Dallas was every free agent big man’s fall back heading into free agency. The Mavericks had cap space — around $28 million — and the need for a center. For the other big men in free agency, that’s leverage.
Now the Mavericks are going hard at DeAndre Jordan, who will be an unrestricted free agent. They most likely make a deal (that this time will stick).
That leaves those other free agents with less leverage.
For DeMarcus Cousins — who had been tied to the Mavericks — it leaves the Pelicans as by far the most likely team to sign (or in this case re-sign) him, according to the buzz from teams around the league. That was always the most probable outcome, but it’s becoming more evident when talking to teams. Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN emphasized that on SportsCenter last night.
Cousins is immensely talented, but coming off a torn Achilles it becomes a question of years. The money will not be the max, but it will still likely be in mid $20 million a year range. The question is how many years does the Pelicans, or any team want to committed to Cousins fully guaranteed? Because the history of big men, especially those who rely on their quickness as part of their game, coming back from this injury is not good.
Most likely this is a two-year deal. There could be a third year with Joel Embiid-style incentives — hitting thresholds of minutes and games played — but that’s probably the max.
Cousins wants more. Before this injury the Pelicans were going to lock him up with a five-year max deal, to have that and see it fall away is hard. Cousins was hoping to use Dallas and anyone else interested as leverage, but that is slipping away. Instead, the Pelicans are bidding against themselves and they are not going to overdo it.
From Cousins’ perspective, he just has to look forward. Put in the work on recovery. Can he bounce back? How close to his old form can he get? Because he is really playing for his next contract starting this September.
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 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).
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.
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.