Rumor: Pelicans’ top target in Anthony Davis trade is Jayson Tatum

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The big name in Anthony Davis trade talks last February (besides Davis himself) was someone who realistically wouldn’t get dealt.

Jayson Tatum loomed over the process. The Celtics can’t trade for Davis until July, because Kyrie Irving is already their one allowable traded-for designated-rookie-scale player. So, Boston had to convince the Pelicans to keep Davis past the deadline. Their reward this offseason could be Tatum.

But so much has changed since.

Tatum continued an underwhelming second season. New Orleans fired Dell Demps and hired David Griffin to run the front office. Kyrie Irving appears likely to leave the Celtics, which would make it more difficult for them to re-sign Davis in 2020.

Does Boston still want Davis as badly? Do the Pelicans still value Tatum so highly?

Chris Mannix of Sports Illustrated:

From what I’ve been able to learn, if Kyrie Irving walks, it is not going to diminish their appetite to go get Anthony Davis.

From what I understand, they’re not going to take their foot off the gas when it comes to pursuing Anthony Davis.

I know that there’s a stronger sense than ever within the organization that Kyrie Irving is going to leave.

Fletcher Mackel of WDSU

Tatum is still a valuable player. He’s young, talented and relatively cheap. But his stock has probably dropped enough since the trade deadline that it opens doors for other teams to beat Boston’s offer for Davis. Even if Tatum remains the Pelicans’ most-desired player, other teams could offer better packages of multiple players and picks.

Especially because the Celtics should show some restraint considering Irving’s likely impending exit.

Davis reportedly wouldn’t rule out staying in Boston without Irving. But that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement. Davis’ father enters the situation with a unfavorable view of the Celtics.

Without Irving, Tatum and whatever else they must send New Orleans, how good would the Davis-led Celtics be? There’d be a lot riding on Gordon Hayward rediscovering his star production after injury, Al Horford staving off aging (if he doesn’t opt out and leave) and Jaylen Brown getting back into a groove after an uneven year. It’d be a huge risk.

Of course, having a Davis trade in place could convince Irving to re-sign. That might be a longshot, but the possibility of a star twofer should factor.

Boston reportedly could have traded for Kawhi Leonard, who now has the Raptors on the brink of a championship. Sometimes, the big swing pays off, and seeing it happen for Toronto could prompt the Celtics to take their own this summer.

Watch Dinwiddie get ejected for elbow to Poole’s face; Mavs still win behind Doncic 41 points

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Dallas has gotten in trouble this season because of a lack of secondary shot creation behind Luka Doncic, so when Spencer Dinwiddie got ejected for an elbow to the face of Golden State’s Jordan Poole, it seemed like the Mavericks might be in danger of falling to the Warriors.

Doncic had other plans — and a 41-point triple-double.

The ejection happened early in the fourth quarter, when Dinwiddie drove the lane on Poole and, bringing the ball up, elbowed Poole in the face.

That was reviewed by the referees who ruled it a Flagrant 2. The league has cracked down on blows to the face and head — intentional or not — the past couple of seasons.

Dinwiddie being out just meant more Luka — and that was bad news for the Warriors.

Despite Doncic and his triple-double, the Warriors had a couple of chances in the final seconds. First, Stephen Curry got called for a travel.

The Warriors argued that call but got nowhere with the referees. But they got one more chance on a Klay Thompson 3 to tie, but it was just not their night.

The Mavericks got the 116-113 win. Tim Hardaway Jr. pitched in 25 points, including five 3-pointers for Dallas. Curry led the Warriors with 32.

Timberwolves’ Karl-Anthony Towns out 4-6 weeks with calf strain

Minnesota Timberwolves v Washington Wizards
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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 on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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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).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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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.