minnesota will definitely re-sign him, but he has more upside than Spellman.
After Spellman, the rest are take it or leave it. Also, the Timberwolves aren’t paying either expansion team to take James Johnson off their hands.
Analysis: If this was done before the season, there could have been an argument for the Thunder to expose both Chris Paul and Dennis Schroder. Both have played far too well to chance that now. Steven Adams is overpaid, but not by enough to leave him unprotected. The rest of the players, led by Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, are young players with upside.
Abdel Nader has been a part of the rotation at times for OKC, but he’s not getting protected over a younger player. Deonte Burton and Mike Muscala were easy decisions due to their minimal roles for the Thunder.
Analysis: Portland is keeping its key veterans and younger players. The decision point was Wenyen Gabriel vs. the three unprotected veterans. In the end, the Trail Blazers chose to protect Gabriel, who they’ll likely renounce in free agency.
As for the three veterans, they all had strong cases against protecting them. Trevor Ariza is overpaid at this point his career. Rodney Hood is coming off a torn Achilles’. And Mario Hezonja just isn’t worth protecting, even despite his minimum salary.
Analysis: Utah’s first seven players were easy decisions. They are all rotation players. The decision point was keeping a non-guaranteed player (ultimately chose 2019 second-round pick Miye Oni) over either Mike Conley or Ed Davis.
The Jazz are leaving Conley and Davis unprotected because neither acquisition has worked out as hoped for. If Utah can clear Conley’s salary, that would be helpful for a team that is starting to get very expensive. Davis makes less than Conley, but the fit just doesn’t work. And of the minimum players, none have found a rotation role.
LOS ANGELES — Doc Rivers has spent most of the regular season coming up with patchwork lineups and hoping for a healthy future for the Los Angeles Clippers. Although they’ve got an outstanding record, their roster had only been fully healthy for a half-dozen games.
Paul George hit six 3-pointers while scoring 24 points, Kawhi Leonard added 19 points and the Clippers routed Denver 132-103 for their third straight win.
Montrezl Harrell had 18 points and 10 rebounds while Lou Williams scored 17 points and hit five 3-pointers in a comprehensively dominant win for the Clippers, who never trailed. LA evened the teams’ season series while sending the Northwest Division-leading Nuggets to their worst loss of the season.
After four months of injury problems and a trade-deadline reshuffling, the Clippers’ roster was completely intact for only the seventh time all season. They’re unbeaten in those seven games, and the veteran coach had trouble thinking of any significant flaws in their performance in one of their biggest tests of the year.
“The one thing this team has not lacked is confidence,” Rivers said. “Even when we weren’t playing well. But it definitely helps to start doing it. Then everyone sees what you’re capable of, and it takes you to another level.”
In a meeting of two elite teams hoping to win their franchises’ first championship in this suddenly wide-open league, the Clippers pulled even with Denver in the conference standings at 40-19. Both teams trail only the Lakers (45-12) for the West’s best record.
But in one of its biggest regular-season games of the year, Los Angeles produced stellar defense and merciless offense. Nine Clippers scored at least seven points, and they hit 46.2% of their 3-point attempts (18 for 39).
“It’s a big win,” Williams said. “I think it was important for us to get that game. We’ve got a lot of challenges coming up, and it was important to start with this one.”
Nikola Jokic had 21 points and nine rebounds, and Jerami Grant added 20 points as the Nuggets took a loss that was even worse than their 26-point defeat at Houston on New Year’s Eve. Denver lost for only the fourth time in 12 games overall.
“Oh, it’s a long list,” Denver coach Michael Malone said when asked what disappointed him. “I would just say the overall fight, from beginning to end. I thought we were soft tonight, from beginning to end. We couldn’t run offense because they took us out of our stuff. They’re a good team, but I’m just very disappointed with our competitive spirit and our effort.”
The Nuggets beat the Clippers 114-104 in the teams’ first meeting of the season last month, but George missed it with his hamstring problem. With both teams at full strength for the rematch, the Clippers were too much offensively for Denver’s normally stingy defense.
Los Angeles pulled away steadily in the second half, eventually taking a 25-point lead on Williams’ fifth 3-pointer with 7:12 to play and pouring it on when reserves wrapped it up.
“We held each other accountable in the locker room, just saying we got punked,” Denver guard Monte Morris said. “If we want to take that next step, games like this, we’ve got to be ready to play. The coaches only can do so much. … Will (Barton) had a good speech for us for about five minutes. It was just about how teams think we’re soft, and think if they get into us, they can disorient anything we do. And they did that tonight.”
Although the Clippers roared out with a 37-point first quarter, the Nuggets briefly kept it close with help from Grant. The backup guard built on his career-high 29 points against Detroit on Tuesday with 14 in the first half at Staples Center.
Full 2020 NBA All-Star starter voting, from LeBron James to Jeff Green
LeBron James (Western Conference frontcourt), Giannis Antetokounmpo (Eastern Conference frontcourt) and Luka Doncic (Western Conference guards) each led their categories in all three voting segments – fans, players and media. LeBron claims the overall crown with the most fan votes.
On the flip side, Green got no player votes, no media votes and just 219 fan votes. Presumably, the Jazz waiving Green last month halted his votes, but that put him last on the complete All-Star starter voting list.
The big winners were the actual All-Star starters:
But now you can see how everyone stacked up with the NBA’s formula – which sums double a player’s rank in fan voting, his rank in player voting and his rank in media voting then divides by four for a “score.” Fan vote serves as tiebreaker.
Here’s every player’s rank in each category (total votes), sorted by score: