Atlantic Notes: Sixers, Bradley, LeVert

After starting the season with a 7-24 record, the Sixers have reeled off eight wins in their past 11. The emergence of Joel Embiid has reinvigorated the franchise and the rookie big man has helped to anchor a rapidly improving defensive presence.

Now that the Sixers have shown an ability to win games, they’ve clawed their way out of the basement and up the standings. Such momentum has general manager Bryan Colangelo reconsidering the team’s willingness to make a short-term splash.

[Winning] does lead you to want to explore other opportunities that might accelerate where we are in this. It gives us some opportunity to explore some big deals,” Colangelo told Brian Seltzer of Sixers.com. “We may be one of the only teams in the league that’s prepared with the resources and the assets to acquire a star level player.”

The Sixers have long been in rebuilding mode, but the strides that the team has taken this season under the guidance of Brett Brown suggest that this team may be ready to compete sooner than initially expected.

My responsibility is to make sure I do the right thing for the organization,” Colangelo added. “I’ve had a lot of dialogue with a lot of teams. I know what’s out there in the marketplace.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • The Celtics have been exposed on defense without shooting guard Avery Bradley, writes Josue Pavon of WEEI 93.7 FM. While Isaiah Thomas‘ defensive shortcomings are not new, the team has seen just how much of a drop off there is between Bradley and fill-in Marcus Smart.
  • The Nets have seen seen a noticeable improvement in their third-quarter performance of late and credit the decision to bump Sean Kilpatrick from the lineup in favor of the more defensively inclined Joe Harris as part of the reason why, says Brian Lewis of the New York Post. “Listen, we’re demanding that those guys — anybody that steps on the floor — we’re demanding them to defend,” says head coach Kenny Atkinson. Harris sprained his ankle Friday and his absence will give Kilpatrick one more opportunity to improve on that side of the ball.
  • Not much has gone well for the Nets this season, injuries to Jeremy Lin a major factor in their first-half struggles, but the promising play of Caris LeVert has been one of the few bright spots. Nets Daily discusses the first half of Brooklyn’s season.

And-Ones: All-Star Snubs, BIG3, Team USA

The starters for this year’s NBA All-Star Game were announced this week and, as always, people were quick to disagree with the players selected. Unique this year is the fact that fans don’t shoulder all of the blame. This year the fans accounted for just 50% of the vote, while the media accounted for 25% and players accounted for 25%.

There were plenty of hot takes about what should have happened, but none more memorable than Clippers head coach Doc Rivers‘ regarding the snub of Russell Westbrook. To ESPN’s Jeff Goodman, Rivers said: “Fake news. I am just shocked that fans don’t see the same things we see.”

Also among Westbrook supporters were Sam Amick of USA Today and Kevin Garnett.

This might be the league’s all-time history snub right here,” Garnett said on his TV show Area 21. “Seriously. He has to be on the team, bruh.”

Another guard left out of the starting lineup was Kyle Lowry and Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today made a case for him over either Kyrie Irving or DeMar DeRozan.

Lang Whitaker of NBA.com discussed the official list of starters.

There are more general headlines from around the league:

  • Count Ricky Davis and Al Harrington among the retired players expected to sign on with the BIG3, tweets Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical.
  • With the trade deadline a month away, Keith Smith of RealGM explored the most tradeable contracts in the NBA. Draymond Green, for example, looks to be a bargain given the under-market deal he signed in 2015.
  • A report at NBA.com implies that LeBron James could play for Team USA in the 2020 Olympics. The fact that Gregg Popovich will lead the program has had a significant impact. “It factors a lot,” James said. “I’ve said that before. He’s just a great mastermind of the game of basketball.”

Southwest Notes: Matthews, Capela, Parker

The Mavs will not be trading Wesley Matthews, writes Eddie Sefko of the Dallas News. Team owner Mark Cuban would consider dealing the shooting guard for a select list of players, but those players are unavailable.

“We see Wes and Harrison Barnes as cornerstones,” Cuban told Sefko of the 30-year-old Mavs guard. “I think he’s first-team all-defense and those don’t come around very often.”

In 42 games with the Mavs so far this season, Matthews has averaged 15.0 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. He’s under contract through 2018/19 with a cap hit of $17MM this season.

Even without Matthews  may not be on the block, expect Cuban and the Mavs to do their diligence leading up to the February 23 deadline though that doesn’t necessarily mean a trade will be made.

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • After missing 15 games with a fractured fibula, Clint Capela is playing himself into shape, writes Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle. “He’s still a little bit away from his conditioning and different things,” Rockets head coach Mike D’Antoni said. “This road trip we’ll try and wean him in as much as we can.”
  • Having experienced trouble with his left foot, Tony Parker will sit out for the Spurs and undergo an MRI at some point this week, writes Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News. Parker is doubtful to return before the team wraps up its current four-game road trip.
  • Big man Andrew Bogut could soon make his return for the Mavs, writes Sefko in a separate piece for the Dallas News. “We’ll have at least one practice day before the game on Wednesday, so we’ll see what’s what,” said head coach Rick Carlisle.
  • The Spurs are 4-0 on the road against the Cavs, Rockets and Warriors, tweets Marc Stein of ESPN. The rest of the NBA? A combined 13-72.

Pistons Notes: Jackson, Caldwell-Pope, Bullock

Detroit coach/executive Stan Van Gundy sent Reggie Jackson a text relaying that there was no imminent deal involving the Pistons point guard getting shipped anywhere, but stopped short of saying anyone on the roster was untouchable, Aaron McMann of MLive relays. Van Gundy, speaking generally, said no standout player in the league is not asked about and it only makes sense that teams often only call in regards to another team’s top talent, McMann adds. In that vein, Van Gundy said the Pistons have received offers for Jackson, but did not offer specifics.

“I got asked the other day, ‘There’s a report out there that Reggie’s available for the right price,'” Van Gundy said. “Everybody in the league is available for the right price. Just your main guys, the price is a lot steeper and usually doesn’t come around.”

Here’s more out of Detroit:

  • There is a good chance Kentavious Caldwell-Pope returns to action this week after being out with an injury and when he does, Van Gundy will have to make playing time decisions with a fully healthy roster for the first time, Keith Langlois of NBA.com writes. Reggie Bullock and Stanley Johnson are likely candidates to see their minutes compromised, Langlois notes, but Bullock is the team’s best 3-point shooter and Johnson has versatility on both ends of the court. Still, this is a problem that Van Gundy likely wants to have, Langlois surmises.
  • Speaking of Bullock, he is playing well this season because he has refocused on fundamentals, including cutting more effectively in an effort to create space and give himself opportunities for more shots, Rod Beard of the Detroit News passes along.

Hoops Links: Anthony, Ingram, Tucker

Every Sunday, we link to some of the very best work from around the basketball blogosphere. Do you have a link to a great basketball blog post – either your own or someone else’s – that you want to see featured on Hoops Rumors? Then you should send it to us at [email protected]. Here’s this week’s rundown …

Please send submissions for Hoops Links to Will at [email protected].

Heat Notes: Johnson, Draft, Bench

It is unclear how long Tyler Johnson will be out after suffering a strained left shoulder, and if he misses two more games the Heat would be allowed to add another player, Ira Winderman of Sun Sentinel relays. This is the same shoulder that bothered Johnson last season and held him out of more than half of last season’s games. He is listed as day-to-day and missed Saturday’s game. With Justise Winslow, Josh Richardson, Josh McRoberts and Chris Bosh also unavailable to the team, the Heat last week were granted a roster exemption to add Okaro White on a 10-day contract, as Winderman notes. Guard Briante Weber is a name to watch, Winderman writes, if the Heat get another spot.

Here is more out of Miami:

  • James Johnson, whom Miami signed to a one-year pact over the summer, has developed into an asset off the bench with improved 3-point shooting, passing ability and consistency, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald writes. Johnson should see plenty of interest from teams after reducing his body fat and becoming more athletic, which has led to the standout season, Jackson adds.
  • Despite the injuries, the Heat are evidently not playing for a lottery spot and have been rolling lately. A significant reason for Miami’s three-game winning streak is the play on both ends of the court by guard Dion Waiters, as Winderman notes (video link). With making the playoffs still unlikely, Winderman surmises that the Heat at least offered a glimpse at what could have been or, perhaps, into the future.

Pacific Notes: Gay, Joerger, Griffin, Warriors

Rudy Gay will have surgery Monday to fix a torn Achilles tendon, the Kings announced on their website. The procedure will be performed at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, and Gay will be out for the remainder of the season. The injury may affect the free agent market, as Gay had planned to opt out of his $14,263,566 deal for next season.

There’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Garrett Temple has taken Gay’s spot in the starting lineup for now, but long-term decisions may not be made until next month, according to Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee. If the Kings continue losing and slip out of the playoff race, coach Dave Joerger may elect to give more minutes to younger players. Rookie guard Malachi Richardson was used in the first half Saturday for the first time all season. “Just be a buncha different dudes running in and out of there,” Joerger said. “Trying to find something that fits as you go through it.”
  • Blake Griffin plans to be ready for the Clippers game Tuesday at Philadelphia, relays Broderick Turner of The Los Angeles Times. Griffin has missed 17 games since undergoing minor knee surgery December 20th. “It’s as close as I can be, I think,” Griffin said Saturday. “It was good to get some contact in yesterday. So it’s good to get some like real work in besides just running and shooting. It’s kind of up to them.”
  • Warriors coach Steve Kerr is using seven low-salaried big men in a rotation at center, writes Anthony Slater of The San Jose Mercury NewsZaza Pachulia, David West, JaVale McGee, Kevon Looney, James Michael McAdoo, Anderson Varejao and Damian Jones are all getting minutes at the position, depending on the matchup.

Northwest Notes: Arthur, Nuggets, Rubio, Hill

The Nuggets plan to monitor the minutes for Darrell Arthur for the rest of the season, writes Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post. That will include games and practices as Arthur deals with soreness related to a lateral release knee procedure he had during the offseason. Arthur recently had the knee drained and may have to do that several more times before the season ends. “He had two hard practices in London and his knee swelled up because of it.” said coach Michael Malone. “So I have to protect him from himself, and, obviously, if we want him in games we have to limit his practice time so we can get him in the game as much as possible. So that’s just something we have to keep our eye on, and I have to trust and listen to our medical staff so we’re making sure we put Darrell in the best position possible.”

There’s more from the Northwest Division:

  • It’s important for the Nuggets to make the playoffs this season, contends Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post. The team currently holds the eighth seed at 18-24, one game better than the Trail Blazers. There’s little to be gained from another late lottery draft pick, Kiszla argues, saying that playoff experience would be valuable for the team’s young core.
  • The Ricky Rubio trade rumors show that the Timberwolves‘ point guard is undervalued, writes Jesse Blancarte of Basketball Insiders. Rubio is one of the top defenders in the league at his position and is an asset on offense even with his shooting limitations because of his vision and passing, Blancarte argues. Plus he is signed through 2018/19 at an average salary of $14.25MM, which is a good value for a starter.
  • Jazz point guard George Hill put up 30 points, six rebounds and five assists Saturday night in his first game against the Pacers since they traded him last summer. Hill told Nate Taylor of the Indianapolis Star that he wasn’t trying to send a message to his former team. “No, no statement needed,” Hill said. “I was making shots and making plays and just trying to win and do the best I can to get everyone involved and have fun out there. I’m probably my biggest critic. It’s always good to get a win and play well at the same time.”

Bulls Shopping Rajon Rondo, Nikola Mirotic

A disappointing first half of the season has led the Bulls to put Rajon Rondo and Nikola Mirotic on the trade market, reports Joe Cowley of The Chicago Sun-Times.

However, a source adds that Chicago’s front office isn’t getting the type of offers it wants for either player.

Rondo was briefly benched and then relegated to the second unit after signing a two-year deal worth nearly $27MM over the summer. He is averaging 6.6 points and 6.7 assists in 36 games thiss season, barely half of his numbers in Sacramento a year ago. Rondo could be an attractive trade piece because only $3MM of his salary for next season is guaranteed as we outlined in our Trade Candidate series.

Mirotic is making nearly $5.8MM in the final season of his contract. He is averaging 9.3 points per game and shooting 39% from the field, and has widely been considered a disappointment since signing with Chicago three years ago.

Jimmy Butler has reportedly expressed disappointment to the front office about the current roster, but a source says he doesn’t want to betray his teammates by singling anybody out.

“I take everything personal,’’ Butler said after Friday’s loss to Atlanta. “I hate losing. I’ll leave it at that. Losing is something I don’t accept, we shouldn’t accept. We gotta go out and be better.”

Central Notes: Wade, R. Jackson, Parker, Cavaliers

Fiscal realities will probably keep Dwyane Wade in Chicago past this season, writes Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Wade has a player option on next year’s $23.8MM salary, an amount that Winderman doesn’t think he’ll get from any other organization at age 35. If the Bulls opt to rebuild, the columnist believes Wade would consider taking an $8MM mid-level exception to team up with one of his close friends, either LeBron James in Cleveland, Chris Paul in Los Angeles or Carmelo Anthony in New York. A return to Miami is unlikely next season, Winderman states, but could be conceivable for 2018/19.

There’s more news from the Central Division:

  • Trading Reggie Jackson isn’t the right answer for the Pistons, argues Bob Wojnowski of The Detroit News. A rumor made the rounds Friday that Detroit was considering a deal with Minnesota involving Jackson and Ricky Rubio. Pistons coach/executive Stan Van Gundy contacted Jackson and assured him it wasn’t true. Wojnowski states that it would be a mistake for the team to trade its floor leader after investing so heavily in him two years ago. “If he traded me, I told him it was news to me,” Jackson said. “I appreciated the text, just let me know I’m his guy. But I don’t really pay attention much to it.”
  • The Bucks held Jabari Parker out of the starting lineup Saturday as punishment for talking to the media about locker room conversations, discloses Chris Haynes of ESPN.com. Parker made comments on a team meeting earlier this week, which is a violation of team rules. “I spoke up for the first time, and it didn’t go my way,” he told the media. “I was getting thrashed, but hey, as long as I give them another perspective, I did my job.”
  • The Cavaliers‘ need for a backup point guard was on display in Saturday’s nationally televised loss to the Spurs, writes Joe Vardon of The Cleveland Plain Dealer. In the overtime defeat, the Cavs were outscored 17-2 to start the second quarter and 12-1 at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

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