Heat’s Luol Deng on rumors he’s being targeted by Grizzlies: ‘I’m not the one asking for a trade’

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Luol deng was the big free agent acquisition in Miami this summer, after LeBron James decided he’d had enough of the Heat and chose to return home to once again play for the Cavaliers.

Due to a combination of injuries and a sheer lack of talent, Miami has struggled in the first part of the season, and with a record of just 15-20, it seems as though the Heat won’t be doing the type of postseason damage they expected.

As such, the rumors have begun to swirl. The Grizzlies have reportedly expressed interest in dealing for Deng, but it’s unclear if Miami is at all interested in trading him for spare parts.

Deng himself wants to make it clear that he has no part in this, and isn’t the one pushing to be sent out of town.

From Jason Lieser of the Palm Beach Post:

When asked about an ESPN report that the Memphis Grizzlies are interested in trading for him, Deng said he is happy in Miami and is not looking to leave.

“It’s not in my hands or anything,” he said Thursday after the team’s shootaround at Moda Center. “I’ve just gotta continue doing what I need to do.” …

“I’ve had no issues,” he said. “My whole thing this year has been trying to get it right. It’s never been that I’m unhappy. Just because there are trade rumors– I’m not the one asking for a trade… I’m not the one starting the rumors or whatever’s going on. I know just as much as you, honestly.”

Deng signed a short-term deal with the Heat this past summer, agreeing to stay in Miami on a contract for two years and $20 million, with Deng holding the player option for a little more than $10 million next season,

He hedged his bets a bit by signing only a two-year deal, and that contract is part of what makes him such a desirable piece in trade.

Deng isn’t so valuable that Miami wouldn’t consider something, especially if he isn’t a fit with the personnel currently in place. The Heat could essentially erase the mistake of signing him by dealing for players on expiring contracts, thus recreating the salary cap space it had in order to re-use it by signing one or more players that may be able to help the cause in a future season.

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
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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.

Watch Lakers fan drain half-court shot to win $75,000

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
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It might have been the loudest the crypto.com Arena was all night.

Between the third and fourth quarters, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 draining a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

Murry’s celebration is the best part — with Anthony Davis coming out to celebrate with him (and seeming a little shocked by the hug).

One other big shot fell at this game, but Lakers’ fans didn’t like it as much — Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.