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Morning shootaround — March 19


VIDEO: Top 10 Plays from Friday’s action

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Wade at another career crossroads | Crowder’s absence costing Celtics | Portland avoids “sickening” loss | Frye shows value, quietly and from distance

No. 1: Wade at another career crossroads — You can find plenty of advance coverage on this site to whet your appetite for Saturday night’s Big Game. But there’s another big game that starts an hour earlier pitting two rivals from the other conference – Cleveland at Miami (7:30 p.m. ET, League Pass) – and the Miami Herald’s Ethan Skolnick provides a window into that one with his column on Heat veteran Dwyane Wade and his team’s need for a Wade resurgence during this March Madness portion of their schedule:

“I haven’t been into the best rhythm since the All-Star break that I want to be in,” said Wade, who shot 45.8 percent before the break, and 39.4 percent since. “I’ve had some good games scoring, but I haven’t been into a great rhythm.”

He cited some initial rust, and the need to adapt to all of the team’s iterations. He noted how this is the fourth incarnation of the Heat this season. First, Wade and Chris Bosh and Goran Dragic were the primary ball-handlers. Then Dragic got hurt, and it was Wade and Bosh.

“Chris goes out, now it’s a different kind of team,” Wade said. “Joe [Johnson] comes in, and Chris is out, and Goran is in, and now it’s a different kind of team. These are all the different kind of adjustments you’ve got to make.”

He doesn’t intend these as excuses, but explanations. “Just got to figure it out,” Wade said. “Me and Coach [Erik Spoelstra] talked about some things and areas on the floor that I can get to, that can put me in a better rhythm. The biggest thing is early.”

As in him attacking earlier in possessions.

However he finds his rhythm this late in the season, it’s a requirement that he does.

No matter how many other options have emerged on this revamped roster, the Heat won’t be winning anything of significance this postseason (whether games or rounds) if its most battle-tested playoff performer is off.

It certainly wouldn’t be capable of seriously challenging Saturday’s opponent, LeBron James and the Cavaliers, without an efficient, dynamic Wade, not when Bosh will likely be watching, and not even as the Cavaliers continue to constantly challenge themselves, with a never-ending series of self-inflicted controversies.

It has seemed like the Heat’s stealth strategy has been to wait in the weeds, steel itself amid adversity and position itself to steal the conference crown if the Cavaliers — through ball-hogging, eye-rolling and sub-tweeting — start coming apart.

Certainly, that could still occur, with James seeming at a career crossroads of sorts himself, if more as a leader than a player. Through photos and comments on social media, the four-time MVP has come off as forlorn and frustrated, making no secret that he misses sharing the court and the locker room with a peer of Wade’s status and strength.

Miami probably won’t get Wade from early in James’ time here either, not at age 34. But the one from before the All-Star break will suffice. Wade has already proven plenty this season, starting with his increased availability; he will play his 63rd game Saturday, one more than last season. He insisted his thigh, recently bruised, isn’t bothering him.

“Just got to play the game, man, and continue to do what you’ve always done,” Wade said. “And eventually it will turn.”

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 No. 2: Crowder’s absence costing Celtics — It’s not likely to earn Celtics forward Jae Crowder many votes on NBA Most Valuable Player ballots, but Boston’s 0-3 slump since the Marquette product suffered a high ankle sprain last week has highlighted Crowder’s individual value within his team’s ensemble approach. Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com examined that after the Celtics’ loss to Eastern Conference rival Toronto:

The Celtics, who held a comfy lead on the third seed two weeks ago, have slipped all the way to No. 6 in the East, a half-game behind both the Charlotte Hornets and Miami Heat and a game back of the Atlanta Hawks. What Stevens said two weeks ago is actually true now: Boston is four games away from ninth place.

With only 13 games left in the regular season, it remains highly unlikely that the Celtics could fall much further, but given the injuries they’re battling and the poor brand of basketball they are playing, it’s understandable why some might be leery.

“We have to change something up,” Celtics All-Star Isaiah Thomas told reporters in Toronto. “We got ourselves back into [Friday’s] game, so we showed signs of playing like we know how, but a good team like the Raptors you can’t just play one good quarter.”

Make no mistake, the Celtics are in the midst of a brutally tough stretch, exacerbated by the fact that they lost Jae Crowder to a high ankle sprain last Friday, and one of the players expected to help fill his shoes, Jonas Jerebko, missed the past two games with a left foot injury

Despite visiting a Raptors team that was playing its fourth game in five nights and was coming off an overtime win in Indiana on Thursday, the Celtics let Toronto build a big first-half lead, then didn’t have enough energy themselves to sustain a second-half rally.

The Celtics miss Crowder more than most expected, in part because Boston’s depth at the swingman spot is so thin. What’s more, with Crowder starting the first 66 games of the season, it was not obvious just how much of a drop-off there would be without him.

And while Crowder might be Boston’s best two-way player, the team really seems to miss his swagger and intensity. Boston simply looks tentative, and that may be why there’s an uneasiness in playing with a makeshift rotation in which players called upon to fill larger roles have struggled to rise to the challenge.

Second-year guard Marcus Smart initially elevated to Crowder’s starting small forward role, but with Smart stuck in a bit of a shooting slump, Stevens elected to shake things up a bit on Friday by moving Evan Turner into the starting lineup.

The Raptors — and Luis Scola in particular — shot so well at the start of the game that Boston’s starters were minus-13 in six minutes of floor time. The Celtics, tied for the fourth-best defensive rating in the league while allowing 100.7 points per 100 possessions, saw their first unit allow an offensive rating of 210 over the first six minutes of the first quarter.

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No. 3:  Portland avoids “sickening” loss — Fans of the Portland Trail Blazers understandably were upset about Kendrick Perkins‘ dangerous clotheslining foul on guard Damian Lillard early in the fourth quarter Friday, a play that got Perkins ejected and put Lillard down hard in New Orleans. But Lillard himself and his teammates were grateful afterward to escape with a victory that, had the Pelicans completed their comeback, might have left the Blazers feeling like they’d left the French Quarter having had way too much to drink and eat. Mike Richman of The Oregonian was there:

As Damian Lillard walked back out on to the court with 1:23 left in the game he glanced up at the scoreboard and started to feel an uneasiness deep in his gut.

“I remember walking out of a timeout and thinking, ‘Man if we lose this game, I am going to be sick. I’m going to be sick about this,'” Lillard said. “After I had that thought, I decided we wasn’t going to lose this game.”

The Blazers flirted with a devastating collapse against the New Orleans Pelicans on Friday night, blowing a 20-point lead and falling behind late in the fourth quarter, before pulling out a crucial, 117-112, win at Smoothie King Center.

It wasn’t just that the Blazers almost coughed up a huge lead. The Pelicans played the entire second half without All-Star forward Anthony Davis and the Blazers were in danger of losing three straight games to open a four-game trip. With all that in the background, dropping this game would have rightfully made Lillard ill

“It was truly a test,” Lillard said. “I think that’s the best word to describe it. Coming off two tough losses against OKC and San Antonio and then coming out tonight we played with urgency for most of the game. We were locked in.”

Portland’s offense struggled in the fourth quarter and New Orleans first took the lead on back-to-back three-pointers from guard Jrue Holiday, putting the Pelicans up 105-102 with just over three minutes remaining.

Then after the Blazers knocked down three free throws to go back up one, former Blazer Tim Frazier hit a pull-up jumper to give New Orleans a 107-106 edge with 2:13 left.

“They started really believing and playing with a lot of pace and confidence,” Lillard said. “I think we were down by two with under a minute and it was like, ‘It’s really gut check time'”

After the teams traded empty possessions, the Blazers took a timeout with just under 90 seconds left. Lillard told himself in the huddle he wouldn’t let the Blazers lose and then the star point guard made good on his declaration.

***

No. 4: Frye shows value, quietly and from distance — Might as well lick your index finger and hold it up to the sky to know which way the wind is blowing for the Cleveland Cavaliers, who change directions and shift moods as if with the weather. But in the wake of their victory over Orlando, veteran forward Channing Frye – Cleveland’s notable trade-deadline acquisition – looked to have found a helpful role, whether it lasts or not. Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com chronicled Frye’s satisfying performance (14 points) against his former team in the Magic Kingdom and its meaning for Cleveland:

The Frye acquisition has been fruitful for the Cavs, who gave up two future second-round picks for Frye, and also took on the $15 million left on his contract. After drilling 4-for-6 3-pointers Friday, Frye is 25-for-50 from 3-point range in 12 games with the Cavs. It’s the sort of catch-and-shoot big man play that is extremely effective with the team’s other personnel.

“I know he feels good about that,” said LeBron James, who scored 18 points and didn’t keep up the ruse either. “This was definitely for him. He showed up and showed why he’s a valuable part to our team now.”

Frye’s reputation defensively is not strong, but the numbers don’t totally bear that out. Frye ranks No. 4 among all power forwards in real plus-minus, just behind teammate Kevin Love. And Cavs coach Tyronn Lue went with Frye over Love in the fourth quarter as the Cavs executed a comeback.

Truth be told, the Cavs sort of acted as if they knew they could beat a ragtag Magic team with just a half effort, [Victor] Oladipo‘s performance notwithstanding, and move on to a more appetizing game in Miami on Saturday night. This essentially played out as they had dominant shifts during the second quarter and the fourth and it was all that was needed to beat the Magic, who are 10-26 since Jan. 1.

It’s equally a mystery as to whether Fyre’s growing role is real and lasting or just a blip. It was just a few weeks ago that Lue played Frye only 10 minutes over the course of four games. Making a proclamation on anything with this Cavs team is a path to folly, at least to this point.

But Frye will always have this one. The team that signed him to a four-year, $32 million deal in 2014 — and started looking to trade him just a year into it — had to watch him play the role they once envisioned for him.

“When I came [to Orlando], I thought we could kind of resemble the Phoenix style, not necessarily score 120 points, but fast-paced, spread you out and move the rock around. It just didn’t work out like that,” Frye said.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Memphis, despite suffering significant blowouts (2-9 in games decided by 18 points or more), has managed to stay afloat in the grueling West. How? Our John Schuhmann breaks down numbers that reveal the Grizzlies’ resiliency in close games. … ICYMI: Scott Howard-Cooper from right here at NBA.com, in advance of the big Warriors-Spurs game, analyzed Golden State’s end game and how getting whole might conflict with the pursuit of 73 victories. … Carmelo Anthony says he has no idea yet what will happen this summer with his New York Knicks and, naturally, that generates headlines for a tabloid. … If you’re going to feel sorry for Melo in his current Knicks plight, save a little sympathy for Brooklyn’s Thaddeus Young, who has endured more than his share of losing in nine NBA seasons. … John Wall is turning over the ball too often and the Wizards point guard knows it. … Lakers coach Byron Scott would love to see Brandon Bass stick with the team next season for his veteran influence and timely contributions, but the ball most definitely will be in Bass’ court. … Russell Westbrook, in one fell swoop, has done something that surpasses both Oscar Robertson and Wilt Chamberlain. … Trey Schwab spent six years working with the Minnesota Timberwolves and, before that, grew tight with former NBA coaches Flip Saunders and Eric Musselman during their time together in the CBA. Those NBA roots are enough to merit inclusion here of a story, long on NCAA tournament flavor, about Schwab’s special relationship with Indiana University coach Tom Crean. Get well, Trey. … And finally, this shout-out to the NBA’s senior “Professor” …

Analytics Art: Young, Ilyasova, Lin among worst shooters of week


VIDEO: Hornets handle Pelicans despite Lin’s rough game

By Ben Leibowitz, Special to NBA.com

Juxtaposed against the NBA’s hottest shooters of the week — like Kemba Walker, who went for 33, 34 and 35 points, respectively, in his three games — were players who couldn’t buy a bucket. It’s a good thing that Walker stayed hot, because one of his teammates was among the coldest shooters of the week.

Unlike the slumping shooters from last week — which featured two 23-year-olds — the worst shooters of the trailing seven days this time around are all veterans with plenty of experience. PointAfter will analyze those guys with help from interactive data visualizations.

Note: Statistics in this article cover games from March 4-10.

Guard: Jeremy Lin, Charlotte Hornets

Charlotte’s decision to sign Jeremy Lin to a two-year, $4 million deal seemed like one of free agency’s biggest bargains. Unfortunately, the artist formerly known as Linsanity has shot just 40.7 percent from the floor and 31.8 percent from beyond the arc (both the lowest marks since his rookie campaign).

Those struggles continued as Lin shot just 25.9 percent in his last three games.

The Hornets went 3-0 despite Lin’s slump, which bottomed out with a 1-of-8 shooting performance against the Minnesota Timberwolves on March 7.

Wing: Nick Young, Lakers

Nick “Swaggy P” Young famously tweeted back in August 2014 that he had no tattoos inked on his right arm because it was “strictly for buckets.” Fast-forward one year to August 2015, and news broke that Young’s right arm was freshly inked with a forearm tat.

Young has since posted the worst shooting season of his career, making 33.9 percent of his shots overall and 32.5 percent from 3-point range — both of which are career lows.

The cold shooting continued for Young this week, as he made four of his 22 shot attempts (18.2 percent).

After three awful performances, Young didn’t get off the bench in Thursday night’s 120-108 loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers, receiving a DNP-CD.

Forward/Center: Ersan Ilyasova, Magic

Kevin Love of the Cavaliers flirted with this spot this week after going 7-of-28 shooting in three games (25 percent). But while Love struggled, he knocked down 25 of his 26 free throws, so he wasn’t a complete mess.

Ersan Ilyasova, meanwhile, missed all six of his 3-pointers and finished the week 5-of-25 from the field.

Acquired at the trade deadline as part of the Tobias Harris trade, Ilyasova simply hasn’t done much to warrant staying in Orlando beyond this season.

This article was originally published on PointAfter, a partner of NBA.com.

Ben Leibowitz is a writer for PointAfter, a sports data aggregation and visualization website that’s part of the Graphiq network. Visit PointAfter to get all the information about NBA PlayersNBA Historical Teams and dozens of other topics.

Warriors set record for consecutive regular-season home wins


VIDEO: Warriors set NBA record with 45th consecutive home win

OAKLAND — The Warriors’ run on the record books continued Monday with a 119-113 victory over the Magic as Stephen Curry made seven of 13 3-pointers as part of a night that also included 41 points and 13 rebounds, giving Golden State the all-time record with a 45th consecutive home win in the regular season.

Responding to a shocking 19-point loss against the Lakers the day before in Los Angeles, the Warriors topped the mark previously held by the Bulls, set from March 30, 1995, to April 4, 1996 — a Chicago team that included current Golden State coach Steve Kerr at guard. The Warriors, also using two seasons to set the record, improved to 27-0 at Oracle Arena and remained a possibility, along with the Spurs at 30-0, for the first 41-0 finish in NBA history.

The Warriors last lost at home during the regular season on Jan. 27, 2015, an overtime setback against the Bulls, before winning the next 18. That was followed by 27 in a row to start 2015-16, although the Grizzlies and Cavaliers both won at Oracle during the playoffs.

Kerr has been downplaying the record for days, noting last Thursday, when asked about the excitement building around the team and celebrities coming to Oracle Arena: “Somebody told me that we were nearing the Bulls. Well, I was on the Bulls team and I didn’t even know we had that record. In the long run, 20 years from now, nobody’s going to care. What matters to us is winning the championship. That’s our goal. Our goal, and we’ve talked about it over and over again, is to be the one seed in the West. We want to have the one seed and home court throughout the playoffs so we can play playoff games in front of Prince and whoever else is here.”

The Warriors, on pace for 74 wins in all, two better than the record held by 1995-96 Bulls, host the Utah Jazz on Wednesday (10:30 ET, NBA League Pass). The Trail Blazers come to Oakland on Friday (10:30 ET, NBA League Pass), followed by a string of teams with losing records — the Suns, Pelicans and Knicks.

Morning shootaround — March 2


VIDEO: Highlights from Tuesday’s games

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Green saves day for Warriors | Report: Spurs pursuing Martin | Rockets add Ray to coaching staff | Anthony offers quick rebuttal to heckler

No. 1: Green saves day for Warriors vs. Hawks — The reigning Kia MVP (Stephen Curry) and the Finals MVP (Andre Iguodala) both missed the Golden State Warriors’ game against the Atlanta Hawks last night. On the surface, news like that would seem to give the Hawks a leg up on beating the NBA’s best team. But do-it-all forward Draymond Green wasn’t about to let that happen. The San Francisco Chronicle‘s Rusty Simmons details how Green put the Warriors on his back to move Golden State to its 43rd straight home win:

Draymond Green had nothing to apologize for Tuesday.

On a night when injuries sidelined regular-season MVP Stephen Curry and NBA Finals MVP Andre Iguodala, Green did his best MVP impersonation, making a seemingly impossible overtime three-pointer and leading the Warriors to a 109-105 victory against the Hawks at Oracle Arena.

Green apologized Monday for a locker-room tirade during halftime of Saturday’s overtime win in Oklahoma City. If they ever really stopped being the most joyous squad on the planet, the Warriors quickly returned to that designation as Green led a total team effort with 15 points, 13 rebounds, nine assists and four steals.

“What can you say?” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said, searching for words to describe how Green willed the Warriors to a victory without their captains. “Another near triple-double. Point guard. He was our point forward tonight.

“It was a brilliant performance from Draymond.”

Along with Green’s huge game, the Warriors got 26 points from Thompson, a season-high 19 from Andrew Bogut, 12 from Harrison Barnes and a combined 21 from Leandro Barbosa and Marreese Speights off the bench.

“A night like this should be fun, right?” Kerr said. “Everybody should be aggressive. There’s nothing to lose. … I thought everybody was aggressive. Aggression without turnovers: That was important.”

“I just wanted to come out and play hard for my team,” Green said. “That’s what I’m going to do each and every day. Every time I step on the floor, I’m going to give 110 percent for my teammates.

“I wasn’t worried about what people were saying about me or this, that or the other. I know what I try to bring to this team.”


VIDEO: Golden State escapes Hawks in OT

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2016 Trade Deadline live blog

From NBA.com staff reports

One of the busiest days in terms of NBA roster chatter and speculation is here: trade deadline day. As we close in on the 3 p.m. ET deadline for all NBA teams to make trades, we’ll keep you in the know about any rumblings and reported deals as they happen. While you’re keeping up, don’t forget to check out our Trade Tracker and other 2016 Trade Deadline coverage.

Live blog — Part II | Live blog — Part III

UPDATE, 10:14 a.m. ET — Gasol/Kings chatter

A Wednesday-night report had the Sacramento Kings “pushing hard” to get Pau Gasol from the Chicago Bulls. Sam Amick has an update…

UPDATE, 10:05 a.m. ET — Celtics holding strong

No team has the ability to trade for a star more than the Boston Celtics. Al Horford and Dwight Howard are two impact players on the market, but both could be free agents this summer. Horford is on an expiring contract and Howard has a player option for next season that he could decline.

UPDATE, 9:48 a.m. ET — Suns forwards on the market

Could Mirza Teletovic reunite with head coach Jason Kidd? From ESPN’s Marc Stein

Among the many things Phoenix is discussing today, sources say, is dealing Mirza Teletovic to Milwaukee. But the Bucks’ largest trade exception is agonizingly too small ($5.2 million) to absorb Teletovic’s $5.5 million salary, so any deal would have to involve players from both teams.

Teletovic is on an expiring contract and the Bucks don’t have much of a shot at the playoffs, so it’s hard to see much motivation for Milwaukee to get a deal done there.

UPDATE, 9:09 a.m. ET — The buyout list

Once the deadline passes, some players with expiring contracts could get waived by non-contenders so that they could sign with teams heading to the playoffs.

In order to be eligible for the playoffs, a player would have to be waived by March 1 (and doesn’t necessarily have to sign until the last day of the regular season).

UPDATE, 8:49 a.m. ET — Lawson may be done in Houston

When the Rockets play in Phoenix on Friday, Ty Lawson might not be with them, whether they’ve traded him or not.

Lawson played less than nine minutes in the Rockets’ last game before the All-Star break and has shot a career-low 39 percent this season.

UPDATE, 7:58 a.m. ET — Teams interested in Knicks’ prospect

New York doesn’t have many assets with which to trade, but according to Orazio Cauchi of Sportando.net, former 2015 Draft pick Guillermo “Willy” Hernangomez is drawing some interest.

UPDATE, 7:37 a.m. ET — Rockets turned down one Dwight deal

Frank Isola of the New York Daily News reported this morning that the Houston Rockets are working hard to trade Dwight Howard. The Charlotte Hornets offered up Al Jefferson and Spencer Hawes for Howard, Isola reports, but that deal was dismissed.

UPDATE, 6:51 a.m. ET — New overnight (and what you might have missed)


VIDEO: David Aldridge breaks down the Cavs’ trade chatter

Kings pushing hard to acquire Bulls’ Gasol — The Sacramento Kings find themselves on the perimeter of the Western Conference playoff picture, a manageable 4 1/2 games behind the Utah Jazz for No. 8. Trade talks have swirled around some members of the team (Ben McLemore, Kosta Koufos, Rudy Gay and others), but it seems they are potentially eyeing a massive deal with the Chicago Bulls. The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Chris Mannix report the Kings are trying to pry All-Star big man Pau Gasol from Chicago in a deal that would send he and Tony Snell to Sacramento for Koufos, McLemore and an adjustment on the 2016 first-round pick the Kings owe the Bulls.

Adding on to this, K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune confirms Gasol is indeed available, but the Bulls want “a rotation player who can make an immediate impact and a first-round pick”. Additionally, Snell and forward Taj Gibson are also on the market as the Bulls’ front office is trying to determine how to manage the futures of Gasol (who will likely opt out this summer and become an unrestricted free agent) and injured center Joakim Noah (also a free agent this summer). Gibson, for his part, would be surprised at being dealt, Johnson reports. “I would be surprised, but I understand that it’s a part of the business,” he said. “An offer could be made and things could be shaken up. It doesn’t mean they don’t like you or don’t appreciate you. It’s just that it’s a business. I totally understand it. I’ve been in (rumors) my whole career.”

Report: Jazz, Rockets discuss guard swap — If the season ended today, the Utah Jazz would be in the playoffs for the first time in four seasons. However, point guard play has been an issue for Utah all season long and according to Tony Jones of The Salt Lake Tribune, the Jazz are looking to send point guard Trey Burke to the No. 9 team in the Western Conference, the Houston Rockets, for troubled point guard Ty Lawson. Burke is the Jazz’s fifth-leading scorer this season and has played his entire career with Utah. He was an All-Rookie first team pick in 2013-14 but has become more of a backup since then, playing behind rookie Raul Neto this season.

Howard, Lawson tune out trade chatter — Houston Rockets center Dwight Howard was mentioned in a possible trades with the Charlotte Hornets and has been in and out of trade rumors all season long. Point guard Ty Lawson found himself tied into a potential deal last night with the Utah Jazz. Yet neither player is sweating what happens next, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. Said Howard: “You always put it out of your mind. There’s always going to be rumors. People are always going to say stuff. At the end of the day, none of that stuff matters.”

Cavs reportedly offer Varejao to Magic for Frye — If nothing else this season, the Cleveland Cavaliers have made it clear this season that it’s championship-or-bust time in Ohio. That being said, it’s not surprising to see Cleveland in the mix for several trades today, including a deal that would send Anderson Varejao back to the team that originally drafted him. According to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, the Cavs approached the Orlando Magic — who selected Varejao with the 30th pick in the 2004 Draft — for sharp-shooting big man Channing Frye. However, the likelihood of Orlando accepting the deal is in question, reports Sam Amick of USA Today Sports.

Love, Shumpert likely staying put with Cavaliers — As much as Cleveland is in win-now mode, though, it isn’t about to part with two key starters as the season winds down. Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal reports that Kevin Love and Iman Shumpert are expected to be with the team after the deadline (and Anderson Varejao may not get moved either). But even if the big names on this roster are staying put, don’t be surprised if smaller contracts/names on the roster — those of Richard Jefferson, Mo Williams and Jared Cunningham — are used in a possible deal.

Report: Celtics willing to part with Nets’ pick … for right priceKevin Love has been on the wish list. So, have Blake Griffin, Al Horford and other marquee big men. The Boston Celtics have plenty of assets with which to swing a trade — the foremost being the Brooklyn Nets’ No. 1 pick in the 2016 Draft. Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald writes that the Celtics would be willing to trade away that sought-after pick for the right suitor, but they wouldn’t deal the pick in a trade for Griffin or Horford.

Thunder unlikely to make deal, but may mine buyouts — Oklahoma City is in a comfortable position in the Western Conference as the post-All-Star break portion of the schedule approaches. Yet should they be thinking about a trade as today’s deadline — and star Kevin Durant‘s offseason free agency — draws closer? Royce Young of ESPN.com digs into that issue and posits that the Thunder would be better off seeing who if a useful veteran (like Joe Johnson or Kevin Martin) is bought out at the trade deadline and perhaps swinging for them instead of a big-time trade.

Kupchack doesn’t expect Lakers to be busy today — The Los Angeles Lakers have a lot of potential talent on their roster in the form of Julius Randle, Jordan Clarkson and D’Angelo Russell. The Lakers are still waiting to see what all that potential becomes and, as such, are not expected to be involved in trades today, writes Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News. General manager Mitch Kupchak said as much in his address to the media yesterday and while the team has veterans on expiring deals (Roy Hibbert, Ryan Kelly, Metta World Peace) and others on somewhat reasonable contracts (Brandon Bass, Lou Williams), interest around them has been nil.

 

 

Trade deadline rumblings — Feb. 17

We’re a day away from the NBA trade deadline and already we’ve seen two deals take place this week — the Detroit Pistons sending Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova to the Orlando Magic for Tobias Harris and the Charlotte Hornets, Miami Heat and Memphis Grizzlies hooking up on a trade that basically sent Courtney Lee to Charlotte.

As we close in on trade deadline day, we’ll keep track of the latest social media rumblings about deals right here, so check back often!

UPDATE, 2:25 a.m. — Jazz ready to ship Burke for Lawson

ESPN.com’s Marc Stein weighed in late Wednesday night that the Jazz and Rockets are nearing agreement on a deal that would send Ty Lawson to Utah in exchange for Trey Burke.

Of course, they Rockets are also still trying to move their big piece:

UPDATE, 12:15 a.m. — Gasol wants to stay put, but Sacramento pushing hard

The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski weighed in with further details on Pau Gasol’s future late Wednesday night, reporting that the Spanish legend has “significant interest” in staying put with the Bulls. That hasn’t deterred the Kings from lodging a firm offer.

Bulls general manager Gar Forman has been discussing trades on several fronts involving Gasol, although some teams interested in Gasol worry that his love for Chicago could cloud his motivation in fully committing to a short-term stay for the rest of the season, league sources said. Gasol, 35, plans to decline the player option on the $7.7 million owed to him in 2016-17, but has significant interest in signing a new deal to remain with the Bulls, league sources said.

The Bulls have discussed deals with multiple NBA teams on Gasol, but one discussion lingered on Tuesday, league sources told The Vertical’s Wojnarowski and Chris Mannix: Gasol and Tony Snell to the Sacramento Kings for Kosta Koufos, Ben McLemore and a lowering of the lottery protections on the 2016 first-round pick that Sacramento owes the Bulls.

UPDATE, 11:20 p.m. — Clippers like Anderson, but do they have enough assets? 

The Los Angeles TimesBen Bolch added the Clippers to the Ryan Anderson Sweepstakes late Wednesday. But as he notes, Doc Rivers probably doesn’t have the assets necessary to convince the Pelicans to part with their sharpshooting forward.

The Clippers had expressed interest in New Orleans Pelicans forward Ryan Anderson and Orlando Magic forward Channing Frye leading up to the deadline to move players at noon PST on Thursday, according to an executive close to the situation who was not authorized to discuss possible trades publicly.

It wasn’t clear whether the Clippers could construct a package that would entice the Pelicans to have interest in a deal. The Clippers do not have a first-round draft pick they can trade before their 2019 selection and appear reluctant to part with any of their core players.

Perennial All-Star Blake Griffin, the target of recent trade speculation, is apparently staying put, according to Bolch. One player who might be leaving? Lance Stephenson, whose stock has plummeted dramatically since his breakout 2013-14 season with the Indiana Pacers. Still only 25 years old, he’s averaging just 4.7 points per game this season.

UPDATE, 8:30 p.m. — Do Hawks hold the key to this year’s deadline? 

At 31-24, the Hawks have been good but not great, as was the case last season when they won 60 games and reached the Eastern Conference Finals. Speculation is high that they’re willing to move a high-value piece or two — specifically Al Horford and/or Jeff Teague — to recapture their 2014-15 form. Indeed, the Hawks are apparently so involved in trade talks that The Vertical’s Chris Mannix reports they’re holding up progress for the rest of the league.

Also, Mannix followed up reports from earlier in the day to corroborate that the Bulls are “motivated” to move All-Star power forward/center Pau Gasol.

UPDATE, 8:15 p.m. — Can Celtics finally land Love? 

With an abundance of assets at his disposal, Celtics GM Danny Ainge has made repeated runs at three-time All-Star Kevin Love in the past. Details are sparse, but he’s apparently making yet another one, according to CSN New England’s A. Sherrod Blakely, with a potential three-team deal that would deliver Love to Boston.

The deal is still “very fragile” at this point, but it does provide Boston the best shot it has had in landing a player the Celtics have coveted for some time now. Boston has spent a significant amount of time in recent weeks trying to convince the Cavs to part ways with Love, only to be rebuffed. The Celtics have pursued bringing a third team into the mix as a way of sweetening the deal to Cleveland’s liking.

Blakely cites New Orleans as the most likely third party with stretch four Ryan Anderson, whose shooting skills the Cavaliers covet (see below).

UPDATE, 7 p.m. — Rockets aggressively shopping Howard, Lawson; Jazz make Burke available

Desperate for a jump start, the hugely disappointing Rockets — currently ninth and out of the playoffs in the West at 27-28 — are looking to unload Dwight Howard and Ty Lawson according to ESPN’s Marc Stein. One of their targets for Lawson is Utah’s Trey Burke, who has shown signs of improvement in his third season with the Jazz.

UPDATE, 4:40 p.m. — Cavaliers remain active, eye Pelicans’ Anderson

It’s no secret that the Cavaliers hope to add some talent before Thursday’s deadline. And that help could come in the form of sharpshooter Ryan Anderson, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News and Marc Spears of Yahoo!

UPDATE, 3:48 p.m. — Martin hopes Wolves reward him for professionalism

Minnesota Timberwolves guard Kevin Martin hopes to land on a winning team after two-plus seasons with the young Timberwovles, per Marc Spears of Yahoo!

UPDATE, 2:47 p.m. — Vogel: Hill not being shopped

Indiana Pacers point guard George Hill was in some trade talk the last few weeks, but according to coach Frank Vogel, he’s not being shopped.

UPDATE, 2:36 p.m. — Millsap’s moment of levity

The Atlanta Hawks have had some of their star players — such as Jeff Teague and Al Horford — in trade rumors the last few weeks. Hawks All-Star forward Paul Millsap provides a good simile about how players take trade chatter.

UPDATE, 2:07 p.m. — Report: Conley not on block

The Memphis Grizzlies traded one guard yesterday (Courtney Lee) but don’t seem to be in a big hurry to deal star point guard (and free agent to-be) Mike Conley, per Marc Stein of ESPN.com.

UPDATE, 1:35 p.m. — Some clarity on Gasol chatter?

Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com and ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst say Bulls are open to trading Pau Gasol but doubt they are shopping him.

UPDATE, 1:12 p.m. — Report: Bulls ‘aggressively shopping’ Gasol

The Chicago Bulls entered the All-Star break on a skid, having lost four in a row and nine of their last 12 games. A trade wouldn’t be a total surprise, but dealing away their All-Star big man Pau Gasol might be. The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski has more on that and other trade rumors:

The Chicago Bulls are aggressively shopping All-Star forward Pau Gasol, league sources told The Vertical.

Gasol, 35, can opt out of his contract this summer and become an unrestricted free agent, and Bulls general manager Gar Forman seems determined to move him before Thursday’s trade deadline with the hope of bringing back value.

Gasol is expected to decline the player option on the $7.4 million owed him in 2016-17.

UPDATE, 12:46 p.m. — Pistons may still be seeking deals

As mentioned above, the Detroit Pistons pulled off a trade yesterday that netted it forward Tobias Harris. But it seems GM Jeff Bower may not quite be done dealing, per Matt Shepard of WDFN in Detroit:

Pistons General Manager Jeff Bower told Matt Shepard of WDFN in Detroit that his team was still actively looking at deals and would go all the way up to the deadline if necessary after obtaining Tobias Harris from the Orlando Magic yesterday.

“We’d like to find one more move. The Harris trade makes us a higher-level team now and in the future,” Bower said.

The trade involving Harris makes the Pistons a little thin at point guard, however Bower said that would not be the only position the team looks for a talent upgrade

“We’re still looking at every position, but Stan [Van Gundy] has great confidence in Steve Blake at the point guard position.”

UPDATE, 12:39 p.m. — The great guard swap of 2015

If you forgot, last season’s trade deadline was marked by a lot of point guards getting swapped all over the NBA map. SI.com’s Jake Fischer has a great read on what it was like for the players involved.

UPDATE, 12:29 p.m. — Utah may hold tight at deadline

The Jazz have seen their name bandied about in trade talks, but as it their wont, they’ve been tight-lipped about any possible deals. Or, as one writer sees it, there may end up being no deals in Utah at all.

UPDATE, 12:18 p.m. — Best trades since 2000?

Fun little read at lunch time on the best deadline deals since 2000.

And if you missed it, our Fran Blinebury looked back at the 10 best deadline deals ever.

UPDATE, 12:05 p.m. — Report: Monroe staying put in Milwaukee

The Milwaukee Bucks stunned many in the offseason when they added big man Greg Monroe to a squad that reached the 2015 playoffs. The team itself has surprised this season as it has failed to live up to expectations, fueling questions about the roster and, to an extent, Monroe’s place in Wisconsin.

According to Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today Sports, Monroe — who had been the topic of trade speculation — won’t be going anywhere:

Milwaukee Bucks forward Greg Monroe won’t be dealt before Thursday’s trade deadline, according to two people with direct knowledge of the situation.

Teams have placed calls to the Bucks to see if they can acquire Monroe, who is in his first year with the team. But those conversations didn’t advance, and one person said with emphasis there is zero chance Monroe is traded.

Monroe signed a three-year, $50 million contract with Milwaukee during free agency and is averaging 16.7 points, 9.7 rebounds and 2.3 assists for the 23-32 Bucks, who have lost six consecutive games.

UPDATE, Noon ET — Pelicans’ Holiday essentially untouchable

Injuries made a mess of the New Orleans Pelicans’ season, but of late they’ve gotten banged up in the backcourt with Tyreke Evans and Eric Gordon both out for the season. Those woes are likely what will keep oft-injured point guard Jrue Holiday out of any potential deals …

UPDATE, Noon ET — Report: Magic won’t break up young core

The Orlando Magic may be interested in some smaller moves, but don’t expect them to part with Victor Oladipo, Nikola Vucevic or Elfrid Payton before tomorrow’s deadline …

UPDATE, 9:14 a.m. — Magic, Clippers talking trade

Our David Aldridge reports if the Magic pick up Lance Stephenson in a swap for Channing Frye with the Clippers, Stephenson won’t be in Orlando long …

 

 

Morning shootaround — Feb. 17


VIDEO: Breaking down Tuesday’s three-team trade

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Clippers, Magic talking deal | Report: Wizards pursuing Anderson | Report: Rockets, Hornets had Howard trade talks | Prokhorov pens open letter | Report: Nets offer GM job to MarksFuture unclear for Bucks’ Carter-Williams | Griffin apologizes publicly for incident

No. 1: Report: Magic, Clippers talking deal; Wizards pursuing Anderson — We’re a day away from the trade deadline, which means talk is bubbling up everywhere and anywhere. How much of what is discussed vs. what happens in reality remains an unknown, but the latest from overnight is that several teams are knee-deep in trade discussions. The targets du jour include Channing Frye, Lance Stephenson, Kevin Martin and Ryan Anderson. The Vertical’s Adrian Wojnarowski gets us started with the latest from Orlando and some other outposts:

The Los Angeles Clippers are pushing closer on a deal to acquire Orlando Magic forward Channing Frye but want to finish exploring a larger trade scenario before finalizing an agreement, league sources told The Vertical.

Frye is enthusiastic about the chance to join the Clippers, league sources said. Nevertheless, Cleveland also has been discussing a deal for Frye, and could still be aggressive in pursuing him prior to completion of a Clippers trade.

The Clippers need to include Lance Stephenson‘s contract into the package for Frye, and told the Magic they need until Wednesday to finish pursuing what it is a long-shot larger deal, league sources said. As part of the deal for Frye, the Clippers would include Stephenson, C.J. Wilcox and a future second-round pick, league sources said.

The New Orleans Pelicans are pushing hard to find a trade for forward Ryan Anderson, whom they expect to lose in summer free agency, league sources said.

Teams trading for Anderson believe he’ll command a starting salary of $16 million-$18 million a season in free agency.

New Orleans and Detroit had serious talks on an Anderson deal in the past few days, sources said, but the Pistons ultimately reached an agreement with Orlando on a trade for Tobias Harris on Tuesday.

The issue for the Pistons – and several teams around the league interested in Anderson – remains this: How much will it cost to re-sign Anderson this summer in free agency? With Harris, the Pistons have cost-certainty on the three-years, $48 million on his deal through the 2018-’19 season.

Minnesota hasn’t been actively searching for a trade for point guard Ricky Rubio this week, but that is likely to change this summer, league sources told The Vertical.

Minnesota may start canvassing the market for a better shooting point guard to pair with young stars Karl Anthony-Towns and Andrew Wiggins. One NBA coach who has long been enamored with Rubio, league sources said: Milwaukee’s Jason Kidd. The New York Knicks’ desire to find a point guard could lead them to Rubio, too.

Minnesota has wanted to move guard Kevin Martin, but a deal is unlikely unless he’s willing to forgo the $7 million player option on the final year of his contract in 2016-2017, league sources said. That is unlikely, given that Martin would be hard-pressed to recoup that money on the market.

BasketballInsiders.com’s Steve Kyler reports the Washington Wizards may also be hot on the trail of Ryan Anderson:

If the Clippers cannot consummate a deal with the Pelicans for Ryan Anderson, expect the Washington Wizards to return to the front of the line for Anderson in trade. The Wizards have made several passes at New Orleans on Anderson but are unwilling to include draft picks in their offer.

***

(more…)

In a sea of trade madness, a deal that works for all sides

HANGTIME HEADQUARTERSBrandon Jennings and Scott Skiles reunited?

It seems a bit strange after all of these years and the rumored head-knocking that went on between the younger Jennings when he played under Skiles for the Milwaukee Bucks. But it makes sense now with Jennings coming back from injury in search of a starter’s role and Skiles in need of a steady, veteran hand at point guard as he tries to push the Orlando Magic to the next level.

The Pistons, who are set at point guard with Reggie Jackson, will send Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova to Orlando for Tobias Harris, which was first reported by Michael Scotto of Sheridan Hoops. In a sea of trade madness that always accompanies Thursday’s trade deadline, this is a deal that appears to work for all involved.

In Harris the Pistons get the versatile young big man who can work on both ends. The Magic get a capable role player in Ilyasova and a seasoned floor leader in Jennings, both with experience playing under Skiles from their time in Milwaukee.

Jennings said all of the right things as he returned from missing nearly a year after rupturing his Achilles last January. He’s averaging a career-low 6.8 points in the final season of his current deal in a limited role, one that should expand dramatically in Orlando.

What this means for second-year Magic point guard Elfrid Payton is unclear. He’s had his struggles but is certainly not a lost cause this early in his career. If nothing else, Jennings provides some insurance for the remainder of this season and possibly into the future, depending on how things progress the rest of this season.

With Jackson clearly the future at the position in Detroit, the career reset could be exactly what Jennings needs. The chance to showcase himself in Detroit would have been difficult with limited minutes, while the situation in Orlando is wide open.

Morning shootaround — Feb. 14


VIDEO: Top 10 Plays from All-Star Saturday Night

NEWS OF THE MORNING

LaVine, Gordon wow in Dunk Contest | Hack-A-Gone? | Splash Brother vs. Splash Brother | Horford embraces uncertain future

No. 1:  LaVine, Gordon wow in Dunk Contest For years, the Verizon Slam Dunk was All-Star Weekend’s marquee event. The electricity surrounding the event may have waned in recent years. But last season, Timberwolves rookie Zach LaVine gave it a jolt of excitement, notching his first win. And Saturday night in Toronto, a couple of 20 year olds, LaVine and Magic forward Aaron Gordon, took turns making jaws drop, posting alternating perfect scores in the contest’s final round until LaVine was ultimately able to grab the win in arguably the greatest dunk contest in All-Star Weekend history. And as Lang Whitaker writes, with the contest on the line, LaVine went to the free-throw line

High expectations? No problem.

After bringing the Dunk Contest back to prominence one year ago with a series of electrifying dunks, Minnesota’s Zach LaVine picked up where he left off, with help from Orlando’s Aaron Gordon.

And with the Verizon Slam Dunk on the line, Zach LaVine went to the free throw line. Well, almost.

With a through-the-legs dunk from just inside the charity stripes, Zach LaVine earned his fifth score of 50 on the night, making him the 2016 NBA dunk champ. The 20-year-old LaVine became the first back-to-back winner since Nate Robinson in 2009 and 2010.

Going against Magic forward Aaron Gordon in the contest finals, LaVine and Gordon got locked into a heavyweight bout where they traded incredible body blows. After the contest, LaVine said, “We should share the trophy, because [Gordon] did some stuff I’ve never seen before.”

To begin the final round, Gordon completed a dunk with an unbelievable degree of difficulty, snatching the ball from Orlando Magic mascot Stuff — who was spinning on a hoverboard — and throwing down a twisting dunk. This earned a 50. LaVine countered by throwing himself an alley-oop and floating through the air for a one-handed finish, earning another 50.

Gordon then again used Stuff, this time clearing the mascot with his rear end while passing the ball below for a lefty finish. That earned another 50, putting the pressure on LaVine.

LaVine responded coolly, with a windmill from just inside the free throw line, for another 50. This marked the first time in Dunk Contest history the final round saw four scores of 50.

They didn’t stop. In the first dunk-off, Gordon enlisted teammate Elfrid Payton to throw an alley-oop off the side of the backboard. Gordon caught the ball and completed a reverse dunk while flying through the air. 50. LaVine responded by throwing an alley-oop to himself from the baseline, catching the ball and passing it through his legs for a reverse dunk. This earned another 50.

On the second dunk-off, Gordon ran along the baseline and did a two-handed double-pump reverse reminiscent of Dominique Wilkins. Gordon scored a 47. To win it, LaVine went back to the free throw line.

***

No. 2: Hack-A-Gone? A Q&A with the Commissioner of the NBA has become a staple of All-Star Saturday Night, and last night Adam Silver faced the assembled media to address several topics. As Steve Aschburner writes, among the many topics addressed, one change Silver is clearly looking to implement is an end to the Hack-A- intentional fouling that has become en vogue around the NBA lately …

If the Hack-A-Whomever strategy currently raising such a ruckus in some NBA precincts is actually something you like, take solace: It’s going to be with us, extending the real time of games, disrupting any sense of flow and showcasing a whole lot of bricked free throws, at least through the end of the 2016 playoffs.

If, though, you believe in the tactic as a coach’s best friend — something to encourage bad foul shooters to improve, lest they look silly and cost their teams victories — those guys had better get in the gym soon and practice their form, release and follow-through fast.

Change almost certainly is coming, based on NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s comments Saturday in the annual state-of-the-league All-Star news conference.

Silver, addressing and fielding questions from reporters before the skills, slam dunk and 3-point shooting contests at Air Canada Centre, reiterated what he has said on several recent occasion. “I’m beginning to feel that a change needs to be made,” Silver said, citing conversations he has had with broadcast partners, sentiment expressed in fan data and feedback from players, GMs and owners.

As for coaches, Silver said “Clearly our coaches who are smart and using very complex analytics believe it is benefiting them.”

But changing the rules wouldn’t be pursued to make life tougher on the league’s coaches, any more than it would be done to let the most frequent targets of the tactic — notoriously poor free-throw shooters such as DeAndre Jordan (.423 free-throw percentage), Andre Drummond (.351), Dwight Howard (.532) and a handful of others — off the hook. It would be a decision driven more by the NBA product as entertainment, not merely athletic competition.

Silver did share that, when the league’s competition committee discussed the strategy last summer, it sought data from an additional season before making a recommendation. That data so far? “We’re seeing the Hack-a-Shaq strategy used at roughly a five-and-a-half-times greater rate than it was used last season,” the commissioner reported.

That’s a lot of standing around, stoppages in play and, for folks viewing from the stands or on TV at home, a procession of finely tuned, multi-millionaire athletes failing at one of basketball’s fundamental skills. That’s not a good look for anyone involved.

Interestingly, Silver said that there is no consensus among the practice’s critics what remedy should be pursued. Treat the entire game like the final two minutes, when fouls away from the play equal one free throw and retained possession? Come up with something more stringent to snuff even the temptation to hack a targeted player intentionally?

Silver said he would want to have a specific alternative to propose. And even then, that sort of change would need the approval of two-thirds of the league’s members (20 of the 30 teams).

“So we’re nowhere near that point where we’re even starting to count heads,” Silver said. This summer would be the soonest, he indicated.

***

No. 3: Splash Brother vs. Splash Brother It was no big surprise last season in Brooklyn when Stephen Curry managed to win the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest; after all, he was midway through an MVP season and establishing himself as one of the greatest shooters in NBA history. Last night in Toronto, when it came time for Curry to defend his title, he posted a fine performance, making the final round, until his Splash Brother and Warriors backcourt ‘mate Klay Thompson was able to get hot and edge Curry. As Sekou Smith writes, if there was any questions left about the league’s best-shooting backcourt, those doubts were officially laid to rest night

For the second straight year, one of the Golden State Warriors’ Splash Brothers walked off the All-Star Saturday night stage as the champion of the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest.

But it wasn’t defending champion and NBA three-point king Stephen Curry. This time it was teammate Klay Thompson taking home top honors in a competition that, by the final round, looked like something the Warriors might do at the end of every practice.

It marks the first time in Three-Point Contest history that different players from the same team have won it in consecutive seasons.

“Back-to-back years for Splash Brothers, it’s pretty cool,” Thompson said.

Thompson saved his best for last, finishing with 27 points in the final round to conquer one of the deepest fields in the history of the competition, a group that includes some of the best long-range shooters in the game today and perhaps ever.

“He definitely shot well tonight,” Curry said. “I still think I can hold my own in the competition, but the way that he finished off that second round was amazing. So trust me, the pressure of knowing what number he had to hit and making five out of five was fun to watch.”

Curry collected 23 points in his final round, but was on his feet cheering with the rest of the contestants as Thompson drained shot after shot on his final rack. Phoenix Suns rookie Devin Booker, the youngest player in the league, finished third after netting 16 points in the final round.

***

No. 4: Horford embraces uncertain future All-Star Weekend is traditionally something of a swap shop for trade rumors, and with his contract expiring this summer, All-Star Atlanta Hawks center Al Horford hasn’t been immune from hearing his name. But considering the trade rumors and that he was swimming in the Caribbean when he got the last-minute call to get to Toronto, stat, as Sam Amick writes, Horford says he’s thrilled to be in Toronto and taking everything day by day

It’s no secret that the Hawks have been exploring trade options that include Horford, but that doesn’t mean the four-time All-Star’s days in Atlanta are necessarily done. The relationship between the player and the team that drafted him third overall in 2007 remains strong, with nine seasons of history between them and a dynamic between Horford and president of basketball operations/coach Mike Budenholzer that could still lead to him re-signing this summer. And yes, it should be noted, the Hawks are well aware that retaining a talent like Horford in today’s NBA will come with an enormous price tag not only because of his talents but because the league’s salary cap is about to spike from $70 million to $89 million next season (and $108 million in 2017-18). He would earn approximately $25 in his first season.

But the 31-24 Hawks, like any team that isn’t playing to its anticipated level, must consider all options this time of year. They are also known to be engaging in trade discussions relating to point guard Jeff Teague, who is less of a flight risk than Horford because he has one year left on his contract ($8 million). The New York Knicks and Utah Jazz, to name a few, could be serious suitors for Teague in the coming days.

The Boston Celtics are widely believed to be a potential fit as a Horford trade partner, but the real level of interest from general manager Danny Ainge remains to be seen in the coming days. And while Horford continues to speak positively about the city and his situation, there’s an inherent uncertainty to this process that always acts as the driving force.

“I’m very happy in Atlanta,” Horford said when asked if the Hawks had reason to be concerned that he might leave. “I’ve said it repeatedly. I love the city. My family, we all live in Atlanta, we stay there in the offseason, so my focus is just to keep playing and taking it day by day and, right now, it’s to enjoy this weekend. … Just taking it day by day. That’s the only thing I can do. We really can’t worry about three or four months from now.”

Especially when a welcome All-Star berth comes your way.

While Horford wasn’t selected to the team initially, he was given the nod on Friday when Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh unexpectedly pulled out because of a calf strain. Horford was vacationing with his family near Cancun, Mexico, when he got the call.

“I had my phone off (and) I was in the water,” said Horford, who is averaging 15.3 points and 6.9 rebounds this season. “I was doing my morning swim out there, and I got the call (around 9:30 am).

“I’m so excited to be here, man. Words don’t describe it. Being here in this city, in Toronto. I remember last year looking at it, and I was like, ‘It’s going to be in Toronto, I would love to be a part of that,’ because, you know, the fans here are so lively and just being around these guys and it happens to be Kobe’s last All-Star. It’s kind of a big deal, and for me to be a part of this I’m very grateful.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Carmelo Anthony says he’s not getting tradedKarl-Anthony Towns struck a blow for bigs in the Skills Challenge … If you haven’t heard, it’s really, really cold in Toronto this weekend … The Indiana Pacers are eyeing a future All-Star Weekend bidJimmer Fredette was named MVP of the D-League All-Star GameKevin Hart tied Draymond Green in their own three-point shootout.

Warriors Trio Headlines ‘Big’ All-Star Saturday Night

VIDEO: The Inside the NBA crew gives analysis.

NEW YORK CITY — All-Star Saturday night is going to be big. Literally.

Tonight’s announcement of the participants for All-Star Saturday night revealed a lot of familiar names and faces, but also a couple of intriguing players taking part in contests they haven’t been involved with in previous years. And while the Golden State Warriors have been nearly unstoppable on the court this season, on Saturday, Feb. 13, in Toronto’s Air Canada Centre (8 p.m. ET, TNT), the Warriors’ big three will attempt to bring home several different kinds of hardware.

NBA All-Star 2016The evening will open with the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, which will be radically different this season. Last year, the event was populated entirely by point guards, with Houston’s Patrick Beverley winning over Brandon Knight. This season, Beverley is slated to return and compete against several guards, such as Portland’s CJ McCollum, Boston’s Isaiah Thomas and Jordan Clarkson from the Lakers.

But the twist here is that they will be in a field that includes several big men, including Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins and rookie Karl-Anthony Towns. It will also be interesting to see what kind of performance we get from New Orleans’ multi-talented center Anthony Davis, who played guard throughout high school before a growth spurt moved him to the post. And the leading contender among the big men participating must be Golden State’s Draymond Green, who currently leads the League in triple-doubles with 10.

VIDEO: Wolves’ Zach LaVine will defend his title.

We can also safely assume that the evening will close with a bang. Last year’s Verizon Slam Dunk was one of the most electrifying contests in years, as then-Minnesota rookie Zach LaVine completed a series of athletic jams. LaVine will return this season, and be challenged by a field that includes Denver guard Will Barton, who has had something of a breakout campaign in this his fourth NBA season.

LaVine and Barton will be joined by two big men, in a contest where big men have traditionally struggled to score highly. Second year Orlando forward Aaron Gordon has had plenty of athletic dunks in his short NBA career, and Detroit center Andre Drummond has also shown plenty of bounce and skill around the basket, as the NBA’s leading rebounder this season.

In between these events will be the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest, which in a league increasingly reliant on the three-point shot, is rapidly becoming the evening’s signature event. While last year’s three-point contest was recognized as having one of the sweetest-shooting fields in the history of the event, this year’s event appears to be equally star-studded:

VIDEO: Steph Curry will bring his sharp shooting to Foot Locker Three-Point Contest

Stephen Curry – Curry won last year’s event, then went on to win the NBA’s MVP award and an NBA title. Leads the NBA this season in three pointers made (232) by a wide margin (77 more than his Golden State teammate Klay Thompson).

James Harden – The Houston guard finished just behind Curry in last season’s MVP voting, and the Rockets have gotten off to a slow start this season. Still, Harden is third this season in total three-pointers made (140).

Klay Thompson – The other Splash Brother has a chance to outshine Curry. Thompson is making 43-percent of his three-point attempts this season.

Khris Middleton – The Bucks swingman is averaging a career-best two made three-pointers per game, and knocking them in at 41-percent clip.

Kyle Lowry – The Raptors guard will surely enjoy a home court advantage. Lowry is averaging a career-high 2.8 threes per game, and making them at a career-best 39 percent success rate.

JJ Redick – Clippers guard Reddick has always been known as a sharp-shooter, but this season has been his masterpiece. In 45 games for Los Angeles, Redick has made 120 threes, converting at a league-best 48-percent clip.

Chris Bosh – Why just have big men in the other two Saturday night contests? To be fair, the power forward Bosh has made himself into a good three-point shooter, and he’s relied on his long-range shot more than ever this season. Consider this: During Bosh’s first nine NBA seasons, he attempted a combined 228 threes; This season he’s attempted 213 threes in Miami’s first 50 games.

Devin Booker – Booker is the youngest contestant (he’s 19 years old) in the three-point shootout, but he’s already proven he’s one of the NBA’s best shooters, connecting on threes for the Phoenix Suns at a 42-percent rate this season.

State Farm NBA All-Star Saturday Night will be televised live exclusively on TNT on Saturday, Feb. 13, from the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada.

 


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