Denver Nuggets center Mason Plumlee is congratulated after making a basket against the Minnesota Timberwolves in the first half of an NBA basketball game Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, in Denver. Plumlee was appearing in his first game for the Nuggets since being acquired from the Portland Trail Blazers for center Jusuf Nurkic. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski

Report: Nuggets received $2.85 million from Trail Blazers in Mason Plumlee-Jusuf Nurkic trade

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The Nuggets traded Jusuf Nurkic and the Grizzlies’ first-round pick to the Trail Blazers for Mason Plumlee and a second-rounder — a deal that didn’t appear to provide Denver enough value.

But it seems we omitted a key piece of the Nuggets’ return.

Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders:

Teams rarely trade that much in a single transaction. They’re capped at both receiving and sending out $3.5 million this season.

But this is the advantage of an owner willing to spend. Paul Allen is allowing Portland to assemble a more-talented roster.

Denver still got the best player right now in the trade, and Plumlee will upgrade the bench and maybe even fit OK starting with Nikola Jokic. But it’s hard to overlook owner Stan Kroenke’s cash influx.

Report: 76ers sat Jahlil Okafor because they were close to Trail Blazers trade

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 26: Jahlil Okafor #8 of the Philadelphia 76ers controls the ball against the Oklahoma City Thunder at Wells Fargo Center on October 26, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. 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. The Thunder defeated the 76ers 103-97. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
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The 76ers sat Jahlil Okafor for two games last week, openly acknowledging they were discussing trading him. Then, they played him in their final game before the All-Star break.

That prompted speculation that no deal fell through, but that Philadelphia was bluffing being close in order to drum up interest.

But maybe there actually was a near-trade.

David Aldridge of NBA.com:

On the surface, this makes sense. We know the Trail Blazers were interested in a cost-controlled center, because they traded for Jusuf Nurkic.

But that trade also makes Portland perfect cover if the 76ers are just trying to deflect from a gambit gone wrong. Not only were the Trail Blazers plausible trade partners, they already made their deal. So, there will be no questions about revisiting discussions.

Going big: Kristaps Porzingis wins Skills Challenge (video)

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NEW ORLEANS — Kristaps Porzingis was a half step behind Gordon Hayward as they shot their layups in the Skills Challenge, but the 7-foot-3 Knicks forward had an advantage as each player’s ball fell through the hoop.

“I kind of cheated a little bit,” Porzingis said. “I grabbed the ball before him, because I’m taller. And then I just kept running.”

Porzingis kept his advantage, hitting a 3-pointer on the other end to win the Skills Challenge on All-Star Saturday Night. He’s the second big man to win in the two years larger players participated, joining 2016 winner Karl-Anthony Towns.

 

 

In an event thought to favor guards considering the emphasis on ball-handling, passing, speed and shooting, the bigs are making their mark. Even Gordon Hayward, a forward shoehorned into the guard division won that to meet Porzingis in the final. But the bigger Porzingis was too quick.

“It’s a good feeling I’m able to showcase my skill with my size,” Porzingis said.

It’s a new era for NBA bigs. What’s next for Porzingis on All-Star Saturday Night?

“Slam dunk competition? For sure not,” Porzingis said. “Maybe one day 3-pointers.”

 

Complete results

Quarterfinals

Gordon Hayward over John Wall

Isaiah Thomas over Devin Booker

Kristaps Porzingis over DeMarcus Cousins

Nikola Jokic over Anthony Davis

Semifinals

Gordon Hayward over Isaiah Thomas

Kristaps Porzingis over Nikola Jokic

Final

Kristaps Porzingis over Gordon Hayward

Report: Pacers make 2017 first rounder available in effort to get Paul George help

Larry Bird
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One of the things dragging down the trade market with just more than a week to go before the trade deadline is nobody wants to give up a first-round pick in the coming draft. The 2017 draft is seen as deep with talent, and general managers are not making their picks available.

Except for the Larry Bird and the Indiana Pacers.

They want to make a win-now move and are making their pick available, reports Chris Haynes of ESPN.

In an attempt to secure help for All-Star forward Paul George, the Indiana Pacers have made their 2017 first-round pick available in a trade, league sources said.

In what is considered to be a deep draft, the Pacers are hoping that such an asset would translate to the addition of either an established wing or established frontline player, according to sources.

While the Pacers want to stop their six-game losing streak that has them sliding down the East standings, this move has another big-picture motive — keeping George a Pacer.

George can opt out of his contract at the end of the 2017-18 season. The Pacers have a small window to provide him with a championship-type supporting cast. And whether he signs an extension this summer probably will be predicated on the moves the franchise can execute up to that point.

There is one other factor in George re-signing with the Pacers: If he makes an All-NBA team this season he will qualify for the “designated player” super-max contract that could weigh in at five-years, $209 million (exact figures will depend on the final cap number for the 2018-19 season, the first year the extension would kick in). If he didn’t qualify and the Pacers gave him a five-year extension it would be about $179 million over five years, while other teams could give him four years at $133 million guaranteed (but he would make money in that fifth year eventually, bringing him close but not all the way up to $179 million).

All of which is to say, if he qualifies for the designated player contract and the Pacers offer it, he’s not going anywhere regardless of who is around him.

But the trade will come first. If there is a trade (the Pacers are not going to want to take a lot of salary back on this deal, they are already at $90 million this season). There are a lot of bigs available — Brook Lopez of the Nets will cost more than this pick, but would this high-teens pick be enough to get someone like Danilo Gallinari out of Denver? It likely could get them Lou Williams from the Lakers, but does he fit the Pacers’ needs? Not exactly. Is it overpaying for P.J. Tucker in Phoenix? The Trail Blazers have some overpaid wings that may be available, if the Pacers like any of them.

Nothing may come of this, but it’s worth watching

World Team’s Nikola Jokic on playing U.S. Team in Rising Stars Challenge: ‘We’re going to kick their ass’

Denver Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, right, celebrates after hitting the second of back-to-back, 3-point baskets against the Chicago Bulls in the second half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Feb. 5, 2016, in Denver. The Nuggets won 115-110. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
AP Photo/David Zalubowski
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Nuggets center Nikola Jokic is wise beyond his years as a basketball player.

So maybe he knows what he’s talking about for tonight’s Rising Stars Challenge, when his World Team will face the U.S. Team.

Jokic:

We’re going to kick their ass.

This bulletin-board material will surely motivate the Americans to play lockdown defense, compete for every rebound and dive for every loose ball once again coast through an exhibition that makes the All-Star game look serious.