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Report: Pistons voiding Donatas Motiejunas trade with Rockets, 76ers

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With the Donatas Motiejunas trade and Joel Anthony trade wrapped into a single transaction involving the Pistons, Rockets and 76ers, Detroit asked for more time to evaluate Motiejunas’ back injury.

The writing was on the wall, and confirmation of a failed physical is sure to disappoint the Rockets and 76ers.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The effects of negating this trade are wide-reaching.

With Motiejunas and Thornton returning to Houston, the Rockets are back above the luxury-tax line. They’re now projected to pay $4,841,505 in taxes – and no longer receive the share of taxes typically distributed to non-taxpaying teams.

The 76ers, who lost JaKarr Sampson to the Nuggets after waiving him to create a roster spot for Anthony, fall $2,630,651 below the salary floor. Watch for them to claim a waived player who makes about that amount, count his full-season salary toward the floor and pay only the prorated portion of the remaining salary (about 30%). Teams with a superfluous player making that amount could even waive him knowing Philadelphia might take that guaranteed salary off their hands. A candidate: Joel Anthony, who’s now back with Detroit (though the Pistons, as non-taxpayers, have less of a need to shed salary).

The Rockets would surely love to trim that amount, but they have no contracts so easily expendable that the 76ers would claim. The biggest incentive for Houston to make this trade was the first-round pick the Pistons were sending. The Rockets didn’t want just to dump Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton. Houston now has both players to help with a playoff push, but that doesn’t mean so much to the Rockets.

Ethically, this decision should focus only on player heath – and it might have. Motiejunas’ bad back is scary, and it was somewhat surprising the Pistons surrendered such a valuable pick for the pending free agent in the first place. But it’s worth wondering whether Detroit, 0-2 since the trade deadline and facing increased playoff competition with the Wizards (Markieff Morris) and Hornets (Courtney Lee) upgrading before the deadline, made this decision with ulterior motives.

The Pistons also traded for Tobias Harris, and they might have determined they’d face more difficulty than expected integrating its newcomers. That could lead to the top-eight-protected pick they dealt Houston more likely landing in the lottery. At that point, they could’ve re-thought the deal designed to acquire two players more helpful this season than Joel Anthony. Now, Detroit can keep its first-round pick and still pursue Motiejunas as a restricted free agent.

Other teams might hesitate to deal with the Pistons after this, so the onus is on Stan Van Gundy to defend his reputation. I think he’ll do that, but the questions must be asked first. At minimum, the Pistons avoid what all along appeared to be too risky of a trade. Detroit still has plenty of flexibility to build from here – again, including the possibility of trying to sign Motiejunas this summer.

With the trade deadline past, Houston and Philadelphia are much more stuck.

76ers coach Brett Brown says he expects Joel Embiid (ankle injury) back before playoffs

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Joel Embiid injured his ankle in the 76ers’ loss to the Trail Blazers yesterday.

How serious is it?

Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia:

Joel Embiid is out for Tuesday’s game against the Suns with the left ankle injury he sustained in the first quarter Sunday vs. the Blazers. He’ll be undergoing treatment and evaluation at the team’s practice Monday night.

Brett Brown said he expected Embiid to play again before the playoffs, though characterized that view as “just one man’s opinion.”

That sounds like great news for Philadelphia, which is already without Ben Simmons.

Embiid can be dominant. With him, the 76ers still have a chance of advancing in the playoffs. It might even be easier to create space around Embiid – where Embiid can really feast – without Simmons (though the loss of the talented Simmons lowers Philadelphia’s ceiling).

However, the 76ers don’t deserve benefit of the doubt for setting accurate injury timelines, particularly with Embiid. There’s an element of “see it to believe it” here.

J.J. Redick loses NBA’s longest-active individual playoff streak (13 years)

Pelicans guard J.J. Redick
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As J.J. Redick stared into the distance, he had to see this coming.

Redick will miss the playoffs for the first time in his 14-year career. His Pelicans were eliminated from the postseason race yesterday.

At 13 years, Redick’s playoff streak is tied for the 13th-longest in NBA history. No current player has a longer streak at any point his career. LeBron James also had a 13-year playoff streak (which was snapped last year).

Here are the longest individual postseason streaks in NBA history:

Obviously, some of Redick’s streak was out of his control. He got drafted in 2006 by the Magic, who were rising with Dwight Howard. But Redick’s competitiveness and professionalism made him a steady contributor, and he chose winning situations with the Clippers then 76ers.

But New Orleans was too flawed to make a major leap in this Western Conference.

This clears the way for Bucks wing Kyle Korver to take over the longest active playoff streak. He has played in the last 12 postseasons, and Milwaukee has already clinched a playoff berth.

Here are the longest postseason streaks that could remain active this year.

Players whose teams have already clinched a playoff berth are in blue. Players whose teams are still in the race but haven’t clinched are in gold.

Players are listed with the teams they made the postseason with during their streaks. If they haven’t reached the playoffs with their current team, that team is listed in brackets:

Deandre Ayton misses coronavirus test, arrives late to underway Suns-Thunder game

Suns center Deandre Ayton
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Another testing issue for Deandre Ayton.

This one comes at a terrible time for the Suns.

Phoenix is trying to complete a longshot run to the playoffs and playing the Thunder in a key game today. But Ayton arrived late to the arena after missing a coronavirus test yesterday.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Like many Suns, Ayton has played well in the resumption. Phoenix doesn’t have another big-man option like him, especially with Aron Baynes sidelined. The Suns started Dario Saric in a small lineup today.

Ayton arrived to the arena and is warming up on an exercise bike. He could still get into the game and make a difference.

Already locked into the 4-6 range in the Western Conference and perhaps trying to keep its top-20-protected first-round pick, Oklahoma City is playing without Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, Steven Adams, Nerlens Noel and Dennis Schroder. None of those will players will make a late entrance into the game.

Also: It’s ridiculous this wasn’t publicly disclosed sooner. The NBA continues to tout transparency while trying to draw more gambling revenue. Yet, a major lineup issue like this remains secret? That opens the door for some bettors to get inside information, which would be so damaging to the league’s integrity.

Kings now sole owners of second-longest playoff drought in NBA history

Sacramento Kings
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The Kings’ 2018-19 season ended with optimism.

Facing a meager over/under of 25.5 wins, Sacramento surged to 39 wins – its best record in 13 years. Under Dave Joerger, the Kings played a fast and fun style. De'Aaron Fox made historic improvements. Buddy Hield broke out. Several other young players showed promise.

Sure, the Kings missed the playoffs for a 13th straight season – matching the second-longest playoff drought in NBA history. But they were on track to end the skid soon enough.

Except, of course that’s not how it went in Sacramento.

The Kings were eliminated from the postseason chase yesterday, ensuring a 14th straight season outside the playoffs. That alone is now NBA’s the second-longest-ever postseason drought, breaking a tie with the Timberwolves (2005-17). Only the Buffalo Braves/San Diego/Los Angeles Clippers’ 15-year non-playoff streak (1977-91) is longer.

Here are the longest postseason droughts in NBA history:

The Suns could still reach 10 straight years outside the playoffs, but they’re still in the race this season.

The Kings might not be far from climbing this list, either.

Their future looks far bleaker than a year ago. Sacramento fired Joerger to hire Luke Walton, who has underwhelmed. Buddy Hield signed a lucrative contract extension then had a rough season. Fox progressed, though he didn’t make the desired leap into stardom. Other young players had ups and downs. Luka Doncic casts an even larger shadow from Dallas. The Kings’ organizational turmoil continues.

This was a feel-bad season in Sacramento, anyway. All the preceding losing only adds to the misery.

The Kings enter next season with one last chance to avoid the longest playoff drought in NBA history, and they do have a chance. But there’s only pessimism now.