Kurt Helin

PHOENIX, AZ - FEBRUARY 10:  Markieff Morris #11 of the Phoenix Suns reacts during the NBA game against the Golden State Warriors at Talking Stick Resort Arena on February 10, 2016 in Phoenix, Arizona.  The Warriors defeated the Suns 112-104. 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 Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
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Report: Suns asking for pick plus young player for Markieff Morris


The Suns have been shopping disgruntled forward Markieff Morris since weeks into the season, but the market for him has been thin (to the point earlier this season teams told Phoenix they’d have to throw in a sweetener to get them to take Morris). His scoring is down, he’s shooting less than 40 percent, he has argued with Suns coaches and players, all this after last summer being fined for saying he wanted a trade.

As the trade deadline approaches Feb. 18 and talks get serious, the Suns are still asking a lot for Morris, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

Suns general manager Ryan McDonough has been pursuing a package that includes a younger player and a first-round pick, league executives said. The Suns are motivated to honor Morris’ desire for a trade – and have no intention of bringing him back next season – but teams are starting to think the Suns could hold onto Morris past the Thursday trade deadline without a deal that brings back a player of value with a first-round pick.

The Suns could wait until the summer to move Morris when teams who have missed on free-agent priorities return aggressively into the trade market for the power forward. Morris’ contract has three years, $24 million left after this season, which is still on the low end for a player of his talent – whatever the recurring issues with his attitude and professionalism.

No doubt the Suns want the pick and player, the question is come that Thursday deadline will Phoenix back off that request?  Will just a pick get the job done? Or will a team in need of an upgrade at the four cave to that higher offer? Teams shift what they will take in the final 48 hours before the deadline, when everyone finally plays their best hand.

But if the Suns GM is willing to be patient (and owner Robert Saver will let him), it’s not a bad play. This summer expectations will be high for a lot of teams — from fans to owners — because of the cap space they will have thanks to the influx of new television deal money bumping up the cap. The free agent pool is not that deep. This could lead to teams coming back to a deal like this and taking it in an effort to make a splashy move.

Report: Cavaliers offering Iman Shumpert in deals to shore up bench

Iman Shumpert

Iman Shumpert has struggled this season in Cleveland. Expected to provide defense and floor-spacing shooting, he has taken a step back from what he gave them in the playoffs last season (as evidenced by his PER of 8.3, the kind of number you expect from a guy bouncing between the D-League and NBA). He’s an athletic defender who is good but not as good as his reputation (the Cavs defense is 0.9 points per 100 possessions better when he is on the court rather than off it). He is shooting just 32.2 percent from three, and he spends time trying to create shots rather than playing a catch-and-shoot outlet for LeBron James or Kyrie Irving.

The bottom line, depending on what stats you use, the Cavaliers are either a little bit better or a little bit worse with him on the court, but he’s not making the impact of a guy who signed a four-year, $40 million contract this summer.

The Cavaliers want a deeper bench heading into the playoffs, and they are shopping Shumpert to see if they can get it, according to Marc Stein of ESPN.

Sources say that the Cavs, though, have been more and more active in recent days in pursuing upgrades to their bench, with center Timofey Mozgov and swingman Iman Shumpert — both in the midst of down seasons after their midseason arrivals in 2014-15 — said to be available. Players who interest Cleveland, sources say, include dream target Kyle Korver (who would naturally be very difficult to pry from Atlanta) and Kings reserves Ben McLemore and Kosta Koufos.

Korver is a pipe dream, the Hawks are asking a lot for their key pieces right now. The Kings are shopping McLemore, and he is shooting better from three (37.5 percent), but he is a considerably worse defender than Shumpert. Yes, you could trade the four players Stein mentions for each other, but why would the Kings do that?

That said, don’t be shocked if a lot of Shumpert rumors come up this week.

PBT Podcast: Talking Dunk Contest, Toronto All-Star Weekend with Sean Highkin

TORONTO, ON - FEBRUARY 14: Kobe Bryant #24 of the Los Angeles Lakers and the Western Conference reacts as he walks to the bench late in the fourth quarter during the NBA All-Star Game 2016 at the Air Canada Centre on February 14, 2016 in Toronto, Ontario. 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 Elsa/Getty Images)
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TORONTO — Two themes took over All-Star Weekend in Toronto — Kobe Bryant and the frigid weather.

At least until the Zach LaVine/Aaron Gordon Dunk Contest became the only thing anyone wanted to talk about. It was the hottest All-Star Saturday Dunk Contest since…. Jordan and Dominique?

Kurt Helin and Sean Highkin were in Toronto and discuss everything from Kobe Bryant to Sting to Paul George dropping 41. All things All-Star in one place, plus some Charlotte talk.

As always, you can listen to the podcast below, or listen and subscribe via iTunesdownload it directly here, or you can check out our new PBT Podcast homepage, which has the most recent episodes available. If you have the Stitcher app, you can listen there as well.

Paul George punctuates comeback with 41 in All-Star Game

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TORONTO (AP) — So many of Paul George‘s All-Star teammates and opponents were on the floor 18 months ago, the night his career was put in peril by a gruesome leg injury in a scrimmage with USA Basketball.

It has been a long, difficult road back to the rising star he was before a bone in his right leg popped through his skin on that August night in Las Vegas. Surrounded by so many of those elite faces again in Toronto on Sunday night, George has never looked more like the player that has made the Indiana Pacers relevant again. Truth be told, he looked even better.

George led all players with 41 points and made nine 3-pointers in the East’s 196-173 loss to West, finishing one basket shy of breaking Wilt Chamberlain’s single-game All-Star scoring record.

“For me to be here just being back as an All-Star was special. But to be able to put on a show and have fun and enjoy this moment, get back to playing how I play pre-injury is special,” George said. “I’ve just been blessed. I’m very thankful and very grateful.”

Oklahoma City guard Russell Westbrook won the MVP award with 31 points in the victory, but it was George who stood out above all of the game’s best players, just like he did before his right leg awkwardly hit the basketball stanchion in that USA scrimmage, bringing tears to his teammates’ eyes.

“I had a hard-fought summer, hard-fought rehab year,” George said. “It was just a very upward climb. It took every day and really every moment of rehab to get through it. There were a lot of days where I felt like I was down and out, but just stayed with it.”

Thanks to George’s emergence as one of the NBA’s bright young stars, the Pacers had climbed up the Eastern Conference ladder to assert themselves as legitimate challengers. George had a great chance to be in Team USA’s plans for the London Olympics, but his leg snapped grotesquely and had many, including George himself, wondering if he would ever play again.

He missed all but six games last season, but his ability to return even for the end of the season was a shock in and of itself. Playing in those games gave him a chance to get a little bit of confidence back, to believe that returning to basketball’s highest level was possible, and he took off like a rocket at the start of this season.

While he was injured, George worked on two of his game’s weaknesses – ball-handling and perimeter shooting. He returned this season a more well-rounded player and averaged 29.5 points, 8.2 rebounds and 4.3 assists in the first month of the season. Those numbers have dipped expectedly as the season has worn on, but George has his swagger back.

“He’s back,” Pelicans star Anthony Davis said. “The way he shoots the ball, the way he attacks the rim, his game is very unique. Basically he was showing guys tonight that he’s back to rare form.”

On a night where all eyes started on Lakers star Kobe Bryant in his 18th and final All-Star game, they couldn’t help but drift on to George as the shots kept falling and the ball kept finding him.

Both teams broke the previous record for points in a game, with the West eclipsing the previous mark with eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter. Defense wasn’t an afterthought, it was never even considered – except in the final 30 seconds.

Sitting on 41 points, George had the ball on the right wing, needing one bucket to surpass Chamberlain’s mark set in 1962. That’s when Golden State Warriors forward Draymond Green got right in George’s face, hounding him all over the court in the only possession of defense played the entire game.

“We don’t want any records like that broken on us,” Green said with a chuckle. “Just trying to contest the shot.”

Follow Jon Krawczynski on Twitter: http://twitter.com/APKrawczynski

Rumor: Timberwolves making Ricky Rubio available at trade deadline

ricky rubio

If you’re a point guard who doesn’t shoot well, you better do some other things exceedingly well if you’re going to stick in the NBA.

Enter Ricky Rubio. Opposing teams will dare him to shoot — better him than Andrew Wiggins or Karl-Anthony Towns — but Rubio brings exceptional vision, passing, and fantastic defense to the table.

A few teams could use a guy like that — hello New York — and Rubio is available at the trade deadline for the right price, reports Frank Isola of the New York Daily News.

Incumbent Ricky Rubio is readily available and the feeling is that the Spanish guard could be moved prior to Thursday’s NBA trade deadline.

So, the Knicks?

Phil Jackson is in the market for a point guard but it’s hard to envision the Knicks having the assets to acquire the 25-year-old Rubio, whose season average in points (9.7), assists (8.6) and minutes (30.3) are down this year.

Because Rubio is young like the rest of the Timberwolves core, and is locked up for three seasons after this one on a contract that becomes very reasonable as the salary cap spikes, it’s going to take a heck of an offer to pry him out of Minnesota. It also is believed by most around the league that the Timberwolves will replace coach Sam Mitchell this summer, and whomever the new coach ends up being may want to have some input who the point guard of the team should be.

The problems with the Knicks pulling the trigger on any deal to upgrade at the point is the only players on their roster other teams want are the ones the Knicks will not move. Ty Lawson may be the exception to that. However, it may be this summer before Jose Calderon is sent to the bench.