Celtics, Kemba Walker reportedly both looking at trade this offseason

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The Boston Celtics have tried to trade Kemba Walker since they exited the bubble last year, with a strong push made at the deadline last February.

Now Walker, frustrated by that lack of loyalty, would like to find a way out of Boston.

The two sides are ready to part ways, Chris Mannix said on NBC Sports Boston this week.

 “The Danny Ainge-led front office has been looking at possibilities of trading Kemba dating back to the end of last season’s bubble experience. From what I told, the Ainge front office saw kind of the writing on the wall in a way with Kemba Walker when it came to his knee. Remember, the knee injury which occurred, I believe in late January of 2020, it was still lingering in the bubble. This is after months and months of being off, and I think the Celtics front office was looking for a way to get out from under that contract. They ultimately were not able to do it despite having conversations with multiple teams over the last several months…

“That frustrated Kemba Walker. Kemba is among the most loyal guys you’re going to find in professional sports. Like, he would still be a Charlotte Hornet if Charlotte had stepped up to the plate during his free agency and made him the highest offer. It wasn’t about going to Boston to chase a championship for Kemba, there was a lot more money on the table. So for Kemba to hear his name and understand his name was in trade rumors, that absolutely has frustrated him over the last six to eight months.”

Mannix isn’t alone here, Farbod Esnaashari of Bleacher Report wrote essentially the same thing, saying Walker and the Celtics are both looking to find a trade that works this offseason.

Walker is far from alone in players frustrated with how Ainge handled them, feeling more like pawns on a chessboard than valuable people and players. Going back to what happened with Isaiah Thomas, a lot of players and agents have been wary of dealings with Boston.

Walker still provides value when he is on the court — 19.3 points and 4.9 assists a game this past season, shooting 36% on 3-pointers and he can get to the rim and create his own shot. That said, his efficiency slipped this past season and his advanced stat numbers across the board — PER, VORP, EPM, even True Shooting % — were the lowest they have been in more than five seasons. Walker was not the All-Star/All-NBA level player he had been for years.

The challenge in trading Walker is the combination of health concerns — Walker missed 29 games this past season, primarily due to knee issues, including sitting out half of back-to-backs — and the fact that he is owed $73.7 million over the next two seasons (the second year of that is a player option, but it’s hard to imagine a scenario where he doesn’t pick that up). That’s a lot of money and a lot of risk to take on

Walker is seen as a negative value contract around the league, sources told NBC Sports, and teams talking to Boston about a trade may want sweeteners in the deal.

There are certainly good teams in need of a starting point guard and secondary shot creator this offseason who might be open to a trade — Esnaashari pointed to the Knicks and Mavericks — but actually striking a deal will not be easy.

That said, it appears both Walker and the Celtics are ready to move on from one another. There’s a good chance Walker is not in Celtics green at the start of next season.

Kevin Durant on chasing MVP: ‘Not really, I’ve been there, done that’

Orlando Magic v Brooklyn Nets
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Kevin Durant carried the Nets to another win Monday night, scoring 45 points on 19-of-24 shooting, plus seven rebounds and five assists.

If you’re having an MVP conversation a quarter of the way into the NBA season, Durant has to be part of it: 30 points per game on 54.8% shooting (and a ridiculous 65.9 true shooting percentage), 6.6 rebounds and 5.5 assists a game, plus playing solid defense and being the anchor of the Nets. After his 45-point outing to get Brooklyn a win over Orlando, Durant was asked about MVP chants and the chase for the award and was clearly not interested.

Durant has MVP numbers, but so do Stephen Curry, Luka Doncic, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Jayson Tatum and others. If Durant is going to move to the front of the conversation, the first thing that has to happen is Brooklyn has to win a lot more games — 11-11 is not going to cut it when Tatum’s Celtics and Antetokounmpo’s Bucks have the two best records in the NBA. Winning games and finishing on a top-three team in the conference matters to some voters (and traditionally is one measure of an MVP).

Watch Herb Jones inbound off Pokusevski’s back, seal win for Pelicans

Oklahoma City Thunder v New Orleans Pelicans
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With 2.3 seconds left in the game and the Thunder down 2, they needed to steal the inbounds pass from New Orleans to have a real chance. That’s why when Aleksej Pokusevski walked on the court it looked like he was going to guard the inbounder, Herbert Jones.

Instead, Pokusevski turned his back to Jones, putting himself in position to step in front of anyone cutting to the ball to catch the inbounds. Except, Jones made the clever play to seal the game.

Pokusevski fouled Jones, who sank both free throws and sealed the 105-101 Pelicans win.

The Pelicans got 23-8-8 from Zion Williamson and picked up a win without CJ McCollum or Brandon Ingram in the lineup. Shai Gilgeous-Alexander continued his dominant start to the season and scored 31.

Watch Lakers fan drain half-court shot to win $75,000

Indiana Pacers v Los Angeles Lakers
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It might have been the loudest the crypto.com Arena was all night.

Between the third and fourth quarters, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 draining a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

Murry’s celebration is the best part — with Anthony Davis coming out to celebrate with him (and seeming a little shocked by the hug).

One other big shot fell at this game, but Lakers’ fans didn’t like it as much — Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.

Three things to know: Joel Embiid returns, scores final 11 vs. Hawks

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Three Things 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) Joel Embiid returns, scores final 11 vs. Hawks in 76ers win

The 76ers went 3-1 with Joel Embiid sidelined by a left mid-foot sprain, but they are so much more a dangerous team with him.

Embiid scored the 76ers’ final 11 points of the game against the Hawks, including the go-ahead 10-foot jumper with 18.6 seconds left, to cap a 30-point night and lift the Sixers past the Hawks 104-101.

Embiid was making critical defensive plays down the stretch as well.

Embiid finished with 30 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two blocks. That’s five straight 30+ point games for Embiid, who picked up right where he left off before the injury.

Well, not exactly pick up at the start as Embiid was 1-of-7 shooting to open the game, and he wasn’t the only Sixers rusty at the start. Embiid seemed focused on sharing the ball early but settled into an offensive balance as the game went on. Philly was saved by a solid defensive night.

The 76ers continue to pick up wins with James Harden and Tyrese Maxey out, which is a good sign going forward.

That’s three-straight losses for the Hawks, a loss that stings because they should have been able to dominate the shorthanded 76ers backcourt and get the win.

2) Karl-Anthony Towns goes down with concerning leg injury

Let’s hope the optimistic report from Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN is right and this isn’t as severe as it looked. Because it looked bad.

Timberwolves big man Karl-Anthony simply was pushing off to run back upcourt when he fell to the ground — without contact — grabbing his knee and calf.

Towns was helped back to the locker room and did not return, with the Timberwolves officially saying he was out for the rest of the night with a calf strain.

A calf strain would be the best possible outcome. An MRI Monday will tell us more.

Towns’ stats are down this season as he adjusts to the odd fit of playing next to Rudy Gobert, but he is still averaging 21.4 points and 8.5 rebounds a game.

The Wizards got a monster night from Kristaps Porzingis — a career-high 41 points — on their way to a 142-127 victory. When Porzingis is on this Washington team is tough to beat.

3) Big shots fall at Lakers’ game

Two big shots defined the night at the crypto.com arena Monday.

First, Lakers fan Jamie Murry of Downey won $75,000 with a half-court shot — and he got to celebrate with Anthony Davis.

The second one hurt the Lakers more. Pacers’ rookie Andrew Nembhard drained a game-winning 3-pointer as time expired.

The Lakers got lost in the scramble. On the initial action, Russell Westbrook doubled Bennedict Mathurin in the corner, which left the screen setter Myles Turner open at the top for a clean look at a 3 — but he was short and came off the front of the rim. Tyrese Haliburton out-hustled everyone to the rebound and tried to create his own shot but saw Nembhard wide open and kicked him the rock.

Ballgame.

The Pacers split their two games in Los Angeles at the start of a seven-game road trip through the West.

The Lakers had won 5-of-6 against a soft part of the schedule but that is about to change and over the next few weeks we will get a sense of where this 7-12 team really stands.