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Atlanta Hawks pledge $40 million to fight the racial opportunity gap — where should it go?


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Daryl Morey in talks with Philadelphia 76ers to become president of basketball operations

The Philadelphia 76ers are in advanced negotiations with former Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey to become their president of basketball operations.

A deal for Morey to join the Sixers could be finalised as soon as this weekend, multiple people with direct knowledge of the negotiations told The Associated Press.

Morey’s appointment would represent a continuation of a Sixers front-office overhaul that began after an underachieving season, but would not result in Elton Brand losing his position as general manager.

The Athletic reported that Morey would sign a five-year deal.

Morey stepped down as GM of the Rockets earlier this month after failing to lead the franchise to the NBA Finals. The Rockets made the playoffs 10 times since Morey was hired in 2007, including the last eight seasons, for the longest active streak in the NBA.

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He was responsible for the blockbuster trade that brought James Harden to Houston from Oklahoma City. The Rockets reached the Western Conference finals twice under Morey but were unable to win their first championship since consecutive titles in 1994-95.

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Houston went 640-400 under Morey and won a franchise-record 65 regular-season games in the 2017-18 season.

The Sixers named Doc Rivers as their new coach this month as they chase their first NBA championship since 1983. They also brought in former NBA player Jameer Nelson as a scout and hired former Pacers executive Peter Dinwiddie as executive vice-president of basketball operations. Prosper Karangwa was hired away from Orlando and brought in as VP of player personnel.

Morey and the Rockets split a little over a year after he sparked a rift between the NBA and Chinese government. Morey caused an international uproar when he tweeted support for anti-government protesters in Hong Kong.

Morey tweeted an image that said: “Fight For Freedom. Stand With Hong Kong.” His tweet was in reference to pro-democracy demonstrations in the semiautonomous Chinese territory that had been mired in escalating violence between protesters and law enforcement.

The tweet caused businesses in China to cut ties with the Rockets and broadcasters there refused to air the team’s games this season. NBA telecasts in China, however, resumed during the recent NBA Finals.

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Sources: NBA revenue dropped 10% to $8.3B

  • Host of The Woj Pod
  • Joined ESPN in 2017

    Zach Lowe (@ZachLowe_NBA) is a senior writer for ESPN Digital and Print.

The NBA’s revenues dropped 10% to $8.3 billion for the 2019-20 season amid losses due to the pandemic, according to financial numbers shared with teams and obtained by ESPN.

The balance of the finances included an $800 million loss in gate receipts and a $400 million loss in sponsorships and merchandise, sources said.

The NBA’s losses included $200 million in deemed “net negative impact” from a months-long splintering of a partnership with China in the aftermath of the Daryl Morey tweet promoting Hong Kong freedom a year ago, sources said.

As the NBA and National Basketball Players Association discuss start dates and financial amendments to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, the potential for a grim financial landscape without fans in the 2020-21 season looms over the league.

The 2019-20 season losses are slight in comparison to what awaits the NBA in 2020-21 if the season advances without fans and accompanying gate-night receipts, the league told teams — a projected 40% loss in overall revenue, or approximately $4 billion.

Talks about the salary cap and luxury tax levels for next season remain at the core of talks between the NBA and the NBPA. Had the league and players union followed the normal formula to determine this season’s salary cap — linking it to overall league revenue — sources told ESPN that it would have fallen to around $90 million — down from about $109 million in 2019-20.

Dropping to that level would have put almost every team into severe luxury tax territory, and it would have left very little available money for this offseason’s free agents.

The league and union are negotiating methods of artificially inflating the 2020-21 salary cap to keep it around $109 million, sources told ESPN. Those talks have centered around placing a larger percentage of each player’s salary into an escrow fund. If at the end of the season total player salaries exceed their mandated share of overall basketball-related income — about 50% — some or even all of that escrow money will go to teams.

The union is having its own internal discussion with its membership about what kind of escrow system is most fair to the full body of players. Taking a steep percentage this season — and returning to the normal 10% escrow system in 2021-22 — could disadvantage one subset of players compared to spreading the hit over multiple years.

For its part, the league is anticipating a revenue rebound in 2021-22 at the earliest. In inflating the cap in the interim, league officials and team governors are hoping to avoid a repeat of the salary cap spike of 2016, when a $20 million-plus leap in the cap enabled the Golden State Warriors to sign Kevin Durant away from the Oklahoma City Thunder in free agency.

The NBA bubble in Orlando recouped $1.5 billion in revenue that would’ve been lost without restarting the season, sources said. Expenses for the bubble were $190 million — $10 million more than originally estimated, sources said.

The NBA is open to the idea of regional pods and intra-conference scheduling to lessen team travel and exposure to the coronavirus, sources said. The NBA hopes that it can play games with fans in home arenas in 2020-2021, but it has also been exploring the possibility of modeling a bubble environment similar to what Major League Baseball used to finish the season’s playoffs, sources said.

The NBA is pushing to reach an agreement with the National Basketball Players Association for a Dec. 22 start to the season and a 72-game regular season — with a play-in tournament for the playoffs — that would allow the league to finish its season prior to the Tokyo Olympics on July 23, sources said.

Another alternative — less palpable to the league — is starting the season around the Martin Luther King holiday in mid-January, which would push the completion of the season into mid-September — causing the NBA playoffs to compete on television with the Summer Olympics and the start of NFL and college football season.

The NBA is anxious to get its calendar back on track for the start of the 2021-22 season to be delayed, and a September finish to next season would make that impossible.

The NBA is considering releasing the schedule in halves to increase flexibility, allowing for postponements that are likely inevitable with coronavirus outbreaks. The NBA doubts an All-Game and All-Star Weekend — set for Indianapolis in February — makes sense and may use an extended mid-season break to offer rest for players, or to make-up games that might be lost due to the virus.

ESPN front office insider Bobby Marks contributed to this report.

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New Orleans Pelicans hire Stan Van Gundy as head coach

Stan Van Gundy has confirmed that he has agreed to become the next head coach of the New Orleans Pelicans.

ESPN first reported Van Gundy’s appointment on Wednesday, while The Athletic added that the 61-year-old will sign a four-year deal with the Pelicans.

  • NBA offseason tracker: Trade rumours, free agency, draft news
  • Who are the NBA’s most intriguing free agents?

There was no official word from the Pelicans, but Van Gundy confirmed the reports on social media.

“I’m excited to join a talented New Orleans Pelicans team,” he posted on Twitter.

I’m excited to join a talented New Orleans Pelicans team. It will be an honor to work with our players and to work for Mrs. Benson and David Griffin, Trajan Langdon, their staff and the great people of New Orleans. I can’t wait to talk to our players and get the process started

“It will be an honor to work with our players and to work for Mrs. Benson and David Griffin, Trajan Langdon, their staff and the great people of New Orleans.

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“I can’t wait to talk to our players and get the process started.”

The reports come one day after the Indiana Pacers came to terms with former Toronto Raptors assistant Nate Bjorkgren on their vacant head coaching position.

The Pelicans met with Van Gundy last week for the head coaching position that was vacant after the team fired Alvin Gentry in August.

New Orleans lost six of eight games in the bubble to finish the season with a 30-42 record, good for 13th in the Western Conference.

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The Pelicans’ coaching vacancy, however, is intriguing thanks to young talent such as 2019 No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson, 20, and NBA Most Improved Player Brandon Ingram, 23. New Orleans also have the 13th overall selection in the upcoming 2020 NBA Draft.

Van Gundy has 12 years of experience as a head coach: three years in Miami, five in Orlando and four in Detroit. His most successful run came with the Magic, who he led to a 259-135 mark from 2007-12 while guiding the team to the playoffs each season. The 2008-09 Magic advanced to the NBA Finals.

Overall, Van Gundy is 523-384 in his career with eight playoff appearances in his 12 seasons. His last season was 2017-18, when he led the Pistons to a 39-43 record. Van Gundy was also president of basketball operations in Detroit.

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PSU’s Chambers quits after internal investigation

  • Basketball recruiting insider.
  • Joined ESPN in 2014.
  • Graduate of University of Delaware.

Pat Chambers resigned Wednesday following an investigation by Penn State into allegations of inappropriate conduct by the longtime men’s basketball coach.

In a statement, Penn State said the new allegations surfaced after The Undefeated reported in July that Rasir Bolton — who transferred from Penn State to Iowa State in the summer of 2019 — said he made the decision to leave the Nittany Lions because Chambers made a reference to a noose around Bolton’s neck.

Bolton told The Undefeated that he recalled Chambers saying, “I want to be a stress reliever for you. You can talk to me about anything. I need to get some of this pressure off you. I want to loosen the noose that’s around your neck.

“The new allegations surfaced shortly after The Undefeated’s article and a review was conducted jointly by Penn State’s Affirmative Action and Athletics Integrity offices,” Penn State said in its statement.

Chambers said in a statement provided to ESPN that he made the decision to take “a break to re-set and chart our path forward.”

Athletic director Sandy Barbour said that accepting Chambers’ resignation is “in the best interest of Penn State, our program and our student-athletes.” Barbour said the school received the results of the investigation within the last two weeks and that the new allegation was previously unknown to the school and was unrelated to the incident Bolton detailed to The Undefeated.

While Barbour would not provide any details relating to the new allegation, she said no NCAA rule violations were involved.

Chambers had been the head coach at Penn State since 2011, leading the Nittany Lions to a 26-win season in 2018 and was poised for an NCAA tournament appearance in 2020 before the coronavirus pandemic canceled the NCAA tournament. It would have been the school’s first NCAA tournament appearance since 2011 and fifth since 1965.

“I am so proud of all our program has accomplished these past nine years, and I will be forever grateful to the Penn State community for its ongoing support,” Chambers said in his statement. “Anyone who has ever coached — especially at this level — knows the exceptional amount of energy and focus it takes to deliver each and every day. This has been an incredibly difficult year for me and my family, and we are in need of a break to re-set and chart our path forward. So, I’m taking a step back to prepare myself for the next 20 years.”

In a Twitter post after The Undefeated story was published, Bolton said Chambers never apologized for his word choice.

“He said he was from the north and wasn’t aware,” Bolton said in the post.

“A noose; symbolic of lynching, defined as one of the most powerful symbols directed at Africa Americans invoking the history of lynching, slavery and racial terrorism,” Bolton said. “Due to other interactions with Coach, I knew this was no slip of the tongue.”

Chambers did issue a statement of apology to Bolton following publication of The Undefeated’s story.

“I’ve realized the pain my words and ignorance caused Rasir Bolton and his family and I apologize to Rasir and the Bolton family for what I said,” Chambers said. “I failed to comprehend the experiences of others, and the reference I made was hurtful, insensitive and unacceptable. I cannot apologize enough for what I said, and I will carry that forever.”

Assistant coach Jim Ferry will serve as Penn State’s interim head coach for the 2020-21 season. Barbour said the school will conduct a national search before naming a fulltime successor.

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Los Angeles Lakers are only going to get stronger, says Heatcheck's Mo Mooncey

Do the Los Angeles Lakers have what it takes to go back to back and win the NBA title next season? Mo Mooncey says the defending champions are only going to get stronger.


NBA Heatcheck

Powered by twin superstars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, the Lakers defeated the Miami Heat 4-2 in the NBA Finals to claim their 17th championship, their first since 2010.

  • Los Angeles Lakers rediscover ‘Execptionalism’ with title win
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Speaking on a special end-of-season edition of Heatcheck, Sky Sports’ NBA debate show, Mo Mooncey said the dual threat of James and Davis, plus the availability of new players in free agency, puts the Lakers in a strong position to repeat their success next season.

“As reigning champions, the Lakers have all the momentum. They also have two players in their starting five – LeBron James and Anthony Davis – who are first-team All-NBA players. When you have those two pillars performing, two guys in the MVP conversation, that is going to be pretty hard to stop,” he said.

“Then look at the guys the Lakers can potentially add (this offseason). Danilo Gallinari has said he doesn’t care about his contract and wants to come out (to LA) and get a ring. Goran Dragic and Serge Ibaka are free agents. DeMarcus Cousins is now healthy. Spencer Dinwiddie is looking to make a move away from Brooklyn. There are rumours that the Lakers are going to trade for Chris Paul or Derrick Rose.

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“This Lakers team is only going to get stronger. I don’t see any way they get worse. Often we see teams not repeating (championship wins) because key players retire or leave. But with the Lakers, I don’t see any key pieces moving on. I see them getting better and better.”

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Fellow Heatcheck regular Ovie Soko noted the Lakers won’t be the only Western Conference heavyweights looking to improve their roster during the offseason.

“I don’t doubt the Lakers’ ability to perform and they are a deep team with the right pieces. However, offseason trades still have to go through and there will still be a lot of (player) movement around the league,” he said. “The Warriors are going to be a different team next year. The Clippers, I would hope, are going to be hungry next year. The Dallas Mavericks are a dangerous team.

“The Western Conference is a minefield. Right now, to say the Lakers will come through the West and win back-to-back titles, I can’t say that. (Winning) the second championship is always tougher than the first.”

Three-time NBA champion BJ Armstrong believes the Lakers face ‘unique problems’ in the aftermath of their title triumph, most notably because of the uncertainty surrounding the 2020-21 NBA season and the potential effects on player movement, the salary cap and team revenue.

“The thing that concerns me about the Lakers repeating as champions is, ‘who is the core unit for this team?’ They clearly have two elite players – James and Davis. Any time you add pieces to a core unit, you need time for the pieces to come together,” he said.

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“The Lakers were counting on Kyle Kuzma all year to be their third scorer and that really didn’t happen. Give the Lakers credit, they still found a way to win. They figured it out, whether it was Rajon Rondo, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope or other guys (stepping up). They kind of ‘piece-mealed’ it together.

“I think the rest of the league is going to pluck off at least two guys from this Lakers team. Someone will give Rondo what all veteran players are looking for, a one-year deal at a high number. Dwight Howard has finally played himself into a position where he is going to be in demand. I don’t think Rondo or Howard will be back with the Lakers next season.

“The Lakers will have to figure out how to replace them. Do they trade people like Kuzma and get a piece in? Everyone is talking about Chris Paul. He is making over $40m a season. To get that trade, you’d have to deplete your entire roster to acquire him.

“This is not going to be as easy as people say. (With regard to players willing to come to the Lakers to ‘chase a ring’) let me say this as an agent, players want that money first. If they can’t get it, then you’ll hear the spin of, ‘oh, I came here for the ring’.

“This offseason is going to present some unique problems. As we speak today, we don’t know what the salary cap (will be). We don’t know how teams will be constructed. We don’t even know how many regular-season games will be played. There is a lot of uncertainty going around with the players, executives and teams. What is the NBA going to look like next year? We don’t even know, financially, if fans are even going to be in the building.

“Give the Lakers credit. They were able to become champions. They navigated the bubble and the stalled season. Next season is going to present some different problems. I think teams that are already together, like Denver, and don’t have to make a lot of changes will have an advantage. We’ll see how it plays out.

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“The Lakers know they have to improve in a lot of areas. They are probably going to lose some players, either in free agency or because they have to make a trade. You can’t continue to ask LeBron James (to carry the team). At some point, he is going to have to slow down. You can’t keep asking him to do this over and over again.”

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Predicting the big decisions surrounding Giannis, the 76ers, CP3 and the Warriors’ pick

This NBA offseason is full of decisions that could impact the hierarchy of the league for years to come.

Will back-to-back MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo hold off on signing a supermax extension with the Milwaukee Bucks? Will the Golden State Warriors keep or trade the No. 2 overall pick in November’s draft? Will the Brooklyn Nets deal for a third superstar to play alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving?

We asked our ESPN Forecast panel about five of the biggest offseason storylines.

MORE: Where the real power is held this offseason

Which path will Giannis choose?

For most of our panel, the choice seems clear: Giannis Antetokounmpo should and probably will wait a year to decide whether to sign a supermax contract to stay with the Milwaukee Bucks.

The Bucks posted the NBA’s best record for the second-straight regular season but again fell short of the Finals. After their elimination, Antetokounmpo said, “Hopefully, we can build a culture in Milwaukee for many years [and] come out here and compete every single year for a championship.”

But he didn’t say that he was ready to sign a five-year, $220 million extension.

Will he ultimately ask for a trade, à la Anthony Davis in New Orleans? Or will the Bucks get the answer they want? Either way, we might have to wait until 2021 to find out.

What should Antetokounmpo do?

  • Sign a supermax contract when it’s offered: 23.1%

  • Wait until after next season to decide: 73.1%

  • Ask for a trade: 3.8%

What will Antetokounmpo do?

  • Sign a supermax contract when it’s offered: 23.1%

  • Wait until after next season to decide: 76.9%

  • Ask for a trade: 0.0%

MORE: How 11 teams can try to land Giannis

Will it be the Warriors picking at No. 2?

The Golden State Warriors hope their lottery detour was a brief one, but it did yield the No. 2 pick in the draft.

We asked the panel what the Warriors should do with that valuable pick, and a majority endorsed a “win now” approach for the team that took three of the past six NBA titles. Also relevant: Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green are already 32, 30 and 30 years old, respectively.

The vote was far from unanimous, as a large minority of the panel thought the correct “light years” move would be looking to bring in a top draft prospect to build for the future. Of course, that draft pick would be eligible to be traded, along with Minnesota Timberwolves’ 2021 first-round pick held by the Warriors, so the story of Golden State’s trip to the lottery still has chapters to be written.

What should the Warriors do?

  • Draft LaMelo Ball (if available) with the No. 2 pick: 3.8%

  • Draft another top prospect (with the No. 2 pick or by trading down): 38.5%

  • Trade the No. 2 pick to win now: 57.7%

What will the Warriors do?

  • Draft LaMelo Ball (if available) with the No. 2 pick: 11.5%

  • Draft another top prospect (with the No. 2 pick or by trading down): 30.8%

  • Trade the No. 2 pick to win now: 57.7%

MORE: Big decisions await the Warriors

Will Chris Paul be in a Thunder uniform next season?

The Thunder parted ways with head coach Billy Donovan last month, signaling what could be the beginning of a full rebuild in Oklahoma City. Will All-Star point guard Chris Paul be the first domino to fall?

Our panel thinks so, with the majority agreeing that OKC should and will move the future Hall of Famer this offseason.

Paul’s contract might play a part in why a handful of other panelists think CP3 will remain in a Thunder uniform next season. Paul is owed more than $41 million in 2020-21 and more than $44 million in 2021-22, which makes him one of the most difficult-to-trade players in the league.

What should the Thunder do?

  • Trade Chris Paul: 88.5%

  • Keep Chris Paul: 11.5%

What will the Thunder do?

  • Trade Chris Paul: 80.8%

  • Keep Chris Paul: 19.2%

MORE: Which direction is OKC headed?

Is Brooklyn’s third star already on the roster?

In a fascinating split, our panel predicts the Brooklyn Nets will make a big trade for a third star — but should instead give their current trio of Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving and Caris LeVert a chance.

Of course, due to Durant missing a full season with a torn Achilles, that threesome has never actually taken the court together. With Durant and Irving expected to be healthy, and with Steve Nash as the new coach, will the Nets swing for the fences?

Our panel suspects they will. In his column on Tuesday, Kevin Pelton explores the reasons why LeVert might not be an ideal fit and which stars the Nets might pursue.

What should the Nets do?

  • Keep Caris LeVert and hope he is their third star: 61.5%

  • Put together a big trade package for a third star: 38.5%

What will the Nets do?

  • Keep Caris LeVert and hope he is their third star: 38.5%

  • Put together a big trade package for a third star: 61.5%

MORE: Why the Nets are a team to watch in trade season

Does Philly’s offseason shakeup continue?

After being swept in the first round inside the playoff bubble and the subsequent firing of coach Brett Brown, the Philadelphia 76ers headed into the offseason full of questions. The franchise answered one of them earlier this month when it named Doc Rivers as the new coach. Now the spotlight shifts to whether Philadelphia will make any big changes to its roster this offseason.

Our panel is nearly split on whether the 76ers should do it, but the majority agrees that Philly will ultimately see what Rivers can do with its star core intact for the 2020-21 season.

What should the 76ers do?

  • Make a big trade: 53.8%

  • Count on Doc Rivers, their current stars and better health to get them back into contention: 46.2%

What will the 76ers do?

  • Make a big trade: 15.4%

  • Count on Doc Rivers, their current stars and better health to get them back into contention: 84.6%

MORE: How Doc Rivers helps the Sixers contend

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The people with all the power in NBA free agency

Sometime between now and the 2020 NBA draft on Nov. 18, the league should lift the monthslong transaction moratorium, allowing its annual round of offseason chaos to officially begin.

There are many things the NBA will need to sort out over the next few months, from the salary cap rules governing next season to where games will be played to whether fans will be in attendance. Those negotiations and conversations with public health officials are an immediate priority for commissioner Adam Silver and National Basketball Players Association executive director Michele Roberts.

But teams are also getting ready to navigate the unpredictable roster shuffle that hits the league every offseason. It’s been more than eight months since the most recent NBA trade and more than 15 months since the last big move of the 2019 NBA offseason, when Russell Westbrook was dealt for Chris Paul. That silence will end quickly.

To preview what’s to come, and where the real transaction power is held, here’s our list of the people who will be making the biggest decisions this offseason, all their options and the potential fallout.

Giannis Antetokounmpo: The superstar everyone wants

Option 1: Sign a supermax extension

There is no more impactful decision this fall than whether the reigning two-time MVP will choose to sign the five-year extension he will be offered at the start of free agency by the Milwaukee Bucks. That would cement the Bucks as title contenders well into the 2020s.

But it would also alter the plans of the teams hoping to lure Giannis Antetokounmpo away. The Toronto Raptors won’t be as scared by an offer to unrestricted free-agent point guard Fred VanVleet that could damage their cap sheet. And the Miami Heat and Dallas Mavericks could look to bolster their rosters now with long-term money that previously would have been unpalatable.

Don’t expect an immediate spending spree if Antetokounmpo re-signs — the 2021 class will still have star power, and the league is carefully navigating pandemic finances — but his potential availability will keep some teams in wait-and-see mode until he signs his next contract.

Option 2: Hold off on a decision until 2021 free agency

Multiple sources have emphatically said Milwaukee will not look to trade Antetokounmpo if he passes on the extension. Instead, the Bucks will try to improve their roster and use the next year to show Antetokounmpo why he should stay.

Waiting would give Antetokounmpo maximum leverage over Milwaukee over the next 12 months. If the Bucks are willing to add to their payroll to improve the team — something ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski has reported they are — Milwaukee could chase a significant upgrade in trades (despite being short on prime assets).

Victor Oladipo and the Pacers’ front office: The expiring deal

Option 1: Pursue an extension

With one year left on his contract, Victor Oladipo looks like a possible extension candidate. But finding a number that makes sense for both sides won’t be easy.

The Indiana Pacers can offer an extension beginning at 120% of Oladipo’s salary for the 2020-21 season — a deal that would start around $26 million, a few million per year below what he could sign on a max contract next offseason as an unrestricted free agent. Oladipo, who suffered a torn quadriceps tendon in January 2019 and then struggled upon returning this year, could want to come back next season and try to prove he’s still the All-NBA player he was in 2018.

Option 2: Gauge trade options

There is a reason Oladipo’s name has been mentioned for months as a possible trade target. Having just one year left on his deal puts the Pacers in position to potentially lose him for nothing — something a small-market team would always prefer to avoid. And the financial landscape of both the league as a whole and the Pacers specifically (with long-term money already committed to Malcolm Brogdon, Myles Turner and Domantas Sabonis) has rival teams wondering if they will be willing to spend to keep Oladipo.

But any trade talks here will be complicated. Oladipo’s play was uneven after returning from injury this year, and given his history, those concerns would transfer to a new team.

Option 3: Wait it out

Even if this leads to Oladipo walking in a year, it could be the path that makes the most sense for both sides. The Pacers likely won’t trade Oladipo for a low-value package just to move him. Waiting would give Indiana a chance to see what this core looks like at full strength before reevaluating things at the 2021 trade deadline, and would give Oladipo a chance to show he’s back to who he was pre-injury.

Fred VanVleet: The best available free agent

Option 1: Re-sign in Toronto

The Raptors have two primary goals this offseason: re-sign guard Fred VanVleet, and do so without eating too much into their max cap space for 2021.

According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, any VanVleet deal around four years and $80 million should keep Toronto in the superstar race next offseason. But things get dicey if the Raptors start competing with bigger offers for one of their most important players.

Option 2: Join a rebuilding team

Two years ago, VanVleet bet on himself in free agency, signing a two-year, $18 million deal that he far surpassed in terms of on-court value. Now he enters free agency as possibly the best unrestricted player with a chance to relocate. The teams swimming in cap space — such as the Detroit Pistons, New York Knicks and Atlanta Hawks — missed the playoffs, so VanVleet could be choosing between taking a little less to play in a winning situation or a little more to try to turn around one of those teams.

In both Detroit and New York, he could be a culture setter in the middle of a rebuild. Atlanta has designs on taking a big step forward next season, and having a secondary creator, shooter and defender next to Trae Young makes a lot of sense.

Travis Schlenk: The GM with money to spend

Option 1: Commit to long-term additions

Rival teams expect Atlanta to look to make substantial improvements this offseason. If the Hawks can add depth around their young core of Trae Young, John Collins, Kevin Huerter, De’Andre Hunter, Cam Reddish and Clint Capela, they can enter the suddenly competitive playoff mix in the Eastern Conference.

With $42 million to spend, general manager Travis Schlenk can make competitive long-term offers that most teams won’t be able to top. The Hawks won’t find a proven star in this class, but there are good players — including VanVleet, Davis Bertans, Danilo Gallinari and Joe Harris — who could add much-needed shooting and defense.

Option 2: Look at short-term improvements

The alternate route here is bypassing an extension for Collins (waiting to re-sign him until he’s a restricted free agent after this season) and getting the best possible players now on one-year deals. That would allow the Hawks to walk into next year’s free agency with a full max salary slot and attempt to recruit a star after what they hope is an impressive season.

Clippers and 76ers: The high-pressure disappointments

Option 1: Count on a new coach and new results

The LA Clippers were the favorites to win the NBA title for most of the season before sputtering out of the playoffs in the second round. The Philadelphia 76ers hardly ever saw their projected starting lineup on the court together.

That could cause both teams to say that the only change they needed to make was on the bench — where Tyronn Lue replaced Doc Rivers in Los Angeles and Rivers replaced Brett Brown in Philadelphia.

Option 2: Big moves

Both teams are under intense pressure to win, making them candidates to pursue roster changes before the season tips, though dramatic overhauls will be complicated.

In Los Angeles, Paul George and Kawhi Leonard almost certainly aren’t going anywhere. And after the trade for George last summer, the Clippers don’t have many assets to send out. They could try to combine players such as Patrick Beverley, Lou Williams and Ivica Zubac in deals, but it’s tough to trade veteran role players for impact talent. They could also try to execute sign-and-trade deals for Marcus Morris and/or Montrezl Harrell, but the math there is tricky.

In the East, can the Sixers find a taker for Al Horford and balance their roster? Will they consider moving on from Josh Richardson, who has one year left on his deal? Will Ben Simmons play point guard, like he has most of his career, or power forward, like he did in the Florida bubble before suffering a season-ending knee injury? And if Simmons is at the 4, where does Philly find a point guard? The answers to any of those questions could lead to roster changes in Philly.

Bob Myers and Sean Marks: The allure of more star power

Option 1: Win-now moves

As my colleague Brian Windhorst is fond of saying, “Winning a championship means never having to say you’re sorry.” We’ve seen teams go all-in on star power in each of the past two summers and win it all. The Golden State Warriors and Brooklyn Nets could find themselves with similar opportunities this offseason.

For Bob Myers, Golden State’s president of basketball operations, that would mean trying to use the No. 2 pick in this year’s draft and the lightly protected future first-rounder from the Minnesota Timberwolves (along with the bloated contract of Andrew Wiggins) to add another high-level player to a core of Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green. For Sean Marks, Brooklyn’s general manager, that means potentially dangling a package including the Nets’ enticing young talent — Caris LeVert, Spencer Dinwiddie and Jarrett Allen — to add a third star alongside Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

Option 2: Build for the long haul

In the NBA, there is always the possibility some star player shakes free whom no one is expecting, but right now there isn’t an obvious trade target for either team.

That is especially true for Golden State, which is unlikely to trade an asset like the No. 2 pick in the draft for a moderate upgrade. If there isn’t an obvious deal now, the best bet for the Warriors might be to simply make their pick, bide their time and see what opportunities pop up.

Brooklyn, on the other hand, already has plenty of nice complementary pieces for Durant and Irving — a formula we just saw work for the champion Lakers. With Durant and Irving both signed for multiple years, the Nets have time to see what they have before trading their young players.

Sam Presti and David Griffin: The playoff bubble teams

Option 1: Embrace a rebuild

Last summer, both Sam Presti (the Oklahoma City Thunder general manager) and David Griffin (the executive vice president of the New Orleans Pelicans) had franchise players requesting trades to relocate to Los Angeles. Both turned those situations into huge hauls of young talent and draft assets.

They could attempt to do the same this year, though the returns shouldn’t be as big. After trading for Chris Paul and Danilo Gallinari, Presti could try to extract further value by flipping them this offseason. Paul’s bloated contract (he’s owed roughly $85 million over the next two seasons, including a $44 million player option in 2021-22) could make moving him difficult but also should lower OKC’s asking price. Gallinari is an unrestricted free agent, but because of the lack of available cap space on good teams, he could be a candidate for a sign-and-trade deal.

Griffin has a decision to make about Jrue Holiday. One of the league’s best defensive guards, Holiday has one year left on his deal, and in an offseason when there isn’t a lot of star power available, he could fetch a nice return for the Pelicans, allowing them to fully commit to building around Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram.

Option 2: Maintain playoff contention

If Paul and Holiday stay put, both teams will hope to again remain in the playoff chase. Oklahoma City might have difficulty doing that if the team doesn’t retain Gallinari, but given the lack of clear suitors for him this offseason, the Thunder might be able to re-sign him and try to flip him down the road.

Meanwhile, New Orleans was the favorite to be the eighth seed before things went sideways in the bubble — and the Pelicans will be confident they can make a run at a playoff spot next season if Williamson is healthy and Holiday is still on the roster.

Anthony Davis: The contract question

Option 1: Commit long term

After teaming up with LeBron James to win a championship in his first season in Los Angeles, it’s hard to envision Davis going anywhere when he becomes an unrestricted free agent this fall. Assuming he does re-sign with the Lakers, Davis will have a choice to make: sign a short-term deal — one or two seasons — or a full four- or five-year max contract.

If Davis chooses the long-term route, the Lakers can more easily plan around his salary commitments as they look to bring in more stars in the future and to supplement the roster next season.

Option 2: Go the short-term route

A shorter-team deal shifts the power dynamic in Davis’ direction. If he signs a two-year deal, that would allow him to sign a max contract for the most money — 35% of the salary cap — in 2022. A one-year deal would allow him to align with James, who can also become a free agent after next season.

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Daryl Morey stepping down as Rockets general manager

Daryl Morey is stepping down as general manager of the Houston Rockets, a person with direct knowledge of Morey's decision told USA TODAY Sports. 

The person requested anonymity because he is not authorized to speak publicly until the Rockets make an official announcement.

Morey was the Rockets' GM for 13 years, and ESPN reported that Morey approached Houston owner Tilman Fertitta about leaving his post after the team was eliminated in the second round of the NBA playoffs. 

Executive vice president of basketball operations Rafael Stone to general manager is expected to be promoted to general manager, the person told USA TODAY Sports.

The Rockets are also in the middle of trying to find a coach for a team that has All-Star guards James Harden and Russell Westbrook. Mike D'Antoni left after four seasons as the Rockets' coach last month.

COMING BACK: Anthony Davis to opt out of contract with Lakers, re-sign on multi-year deal

Daryl Morey spent 13 years as the general manager of the Rockets. (Photo: Bill Baptist, Getty Images)

Since 2007-08, the first season of Morey's tenure, the Rockets have advanced to the playoffs 10 times. However, the team never advanced further than the Western Conference Finals (twice, 2015, 2018). Morey won executive of the year after the team went 65-17 in 2017-18.

About a year ago, Morey's support of protesters in Hong Kong — sent via tweet — triggered a months-long standoff between China and the NBA. Chinese state-run television pulled NBA broadcasts from its airwaves. At the All-Star Game, commissioner Adam Silver estimated the losses from the league's business standoff with China resulted in the $400 million range. 

Morey is considered one of the fathers of the modern-day NBA analytics movement, developing an offensive philosophy of taking 3-pointers, shots at the rim and free throws and not much in between.

The Rockets' season ended in the conference semifinals in three of the four postseason runs under D'Antoni. 

ESPN first reported the Morey news.

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Anthony Davis to opt out of contract with Lakers, re-sign on multi-year deal

Los Angeles Lakers All-Star Anthony Davis plans to opt out of the final year of his contract and re-sign with the franchise, a person with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports.

The person requested anonymity because he was not authorized to speak publicly about Davis’ decision.

Davis, who joined the Lakers in the summer of 2019, is coming off his first NBA championship in which he averaged 25 points, 10.7 rebounds, 3.2 assists, two blocks and 1.3 steals and shot 57.1% from the field, 42.1% on 3-pointers and 93.8% on foul shots during the NBA Finals.

He was an All-NBA first-team selection this season, too. Davis, 27, and LeBron James formed a strong 1-2 combination, and the Lakers want to keep that pairing together for at least a few more seasons.

Anthony Davis celebrated his first NBA championship on Sunday. (Photo: Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports)

Davis’ decision to opt out of the final season of his deal worth $28.7 million in 2020-21 is not unexpected. He can re-sign with the Lakers at $32.7 million for next season if the salary cap remains at $109 million.

It is unknown though what the salary cap will be for next season as the league conducts its accounting on the 2019-20 season, which suffered losses due to the China controversy and COVID-19. The league is trying to keep it close to the projected $109 million.

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