Three things to know: Winners and… other winners from Derrick Rose trade

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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) Winners and… other winners from Derrick Rose trade

Derrick Rose and Tom Thibodeau, together again.

It will become official in the coming days, one of the NBA’s best buddy cop franchises is back together in a third city, with the Pistons trading Rose to New York for Dennis Smith Jr. and a second-round pick.

Traditionally, I like to do a winners and losers post after trades like this, but in this case I’m not sure there are any big losers …

Unless Tom Thibodeau finds minutes for Rose at the expense of emerging rookie Immanuel Quickley. That’s the real concern with this trade, that it plays into Thibodeau’s worst tendencies as a coach of a young team — playing veterans to win now at the expense of developing young players. If Thibs leans into heavy minutes for Elfrid Payton and Rose at the point and Quickley gets squeezed (and his minutes were already too low), this is a loss for New York. But I doubt that happens. In today’s NBA game, a team cannot have too many ball handlers and shot creators on the court at once, and Quickley can play either guard spot. Thibodeau should play Rose and Quickley together (plus Rose could fill a mentor role). How the backcourt rotation shakes out is something to watch, but I’m optimistic things will be fine in Madison Square Garden.

This is a win for New York because its playoff chances just got better. At a surprising 11-13, the Knicks are currently the seven seed in the East, and Fivethirtyeight.com projects them to be the 10-seed in the East — making the play-in game — with a 32% chance of advancing to the playoffs. Rose increases those odds. He provides depth and scoring New York needs.

Detroit wasn’t going to re-sign Rose next offseason and the decision to find a trade was mutual. The Pistons get a decent second-round pick (likely in the 40s) and a long look up close at Smith to see if he can be a reclamation project (something Detroit likes to do, as evidenced by picking up Jahlil Okafor and Josh Jackson). It’s not a lot, but there was a limited market for Rose, so Detroit did well considering — this is a win that way.

This is not a trade that dramatically moves the needle for either side, but both teams get something that can help them — that’s win-win. No real losers here.

2) Sacramento has won four in a row, above .500 after beating Clippers

You can take Luke Walton off the hot seat.

When the Kings started 4-10 with a historically bad defense, Walton’s seat was getting very warm. In the offseason Sacramento had brought in Alvin Gentry as Walton’s top assistant, putting a ready-made replacement next to him on the bench. Walton was on top of everyone’s “first coach to be fired” list.

Then Sacramento turned it around — they have four wins in a row after beating the shorthanded Clippers on Sunday, 113-110, behind 36 points from De’Aaron Fox.

Sacramento has won 7-of-8 and improved to 12-11 this season, tied for eighth in the West with Golden State. The Kings have done that against the third toughest schedule in the league so far. The key in the turnaround is the defense that was historically bad early has been average — 13th in the league — over the past seven games. The offense has seen a step forward, too, but just getting a few stops changes everything.

Postgame there was a lot of praise from the players for Walton and his coaching style — including from Buddy Hield, who was so mad at Walton after last season (when Hield got moved to the bench) he wouldn’t speak to his coach. Via Jason Jones at The Athletic:

“Last year, he coached us different,” guard Buddy Hield said. “I just feel like he’s way more alert, and I feel like from when we’re messing up those few games, we’d be at practice and he’d show a lot of mistakes and we’d correct them. And that’s what coaches do, they correct mistakes we’re getting burned on.”

“Him taking the next step in leading us in the right direction, even in timeouts and how he’s managing the game, he’s letting us play and letting us be ourselves, just being fun out there,” Hield said. “I think everybody loves the way he’s handled us.”

It looks like Walton’s job is safe, at least as much as any NBA coach not named Popovich or Spoelstra feels safe.

3) Injury update on Hawks De’Andre Hunter, Cavs’ Larry Nance Jr.

Some not great injury updates to round out the Sunday news.

De'Andre Hunter — who has been out the last four Atlanta games due to a knee issue — will now be out at least another couple of weeks after having his right knee scoped. Officially, the team said Hunger “will undergo a lateral meniscus arthroscopic debridement procedure on Monday.” Hunter has played strong wing defense for Atlanta this season while making a leap forward on offense averaging 17.2 points a game, hitting 36.6% of his threes, and finishing much better at the rim. The Hawks are +9.2 per 100 possessions when he is on the court this season.

Cleveland’s Larry Nance Jr. suffered a fractured fourth metacarpal on his left hand against the Bucks Saturday night, the team announced. The injury is commonly known as a “boxers’ fracture,” it’s fairly common around the NBA, and it takes 5-6 weeks to recover from it. Nance is averaging 9.3 points and 6.8 rebounds a game for the Cavaliers, but more importantly providing quality defense at the four.

One other injury note, Oklahoma City’s Mike Muscala sustained a concussion during Saturday against Minnesota and has been placed in the NBA’s concussion protocol. Muscala is averaging 9.7 points and 3.5 rebounds a night this season for the Thunder.

Scoot Henderson says he has skills to be No.1 pick but not hung up on it

Metropolitans 92 v G League Ignite
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Scoot Henderson came out like a man on a mission Tuesday night against the Metropolitans 92 and Victor Wembanyama — he was in attack mode. He used his explosive athleticism to get to the rim, his impressive body control to get off good shots, and his strength to finish with authority. And if the defender played back, he would drain the jumper over him.

A year ago, Jaylen Brown called him the best 17-year-old he’d ever seen. Scoot is better than that now.

Many years, Henderson would be a clear No.1 overall pick. But, not this year, Wembanyama has that crown because he breaks the mold with his size and skill set (in the NBA, height still wins out).

Kevin O’Conner of The Ringer asked Henderson why he should be the top prospect and got a confident answer.

There will be a lot of people making the Henderson case this season — and with good reason. He could be a franchise cornerstone player for the next decade.

Henderson, however, is trying not to get hung up on No.1 vs. No.2.

There’s a long list of legendary players selected No.2: Bill Russell, Kevin Durant, Jerry West, Jason Kidd, and that is just the tip of the iceberg. Henderson can be one of them.

Unless Wembanyama’s medicals come back with red flags, he is destined to be the No.1 pick next June. That, however, will not be the end of Henderson’s story. Instead, it will be just the beginning.

Doc Rivers says he wants Harden to be ‘a scoring Magic Johnson’

Philadelphia 76ers Media Day
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We’re not in Houston anymore.

James Harden in Philadelphia will not be chasing scoring titles and dominating the game in quite the same way. Instead, he’s been asked to be more of a facilitator — but not too much of one. Doc Rivers told the team at ESPN’s NBA Today he wants scoring to go with the facilitating. Just like one of the all-time greats.

“I think we’ve talked so much about him being a facilitator… I need him to be James Harden too. If I had to combine, I would say a scoring Magic Johnson, I don’t know, but that’s what I want him to be. I want him to be a James Harden, but in that, I want him to also be the facilitator of this basketball team too. So in a lot of ways, his role is growing bigger for our team, and I just want him to keep thinking, ‘Do both.'”

Just play like Magic, no pressure there. For his career, Magic averaged 19.5 points a game (with four over 20 PPG) with 11.2 assists.

Harden can get close enough to Rivers’ lofty goals to make Philly a real threat, so long as defenders still fear his first step and step back. Harden can get his shot and get to the line, and he’s long been a great passer who has averaged 10.5 assists a game over the past two seasons. Now it’s just a matter of finding the balance of when to set up Joel Embiid, when to turn the offense over to Tyrese Maxey, and when to get his own shot.

Philadelphia is a deep team poised to win a lot of regular season games — the Sixers being the top seed in the East is absolutely in play. The questions Harden — and, to a degree, Embiid — have to answer come in May, when the second round of the playoffs start and Harden has faded while Embiid has had poor injury luck. In a deep East with Milwaukee, Boston, and maybe Miami and Brooklyn in the contender mix, there is no margin for error.

A Magic-like Harden would be a big boost for the Sixers in that setting.

As he chases record, LeBron says he has ‘no relationship’ with Kareem Abdul-Jabbar

Sacramento Kings v Los Angeles Lakers
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Later this season, health permitting, LeBron James will pass Kareem Abdul-Jabbar as the NBA’s all-time leading scorer.

Kareem has said LeBron has earned it, but also has called out LeBron on COVID issues (something Abdul-Jabbar apologized for). Have the two legends started to build a relationship as LeBron marches toward the record? Not so much.

“No thoughts, no relationship.”

This question was asked of LeBron days after Abdul-Jabbar slammed former LeBron teammate Kyrie Irving in a Substack newsletter, calling him a “comical buffoon” and saying he is a poor role model. Abdul-Jabbar has been a vocal proponent of getting the vaccine, Irving remains unvaccinated, and LeBron has posted on social media questioning the severity of the virus and the response. Plus, LeBron and Irving are friends, which could have sparked LeBron’s terse response (as could the fact he was ready to get out of the arena after a dull preseason game).

A week earlier at media day, LeBron had been kinder when discussing Abdul-Jabbar and chasing his record.

“And you know, obviously Kareem has had his differences, with some of my views and some of the things that I do. But listen, at the end of the day, to be able to be right in the same breath as a guy to wear the same [Lakers] uniform, a guy that was a staple of this franchise along with Magic and Big Game [James Worthy] over there for so many years, especially in the 80s, and a guy that does a lot off the floor as well,” LeBron said. “I think it’s just super duper dope for myself to be even in that conversation.”

Abdul-Jabbar has been more of a public persona in recent years, both around the game of basketball and discussing social justice issues through his writings. The NBA named its new social justice award after him. With that has come new relationships around the league.

One of those is not with LeBron. Will Abdul-Jabbar be in the building when LeBron does break the record?

We’ve got months for this relationship to evolve — if it does — before that big day.

 

Watch Zion Williamson score 13 in return to court for Pelicans

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Zion Williamson is back.

He certainly looked in better shape and flashed his insane explosiveness on his way to 13 points and four rebounds in 15 minutes Tuesday night against the Bulls, his first game after missing all of last season following foot surgery.

There was some rust, and the Pelicans are wisely bringing him along slowly and not breaking out the entire playbook for a preseason game, but in the moments we saw Zion looked like he was all the way back.

The questions now are can he sustain it, and how to the Pelicans mesh him with other scoring options in CJ McCollum and Brandon Ingram.

And maybe we shouldn’t leave rookie Dyson Daniels off that list, he looked good in his first NBA preseason game.

The Pelicans are one of the most intriguing teams this season, a team that made the playoffs last season with a push after McCollum arrived, and now they add the elite interior scoring and athleticism of Zion to Ingram’s outside shot and slashing, not to mention and a solid core of role players. This team has top six potential if it can get stops. But in a deep West, nothing will be easy.