Windhorst: Cavs extremely active in trade talks

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UPDATE 1:16 AM: ESPN.com’s Marc Stein: “Yes: Brendan Haywood is potential S-and-T piece for Mavs. But Mavs sources insist there is ‘no chance’ he moves in sign-and-trade for Shaq.”
Just after 12 AM Eastern on Thursday morning, Brian Windhorst’s twitter feed absolutely blew up with Cavalier-related rumors. The Cavaliers are obviously waiting on LeBron James’ free agency decision with bated breath, but they’re not just sitting around while they wait for his decision. Cleveland knows that it will have to make some real changes to its roster if they want to keep LeBron, and they don’t seem to be wasting any time in trying to improve. 
According to Windhorst, the Cavalier front office has been speaking to other teams about making the following moves:
-After watching Shaquille O’Neal struggle to keep up on defense during the Eastern Conference semi-finals, the Cavs are reportedly discussing a “double-sign-and-trade” that would send O’Neal to the Dallas Mavericks in exchange for center Brendan Haywood. 
O’Neal’s post scoring was supposed to give the Cavaliers a new dimension, but more often than not he stopped the ball on offense. Defensively, Shaq struggled to keep the faster players in the league in front of him, particularly when he was put in the pick-and-roll. If the Cavs move Shaq for Haywood, it would be a step towards the defense-first/drive-and-kick mentality that Cleveland had during the 2008-09 season. 
-The Cavs are also looking for an upgrade at the two; according to Windhorst, the Cavs are looking at Ray Allen, John Salmons, and Mike Miller in free agency. Allen would likely be their #1 choice, but with Doc Rivers returning it seems unlikely that Allen will leave Boston. 
Delonte West was a revelation at the two-guard position during the 08/09 season. Unfortunately, he never returned to his 08/09 form last season, and Anthony Parker was merely passable as a starting two-guard. Parker was a solid defender and made open threes, but the Cavs are clearly looking for more scoring punch in their backcourt. 
-Cleveland has interest in Chris Bosh and Amar’e Stoudemire, but it is unlikely that either would come to Cleveland if LeBron doesn’t re-sign with the team. Since LeBron may leave Cleveland unless the Cavaliers get a player like Bosh or Stoudemire, this could become something of a Catch-22. 
-The Cavaliers have also reportedly shown some interest in contacting Al Harrington. I can’t think of a very compelling explanation for that one. 
These rumors help to confirm what most NBA fans suspected: The Cavs are looking to make moves, and everything can be made available for the right price. That’s what can happen when a team finds itself in an all-or-nothing situation. 

J.B. Bickerstaff calls Rockets ‘broken team,’ ‘fragmented bunch’

Houston Rockets interim head coach J.B. Bickerstaff rubs his head in the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Washington Wizards, Saturday, Jan. 30, 2016, in Houston. The Wizards won 123-122. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
AP Photo/Pat Sullivan
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Rockets interim coach J.B. Bickerstaff has been unafraid to sharply assess his team.

But after last night’s loss to the Trail Blazers – Houston’s third straight defeat and sixth in eight games – Bickerstaff kicked up the rhetoric even further.

Bickerstaff, via Calvin Watkins of ESPN:

“We’re broken,” Bickerstaff said. “It’s that simple. We’re a broken team, and we all need to use this break to figure out how we’re going to impact change. If we don’t want to impact change, then we need to be made aware of that, too, and we’ll go in a different direction.

“We can’t continue to go out and play this way. It’s easy to see it’s a fragmented bunch. You can’t win that way.”

This is why Dwight Howard is on the trade block. The Rockets are so incohesive, there’s no simple solution in sight. This increasingly looks like a lost season for Houston, which should emphasize future planning – like dealing Howard, who can become an unrestricted free agent at age 30 this summer.

Yet, the Rockets are just a half game from playoff position. They obviously dreamed much bigger when the season began, but at this point, merely making the postseason should qualify as a success.

It’s Bickerstaff’s job to get them there, no matter how unlikely. He has certainly shown little fear in trying, whether it’s giving these quotes or pulling all five starters simultaneously shortly into a game. He’s trying to put his mark on this team.

The players just aren’t responding, not more than periodically, at least. From James Harden down, nobody plays with the requisite focus and energy.

Nothing in Bickerstaff’s assessment is surprising. It’s just surprising he said it so bluntly publicly.

Then again, that’s nothing compared to what veteran Houston guard Jason Terry said. Eric Ringering of 750 The Game:

https://twitter.com/ringering45/status/697664478993756164

Devin Booker to replace Nerlens Noel in Rising Stars at All-Star Weeekend

Phoenix Suns guard Devin Booker reacts after hitting a 3-point shot against the San Antonio Spurs during the third quarter of an NBA basketball game Thursday, Jan. 21, 2016, in Phoenix. (AP Photo/Rick Scuteri)
AP Photo/Rick Scuteri
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Sixers big man Nerlens Noel — who has looked much improved this season once Ish Smith was feeding him the rock on offense — sat out the Sixers game Wednesday night due to tendonitis in his right knee. After he missed his rookie season with knee issues, you can understand why the Sixers want him to be cautious.

Noel is going to sit out All-Star Weekend as well — he had been scheduled to play in the Rising Stars Challenge on Friday night, but he is going to sit that out and Devin Booker of the Phoenix Suns will take his place, the league has announced (Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic broke that story).

Booker has been one of the few bright spots for the Suns this season, averaging 10.6 points a game and shooting 40.3 percent from three.

He will play for the USA in the World vs. USA format of the Rising Stars Challenge (the former rookie/sophomore game, featuring first and second year players).

With Emmanuel Mudiay replacing Patrick Beverley, NBA reveals Skills Challenge bracket

Houston Rockets' Patrick Beverley (2) knocks the ball away from Denver Nuggets' Emmanuel Mudiay (0) in the first half of a NBA basketball game Wednesday, Oct. 28, 2015, in Houston. (AP Photo/Pat Sullivan)
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Out: Defending champion Patrick Beverley.

In: Emmanuel Mudiay Emmanuel Mudiay.

The NBA confirmed the Rockets guard would miss the Skills Challenge and that Mudiay would replace him. The league also release the bracket:

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My picks:

Quarterfinals

Semifinals

  • Isaiah Thomas over C.J. McCollum
  • Anthony Davis over Draymond Green

Final

  • Isaiah Thomas over Anthony Davis

NBA suspends Hassan Whiteside for elbowing Boban Marjanovic’s head

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Hassan Whiteside lost his cool and elbowed Boban Marjanovic in the head Tuesday.

The Heat center received a flagrant 2 and an ejection, and now he’s getting the rest of his punishment.

NBA release:

Miami Heat center Hassan Whiteside has been suspended one game without pay for throwing an elbow and making contact with the head of San Antonio Spurs center Boban Marjanovic, it was announced today by Kiki VanDeWeghe, Executive Vice President, Basketball Operations.

The incident, for which Whiteside was assessed a Flagrant 2 and ejected, occurred with 9:35 remaining in the fourth quarter of the Spurs’ 119-101 win over the Heat at AmericanAirlines Arena on Feb. 9.

Whiteside will serve his suspension when Miami plays the Atlanta Hawks on Feb. 19 at Philips Arena.

The suspension will cost Whiteside $8,921. As a result, the Heat – in line to become the first team in NBA history to pay the repeater luxury-tax rate – trim their impending tax bill by $24,534.

More importantly for Whiteside, this will be a strike against him for teams considering offering him a big contract in free agency this summer.