Three things to Know: Hachimura trade, Porzingis injury shake up Wizards

Phoenix Suns v Washington Wizards
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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) Hachimura trade, Porzingis injury shake up Wizards

Monday ended up being a big day for the Wizards.

First came the expected update on Kristaps Porzingis, who will miss time with a sprained ankle suffered against the Magic. Porzingis — averaging 22.1 points, 8.8 rebounds and 1.5 blocks per game — is likely out for at least a couple of weeks.

“I think I’m probably holding out a little more hope than most, but he’s responding better than I anticipated,” head coach Wes Unseld Jr. said, via Chase Hughes at NBC Sports Washington. “We’ll see where it goes in the next day or so and hopefully we’ll have him back sooner than later.”

They need him back: The Wizards have outscored opponents by 1.6 points per 100 possessions when he is on the court but have gotten outscored by 3.7 when he is off.

Then came the news of the day, which also depleted Washington’s frontcourt depth: The Wizards traded Rui Hachimura to the Lakers for Kendrick Nunn (salary ballast) and three second-round picks.

While it’s obvious why the Lakers made the trade, for the Wizards this move is… mid. Hachimura was not part of the long-term plans D.C. — this is more evidence of the plan to throw a lot of money at Kyle Kuzma this offseason — but if they had waited would they have gotten more than three second-rounders for the young forward? Maybe not, but the market would not get worse, so why not wait, just in case? Maybe try to play a couple of teams off each other and see if you can do a little better, the deadline is still weeks away.

It’s just not a win to trade a former No. 9 pick that you developed for second-rounders.

But this is not a bad deal for Washington, and losing Hachimura does not damage the rotation. Not nearly as much as losing Porzingis for the next couple of weeks.

2) Jalen Green goes off for career-high 42, Rockets win

Jalen Green has not made a leap in his second season. The wildly athletic wing is shooting more and scoring more, but his efficiency has taken a little dip, and he’s getting to the rim less often (and not finishing as well when he gets there). It has not been an impressive season for the No.2 pick.

But there are still flashes — Monday night was one of those as Green scored a career-high 42 on the Timberwolves.

The Timberwolves had won 8-of-11 coming into Monday, but this is a reminder of how difficult it is to win both ends of one of these “baseball” series where the teams play each other twice in a row at one team’s home. You see more playoff-like adjustments, sometimes a little tension rolls over from game to game, and sometimes a guy just goes off. Green did that for the Rockets, who won 119-114.

The best non-Green highlight from this game? D'Angelo Russell crashing into Alex Rodriguez while chasing a loose ball.

3) Jonathan Isaac makes return to court for Magic

After 904 days and a couple of knee surgeries since he last stepped on an NBA court — way back during the bubble — Jonathan Isaac returned to play for the Orlando Magic on Monday night against Boston.

Isaac ended up playing a little less than 10 minutes (he’s on a restriction, as would be expected) but the 6-foot-10 power forward finished with 10 points, three rebounds and two steals.

“I’d be lying to you if I said I didn’t (have doubts) with this injury,” Isaac said, via the Associated Press. “I was like, `I don’t know if I want to keep going.’ But then again, God gave me a purpose. I was made to play basketball … so I was going to continue the process no matter what anybody was saying.”

Orland withstood a run and comeback by the Celtics to take the 113-98 win, snapping Boston’s nine-game win streak. Maybe the travel from Toronto to Orlando got to them, but the more interesting test is on the second night of the back-to-back in Miami.

After two-year absence, Magic’s Jonathan Isaac will return to court Monday

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The last time we saw Jonathan Isaac on an NBA court was in the bubble, August 2, 2020. He had missed much of that pandemic-ravaged season due to a knee injury but came back in the bubble, which is when Isaac tore his ACL. That following March, he had a setback and another surgery.

Monday night, after more than two-year absence from the NBA — 904 days total — Isaac is set to return to the court for the Magic, according to multiple reports, and his pastor said as much on Sunday. Isaac has been officially upgraded to questionable as of Sunday night, with a move to available expected on Monday. It has been a long road with a lot of work for Isaac to get here — including a stop in the G-League — but he persisted and made it back to this point.

The Magic have found their future franchise cornerstone in Paolo Banchero, but there was a time when it was thought Isaac might be that star in Orlando. Isaac was a raw offensive player whose game was developing but looked like a future defensive anchor averaging  2.3 blocks and 1.6 steals in the games he played in the 2019-20 season.

After two years off, expectations have to be tempered for Isaac, but if he can find some of that defensive form again over the coming years he could find a spot in the Magic’s frontcourt rotation with Banchero, Bol Bol, Wendell Carter Jr. and Franz Wagner.

The Magic host the Boston Celtics starting at 7 p.m. Eastern tonight.

Celtics’ Robert Williams, Marcus Smart both leave game with injuries

Toronto Raptors V Boston Celtics - NBA Game Of Season 2022-2023 At Scotiabank Arena
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The Celtics were already without Jayson Tatum Saturday night in Toronto due to a sore left wrist when two other starters — Marcus Smart and Robert Williams — left the game with injuries.

Smart went down with a sprained ankle just before halftime and did not return for the second half.

Robert Williams also sat out the second half after hurting his surgically-repaired knee in a collision with Jaylen Brown. Williams had played about 10 more minutes after the collision before the decision to sit him was made at the half.

After the game, coach Joe Mazzulla had a positive update on his missing starters.

“Rob hyperextended his knee. It’s nothing serious, just obviously taking precaution. He felt good coming off the court. Smart, obviously you saw, sprained his ankle. X-Rays were negative, it’s just a matter of how he’s able to cope with it day-to-day.”

The Celtics play next Monday night in Orlando. Smart is undoubtedly out and a sprained ankle usually means at least a couple of weeks in street clothes, depending on the severity of the sprain (the Celtics have not released that yet). It would also be a surprise to see Williams in that game, but his injury doesn’t sound too serious.

Boston went on to get the 106-104 win over the Raptors behind 27 from Brown, plus big bench contributions from Grant Williams (25 points) and Malcolm Brogdon (23).

Curry, LeBron still tops in NBA jersey sales; Lakers lead team merchandise sale

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The young guard is climbing the ladder — Luka Doncic is fourth, Ja Morant is sixth — but when it comes to the top of the jersey sales leaderboard, it remains the old guard.

The NBA released the top 15 most popular player jerseys sold (on NBA.com) this season, and it’s the old guard that is the current face of the league on top. Here’s the list:

1. Stephen Curry (Golden State Warriors)
2. LeBron James (Los Angeles Lakers)
3. Giannis Antetokounmpo (Milwaukee Bucks)
4. Luka Doncic (Dallas Mavericks)
5. Kevin Durant (Brooklyn Nets)
6. Ja Morant (Memphis Grizzlies)
7. Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics)
8. Devin Booker (Phoenix Suns)
9. Joel Embiid (Philadelphia 76ers)
10. Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers)
11. Trae Young (Atlanta Hawks)
12. LaMelo Ball (Charlotte Hornets)
13. Anthony Davis (Los Angeles Lakers)
14. Zion Williamson (New Orleans Pelicans)
15. Kyrie Irving (Brooklyn Nets)

Nothing shocking on that list. Sixth is the highest Morant has gotten, and I thought Zion Williamon would be a little higher up, but the fans are leaning into the established stars of the league.

Nothing terribly surprising on the list of the 10 most popular franchises in team merchandise sales:

1. Los Angeles Lakers
2. Golden State Warriors
3. Boston Celtics
4. Milwaukee Bucks
5. Chicago Bulls
6. Philadelphia 76ers
7. Dallas Mavericks
8. Brooklyn Nets
9. Phoenix Suns
10. New York Knicks

Mildly surprising to see the Knicks that low considering this has been a solid season for them, but the biggest fan bases and the teams with the biggest stars near the top of the list.

Picking the 2023 All-Star Game starters, reserves (and snubs)

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If the NBA knows how to do one thing well, it’s fueling a debate.

While NBA regular-season rosters are 15 deep (plus two two-way guys), the league keeps the All-Star Game rosters intentionally small — 12 players. There are five starters — selected by a vote of the fans (50%), players (25%) and media (25%) — then the coaches pick the seven reserves (two guards, three frontcourt players, two wild cards). Inevitably, there will be snubs.

We LOVE to argue about snubs.

Here is my vote for the starters and who I think the coaches should pick as the reserves — and who gets snubbed. The NBA will announce the result of the fan/player/media vote for the starters next week, the coaches will pick the reserves the week after that, and not long after the two captains will select their teams.

Just so you know my thinking on this vote: We’re talking about an exhibition game for the fans so I’m not overly concerned with games played — if a player has been on the court for 50%-60% of his team’s games, that’s good enough here (it’s different in my mind from the end of season awards such as MVP or Defensive Player of the Year, where games played matters much more). Also, we want to see the league’s best players in the All-Star Game, so while the first half of this season gets the heaviest weight in picking a team, it’s about more than just a hot 40 games.

EASTERN CONFERENCE

STARTERS
G: Donovan Mitchell
G: Tyrese Haliburton
FC: Kevin Durant
FC: Giannis Antetokounmpo
FC: Jayson Tatum

RESERVES
G: Kyrie Irving
G: James Harden
FC: Joel Embiid
FC: Jimmy Butler
FC: Pascal Siakam
WC: Jaylen Brown
WC: Bam Adebayo

SNUBS: DeMar DeRozan, Julius Randle, Trae Young, Jrue Holiday, Jalen Brunson, Kyle Kuzma

Not starting Joel Embiid is the hardest decision on the board — you can swap him into the starting five for Tatum or Antetokounmpo and you get no argument from me (Durant has been the best of those four and, while he’s out right now, he’s played enough games to qualify). Irving and Harden are too good to leave off this list as reserve guards, and Boston’s Brown must also be there. That ended up leaving a difficult final choice between Adebayo and DeRozan — that’s a coin flip for me in terms of the best player and who is having the better half (Bam’s defense matters in that calculation). Leaving both Knicks candidates off the list also feels unfair, but here we are. Trae Young has put up counting stats this season but he hasn’t been himself, he hasn’t been efficient, and he’s not better than the guards above him on the list.

WESTERN CONFERENCE

STARTERS
G: Luka Doncic
G: Stephen Curry
FC: Nikola Jokic
FC: LeBron James
FC: Zion Williamson

RESERVES
G: Ja Morant
G: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander
FC: Domantas Sabonis
FC: Lauri Markkanen
FC: Anthony Davis
WC: Damian Lillard
WC: Devin Booker

SNUBS: Paul George, D’Aaron Fox, Jaren Jackson Jr., Jerami Grant, Aaron Gordon

The final starting frontcourt spot in the West is a tough call because Davis and Zion have been so good when healthy — too good to leave off the All-Star team — but both have missed a lot of time. Sabonis has been both good and available, and I have wavered between him and Zion for the final starting spot (Davis just has been out too much for me to vote him a starter). Ultimately Zion’s highs are higher, and it’s an exhibition, so I leaned into the guy I want to see play more, but Sabonis is deserving. The West guard pool is very deep, and Fox is hard to leave off after his first half, he should be the first injury call-up. Same with George, who has played well (and more than fans seem to think he has).