Celtics complete trade of No. 1 pick to 76ers with previously unreported wrinkle

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Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons… and, soon, Markelle Fultz.

The 76ers have built an incredible young core. But it came at a cost – years of losing to tank for Embiid and Simmons and an extra first-round pick to move up with the Celtics to draft Fultz No. 1 overall this year. That trade, as expected, is now complete.

With the deal official, we have a clear look at the draft picks and protections involved.

Celtics release:

The Boston Celtics announced today that they have acquired the third overall selection of the 2017 NBA Draft and the favorably-protected rights to a future first round pick from the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for the first overall pick in this year’s draft.

The future first round pick will be the Los Angeles Lakers’ 2018 pick if it’s within the No. 2 to No. 5 range of the 2018 draft. If it is not, the Celtics will instead receive either Sacramento’s or Philadelphia’s first round pick in 2019, whichever is more favorable. However, if either of those 2019 picks result in the first overall selection, Boston will instead receive the other first round pick.

“We’re thrilled to be able to select what we expect be an impact player with the third pick in this year’s very talented draft class, while also adding a highly valuable future asset as we continue to build towards Banner 18,” said Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge.

It was previously reported the Celtics, if they don’t get the Lakers 2018 first-round pick, would get the Kings’ 2019 first-rounder. The conditions for Boston getting the higher of Philadelphia’s or Sacramento’s 2019 first-rounder (or the lower of the two, if one is No. 1) were previously unreleased.

This doesn’t change the calculus much. It’s still possible the Lakers’ 2018 pick completes the trade. If not, the Celtics get a higher floor (getting the more favorable of two picks, rather than just one wherever it lands) and a lower ceiling (no No. 1 pick) with the 2019 selection. The 76ers should be much better by then, though Embiid’s and Simmons’ injury histories cause concern. It’ll still probably be the Lakers’ or Kings’ pick going to Boston.

After Philadelphia picks Markelle Fultz No. 1, the Lakers will probably take Lonzo Ball No. 2. That puts the Celtics on the clock in a big decision, seemingly between Josh Jackson and Jayson Tatum. Getting that right will factor into how this trade is judged years from now.

But whether Fultz becomes an elite player will hover the transaction more than anything else. If he’s a superstar, it’d be nearly impossible for Boston to recoup enough value from the lower draft picks it received. If not, the Celtics have set themselves up even more nicely for a future that already includes the Nets’ 2018 first-rounder.

Report: CJ McCollum has been playing through fractured lower back

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CJ McCollum hit two critical free throws late Tuesday to put Portland up three late on Dallas and secure the win.

But he had a rough night overall, shooting 2-of-14 overall. His shooting numbers are down across the board through this restart, not terrible but down from the level the world has seen from one of the games most feared scorers.

Now we know why: A fractured lower back. Dwight Jaynes of NBC Sports Northwest broke the news.

Sources told NBC Sports Northwest prior to the game that McCollum has been playing with a L3 vertebral transverse process fracture (non-displaced) since last Thursday. In layman’s terms, he has a fracture in his lower back. He has played three games since the injury.

While this injury is not as bad as “a fractured back” sounds, it has slowed other players who had it, including Utah’s Mike Conley.

Portland has had success despite a slowed McCollum, in part because Gary Trent Jr. has stepped up and taken on a larger role on both ends of the court (including drawing a charge on Kristaps Porzingis that sealed the Blazers win over the Mavericks).

That win put Portland in as the eighth seed in the West, a spot they can hold with a win against Brooklyn on Thursday. That would put them in a play-in series — where if they won the reward would be LeBron James and the Lakers. To reach that point and threaten Los Angeles, Portland is going to need a lot out of McCollum. The question is how much does he have to give with this injury?

 

Giannis Antetokounmpo ejected after headbutting Moe Wagner

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The Milwaukee Bucks are lucky they have another seeding game remaining because there is a good chance Giannis Antetokounmpo gets suspended a game for this.

The reigning (and soon-to-be two time) MVP let Washington’s Moe Wagner get under his skin. After Wagner took a charge from Antetokounmpo the two had to be separated. They kept jawing, and when they came together again, Antetokounmpo headbutted Wagner.

Wagner may have sold that a little, but that is unquestionably a headbutt. Antetokounmpo deserved the Flagrant II and ejection that came with it.

The one-game suspension that is coming will not cost the Bucks anything, they have the No. 1 seed in the East locked up. However, that one game is aginst the Grizzlies and if Memphis wins it gets the nine seed in the West at worst (eighth of Portland were to lose Thursday).

Wagner has a gift for getting under an opponent’s skin. Antetokounmpo has to do better keeping his emotions in check, because come the playoffs they will get tested like never before.

 

Damian Lillard scores 61 points, win vaults Portland to eight seed

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The Portland Trail Blazers control their own postseason destiny — and they can thank Damian Lillard for that.

Lillard got all the respect he wanted when he tied his career-high of 61 points Tuesday, and the Portland Trail Blazers needed every one of them to beat the Dallas Mavericks 134-131.

Lillard was 9-of-17 from three, plus got to the line 18 times and hit every free throw.

Portland’s win combined with Memphis’ loss to Boston puts the Trail Blazers into the eighth seed in the West — win on Thursday against Brooklyn and Portland is the eighth seed. That is a massive advantage heading into the two-game play-in series, the eighth seed just needs to win one of those two games to advance to the playoffs (and a first-round date with LeBron James). The ninth-seeded team needs to sweep the two games to advance.

Memphis can maintain the nine seed with a win Thursday. Should the Grizzlies lose again (to the Bucks, who have nothing to play for) it opens the door for the Suns or the Spurs to get the nine seed. Or maybe higher.

Portland is not safe just because of the win Tuesday: If it loses to Brooklyn on Thursday and two of Memphis, Phoenix, and San Antonio win, the Trail Blazers will be watching the first round of the playoffs on television like the rest of us. The race in the West is that tight.

It’s hard to imagine Portland losing a critical game, however, with the way Lillard is playing. He said he wants some respect on his f ****** name – and he’s more than earned it.

Watch Devin Booker score 35, keep Phoenix perfect 7-0 and in play-in hunt

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Devin Booker scored 35 points and the Phoenix Suns protected their playoff hopes by beating the Philadelphia 76ers 130-117 on Tuesday to remain undefeated in the NBA restart.

Booker became the Suns’ career leader with his 91st 30-point game, breaking a tie with Walter Davis.

Mikal Bridges added 24 points and Ricky Rubio had 16 points with 10 assists for the Suns, who began the day only one game behind eighth-place Memphis in the Western Conference playoff race.

Phoenix is 7-0 as the only undefeated team in the restart and an unlikely factor in the tight race for a spot in this weekend’s play-in for the final playoff spot.

Phoenix pulled away late after leading only 105-102 following back-to-back baskets by Alec Burks, who led the 76ers with 23 points.

A dunk by Cameron Johnson capped a 10-3 run that stretched the lead to 115-105.

The Suns continued their high-scoring play in the bubble after averaging 120 points in the first six games.

Philadelphia, No. 6 in the East and already assured of a playoff spot, is attempting to prepare for the postseason after losing Ben Simmons to a knee injury.

Shake Milton was Philadelphia’s only healthy starter against the Suns. The 76ers also were without Joel Embiid (left ankle), Tobias Harris (sore right ankle) and Al Horford (sore left knee). Josh Richardson was rested.