Report: Knicks working hard to land Nash, but hesitant to give up Iman Shumpert

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Steve Nash is an unrestricted free agent who is being courted at the moment by at least four teams: the Knicks, Raptors, Mavericks, and Lakers. Conspicuously absent from that list are the Suns, but all signs show that they’re ready to move on, and won’t come up with the money or the years that others are willing to in order to retain Nash’s services.

Nash can of course sign wherever he chooses. But because of salary cap restrictions, for him to get close to the money he’s worth (in the $8 million per year range), certain teams would have to work out a sign-and-trade to send players back to Phoenix to create that cap space.

The Knicks might be where Nash is leaning at the moment, but they would need to include Iman Shumpert in the deal. They’re hesitant to do that, reports MSG Network’s Alan Hahn:

Steve Nash, meanwhile, and the Knicks are working with the Suns to complete a sign-and-trade deal that would bring Nash to New York. Indications are the Knicks are his top choice, but because a trade is complicated (and there is great hesitation to give up Iman Shumpert), the Raptors are in play. A lot of effort has been made, however, to get this done.

Shumpert showed value last season as an excellent perimeter defender, which is an area where the Suns desperately need to upgrade their talent. However, Shumpert suffered a season-ending knee injury in the first game of the playoffs, and may not be ready to return to action until midway through next season.

The Suns will be fortunate to get anything of value in return for Nash, given his unrestricted status. The Knicks may like Shumpert, but if New York is Nash’s top choice, and the team is in win-now mode with Amare Stoudemire and Tyson Chandler likely having two or three more seasons playing at an elite level, it should be an easy choice for New York to make to do what’s necessary to get Nash.

If the Knicks can’t get a deal done — either because of their hesitations or the Suns’ demands — Nash’s second choice would appear to be Toronto. The Mavericks will make an offer, but maybe only for one year due to wanting to keep their cap space freed up for 2013 free agents Dwight Howard and Chris Paul.

The Lakers have expressed interest, but it’s unclear what they would be willing to offer Phoenix in that all-important sign-and-trade. Nash would be a great fit for that team, and has said publicly he believes Kobe Bryant is the league’s best player. But his interest in L.A. is much lower than New York and Toronto at this point, so consider the Lakers a longshot at best to be the spot where Nash will eventually end up next season.

Russell Westbrook threw it down all over Michael Kidd-Gilchrist

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A rough night for the Thunder will not stop the Russell Westbrook highlights.

The Thunder had another poor game and fell to a Hornets. Westbrook tried to push the team back, but the Thunder defense that has kept them in games all season was not good enough against Charlotte, and the OKC offense was once again up and down.

Westbrook had 30 points on 22 shots on the night, and none of them were as impressive as this transition throwdown on Michael Kidd-Gilchrist.

Jahlil Okafor excited about fresh start with Nets

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NEW YORK (AP) — Jahlil Okafor finally got the fresh start he wanted.

Okafor was the consensus No. 1 high school player in his class, won a national championship at Duke, and averaged 17.5 points and seven rebounds in his rookie campaign for the Philadelphia 76ers.

Then things changed drastically.

Okafor struggled with injuries and a logjam at his position in his second season.

“When I first got drafted there, we already had Nerlens (Noel) there, Joel (Embiid) was there, so we’re trying to have three starting centers on the same team,” Okafor said Monday at his introductory news conference with his new team, the Brooklyn Nets.

“It just never really was the right fit.”

The 76ers traded Okafor along with seldom-used guard Nik Stauskas and two draft picks to the Nets on Thursday. Philadelphia got forward Trevor Booker from Brooklyn.

Okafor also had off-court problems during his time in Philadelphia. He got a speeding ticket for driving 108 miles per hour and was suspended by the 76ers for two games after in an altercation outside of a Boston nightclub with a heckler.

“Speeding obviously is illegal,” Okafor said. “I know that’s not what you’re supposed to do. I guess you just learn how the page can turn on you and how everything can flip. I can’t really say I learned anything, because you know going in that’s not right. You just learn from your mistakes, but (it was) a tough thing that I went through, I got past, and I’m looking to better times now.”

Okafor, the third overall pick in the 2015 draft, joins D'Angelo Russell, the second overall pick in the same draft class, on the Nets.

“We’re just very excited to get on the court together,” Okafor said. “You never would’ve thought the number two and number three picks would be playing on the same team a few years after, but like I said, everything happens for a reason and I’m really excited.”

Russell also had problems on and off the court with the team that drafted him. He was criticized for recording a video of former Lakers teammate Nick Young that aired sordid details about Young’s private life. The Lakers gave up on Russell and drafted Lonzo Ball as his replacement.

“I feel like we’re similar in that we have a lot to prove,” Okafor said. “I know he’s working his (butt) off as well. Right now he’s rehabbing, trying to get back on the court. I think we both have a chip on our shoulder and we have a lot to prove. We’re definitely similar in that regard.”

Okafor understands he has areas to improve, mainly defense and rebounding.

“I’m not a perfect player,” Okafor said. “I’m 21. There are things that I need to work on, that I have worked on and that I’ll continue to work on.”

He’s excited about fulfilling his potential with a new team.

“I feel really motivated right now, but I’ve always been motivated,” Okafor said. “This is the first time where people are against me in a sense because I’ve always been the hyped-up guy. It’s something new for me to experience, so I’m glad that I am experiencing it.”

 

Report: Celtics’ Marcus Morris to miss “extended time” to let knee heal

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Marcus Morris missed the Celtics’ first eight games of the season in an effort to get healthy. Upon his return he’s been solid, first as a starter, then coming off the bench, but his left knee continued to be an issue.

Morris was out Sunday when the Celtics beat the Pistons, and he’s going to miss more time trying to get a troublesome left knee right, reports Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

How much time is “extended time?” Probably at least a couple of weeks.

Morris has averaged 12.1 points and 5.5 rebounds a game this season, with a true shooting percentage of 52.5, which is right around the league average.

This could mean more run for rookie forwards Semi Ojeleye and Daniel Theis, both of whom have played well in limited minutes.

Tristan Thompson expected to return to Cavaliers Tuesday, come off bench

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — Cleveland Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson could play for the first time since Nov. 1 on Tuesday against Atlanta.

Thompson has been sidelined with a strained left calf. The team initially said Thompson would be out for up to four weeks, but he said Monday that timeline was inaccurate and that his injury was more serious. Thompson did not divulge any other details about the injury.

Coach Tyronn Lue says Thompson will not start when he returns, meaning Kevin Love will remain at center. Thompson says he’s fine with a reserve role and made it clear he’s willing to do whatever Lue needs.

The Cavaliers have won 14 of 15 and their defense has improved dramatically over the past month.

Thompson says he’ll have the same mindset on the floor as always and “just be myself. Being myself has worked out pretty well for me.”