Kurt Helin

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 09:  Willy Hernangomez #14 of the New York Knicks reacts after a foul against the Brooklyn Nets during the second half at Madison Square Garden on November 9, 2016 in New York City. 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 Michael Reaves/Getty Images)
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Knicks’ Willy Hernangomez replaces Emmanuel Mudiay in Friday’s Rising Stars Challenge

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Nuggets point guard Emmanuel Mudiay will sit out his sixth consecutive game Wednesday night with back issues, he tweaked it against the Spurs back on Feb. 5.

Mudiay, who was born in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, was slated to play Friday night in New Orleans in the Rising Stars Challenge, where first- and second-year players from the USA take on their counterparts from around the world. The Nuggets and Mudiay have decided he can’t suit up.

So the Knicks Willy Hernangomez will take his place on the World team, the NBA announced Friday.

Sure, that’s replacing a point guard with a center, but it’s as meaningless an exhibition as you can find so why worry about positions? This is the second roster replacement for the world as Thunder guard Alex Abrines will suit up for the injured Sixers center Joel Embiid.

Hernangomez, from Spain, is averaging 6.5 points and 5.4 rebounds a game for the season, however, his run has increased of late and in his last seven games he’s averaged 12 points and 10 rebounds in 24.9 minutes.

The Rising Stars Challenge will be broadcast on TNT starting at 9 p.m. Eastern on TNT.

PBT Extra: Serge Ibaka trade good for Toronto, but how close does it get them to Cleveland?

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There is a reason the Raptors front office has long coveted Serge Ibaka, Toronto’s weak spot is the four and Ibaka perfectly fits what they need in that role.

The trade of Ibaka from Orlando to Toronto was good for both sides, but for the Raptors it was their big move. Ibaka is a free agent this summer, and what it’s going to cost to keep him and Kyle Lowry (also a free agent) is going to send the Raptors deep into the tax. This is basically their roster for the next few years, the core of it anyway.

The Raptors got better, they got closer to Cleveland with this move. I just don’t think it’s enough if the Cavs are healthy.

Lakers’ rookie Brandon Ingram airballs a free throw (VIDEO)

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Brandon Ingram is no candidate for the “hack-a-” strategy, he’s hitting 65.8 percent from the stripe as a rookie.

But he looked bad on this shot. Ingram airballed a free throw during the second quarter Tuesday night. Ouch.

The Lakers made the interesting defensive decision to single cover DeMarcus Cousins most of the night, and the result was 40 points — 16 in the fourth — plus 12 rebounds from the big man to lead the Kings to their fourth straight win, 97-96 over the Lakers.

 

Nuggets trade for Mason Plumlee, say center was too good to pass up

FILE - In this Dec. 15, 2016, file photo Portland Trail Blazers center Mason Plumlee takes a break in the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Denver Nuggets in Denver. A person with knowledge of the situation has told the Associated Press that Plumlee has been traded to the Denver Nuggets for center Jusuf Nurkic of Bosnia and Herzegovina on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2017. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, file)
Associated Press
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DENVER (AP) — This was too good to pass up: Another center who unselfishly shares the ball.

That’s what sold the Denver Nuggets on Mason Plumlee as they officially traded for the versatile center Monday, sending bruising big man Jusuf Nurkic to the Portland Trail Blazers in return.

“Mason is a guy who complements what we have presently in the front court quite well,” Nuggets general manager Tim Connelly said. “His playmaking is something unique and really stands out. Our offense is really humming right now.”

That’s in large part because of the play of Nikola Jokic, an up-and-coming big man who’s equally adept at passing (4.2 assists per game) as he is at scoring (16.3 points) and rebounding (8.6). Like Jokic, Plumlee has a knack for getting everyone involved and should slide right in whenever Jokic needs a breather.

The two big men may even take the floor at the same time.

Although, that’s an experiment the Nuggets tried early in the season with Nurkic and Jokic, leading to mixed results. Then again, Plumlee and Jokic have more similar-style games.

“It will be great to have almost the synergy of playing the same way with two bigs capable of making the same types of plays,” said coach Michael Malone, who doesn’t expect Plumlee to play Monday night against Golden State but more likely Wednesday against Minnesota. “We feel we have two of the better passing bigs in the NBA right now.”

Still, it was a difficult decision to send the 22-year-old Nurkic to a division rival, especially one that’s right on the Nuggets’ heels for the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.

The offer was just too enticing to turn down.

“By no means are we a finished product, but we feel Mason definitely helps us get in the direction where we’re headed and may be a playoff team,” Malone said. “His versatility, his athleticism, his I.Q., his playmaking, his rim presence defensively – he brings a lot of things to the table that will complement the players that we have.”

Golden State All-Star forward Kevin Durant thinks this move bolsters Denver.

“Those two are going to play well off each other,” Durant said. “Having two guys, as big fellas, that can do that, it takes the pressure off your wings, your point guards, allows them to play with their athleticism. … Adding another guy that can play definitely helps.”

As part of the deal, Denver also receives a 2018 second-round pick and cash considerations, while the Blazers get a 2017 protected first-rounder.

About that first-rounder the team surrendered: Connelly said that given the Nuggets’ youth – they have a half-dozen players 22 and under – the team was already struggling to find enough minutes for everyone.

“It’s becoming difficult to continue not just to roster those guys but develop those guys on the court,” Connelly said. “For us, we have so many interesting young players as is. We weren’t overly concerned with another pick in the 20s.”

Nurkic is averaging eight points this season. The 7-footer known as the “Bosnian Beast” simply became expendable with the emergence of Jokic, who turns 22 later this month.

Plumlee was a first-round pick by Brooklyn in 2013, before being dealt to Portland two years later. The former Duke standout averaged 11.1 points this season for Portland, along with eight rebounds and four assists.

Although he’s a restricted free agent this summer, the Nuggets have high hopes they can retain him.

“The deal was not done just for today. It was done for years moving forward,” Connelly said. “When you look at our free agent board, he was a guy that we had circled early in the process and, quite frankly, we didn’t feel confident we could get him without a move like this.”

Three things we learned Tuesday: Toronto makes its play, while Cleveland just wins games

Cleveland Cavaliers' LeBron James, lays up as Minnesota Timberwolves' Ricky Rubio of Spain defends during the second half of an NBA basketball game Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2017, in Minneapolis. The Cavaliers won 116-108. James and Kyrie Irving led their team's scoring with 25 points each. (AP Photo/Jim Mone)
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Most of the news around the NBA Tuesday happened off the court, but we’ve got your back there too, breaking down the big trade of the day. Plus giving you highlights. Just because we care.

1) The Raptors make a play, but Orlando gets win too with trade. Tuesday we had our first big trade — very possibly the only big trade — in the run-up to the Feb. 23 trade deadline: Serge Ibaka went to the Raptors in exchange for Terrence Ross and a first-round pick (the worse of the Raptors’ own pick or the Clippers’ pick, which the Raptors control).

The goal with any trade is a win-win scenario — and this comes pretty close to that.

For Orlando, they get a first round pick, which never hurts. In Ross, they get a guy that fits their needs and helps uncork the logjam up front. Ross was frustrating to Raptors fans because he never quite fit in or lived up to expectations, but for Orlando the fit is better — Ross is a swingman who could start at the three and allow Frank Vogel to slide Aaron Gordon back to his more natural spot at the four. Or, if Vogel insists on the Gordon at the three experiment, Ross could be a sixth man who would provide some scoring punch off the bench. Either way he fits better with what they want to do than Ibaka had.

Most of the talk about this trade, however, is what it means for Toronto: Will this snap them out of their recent funk? More importantly, where does this put them in the pecking order in the East? Are they contenders and a threat to Cleveland? I wouldn’t go that far (assuming the playoff Cavaliers are healthy), but this move does make them better. On offense, Ibaka is shooting 38.8 from three this season and hits his midrange jumpers, he can space the floor and give them a quality four next to Jonas Valanciunas (one who can defend and cover some of Valanciunas’ flaws), and once Patrick Patterson returns healthy it allows the Raptors to go a little smaller with Ibaka and Patterson up front — a lineup that seems better suited to taking on Cleveland. In the short term, it fills a real need until Patterson does get healthy. I’m not as high on this move as some because of Ibaka’s reduced athleticism and movement (he’s not the player he was three seasons ago) and what it will cost them to keep this summer (the Raptors are going deep into the tax). But this trade makes the Raptors better. It may push them back up to being the second best team in the East, it certainly makes a second-round matchup with Boston interesting (if the Raptors can climb past the Wizards and get the three seed). But I still don’t think Toronto threatens Cleveland if the Cavs have all their players healthy.

2) Cavaliers pick up win without Kevin Love. The news that Kevin Love is going to miss about 30 games following knee surgery (if he’s back on schedule) raised this question about the banged-up Cavaliers: Can they hold on to the top seed in the East? Not are they the best team in the East, when healthy they certainly are (even after the Ibaka trade by Toronto), but Boston is hot and entered Tuesday night just two games back of Cleveland for the top spot in the East.

Without Love, and for the next few weeks at least also no J.R. Smith, are the Cavaliers in danger of dropping out of that top spot? LeBron James says not to worry, he’s got this. And on Tuesday night against the Timberwolves he did. First off, LeBron did this to poor Andrew Wiggins.

LeBron also scored 25 points and led the Cavaliers to the 116-108 win. The Cavs are going to need a lot more nights like this from LeBron for the next six weeks — so much for tapering his minutes and getting him some rest.

3) DeMarcus Cousins 40-point, 12-board night leads Kings to win in Los Angeles. Kings ownership still is hell-bent on making a push for the playoffs this season — new building, new attitude, they want to snap a 10-year playoff drought. The Kings are just 1.5 games back of the Nuggets for the eighth seed, and with a road win over the Lakers Tuesday Sacramento has won four in a row.

The reason they won? DeMarcus Cousins. Well, that and the Lakers deciding to single-cover Cousins most of the night, rather than daring any other King player to beat them. Cousins had 40 points, 16 of those in the fourth quarter, plus pulled down 12 boards, and looked every bit the best big man in the game. Lou Williams put up a fight for the Lakers scoring 29, but it wasn’t enough.

The Kings’ four-game win streak likely ends Wednesday against Golden State (the team the Kings are hoping to get the chance to get swept by face in the first round of the playoffs).