Sixers GM says rare availability of high lottery pick is what motivated him to trade Michael Carter-Williams

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The Sixers made a couple of trades right as Thursday’s deadline came to a close, and as usual, the moves were about the future more than they were about improving in the present.

Philadelphia traded reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams to the Bucks, as part of a three-team deal that netted the Sixers the Lakers’ (top-five protected) 2015 first round draft pick that was owed to the Suns.

Carter-Williams still needs to develop, but has already shown he’s capable of being an NBA-caliber starting point guard. It was curious, then, to see the Sixers hit the reset button once more, but GM Sam Hinkie said that the rare availability of a high lottery pick was simply too tempting to pass up.

From John Finger of CSN Philly:

What got Hinkie to release his grip on Carter-Williams was the chance to get the Lakers’ top-5 protected first-round pick. At 13-40, the Lakers are headed for the lottery this June. Looking at it linearly, the Sixers gave up the No. 11 pick of the 2013 draft for possibly the No. 6 pick in the 2015 draft. Then it’s top-3 protected the next two years, then unprotected after that.

Was it worth it?

“It is impossibly hard to get your hands on a pick that at least has the chance to be a high lottery pick,” Hinkie said. “It’s very rare that they move and because of that, we considered it and decided it was the best way to move our program forward.” …

“It’s not about Michael at all. I think Michael has a very bright future in this league, and I think will do quite well and we wish him the best,” Hinkie explained. “It’s still necessary for someone to look at the tough decisions we have to make to try to move our program forward.”

Carter-Williams has struggled with his shot in his first season-plus, which may be the underlying reason Hinkie pulled the trigger this quickly.

From Tom Moore of Calkins Media:

Hinkie: ‘For us to be among the best teams, you have to be able to shoot from 3.’

Carter-Williams simply can’t do that yet; his field goal percentage has dropped since last year, and he’s currently at just 38 percent for the season, which includes a mark of only 25.6 percent from three-point distance.

Meanwhile, the K.J. McDaniels trade to the Rockets may be even more frustrating for Sixers fans to deal with. McDaniels is a superb athlete and a legitimate defensive presence, and the type of player on a reasonable contract that a team would seem to want to rebuild around. And yet, he was dealt for nothing more than a point guard in Isaiah Canaan and a future second round pick.

“We traded K.J., who we are proud of, who we got in the 30s and we got back a mid-30s in the past and a mid-30s in the future,” Hinkie said. “In the end it came down to a trade we felt we had to do and it came down to the last four minutes.”

That’s just plain weird; Hinkie made a point of saying during his press conference that he’s “never in my life called a player an asset,” but when looking at them solely in terms of their draft position, it’s hard to believe that’s actually the case.

At some point, Philadelphia will need to begin developing the talent they have, instead of constantly searching for an upgrade by trading talented players for future draft picks; the team’s fans (and ownership) are likely to only be patient with this process for so long.

LeBron James, Anthony Davis combine for 49 points, Lakers beat Knicks

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NEW YORK (AP) — LeBron James scored 19 of his 21 points early, cutting into Kobe Bryant’s shrinking lead over him for the No. 3 scoring spot in NBA history, and the Los Angeles Lakers beat the New York Knicks 100-92 on Wednesday night.

Anthony Davis led the Lakers with 28 points in his second game back after a five-game absence, after the Western Conference leaders were handed their worst loss of the season Monday in his return.

James’ quiet second half left him with 33,599 points, 44 back of Bryant.

That keeps James in good shape to catch the former Lakers star Saturday at Philadelphia, where the five-time NBA champion was born. Los Angeles has a game in between Thursday in Brooklyn.

Davis scored eight points in the final 3:45 and finished 13 of 13 from the free throw line. He played 30 minutes after going only 23 in his return from a bruised gluteus maximus on Monday in Boston, where the Lakers were routed 139-107.

Marcus Morris scored 20 points and Damyean Dotson had 17 for the Knicks, who put up a much better effort after losing by 30 two weeks ago in Los Angeles. But they just couldn’t come up with timely shots to really threaten the Lakers in the fourth quarter.

James shot 8 of 10 in 17 minutes of the first half, but the Knicks held the rest of the Lakers relatively in check and the game was tied at 48 at halftime.

The Lakers led by six after three quarters, then opened the fourth with Dwight Howard‘s dunk, a 3-pointer by Rajon Rondo and a basket by Kyle Kuzma to extend it to 83-70.

New York hung around and was within six again late but the Lakers prevailed despite only two baskets, both by Davis, in the final four minutes.

 

Zion Williamson’s first NBA basket a putback

AP Photo/Gerald Herbert
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In his first NBA action, Zion Williamson looked like what he is: A rookie trying to find his way.

At least Willaimson didn’t force the issue and tried to blend in, making smart basketball plays, which led to a first-half bucket and assist in his 8:11 minutes of action.

Zion’s first bucket in the NBA came in the second quarter of his debut game, a putback off a Nickeil Alexander-Walker miss.

In his first quarter run, Zion looked to be unselfish with the ball and made the right basketball play a  few times, passing out of soft doubles and picking up an assist to Brandon Ingram cutting down the lane (but Zion was 0-of-1 shooting).

It was a good start if a bit tentative, something to be expected of a guy who missed 44 games and is now trying to come into the rotation midseason.

As he grows more comfortable, New Orleans needs Zion to attack the rim. The Pelicans have shot creators and shooters — Jrue Holiday, Lonzo Ball, Brandon Ingram, J.J. Redick — and a rim-running, attacking threat that forces defenses to collapse a little will make things easier for the Pelicans’ perimeter players.

San Antonio was sharp in the first half and led by double-digits for much it. That came in part because New Orleans started 0-of-9 from three (despite some clean looks). San Antonio led 60-51 at the half. If the Pelicans are going to make a playoff push, this is the kind of game they need (at home against another team in the mix for one of the final playoff spots in the West).

NBA games still not on China’s state run television

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In the wake of the backlash from China after Rockets GM Daryl Morey Tweeted out support for the protestors in Hong Kong — the kind of political statement the NBA takes in stride domestically but found it stirred a hornets’ nest in this case — Chinese state television stopped showing NBA games.

That is still the case today, according to Nets’ owner Joeseph Tsai.

Tsai — one of the co-founders of the Alibaba Group, which runs the Chinese equivalent of Amazon — is a billionaire with his feet in both the United States and China. He spoke to Bloomberg News recently about where things stand now in the NBA/China relationship (hat tip Nets Daily).

Tsai is eager to see NBA games back on [state run] CCTV. Although [streaming service] Tencent has begun showing them again, the state-owned broadcaster has yet to budge. A person familiar with the matter says the league is optimistic the network will relent, beginning with the All-Star Game on Feb. 16—there’s no ready replacement, after all, for LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

“Once you are on the air,” Tsai says, “everything will come back.”

For now.

The NBA, like any American group doing business in China, is caught up in geopolitical forces well beyond its control, from trade wars to protests in Hong Kong. Morey’s Tweet touched on what Tsai called a “third rail of Chinese politics” but he spoke of the Hong Kong protestors as separatists when they would argue they simply want what was promised them in the agreement that transferred control of the city from Brittish to Chinese rule. (And that last sentence itself is a gross oversimplification of a complicated situation.)

NBA games likely will end up back on Chinese television soon (although it will be longer for Rockets’ games), and the business of the NBA in China will continue. Both sides want to make money (and in China, keep a younger generation happy with a sport they have grown to love). However, the underlying issues that caused the last flare-up are not going away — things may be just simmering on the back burner, but the flames are not turned off.

When things do flare up again, Tsai will end up fight back in the middle of it.

Cavaliers: Ante Zizic out indefinitely with vestibular condition

Ante Zizic
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Kyrie Irving left the Celtics for the Nets after two seasons. The Cavaliers flipped Isaiah Thomas and Jae Crowder their first season in Cleveland.

The last player remaining with his team from that monumental-looking Cavs-Celtics trade, Ante Zizic might not be long for Cleveland, either.

In fact, it’s unclear whether he’ll play again for the Cavs.

Cavaliers release:

Center Ante Zizic, who has missed the team’s last five games after being diagnosed with a vestibular condition, will be OUT indefinitely. After experiencing symptoms of nausea and dizziness, it was determined by the Cavaliers medical team that Zizic requires a period of vestibular rehabilitation to evaluate those symptoms further. His return to basketball activities will be updated as appropriate.

“Indefinitely” always sounds scary. That’s especially so with an uncommon basketball medical update.

If the Cavaliers unload veterans like Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love before the trade deadline, Zizic could be in line for more playing time down the stretch. He could use a showcase entering unrestricted free agency this summer.

Hopefully, he’s healthy enough to be up for it.