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Rumor: Cleveland Cavaliers interested in Mavericks’ Deron Williams

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The Cleveland Cavaliers remain in search of a backup point guard who can be another playmaker for the team. They reportedly worked out Mario Chalmers, Jordan Farmar, Lance Stephenson, and Kirk Hinrich yesterday.

Deron Williams is better than any of them.

Which has led to the rumor, as reported by Sam Amick of the USA Today, that the Cavaliers are interested in Williams.

The Cavs could take the trade route too, of course, and they are known to have inquired about the Dallas Mavericks’ Deron Williams. The 32-year-old, three-time All-Star is in the final year of his deal ($9 million), and it’s worth noting that Dallas has shown interest in the Cavs’ Iman Shumpert previously when he was a free agent (he’s owed a combined $31 million for this season and the next two, with a player option for 2018-19).

Around the league, the sense is Williams is not actually available.

The questions about whether this deal would go down start here: How serious is Dallas about making a run at the playoffs? They have won seven of their last 10 and are 3.5 games back of Denver in the sad race for the eight seed in the West. It’s conceivable Dallas could close that gap, but they would keep Williams to do it.

Williams is 32 but has accepted a smaller role and become a solid NBA point guard, averaging 13.5 points and 7.1 assists per game this season and shooting 35.7 percent from three. He’s more a floor general than a dynamic scorer anymore. Williams is not a great defender but he’s smart on that end.

This deal is not unreasonable, but don’t expect to see it or any move by Dallas — if it makes one — until closer to the deadline. They may be willing to wait a few weeks to see if the hot streak continues, and with that how realistic their shot at the playoffs is.

Denver’s Danilo Gallinari had huge and-1 dunk against Ivica Zubac, Lakers (VIDEO)

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Danilo Gallinari can do more than just knock down shots from the perimeter.

Late in a close game with the Lakers, Gallinari got the ball back at the top of the key off a pick-and-pop with Jameer Nelson, and rather than shoot over Nick Young‘s late defensive rotation, Gallinari put the ball on the floor and had an open path to the rim. Rookie Ivica Zubac tried to slide over but Gallinari just put him in the poster.

Young had 26 points on the night to lead the Lakers to the 120-116 win. That’s a tough loss for a Denver team trying to hold on to the final playoff slot in the West, Portland is now just half a game back. Does anyone in the West actually want the eight seed? Nobody is playing like it.

Thunder rookie Domantas Sabonis dunks, David Lee isn’t going to stop it (VIDEO)

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Let’s be fair to David Lee here: he is rightfully watching and focused on how to stop Russell Westbrook as he tries to weave into the paint and get the last shot of the first half. He should be watching Westbrook — have you seen that guy this season?

But all that attention allows Thunder rookie Domantas Sabonis to slide along the baseline, make a little cut in the paint, get the pass and dunk. Lee tries to rotate over but he’s a step too late. Poster.

The Spurs went on to win the game 108-94 thanks to a monster 36 point night from Kawhi Leonard, who also guarded Westbrook for long stretches.

Three things we learned Tuesday: The Wizards are legit. Second best team in East?

Associated Press
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Here’s what you missed around the NBA Tuesday while you scoured stores looking for the Tostitos chip bag that has a breathalyzer on the bag

1) Wizards drop Knicks for 15th home win in a row, Washington may be the second best team in the East. Remember when the Wizards started the season 2-8? All the talk was about how John Wall and Bradley Beal didn’t get along, how Marcin Gortat was ripping the bench’s play, and what the heck was Scott Brooks doing?

If you don’t remember, that’s okay. What you need to know is that since Dec. 1 the Wizards are 22-9, the best record in the Eastern Conference for that stretch. After dropping the Knicks 117-101 Tuesday, Washington has won 15 games in a row at home. Beal had 28 points, while Wall was making it look easy, spinning around the Knicks’ defenders.

What’s gone right in Washington starts with health. Beal and Wall are both finally healthy at the same time, and it turns out when they play together for an extended stretch they do have chemistry — when those two are on the court together, the Wizards have outscored opponents by nine points per 100 possessions this season. Coach Scott Brooks deserves some of the credit for this health. Former coach Randy Wittman was old school and would run three-hour practices at times, rarely relented on making the team work off the court, and by the end of the season the team was worn down and injured (with Beal battling stress fractures). Brooks is a modern coach who keeps his practices tight and is a big believer in time for recovery. It shows.

The Wizards five starters (Wall, Beal, Otto Porter, Markieff Morris, Marcin Gortat) outscore opponents by 11.3 per 100 this season — that’s third best in the NBA among five-man lineups that have played at least 200 minutes together. The only lineups that have been better are the Warriors’ starters and the healthy Clippers’ starters — not the Spurs’ starters (+10), not the Cavaliers’ starters (+9.3), not anyone. Brooks has kept the defensive game plans consistent while diversifying the offensive sets — it’s not just Wall pick-and-rolls anymore, there are flex sets and Wall works off the ball at times. The bench that struggled early has rebounded, led by the defensive energy (and some scoring) from Kelly Oubre, Jr.

The Wizards are the current four seed in the East, just two games back of two-seed Boston. All season long we have said that Toronto was the second best team in the East, and that maybe Boston could threaten them for that title. We need to start mentioning the Wizards in that group. They are that good. And they are legit.

2) Kyle Lowry‘s game winner for Raptors was shot of the night. Kyle Lowry had not been clutch this season, going into Tuesday night’s game against the Pelicans he was 1-of-21 on go-ahead shot attempts in final 10 seconds of regulation or overtime (stat via ESPN). Then he did this.

You can’t blame Solomon Hill here — he switched onto Lowry and defended that as well as one could. But good offense beats good defense. Lowry had 33 on the night, and the stumbling Raptors got a win they needed.

3) Kawhi Leonard had a very good night, and the Spurs win. Russell Westbrook has never had a triple-double against the Spurs, not once in 46 games (via ESPN). Over time that is certainly about the system, as are most things in San Antonio, but on Tuesday night it was also about Kawhi Leonard. Westbrook still had 27 points on 17 shots on the night, but was 0-of-4 in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Leonard had 12 points in 4:15 once he checked in for the fourth and he put the game away (the Spurs won 108-94). Leonard also did this:

Leonard had 36 points on the night, to go with his always stellar defense.

The MVP race remains Westbrook vs. James Harden, but that next tier has to include Leonard. He has been brilliant this season.

Jazz’s Alec Burks getting back to his dynamic ways

Associated Press
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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Utah Jazz wing Alec Burks is nearly healthy after two-plus years of injuries and he has started to look like the player Utah signed to a four-year, $42 million extension in 2014.

Burks has scored in double digits in five straight games, including a season-high 15 Saturday against the Grizzlies. He’s shown flashes of that unique athletic ability around the rim and shot an efficient 60.5 percent during this stretch.

To the delight of coach Quin Snyder, Burks has also played well on the defensive end and is being used in a three-wing lineup without a point guard.

“It’s a different lineup,” Snyder said Monday. “I like the efficiency. What Alec does for us, he comes in and gives us a boost off the bench. I think he’s done a very good job defending the ball. That’s also a point of emphasis. If we can defend the ball with his size and athleticism, that can be a strength and an important thing for us.”

It’s taken a while for Burks to get back to this point.

Burks missed 50 games with a fractured left fibula last season and returned, possibly too early, to play three of the final four games of the 2015-16 season. He then missed the first 34 games of this season dealing with ankle issues, including arthroscopic surgery and rehab from left ankle debridement.

Snyder and Burks said it’s just a matter of time before he’s fully back from the ankle surgery in November. Now he needs on-court time to get his timing back and to get used to teammates who joined the franchise during the summer. The team even assigned him to the D-League Salt Lake City Stars for a practice and game.

“I think I’m taking a step every game,” Burks said. “I don’t think I’m all the way back yet to where I was preinjury. But that’s a long process and I’ll get there. I’m making some passes I’m not used to making. Turnovers. Just the overall comfort with my teammates, chemistry because you know we’ve got new teammates. … It’s great. With the type of injury I had, you never know if you’re going to be back to who you were before the injury. It’s great to see that I’m close to where I was.”

Burks said that’s why it took him so long to return. He’s an above-the-rim player near the basket and they wanted to make sure the leg was stable after missing those 50 games last season.

Those flashy midair moments are what let everyone know Burks is nearly back to his normal self, but those moments can also get him in trouble with turnovers or bad shot attempts.

“Sometimes when he’s under control, he doesn’t look it because he’s so dynamic,” Snyder said. “There’s no question there’s been times where we’d like the degree of difficulty to be a little bit less with some of the things he does. But he is who he is, too, and he’s effective.

“You don’t want to change something that’s a strength. You want to kind of mold it and modify it. I think he’s continuing to understand how he can best be effective.”

Burks laughed when asked about that unique style of play. He acknowledged he’s still working off some rust and said he’ll improve from a five-turnover game in the loss to the Grizzlies on Saturday.

“(General manager) Dennis (Lindsey), Quin, everybody’s on me about my finishing,” Burks said. “But that’s what everybody likes me doing. I’m trying to simplify as much as I can, but I just react off of instinct.”

On the other end of the spectrum, the Jazz continue to work on Derrick Favors‘ health. He missed 13 games with a left knee bone contusion in November and December and hasn’t shown the light-footed athleticism that made him one of the league’s better big men last season. The Jazz held Favors out to rest Saturday and he didn’t participate in the contact portion of practice Monday.

Snyder didn’t know if Favors would ever be completely healthy this season.

“It’s hard to define 100 percent,” Snyder said. “I’m not 100 percent of what I was. He’s approaching that, absolutely. It’s just a process for him. A lot of that just comes through having a chance to be out there and be healthy and continue to play. Even though you physically feel great, now you’re kind of weaving in the skills and the timing and all those things. My hope is yes, and he’s pretty close right now.”