E'Twaun Moore

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The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly of the Nikola Mirotic to Pelicans trade

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Nikola Mirotic was going to get moved at the trade deadline, the only questions were where, and would the Bulls get the first round pick they wanted?

Yes, they did — from a Pelicans team desperate to make the playoffs, battling a major injury and who needs both shooting and more big men. The Mirotic trade to the Big Easy was put together on Thursday and will be official soon.

As a reminder of how this trade shakes out:

Chicago receives: Omer Asik, Tony Allen, Jameer Nelson, a 2018 first-round pick (with a Nos. 1-5 protection this year, so it conveys unless the Pelicans miss the playoffs then land in the top three in the lottery) and the right to swap second-rounders with the Pelicans in 2021.

New Orleans receives: Nikola Mirotic and the Pelicans’ own 2018 second-round pick (New Orleans traded it to Chicago in the Quincy Pondexter salary dump last summer).

So how did everyone do in this deal? Let’s break it down Clint Eastwood style with The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

The Good: Nikola Mirotic. He got what he wanted most — the Pelicans agreed to pick up his $12.5 million contract option for next season. Yes, Mirotic wanted to get out of Chicago after the “Bobby Portis broke his face with a punch” incident (although the fallout from that seemed to have mellowed out), and yes he wanted the opportunity to show off his skills, but mostly he wanted the cash. It’s always about the money.

That said, he’s going to get a chance to shine in New Orleans and really help a team trying to hold on to a playoff spot. If the Pelicans sign Greg Monroe (bought out by the Suns) as expected, Mirotic will be the third big, the first off the bench, and they are going to lean on him to create looks and get shots with the second unit. Mirotic is not going to finish the season shooting 42.9 percent from three, that’s already started to slow down, but he can score the rock inside and out, and the Pelicans can use that with DeMarcus Cousins sitting in street clothes and a cast. (Alvin Gentry did a great job of staggering Anthony Davis and Cousins, now that second unit needs the boost.) Plus it means less Darius Miller at the four, which is a good thing.

What’s more, Mirotic may be the perfect guy at the four when Anthony Davis is at the five. That’s why we get to the next “good” part of this trade.

The Good: The New Orleans Pelicans (mostly). New Orleans prioritized making the playoffs this season (read: Alvin Gentry and Dell Demps like their jobs), and since Cousins went down with a torn Achilles the Pelicans have lost to the Clippers and at home to the Kings. It felt like they were about to spiral, but this move (and likely signing of Monroe) likely helps them hold on to a postseason berth.

The Pelicans are not as good as they were with Cousins — and they are locked into playing Mirotic next season — but they will be good enough (considering the Clippers probably take a step back). Also, having Mirotic on the roster next season is some insurance in case Cousins does leave via free agency (most people think he stays, but you never know).

Here may be the best part of the Mirotic trade: We can finally see some Pelicans’ lineups with Anthony Davis at the five and actual shooting around him. How about this lineup: Davis, Mirotic, E'Twaun Moore, Jrue Holiday, and Darius Miller. That lineup has potential. (I just hope Gentry doesn’t screw it up and put Rondo in rather than Miller.)

The only downsides here for the Pelicans are giving up that first-round pick, and adding $1.2 million more in salary to the books next season (that’s how much more Mirotic will make compared to Asik). The Pelicans will be flirting with the luxury tax next season, the advantage is Mirotic will be a contributor to the team on the court, unlike Asik.

The Good: The Bulls “effort” to get a high draft pick. The Bulls will not use the word “tank,” but they should be closer to the bottom of the standings than they are. Chicago started poorly this season but has played well of late (gone 15-13 in their last 28) and if the draft lottery were today it would be seeded sixth (a 6.3 percent chance at the top spot and a 21.4 percent chance of landing in the top three). With this move the Bulls should lose a little more, and stand a better chance of sliding behind the Suns out West and maybe other teams to improve their lottery (and ultimately draft) position.

The Bad: The rest of this deal for Chicago. The Bulls did land the Pelicans first-round draft pick (likely in the high teens somewhere), and that has some value (as long as they learned their Jordan Bell lesson and don’t sell it). But to do that they gave up a strong trade asset in Mirotic, took on salary almost up to what Mirotic would have made had they had just picked up his option, and did they need to give the Pelicans their second-round pick back?

I don’t hate this deal, it’s not selling the Jordan Bell pick bad (or giving up the No. 16 pick in the Jimmy Butler deal), but it’s not great.

The Bad: Anyone who thought the Pelicans would try to trade Anthony Davis this summer. Most non-crazy Celtics fans realized that if New Orleans comes to the realization it has to move Davis or lose him, they won’t do it until the summer of 2019. Go ahead and try to rationalize the “they will get more for him now” arguments if you want, but the reality in New Orleans is far more straightforward: They are not going to see a player like Davis come through for a long time so they need to do everything they can to keep him. Davis isn’t just a No. 1 pick, he’s a top-five NBA player who brings it on both ends, a first-team All-NBA level player, and he is just entering his prime. You don’t trade a guy like that unless you have to.

The Pelicans are going to try to make this all work. Maybe it doesn’t and Danny Ainge can swoop in from the vulture’s perch he’s sitting on and pick the carcass clean, but that’s not happening for more than a year.

The Ugly: The playoff dreams of the Utah Jazz. It was going to be a longshot for the Jazz to make the postseason anyway, they probably need to go at least 21-9 or better the rest of the way to make the cut. However, with the Cousins injury and the Blake Griffin trade from the Clippers, it may have felt in Salt Lake City like the door to the postseason was opening a crack.

This trade to get Mirotic to New Orleans pretty much slams that door shut. It will stop the bleeding in the Big Easy. Sorry Jazz fans, hopefully next year the core can just stay healthy.

Pelicans’ Tony Allen out 3-4 weeks with fibula fracture

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The injuries just keep hitting the Pelicans. Guys like Solomon Hill and Alexis Ajinca are out for extended periods of time. Anthony Davis has missed four of the team’s last six games and is questionable for Wednesday night due to a left adductor injury.

Now comes the news that reserve guard Tony Allen will be out three to four weeks due to a nondisplaced left proximal fibula fracture, the team announced Tuesday. This is the part of the bone near the ankle.

Allen has played a limited role for New Orleans off the bench this season, averaging 12.4 minutes a game, and averaging 4.7 points. His reputation is that of a defensive stopper, and when he is on the court this season the Pelicans’ defense has been 5.6 points per 100 possessions better. However, father time has started to catch up with him and he is not the defender he once was.

Expect the minutes to bump up for Jrue Holiday and E'Twaun Moore with this injury, which is not a bad thing as they have played well (they were knocking down threes against the Rockets Monday like they were named Curry), plus Ian Clark could get a little more run.

Stephen Curry out with sprained ankle, to be re-evaluated in “a couple of weeks”

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When it happened, everyone knew it was bad. The video of Stephen Curry spraining his ankle is the kind of thing that makes everyone watching wince.

Curry went for a steal and stepped on the foot of E'Twaun Moore late in the Warriors win over the Pelicans, and it looks like it’s going to cost him a couple of weeks. The good news is there is no structural damage, according to a report from the Warriors.

The Warriors have two games left on a road trip (Charlotte, then Detroit), before returning home for a lot of games in the Bay Area (and no games outside California until 2018).

Curry is having a fantastic season, averaging 26.3 points and 6.6 assists per game, shooting 38.7 percent from three (which is low for him, expect that number to tick up). The Warriors have been 14.3 points per 100 possessions better when Curry is on the court this season.

Few teams could still thrive losing a player of that caliber, but the Warriors are built not to miss a beat even without a two-time league MVP — it just means more Kevin Durant. Expect the offense to run through KD more, Shaun Livingston will start and Patrick McCaw will get more run as the backup point. The Warriors have coasted through a lot of games recently not really focused, only flipping the switch for a short stretch — that’s why they went to overtime against the Lakers (when Curry turned it on and dropped 13) or how they got down 20 at the half to the Pelicans. Those Warriors will now lose games. However, if Golden State is a little more focused, they will not miss a beat.

Three Things to Know: Stephen Curry sprains ankle in Warriors comeback win

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Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA. Here is what you missed while cooking your own meal at Waffle House.

1) Stephen Curry sprains his ankle and it looks nasty. He’s going to miss a little time. Often when there are less than two minutes left in a Warriors game Stephen Curry is resting comfortably on the bench, a towel draped over his head, watching guys who just pulled off their sweats five minutes ago close out another blowout Warriors win. But with the Warriors down 20 at the half to the Pelicans, Golden State mounted a comeback (more on that below) the Warriors stars were in the game late and bad things happened.

Curry lunged for a steal, stepped on the foot of E'Twaun Moore, rolled his ankle and it was not pretty.

After the game X-rays were negative but his ankle was very swollen and Curry was diagnosed with a sprain. An MRI comes on Tuesday, at which point there will be some kind of timeline for his return. However, you can be sure Curry is out Wednesday in his hometown of Charlotte, and very possibly for the two games left on the Warriors road trip after that.

Golden State has the talent to survive without an injured Curry and still win most, if not all, of its games. However, the team will need to be a lot more focused than the way it has coasted through most of the last few weeks, and frankly most of the season.

2) For the second time this season, the Warriors were down 20+ points at halftime and came back to win. But this time it had a price. It’s one bit of NBA history that Steve Kerr would rather not have his team associated with: For the second time this season, the Golden State Warriors were down at least 20 points at the half and came back to win — the first team in the NBA to do that twice in one season.

It speaks to how the Warriors have played all season long — they make playground passes that don’t connect, they take bad shots (even for them and their shooters), they coast on defense and hope that their talent gets them through. In games where it doesn’t, they flip the switch for a stretch — five minutes, a quarter, a half at tops — and overwhelm teams.

In the first half Monday night, against a pretty good and (as of now) playoff-bound Pelicans team, the Warriors had a first half offensive rating of 87.3 (points scored per 100 possessions) and a defensive rating of 130.6 — that’s -43.3 net rating in a half. Second half it was a ridiculous true shooting percentage of 74.9, a 136.4 offensive rating, an 84 defensive rating for a net rating of 52.4. The Warriors cared, got 31 points from Curry, 22 from Klay Thompson, 19 each from Kevin Durant and Draymond Green and that was enough to get the win. (Jrue Holiday had 34 for the Pelicans, who were without Anthony Davis.)

But the Warriors paid the price this time. Curry will miss time with a sprained ankle. And Kevin Durant will pay a $25,000 price after he and DeMarcus Cousins were ejected late in the contest.

Don’t expect the Warriors to turn it on and care, outside of some specific games, until the playoffs. The question is can Steve Kerr get them to build good habits through the course of this season anyway?

3) Giannis Antetokounmpo is amazing, drops 40 on Boston, but that’s not enough to beat Celtics. Two things we thought coming into this game felt confirmed by the night.

First, Giannis Antetokounmpo is an elite NBA player, a top 10 guy (maybe top five). Going against the best defense in the NBA this season, he dropped 40.

Boston, however, is the better team. Kyrie Irving put up 32 points, Al Horford had 20 (and shows some real chemistry with Marcus Smart), and rookie Jayson Tatum had 17. Boston defended well, played as a team, and was in control of this game pretty much the whole way, exploiting the shaky defense in Milwaukee that could lead to Jason Kidd’s seat getting warm. Boston is talented and relentless with their execution, and that was too much for the Bucks.

Stephen Curry sprains ankle and it looks nasty, he limps straight to locker room

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The final couple minutes of the Warriors win over the Pelicans had some drama. First, both DeMarcus Cousins and Kevin Durant got ejected and had to be separated.

Then Stephen Curry rolled his ankle.

And it looked bad. He stepped on the foot of E'Twaun Moore while going for a steal and it was ugly.

After the game, Curry was on crutches and headed to get X-rays taken.

The good news is the X-rays were negative, but looking at all the reports he’s going to miss some time. How much we will find out in the coming days (the Warriors are in the midst of a six-game road trip where they have won the first three).

This is what Curry said after the game, via NBC Sports Bay Area.

“That it was a dumb play because I tried to go for a steal. And it was bang-bang. Got caught on E’Twaun’s shoe as I went by him and couldn’t catch myself. Obviously, it hurt. Just wanted to get back here and get ice on it and get the rehab process start as soon as possible.”

Curry has a long history of ankle issues dating back to his early playing days in the league, although he has largely shaken it in recent years. Still, it is a concern, and the Warriors will be cautious, especially considering how easy to re-injured (and make worse) a sprained ankle is if not fully healed.