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Cavs’ new coach Beilein ready to turn things around

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 INDEPENDENCE, Ohio — John Beilein has coached at every level in college but says the Cleveland Cavaliers are his dream job.

The 66-year-old Beilein, who turned Michigan into a perennial power during a 12-year run, was introduced Tuesday by the Cavaliers. Even before taking the podium, Beilein got to work with one of his new players, peeling off his suit jacket to rebound shots for forward Larry Nance Jr.

Beilein doesn’t view Cleveland’s situation as a rebuild but rather a renaissance. At one point during his remarks, Beilein pointed to the 2016 NBA championship banner and others hanging along one wall at the Cavs’ facility and said, “it’s been done before, it can be done again.”

Beilein drew a large laugh when he was reminded he has never been fired by saying, “That’s right.”

Beilein knows he has work to do with the Cavaliers, who went 19-63 last season.



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Reports: Grizzlies trade Mike Conley to Jazz

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The Utah Jazz are the next team this summer to pull off a reported big offseason trade.

Per Shams Charania of The Athletic, the Memphis Grizzlies are trading point guard Mike Conley to the Jazz for Grayson Allen, Kyle Korver, Jae Crowder, the No. 23 pick in the 2019 Draft and a future first-round pick. The trade was also reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Wojnarowski reports the Jazz will send a protected 2020 first-round pick to the Grizzlies, which will convey as a late lottery pick in 2020 or 2021 or become a lightly protected pick from 2022-24. The deal is expected to be completed on July 6.

Conley will replace point guard Ricky Rubio, who held down the position for the past two seasons. A former Ohio State standout, Conley has two more years left on his contract, with an early termination option in the final year. 

The Jazz were in the hunt for Conley during the 2018-19 season, with trade talks between the sides for the guard heating up at the trade deadline. Ultimately, that deal fell through and Conley remained in Memphis. Last season, Conley averaged 21.1 points, 6.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals for the Grizzlies, who suffered through a 33-49 season, missing the playoffs for the second consecutive season.

Conley ranks as the Grizzlies’ all-time leader in games played, points scored, assists, steals, field goals made and 3-pointers made. A steady playmaker and defensive presence, he has averaged 14.9 ppg, 3 rpg, 5.7 apg and 1.5 spg in his career. He was a key part of the Grizzlies’ “Grit ‘N Grind” teams of the early 2010s, which peaked with an appearance in the 2013 Western Conference finals.

Memphis now has the No. 2 overall pick in Thursday’s Draft as well as the No. 23 pick as it looks to build a team around last year’s top pick, Jaren Jackson Jr. Of the young players on the Grizzlies’ roster from last season, only backup point guard Delon Wright is a free agent this summer (and he is a restricted one). Beyond that, the Grizzlies should be able to continue to add young pieces to their core throughout the offseason. 

For the Jazz, acquiring Conley is a multi-faceted move as well. First, it all-but assures that power forward Derrick Favors will be back next as his contract becomes guaranteed after July 6. That will allow Utah to keep its big frontcourt pairing of he and defensive big man Rudy Gobert together. Second, adding Conley shores up playmaking and 3-point shooting for the Jazz — two areas that have been weak points for the team over the last two seasons.

Utah was 14th in offensive rating in 2018-19 (110.2) and second overall in defensive rating (105.2) last season, while also scoring 32.5 percent of its points off 3-pointers (which was ninth in the NBA). The Jazz made the playoffs and won 50 games in 2018-19, but lost 4-1 to the Houston Rockets in the first round of the playoffs. That was a bit of a letdown after a surprising run to the Western Conference semifinals in 2018.

Lastly, the Jazz did not have to part with oft-injured guard Dante Exum in the deal, which allows Utah to retain some backcourt depth in the wake of the reported trade.



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Report: Khris Middleton will not opt in with Bucks

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Another big-name player is apparently joining the mix of unrestricted free agents this summer.

Milwaukee Bucks All-Star swingman Khris Middleton has reportedly declined his $13 million player option for next season, his agent, Mike Lindeman, told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. The Bucks and Middleton are planning to work toward a new long-term deal as he is expected to command a five-year max contract to stay in Milwaukee. If he opts to sign elsewhere, Middleton would be eligible for a four-year max deal with another NBA team.

In not opting in with the Bucks, Middleton joins a growing list of new names on the unrestricted free-agent market that includes the Boston Celtics’ Al Horford and Kyrie Irving, the Sacramento Kings’ Harrison Barnes and the New Orleans Pelicans’ Julius Randle.

Middleton averaged 18.3 points, six assists and 4.3 rebounds this season en route to earning his first career All-Star selection. Middleton said at season’s end he first will consider what’s best for himself and his family and then consider which team he fits with best.

“It’s going to be fun and a new position,” Middleton said at his exit interview in late May. “I’m excited about the opportunity.”

The Bucks had the best record in the NBA during the regular season and were two wins shy of reaching The Finals. Now, the franchise and its fans must face the reality that the roster — outside of Eric Bledsoe and superstar Giannis Antetokounmpo — could look a lot different next season. Milwaukee has starters Malcolm Brogdon (restricted) and Brook Lopez (unrestricted) as well as reserves Tim Frazier (unrestricted) and Nikola Mirotic (unrestricted) as free agents this summer.

The Bucks became just the sixth team in NBA history to win the first two games in either the conference finals or NBA Finals and then drop four straight to lose the series. But Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer, who led Milwaukee to a league-best 60-22 record during the regular season, made quite an impression in his first season.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.



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Report: Chris Paul wants out of Houston

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The Houston Rockets have major decisions to make this offseason, especially if the latest reports from Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports are true. 

According to Goodwill, the dynamic between Rockets stars James Harden and Chris Paul has become “unsalvageable” after a difficult season in Houston.

The relationship has reportedly reached the point where Paul demanded a trade and Harden issued a “him or me” ultimatum after the Rockets’ second-round loss to the Golden State Warriors.

Here’s more from Goodwill on the reported problems in Houston:

The backcourt mates went nearly two months without speaking to each other during the season, sources said, creating a tenuous environment for teammates and everyone involved with the franchise.

Harden hasn’t returned Paul’s repeated attempts at communicating this offseason, sources said, after a year in which the pair repeatedly got under each other’s skin with petty acts in practices and games.

[…]

“There’s no respect at all, on either side,” a source told Yahoo Sports. “They need to get away from one another. Chris doesn’t respect James’ standing in the league, and James doesn’t respect the work Chris has put in to this point.”

Paul’s injury-related absences and grating personality have annoyed Harden, sources said.

[…]

Harden’s ball-dominant style and unwillingness to give others like Paul space to operate have grated on Paul, leading to the nine-time All-Star issuing his trade demand to Rockets general manager Daryl Morey after the season.

Sources said Paul would curse at head coach Mike D’Antoni about the offense bogging down after Harden would ask to come into the game to join the second unit, with Paul heading to the bench.

“It can’t be fixed,” another league source told Yahoo Sports about the Harden-Paul partnership.

If the Rockets do decide to trade Paul, they may have a difficult time finding a trade partner. The 34-year old guard reportedly is due to make $38.5 million, $41.3 million and $44.2 million over the next three seasons, which would be a lot of salary for another team to absorb in a trade. 

Paul — who missed 24 regular season games due to injury — finished the 2018-19 season with averages of 15.6 points, 8.2 assists, 4.6 rebounds and 2.0 steals.



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