Toronto is the new, slightly gimpy horse in the race for Erick Dampier's services

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erick_dampier.jpgA union between Erick Dampier and the Miami Heat apparently made too much sense to come to fruition. Now, rather than the serviceable big man going to the championship contending team a bit lacking in serviceable big men, Dampier will likely land with another playoff-caliber squad.

Or maybe the Toronto Raptors.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports, the Raps have joined the Rockets and Bucks in courting Dampier. Toronto is fundamentally different than Dampier’s other suitors though, in that their current roster doesn’t quite scream “playoffs!” The Chris Bosh-less Raps have the makings of a lottery team (not that Toronto fared much better last season with Bosh in the mix), and competitively-speaking, they fall well short of more talented teams like Houston or Milwaukee.

However, should playing time be Dampier’s primary concern (which it very well may be; the competition for minutes at center in Miami may have scared him away from a title-worthy opportunity), Toronto seems to be in a position to make a hell of a pitch. The Raptors’ leading candidates for center minutes are Andrea Bargnani, Amir Johnson, David Andersen, and Joey Dorsey, and the more productive of those players — Bargnani and Johnson — will be pulling double-duty by playing minutes at the 4.

The prospect of cracking that depth chart is a bit more promising than playing backup to either Yao Ming (who already has another decent center behind him in Brad Miller) or Andrew Bogut.

Picking up a center like Dampier on a value deal is also a no-brainer for the Raptors, even if they’re not contending for a playoff spot, much less a title. Damp is the stylistic fit Bryan Colangelo has been searching for in a Bargnani running mate. His rebounding, pick-setting, and low-post defense would free up Bargs to employ his strong-side perimeter-oriented approach in peace.

The key to unlocking the potential in players like Bargnani is to put them in comfortable roles and a position to best utilize their talents. Adding Dampier to cover some of Bargnani’s weaknesses isn’t the Il Mago Rosetta Stone, but it’s a start.

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?).