After league review, Mavs complete trade to make Ajinca a Raptor

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Considering that the news that Peja Stojakovic had given the Mavs a verbal commitment to join the team essentially came paired with a report that Dallas would sent Alexis Ajinca to Stojakovic’s old team, the Toronto Raptors, in exchange for no tangible assets at all, it’s not surprising that league officials raised an eyebrow. Regardless, the NBA looked into the specifics of the Ajinca trade and apparently failed to find evidence of collusion; the Mavericks announced today that the deal has been completed, and that in exchange for Ajinca they will receive the rights to Georgios Printezis, who will likely never play in the NBA, and generate an Ajinca-sized $1.5 million trade exception.

Officially, these are two separate and unrelated moves, but unofficially the Mavs sent Ajinca — along with a wink and a nudge — to the Raptors in exchange for Stojakovic, who will cost Dallas far less than his previous annual salary of $15 million. Toronto will foot that bill, while Dallas will likely sign Peja for the league minimum.

Ajinca is a talented big, even if he has yet to find a real NBA home. Charlotte seemed like a poor fit from the very beginning, and though Rick Carlisle gave Ajinca some playing time as a reserve forward and center in Dallas, he was on the court to showcases his abilities for a potential trade, not to establish a long-term place with the Mavs. Ajinca never would have been a Maverick if not for the salary matching required in trades for teams over the salary cap, and Dallas had been shopping Ajinca in hopes of finding him an alternative home.

Toronto could be an interesting opportunity for Ajinca, who isn’t ready to play big minutes in the middle, but paradoxically could benefit from large amounts of playing time. Dallas couldn’t afford to play Ajinca all that much given how much they have at stake, but the Raptors are focused on development and team construction, not competing for a playoff spot. Ajinca could theoretically earn a regular spot in Jay Triano’s rotation, but the pressure is on him to learn the Raps’ system, and prove that he’s worthy of an investment of resources.

Watch Dinwiddie get ejected for elbow to Poole’s face; Mavs still win behind Doncic 41 points

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Dallas has gotten in trouble this season because of a lack of secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, so when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of Golden State’s Jordan Poole, it seemed like the Mavericks might be in danger of falling to the Warriors.

Doncic had other plans — and a 41-point triple-double.

The ejection happened early in the fourth quarter, when Dinwiddie drove the lane on Poole and, bringing the ball up, elbowed Poole in the face.

That was reviewed by the referees who ruled it a Flagrant 2. The league has cracked down on blows to the face and head — intentional or not — the past couple of seasons.

Dinwiddie being out just meant more Luka — and that was bad news for the Warriors.

Despite Doncic and his triple-double, the Warriors had a couple of chances in the final seconds. First, Stephen Curry got called for a travel.

The Warriors argued that call but got nowhere with the referees. But they got one more chance on a Klay Thompson 3 to tie, but it was just not their night.

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas. Curry led the Warriors with 32.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
Layne Murdoch Jr./NBAE via Getty Images
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.