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Clippers Emerging Threat To Sign Kevin Durant

The Clippers have emerged as an “equally dangerous” threat to the Knicks in luring Durant away from the Warriors, Marc Stein of the New York Times writes in his latest newsletter.

New York has always been a constant in the rumors regarding Durant’s next employer. Stein previously heard from a trusted source that Durant was making plans to join the Knicks. There were also rumblings about him considering the Nets. The Clippers being a real contender is the latest leak in what appears to be an ever-developing story.

Perhaps no one outside of Durant knows where he’s going to sign this offseason. It’s possible that even he doesn’t know yet, as his manager recently indicated.

Los Angeles has an attractive situation centered around cap space and a bevy of assets. Landry Shamet, who was acquired in the Tobias Harris deal, and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander both made the All-Rookie Second Team, which was announced earlier today.

The Clippers also have the draft capital to make nearly any deal they please. They own all of their future first-rounders outside of this year’s selection (No. 20 overall, moved to Boston) and they have an additional first in each of the following two drafts, with their most valuable selection being Miami’s unprotected 2021 pick (via the Harris trade).

Durant still hasn’t been cleared to return to live action. He missed the entire Western Conference Finals and Stein writes that the Warriors’ initial optimism has “cooled” in regard to the expectation that Durant would make a speedy recovery.

Blazers, Terry Stotts Agree To Multiyear Extension

Less than 24 hours after they were eliminated from the postseason, the Trail Blazers have agreed to terms on a multiyear contract extension for head coach Terry Stotts, tweets Casey Holdahl of Blazers.com. Head of basketball operations Neil Olshey said that the two sides finalized an agreement “20 minutes ago,” Holdahl adds (via Twitter).

[RELATED: Blazers, Lillard expected to agree to super-max extension during offseason]

Stotts, who previously coached the Hawks and Bucks, took over the Blazers’ head coaching job in 2012, which makes him the fourth longest-tenured coach in the NBA. After finishing 33-49 in his first season on Portland’s bench, Stotts has led the club to six consecutive playoff berths, for an overall regular season record of 325-249 (.566).

The 2018/19 season represented the first time that Stotts had guided the Blazers past the second round of the postseason. In their five previous playoff trips, the team was eliminated in the first round three times and advanced to the Western Conference Semifinals twice.

Stotts’ contract with the Blazers had been set to expire after the 2019/20 season, so it comes as no surprise that the club would quickly extend his deal rather than asking him to enter next year as a lame duck.

As we detailed earlier today, Stotts hadn’t been thrilled by the fact that Portland chose not to extend him a year ago after his Blazers claimed the No. 3 seed in the Western Conference, then were swept by the Pelicans in the first round.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

David Griffin Plans To Meet With Anthony Davis In L.A.

Speaking today to reporters, new Pelicans head of basketball operations David Griffin reiterated that he remains focused on selling Anthony Davis on the idea of remaining in New Orleans, despite reports that Davis plans to stick to his trade request. According to Griffin, he intends to meet with the All-Star big man soon, as Mike Triplett of ESPN.com writes.

“We’ll probably sit together in Los Angeles at some point around the draft workouts that take place there,” Griffin said during a conference call to introduce newly-hired GM Trajan Langdon. “And I think that’s the next step — really to look each other in the eye and talk about what’s important to us. And we’re very optimistic from previous conversations with Rich Paul, his agent, and with all of the people here that know Anthony and know what he’s about, we’re very confident that we have a compelling situation for him here.”

When Paul publicly announced in January that his client wanted to be traded, his statement focused on Davis’ desire to join “a team that allows him a chance to win consistently and compete for a championship.” While Davis didn’t feel during the season as if the Pelicans were that team, the franchise has taken some positive steps since then, revamping its front office and hiring a respected executive in Griffin.

The Pels also lucked into the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft, putting them in position to add Zion Williamson next month. In other words, the outlook in New Orleans is brighter than it was a few months ago, which is a point Griffin hopes to make when he meets with AD.

“If winning is what he is indeed all about, which we have every reason to believe, we feel confident that we can create — and are creating — the right environment for Anthony and frankly for high-caliber players of all types to want to be a part of,” Griffin said today, per Triplett. “This is something that we hope creates an energy that recruits itself, and Anthony would just be one step in that process.”

If Davis doesn’t waver on his stance and Griffin doesn’t believe the two sides can coexist going forward, the Knicks, Lakers, Celtics, Clippers, and a handful of other teams are viewed as possible trade partners for the Pelicans this summer.

NBA Announces 2018/19 All-Rookie Teams

The NBA has officially announced its All-Rookie teams for the 2018/19 season. Luka Doncic of the Mavericks and Trae Young of the Hawks – widely viewed as the only two legit contenders for this season’s Rookie of the Year award – were also the only two players to be unanimously selected to the First Team, receiving 100 out of 100 possible votes.

Suns center Deandre Ayton nearly joined them as another unanimous First Team pick. However, he was listed on the Second Team on five ballots, with 95 First Team votes. Kings forward Marvin Bagley was the only other player to be named on all 100 ballots, receiving 56 First Team votes.

Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. rounded out the First Team, ensuring that all five players in that group were top-five picks in the 2018 draft.

Listed below are the NBA’s All-Rookie teams for 2018/19, with the player’s vote total in parentheses. Players received two points for a First Team vote and one point for a Second Team vote.

First Team:

Second Team:

Of the players who missed out on All-Rookie honors, Suns forward Mikal Bridges came the closest, with 31 points, followed by Knicks forward Kevin Knox (22 points). None of the 10 other rookies who earned votes earned more than 12 points, though Josh Okogie (Timberwolves) and Miles Bridges (Hornets) each received one First Team vote.

The full voting results can be found within the NBA’s press release.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Agent: Ntilikina “Extremely Happy” To Be A Knick

MAY 21, 10:22am: Ntilikina’s new agent, Boune Ndiaye, denies that his client’s change in representation is directly linked to a desire to leave the Knicks, according to Marc Berman of The New York Post.

“I can just tell you that the fact he was not traded has nothing to do with this change of agent,” Ndiaye told Berman. “Frank is extremely happy to be part of the Knicks.”

MAY 20, 3:03pm: The Knicks are expected to shop Frank Ntilikina on the trade market this offseason, and the guard is unlikely to object, according to Stefan Bondy of The New York Daily News. A source tells Bondy that Ntilikina “desires a relocation.”

As Bondy outlines, Ntilikina had been represented by CAA, but decided to change agencies after the Knicks failed to move him at February’s trade deadline. The plan is for him to be represented by French agent Bouna Ndiaye going forward, as was previously reported by French Knicks Pod.

The change in representation was directly linked to Ntilikina’s desire to be traded, Bondy says in a follow-up tweet, citing a league source.

Ntilikina, the No. 8 pick in the 2017 draft, was selected by Phil Jackson shortly before Jackson was let go by the Knicks. The team’s current management group doesn’t appear to be as invested in the 20-year-old, with reports indicating that New York hopes to get a first-round draft pick in return for him.

Ntilikina saw his role adjusted frequently last season by new head coach David Fizdale, who played the youngster at both guard spots and didn’t give him consistent minutes in a crowded backcourt that also featured Emmanuel Mudiay, Dennis Smith, Trey Burke, Allonzo Trier, Damyean Dotson, and others over the course of the season.

Grizzlies Interviewed Raptors’ Griffin For Head Coaching Job

The Grizzlies recently interviewed Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin for their open head coaching position, league sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

A former NBA player, Griffin became an assistant coach immediately after his retirement in 2008, spending time with the Bucks, Bulls, Magic, and Thunder before joining Nick Nurse‘s staff in Toronto as the Raptors’ lead assistant last summer. He has long been considered a candidate to be a future NBA head coach.

While Memphis has played its cards close to the vest throughout the team’s head coaching search process, more names of potential targets have leaked as of late. Over the weekend, we learned that the Grizzlies had met with former Suns coach Igor Kokoskov, and a Monday report indicated that Trail Blazers assistant Nate Tibbetts would also interview for the job.

Previously, interviews with Jazz assistant Alex Jensen and Warriors assistant Jarron Collins were reported. The Grizzlies were also said to have interest in Zalgiris Kaunas head coach Sarunas Jasikevicius.

[RELATED: 2019 NBA Head Coaching Search Tracker]

The Grizzlies are the last NBA team still seeking a new head coach, so they can afford to take their time. Still, they’ll likely announce J.B. Bickerstaff‘s replacement well before the offseason gets underway in earnest with the draft and free agency period.

Blazers, Lillard Expected To Agree To Super-Max Extension

While Damian Lillard‘s 2019 playoff run came to an end on Monday night, his contract with the Trail Blazers is expected to be extended this offseason, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. Haynes reports that Lillard and the Blazers will likely agree to terms on a super-max extension this summer after the point guard becomes eligible.

Lillard would gain eligibility for a Designated Veteran Extension – known colloquially as the super-max – if he earns a spot on one of the All-NBA teams for the 2018/19 season, which is viewed as a lock.

Portland’s All-Star point guard still has two years left on his contract, but a super-max extension could tack on four more years to that deal, locking him up through the 2024/25 season.

Lillard is owed $29.8MM in 2019/10 and $31.6MM in 2020/21, and those figures would remain unchanged if the two sides reach a new agreement. The extension, which would have a starting salary worth 35% of the cap, would begin in 2021/22. While the exact value of that four-year deal isn’t yet known, the current estimate based on the league’s future cap projections is about $191MM, as Haynes notes.

Since Lillard will turn 29 this July, his four-year extension would cover his age 31-to-34 seasons. As we’ve seen with the Wizards and John Wall, it would be a risk for the Blazers to make such a significant investment two years before the deal goes into effect. But the team appears ready to make that commitment to one of the best players in franchise history.

Citing rival executives, Haynes writes that there’s a belief Lillard will get a player option on his new extension, which he bypassed last time he negotiated a new contract with the Blazers.

A seven-year veteran, Lillard is coming off one of his best seasons as a pro, having averaged 25.8 PPG, 4.6 RPG, and a career-high 6.9 APG in 80 games for Portland. He also produced one of the most memorable moments in the postseason, when he eliminated the Thunder from the first round with a 37-foot buzzer beater, then waved goodbye to their bench after the shot dropped.

Grizzlies To Interview Tibbetts For Coaching Job

The Grizzlies have been granted permission to interview Trail Blazers assistant Nate Tibbetts for their head coaching vacancy, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

Tibbetts has been on other teams’ lists recently during their head coaching searches. He was expected to be interviewed by the Cavaliers, but they chose Michigan coach John Beilein before that potential meeting. Tibbetts interviewed with the Suns before they selected Monty Williams. He was also one of four finalists for the Hawks job last summer that went to Lloyd Pierce.

Memphis, which parted ways with J.B. Bickerstaff after the season, has already interviewed at least three other candidates for the job — former Suns coach Igor Kokoskov, Jazz assistant Alex Jensen and Warriors assistant Jarron Collins. Memphis is also believed to have interest in Lithuania’s Sarunas Jasikevicius.

The Grizzlies are the only team that hasn’t filled its head coaching vacancy.

Mavs’ Forward Dwight Powell To Decline Option

Mavericks power forward Dwight Powell will decline his $10.26MM player option in order to become an unrestricted free agent, Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports reports.

Powell was entering the final year of a four-year, $37MM contract signed in 2016. The 6’11” Powell, 27, averaged a career-high 10.6 PPG, 5.3 RPG and 1.5 APG in 21.6 MPG this season. Powell has spent much of his five-year career with the Mavs, starting just 51 out of 331 career games. He was a second-round selection in the 2014 draft.

The decision comes as somewhat of a surprise, since Powell had expressed interest in staying with Dallas and owner Mark Cuban mentioned during a radio interview that Powell might receive a three-year extension. It’s still possible that Powell returns with the Mavericks but he could be leaving quite a bit of money on the table for someone who has served a second-unit role most of his career.

The addition of Kristaps Porzingis made it likely that Powell would remain a bench player, so perhaps he’s looking for a team that views him as a starter. Dallas is expected to be very active in the free agent and trade markets this summer, as it only has $45.9MM in guaranteed salaries on its current payroll for next season.

Ryan Saunders To Remain Timberwolves’ Head Coach

3:15pm: The Timberwolves have officially confirmed that Saunders has been named the team’s permanent head coach.

“I’m pleased to announce Ryan Saunders as our head coach,” Rosas said in a statement. “Ryan is an excellent communicator and has developed open and trusting relationships with our players. I’ve known Ryan for many years and have always respected his approach to the game, work ethic, basketball knowledge and passion. His coaching style and philosophies are ideal for the modern NBA and I am confident that as a partner he will get the most out of our players as we build an identity and a sustainable winning model.”

8:42am: Saunders and the Timberwolves are now in agreement on a multiyear deal that will make him the team’s permanent head coach, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter).

7:25am: Despite opening up their search for a permanent head coach last week, the Timberwolves are prepared to remove Ryan Saunders‘ interim title and retain him going forward, according to reports from Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic and ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter links).

Krawczynski first reported that the Timberwolves and Saunders are negotiating a new contract that is expected to be finalized in the coming days. Per Wojnarowski, Saunders is already working on putting together his staff for the 2019/20 season.

The general consensus among Wolves players, including Karl-Anthony Towns, was that Saunders should be brought back, but new head of basketball operations Gersson Rosas did his due diligence after assuming control of the club’s front office earlier this month.

Heat assistant Juwan Howard, Bucks assistant Darvin Ham, Pelicans assistant Chris Finch, and Trail Blazers assistant David Vanterpool all received consideration from Minnesota for the team’s head coaching job. Ultimately, the Wolves circled back to Saunders, who will become the NBA’s youngest permanent head coach. Flip Saunders‘ son turned 33 last month.

Having taken over on the sidelines for the Wolves after Tom Thibodeau was dismissed halfway through the 2018/19 season, Saunders guided the team to a 17-25 (.405) record in his first stint as a head coach. He had to deal with injuries to several rotation players during that stretch, with Robert Covington, Derrick Rose, Jeff Teague, and others missing significant chunks of the second half.

According to Krawczynski, Rosas is said to favor the Rockets’ model of having a defensive specialist complement the head coach. In Houston’s case, that meant Jeff Bzdelik playing a key role on Mike D’Antoni‘s staff. The Wolves will likely hire their own defensive guru, and will also focus on adding player-development specialists to Saunders’ staff.

With the Wolves set to formally reach a deal with Saunders, the Grizzlies will be the only NBA team still in the market for a new head coach, as our tracker shows.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.