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Pacers trade Danny Granger to Sixers for Evan Turner

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It was a lackluster NBA trade deadline by any reasonable standard, and once 3 p.m. Eastern had come and gone, there was nothing of note that went down that would improve any of the contending teams significantly.

It wasn’t until more than 30 minutes after the deadline had passed that we found out about the biggest deal of the day.

The Pacers have traded Danny Granger to the Sixers in exchange for Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen, a deal first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. Zach Lowe of Grantland added that the Sixers also received a future second round pick in the deal.

We knew about Philadelphia’s willingness to part with Turner, just as they had done with Spencer Hawes earlier on deadline day. It wasn’t even believed that it would take all that much to acquire him either, based on his status as a restricted free agent next summer at the relatively high price of a qualifying offer just short of $9 million.

What came as a surprise was Indiana’s decision to trade its former franchise player.

Granger was back as part of Indiana’s regular rotation after missing close to a season and a half due to various injuries. He was essentially a shell of the former All-Star level talent he had proven to be in 2009, when he was a dominant primary scorer who effortlessly averaged 25.8 points per game.

This season, Granger has been reduced to a bench role, and has posted averages of 8.3 points and 3.6 rebounds, while shooting just 35.9 percent from the field in 22.5 minutes per contest. He is in the final year of a huge contract, and Indiana wasn’t expected to sign him as an unrestricted free agent this summer.

Turner, however, is a completely different story. He’s a talent on the wing that will immediately add to the Pacers’ depth, and with Indiana going all in on its pursuit of a championship this season, his averages of 17.4 points, six rebounds and 3.7 assists will be an instant boost to those title chances.

If Turner wasn’t to work out in Indiana for some reason, there’s really no risk here. Granger was gone at the end of the season anyway, and if the Pacers don’t want to overpay for Turner’s skill set by matching any offer he receives on the open market, they can simply let him walk in free agency, essentially having given up nothing for the chance to upgrade the roster in advance of the playoffs.

Turner started all 54 games that he appeared in for the Sixers this season, and averaged 34.9 minutes per contest. He’ll likely see a reduced role in Indiana, especially as they’re getting him acclimated to their system. But the Pacers’ hope is that he’ll be able to play at that same level in shorter bursts, making things even tougher on opponents when trying to match up with an Indiana team that currently sits at the top of the Eastern Conference standings.

Damian Lillard added to Team USA Olympic roster pool

Damian Lillard
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If you’re looking for a point guard who can flat-out score the rock, you’ll be hard-pressed to find many better than Damian Lillard. The Trail Blazers’ guard is averaging 24.2 points and 7.3 assists per game, with an above-average true shooting percentage of 54.6 percent, and a very high usage rate of 30.9.

He’s the kind of guy who might have a place on the Team USA Roster.

Which is why USA Basketball has added him to the pool to be considered for the Rio Olympics summer. The reason for the change is both Lillard’s level of play this season, and the fact he called USA Basketball Chairman Jerry Colangelo to ask for a spot, as reported by Marc Spears of Yahoo Sports.

Lillard deserves consideration, but there are two key reasons he likely doesn’t make the team:

1) He is still a terrible defender.

2) The list of guards for the USA Roster is ridiculous: Stephen Curry, Chris Paul, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, James Harden, Klay Thompson, John Wall, and Russell Westbrook. And now Lillard. That’s 10 guys for likely five spots. It’s hard to see Lillard making that cut.

But he deserves consideration.

Kings co-owner Shaq: Vivek Ranadivé told me George Karl would coach rest of season

Shaquille O'Neal
AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli
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Kings general manager Vlade Divac said keeping George Karl as coach was right move “for now.”

How long is “for now”?

Shaquille O’Neal, a Kings minority owner, shares insight.

Sam Amick of USA Today:

This would mean a little more if Vivek Ranadivé weren’t prone to wild swings. Remember, the Kings said Tyrone Corbin would finish last season as coach before firing him for Karl.

Divac also said in November that Karl would coach the rest of the season, and that came up for debate fewer than three months later.

Shaq’s revelation is as likely to embarrass the Kings in a few weeks as it is to signal Karl’s job security.

Chauncey Billups explains why not every player wants to go home

Dallas Mavericks v Denver Nuggets
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LeBron James did it and shook up the NBA — he returned home to Cleveland. That has led to fantasies other players want to do the same thing: Kevin Durant back to Washington D.C.; DeMar DeRozan or Russell Westbrook back to Los Angeles; Blake Griffin back to Oklahoma. And the list goes on.

Not every player wants to do it.

Chauncey Billups did. Billups is a Denver guy who returned to play for the Nuggets — he gets his number retired Wednesday night in Detroit, a much-deserved honor — but in a letter to his young self at the Players’ Tribune Wednesday he explained that going home is fraught with peril.

“But in reality, playing at home as a 23-year-old professional is going to be less blessing and more curse. (There’s perception, again, for you.) It’s as simple as this: you’re just not going to be ready for Denver to be Your City. You’re going to think you’re ready — and they are too — but, trust me, you won’t be. You’re still going to be so young. You’re still going to be hanging out with your boys, doing your old thing. There are going to be those … hometown distractions. And those distractions will add up.”

“And you have to understand, Chaunce: It’s not just that you made it. It’s that your whole neighborhoodis going to feel like they made it. All of Park Hill is going to feel like they made it. And don’t get me wrong — that’s special. But at the wrong age, it can also be tough. It can be a lot to handle. And you’re going to be at that wrong age. You’re not going to be mature enough yet, or developed enough yet, to take on that mix of environments, those responsibilities, that role.

“You’re not going to be ready to lead.”

There are plenty of guys around the NBA who understand those distractions and how those can get in the way of off-season workouts, of time spent shoring up a weakness or developing a new shot, and how during the season they can be another thing that wears the body down.

Some guys can handle it. Some can’t.

Go read the entire letter from Billups. He talks about getting traded from the Celtics his rookie season, about playing for Mike D’Antoni, about how very rarely do veterans want to mentor younger players because they are fighting for the same piece of the pie.  Billups is honest.

And it’s great that Detroit is rewarding him as they should.

Did Marcus Thornton steal free throws from Rockets teammate Clint Capela?

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Leandro Barbosa – guarding Marcus Thornton and fighting through a Clint Capela screen – was called for a foul in the first quarter of last night’s Warriors-Rockets game.

Thornton went to the line.

Should he have? Or should Capela have?

Perhaps, Thornton and Barbosa tangled, but it certainly appeared the contact primarily occurred between Barbosa and Capela. It looks like Barbosa tries to ram through Capela.

It also appears Capela thought he drew the foul. Watch him step toward the line before seeing Thornton there and taking his spot along the paint.

So, why would Thornton step in? He’s making 89% of his free throws to Capela’s 40%.

I’m honestly surprised players don’t try this maneuver more often. Refs have so much to keep track of. The worst consequence would be the refs shooing away Thornton and bringing Capela to the line.

Thornton made both free throws, but it didn’t matter. Houston was playing Golden State, which rolled to a victory.