Report: Hornets pull Lance Stephenson off trade block

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Amid their extremely disappointing 6-19 start, the Hornets reportedly aggressively sought a trade.

You better believe those discussions included Lance Stephenson, the talented and mercurial guard signed just last summer whose arrival coincided with Charlotte’s downfall. Not only has Stephenson struggled on the court, he might be an issue in the locker room, too.

The Hornets reportedly had teams interested in Stephenson, but non were interested enough.

Ramona Shelburne and Chris Broussard of ESPN:

Underwhelmed by the quality of trade offers they’ve received for Lance Stephenson, the Charlotte Hornets have decided to keep the volatile guard “for now,” according to league sources.

But while sources say as many as seven teams registered interest, including Miami and Brooklyn, no offers intrigued Charlotte and several teams that called did not make trade proposals.

Another factor in the Hornets’ decision to keep Stephenson is their growing belief that a groin injury has hindered him all season and played a significant role in his lack of production. Stephenson is expected to miss the next two games because of the groin and did not travel to Philadelphia for Friday’s game against the 76ers.

Charlotte feels the injury has affected Stephenson’s movement and conditioning, according to sources, and that just as he was getting healthy, he reinjured the groin Wednesday against Phoenix. The Hornets want to rest Stephenson, let him heal and see if he can either fit in with Charlotte or re-establish his trade value.

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This is definitely a “You can’t fire me, because I quit” scenario. The Hornets are pulling Stephenson off the market? Please. That wreaks of them just not finding any takers.

This groin injury might be completely real, a valid excuse for Stephenson’s struggles. Let him heal, and he’ll start playing well enough to lift Charlotte into the playoff picture or at least increase his trade value.

But it sure sounds like an exaggerated excuse, one that would tell other teams Stephenson’s problems are completely fixable.

Ultimately, the proof will be in the pudding. At some point, Stephenson will have to heal from this injury (“injury”?) and become more productive. If he does, the Hornets will have better options.

Waiting is probably Charlotte’s best option. It’s not worth attaching a valuable draft pick just to dump Stephenson at, seemingly, his lowest point. There’s no sense continuing trade discussions and broadcasting to the league how desperate you are to get rid of him.

But for the market to truly change, the Hornets can’t just use this negotiating trick. They’ll need Stephenson to actually play better.

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”