It’s an exciting time in the NBA when some of the league’s fresher faces are able to dominate the headlines at times and, more importantly, lead their respective teams to victory. On a light three-game slate in the Association, we had one of the younger guys playing a key role in all three contests.
Third Star: Avery Bradley (22 points on 10-15 shooting, 7 rebounds, 5 assists)
The Celtics beat the Sixers in Philadelphia, which isn’t really news considering how bad the Sixers have been in recent weeks. But Bradley leading Boston to victory was different. He’s been known for his perimeter defense, but starting at the point guard spot, he lead Boston in scoring in this one, and the Celtics are now 12-4 since Rajon Rondo went down for the season with the ACL injury.
Second Star: Kenneth Faried (19 points, 12 rebounds, game-high +20)
It’s almost not fair to reward a player for going off against the Kings, considering Sacramento is 29th in the league in defensive efficiency, giving up an unconscionable 108.9 points per 100 possessions. But somebody has to be the one to contribute to win those games, and Faried was all over the place in this one, leading his team in rebounding and finishing a game-high plus-20 in his time on the floor.
First Star: Russell Westbrook (37 points, 10 rebounds, 5 assists)
The Lakers aren’t exactly a great matchup for the Thunder at this point, but Westbrook had a below-average outing the last time these teams met, and it resulted in Oklahoma City losing in Los Angeles. Tuesday at home, Westbrook made sure to come out strong, and scored 13 first quarter points to ensure this one was never in doubt.
Report: Unless they trade for Jimmy Butler or Paul George, Celtics likely to keep main assets
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
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
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.
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
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.