Report: Pacers open to trade for Sabonis, LeVert, Turner; “moves toward rebuild”

Indiana Pacers v Sacramento Kings
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The 10-16 Indiana Pacers have been the most unlucky team in the NBA this season. They have a positive net rating (+1.6 using Cleaning the Glass and its garbage-time filters) and have outscored their opponents by a total of 22 points for the season. Overall they have the stats of a 14-12 team, but the Pacers are 3-12 in clutch games (within five points in the final five minutes). They just can’t close out tight games.

Indiana management and ownership have seen enough. 

The Pacers are open to trading stars — including their biggest names — reports Shams Charania and Bob Kravitz of The Athletic.

In need of a new direction amid a 10-16 start to the season, the Indiana Pacers are moving toward a substantial rebuild and are expected to open up trade conversations around some of their veteran stalwarts, sources tell The Athletic.

Multiple sources said that the Pacers are receptive in trade dialogue with rival teams centered on potentially moving guard Caris LeVert and either two-time All-Star Domantas Sabonis or center Myles Turner. All three players have frequently garnered significant interest from rival teams.

Those players will draw considerable interest, especially in a year when not many other quality players may be available. LeVert is the kind of two-way wing in demand across the league — Milwaukee comes to mind among contenders — although his 3-point shot is not a strength (25%) this season. Sabonis is an All-Star big man who can score, and Turner is a shot-blocking force in the paint who can also space the floor from 3.

Malcolm Brogdon just signed an extension and cannot be traded this season. T.J. Warren, not yet back from injury after missing most of last season, is reportedly not likely to be traded.

Indiana instantly becomes an interesting trade partner for Philadelphia and Ben Simmons — they have players who can help the 76ers now — and with the Trail Blazers, if they are considering trading Damian Lillard or CJ McCollum.

Historically, the Pacers have tried to retool on the fly, not looking to tank or bottom out. They re-signed veterans — for example as Darren Collison and Bojan Bogdanovic — and tried to keep winning, even if that meant being stuck in the middle of the pack. This new report suggests long-time owner Herb Simon’s mindset has changed and he is on board with a rebuild. If so, what are the Pacers seeking in a trade for stars? With the Pacers already having the seventh-worst record this season, are they looking to bottom out this season and hope for some lottery luck, then bounce back quickly?

It’s unclear to rival teams how swift the Pacers could begin to make moves, but it’s expected the franchise will be patient in its trade approach and reach decisions based on the best offers that are made.

Many of the top contenders who might want to upgrade — the Nets, Lakers, Bucks, Heat — have traded away so many first-round picks and young players build the roster they have that there are not many available. Houston, Oklahoma City and other teams have stockpiled a lot of those picks and are rebuilding themselves. Would the Lakers trade Talen Horton-Tucker, or the Nets move Nick Claxton, to get a prime player to help them win now?

Expect the rumors to fly around the Pacers as the February trade deadline nears. But with Kevin Pritchard in charge of the front office, don’t expect any rash moves from Indiana. They will be patient.

Knicks’ Obi Toppin out at least 2-3 weeks with knee fracture


Obi Toppin is a fan favorite and Knicks faithful were hoping to see more of him as the season progresses.

However, they are not going to see any of him for at least the next 2-3 weeks due to a fractured knee, the team announced.

Toppin suffered the injury in New York’s win Wednesday over Atlanta, the same game that saw Dejounte Murray sprain his ankle leading him to be out for a few weeks.

Toppin — the reigning All-Star Weekend Slam Dunk contest champion — is averaging 7.7 points in 25 games off the bench. With him out, coach Tom Thibodeau suggested he could lean more on RJ Barrett, asking him to play up at the four.

Report: Zach LaVine not available for trade from Bulls


Front offices of potential contenders from Los Angeles to Philadelphia have their eyes on the Chicago Bulls — will the struggling Bulls pivot to chase Victor Wembanyama and the top of the lottery, making them sellers at the trade deadline? Teams have interest in Chicago’s three stars: Zach LaVine, DeMar DeRozan, and Nikola Vucevic.

Except just-extended LaVine isn’t currently available, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said Wednesday on his network’s pregame show discussing the Knicks.

“The Knicks will be watching Chicago. Is Zach LaVine a player who before the deadline possibly can become available? He certainly isn’t now.”

Chicago is not yet ready to pivot to tanking, so none of its stars are truly available. That said, the Bulls don’t look like a playoff team, they miss Lonzo Ball, and even if things do come together where do they stand in the East hierarchy? If the Bulls do become sellers, they aren’t going to tear this team down to the studs, it would likely be trading just one star. Possibly a second if the offer was strong enough.

LaVine — who signed a five-year, $215 million extension this past summer — is the least likely to be available, league sources have told NBC Sports. The expectation is that Vucevic would be the Bull first made available if the Bulls decide to start seriously listening to offers. And that remains an “if.”

That said, front offices around the league have their eyes trained on Chicago.

Dejounte Murray added to growing Hawks injury report, out 2-3 weeks with sprained ankle


John Collins is out for at least another week with a sprained ankle. DeAndre Hunter has been out with a strained hip flexor.

Now you can add Dejounte Murray to the Hawks’ growing injury report, he is out at least 2-3 weeks with a sprained ankle, Shams Charania and Sam Amick of The Athletic report.

The injury happened on a closeout from RJ Barrett of the Knicks.

The Hawks have already had chemistry and fit issues this season, and missing key players for an extended period only exacerbates the problem. Atlanta looked flat getting their doors blown off by the Knicks Wednesday night, 113-89, a game that added to a string where they have lost 5-of-7. Now they will have to find a way to right the ship without their second-best playmaker.

There also is an update on the Hawks’ play-by-play announcer Bob Rathbun.

NBA, WNBA players react to news Brittney Griner coming home


Brittney Griner is finally coming home.

The WNBA and USA Basketball star has spent 10 months in Russian prisons — including being convicted and sent to a Russian penal colony — for having vape canisters with small amounts of cannabis oil in her luggage as she went through Russian airport security back in February. She became a political pawn in the tensions between the United States and Russia, mostly surrounding Russia’s invasion of the Ukraine, and was freed via a prisoner swap announced Thursday.

The basketball world — WNBA players in particular — had worked to keep her name front and not let Griner be forgotten during this ordeal, pushing President Joe Biden and the government to reach a deal. With the news Griner was freed, NBA and WNBA players took to social media to react.

“Brittney has had to endure an unimaginable situation and we’re thrilled that she is on her way home to her family and friends,” NBA Commissioner Adam Silver said. “We thank the members of the NBA and WNBA community who never wavered in their efforts to raise awareness of Brittney’s unjust circumstances.”

“We are overwhelmed with relief and gratitude that our sister Brittney Griner is finally coming home,” the NBPA said in a statement. “Her strength and courage throughout this last year have been truly remarkable, as have the efforts of her wife Cherelle, our WNBPA sisters, Terri Jackson and the WNBPA staff, who have been relentless in their call to bring Brittney home. We know this homecoming would not have been possible without their unwavering support and continued work to keep BG always top of mind, and our players are honored to have contributed to those efforts. While this is a celebratory moment for our sisters and us, we must not forget the other political prisoners who remain in dire circumstances all over the world. These individuals must be remembered and fought for every single day as BG was so that they too can have this moment. Welcome home Brittney, we are so happy to have you back! #WeAreBG”