Knicks, Heat headline five potential trade partners for Donovan Mitchell

Donovan Mitchell in 2022 NBA Playoffs - Dallas Mavericks v Utah Jazz
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The Jazz are listening to trade offers for Donovan Mitchell.

Which surprised nobody around the league, and it’s why teams were calling Utah from the moment the Rudy Gobert trade was announced — this was obviously the next domino. No matter what the Jazz were saying publicly, their actions — the pick haul for Gobert, trading Royce O’Neal and letting Eric Paschall walk (Mitchell’s two best friends on the team), hiring a young coach in Will Hardy, plus Danny Ainge’s history — said rebuild.

Utah is seeking a Rudy Gobert-like haul of picks and players. The question the teams trading for Mitchell need to ask: What would they look like post-trade? Would these teams strip down their roster so far it would just be Mitchell against the world, a setup he wants to avoid? Can they get a third team in the deal to make it more palatable?

Who are the suitors in a Mitchell trade? Here are the five teams at the top of the list.

1. New York Knicks

The Knicks have been linked to Mitchell since the day former CAA head Leon Rose became president and William Wesley took over in Madison Square Garden (Mitchell is repped by CAA). When Wesley and others from the New York front office made a splashy appearance at Utah’s first playoff game, it’s not a coincidence that Mitchell and Jalen Brunson (who has since signed with the Knicks) were playing. Mitchell was born in Westchester County and the Knicks want to bring him home.

The big question: Would the Knicks put RJ Barrett in the deal to get it done? New York has plenty of first-round picks to throw in the mix, that’s not the challenge, but New York’s goal would be to have Barrett and Mitchell together on the wing. The Knicks’ first offer will be something like Obi Toppin, Immanuel Quickley, Quentin Grimes and other role players, plus all those picks. But Ainge has picks (thank you, Timberwolves), he’s going to want Barrett, too. Would the Knicks send the 22-year-old potential All-Star out for a 25-year-old perennial All-Star under contract for four more years? They may not want to, but that is the price.

Mitchell on the Knicks, as constructed, doesn’t make them a threat to the Celtics or Bucks, but it gets them closer. And it gives New York a bonified star.

2. Miami Heat

Another team linked to Mitchell for a long time and who reportedly has expressed interest is the Heat. This is reportedly a destination Mitchell would like, as well, but the Heat offer would be more about players than picks. Miami has limited draft capital it can trade, at most there would be two first-round picks plus three pick swaps. They could eventually throw in 2022 first-round selection Nikola Jovic.

The centerpiece of the Heat offer would be Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson, two quality young sharpshooters (Herro is coming off a Sixth Man of the Year campaign). Does that interest Ainge? Miami also is in the mix on a potential Kevin Durant trade, although with essentially the same Herro/Robinson offer — that’s not enough to land KD. It may be enough for Mitchell, depending on how highly Ainge values Herro (and if the Knicks put Barrett in their offer, most front office people are higher on Barrett than Herro).

3. Toronto Raptors

They have been linked to a Durant trade, but if that’s not going to materialize, could some of the same players and picks land the Raptors Mitchell? The Raptors have picks, plus can trade OG Anunoby along with Thaddeus Young, Khem Birch, and others to make the numbers work.

The Jazz will ask for the same thing that reportedly has stalled out Durant to the Raptors talk — Utah will want Rookie of the Year Scottie Barnes. If Masi Ujiri is unwilling to throw Barnes in a Durant trade, there is zero chance he would do it for Mitchell, but that will be the ask. Would Anunoby and Gary Trent Jr. plus picks get it done? The Raptors have the players and picks; they have to be in the conversation.

4. Brooklyn Nets

If Mitchell wants to come back to New York, there is more than one option, and the Nets don’t want to bottom out and tank after a Durant trade (the Nets sent all their first-round picks to Houston in the James Harden trade). The Nets don’t have the picks to make a Mitchell trade today, but after the eventual haul they get back from wherever Durant is traded, plus another pick or two from sending Kyrie Irving to the Lakers, then the Nets would have the picks to interest Utah in a deal.

With the talent the Nets will land from wherever Durant is traded, plus Mitchell and Ben Simmons, the Nets should be a solid team. It would be a start, and Brooklyn could move on from its failed superteam experiment.

5. Philadelphia 76ers

This is the longest shot on the board, but if there’s a mega-trade for a star happening you know Daryl Morey is calling. While the Cavaliers and Pelicans have the young players and picks to put together a Mitchell deal, both those teams like their upward trajectory and don’t want to tear apart their cores to get marginally better.

The win now 76ers would be better tomorrow with Mitchell on the roster, although constructing a trade that work is difficult (at best). The 76ers don’t have the picks to get in the Mitchell trade talks right now, this would likely be a three-team deal where the 76ers would unload Tobias Harris and Matisse Thybulle.

The problem is the Jazz will ask for Tyrese Maxey and the 76ers may not be willing to part with their star young point guard. But if the 76ers were willing to put Maxey, doors open up.

Watch Klay Thompson knock down 12 3-pointers, lift Warriors to win without Curry

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Stephen Curry was not in the building, the first of maybe a month of games he’s going to miss with a leg injury. Who would take charge of the Warriors’ offense with No. 30 out?

Klay Thompson.

Thompson knocked down 12 3-pointers and scored 42 points to lead the Warriors as they blew past the Thunder.

“It was a beautiful game to watch him play…” Draymond Green said of Thompson, via the Associated Press.”We needed it. It’s been a while since we had a blowout win. It’s good to get this one, especially first game with Steph out. It was good to start off on this foot and try to create some momentum.”

Jordan Poole is back in the starting lineup with Curry out, scoring 21 points with 12 assists (a career best).

All-Star Shai Gilgeous-Alexander led the Thunder with 20 points. But this was Thompson’s night. And one for the Warriors.

NBA owners, players union agree to push back CBA opt-out date. Again.

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The NBA and players union are progressing toward a new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Just not very fast progress. In December, they pushed the opt-out date for both sides — when either the owners or players could opt out and end the CBA on June 30 of this year — to Feb. 8.

They aren’t going to hit that deadline either so the two sides have agreed to push the new opt-out date back to March 31, they announced.

“The NBA and NBPA have mutually agreed to extend the deadline to opt out of the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) from Feb. 8, 2023, to March 31, 2023, as the two sides continue negotiations to reach a new agreement,” the sides said in a joint release. “If either party exercises the opt-out, the CBA’s term will conclude on June 30, 2023.”

There is one bit of good news in the talks, the owners have backed off the “upper spending limit” idea, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN. At least some owners — troubled by the massive spending into the luxury tax of the Warriors, Clippers, and Nets  — pushed for an “Upper Spending Limit” for teams, which the players saw as a hard cap and a deal breaker.

As the sides pursue an early labor deal, a significant part of what has allowed discussions to progress has been the NBA’s willingness to soften from its original push for an upper spending limit on team payrolls — a de facto hard cap, sources said.

Still, expect changes to the luxury tax system to attempt to rein in the spending of some owners. There are a lot of economic concerns that will push toward a deal getting done, including this interesting note:

There are broader economic concerns looming for the league that are motivating factors in reaching a new labor deal in the coming weeks and months — including the potential bankruptcy of the Sinclair/Diamond Sports Regional Sports Networks, which is responsible for broadcasting 16 of the league’s teams on local deals. The longer labor talks linger, the more moderate positions among ownership can harden on financial issues and risk deeper difficulties on reaching a new labor deal.

The conventional wisdom has long been there would be no lockout and potential work stoppage because every side was making money again, the trajectory of the league was good, and nobody wanted to slam the breaks on that momentum. But there is always a risk, especially if the owners are fighting among themselves. Which is why a deal getting done sooner rather than later is best for everyone — especially fans.

Focus on body, conditioning has LeBron James on cusp of scoring record

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LOS ANGELES — LeBron James has prepared for this day since high school.

Maybe he didn’t envision this day exactly — the day he would break Kareem Abdul-Jabbar’s all-time NBA scoring record, something he is just 36 points shy of heading into Tuesday night against the Thunder— but LeBron was preparing for playing at a high level deep into his career. A career that has seen very few injuries (in 20 seasons his only surgeries have been LASIK and oral surgery in the offseason), very little time missed, and a lot of points.

Through all the years, teams and tribulations, LeBron’s focus on preparing his body has never wavered.

“I’ve just learned more about my body and how to prepare my body. But I’ve been taking care of my body since I started playing basketball,” LeBron said earlier this season. “Like, even when I was younger — you can ask any of my best friends growing up — before I went to sleep I would stretch and as soon as I would wake up I would stretch. I was like, 10 years old. In high school, I was one of the few guys that would ice after the game. My rookie year I was icing after the game, as well.

“But, as I got older and older and older, I started to figure out other ways that I could beat Father Time by putting in more time on my game and on my craft. But mostly on my body and my mind. I feel like if my mind can stay as fresh as it possibly can through a grueling up-and-down NBA season — which it is — then my body is going to be able to try and perform at the highest level. So, I’ve always wanted to maximize even the most out of my career and squeeze the most juice I can out of my career.

That level of investment in his body — financially, but more importantly with time and energy — has made his fitness routine a legend around the league. It’s the reason he is still an All-NBA-level player when the rest of his draft class — Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh, Dwayne Wade, Kyle Korver, David West, Steve Blake, Kirk Hinrich — have hung up their sneakers.

“LeBron is taking care of himself so well that he’s been able to play a bundle of games for a lot of years. And that’s what he takes,” said Spurs legend Gregg Popovich. “But he gets credit for taking care of himself and being able to be out there. The way a lot of players don’t even come close to. His commitment to the game and to what he has to do, has allowed him to be in this position.”

LeBron has made fitness and recovery a core part of his daily routine. That commitment to his body means he works out at least five days a week even in the slow weeks of the offseason. Get close to the season and into the grind and it’s seven days a week.

These are not ‘I’m going to jump on the elliptical and get in a little cardio’ workouts, these are specially designed HIIT workouts with his personal trainer, Mike Mancias, that target on different days his core, legs, upper body and other areas, plus mixes in yoga and stretching, and then a recovery program. It is holistic and includes a diet low on refined sugars but with enough carbs to fuel his workout and play.

All that doesn’t even include his pregame stretching and workout routine.

LeBron puts his money into maintaining his conditioning — his business partner and friend Maverick Carter once said LeBron spends about $1.5 million a year on not just trainers and a personal chef, but equipment such as cryotherapy chambers, hyperbaric chambers, NormaTec leg boots, and much more.

Does LeBron have a go-to cheat? Wine. But he’s earned it.

Players don’t reach the NBA, or especially, stick around, without an impressive commitment to fitness. Plenty of players enter the league with bad habits that, by season three or four, they figure out they have to dump if they are going to stick around (and get paid). LeBron’s focus, consistency, and relentlessness is on another level, and it is what has him as the best player the league has ever seen in his 20th season, at age 38. Nobody has ever played this well, this long.

“I think he’s gonna have the greatest career of all time,” Sixers coach Doc Rivers said of LeBron. “I think he’s already had it, you know, and I think Michaels the greatest of all time. But that doesn’t take anything away from LeBron. LeBron has had the greatest career.”

And he put in the work to get there.

On fringe of rotation, Sixers guard Korkmaz reportedly requests trade

NBA: JAN 17 76ers at Clippers
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Last season, Furkan Korkmaz was a regular part of the 76ers rotation — he played in 69 games, started 19, and averaged 21 minutes and seven shot attempts a night.

With De'Anthony Melton added to the rotation this season, Korkmaz has played in 25 games (less than half of the team’s games) at 10.2 minutes a night when he does get in, and he averaged 3.1 shots per game. Korkmaz wants to be somewhere he is wanted and used and has requested a trade, reports Keith Pompey at the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Sources have said the Turkish player has requested to be traded before Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline. Asked about it, Korkmaz would only say he “would not confirm nor deny it.”

Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey didn’t immediately respond to a text message asking if Korkmaz asked to be traded. But sources have said Korkmaz was informed the Sixers will try to package him in a deal.

Korkmaz is not the only 76ers whose name comes up in trade conversations, wing defender Matisse Thybulle also has drawn trade interest. The Sixers are looking for a backup point center for their playoff run.

Korkmaz, 25 and in his sixth NBA season, is a career 35.4% shooter from 3 at the guard spot, but his competent shooting has not made up for limited playmaking and poor defense at the NBA level. The Sixers went out and got an upgrade this offseason in Melton.

Korkmaz makes $5 million this season and has a fully-guaranteed $5.4 million on the books for next season. A fair price if a team believes the Turkish guard can help their guard rotation, but the market for him is likely limited.

Still, it’s another name to watch in Philadelphia as we move toward Thursday’s trade deadline.