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Jahlil Okafor just trying to enjoy New Orleans, have some gumbo, not worry about possible trade

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NEW ORLEANS — Jahlil Okafor was out of the Sixers lineup, a lineup already without Joel Embiid, because he was close to being traded. Or the Sixers were trying to drum up trade interest. Either way, he is a guy who very well may be playing in a different city and in a different uniform after the All-Star break.

He will be on the court for the Rising Stars Challenge Friday night, playing for Team USA against The World, but he said the trade rumors and the possibility of a new home are on his mind.

“I’ve thought about it, it’s hard not to, you hear all the rumors, some are absurd, but the organization has been really straight with me,” Okafor said Friday morning.

He added he is just trying to not think about it for a few days, and being in New Orleans can help with that.

“Everybody’s here enjoying themselves, I’m just trying to enjoy myself this weekend without having to worry about what’s going to happen,” Okafor said. “I got some gumbo last night.”

The question becomes what are the Sixers willing to accept for the No. 3 pick. Okafor has one valuable skill — he can score the rock inside. He’s averaging 11.6 points a game this season in Philly, shooting 51.3 percent, and 78 percent of his shots come within 10 feet of the rim. The problem is he doesn’t fit the modern NBA — he can’t space the floor, he doesn’t defend well, and he’s not strong on the boards for a big. Which means teams are not going to give up much to get him.

Will the Sixers find a deal they will take? Okafor’s just trying not to think about it for a few days.

Isaiah Thomas on Celtics loss to Bulls: “A bad call cost us the game”

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Down one with 8.4 seconds left and the ball, Chicago’s play was “get it to Jimmy Butler and let him win it for us.” Butler got the ball beyond the arc, drove a little, spun, and put up an elbow jumper.

And drew a foul on Marcus Smart. Despite the fact there was no contact.

Isaiah Thomas didn’t hold back after the game, as you can see above — “A bad call cost us the game.”

I will channel my high school coach here — one call does not cost you the game. There were a lot of plays before that — 47 minutes worth — where Boston could have played better and earned the win and didn’t.

But that was a bad call. We will see what the Two Minute Report says, but if it says that’s a foul, they’re wrong.

Also, Thomas might as well write the check to the league for his fine now, because it’s coming.

Shane Battier returns to Heat, to lead analytics department

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Shane Battier has returned to the Miami Heat.

Battier is now a member of the Heat front office, assuming the newly created role of director of basketball development and analytics. The Heat announced the move Thursday, describing Battier’s new job as one where he will develop analytics to evaluate talent – including college players, free agents and members of the existing roster.

“My goal, as is the entire organization’s, is to bring another championship back to Miami,” Battier said.

Battier played 13 seasons in the NBA, the last three of those in Miami and helped the Heat win championships in 2012 and 2013. He and his family have continued to call South Florida home since, and has maintained ties with the organization.

He has been close with Heat managing general partner Micky Arison and CEO Nick Arison since his playing days at Duke, when Nick Arison was the Blue Devils’ manager.

“I am thrilled to be joining the front office of the Miami Heat,” Battier said. “I look forward to working with the Arison family, learning from a Hall of Fame executive in Pat Riley, general manager Andy Elisburg and of course my old coach, Erik Spoelstra.”

Battier was enormously popular among fans and teammates in his tenure with the Heat. He was a key part in the second and third championships won by the Heat, and now he’ll be asked to help them win a fourth.

“We believe Shane is an incredible example of our Heat program, not only for the present, but also for the future,” said Riley, the Heat president. “He embodies everything that we are looking for in our players and staff. We feel he will help us tremendously with his experience and knowledge of the game. Shane is an out-of-the-box thinker and will bring a fresh expertise that can help us evolve as a franchise.”

The Heat went to the NBA Finals in all three seasons that Battier played in Miami. He won the Twyman-Stokes NBA Teammate of the Year award in 2014 and the Magic Johnson Award for excellence on the court with cooperation with media and fans in 2013, both of those coming during his Heat tenure.

He retired with career averages of 8.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists on 44 percent shooting.

Russell Westbrook, Stephen Curry betting favorites to be All-Star Game MVP

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Predicting the NBA All-Star Game MVP is like predicting a roulette spin, it could land anywhere. Everyone in the game is talented and knows how to score, nobody plays any defense, so whoever wants it has the chance to go get it.

However, of course, there are betting odds.

And gamblers are leaning toward the obvious choices of Russell Westbrook and Stephen Curry to win the All-Star Game MVP. Here are the latest odds for the top 10, via Bovada.lv.

Russell Westbrook (WEST) 7/2
Stephen Curry (WEST) 6/1
Anthony Davis (WEST) 13/2
Kevin Durant (WEST) 7/1
James Harden (WEST) 7/1
LeBron James (EAST) 7/1
Kyrie Irving (EAST) 15/2
Giannis Antetokounmpo (EAST) 11/1
Kawhi Leonard (WEST) 15/1
Isaiah Thomas (EAST) 15/1

Of course, we’re talking gambling, and you can bet on anything. Here are the odds for the Saturday night events:

Slam Dunk Contest
Aaron Gordon (ORL) 5/8
Derrick Jones Jr. (PHO) 5/4
DeAndre Jordan (LAC) 8/1
Glenn Robinson III (IND) 9/1

Three-Point Contest
Klay Thompson (GSW) 11/10
Kyrie Irving (CLE) 4/1
CJ McCollum (POR) 8/1
Eric Gordon (HOU) 9/1
Kyle Lowry (TOR) 9/1
Nick Young (LAL) 9/1
Wes Matthews (DAL) 11/1
Kemba Walker (CHA) 11/1

Skills Competition
Isaiah Thomas (BOS) 2/1
John Wall (WAS) 9/4
Devin Booker (PHO) 4/1
Gordon Hayward (UTA) 8/1
Anthony Davis (NO) 10/1
Kristaps Porzingis (NY) 10/1
DeMarcus Cousins (SAC) 15/1
Nikola Jokic (DEN) 15/1

Bulls’ Taj Gibson trying to be Zen as trade rumors heat up. Again.

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Taj Gibson‘s name name has come up more in trade rumors in the past couple years than Adele’s did at the Grammys (but with far fewer tears on Gibson’s end).

So as the trade deadline approaches again and the very solid forward with the expiring and very movable contract knows the rumors are going to get more intense, and he’s good with it, as he told Vincent Goodwill of CSNChicago.com.

 “Of course it’s gonna get hotter,” said Gibson to CSNChicago.com about the trade talk. “No matter what happens, you’re still in the NBA. You’re still getting paid a lot of money to play basketball. People don’t understand that. They think it’s bad half the time. No it’s not. It’s the same paycheck, just on a different team.”

The Raptors had long been rumored as a Gibson landing spot, which made sense considering Toronto’s need at the four, but then Serge Ibaka trade ended that. Goodwill reports that the Bulls and Raptors had talked about a first-round pick for Gibson this year, but Terrence Ross (who went to Orlando in the deal) was not part of the talks.

However, Gibson will draw interest from other teams in the coming weeks, and he is not part of the Bulls’ future. He’s just trying to stay in the moment, help the Bulls win games now, and whatever happens is going to happen at the deadline.

“I can’t. I can’t (focus on it),” Gibson said. “It’s like how Melo’s (Carmelo Anthony) going through it right now. You just can’t. You just gotta focus on your teammates, your family, have good people around you. Been going through this for eight years, teams trying to get you. It’s tough, every year. You never know what’s going to happen. Stay professional, stay in the gym, do whatever you can to take your mind off it.”