Jrue Holiday

Best of NBA: Pelicans hold off late Lakers rally for 1st win

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Best of NBA: Pelicans hold off late Lakers rally for 1st win

LOS ANGELES -- Anthony Davis scored 27 points, DeMarcus Cousins had 20 and the New Orleans Pelicans withstood a furious rally to beat the Los Angeles Lakers 119-112 on Sunday night for their first victory of the season.

The Pelicans led by 22 points in the second quarter and were still up by double figures heading into the final period, but the Lakers made a charge despite a poor shooting night from rookie Lonzo Ball.

Reserve Jordan Clarkson had 24 points for the Lakers, but Ball shot just 3 for 13 for eight points. He did have 13 assists and eight rebounds.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope started and scored 20 points in his first appearance for the Lakers. Rookie Kyle Kuzma also had 20.

E'Twaun Moore, who went 0 for 5 in his last game, added 19 points for the Pelicans (1-2), while Jrue Holiday and Ian Clark each had 14 (see full recap).

Wiggins' heave banks in, leads Timberwolves past Thunder
OKLAHOMA CITY -- Andrew Wiggins' 3-pointer from a few steps inside halfcourt banked in as time expired to give the Minnesota Timberwolves a 115-113 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday night.

Oklahoma City's Carmelo Anthony had hit a 3-pointer with 5.1 seconds left to give the Thunder the lead before the Timberwolves inbounded to Wiggins, who rushed up the court and got free with help from a crushing pick by Karl-Anthony Towns before pulling up for the winner.

Wiggins scored 27 points and Towns had 27 points and 12 rebounds for Minnesota (2-1).

Russell Westbrook scored 15 of his 31 points in the fourth quarter for the Thunder, who were coming off a loss at Utah on Saturday night. Anthony scored 23 points and Paul George scored 14 points on 6-for-20 shooting. Steven Adams had 17 points and 13 rebounds for the Thunder (see full recap).

Allen Crabbe scored 20 points, Nets beat Hawks
NEW YORK -- Allen Crabbe scored 20 points, DeMarre Carroll had 17 and the Brooklyn Nets beat the Atlanta Hawks 116-104 on Sunday.

Caris LeVert and D'Angelo Russell each had 16 points to help the Nets improve to 2-1 with their second straight victory.

Marco Belinelli had 19 points for Atlanta. The Hawks have lost two in a row to drop to 1-2.

Atlanta point guard Dennis Schroeder went down with an apparent ankle injury with 3:37 left and had to be helped off the court.

Brooklyn found a way to win once again without Jeremy Lin, who was lost for the season on opening night with a knee injury, holding off the Hawks after leading by 16 points late in the third (see full recap).

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).

If Sixers trade Jahlil Okafor to Pelicans, Jrue Holiday reunion unlikely

If Sixers trade Jahlil Okafor to Pelicans, Jrue Holiday reunion unlikely

Hoping the Sixers and Jrue Holiday reunite this offseason?

Well, it probably means not trading Jahlil Okafor to the New Orleans Pelicans, one of the rumored destinations.

Essentially, the two moves are mutually exclusive.

Here's why:

The cap
The Pelicans are currently $6 million over the salary cap. Next year, they're an estimated $10 million over the cap, according to Spotrac.

Because they're over the cap, the Pels won't be able to go out and sign an impactful free-agent point guard if they trade Holiday or let him walk in free agency this offseason. But, because they currently own Holiday's rights, they can go over the cap to extend him.

Plus, the other options aren't too appealing. Steph Curry, Chris Paul, Kyle Lowry, Patty Mills and George Hill are near-locks to re-sign with their current teams. Seems likely the Pacers keep Jeff Teague, as well. The next best free-agent point guards would be Derrick Rose and Rajon Rondo. That's a huge drop-off from Holiday.

Could New Orleans trade for Okafor and also get itself far enough under the cap to let Holiday walk and then sign a free-agent PG? Theoretically, perhaps. But it would require the Pels to dump multiple salaries — two of Omer Asik, Alexis Ajinca and E'Twaun Moore.

If the Pels traded Asik, Moore and a future first-round pick to the Sixers for Okafor, they'd be shedding about $13 million off next year's cap. But all that does is get them $3 million under the cap, and $3 million in today's NBA doesn't buy much. Plus, the Sixers would need to get some sort of sweetener to take on those two deals, especially Asik's. It would make no sense for the Sixers to take on two hefty salaries for Okafor unless they're getting a really valuable first-round pick with few protections.

Buyers, not sellers
If the Pelicans trade draft pick(s) for Okafor, they'd be doing it to win sooner with Anthony Davis. You don't mortgage future assets (draft picks) and accept remaining a lottery team — it just doesn't make sense. Holiday is the Pelicans' second-best player, so would it make any sense for them to trade one or more draft picks for Okafor and then not do everything it takes to retain their second-best player?

The possibility exists the Pelicans could let Holiday walk and draft a point guard high this summer. If the season ended today, they'd have the sixth pick. But if they have the ability to re-sign Holiday, why wouldn't they do it and then fill another need with this year's high pick?

Now what?
Because of these reasons, it just seems extremely unlikely that the Sixers could still land Holiday if they trade Okafor to the Pelicans.

The Sixers do not need Holiday; there are other point guards and two-guards who will become available in trades or free agency over the next couple years who could fit with Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. But Holiday remains an intriguing fit here because of his ability to create, distribute and knock down threes. He's shot a career-best 39 percent from distance this season and has been below 36.5 percent only once in his eight-year career. And he's still just 26 years old.