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Friday, April 28, 2017

Basketball

Report: Magic interested in Larry Bird as candidate for president

The reverberations of Larry Bird’s decision to step down as Indiana Pacers president of basketball operations are already being felt.

Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical reports on Friday that, though Bird’s current plan is to continue on with the Pacers as a consultant, the Orlando Magic are interested in him as a potential candidate for president.

Bird’s surprising decision to resign was announced earlier in the day Friday.

The Magic shook up their front office after a fifth consecutive losing season in 2016-17, firing GM Rob Hennigan earlier this month. They have cast a wide net in their search for a new lead executive, but if Bird is indeed that guy, it will be interesting to see how head coach Frank Vogel reacts — he coached the Pacers for six seasons before Bird failed to renew his contract last offseason.

Tony Allen wants to return to Grizzlies

Tony Allen

Tony Allen will be a free agent this summer, but he is looking forward to a return to the Memphis Grizzlies.

The Grizzlies guard said at his exit interview Friday that he is “confident” he will return to Memphis.

“I can’t see myself being nowhere else,” Allen told reporters during his exit interview. “This is where my heart is. This is pretty much were I laid the foundation down. I want it to continue. … I’m pretty sure we’ll come to an agreement. I’m confident.”

Allen also indicated he might be willing to give a hometown discount to Memphis.

Allen has been with the Grizzlies since 2010 and made a good home there. He has been named to five All-NBA defensive teams, and his Grizzlies have made the playoffs each season he has been there. Why leave when he has a good thing going there? Zach Randolph is also a free agent and says he wants to be back, though he also said he’s looking forward to testing the free agency process.

Report: Chris Paul likely to re-sign with Clippers; Blake Griffin more uncertain

The Los Angeles Clippers will be facing something of a crossroads this summer, but it sounds like at least one of their stars is more likely than not to return.

ESPN’s Kevin Arnovitz took an in-depth look at the state of the Clippers, who face losing both point guard Chris Paul and forward Blake Griffin to free agency this coming summer. According to Arnovitz, Clipper sources believe Paul will ultimately re-sign with the team. He, like a few other players, would be eligible for a deal worth upwards of $200 million over five years.

Sources said Griffin’s future is less clear, with the player looking at his first chance to see what opportunities exist for him beyond the Clippers. His tenure with the team has been riddled with untimely injuries — some, admittedly, of his own doing — and he may want to see where else he can go.

Clippers owner Steve Ballmer has voiced his willingness to go well over the luxury tax threshold to keep his stars. We could see him looking a bit like this if one or both depart.

Report: Larry Bird quitting as Pacers president

Larry Bird is stepping aside as president of basketball operation for the Indiana Pacers, according to a report.

Adrian Wojnarowski of the Vertical reported Friday that Bird, who has served in the position for all but one season sine 2003, will step down and move to a consultant role, with general manager Kevin Pritchard taking up the position.

Bird retired after the 2011-12 season citing health concerns, but returned to the post after just one season away. The 60-year-old will no longer have to oversee the difficult decisions, particularly the one surrounding this star player, that are going to come over the next year or two.

Shoe companies walk away from deal with Lonzo Ball

Lonzo Ball

Lonzo Ball will not be getting an endorsement deal from any of the three major shoe and apparel companies.

Ball’s father LaVar said that Nike, Under Armour, and Adidas are all passing on deals, with sources for the companies confirming that to ESPN’s Darren Rovell.

While certainly unusual for these companies to avoid one of the likely top picks in the NBA Draft, LaVar Ball was demanding that the companies license his Big Baller Brand, and already presented suitors with a prototype Lonzo Ball shoe.

“We’ve said from the beginning, we aren’t looking for an endorsement deal,” LaVar said. “We’re looking for co-branding, a true partner. But they’re not ready for that because they’re not used to that model. But hey, the taxi industry wasn’t ready for Uber, either.

“Just imagine how rich Tiger (Woods), Kobe (Bryant), Serena (Williams), (Michael) Jordan and LeBron (James) would have been if they dared to do their own thing. No one owned their own brand before they turned pro. We do and I have three sons so it’s that much more valuable.”

LaVar said the next step will be speaking to the Chinese brands, and even floated the possibility of joining up with a company like Facebook to achieve his ambitions.

It was pretty clear from these comments that LaVar Ball was going to have a hard time selling his ideas to these companies. He may ultimately wind up on his own.

CJ McCollum wants Blazers to pursue Paul George in offseason

CJ McCollum is trying to pre-order his tickets to the PG-13 movie.

The Portland Trail Blazers guard held a Twitter Q&A on Thursday due to his flight being delayed and was asked who he would like to see the team pursue in the offseason.

McCollum replied simply by tagging the handle of Pacers star Paul George.

The Pacers and the Blazers were both swept in the first round, and the latter does have a need at the forward position after making due this season with Al-Farouq Aminu and Maurice Harkless getting most of those minutes. But Portland doesn’t have nearly enough assets to swing a trade for George, who won’t hit free agency until summer 2018, and the four-time All-Star already seems enamored with a different Western Conference team.

McCollum and backcourt partner Damian Lillard are both under contract through 2021, but the problem is that Harkless, Evan Turner, Meyers Leonard, and Allen Crabbe are signed to long-term deals above market value as well. Those kinds of contracts clog up cap space and reduce Portland’s ability to field a competitive trade offer, making an acquisition of George seem like more of a reach for them than anything.

HS coach: Kawhi Leonard was originally slated to play for UCLA

Kawhi Leonard

Could Kawhi Leonard have assumed the torch from Russell Westbrook and Kevin Love as the next great Bruin baller?

In a feature by Sam Gardner of FOX Sports that ran on Thursday, Leonard’s high school coach, Tim Sweeney of Martin Luther King High School in Riverside, California, said the San Antonio Spurs superstar originally had his sights set on UCLA for college and was “signed, sealed and delivered” to then-head coach Ben Howland. But Sweeney claims that jealousy over Leonard’s standout play in a brief AAU stint with the L.A. Dream Team in 2008 led to his falling out of favor with the more prestigious programs in the area.

“Kawhi outshined Renardo Sidney and everyone on the team,” Sweeney was quoted as saying. β€œThe Sidney group all of a sudden was badmouthing him around everybody, OK? Everybody kind of bought in it, and all these big-time schools β€” which were probably about eight or 10 of them β€” dropped off. They literally dropped off the face of the map.”

For what it’s worth, Gardner notes that Steve Fisher, Leonard’s head coach at the university he ultimately wound up attending, San Diego State, as well as Justin Hutson, Leonard’s lead recruiter, were both unaware of the blacklisting of sorts that Sweeney claimed.

Leonard wound up averaging 14.1 points and 10.2 rebounds per game in his two seasons at SDSU. At the time, he was largely seen as a raw prospect who mainly specialized on the defensive end, nowhere near the two-way machine he has since blossomed into (as even his current head coach will admit). But given that the Bruins were led by the likes of Tyler Honeycutt and Malcolm Lee during that two-year stretch, it’s worth wondering if landing a big fish like Leonard could have bought Howland, who was fired in 2013, some more time and drastically altered the way the UCLA program looks today.

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