Winners, Losers from busy NBA trade deadline day


After a relatively quiet run-up to the trade deadline, the dam broke on Thursday.

There were 16 trades. In one day.

Trades were flying around the league from Toronto (via Tampa Bay) to Los Angeles, yet two players most expected to be on the move — Kyle Lowry of Toronto and Lonzo Ball of New Orleans — stayed put.

Who were the winners and losers at the trade deadline? Let’s break it down.

WINNER: Denver Nuggets

Denver went all-in — and that makes them the biggest winners of the day.

The Nuggets traded for Aaron Gordon, helping fill a hole left by the departure of Jerami Grant (although the Nuggets have a slightly better net rating at this point in the season without him, they have just been unlucky at the end of games). Part of that is Gordon can be a shot creator, the third (maybe fourth if Michael Porter Junior is hot) in the offense, but also a guy who can cut, set picks, roll to the rim, draw the attention of defenders. Plus, he’s shooting 37.5% from three this season; those defenders also have to respect him at the arc.

However, the bigger help is on defense — Gordon is a big body, athletic, and a quality defender. Not lockdown, but he makes the Nuggets defense better. In a West loaded with big wings — LeBron James, Kawhi Leonard, Paul George, and so on — Gordon can be a defender the Nuggets can use on him.

Denver also picked up JaVale McGee, a big backup with championship experience (with Stephen Curry and LeBron James) who can be a big body matched up against Rudy Gobert, maybe Andre Drummond, and other matchups in the playoffs.

Is that enough to make them one of the West’s elite teams? They’ll need to prove it. But you have to like the attitude and aggressiveness. Denver made it to the Western Conference Finals last season, these are moves that say they want to get back there and beyond.

WINNER: Orlando Magic

It may seem counterintuitive to say the team that traded away Aaron Gordon, Nikola Vucevic, and Evan Fournier for picks is a winner, but they are.

It’s about time they made these moves and tore it down.

The Magic have been stuck on the carousel of mediocrity for years. They had a core of talented players — Vucevic is an All-Star, Gordon could have been — and high draft picks like Mo Bamba, but it has never come together. This team’s core was average at best and was getting older; there wasn’t much of a future for it. It was time to tear it down, get young players and draft picks, and rebuild with Jonathan Isaac as the first key piece. Orlando got three first-round picks, a couple of second-rounders, and interesting young players such as Wendell Carter and R.J. Hampton out of those trades. It’s a start.

Orlando chose its direction. Magic fans may be skeptical that will amount to much — they have been down this road before. But this was the move they needed to make.

LOSER: Boston Celtics fans

Boston fans came into the trade deadline thinking they were the frontrunners for Aaron Gordon, they had the largest trade exception in NBA history to make things happen, and they had possibilities.

They ended the day with Evan Fournier, without Daniel Theis, and with an owner who got below the luxury tax.

None of that is terrible. Fournier and his shooting will be a good fit in Boston, he makes the team better. They will be fine without Theis, they have enough bigs, and it just means more Time Lord. Boston didn’t do anything wrong.

It just didn’t live up to expectations, which makes it a long day for their fans.

WINNER: Brooklyn Nets

Philadelphia didn’t trade for Kyle Lowry. Neither did Miami. Boston didn’t get Aaron Gordon. Milwaukee added P.J. Tucker last week but didn’t make a massive move.

The Brooklyn Nets have looked like the best team in the East with just two-thirds of their stars are on the court, and they are rightfully the favorites to come out of the conference because we can only imagine what happens when Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Kyrie Irving are start working together. Brooklyn was a winner on Thursday because all their main competition didn’t make a bold move and get dramatically better — not for lack of trying, but it didn’t happen for them.

Which keeps Brooklyn looking like the top dog in the East. Whether the Nets stars can coalesce, and whether their spotty defense will be enough in the playoffs, remains to be seen. But the Nets were winners on Thursday without doing a thing.

Winner: Chicago Bulls

Chicago is a winner for the same reason Denver is on this list, we like teams that are aggressive and go for it.

Chicago went for it and added an All-Star center in Nikola Vucevic to partner with Zach LaVine. They also added Daniel Theis and Troy Brown, Jr. for depth — all without sacrificing a key rotation player (Wendell Carter Jr. was not that anymore). The Bulls did give up two first-round picks, which hurts, but this was about adding talent and trying to make a leap out of the 10-seed and just making the play-in to being a playoff team in the East. The Bulls now have two All-Stars that should boost their pedestrian offense, they are going to win more games and be a tougher playoff out.

There’s a lot of work still to do for the Bulls to be a threat to Brooklyn/Philadelphia/Milwaukee, but this is an aggressive step. It’s a sign of what the new front office is thinking in Chicago, and Bulls fans have to like it.

NBA says Horford foul on Butler correct call, as was added time


While Game 6 will be remembered as the Derrick White game, a series of controversial moments on the previous play set the stage for the winning shot.

There was the Heat’s Jimmy Butler driving left, getting bumped by Al Horford and fumbling the ball, recovering it and starting to dribble again (which appeared close to earning a double-dribble call). Then Butler drew a shooting foul on Horford initially called inside the arc with :02.1 seconds left, but after Celtics coach Joe Mazzulla challenged and it was ruled a 3-point attempt (it clearly was) at the :03 second mark. The referees added 0.9 seconds to the clock, ultimately enabling White to get the game-winning putback with O.1 left.

The referees got all that right, the NBA said in its Last Two Minute Report from Game 6. The report found just two incorrect calls in the final five minutes:

Caleb Martin should have been called for a lane violation on Jaylen Brown‘s missed free throw with 1:01 left in the game.
Gabe Vincent should have been called for a foul on Jayson Tatum‘s stumbling layup attempt with :31 remaining.

None of that changes the results, the Celtics escape Miami with a 104-103 win to force a Game 7 on Monday night. Even though that is a Game 7, it will be hard for that game to surpass the drama of Game 6.

Nick Nurse reportedly enticed by idea of working with Morey again with 76ers

Coach Nick Nurse in Canada vs Czech Republic - FIBA Men's Olympic Qualifying
Mert Alper Dervis/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

When news came out about the Milwaukee Bucks hiring Adrian Griffin to be their new coach, one part of that was a report that Nick Nurse pulled himself out of consideration for the job. That felt a little chicken and egg — did he pull out because he realized he would not get the job?

Either way, he is interested in the Philadelphia 76ers and particularly working again with Daryl Morey, reports Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inqurier. Morey was the GM of the Rockets when Nurse was the coach of their G-League team, the Rio Grand Valley Vipers.

Sources have said that reuniting with Morey is very much enticing to Nurse…

A source has confirmed that Nurse pulled out of being considered for the Milwaukee Bucks head-coaching job, leading to the team hiring his former Raptors assistant Adrian Griffin on Saturday. Nurse interviewed with the Sixers on Monday before meeting with the Suns on Thursday. The 55-year-old coach is pondering the best destination for him, according to sources. However, a source would not say if the Sixers offered him the gig.

Nurse makes intuitive sense for the 76ers or Suns, an out-of-the-box coach who won a championship four years ago to teams with title aspirations next season and beyond. His connection to Morey has had some around the league thinking that would be his ultimate destination from Day 1.

However, the stars of those teams will have a say, as Giannis Antetokounmpo did in the Bucks hiring Griffin (a former player, something Antetokounmpo reportedly prioritized). How does Joel Embiid feel about Nurse? What about Kevin Durant and Devin Booker? Marc Stein reported that Booker endorsed Suns assistant Kevin Young for that job.

Both teams are reportedly getting close to deciding on their next head coach, but for contending teams that need to get this hire right they do not want to be rushed.

Report: Mavericks have no interest in Irving sign-and-trade with Lakers that brings back Russell

Celebrities At The Los Angeles Lakers Game
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Kyrie Irving may say he doesn’t want to be in the middle of NBA free agency speculation, but when he sits courtside in Los Angeles at a couple of Lakers’ playoff games he has to know that will spark talk.

LeBron James has sent his not-so-subtle message he wants more help, and the rumors he’s open to a reunion with Irving are nothing new. All of that has driven a lot of speculation in recent weeks of a Lakers’ sign-and-trade to reunite the core of the Cavaliers’ 2016 title team. While Irving is a free agent, the Lakers have made clear they intend to re-sign Austin Reaves and Rui Hachimura as restricted free agents, making signing Irving directly off the table (unless he wants to take a massive pay cut and play for the midlevel exception, which his actions indicate he does not). If Irving comes to the Lakers, it’s on a sign-and-trade.

Then who goes back to Dallas in this trade? The speculation centered on free agent D'Angelo Russell signing and trading to play next to Luka Dončić. However, the Mavericks have no interest in that, reports Marc Stein in his latest newsletter.

A popular topic all week, in the wake of Denver sweeping the Lakers out of the Western Conference finals, was the notion that L.A. could emerge as a potential sign-and-trade destination for Dallas’ free agent-to-be Kyrie Irving.

While we await a clear indication about the Lakers’ intentions there, with no verifiable signal to date that pursuing Irving is among their offseason priorities, league sources say that the Mavericks would have no interest in a sign-and-trade with the Lakers that features D’Angelo Russell as the primary Dallas-bound player. All indications are that the Mavericks remain intent on re-signing Irving

While the questions of fit between Dončić and Irving remain, when the Mavericks traded for Irving they committed to this path, both financially and on the court. If Irving walks in free agency Dallas has no way to replace him, and they are better off with him than without him. Irving is a much better player than Russell and with Dončić on the roster the Mavericks are a win-now team. Their preference is clear.

As for Irving, he wants to get paid (remember he opted in with the Nets rather than leave to play for less, then pushed for a trade when Brooklyn would not give him the extension he wanted). There is logic for both Dallas and Irving to work out a new contract and, if this marriage doesn’t work out, trade him down the line. The only questions are money, years, and does Irving really want to be in Dallas (he has said he does).

League sources have told NBC Sports that the Lakers’ front office’s primary focus is not on Irving. While the Lakers could clear as much as almost $30 million in cap space, free agency is not the path the Lakers appear to be walking. Re-signing Reaves and Hachimura and putting them next to LeBron and Anthony Davis — both of the Lakers stars make more than $40 million next season — plus rounding out the roster has the Lakers quickly pushing above the cap and into the tax, and the second tax apron is within sight. The Lakers are more likely to make moves like picking up the $16.5 million team option on Malik Beasley and trading him and or other players for the shot creation and shooting they want. A Russell sign-and-trade is certainly in play, or they could bring him back, just not on anything near the max Russell likely wants (more likely a deal starting around $20 million a year). Russell was good for the Lakers in the regular season and had a 31-point playoff game to close out the Grizzlies, plus a 21-point game against the Warriors, he just was in a bad matchup against Denver.

Irving to the Lakers is a long shot. But if LeBron wants it, and Irving wants it, nothing is off the table.

Reactions from NBA players to White’s game-winning putback for Celtics


It was an all-time classic game, one that could be part of a legendary chapter in Celtics’ lore. Boston was on the verge of being sent home for the summer by the Miami Heat when Derrick White‘s putback as time expired won the Celtics Game 6 and forced a Game 7 Monday night.

NBA players were as stunned and excited as fans everywhere. Check out the reactions from players around the league — and a few others — to the Celtics’ dramatic win.