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Wizards’ Bradley Beal: ‘Recruiting process is really going alright…I’m trying’

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LeBron James went out of his way to say he was not recruiting guys on his free-agent heavy All-Star Team.

Bradley Beal had no such hesitation, he tried to recruit guys, as he told Chase Huges of NBC Sports Washington.

“The recruiting process is really going alright. It’s going alright. I’m trying,” Beal said. “This is new for me. I’m definitely getting some ears and seeing what guys are looking for.”

Beal was too smart to name names — that would have brought a fine from the league — but he said some guys asked if he was happy where he was, while other guys he talked to about the possibilities in Washington.

The problem is while the Wizards will have some cap space after trading Otto Porter and Markieff Morris (and assuming they don’t pick up the option on Jabari Parker) but they will be nowhere near the max cap space needed to land the elite free agents at the All-Star Game (Kevin Durant, Klay Thompson, etc.). Even the second-tier All-Star free agents such as Khris Middleton will get max offers. Same with players who just missed the game, such as Tobias Harris.

If the Wizards renounce free agents they can get to $9 million in cap space, stretch and waive Ian Mahinmi and they can get to $18 million. That’s the top end. Meaning the Wizards will have room to make moves for good rotation players, but with John Wall‘s supermax extension kicking in at $38 million next season flexibility is limited. Genuine upgrades will be hard to come by.

Predicting what Washington GM Ernie Grunfeld will do next summer is a fool’s errand, but Beal is doing his part to try and bring more talent into Washington.

Report: Markieff Morris signing with Thunder

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The Lakers didn’t get Enes Kanter.

They’re not getting Markieff Morris, either.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

The Wizards traded Morris to dodge the luxury tax, and the Pelicans waived him. He has been just OK this year, but maybe getting healthier and escaping the drudgery of Washington will improve his play. Morris certainly brings plenty of talent as a versatile big forward.

He should provide an upgrade over Patrick Patterson as Oklahoma City’s backup power forward. Patterson is having another down season, raising questions about  his long-term health.

Morris projects to cost the Thunder $44,865 daily in salary and luxury tax. They play New Orleans tonight, and I wonder whether they’ll sign Morris in time for that game. Waiting another week – during the All-Star break – would save them a projected $314,057.

But it’d also cost him $85,640. So, he might not be down to wait.

That could be a reason he didn’t pick the Rockets. Though they have two open roster spots, they can’t yet sign two players even to pro-rated minimum contracts without crossing the luxury-tax line. They could have signed Morris and remained below the tax, but that would have meant waiting longer for another addition.

As for the Lakers, Morris is another pursued free agent who wasn’t Carmelo Anthony. If everyone keeps choosing other teams, the Lakers might run out of excuses for not signing Anthony (other than the right one).

Markieff Morris reportedly cleared to return; Rockets, Lakers among teams interested

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Markieff Morris has been sidelined since Dec. 26 after suffering a potentially serious neck injury. That hasn’t kept him out of the news: First the Wizards traded him to New Orleans in the Wesley Johnson deal, and then the Pelicans waived him, making Morris a free agent who would be valued on the open market.

Before talking to teams, Morris wanted to see a specialist and make sure his neck was healthy. He did just that, and his agent told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports that Morris has now been cleared and suitors are lining up.

Free-agent forward Markieff Morris has been cleared to play after recovering from a neck injury and has garnered interest from the Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Lakers, his agent, Rich Paul of Klutch Sports, told Yahoo Sports.

Morris is a stretch four/five (he played 65 percent of his minutes with the Wizards at center this season) averaging 11.5 points and 5.1 rebounds a game, and he has shot 33.3 percent from three. He is a solid rotation big man coaches can count on, and that has real value in this league. Especially on teams looking at playoff runs.

The Lakers and Rockets are looking for frontline depth and shooting, and they are not alone, other teams will be interested as well. Morris will have landing spots to choose from, depending on what he prioritizes.

Report: Wizards dodging luxury tax by trading Markieff Morris to Pelicans

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Whether they trade him or shut him down, the Pelicans might be without Anthony Davis for the rest of the season.

New Orleans just got a serviceable big man in case.

David Aldridge of The Athletic:

Last year was the first time the Wizards ever paid the luxury tax. Teams pay the repeater rate only when in the tax for the fourth time in the last five years. Washington was in no real danger of paying the repeater rate.

This move simply gets the Wizards out of the tax this season. They’ll not only avoid the cost of the tax, they’ll also receive the share of tax payments distributed to non-taxpaying teams. This was clearly the goal after Washington traded Otto Porter to reduce payroll earlier today.

Markieff Morris is better than Wesley Johnson. I’m not sure how much that matters to New Orleans, which appears content to tank until Davis can be traded to the Celtics this offseason.

The Pelicans are now on the hook for the $877,544 difference in remaining salary between Morris and Johnson (assuming the trade is officially completed Thursday). The prize is the second-round pick. Maybe Morris can be flipped to a team that can use him.

The Wizards are left to hope Bradley Beal can drag a further-depleted roster into the playoffs. Obviously, it’s not the primary focus in Washington right now, but in a dreary Eastern Conference, the postseason remains in reach.

NBA investigating Anthony Davis trade request

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Anthony Davis‘ agent, Rich Paul, told the Pelicans his client wouldn’t sign a contract extension with New Orleans next summer and wants to be traded.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

The NBA punishes players for public trade requests – sometimes. Markieff Morris got fined in 2015 for expressing a desire to be traded from the Suns. In 2009, Nate Robinson got fined for his agent making a trade demand, the league ruling a player is responsible for his agent’s public comments.

But J.R. Smith didn’t get fined for saying he wanted the Cavaliers to trade him earlier this season. NBA commissioner Adam Silver said that decision was based on Cleveland’s feedback.

On other hand, the Pelicans said, “We have also requested the League to strictly enforce the tampering rules associated with this transaction.” Maybe that’s just about the Lakers interfering, but New Orleans might press the league to punish Davis, too.

I have no idea what the NBA will do. But the league shouldn’t fine Davis.

He doesn’t plan to sign a contract extension. He wants to be traded. These are facts. He shouldn’t be punished for stating them publicly. In fact, his forthrightness should be applauded.

This is why most trade requests are leaked through anonymous sources. If Paul got anonymity then made the same statements, he and Davis would have plausible deniability the information didn’t come from them. The league would never investigate the source.

But because they were open and honest about their intentions, they might get punished? That’s not right.

There are other rules to punish players who fail to provide playing services. Davis hasn’t done that. He has merely informed everyone what he’s thinking. When he gets healthy, if New Orleans hasn’t traded him, he’ll presumably play. If he refuses, the league should take action then.

But for merely saying how he feels? That shouldn’t be viewed as a punishable offense.

The NBA’s history says it might be, though.