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Report: Cavaliers willing to take on long-term salary in trades

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The Cavaliers, somewhat inadvertently, had a two-step plan for attracting back LeBron James after losing him in 2010:

1. Remain in Northeast Ohio, where he’s from

2. Accumulate assets that could be flipped into winning players

The Cavs completed the first step by remaining in Cleveland. They executed the second step by not only losing, but also parlaying lottery luck into especially high draft picks. The Cavaliers landed the No. 1 pick in three of their four LeBron-less years.

But only two of those No. 1 picks originally belonged to the Cavs. They got the 2011 top pick as an unprotected Clippers first-rounder earlier that year in exchange for taking Baron Davis’ toxic contract. Well worth the opportunity to draft Kyrie Irving.

Now, again in the dumps without LeBron, Cleveland is eying a similar strategy.

Brian Windhorst of ESPN:

In conversations the Cavs have had around the league, they’ve begun to express that they’ll be willing to take on long-term salary as the trade deadline approaches, league sources said.

The Cavaliers aren’t any good now. They don’t project to be any good soon. Cleveland is not a free agent destination. This probably the best use of the Cavs’ cap space.

They have a few players who’d be useful in such trades:

  • George Hill ($19 million salary this season, $1 million of $18 million guaranteed next season)
  • J.R. Smith ($14.72 million salary this season, $3.87 million of $15.68 million guaranteed next season)
  • Alec Burks ($11,536,515 salary on expiring contract)

The Cavaliers would accept burdensome, longer contracts in exchange for sweeteners – draft picks, valuable players. The other team would get cap relief after this season.

Burks, just acquired from the Jazz, can be flipped only until the upcoming trade deadline. Hill could still be traded after the season, but his salary would count only at his guaranteed amount for 2019-20, undercutting the viability of dealing him after the trade deadline.

But, because he signed under the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement, Smith will count at his full salary – even after the season. So, there’s not the same urgency to deal him. (Which is why Cleveland is keeping him on the roster despite sending him home.)

Becoming a salary-dumping ground makes the Cavs more likely to lose longer, but that’s OK for a couple reasons:

1. They’re likely to lose, anyway.

2. They owe the Hawks a top-10-protected first-rounder this season or next.

If the pick doesn’t convey either year, Cleveland will instead send Atlanta two second-rounders – likely far less valuable than the first-rounder.

It’s a good time for the Cavaliers to be very bad. They should make the most of it. It’ll pay off once they’re eventually good again.

Pascal Siakam scores 37, Raptors remain red hot with win vs. Suns

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TORONTO (AP) — Pascal Siakam had 37 points and 12 rebounds and the Toronto Raptors beat the Phoenix Suns 118-101 on Friday night for their 16th victory in 17 games.

Serge Ibaka scored 16 points, Fred VanVleet and Terence Davis each had 14, Kyle Lowry had 13 points and 10 assists and OG Anunoby aded 12 points for the defending NBA champion Raptors.

After Toronto’s franchise-record 15-game winning streak ended with a loss at Brooklyn in the final game before the All-Star break, the Raptors bounced back by starting the second half with their eighth consecutive home victory.

The Raptors have not lost back-to-back games since an overtime loss at Indiana on Dec. 23 and a home loss to Boston on Christmas Day. Toronto has gone 19-1 since.

Siakam connected on 12 of 19 attempts, going 5 of 9 from 3-point range.

That was just one fewer than the six 3-pointers the Suns managed on 34 attempts. Phoenix shot 17.6%t from long range, its lowest mark of the season. No Suns player made more than one shot from distance.

Devin Booker scored 21 points and Deandre Ayton had 17 points and 10 rebounds for Phoenix. The Suns lost for the seventh time in nine games.

Ayton returned to the starting lineup after missing the final two games before the All-Star break because of a sore left ankle.

Phoenix trailed 93-78 through three quarters, but the Suns cut the gap to six points, 96-90 on a basket by Ayton with 8:08 left to play. Rondae Hollis-Jefferson made a pair from the line, and VanVleet and Siakam both scored to put the Raptors up 102-90 with 6:58 remaining.

Booker missed a 3 with 4:45 left that would have made it a four-point game. Anunoby scored on a dunk and, after another missed 3 by the Suns, Ibaka banked home a 3-pointer to restore Toronto’s 12-point cushion.

Moe Harkless says no buyout with Knicks: “I’ll be here the rest of the year”

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Moe Harkless went from a guy often starting and playing critical minutes for a contender in the Clippers to being the matching salary in a trade and finding himself on the woeful Knicks.

“It is definitely an adjustment with the way things are,” Harkless told Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. “Everything is different, the culture and everything.”

If there was a player nobody would blame for wanting a buyout and the chance to get back to a team playing for something, it would be Harkless.

That’s not happening. Multiple reports have surfaced that he is not talking buyout with New York running up to the March 1 deadline. The latest comes from Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Then Harkless was even more direct speaking to Bondy.

“I’ll be here the rest of the year,” he said.

Harkless has fans in NBA front offices, with the Lakers rumored to be among them (although they are about to land Markieff Morris in a similar role). Harkless could play good defensive minutes on the wing down the stretch for a team, buying rest for key guys, plus in the playoffs he could be advantageous in certain matchups.

Morris and the Knicks have time to change their minds, but it sounds like he will play out the season in New York then be a free agent next summer.

Lakers reportedly will waive DeMarcus Cousins to clear roster spot

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If the Lakers are going to add Markieff Morrisas has been rumored — or anyone else via free agency, they are going to need to clear out a roster spot.

That has the Lakers looking to waive DeMarcus Cousins, a report broken by Adrian Wojnarowski and Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Cousins signed with the Lakers over the summer but never set foot on the court with them after tearing his ACL during summer workouts (which led to a scramble and L.A.’s fortuitous signing of Dwight Howard). He was around the team and rehabbing, and while they would never officially rule him out, Cousins was never expected to play.

He was not waived before because his $3.5 million salary might have been useful in a trade. When that didn’t materialize at the deadline it, became likely he could get waived.

It’s highly unlikely a team picks up Cousins this season, while he continues to rehab from his injury. However, it might be a good roll of the dice this summer by a team to sign him to a minimum contract for next season. Cousins still has some NBA basketball in him, if he can just stay healthy.

Karl-Anthony Towns has fractured wrist, to be re-evaluated in two weeks

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Karl-Anthony Towns was a surprise scratch from the Timberwolves last game before the All-Star break, a “left wrist injury” delaying the home debut of him with D'Angelo Russell (they did play a road game together in Toronto). Then came the rumors he could miss a few games when play started up again.

It’s going to be more than a few games, more than a few weeks.

Towns has a fractured left wrist, the team announced Friday. He is out and will be re-evaluated in two weeks. From the team press release:

“While Towns has been diligent in treatment with a goal of return to play, he has been assessed by multiple specialists over the last several days and the team continues to gather information on the optimal management strategies.”

Towns had been playing through wrist pain for a couple of weeks before this diagnosis.

Towns is having a career year on offense, averaging  26.5 points a game while shooting 41 percent from three (on 7.9 attempts per game), plus grabbing 10.8 rebounds a night. That has not translated into wins for Minnesota, however.

Towns being out doesn’t hurt the Timberwolves in the short term, they have fallen far out of the playoff chase in the West. However, this cuts into time Towns and Russell could have used to grow accustomed to each other’s games. It’s time lost for the coaching staff and front office as they evaluate the fit of players they have around Towns and Russell.