Jamal Crawford

Jamal Crawford wouldn’t mind playing in Portland

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Around the league, players love Jamal Crawford. He is a popular guy in league locker rooms. And he’s a guy who can come off the bench and light it up — he’s not going to be efficient doing that, and he’ll get lost on defense every other time down, but he’ll put up points. That’s how he won sixth man of the year in 2010 with the Hawks.

All that and his age (soon to be 32) sets him up to be one of the most overpaid players this free agency period (whenever that is post lockout). And LaMarcus Aldridge has lobbied hard to make Portland the team that overpays him, even asking fans to try and recruit him on twitter. (Because the Trail Blazers don’t have enough contracts to worry about like Greg Oden and Brandon Roy.) Aldridge put on the full court press when Crawford came to Rip City last weekend for a charity game.

Crawford himself likes the idea, he told Ben Goliver of Eye on Basketball.

“Yeah, definitely,” Crawford said. “I’ve been watching the Blazers so long with Brandon [Roy] being one of my best friends. With LaMarcus here, Wes and Ray, it’s almost close to a hometown team. I’m from Seattle. It’s the closest thing we have to basketball right now.”

“I think I would bring a little bit of everything to Portland,” Crawford said. “Scoring, creating for other people. Trying to make the game easier for my teammates… I think they’re a team on the rise.”

There are teams where Crawford makes sense. Win now teams. Portland, on the other hand, needs to scrapping the last win now plan and building for the long term. Which is not what owner Paul Allen wanted to hear (so he fired Rich Cho), he wants to think this team is closer to winning than it is. So Allen may want to go after him.

But Paul Allen himself will prevent that with his hardline stance in negotiations. Portland already has $73 million committed for next season, well over the projected salary cap and luxury tax lines. And even if they amnesty Brandon Roy (which they likely will not) and get Oden to take less, the Blazers are not going to have the money to pay what Crawford will get on the open market.

So, nice dream, but not going to happen.

Report: Khris Middleton could return to Bucks before All-Star break

CHARLOTTE, NC - JANUARY 16:  Khris Middleton #22 of the Milwaukee Bucks reacts during their game against the Charlotte Hornets at Time Warner Cable Arena on January 16, 2016 in Charlotte, North Carolina. 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.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
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The Bucks projected Khris Middleton to miss about 70 games when he tore his hamstring before the season. That extended absence often leads players just to shut down for the year, but Middleton vowed to return in time for the playoffs.

He might get back far sooner than that.

Marc Stein of ESPN:

Sources told ESPN.com the Bucks think Middleton, who suffered a hamstring tear just days before the season began, “has a chance” to return to the lineup during a three-game homestand next month before the All-Star ‎break.

Whether Middleton ultimately makes his season debut before or after the All-Star Game, he is expected to be kept on a minutes restriction as he eases way his back from the injury, sources said.

The Bucks have started Tony Snell, who has held his own as an outside shooter. But Middleton will upgrade Milwaukee on Snell’s biggest strength and provide massive defensive improvement. After a strong start, the Bucks have really struggled lately on that end.

Giannis Antetokounmpo has led Milwaukee to a 20-21 record, though the team is better than its won-loss mark indicates. The Bucks will be even better with Middleton, who will rival Jabari Parker as their second-best player and fit seamlessly.

Isaiah Thomas nutmegs Knicks center Marshall Plumlee (video)

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Isaiah Thomas usually saves his best play for the fourth quarter, but the Celtics guard showed out early with this pass between Marshall Plumlee‘s legs to get Kelly Olynyk a layup.

Thomas uncharacteristically just didn’t have enough late. Though he scored 39 points, he shot just 2-for-9 in the final period, as the Knicks pulled away for a 117-106 win.

Kevin Durant misses dunk so hard, ball flies past halfcourt (video)

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Kevin Durant played great in the Warriors’ win over the Thunder last night, but – perhaps fueled by excess emotion – he missed this incredibly emphatic dunk attempt.

Later, Russell Westbrook showed his former teammate how to do it (sparking their apparent conversation):

James Harden outduels Giannis Antetokounmpo as they produce fantastic highlight video

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James Harden and Giannis Antetokounmpo met in a battle of two of the NBA’s best point guards. (Still weird to say.) The final lines:

  • Harden: 38 points, 6 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 blocks
  • Antetokounmpo: 32 points, 11 rebounds, 6 assists, 3 blocks

The winner? Harden and the Rockets, who topped the Bucks, 111-92.

But the real winner? Anyone who gets to watch this highlight video. It just gets better as it goes.