NBA Notes: Wade understands Lakers' struggles

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NBA Notes: Wade understands Lakers' struggles

HOUSTON -- If Kobe Bryant's season seems tough, imagine what Dwyane Wade went through five years ago.

"I came to All-Star weekend one year, I think we had won nine games. Seriously," Wade said Friday. "I was looking for my 10th win at the All-Star game."

Things sure have changed for his Miami Heat.

Back where they first teamed up as All-Stars in 2006, Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh return as NBA champions who will start together for the Eastern Conference on Sunday night.

Now the misery belongs to Bryant, Dwight Howard and the Los Angeles Lakers, whose season has been so disappointing that Bryant was asked Friday if the All-Star weekend was a "retreat" for him.

"I don't know if it's a retreat, it's just more of an opportunity to get some rest, regroup, put the first half of the season behind us and move on," he said.

As Wade knows, the All-Star break can be just that -- a break -- from a forgettable season (see full story).

Durant loves competing against LeBron
HOUSTON -- Kevin Durant wanted to set the record straight once and for all about his relationship with LeBron James.

"I hate him," he said before breaking into laughter.

Then he got serious.

"We're actually really good friends," he continued. "I think people want us to hate each other so bad just because we're battling against each other."

That doesn't mean he has any good feelings toward him when they pair face each other.

"I like the friendly competition, but when we're on the court we're the furthest thing away from being friends," he said. "We don't take it easy on each other," (see full story).

Hunter's lawyers: NBA union chief's contract valid
HOUSTON -- Unable to secure an invitation to address NBA players directly, embattled union executive director Billy Hunter has released online his response to a report that criticized his leadership.

Hunter's lawyers say his 2010 contract extension was valid and the leave of absence he's been placed on is not. They say if ratification of his contract had been needed, it was president Derek Fisher's responsibility to get it, not Hunter's.

Hunter's contract was a central part of the review conducted by the law firm Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison LLP and released last month. The report urged players to discuss Hunter's future this weekend and said they had "powerful arguments" that the contract wouldn't be legal if an attempt to remove Hunter led to litigation.

Hunter had hoped to attend the players' meeting in Houston on Saturday during All-Star weekend, but he wasn't invited (see full story).

Report: Sixers, Pelicans had 'similar' package to DeMarcus Cousins deal in place

Report: Sixers, Pelicans had 'similar' package to DeMarcus Cousins deal in place

The Kings and Pelicans made waves after Sunday's NBA All-Star Game with the huge trade that sent superstar DeMarcus Cousins to New Orleans.

Sacramento sent Cousins to New Orleans for a package that included rookie Buddy Hield, Tyreke Evans, Langston Galloway and first- and second-round picks this in this year's draft.

But the Sixers and Pelicans reportedly were very close recently on deal for a "similar" package in exchange for Jahlil Okafor, according to ESPN's Ramona Shelbourne.

That "similar" package was reportedly minus Hield.

So while the Pelicans are now almost certainly out of the running for Okafor, they've still made an impact on the Sixers in the near future.

Remember, the Sixers have the right to swap picks with the Kings in this year's draft via the Nik Stauskas deal in 2015.

So with Sacramento's brightest star now gone, that pick swap could be looking better and better for the Sixers.

As for Okafor, what does all this mean for his status with the Sixers?

Reports: Kings trade DeMarcus Cousins to Pelicans

Reports: Kings trade DeMarcus Cousins to Pelicans

NEW ORLEANS -- The Sacramento Kings have agreed to trade DeMarcus Cousins and Omri Casspi to the New Orleans Pelicans in exchange for Tyreke Evans, 2016 first-round draft pick Buddy Hield, Langston Galloway and first- and second-round draft picks this summer, a person familiar with the situation said Sunday night.

The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the trade is not official and has not been announced by either team.

The deal pairs the 6-foot-11 Cousins, a frontcourt All-Star from nearby Mobile, Alabama, with the 6-11 Anthony Davis, who on Sunday night was the All-Star Game MVP after scoring 52 points, breaking Wilt Chamberlain's 1962 record of 42.

The move also sends a message that the Pelicans are committed to a push for a playoff spot.

New Orleans (23-34) went into the All-Star break 2 games behind Denver for the eighth and final playoff seeding in the Western Conference.

Cousins, like Davis a former collegiate star at Kentucky, is averaging 27.8 points and 10.6 rebounds this season. But he is due to become a free agent in 2018 unless the Pelicans can sign him to an All-Star caliber extension.

The Kings get a player with a lot of potential in Hield, although he has been inconsistent during his rookie season out of Oklahoma, where as a senior he was one of the best players in the nation.

Hield is averaging 8.6 points but has been explosive at times, with a season high of 21 points. The 6-6 Evans, who can play point guard, shooting guard or small forward, will be entering a second stint in Sacramento, where he was drafted in 2009 and went on to be Rookie of the Year. Galloway has been a solid reserve, providing scoring punch from the perimeter.

The 6-9 Casspi has been playing about 19 minutes per game for the Kings this season, averaging 5.9 points and 4.1 rebounds.