Report: Rockets interested in Deron Williams and Goran Dragic

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The Mavericks landed Rajon Rondo, but before the Celtics traded the point to Dallas, the Rockets were in the running for him.

It’s unclear how serious Houston was. Rockets general manager Daryl Morey likes to inquire into any possible deal, regardless of feasibility.

But perhaps the Rockets are truly interested in upgrading at point guard.

Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report:

Daryl Morey, no doubt, is burning up the phones, and the expectation is that he’s going to go hot and heavy after a point guard.

They love Patrick Beverley, but ideally, he is the third guard in that rotation.

And to give an indication of just how aggressive they might be, sources around the league are saying don’t count Deron Williams out from the Brooklyn Nets, even though he has that fat contract and right now has a rib injury

Far more likely is that they go back to a guy that they already know – Goran Dragic, who is in a crowded backcourt with the Phoenix Suns and could be got with that New Orleans No. 1 pick that the Rockets have right now.

Beyond Williams’ injury, there are major roadblocks for getting him to Houston.

Williams is so highly paid, it’s difficult to construct a trade that has the Rockets sending out enough salary to match. For example, a package of Jason Terry, Corey Brewer and Alexey Shved (the latter two can’t be dealt with other players until days before the trade deadline) would fall $2,360,879 short of meeting Collective Bargaining Agreement rules. Look at Houston’s roster and try finding $2,360,879 worth of salary to add without including players too valuable to deal for someone Brooklyn seemingly wants to dump. Also keep in mind the Nets can’t add more than one player than they send out in a trade, though they could waive minimum-salary players Jerome Jordan, Darius Morris, Cory Jefferson and/or Markel Brown if necessary beforehand to make room.

Houston is also less than $1 million below the luxury-tax line, so adding Williams would almost certainly prove quite expensive for the Rockets.

Dealing for the underpaid Dragic would be much simpler, though it would require Houston surrender much more desirable assets. A lot of teams are interested in Dragic, who previously played for the Rockets, and Phoenix could move him. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent after the season, and he, Eric Bledsoe and Isaiah Thomas haven’t always smoothly complemented each other.

At 22-16, the Suns are eighth in the Western Conference. As long as they remain in playoff position, they’ll probably keep Dragic and hope they can re-sign him this summer. But if the Thunder make a move and knock Phoenix down in the standings, the Suns would be more likely to get what they can for Dragic now.

Of course, Houston could also push Phoenix in that direction by making a substantial offer. The Rockets have the Pelicans’ first rounder (protected 1-3 and 20-30 the next four years and 1-3 and 25-30 the two after that). With New Orleans on pace to finish as the No. 14 seed in the lottery this season, that’s a reasonably valuable pick.

It shouldn’t be enough alone to net Dragic, but it’s a start, and the Rockets have plenty of other intriguing assets. It’s just a matter of whether they want to use them to upgrade at point guard when they have a very solid Beverley there already.

Pascal Siakam scores 37, Raptors remain red hot with win vs. Suns

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TORONTO (AP) — Pascal Siakam had 37 points and 12 rebounds and the Toronto Raptors beat the Phoenix Suns 118-101 on Friday night for their 16th victory in 17 games.

Serge Ibaka scored 16 points, Fred VanVleet and Terence Davis each had 14, Kyle Lowry had 13 points and 10 assists and OG Anunoby aded 12 points for the defending NBA champion Raptors.

After Toronto’s franchise-record 15-game winning streak ended with a loss at Brooklyn in the final game before the All-Star break, the Raptors bounced back by starting the second half with their eighth consecutive home victory.

The Raptors have not lost back-to-back games since an overtime loss at Indiana on Dec. 23 and a home loss to Boston on Christmas Day. Toronto has gone 19-1 since.

Siakam connected on 12 of 19 attempts, going 5 of 9 from 3-point range.

That was just one fewer than the six 3-pointers the Suns managed on 34 attempts. Phoenix shot 17.6%t from long range, its lowest mark of the season. No Suns player made more than one shot from distance.

Devin Booker scored 21 points and Deandre Ayton had 17 points and 10 rebounds for Phoenix. The Suns lost for the seventh time in nine games.

Ayton returned to the starting lineup after missing the final two games before the All-Star break because of a sore left ankle.

Phoenix trailed 93-78 through three quarters, but the Suns cut the gap to six points, 96-90 on a basket by Ayton with 8:08 left to play. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson made a pair from the line, and VanVleet and Siakam both scored to put the Raptors up 102-90 with 6:58 remaining.

Booker missed a 3 with 4:45 left that would have made it a four-point game. Anunoby scored on a dunk and, after another missed 3 by the Suns, Ibaka banked home a 3-pointer to restore Toronto’s 12-point cushion.

Moe Harkless says no buyout with Knicks: “I’ll be here the rest of the year”

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Moe Harkless went from a guy often starting and playing critical minutes for a contender in the Clippers to being the matching salary in a trade and finding himself on the woeful Knicks.

“It is definitely an adjustment with the way things are,” Harkless told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. “Everything is different, the culture and everything.”

If there was a player nobody would blame for wanting a buyout and the chance to get back to a team playing for something, it would be Harkless.

That’s not happening. Multiple reports have surfaced that he is not talking buyout with New York running up to the March 1 deadline. The latest comes from Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Then Harkless was even more direct speaking to Bondy.

“I’ll be here the rest of the year,” he said.

Harkless has fans in NBA front offices, with the Lakers rumored to be among them (although they are about to land Markieff Morris in a similar role). Harkless could play good defensive minutes on the wing down the stretch for a team, buying rest for key guys, plus in the playoffs he could be advantageous in certain matchups.

Morris and the Knicks have time to change their minds, but it sounds like he will play out the season in New York then be a free agent next summer.

Lakers reportedly will waive DeMarcus Cousins to clear roster spot

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If the Lakers are going to add Markieff Morrisas has been rumored — or anyone else via free agency, they are going to need to clear out a roster spot.

That has the Lakers looking to waive DeMarcus Cousins, a report broken by Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Cousins signed with the Lakers over the summer but never set foot on the court with them after tearing his ACL during summer workouts (which led to a scramble and L.A.’s fortuitous signing of Dwight Howard). He was around the team and rehabbing, and while they would never officially rule him out, Cousins was never expected to play.

He was not waived before because his $3.5 million salary might have been useful in a trade. When that didn’t materialize at the deadline it, became likely he could get waived.

It’s highly unlikely a team picks up Cousins this season, while he continues to rehab from his injury. However, it might be a good roll of the dice this summer by a team to sign him to a minimum contract for next season. Cousins still has some NBA basketball in him, if he can just stay healthy.

Karl-Anthony Towns has fractured wrist, to be re-evaluated in two weeks

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Karl-Anthony Towns was a surprise scratch from the Timberwolves last game before the All-Star break, a “left wrist injury” delaying the home debut of him with D'Angelo Russell (they did play a road game together in Toronto). Then came the rumors he could miss a few games when play started up again.

It’s going to be more than a few games, more than a few weeks.

Towns has a fractured left wrist, the team announced Friday. He is out and will be re-evaluated in two weeks. From the team press release:

“While Towns has been diligent in treatment with a goal of return to play, he has been assessed by multiple specialists over the last several days and the team continues to gather information on the optimal management strategies.”

Towns had been playing through wrist pain for a couple of weeks before this diagnosis.

Towns is having a career year on offense, averaging  26.5 points a game while shooting 41 percent from three (on 7.9 attempts per game), plus grabbing 10.8 rebounds a night. That has not translated into wins for Minnesota, however.

Towns being out doesn’t hurt the Timberwolves in the short term, they have fallen far out of the playoff chase in the West. However, this cuts into time Towns and Russell could have used to grow accustomed to each other’s games. It’s time lost for the coaching staff and front office as they evaluate the fit of players they have around Towns and Russell.