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

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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.

Must watch: Lonzo Ball halfcourt alley-oop to Zion Williamson

Lonzo Ball Zion Williamson
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Damn. This is just a thing of beauty.

Lonzo Ball and Zion Williams have a connection on the court and the Grizzlies got a look at it up close and personal Monday.

NBA TV has another angle

In a must-win game for 0-2 New Orleans, Zion played more in the first half than we have seen recently, but he was still under 10 minutes total. He had 11 points on 5-of-11 shooting, leading an energized Pelicans team that led by seven at the half.

Thunder’s Dennis Schroder leaves bubble for birth of child

Dennis Shroder child
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Dennis Schroder was not in uniform when Oklahoma City lost to Denver Monday. He wasn’t even in Orlando.

Schroder left the bubble to be with his wife for the birth of his child, something the team knew was coming but came up suddenly Monday morning, coach Billy Donovan said pregame (reporting from ESPN’s Dave McMenamin inside the bubble).

 

“I’m not gonna leave my wife by herself while she’s having a second baby,” Schroder said when he talked about this with reporters previously. “(Dennis) Jr. is still 17 months old, so I’m for sure gonna go there and support her and try as much as I can to be there for my family.”

Congratulations to the Schroder family, we hope everyone is happy and healthy.

The Thunder will miss Schroder while he’s gone. He is a Sixth Man of the Year candidate averaging 19 points per game while shooting 38.1% from three. The Thunder are at their most dangerous when Schroder is paired with Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, a rotation that we will not see for a while.

The first round of the playoffs starts Aug. 17. Schroder can return to the team, the question is how long he will be in quarantine when he does. If Schroeder has a negative coronavirus test for seven consecutive days before his return, he will be in quarantine for four days. If he does not get tested, or if he exposes himself to the virus unnecessarily while outside the bubble — for example, picking up wings from a strip club for dinner — he will have a 10-day quarantine.

The Thunder could use him for what will be a tight first-round playoff series in a very balanced West. Schroder may or may not be there, he has higher priorities right now.

Oklahoma state Rep. threatens to increase Thunder’s taxes for kneeling during national anthem

Oklahoma City Thunder kneel during national anthem
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The Oklahoma City Thunder – like all NBA teams (minus a few individuals) – kneeled during the national anthem.

That powerful protest calls attention to racism, particularly through police brutality. It is highly patriotic to work toward ending those shameful practices. Though some have distorted the underlying message, the protests have largely worked. In the years since Colin Kaepernick first kneeled, Americans have developed a heightened sensitivity to racism and police brutality.

Of course, there are still many opponents of anthem kneeling. The demonstration causes a visceral reaction (which is also why it has been so effective). At this point, it’s hard to stand out among the critics of anthem kneeling who keep making the same, tired arguments.

Oklahoma state representative Sean Roberts found a way.

Roberts, via Oklahoma’s News 4:

“By kneeling during the playing of the national anthem, the NBA and its players are showing disrespect to the American flag and all it stands for. This anti-patriotic act makes clear the NBA’s support of the Black Lives Matter group and its goal of defunding our nation’s police, its ties to Marxism and its efforts to destroy nuclear families.

If the Oklahoma City Thunder leadership and players follow the current trend of the NBA by kneeling during the national anthem prior to Saturday’s game, perhaps we need to reexamine the significant tax benefits the State of Oklahoma granted the Oklahoma City Thunder organization when they came to Oklahoma. Through the Quality Jobs Act, the Thunder is still under contract to receive these tax breaks from our state until 2024.

Perhaps these funds would be better served in support of our police departments rather than giving tax breaks to an organization that supports defunding police and the dissolution of the American nuclear family.”

This is outrageous.

It’s outrageous that the Thunder get such a targeted tax break. The franchise is a private company that should succeed or fail based on its own merits. While it’s easy for NBA fans (like readers of this site) to get caught up in the league, professional basketball isn’t actually important for the greater good.

It’s outrageous that a company’s tax status could depend on how its employees exercise their freedom of expression. The First Amendment still exists.

Ultimately, Roberts almost certainly doesn’t have the power to do what he’s threatening. This is grandstanding for political gain. It gets Roberts into national headlines and little else. Mission accomplished, I guess.

So, Roberts builds a reputation as another big-government politician – someone who wants to use the heavy hand of government to dissuade free expression.

NBA referee Brent Barnaky explains standing for the national anthem

NBA referee Brent Barnaky
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Magic forward Jonathan Isaac, Heat big Meyers Leonard and Spurs coaches Gregg Popovich and Becky Hammon drew plenty of attention for standing during the national anthem while nearly all NBA players, coaches and referees kneeled.

Referee Brent Barnaky also stood.

Tim Bontemps of ESPN:

This isn’t much of an explanation. Nor does it need to be. Barnaky explained that he wasn’t countering the message of kneeling players (opposing racism, particularly through police brutality). That’s sufficient for Barnaky to maintain his neutral positioning – important for an official.

For decades, nearly everyone stood for the national anthem. For many people, that was just about following norms. Even NBA players espousing social-justice messaging previously stood for the national anthem.

But Colin Kaepernick’s brave defiance caused some people to thoughtfully consider their national-anthem posture. So, while many people continued to stand for the national anthem because that’s just was done, some made deliberate choices based on their own values. Sometimes, that led to kneeling. Sometimes, that led to standing.

The thoughtful standers blended into the crowd… until kneeling became widespread in the NBA. Now, they’re the noticeable outliers within the league.

It can take courage to go against the grain. I commend Barnaky for that – and for voicing his support for social justice and peaceful protest.

Barnaky made a personal choice that can stand alone. It doesn’t undermine what anyone else is doing.