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Wednesday, February 22, 2017

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Report: Jim Buss, Mitch Kupchak pursued DeMarcus Cousins in attempt to save jobs

Jim Buss and Mitch Kupchak are dunzo in the Los Angeles Lakers front office, and apparently they knew it was coming for at least the last few days.

According to Sam Amick of USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday, the ousted EVP and GM pair attempted to trade for DeMarcus Cousins in a last-ditch effort to save their jobs. Cousins was ultimately dealt to the New Orleans Pelicans instead, and that appeared to be the last straw for Lakers president Jeanie Buss, who reportedly thought Cousins could mellow out in their ecosystem.

Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reported on Sunday that the Lakers had refused to include rookie forward Brandon Ingram in a package for Cousins.

While the decision to keep Ingram over dealing him for Cousins was quite defensible, it didn’t exist in a vacuum. Season after season, the Lakers have struck out with big name after big name, whether in free agency or on the trade market, sending the franchise into a four-year tailspin they still have yet to climb out of. A front office reshuffling was long overdue, and we’ll see if the Lakers’ new head honcho does better with acquiring marquee talent again.

Simeon Rice tells radio host to ‘suck a d—‘ after Hall of Fame debate

If you thought Terrell Owens was furious about missing the Hall of Fame the past two years, just wait until you hear how former NFL defensive end Simeon Rice feels about never having been named a finalist.

Rice got into it with Andrew Fillipponi, who was filling in as host of “The DA Show,” in an interview on CBS Sports Radio Monday night. What began as Rice stating his case for the Hall of Fame ended with the former Tampa Bay Buccaneer hurling a vulgar phrase at Filliponi.

“I try not to be overwhelmed with those type of things that I cannot control, but I felt like I did enough in my career to be a first-ballot Hall of Famer, let alone being a nominee the last two or three years,” Rice said. “It’s just ridiculous to me. I was the best of my era. … I didn’t have a rival where I could say, ‘Wow, this guy was able to stop me.’ Every All-Pro I ever played up against, I had a stellar performance against. It was me and the field. That’s what it is.”

Asked why he believes he has not received much Hall of Fame consideration, Rice chalked it up to him being a forgotten man.

“Out of sight, out of mind,” he said. “There was nobody impacting the game like I was, but as time moves on you can’t remember. You (Filliponi) can’t even remember Warren Sapp’s speech. You can’t even remember Derrick Brooks’ speech, and they talked about me.”

After about 10 minutes of arguing, Filliponi and Rice basically agreed to disagree. Filliponi told Rice, who will turn 43 on Friday, to enjoy his birthday week. In response to that, Rice told Filliponi to “suck a d—” and hung up the phone.

If you remember, Rice’s former teammate Warren Sapp said a few years back that Rice should be in the Hall of Fame over Michael Strahan, though Sapp is a known Strahan critic. Strahan ranks sixth in the NFL all time with 141.5 sacks, while Rice is 19th with 122. Rice presented the same argument on Monday for himself over Strahan, saying Strahan benefitted from the New York Giants moving him to left defensive end so he could go against lesser offensive linemen.

Owens recently went to war with some members of the media on Twitter over his Hall of Fame snub, but we don’t think he has gotten quite as aggressive as Rice yet. You can listen to Rice’s full interview below:

Bills may have interest in Tony Romo if they don’t keep Tyrod Taylor

Tony Romo

The Buffalo Bills have just a few more weeks to decide if they want to pick up Tyrod Taylor’s option and guarantee the quarterback another $30 million, and they could be watching the Tony Romo situation closely to determine what their next move will be.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network said Tuesday that the Bills would be one of the teams with interest in Romo if the Dallas Cowboys end up releasing the 37-year-old veteran. However, Rapoport added that he has been told there is a better chance of the Bills keeping Taylor than cutting him.

An ideal situation for the Bills would be Taylor agreeing to take less guaranteed money on a restructured contract, but he reportedly has no interest in doing that. Taylor’s camp believes another team would sign the former Virginia Tech star to a deal worth as much as the six-year, $92 million contract he agreed to with Buffalo last offseason, if not more.

In reality, Taylor is probably the Bills’ best option even if they think he is too expensive. Romo wants to play for a contender, and there has been no indication that Buffalo is one of the teams on his wishlist. Unless he sees something nobody else does, Romo probably wouldn’t want to join the Bills anyway.

Lakers replace Jim Buss with Magic Johnson, fire Mitch Kupchak

Magic Johnson made it clear from the moment he was hired by the Los Angeles Lakers that he wants to take over the team’s basketball operations department, and he is getting his wish.

The Lakers announced on Tuesday that they have named Johnson their President of Basketball Operations. In doing so, they relieved both co-owner Jim Buss and former general manager Mitch Kupchak of their duties.

“Today I took a series of actions I believe will return the Lakers to the heights Dr. Jerry Buss demanded and our fans rightly expect,” Jeanie Buss, Jim’s sister, said in a press release. “Effective immediately, Earvin Johnson will be in charge of all basketball operations and will report directly to me. Our search for a new General Manager to work with Earvin and Coach Luke Walton is well underway and we hope to announce a new General Manager in short order. Together, Earvin, Luke and our new General Manager will establish the foundation for the next generation of Los Angeles Lakers greatness.”

Jeanie added that her brother Jim will remain with the team as an owner.

“Jim loves the Lakers,” she said. “Although he will no longer be responsible for basketball personnel decisions, he is an owner of this team and we share the same goal: returning the Lakers to the level of greatness our father demanded. Our fans deserve no less.”

Jim Buss said in July 2015 that he would step down in two years if the Lakers had not made a serious run, and the team is on its way to missing the postseason once again. Johnson trashed Buss for years on Twitter over his decisions, so you knew Magic would not have taken the job with the Lakers if Buss was going to remain in his role.

With a major shakeup now in full swing, it will be interesting to see if Johnson sticks to his guns with the first move he said he would make.

Report: Clippers intent on keeping both Blake Griffin, Chris Paul

Blake Griffin

The Los Angeles Clippers have no interest in moving superstars in advance of Thursday’s NBA trade deadline. In fact, they reportedly already have set plans to retain the services of their two best players for years to come.

In a roundup he compiled of big-name players with expiring contracts, Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders reported that neither Blake Griffin nor Chris Paul will be dangled at the deadline. Instead, sources told Kyler the Clippers have already “verbally agreed” to a new contract with Paul that he will sign when he opts out of the final year of his current deal this summer. The new deal will be worth more than $200 million.

Teams have called L.A. about Griffin in recent days, but Kyler reports that the star forward isn’t going anywhere, either.

Like teammate Chris Paul, Griffin’s next deal is all but done. One executive who tried to engage with the Clippers on a Griffin package got absolutely nowhere, saying it was not a conversation the Clippers were willing to have. Griffin has some media ventures in Los Angeles that he’s involved with and has expressed a desire to stay near them. While there was some talk of him heading to Oklahoma City, sources near Griffin said he finds the couple of games he plays there as a Clipper to be draining because of all the family and friends commitments. The idea of playing there full time is not desirable, especially considering how much the Clippers are prepared to pay him to stay in L.A.

Trade rumors have linked Griffin to the Boston Celtics, but a deal doesn’t appear realistic. If anything, the Clippers would be more inclined to make a trade like one we discussed a while back that would allow them to keep their Big Three of Griffin, Paul and DeAndre Jordan in place. They like what they have and plan to do what they can to keep the core of the team together.

Bulls reportedly telling teams they have no interest in trading Jimmy Butler

Jimmy Butler Chicago Bulls

Jimmy Butler continues to hear his name come up in rumors as the Feb. 23 trade deadline approaches, but the Chicago Bulls are apparently telling teams they will hold onto the star swingman.

Most of the speculation involving Butler has centered around the Boston Celtics. K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reported on Monday that the Bulls and Celtics have not had serious talks about Butler since the summer, and Butler’s camp has been given the impression that the 27-year-old will not be moved.

Johnson later added that Chicago would have no choice but to listen if the Celtics offered the Brooklyn Nets’ 2017 first-round draft pick, but the Bulls are in no way “shopping” Butler.

Dwyane Wade has a player option for next season, and he will almost certainly decline it if the Bulls trade Butler. That would thrust the team into full rebuilding mode and make it very difficult to land big-name free agents, and Bulls GM Guy Forman has said he wants to remain competitive while building around younger players.

We all know how quickly things can change around the trade deadline, but all signs point to Butler remaining in Chicago.

Report: Patriots willing to trade Jimmy Garoppolo for ‘at least’ first-round pick

With the number of teams that supposedly have interest in Jimmy Garoppolo, it may be impossible for the New England Patriots to turn down all trade offers for the backup quarterback this offseason. And if the price gets high enough, they probably won’t.

Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com reports that Bill Belichick will trade Garoppolo if the compensation is right, and that would likely mean “at least” a first-round pick. The Browns are one of several teams that are interested, and there’s a good chance the Patriots could start a bidding war leading up to the NFL Draft.

ESPN’s Ed Werder recently said he was told at the Super Bowl that the Patriots intend to keep Garoppolo through the final season of the 25-year-old’s contract. The Patriots themselves may have leaked that information to drive the price even higher, or it’s possible Belichick wants to keep Garoppolo around at cheap money for another season to see what happens with Tom Brady, who will turn 40 this offseason.

Brady has said he wants to play into his mid-40s, and he gave us no reason to doubt him while leading the Patriots to their fifth Super Bowl title. That said, Garoppolo looked sharp in his brief time as the starter last season, and Belichick may value the former Eastern Illinois star as injury insurance.

The narrative that keeps coming up is that the Patriots have to trade Garoppolo now or risk getting nothing in return for him next offseason, but that is not necessarily true. In 2009, New England placed the franchise tag on Matt Cassel before trading him to the Kansas City Chiefs for the No. 34 overall pick in the draft. Twitter wasn’t as popular back then, but it sure seems like there is more buzz surrounding Garoppolo than there was with Cassel.

One of the teams that is said to be high on Garoppolo has the No. 3 overall pick in the draft. If they’re willing to send that to New England, Belichick’s decision would become an easy one.

Brad Stevens reportedly impressed All-Stars with video montage

Brad Stevens

Boston Celtics coach Brad Stevens and his staff were in charge of the Eastern Conference All-Stars this year, and the group is said to have made a very good impression on some of the NBA’s most talented players.

The Celtics coaching staff reportedly showed a video before the game on Sunday that featured all 12 Eastern Conference All-Stars from their younger playing years through the present day. Two sources told Frank Isola of the New York Daily News that the clips, which included a young Carmelo Anthony in braids, went over well with the team and impressed LeBron James in particular.

Why does it matter? It sounds like Stevens — one of the youngest coaches in the NBA — has the respect of some of the game’s top superstars. Some wondered if the former Butler coach would be able to relate to professional athletes and motivate them the way he did with college players, and Stevens has done a good job of that in his three-plus seasons with the Celtics.

If you want to read further into it, you could make a case that it is important for Stevens to connect with guys like Anthony, Paul George and Jimmy Butler — players who have been linked to the Celtics via trade rumors in recent weeks. We recently wrote about the possibility of Anthony going to the Celtics, and you can read more about that here.

Stevens could also be helping his cause with top players in future free agent discussions. Boston has historically been a place that cannot keep up with even bigger markets like New York and Los Angeles in free agency, so any tiny edge you can gain helps. At the very least, the video montage was a thoughtful idea that did not go unnoticed.

5 bubble teams that made a big move this weekend

Jim Larranaga

Believe it or not, Selection Sunday is less than three weeks away. That may have crept up on college basketball fans, but coaches and teams on the bubble know that date is coming quick. The time for statement wins is running out, so any team fighting for a spot in the Big Dance needs to make its move as soon as possible.

We’re headed down the home stretch, and these five teams have their foot on the gas in their attempt to speed past their bubble competitors in the last few days.

1. Marquette

When the Golden Eagles beat Villanova on Jan. 24, conventional wisdom placed them comfortably in the tournament. Toppling the defending champions en route to a 14-6 record looked like the perfect way for Marquette to punch its ticket.

Things changed over the next two weeks. Marquette lost four of five, with its only win coming over lowly DePaul.

Losing to Providence, St. John’s, and Georgetown (all bubble teams or worse) removed any good will Marquette earned with the Villanova win. This weekend, the Golden Eagles got a chance to right the ship, welcoming Xavier to Milwaukee. Xavier is hobbling into March with the injury bug creeping into full-on epidemic territory, but when Selection Sunday rolls around, a win over the Musketeers will still count as a top-50 win. Marquette took advantage and won handily, 83-61.

With four regular season games left, the Golden Eagles likely need a 3-1 finish to feel anything close to safe before heading to Madison Square Garden for the Big East Tournament. Had they lost to Xavier at home, their bubble might have popped this weekend.

2. Pittsburgh

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Report: Knicks making Derrick Rose ‘completely available’ at trade deadline

Derrick Rose

The New York Knicks limped their way into the All-Star break and appear destined to miss the playoffs for a fourth consecutive season, and there is some speculation that their poor play could lead to a fire sale at the trade deadline. If they do decide to rebuild, trading Derrick Rose would make sense.

According to Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders, the Knicks have made Rose “completely available” in advance of Thursday’s deadline. That does not mean a deal involving the star point guard is likely, however.

The problem is that he’s owed so much as a salary cap charge, moving him would be hard. There have been more than a few insiders that wonder if the Knicks would take on some salary in exchange for moving Rose as a mechanism to obtain a player they maybe missed out on signing. However, Knicks sources said they covet the flexibility more than any of the players the Knicks could obtain at the deadline. It’s not out of the question that Rose is ultimately moved, but it’s not viewed as very probable.

Rose is averaging 17.7 points and 4.5 assists per game this season. He is set to become a free agent this summer, though he claims money is no longer his biggest motivator.

Ian Begley of ESPN.com reported on Monday that the Minnesota Timberwolves are one of several teams to reach out to the Knicks about Rose. T-Wolves coach Tom Thibodeau coached Rose for seven seasons with the Chicago Bulls.

Ultimately, Rose’s fate with the Knicks could rest in the hands of Carmelo Anthony. We all know Phil Jackson would like to trade Anthony, but Carmelo has a full no-trade clause and the latest we have heard about him makes a deal sound unlikely. If the Knicks can’t move Anthony, they may hold onto Rose to see what happens down the stretch.

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