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Lakers waiving DeMarcus Cousins while eyeing Markieff Morris

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The Los Angeles Lakers intend to waive DeMarcus Cousins to clear a roster spot for Markieff Morris, if he clears waivers on Sunday, sources told ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne.

Morris negotiated a buyout with the Detroit Pistons on Friday, leaving $4.3 million (the remainder of this season and his 2020-21 salary) on the table, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks.

Cousins, a popular player in the Lakers locker room, has missed the entire season with a torn ACL in his left knee. Earlier this season, the Lakers successfully applied for a disabled player exemption for Cousins, because the injury was expected to keep him out the entire season.

The disabled player exemption is worth $1.75 million, which is significantly higher than the prorated minimum of $694,702 the Lakers could offer a player who has been waived at this point of the season.

Morris, 31, has appeared in 44 games for the Pistons this season, averaging 11 points and 3.9 rebounds per game. He’s able to play both forward spots and is a good rebounder and defender. Over nine seasons, he’s averaged 11.6 points, 5.4 rebounds and 1.7 assists in 623 games.

Lakers coach Frank Vogel said over the All Star break there was a chance Cousins could return for the playoffs, but noted Thursday, “I’m not even sure where he’s at with exactly what he’s doing day-to-day. I just still know he’s a long way away, but they’ve said they’re not ruling out him returning.”

Morris’ twin brother, Marcus, plays for the crosstown rival LA Clippers.

“That’s my brother man. Man, if he goes to LA, then I’m gonna be in Staples Center all the time. I think maybe to y’all it might be weird that I’m going to all his games, but that’s what’ll probably happen. And we’ll probably get a house together.

“If one of us wins, we both win. That’s how we look at it. Obviously, I’m a Clipper, I’d love to win, we’re definitely gonna be competitors, but we’re both gonna work hard. It’ll probably be the first time where two players from two different teams are actually working out together. That’s gonna be cool.”

Cousins will likely not be waived until Sunday night after Morris clears waivers, Marks reports. Cousins has roughly $1 million left on his $3.5M contract. A claiming team would have non-bird rights and could offer him a contract up to $4.2M (or midlevel exception/cap space) as a free agent.

Cousins is a four-time All-Star with the Sacramento Kings, New Orleans Pelicans, Golden State Warriors and Lakers.

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Celtics’ Marcus Smart says he’s been cleared after coronavirus diagnosis

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Boston Celtics guard Marcus Smart, who tested positive for COVID-19 two weeks ago, has been cleared by the Massachusetts Department of Health, he announced on social media Sunday night.

Smart and the Celtics were in Milwaukee on March 11, preparing to play the Bucks the next night — in front of no fans — when the NBA suspended its season after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for the coronavirus before that night’s game against the Oklahoma City Thunder. Boston, having played Utah the week before, wound up coming home from Milwaukee the next day and self-isolating, before Smart eventually tested positive for the virus.

“Corona Free as of two days ago. Cleared by Mass Dept of Health,” Smart said on Twitter. “Thanks for everyone’s thoughts and prayers and I’m doing the same for everyone that’s been effected by this. Stay safe and stay together- apart! Much love!”

In a media conference call last week, Boston coach Brad Stevens was enthused with Smart’s progress, saying he was doing “great.”

“Great spirits. Joking as always,” Stevens said last Friday. “We had a Zoom with the team, told the team we were going to give them their own space to hang out and have fun — and he told us to get off. So he’s great.”

Stevens also spoke about Smart’s courage to speak out, once the prognosis came back.

“I’m proud of how he kinda took the initiative to tell people that he had it and that he felt good and that he got online and just continued to ask people to practice social distancing and self-isolation right now,” the coach said. “It’s a really unique, unsettling time for everyone.”

Smart, 26, is averaging 13.5 points, 3.8 rebounds and 4.8 assists this season. If and when the league resumes the regular season, Boston will take the floor in third place in the Eastern Conference, at 43-21.



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Stephon Marbury trying to get masks from China for N.Y.

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Former New York Knicks guard Stephon Marbury is trying to arrange a deal that would deliver 10 million N95 masks to New York City, but he has run into issues coordinating a deal between a Chinese company and the coronavirus-struck city.

Marbury told the New York Post that he arranged for a supplier in China to sell the masks for $2.75 each, nearly two-thirds less than their standard price tag.

“At the end of the day, I am from Brooklyn,” Marbury told the Post from Beijing, where he coaches the Chinese Basketball Association’s Royal Fighters. “This is something that is close and dear to my heart as far as being able to help New York.”

Marbury added: “I have family there in Coney Island, a lot of family … who are affected by this, so I know how important it is for people to have masks during this time.”

Marbury reached out to Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams to help coordinate the sale.

But Adams told the Post that he was initially informed by the officials that they did not need the masks. When the Post contacted state Department of Health officials, however, they said state officials “want to talk to Stephon.” The department was put in touch with Adams’ office to continue talks.

Marbury played in the NBA for 13 seasons, including five with the Knicks, before joining the CBA, where he played from 2010 to 2018 before becoming a coach last year.

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Ex-NBA guard O.J. Mayo poised to join Chinese league powerhouse

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Former NBA guard O.J. Mayo is close to joining the Chinese Basketball Association to play for powerhouse Liaoning Flying Leopards, pending medical and other procedural clearances.

Mayo, 32, landed in the northern Chinese city of Shenyang — home to the No. 3-ranked Flying Leopards — from Taipei on Friday. He has since entered a 14-day quarantine, as mandated by government medical officials.

After the quarantine, Mayo will need to get medical clearance and have additional league paperwork approved before officially registering to play, the team said.

The team said it was looking for a third import as early as the start of the Lunar New Year recess, mainly as a possible backup in case Lance Stephenson, its main backup, had eligibility issues.

Stephenson, as well as Liaoning’s other import, Brandon Bass, have been in the United States since the Lunar New Year break, before the coronavirus outbreak in China pushed the season to a halt in late January.

They have remained in the U.S., staying in shape, because the league’s restart has been postponed again from mid-April.

It is unknown when the season will restart, as the league’s final plan has to be approved by the country’s athletic governing body.

China on Saturday began temporarily banning entry for foreign travelers as part of its COVID-19 outbreak control measures, meaning players outside the country may encounter challenges rejoining their teams. Mayo’s addition could guard against that.

Mayo, the No. 3 overall pick in 2008 out of USC, played eight seasons in the NBA, averaging 13.8 points, 3.1 rebounds and 2.9 points. After being dismissed from the NBA in 2016 for violating the league’s substance-abuse program, he has played in Europe and Asia.

Although this would be Mayo’s first CBA journey, he is no stranger to China. Last year, he had a stint with Hunan in China’s second-tier league, the NBL. He is also a familiar name to many Chinese fans due to his tenure with the Memphis Grizzlies, Dallas Mavericks and Milwaukee Bucks.

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