Orlando Magic

Three Stars of the Night: It’s your world, baby.

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After trading Dwight Howard and not getting a heck of a whole lot in return, the Orlando Magic were left for dead by everyone — yours truly included. But after taking out a hot Minnesota team and improving to a very respectable 11-13 record on the season, Glen “Big Baby” Davis made it clear in a postgame rant (that likely included quite a bit of spittle) that the Magic will compete, no matter what. With that in mind, we’ve got Monday’s world-beaters all lined up for you in a pretty row. To Three Stars:

Third Star: Jeremy Lin – (22 points, 8 assists, 9-for-15 shooting)

You can’t talk about underdogs without mentioning Jeremy Lin, right? It’s funny. Leading up to the game, there was plenty of talk about how the Knicks dodged a serious bullet, how much better Raymond Felton was, and how this whole Linsanity thing was a fluke. You would think we would have learned our lesson in doubting Lin the first time around, no? Lin was electric in his return to Madison Square Garden, breaking out of his slump to score 16 points in the first half and propel the Rockets past a Knicks team that struggled to get up and down the floor. Am I implying that everything is just fine with Lin based on this one game? Of course not. I would suggest, however, that there’s a very good chance Lin won’t be as bad as he’s been early this year, just like he probably won’t be as good as he was during that magical run in New York. The truth usually lies somewhere in the middle.

Second Star: Serge Ibaka – (25 points, 17 rebounds, 3 blocks)

With Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Martin licking their chops against a Spurs team with no Kawhi Leonard or Manu Ginobili out on the wing, what are the odds that Serge Ibaka would lead the Thunder in scoring for the first time all year? As unlikely as it seems, Ibaka has very quietly been a really good offensive player this season. Ibaka’s scoring averages have spiked from 9.1 a game last year to 14.2 this season, and he’s shooting a ridiculous 49 percent from 16-23 feet — which is approaching Dirk Nowitzki territory (51 percent in 2012). Ibaka’s leap and Oklahoma City’s 20-4 record have both oddly gone under the radar, but this big night against Tim Duncan and company should at least temporarily divert some eyeballs from the disaster in Los Angeles and redirect them towards the team that’s playing the best basketball in the league right now.

First Star: Glen “Big Baby” Davis – (28 points on 13-for-17 shooting)

You won’t find many players who will balk at the chance to be their team’s top scoring option, but it’s a heavy burden to carry. Defenses game plan specifically for you. Double-teams come your way, help defense is a little faster. There’s a big target on your back. Glen Davis has never really experienced that until this year, and it’s been an interesting exercise to watch him deal with it alongside Arron Afflalo. A primary result of the increased touches has been a lot more long jumpers this year — a somewhat necessary evil given Orlando’s lack of players who can penetrate. That said though, when Davis has a lane to drive or can get the ball in good position, he’s half walrus/half ballerina in the paint, dancing around and bouncing off defenders to throw in tough flip shots. Davis was able to dominate the paint offensively, eschewing jumpers for layups all night to help the Magic pull off a big comeback at home. It was rarely pretty for Davis — and it rarely will be for Orlando — but there’s a beauty in not needing that to be successful.

Report: Unless they trade for Jimmy Butler or Paul George, Celtics likely to keep main assets

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 26: Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls and Paul George #13 of the Indiana Pacers chase down a loose ball at the United Center on December 26, 2016 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The Celtics have been linked in trade talks to the Bulls’ Jimmy Butler and Pacers’ Paul George, but that requires the other team to deal with Boston. Indications are neither Chicago nor Indiana is particularly amenable.

So, time for the Celtics to pick another star to target?

Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald:

With less than 24 hours until the NBA’s 3 p.m. trade deadline today, the Celtics were said to be still holding out hope that internal discussions within the Bulls and Pacers would lead to one or both making their best player available.

But short of that, the view from around the league is that the Celts are becoming more and more enamored with the idea of keeping their main assets and using the first-round draft pick they have coming from Brooklyn in June via a swap of positions. (They also have the Nets’ 2018 first-rounder unencumbered.)

Sources continued to say that, while there remains a chance things could change as the deadline draws nearer, Chicago and Indiana are more likely to retain Jimmy Butler and Paul George, respectively. Those All-Star talents have been the Celtics’ two main targets

This could just be the Celtics playing hardball — either through leaks to the media or through conversations with other teams that have trickled out. But Bulpett is well-connected, especially in Boston. This is more likely than most reports of this nature to be accurate, but it’s always difficult to break through the smokescreens this time of year.

The Nets’ upcoming first-rounder is extremely valuable, as they’ll likely finish with the NBA’s worst record. The Celtics could do far worse than keeping that pick.

But Boston’s top players — Isaiah Thomas (28) and Al Horford (30) — are already at ages where they can’t necessarily wait for a 2017 pick, even someone as talented at as Markelle Fultz or Lonzo Ball, to develop. It makes sense to cash in chips now.

Still, the Celtics’ deep pool of assets mean the window isn’t closing yet. There should be no desperation to make a win now trade.

If Boston keeps its main assets — mainly the Nets picks — past the trade deadline, we’ll just revisit all this again in the summer.

Cavaliers sign forward Derrick Williams to second 10-day contract

Cleveland Cavaliers' Derrick Williams, right, drives to the basket against Indiana Pacers' Rodney Stuckey in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak)
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The Cleveland Cavaliers have signed forward Derrick Williams to a second 10-day contract.

The NBA champions have been impressed with Williams, a former No. 2 overall pick, and it’s likely they will sign him for the remainder of the season when his current contract expires. The Cavs announced Wednesday they signed Williams again. He has averaged 9.8 points and 3.0 rebounds in 22 minutes for the Cavs, who have been bringing him off their bench with their second unit.

Before signing as a free agent with Cleveland on Feb. 9, Williams played for Miami this season before being released.

The Cavs returned from the All-Star break Wednesday and will practice before hosting the New York Knicks on Thursday, just a few hours after the trade deadline.

Hornets’ Miles Plumlee out at least two weeks with leg injury

Charlotte Hornets' Miles Plumlee (18) dunks against the Philadelphia 76ers in the first half of an NBA basketball game in Charlotte, N.C., Monday, Feb. 13, 2017. (AP Photo/Chuck Burton)
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The Hornets are essentially two different teams with and without Cody Zeller.

They’re 22-17 when he plays and 2-15 when he doesn’t. They play at a 62-win pace with him on the floor and a 29-win pace when he sits.

So, with Zeller banged up, Charlotte traded for Miles Plumee. But Plumlee hasn’t provided much, just 3.2 points and 3.8 rebounds in 13.4 minutes per game in five contests.

And now he’ll add even less.

Hornets release:

The Charlotte Hornets announced today that center Miles Plumlee underwent a Magnetic Resonance Image (MRI), which revealed a second-degree calf strain in his right leg. Plumlee will be out for Charlotte’s game tomorrow at Detroit and will be re-evaluated in two weeks.

The Hornets incurred significant long-term costs ($37.5 million over the next three years) to use Plumlee as a short-term bandage. Without him providing even that, this situation looks bleak.

Depending on Zeller’s health, this could turn Charlotte — 2.5 games and three teams out of playoff position — into sellers before the trade deadline. At minimum, it makes the Hornets less likely to buy.

Report: Bulls pushing to trade for 76ers’ Jahlil Okafor

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 14: Jahlil Okafor #8 of the Philadelphia 76ers looks to pass against Jimmy Butler #21 of the Chicago Bulls at the United Center on December 14, 2015 in Chicago, Illinois. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using the photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
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The Bulls reportedly reached out to the 76ers about Jahlil Okafor a few weeks ago.

After unfulfilled intrigue and maybe a trade that fell through, Okafor remains in Philadelphia. And Chicago apparently still wants him.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:

As constituted, the Bulls already have a few interior bigs: Robin Lopez, Taj Gibson and Cristiano Felicio. But one or more could go in an Okafor trade or another deal.

Okafor would make the Chicago younger, confusing its direction with Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade already in place.

Perhaps, the Bulls are pushing for a trade only because they’re offering so little. Okafor’s low-post game offers intrigue. At the right price, he’d be worth adding, no matter the fit and direction presented.

Maybe the 76ers don’t go for a lowball offer, but that’d be worth trying considering their center logjam with Joel Embiid, Nerlens Noel and Jahlil Okafor. Otherwise, Chicago ought to tread carefully when pursuing Okafor.