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Three Things to Know: Nothing is finalized. Yet. An NBA trade deadline rumors update.

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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) Nothing is finalized… yet. Here’s your NBA trade deadline rumors update. With the NBA trade deadline just about 48 hours away, NBA teams are getting serious with their offers and the rumors are flying… but no deals. Yet. Here are some of the latest rumors flying around the NBA.

• A three-team deal that would have sent Clint Capela to Atlanta, Robert Covington to Houston, and picks to Minnesota for it to flip into D'Angelo Russell has died because the Warriors shot down trading Russell for those picks, reports Kevin O’Conner at the Ringer.

The Warriors have said all along they want to see what a Russell/Stephen Curry backcourt looks like before they trade Russell. Also, because Russell came in a sign-and-trade the Warriors are hard-capped and believe they can find a better trade (for themselves) after July 1 when that restriction is out of the way.

Otherwise, this trade gets Houston the wing they wanted (although if they trade Capela they need to bring back another rim-protecting center somehow), and Atlanta gets its center (which would mean John Collins becomes available via trade now or this summer). Speaking of Capela…

Houston and Boston are talking about a Capela trade. In this scenario (possibly with a third team), the Celtics would get Capela as their playoff center, and Minnesota would get Enes Kanter or Daniel Theis back from Boston plus one of Boston’s three first-round picks for 2020. That pick could be part of a package flipped to Golden State for Russell. Except, as mentioned above, the Warriors aren’t eager to trade Russell right now.

Whatever Houston does, don’t be surprised if they also maneuver to get below the luxury tax line.

• As an aside, the Timberwolves with Russell and Karl-Anthony Towns would be an offensive force, but could they get any stops? That’s a troubling defensive combo, and opposing coaches are going to drag Russell and KAT into all the pick-and-rolls.

• The Knicks reportedly have interest in Russell, too, but are not throwing their (likely very high) 2020 pick in the mix. Instead, it seems Kevin Knox and Bobby Portis plus a future pick are the bait. Hard to see the Warriors biting on that.

• The Clippers have been rumored in a lot of trades (looking for an upgrade at center and more shooting) but Paul George likes the roster Los Angeles has.

The Hornets are talking to the Knicks about a possible Julius Randle trade. That would raise the floor in Charlotte, but can the Hornets get the Knicks enough players/picks to make it interesting?

The Phoenix Suns need shooting and are talking with the Pistons about a Luke Kennard trade, with a first-round pick going back to Detroit in the deal.

Andre Iguodala let it be known (through sources) that he would sit out the rest of the season if not traded to “agreed-upon teams.” So there’s a list. This was leaked to scare off teams not on that list who are calling Memphis, it should not scare off Memphis. The Grizzlies need to get the best deal they can for Iguodala, it’s the other team’s problem if he doesn’t want to be there. Meanwhile, Dillon Brooks and Ja Morant want Iguodala traded so they can go at him on another team for not wanting to play with them.

• The Cavaliers have made Tristan Thompson available via trade as Cleveland reportedly goes into “asset acquisition mode.” What other mode have they been in for two years?

The Spurs are working on a DeMarre Carroll trade, and reportedly Rudy Gay also is available for the right price.

• There continues to be little market for Andre Drummond of Detroit, multiple sources tell NBC Sports. Drummond has game — he is the best rebounder in the league and can get buckets around the basket — but he is not a great rim protector, does not space the floor, the game is moving away from his style of play, and he makes $27 million this season then can opt-out to become a free agent next summer. That’s a lot of matching salary to put in a trade, then a lot of money spent next summer to keep him, for whatever team trades for Drummond. It’s hard to construct a trade teams will take around that.

2) Ben Simmons calls Sixers soft after another road loss. Miami continues to play good basketball, and on Monday night Jimmy Butler went off for a season-high 38 points — and he didn’t even need to play the fourth quarter — as the Heat scored a franchise-record 81 points in the second half and crushed the 76ers 137-106.

The Sixers are now 22-2 at home but just 9-18 on the road, including having dropped 10-of-12 away from the Wells Fargo Center. A frustrated Ben Simmons called Philadelphia “soft” after the loss.

Does trading for Robert Covington solve that problem? This was a game where the Sixers defense — sixth-best in the NBA this season — just got torched by Butler, Bad Adebayo and the Heat.

As an aside, and just my gut feel, but at some point Brett Brown is going to be the fall guy in Philly. That ultimately may not solve the problem that Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons are both All-Star/All-NBA level players whose games simply don’t mesh. Still, teams will dump the coach and try that approach before coming to the realization they need to break up two outstanding players. That is always the last resort.

3) The coronavirus outbreak has shut down the Chinese Basketball Association indefinitely. As Americans, we tend to like our sports as an escape from reality, even though it never really works that way.

It’s certainly not in China right now, where the Coronavirus — which has become a pandemic, infecting more than 17,000 people in 23 countries (including the United States) and killed more than 360 — has restricted travel and led to precautions to halt the spread of the virus.

That has shut down the Chinese Basketball Association for now, and a lot of American players in that league have already come home. ESPN’s Jonathan Givony was Tweeting about this a few days ago, but the information is still relevant.

Mix in fraught USA/China relations, and it’s easy to see how this could come out poorly for the players involved.

Jeremy Lin said on Instagram: “The CBA season’s been postponed indefinitely and I’m on standby, training and staying ready if the season resumes.” In the wake of the disease, the death of Kobe Bryant, and much more, Lin talks about the need to live life to the fullest because “Today isn’t guaranteed. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. Nothing in life is guaranteed.” He also rails against the fools using this virus and human suffering to promote their racist viewpoints.

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Time flies and life is a blur. As I sit back and reflect, all I can say is this past year has been so crazy. The NBA and China’s relationship soured, my friend Godfrey suddenly died filming on set, last year’s Beijing Ducks captain G-Man was diagnosed w a terminal disease midseason and passed away, the coronavirus became a global health emergency, and Kobe/Gianna/7 others passed away in a tragic accident. The CBA season’s been postponed indefinitely and I’m on standby, training and staying ready if the season resumes. Since last summer I haven’t had much to say on social media, but I felt very strongly about this post. Today isn’t guaranteed. Tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. Nothing in life is guaranteed. Live life to the fullest, pursue the best version of yourself. If you aren’t content along the journey, you won’t be content at your destination. I learned this lesson the hard way. Find joy, find purpose, find truth. Love radically, serve generously. Life is too short and too precious for time to be wasted. I’ve lived in China this past season and now being back on US soil, I’m saddened by the racist comments regarding the virus in China. There are real people suffering and real heroes working around the clock in service to others – please don’t let your fear or ignorance rob you of seeing that. This world needs more compassion and empathy. We are all imperfect humans – we all need grace. You have one life to live, focus on what really matters in life. And pray that God blesses us with the chance to see tmrw 🙏🏼

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Report: Pistons searching for new general manager

Pistons executive Ed Stefanski
Chris Schwegler/NBAE via Getty Images
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The Pistons hired Ed Stefanski as a senior advisor to owner Tom Gores in 2018. Among Stefanski’s duties: Assist in the ongoing search for a new head of basketball operations. But it quickly became clear Stefanski would just run the front office himself.

Now, two years later, Detroit is finally getting around to that general-manager search.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Detroit Pistons are opening a search to hire a general manager to work with senior advisor Ed Stefanski, sources tell ESPN.

Stefanski will be working with Pistons and Palace Sports Vice Chairman Arn Tellem on the process to hire a GM, sources said.

Rod Beard of The Detroit News:

If Stefanski is still running the front office, a new general manager would be the No. 2 – equivalent to assistant general manager on many teams.

After taking over an inflexible roster left by Stan Van Gundy, Stefanski couldn’t do much. Stefanski’s big move was trading Andre Drummond to the Cavaliers just before the trade deadline. That positioned Detroit to have major cap space next offseason, but it’s unclear how much will actually materialize. The salary cap could drop due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Pistons must determine whether they’re still building around Blake Griffin, the 31-year-old due $36,810,996 and $38,957,028 the next two years. Last season, he returned to stardom and carried Detroit into the playoffs. This season, he missed most of the year due to injury.

If they’re trying to win now with Griffin, the Pistons are short on quality complementary players. If Detroit is ready to rebuild, its pool of young talent – Luke Kennard, Sekou Doumbouya, Bruce Brown, impending free agent Christian Wood, its own first-round pick – is hardly assured of success.

After years of being stuck on a path charted under the Van Gundy regime, the Pistons can soon pick a new course. This is the time get the front office up to full staffing.

Report: NBA could resume with group stage

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A fundamental conflict for the NBA:

  • The more traditional of a season – all 30 teams playing 82 games, four rounds of best-of-seven series – the league completes, the more more money it will make.
  • The more teams involved in a resumed season, the higher risk of coronavirus spreading throughout the league.

That’s why the NBA is considering a middle ground – resuming without teams far outside playoff position.

But how would the league structure a format for 20 teams?

Maybe a group stage to replace the first round of the playoffs.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer:

The 16 current playoff teams would qualify for the group stage, plus the four teams with the next-best records (Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, and Spurs). The remaining 10 teams would be done for the season. The survey sent to each general manager noted that “tiers” would first be created using the regular-season standings to ensure competitive balance between the groups.

Groups could then be randomly drawn, with one team from each tier going into each group. The NBA is working on approaches to fairly balance the groupings, such as limiting each group to only three Western Conference teams, according to multiple front office sources. Drawings for the group stage could be televised, league sources say.

As an alternative to having groups randomly selected, multiple league sources say the league has considered allowing Tier 1 teams—the Bucks, Lakers, Raptors, Clippers—to draft their own groups.

Teams would play opponents within their own groups twice, meaning every team would play eight games. The two teams in each group with the best record would move on.

Based on the current standings, the tiers would be:

  • Tier 1: Bucks, Lakers, Raptors, Clippers
  • Tier 2: Celtics, Nuggets, Jazz, Heat
  • Tier 3: Thunder, Rockets, Pacers, 76ers
  • Tier 4: Mavericks, Grizzlies, Nets, Magic
  • Tier 5: Trail Blazers, Pelicans, Kings, Spurs

As far as ways to resume with 20 teams, this isn’t bad. The draw – whether random or top-team choice – alone would be a revenue-drawing TV event.

The ninth-place (Wizards) and 10th-place (Hornets) teams in the Eastern Conference might argue they should be included over the 11th-place (Kings) and 12th-place (Spurs) teams in the Western Conference. But Sacramento and San Antonio have better records than Washington and Charlotte. If there were ever a time not to stress conference affiliations, it’s now with the league preparing to resume in a single location.

There would be increased risk for top teams getting knocked out early if their group is challenging. They’ve already lost home-court advantage. But there’s also chance of upset in a regular playoff series. Besides, downside could be mitigated by allowing the top teams to draft their groups* and using regular-season record as a tiebreaker.

*This could even be done in reverse – i.e., the top teams selecting which lower-tier teams not to put in their own group.

The Bucks, Lakers, Raptors and Clippers could rotate selecting lower-tier teams to avoid. Once three top-tier teams have nixed a team, that lower-tier team would be placed in the fourth top-tier team’s group. Each group would still be required to have one team from each tier.

Or maybe the top-tier teams could even rotate sticking lower-tier teams into a specific top-tier team’s group. The Bucks could use their first selection on placing the 76ers into the Lakers’ group, for example.

There are many possibilities how to structure a group draft.

If the NBA locks into resuming with 20 teams, the other 10 teams would be incentivized to vote for whatever system generates the most revenue. Those 10 votes could boost any proposal that would otherwise be doomed by teams trying to clear their own path deep into the playoffs.

This system would satisfy players on marginal teams – like Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard – who want to play only if the games are meaningful. It’d also allow the worst teams just to be done.

The draft order and lottery odds would have to be re-considered with a 20-team group phase. Though that’s a minor issue, it’d involve every team. Again, self-interest would creep in.

This idea has some rough precedent. In 1954, the playoffs began with three-team round robins in each the East and West.

The bigger question is how many NBA teams should resume? But if the best answer is 20, this is the best format I’ve seen.

Lakers’ Jeanie Buss talks steps that led to brother Jim’s removal

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Late Lakers’ owner Jerry Buss set up a very detailed trust and succession plan for his beloved franchise. His daughter Jeanie Buss would be the team’s governor, and his son Jim Buss would run basketball operations. If there was an issue, Jeanie had the ultimate power.

In 2017, after the Lakers missed the playoffs for a fifth straight year and were floundering as an organization, Jeanie used that power to oust Jim and bring in a new front office (Magic Johnson and Rob Pelinka, of which only Pelinka remains). Recently, Jeanie appeared on the “Daddy Issues with Joe Buck and Oliver Hudson” podcast and laid out the philosophy behind removing her brother. (Hat tip Lakers Nation)

“When my brother wasn’t going with the way my dad did things, it was a little distressing for me…

“You’re down and losing, and then my brother was changing coaches every 18 months. Sometimes you have to make coaching changes, I get that. But when you go from a coach like Mike Brown, whose emphasis was defense, to a coach like Mike D’Antoni, who really doesn’t worry so much about defense, that’s two different rosters that you need. Then the outside world thinks, ‘They don’t know what direction they’re going in.’

“You should be able to see a pathway as you hire a coach, you give him the players for his style of basketball and you make decisions that follow ones before it. You follow the path and what the person is thinking. But I couldn’t see what was going on, where he was trying to go and what our identity was going to be as a team.”

The path was clearer with Magic and Pelinka because they quickly landed LeBron James as a free agent (how much they had to do with LeBron’s decision is up for debate). The Lakers instantly became a win-now team and, a year later, traded a lot of the young players and picks to put Anthony Davis next to LeBron. The result has been the team with the best record in the West heading into the playoffs (whatever they look like).

Jim Buss swung and missed plenty, but he had a few hits as well. From the outside looking in, the biggest challenge seemed to be he operated with a mindset of “Laker exceptionalism” — that the very best players would always flock to the Lakers because they are the Lakers. The NBA doesn’t work that way anymore. No doubt, the Lakers have advantages few franchises can match. But from Jerry Buss to Jerry West and Mitch Kupchak, all through the Lakers’ successful runs, they didn’t approach things with a mindset of exceptionalism. The Lakers’ front office was bold, but it was grounded and smart — they identified and developed talent, they always had a strong core, and they had strong relationships with players. It wasn’t exceptionalism, it was hard work.

On top of that, Jim had become the scapegoat of Lakers’ fans, the focus of their blame for the years not in the playoffs. Fair or not, it became a public relations issue, not just a management issue.

Jeanie made the right move. And it may even lead to another ring soon.

Damian Lillard: I won’t play if Trail Blazers have no shot at playoffs

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Most players on lottery-bound teams reportedly prefer to be finished rather than return as the NBA attempts to finish its season amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Someone finally put his name behind that sentiment.

Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard, via Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports:

“If we come back and they’re just like, ‘We’re adding a few games to finish the regular season,’ and they’re throwing us out there for meaningless games and we don’t have a true opportunity to get into the playoffs, I’m going to be with my team because I’m a part of the team. But I’m not going to be participating. I’m telling you that right now. And you can put that [expletive] in there,” Lillard told Yahoo Sports on Tuesday morning via phone.

I do feel like if we do come back and our mind is right, we can beat anyone. It’s going to be hard to get going with no fans, you’ve been off all this time and some people are just ready for summer like, ‘[Expletive] it, I haven’t played in a long time and the season is basically over to me. Do I really care like I cared before?’ It’s going to be a lot of those factors going on and that presents a lot of room for a team to sneak some [expletive]. Like, really mess around and knock some teams off and then, ‘Oh, they’re in the Western Conference finals.’ It’s room for that with this situation. So the fact that it’s possible and we wouldn’t get an opportunity at that, that’s weak to me. I ain’t getting no younger.”

In ninth place, Portland is 3.5 games behind the eighth-place Grizzlies. The Trail Blazers might still have a chance to reach the playoffs. It depends on the NBA’s format for resumption.

There’s consideration to bringing back only teams with a postseason chance, anyway. But there’s also talk of all 30 teams playing in order to fulfill local TV contracts.

Lillard is a tremendous leader. If he doesn’t play, that would cast such a negative feeling onto his Portland teammates – and beyond. Lillard’s voice could affect how the entire league handles its return.

With a super-max extension already signed, Lillard has the luxury of being able to afford risking his paycheck by not playing. Not everyone can do that. There are major complications in determining how much money, if any, non-returning players should earn.

This also gets into an issue even in normal times: There are too many games late in the season involving at least one team incentivized to lose. The Trail Blazers have made the playoffs every season after Lillard’s rookie year. He has never had to worry about this since becoming a star. But players and teams annually grapple with games that, at best, don’t really matter. It creates a horrible product.

The concern is just magnified now because of the heightened risk of playing.

The NBA should listen to Lillard’s apprehension, realize he’s not alone and take it seriously. Then, whenever normal play resumes, the league should also realize this type of situation comes up – admittedly, with lower stakes – every year.