Wednesday And-1 Links: Cavaliers pick up options for Irving, Waiters, Zeller, Thompson

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It’s time for our regular look around the NBA — links to stories worth reading and notes to check out (stuff that did not get its own post here at PBT) — done in bullet point form. Because bloggers love bullet points more than Skittles…

• If you are rebuilding with youth, rule one is to keep those youth around. That’s what the Cleveland Cavaliers did on Thursday, picking up the options on Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson (fourth year for those two), plus Dion Waiters and Tyler Zeller (third year options for them). While they have picked up the option, you can expect a max five-year extension offer to come to Irving next summer.

• Celtics GM Danny Ainge again makes it sound like he has no intention of trading Rajon Rondo (of course, what else can he say?). Here is the money quote, via Ken Berger of CBSSports.com.

“It’s my job to build the Celtics, and Rondo is a big part of that. Will everything be as perfect as he would like it? I don’t believe so, but it’s not perfect for us, either, the fact that he can’t play. I think Rondo is with us. I think he likes a lot of the core guys on our team now, and I think he is optimistic and looking forward to a new chapter.”

• Over at ESPN (Insider, so you have to pay), salary cap guru put together his annual list of the most underpaid and overpaid players in the NBA. Top three most underpaid: LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving. It’s obvious why Irving on his rookie deal makes the list, as for LeBron and Durant the money they generate for their teams far outstrips even a max NBA salary. The most overpaid? Kobe Bryant (his $30 million salary does him in), Amar’e Stoudemire and Joe Johnson.

Zach Lowe’s 32 predictions for the NBA season over at Grantland are a great read.

• Another great read: Sports Business Journal profiled Adam Silver.

• At Sports Illustrated, Ben Golliver and Rob Mahoney make a stab at predicting the All NBA Team at the end of the season. They predict a logical first team: Chris Paul, Derrick Rose, LeBron James, Kevin Durant and Dwight Howard.

• Jazz coach Ty Corbin said he is still trying to see if Lester Hudson or Scott Machado can run the point. Which doesn’t sound good for John Lucas III (while everyone waits for Trey Burk to return).

• Chris Paul and Stephen Curry picked up a new endorsement deal — partnering with Kaiser Permanente to promote its #OwnNow program, which encourages young adults to live healthy and active lives — and to get health insurance.

• Stan Van Gundy was on NBCSN’s Sports Dash Wednesday and talked the GM poll, plus who could knock off the Heat or deny LeBron another MVP.

• Miami Heat draft pick and PBT favorite (Long Beach State!) James Ennis is tearing it up in Austrailia.

• Finally, here is seven minutes of J.J. Redick talking about fancy watches.

Knicks’ Obi Toppin out at least 2-3 weeks with knee fracture

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Obi Toppin is a fan favorite and Knicks faithful were hoping to see more of him as the season progresses.

However, they are not going to see any of him for at least the next 2-3 weeks due to a fractured knee, the team announced.

Toppin suffered the injury in New York’s win Wednesday over Atlanta, the same game that saw Dejounte Murray sprain his ankle leading him to be out for a few weeks.

Toppin — the reigning All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk contest champion — is averaging 7.7 points in 25 games off the bench. With him out, coach Tom Thibodeau suggested he could lean more on RJ Barrett, asking him to play up at the four.

Report: Zach LaVine not available for trade from Bulls

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Front offices of potential contenders from Los Angeles to Philadelphia have their eyes on the Chicago Bulls — will the struggling Bulls pivot to chase Victor Wembanyama and the top of the lottery, making them sellers at the trade deadline? Teams have interest in Chicago’s three stars: Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic.

Except just-extended LaVine isn’t currently available, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said Wednesday on his network’s pregame show discussing the Knicks.

“The Knicks will be watching Chicago. Is Zach LaVine a player who before the deadline possibly can become available? He certainly isn’t now.”

Chicago is not yet ready to pivot to tanking, so none of its stars are truly available. That said, the Bulls don’t look like a playoff team, they miss Lonzo Ball, and even if things do come together where do they stand in the East hierarchy? If the Bulls do become sellers, they aren’t going to tear this team down to the studs, it would likely be trading just one star. Possibly a second if the offer was strong enough.

LaVine — who signed a five-year, $215 million extension this past summer — is the least likely to be available, league sources have told NBC Sports. The expectation is that Vucevic would be the Bull first made available if the Bulls decide to start seriously listening to offers. And that remains an “if.”

That said, front offices around the league have their eyes trained on Chicago.

Dejounte Murray added to growing Hawks injury report, out 2-3 weeks with sprained ankle

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John Collins is out for at least another week with a sprained ankle. DeAndre Hunter has been out with a strained hip flexor.

Now you can add Dejounte Murray to the Hawks’ growing injury report, he is out at least 2-3 weeks with a sprained ankle, Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic report.

The injury happened on a closeout from RJ Barrett of the Knicks.

The Hawks have already had chemistry and fit issues this season, and missing key players for an extended period only exacerbates the problem. Atlanta looked flat getting their doors blown off by the Knicks Wednesday night, 113-89, a game that added to a string where they have lost 5-of-7. Now they will have to find a way to right the ship without their second-best playmaker.

There also is an update on the Hawks’ play-by-play announcer Bob Rathbun.

NBA, WNBA players react to news Brittney Griner coming home

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Brittney Griner is finally coming home.

The WNBA and USA Basketball star has spent 10 months in Russian prisons — including being convicted and sent to a Russian penal colony — for having vape canisters with small amounts of cannabis oil in her luggage as she went through Russian airport security back in February. She became a political pawn in the tensions between the United States and Russia, mostly surrounding Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, and was freed via a prisoner swap announced Thursday.

The basketball world — WNBA players in particular — had worked to keep her name front and not let Griner be forgotten during this ordeal, pushing President Joe Biden and the government to reach a deal. With the news Griner was freed, NBA and WNBA players took to social media to react.

“Brittney has had to endure an unimaginable situation and we’re thrilled that she is on her way home to her family and friends,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “We thank the members of the NBA and WNBA community who never wavered in their efforts to raise awareness of Brittney’s unjust circumstances.”

“We are overwhelmed with relief and gratitude that our sister Brittney Griner is finally coming home,” the NBPA said in a statement. “Her strength and courage throughout this last year have been truly remarkable, as have the efforts of her wife Cherelle, our WNBPA sisters, Terri Jackson and the WNBPA staff, who have been relentless in their call to bring Brittney home. We know this homecoming would not have been possible without their unwavering support and continued work to keep BG always top of mind, and our players are honored to have contributed to those efforts. While this is a celebratory moment for our sisters and us, we must not forget the other political prisoners who remain in dire circumstances all over the world. These individuals must be remembered and fought for every single day as BG was so that they too can have this moment. Welcome home Brittney, we are so happy to have you back! #WeAreBG”