Myles Turner

Cliff Alexander
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Former Trail Blazers player Cliff Alexander charged with gun felony

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Five of the top six 2014 high school recruits were drafted in the 2015 NBA Draft Lottery: Jahlil Okafor, Emmanuel Mudiay, Stanley Johnson, Karl-Anthony Towns and Myles Turner.

The exception: Cliff Alexander.

After a rocky freshman season at Kansas, Alexander was effectively forced in the 2015 NBA draft by the threat of NCAA punishment. He went undrafted, signed with the Trail Blazers and played just eight games. The next season, he signed a 10-day contract with the Nets but never played for them.

TMZ:

Former NBA player Cliff Alexander — the top H.S. recruit in the country in 2014 — was arrested Wednesday … after cops say they found a loaded gun on him during a traffic stop.

Alexander, who cops say does NOT have a concealed carry license — was arrested and booked on a felony charge of aggravated unlawful use of a weapon.

Alexander, 24, has been playing in France.

Rumor: Teams watching Victor Oladipo situation with Pacers for possible trade

victor oladipo return
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The Indiana Pacers are locked into some big money contracts: Malcolm Brogdon at three-years, $65 million after this season; Myles Turner three years, 54 million, Domantas Sabonis‘ four-year, $77 million extension kicks in next season; plus both T.J. Warren and Jeremy Lamb have a couple of seasons at more than $10 million.

Then there is Victor Oladipo, just returned to the court and starting to round into shape after a major injury. He has only one more season after this one, at $21 million. He and the Pacers talked extension briefly but tabled those talks.

Can the mid-market Pacers keep all those players? Might they trade Oladipo? Ian Begley at SNY.TV says other teams are monitoring the situation.

Opposing teams are keeping an eye on the situation in Indy because the club will likely have to commit significant money to Victor Oladipo in the summer of 2021 if it wants to keep him.

The Pacers will be able to exceed the cap to sign Oladipo. But it would take a significant financial commitment from Indy to keep the foursome of Oladipo, Sabonis, Brogdon and Turner intact…

The Knicks, Nets and plenty of other teams are in position to be aggressive if a player of Oladipo’s caliber becomes available via trade.

Right now, that’s all a big “if” that hinges on how healthy Oladipo is and can he bounce back to his All-NBA level of play. While he was starting to round into form upon his return, he was not his old self, yet (nor should he be expected to be yet), and he was still developing chemistry with Brogdon.

The sense around the league is that the Pacers would move one of their big men, Turner or Sabonis. However, those two have played well together on the front line and the Pacers have shot down trade requests for Turner in the past.

The questions for owner Herb Simon of the Pacers become: Does he want to pay the luxury tax to keep this team together? While this Pacers team is good, is it “pay the tax” like a contender good? Throw into the mix that Simon’s money in large part comes from owning shopping malls — a sector hit hard in the current economy — and there are a lot of questions to answer.

Which is why other teams will monitor the situation. The core guys in Indiana could help a lot of other teams.

Mock NBA expansion draft: Bulls, Cavaliers, Pistons, Pacers, Bucks

Mock NBA expansion draft
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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.

We’re unveiling protected/unprotected lists by division (here is the Atlantic Division). Players are listed with their 2020-21 salary. Up now, the Central:

Chicago Bulls

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 7

Ineligible – 0

Analysis: Chicago keeps their young building blocks, as well as the veterans they acquired to support them. In the end, the Bulls hope that this group can finally get healthy and make a playoff push. That means protecting all of them.

Chandler Hutchison was the toughest decision among the unprotected players. He’s still on his rookie scale contract, but he hasn’t been healthy during his first two seasons. That means the Bulls prioritize a veteran or two over him. Kris Dunn is another tough player to leave unprotected, but as a free agent, there is no guarantee he’d be back anyway.

Cleveland Cavaliers

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 2

Ineligible – 3

Analysis: The Cavaliers are in a spot to really clean up their cap sheet if either Kevin Love or Larry Nance Jr. are selected. That made the protection decisions pretty easy. Keep all the young guys and the guys on decent contracts. Andre Drummond doesn’t really fit either description there, but Cleveland did just trade for him.

Detroit Pistons

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 1

Ineligible – 5

Analysis: This one has some gamesmanship involved. Because the Pistons have five free agents, they only need to leave the minimum of one player unprotected. It’s that one player that makes the eight protected players easy decisions. Sure, there are young guys in that group Detroit wants to keep. But a handful are players the Pistons wouldn’t lose sleep over seeing get drafted.

On the flip side, by leaving only Blake Griffin unprotected, Detroit opens the possibility of getting that albatross salary off their books. The Pistons don’t have any extra first-round picks, but could be open to moving one of their own to entice and expansion team to take on the remaining $77.8 million in salary over the next two seasons.

Indiana Pacers

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 5

Ineligible – 2

Analysis: The Pacers protection decisions were fairly easy. Every player they are protecting is a key rotation player or a recent draftee.

It was a little difficult to leave Jeremy Lamb and T.J. McConnell unprotected, but Lamb is coming off a major injury. An expansion team may not want to deal with that. While McConnell has been good for Indiana, he’s a little expendable with Aaron Holiday on the roster.

Milwaukee Bucks

Protected – 8

Unprotected – 4

Ineligible – 3

Analysis: The Bucks deep roster works against them a little bit here. Seven of the protected players were fairly easy decisions. The only one that was tricky was Wesley Matthews. He’s a veteran with a player option, but Milwaukee isn’t taking chances with one of their starters.

On the unprotected front, it came down to Matthews vs D.J. Wilson and Sterling Brown. Ultimately, neither young player has cracked the rotation on a regular basis. That makes it a little more palatable to leave them exposed in the expansion draft.

Pacers All-Star Domantas Sabonis has 20 and 11, leads Pacers past Blazers

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INDIANAPOLIS — Domantas Sabonis had 20 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Indiana Pacers to a 106-100 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Thursday night.

Malcolm Brogdon had 17 points, eight assists, and six rebounds while T.J. Warren and Victor Oladipo scored 15 points each for the Pacers, who have four of their last five.

CJ McCollum had 28 points and eight assists, Gary Trent Jr. had 20 points, and five rebounds, and Hassan Whiteside had 18 points and 16 rebounds for the Trail Blazers, who have lost five of six.

The Pacers were able to hold off the Blazers’ late push.

After Brogdon made a jumper to give Indiana a 103-93 lead with 1:54 remaining, Portland went on a 7-0 run. McCollum’s floater made it 103-100 with 30 seconds to go.

Myles Turner drilled a 3-pointer with 9 seconds remaining to seal it.

The Trail Blazers went on a 10-1 run late in the first half to push ahead.

McCollum made a 3-pointer to give Portland a 42-40 lead with 3:13 to go in the second quarter. After a free throw by Oladipo, McCollum made another three and then a fadeaway to put the Trail Blazers in front 47-41.

Portland led 49-43 at halftime.

USA Basketball names 44 finalists for 2020 Olympics

Team USA in 2012 Olympics
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Team USA just placed seventh in the FIBA World Cup – the Americans’ worst-ever finish in a major tournament. Their biggest problem? Lack of star power.

Now, it’s time for the U.S. to renew hope for the 2020 Olympics.

USA Basketball released a star-studded list of 44 finalists for the roster in Tokyo:

None of these players are required to play if selected. The player pool for the World Cup once looked similarly promising. Then, player after player withdrew. The reasons for not playing – health, personal – usually emerge closer to the event. For now, it’s easier for players to express interest. They can always withdraw later.

Likewise, USA Basketball can always put someone on the final roster who isn’t a finalist now. This list isn’t binding. So, it’s not worth getting worked up about omissions.

That said, HOW THE HECK ARE Trae Young, Zion Williamson AND Ja Morant NOT INCLUDED? All three are good right now. Given their youth, they’ll likely look even better next summer. Young is already an All-Star!

Several other good players didn’t make this list, including C.J. McCollum, Fred VanVleet and Spencer Dinwiddie. But they’re a little older and therefore less likely to make a leap into consensus stardom.

And that’s what it might require to make this roster.

Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, James Harden, Anthony Davis, Damian Lillard, Stephen Curry and have already expressed strong interest in playing. Other players who’ve previously represented the U.S., including LeBron James, will also get favorable consideration.