It’s come to this for Chris Paul: dead wood. Sigh. That’s where we’ll start this Rumor-ama. (SN Illustration) https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/94/9f/chris-paul-nba-executive-quotejpg_2otjrqhxa7fy1ibznfwc6spga.jpeg?t=241727787&w=500&quality=80 For Houston, the issue is that the team would like to get assets back that can keep the team in contention and continue to maximize James Harden’s prime years. That is just not going to happen with a contract like Paul’s, though.Charlotte and Miami are among the teams that could be interested in Paul. Phoenix is weighing its options at point guard, but there is an outside chance they’d get involved. And keep an eye on the Lakers or Knicks — it’s likely that one of them will strike out in free agency and need a face-saving trade to rescue the summer. Paul is a face-saving trade target.But Houston is not going to get anything significant back from any of those teams, nothing that will truly benefit Harden. Goran Dragic and Kelly Olynyk? Michael Kidd-Gilchrist and Nic Batum? Empty space from New York?Trading Paul won’t bring back the kind of pieces that keep the Rockets relevant. It will only (possibly) free up enough space to give Houston flexibility.”It will have to be a salary dump,” the front-office executive said. “You might get back a decent player and a draft pick. But mostly, it is getting that contract off your books for the next three years. Chris can’t stay healthy. He has not been the same player. It’s hard to imagine him going back to the way he was.”If you’re Houston, you’re happy just to move him along and let someone else pay him. But you’re going to have to take back a bad contract in the bargain.”NBA free agency rumors: Frank Kaminsky to the Bucks?The Bucks have a quandary in the frontcourt with the possibility that big man Brook Lopez was so productive this season that he played himself out of Milwaukee’s price range. We’ll dust off an old Badger favorite as a possibility to help replace him: former Wisconsin star Frank Kaminsky.Kaminsky was on the outs for most of the season in Charlotte, and according to sources, the Bucks attempted to trade for him at the deadline but were turned down and eventually acquired Nikola Mirotic. As free agency approaches, expect Milwaukee to have Kaminsky as an option again should the Bucks lose Lopez.MORE: Bucks must make moves now so Giannis doesn’t leave laterIt would take a bargain deal, much like Lopez signed last year. But returning to Wisconsin would give Kaminsky a chance to rebuild his value. Hornets coach James Borrego kept Kaminsky on the bench for most of the first four months of the season, but Charlotte would not trade him, insisting that he might yet play a role for the team. Indeed, Kaminsky finally played down the stretch and responded with 12.8 points per game, 4.7 rebounds and 36.6 percent 3-point shooting in the final 21 games.The Bucks also have Mirotic on board, and he, too, will be a free agent. The team would need to stock up on bigs in the absence of Lopez and could keep Mirotic and add another to the mix.NBA Draft rumors: Pelicans avoid another Klutch problemThere was an enormous sigh of relief in New Orleans this week, when star prospect Zion Williamson — Pelicans-bound when draft night comes — finally picked an agent, signing with CAA.There had been talk earlier in the month that Klutch Sports was among those in contention for Williamson. Klutch, of course, represents Anthony Davis, and its primary agent, Rich Paul, became a thorn in the side of the Pelicans organization as he tried to force a trade of Davis at the February deadline. MORE: How LeBron’s agent made a damaging impact on Lakers’ seasonNew team vice president David Griffin, who dealt with Paul when he was the general manager of the Cavaliers and LeBron James (Paul’s primary client) played in Cleveland, has tried to smooth things over with Klutch Sports and the Pels. His attempts at talking Davis into staying in New Orleans have more to do with resetting relations with Paul than it does with actually keeping Davis in town, which is a longshot.There are many within the Pelicans organization who are still embittered by the way Paul manipulated Davis last season, particularly coach Alvin Gentry, and having Williamson lined up with Paul would have opened wounds that are only recently healed. That won’t be a problem with CAA. Paul is the Rockets star who hit the trade block with a thud this week when ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported that the Rockets were looking to clean house this offseason coming out of a disappointing conference semifinal loss to the Warriors.According to one front-office executive, a trade for Paul would be “something where if I am taking back your dead wood, you’ve got to take back some of mine.”MORE: Mike D’Antoni reportedly ends contract talks with RocketsIt’s not that Paul is not a useful player. He averaged 15.6 points and 8.2 assists during the 2018-19 season and is still a good pick-and-roll point guard. The problem is, in the course of one season after he turned 32, Paul went from a top-tier star to an above-average point guard, shooting just 41.9 percent from the field and a so-so 35.8 percent from the 3-point line.”As a player, of course you would take him on,” one general manager told Sporting News. “He is experienced. He is a smart guy. He can be good for young point guards to be around the way he sees the floor. But he lost a step. At the same time, he is gaining a big, big contract.”Losing the step can be seen in his play in the pick-and-roll, always a staple of his game. In 2015-16, he put up 0.94 points per possession as a pick-and-roll ball hander, which was in the 89th percentile. In 2016-17, it was 0.96 points per possession, good the 83rd percentile. Last year, his first season in Houston, was one of his most efficient ever in the PNR: 1.02 points per possession, the 91st percentile.This year, Paul scored 0.87 points per possession, just the 59th percentile. He also missed 17 games with a left hamstring injury, the third time his left hamstring has been injured in the last three seasons. In all, Paul missed 24 games, the third straight season he’s sat out 20 or more times.And there is that contract, the four-year, $160 million deal last summer that most knew the Rockets would regret eventually. Few would have guessed that such regret would be only 10 months away.
https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/a1/8a/lithuania-australia-fiba-basketball-world-cup_1pduzzi4mb84m1xmlavnrxtfl8.png?t=-1456580804&w=500&quality=80 Accompanying the bouldering duo is a collection of effective and sedulous players, equally as motivated to write another exciting chapter in the book of Lithuanian basketball. Other notable names include Olympiacos forward Mindaugas Kuzminskas, Parma combo guard Adas Juskevicius, Rytas Vilnius’ forward Eimantas Bendzius and Lokomotiv Kuban guard Mantas Kalnietis.The team will be made up of an interesting mixture of veteran leadership and exciting young talent. The final roster is a result of 30 players taking part in qualifying games, with four of those players having played over 10 games to earn their spot.It is worth noting that veteran forward Jonas Maciulis and Arturas Gudaitis will be taking part, despite recent concerns around their fitness. Maciulis in particularly has been a linchpin for the national team since back in 2007.To the wider basketball world, the roster could be perceived as top heavy, but that would be doing the players who tore their way through qualifying – with only 2 appearances each from their two stars – an injustice.QualificationThe road to China for Lithuania was almost as smooth as it could have been, despite one minor bump in the road. They ripped their way through the first round of qualifiers, going 6-0 against Poland, Hungary and Kosovo – a team that fell to a 56-point loss in Klaipeda.In the second round, they entered Group J, which seemed to be more of a significant challenge for them, on paper. Still, they topped that group too, only losing one game, against Italy in Brescia back in November and even that was by a mere 5 points. To say that Lithuania made it out of the group unscathed would be an understatement, they were almost untouchable.Finishing with an impressive record of 11-1 for the entirety of qualification, they boast the joint-best record in Europe, alongside an excellent Greece outfit. Their ability to really hammer teams with points shows up in their point differential number, which ended as +197 for qualifying – also the highest in the continent.In their last three competitive fixtures, the Lithuanians have defeated Croatia, the Netherlands and Italy, in what was something of a revenge game. They will take a wealth of momentum into the competition, as they prepare to make a real statement on the game’s highest stage.GroupAlongside Senegal, Australia and Canada, the Lithuanians make up the widely discussed ‘group of death’. Frankly, there will be no easy games in Group H, which includes teams who are considered serious up-and-coming basketball nations.Lithuania possesses a staunch self-belief as a basketball team and that will have been helped by their highly encouraging qualification performance. They were not short of confidence heading into this dreaded group regardless, but with Canada’s squad affected by a flurry of major personnel dropouts and Australia now missing star player Ben Simmons, they will see their window of opportunity widening as the competition draws closer.Despite missing some of their more recognised names such as recent Boston Celtics signing Tacko Fall and Minnesota Timberwolves big Gorgui Dieng, Senegal are not a team to underestimate. In the second round of African Qualifiers, they finished Group F with a 10-2 record, second only to Nigeria.A talented Australian side finished atop their group in the Asian qualifiers, also with a 10-2 record and a flabbergasting point differential of +328. In a pure coincidence, Canada too finished their qualification campaign with only two losses and although affected by the aforementioned withdrawals, should be seen as a challenger for this Lithuanian side. https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/b5/6a/sabonis-lithuania-fiba_18kx715oga80s12p0o6212fesb.jpg?t=-1458987380&w=500&quality=80 Lithuania has an important history with the game of basketball. In what is now considered to be one of the most interesting world basketball stories, Lithuania earned a bronze medal in the 1992 Olympics in Barcelona, while the most famous international team in history picked up the gold. It was an extremely important competition for Lithuania, as it was the first Olympic games after the country regained independence from the Soviet Union; they were able to proudly play under their own flag in an event that transcended sport.One member of that tie-dye wearing, Grateful Dead sponsored team was the legendary Arvydas Sabonis – father of second-generation star Domantas. The younger Sabonis will be looking to create his own narrative at the World Cup and the 2020 Olympics and etch his own name in his country’s proud basketball tradition.As previously mentioned, the opportunity for success for this team is great. Other teams in their opening group are slowly becoming moving targets and if there is a contender prepared to attack, it’s Lithuania – a basketball team who truly value the worth of international competition. RosterLet it be known, this Lithuania team is not travelling to China merely to take part. The goal is to place on the podium in at this World Cup, at the very least. This is a group brimming with ambition and with bona fide talent ready to overwhelm their opposition.Head Coach Dainius Adomaitis’ World Cup roster will go into battle with a pair of NBA stars in the shape of Memphis Grizzlies’ center Jonas Valanciunas and young Indiana Pacers big Domantas Sabonis on the frontline. In a tiny sample size during qualifying games, they showed how they earned their formidable reputation, by averaging 13 and 14.5 points per game respectively. If any team is equipped to handle Lithuania’s size, it may just be Australia. Although the two are unlikely to share the court often, experienced, physically imposing big men Aron Baynes and Andrew Bogut will be ready to battle under the basket. Both players are considered tough veterans and both also have an NBA championship to their name, which they earned in consecutive years for different teams. They know more than anybody what it takes to win on the highest stage. Look out for a hard-hitting matchup in the paint involving these four.Canada’s Cory Joseph is arguably the most talented guard in the group and possesses an ability to engage his teammates, thus producing a fluid style of play and encouraging effective ball movement. Lithuania will likely depend on Mantas Kalnietis to try to negate the Sacramento Kings star’s threat, through stubborn defensive play and some of his own playmaking.Against Australia, the loss of Ben Simmons does not provide the Lithuanians with free reign. The Utah Jazz’s Joe Ingles will be on hand to offer a scoring threat, while veteran guard Patty Mills and defensive pest Matthew Dellavedova are potential problems in their own ways.Key StoriesDespite their unbelievable form in qualifying, Lithuania’s preparation hasn’t been completely perfect. In what could be a wake up call for them, in exhibitions games they were beaten by an excellent Serbia team, which includes Denver Nuggets star Nikola Jokic and guard Bogdan Bogdanovic, among others. Ricky Rubio and his Spanish teammates also handed them a loss, while they made light work of Finland just days later.This tournament seems particularly significant for Jonas Valanciunas. After being traded away from the Toronto Raptors and the new Canada head coach Nick Nurse, he now has an opportunity to show them what they are missing. Not too long ago, the 27-year-old was considered one of the most consistent big men in the league and in the 19 games in which he featured for Memphis last year, he averaged above his career average in both points (19.9) and rebounds (10.7). In China, he will be afforded an opportunity to prove to the world just how effective he can be, as he approaches his prime years. https://images.daznservices.com/di/library/sporting_news/2e/df/jonas-valanciunas-lithuania-fiba_1kegvxk851cfe17a8dfdmlm39g.jpg?t=-1458388268&w=500&quality=80 Should Lithuania manage to progress to the second stage of the competition, they will be hard-pressed to find more difficult opponents than they will face to open things up in this unenviable group, barring a few obvious contenders. If they can find a way out of the ‘group of death’, the idea of leaving China with a medal of some colour becomes all the more tangible. The potential pitfalls are there, as these teams will serve as stiff competition for the Lithuanians, but the rewards could be glorious.MatchupsWhen considering the standout matchups in this group for Lithuania, it’s hard to see past the big men. With Adomaitis hoping to take a twin-towers style approach to their play, they will attempt to overwhelm their opposition with sheer physicality inside and crafty interior play. Like his father before him, Sabonis can punish on mismatches and alongside veteran centre Valanciunas, they will force many teams to adapt, in order to stay afloat.
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Brown among SAG Awards presenters In Liverpool, Man United sees the pain and path to recovery MOST READ Recto seeks to establish Taal rehab body to aid community, eruption victims “I did not give up,” said Uno, who injured his right foot after the Olympics due to an ill-fitting boot.Skating to an Elvis Presley medley, Kolyada fell on his opening quad lutz and a quad toe, hitting just one of his quadruple attempts. He showed his disappointment by pointing to his head as he waited for his marks to go up: 185.27 in the free for a total of 272.32.U.S. skater Vincent Zhou, the world junior champion last year, fell three times in the final skate, tumbling to 14th place after a strong short program put him within striking distance of the podium.The generally chaotic programs, to some, reflected the long skating season, which started in September, and the pressure of turning around quickly for a major international championship. But the medal winners all said they had enough turnaround time and would compete again in an Olympic-year worlds as long as one was scheduled.The International Skating Union is considering other rule changes at its next congress in June, which could impact how the skaters plan their programs and the frequency of quads. Proposals include shortening the long program and limiting the number of quads that can be repeated.In the ice dance final, Olympic silver medalists Gabriella Papadakis and Guillaume Cizeron of France reclaimed the world title they lost last year with an ethereal free dance that earned them a season-best 123.47 points for a total of 207.20.Though they earned perfect marks for performance, composition, and interpretation, Papadakis said they still had room to improve.“We won’t be bored. There are also things to improve, competitors to be afraid of. It’s the sport,” Papadakis said.U.S. champions Madison Hubbell and Zachary Donohue took silver, vindicating a fall in last year’s worlds that kept them off the podium. Canadians Kaitlyn Weaver and Andrew Poje won the bronze.“I feel like we have done a lot of work tackling our demons, the fear, all the ‘what ifs’ that go through our minds,” Hubbell said. “We have a history of making some errors and giving up our place, so today’s performance, that was our goal: To stay in the moment, to stay connected, and believing what we do is enough.” View comments Lights inside SMX hall flicker as Duterte rants vs Ayala, Pangilinan anew For the rest, it was a fall-a-thon: 14 sprawls, splats, and tumbles among five competitors as they attempted the all-mighty quad. There were three falls by silver medalist Shoma Uno of Japan, who matched his Olympic silver, and two by Mikhail Kolyada of Russia, who took bronze.Skating last, Chen said he knew the others made mistakes – though not quite how bad – and that gave him the freedom to attempt six quads, knowing he had room for error.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSGinebra beats Meralco again to capture PBA Governors’ Cup titleSPORTSAfter winning title, time for LA Tenorio to give back to Batangas folkSPORTSTim Cone, Ginebra set their sights on elusive All-Filipino crownAfter his woeful Olympic short program put the podium out of reach, Chen said at the worlds, “I just wanted to redeem myself in the short, and try to maintain what I did in the long.”He did better than that. He finished first in the short, vanquishing that Olympic ghost. United States’ Nathan Chen celebrates after winning a men’s competition at the Figure Skating World Championships in Assago, near Milan, Saturday, March 24, 2018. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno)ASSAGO, Italy — Nathan Chen’s redemption is complete.While all of his top competitors fell, the 18-year-old Chen completed six quadruple jumps in the free program on Saturday to become the first U.S. winner of the men’s world figure skating title since 2009.ADVERTISEMENT And then in the free, he completed six quadruples, with minor deductions for stepping out of the quadruple salchow, to score 219.46 in the free for an overall total of 321.40. That compared to his Olympic free program where he attempted six triples, completing five cleanly but putting his hands down on a quad-flip. That earned him an Olympic record 215.08 points.Chen said the Olympic disappointment in the individual and team short programs helped pave the way to the world title, the first by a U.S. men’s skater since Evan Lysacek nine years ago.“I learned so much more from making those mistakes in both short programs, than if I would have skated better,” Chen said. “‘Having that experience will propel me in the future better than if I had done the short program better.”Uno, the only Olympic medalist to show up at the worlds, finished nearly 50 points behind Chen.Uno stunned the crowd when he fell on an opening quad loop, and circled around for another fall on a quad flip. The final fall came on a quad toe. But with the crowd urging him on, he finished strong with a quad toe in combination and two more combinations as Puccini’s “Turandot” intoned the famed refrain “vincero,” ”I will win.”ADVERTISEMENT LATEST STORIES