Ball Don't Lie - NBA

Each weekday morning, BDL serves up a handful of NBA-related stories to digest with your samosas.

John Rohde, The Oklahoman: Byron Mullens(notes) repeatedly hears how the Thunder needs a center, which can be more than a tad disconcerting when you're No. 4 on your team depth chart. The Thunder is expected to use one of its four NBA Draft picks, at least, to select someone who plays his position. "I don't have any reaction to it," Mullens said. "I'm totally fine with it. It just makes me hungrier. I've been here a year and I've just got to show the general manager and the coaches that this is my spot, this where I belong and no one's going to take it." The Thunder owns the No. 21, No. 26, No. 32 and No. 51 selections for Thursday night's draft. Will there be a center available in those draft slots who is better than the Thunder's current lineup of Nenad Krstic(notes), Nick Collison(notes), Serge Ibaka(notes) and Mullens? If the answer is no, then why waste your pick(s)? Mullens figures having one season in the NBA gives him a significant jump on the rookie competition. But he is still doing 6 a.m. daily workouts and coming back at noon to lift weights. How many rookies are doing that? Mullens also hasn't taken any time off since last season ended. It's gotten to a point where Thunder bosses are pleading for Mullens to take a breather. "They're telling me to take a vacation in August," the 21-year-old Mullens said with a smile. "I probably should, but I don't know."

Ira Winderman, South Florida Sun-Sentinel: After this past season, when asked about Michael Beasley's(notes) future with the team, a leading Heat veteran said he sensed Beasley did not want to be here anymore. He didn't say that Michael told him that, only that he sensed Beasley was not happy. Then, Saturday, the Topeka Capital-Journal posted a story about Kansas State's Jacob Pullen and his decision to bypass early entry for Thursday's NBA Draft. Two quotes from the Wildcats guard particularly resonated. First: "I talked to Mike. The two weeks right before the draft deadline, Mike spent out in Kansas. We talked and he said if he could re-do everything, he'd have stayed all four years." Had he remained, Beasley would have been a senior this coming season. Pullen now will be a part of that senior class. Pullen continued of his conversation with Beasley about early entry, "He said to think about it and not just worry about the money. Think about the experiences you want to be part of, because once you make that decision it's your life. It's a job. It's not fun anymore."

Dave D'Alessandro, New Jersey Star-Ledger: It is often noted (and lamented) that the Nets haven't had a starting-quality power forward in six years – aside from Nenad Krstic's infrequent bursts of offensive productivity – or a starting-quality small forward in two. Year after year, they have dreamed of plugging the first hole with an authentic beast who can play above the rim, make opponents shudder when they enter the paint, and demonstrate his contempt nightly for the notion that power forward is a finesse position. Year after year, they have sought to fill the second hole with a genuine 3-4 hybrid with length and attitude, one who can run and guard and shoot with range. Year after year, they have failed. But this is the summer that Rod Thorn will succeed in filling at least one of them. And the Nets president doesn't care (much) if it's filled by a kid who will be 19 years and two months old when the Nets open training camp in October. "The only question with Derrick Favors," Thorn said of the Georgia Tech power forward, "is where he is in his development. You have to figure out how long it will be before you have someone who is a finished product. Because he is in every other way a prototypical 4 – in body frame, skills, and athletic ability." Favors is the odds-on favorite to be selected by the Nets in the NBA Draft on Thursday, and while he is still young and unproven, virtually every team official involved in the decision believes they may have no other choice as they make the third selection. There was a time when the Nets hoped their future would be tied directly to the meteor known as John Wall, the best point guard in the incoming rookie pool that is slated to be picked first by Washington; or Evan Turner, the best wing in the Draft, and "a guy who can put a team on his back," as Nets personnel director Gregg Polinsky put it. But Thorn is convinced Philadelphia, choosing second, isn't letting Turner go by. "All of the information I have points to that direction," Thorn said. Asked whether Turner is off the board because of agent David Falk's refusal to let the Ohio State product work out in New Jersey, Thorn replied, "It's not that simple, no. As you gather information from a lot of places, you can figure out where they're going to go. And indications are that (Turner) will go No. 2."

Jonathan Feigen, Houston Chronicle: For all that remains uncertain for the Rockets heading into Thursday's NBA draft – which is deep in mid-first-round talent and has the Rockets holding a mid-first position they would like to change – there are a few considerations that are clear. The Rockets' draft-night track record under general manager Daryl Morey has been to ignore the roster and perceived needs and consider only prospects' potential. And the Rockets always look to – and usually do – change their draft position. Morey has said there is a 50 percent chance the Rockets will not pick with their own selection, No. 14. They have not drafted anyone with their own pick since Aaron Brooks(notes) in 2007, Morey's first selection as Rockets GM, and they have been working to move up into the top third of the first round this season. Even if the Rockets remain at 14, their willingness to ignore roster needs likely will give them a range of choices "At 14, we're trying to identify what's the best talent available," vice president of player personnel Gersson Rosas said. "We try to stay away from just picking for need or picking based on what the market says. We want to identify the best talent. We don't want to leave talent on the table after we pick. I think you feel the pain of need through this process, but you don't want to ever make the decision based on need. As we look back at the draft, the mistakes that have been made in this league are made primarily because we let the pain of need supersede the talent that might be available. We know the roster changes very quickly. Wings might be a position of strength right now. With a busy offseason ahead, we might make moves, and the depth at that position might be gone. We try not to let our roster affect it at all."

Eddie Sefko, Dallas Morning News: As of now, the Mavericks have only the No. 50 overall pick in Thursday's draft, but don't be surprised if that changes. Donnie Nelson, the club president, has been busy conversing with other personnel chiefs around the league and there appears to be a decent chance that the Mavericks will try to move up to the early portion of the second round, even though it's probably going to cost them. Teams with picks in the early 30s are asking for over $1 million for those picks and while that's a steep price, it's better than having a pick late in the first round that requires at least a two-year commitment to whoever is drafted. "We're active as always and we are in the mix on a number of situations," Nelson said. "If the opportunity presents itself, we'll squeeze the trigger."

Tyler Dunne, Philadelphia News: Doug Collins wants doubt to creep into his conscience. As Thursday's NBA draft nears, the 76ers' new coach hopes to get cold feet. Even though the Sixers are expected to take Ohio State's Evan Turner with the No. 2 overall pick, the team continued its string of workouts Saturday morning with Syracuse's Wes Johnson at the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. The day before, Kentucky's DeMarcus Cousins and Georgia Tech's Derrick Favors worked out for the 76ers. "Do they make you think? Do you watch a guy work out and say, 'Wow, that was impressive,'?" Collins said. "Watching Wesley work out was like, 'Wow, that was impressive.' This young kid has got it. He's charismatic. He can play. He's respectful. He's older. Impressive." For an hour, the 6-7 forward endured a fairly grueling workout. Coaches cycled him through a series of pick-and-roll and isolation-branded drills. Saturday was Johnson's third workout. He previously worked out for the New Jersey Nets (third overall pick) and Minnesota Timberwolves (fourth), two more realistic landing spots. Nonetheless, Johnson believes the Sixers are genuinely interested in him. "I think so," he said. "I think there's a good shot for me to come here."

Tim Kawakami, San Francisco Mercury News: Several NBA sources said over the weekend that the Warriors and Minnesota are no longer having trade discussions about Anthony Randolph(notes) heading to the Timberwolves. "Not happening," one league source said. "Dead." It's unclear how serious the two teams ever got here. And I'd heard for a while that Minnesota was very interested in adding Randolph in an effort to change-up their front-line chemistry and that, at the very least, the Warriors would listen. It's not out of the question that the Warriors could explore moving Randolph again, whether it's to Minnesota or to another interested team. But one source said that Warriors GM Larry Riley is telling the truth about being inundated with is-Randolph-available? calls from other teams once word broke about the talks with Minnesota. As pointed out earlier, it's also likely that the Warriors' sale situation tangles every major trade discussion-how can Riley make a deal involving a potentially huge piece of the future without knowing what the next owner wants? Conclusion: If so many teams want Randolph, Riley rightly doesn't want to be known as the GM who traded such a valuable property a year or two before Randolph could potentially bloom into one of the most versatile big men in the league. Unless Riley can get a killer deal for the Warriors Right now, that killer deal does not exist. And Riley's main motivation to move Randolph would be to get a better fit for Don Nelson. But Nelson's not a large factor any more, as a super-lame-duck coach, at best.

Tim Buckley, Utah Deseret News: If what University of South Florida combo guard Dominique Jones says is true, the Jazz may be trying to trade for a second first-round draft pick. Jones doesn't expect to be taken as early as No. 9, when Utah makes its first pick in Thursday's NBA Draft. But he doesn't expect to be around when they make their second selection, either, at No. 55 overall in the second round. Why, then, did Jones join nine others – including possible lottery pick Paul George of Fresno State and Alabama-Birmingham shooting guard Elijah Millsap – in working out Saturday for the Jazz? 'I heard a rumor they might be getting around a 20-some pick,' Jones said. So are the Jazz really looking to deal? 'We, as a staff, try to be prepared for everything,' said Jazz player personnel vice president Walt Perrin. "If come draft day somebody says 'We'll give you another pick,' or 'You can buy another pick,' or 'You can trade for another pick' – move down or whatever – we have to be prepared for that."

Rick Bonnell, Charlotte Observer: "The Charlotte Bobcats are "very active" in various trade discussions around the NBA, according to a friend of mine in a front office. Considering who said that, I'm confident the perception is accurate and that if the fellow knew more he would have said. The guy said he's been told the Bobcats seem willing to increase their payroll if they can do something to significantly improve themselves. That suggests they're willing to take some financial risk. That surprises me a little, and I wish I knew the nuance. I got the sense owner Michael Jordan was pretty reluctant to go into luxury-tax territory, and I can't argue with that reasoning for a team slightly better than out of the playoffs and still losing lots of money.

Paul Coro, Arizona Republic: Suns Managing Partner Robert Sarver picked up the team option in coach Alvin Gentry's contract for the 2011-12 season. The performance of Gentry's team to make the playoffs last season already had guaranteed a portion of that season's salary. Picking up the team option guarantees another portion but half of his $2.15 million salary for that season remains subject to whether there is a lockout once the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement expires in July 2011. "He obviously did a phenomenal job," Sarver said. "What I was most impressed with was his willingness and ability to make adjustments during the playoffs. It really separated him as an excellent coach."

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