Jimmy Butler

Will changes to NBA All-Star roster format affect Joel Embiid?

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Will changes to NBA All-Star roster format affect Joel Embiid?

When the Western Conference became stacked with talent following an offseason of trades and free agent signings, the projected All-Star rosters as they were known became majorly imbalanced.

The NBA has changed the format for the 2018 game to remove conference affiliations. The All-Star starters who receive the most fan votes from the East and the West will be named team captains. These two players will draft their teams from the voted-in starters and reserves. 

This offseason four 2017 Eastern Conference All-Stars joined Western Conference teams (Carmelo Anthony, Jimmy Butler, Paul George and Paul Millsap) while Gordon Hayward was the lone All-Star to leave the West. 

That shift in talent opened up a bigger window of opportunity for players in the East, including Joel Embiid, to earn a selection. Embiid was in contention last season despite playing in limited games.

The NBA is carrying over its voting process to select 12 players from each conference. Ten starters will be chosen from a 50 percent fan vote, 25 percent current player vote and 25 percent media vote. Fourteen reserves will be picked by head coaches. 

The All-Star Game now will be played for charity. Each team will decide upon a national or Los Angeles-area organization. 

NBA Notes: Now that Timberwolves have Jimmy Butler in the fold, focus turns to free agents

NBA Notes: Now that Timberwolves have Jimmy Butler in the fold, focus turns to free agents

BLOOMINGTON, Minn. -- Jimmy Butler's formal introduction to Minnesota was held at the Mall of America, an appropriate location for the Timberwolves and their prized new player.

They'll be shopping for sidekicks starting this weekend, and Butler will be part of the sales team.

"I'll be talking to a lot of really good players, much better than myself, I will tell you that, and get them here to join what we have," Butler said. "I know that, with the support that I've already felt from this city, they're definitely going to love it. Getting here, with this young core, winning these games, anybody's going to want to be a part of that. Now it's all about getting the right fit."

Since point guard Stephon Marbury infamously complained of the harsh winters in forcing his exit nearly two decades ago, while the Wolves mostly languished as a lottery team, Minnesota has never been a destination market. Now there's a sparkling new practice facility and a big-time big three of Butler, center Karl-Anthony Towns and shooting guard Andrew Wiggins.

Towns, who attended the event Thursday, didn't hold back. He said the Timberwolves trio should already be "in that conversation" among the NBA's best.

"This is what dynasties are made of," Towns said.

To start, at least.

"The league is going to be looking at us differently," Towns said. "When you're talking about one of the top players in the NBA being added to your squad, the whole focus changes" (see full recap).

Jazz: Hayward declines player option, becomes FA
SALT LAKE CITY -- Gordon Hayward is officially a free agent.

The Utah Jazz forward has declined the player-option final year on his contract as expected and will now test the market as an unrestricted free agent, said a person with knowledge of the situation.

Hayward, a seven-year veteran, is one of the marquee names available this offseason and will likely command a max deal. The person spoke to The Associated Press Thursday on condition of anonymity because the decision had not been formally announced.

The Jazz have made it clear that resigning Hayward is the No. 1 priority for the offseason, and his departure would be an enormous blow to the recent progression of the franchise. The Celtics are widely considered his top pursuer with Hayward's college coach Brad Stevens at the helm. The ability to win will be one of the key factors for Hayward and the Celtics are coming off a trip to the Eastern Conference finals as the No. 1 playoff seed in the East.

The Miami Heat are also in the mix.

"Every fiber of our collective being and soul of the Utah Jazz want him back," general manager Dennis Lindsey said.

Hayward just concluded the most productive season of his career that included his first All-Star selection, career-highs in points and rebounds per game and leading the franchise to the playoffs for the first time since 2012. He averaged 21.9 points, 5.4 rebounds and 3.5 assists and pushed the Jazz to the second round after not winning a playoff game since 2010.

Hayward was one of four players to average at least 21.5 points, five rebounds, 3.5 assists, one steal and two 3-pointers per game this season. The foursome also included the three MVP finalists in Russell Westbrook, James Harden and Kawhi Leonard (see full story).

Pelicans: Holiday to meet with team at start of free agency
NEW ORLEANS -- Guard Jrue Holiday and the New Orleans Pelicans have scheduled a meeting for midnight Friday when NBA free-agency begins, a person familiar with the situation said.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday because the Pelicans and Holiday, who is an unrestricted free agent, have not publicly disclosed their plans.

The meeting was first reported by Yahoo Sports.

The 27-year-old Holiday has spent the past four seasons with New Orleans since being acquired in a trade with Philadelphia, where he spent his first four seasons. Because Holiday last played for New Orleans, NBA rules allow the Pelicans to offer him a five-year contract, one year more than other teams.

Holiday averaged 15.4 points, 7.3 rebounds and 3.9 assists in 67 games last season.

Re-signing Holiday "is our priority. Make no mistake about it," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said after last season ended.

Holiday is coming off just his first healthy season with the club after missing most of his first two and parts of his third. However, he took leave last fall when his wife, former U.S. Soccer star Lauren Holiday, was diagnosed with a brain tumor while pregnant.

Holiday has avoided questions about his plans for free agency, but the Pelicans made it clear they want him back and hope the support they provided while he was on leave (see full story).

Stephen A. Smith: Bulls pursued No. 3 pick from Sixers for Jimmy Butler

Stephen A. Smith: Bulls pursued No. 3 pick from Sixers for Jimmy Butler

The Sixers' offseason won't come to an end with a trade for Markelle Fultz. After Thursday's NBA draft, the team will have plenty of cap space to acquire players this offseason, both on the free-agent market and via trade.

With that in mind, here's a roundup of some rumors around the NBA that could involve the Sixers:

Stephen A. Smith: Bulls wanted No. 3 pick from Sixers for Jimmy Butler
On ESPN's First Take this morning, Stephen A. Smith said that the Chicago Bulls were talking with the Sixers earlier this offseason. He said the Bulls were looking to acquire the No. 3 pick while making star small forward Jimmy Butler available. 

However, according to Smith, the Sixers didn't feel that Butler fit with the timeline of their young core, which isn't ready to compete right away. Obviously, a trade up to No. 1 to acquire Fultz likely ends any potential trade talks involving Butler to the Sixers for now.

Smith went on to say that the Celtics are now pursuing Butler alongside a free agency push for Utah Jazz forward Gordon Hayward. Adding the two versatile wings would keep the Celtics a top contender to unseat the Cavaliers as Eastern Conference champions in the short term.

Rumor: Sixers could get involved in Paul George-Kevin Love talks
Pacers star Paul George has reportedly told his team he will not re-sign in Indiana after the 2017-18 season. Therefore, the Pacers have reportedly spoken with teams about trading George, including rumored talks with the Cavaliers that could involve Kevin Love. 

Joe Kotoch tweeted from @Probballdraft that he heard the Sixers could be a "possible landing spot" for Love if Pacers-Cavs talk go well and a third team is needed to jump in. 

He added that he heard the Sixers wanted to add shooters and a veteran to their core and "were willing to trade for it". 

Love averaged 19.0 points and 11.1 rebounds for the Cavs in 2016-17 while helping the team reach the NBA Finals. However, some view George as an upgrade over Love for the Cavaliers in their efforts to beat the Warriors in 2017-18.

Love's fit with the Sixers or the accuracy of this rumor are another question, but he would add a veteran presence and a strong three-point shot (37.3 percent from deep last year).

Andre Iguodala to consider leaving the Warriors
The former Sixers forward won his second NBA title this year with the Warriors. However, The Vertical's Shams Charania reported that the 13-year NBA veteran will strongly consider leaving the 2017 NBA champions in free agency.

This offseason is likely the last chance for the 33-year-old forward to earn a large contract on the open market and Charania reported there's a belief a wing like Iguodala could earn as much as $20 million per season on the open market. 

Charania linked Iguodala to multiple teams but not the Sixers. The veteran very well may return to Golden State, yet his free agency is still worth monitoring.