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Rumor: Team promised to draft Darius Garland

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Of course, the Pelicans will draft Zion Williamson with the No. 1 pick.

The Grizzlies will reportedly take Ja Morant No. 2.

Could Vanderbilt point guard Darius Garland also already be slotted for a certain pick?

Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Do these teams have more specific intel? Because my first hunch when a player who missed most of the prior season with a knee injury leaves the combine isn’t that he got promised. It’s that he wants to hide the extent of his injury.

But if Garland received a promise, who made it? Let’s go through the next set of picks:

3. Knicks

This seems too high. R.J. Barrett is the consensus third-best prospect in the draft. It’s tough to see New York promising Garland, especially with Dennis Smith Jr. already there.

4. Lakers

The Lakers will generate a lot of speculation, because Garland shares an agent – Rich Paul – with LeBron James. The Klutch connection getting Garland to Los Angeles is certainly juicy. Garland even might be the right pick here. He could be the fourth-best prospect in this draft. For a point guard, he’d fit fine with Lonzo Ball and LeBron James. But this seems too high to promise him already.

5. Cavaliers

They have Collin Sexton, and while Sexton – despite his incredible in-season improvement last season – shouldn’t preclude Cleveland drafting another point guard, he probably does. At minimum, he makes it less likely the Cavs zero in on another point guard this early in the pre-draft process.

6. Suns

The Suns badly needs a point guard. But they apparently didn’t promise him. John Gambadoro of Arizona Sports 98.7:

7. Bulls

This is my guess. They need a point guard after Kris Dunn hasn’t seized the starting-point-guard job as hoped. There’s also circumstantial evidence they use promises as a draft tool. A team reportedly promised to draft Chandler Hutchinson in the first round last year, and speculation centered on Chicago. The Bulls took Hutchinson No. 22.

8. Hawks

With Trae Young in Atlanta, nope.

9. Wizards

John Wall will probably miss next season, and Tomas Satoransky will be a restricted free agent this summer. But Wall still has three super-max-salaried years beyond this season, and Washington should try to re-sign Satoransky. Though the Wizards need another point guard for next season, a rookie probably isn’t the answer, and a highly drafted one brings long-term complications. If Garland fell this far, he could be good value, anyway. But for that same reason, I’m doubtful he’d leave the combine to help ensure he got drafted No. 9.

That concern is only heightened further down the board.

Karl-Anthony Towns shoots down trade rumors, and was that a dig at Jimmy Butler?

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Karl-Anthony Towns was back on the court for the first time in a month Friday night, dropping 27 on the Pacers and looking every bit one of the best big men in the game (even as he shook off a little rust).

Towns’ name was in the news while he was out, with reports about how the Knicks dream was to trade for him and Warriors were monitoring his situation. There has been zero Towns trade talk around the league — he is in the first year of a five-year contract extension and wants to give the new Timberwolves’ new management a chance to build around him — but that hasn’t squashed the speculation.

So Towns tried to do that after Friday night’s game — and takes a little dig at Jimmy Butler in the process. Via Chris Hine of the Star Tribune.

“I think you’ve been around me long enough to know I don’t go for all the s***,” Towns said. “I just do my job, go home and I know what the real story is. There’s a reason those stories are made because people need to sell papers, sell links and clicks, whatever the case may be. I’m here to be a Minnesota Timberwolf. Very fortunate I have a head coach like [Ryan Saunders], a President and friend like [Gersson Rosas]. I’m not worried about all that nonsense.

“Whatever we have to deal with in house, we’ll deal with in house, but this ain’t the circus like it used to be. This is something that’s going to be done as a family. If we have a problem or anything, we’ll deal with it internally. We won’t have any external forces here adding anything.”

The circus/family comments are clearly a little dig at Jimmy Butler.

The circus was at the start of the 2018-19 season, when Butler wanted out of Minnesota and went full diva to create a massive distraction and force then coach/GM Tom Thibodeau’s hand. Butler was traded to the Sixers, and then last summer left Philadelphia for Miami (where he has played at an All-NBA level). Butler may not have loved how he perceived Towns (and, more so, Andrew Wiggins) commitment to the game, but Towns was no fan of how Butler handled his business. Towns doesn’t like things dealt with that publicly.

Towns was playing at an All-NBA level himself this season before his injury, including shooting 41.5 percent on 8.5 threes a game — KAT has been an offensive force. Rosas, however, has a lot of work to do to build a quality team around Towns. Towns committed to Minnesota with this new contract and, while he may be frustrated with the losing this season, he’s not going Anthony Davis.

A couple of years from now… who knows? That’s a couple of lifetimes away in the NBA. Until then, teams will monitor Towns’ situation and mood, he will shoot down trade rumors, and the cycle will go on.

Somehow, Ja Morant highlights keep getting better (video)

Ja Morant
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Ja Morant is special.

He has already produced a few amazing plays during his rookie year. He has even taken over full games with his flashy play.

But the performance he put on during the Grizzlies’ win over the Cavaliers last night was something else.

Thrice, Morant elevated for show-stopping dunks. He scored only once. But each time, something incredible happened.

First, Morant way up to catch a lob from Jae Crowder, adjusted mid-air and found Jaren Jackson Jr. for a dunk:

Then, less than a minute later, Morant finished a lob from Crowder with a beautiful one-handed slam:

Finally, Morant leaped to posterize Larry Nance Jr., realized that wouldn’t work then threw a spinning behind-the-back pass to Jackson. Though Alfonzo McKinnie blocked Jackson, Morant’s move was dazzling:

If Morant is going to keep putting on shows like this during games, maybe we can forgive him for skipping the dunk contest.

Trae Young gets ankles absolutely destroyed by Dejounte Murray (video)

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The Hawks got Trae Young his desired help, trading for Jeff Teague.

Maybe Young will do his part and step up on defense.

That didn’t happen on this possession against Spurs guard Dejounte Murry.

At least Young continued his breakout season on the other end, scoring 31 points and dishing nine assists in Atlanta’s rare victory in San Antonio.

Tristan Thompson slaps Jae Crowder’s rear end, gets ejected (video)

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What is it about Cleveland athletes slapping butts and getting in trouble?

Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. faces a simple battery charge for slapping a police officer’s backside in LSU’s locker room after the College Football Playoff National Championship.

Last night, Cavaliers center Tristan Thompson got ejected for slapping Grizzlies forward Jae Crowder‘s behind.

Thompson and Crowder got double technical fouls earlier in the game. So, Thompson got ejected with a tech for this incident between free throws.

Though the two are former Cleveland teammates, Crowder didn’t look amused. Crowder doesn’t play.

The Cavs rallied without Thompson, but Memphis won, 113-109.