Mavericks reportedly interested in Markkanen, but on their terms

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Lauri Markkanen wants out of Chicago and was hoping to get that with a team that would pay him a little more than the league average (he wanted $14 million a season) and would give him a larger role. So far, none of that has been out there for him.

Dallas is interested in bringing him in, something Marc Stein reported last week. However, they want to do so at a price that fits into their trade exception, which is $11 million a year, and he would play a reserve role. Tim Cato at The Athletic breaks it down in more detail.

Dallas would love to convince Markkanen to sign under his market value — and what is market value, if the market hasn’t provided him the $15 million annually he hoped for — and fit him into the team’s $11 million traded player exception (TPE). That’s beneficial for two reasons: 1) there’s less pressure for Markkanen to be anything but a useful rotational player for the team given his questionable fit starting next to Kristaps Porzingis, and 2) he’s an appealing player who’s still 24 and who the team could trade for a better-fitting one….

Dallas could offer Markkanen, say, a three-year deal worth $44 million and send back about $10 million in offsetting salary in a direct trade not involving its TPE. I’ve heard Chicago has interest in Kleber; it’s a riskier deal for Dallas giving up both a rotational player and signing Markkanen to a higher salary point.

While Maxi Kleber is not a game changer, why trade a reliable rotation player (when healthy) and one of their better perimeter defenders to give more money to a player Dallas isn’t sure would be a good fit and isn’t a good defender? I think the Mavericks would only do a sign-and-trade for Markkanen if they can use the trade exception and not surrender a quality rotation player.

Even then, is he a good fit? Count me among the skeptical that Markkanen and Kristaps Porzingis could play together, and if the Mavericks make the trade that’s a lot of money wrapped up in stretch bigs with a long injury history. However, if the Mavericks are just using their trade exception and sending out a heavily protected pick (the Bulls are asking for a first-rounder), Markkanen becomes a reasonable gamble by them. He is just 24.

One potential delay: With the NBA investigating the Lonzo Ball sign-and-trade to the Bulls, the team may be in a holding pattern on conducting another such deal.

From the players’ perspective, does Markkanen have a better offer than the Maverick’s trade exception? Not many teams are beating down his door (the Pelicans reportedly have interest in him as a backup four, and they have their own trade exception, but no offer has been made). He could take the qualifying offer from the Bulls, return to Chicago next season for just less than $9 million, then be an unrestricted free agent next summer. Or he gets a little more from the Mavericks and tries to carve out a role working off-ball and spacing the floor next to Luka Doncic.

Nothing seems to be moving quickly with Markkanen, and at this point in free agency the market is pretty dry. His options are limited, and that could see him in Dallas next season. Maybe.

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.