Report: Wizards’ slump has Beal more open to trade; no real movement on deal, including for Simmons

Washington Wizards v Memphis Grizzlies
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On Feb. 11, Bradley Beal most likely will still be a member of the Washington Wizards.

However, for the first time in a long time, there seems to be an opening, and maybe some momentum, toward a Beal trade. Possibly before the Feb. 10 trade deadline, more probably in a sign-and-trade next offseason, but things are changing.

A big part of that is the Wizards’ current slump — or maybe this is just who they are.

After starting the season 10-3 and looking like the runaway winners of the Russell Westbrook trade (and they still may be), the team has gone 13-24, sliding down to 12th in the East, a game out of even the last play-in spot. The Wizards are a bottom 10 offensive and defensive team this season.

Beal has said he wants to create his own legacy in Washington, but this season has left Beal disillusioned and questioning if the Wizards can ever put the players around him he needs to win in D.C., report David Aldridge and Joshua Robins of The Athletic.

The team’s nosedive since its hot start has frustrated Beal, leaving him less sanguine about just taking the big bag next summer and staying in Washington. For the first time in a long time, sources close to Beal indicate he’s not rejecting out of hand the notion of trade elsewhere — even though his preference is to remain with the Wizards. Neither Beal nor his representatives, though, have officially asked for him to be moved with a week left before the deadline.

The Wizards put a four-year, $181 million extension offer in front of Beal, but he has not signed it while saying he is being selfish this season for the first time in his career. If he plays out this season, becomes a free agent then re-signs with Washington, he could get five years, $242 million.

If Beal is traded before the deadline, those same figures would apply to his new team. If he leaves as a free agent, even via a sign-and-trade, the most he can get is four years, $179 million.

This is where Washington owner Ted Leonsis enters the story — he has long refused to bottom out and rebuild solely through the draft. He wants to make the playoffs every year, and he wants to build around Beal. Trading Beal for young players and a boatload of picks — as many teams would try to do — is not an option for Leonsis’ Wizards.

Which is why a Beal for Ben Simmons trade is interesting as a talking point. Beal is one of the players on 76ers’ GM Daryl Morey’s list of players he’d take back in a Simmons trade. Washington would be an interesting fit for Simmons. Simmons as the primary shot creator with shooting from Kyle Kuzma, Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, Rui Hachimura and others — plus a big man who can roll inside — could be the foundation of a good team.

However, a Beal for Simmons trade seems a long shot right now because the Wizards want another promising young player from Philly in the deal, according to the report.

But the 76ers won’t include an additional piece, such as exciting young guard Tyrese Maxey, along with Simmons in a potential trade for Beal, per league sources. Philly has similarly held firm that it won’t put third-year forward Matisse Thybulle, a terrific wing defender, in a Simmons package.

There are a lot of moving parts, and a lot of minds to change, to make a Beal for Simmons trade happen in a little over a week. Never say never in this league, but Morey himself put the odds of any Simmons trade below 50% and that seems accurate.

Still, this is more movement toward a Beal trade — and maybe a Simmons trade — than we have seen in a while. Things can move fast around the deadline, and it could be the case here where something comes together quickly.

Where’s the beef? Anthony Davis says ‘Me and Bron have one of the best relationships’ in NBA

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Whispers and reports of a split in the Lakers’ locker room and a beef between Anthony Davis and LeBron James gained momentum after Davis’ reaction to LeBron James breaking the all-time scoring record went viral. Talking Lakers drama is always an excellent way to get clicks/eyeballs/listeners and so once a rumor like a beef between the team’s two biggest stars begins rolling down the hill it does not stop.

Even if Davis says there is nothing to it, everything is good between him and LeBron. Here’s the quote he gave to Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

“Me and Bron have one of the best relationships I think in the NBA as far as duos or teammates, regardless,” Davis said. “But they don’t see that. They don’t see the stuff we do off the court and time we hang out with each other. They see on-court stuff.”

The reality is it doesn’t matter if LeBron and Davis are buddies, hanging out together drinking a lovely Pinot Noir and laughing behind Frank Vogel’s back. What matters is whether they can get along and thrive on the court. There’s a banner hanging in Crypto.com Arena that says they can if they stay healthy and management puts the right kinds of role players around them.

The healthy part is in the way right now, with LeBron out for at least a couple more weeks with a tendon foot injury (whether he returns before the season ends is up in the air). The Lakers are 7-5 in the dozen games he has missed with this injury thanks to a defense — anchored by Davis — that is third-best in the NBA over that stretch. That has kept their head above water, but the Lakers are in a tight race where six teams — from the 7-12 seeds, making up all the play-in teams and a couple that will miss out — are tied in the loss column at 37. The Lakers need more wins, including Friday night in a critical game against the Thunder.

The Lakers will need LeBron back — and LeBron and Davis to rekindle their on-court chemistry — if they are going to make any kind of a playoff run. First they just have to get to the postseason, which will fall more on Davis. Of late, he has looked up to the task.

 

Rumor: Could Tyronn Lue step away from Clippers after season?

Oklahoma City Thunder v LA Clippers
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Clippers coach Tyronn Lue has clearly been frustrated this season.

It’s been the things out of his control — injuries and load management forcing constant lineup shuffling, and with that difficulty in building continuity — that have left Lue exasperated at points. However, is that enough to make Lue walk away from the Clippers this summer? That rumor is out there, Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports said during the new No Cap Room podcast with Dan Devine. (Hat tip Hoopshype.)

Ty Lue, as respected head coach as they come, but there has been chatter, let’s say about potentially him, in theory, removing himself from the situation at a certain point in time. So there’s a lot I think, at stake on the other side of L.A. where the Lakers get all the attention and LeBron’s quest for a fifth ring is always soaking up the headlines, the Clippers could end up becoming a super buzzy team in the postseason and but again, that could be a situation for a lot of organizations.

This is the fourth year of the Kawhi Leonard/Paul George era with the Clippers, with iffy results at best. It cost a lot of money — not to mention draft capital and talent like giving up Shai Gilgeous-Alexander — to bring this roster together and they have one Western Conference Finals trip to show for it (2021, Lue’s first year as coach). This season they will head into the playoffs with an injured George trying to get back on the court (the good news is he doesn’t need knee surgery, but it may be closer to the second round before he can play).

Both Leonard and George are locked in for next season — at a combined $91.3 million — with player options for the season after that, but there is a sense around the league that if these Clippers don’t make a run in this year’s wide-open West playoffs there could be changes. Steve Ballmer has money to spend, but he wants results for all the checks he’s writing and there is real pressure on this organization to make that happen.

Lue could have had enough and choose to step away from that situation. Or be told to step away. Lue is in the third year of a five-year contract he signed to take over from Doc Rivers in Los Angeles, but it may be decision time for both sides.

What happens over the next couple of months will have a lot of influence over what comes next for these Clippers, but there could be changes coming to this Los Angeles team. They will be one of the more interesting teams to watch this coming off-season.

Three things to Know: Clippers find blueprint to win without Paul George

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LOS ANGELES — Three Things To Know 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) Clippers find blueprint to win without Paul George

What do the Clippers need to do if they are going to hold on to a top-six seed — and be a threat early in the playoffs — without the injured Paul George?

It starts with Kawhi Leonard if you ask coach Tyronn Lue: “We need him to be in attack mode all night, you know, can’t ease into the games.”

Leonard scored 15 points on 7-of-7 shooting in the first quarter Thursday night. Box checked.

All night long the Clippers were following the blueprint Lue laid out to win without George, and the result was a comfortable 127-105 victory against the Thunder.

Leonard, maybe motivated by the lock-down defense Lu Dort played on him at the end of Tuesday’s game (although Kawhi denied that), Leonard had one of his best games of the season, scoring 30 points on 13-of-15 shooting. Leonard also will have to take on tougher defensive assignments early (something George had done) and the result was Leonard with four steals on the night.

What else was on Lue’s blueprint?

“Play with more pace, more pace in the half court getting to our spots, not walk around,” he said pregame. “Attack the basket, attack the rim, don’t just settle for jump shots.”

That pace especially came from a bench unit led by Bones Hyland (16 points), Terrence Mann (14 points) and Nicolas Batum (4-of-6 from 3). The bench plus Leonard unit changed the game, it was +25 early in the fourth quarter thanks to pace, player movement and shots falling.

The Clippers have also gotten more out of Russell Westbrook than the Lakers did earlier this season, the fit has been better, and he had 24 points on 8-of-13 shooting on the night.

“Just having a Hall-of-Fame point guard on the floor,” Leonard said of what Westbrook has brought to the Clippers. “He brings energy to the team, he brings pace… He plays both ends of the floor, he rebounds the ball… He’s been doing a great job.”

The Clippers are going to have to follow this blueprint for a while. George will be re-evaluated in three weeks and the good news is it appears he has no ligament damage that will require surgery. As Lue said, that’s as good of news as the Clippers could have gotten, considering how nasty the injury looked when it happened. Still, reports suggest George could be out until the second round of the playoffs. If the Clippers are still playing at that point.

They will need a lot more nights like Thursday to get to that point.

2) Isaac Okoro drains game-winner, Cavaliers stun Nets

Donovan Mitchell missed the free throw with 11.6 seconds left that would have tied the game, but his hustle (and a lack of fundamental boxing out by Brooklyn) let him get in the lane and keep the ball alive. It caromed around out to Caris LeVert out near mid-court, he drove and could have thrown up a leaner, but instead he whipped a pass to Isaac Okoro in the opposite corner for a 3.

Ballgame.

The Cavaliers beat the Nets 116-114 Thursday night, sweeping a two-game set from Brooklyn.

The Cavaliers stars stepped up. Mitchell had 31 points, Evan Mobley continued his run of impressive play with 26 points and 16 rebounds, and Jarrett Allen reminded his former team what they are missing inside with 12 points and 10 rebounds against his former team.

Mikal Bridges led Brooklyn with 32 points, while Spencer Dinwiddie had 25 points and 12 assists. But the Nets have dropped five straight games and with that fell half a game behind the idle Heat for the No. 6 seed (and avoiding the play-in) in the East. The Nets and Heat play Saturday in a game that could decide who gets that sixth spot.

3) Brandon Ingram gets first-ever triple-double, Pelicans get much-needed win

How tight is the bottom of the West? From the Timberwolves at No.7 through the Jazz at No.12, every team is tied in the loss column at 37 wins. In that mix, the Mavericks, Lakers, Thunder and Pelicans are tied at 36-37.

The Pelicans are part of that bunch thanks to Brandon Ingram, who had his first triple-double Wednesday night and would not let the Pelicans lose at home to Charlotte.

Jonas Valanciunas added 20 points and 19 rebounds for New Orleans, while CJ McCollum added 19 himself. P.J. Washington led the way for the Hornets with 18.

It will be a wild final couple of weeks out West, and the Pelicans will need more of this Ingram with Zion Williamson out.

Watch Isaac Okoro drain game-winning 3-pointer, Cavaliers top Nets

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NEW YORK — Isaac Okoro hit a 3-pointer from the corner with 0.7 seconds remaining and finished with 11 points as the Cleveland Cavaliers beat Brooklyn 116-114 Thursday night and closed in on their first playoff berth since 2018 with a two-game sweep of the Nets.

“It was a lot of pressure put into the shot, of course,” Okoro said. “You always feel good with a game-winner. For me, it was my first one.”

Donovan Mitchell scored 31 points, Evan Mobley had 26 points and 16 rebounds and Jarrett Allen finished with 12 points and 10 rebounds against his former team. Cleveland, which beat Brooklyn 115-109 on Tuesday, won for the eighth time in 10 games and reduced its magic number to clinch one of the Eastern Conference’s top playoff spots to two.

“It was ugly at times,” Mitchell said. “There’s just so much going on (in the playoff race), and at the end of the day all we can do is control what we can control and winning these games instead of praying that other teams lose or win, we just gotta go out there and do what we do, and it’s great to have a win like this tonight.”

Mikal Bridges scored 32 points, Spencer Dinwiddie had 25 points and 12 assists and Joe Harris hit five 3-pointers and finished with 15 points as the Nets lost their fifth straight game.

“It’s frustrating,” Bridges said. “Obviously, we’ve got to keep the energy and morale high, but it’s devastating losing like that.”

Cleveland trailed 112-104 with 2:13 left before closing the game on a 12-2 run, with the help of three crucial Nets turnovers. Trailing by one, Mitchell missed a second free throw that would’ve tied the game, then he missed a put-back, and three different Nets had their hands on the ball for the potential rebound before it bounded to Cleveland guard Caris LeVert.

“I thought we did a great job of getting some stops to put ourselves in that position,” Cavaliers coach J.B. Bickerstaff said. “You miss the free throw, we had multiple opportunities at it, but guys didn’t quit on the play, and we talk about winning 50-50 balls and winning the scrap.”

LeVert, who spent his first four seasons with Brooklyn, found Okoro in the corner, and he drained the 3-pointer to give Cleveland the lead.

“The ball goes out to Caris, and I’m just running to the corner and going to my spot, and Caris trusted me,” Okoro said. “Once it left my hand, I knew it was going in.”

Bickerstaff said Okoro had no fear of taking the big shot.

“But I think what was most important is Caris saw that he was open and got him the ball, and that speaks to this team,” Bickerstaff said.

A heave from half court by Bridges at the buzzer fell short.

Bridges secured his eighth 30-plus point game as a member of the Nets through three quarters with 14 points in the third quarter. Then Harris heated up with four fourth-quarter 3-pointers in a sub-five-minute span, helping Brooklyn build a 10-point advantage.

“I felt like we deserved to win that game because we did a lot of good things throughout the course of the night,” Nets coach Jacque Vaughn said. “This is an opportunity for us to learn who we are.”

The Cavaliers rank first in the NBA in points-against per game and defensive rating, but had no answer for the Nets offense, which shot 56% in the first half. Dinwiddie had 19 points, including 11 in the second quarter, and seven assists, helping Brooklyn take a 61-60 lead into the break.

Mitchell and Bridges each scored in double figures in the first quarter, seeming to trade baskets in the early going. Mitchell scored 12 in the first, including nine in the first 2:17. Bridges had 10, helping the Nets build a 33-31 lead after one.