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The Lakers’ 2014 Plans Just Got Interesting; The Hawks Are Mixing And Matching

So LeBron to L.A. talk has already started. We couldn’t even get to July, when CP3 and Dwight Howard‘s current deals come to a close and they become free agents, or the tipoff of this season before the summer of 2014 was brought up. Executives, of course, can’t live like fans and live and die by each game; a grander vision is needed. You won’t find much more of a grand vision or open checkbook than the Buss family’s in Los Angeles, and that’s why the 2014 season, when LeBron can opt out of his deal with Miami two seasons early, has been targeted by some as the potential transition from Kobe Bryant to James in L.A. Bryant’s 18th season and contract both end that summer, and no one is on the contract books except for Steve Nash. ESPN first brought up the possibility because chatter around the league from other executives became louder. It seems irrelevant to consider that this leak came from other NBA executives, who have motivation to see the Lakers lose, because of course the Lakers would want LeBron James. Who wouldn’t? Saying L.A. wants LeBron is like reporting we want to watch the NBA in 2014. The intrigue with L.A. is always in the execution, such as this summer’s moves to turn a somewhat rebuilding team into a spot on the short list of NBA title contenders. We doubt this is a ploy to throw off negotiations with Dwight Howard (might he want to be the solo star on a team?) because before the Lakers can court LBJ, they’re courting Howard, too. Trying to get him to stay will likely mean divulging any intel that can help achieve that end. If your team tells you they see a team with you and LeBron on it, it’s one hell of a carrot to dangle. That’s a grand vision — and, sorry anonymous league executives, one few teams outside of the Lakers could manage to pull off. … Speaking of Miami, a a member of its Big Three gave a convincing reason to believe he’s healthy. Dwyane Wade scored 21 points in just 23 minutes of PT in Miami’s 105-78 win over Detroit. The Pistons had zero shot at winning this game because they made four of their first 22 attempts, the kind of avert-your-eyes stat that can’t be explained away just by saying “it’s preseason!” … On the other side of the shooting spectrum, Jason Terry and Paul Pierce drilled their nine combined three-point attempts in Boston’s 115-85 win over Brooklyn in BK. Just out of curiosity, is there an official Vegas betting line on the over-under on how long the Nets’ honeymoon stage lasts with their fans? … Hit the jump to hear about Atlanta’s many puzzle pieces …

Atlanta is going to make sure it leaves no stone unturned this preseason to find its best top eight or so players for its rotation. Coach Larry Drew has used a different starting five in each of his five preseason games looking for an answer while he also worries about his own place on the roster. Drew isn’t extended past this season, which you can bet will be used by GM Danny Ferry to his interest in trying to acquire Howard or CP3 in the offseason. If he can lure a big-name coach to perennially sleeping giant Atlanta, he’ll pull the trigger if he senses a big free agent fish will follow. His lineup in the Hawks’ 97-68 win over New Orleans on Thursday was obviously an experimental one with three guards: DeShawn Stevenson (three points), Devin Harris (14 points) and Jeff Teague (eight points). The three spots outside of untouchable forwards Josh Smith and Al Horford will be the revolving door this season if this trend continues with Drew. The game was less about them, though, and about bench guards Anthony Morrow and Lou Williams, who dropped 15 and 10 points each while both played more minutes than any of those aforementioned three starters. … Kyrylo Fesenko will show up on transaction lists today after being cut by the Bulls, but keep the Ukrainian in mind for two reasons. One, he could be back. Multiple outlets reported that under the hard cap in November, the Bulls will have enough money to have him come back. Two, he’s recently shown up on our radar as one of the league’s most interesting cats (next to a resurgent Enes Kanter). The 25-year-old Fesenko has averaged just barely more than two rebounds and points per game in his career in stops in Chicago, Indianapolis and Salt Lake City, and yet he’s confident enough to test his jokes with Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau during water breaks. Thibs seems like one of the hardest coaches to get to know in the league, and yet Fesenko’s hitting him up with laughs in his second language. We like his confidence. He also reports he’s getting his driver’s license soon and Kirk Hinrich calls him “my guy.” We don’t think he’ll rack up a dozen highlights this season but he’s no longer just “that Ukrainian forward” … Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis played in stretches — not consistently, but it was there if even briefly — like the tandem Milwaukee dreamed of last spring before the Ellis trade. Memphis won, 97-94 on the road, but it’s heartening to see Ellis go for 20 points and Jennings 19 playing side-by-side if only to show that two gunners can each get their shots up and won’t completely derail the team’s offensive flow. Jennings was 5-of-6 from three, which was a huge surprise, while Ellis was 9-for-19 from the floor. … The Griz won so we have to say that Mike Conley Jr. and Rudy Gay each had 20 and Conley Jr. was big in the fourth quarter. Remember when everyone thought extending his rookie deal was the worst thing Memphis could do? … We’re out like the Yankees.

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