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Chris Paul Ruled Out For Game 1 Of The Western Conference Finals

7:33pm: Paul has been ruled out for Game 1, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic.


6:16pm: Suns guard Chris Paul remains in the NBA’s health and safety protocols, and his availability for Game 1 is still uncertain, according to Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic.

Coach Monty Williams provided an update on Paul’s status after today’s practice.

“Because of the climate that we live, things change from day-to-day,” Williams said. “I try to take it one day at a time. I certainly understand the line of questions, but for me, based on the information and based on the history of this particular protocol, everything is day-to-day. So that’s how I have to approach it.” 

Paul received the COVID-19 vaccination, but he still returned a positive test earlier this week. He was required to quarantine and will have to register multiple negative tests and be given medical clearance before he can play.

Paul is coming off his best game of the playoffs, scoring 37 points Tuesday as the Suns completed a sweep of the Nuggets. He appeared to be fully recovered from the shoulder injury that slowed him in the first-round series against the Lakers.

Phoenix had been hoping for a seventh game in the semifinal series between the Clippers and Jazz to give Paul more time, but L.A.’s win Friday night means the Western Conference finals will start Sunday.

Cameron Payne will likely take Paul’s place in the starting lineup if he’s not active, Rankin adds, with E’Twaun Moore and Jevon Carter possibly getting more playing time. Devin Booker may also see a few minutes at point guard.

Kawhi Leonard Won’t Travel To Phoenix For Game 1

7:10pm: The Clippers have officially ruled Leonard out for Game 1, tweets Andrew Greif of The Los Angeles Times.


5:00pm: The right knee injury that forced Clippers forward Kawhi Leonard to miss the past two games will also keep him out of Sunday’s opener of the Western Conference finals, tweets Chris Hayes of Yahoo Sports.

Leonard won’t make the trip to Phoenix, choosing to stay in Los Angeles and get treatment on the knee. There’s no speculation yet on his status for Game 2 or the rest of the series.

He hasn’t played since hurting the knee midway through the fourth quarter of Game 4 against the Jazz. There are concerns that it might be an ACL injury, but the team is still officially calling it a sprain.

Leonard had been outstanding in the playoffs before being sidelined. He averaged 32.1 points, 7.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists in the first round against the Mavericks, then posted a 27.3/7.5/4.0 line in four games against Utah.

Kyrie Irving Unavailable For Game 7, Return Possible Later In Playoffs

All-Star Nets point guard Kyrie Irving will officially miss Game 7 of Brooklyn’s second-round playoff series against the Bucks on Saturday, tweets Ian Begley of SNY.

Nets head coach Steve Nash said that Irving still has “some miles to make up” as he continues to treat a sprained right ankle that he incurred in the Nets’ Game 4 loss to Milwaukee.

Nash seemed hopeful that Irving would be able to return later in the playoffs, should the Nets move on, tweets Malika Andrews of ESPN. “It is not a season-threatening situation,” Nash said. Since Irving went down, the Nets are 1-2 in the series.

Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie also remains sidelined, tweets Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Dinwiddie remains optimistic that his surgically-repaired ACL will be ready in time for him to also return in these playoffs, should the Nets advance. But James Harden, playing through hamstring tightness, was not listed on the club’s on official injury report.

Dirk Nowitzki Will Be Special Advisor For Mavericks

Former Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki will rejoin the team as a special advisor, the team announced (via Twitter). His first assignment will be to aid in the searches for a new head of basketball operations and a new head coach.

Nowitzki, who retired two years ago, isn’t ready to take a full-time job with the organization, according to Marc Stein of The New York Times, but he will assist owner Mark Cuban in filling the two important roles (Twitter link).

“Mark Cuban approached me about a role as special advisor and I am happy to support my Mavs,” Nowitzki said. Donnie Nelson and Rick Carlisle were both mentors and played huge roles in my career and the success of this franchise, and I am going to miss them. It is important for me now to join Mark and contribute as much as I can as we move forward.”

Following Carlisle’s decision on Thursday to step down as head coach after 13 seasons, Cuban met with Nowitzki, VP of basketball operations Michael Finley and some other longtime staffers to plot the team’s future, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link).

Nowitzki, 42, is a 14-time All-Star who played 21 seasons for the Mavericks and holds many franchise records. He reportedly turned down an offer to become an assistant coach under former teammate Steve Nash with the Nets before the start of the season.

Celtics Trade Kemba Walker To Thunder

11:20am: The trade is now official, according to press releases from the Thunder and Celtics.

The second-round pick the Thunder will receive in 2025 will be the most favorable of the Celtics’ and Grizzlies’ picks, Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman tweets.

The second-rounder that Boston will get in 2023 will be the least favorable of the following three picks that OKC controls:

  • The Thunder’s own second-rounder.
  • The Wizards’ second-rounder.
  • The most favorable of the Mavericks’ and Heat’s second-rounders.

Boston agreed to give Brown a $500K guarantee for next season as part of the deal, according to Marks (Twitter link). The Celtics also generated a $6.88MM trade exception.


8:20am: The Celtics will send point guard Kemba Walker and a pair of draft picks to the Thunder in exchange for Al Horford, Moses Brown, and a future pick, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Boston has been looking for a taker for the veteran guard, who has been injured for much of the two years he spent with the team. A recent report said former president of basketball operations Danny Ainge started shopping Walker after the Celtics were knocked out of the playoffs last summer.

The main incentive for Boston was to get rid of Walker’s contract, which pays him close to $74MM over the next two seasons. He was considered an important addition when he signed a free agent deal with the Celtics two years ago, but a lingering knee injury limited his effectiveness. The 31-year-old missed 29 games this season and averaged 19.3 PPG, his worst scoring numbers in six years, while shooting just 42% from the field.

Walker’s contract includes a 15% trade bonus that will be voided, according to Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link). He would have received an additional $3.2MM if the trade had occurred after the league’s new calendar year starts on August 6.

The Thunder will receive the Celtics’ first-round pick this year, which is slotted at No. 16, along with a second-rounder in 2025. Boston will get OKC’s second-round selection in 2023. The Thunder now have three first-round picks in this year’s draft and five of the top 36 choices.

Horford returns to the Celtics two years after leaving for the Sixers in free agency. He spent one year in Philadelphia before being traded to Oklahoma City last December in a cost-cutting move. Horford never found a role on the rebuilding Thunder and played just 28 games before being shut down in late March after the trade deadline passed.

The 35-year-old big man was still effective when he played, averaging 14.2 points and 6.7 rebounds per night, and should be a welcome addition to the Celtics’ frontcourt. He will make $27MM next season and $26.5MM in 2022/23, but only $14.5MM of that year’s salary is guaranteed. Boston will save about $20MM for next season with the trade, Marks adds, and that figure could rise to $32MM for 2022/23 if Horford is waived before the season starts (Twitter link).

Brown, a 21-year-old center, showed a lot of promise in his second NBA season, starting 32 of the 43 games he played and averaging 8.6 PPG and 8.9 RPG per night. He is under contract through 2023/24, but no money is guaranteed beyond this season.

Today’s trade marks the first major deal for former coach Brad Stevens since he became the Celtics’ president of basketball operations two weeks ago. Wojnarowski notes that it involves Thunder general manager Sam Presti, who has been a friend of Stevens dating back to when he coached at Butler (Twitter link). Woj adds that it’s unusual for trades to take place before the pre-draft combine, but both sides were happy with what they got.

Pacers Aren’t Looking To Replace Kevin Pritchard

The Pacers are among several teams making a coaching change this summer, but president of basketball operations Kevin Pritchard is still safe in his job, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on his latest podcast (hat tip to Real GM).

Pritchard has been assured that he will return for the 2021/22 season, according to Windhorst. He adds that team owner Herb Simon is very close to Pritchard and has no intention of replacing him any time soon.

There had been some speculation about Pritchard’s future after Indiana’s disappointing season and the decision to fire first-year coach Nate Bjorkgren. Pritchard recently accepted the blame for Bjorkgren’s failures, explaining that he decided to “take a risk” with an unconventional hiring.

Windhorst adds that the Pacers will seek a more experienced head coach this time. He also speculates that Pritchard may eventually leave on his own, saying, “I don’t know how much longer Kevin Pritchard wants to be in that job.”

A former NBA player and coach, Pritchard has been with the organization for a decade. He was hired in 2011 as director of player personnel and was later promoted to general manager before being put in charge of the front office in 2017.

Ball, Edwards, Haliburton Head All-Rookie Team

LaMelo Ball, Anthony Edwards, Tyrese Haliburton, Jae’Sean Tate and Saddiq Bey comprised this year’s All-Rookie First Team, the NBA announced on Thursday in a press release.

Ball, who was named Rookie of the Year on Thursday, led first-year NBA players in assists (6.1 APG) and steals (1.59 SPG) and ranked second in scoring (15.7 PPG) and rebounding (5.9 RPG) for the Hornets. Edwards, the No. 1 pick in the draft by the Timberwolves, averaged a rookie-high 19.3 PPG.

The Kings’ Haliburton ranked third among rookies in scoring (13.0 PPG) and second in assists (5.3 APG). Bey, the 19th overall pick, made a rookie-high 175 three-pointers for the Pistons. Tate, who went undrafted in 2018 and played in Australia last season, averaged 11.3 PPG and 5.3 PPG for the Rockets.

Ball and Edwards were the only unanimous First Team selections, receiving 99 of 99 potential First Team votes. Haliburton got 98, while Bey had 63 and Tate received 57.

Knicks guard Immanuel Quickley narrowly missed out on the top five, having earned 51 votes for the First Team.

Here are both All-Rookie teams in full, with their voting point totals notes in parentheses. Players received two points for a First Team vote and one point for a Second Team vote.

2020/21 All-Rookie First Team:

2020/21 All-Rookie Second Team:

Nuggets guard Facundo Campazzo (42), Magic guard Cole Anthony (40), and Warriors center James Wiseman (24) were among the players who just missed the cut. Nine other players received votes — you can view the full voting results right here.

Rick Carlisle Steps Down As Mavericks Head Coach

3:50pm: The Mavericks have confirmed Carlisle’s departure in a press release (Twitter link).


3:10pm: Mavericks head coach Rick Carlisle is stepping down from his post after 13 years in Dallas, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. He had two years left on his current deal with the club.

Carlisle’s crowning achievement in Dallas was leading the club to its only NBA title in 2011 with superstar power forward Dirk Nowitzki.

It appeared that, with the recent ascent of young First Team All-NBA guard Luka Doncic, Carlisle would be well-positioned to lead the club to many future deep playoff runs. During the last two seasons, Carlisle and Doncic led the Mavericks back to the playoffs, where they lost two consecutive hard-fought first-round battles against the Clippers.

In head coaching tenures with the Pistons, Pacers, and Mavericks, Carlisle, 61, has accrued a regular season head coaching win/loss record of 836-689. He was voted the 2001/02 Coach of the Year while with Detroit. His teams have made the playoffs in 14 of his 19 seasons as a head coach.

As Bobby Marks of ESPN notes (Twitter link), Carlisle had been the third-longest-tenured current NBA head coach, behind only five-time champion Gregg Popovich with the Spurs and three-time champion (twice as the head coach, once as an assistant) Erik Spoelstra with the Heat.

For an organization with the level of relative infrastructural stability the Mavericks had demonstrated for over a decade, this has been an unprecedented few days.

Earlier this week, a report by The Athletic detailed major front office conflict surrounding sports gambler-turned-director of quantitative research and development Haralabos Voulgaris. Yesterday, news became public that the team had parted company with GM Donnie Nelson, who had worked in the Dallas front office for 24 seasons and had held the GM position for 16 years. The decision had actually been reached on Sunday, a day before The Athletic’s scathing story was published.

The Mavericks are now the seventh team to lose a head coach following the 2020/21 season. The Wizards, Trail Blazers, Celtics (the team that drafted Carlisle in 1984), Pacers (the team for which Carlisle served as a head coach from 2003-2007), Pelicans, and Magic also have head coaching vacancies. Should Carlisle want to continue coaching, there are several playoff-caliber rosters among these, sporting six 2021 All-Stars, available as of this writing.

Carlisle released a statement addressing his departure to ESPN (Twitter link via ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski):

“After a number of in-person conversations with Mark Cuban over the last week, today I informed him that I will not be returning as head coach of the Dallas Mavericks. This was solely my decision. My family and I have had an amazing 13-year experience working with great people in a great city. It has been an honor to work along [with] Mark, [Mavericks CEO Cynt Marshall], Donnie, [vice president of basketball operations Michael Finley], [assistant GM Keith Grant], Dirk, [former Mavericks point guard Jason Kidd] and every player and assistant coach I’ve had here. Dallas will always be home, but I am excited about the next chapter of my coaching career.”

Cuban has also weighed in on the news.

“I truly love Rick Carlisle,” he said in a statement to ESPN (Twitter link via Tim MacMahon of ESPN). “He was not only a good coach but also a friend and confidant. Our relationship was so much more than basketball. And I know that won’t ever change.”

As for Dallas’ fresh vacancy, Tim MacMahon of ESPN tweets that star Doncic is a big fan of assistant coach Jamahl Mosley. “He’s got the things needed for a head coach,” Doncic noted after Mosley subbed in for Carlisle during a 99-86 win over the Knicks this spring.

Mosley has been a Mavericks assistant since 2014. John Hollinger of The Athletic concurred (Twitter link) that Mosley would get significant consideration.

Doncic had still been expected to ink a super-max contract extension once he became eligible later this summer after the news broke of Nelson’s departure, despite a strained relationship with Voulgaris. MacMahon tweets that the relationship between Carlisle and Doncic had also been tense, and that Carlisle may have been coaching for his job during the 2021/22 season.

Cuban informs Marc Stein of the New York Times (via Twitter) that he will look to replace Nelson as the new head of basketball operations before finding a replacement for Carlisle.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Zion Williamson’s Family Reportedly Wants Him Out Of New Orleans

The coaching change in New Orleans is only a small part of the situation facing the Pelicans, according to Shams Charania, Joe Vardon and William Guillory of The Athletic. Sources tell the authors that some members of Zion Williamson‘s family are extremely critical of the organization and want to see him on another team.

Wednesday’s decision to part ways with head coach Stan Van Gundy after just one season was part of the effort to make Williamson happier. Charania, Vardon and Guillory cite a “growing unease” between Van Gundy and his players, as well as between the coach and the front office.

The Pelicans have missed the playoffs in each of Williamson’s first two NBA seasons, and numerous sources spoke about family members who would like to see him in a better situation. Williamson seemed to exhibit his own frustration at an end-of-season press conference.

“It’s disappointing. I’d be lying to you if I said anything else,” he said. “It’s very disappointing. But the best thing we can do is regroup, come together as a team, come together as coaches this offseason, talk and do what we need to do to be better next year. It’s not much to it, we just gotta be better.”

Even if Williamson does want to go elsewhere, getting there won’t be easy. He will be under team control for the next three seasons and will almost certainly be offered a maximum-salary rookie scale extension next summer. Even if he turns that down and opts for restricted free agency, the Pelicans will be able to match any offer he receives.

Accepting a qualifying offer could get him to unrestricted free agency after his fifth season, but that’d be an unprecedented move for a player of Williamson’s caliber.

The team has already made changes to accommodate Zion, the authors add, reworking its support staff during the offseason. Even so, family members have remained critical of the organization, with Van Gundy as a frequent target. The family saw Van Gundy as too “rigid and demanding” and believed the Pelicans didn’t treat Williamson like a typical NBA star.

Williamson was also reportedly upset with a March trade that sent J.J. Redick to the Mavericks. Citing family concerns, Redick had asked to either be traded before the season or stay with the team until the season was done. Williamson had become close with Redick, who blasted the organization on his way out. His comments were believed to have affected Zion’s view of the team.

LaMelo Ball Named NBA Rookie Of The Year

6:55pm: Ball’s victory has been confirmed by the NBA in a press release. He received 84 of 99 first-place votes, with the others going to Edwards.

Overall, Ball had 465 points, while Edwards was second with 309. Haliburton was third with 114 points. The Pistons’ Saddiq Bey was the only other player to receive votes, garnering three third-place selections.


1:53pm: Hornets guard LaMelo Ball has won the NBA’s Rookie of the Year award for the 2020/21 season, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter). According to Wojnarowski, an official announcement from the league is expected soon.

Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards and Kings guard Tyrese Haliburton were the other finalists for the award. I’d expect Edwards to finish second in the voting, with Haliburton coming in third, but we’ll have to wait for the official breakdown from the NBA.

The third overall pick in the 2020 draft, Ball had a breakthrough rookie year in Charlotte, averaging 15.7 points, 6.1 assists, and 5.9 rebounds per games in 51 contests (28.8 MPG). There were questions about the 19-year-old’s jump shot entering his first professional season, but Ball put up a respectable shooting line of .436/.352/.758, emerging as the Hornets’ starting point guard despite the presence of veterans Terry Rozier and Devonte’ Graham.

A fractured right wrist sidelined Ball for over a month in March and April, but he returned to the court down the stretch to help the Hornets clinch a spot in the play-in tournament. The club was bounced in the first game by Indiana, but Ball’s performance in 2020/21 bodes well for the long-term future in Charlotte.