Three things to Know: Light the Beam! Kings now fourth in West.

Houston Rockets v Sacramento Kings
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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) Light the Beam! Kings now fourth in West.

The Sacramento Kings are the four seed in the West.

Let that sink in for a moment. If the playoffs started today, the Sacramento Kings would host a first-round series. The long-struggling franchise — do we need to remind everyone again they have missed the playoffs for 16 consecutive years? — has come together this season around a couple of star players, a new coach, and a “light the beam” idea that could feel gimmicky in some places but everyone has bought into in Sacramento, from the fans through the locker room.

All showed in Wednesday’s win over the struggling Rockets (now losers of eight straight). Domantas Sabonis continues to look like an All-Star and finished with 25 points, 14 rebounds and nine assists. De'Aaron Fox scored nine in the fourth and finished with 24 points and nine assists. Veteran Trey Lyles came off the bench and scored 20.

The Kings played with their food too long and let Houston hang around, but pulled away for the 135-115 win. And you know what a win means.

Mike Brown has to be in any Coach of the Year conversation this season. It’s a very crowded discussion, but the veteran coach has everyone buying in, has built a top-three offense around the inside/outside duo of Sabonis and Fox, and gets enough defense some nights to get the win.

Kings management took hits in the media — including from me — for the trade that sent out Tyrese Haliburton and brought back Sabonis from Indiana. My primary criticism remains valid: Sacramento once again traded long-term for short-term. They gave up the best player in that trade three years from now to get a guy who could help more today.

Give the Kings credit — it worked. Sabonis and his steady, professional double-double nightly is a better fit today and what this team needed to make the playoffs. Fox needed more touches and space in the backcourt. The Kings weren’t thinking about building the best possible team in four or five years, they wanted guys who could get them to the playoffs now.

They found that mix. The Kings are not a playoff lock in the tight West — they are two games above the play-in and three out of falling out of the playoffs altogether — but they feel like it. This looks every bit like a playoff team.

Just as importantly, this is a fun team. This is the team Kings fans have long deserved, and they should savor it.

2) Kyle Kuzma drains game-winning 3 for Wizards, Zach LaVine goes for two

The Wizards were shorthanded — no Bradley Beal or Kristaps Porzingis — so when it was time for a game-winning shot, they got the ball in Kyle Kuzma’s hands.

The game against the Bulls was tied 97-97 with :22.5 remaining. Washington got the ball to Kuzma out top, ran a little time off the clock thinking last shot, waited for Taj Gibson to screen Alex Caruso, drove to his right along the three-point arc, then put up a jumper while fading to his right. Splash.

That shot left 5.7 for the Bulls to do something. With DeMar DeRozan out (quad), they turned to Zach LaVine, who had 38 on the night. He got the ball, the defense swarmed and there was no clean look at a 3, so he drove and then put up a midrange two, much to the dismay of an open Nikola Vucevic.

Here is how LaVine explained that shot, via K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago.

“We were just trying to get a 3 off. And then when I went in to pull up, I think Delon Wright fouled me. My instinct was to go up and try to get a 3-point play,” LaVine said. “I was going for a pull-up when he fouled me. I shot it. They didn’t call it. And that’s how it is.”

Washington needed the win, and they are now within a game of the Bulls for the play-in out East. Kuzma finished with 21, Monte Morris added 17.

3) Dedmon gets one-game suspension for massage gun incident

The Miami Heat hoped the NBA league office would step in and suspend Dewayne Dedmon — launching a personal massage gun onto the court could hurt someone.

The league didn’t, so the Heat did — Miami suspended Dedmon one game for getting into an argument with coach Erik Spoelstra, then in storming past him toward the locker room Dedmon hit one of the team’s massage guns launching it onto the court. That got Dedmon ejected.

If the NBA league office had suspended Dedmon, the Heat would have saved money against the salary cap/luxury tax (and the Heat are pushing the tax line). Heck, the Heat might have pushed the league to suspend him a couple of games — Dedmon is out of the rotation anyway and the Heat would have saved more money.

The league didn’t, so the Heat did. For Dedmon, the result is the same, he sits out a game and loses some money. He’s a guy to watch, Miami will keep him around on the chance they can use his salary in a trade at the deadline, but if he’s around after Feb. 9 Dedmon is a potential buyout candidate. Especially after this.

Nets reportedly trade Kyrie Irving to Mavericks for Dinwiddie, Finney-Smith, picks

Milwaukee Bucks v Brooklyn Nets
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Dallas desperately needed a second star and shot creator to go next to Luka Dončić.

They got one — Mark Cuban has always been willing to take risks to win. The question about how long this can last comes later.

The Nets are trading Kyrie Irving to the Dallas Mavericks for Spencer Dinwiddie, Dorian Finney-Smith, their unprotected 2029 first-round pick their 2027 and 2029 second-round picks, according to multiple reports.

Irving is reportedly “ecstatic” to make the move to Dallas (the hard questions about a future contract will wait until after the season).

Brooklyn had several suitors to choose from but wanted in return players it could slot in around Kevin Durant now (or, once he is healthy and returns) so they could still have a puncher’s chance to win the East. Dinwiddie gives Brooklyn a point guard and shot creator who can play some off the ball — and he returns to Brooklyn, where he made a name for himself in the league. Finney-Smith is a coveted two-way wing who can step in right now. Plus, the Nets add some potentially valuable picks down the line.

That offer gave the Nets more win-now possibilities than they got out of the Lakers’ offer (two future first-rounders and Russell Westbrook) or what the Suns and Clippers put in the mix.

There are questions for Dallas, but ones they believe they can answer — elite talents figure out a way to make it work on the court. Off the court, it helps that both coach Jason Kidd and former Nike executive turned Mavericks GM Nico Harrison have strong relationships with Irving. That’s a start.

The pairing of Dončić and Irving should lead to games and stretches where they look brilliant, but the question is not the highs but the lows — how deep and how prolonged will those be? Irving works well off the ball (as he has done with Durant and LeBron James) and should be able to play off Dončić. However, can Dončić play well off the ball when Irving is hot? Do the Mavericks — with Tim Hardaway Jr., Christian Wood, Maxi Kleber, Reggie Bullock and the rest — have enough around their two stars to be a serious threat in the West? Off the court, can the very different personalities of Irving and Dončić mesh, or at least work well enough not to be a distraction?

The biggest question: Do Cuban and the Mavericks really want to re-sign Irving for the four-years, $198.5 million he demands at the end of the season? There are reports that Dallas (like every other front office in the league, including Brooklyn) is hesitant to do a long-term deal with Irving that gives him that kind of guaranteed money.

But that is a concern for the future — Dallas got its second star. It has vaulted itself into the upper echelons of the Western Conference and positioned itself to contend.

Reports: Stephen Curry out ‘weeks’ with leg injury, Warriors hope for return after All-Star Break

Dallas Mavericks v Golden State Warriors
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This is bad news for the Warriors. How bad depends on how the word “weeks” is ultimately defined.

Stephen Curry has torn ligaments in his leg — in the shin area just below the knee — and while the team does not have an official timeline he will be out “weeks” reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

“Weeks” is a vague word, and for the Warriors the difference in Curry being out three weeks (with one of those being the All-Star Break) versus him being out six to eight weeks could be the difference in how long a playoff run the Warriors have.

The Warriors are hoping for a Curry return just after the All-Star break, reports Monty Poole of NBC Sports Bay Area.

Of short-term concern, this has Curry out for the All-Star Game where the fans voted him a starter. NBA Commissioner Adam Silver will bump one of the reserves up to a starting spot — likely Ja Morant, who was third in fan voting — and name an injury replacement for the team. The top candidates are Devin Booker (if he returns from injury this week as expected), De'Aaron Fox or Anthony Edwards.

Longer term, the Warriors can’t afford to be without Curry for an extended period.

Curry is averaging 27.9 points, 6.4 rebounds and 6.4 assists a game, and the Warriors outscore opponents by 5 points per 100 possessions when he is on the court and get outscored by 5.4 when he is off. With the team one game above .500 and struggling to avoid the play-in, an extended absence for Curry is trouble for a Warriors team that has never found its footing this season.

 

Nets reportedly going to sit Kyrie Irving until he is traded

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This time it looks like it’s going to happen, the Brooklyn Nets will trade Kyrie Irving (unlike this summer).

Just don’t expect to see Irving on the court for Brooklyn until he’s moved, reports Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

That is at one time a combination of smart, the only real call to make, the Nets wanting to look like they have control over the situation because Irving’s camp already leaked that he was going to sit out the rest of the season if not traded.

Irving did not play Saturday night when the Nets went down by 20 in the first quarter but rallied behind 44 points from Cam Thomas to get a much-needed win.

Four primary suitors have stepped up for Irving: The Lakers (considered Irving’s preferred destination), Suns, Mavericks and Clippers. The question is what do the Nets want back in a trade? If, as most around the league expect, the goal is to remain in the championship picture around Kevin Durant, Brooklyn will prize quality players and depth over draft picks. That’s bad news for the Lakers (the core of their offer is two future first-round picks plus Russell Westbrook) and good for the team down the hall, the Clippers can offer good players — John Wall, Luke Kennard, Reggie Jackson, plus young players such as Terance Mann — plus a pick if they need it.

The question for teams: Irving wants a max contract after this summer, similar to the four-year, $198.5 million fully guaranteed extension the Nets would not offer after Irving had 10 weeks or so of not being disruptive and focusing on basketball. Around the league, front offices are very hesitant to get into the Irving business for that long (most thought he would never get more than a two-year offer). Are the four teams above desperate enough for a bold move that ownership would sign off on four years with Irving? Will any of them? Or, like this summer, will Irving find the market not to his liking?

It’s going to be interesting until the Feb. 9 trade deadline.

Watch Shai Gilgeous-Alexander go off for 42, Thunder blow out Rockets

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OKLAHOMA CITY — The Oklahoma City Thunder took what coach Mark Daigneault called a “bloodthirsty mentality” into Saturday’s rematch with the Houston Rockets.

Shai Gilgeous-Alexander scored 42 points to help the Thunder blow out Houston 153-121.

They were disappointed in losing at Houston on Wednesday and responded by setting an Oklahoma City record for points in a game, surpassing the 150 they scored in a win over the Boston Celtics last month.

“Just (wanted to) be the aggressors,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “Play our style, our brand of basketball. I think we got away from that a little bit in Houston, and we just wanted to get back on track.”

Daigneault was most pleased that the approach was player-led.

“It wasn’t like I was giving motivational speeches,” he said. “But, you know, as a team, they kind of banded together and decided that they were going to come out and play the way they did. And they were impressive because of it.”

Gilgeous-Alexander set the tone by scoring 20 points in the first quarter.

“I thought tonight was, like, a pretty big leadership statement game for him,” Daigneault said. “I think when you need a response like we needed tonight coming out of the other night, you rely on your guys that are most experienced, who play the most minutes.”

Gilgeous-Alexander shot 7 for 23 from the field in the first matchup, but bounced back to make 14 of 23 field goals on Saturday, falling two points short of his career high. The first-time All-Star also made 14 of 15 free throws and had six assists for the Thunder, despite not playing in the fourth quarter because the Thunder led by 42 points at the end of the third.

Mike Muscala scored a season-high 19 points and Josh Giddey added 17 points, 10 assists and eight rebounds for Oklahoma City.

“We’re a team that’s growing in confidence, and I think our habits are growing,” Daigneault said. “And I think a lot of things are moving in the right direction.”

Josh Christopher and TyTy Washington each scored 20 points and Tari Eason added 18 for the Rockets.

The Rockets were playing without Eric Gordon (sore right knee) and Jae'Sean Tate (right ankle injury).

Rockets coach Stephen Silas didn’t want to hear it.

“You’ve got to step up in these situations, and we didn’t do it,” he said. “We succumbed to back-to-back, three-in-four, no Eric, no Tate, all that stuff. … We succumbed to it. That’s not – we’re talking about winning habits. That’s not one.”

Oklahoma City led 79-53 at the break after shooting 55% from the field. Gilgeous-Alexander scored 28 points in the first two quarters, a career high for him in a first half.

The Thunder continued to roll in the third quarter, making 16 of 26 field goals in the period to go up 123-81 heading into the fourth.

Oklahoma City set the Thunder single-game scoring record on a 3-pointer by Darius Bazley that banked in during the final minute.