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Monday, July 01, 2013 10:13 PM

Paul staying in LA, Howard hears pitches to leave

Associated Press

 

Chris Paul’s answer was brief, just like his time on the free agent market.

“I’M IN!!!” he wrote Monday on Twitter.

He will be staying with the Clippers, the long-time losers he helped turned into a division champion in just two seasons.

Dwight Howard will need more time to think.

Free agency opened Monday in the NBA with the focus on the pair of Los Angeles All-Stars, though Paul took himself off the market only hours after shopping season started.

Agent Leon Rose confirmed Paul’s return, which had been expected after the Clippers signed Doc Rivers as their new coach. The Clippers can pay the 2-time Olympic gold medalist around $108 million for five years.

Howard can make even more by staying with the Lakers but that won’t stop him from looking elsewhere.

He met with the Houston Rockets early Monday, the Dallas Mavericks and Atlanta Hawks also are interested and the Lakers have asserted repeatedly they want to keep him.

The Rockets got the first crack at persuading him to leave. With Hall-of-Famers Hakeem Olajuwon and Clyde Drexler joining its contingent, Houston pitched Howard on joining All-Star James Harden.

Rockets’ general manager Daryl Morey wrote on Twitter that it was a great meeting with Howard and that having Olajuwon and Drexler there “made it obvious how (Howard and Harden) could be the next (great) big/wing combo.”

Hawks’ general manager Danny Ferry and new coach Mike Budenholzer visited Howard later Monday, trying to convince him to join his hometown team.

And he’ll meet today with the Lakers’ delegation. His first — perhaps only — season in Los Angeles was a disappointment and he acknowledged being unhappy at times. But the Lakers want to keep the former Defensive Player of the Year, believing the extra year and about $30 million more they can give him will provide a huge advantage.

Steve Nash, who like Howard had a difficult first season in Los Angeles, tweeted Monday that he was flying from New York to Los Angeles to help the Lakers make their pitch.

“(Dwight Howard) we’re coming for you,” he wrote. “You’re going to love the statue we build for you outside Staples in 20yrs!”

Contracts can’t be signed until July 10, after the next season’s salary cap has been set.

The Hawks also were expected to meet with their unrestricted free agents, Josh Smith and Kyle Korver, on their trip to Los Angeles, a person with knowledge of the plans told The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because Monday’s meetings have not been officially announced.

There is plenty of interest in Smith, a versatile forward, and Deron Williams announced the Nets’ interest in Korver by posting a picture of the sharp shooter in a Brooklyn uniform on social media.

The Knicks are hoping Andrea Bargnani relocates his outside shot after agreeing to a deal with Toronto to acquire the No. 1 overall pick in the 2006 draft. The Raptors will receive Knicks reserves Steve Novak, Marcus Camby and Quentin Richardson, who will be signed-and-traded. The Knicks are also sending the Raptors a 2016 first-round pick and two second-round picks, according to a person with knowledge of the details.

Bargnani averaged a career-best 21.4 points just three seasons ago but finished with his worst scoring and shooting numbers last season since he posted career worsts of 10.2 points and 38.6 percent shooting in 2007-08.

Other top players that are available include Denver’s Andre Iguodala and Philadelphia’s Andrew Bynum — both part of the 4-way trade that sent Howard from Orlando to Los Angeles last summer — and Indiana’s David West. Sixth Man of the Year J.R. Smith of the Knicks is a free agent, as is former winner Manu Ginobili of the San Antonio Spurs, who also could lose forward Tiago Splitter.

Miami is trying to hold onto Chris Andersen, which would essentially keep together the entire core of the team that beat San Antonio in seven games to win the NBA championship.

Celtics’ Ainge says he’s not trying to trade Rondo

BOSTON — Boston Celtics’ GM Danny Ainge understands why other teams keep calling to see if he will trade Rajon Rondo.

The Celtics traded away coach Doc Rivers to the Los Angeles Clippers for a first-round draft pick. And a deal to send the team’s biggest stars, Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett, to the Brooklyn Nets for a package including three more No. 1 picks is just waiting for the NBA signing period to begin.

“Maybe the assumption is that we’ll give away any of our players,” Ainge said on Monday, listing not just Rondo but Jeff Green, Courtney Lee, Brandon Bass, Jared Sullinger and first-round draft pick Kelly Olynyk as players who have attracted interest. “There’s been calls for all those guys. And maybe the assumption is we are just changing everybody but we’re not.

“We’re starting to get younger.”

Speaking at the news conference to introduce Olynyk and second-round pick Colton Iverson, Ainge said he was not interested in stripping the Celtics down as much as building with younger players and draft choices. A key part of that is Rondo, he added.

But other GMs don’t seem to believe him.

So, the calls continue.

Ainge noted he was in no rush to hire a coach and he repeated — definitively — that he would not take the job himself. But asked for a similar pronouncement to put the end to Rondo trade talks, Ainge replied, “I always listen to calls and listen to what ideas are but we have no intentions of moving Rajon.”

Ainge traded up twice in the draft to grab a pair of 7-footers in Thursday’s draft, sending two second-round draft picks to Dallas to move up three spots and take Olynyk from Gonzaga and then buying the 53rd overall pick from Indiana and taking Iverson of Colorado State.

AP Sources: Pelicans make offer to Tyreke Evans

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The New Orleans Pelicans have made an offer to Sacramento Kings restricted free agent guard Tyreke Evans, two people familiar with the situation said Monday.

The people spoke on condition of anonymity to The Associated Press because the offer was supposed to remain private. Several media outlets reported the deal was for four years and ranging between $40 million and $48 million.

Because he’s a restricted free agent, the Kings will have the opportunity to match any offers Evans signs.

It’s unclear if Sacramento would match such a lucrative offer. New Kings general manager Pete D’Alessandro and other team executives planned to meet with Evans and his agent, Arn Tellem, in the Los Angeles area.

Sacramento seemed to start making preparations for Evans’ departure when it selected Kansas shooting guard Ben McLemore seventh overall in last week’s draft. The Kings also took Detroit point guard Ray McCallum with the No. 36 pick.

Evans is averaging 17.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists in 257 games over four seasons with the Kings. He averaged 15.2 points, 4.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists in 65 games last season.

The Pelicans backcourt, as of now, would be somewhat crowded. They acquired All-Star guard Jrue Holiday in a draft-night trade with Philadelphia last week,and point guard Greivis Vasquez and shooting guard Eric Gordon are still on the roster.

A sign-and-trade deal is also possible.

Pacers make offer to Hansbrough, introduce Hill

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indiana Pacers definitely want David West back next season.

They’d also like to keep Tyler Hansbrough, if they can afford it.

On the first official day of Larry Bird’s second reign as president of basketball operations, he reiterated that the top offseason priority is re-signing West. He added the Pacers had extended a qualifying offer to Hansbrough, a backup forward who was one of their more productive bench players last season. By offering Hansbrough roughly $4.15 million, it makes him a restricted free agent and gives the Pacers the right to match any offer he finds on the open market.

There is a caveat.

“We have a budget and we’re not going to go over the (luxury) tax for any reason,” Bird said. “David is our No. 1 guy.”

It’s been a busy week for the Hall-of-Famer.

On Wednesday, the Pacers announced Bird was coming back after taking a 1-year hiatus to tend to health issues. On Thursday, he was re-introduced to the local media in his home state and then stuck around the team’s draft room to discuss what Indiana should do with its two draft picks. Indiana pulled a first-round shocker by taking 6-7 forward Solomon Hill, then traded their second-round pick, Colton Iverson, to Boston for cash. Team officials said they’re convinced they made the right pick, even if the analysts panned it, because other teams showed immediate interest in trading for Hill.

Before free agency opened Monday, the Pacers opted to make the offer to Hansbrough.

One thing is clear. This is not an organization that intends to stand pat after winning the Central Division title and pushing Miami to seven games in the Eastern Conference finals.

While the Pacers are hoping a cost-efficient Hansbrough will help stabilize things on the bench, they’d also like Hill to become an integral part of the revamped bench. Hill fits a model Bird prefers — a 4-year college player with a reputation for being a team player and a gym rat.

During Bird’s first run as president of basketball operations, the Pacers went from outside of the playoffs to making the postseason in 2011, winning a first-round series in 2012 and finally reaching the conference finals for the first time in nine years this past season — after Bird left town.

To continue that steady rise, Bird knows more must be done. He acknowledged Monday that if the Pacers re-sign West as they would like, the next order of business will be finding a backup guard and perhaps another wing player if they can fit all three into the budget.

The Pacers announced they had hired Nate McMillan as associate head coach. McMillan is a former NBA head coach who has the playing experience head coach Frank Vogel wanted from at least one of his assistants to help replace Brian Shaw, the new coach in Denver. Vogel also needs a second assistant after Jim Boylen left for San Antonio last week.

Warriors draft pick ready to make NBA transition

OAKLAND, Calif. — Golden State Warriors first-round pick Nemanja Nedovic has had a dozen different coaches in the last six years. He went through three coaches last season alone playing for Lietuvos rytas of the Euroleague and he has never had much stability in his life or career moving around with his family.

Nedovic’s next transition could be his toughest: making an NBA roster.

The Serbian point guard said he has never been to the San Francisco Bay Area. He had never even been to the United States until last month when he had pre-draft workouts in Detroit, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Atlanta and New York before heading back to Belgrade.

The 22-year-old Nedovic averaged 9.8 points and 2.1 assists in 10 Euroleague games last season. Nedovic, listed at 6-3, 192 pounds, played the previous three years in Serbia.

When Nedovic will make his NBA debut is still unclear.

Warriors’ GM Bob Myers said last week the Warriors hope Nedovic will be able to join the team for summer league games in Las Vegas later this month and expects him to be in the NBA either this season or next season. A lot of that could depend on whether unrestricted free agent Jarrett Jack returns or if he can beat out last season’s undrafted rookie, Kent Bazemore.

Larkin wants to play with Howard — in Dallas

DALLAS — Shane Larkin wants to lead the public relations campaign to bring free agent center Dwight Howard to the Dallas Mavericks.

The Miami point guard said Monday he hasn’t quite figured out the sales pitch. He just knows this: He’d love to run the pick and roll with one of his favorite players growing up in Orlando as the son of Hall-of-Fame shortstop Barry Larkin.

There’s one tricky part. The Mavericks liked Larkin enough at No. 18 in the draft to quit trading down in their quest to clear salary cap space for a run at Howard. But they might have to deal Larkin to lure Howard from the Los Angeles Lakers.

The Mavericks came out of the draft without another point guard on the roster. They sent their only one — 2012 first-rounder Jared Cunningham — to the Hawks in the draft-night deal.

Dallas is still in the market for a starting point guard because president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson says the Mavericks see Larkin as a backup for his rookie season. Still, Larkin concedes nothing at this point.

 

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