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Report: Jahlil Okafor, still trying to land contract, works out for four teams in Vegas

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Jahlil Okafor was never going to find a new home early in free agency. Once the big names — and second tier, and third tier— names shook out, then some team was expected to step forward with a minimum contract and see if the former No. 3 pick could find a role on their team. Something he could not do with the Nets last year.

He’s still waiting.

Okafor did work out for teams in Las Vegas, to show that he is healthy and can contribute, reports Sean Deveny of The Sporting News.

According to sources, Okafor, the No. 3 pick in the 2015 NBA Draft, worked out for four teams last Wednesday in Las Vegas, and remains hopeful of signing with a team ahead of training camp next fall.

Okafor averaged 17.5 points per game as a rookie in Philadelphia in 2015-16. He has spent the last few months working out in Miami with trainers David Alexander and Idan Ravin, fueling speculation that he could land with the Heat, especially if Miami finds a trading partner for Hassan Whiteside.

First things first, it’s unlikely the Heat will find someone to take on Whiteside right now, and any team that does is going to want a treasure chest of sweeteners the Heat may not want to surrender.

In addition to the Heat, the Bulls and Pacers have been rumored to have some interest, although both of those should be taken with a serious grain of salt.

How much is any team interested? Enough to even offer a fully guaranteed contract for next season?

Maybe not. Okafor — with his old-school, below the rim, back-to-the-basket offensive game, not to mention a serious lack of defense — does not fit the direction the NBA is trending with bigs. He may need to accept a non-guaranteed invite to training camp somewhere and prove he deserves a roster spot. Humbling, to be sure, but reality.

At some point, some team will give him a shot. Probably. But Okafor has a lot of work to do to find a role in the modern NBA.

Wayne Ellington returning to Miami on one-year deal

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LAS VEGAS — Wayne Ellington is returning to the Miami Heat, after nearly two weeks of waiting and wondering if he would get his wish to be back with the club for a third season.

A person with direct knowledge of the terms said Thursday night that Ellington accepted a $6.3 million, one-year offer that exactly matches his salary from last season. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the contract has not been signed.

Keeping Ellington was a top priority for the Heat this summer, and the veteran guard made clear that he wanted to be back in Miami. On Day 12 of free agency, a deal finally got struck.

“I feel great here in Miami,” Ellington said. “I’ve built very strong relationships with a lot of people. These guys that I go to war with every night, we’ve gone from strangers to teammates to brothers. This is where I wanted to be.”

Ellington set a Heat record with 227 3-pointers last season, and established career highs of 11.2 points and 26.5 minutes per game.

When he was good, Miami was really good a year ago. Ellington appeared in 77 games – the Heat went 29-13 when he made at least three 3-pointers, and went 13-22 when he failed to connect on at least that many.

And he made it clear many times, both during the season and even in the offseason, that he wanted to remain with the Heat.

Miami was the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs last season, falling to Philadelphia in the first round. Miami’s roster, for now, is fairly similar to what it was last season – though the Heat are still waiting to see if they will be bringing back veterans Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem, two players whose status for 2018-19 remains unclear.

“I don’t think we showed everything we were capable of last season,” Ellington said. “Already this summer, guys have been working. Guys have improved. That’s what it’s about. You’ve got to get better from within, from inside your team. And naturally, I think we’ll continue to get better.”

Miami is Ellington’s seventh team, and just the second club that he’s been with for 100 games. He was changing addresses annually for a five-year stretch before arriving in Miami – his career started with three seasons in Minnesota, followed by short stints with Memphis, Cleveland, Dallas, the Los Angeles Lakers and Brooklyn that preceded his signing with the Heat in 2016.

“I feel like this is home now,” Ellington said.

Agent explains difference between LeBron James choosing Heat (championships), Cavaliers (fulfilling promise) and Lakers (what he wants)

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LeBron James‘ agent, Rich Paul, publicly advised his most famous client during the season to focus on winning.

Did LeBron listen in free agency?

Paul, via Lee Jenkins of Sports Illustrated:

“In 2010, when he went to Miami, it was about championships,” Paul continues. “In 2014, when he went back to Cleveland, it was about delivering on a promise. In 2018, it was just about doing what he wants to do.”

James was leaning toward L.A. for days, and according to those outside his direct orbit, for months. But Paul rejects the commonly held explanations that James was driven either to expand his Hollywood empire or spark an overnight superteam.

“Doing what he wants to do” is sufficiently vague, but it stands in stark contrast here to “championships” and “delivering on a promise” (which was bringing a title to Cleveland).

Did Paul intend to differentiate it from those other two reasons? Perhaps, not. But that’s the easy inference.

LeBron insists he’s still in championship mode – but with this team? The Lakers aren’t built to win quickly, and LeBron’s prime won’t last forever. Yet, he’s not reportedly not pushing the Lakers to add a second star who’d accelerate their timeline. And LeBron relinquished leverage by signing a four-year contract as opposed to the short-term deals he inked with the Cavs.

That’s why it’s hard to turn away from theories about Hollywood connections, cashing checks and – as Dwyane Wade put it – “lifestyle.” LeBron already owns a home in Los Angeles, and his wife reportedly wants to live there year-round. It’s an enjoyable city for a millionaire.

Like every human being, LeBron is certainly motivated by multiple factors.

But his ambitions aren’t being condensed into winning as directly anymore.

Report: Carmelo Anthony met with Rockets, Heat as Thunder exit looms

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The Thunder, by stretching him or trading him to another team that will waive him, are dumping Carmelo Anthony.

The Rockets are frontrunners to sign him, but he’ll at least explore the market.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

In advance of an inevitable – if not imminent – parting, the Oklahoma City Thunder granted Carmelo Anthony permission to meet with prospective teams, including the Houston Rockets and Miami Heat, league sources told ESPN.

Anthony and his representatives met with Rockets and Heat officials at the site of the NBA Summer League in recent days, league sources told ESPN.

The Rockets meeting included coach Mike D’Antoni, who had a turbulent relationship with Anthony as New York Knicks coach. D’Antoni made it clear to Anthony that he thinks the circumstances together would be far different in Houston, and welcomed the idea of coaching Anthony again, league sources said.

Miami coach Erik Spoelstra has been a strong advocate of signing Anthony, who could play a major role for the Heat at power forward.

So, it’s between a coach whom Anthony has resisted before (D’Antoni) and a coach wants to play at Anthony at a position the former star has resisted before (power forward). What a fun battle!

D’Antoni has embraced isolation far more than he did with the Knicks, but that was with James Harden and Chris Paul – not an over-the-hill Anthony. I’m hardly convinced Anthony joining Houston would go well.

Anthony has embraced power forward far more than he did with the Knicks, but that was with Steven Adams doing the dirty work behind him – not Hassan Whiteside as his center. I’m hardly convinced Anthony joining Miami would go well.

But Anthony is convinced staying in Oklahoma City won’t go well, so he’s now exploring other options. Good luck to him finding a good fit.

Where will Carmelo Anthony play next? Bet on banana boat buddies.

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When you wonder where Carmelo Anthony is going to play next, you need to think back to his buddies on the banana boat.

As had been expected, Anthony and the Oklahoma City Thunder are working toward a parting of the ways — via trade, buyout, stretch or some combination of all of it. This was the right move for both sides: the Thunder will save $80 million to $100 million in luxury tax (depending on how a deal is put together); ‘Melo doesn’t want to play a shrinking role in Oklahoma City, and that’s all that would be available to him.

Once this all gets worked out, where will Anthony sign next? On a veteran minimum deal (most likely, maybe a small exception) he can fit financially on any elite team in the league. Let’s break down the contenders, and it all starts with the teams who have his banana boat buddies.

• The Houston Rockets (and banana boater Chris Paul). We know the Rockets like Anthony, they worked very hard to get him last summer before a trade with the Knicks just fell apart (because someone in New York sobered up and thought “we don’t want Ryan Anderson and that contract”).

We also know there’s a natural fit in the roster because Trevor Ariza bolted to take Phoenix’s cash. Anthony can space the floor as a shooter, he hit 35.7 percent from three last season and was solid on spot-up jumpers. The Rockets are an isolation heavy team, and isolations/post-ups accounted for 32.5 percent of Anthony’s possessions last season. And he can still get buckets at a fair rate that way.

The problems are Anthony is not a three anymore — he played either no minutes or just 250 there last season for OKC (depending on how your ranked him with certain lineups), he was always a four — and he is a defensive liability, he can be targeted on the switches that are the heart of the Rockets’ defensive strategy (Anthony did better on switches statistically than you would think during the regular season, he wasn’t bad, but in the playoffs the Jazz targeted him and played Anthony off the court.

• The Los Angeles Lakers (and banana boater LeBron James). The Lakers are trying to amass some veterans and playmakers/scorers to go around their young core and LeBron so they can win games this season, yet remain flexible going forward. Anthony could fit in with that, plus the Lakers’ roster is nearly devoid of shooting and Anthony can still do that.

The challenge with the Lakers is fit. The Lakers don’t want to take the ball out of the hands of LeBron or Brandon Ingram or Kyle Kuzma, and those are the guys who will split time at the forward slots for L.A. next season. Put simply, the Lakers would be slowing the development of their best young talent if they bring in and lean on Carmelo, and that is just not smart. Still, never say never to this as a one-year experiment.

• Miami Heat (and banana boater Dwyane Wade). This actually makes some sense on the court, Anthony could step in and fill the shooting big role that Kelly Olynyk filled for the Heat last season. During the regular season the Heat can hide Anthony defensively thanks to the versatility of James Johnson, Josh Richardson, and Justise Winslow.

Miami’s medical staff and conditioning focus have extended the career of many a player, that could be good for the 34-year-old Anthony. But Erik Spoelstra and staff will want to keep Anthony in a specific role and will be blunt with him about it. Is that what Anthony wants to sign up for?

• The Golden State Warriors. If Anthony really wants to ring chase, he can lob them a call. However, talk about a team that wants to play fast, move the ball, defend hard, and put Anthony into a very small role, this would be the pinnacle of that. Golden State can play Kevin Durant, Draymond Green, and Jordan Bell key minutes at the four, Anthony would be a luxury. After what Anthony said following the playoffs last season when the Thunder shrunk his role during the playoffs (he didn’t like it one bit) it’s hard to imagine he signs up for this.

• Other teams may jump into the mix. The question Anthony needs to ask himself is what he wants most? Touches and a big role? A title? Those two things are not coming in one package, so where is that line? Only Anthony can answer that question.