Josh Howard may not be so expendable after all

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Josh Howard isn’t making things easy for the Mavs.

For two months Howard struggled mightily on offense, turning in horrid, high-volume shooting displays at a point in the season where the Mavs’ offense looked especially vulnerable. With each jumper clanking off the rim, Howard looked closer and closer to a future in another NBA city; the Mavs were rumored to have interest in Kevin Martin, Andre Iguodala, and Caron Butler, all of whom would slide into Howard’s role seamlessly.

But over the last three games, Howard has put together a couple of throwback performances — including a season-high 25 points in a win over Golden State last night.

Those keeping an eye on the schedule will be quick to point out the Mavs’ opponents over that three-game stretch: they’ve played Minnesota once and Golden State twice. Howard has been routinely matched up against inferior or undersized defenders in those three games, and neither the Wolves or the Warriors are anything resembling a competent defensive club.

All that said, Howard is playing his best basketball of the season right now…which makes it a bit more difficult to rationalize any of the aforementioned trades.

For one, a fully-functional Howard can at least near the production of those three players, but without any of the long-term financial commitment. Considering the tumultuous road ahead for the NBA and the Players’ Association, owners everywhere are wary of long, expensive deals. Mark Cuban is no exception. Plus, teams like the Sixers are rumored to be handcuffing Samuel Dalembert’s contract (or Elton Brand’s) to Andre Iguodala for any potential trades. After all, if Philly is shipping out their most talented player, they can’t justify such a significant payroll on an underachieving group of bigs.

I guess that’s where this situation is especially interesting: the fact that Howard is improving only matters to the Mavs. Philadelphia, Washington, and Sacramento are all linked to Howard because of salary reasons; if acquired, it’s assumed that all three would decline Howard’s $11.8 million team option for next season. This isn’t talent-for-talent, it’s talent-for-savings, which means that the Mavs won’t even add to their returns based on Josh’s current upswing.

All of this is to say that if trading Josh was a no-brainer before, the Mavs now have a real decision on their hands.

Kings’ Rudy Gay suffers apparent torn left Achilles tendon, would be done for season

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This not only changes the Kings dreams of making the playoffs in the West, it also alters the trade deadline and free agency.

Rudy Gay, the Kings wing and second-leading scorer, has been diagnosed with a torn left Achilles tendon, according to the team. During the third quarter of Wednesday night’s game against the Pacers, Gay drove out of the right corner and, untouched, fell to the floor hard. He had to be helped off the court by teammates.

Team doctors made the initial torn Achilles diagnosis, which will need to be confirmed by an MRI scheduled for Thursday. He would be out not only for this season but likely the start of the next one as well.

Without Gay, a lot more will fall on Matt Barnes and, once he returns from his calf injury in a couple of weeks, Omri Casspi. Those two are a drop off from what Gay brought to the Kings,  and with that team’s playoff chances have taken a hit (they are 1.5 games out of the eight seed after Wednesday’s loss to the Pacers). Don’t be surprised if the Kings look to add a scorer at the trade deadline.

Gay was not happy in Sacramento and said he planned to opt out of the $14.3 million final year of his contract to be a free agent next summer, which made him someone potentially traded before the deadline (although the Kings being in the playoff hunt impacted that). Gay averaged 18.7 points and 6.4 rebounds a game for the Kings, and while his game was a little old school — more isolation and midrange shots than teams prefer — he put up points. Enough that he was drawing trade interest heading toward the deadline from Oklahoma City and other squads.

That is all off the table now. At age 30, if Gay does still opt out of his contract for next season this will impact what he would make on the free market.

Zaza Pachulia lays out Russell Westbrook, stands over him (video)

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Kevin Durant playing the Thunder invites extra emotions.

Russell Westbrook felt them – in the form of a flagrant foul by Warriors center Zaza Pachulia, who stood over Westbrook for emphasis.

Pachulia is really embracing his role doing the dirty work for star-studded Golden State.

Report: 76ers’ Ben Simmons sitting entire season still on table

TARRYTOWN, NEW YORK - AUGUST 07:  Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers poses for a portrait during the 2016 NBA Rookie Photoshoot at Madison Square Garden Training Center on August 7, 2016 in Tarrytown, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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That rumor No. 1 pick Ben Simmons won’t play this season?

It just won’t die.

Even after Simmons tried to quash it, even after the 76ers’ CEO outright denied it, even after Simmons returned to practice, even in an otherwise optimistic report.

Chris Haynes of ESPN:

76ers rookie forward Ben Simmons could make his much-anticipated NBA debut shortly after the All-Star break, league sources told ESPN.

Barring a setback in his recovery, sources say the No. 1 overall pick in the 2016 NBA draft has a chance to take the hardwood near March. There still remains the possibility Simmons sits the entire season, sources said, but his situation will continue to be thoroughly evaluated throughout his comeback quest.

76ers coach Brett Brown said there’s “no chance” Simmons plays in Philadelphia’s nationally televised game against the Rockets next week. Other than that, there isn’t much clarity.

It mostly sounds as if Simmons is still too far from returning to say something definitive.

Roy Hibbert passes ball into hoop, reacts with perfect facial expression (video)

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The Hornets did so much right in their 107-85 win over the Trail Blazers, even a bad pass went through the hoop.

Roy Hibbert reacted fantastically to blunder/basket (blasket?).