Tim Warner/Getty Images

Three Things to Know: Clint Capela, Derrick Rose, trade rumors heading into deadline

Leave a comment

Every day in the NBA there is a lot to unpack, so every weekday morning throughout the season we will give you the three things you need to know from the last 24 hours in the NBA.

1) The Trade Deadline is Thursday, here are the rumors flying around the league. Often it takes the pressure of a deadline to strip away the “we want a lottery pick” pretense, for the offers to get real and trades to get done. This season things are even more backed up because potential sellers — New Orleans, Sacramento, others — were still in the playoff mix despite their records. Those teams were waiting to decide on whether to make trades or go for the playoffs.

Now things get serious. The trade deadline is Thursday, just a few days away. Teams traditionally take Super Bowl Sunday off, but Monday the phone lines will light up around the league. Here are the hottest rumors and things to watch.

Houston is open to trading Clint Capela. This is the most fascinating move on the board.

Capela is the best trade piece the Rockets have — an athletic big man with a reasonable contract going out three seasons after this one — but if they trade him then they have to get another center back from somewhere. It’s a fun gimmick to play a 6’6” and under lineup in a regular season game (the Rockets may do it again) but in a West with the size of the Lakers and Clippers, plus guys like Nikola Jokic in Denver and Rudy Gobert in Utah, the Rockets can’t roll out P.J. Tucker at center in the playoffs and win.

Houston has been linked to Robert Covington talks, and Minnesota is reportedly asking for two first-round picks.

Covington is a 3&D wing who would fit with the Rockets, but if you trade Capela to get the picks to land him, then who is your center? Throw Noah Vonleh or Jordan Bell (both on the Timberwolves bench) in a deal? It’s just hard to see how Houston puts together a trade that makes them better than either of the Los Angeles teams, and if they are not contenders will owner Tilman Fertitta be willing to pay the tax for the Rockets this season?

• The buzz from sources around the league is Covington will get traded… somewhere. The price has been too steep so far, but when that comes down a little this week some team — maybe the 76ers — gets a deal done.

• Everyone expects the Clippers to make a move, something Ric Bucher got into at Bleacher Report. This is a win-now team looking for more size up front — is Ivica Zubac really the starting center on a title team? Montrezl Harrell destroys second-unit centers but can he close playoff games? — and a little more point guard depth. The Clippers can trade their first-round pick in the June draft, plus they have Moe Harkless and his $11.5 million to put into a trade. The Clippers can be players.

Would the Clippers go after Andre Iguodala, both to add wing depth and to keep him away from the Lakers?

One other interesting Clippers question: Would they trade Harrell? He’s part of the heart of this team, but he’s also about to be a free agent who will make at least $18 million a season going forward, do the Clippers want to pay that? Harrell would have real trade value if the Clippers wanted to swing for the fences. Just remember the Clippers are good at keeping big moves quiet — both trading for Paul George and trading away Blake Griffin were massive deals that seemed to come out of nowhere because L.A. kept a lid on it until the last second.

• Down the hall, the Lakers are actively looking at trades, they just don’t have good options. They have made Kyle Kuzma available, but he makes just $2 million, and the Lakers don’t have a lot of other players they can aggregate with him in a deal to get to a good number (remember that Rajon Rondo, JaVale MaGee, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope can all veto a trade because it would cost them their Bird rights). DeMarcus Cousins makes $3.5 million, but would $5.5 million really get them a big upgrade over Kuzma? Just hard to see the Lakers getting a big deal done. However, if Darren Collison comes out of retirement to them the Lakers get an upgrade without pulling the trigger on a trade.

• Boston is actively looking for a center, it’s just hard for them to construct a trade. Yes, they have potentially three first-rounders in this coming draft, but in terms of money it’s hard for them to put together matching salary for a decent player without throwing in Marcus Smart or Gordon Hayward. And that’s not happening.

Derrick Rose does not want to be traded, he likes Detroit, but he is available.

The Lakers have been linked, but if the Lakers have to send out Kuzma and Avery Bradley for Rose is that enough of an upgrade for L.A. to pull that trigger? And, would the Pistons do that, they reportedly have been asking for a lottery-level pick to trade Rose. Expect a lot of Rose rumors this week, but come Friday he could still be a Piston.

• Dallas reportedly has looked at a wing upgrade with Michael Kidd-Gilchrist or Rondae Hollis-Jefferson.

• Expect the Knicks to trade Marcus Morris. He would help a lot of playoff teams, and the Knicks need more pieces for the rebuild. (Or, they should be stockpiling assets for their rebuild, but James Dolan still owns the Knicks so all bets on them following a logical path are off.)

• Oklahoma City likely will not trade the massive salaries of Chris Paul or Steven Adams, and the Thunder will remain a tough-out playoff team. Danilo Gallinari still is a name bouncing around who could get moved.

• These rumors are just the tip of the iceberg. Ultimately, there may be fewer trades than fans want — and most of the trades that go down may well be more about salary dumps than player upgrades — but there will be a lot of rumors flying around and some deals done this week. Keep checking NBC Sports for all the latest trade news.

2) Zion Williamson is playing very well, but James Harden’s 40 points proved too much in Rockets’ win. The combination of the tragic Kobe Bryant news and the trade deadline have stolen the thunder from this story, but it’s can’t be ignored for long:

Zion Williamson is tearing up the NBA so far.

In six games, he’s averaging 19.5 points on 66.7 percent shooting, plus getting 8.2 rebounds a game. He’s a beast on the offensive glass and, while he still looks lost at points on defense (as rookies do) he shows real potential on that end. Williamson had 21 points and 10 rebounds against the Rockets on Super Bowl Sunday.

That wasn’t enough however because James Harden’s 40 points, 10 rebounds and nine asissts was too much and snapped the Pelicans three-game win streak.

3) Toronto wins 11th in a row beating Bulls. The Raptors remain the hottest team in the NBA, thanks to a combination of getting healthy, a soft part of the schedule, and… Terence Davis?

Yes, Terence Davis. He dropped a career-high 31 on Chicago Sunday to lead the Raptors to an 11th consecutive win.

Kawhi who? The Raptors are 36-14, second in the East (two games up on third seed Boston), Pascal Siakam is starting the All-Star Game and Nick Nurse is a frontrunner for Coach of the Year (in a crowded field). The big name may have gone home but this is still a very good team.

Watch Tom Brady tell Charles Barkley to “take a suck of that” after he holes fairway shot

Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images for The Match
Leave a comment

It was the highlight of an entertaining — if not always pretty — afternoon of live golf, raising money for charity.

Tampa Bay Bay Buccanneers quarterback Tom Brady (it’s so weird to type that) was on his fourth shot on the par-5 7th hole at the Medalist Golf Club. Brady had a rough front nine to that point, and commentator Charles Barkley decided to up the trash talk (as if Barkley should talk about someone else’s golf game).

“How many shots do you want? Come on, I’m going to give you some shots man, I want some of you,” Barkley said.

“Don’t worry, it ain’t over yet,” Brady countered as he walked up to his fourth shot, 130 yards from the pin. “I think you just made him mad, Chuck,” host Brian Anderson said. “No, he can take a joke,” Barkley replied. Then this happened.

Brady earned that trash talk.

It wasn’t the only great exchange between the two; they had some fun on an earlier on a par 3 when Barkley bet Brady couldn’t get it on the green.

Increasing buzz teams well out of playoffs will not come to Orlando for games

Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
Leave a comment

The Golden State Warriors have been public about it, they expect their season to be over. Golden State is far from alone, multiple teams well out of the playoff picture have questioned the expense and risk-to-reward ratio of coming back to play a handful of regular season games without fans in Orlando.

More and more, the buzz has been the NBA league office sees things the same way. I am not the only reporter hearing this: Steve Popper of Newsday wrote a column saying there was no reason to invite all 30 teams to the bubble city and the USA Today’s well-connected Jeff Zillgett added this:

This is where we throw in the caveat: There are no hard-and-fast plans from the NBA yet and every option is still being considered. One lesson Adam Silver took from David Stern was not to make a decision until you have to, and Silver is going to absorb more information in the coming weeks — such as from the recent GM survey — before making his call.

That said, the league seems to be coalescing around a general plan, which includes camps starting in mid-June and games in mid-July in Orlando.

For the bottom three to five teams in each conference, there is little motivation to head to Orlando for the bubble. It’s an expense to the owner with no gate revenue coming in, teams want to protect their NBA Draft Lottery status, and the Warriors don’t want to risk injury to Stephen Curry — or the Timberwolves to Karl-Anthony Towns, or the Hawks to Trae Young — for a handful of meaningless games.

The league is considering a play-in tournament for the final seed or seeds in each conference (there are a few format options on the table, it was part of the GM survey). That would bring the top 10 or 12 seeds from each conference to the bubble, depending upon the format, and they would play a handful of games to determine which teams are in the playoffs (and face the top seeds).

Either way, that would leave the three or five teams with the worst records in each conference home. Which is the smart thing to do, there’s no reason to add risk to the bubble for a handful of meaningless games.

Eight-year NBA veteran Jon Leuer announces retirement

Leon Halip/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jon Leuer is only age 31, but the big man has battled ankle and other injuries in recent seasons, playing in only 49 games over the past three seasons. Last July, the Pistons traded him to the Bucks in a salary dump, and Milwaukee quickly waived him. Leuer struggled to get healthy and did not catch on with another team.

Sunday he took to Instagram to announce his retirement.

View this post on Instagram

I love the game of basketball. I still want to play, but I know deep down it’s not the right decision for my health anymore. The past 3 years I’ve dealt with a number of injuries, including 2 that kept me out this whole season. It’s taken me a while to come to grips with this, but I’m truly at peace with my decision to officially retire. As disappointing as these injuries have been, I’m still thankful for every moment I spent playing the game. Basketball has been the most amazing journey of my life. It’s taken me places I only could’ve dreamed about as a kid. The relationships it brought me mean more than anything. I’ve been able to connect with people from all walks of life and forged lifelong bonds with many of them. What this game has brought me stretches way beyond basketball. I’m grateful for this incredible ride and everyone who helped me along the way. 🙏🏼🙌🏼✌🏼

A post shared by Jon Leuer (@jonleuer30) on

Leuer — a second-round pick out of Wisconsin for the Bucks in 2011 — averaged 10.2 points and 5.4 rebounds a game for the Pistons in the 2016-17 season, and for the years at the peak of his career he was a quality rotational big man teams could trust, either off the bench or as a spot starter.

Over the course of his career he played for the Bucks, Cavaliers, Grizzlies, Suns, and Pistons. He earned more than $37 million in salary, most of it from a three-year contract the Pistons gave him in 2016. It was not long after his body started to betray him.

Leuer has been riding out the quarantine in Minnesota is wife Keegan (NFL coach Brian Billick’s daughter) and the couple is donating thousands of meals a week to the needy in that community.

 

New York Governor clears path for Knicks, Nets to open facilities for workouts

Nathaniel S. Butler/NBAE via Getty Images
Leave a comment

As of today, 19 NBA teams have their practice facilities open for players to come in for individual workouts, but 11 have yet to open the doors. Some it’s the decision of the team, some it’s that the municipality or state had not allowed it.

The Knicks and Nets — in the heart of New York, the part of the nation hardest hit by COVID-19 — are two of those teams whose facilities are closed. However, on Sunday New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said they could open the door for practice.

“I believe that sports that can come back without having people in the stadium, without having people in the arena — do it! Do it!” Cuomo said at his press conference. “Work out the economics, if you can. We want you up. We want people to be able to watch sports. To the extent people are still staying home, it gives people something to do. It’s a return to normalcy. So we are working and encouraging all sports teams to start their training camps as soon as possible. And we’ll work with them to make sure that can happen.”

While the teams have not formally announced anything yet, it is likely at least the Nets will open soon for the players still in market to workout (the majority of players from the New York teams went home to other parts of the country). The Knicks, well out of the playoff picture, may be much slower to open their facilities back up.

When they happen, the workouts come with considerable restrictions: one player and one coach at each basket, the coach is wearing gloves and masks, the balls and gym equipment are sanitized, and much more.

One part of a potential plan for the NBA to return to play called for a couple of weeks of a training camp at the team facilities, followed by 14 days of a quarantined training camp in Orlando at the bubble site. Multiple teams reached out to the league about doing their entire training camp in Orlando to avoid having players quarantine twice (once when the player reports back to market, once when the team goes to the bubble city).