James Harden, Chris Paul vault Drew League team into playoffs

James Harden and Chris Paul will play together just fine in Houston if Sunday’s Drew League game was any indication.

The two All-Stars vaulted their Drew League team LAUNFD (pronounced L.A. Unified) into the playoffs with an 83-81 win over Home Town Favorites a team loaded with current NBA players Jordan Bell, Delon Wright and Tim Hardaway Jr.

Jennings later deleted the tweet, but Pierce had seen enough to make him his enemy forever. That’s why in May, Pierce said on ESPN’s The Jump that Jennings shouldn’t be in the NBA.

After today’s news about Jennings, I jokingly tweeted that he listened to Pierce, and to my surprise, he actually responded. And not only did he respond, but he did so with a warning to anyone else who wants to take shots at him.

To be fair to Jennings, his stint in China is supposed to be temporary. He told ESPN’s Marc J. Spears he plans to return to the NBA once his 1-year deal in China is up. He has a chance to increase his hype overseas after coming off a lackluster stint in Washington.

With the Wizards, Jennings averaged 3.5 points per game and shot a measly 21.2 percent from 3-point range.

He wasn’t always consistent, but Beasley showed flashes of what made him such an enticing prospect last season, like when he scored a team-high 28 points (11-of-18 shooting) in a road win against the Spurs back in January with Giannis Antetokounmpo limited by an illness.

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Blake Griffin claps back at Rockets GM for wanting to get rid of MVP

Blake Griffin didn’t hold back when mocking Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey suggested NBA awards, such as MVP, gets scratch.

After Russell Westbrook won the award over James Harden, Morey said it might be too hard for an MVP to be picked.

Griffin was not having it, saying that championships should be banished and everyone gets a participation trophy.

Harden came in second behind Westbrook by just 135 points, but the voting system is pretty cut and dry.

One has to wonder, if Harden won MVP as opposed to Westbrook, would Morey have said anything at all?

It was a happy alteration of circumstance. But the vitriol leveled at Porter after he changed his mind about Washington stood out.

A teenage kid changing his mind on a basketball commitment following the firing of the coach seemed understandable enough. Porter agreed, but he said, shrugging, People still let me have it.

Now his task is to help change the hoops culture around Missouri, which has never advanced beyond the Elite Eight and has not won an NCAA Tournament game since 2010. Things have been particularly bad for the Tigers lately — three straight last-place finishes in the SEC, with a combined conference record of 8-46 in those years. That was one of the lures of Columbia.

There’s Kentucky, there’s Kansas, there’s North Carolina, Porter said. Then there’s Missouri and Washington, you know? I didn’t want to be in one of those schools where I might just be remembered as another superstar who came through. I want to make a program difference — a legacy. If things go as I think they will with this team this year, I will be remembered at Mizzou forever. I will have left a legacy. I want to make a big difference.

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Odds ‘aren’t great’ for Paul George to return to Thunder, per report

This seems like a question that doesn’t need an answer, but can the Thunder win a championship with Russell Westbrook?

The might have to if they want to keep newly acquired Paul George beyond the 2017-18 season.

The Thunder did reach the NBA Finals in 2012 with Westbrook as a vital piece. They’ve been to the Western Conference Finals and won 47 games with basically just him last season.

According to my sources, they believe LeBron James had everything to do with news getting out that Kyrie Irving wants to be traded, Smith said. Because Kyrie Irving and his representation and others met with the Cavaliers a couple weeks ago, and not a word got out until recently.

They believe that LeBron James got word of it and was put off by it and leaked it. I’m not going to accuse LeBron of such a thing. I don’t know that to be true at all. But I know that’s what Kyrie Irving believes.

James was reportedly blindsided by the news of Irving’s request, but it remains to be seen whether his emotions would drive him to leak information about Irving’s meeting with Cleveland’s front office. According to Smith, it may not matter what actually happened. If Irving believes James took action, it might do irreparable damage to their relationship.

Once that was over, people were getting in my head about, You’re a traitor, you’re this, you’re that’ after I reopened my commitment, he said. It was kind of tough hearing that. The people who are for you one minute are against you the next minute. But I knew it was coming because that’s how fans are. But it was tough, you know?

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NBA free agency: Michael Beasley joins Knicks on one-year deal

The Knicks are giving Michael Beasley another chance in the NBA.

Beasley, the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 NBA Draft, signed with the Knicks on a one-year deal in a move first reported by Basketball Insiders. The Knicks announced the signing of Beasley, and journeyman guard Ramon Sessions on Tuesday.

Beasley was the Big 12 player of the year coming out of Kansas State but has bounced around the league. He appeared in 56 games, with six starts, last season for the Bucks his fifth NBA team. The 6-9 forward averaged 9.4 points in just under 17 minutes per game.

The teams that likely can make a deal for Irving might be the Suns and the Celtics. Trade rumors have floated around a form of one-for-one deal with Irving going to Boston and Isaiah Thomas coming back to Cleveland, but nothing has come of that just yet. A possible Suns deal for Irving could take Josh Jackson or Devin Booker to get it done, so that may not be logical either.

For now, Altman continues to take calls on Irving, and for what it’s worth, several executives have given Altman props for doing his due diligence in not just taking any trade for an integral part of a team that won an NBA title.

I’ll say this about [Altman], one rival GM interested in Irving told ESPN. He isn’t overwhelmed. He’s showing real poise.

The teams that have made offers for Irving reportedly include the Spurs, Clippers, Suns, Timberwolves, Knicks and Heat.

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NBA trade rumors: Kyrie Irving could be dealt to Suns for Eric Bledsoe, Dragan Bender

We know who the Suns aren’t (so) willing to depart with to acquire Cavaliers point guard Kyrie Irving, who reportedly requested a trade three weeks ago.

Now, we know who they might be willing to give up to gain an asset that would immediately give Phoenix one of the best backcourts in the NBA.

It appears the Suns are holding firm that they won’t include rookie Josh Jackson in any deal to bring the suddenly disgruntled Irving to into the fold, according to myriad reports. The 6-8, 205-pounder out of Kansas has shown why he was worthy of the No. 4 overall draft selection. He wowed spectators in Summer League, averaging 17.4 points on 42.5 percent shooting from the field and 9.2 rebounds in five games in Las Vegas.

Acquiring Beasley won’t cause Knicks season ticket holders to sprint to Madison Square Garden for every home game, but he may be more useful than casual fans realize.

But it’s not just Boston. The Raptors have reconfigured and, they hope, revitalized their rotation. The Wizards took the Celtics to seven games in the conference semis last year. The Heat were among the best teams in basketball in the second half of last season. The Bucks, with budding star Giannis Antetokounmpo, will be angling for a breakout season.

No matter what happens now with Irving — heck, even if he winds up staying and the same roster remains in place — the Cavaliers have spent the past month taking body blows to their team psyche. They’re probably going to come out of this without one of their prime stars, and while having James is always going to make a team a favorite in the East, odds on a return to the NBA Finals are getting longer and longer.

This is almost always the way with modern NBA superteams. They sprout, and they flame out ahead of their time. The Cavaliers are not dead yet, of course. But they’re already limping into next season.

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Dan Gilbert mocked Pacers’ Paul George trade to Thunder: They ‘could’ve done better’

The Cavaliers held a press conference Wednesday to introduce new general manager Koby Altman, and the main discussion points involved Kyrie Irving and LeBron James. But there was an interesting moment when Altman was asked about a reported Paul George trade by Indiana.

Altman did his best to avoid answering the question directly, and instead opted for a broad response saying, I made 200 phone calls on draft night that weren’t reported on. We were very active. But when he was finished with his response, Cavs owner Dan Gilbert interjected.

The comment was so shocking, Altman couldn’t contain his laughter. After the broadcast aired, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst made a note of it as well.

I’m going to be honest with you, the thing that happened in this press conference that made my eyes go open the most was Dan Gilbert taking a shot at the Indiana Pacers for what they got for Paul George, saying openly, he thinks they could have done better, Windhorst said on air. That was a pretty shocking moment, that’s not something you’re going to see at too many press conferences.

Apparently the former UCLA star was Jackson’s attempted end game, according to longtime NBA analyst Peter Vecsey. He said as much on the HoopsHype podcast.

Phil was angling for to try to trade Porzingis for the the No. 1 pick to Boston, and he would have taken Ball, Vecsey said. That’s who he was after.

What was the plan after that, though? With Ball in the fold and Porzingis out of it, was the plan to trade Carmelo Anthony for a couple of other young contributors, or to buy out Anthony and use the money to pick up some lower-cost free agents?

That remains unclear, but what is clear is Jackson did have a plan even if it often looked like he didn’t. This trade didn’t work out, though, so we’re all left wondering ‘What if?’

Ball, of course, was eventually taken by the Los Angeles Lakers No. 2 overall and the Knicks took Ntilikina.

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Kevin Durant apologizes for comments about India after receiving backlash

Kevin Durant recently went on a trip to India to help spread the game of basketball across the country. He even entered the Guinness Book of World Records for holding the world’s largest basketball lesson in multiple venues.

He recently got back from his trip, and spoke with The Athletic’s Anthony Slater about his trip. One of the questions was about how Durant viewed the country, and some of his comments were viewed as critical by people who live there.

Here’s what Durant said:

The whole LeBron leaving the next year, to be honest that didn’t bother me that much, Billups said in an interview with Altitude Sports 950 AM in Denver Tuesday (via ESPN.com). Here’s why: When you have an opportunity to really put something together and put your imprint on it — rebuilding is a beautiful thing if [they’re] going to have the patience with you. What bothered me more than if LeBron left or not was that I didn’t think they had great assets if you have to do a rebuild. It was more that than ‘Bron. ‘Bron and I have always had an amazing relationship.

If Irving stays and LeBron leaves, Irving will be left with a roster with an average age of 29.75 years. The last time the Cavs selected a player in the draft was 2015.

Odds are also that players on the Cavs’ current roster like Derrick Rose, Jose Calderon, Jeff Green and Kyle Korver could all be gone. But J.R. Smith and Tristan Thompson will be there, but they’ll be without LeBron James.

That’s not exactly the most appealing roster situation and Billups passed on it. It’s not surprising, especially to Billups, to hear Irving may not want to play with that roster.

[Irving’s trade request] didn’t surprise me. I knew as [the Cavs] were doing their due diligence on me I was doing the same thing on them, Billups said.

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