Portland Trail Blazers center Mason Plumlee reacts after scoring against the Charlotte Hornets during the first half of an NBA basketball game in Portland, Ore., Tuesday, Jan. 31, 2017. (AP Photo/Craig Mitchelldyer)
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Trail Blazers trade Mason Plumlee to Nuggets for Jusuf Nurkic and first rounder

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The Portland Trail Blazers finally made a trade. Pending approval from the league office on Monday, GM Neil Olshey has sent starting center Mason Plumlee and a 2018 second round pick to the Denver Nuggets in exchange for Jusuf Nurkic and a 2017 first round pick, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski.

The trade gives the Blazers three first round picks in the upcoming 2017 NBA Draft.

Via Twitter:

Portland had to make a move at some point thanks to deals given out this summer to Evan Turner and Allen Crabbe. Plumlee, while critical to the Blazers’ offensive attack thanks to his passing, is a liability on defense. At $2.2 million this season coming off his rookie contract, he’s also due a huge pay increase that the Blazers couldn’t afford to pay even if they wanted to.

For Denver, it’s an interesting move considering they already have a young, passing big man in Nikola Jokic. While there is a potential for either Jokic or Plumlee to play the power forward position — both have in the past — it’s not immediately clear what the long-term plan is in Denver with these two big men.

Then again, having watched Plumlee extensively in Portland, his best role at this point is as a backup center that could help destroy opposing second unit defenses. If that is the long-term plan in Denver, it could be an excellent move for a team that still has moves to make. Emmanuel Mudiay is rumored to be extremely available.

Portland, meanwhile, starts the long process of thinning out the herd. Olshey’s roster was built to be traded, and I’m frankly a little surprised that he was able to bounce Plumlee first. With a low cap figure on Plumlee and the Blazers underwater with Turner and Crabbe, my compatriots and I in the Portland media sphere thought it would be unlikely they could move him without moving either of the wings first. To get back Nurkic and another first rounder is Olshey pulling a rabbit out of a hat.

We’re almost certainly going to see another trade from Portland, whether it’s at the deadline or come draft time. They aren’t going to sit on those three first round draft picks, so it should be fun to see what they do with them.

ESPN has written that the Blazers are looking to move injured center Festus Ezeli to a team that may need to get to the salary floor. That would include the Nuggets, Philadelphia 76ers, and Brooklyn Nets.

Trade season is upon us, and two of the teams who needed to make moves have done so with a little more than 10 days to go.

Wizards rookie changes name from Sheldon McClellan to Sheldon Mac

WASHINGTON, DC - DECEMBER 30: Sheldon McClellan #9 of the Washington Wizards dribbles in front of Sean Kilpatrick #6 of the Brooklyn Nets during the first half at Verizon Center on December 30, 2016 in Washington, DC. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
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The Wizards trading for Bojan Bogdanovic pushes Sheldon McClellan even deeper on the bench.

Actually, “McClellan” is now off the team entirely.

Chase Hughes of CSN Mid-Atlantic:

Yes, the player formally known as Sheldon McClellan is now officialy Sheldon Mac. The 24-year-old returned to Houston, Texas over the past week and, with the blessing of his mother, changed his name.

Mac expects to have his jersey changed at some point and he will now be referred to in print as ‘Sheldon Mac.’ He said the reason was because ‘McClellan’ was a name he got from his father, whom he has no relationship with.

“I just added a little swag to it.”

If this makes him happier, I’m all for it.

76ers’ No. 1 pick Ben Simmons out for season

TARRYTOWN, NEW YORK - AUGUST 07:  Ben Simmons of the Philadelphia 76ers poses for a portrait during the 2016 NBA Rookie Photoshoot at Madison Square Garden Training Center on August 7, 2016 in Tarrytown, New York. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2016 NBAE  (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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76ers CEO Scott O’Neil guaranteed No. 1 pick Ben Simmons would play this season. Just about a week ago, Philadelphia coach Brett Brown said he expected Simmons to play this season.

But with rumor after rumor — the latest report saying his injured right foot hadn’t fully healed, even though he had participated in drills — indicating Simmons could miss the entire year, the 76ers accepted this undesirable fate.

Corey Seidman of CSN Philly:

Ben Simmons is officially out for the season, Sixers president of basketball operations Bryan Colangelo said Friday.

Simmons had a CT scan on his injured right foot Thursday in New York which showed that the foot is not yet fully healed.

He’ll have another scan in about a month, Colangelo said.

“I have always known that there was a desire to get him back on the court when healthy,” Colangelo said. “We’ve always anticipated there would be an opportunity for him to play, hopefully this season.

“But there was always the outside chance that it didn’t happen because there wasn’t complete and full healing. And we weren’t going to put Ben Simmons in a place where he was (susceptible) to a re-fracture.

“There are genetic things that change the healing patterns of people. So if everybody had done their research and saw that most Jones fractures took 3 to 4 months, great. But it’s not 3 to 4 months in every case, it’s 3 to 4 months in most cases.”

“He’s heartbroken. He wants to play. He wants to be out there. It’s eating him alive, I’m sure.”

Simmons follows Nerlens Noel and Joel Embiid as high first-round picks to miss their entire first professional season with the 76ers. If it weren’t for Embiid’s emergence this season, this would be an even more bitter pill to swallow for Philadelphia fans fixated on immediate on-court gains.

But Embiid has provided more than enough reason for optimism, though he’s also hurt now (just not nearly as severely).

Long-term, the 76ers must figure out how Embiid and Simmons mesh and try to develop them together. We know Embiid works well with a stretch four, but what about a dynamic passing power forward like Simmons — or a tall point guard, if that’s what Simmons become? This injury delays answering those questions.

It also raises questions about Simmons — his ability to avoid and recover from injuries. Colangelo’s comments about Simmons’ genetics are particularly eyebrow-raising.

Likewise, there should be questions about the 76ers’ handling of their players’ health. How could Simmons return to on-court work before fully healed?

Philadelphia, at various points, has tried to accelerate its rise. But properly rebuilding takes time and care. At times like this, the 76ers must remember to trust The Process.

Paul Pierce shoots back at Warriors: ‘3-1 lead oops’

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Draymond Green was harsh in trash-talking Paul Pierce last night.

Pierce and the Clippers couldn’t shut up Green on the court, as the Warriors won. But on Twitter?

Pierce responded there:

Pierce has repeatedly taken shots at the Warriors, particularly Kevin Durant. I’m not going to complain about trash-talking, but I can also see why Green would tire of this — and even try crushing Pierce last night.

But there’s apparently no way to silence Pierce.

Ty Lawson cleverly runs down clock in Kings’ win over Nuggets (video)

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The Kings traded DeMarcus Cousins for two key reasons:

  • They wanted to change their culture, and they thought jettisoning the combustible Cousins would do that.
  • They wanted to avoid conveying a top-10-protected first-round pick to the Bulls this year, which required getting a little worse in the short term.

But what if they did the former so well, it disrupts the latter?

Sacramento played with enthusiasm and savvy in a 116-100 win over the Nuggets last night. The most clever play came from Ty Lawson.

With the Kings trying to preserve a 109-94 lead with 2:38 left, Lawson took an inbound pass following a Denver basket and let the ball roll/lie on the court for 22 seconds before picking it up.

The game clock didn’t stop because the game wasn’t in the final two minutes. Neither the shot clock nor the eight-second count started because no team possessed the ball.

Denver had an extremely slim chance at erasing a 15-point with 2:38 left, but Lawson reduced those odds considerably. Eventually, Jameer Nelson — who failed for far too long to press Lawson out of this tactic — committed a frustration foul after his own basket.