Report: Thunder don’t plan to trade Paul George, Pelicans same with DeMarcus Cousins

Associated Press
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Last year at the trade deadline, New Orleans’ GM Dell Demps went all-in and traded for DeMarcus Cousins to pair with Anthony Davis, going big in a small-ball league.

Last summer, Oklahoma City GM Sam Presti went all-in acquiring Paul George from the Pacers, in a move to get Russell Westbrook to re-sign (it worked) and make the Thunder a contender again (not sure about that one yet).

With the trade deadline approaching, both teams could bail on those plans, trade their stars for pennies on the dollar, and start their next phase building around the star they have locked up.

Neither team plans to do that — the Thunder are keeping George, and the Pelicans are keeping Cousins, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

For now, the Thunder are fully committed to playing out the season with impending free agent Paul George. They still have hope that a strong run in the playoffs could convince him to re-sign in Oklahoma City….

So far, New Orleans is determined to re-sign center DeMarcus Cousins and hasn’t invited trade offers on him.

If you want big names not going anywhere at the deadline, Marc Gasol in Memphis may need an invite to the party.

Teams are curious to study Memphis’ plans with center Marc Gasol, but so far, the Grizzlies say they’re planning to keep him.

For the Thunder, the team’s play has improved of late, guys are accepting their roles (we’re looking at you, Carmelo Anthony), and they look like a team that can make the second round of the playoffs. Then they likely run into the Warriors. Is that enough to keep George? The Pacers and other teams were told last summer he wanted to be a Laker when he was a free agent in 2018, but as George looks at that struggling team and the LaVar-induced circus around it, is the draw of home the same? Oklahoma City is not backing off its plans now, they want to keep him.  Although if George wants to stay (at a max salary) and Carmelo Anthony does the expected and opts into his $28 million (and Russell Westbrook is already maxed out), this is a small market team headed deep into the luxury tax. We’ll see what kind of stomach ownership has for that tax.

The Pelicans want desperately to make the playoffs this season, keeping Cousins — who is having a fantastic year — is the only way they do that. New Orleans is currently the eight seed in the West, 2.5 games up on the L.A. Clippers.

Memphis fired their coach in a futile effort turn their season around, and the injury to Mike Conley (and, I supposed, Chandler Parsons, but we all expected that one) has certainly kept them down. We can debate whether getting the band back together in Memphis is really a good idea, but ownership doesn’t seem ready to trade Gasol and move on yet.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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It’s not good news, but it looked like it could have been much worse.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony Towns is out for weeks with a right calf strain, the team announced Tuesday following an MRI exam. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN reports it is likely 4-6 weeks.

The injury occurred midway through the third quarter Monday when Towns started to run back upcourt and went to the ground without contact, grabbing his knee and calf. It looked scary — Achilles scary — and he had to be helped off the court.

Towns has averaged 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game, and while his numbers are down this season — just 32.8% on 3-pointers — the team has struggled at times without him, particularly lineups with Rudy Gobert and Anthony Edwards together, an -11.8 net rating (in non-garbage time minutes, via Cleaning the Glass).

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.

Watch Lakers fan drain half-court shot to win $75,000

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
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It might have been the loudest the crypto.com Arena was all night.

Between the third and fourth quarters, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 draining a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

Murry’s celebration is the best part — with Anthony Davis coming out to celebrate with him (and seeming a little shocked by the hug).

One other big shot fell at this game, but Lakers’ fans didn’t like it as much — Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.