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Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Basketball

Chris Paul reportedly demanded a trade because of issues with James Harden

Chris Paul Rockets

Stories about the relationship between Chris Paul and James Harden souring have been percolating the last month or so, and now it seems to have hit its peak.

Yahoo’s Vincent Goodwill reported on Tuesday that Paul demanded a trade from the Houston Rockets over his issues with Harden, while Harden told Houston to pick between them following the team’s loss to the Golden State Warriors in the playoffs. This report is not surprising given that the two players reportedly had a blowout in the locker room after the Game 6 loss to Golden State in May. On top of that, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon reported on Monday that Paul and Harden have clashed over their personalities and playing styles.

Goodwill’s reporting takes everything a step further. He says the two players went nearly two months without speaking during the season. He adds that Harden has not responded to Paul’s messages to reach out over the offseason.

Paul is said to be upset with Harden’s ball-dominant playing style, while Harden is annoyed with CP3’s injuries and personality.

The Rockets would seemingly be extraordinarily unlikely to consider trading Harden, the 2017-2018 NBA MVP. They would probably be motivated to move Paul, but his contract would be a major hurdle in trading him. He is 34 years old, has a history of chronic hamstring injuries, and is owed $124 million over the next three years. The Rockets reportedly have had some preliminary talks about trading Paul.

Harrison Barnes to decline $25 million option, become free agent

Harrison Barnes said last month that he was undecided about whether he wanted to opt into the final year of his contract with the Sacramento Kings, but the veteran swingman has decided to become a free agent.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Barnes is declining his $25.1 million player option for the 2019-20 season, though he is open to returning to the Kings on a new deal.

Barnes averaged 16.0 points and 4.9 rebounds per game in his time split between Sacramento and the Dallas Mavericks last season. Even if he can’t secure a contract worth $25 million per year, he should be able to land a deal that gives him much more long-term security.

Knicks considering making surprise pick at No. 3?

Darius Garland

The New York Knicks have the third overall pick in what is considered a three-player draft, so there should not be anything shocking about their selection. Zion Williamson is obviously going to the New Orleans Pelicans at No. 1, which leaves the Knicks to take either Ja Morant or RJ Barrett at their spot.

Unless they don’t.

ESPN’s Jonathan Givony reports that the Knicks are giving “serious consideration” to drafting former Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland third overall. Garland has been recovering from knee surgery he had in November, and he has apparently looked impressive in workouts.

Garland, who averaged 16.2 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game prior to suffering a meniscus injury, recently declared himself the best guard in the draft. That is a bold statement considering Morant averaged 24.5 points, 10.0 assists and 1.8 steals per game in his sophomore season at Murray State last year, but perhaps the Knicks are buying it.

One of Garland’s other workouts this week was heavily attended by a team picking in the top five, so he is generating plenty of buzz. Still, it would be a surprise if the Knicks took him at No. 3.

Report: Pelicans have considered moving up to No. 2 to draft RJ Barrett

RJ Barrett

Ja Morant is widely considered to be the second-best player in the NBA Draft behind top prospect Zion Williamson, but there is apparently at least one scenario that could unfold that would see Morant fall past the No. 2 pick.

The New Orleans Pelicans currently hold the No. 4 pick, and there have been numerous reports that they are exploring options to trade it. According to Marc Berman of the New York Post, one possibility they have considered is making a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies to move up to the No. 2 spot, where they would select former Duke swingman RJ Barrett.

If that happened, it would leave the New York Knicks to take Morant third overall. One executive who is familiar with the Knicks’ thinking heading into the draft told Berman that they are sticking with No. 3 and would be “delighted” to take Morant or Barrett. They were previously open to moving back if they were blown away with an offer, but that appears unlikely to happen.

Barrett has openly said that he wants to play for the Knicks, and he has even refused to work out for any other team. Morant emerged as a superstar in his sophomore season at Murray State last year, averaging 24.5 points, 10.0 assists and 1.8 steals per game. Aside from the Pelicans, we have not heard of a team preferring Barrett over Morant.

The Pelicans believe they will be in playoff contention next season even after trading Anthony Davis, and they are said to be speaking with several teams about potential trades leading up to Thursday’s draft.

Officer involved in altercation with Masai Ujiri says he has concussion

Masai Ujiri Raptors

The security officer who was involved in a physical altercation with Masai Ujiri after Game 6 of the NBA Finals says he suffered serious injuries as a result of the unprovoked attack from the Toronto Raptors president, and he has not ruled out filing a lawsuit.

David Mastagni, the attorney representing the deputy who says he was struck in the head by Ujiri, told KPIX 5 in San Francisco on Monday that the officer has been unable to return to work and is dealing with significant medical issues.

“He has a serious concussion; a templar mandibular joint injury, which is a serious jaw injury,” Mastagni said.

Mastagni described Ujiri’s actions as “an unprovoked significant hit to the jaw of the law enforcement officer,” and he said his client has been billed as a racist for stopping Ujiri from coming onto the court at Oracle Arena simply because he did not produce the proper credentials. He hinted that a lawsuit could be filed.

“All options are on the table. No options are off the table. … This is an issue of credentials or no credentials, not race,” Mastagni said.

Ujiri was trying to get onto the court following Game 6 to celebrate with his team when he was stopped by the deputy. A video appeared to show the end of the altercation but did not show Ujiri hitting the officer. Police are pursuing a case against the executive, and the Raptors say the incident is being investigated and they are cooperating with authorities.

Al Horford to become free agent after not exercising contract option

Al Horford

Boston Celtics center Al Horford is planning to become an unrestricted free agent this summer, but that does not mean he wants to leave the team.

ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reports that Horford has informed the Celtics he will not opt into the final year and $30.1 million left on his contract. He does, however, remain interested in working out a new deal with Boston.

Horford has provided the Celtics with a consistent veteran presence since he signed with them in 2016, and they may need him more than ever next season if Kyrie Irving leaves. There have been indications that Horford could agree to a team-friendly contract with Boston, but that may depend on what the Celtics plan to do in free agency.

Timberwolves reportedly shopping Andrew Wiggins in trade talks

Andrew Wiggins was the centerpiece of the deal that sent Kevin Love from the Minnesota Timberwolves to the Cleveland Cavaliers back in 2014, and he has not turned into the superstar the T-Wolves hoped he would be. Now, they may be looking to move on from the former No. 1 overall pick.

According to Trey Rodriguez of Hoops Inquirer, the Timberwolves have been “aggressively shopping” Wiggins in trade talks. A few teams are said to be interested, including the Miami Heat.

It makes sense that Minnesota would explore dealing Wiggins, though it’s unclear how much they could get in return. The 24-year-old has averaged a respectable 19.4 points per game through his first five NBA seasons, but his salary the next four years is $27.5 million, $29.5 million, $31.5 million and $33.6 million. That will make him extremely difficult to move.

Wiggins was booed by his own fans at one point last season, and he clearly didn’t appreciate it. You have to wonder if he would enjoy a fresh start, but it seems unlikely to happen because of his contract.