Josh Richardson

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Heat acquire Luke Babbitt from Atlanta for Okaro White

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Luke Babbitt, who was in Miami before, is back to try to knock down some threes, stop the skid the Heat have been on, and keep them in the postseason.

The Atlanta Hawks have traded Babbitt to Miami, and in exchange get injured forward Okaro White. The deal has been finalized and announced by the teams.

Atlanta wasted no time and has already waived White, who showed promise last season, but six games into this season fractured his left foot, has been out since and there is no timetable for his return.

For the Heat, they get a little shooting at the forward spot, Babbitt is hitting 44.1 percent from three this season (in a limited role for the Hawks). Babbitt started 55 games for the Heat last season, knows the system, and can help fill a role and give the team some minutes, getting playing time around Justise Winslow, James Johnson, and Josh Richardson. He adds some additional depth to the roster at a minimum-contract price.

Report: Clippers, Lou Williams reach deal on three-year extension

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Lou Williams is not going anywhere at the trade deadline.

(Which is good news for Memphis, the value of Tyreke Evans just went up).

Reports that the Clippers and Williams were close to an extension have turned out to be spot on, the sides have reached a deal, something broken by Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN added details.

While we don’t know the final numbers, this likely be for three years, roughly $30 million, with that team option for the final season (similar to what Josh Richardson got in Miami).

That’s a fair deal for both sides. Williams has played at an All-Star level this season for the Clippers, averaging 23.3 points and 5.3 assists per game, picking up the slack when Blake Griffin was out injured (and again now, after he’s been traded). He’s running away with the Sixth Man of the Year award (although if Evans and Eric Gordon start fewer games the final 10 weeks of the season they could move into the conversation). As well as he’s played, at age 31 Williams likely wouldn’t have gotten more than the non-taxpayer mid-level exception as a free agent, and that would have been for a couple million less per season. This way he gets paid.

There was interest in Williams on the trade market, but no team was willing to give up the first-round pick the Clippers wanted in a trade, so Los Angeles turned its attention to the extension instead.

For the Clippers, they stay competitive for a playoff spot this season (especially if they don’t move DeAndre Jordan at the trade deadline, and it seems less and less likely they will, but they might find a deal for Avery Bradley). Then, even if they lose Jordan in free agency next summer, Williams will be on a tradable contract that other teams would want.

Report: Clippers and Lou Williams nearing contract extension

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After scoring 50 points in a game earlier this season, Lou Williams – on an expiring contract and the trade block – gave a public impassioned plea to stay with the Clippers past the trade deadline.

Looks like he might get his wish.

Adrian Wojnarowski and Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

Extension discussions between guard Lou Williams and the LA Clippers have gathered significant momentum, and a new contract is within reach before the NBA trade deadline Thursday afternoon, league sources told ESPN.

Rival teams were increasingly resigned late Tuesday night that Williams, 31, was exiting the trade market and returning to the Clippers on a multiyear contract, league sources said.

The largest extension Williams could sign is four years, $41,965,056 (the same amount the Heat’s Josh Richardson and Raptors’ Norman Powell got). That salary seems about fair.

Williams is playing like a borderline All-Star, but he’s also 31, and few teams will have significant cap space next summer. The non-taxpayer mid-level exception projects to be worth about $36.8 million over four years. Would Williams really get more than that? This is his chance to get security now. The Clippers might not even have to offer the largest-allowable extension to get him to sign.

Where would a Williams extension leave DeAndre Jordan, another player the Clippers have discussed both extending or trading? There didn’t seem to be much momentum on either front, but a Williams extension could push L.A. toward extending Jordan. If the Clippers are already sacrificing flexibility for Williams, it becomes more logical to keep Jordan rather than make a half-hearted push toward cap space.

The Clippers (27-25, ninth in the West) are an enjoyable group. They play hard and, considering all their injuries, are overachieving. Doc Rivers deserves considerable credit, as does a Williams-led roster.

But is this who they want to be?

Especially after trading Blake Griffin, extending Williams (and maybe Jordan) would signify a commitment to an unspectacularly competitive present. I wasn’t certain owner Steve Ballmer would accept aiming lower than championship contention, but there are far worse places to be.

Extending Williams would almost certainly take him off the trade market. The extension in a sign-and-trade would be limited to two years, $15,067,500 – probably too small for Williams to accept. Not only is that salary low, it’d leave the door open for L.A. to trade him. He wants to stay.

The Clippers keeping Williams should help the Grizzlies, who are shopping Tyreke Evans. It seems the supply of scoring perimeter players on the trade market will soon shrink by one.

Spencer Dinwiddie, after facing threat of being forgotten by NBA, flourishing with Nets

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DETROIT – Spencer Dinwiddie looked like he might be finished in the NBA.

Major ACL injury at Colorado? He declared for the 2014 draft while still recovering.

Slipping to the second round? He drew confidence in being the Pistons’ first pick that year and the initial selection of the Stan Van Gundy era in Detroit.

Barely playing with the Pistons in two seasons? He engineered a trade to the Bulls, who needed a backup point guard and had roster room then played well for Chicago’s summer-league team.

But the Bulls traded for Michael Carter-Williams just before the season and waived Dinwiddie, who signed in the D-League. For the first time in years, the player who believed since he was 4 years old he’d make the NBA was neither in the league nor on track to reach it.

Then, the Nets called.

They weren’t offering much – $100,000 guaranteed in exchange for Dinwiddie signing a three-year minimum contract in December 2017. If he lasted a month, the rest of his salary that season ($726,672) would become guaranteed. But the remaining two seasons would remain up to Brooklyn. If Dinwiddie flopped, he’d get waived with a small payout. If he exceeded expectations, he’d be stuck on a cheap contract for years.

“A lot of people don’t make it out of the D-League,” Dinwiddie said. “Or, if I don’t sign it, then what if nobody picks me up? Am I still down there? Am I overseas right now?

“It’s very easy to be forgotten about in this league. There’s a lot of good players all over the world that, whatever reason, didn’t hit off right off the bat, and their careers paid the price for it.

“I was told that there was no other opportunity. There was no other option. So, obviously I wanted to be in the NBA. So, I signed.”

Much to Brooklyn’s benefit. And maybe Dinwiddie’s.

Dinwiddie played relatively well in a narrow role last season, doing enough to show he belonged in the NBA. This year, he’s making his case as an NBA starter.

After injuries to Jeremy Lin and D'Angelo Russell, Dinwiddie became the Nets’ starting point guard. Tasked with greater responsibility, Dinwiddie is playing his best basketball. He averages 13.4 points and 6.4 assists per game, but those marks don’t quite show how he has steadied an erratic team.

Dinwiddie ranks No. 18 overall in real plus-minus – behind only potential All-Stars, Robert Covington, and Tyus Jones and ahead of Karl-Anthony Towns, Kevin Durant, Kemba Walker, Damian Lillard, Kyrie Irving, Andre Drummond, Paul George and Kristaps Porzingis. That isn’t to say Dinwiddie is as good as those stars. But that his production holds its own in such elite company is also revelatory.

Especially considering Dinwiddie’s contract.

He ranks third in real plus-minus among players on minimum salaries, behind only Nikola Jokic and Tyus Jones:

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This makes Dinwiddie an intriguing trade candidate in advance of next month’s deadline.

How helpful would it be to have a credible starting-caliber point guard making just the minimum this year and next? That’d free so much money – below the salary cap and/or luxury-tax line – to spend on other positions.

The Nets aren’t positioned to take advantage. They’re still below the cap and, still recovering from years of lost draft picks, not ready to build a competitive roster. They also might want to tank next season, as they’ll finally keep their own first-rounder in 2019. Plus, Russell is acclimating back into the rotation, and Lin should return next season.

If Dinwiddie no longer fits in Brooklyn, in a sudden reversal, numerous teams should covet him. He’s not sweating whether he gets moved, but whatever happens, it won’t change how he views the Nets.

“I’m forever indebted to Brooklyn for giving me this opportunity,” Dinwiddie said.

Of course, the Nets could keep him. They’re trying to build a culture, and continuity matters for that. They’d also be positioned to extend his contract next December, two years from when he initially signed (as would a team that trades for him).

Dinwiddie’s max extension would follow the same format as Josh Richardson‘s with the Heat and Norman Powell‘s with the Raptors – which were each worth $42 million over four years – though a rising salary cap will lift Dinwiddie’s max slightly. Perhaps, Dinwiddie could get more in unrestricted free agency in 2019. But for someone set to earn around the minimum his first four seasons, an extension would provide nice security.

Dinwiddie isn’t holding his breath for a payday in December, though.

“You know how long a year is?” Dinwiddie said. “A year in the NBA is an eternity. Anything can happen.”

Just look at Dinwiddie’s last year.

“When we first got him, he was really not a confident player,” Nets coach Kenny Atkinson said. “Very timid to make plays.”

Now, he’s hitting gamewinners, including one at Detroit on Sunday:

Did that one mean more to him?

“I’ve kind of tip-toed around it. Let’s just be real here,” Dinwiddie said. “I start my career off here. For lack of a better word, I was essentially cut. So how would y’all feel?”

This wasn’t the caretaking point guard the Pistons and Bulls gave up on. Dinwiddie was holding court in the visiting locker room, assured he belonged.

The 6-foot-6 point guard plays with an even keel, steadily using his size advantage offensively and defensively. He’s not flashy, and this doesn’t appear fluky. A sudden jump in 3-point shooting is the easiest way a prolonged hot stretch can be mistaken for a meaningful breakthrough, but Dinwiddie is shooting just 34% from beyond the arc – below his mark last year (38%) and below league average. A high 3-point attempt rate makes his outside shooting helpful, and that’s something he can more easily control than whether the ball goes in.

A more aggressive shot hunter, Dinwiddie can develop as a passer next. Among 284 players who qualify for the assist-per-game lead, Dinwiddie ranks third in assist-to-turnover ratio, behind only Tomas Satoransky and Shelvin Mack. The leaderboard, with assists and turnovers per game noted:

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While that’s helpful in some ways, especially on the young and up-tempo Nets, Dinwiddie doesn’t often enough create quality looks through his passing. He takes what the defense gives him and nothing more.

“He’s not a high-risk guy,” Atkinson said. “It’s just not his personality.”

It’s the same mindset that contributed to Dinwiddie accepting Brooklyn’s team-friendly offer last season.

The Nets couldn’t be happier with the results. Dinwiddie is aware he lost a potential opportunity to prove himself then hit free agency sooner, but he chalks up any thoughts of regret to looking through the lens of 20-20 hindsight.

And no matter what happens through the rest of his minimum contract, he’ll always have Sunday, when he got revenge against the Pistons.

“No hard feelings,” Dinwiddie said before breaking into a slight grin, “especially after a win.”

Three Things to Know: Kawhi Leonard tweaks shoulder, Spurs fall to Blazers

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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.

1) Kawhi Leonard injured again. Apparently not seriously, but still. C.J. McCollum beats Spurs without him.
Much like Odysseus just trying to get home, the basketball gods apparently are not done messing with Kawhi Leonard and the Spurs. Leonard missed the first 27 games of the season due to a quad injury, but the last few games he was starting to round back into “top 5 NBA player” form.

Last Friday in Phoenix Leonard tweaked his shoulder again. He was out Sunday in Portland, but after the game coach Gregg Popovich played down the severity of this injury. Let’s hope so. Leonard’s status against the Lakers for Thursday is up in the air. Still, the team is 23-10 without Leonard this season (remember he missed games for rest after his return), they will be just fine.

No Leonard. No Damian Lillard when the Spurs and Trail Blazers met in Portland Sunday, so how about a C.J. McCollum game winner:

LaMarcus Aldridge had 30 points and 14 rebounds on the night, but he missed the game winner and the Portland fans loved that.

2) Josh Richardson completes a late comeback against Jazz with a game-winning layup for Heat.
Utah’s Donovan Mitchell is making a serious Rookie of the Year case of late. The young Jazz guard dropped 27 on the Heat Sunday, including a driving layup that had the Jazz up three with :47 seconds left.

He’s also a rookie, and that means sometimes he makes defensive mistakes. He fouled Kelly Olynyk in the act of shooting late, making it a one-point game. Then on the deciding play veteran Josh Richardson shook him with a change of direction in the paint, then Mitchell got hung-up on an Olynyk screen, allowing Richardson to get the ball and essentially go one-on-one with Derrick Favors. Richardson uses a nice little change-of-pace move to create space and gets the shot.

Miami has won four in a row now, all by single digits.

3) Do I have to? Ugh. Okay. Let’s talk Luke Walton and Lonzo Ball.
I mostly try to avoid writing about anything LaVar Ball, because I have little use for the Kardashians of the NBA. However, sometimes what he says — no matter how outlandish — becomes something that needs to be addressed because it becomes a thing. His recent criticism of Luke Walton falls into that category — he tapped into a vein of some Lakers fans, ones not used to the ups and downs of rebuilding, watching young teams lose and lose their way a little, who think Walton needs to be more demonstrative and old-school. I’ll give you my thoughts on all this — and what I know from sources and reports — in bullet points.

• Luke Walton’s job is safe.

• I mean completely safe. As in he is not going anywhere, not now and not this summer. Honestly, plenty of people around the league see his uptempo offense, saw this team defend earlier in the season, and think he’s doing a good job.

• LaVar Ball is only as big a distraction as the players in the locker room let him be. Being around the team some this season, my impression is people outside the locker room care far more about what Lavar thinks than people inside the locker room.

• So you’re saying players on a bad team that had lost nine straight (before Sunday) may be frustrated with the coach? Shocking.

• I can guarantee the coach is frustrated with the players’ too.

• Walton should be frustrated with his players. The idea that on an NBA team it’s the coaches job to be some sort of rah-rah motivator is wrong — the players are pros, they are getting massive paychecks, they have to motivate themselves nightly. That is part of their job. The players have to bring it nightly, be professionals, and put in the effort before and during games. The Lakers started to come apart when the trade rumors around the squad flared up — welcome to the NBA life. That can’t get in your head (or KCP’s legal issues for that matter). If the players don’t put in the effort it’s on them far more than the coach. It speaks to a lack of leadership among the players in the locker room who are not holding each other accountable. The coach can vent a little, management should take some blame, but at the end of the day this is mostly on the players.

• Also, well played by Walton to joke he sat Lonzo Ball earlier than usual in the first and third quarters Sunday because his dad “talked s—-.”

• If you are LeBron James, Paul George, or any other big Laker free agent target over the next two years, and you’re looking at LaVar Ball and the impact his noise creates, do you want to still want to sign on?