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Less than 48 hours to go: Five players, teams to watch heading into trade deadline

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At 3 p.m. Eastern on Thursday it will all be over.

That’s when the NBA’s trade deadline hits, and if a trade is not done — we’re looking at you, Anthony Davis — then it’s on hold until after the season and heading into the draft. The flood of rumors dies down too… mostly.

For a few minutes, let’s put aside the Davis trade saga that has mesmerized the NBA. The potential of a Davis trade has developed its own gravity, pulling all NBA discussions in its direction, with countless moving parts and a Game of Thrones atmosphere.

However, there is another NBA universe moving toward a trade deadline, one that has most teams looking for smaller deals to give them a boost on the court at some point (the Dallas Mavericks landing Kristaps Porzingis) or freeing up cap space for future moves (the Knicks trading said Porzingis).

What is left to happen at this deadline? It may be a little quiet, but there will be trades. Here are five teams and players to watch.

1) Mike Conley, Marc Gasol and the Memphis Grizzlies. When the Memphis Grizzlies finally made their cornerstone players available, there was interest in both Marc Gasol and Mike Conley. The problem with both has always been money — both make a lot of it. Gasol is making $24.1 million with a $25.6 million player option for next season. Which he may or may not pick up, complicating matters. Conley is making $30.5 million this season with likely $67 million guaranteed in the two seasons after that. Which is a lot of money for a player who is now on the wrong side of 30 and who has missed significant time two of the past four years with an Achilles issue.

That said, both appear like that can or will be moved.

Memphis and Charlotte are reportedly deep in talks for Gasol, part of Hornets’ owner Michael Jordan’s push to get Charlotte in the playoffs, impress Kemba Walker, and keep him next July (he’s a free agent). The exact terms of the deal are in flux, but Gasol appears to be headed to the Carolinas.

There also is a lot of buzz around the league about Conley being traded to the Utah Jazz. The package back would either be Ricky Rubio, Derrick Favors and a first round pick (or picks); or, Rubio, Grayson Allen, a 2019 first round pick, and some other player to balance the numbers. Memphis may want two picks (not sure Utah goes there). The negotiations are ongoing. For the Jazz, Conley would be an upgrade at the point — he’s an All-Star level player just stuck in the deep West — who could help push the Jazz deeper in the playoffs. But that is a substantial financial commitment from a smaller market, and it gives up a couple of young players. Are the Jazz ready for that?

2) The Sacramento Kings. If you’re going to bet on one team to make a move before the deadline, bet on the Kings. Not because of their assets, although they have veterans on expiring contracts such as Zach Randolph, Iman Shumpert, and Kosta Koufos they can deal. And not because of Sacramento’s eagerness to bring in a big wing to help them compete in the West and maybe make the playoffs (they are half a game out of the eight seed as of this writing).

No, it’s because the Kings have $11 million in salary cap room — far more than any other team at the deadline — and can take on a contract another team wants to dump. Sacramento can trade for an expensive player (Kent Bazemore in Atlanta, Harrison Barnes in Dallas) or the Kings can be the third team in a bigger trade, taking on some draft assets to help facilitate a deal.

One way or the other, big or small, the Kings are going to be in on a trade before the deadline.

3) Terrence Ross and the Orlando Magic. There are more than a couple of playoff teams who could use some quality depth on the wing. Terrence Ross is that, he’s on an expiring contract, and is not part of the future in Orlando. Ross has averaged 13.3 points a game this season shooting 39.3 percent from three, and a lot of teams could use him. The question is the return: Orlando is rumored to want a first. The market probably will not offer that, more like a couple of seconds or a young player. Will that be enough to get a deal done?

Orlando also has All-Star center Nikola Vucevic — an expiring contract who can help a team on offense, but who has defensive liabilities. There have been rumors about interested teams. However, with Mo Bamba now out for a while, the Magic may decide to keep Vucevic around.

4) Jeremy Lin, Dewayne Dedmon (and maybe Kent Bazemore) and the Atlanta Hawks. Atlanta long has been expected to be a seller at the deadline — the Hawks signed Lin with the intention of trying to trade him mid-season — and there is interest from teams around the league. Both Lin at the point and Dedmon as a forward can provide help off the bench for a playoff team right now, plus both are on expiring contracts. Expect at least one if both to get traded

Kent Bazemore is a more complicated story because he makes $18.1 million right now with a $19.3 million player option that he will likely pick up. That’s a lot of cash, which is why Bazemore has drawn minimal interest. Bazemore has returned from a sprained ankle that sidelined him for a chunk of the season, but that money is keeping teams away.

5) Wayne Ellington and the Miami Heat. Every team can use more shooting. Ellington is a career 38 percent shooter from three who is buried on the Miami bench and is on an expiring $6.3 million contract. That is the profile of a player who gets traded. The one catch is he’s on a one-year contract and because of his Bird Rights he gets to approve any trade. He’d likely welcome the change of scenery, but he can’t just be moved anywhere.

Arizona State leading scoring Remy Martin declares for 2020 NBA Draft

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Arizona State junior Remy Martin has declared for the 2020 NBA Draft:

The six-foot point guard took on more of scoring role in his third season with the Sun Devils than he had in his first two seasons. Martin averaged 19.1 points per game on 43.2% shooting from the field. Martin also dished out 4.1 assists per game, after averaging 5.0 assists as a sophomore.

Arizona State’s leading scoring may just be testing the waters, as he’s expected to go undrafted. NBA scouts have concerns over Martin’s size at the NBA level. One concern is his ability to hold up defensively, as NBA point guards are trending bigger and bigger in recent years.

As a smaller guard, Martin was one of the players who could have benefited from the traditional pre-draft process. With in-person workouts on hold, and potentially cancelled entirely, players have limited opportunities to improve their draft stock. Teams may be drafting off previous in-person scouting and off of tape.

NBA players reportedly to take part in televised NBA 2K tournament Friday

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If we can’t watch NBA players on the court, at least we can watch them control their digital selves and teammates in a live basketball tournament.

ESPN plans to broadcast an NBA 2K tournament with only NBA players at the controllers, a story broken by Chris Haynes at Yahoo Sports. The hope is to have it air Friday, with the players competing from their homes around the country.

The NBA is planning a players-only NBA 2K tournament that will feature the league’s sharpest video gamers and it will be broadcast on ESPN, league sources told Yahoo Sports…

Players competing against their peers in the comfort of their own homes could offer a distraction for fans who are missing the game and a little competition.

Esports are incredibly popular and growing as a spectator sport, both in person and on Twitch and other platforms. With there being a pent-up demand for sports programming, this seems a smart attempt to draw eyeballs. Even people who are non-esports viewers could tune in just to check it out, because it’s that or rewatching Tiger King.

You can bet that if it works, we will see a lot more of it in the future.

(Inside baseball note: I would love to see the emails/texts flying around ESPN about Yahoo breaking a story about what is coming in their network.)

 

Shaquille O’Neal: I had no idea what was happening with Joe Exotic of Tiger King

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On a recent episode of “The Big Podcast with Shaq” former NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal said that “he had no idea” what was happening at the zoo run by Joe Exotic. Joe Exotic was recently made famous through the popular Netflix documentary “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness”.

Footage of O’Neal appeared in the first episode of the show and was shown taking photographs with the animals.

The documentary also showed a cut of O’Neal on TNT saying “Shoutout to Exotic Joe. I got two more tigers.”

On his podcast, O’Neal explained:

“So we go in there, and it’s a beautiful place, and the character that was there was Exotic Joe. We’re there and I dropped some donations for the tigers’ foods and all that. We take pictures with (the) tigers. We went back a couple times. Then we go back another time and we found out that he’s involved with all the stuff, and then, actually, I stopped going.”

Joseph Maldonado-Passage, also known as Joe Exotic, was sentenced to 22 years in prison after being found guilty of 19 different charges. Those charges included murder-for-hire plot, illegally selling endangered species and other animal-related offenses.

O’Neal clarified that he never bought any animals, but often donates to charities that help animals. He also made it clear that he’s not friends with Joe Exotic, nor anyone involved in the trade of endangered species.

“I don’t harm tigers,” O’Neal said. “I love tigers. I love white tigers. Do I put donations to these zoos to help these tigers out? I do it all the time. Do I own tigers personally at my house? No. But I love tigers. Listen, people are going to make their own opinions, but, again, I was just a visitor. I met this guy — not my friend. Don’t know him. Never had any business dealings with him, and I had no idea any of that stuff was going on.”

Report: Brooklyn Nets looking to hire a blue-chip head coach

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When the Brooklyn Nets and Kenny Atkinson parted ways in early-March, the team installed Jacque Vaughn as the interim head coach.

According to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst that’s a short-term appointment. On his podcast “Brian Windhorst and The Hoop Collective”, the reporter said the Nets are looking to hire a coach with a track record of NBA success.

“One of the things that has been expressed sort of the grapevine, that’s the way I’m going to say it to protect myself from the aggregators, is that Durant and Irving would like a blue-chip coach. I don’t know what this says about the way they thought about Atkinson, but they want a big-name coach.”

Names linked to the Brooklyn opening are Tom Thibodeau, Mark Jackson, and both Jeff and Stan Van Gundy.

Atkinson leaving Brooklyn was a surprise, considering he had led the Nets back to the playoffs in 2019. That success came after a three-year rebuild. That process was kicked off when general manager Sean Marks hired Atkinson to lead the on-court development. Under Marks and Atkinson, the Nets developed several players who had been given up on by other teams.

Brooklyn was 28-34 when Atkinson was let go. The Nets had gone 2-0 under Vaughn before the NBA suspended play in mid-March.