Orlando Magic guard J.J. Redick traded to the Milwaukee Bucks

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There were plenty of rumblings about Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith going to Milwaukee in a blockbuster three-team deal with Orlando, but that trade died when Atlanta reportedly pulled out of the deal.

That trade falling apart didn’t deter the Bucks from acquiring a piece to help them in their playoff push, however. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports that the Bucks have acquired Orlando Magic guard J.J. Redick in a six-player deal right at the deadline.

The Milwaukee Bucks receive Redick, Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith while the Orlando Magic recieve Beno Udrih, Tobias Harris and Doron Lamb.

Let’s start with the big piece, which is Redick. The 28-year-old shooting guard is a career 39.8 percent 3-point shooter and has posted career highs in assists per game (4.4) and points per game (15.1) this season. Redick’s career year coincides with a contract season, as he’ll become an unrestricted free agent after this summer. Redick was one of the most highly sought after pieces at the deadline, and should immediately help the Bucks offense with his shooting and playmaking. Milwaukee is 26-27 on the year, hampered mostly by their 24th ranked offensive efficiency.

Efficiency is really the name of the game for Redick. His 59.2 percent true shooting percentage is right there among the shooting guard elite with guys like Ray Allen and James Harden. Redick has a reputation as just a shooter, but he’s made great strides as a defender and as a great distributor.

Redick has done the majority of his damage for Orlando this year coming off screens and either popping a jumper or slipping a nice pocket pass to a rolling big men. Orlando essentially designed an entire offense around Redick’s skills, but it will be interesting to see how Redick will work alongside two ball dominant guards like Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. With Redick and Mike Dunleavy both coming off the bench, Milwaukee’s second unit should see a pretty drastic spike in scoring.

To get Redick, the Bucks parted with a couple of interesting prospects in underutilized small forward Tobias Harris and rookie shooting guard Doron Lamb. Backup point guard Beno Udrih — who was included to match salaries with Redick — is on an expiring deal and almost certainly won’t factor in Orlando’s plans past the next few months.

Along with Redick, the Bucks received Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith from Orlando. Ayon is a highly intelligent but very limited young big man, and Ish Smith is a similarly limited point guard with great athleticism, elite floor vision, but no jumper to speak of whatsoever. Smith is a career 36 percent field goal shooter, and a 57 percent free throw shooter.

The main focus in this trade, obviously, is Milwaukee’s addition of Redick. Early chatter says that Milwaukee has interest in re-signing Redick this offseason, which would make sense if Monta Ellis truly did opt out of his contract, as Gery Woefel of Racine Journal Times has speculated. The Bucks have a roster filled with shot blocking bigs who don’t space the floor, which makes a pure shooter like Redick a much better future fit than Ellis, who needs driving lanes to be at his best.

For Orlando, Harris and Lamb are two cheap young players still on rookie deals, which is a huge deal to a rebuilding team. While the original talks centered around Milwaukee possibly sending back Luc Richard Mbah a Moute for Redick, Orlando did well to land Harris instead.

Although he’s only played roughly 800 minutes in two seasons, Harris has been a solid producer in his time on the floor, averaging 15.4 points and 7 rebounds per36 minutes with a PER of 13.8. At just 20 years old, Harris is still a long way from being a known entity — which could be a great thing for Orlando. Along with Maurice Harkless, who is just 19, the Magic have a small forward combination they can mold and be patient with.

While you can certainly view Orlando losing Redick and not getting a draft pick in return as a bit of a failure, Orlando at least got two young prospects for a player they were likely uninterested in signing had they not moved him today. That’s better than nothing — especially since they had to take on no future salary to do so.

Milwaukee gets better now with the addition of Redick, but this trade can’t really be graded until this offseason. If the Bucks convince Redick to take a reasonable deal and stay in Milwaukee this offseason, they did very well for themselves. But if Redick and Dunleavy, who both expiring, take bigger deals elsewhere, and if Ellis ends up opting out, the Bucks will have zero returning shooting guards or small forwards on the roster. With Brandon Jennings likely taking up a lot of cap room as a restricted free agent, constructing a suitable wing rotation could be a huge issue going forward.

Watch Giannis Antetokounmpo go off for 32 points, 13 boards, lead Bucks rout of Thunder

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MILWAUKEE — Giannis Antetokounmpo had 32 points and 13 rebounds and the Milwaukee Bucks surged to a 24-point lead in the second quarter in a 133-86 victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night.

The 47-point loss was the Thunder’s worst of the season.

Chris Paul scored 18 points for Oklahoma City.

Both teams were without their second-leading scorers. Bucks All-Star Khris Middleton was a late scratch with a sore neck. An ankle injury kept Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari out.

The Bucks had won four in a row and the Thunder had won five straight.

The Bucks built their second-quarter lead behind 14 second-quarter points from Antetokounmpo, seven from Donte DiVincenzo, who started in place of Middleton, and back-to-back 3-pointers from Wesley Matthews.

A key moment occurred late in the second period.

With Milwaukee leading, 54-43, Bucks coach Mike Budenholzer got a technical foul after approaching a referee during a timeout with 3:43 left in the quarter. That was moments after Eric Bledsoe was called for a charging foul that irked Budenholzer. After that, the Bucks went on a 17-4 run and led 71-47 at halftime.

Milwaukee outrebounded Oklahoma City, 67-36.

The Bucks made a season-high 21 3-pointers. The Thunder were 6 for 35 on 3-pointers.

Giannis Antetokounmpo shrugs off James Harden dig: ‘I’m just trying to do my job’

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There is some meat to the James Harden/Giannis Antetokounmpo beef.

Harden was pissed Antetokounmpo won Most Valuable Player over him last year and vented about it. When it came to this year’s All-Star Game, captian Antetokounmpo drafted Kemba Walker over Harden while joking he wanted someone who’d pass. After his team lost the All-Star Game, Antetokounmpo said his team’s strategy was to get the ball to whomever Harden was guarding and attack.

Harden ramped up the skirmish of words Friday when speaking to Rachel Nichols of ESPN, saying:

“I wish I could just run, run and was 7-feet and run and just dunk. That takes no skill at all. I’ve got to actually learn how to play basketball and how to have skill.”

Antetokounmpo decided to let it die when ESPN asked pregame about what Harden said.

“I’m not the type of guy to take stabs at somebody. … I’m just trying to do my job which is win games and go back home to my family. At the end of the day, if that’s what he believes that’s what he believes. I can’t say anything about it. I’ve just got to keep being focused.”

If you’re circling dates on your calendar, March 25 is what you’re looking for, the day the Bucks host the Rockets.

Harden should believe he is the best player in the game — you don’t get to be where he is without that level of confidence. Antetokounmpo should believe the same thing about himself. We could say the same things about LeBron James, Luka Doncic, and a host of others. It’s part of what makes them great, and not a surprise.

If the MVP thing is eating at Harden he might not like this season’s outcome any better. While I haven’t done a poll, most voters I’ve spoken to have The Beard third behind Antetokounmpo and LeBron James. There’s still more than six weeks of basketball before votes are cast — and the Rockets as a team are surging — but right now, the Greek Freak looks like a repeat winner from what I am hearing.

Rockets protested game despite Tilman Fertitta’s dissent

Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta
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Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta talks big about his devotion to winning.

But when Houston had a chance to turn a loss into a victory by protesting due to an uncounted James Harden dunk, Fertitta balked.

Fertitta, via Kirk Bohls of Statesman:

“That’s my basketball people who got mad at ’em. Honestly, I don’t think we should have filed the protest because honestly we blew the 22-point lead. But if something is important to my players and basketball ops people, I give them a lot of leeway.”

I wonder whether Fertitta would have publicly shared his stance if the protest succeeded. I also wonder whether how supported Fertitta’s basketball employees feel considering he’s publicly revealing that he wasn’t on their side.

But this is actually one of the more encouraging stories of Fertitta’s ownership. He allowed room for debate. He listened to the other side. He posted the $10,000 protest fee.

It didn’t pay off this time, but that’s how good owners operate.

As expected, Rockets sign veteran Jeff Green for remainder of season

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Before they committed fully, Houston signed free agent Jeff Green to a 10-day contract. They just wanted to make sure the veteran forward was a fit in their small-ball system.

It turns out, he was a perfect fit.

Through four games, playing a little more than 19 minutes a game, Green averaged 9.8 points a game on a ridiculous 89.6 true shooting percentage. That’s not sustainable (he’s shooting 61.5 percent from three), but it was enough for the Rockets to sign Green for the remainder of the season, something the team announced Friday.

Green, at 6’8″, played on the wing most of his career. However, with the Rockets he backs up P.J. Tucker at center.

Green started the season a member of the Utah Jazz, but the fit there was not as clean. While he averaged 7.7 points per game in 30 appearances, the Jazz ultimately waived him to create a roster spot for Rayjon Tucker.

This contract only runs through the end of this season, but the Rockets could re-sign Green for next season, if the sides agree this summer. For now, the focus is on the Rockets’ hot streak and building on that as the league moves toward the postseason.