Three Things to Know: Trade rumor roundup as deadline nears

Dallas Mavericks v Portland Trail Blazers
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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 going that make the NBA great.

1) Trade rumor roundup just over 48 hours out from deadline

It’s almost here — Thursday at 3 p.m. Eastern is the NBA trade deadline, and nothing gets done in the NBA without a deadline. Teams are talking. We’ve seen a couple of trades — Norman Powell to the Clippers, Caris LeVert to the Cavaliers — and more are coming. But will we see a blockbuster?

Here is a roundup of the trade buzz highlights around the league as of Tuesday morning:

Don’t bet on a Ben Simmons trade happening. While one can never say never around this league, Philadelphia is not backing off its demands for an All-Star, maybe an All-NBA player who can help Joel Embiid win a ring. Brooklyn is uninterested in moving James Harden, according to both league sources and their own words. Maybe that’s a smokescreen, but Harden has reportedly told the Nets he wants to stay, and so long as that is the case the Nets are more likely to bet they can get healthy and still contend more than they are likely to ship Harden out of town.

• The biggest name likely to be moved may be CJ McCollum of the Trail Blazers. New Orleans is a buyer at the deadline (which feels like a GM trying to save his job, but that’s another discussion) and has long been linked to McCollum. However, the Knicks are interested (potentially sending Julius Randle out West in a deal). Dallas and Indiana both have interest as well. Portland is trying to retool its roster and build a contender around Damian Lillard, they do not just want a couple of picks for players they can develop over years. The Trail Blazers want help now (or picks they can flip into players who help now).

• One thing to watch with the Knicks is them trading out one or two wings or guards, opening up a rotation slot and forcing Tom Thibodeau to play Cam Reddish (the guy they just traded a first-round pick for, and Thibs has glued to the bench). Kemba Walker and Evan Fournier get mentioned in trade buzz a lot, but the value for both is low at this point.

• Buzz around a Jerami Grant trade out of Detroit has died down and he may be moved in the offseason, not now. There are contenders/playoff teams interested (Chicago, Utah, others), but Grant’s people have made it clear he wants a prominent role in the offense, not a third-option role player, and he expects a $112 million max contract extension after the season. That is his right, but it has the playoff teams backing off, and the other teams are not close to meeting Detroit’s asking price. The Sacramento Kings have been linked to Grant in the past.

• Speaking of Sacramento, there are still a lot of teams calling and talking about a Harrison Barnes trade. That still feels likely to happen, according to league sources. De'Aaron Fox also is available, but the Kings see a future All-Star, while other teams watched him plateau this season and have not made offers that interest the Kings.

• If you’re going to bet on one team making a trade before the deadline, bet on the Celtics. They need to shed a little salary to get under the luxury tax line and it’s no secret point guard Dennis Schroder is available and teams are calling. The Bucks and Bulls both reportedly made offers for Schroder, but nothing has happened yet.

• The other good trade bet: Toronto will move Goran Dragic somewhere before the deadline. They hope for a backup center or a wing, but one way or another a trade will get made (likely to a team that is looking for an expiring contract, a team that will buy Dragic out, and then he may head to Dallas).

• Indiana is still actively looking to trade one of Myles Turner or Domantas Sabonis, and after nearly getting two first-round picks for Caris LeVert the asking price for those bigs has not come down. The Pacers also could flip one or both of the picks they got in the LeVert trade as part of another deal.

• Cleveland is still active and is open to trading Collin Sexton before the deadline, according to multiple reports. However, Sexton is both out for the season with a knee injury and a restricted free agent this summer, so any team that trades for him will have to pay him and hope he returns to form next season when healthy. That risk keeps his trade value low. Cleveland may keep him, re-sign him this summer, then look for a trade once Sexton returns to action.

• There hasn’t been a lot of buzz about San Antonio trading veteran Thaddeus Young, but he wants to go to a contender and could undoubtedly help teams. Michael Scotto of Hoopshype reports the Suns and Timberwolves have expressed interest.

• Oklahoma City still sits out there as the one team with significant cap space they have/can create to take on a bad salary and facilitate a trade. The price is more draft picks (or a promising young player) to fuel the Thunder rebuild.

2) Booker’s 38 bests DeRozan’s 38 as Suns hold off Bulls for win

A couple of All-Stars were putting on a show in Phoenix. There was Devin Booker, putting up 38 points.

The Bulls’ DeMar DeRozan matched him.

The Bulls also got 32 from Zach LaVine, but the All-Stars did not get a lot of help.

The Suns are balanced, deeper, and the better team — this game was not as close as the final score indicates. Phoenix led by 29 in the third quarter and was up by 15 — 127-112 — with 1:41 left when both coaches emptied their benches. Then the Bulls went on a 12-0 run to make it look closer than it was.

Phoenix is now a ridiculous 43-10.

3)  LaMelo BallDejounte Murray named to All-Star team; Jayson Tatum now starter

We knew that Kevin Durant and Draymond Green were out for the All-Star Game due to injury, on Monday Commissioner Adam Silver stepped up and named their replacements — and went with guards to fill in for the frontcourt players.

San Antonio’s Dejounte Murray and Charlotte’s LaMelo Ball will play in Cleveland as All-Stars. Also, Silver moved the Celtics’ Jayson Tatum up into the starting lineup to replace Durant.

No real controversy here. Murray was a tough cut by the coaches, a player who made a leap this season and is putting up All-Star numbers — 19.6 points, 9.2 assists, and 8.4 rebounds per game — just not on a team many people are watching.

Ball becomes the third youngest All-Star in history, older than only LeBron James and Kobe Bryant. Ball is putting up impressive numbers —19.6 points, 7.1 rebounds and 7.5 assists per game — and the big leap in his game is the 36% shooting from 3 this season.

Don’t be shocked if we see a couple of other players have injuries (hopefully minor) that have them bow out of the All-Star Game; it seems to happen every year. There will be more replacements.

Highlight of the night: Klay Thompson hits dagger in OKC, says, “This is my house”

Not only is Klay Thompson’s game rounding into form, so is his smack talk.

After draining a dagger 3 to end any dreams of a Thunder comeback at home on Tuesday, Thompson said, “this is my house.”

Did he really say it? Thompson doesn’t remember.

He said it.

Last night’s scores:

Toronto 116, Charlotte 101
Miami 121, Washington 100
Phoenix 127, Chicago 124
Golden State 110, Oklahoma City 98
Utah 113, New York 104

Doncic calls Antetokounmpo ‘the best player in the NBA right now’

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It was a matchup of two of the NBA’s top five players and two guys high in the way-too-early mix for MVP this season: Giannis Antetokounmpo and Luka Doncic.

Doncic carried the Mavericks again with 27 points on 10-of-20 shooting plus 12 assists.

Antetokounmpo was a force of nature with 30 points on 11-of-19 shooting plus 11 rebounds, plus he had more help around him leading the Bucks to a 124-115 win.

There is a mutual admiration society between these two players, and after the game Doncic called Antetokounmpo the best player in the NBA. Via Jack Maloney at CBS Sports.

“Enjoy [competing against him] is hard because I want to win, so it’s hard to go against a guy like that,” Doncic said after the Mavericks’ fourth consecutive defeat. “He’s the best player in the NBA right now. He’s almost impossible to stop. It’s really fun to see him play, but it’s not that fun to go against him.”

Antetokounmpo had praise for Doncic as well.

“That’s a great compliment and I appreciate that,” Antetokounmpo said. “When you play against the best players in the league, being able to say something like that feels good. No matter wins or losses, just being respected by your peers, it’s always a good feeling.”

We have many years of these two players testing each other, and someday it may be Antetokounmpo calling Doncic the best in the NBA.

Three things to know: The Warriors are starting to look like the Warriors again

Golden State Warriors v Minnesota Timberwolves
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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) The Warriors are starting to look like the Warriors again

About that slow start in the Bay Area…

Over their last 11 games, the Golden State Warriors are 8-3 with a top-10 in the league offense and defense and a +4.5 net rating (fourth best in the league over that stretch). The latest win was Sunday’s destruction of the stumbling Timberwolves, 137-114, a game that saw the Warriors up by more than 20 in the first quarter and never truly threatened again.

“I think we’re starting to put it together and if we can keep building at this rate, you know, we’ll be poised for a run pretty soon here,” Draymond Green said.

All season long the Warriors have had Stephen Curry playing at an MVP level, carrying the team. So what has changed over the past few weeks that has the Warriors rolling? Three things.

First, Steve Kerr started staggering the rotation and separating Green’s and Curry’s minutes some, something he tried not to do much in the past. It’s one way Kerr dealt with the fact the Warriors’ bench has struggled (getting Donte DiVincenzo healthy helped as well). Curry now stays in for the entire first quarter, while Green gets his first rest about the five-minute mark, then Curry sits to start the second and Green returns to play with more of a bench unit (both stars finish the quarter together on the court).

“I’ve said for years Draymond is kind of the heartbeat of our team,” Kerr said. “He’s the guy who kind of makes everything go and he’s the motivator, he’s the bully, he protects his teammates on the floor, talks trash. But this guy is just so good at basketball.”

Second, the other way the Warriors dealt with the bench issue was Kerr scaled back the “two timelines” experiment. The idea was that the roles Otto Porter and Gary Payton Jr. filled last season could be filled by the young trio of James Wiseman, Moses Moody, and Jonathan Kuminga. That plan failed spectacularly. Wiseman is now down in the G-League, while Moody is out of the rotation. Kuminga is getting his shot — he played well against the Timberwolves — but has been up and down this season.

“I think we’ve settled into some roles, guys are comfortable now with when they’re gonna play who they’re gonna play with. So I think that’s been helpful,” Kerr said.

Third, Klay Thompson found his legs. He kept saying he needed more time, and whether it was a spark lit by Charles Barkley or Thompson getting off of social media and out of his own head, it’s worked. In his last 10 games Thompson is averaging 20.8 points a game and shooting 46.2% from 3. He is not defending like his old self (and may never again), but he’s back to being a No.2 scoring option on an elite team.

Green would throw in one more reason, the Warriors’ defense is back.

“Most importantly our defense has picked up which allows us to push the pace more,” Green said. “Like it’s one thing to push off makes, which we want to do, but when you’re pushing off a miss and getting a rebound then going, that’s tough to guard because it creates a lot of cross-matching.”

There was no magic bullet for Kerr to fire, it took a number of things to turn for the Warriors to get back to being themselves. But they have now, and the rest of the West should be worried.

2) Doncic says Antetokounmpo is “the best player in the NBA right now”

The Dallas Mavericks had no answers. Not that teams really ever do.

Giannis Antetokounmpo was a force of nature Sunday and dropped 30 with 11 boards on the Mavericks, leading the Bucks to a 124-115 win.

After the game, Luka Doncic called Antetokounmpo the best player in the game. Via Jack Maloney at CBS Sports.

“Enjoy [competing against him] is hard because I want to win, so it’s hard to go against a guy like that,” Doncic said after the Mavericks’ fourth consecutive defeat. “He’s the best player in the NBA right now. He’s almost impossible to stop. It’s really fun to see him play, but it’s not that fun to go against him.”

Antetokounmpo returned the compliment.

“That’s a great compliment and I appreciate that,” Antetokounmpo said. “When you play against the best players in the league, being able to say something like that feels good. No matter wins or losses, just being respected by your peers, it’s always a good feeling.”

Antetokounmpo and Doncic are two of the guys in the early MVP conversation, along with Curry, Jayson Tatum and a few others. It turns out, those first two also have a mutual admiration society going.

3) Clippers Ivica Zubac put up a monster 31 and 29 line against Pacers

No Kawhi Leonard, no Paul George, but the Clippers picked up another win on Sunday knocking off the Pacers 114-100.

Thank Ivica Zubac, who had a monster 31-point, 20-rebound game.

After the game, Zubac was made he fouled out before he could get his 30th rebound and have a 30-30 game.

Quietly, Zubac is having a fantastic defensive season for the Clippers, but like the rest of the team his offense has been up and down as they try to adjust to ever-changing lineups. That Clipper defense locked down the Pacers in the second half, plus Indy was just off shooting 9-of-42 from 3.

Zubac found his offense, the Pacers had no answer for him, and the Clippers have a win and improved to 12-9 because of it.

Curry drains 7 3-pointers, Nets start homestand with win over Blazers

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NEW YORK — Kevin Durant scored 31 points, Seth Curry added a season-high 29 off the bench and the Brooklyn Nets beat the Portland Trail Blazers 111-94 on Sunday.

Curry was 7 for 10 on 3-pointers and had his highest point total with the Nets and the most by a Brooklyn reserve this season.

“I’ve always felt like if I get good shots I’m going to make them at a high clip,” Curry said. “Our offense was flowing pretty well. Guys found me open early on to start the game and I felt pretty good, aggressive.”

Kyrie Irving added 22 points for the Nets. Ben Simmons took just three shots but had 12 rebounds and eight assists.

“Ben did a great job of getting downhill,” Curry said. “He’s a great passer (and) he knows how to find me out there on the floor.”

Jerami Grant scored 29 points for Portland. Jusuf Nurkic had 17 points and 14 rebounds, while Anfernee Simons added 15 points and Justice Winslow had 14.

The Nets have won four of their last six games, while the Trail Blazers, who are playing without Damian Lillard, have dropped five of six.

“Tough little stretch that we’re in right now,” Portland coach Chauncey Billups said. “It is what it is. Every team goes through it.”

Brooklyn made 52.6% of its shots from the field overall, and 42.9% from 3-point range, in the second matchup between the teams in 10 days.

“It’s a make-or-miss league,” Durant said. “It’s about baskets.”

With the Nets leading by four entering the fourth, Curry scored Brooklyn’s first eight points of the quarter. Royce O'Neale‘s free throw gave the Nets a 93-87 lead and following a Portland turnover, Curry made a 3 that extended the advantage to nine.

Nurkic sandwiched a hook shot and free throw around two free throws by Irving to cut Brooklyn’s lead to 98-90. However, after a timeout, Durant hit a 3 to push the lead to 101-90.

Brooklyn led 58-57 at halftime, and 84-80 after the third quarter.

T.J. Warren targets Dec. 2 for return to court for Brooklyn Nets

2022-2023 Brooklyn Nets Media Day
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T.J. Warren was a breakout star in the bubble, averaging 26.6 points and 6.3 rebounds a game for the Pacers.

Warren has played just four games since the bubble due to stress fractures in his foot.

The Nets signed him this season hoping he could get healthy and provide some depth off the bench at the four. We’re about to find out if that can happen on Dec. 2, with Warren targeting his return then Toronto, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

The Nets have not confirmed this timeline. However, coach Jacque Vaughn has recently talked up Warren’s workouts and hinted that a return is getting close.

A healthy Warren could be a big boost for a Nets team looking for more of a spark off the bench.