Winners and Losers from Milwaukee’s Jrue Holiday, Bogdanovic trades

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If fortune favors the bold, then right now it favors the Milwaukee Bucks.

In a series of moves clearly aimed more at making Giannis Antetokounmpo happy and pushing him to sign the supermax contract they will offer him — and making the Bucks better on the court — Milwaukee acquired Jrue Holiday from the Pelicans in one trade and Bogdan Bogdanovic from the Kings in a separate sign-and-trade deal. Milwaukee gave up a lot — three first-round picks, a couple of pick swaps, and key players like Eric Bledsoe, George Hill, and Donte DiVincenzo to make it happen.

Who are the winners and losers from these trades? Let’s break it down.

Winner: The Milwaukee Bucks (if Antetokounmpo signs extension)

Five first-round picks — the No. 24 pick in this year’s draft, plus two future first rounders and two pick-swaps — is a steep price to pay for Jrue Holiday, a guard who has not made an All-Star team since 2013 and can opt-out after the season and become a free agent. That’s how many picks the Lakers gave up to get Anthony Davis. Plus, the Bucks gave up a young player they like in Donte Divincenzo as part of the Bogdan Bogdanovic trade with Sacramento.

And it is worth every last bit if Giannis Antetokounmpo signs the supermax contract extension the Bucks will put in front of him of at least $228.2 million (it could be more depending upon where next year’s salary cap falls).

That is the end game of all these moves, to keep the two-time MVP that is Mr. Everything for the franchise. Holiday and Bogdanovic should be an upgraded starting backcourt, providing plenty of shooting, plus Holiday brings improved defense and switchability on the court. Right now the Bucks starting five of Holiday, Boganovic, Khris Middleton, Antetokounmpo, and Brook Lopez may be the best in the NBA. Put decent depth around that and the Bucks will be clear contenders. Antetokounmpo couldn’t have asked the team to be bolder in building the right contender around him.

But will he sign the extension now or keep his leverage open…

Loser: The Milwaukee Bucks (if Antetokounmpo ultimately doesn’t sign extension)

Antetokounmpo has been playing a leverage game — the threat of him leaving has the two-time MVP sitting down with ownership to talk about the future of the team, then making these trades to revamp the backcourt. Antetokounmpo’s game has worked.

So why give up that leverage and sign the supermax extension before this season starts? Antetokounmpo can sign that exact same deal for the exact same money next offseason and keep his power over the organization.

That power is the threat of him leaving. Dallas, Miami, and Golden State are all poised if Antetokounmpo wants to jump to another contender, and every other team would move whatever it took if he wanted to come there. If Antetokounmpo does decide to leave, the Bucks will have just given up any chance of a quick rebuild with all those picks sent away. If Antetokounmpo leaves after this, the Bucks are screwed.

Winner: David Griffin and the Pelicans front office

New Orleans would like to make the playoffs this year. They have Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, plus a new coach in Stan Van Gundy that should improve the team’s defense.

However, the Holiday trade signals the Pelicans are not thinking “go all in this year” but rather “let’s build something that will contend in the West in a few years, and for a long time.” That is the smarter play. Between the Holiday and Anthony Davis trades the Pelicans added Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart plus SIX first-round picks and four pick-swaps. Those picks are likely later in the first round (Bucks and Lakers) but it’s a steady supply of young talent and/or trade assets that allows them to build a true contender around their young core. The Pelicans are making the right, patient play in building a team.

Loser: Denver, Boston, L.A. Clippers, Portland, other Jrue Holiday suitors

There was an incredible amount of interest in trading for Holiday, and all those teams have now missed out. Denver was considered a frontrunner around the league and Holiday is a player who could have pushed the Nuggets up with the Lakers in the West. The Clippers are still looking for a shot creator and floor general who can defend, a perfect description of Holiday. Boston reportedly kicked around a trade moving Gordon Hayward for Holiday. And the list goes on and on.

None of those teams would have potentially overpaid in picks to land Holiday the way the Bucks did (none had the incentive of keeping Antetokounmpo like the Bucks did), so maybe they don’t see it as missing out. But all of those teams could have used Holiday and aren’t going to find answers near as good in a thin free agent point guard market.

Winner: Buddy Hield (in the Bogdanovic trade)

Last season, Luke Walton started Bogdanovic in front of Buddy Hield, who had just signed a four-year, $94 million contract extension. Suddenly Hield was unhappy and trade rumors for him were popping up.

This move puts Hield back in the starting lineup next to De'Aaron Fox, and it shows new Kings GM Monte McNair has Hield’s back. That should make the petulant star happy for a while. Sacramento also picks up a quality guard off the bench in Donte DiVincenzo, who is still on his rookie contract ($7.7 million total over the next two seasons, a lot more affordable than Bogdanovic for the Kings).

Three things to Know: Cam Thomas takes over in Brooklyn, scores 47

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Three Things To Know is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) Cam Thomas takes over Brooklyn, scores 44 for shorthanded Nets

The list of players who have scored 40+ points in back-to-back games this season reads like the top seven picks of a fantasy draft: Giannis Antetokounmpo, Devin Booker, Stephen Curry, Anthony Davis, Joel Embiid, LeBron James, and Damian Lillard.

Now add Cam Thomas to that list.

With Kevin Durant injured and Kyrie Irving now in Dallas, the Brooklyn Nets’ second-year scoring guard has taken over the offense. He scored a career-high 44 against the Wizards on Saturday night, then on Monday topped that with 47 against the Clippers, hitting 7-of-11 from 3.

The Nets needed this. Brooklyn has been Team Drama since Kyrie Irving didn’t get his extension and demanded a trade, which has led to a lot of speculation around the league about Kevin Durant being next out the door (sources told NBC Sports to expect that issue to be resolved over the summer, not in the tight window of the trade deadline).

Thomas has been able to score since he was drafted out of LSU, but that skill was less needed when Irving and Durant were healthy and dominating the ball. His defense, playmaking, efficiency and all-around game improved this season, but the veteran-heavy Nets had guys the coaches trusted more in his role, so Thomas racked up a lot of DNP-CDs this season.

However, when the Nets needed him, he stepped up and put on a show. He is earning his run, even when Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith show up and get on the court, and Durant gets healthy.

Thomas’ career-best night wasn’t enough against the Clippers. A late 9-0 Clippers run changed the game and Los Angeles picked up the win on the road. Paul George led the Clippers with 29 points, while Kawhi Leonard added 24.

The Clippers went an impressive 4-2 on their Grammys road trip (the awards show takes over crypto.com Arena for a couple of weeks) and have moved up to fourth in the West as they head home, showing flashes of a team that could be coming together.

2) With Curry out, Klay Thompson steps up and drops 42

Stephen Curry will be out “weeks” with a leg injury, leaving concerns about where the stumbling Warriors will find enough offense.

The answer was Klay Thompson. At least on Monday night. He knocked down 12 3-pointers and scored 42 points leading the Warriors to a comfortable blow-out win over the Thunder.

Jordan Poole Sixth Man of the Year bettors are hosed as he is back in the starting lineup with Curry out, and he impressed with 21 points with 12 assists (a career-best). This was a quality win for the Warriors as the surprising Thunder have pushed themselves into contention for a play-in spot and the Warriors need to keep their head above water until Curry returns some time after the All-Star break.

3) Sale of Suns to Mat Ishbia expected to close Tuesday

The Phoenix Suns should have a new owner by the end of the day.

The NBA’s Board of Governors — the other owners — voted to approve the sale of the Phoenix Suns and Mercury to an ownership group led by Mat Ishbia.

Ishbia — a walk-on reserve guard for the Michigan State Spartans that won the national championship in 2000 — will own 57% of the team, valued at a league-record $4 billion for the sale.

Ishbia made his billions as the chairman and CEO of the nation’s largest mortgage lender, United Wholesale Mortgage, formally called UWM Holdings. Mat’s father founded the business, which is now worth a reported $7 billion, with Ishbia himself worth a reported $5.1 billion.

This brings an end to the Robert Sarver era in Phoenix, which is reason for Suns fans to celebrate. Sarver was a penny-pinching owner who agreed to sell the team after an investigation into his running of the Suns’ franchise had led to a hostile work environment and sexual harassment claims. Don’t shed a tear for Sarver, who purchased the Suns in 2004 for a then-record $401 million and just sold his share for $1.48 billion.

Watch Klay Thompson knock down 12 3-pointers, lift Warriors to win without Curry

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Stephen Curry was not in the building, the first of maybe a month of games he’s going to miss with a leg injury. Who would take charge of the Warriors’ offense with No. 30 out?

Klay Thompson.

Thompson knocked down 12 3-pointers and scored 42 points to lead the Warriors as they blew past the Thunder.

“It was a beautiful game to watch him play…” Draymond Green said of Thompson, via the Associated Press.”We needed it. It’s been a while since we had a blowout win. It’s good to get this one, especially first game with Steph out. It was good to start off on this foot and try to create some momentum.”

Jordan Poole is back in the starting lineup with Curry out, scoring 21 points with 12 assists (a career best).

All-Star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder with 20 points. But this was Thompson’s night. And one for the Warriors.

NBA owners, players union agree to push back CBA opt-out date. Again.

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The NBA and players union are progressing toward a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Just not very fast progress. In December, they pushed the opt-out date for both sides — when either the owners or players could opt out and end the CBA on June 30 of this year — to Feb. 8.

They aren’t going to hit that deadline either so the two sides have agreed to push the new opt-out date back to March 31, they announced.

“The NBA and NBPA have mutually agreed to extend the deadline to opt out of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) from Feb. 8, 2023, to March 31, 2023, as the two sides continue negotiations to reach a new agreement,” the sides said in a joint release. “If either party exercises the opt-out, the CBA’s term will conclude on June 30, 2023.”

There is one bit of good news in the talks, the owners have backed off the “upper spending limit” idea, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. At least some owners — troubled by the massive spending into the luxury tax of the Warriors, Clippers, and Nets  — pushed for an “Upper Spending Limit” for teams, which the players saw as a hard cap and a deal breaker.

As the sides pursue an early labor deal, a significant part of what has allowed discussions to progress has been the NBA’s willingness to soften from its original push for an upper spending limit on team payrolls — a de facto hard cap, sources said.

Still, expect changes to the luxury tax system to attempt to rein in the spending of some owners. There are a lot of economic concerns that will push toward a deal getting done, including this interesting note:

There are broader economic concerns looming for the league that are motivating factors in reaching a new labor deal in the coming weeks and months — including the potential bankruptcy of the Sinclair/Diamond Sports Regional Sports Networks, which is responsible for broadcasting 16 of the league’s teams on local deals. The longer labor talks linger, the more moderate positions among ownership can harden on financial issues and risk deeper difficulties on reaching a new labor deal.

The conventional wisdom has long been there would be no lockout and potential work stoppage because every side was making money again, the trajectory of the league was good, and nobody wanted to slam the breaks on that momentum. But there is always a risk, especially if the owners are fighting among themselves. Which is why a deal getting done sooner rather than later is best for everyone — especially fans.

Focus on body, conditioning has LeBron James on cusp of scoring record

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LOS ANGELES — LeBron James has prepared for this day since high school.

Maybe he didn’t envision this day exactly — the day he would break Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time NBA scoring record, something he is just 36 points shy of heading into Tuesday night against the Thunder— but LeBron was preparing for playing at a high level deep into his career. A career that has seen very few injuries (in 20 seasons his only surgeries have been LASIK and oral surgery in the offseason), very little time missed, and a lot of points.

Through all the years, teams and tribulations, LeBron’s focus on preparing his body has never wavered.

“I’ve just learned more about my body and how to prepare my body. But I’ve been taking care of my body since I started playing basketball,” LeBron said earlier this season. “Like, even when I was younger — you can ask any of my best friends growing up — before I went to sleep I would stretch and as soon as I would wake up I would stretch. I was like, 10 years old. In high school, I was one of the few guys that would ice after the game. My rookie year I was icing after the game, as well.

“But, as I got older and older and older, I started to figure out other ways that I could beat Father Time by putting in more time on my game and on my craft. But mostly on my body and my mind. I feel like if my mind can stay as fresh as it possibly can through a grueling up-and-down NBA season — which it is — then my body is going to be able to try and perform at the highest level. So, I’ve always wanted to maximize even the most out of my career and squeeze the most juice I can out of my career.

That level of investment in his body — financially, but more importantly with time and energy — has made his fitness routine a legend around the league. It’s the reason he is still an All-NBA-level player when the rest of his draft class — Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, Kyle Korver, David West, Steve Blake, Kirk Hinrich — have hung up their sneakers.

“LeBron is taking care of himself so well that he’s been able to play a bundle of games for a lot of years. And that’s what he takes,” said Spurs legend Gregg Popovich. “But he gets credit for taking care of himself and being able to be out there. The way a lot of players don’t even come close to. His commitment to the game and to what he has to do, has allowed him to be in this position.”

LeBron has made fitness and recovery a core part of his daily routine. That commitment to his body means he works out at least five days a week even in the slow weeks of the offseason. Get close to the season and into the grind and it’s seven days a week.

These are not ‘I’m going to jump on the elliptical and get in a little cardio’ workouts, these are specially designed HIIT workouts with his personal trainer, Mike Mancias, that target on different days his core, legs, upper body and other areas, plus mixes in yoga and stretching, and then a recovery program. It is holistic and includes a diet low on refined sugars but with enough carbs to fuel his workout and play.

All that doesn’t even include his pregame stretching and workout routine.

LeBron puts his money into maintaining his conditioning — his business partner and friend Maverick Carter once said LeBron spends about $1.5 million a year on not just trainers and a personal chef, but equipment such as cryotherapy chambers, hyperbaric chambers, NormaTec leg boots, and much more.

Does LeBron have a go-to cheat? Wine. But he’s earned it.

Players don’t reach the NBA, or especially, stick around, without an impressive commitment to fitness. Plenty of players enter the league with bad habits that, by season three or four, they figure out they have to dump if they are going to stick around (and get paid). LeBron’s focus, consistency, and relentlessness is on another level, and it is what has him as the best player the league has ever seen in his 20th season, at age 38. Nobody has ever played this well, this long.

“I think he’s gonna have the greatest career of all time,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said of LeBron. “I think he’s already had it, you know, and I think Michaels the greatest of all time. But that doesn’t take anything away from LeBron. LeBron has had the greatest career.”

And he put in the work to get there.