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Five players most likely to be on the move before Thursday’s trade deadline

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For all the talk of a tight trade market (and that is still the case in some quarters) we have already seen a blockbuster trade — Blake Griffin is now a Detroit Piston. We’ve also seen an expected trade, with Nikola Mirotic getting moved and the Pelicans stepping up to land him.

Who else could be on the move before the NBA’s trade deadline before Thursday at 3 p.m. Eastern? There are a lot of names being bandied about around the league, but here are five to watch closely, the five most likely to have a new address by the end of the week.

1) Tyreke Evans, Memphis Grizzlies. If there is one sure thing on this list, it’s that Evans will have a new home, the Grizzlies have already shut him down to avoid an injury before the deadline. Evans is scoring 19.5 points a game and is shooting 39 percent from three in an impressive bounce-back season for the former Rookie of the Year who last summer had so little of a market he could only get a one-year, $3.3 million contract with Memphis. He’s played himself into a much bigger contract next season, one the capped-out Grizzlies can’t afford so they will trade him before the deadline to get something back.

So far the Celtics, Sixers, Cavaliers, Nuggets, Heat and other teams have inquired about Evans, who could be a bench spark for a playoff team, but Memphis is holding out for a first-round pick in the deal. Other teams are not offering that yet (more like a second rounder and a player on a cheap contract) because he is just a rental and teams would need to use cap space to re-sign him next summer (no Bird rights on a one-year contract). Which is why this one could well go down to the wire. Eventually either a team will cave and throw in a first-rounder, or Memphis will cave and take a couple of second-round picks for Evans. One way or another, he is certainly going to be on the move.

2) Lou Williams, Los Angeles Clippers. After the Blake Griffin trade, logic dictates the Clippers should move on from other veteran stars on their roster (except for Danilo Gallinari and his unmovable deal) and start a full-on rebuild. However, owner Steve Ballmer doesn’t want to bottom out, so the Clippers are holding out for real value at the deadline. Which brings us to Lou Williams — the current leader in the Sixth Man of the Year race averaging 23.5 points per game — who teams are calling about, but the Clippers are holding out for a first-round pick. Boston is the most mentioned team looking at Williams, but Toronto, Detroit, and Miami all also have been mentioned as possible destinations.

Unlike Memphis with Evans, the Clippers may well get a first-round pick for Evans, which is what they are demanding. The reason is that a trade for Williams brings his Bird rights, making it much easier for the team to re-sign him next summer.

3) Rodney Hood, Utah Jazz. I could have put Joe Johnson from Utah here too, because he wants out and his agent and the team are trying to make that happen. However, the reality is anyone not named Rudy Gobert or Donovan Mitchell is available from Utah, and shooter Rodney Hood is drawing a lot of interest. While there are other flaws in his game, Hood can shoot the rock from deep — averaging 16.4 points per game and hitting 38.7 percent from three — and that is a valuable commodity around the league. Denver is said to be interested, as are the Pistons among others.

One other name to watch from Utah at the deadline: Derrick Favors. He also is available and drawing some interest from teams.

4) Stanley Johnson, Detroit Pistons. An athletic and long wing with a world of potential but still not a reliable jumper, Stanley Johnson has not developed as hoped in Detroit. However, he’s just 21 years old, and other teams around the league think he could be a good player and want to see if a change of scenery and a different coach could break him out. He’s available in a trade, and has been mentioned as someone who could go to Utah for Hood (and Utah has one of the best player development programs in the league). Also reportedly interested are the Spurs among others. Detroit isn’t going to get a lot in return for him (no first-rounder for him in this market), but if Van Gundy is ready to move on a lesser deal may be enough.

5) DeAndre Jordan, Los Angeles Clippers. Much like Lou Williams, it would make sense for the Clippers to move on from Jordan, especially since he is a free agent this summer and, after the Griffin trade, it’s hard to see him re-signing with the Clips. The challenge in trading him is two-fold. First, he’s a more traditional pick-and-roll big man who can defend the rim, get boards, and finish around the basket for a team, but he can’t space the floor at all and his free throw shooting can make it hard to play him at the end of games. Not every team wants a traditional center like him now, and if a team is going to get DJ they need a good point guard (or ball handler) to run pick-and-rolls with Jordan and use his skill set well. Jordan is an All-NBA level player but he needs to be in a specific system to be truly effective.

The other problem for teams is they don’t want to put a lot of assets into a deal — and since Jordan makes $22 million this season it’s going to take a lot of assets in a trade to make it work — and then lose him as a free agent this summer. Teams will want behind-the-scenes assurances from Jordan he will re-sign (or that he would opt into his $24.1 million for next season, something he has so far been unwilling to do).

The Clippers want a first-round pick and a player for Jordan, and if a team believes it can re-sign him they may well get it. But not yet, and the Clippers may need to make a decision about taking less back or keeping him and then trying to re-sign him this summer.

Among the teams interested are Portland, Cleveland, Milwaukee, Miami, and Orlando.

Report: Clippers teammates rolled eyes at Paul George’s postseason calls for togetherness

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Paul George and Montrezl Harrell reportedly had a heated exchange on the bench during the Clippers’ loss to the Nuggets.

Apparently, that wasn’t an isolated incident.

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Paul George had a disappointing series against Denver, and had several moments that left him in compromising positions with his teammates — beyond just his production. Multiple teammates had verbal spats with George throughout the postseason, citing in their exchanges a lack of accountability from him.

In the postgame locker room Tuesday night, George was preaching to teammates to remain committed, for all the players to return to the team this offseason and stay ready to make another run. It was met by some eye rolls and bewilderment, sources said, because George did not back up his words with action in the series and the team has multiple free agents with decisions to make.

George wanted more time with his teammates. They already had enough of him.

This had been a simmering problem – George and Kawhi Leonard getting preferential treatment, their teammates resenting it. Harrell sounded particularly bothered by the dynamic.

Losing exacerbates issues like that, and getting upset by Denver was a big loss. Both George and Harrell faced oncourt and offcourt stressors – only further contributing to squabbling.

Harrell will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. The Clippers should try to keep him. He’s a good player, and they wouldn’t gain much cap flexibility without him.

But the 26-year-old might also want to explore the market and secure the most lucrative deal. It’d be reasonable for him to resent a teammate pressing him just to take the Clippers’ offer – especially if Harrell felt George wasn’t as committed to the team in the first place.

George and Leonard have earned preferential treatment. Leonard in particular has shown he benefits from load management.

However, that can annoy teammates. That doesn’t mean it’s a bad plan. It just means that downside should be accounted for.

It’d be nice if Leonard were more vocal or George rubbed fewer people the wrong way. But their basketball talent means dealing with their shortcomings. It’d be nice if George’s eye-rolling teammates realized that, too.

Clippers coach Doc Rivers bears responsibility for managing this tension. A this best, he connects well with players and gets everyone pulling for the same goal. That’s his job as the Clippers try to make the next step.

Miami’s Meyers Leonard adjusting to going from starter to out of rotation

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LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. (AP) — Meyers Leonard was bent forward at the waist, standing a few feet away from Miami coach Erik Spoelstra on the Heat sideline, screaming with every bit of the volume that his deep and booming voice can generate.

This is his role right now for the Heat.

His only role.

Leonard is in a tough spot these days; a full-time starter during the regular season, he is now out of the rotation as the Miami Heat have made their run to the Eastern Conference finals. It is a bitter pill for him to swallow — yet to his credit, he hasn’t acted the least bit bitter about his current reality.

“My team knows this, and our coaching staff knows this,” Leonard told The Associated Press. “I would do anything to be out there. And I’d be lying if I said that I’m not competitive as hell. I wish I was impacting the game on the floor. I’m not, but as a person and as a player, I want what’s best for everybody.”

So for now, the 7-foot, 260-pound, chiseled center is the tallest, strongest and best-paid assistant coach in these playoffs. He calls out what he’s seeing on every possession, pulls aside teammates for quick one-on-one chats when necessary, and on off days he’s getting his on-court work in just in case he’s needed to play.

Leonard has started 49 of his 51 appearances with the Heat this season, more starts than he made in his seven seasons with Portland combined. But in the playoffs, he’s logged a total of nine minutes, all in one appearance.

“Meyers is one of the most special people I’ve ever had the opportunity to coach and to be around,” Spoelstra said. “He is just an incredible human being and teammate. He has all our hearts. We will do anything for him because he is so pure.”

Leonard, more than anything else, got unlucky at the worst possible time.

He badly sprained his left ankle in early February and wasn’t anywhere near being ready to return to the lineup when the NBA season was suspended March 11 because of the coronavirus pandemic. And then when team facilities shut down as a precaution, Leonard’s rehab process had to be amended as well.

That was the first issue. The second was Miami became a different team a few days after he got hurt, pulling off a trade to bring Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill to the Heat. Crowder has become a starter, and Spoelstra told Leonard before Miami resumed play in the NBA’s restart bubble that he was taking the rotation in a different direction.

It was tough on Leonard mentally. He was struggling when he got to the bubble because of his ankle, then spent days wrestling about whether he should stand for the national anthem or kneel with his teammates, and on top of all that he essentially lost his job as well.

“There’s just two things that I won’t ever let be questioned and that’s character and work ethic,” Leonard said. “Every day when I walk through the door, I’m going to be a great guy, a great teammate. It’s not fake. So I’m trying to make my impact now from the sideline.”

There are a few starters who aren’t in the same roles that they were for the four teams remaining in this NBA season. Avery Bradley opted out of joining the Los Angeles Lakers in the bubble. Will Barton — who led Denver in minutes per game this season — has a knee injury and has missed the Nuggets’ entire postseason run. Gordon Hayward has missed much of Boston’s playoff stint while recovering from a sprained ankle. Heat rookie Kendrick Nunn, a starter all season, is in Miami’s second unit now.

Leonard saw the Heat change, and his role change with it. He didn’t sulk, lash out or complain.

“It’s not easy, being in this kind of situation, going through the injury he went through and having the hiatus where he didn’t get the full opportunity to rehab it,” Spoelstra said. “But he’s making the most of it, and if he gets his opportunity, he will be ready.”

Leonard also sees the reason why he should be helping the Heat however he can right now. He’s never been this close to an NBA championship; the Heat lead the Celtics 2-1 in the East finals, with Game 4 on Wednesday night.

He’ll be ready to scream some more then, too.

“I am, in the best way possible, the most jealous of watching our team’s success,” Leonard said. “I literally said this to my wife the other night. I said, ‘Elle, we are six wins away from a ring.’ That is so damn special.”

Anthony Davis yelled “Kobe” after he sank game winner

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The Lakers played in the Kobe-designed Black Mamba jerseys on Sunday night, when Anthony Davis did about the most Kobe thing possible — he drained a buzzer-beater game-winner.

When Davis did it, he yelled “Kobe.”

The Los Angeles Lakers have talked a lot this season about honoring the legacy of Kobe with their play and effort this season, and coach Frank Vogel did after this game.

“That’s a shot Kobe Bryant would hit,” Vogel said. “AD flying to the wing like that, catch and shoot with the game on the line, the biggest moment of the season, nothing but net? That’s a Mamba shot.”

The Lakers are now 3-0 in those black Mamba jerseys these playoffs. Expect to see them again.

NBA world reacts to Anthony Davis’ game-winner for Lakers

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It might go down as the shot of the playoffs. The Denver Nuggets had battled back from 16 points down to take the lead behind a brilliant performance from Nikola Jokic, who had the team’s final 11 points. Throw in a Jamal Murray block and the Nuggets were up one with 2.1 seconds left.

Then Anthony Davis happened.

The Lakers won the game (going up 2-0 in the series) and the NBA world took to Twitter to react — including a lot of NBA players.