Kevin Martin

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Report: Pelicans aggressively seeking ‘one of the higher level free agent guards left’

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The Pelicans will reportedly work out Lance Stephenson, and whether or not they’re serious about him, they seem serious about somebody at his position.

Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders:

I’m not sure who qualifies as “‘one of the higher level free agent guards left” other than J.R. Smith, who seems extremely likely to return to the Cavaliers. (The Pelicans don’t have cap space to pursue Smith, anyway.)

Norris Cole, whom New Orleans already renounced? Mario Chalmers coming off a torn Achilles? Kevin Martin who did little with the Spurs? Kirk Hinrich who’s over the hill? Andre Miller who’s five years older?

Making this harder to decipher: The Pelicans have 15 players with guaranteed salaries, most of whom signed this offseason. How will they make room for an additional guard on their regular-season roster, which is capped at 15 players? They don’t have money or roster spot to lure a quality guard, even if you grade quality on a curve for who’s left unsigned.

Does this signal another shoe to drop in New Orleans?

Five free agents still available for teams willing to roll the dice

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At this point, NBA teams have almost completely filled out their rosters. Most teams have 14-15 roster spots filled, plus they have some partial-guaranteed deals for guys who will get a look but most likely are just there for training camp fodder.

Still, there are veteran free agents out there, looking for a landing spot.

Let’s be clear, if a guy is still a free agent, there’s a reason. That said, these are names you know. These are guys that very well may get a chance when a team realizes they need help at a position (or suffer an injury that creates a need). Here are the five best free agents still on the market.

1) Lance Stephenson. He couldn’t blend in with the Clippers’ team system last year, but did put up numbers when he went to an injury-ravaged Grizzlies team that needed scoring: 14.2 points a game on 47.4 percent shooting. As a ball-handling forward who can help a second unit put up points, Stephenson has value on paper. But concerns about locker room chemistry, and if he can buy into and play within a team system, have kept him without a contract. Expect some GM will roll the dice on him at some point during the season.

2) Josh Smith. Like Stephenson, he started the season with the Clippers as part of what Doc Rivers thought would be an improved bench, and by the middle of the season he was in Houston, where he played a limited role. While he showed flashes last season (19 points against the Heat, or in Game 2 of the playoffs vs. Golden State), he struggled to hit the three or defend well enough to stay on the court. Like with Stephenson, GMs will have concerns about how he impacts the locker room. It looked like his game has faded, but some team may give him a shot.

3) J.J. Hickson. Statistically, he’s the best guy on this list considering last season. Denver bought him out and he bounced over to Washington, where he provided a little scoring off the bench with 4.3 points per game while shooting 54.6 percent. He hustled on the glass, rolled to the rim, missed free throws (44.7 percent last season), and he doesn’t bring much on the defensive end of the floor. Still, as a reserve big teams could do worse, and he will get a shot somewhere.

4) Ty Lawson. He started last season in Houston, finished it in Indiana, and was a disappointment in both on the court. After two DUIs in a six month span and a team executive saying he showed up to practice with alcohol on his breath in Denver, there are concerns about his drinking. Lawson defended himself from those charges and said the team lands him will get a deal. Hopefully, he has his personal life in order, but he’s going to need to prove he can be better running and offense and setting up teammates than he was last year to stick with a team.

5) Kevin Martin. He bounced between the Timberwolves and the Spurs last season, and while his skills have diminished over the years he can still shoot the rock and that is always valuable. Last season he shot 36 percent from three overall, although he never found the same groove in San Antonio, certainly not like both sides had hoped. Some team that needs shooting — and there are plenty of them — will bring him in at age 33 to see if he still has anything left in the tank.

Thunder defense shuts down Spurs one more time, Oklahoma City wins to advance

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There is a moment in nearly every NBA playoff series when a coach knows he’s in real trouble and starts throwing crazy lineups at the board trying to find anything that works.

That was Gregg Popovich by the end of the first quarter Thursday night. After the Spurs team got off to an early lead — and Tim Duncan was 3-of-3 from the floor — Popovich went to his bench and the wheels came off. To put it kindly. This was more like a 14-car pileup. Desperately searching for anything that worked, Popovich played a lineup that hadn’t seen a minute all season: Kevin Martin, Manu Ginobili, Kyle Anderson, David West, and LaMarcus Aldridge.

It didn’t work. The Thunder went on a 42-12 run across the quarters, and that was the ballgame.

After a season where pundits — myself included — said OKC was a step behind the Spurs and Warriors, the Thunder passed the test against San Antonio, beating the Spurs 113-99 Thursday to win the series 4-2.

The Thunder will travel to the Bay Area to take on the Warriors starting Monday night.

The fourth quarter of the game felt nostalgic for fans because this may have been Tim Duncan’s final NBA game. While he’s made no announcement (and he may well not even know what he wants to do yet), there was a sense around the league that he could, and Manu Ginobili would, walk away after this season. Whenever he does retire, Duncan will go down as the greatest power forward ever to play the game — a five-time NBA champion with unquestioned Hall of Fame credentials. We just got done celebrating Kobe Bryant‘s amazing career, but Tim Duncan’s resume can stand next to Kobe’s with pride (Duncan was far more consistent).

“Timmy, he was playing really well so we played him as much as we could because he earned the minutes,” Gregg Popovich said postgame.

But Duncan and the Spurs exited this season on a rough note.

The kind of game and series win that might have Kevin Durant thinking “there’s no place like my current home.”

After a blowout loss in Game 1, the Thunder defense tightened up each game, cutting off passing angles and using their length and athleticism to challenge seemingly everything. The Spurs could not get comfortable, the Thunder defense got smarter and more aggressive each game, and that reached new heights in the first half of Game 6. Look at the Spurs shot chart from the first 24 minutes.

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The Thunder, meanwhile, were getting the buckets they wanted against the less-athletic Spurs. Kevin Durant had 37 points on 24 shots, Westbrook 28 points, and once again the role players chipped in led by Andre Roberson with 14 points including hitting 3-of-5 from three (that’s a season’s worth of threes for him).

The Thunder led by 28 at one point and 26 early in the fourth, but the Spurs would not die. They went on a 20-6 run and got the lead down to 11 at one point, forcing Billy Donovan to put Westbrook and Durant back in to make sure this game didn’t get away from them.

The Thunder earned this series — they played their best, smartest defense of the season against the Spurs. They will need all of that and more against the Warriors.

That’s for Friday and the weekend. Thursday is for celebrating an impressive and important win for the franchise.

Spurs take 3-0 series lead, beating shorthanded Grizzlies 96-87

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — Kawhi Leonard scored 32 points, and the San Antonio Spurs beat the Memphis Grizzlies 96-87 on Friday night to take a 3-0 lead in their Western Conference first-round series.

The Spurs are a win away from their ninth postseason series sweep and third against Memphis. They finished the game on a 13-6 run in the final 3:41, and Leonard, the two-time Defensive Player of the Year, scored 13 points in the quarter as he shot 11 of 22 for the game and 6 of 9 from 3-point range.

LaMarcus Aldridge added 16 points and 10 rebounds. Danny Green and Manu Ginobili each added 11 points for San Antonio.

Zach Randolph led Memphis with 20 points and 11 rebounds on 6-of-21 shooting. Matt Barnes added 17 points and 11 rebounds, while Vince Carter had 11 and JaMychal Green was 5 of 5 for 10 points.

Game 4 is Sunday.

Data curated by PointAfter

With Jarell Martin out with an injured left foot, Memphis had only 10 players available, and the 6-foot-7 Barnes jumped the opening tipoff at center. A fan summed up the Grizzlies’ season by holding up a towel with the slogan: “So proud of my team … All 28 of you” in honor of the NBA-record number of players Memphis used this season.

The Spurs so dominated the first two games in San Antonio that Memphis led only once, by a point and for 25 seconds. This time, the teams swapped the lead eight times with seven ties. Memphis not only took its second lead of this series, the Grizzlies also won consecutive quarters, outscoring San Antonio 25-18 in the second to trail only 44-43 at halftime and 28-26 in the third.

Memphis coach Dave Joerger stuck with his starters much of the game, with Barnes leading the Grizzlies with more than 41 minutes and Randolph on the court more than 39. Leonard played a game-high 42 minutes, 23 seconds.

The Grizzlies led for more than 2 minutes in the third quarter, taking their biggest lead at 51-48 after a 3-pointer from Carter and a pair of free throws by Tony Allen. That set up a taut quarter where neither team led by more than three, and Memphis led 71-70 going into the fourth.

Boris Diaw scored as the shot clock was running down to put the Spurs ahead to stay with 7:47 left, starting the 7-0 run. Memphis last got within 83-81 on a tip-in by Barnes. Leonard hit a free throw off a defensive 3-second call on Allen with 3:41 to go, and the Spurs finished off the win forcing five turnovers in the quarter.

TIP-INS

Spurs: With this win, Duncan tied Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for third in career playoff victories with 154. Duncan trails Robert Horry (155) and Derek Fisher (161). Duncan already tied Horry for second with 244 postseason appearances. Fisher also leads that category with 259 playoff games. … Kevin Martin did not play because of illness. … The Spurs had a 17-12 advantage in fast-break points.

Grizzlies: Memphis went 4 of 18 beyond the arc, outshot by Leonard individually and the Spurs, who went 12 of 26. … The Grizzlies outrebounded the Spurs 48-39 and outscored them 44-28 in the paint. … They also had an 18-1 edge in second-chance points, taking advantage of 15 offensive rebounds.

Report: Kevin Martin, Timberwolves agree to buyout

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Update: Marc Stein of ESPN:

 

Kevin Martin and the Timberwolves were reportedly in advanced buyout discussions Thursday, but there hadn’t been much word since.

Will Minnesota still waive Martin before tonight’s midnight deadline for him to eligible for another team’s playoff roster?

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Martin’s player option for next season complicates matters. His buyout amount would be applied to Minnesota’s team salary either:

  • 22% this season, 78% next season
  • 22% this season, 26% each of the following three seasons

The Timberwolves should be leery of adding a cap hit in future seasons for a player who might just opt out anyway and leave them with no future financial obligations. Therefore, they should consent to a buyout only if Martin relinquishes a substantial portion of his remaining guaranteed salary.

Martin was reportedly likely headed to the Spurs if bought out, though it’s unclear whether San Antonio signing Andre Miller — already bought out by Minnesota — affected that plan.