NBA Draft rumors roundup: Len or Noel No. 1; Nets/Celtics talk deal

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On the day of the NBA Draft rumors fly fast and furious — a lot of it fueled by agents trying to create false demand for their clients (hoping other teams pick them even higher), some fueled by teams throwing out smokescreens. Every once in a while there is a kernel of truth.

So take everything with a big grain of salt, but here are the latest rumors around the NBA. We will update this post throughout the day.

7:15 pm (Eastern):

• Up until the final minutes, the Cavaliers were listening to offers from the Oklahoma City Thunder and others. No deal got done…. at least yet.

6:25 pm (Eastern):

• The potential trade between the Celtics and Nets — sending Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce to Brooklyn — is moving along quickly, but does not include any picks from this draft.

• More and more reports are that the Orlando Magic are happy at No. 2 and are taking Victor Oladipo out of Indiana. The Oklahoma City Thunder are trying to trade into that spot.

• If Oladipo goes No. 2, Ben McLemore could slide all the way to the five spot, where Sacramento would love to trade with Phoenix and grab the Kansas shooter.

• Miami point guard Shane Larkin could get snapped up by the Jazz (No. 14) and the Bucks (No. 15). (Ken Berger, CBSSports.com)

• Why is Anthony Bennett of UNLV sliding down draft boards (10 or lower maybe)? Concerns about his defensive effort and his weight.

4:30 pm (Eastern):

• The Sacramento Kings are pushing hard to move up in the draft (and there are picks available). The target is apparently Ben McLemore. I like that, personally in a down draft give me the guy who can shoot. (Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports)

• If the Kings do move up, it could be with the Suns at No. 5 (providing their target guy is still there. (Ken Berger, CBSSports.com)

• Don’t be shocked if the Jazz pick up German point guard Dennis Schroeder at 14 (or 21). A number of teams like him farther down the draft but his stock is rising and will not fall to the mid-20s. (Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports)

3:15 pm (Eastern):

• It was long thought the Wizards would take Otto Porter at No. 3, but Anthony Bennett is in the mix, too. However, that is not the general consensus around the league, more people think Bennett is falling and could slip down to 10.  (SherridanHoops)

• The Celtics are looking for a way to get into the second round. (A. Sherrod Blakely, CSNNE.com).

• There are going to be trades with this draft, but expect them to come much closer to the start of the draft and when teams are on the clock. Right now teams have high asking prices for their picks, those prices will come down as we get into the draft itself.

• Dennis Schroeder, the point guard out of Germany, is one of the Euros a lot of teams have their eyes on, however he does not want to be stashed overseas. He wants to come to the NBA and play now.

1:37 pm (Eastern):

• The Nets and Celtics are talking blockbuster deal that would send Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce to Brooklyn for Gerald Wallace and a lot of picks. There are a lot of hurdles and questions, but it’s out there being discussed. (Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports)

• The hot international player on the board is Sergey Karasev, a 6’7” small forward, Russia. He was good enough to make the Russian Olympic team at 18 and may not be an explosive athlete but is seen as a good shooter, a solid future role player and a “safe” pick in a draft filled with uncertainty. (Marc Stein ESPN)

• Point guard Trey Burke says he expects to go somewhere between numbers 2 and 8 in the draft. Probably closer to 8 if you ask me.

• The Nuggets really want out of the No. 27 spot. The guy they draft there will not see the court much at all on a deep team, and the Nuggets would be locked into a three-year. $2.8 million total rookie scale deal if they pick a guy. (Denver Post)

• Virginia Tech’s Erik Green had a second workout with the Spurs. That team always finds shooters and deploys them wisely. (Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports)

11:40 am (Eastern):

• The Cavaliers are choosing between Nerlens Noel and Alex Len for the No. 1 overall pick, but they are still shopping that pick around hoping someone takes it off their hands.(Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports)

• If the Cavaliers do make the No. 1 pick, they will still shop that player around after the draft. (Chad Ford, ESPN)

• At No. 2, the Magic are leaning heavily towards Victor Oladipo. However, they will have a real decision to make of Noel is available. (Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports)

• The Bobcats have interest in Cody Zeller at the No. 4 spot, but they’d rather have Alex Len. (Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports)

• What teams are trying to move up in the draft? The Jazz, Timberwolves and Thunder.  (Chad Ford, ESPN)

• Flip Saunders is trying to shoot down reports he is trying to trade Derrick Williams. Of course, if you were trying to trade Williams that is what you would say to try and keep your leverage. (Star-Tribune)

• Dallas has had multiple offers for the No. 13 pick and will move it, but they are waiting to see if a better offer comes along closer to the draft. (Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports)

• Among the offers the Mavs have discussed, the Bucks have suggested swapping first-round picks so Milwaukee could select Sergey Karasev. (Adrian Wojnarowski, Yahoo Sports)

• The Celtics are trying to acquire a late first, early second round pick. (Chad Ford, ESPN)

• One thing you will not see traded today — 2014 picks. At least not from teams that have even a chance of being in the lottery. (Chad Ford, ESPN)

Rockets’ Patrick Beverley says players “disrespecting game” by resting when healthy

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Former Bulls guard turned agent and podcaster B.J. Armstrong said on our podcast last week that no, players didn’t have DNP-rest days back when he played — but he added that might well have been different if they had the information on injuries that today’s teams and players have. He said they got tired, they got banged up, and they played through it. You can call that tough, but it likely took time, maybe years, off their career.

Houston’s Patrick Beverley is from that old-school mentality and said players are disrespecting the game if they don’t get out there when healthy. Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN.

“I think that’s bulls—,” Beverley said after the Rockets’ 137-125 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday. “I think that’s a disgrace to this league. I think that fans deserve better.

“I could care less about coaches asking players to rest or not. It’s up to you to play or not, and if you don’t, you’re disrespecting the game. And I don’t believe in disrespecting the game, because there was a time where I wasn’t playing in the NBA and I was trying to get here. So me resting, I feel like, is disrespecting me, disrespecting the name on the front of the jersey and disrespecting the name on the back of the jersey.”

It’s the coaches and the organizations telling players to rest, it’s rarely the players themselves, and the teams are doing it because they want their guys at their peak come the playoffs. If the goal is winning a title in June (or at least going deep into May) then not wearing guys down matters.

Everyone has their opinions on it, Gregg Popovich did a good job trying to explain the nuances, but the simple fact is player rest games are not going away. They did it back in Armstrong’s day too, they just called a sore ankle or back rather than rest. What helps lessen games stars have off is building more rest and days off into the schedule, which the NBA is trying to do. But that’s a challenge that will continue to be discussed.

Three Things We Learned Sunday: Westbrook, Harden showdown leaves MVP race same as it ever was

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How many teams did you get right in your Final Four bracket? For the record, I have one (North Carolina). Which is why I was watching a lot more NBA on Sunday than NCAA (that and it’s my job). Here are the big takeaways from Sunday.

1) Russell Westbrook gets 36th triple-double. James Harden lifts Rockets victory. The MVP race is the same as it ever was. If you wanted to make a case for Russell Westbrook as MVP, he gave you reason on Sunday in a showdown with James Harden and the Rockets. Westbrook dropped his 36th triple-double of the season with 39 points, 11 rebounds, and 13 assists, and the Rockets could not stop him.

Harden put up numbers — 22 points on 15 shots, plus 12 assists — but his team got the win because he got help: 31 from Lou Williams, 24 from Trevor Ariza, and 24 from Eric Gordon. Williams had 18 points in the first half. As a team, the Rockets shot 63.3 percent overall and 51.3 percent from beyond the arc.

Harden has better teammates around him, but he is orchestrating them beautifully, he’s more efficient, and he’s lifting his team to higher heights. Westbrook is almost single-handedly carrying the Thunder offense by putting up historic numbers.

This game offered no clarity in the MVP race. In one of the closest, most interesting award races in years, your pick for MVP depends on how you want to define the award and its criteria. (And we’re not even getting into the legitimate case that can be made for Kawhi Leonard here. LeBron James is in the mix, too, although the recent stumbles of the Cavaliers may hurt his case.) We know where the Rockets organization stands.

Sunday’s Thunder/Rockets just an MVP showdown, it was a potential first round playoff matchup. On that front, the Rockets led by as many 25, and while the Rockets made a late push to get the lead down to single digits in the final couple minutes, but the Thunder couldn’t get stops, and the result was never really in doubt. It’s hard to see a playoff series going much differently, the Thunder just don’t defend well enough to slow Houston.

2) Celtics beat Heat, move into tie with Cavaliers for top record in the East. Boston just keeps on grinding, keeps on making enough plays, and keeps on winning. So much so that with a hard-fought win over the Heat on Sunday Boston finds itself tied with Cleveland for the top seed in the East (Boston has one more win, Cleveland has one fewer loss).

Boston may well finish on top, it has an easier schedule to close out the season. However, the big game — and what will determine who has the tiebreaker between the two — comes when the Celtics and Cavaliers play on April 5.

The Celtics got the win because they made crucial shots down the stretch, like this driving floater by Isaiah Thomas (who finished the night with 30 points).

Then Al Horford‘s block sealed the 112-108 victory.

For Miami, even with the loss they sit as the eight seed in the East, the final playoff spot, but Chicago is just half a game back, and the Pistons one game back. While the race could go any direction, the Bulls have the softest schedule the rest of the way of any of those three teams.

3) Blazers win, Nuggets lose, teams now tied for the eighth seed in the West. The race to be the team destroyed by the Golden State Warriors in the first round out West is heating up — Denver and Portland are now tied for the eight seed.

On Sunday, Denver had a sloppy loss at home as New Orleans came to town without DeMarcus Cousins, and yet Anthony Davis dropped 31 and the Pelicans won.

Portland got 22 from Damian Lillard and pulled away in the third quarter to beat the hapless Lakers, 97-81.

Denver and Portland play Tuesday night in what will be a huge game in that race.

Blazers beat Lakers 97-81, tie Denver for final spot in West

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Damian Lillard scored 22 points and the Portland Trail Blazers beat the Los Angeles Lakers 97-81 on Sunday night to pull even with Denver in the race for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

Both the Blazers and Nuggets are 35-38 with nine games left in the regular season. They play each other Tuesday in Portland.

Denver lost at home to the New Orleans Pelicans earlier Sunday night.

Portland took control by outscoring the Lakers 37-24 in the third quarter and led by as many as 26 points. Los Angeles shot 39 percent from the field and was outrebounded 61-42.

Allen Crabbe added 18 points off the bench for the Blazers, and Noah Vonleh grabbed 14 rebounds.

D'Angelo Russell led the Lakers with 22 points, and reserve Tyler Ennis scored 14.

Portland led 40-32 at the break after an unsightly half in which the teams took turns struggling from the field. At halftime, both were shooting exactly 32.6 percent.

The Lakers won their previous game against the Timberwolves but have won consecutive games only once since mid-November.

TIP-INS

Trail Blazers: Shot 62.4 percent against Minnesota on Saturday, their best mark since hitting 64.1 percent on March 12, 2003. Coming into Sunday, they had shot 50.6 percent over their last five games.

Lakers: Rookie forward Brandon Ingram, who started the previous 19 games and averaged 12.1 points on 48.4 percent shooting, did not play because of right patellar tendinitis. Said coach Luke Walton: “He was out there warming up and it’s not right.” Corey Brewer got his first start for the Lakers.

 

Watch Russell Westbrook drop a triple-double in epic battle with James Harden (VIDEO)

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HOUSTON (AP) Lou Williams scored 31 points off the bench, James Harden finished with 22 points and 12 assists, and the Houston Rockets never trailed while cruising to a 137-125 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Sunday.

Russell Westbrook had 39 points, 11 rebounds and 13 assists for his second straight triple-double and his 36th this season, but Harden led the Rockets to a 25-point lead through three quarters in the matchup between top MVP candidates.

Trevor Ariza and Eric Gordon added 24 points apiece for the Rockets, whose lead was trimmed to eight on a 3-pointer by Westbrook with about 90 seconds left. The Rockets scored four quick points after that to secure the victory.

Harden left late in the game after crashing into the court and appearing to injure his left wrist but said in a TV interview he expected to be OK.

Houston jumped out to a 9-0 lead and was up by at least 20 for most of the game. It was a stark change from the first three games between these teams this season, which were decided by a combined seven points.

Williams made 11 of 15 shots, going 7 of 8 on 3-pointers. He didn’t miss a shot until his layup was blocked by Jerami Grant early in the fourth quarter.

Houston won its fourth straight overall and has won nine of their past 12 games against the Thunder.

The Rockets shot 71 percent in the first half, and Harden made a layup before grabbing a rebound and hitting a 3-pointer at the buzzer to extend Houston’s lead to 113-88 entering the fourth quarter.

The Thunder chipped away with a 12-4 run midway through the fourth quarter to get within 126-114 with 4 minutes left. Williams hit a 3-pointer after that to slow down the Thunder the team’s late run.

The Rockets had a 16-point lead in the third quarter before they used a 13-4 run to make it 108-83 with about 90 seconds left in the quarter. Williams had two 3-pointers in that stretch and a highlight came when Houston stripped the ball from Westbrook and Harden dished to Ariza, who finished with another 3. The run wrapped up with an alley-oop dunk from Harden to Clint Capela, but Capela received a technical on the play for hanging on the rim.

Mike D’Antoni received a technical seconds later for arguing that call.

Houston had built a 79-59 lead by halftime thanks in part to nearly perfect 3-point shooting by Trevor Ariza and Williams. Ariza made four of five attempts and had 16 points at the break, and Williams was a perfect 6 for 6 overall, with four 3-pointers to pile up 18 points in the first two quarters.

TIP-INS

Thunder: Victor Oladipo finished with 15 points. … Steven Adams and Alex Abrines scored 11 points apiece.

Rockets: Houston’s 79 points were the most the team has scored in a half this season. … Sunday was the 12th time this season where the Rockets had 100 points before the fourth quarter. … Williams had at least 20 points off the bench for the 29th time this season.

ANDERSON’S HEALTH

Houston’s Ryan Anderson will miss about two weeks after spraining his right ankle on Friday night against the Pelicans. D’Antoni hopes Anderson will recover in time to play the last couple of regular-season games and be at full strength for the start of the playoffs.

UP NEXT

Thunder: Visit Dallas on Monday.

Rockets: Host Golden State on Tuesday.