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Report: Apparent mutual interest between Russell Westbrook, Miami Heat

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In the wake of Paul George forcing his way to the Clippers, Russell Westbrook and Thunder management have talked and both are now looking at trade possibilities for the former MVP point guard.

The challenge is where? Westbrook has four years, just less than $170 million left on his contract (the last year of that is a $46 million player option, is there really any question he picks that up?). Sources around the Las Vegas Summer League have said that number — and Westbrook’s ball-dominant style — have a number of teams backing away.

Miami is reportedly interested, and Westbrook is interested in them as well, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

The Miami Heat have expressed interest, a potential destination that also appeals to Westbrook, league sources said…

Westbrook and his agent, Thad Foucher, have been discussing trade possibilities and scenarios with [Thunder president Sam] Presti, and the sides are both motivated to find a resolution sooner rather than later, league sources told ESPN.

Westbrook wants to play for a team pursuing contention, which is no longer the case with the Thunder.

Miami did a sign-and-trade with Philadelphia for Jimmy Butler, which complicates trading for Westbrook on a couple of different levels. One is simply the players Miami has to offer — Josh Richardson, a player coveted in many front offices around the league, is no longer in the mix. Miami has a lot of salaries that could be put together to match Westbrook’s $35.7 million next season — Goran Dragic, Justise Winslow, Kelly Olynyk, Dion Waiters, James Johnson — but do any of them interest the rebuilding Thunder? The picks the Heat can trade also are years out (both their 2021 first-round pick, unprotected, and 2023 first-rounder, lottery protected, now belong to OKC from the George trade).

The other problem: The Butler trade hard-capped the Heat this season, and they are already close to that number, as ESPN’s Bobby Marks explains.

There are creative ways to get a trade done, and a third team could be brought in to make it work. But this would be a tough deal to make work for both sides.

Ben Simmons makes his first-ever NBA three pointer. Finally.

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Three seasons, 193 games, and 18 missed shots (if you add in his playoff stats). Sixers nation was not sure they would ever witness this day, but it has happened:

Ben Simmons has made his first NBA three.

We’ve all seen the videos of him hitting threes in an empty gym, he’s been working on it, but that’s a lot different from taking and making in rhythm in a game.

This was Simmons’ first attempt at a three all season — he’s going to have to take a lot more before teams start to respect him out there. But it’s a start.

Potential No. 1 pick James Wiseman suspended by NCAA 11 more games

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Starting on Jan. 12, James Wiseman can return to playing for the University of Memphis.

The NCAA — the self-appointed arbiters protecting the myth of amateurism — have investigated the fact that then high school coach Penny Hardaway, paid $11,500 to help Wiseman’s family move to Memphis. Hardaway, a graduate of Memphis, has since become the coach of the Tigers, and before that was considered a booster. That made helping Wiseman move an illegal benefit, and the NCAA has made its ruling to punish Wiseman for this.

Memphis reportedly plans to appeal the ruling. Wiseman had this reaction to the decision:

Here’s why fans of certain teams near the bottom of the standings — and the front offices of those teams — care: Wiseman has the potential to be elite.

He could be the top pick in next June’s draft and is a lock top-three selection. He is by far the best big man in a guard-heavy draft class coming up.

Wiseman was ranked 37th by the basketball writers here at NBC in our “50 Best Players in Five Years” project this past summer. Here is what College Basketball Talk’s Rob Dauster wrote about Wiseman for that project:

Wiseman has a chance to be really good. He stands 7-foot. He has the kind of length, mobility and athleticism that should allow him to thrive at the five in the modern NBA. He is a capable defender with the potential to be very, very good with some added strength and a bit of motivation. And he is skilled enough where he has the potential of one day doing all four things modern fives are asked to do – protect the rim, switch ball-screens, space the floor to the three-point line, be a lob target as a roll-man in ball-screens…

If Wiseman embraces the fact that he can be a top five center in the NBA doing the four things I listed above at an elite level, then he’ll make himself a lot of money while making some NBA GM very, very happy.

Wiseman also has worked on a face-up game and wants to add some Greek Freak like skills to his game. We’ll see how that goes, but his floor seems to be a very good NBA big man. A lot of teams could use that.

Rob Gronkowski, Venus Williams dance with Laker Girls (video)

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Former New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski said he doesn’t plan to play football this season.

How is he spending his time?

Dancing with the Laker Girls cheerleaders along with tennis legend Venus Williams. They put on quite a show. I’m sure comedians James Corden and Ian Karmel, mostly off camera, were also great.

But the most-impressive stoppage entertainment in Los Angeles last night? That might be Maxx.

Portland waives Pau Gasol as he tries to recover from foot surgery

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Portland signed Pau Gasol to a one-year contract this summer, hoping the aging Spaniard could help the team stay afloat while Jusuf Nurkic recovers from surgery on his leg.

It didn’t work out that way. Gasol suffered a foot injury that required surgery and he has yet to recover enough to get back on the court. Meanwhile, an injury to Zach Collins left Portland even more shorthanded up front. Wednesday, the Trail Blazers waived Gasol, something the player confirmed.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news and had more details.

Is this the end of Gasol’s Hall of Fame career? He’s 39 years old, and last season with the Bucks he looked like a shell of the All-NBA big man who joined forces with Kobe Bryant to win the Lakers a couple of titles. Injuries limited him to 30 games last season, he doesn’t move like he once did, and he averaged a career-low 3.9 points per game.

If so, one of the good guys of the NBA will be missed.

If not, if he can get healthy, some teams certainly would be interested in having him for depth and his locker room presence during a playoff run.