1. Blazers and Clippers kick off a potentially busy trade deadline week
The Portland Trail Blazers and the L.A. Clippers made the first significant trade in the leadup to the NBA trade deadline when the Blazers sent Norman Powell and Robert Covington to the Clippers for Eric Bledsoe, Justise Winslow, Keon Johnson and future second-round pick, as first reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
This could turn out to be an interesting and busy deadline week because many contenders have been on a slide as of late, while a handful of teams seem like a piece away from becoming ones. The Nets have lost seven straight, the Jazz are 4-12 since January 1, and the Heat are 4-4 in their last eight. Joel Embiid, Nikola Jokic, and Luka Doncic are carrying their teams to guaranteed playoff spots, but their supporting casts aren’t good enough for deep postseason runs.
Then there are the rebuilding teams. The Pacers still haven’t traded Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner, and Caris LeVert and it’s not because they’ve turned the season around. The Kings are nowhere near the playoffs now than they were when they fired Luke Walton, and they’ve got some pieces that would interest contenders. The Blazers are clinging on to the last play-in spot in the West, but the decision to move Powell signifies a shift in philosophy; the emergence of Anfernee Simons has been cited as a big reason why, but since Simons plays the same position as CJ McCollum, it seems like there’s another move to be made.
The Lakers? Oh, they still suck and are essentially in a stalemate position. But don’t expect that to stop their fans from dreaming up outrageous trade scenarios.
2. Clips cast doubt on Kawhi and PG returns
The Clippers beat their intertown rivals Lakers on a Reggie Jackson game-winner last Thursday, but the celebration was dampened when coach Ty Lue said after the game that “we know Kawhi [Leonard]’s probably not gonna come back.” This contradicts a report by TNT’s Chris Haynes last month that there is a “strong possibility” that Leonard returns this season.
The team is also unsure when—or if—Paul George will return. George has been out since Dec. 22 due to an injury to his right shooting elbow. He is scheduled for an MRI on Feb. 24, but president of basketball operations Lawrence Frank said it’s just part of the process and is not determinative of whether George is able to play again this season.
The Clippers have fallen short of their championship aspirations since luring Kawhi and PG in 2019. The acquisition of Powell and Covington should help solidify their play-in position, but it’s looking like this will be another bust season for the Clips.
3. Harden-for-Simmons sets up the NBA Insider championship rematch
The Athletic’s Shams Charania followed up last week’s 24/7 James Harden rumor mill with a bombshell report that the Sixers are expected to pursue Harden before the deadline and, crucially, that “the Nets are now open to discussing a deal.” The last phrase directly contradicts Woj’s report that the “Nets won’t listen to trade-deadline overtures for [Harden].”
Ben Simmons is a Rich Paul client, so there’s the obvious connection for Shams. But we don’t know how much info Daryl Morey & Co. are actually giving Paul, and we’re certainly sure that Brooklyn ain’t Klutch country.
At least one report seems to think the Charania story is more propaganda than legit. Kyle Nuebeck of Philly Voice said that the story has been “mocked internally” by members of the Sixers organization.
Notably, Woj has neither corroborated Charania’s story nor backed off his earlier report that the Nets will shun deadline offers for Harden. His message for Shams (probably):
4. Blood is thicker than Hollywood
LeBron James biographer Brian Windhorst said that LeBron could leave LA to play with his son, Bronny. According to Windhorst, “LeBron likes L.A., he likes raising his family in L.A., and his post-career businesses are in L.A. But he’s made it very clear that he wants to play with his son. If that situation is available outside L.A., he’ll pursue it.”
The 17-year-old Bronny is currently a junior at Sierra Canyon High School and is the No. 43-ranked player in the 2023 class. He will be eligible for the NBA Draft in 2024 due to the NBA’s “one-and-done” rule, though he can reclassify to 2022 and move up his eligibility to 2023—which would coincide with LeBron’s free agency.
Which team could land the James 2-for-1? I’ll throw the one team that makes perfect sense: the Sacramento Kings. For one, the moniker is a match made in heaven for King James and his son. For another, they’re probably the only franchise stupid enough to waste a first round pick on someone who’s not even in the top 30 of the recruiting class.
5. Worst call in NBA history
The Cleveland Cavaliers almost got screwed by the refs in their 102-101 win over the Charlotte Hornets last Friday.
Cleveland was leading 90-80 with under five minutes left. The Hornets missed a shot and the Cavs battled for the defensive rebound. Dean Wade was out of bounds when he touched the ball, stopping the play. One official blew his whistle to stop the play and the clock. Then, three seconds later, the ball went to Terry Rozier, who attempted a practice shot from the corner. Darius Garland, who was on the bench, interfered with Rozier’s practice shot. The officials gave Garland a technical foul for interfering with Rozier and gave Rozier credit for the 3-pointer.
Here’s the sequence:
Crew chief Brian Forte admitted the error and said it was due to a miscommunication.
Yep, that’s what everyone says when they royally screw up.
6. A little pat on the back
The NBA announced the All-Star reserves on Thursday and let’s revisit what I wrote two weeks ago in my Andrew Wiggins All-Star piece:
“Surveying the West, the only other team that have won 70% of their games is Phoenix, so they should get Chris Paul and Devin Booker in.
“Nikola Jokic, [Ja] Morant, Rudy Gobert, and LeBron James are shoo-ins along with [Steph] Curry and [Draymond] Green. Doncic, [Donovan] Mitchell, and Karl-Anthony Towns are too good to be left off.”
Here’s the full list of Western Conference All-Stars:
That’s 12-for-12, baby!
Thank God I didn’t write anything about the East, because I wouldn’t have put Khris Middleton there. But hey, I did say this about Middleton after the Bucks won the title: “Being a champion gets you first dibs in the All-Star reserve spot.”
7. Throwback video of the week
Since I covered both the Kings and poor officiating in this week’s column, what better throwback video than the controversial 2002 WCF Game 6 between the Kings and Lakers?