Rumor: Clippers eyeing Suns’ center Aron Baynes

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Thrust into a larger-than-expected role because Deandre Ayton earned a suspension, Aron Baynes has had a breakout season in Phoenix. The big man is averaging 13 points and 5.7 rebounds a game, shooting 37.5 percent from three on four attempts a night, spacing the floor on offense and playing solid defense in the paint on the other end.

That has caught the eye of the Los Angeles Clippers who would be interested in swapping centers with the Suns, something Bleacher Report’s Eric Pincus said he heard at the G-League Showcase in Las Vegas just before Christmas.

Baynes is believed to be a prime target for the Clippers. Zubac’s four-year, $28.5 million salary would work straight-up for the Phoenix center, but the Suns may not want to take on a long-term salary for a true center to back up Deandre Ayton.

“They would need a third team,” one Eastern Conference executive said.

The Clippers also would likely need to give up a pick in this scenario.

This rumor speaks to one truth clear to sources around the league: The Clippers are going to be aggressive at the deadline. Los Angeles knows its a contender and with a potentially short window (Kawhi Leonard and Paul George can be free agents in the summer of 2021), and Steve Ballmer’s crew will do what it takes to win now (they hope that gets the stars to re-sign). While Los Angeles sent a lot to Oklahoma City to get George, the team still has its own 2020 first-round pick and players such as Moe Harkless that could entice teams.

The Clippers have been linked to Thaddeus Young, but an upgrade at center is another consideration. The Clippers love Montrezl Harrell but he is an energy big off the bench, not a starting center. Is Ivica Zubac the starting center on a championship team? One could ask the same thing of Baynes, but with his floor spacing he could be played next to Harrell, something the Clippers can’t do with Zubac.

The real issue for the Clippers is the Suns may want to keep Baynes and make upgrades themselves, looking for a playoff push. Robert Sarver’s Suns have always thought short term and the team is just half-a-game out of the last playoff spot in the West.

Instead, Phoenix is looking to add to its roster. Kevin Love could be a possibility, but the team is believed to have more interest in Oklahoma City Thunder forward Danilo Gallinari.

What I heard in Las Vegas is a lot of teams interested in Gallinari — he tops my “player most likely to be traded” list. Even though the Thunder are a playoff team right now and have made no decisions on direction, they are not letting one surprising season change their long-range thinking. The Thunder and Suns could talk Gallinari trade, and/or point guard Dennis Schroeder, and Cleveland would like to lean into those talks and put Kevin Love on the table.

The Clippers are a team to watch at the deadline. Any series between the Los Angeles teams is going to be tight — plus teams such as Denver are not far behind — and if the Clippers can gain an advantage with a trade, they will do it. Whether they could land Baynes is another discussion.

Wembanyama encore: 36 points, 11 rebounds, 4 blocks against Ignite

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Victor Wembanyama is for real.

And I don’t mean real tall, although he is that, too. Check out this image of him next to Rudy Gobert, who is a legit 7’1″.

Wembanyama is for real like a genuine generational talent — in his second game against the G-League Ignite he had 36 points, 11 rebounds, and four blocked shots.

That comes off his 37-point performance in the first meeting where he hit 7-of-11 3-pointers and had five blocks.

To be clear: That is 73 points, 15 rebounds, nine blocks, shooting 9-of-18 from 3 (and 22-of-44 overall) across two games against a good talent level. And he is 18 years old.

Everyone in and around the NBA has been trying to come up with player comps — Kristaps Porzingis, Ralph Sampson, Tim Duncan — but the reality is Wembanyama is one of one.

Scoot Henderson — the G-League guard projected as the No. 2 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft — played just five minutes in this game after bumping his knee while guarding Wembanyama. He was taken out of the game and X-rays found a bone bruise, he did not return. He is officially day-to-day the team announced.

Wembanyama and his Metropolitans 92 got the win in this rematch, 112-106.

Draymond Green not expected to miss any games, Warriors to handle discipline ‘internally’

2022 NBA Summer League - Golden State Warriors v New York Knicks
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Draymond Green is not expected to miss any games for punching teammate Jordan Poole during an altercation during practice, Warriors GM Bob Myers said Thursday.

That’s not to say he is escaping any punishment, it will just be handled internally, Myers said.

Green showed up at Chase Center and apologized to the team and then left, he did not practice with the Warriors, reports Monte Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.

“Draymond apologized to the team this morning, Jordan was there in the room, I was there in room with the team, the coaches, the players and we heard that,” Myers said.

Whatever punishment the Warriors are handing down to Green, it will not include missing games, Myers said.

Coach Steve Kerr added, “I expect [Green] to return on Saturday and get back at it.” That implies a couple of days suspension, likely with a hefty fine.

Kerr was also quick to shoot down the rumors of Poole having an “attitude” around camp as he comes up on a massive contract extension. Stephen Curry echoed that, saying those reports are “absolute BS.”

The Warriors have seen their fair share of Draymond Green incidents over the years, and as a locker room and franchise they know how to move on from it. While this made headlines, the Warriors will shrug it off and move on.

Miami, Milwaukee have their eyes on Jae Crowder

NBA 2022 Playoffs - Phoenix Suns v Dallas Mavericks
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The Heat and Bucks don’t just have interest in the same player. They’re looking to replace the same player.

Two years ago, P.J. Tucker helped Milwaukee win their first championship in a half-century. Last season, he helped Miami lock up the top seed in the East and make the Conference Finals.

With Tucker in Philadelphia, both the Heat and Bucks are looking to fill the void with a different lockdown enforcer that can stretch the floor.

Jae Crowder and the Suns agreed that he won’t participate in practice as the team looks to accommodate his trade request. In a recent ESPN+ article, Zach Lowe made it clear that both Miami and Milwaukee are interested in pursuing a trade for Crowder.

“The Bucks have internal interest in Crowder as that Tucker replacement after getting into the recent Jerami Grant and Bojan Bogdanovic discussions, sources say. They will search all season for one more piece.

“The Heat have interest in Crowder too, sources say, but finding matching salary is tough until Dewayne Dedmon, Caleb Martin and Victor Oladipo become trade-eligible in the winter. Martin might start, and the Heat are optimistic Oladipo can play a huge role.”

Grant and Bogdanovic were traded to Portland and Detroit, respectively. The Heat may struggle to find a trade that works since Phoenix probably won’t want to take on Duncan Robinson’s contract. Dedmon, Martin and Oladipo will become trade eligible on January 15th.

Crowder has a history with the Heat, as he helped them make the NBA Finals in the bubble. He helped Phoenix make the NBA Finals two seasons ago and then helped them finish with the best record in the NBA last season.

LeBron says Wembanyama is an ‘alien’ and a ‘generational talent’

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There was a time when LeBron James was the “it” kid coming for the NBA — a freakish athlete like nobody in the league had seen. A player the size of Karl Malone with the quickness and skills of an elite point guard.

Now the “it” guy is Victor Wembanyama, the 7’4″ mold-breaking big out of France — and LeBron is impressed.

“Everybody’s been a unicorn over the last few years, well he’s more like an alien,” LeBron said after the Lakers’ preseason loss to the Suns in Las Vegas. “I’ve never seen, no one’s ever seen anyone as tall as he is, but it’s fluid and as graceful as on the floor…

“His ability to put the ball on the floor, shoot step-back jumpers on the post, step-back 3s, catch-and-shoot 3s, block shots. He’s for sure a generational talent. And hopefully he continues to stay healthy, that’s the most important for him personally, and as you could tell he loves the game. He was smiling a lot while playing the game last night. I think it was the two best players in the draft on the floor last night and they both did their thing.”

Wembanyama is projected to be the No.1 pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, just ahead of point guard Scoot Henerson, who scored 28 points with nine assists of his own leading his G-League Ignite to a win over Wembanyama’s Metropolitans 92. Wembanyama scored 37 points in the game, hit 7-of-11 shots from 3, had five blocks and a few other shots changed because of his length (7’11” wingspan) and the threat of his block.

Wembanyama and Henderson face off again tonight in a second game between the Ignite and Metropolitans 92 just outside Las Vegas in Henderson (9:30 p.m. ET on NBATV).

Wembanyama will play, with his agent telling ESPN there are no plans to shut the No.1 pick down to avoid injury and protect his draft status. “He’ll never agree to that. He wants to compete and get better,” Bouna Ndiaye said.

LeBron looked back on his time as the “it” player and said simply, “thank got there wasn’t social media” at the time. It’s a different world now, but game still recognizes game.

And LeBron recognizes it in Wembanyama.