Houston Rockets v Los Angeles Lakers

Rockets trade Budinger to Timberwolves for No. 18 pick

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The Houston Rockets have added another pick to their stockpile as they try to parlay those picks into another move up the NBA draft board — and ultimately to make a run at getting Dwight Howard out of Orlando. The Minnesota Timberwolves have added a very athletic forward that can give them some good minutes off the bench.

The Houston Rockets have traded Chase Budinger to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the No, 18 pick in the draft, first reported by Jonathan Givony of DraftExpress and since confirmed by other sources.

This move is clearly a precursor to another move or three by the Houston Rockets. They now own the No. 14, No. 16 and No. 18 picks in the draft. They have reportedly been working to use picks and players to get both the No. 5 pick from the Sacramento Kings and the No. 8 pick from the Toronto Raptors.

Then they would try to parlay those to picks and a player like Kevin Martin to get Dwight Howard out of Orlando. Even though Howard’s camp is saying he would not sign an extension in Houston. And more importantly, even before the Magic seem ready to move Howard under the direction of new GM Rob Hennigan (who has not even sat down with Howard yet to make his pitch).

If Howard doesn’t pan out, the Rockets may make a run at the Hawks Josh Smith (who has requested a trade).

It’s a gamble by the Rockets, but it makes sense. They should roll the dice. They got Budinger for a second rounder and parlayed him into a first rounder, that’s not bad.

For the Timberwolves this move is nice, but not thrilling.

You probably remember Budinger from last year’s Slam Dunk competition, he’s very athletic. The former Arizona star has turned into a solid backup forward for the Rockets, giving them 9.6 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. He had a PER of 14.9, right at the league average. He’s good, and after three years he has another one on his rookie deal. Basically Budinger and Wes Johnson become the rotation at the three for Minny. Maybe not thrilling, but they were not going to get anyone better at 18.

What Budinger does will is finish in transition and on a Wolves team with Ricky Rubio (once he returns from his ACL injury) Budinger could be a good fit. Also, do the Timberwolves really need another rookie? Budinger is not an old veteran but he’s been around the league three seasons already.

Houston has also sent to Minny the rights to Israeli Lior Eliyahu, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo.

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. However, those two are a drop off from what Gay brought to the Kings, and the team’s playoff chances have taken a serious hit (they are 1.5 games out of the eight seed after Wednesday’s loss to the Pacers).

Gay was not happy in Sacramento and had said 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?).