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NBA GM: I wake up every day hoping rival trades for DeMarcus Cousins

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DeMarcus Cousins is an exceptional talent trapped on a bad team – a combination that often leads to a trade.

But Cousins doesn’t appear to be leaving the Kings anytime soon.

Why?

1. The NBA’s new veteran-designated-player rule will allow Sacramento, and only Sacramento, to offer Cousins a five-year contract extension projected to be worth $219 million. Cousins reportedly plans to accept that deal when offered. If another team trades for Cousins, its max offer for re-signing Cousins projects to be $188 million over five years – an amount low enough that Cousins could walk in free agency. Simply, the designated-player tag makes Cousins more valuable to the Kings that he would be to any other team.

2. Sacramento owner Vivek Ranadive wants to keep Cousins. Whether or not that’s the rational choice (it is, due to No. 1), the owner’s directive rules.

3.  Other teams are hesitant to deal with Cousins’ attitude.

Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN – in a incredibly reported piece on Cousins and the Kings – digs deeper into the third reason.

Arnovitz:

One general manager says he wakes up every day hoping one of his rivals trades for Cousins. Another says “No f—ing way” when asked whether he’d ever consider dealing for him.

Why? Cousins is so talented.

Arnovitz provides an example:

IT’S JANUARY 2015, a few weeks after Malone’s firing, and new coach Corbin is presiding over a film session. The team has fallen off a cliff in recent games, and Corbin has cued up a selection of video clips of the team’s defensive errors. Much of Corbin’s attention is focused on the Kings’ porous half-court defense, and Cousins is receiving heavy billing. After a few short minutes, Cousins jumps up.

“Why don’t we play film of all of this motherf—er’s mistakes?” Cousins shouts to the room, according to a then-teammate, pointing at Corbin. Corbin tries to explain that there’s no intent to single out any one player’s mistakes. Their recent performances, he says, have been teamwide failures. But Cousins is inconsolable. “Show ’em!”

Teammates don’t intervene. Corbin again urges Cousins to calm down. Cousins instead walks out of the film room and doesn’t return. When asked about the episode nearly two years later, Cousins confirms it — as well as his regular insubordination toward Corbin in practices, huddles and meetings.

“I feel bad for Ty Corbin,” Cousins says today about the interim coach who would compile a 7-21 record before being replaced. “We all knew the situation he was put in. That was just a frustrating period for everyone, to start the season the way we did. We finally were on the right path. I truly believe we would have been a playoff team. I was in a bad place. It was never an issue between me and Ty Corbin. He’s a great guy who was put in the worst situation possible — the worst.”

It’s good that Cousins can reflect on that incident, but it was only one of many. Arnovitz has much more, and I highly recommend reading his piece in full.

There are plenty of fair reasons to be wary of trading for Cousins, but his production demands close monitoring.  By most accounts, Cousins had been less destructive this year. It wouldn’t take much to justify the risk of trading for him. His upside is so high.

I suspect, if the Kings ever made him available, teams would line up to make offers — even if a few executives talk a big game about avoiding him now.

Bucks pull away in second half behind 31 from Giannis Antetokounmpo, rout Sixers

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MILWAUKEE (AP) — The Milwaukee Bucks turned a tight game with the Philadelphia 76ers into a mismatch immediately in the second half, led by the reigning league MVP.

Giannis Antetokounmpo had 31 points and 17 rebounds, Khris Middleton scored 25 points and the Bucks beat the 76ers 119-98 on Saturday night in a matchup of Eastern Conference rivals.

Antetokounmpo scored Milwaukee’s first 11 points in the third quarter as the Bucks took advantage of the absence of Philadelphia big man Joel Embiid, who went to the bench less a minute into the period after picking up his fourth foul, and quickly put the game out of reach.

“We came out the third quarter and played fast,” Antetokounmpo said. “We were able to rebound the ball and just attack them. Joel had four fouls. That worked in our favor. We tried to be aggressive in the third quarter and set the tone.”

Antetokounmpo added eight assists as Milwaukee won for the 16th time in its last 18 games to improve its NBA-best record to 48-8.

The Bucks led 56-50 at the half before Antetokounmpo’s scoring outburst put the Bucks in control. Milwaukee would go on to outscore the 76ers 37-23 in the period.

Embiid, coming off a 39-point performance on Thursday night, had 17 points and 11 rebounds but shot just 5 for 18. Furkan Korkmaz and Shake Milton also scored 17 points apiece for the 76ers, who fell to 9-20 on the road.

“I liked what I was seeing in the first half, and the death knock was Joel sitting,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said. “We just didn’t respond well to Milwaukee playing their tails off, and they shot the heck out of the ball.”

Philadelphia lost All-Star point guard Ben Simmons early in the first quarter. Simmons, who missed the 76ers’ previous game with lower back tightness, headed to the locker room after making consecutive driving layups, the second with a little more than 7 minutes left in the opening quarter. He didn’t return after the injured flared up.

“We never got in a rhythm. Losing Ben, then foul trouble, not making shots and some calls that could have gone a different way,” Embiid said. “But it’s on us.”

The 76ers shot just 35%, while the Bucks connected on 53% of their shots.

The Bucks got off to a scorching start, taking a 12-2 lead sparked by seven points from Antetokounmpo. Milwaukee led by as many as 11 in the quarter and held a 31-21 lead at the end.

Philadelphia pulled within 37-36 in the second before the Bucks used a 10-2 spurt to push the lead back to double digits.

Watch Dwyane Wade have his number retired by Heat

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Dwyane Wade is the greatest Miami Heat player ever.

He was at the heart of every championship the Heat won, he was active and beloved in the community, he was the face of the franchise.

Now his legacy is forever part of the American Airlines Arena — the Heat have retired his number.

Wade is a three-time champion, and 8-time All-NBA player, a 13-time All-Star, and a Finals MVP who averaged 22 points a game over his 16 year NBA career.

Next stop: Hall of Fame.

Stephen Curry cleared for contact, goes through full scrimmage with Warriors

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Stephen Curry is not sitting out the rest of the season. He wants back on the court — he’s targeting the first week of March — and the Warriors are not holding him out.

That got a step closer on Saturday when Curry went through a full scrimmage with the Warriors. Warriors coach Steve Kerr said this after practice, via NBC Sports Bay Area.

“Yeah he scrimmaged today, first day of scrimmaging,” Kerr told reporters at the Chase Center practice facility. “We only had seven other healthy players, so there were two coaches out there scrimmaging too, it was not pretty, but Steph looked great.”

The March return for Curry seems on track. Klay Thompson will not return to the court this season.

The Warriors are not playoff bound, but there is no reason to sit out Curry and tank, either.

First, that’s not the kind of culture the Warriors have built, coming off three titles in five years. Second, the fan base could use the boost of watching Curry drain deep threes after a disheartening season to this point. Third, and maybe most important, what exactly would they need to tank for, better draft position? This is a down draft to begin with, so anyone the Warriors select likely can’t help them much next season anyway (which is why there’s a lot of speculation the Warriors may try to trade the pick). Also, with the flattened out lottery odds, they don’t gain much anyway. The Warriors have the worst record in the NBA, but the three worst teams all have a 14 percent chance at the top pick, and the fourth worst is at 12.5 percent, fifth is 10.5 percent. Curry’s return for a month isn’t lifting the Warriors to the point teams will not want the pick.

We could all use to be reminded just how special Curry is as a player. Hopefully, we get to see that in a couple of weeks.

Kings return to Staples Center, beat Clippers for second time in a month

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — Kent Bazemore scored a season-high 23 points, Bogdan Bogdanovic added 20 and the Sacramento Kings beat the Los Angeles Clippers on the road for the second time in less than a month, winning 112-103 on Saturday.

De’Aaron Fox had 20 points and eight assists for the surging Kings. They have won two straight out of the All-Star break and eight of 12 overall.

Sacramento blew a 14-point lead in the second half to a Clippers lineup missing injured stars Paul George and Patrick Beverley. But the Kings then shut out Kawhi Leonard and the Clips for more than five straight minutes down the stretch, making a decisive 10-0 run capped by Harry Giles’ percussive dunk with 58 seconds left.

Leonard scored 31 points in his return from his MVP performance in Chicago, but the Clippers returned from the All-Star break with their first three-game losing streak of the season. Lou Williams added 24 points, and Montrezl Harrell had 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Sacramento had a big lead late in the third quarter, but the Clippers took their first lead of the day on Harrell’s leap-and-lean bucket with 8:30 to play.

The Kings reclaimed the lead on Harry Giles’ putback score with 4:17 left, and Bogdanovic hit a clutch 3-pointer two minutes later.

With the Clippers comfortably in third place in the Western Conference, George and Beverley are both getting extra time off to rest persistent injuries.

Reggie Jackson scored eight points in his Clippers debut two days after the Pistons bought him out, while Marcus Morris had six points and five turnovers in 32 minutes in his home debut nearly two weeks after the Clippers acquired him in a three-way trade.

With George and Beverley sidelined, Clippers coach Doc Rivers used his 28th starting lineup in 56 games, putting newcomers Morris and Jackson in the mix. Perhaps unsurprisingly, these unfamiliar Clippers returned from eight days off and missed 13 of their first 14 shots on their way to a 4-for-24 first quarter with five turnovers.

Sacramento wasn’t much better, but Bazemore scored 15 points in the first half. Los Angeles had more turnovers than field goals until late in the half, but Jackson’s first basket for the Clippers was a 3-pointer in the final second before halftime.