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Report: Kings’ Kosta Koufos opting in

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Kings center Kosta Koufos is coming off a nice year. The 29-year-old could probably help several better teams next season.

But it’ll be a tight market this summer, especially for traditional centers. He probably couldn’t land a salary on the open market above his $8,739,500 player option, which is why he’s making the sensible choice.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

Sacramento Kings center Kosta Koufos will exercise his 2018-19 player option worth $8.7 million to return to the club, league sources said Wednesday.

The Kings have already traded their 2019 first-round pick. So, Koufos could help them win in a year there’s no incentive to tank.

But a free agent they could have signed instead probably could have helped even more.

Koufos maintains a glut of bigs in Sacramento – Koufos, Zach Randolph, Willie Cauley-Stein, Skal Labissiere and Harry Giles. Will Koufos help the Kings win a satisfactory amount or just get in the way of Cauley-Stein’s, Labissiere’s and Giles’ development?

At best, Koufos plays well enough to be tradable for value before the deadline. Considering how little buyers need centers, that seems unlikely. But it’s certainly possible.

Mavericks coach Rick Carlisle denies rumor he’s interest in Bucks job

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The Mavericks have said they’ll let Rick Carlisle coach them as long as he wants.

Could he be ready to leave Dallas?

Longtime Bucks reporter Gery Woelfel suggests yes:

Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News:

Carlisle has had two losing seasons in the last two years. In the prior 24 years (15 as a head coach, eight as an assistant, one sitting out), he had only one losing season. This season, he drew most attention for addressing accusations of sexual assault and harassment by other members of the Mavericks organization and talking about Nerlens Noel eating a hot dog.

It wouldn’t be terribly surprising if Carlisle had some desire to bolt Dallas for greener pastures.

Milwaukee would provide that. Giannis Antetokounmpo is a superstar. Khris Middleton is a borderline All-Star. Eric Bledsoe is a solid starter. The Bucks present a high-end coaching vacancy.

But it’s apparently not to be. Carlisle has incredible job security, and he has forged a bond – strengthened by winning the 2011 championship – with Mark Cuban. Like with Dirk Nowitzki, Carlisle seems content to stay with the Mavericks through the thin years.

Mike Budenholzer and Monty Williams make far more sense as frontrunners in Milwaukee.

Marcus Smart banks in intentional-miss attempt, makes series-clinching steal (video)

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With the Celtics up one and 2.4 seconds left in Game 5 last night, Marcus Smart intentionally tried to miss a free throw. He failed, banking the ball in.

But Smart made up for it by covering a lot of ground to steal the 76ers’ long pass and clinch Boston’s 4-1 series victory.

This sequence is such typical Smart. His shot was off target, but he still found a way to help the Celtics win.

Celtics eliminate 76ers in improbable and tight five-game series

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The Celtics looked finished when Gordon Hayward went down in the season’s first game.

The Celtics looked finished when Kyrie Irving underwent season-ending surgery just before the playoffs.

The Celtics looked finished when they ran into the red-hot 76ers.

But, against all odds, Boston is returning to the Eastern Conference finals to face LeBron James and the Cavaliers for the second straight year.

The Celtics advance with a 4-1 series win over Philadelphia, culminating with a 114-112 win in Game 5 Wednesday. That was Boston’s third victory over the 76ers by five or fewer points, marking just the 10th time in NBA history a team wrapped up a best-of-seven series so quickly while winning so many games by so few points.

Game 5, which included 11 ties and 21 lead changes, exemplified the tight series. The Celtics blew a 12-point second-half lead then overcame a four-point deficit with a minute and a half left.

“We’ve got a lot of heart,” said Jayson Tatum, who led the Celtics with 25 points. “We’ve got a lot of talent on this team, no matter how young we are. Nobody expected us to be this far.”

Then asked how to slow LeBron, Tatum pleaded rookie.

Boston’s effort against the NBA’s best player will start with young wings Tatum and Jaylen Brown (who added 24 points in Game 5 tonight). Sprinkle in some Marcus Morris (Celtics-best +10 tonight in a telling number) and Al Horford (15 points, eight rebounds and five steals tonight).

Boston – which opens the Eastern Conference Finals on Sunday – will be massive underdogs against the Cavs, but the Celtics have created enough reason for intrigue. That starts with Game 1 in Boston, where the Celtics are 7-0 in the playoffs.

Like Boston, Philadelphia has drawn attention with its postseason run.

Sure, losing in five games to the Irving-less, Hayward-less Celtics is disheartening. But just by making the second round, the 76ers are ahead of schedule.

Led by 24-year-old Joel Embiid (27 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and four blocks) and 21-year-old Ben Simmons (18 points, eight rebounds and six assists), Philadelphia has a bright future. Dario Saric (27 points, 10 rebounds and four assists) leads an impressive supporting cast. The 76ers will probably have the Nos. 10 and 26 picks in the upcoming draft plus max-ish cap space in free agency. The Process is paying off – even if the results this year couldn’t keep up with rapidly escalating expectations.

On the other hand, the resilient Celtics are leaving any expectations in the dust.

Kings promote Peja Stojakovic to assistant GM

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) The Sacramento Kings have promoted Peja Stojakovic to assistant general manager.

General manager Vlade Divac announced the move Wednesday to put Stojakovic in a role where he will assist in management of player development, talent evaluation and oversight of the team’s minor-league affiliate.

Stojakovic spent the past three seasons as an executive with the Kings. He most recently served as vice president of basketball and team development.

Stojakovic was an All-Star three times in seven-plus seasons as a player in Sacramento. He also played for Indiana, New Orleans, Toronto and Dallas in his 13-year career. He was a reserve on the Mavericks’ championship team in 2011.