Trail Blazers trading Norman Powell and Robert Covington to Clippers

Norman Powell and Robert Covington in Los Angeles Clippers v Portland Trail Blazers
Cameron Browne/NBAE via Getty Images

Kawhi Leonard will probably miss the rest of the season due to his torn ACL, according to Clippers coach Tyronn Lue. Sidelined by an elbow injury, Paul George could miss the rest of the season, too.

But the Clippers accepting a lost season and trimming salary with their stars hurt?

Quite the opposite.

L.A. is trading for wing reinforcements – Norman Powell and Robert Covington from the Trail Blazers – sending Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, Keon Johnson and second-round pick to Portland.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

The Clippers owe their unprotected first-round pick to the Thunder from the George trade, eliminating the main incentive to tank. Before Leonard and George arrived, L.A. built a gritty and successful starless culture. That has continued amid Leonard’s and George’s absences. The Clippers (27-27) are eighth in the Western Conference.

L.A. should be even better with Powell and Covington.

Powell is a talented scorer with deep shooting range. He can create shots for himself and spot-up off the ball. He’s also a credible defender.

At 31, Covington has shown signs of decline. But he still adds value with his floor spacing and team defense. He unlocks small-ball lineups. It’d be nice if his 3-pointers fell more frequently again.

A catch: This trade increases the Clippers’ already-high payroll. The 28-year-old Powell is in the first season of a five-year, $90 million contract that might not age well. Keeping Covington, who’s on an expiring contract, beyond this season could require another expensive outlay.

But Clippers owner Steve Ballmer has given his team more margin for error with his big spending. L.A. can take advantage with a deal like this then, if all goes well, again by using Covington’s Bird Rights to re-sign him this summer. For now, the Clippers could mitigate their luxury-tax bill by trading Serge Ibaka.

The Trail Blazers escape the luxury tax. They’re clearly allured by Keon Johnson, the highly athletic guard who was the No. 21 pick in last year’s draft. They might even still see upside in the 25-year-old Winslow, who was once highly coveted then moderately intriguing but has been pedestrian with the Clippers. An extra second-rounder never hurts.

But this doesn’t seem like good value for Powell and Covington.

Portland also trims payroll next season – when Bledsoe’s guarantee is just $3.9 million and Winslow is due $4,097,561 – and beyond, as Powell’s contract comes off the books. Anfernee Simonsemergence creates latitude to unload Powell.

However, it’s not as if the Trail Blazers now project to have cap room to chase outside help this summer. They’re just less over the cap for next season.

Lillard recently restated his loyalty to Portland. But he just spent the offseason flirting with the idea of leaving. At what point will the Trail Blazers build back up his supporting cast, and how will they do it?

There’s logic in taking a step back now, with Lillard injured. This makes it less likely he’ll return this season. Perhaps, a higher lottery pick and Johnson will help Portland re-ascend with Lillard.

The Clippers are taking the opposite approach. They’re trying to win as much as they can now, seeing every postseason game as reward onto itself. As the playoffs look increasingly likely, L.A. can even dream about Leonard – and maybe even George – returning to lead a deeper supporting cast on a postseason run.

Report: ‘Strong optimism’ Anthony Edwards could return to Timberwolves Sunday

Houston Rockets v Minnesota Timberwolves
Jordan Johnson/NBAE via Getty Images

What looked so bad when it happened may only cost Anthony Edwards three games.

Edwards rolled his ankle last week but could be back Sunday when the Timberwolves travel to Golden State, reports Chris Haynes at Yahoo Sports.

Edwards is averaging 24.7 points and 5.9 rebounds a game this season, and he has stepped up to become the team’s primary shot-creator with Karl-Anthony Towns out for much of the season. The Timberwolves have been outscored by 3.4 points per 100 possessions when Edwards is off the court this season.

Towns returned to action a couple of games ago, and with Edwards on Sunday it will be the first time since November the Timberwolves will have their entire core on the court — now with Mike Conley at the point. With the Timberwolves tied for the No.7 seed in an incredibly tight West (they are 1.5 games out of sixth but also one game out of missing the postseason entirely) it couldn’t come at a better time. It’s also not much time to develop of fit and chemistry the team will need in the play-in, and maybe the playoffs.

Nets announce Ben Simmons diagnosed with nerve impingement in back, out indefinitely

NBA: FEB 24 Nets at Bulls
Melissa Tamez/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Ben Simmons — who has been in and out of the Nets’ lineup all season and often struggled when on the court — is out indefinitely due to a nerve impingement in his back, the team announced Friday.

A nerve impingement — sometimes called a pinched nerve — is when a bone or other tissue compresses a nerve. Simmons has a history of back issues going back to his time in Philadelphia, and he had a microdiscectomy about a year ago, after he was traded to Brooklyn.

With two weeks and nine games left in the season, logic would suggest Simmons is done for the season. Coach Jacque Vaughn said Thursday that Simmons has done some individual workouts but nothing with teammates, however, he would not say Simmons is shut down for the season or would not participate in the postseason with Brooklyn.

Simmons had not played since the All-Star break when he got PRP injections to help deal with ongoing knee soreness. When he has played this season offense has been a struggle, he has been hesitant to shoot outside a few feet from the basket and is averaging 6.9 points a game. Vaughn used him mainly as a backup center.

Simmons has two fully guaranteed years and $78 million remaining on his contract after this season. While Nets fans may want Simmons traded, his injury history and that contract will make it very difficult to do so this summer (Brooklyn would have to add so many sweeteners it wouldn’t be worth it).

The Nets have slid to the No.7 seed in the West — part of the play-in — and have a critical game with the Heat on Saturday night.

Frustration rising within Mavericks, ‘We got to fight hard, play harder’


If the postseason started today, the Dallas Mavericks would miss out — not just the playoffs but also the play-in.

The Mavericks fell to the No.11 seed in the West (tied with the Thunder for 10th) after an ugly loss Friday night to a tanking Hornets team playing without LaMelo Ball and on the second night of a back-to-back. Dallas is 3-7 with both Kyrie Irving and Luka Dončić playing, and with this latest loss fans booed the Mavericks. What was Jason Kidd’s reaction? Via Tim MacMahon of ESPN:

“We probably should have been booed in the first quarter,” Mavericks coach Jason Kidd said…. “The interest level [from players] wasn’t high,” Kidd said. “It was just disappointing.”

That was a little different than Kyrie Irving’s reaction to the boos.

Then there is franchise cornerstone Luka Dončić, who sounded worn down, by the season and the losing in Dallas.

“We got to fight hard, play harder. That’s about it. We got to show we care and it starts with me first. I’ve just got to lead this team, being better, playing harder. It’s on me….

“I think you can see it with me on the court. Sometimes I don’t feel it’s me. I’m just being out there. I used to have really fun, smiling on court, but it’s just been so frustrating for a lot of reasons, not just basketball.”

Dončić would not elaborate on what, outside basketball, has frustrated him.

Look at seeds 5-10 in the West and you see teams that have struggled but have the elite talent and experience to be a postseason threat: The Phoenix Suns (Devin Booker, plus Kevin Durant is expected back next week), the Golden State Warriors (Stephen Curry and the four-time champions), the Los Angeles Lakers (Anthony Davis and maybe before the season ends LeBron James).

Should the Mavericks be in that class? On paper yes, they have clutch playoff performers of the past in Dončić and Irving, but an energy-less loss to Charlotte showed a team lacking the chemistry and fire right now that teams like the Lakers (beating the Thunder) and Warriors (beating the 76ers) showed on the same night.

The Mavericks feel like less of a playoff threat, especially with their defensive concerns. They don’t have long to turn things around — and get into the postseason.

Watch Anthony Davis score 37, spark Lakers to key win against Thunder


LOS ANGELES (AP) — Anthony Davis had 37 points and 14 rebounds, Dennis Schröder added 13 of his 21 points in the fourth quarter and the Los Angeles Lakers got a vital victory for their playoff hopes, 116-111 over the Oklahoma City Thunder on Friday night.

Lonnie Walker scored 20 points in an impressive return to the rotation for the Lakers, who won their third straight to move even with Minnesota in seventh place in the Western Conference standings despite the injury absences of LeBron James and D’Angelo Russell.

“It was a must-win game for us,” said Davis, who made 15 of his 21 shots. “We had to come out and get this game, and we came out offensive and defensively just playing extremely well. … We’ve got to .500, and now it’s time to get on the other side.”

With Davis leading the way on both ends of the court, Los Angeles (37-37) reached .500 for the first time this year. The Lakers started the season 2-10, but they’re 12-6 since the trade deadline with a rapidly cohering roster and the looming return of the NBA’s career scoring leader.

“This team is locked in and connected,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said. “The vibe and the spirit have been great. Guys are really trying to figure out how we can be better. That’s what you want. … Guys are competing because they know what they’re representing. They know the history of the franchise they’re representing.”

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Josh Giddey scored 27 points apiece for Oklahoma City, which lost for only the fourth time in 12 games down the stretch. The Thunder (36-38) dropped into a tie with Dallas for 10th in the West despite holding the Lakers to only 42 points in the second half after LA put up 41 in the first quarter alone.

“That’s a testament to our ability to scrap and hang in there,” Oklahoma City coach Mark Daigneault said. “That’s how you want teams to score against you. All the things they got down the stretch are things we’re willing to live with. It’s hard to slow that down.”

Russell sat out with a sore right hip, joining James on the sideline at an important game for the Lakers’ playoff hopes. Los Angeles still improved to 8-5 during James’ latest injury absence.

Oklahoma City erased all of Los Angeles’ early 17-point lead when Gilgeous-Alexander’s jumper tied it at 102-102 with 5:25 to play. Davis responded with three points, and Walker hit a tiebreaking shot with 3:50 left.

Schröder replaced Russell in the starting lineup and had another standout game, including six points in the final 3:18 while the Lakers hung on. Walker got his most significant playing time since early March in Russell’s absence, and the former starter responded with four 3-pointers.

“I’ve just been in the gym, being positive and focused on what we’re trying to accomplish,” Walker said. “I love these guys, and I’m fortunate to play with them.”

Ham said Russell’s hip injury was “not too serious, but serious enough where we need to manage it.”

Gilgeous-Alexander played despite the Thunder being on the back end of consecutive games. The Thunder have been resting him in the second game of recent back-to-backs.