Three things to know: All-Star Game fits ‘grab the cash’ season theme

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The NBA season is in full swing, and we will be here each weekday with the NBC Sports daily roundup Three Things to Know — everything you might have missed in the Association, every key moment from the night before in one place.

1) Planned All-Star Game fits theme for season: Grab the cash

De’Aaron Fox doesn’t want it. “I’m going to be brutally honest, I think it’s stupid. If we have to wear masks and do all this for a regular game, what’s the point of bringing the All-Star Game back? But obviously, money makes the world go round so it is what it is. I’m not really worried about, if I’m voted in, so be it.”

LeBron James doesn’t want it. “I have zero energy and zero excitement about an All-Star Game this year. I don’t even understand why we’re having an All-Star Game… Five days [in March] from the fifth through the 10th, an opportunity for me to kind of recalibrate for the second half of the season. My teammates as well. Some of the guys in the league. And then they throw an All-Star Game on us like this and just breaks that all the way up. So, um, pretty much kind of a slap in the face… I’ll be there if I’m selected. But I’ll be there physically, but not mentally.”

Fox and LeBron said out loud what a lot of players are thinking.

It doesn’t matter. An NBA All-Star Game is happening on March 7 in Atlanta.

Some will argue this is a bad look for the NBA. Hosting a large gathering of players — with some fans in the building, the game is in Atlanta where fans are in the State Farm Arena and even courtside — is a potential superspreader event. At a time most of the nation is not hosting large events, the NBA is putting one on, and that is putting the players at risk.

Not really. At least not more than every other game. Having 30+ players (24 for the All-Star Game plus participants in the Dunk Contest and Three-Point Contest) plus coaches and staff is not going to be that big a deal because those players and staff will be tested daily, have protocols that keep them in their rooms, and otherwise work to limit any potential spread of the disease. For invited players, it will feel the same as a regular season game.

For the other 400 players, they have five days off to go party in a Las Vegas pool, hang with their friends in a club, or otherwise scatter across the country to spend time large groups of people and not face the same protocols. There will be a post-break spike in cases around the league, but likely not from the players headed to Atlanta.

Fox and LeBron both also understand the reality of why there is an All-Star Game this year (after the league canceled one):

Hosting an All-Star game isn’t stupid; it’s grabbing the available cash.

That has been the underlying theme to this entire NBA season: Make as much money as you can in upside-down times, mitigate the financial losses, and be ready to move on to a more traditional next season starting in October.

The NBA is a business, and like most businesses around the country, it has taken a punch from the coronavirus and the necessary lockdowns to save lives. The league and players union agreed to a short turnaround and starting games before Christmas (and ending before the Olympics in July) because it made them the most money. It’s what the broadcast partners and sponsors wanted, so the league made it happen.

The All-Star Game is a highly-watched showcase event — both in the United States and globally — and it makes a lot of money for Turner Broadcasting (which puts it on TNT) and the sponsors attached to it. The NBA is a business grabbing all the cash it can this season and having an All-Star Game means more money in the bank for sponsors. So it is happening.

Whether LeBron and the players want it or not.

2) Speaking of LeBron, he had a triple-double, passed Wilt Chamberlain in record books during win

Denver has been on a roll, having won 6-of-7, including snapping Utah’s 11-game win streak coming into Thursday night. For all it had done right, Denver got the chance to benchmark itself against the defending NBA champions.

Those champions still have LeBron James.

LeBron scored 27 points with 10 rebounds and 10 assists to help the Lakers pull away in the fourth quarter for a 113-92 win over the Nuggets.

During that, LeBron passed Wilt Chamberlain to move into third on the NBA’s all-time field goals made list.

One early February game does not define a season or a potential playoff meeting between these teams. It does serve as a reminder that the Lakers roll out two of the five best players in the world every game, and that gives them a real chance to win.

3) Do players who have already had COVID-19 have a better chance of being added to rosters as mid-season replacements?

If a team is looking to add a free-agent player mid-season, it’s to cover for an injury or fill in a need for some reason. What teams don’t want is to bring in that player then have him miss time due to the coronavirus.

In an interesting bit of reporting, our old friend Tom Haberstroh, writing for True Hoop, got some sources to say that teams are looking for players who have already had COVID-19 for their mid-season replacements.

But the web of [NBA coronavirus] rules includes—two teams and the NBA, itself, confirm—a loophole for players who have tested positive within the last 90 days. They can join your team after only a two-day quarantine. Otherwise newly signed players would have to be properly quarantined for six days, or in some cases even longer, before taking the court. (One such example: The Brooklyn Nets signed guard Iman Shumpert this past Saturday and he still hasn’t been cleared)…

An agent told TrueHoop that he heard from the Celtics, who were looking for, in the agent’s words, “a free agent center who had recently recovered from COVID-19.”

An NBA general manager who spoke with TrueHoop put it this way: “[Getting COVID-19] is, unfortunately, like getting a FastPass at Disney World.”

There are no official statistics on how many players have had and recovered from the COVID-19, and the league has kept it that way. It does not have a different set of rules on the road or before games for players who have had the disease because it would incentivize getting the disease, which is a moral hazard on multiple levels.

But apparently it’s an advantage to have had the disease if a guy wants to get signed as a free agent.

Welcome to the 2020-21 NBA season. At least we’re having an All-Star Game.

Cavaliers Evan Mobley out 1-2 weeks with sprained ankle

2022-23 Cleveland Cavaliers Media Day
Nick Falzerano/NBAE via Getty Images
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The Cleveland Cavaliers might have the best frontcourt in the East this season with All-Star Jarrett Allen and the emerging star Evan Mobley, but it may be a few weeks before we see them together.

Mobley is out 1-2 weeks with a sprained right ankle, the Cavaliers announced a couple of days before their preseason opener. Mobley stepped on a teammate’s foot and rolled his ankle during practice, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com.

Mobley, who finished second in the Rookie of the Year voting, averaged 15 points and 8.3 rebounds a game in his first campaign, but his more significant impact was on the defensive end. Mobley earned All-Defensive Team consideration as a rookie — an incredibly rare feat — and with Allen formed an impressive backstop for teams trying to drive the paint.

Reports out of Cavaliers training camp rave about the improvements made in Mobley’s offensive game, but we’ll have to wait a few weeks to see that for ourselves now. Mobley, with a more consistent face-up game and jumper, has the potential to develop into a top 15, maybe even top-10 player in the league. The Cavaliers are banking on the young core of Mobley, Allen, Darius Garland and the just acquired Donovan Mitchell to be able to take the team far in the next few years, with Mobley’s improvement key to just how far they can go.

It sounds like Mobley will be good to go for the start of the season.

Karl-Anthony Towns just cleared to walk Saturday following non-COVID illness

Karl-Anthony Towns Offseaon Workout
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Karl-Anthony Towns has not been in camp with the Timberwolves, sidelined by a non-COVID illness. Beyond that, there were not a lot of details other than his girlfriend Jordyn Woods saying on social media that she had taken him to the hospital.

Towns spoke to the media for the first time this season on Monday and said he was just cleared to walk again on Saturday, but did not get into detail about whatever illness he is dealing with.

First, it is Towns’ right if and when to disclose what he went through. This is not an on-court injury leading to a loss of playing time, and it is his call to talk about.

Towns has been sidelined before by illness, including COVID. After losing his mother and other family members to the disease, he also had a long battle with it. Fortunately, this is not that virus, but whatever it was it sidelined him for a couple of weeks.

That missed training camp is a setback as the Timberwolves try to get used to a two-big lineup with KAT and Rudy Gobert, plus some other new faces. Still, Towns and Minnesota should be good to go by the start of the season, a team thinking playoffs and much more after spending big this offseason.

Lakers reportedly ‘seriously considered’ Westbrook trade for Hield, Turner

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“If you make that trade, it has to be the right one, you have one shot to do it. So we’re being very thoughtful around the decisions on when and how to use draft capital in a way that will improve our roster.”

That was Lakers GM Rob Pelinka on media day talking about the possibility of the Lakers trading the only two first-round picks they control this decade — 2027 and 2029 — to upgrade this roster around LeBron. Pelinka was clear the Lakers were committed to building a winner around LeBron, “We have one of the great players in LeBron James to ever play the game, and he committed to us on a long-term contract, a three-year contract… He committed to our organization. That’s gotta be a bilateral commitment, and it’s there.”

But should that include a Russell Westbrook trade to Indiana for Buddy Hield and Myles Turner? Shams Charania of The Athletic updated and added to the extensive previous reporting on this trade, saying the Lakers kept the door open right up to the start of training camp but didn’t pull the trigger.

Vice president of basketball operations and general manager Rob Pelinka, owner Jeanie Buss and senior basketball adviser Kurt Rambis seriously considered sending Westbrook and unprotected first-round picks in 2027 and 2029 to the Pacers for center Myles Turner and guard Buddy Hield, sources said. They held a series of meetings in the days leading up to camp to analyze the possible Pacers deal from every angle, with the views of Ham and Lakers executives Joey and Jesse Buss also being strongly considered in the process. The organization even delayed the midweek news conference for Pelinka and Ham as the debate continued…

If they were going to gamble on a make-or-break move of this magnitude, the thinking went, then everyone had to have confidence in the same vision. But when that wasn’t the case, sources say, the choice was made by Pelinka to remain patient and see, yet again, if Westbrook might find a way to make this imperfect fit with the Lakers work.

Hield and Turner would absolutely improve the Lakers. Turner can play the five, is an elite shot blocker who could provide a strong defensive back line next to Anthony Davis, and is a respectable 3-point shooter who can space the floor. He’s a natural fit. Hield brings shooting that the Lakers have coveted for years and need more of now.

That trade would have moved the Lakers up the ladder to a solid playoff team in the West. Would that trade make the Lakers contenders? Probably not. It still would have come back to the bubble version of Davis and LeBron being ready for the final 16-game sprint to have a puncher’s chance (that may be the case regardless of other moves). Also, it would have messed with future free agency plans in Los Angeles — the Lakers can have around $30 million in cap space next summer to chase Kyrie Irving (although Shams reports that’s not in their plans) or other name players, Hield is owed $19.3 million next season and Turner will be a free agent the Lakers would need to re-sign. This deal would end the dream of a free agent taking a little less than the max to come to the Lakers (a dream not likely to come to reality anyway).

As Pelinka said, the Lakers have one shot with trading their two picks to upgrade the roster — they have to hit a home run, this can’t be a solid single. The Lakers were not convinced Hield and Turner could be that home run tandem.

So Los Angeles will go into the season with a starting five of Westbrook, Kendrick Nunn, LeBron, Davis, and Damian Jones, with a bench of Patrick Beverley, Thomas Bryant, Austin Reaves, and Dennis Schroder. The Lakers will see if it fits, how far it looks like this group can take them under new coach Darvin Ham, and watch the market to see what other stars could become available.

The Lakers aren’t done dealing, but it looks like a deal with Indiana is now in the rearview mirror.

PBT Podcast: Philadelphia 76ers 2022-23 season preview

2022-23 Philadelphia 76ers Media Day
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images
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The Philadelphia 76ers are title contenders — if James Harden and Joel Embiid can play up to their potential on the biggest of NBA stages. That hasn’t always happened before, particularly with Harden.

Those two are now set up well. Philadelphia learned its lessons from the playoff loss to Miami last season. GM Daryl Morey rounded out the roster with more toughness and two-way players in the form of P.J. Tucker, Danuel House and DeAnthony Melton. Add in the development of Tyrese Maxey and Matisse Thybulle and you have a deep roster of quality players — down to BBall Paul.

Noah Levick of NBC Sports Philadelphia joins me to discuss if Doc Rivers is ready to take this team to the next level, and if all the additions can come together when it matters. Can Harden shake his history of playoff reputation and lead a team to the Finals?

You can always listen to the entire podcast below, listen and subscribe via iTunes at ApplePodcasts.com/PBTonNBC, subscribe via the fantastic Stitcher app, check us out on Google Play, or anywhere else you get your podcasts.

We want your questions for future podcasts, and your comments, so please feel free to email us at PBTpodcast@gmail.com.