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Southwest Notes: Brooks, Valanciunas, Christopher, Doncic

Grizzlies small forward Dillon Brooks was fined $35K by the league for knocking over a camera operator during a road game against the Heat last week. Brooks has since apologized for the incident and stated that he plans to call the camera person, according to Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal.

“I didn’t mean to hurt him in any way possible,” Brooks claimed. “I’m not that type of person… Whatever the NBA did is what they did, but I’m not that type of person. I play the game hard.”

Cole notes that Brooks’ cumulative tally of lost cash via suspensions and fines now total $200K for the 2022/23 season.

According to Miami radio play-by-play announcer Jason Jaxson (Twitter link), that camera person was physically injured by Brooks, to the point where he was still being evaluated by doctors a couple days after the incident.

“The fine was on point,” Jackson wrote, “but the max ($50K) would have felt like a sliver of justice after disregard for another human – an incredible one at that.”

There’s more out of the Southwest Division:

  • The struggling Pelicans managed to pull off a 117-107 Sunday win against the Rockets by playing through veteran center Jonas Valanciunas, writes Christian Clark of Valanciunas was a big part of the team’s early offensive attack, finishing with 21 points and 12 rebounds. “It makes it a lot easier, especially when we have him more engaged on the offensive end,” forward Brandon Ingram said. “You see him do more on the defensive end. He’s down in a stance. We just kind of fed off him today. Every time he caught it, he was aggressive, and he made the right play.” 
  • Second-year reserve Rockets shooting guard Josh Christopher recently explained how he has improved since the 2022/23 season began, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. “I’m growing up,” Christopher said. “Of course, with more experience, I’m going to keep on getting better. Me slowing down is a part of me getting better. I’m starting to read the game a little more and I’m more decisive. It’s helped a lot… My teammates tell me to go out there and be myself. Coaches tell me to be myself. I watch a lot of tape. I stay in the gym. It makes everything easier, on top of me knowing when I’m going to play, and I am in the rotation.”
  • Mavericks All-Star guard Luka Doncic remained out for Monday’s loss to the Grizzlies with a left thigh strain, Dallas has tweeted. He has now missed the team’s last five contests, including three against Memphis, with the injury. That said, head coach Jason Kidd indicated today that Doncic is progressing well from the ailment, per Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). “He’s going in the right direction, so hopefully [he will be back] soon,” Kidd said. “I think these last couple days have been really, really good, so we’ll see how he feels tomorrow.”

Mavericks Notes: Doncic, Irving, Morris, Kidd

All-NBA guard Luka Doncic (left thigh strain) will remain unavailable on Wednesday when the Mavericks visit San Antonio, the team confirmed (via Twitter). However, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPN (Twitter link), Doncic did accompany the Mavs on their road trip, which will continue in Los Angeles on Friday and Memphis on Monday.

As for Doncic’s backcourt mate, Kyrie Irving (right foot soreness) was listed as questionable for Wednesday’s contest, but said today that it’s “not looking good” for him to return, per MacMahon (Twitter link). It would be a third straight missed game for Irving, who continues to experience pain, especially in his big toe.

“This injury on my foot, it’s going to take a little bit more time than I thought,” Irving said (Twitter link via MacMahon). “It’s obviously still day to day, but we’ve just got to take more time.

“It’s right around my big toe, right around my plantar. I took a wrong step in New Orleans and it just felt like my knuckles cracked. I just wanted to take precautionary (measures) at this point in the season. I make my whole entire living with my feet, so I’d rather take care of it now than when I’m 40 years old.”

Here’s more on the Mavs:

  • The other player Dallas acquired in the Irving trade will also likely be unavailable on Wednesday in San Antonio, as Markieff Morris (left knee soreness) has been downgraded from questionable to doubtful, according to the team (Twitter link). Morris has only logged 24 minutes across five appearances since joining the Mavs.
  • Having lost three consecutive games and nine of their last 12, the Mavericks now hold the ninth seed in the West and have fallen below .500 (34-35). Tim Cato of The Athletic wonders if Dallas’ season is beyond fixing, but identifies five ways the team might turn things around, including playing by more pragmatic lineups and committing to a direction with Christian Wood.
  • This year’s Mavericks may be charting the same course the Hawks did in 2022, when Atlanta was quickly eliminated in the first round of the playoffs after making it to the Eastern Conference Finals a year earlier, writes Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News. The Hawks’ inability to recapture their 2021 form ultimately led to Nate McMillan‘s dismissal this year, Cowlishaw notes, adding that it’s hard to say where things will stand for Jason Kidd if the Mavs don’t bounce back in the next few weeks.

Texas Notes: Irving, Doncic, Porter, Mamukelashvili, Champagnie

Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving was held out of Saturday’s game at Memphis because of soreness in his right foot, writes Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News. Coach Jason Kidd informed reporters of the decision a couple of hours before gametime.

“He tried to go through the shootaround, went through the shootaround and from that point, felt like we needed to take a look at it when we got back home,” Kidd said. “So the best thing was to sit him tonight.”

The team will return to Dallas after tonight’s game and will host the Grizzlies on Monday. Irving’s status for that game will depend on what the medical testing reveals.

Kidd also said Luka Doncic is considered “day to day” with a left thigh strain that prevented him from finishing Wednesday’s game.

There’s more NBA news from Texas:

  • Rockets guard Kevin Porter Jr. was relieved to be able to play tonight after missing just one game with a left thigh bruise, according to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Porter expected to be day-to-day after an earlier injury to his left big toe, but he wound up missing 20 games. “It was definitely a frustration,” he said. “I want to play as much as I can. Definitely, missing those 20 games, I want to get as many games back that I missed. Injuries are part of the game. You just have to react and do your work after it happens.”
  • Sandro Mamukelashvili didn’t play until the fourth quarter Friday night, but he scored 11 points in his matchup with reigning MVP Nikola Jokic to help the Spurs surprise the Nuggets, per Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News. Mamukelashvili has shown some promise in the three games since San Antonio claimed him off waivers last week, McDonald adds.
  • Spurs rookie Julian Champagnie was a big scorer at St. John’s, but he tells Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News that he doesn’t mind being a role player while he tries to earn a steady NBA job. Champagnie has spent most of the season in the G League, but he got to play in a pair of games against the Rockets last weekend. “I don’t need too many shots,” he said. “I am a guy who fills the gap, and I am perfectly fine with that. It’s what I like to do anyway.”

Injury Notes: Durant, Doncic, Ingram, Fox, Morris

Kevin Durant missed what was supposed to be his first home game with the Suns after turning his left ankle during warmups Wednesday night, writes Brian Windhorst of ESPN.

Durant was taking part in an individual drill with coaches when he slipped on the floor as he started to shoot (video link from Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic). He landed on the court, but was able to get up and finish his workout, Windhorst adds.

Shortly afterward, the Suns announced that he would miss the game due to ankle soreness. Durant, who returned seven days ago after missing six weeks with an MCL sprain, reported some swelling in the ankle after the incident. He was in a walking boot after the game, Rankin tweets.

“We’ll get more testing done tomorrow,” coach Monty Williams said, “but right now it’s just an ankle sprain and we don’t have anything official to report.” (Twitter link from Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports)

Durant has played just three games for Phoenix since being acquired from the Nets in a blockbuster trade last month. He’s averaging 26.0 points, 6.4 rebounds and 5.9 assists while shooting 69% from the field and 53.8% from three-point range.

There’s more injury news to pass along:

  • Mavericks star Luka Doncic plans to get an MRI on Thursday after leaving tonight’s game with a left thigh strain, tweets Andrew Lopez of ESPN. Doncic was favoring his left leg as he walked into a post-game media session and replied “not good” when reporters asked how he felt, Lopez adds. Doncic said he has been dealing with pain in the thigh for about a week, according to Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). “I think we all can see he’s not moving well, so shooting, defensive, it’s affecting everything,” coach Jason Kidd said. “He’s trying to fight through it and help his teammates, but he had to leave.”
  • In the same game, the Pelicans lost Brandon Ingram to a right ankle sprain late in the first half, tweets Christian Clark of NOLA. Ingram later returned to the team’s bench in street clothes. He missed two months of the season with a toe injury before returning in late January.
  • Kings guard De’Aaron Fox sat out Monday’s game with a sore left hamstring, but he expects to be ready for Thursday, tweets Sean Cunningham of KTXL. Fox is also experiencing wrist pain, but he plans to play through it.
  • Monte Morris played tonight after missing the Wizards‘ last six games with lower back soreness, per Ava Wallace of The Washington Post (Twitter link).

Injury Notes: Zion, Towns, Lowry, Love, Doncic

Pelicans forward Zion Williamson remains sidelined indefinitely due to a right hamstring strain, and it doesn’t appear his return is imminent, Brian Windhorst of ESPN stated on the latest episode of his Hoop Collective podcast.

“He’s not close, I don’t think,” Windhorst said. “… I think his setback was significant, and so now you’re worried about a worse setback, so you’re going to be doubly cautious.”

While fellow ESPN reporter Marc J. Spears openly wondered whether Williamson might just be done for the season, Windhorst declined to go that far.

Still, with just four-and-a-half weeks left until the Pelicans’ regular season finale, time is running out for the star forward to return to action and make a meaningful impact in the playoff race. He hasn’t suited up for New Orleans since January 2.

Here are a few more injury-related notes from around the NBA:

  • After indicating on Tuesday that there’s no timetable for Karl-Anthony Towns‘ return, Timberwolves head coach Chris Finch provided another update on Wednesday, telling Paul Allen on KFAN in Minnesota that Towns is set to take another step forward in his rehab. Today he’s going to have some live activity on the floor, the first time in forever,” Finch said (Twitter link via Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic). “Some controlled, live action on the floor. I know he’s looking forward to that.”
  • Heat guard Kyle Lowry will miss his 14th consecutive game due to left knee soreness when Miami hosts the Cavaliers on Wednesday, but there’s still optimism he’ll return before the end of the season, and perhaps even within the next week, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. In other Heat injury news, Kevin Love (right rib contusion) has been upgraded to probable, so there’s a good chance he’ll be available to face his old team on Wednesday.
  • Mavericks star Luka Doncic, who has missed a few games due to minor injuries this season, hasn’t played in both ends of a back-to-back set since mid-November. However, after logging 34 minutes on Tuesday vs. Utah, he’s not on Dallas’ injury report for Wednesday’s contest in New Orleans, so he should be available, tweets ESPN’s Tim MacMahon.

Southwest Notes: Morant, Doncic, Lewis, Pelicans

When the Grizzlies announced over the weekend that Ja Morant would miss games against the Clippers and Lakers, they made it clear that his absence could extend beyond those two contests. Now that Morant has sat out those two games, the timeline for his return is unclear, but it doesn’t sound like head coach Taylor Jenkins is counting on having him back in the starting lineup on Thursday vs. Golden State.

Jenkins said on Tuesday that Morant is “healing and figuring things out” and that his absence is a “day-to-day process,” according to Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal.

“If everyone expects something to change overnight, we’ve got to be due diligence and respectful on that. We’re talking about Ja being in a better place personally and also professionally,” Jenkins said. “To put a timetable on it, I think, is disrespectful in my opinion. We want to make sure he’s in a great place for himself but as a responsible teammate here.”

Grizzlies guard Tyus Jones, who has replaced Morant in the starting lineup over the last two games, referred to the situation as “unique” and admitted that “no one knows exactly how to handle” it, but said Morant’s teammates are there for him (Twitter link via Mark Medina of

“We just care for our brother,” Jones said. “We want the best for him and hope he’s in a great place physically and mentally. That’s not going to change. Basketball always comes second. Everyone in here is human. We’ll continue to be there for him.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Mavericks star Luka Doncic ranks third in the NBA in technical fouls with 14, meaning he’ll face an automatic one-game suspension if he receives two more techs before the end of the regular season. As Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News writes, Doncic’s high rate of technical fouls – and the possibility of a suspension – is more concerning this year than it was last season due to how tenuous the team’s spot in the playoff race is.
  • Pelicans guard Kira Lewis, who returned from an ACL tear earlier this season, said this week that he feels like his “burst is back,” per Christian Clark of Lewis still doesn’t have much of a role in New Orleans’ backcourt, but had one of his best nights of the season last Friday, scoring nine points in 10 minutes against Golden State.
  • The Pelicans have lost 17 of their last 22 games, and while their slide in standings is concerning on its own, the way they’re losing games has to be even more troubling for the organization, according to William Guillory of The Athletic, who says the team has often looked “lackadaisical” and “unfocused.” New Orleans entered the new year in January as the No. 2 seed in the West but now finds itself in a three-way tie for the No. 10 spot.

Southwest Notes: Luka, Kyrie, Kidd, Smith, Sochan

Luka Doncic has been ruled out of Friday’s game at the Lakers as he continues to deal with a left thigh strain, the Mavericks confirmed (Twitter link via Marc Stein). Fellow guard Kyrie Irving is questionable with a right foot injury — he previously said he was feeling discomfort near his big toe.

While Doncic miss his fourth straight game tonight, he’s hopeful that he could return for the Mavs’ next game on Monday at Memphis, tweets Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News.

Hopefully next game. Monday, hopefully then, but we’ll see day by day,” Doncic said.

The Mavs have gone 1-2 over the past three games without their two best players and are currently 35-35, the No. 8 seed in the West.

Here’s more from the Southwest:

  • Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd has been heavily scrutinized in recent weeks for his laid-back demeanor amid a poor stretch of play (the Mavs are just 4-9 since the trade deadline), but his players like his “even-keeled” style, as Caplan writes for The Dallas Morning News. “He’s a Hall of Fame point guard, one of the best point guards of all time, and you can tell by the way he coaches that he has that demeanor,” third-year wing Josh Green said. “A lot of coaches, they’re tight, they’re panicking, but he’s very relaxed. He sees plays. He sees what’s open. He knows what’s working. It’s good to have a coach like that, and it’s very motivating for the rest of the team.” Kidd wasn’t always known for being easygoing — far from it. He credited his time as an assistant with the Lakers for his improved “patience and perspective,” according to Caplan.
  • Jabari Smith Jr. has had his ups and downs this season, as most rookies do. However, the 2022 third overall pick has played his best basketball of late, a promising sign for the Rockets going forward, per Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (subscriber link). “You want to see your rooks learn and grow and improve throughout the season,” guard Kevin Porter Jr. said. “Jabari’s season has definitely been that. He started figuring it out. Had a great run, a great stretch and then had a rookie wall and then had his All-Star break. Now you see him settling into his own game. You see him shooting the 3 with a lot more confidence, his turnaround, his mid game, everything. The defensive end, he’s shown he’s improved that. I’m proud of him. He’s going to keep getting better.” Smith, a 19-year-old forward, recently became the first teenager in league history to record three straight games with 20-plus points and 10-plus rebounds, Feigen writes.
  • Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich thinks very highly of for rookie forward Jeremy Sochan, according to Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News (Twitter links). He’s a stud,” Popovich said. “He’s going to be a hell of a player. He’s got the same heart, the same competitiveness as Manu Ginobili. … I have never seen someone come in at such a young age and act like they have been here forever. He’s just totally unintimidated.” The ninth overall pick of last June’s draft, Sochan is averaging 11.1 PPG, 5.3 RPG and 2.6 APG on .453/.250/.702 shooting in 54 games (26.4 MPG).

Doncic’s MRI Clean, Expected Back Once Pain Dissipates

The MRI on Luka Doncic‘s left thigh strain came back clean, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link). The Mavericks star is expected to return to action once the pain in his thigh dissipates, Wojnarowski adds.

Doncic left Wednesday’s loss to New Orleans with the injury. He was favoring his left leg as he walked into a post-game media session and replied “not good” when reporters asked how he felt.

The 24-year-old MVP candidate said he had been dealing with pain in his thigh for about a week.

I think we all can see he’s not moving well, so shooting, defensive, it’s affecting everything,” coach Jason Kidd said after yesterday’s game. “He’s trying to fight through it and help his teammates, but he had to leave.”

Through 57 games (36.3 MPG), Doncic is putting up incredible stats. He’s averaging a career-high 33.0 PPG (second in the league), 8.6 RPG, 8.0 APG and 1.5 SPG on .500/.349/.736 shooting splits.

Hopefully the pain from the injury goes away sooner rather than later, as Dallas is vying for a playoff spot. The Mavs currently hold a 34-33 record, making them the No. 8 seed in the West.

Southwest Notes: Green, Doncic, McCombs, Morant

Jalen Green has improved his focus in his second season in the league, Rockets assistant coach Rick Higgins told Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

“From year one to year two, he’s a lot more locked in,” Higgins said. “The importance of it, the value of it, what he’s trying to accomplish with it. But he was always very intentional about trying to watch game film to get better, so that was always constant. The main difference is that he’s been more locked in on how it could help him play better each game.”

Green is averaging 21.8 points per game, up from 17.3 during his rookie campaign, though Houston reached the All-Star break with only 13 victories.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Luka Doncic enters the second half of the season as the league’s scoring leader and a top candidate for the Most Valuable Player. However, he’s much more concerned about the ultimate team goal, Jonathan Abrams of the New York Times writes. “I’d rather have the championship than MVP,” the Mavericks superstar said, “but if you win an MVP, it’s amazing, too.”
  • Former Spurs and Nuggets owner Red McCombs has died at the age of 95, Carmini Danini and Peggy O’Hare of the San Antonio Express-News report. McCombs owned the San Antonio franchise on two separate occasions, selling his stake the second time in 1993. In a league statement, commissioner Adam Silver said “Red McCombs brought the Spurs to San Antonio and was a driving force in creating the modern NBA.  He was an innovator and savvy entrepreneur who never shied away from taking risks.  We mourn Red’s passing and send our heartfelt condolences to his family and friends and the Spurs organization.”
  • Grizzlies guard Ja Morant can always deliver a dazzling dunk, but he doesn’t want to do them on All-Star weekend. Morant reiterated over the weekend he’s not interested in participating in the annual dunk contest, Evan Barnes of the Memphis Commercial Appeal relays.

Doncic, Irving To Start For Team LeBron

Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving are not only Mavericks teammates, they’re also starting together for Team LeBron at the All-Star Game Sunday in Salt Lake City.

LeBron James selected his former Cleveland teammate Irving and Doncic, the league’s leading scorer, during the first captain’s draft conducted on the same night as the All-Star Game. Nikola Jokic and Joel Embiid will start up front for Team LeBron. The reserves for LeBron’s team include Anthony Edwards, Jaylen Brown, Paul George, Tyrese Haliburton, Julius Randle, De’Aaron Fox and Jaren Jackson Jr.

Donovan Mitchell and one of the players he was traded for, Lauri Markkanen, will start for Team Giannis. Ja Morant and Jayson Tatum round out the starting lineup. Damian Lillard, Jrue Holiday, Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, DeMar DeRozan, Pascal Siakam, Bam Adebayo and Domantas Sabonis will be the reserves for Team Giannis.

Luka Doncic Expected To Return Saturday

Mavericks guard Luka Doncic is expected to return to action on Saturday night vs. the Kings, reports Chris Haynes of Bleacher Report (Twitter link). The team has officially listed Doncic as probable to play (Twitter link).

Doncic has missed the last four games due to a right heel contusion. His return has been much anticipated not just because he’s an MVP candidate but because his first game back will also mark his first game playing alongside new Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving.

Irving has been Dallas’ leading scorer in his two games since joining the team, both wins. He scored 24 points in Los Angeles on Wednesday as the Mavs knocked off the Clippers, and had 25 in Sacramento on Friday night as the Mavs won the first game of their back-to-back set vs. the Kings.

On Friday, in his first comments to reporters since Dallas acquired Irving, Doncic wished former teammates Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith well and expressed excitement about teaming up with his new backcourt mate.

“We’ll obviously miss them here, but Kyrie’s Kyrie, man,” Doncic said, per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon. “NBA champion. Probably the best ball handler ever in the game. Amazing player, and he’s going to be fun to play with.”

Doncic said on Friday that he was still experiencing pain in the heel, but added that it felt “way better every day.”

Injury Notes: Garland, Powell, Simons, Shamet, Mavs

Cavaliers point guard Darius Garland will be sidelined for Friday’s rematch with the Heat in Miami, according to Chris Fedor of Garland was originally listed as questionable with a right quad contusion, but was unable to go through shootaround. The injury is considered relatively minor, sources tell Fedor.

Garland appeared to suffer the contusion early in the fourth quarter of Cleveland’s initial matchup with Miami on Wednesday, notes Danny Cunningham of ESPN Cleveland (Twitter video link). He was hit in the leg by Bam Adebayo‘s moving screen, which was called a foul.

The Cavs confirmed (via Twitter) that Garland would be sidelined on Friday, with Caris LeVert taking his place in the starting lineup. Garland is having an outstanding fourth season, averaging 22.0 PPG, 2.7 RPG, 7.9 APG and 1.3 SPG on an excellent .471/.430/.860 shooting line through 58 games (35.2 MPG).

Here are a few more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • Clippers guard Norman Powell will miss at least one more week, which is when he’ll be reeavaluated, tweets ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk. The eight-year veteran continues to receive treatment for his left shoulder subluxation. He is the team’s third-leading scorer at 16.6 PPG, posting a strong shooting line of .475/.410/.803 through 54 games (25.8 MPG), primarily as a reserve.
  • Trail Blazers guard Anfernee Simons returned to the starting lineup for Friday’s matchup in Philadelphia, the team announced (via Twitter). He had missed the previous four games after aggravating an ankle sprain.
  • Backup guard Landry Shamet continues to be hampered by right foot soreness, having last played on January 16. He will be reevaluated in one week, the Suns announced (Twitter link via Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports).
  • The Mavericks might be without their two star players on Saturday in Memphis, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Luka Doncic (left thigh strain) has already been ruled out, while Kyrie Irving is questionable with right foot soreness. Irving missed Friday’s practice for personal reasons, per MacMahon, but head coach Jason Kidd was hopeful he might be able to rejoin the team on Saturday. Doncic is considered day-to-day after his MRI results showed no damage, MacMahon adds.

Southwest Notes: Irving, Doncic, Brooks, Popovich

Before he took the court for his first game with the Mavericks Wednesday night, Kyrie Irving talked to reporters about what went wrong in Brooklyn, writes Joe Vardon of The Athletic. Irving said there were times he felt “very disrespected” by the Nets during his tumultuous three and a half years with the organization. He admitted he was at an impasse with the team in extension negotiations and claimed he wasn’t “getting transparency and honesty from people in the front office.”

“I worked extremely hard at what I do,” Irving said. “No one ever talks about my work ethic though. Everyone talks about what I’m doing off the floor. So I just wanted to change that narrative, write my own story.”

Irving’s off-court behavior dominated the headlines during his time in Brooklyn, highlighted by his inability to play for much of last season due to his refusal to get the COVID-19 vaccine and his suspension in November for his online promotion of an antisemitic film. Irving added that he wishes he had done more research on the Nets’ front office before he and Kevin Durant opted to sign with the team in 2019.

“I left them in fourth place — I did what I was supposed to do,” he said. “I took care of my teammates, was incredibly, incredibly selfless. And in my approach to leading, I just want to do all the right things for myself, not to appease anybody.”

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • It didn’t take long for Irving to impress his new Mavericks coaches and teammates, notes Tim MacMahon of ESPN. With Luka Doncic missing his third straight game due to a right heel contusion, Irving delivered 24 points and five assists in a road win against the Clippers. “That’s how talented he is,” head coach Jason Kidd said. “He makes things look easy. He works on his craft. He’s a pro, up for any challenge.”
  • Mavericks owner Mark Cuban expressed confidence that Irving and Doncic can work together despite both being ball-dominant guards and said Doncic was fully on board with making the trade, per Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News. “Go for it. We need talent,” Cuban responded when asked about Doncic’s stance on the deal. “He’s a Hall of Fame player, and I’d love to play with talent. Why would you not want to play with him?”
  • Dillon Brooks‘ teammates came to his defense after he was booed by the home crowd Tuesday in the midst of a bad shooting night, according to Mark Giannotto of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Brooks’ combination of erratic offense and tenacious defense makes him a polarizing player among Grizzlies fans, creating a difficult decision for general manager Zach Kleiman on whether to try to trade him before today’s deadline.
  • The Spurs made one significant trade late Wednesday night, sending Jakob Poeltl to the Raptors, and longtime coach Gregg Popovich said he has confidence in general manager Brian Wright’s ability to reshape the team, writes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News.

Southwest Notes: Irving, Doncic, Williamson, Pelicans Injuries, Morant

The Mavericks are 0-2 thus far with Luka Doncic and Kyrie Irving playing together but the former Net believes their partnership will be very fruitful, according to Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News.

I can say this about Luka — he scored the ball extremely well. He gets everybody involved very easily, and he plays at his own pace, as we’ve said it over the last few years,” Irving said. “But his IQ is something that I’m really looking forward to learning more about, and just picking his brain. He’s 23 years old. He’s seen a lot, but he still has more room to grow and more room to improve. He’s as great as he is now, but just imagine what he’s going to look like in three years, playing with some high-level guys.”

Irving said Mavericks president of basketball operations Nico Harrison wanted him for, among other things, his leadership, Caplan tweets.

“I know they wanted me for my work ethic, for my leadership abilities and also my consistency in what I bring to the team,” he said.

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • All-Star Weekend hasn’t featured a lot of big names for its dunk contest in recent years but that could change next season. Pelicans forward Zion Williamson said if he ever decides to enter, it will happen next season, he told Riley Jones of ’I’ll think about it. I’ll put heavy consideration into doing the dunk contest,” he said. “I feel like if I am going to do it, I’d probably do it next year.”
  • The Pelicans overhauled their training staff in 2019, yet it hasn’t translated into better health for their players, Christian Clark of the New Orleans Times-Picayune notes. Pelicans players – including stars Williamson and Brandon Ingram – have missed 195 games because of injury this season, the third-highest mark in the NBA. VP of basketball operations David Griffin doesn’t blame the medical staff for the rash of injuries. “I think our medical staff has done a really, really good job,” Griffin said. “Unfortunately, they got caught up in people counting games missed due to injury. When somebody does something to a ligament or to a bone, that’s sort of out of their control.”
  • Ja Morant says “I’m ready” for the challenge the Suns will present with Kevin Durant in their lineup, he told NBA TV’s Dennis Scott (hat tip to Evan Barnes of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.) Morant also says he’s unconcerned about the Grizzlies quickly becoming the league’s most hated team, though he personally looks to avoid more controversy. “I don’t care no more. I’m protecting my energy. I’m not replying to no more nonsense,” he said. “I’m not trying to get no more techs this year. Not trying to get in no more altercations, none of that.”

Southwest Notes: Doncic, Wood, Valanciunas, Branham, JJJ

Luka Doncic is out tonight against the Warriors and Monday against the Jazz, but the Mavericks are optimistic that his right heel contusion won’t sideline him much longer, writes Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News. Coach Jason Kidd told reporters that Doncic underwent an MRI on Friday, and the team hasn’t ruled out the possibility that he might play later in its five-game road trip, which runs through next Saturday.

“Luka — right heel contusion —healing, day to day, doing better, but will not join us in Utah,” Kidd said. “We’ll see where he’s at after that Utah game.”

Kidd also provided a few other injury updates, saying that Christian Wood participated in a 5-on-5 scrimmage Friday without a setback and could be ready to play by Monday. Maxi Kleber took part in a 1-on-1 workout for the first time since having surgery on his right hamstring in mid-December. Kidd said Davis Bertans will “probably” be sidelined through the All-Star break after straining his left calf in Thursday’s game.

There’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • The Mavericks appear willing to discuss a two-year extension with Wood, but probably nothing longer, ESPN’s Tim MacMahon said on Zach Lowe’s podcast. MacMahon is skeptical that a better deal exists in free agency, saying the teams he has talked to are showing limited interest in Wood. He also identifies Wood as the rotation player that Dallas is most likely to trade before Thursday’s deadline, although he’s not sure the team can find equal value in return.
  • Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas will undergo an MRI Sunday morning after leaving tonight’s game with a right knee injury, tweets Andrew Lopez of ESPN.
  • Spurs guard Malaki Branham reached new career scoring highs twice this week, notes Tom Orsborn of The San Antonio Express-News. San Antonio has seen a lot of progress from Branham, who was selected with the first-round pick the team received when it sent Thaddeus Young to the Raptors at last year’s deadline. “Things are just slowing down, picking my spots on the court, and doing what I know how to do,” Branham said. “That’s just as simple as it gets.”
  • In an interview posted on the Memphis Commercial Appeal website, Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. talks about the excitement of heading to his first All-Star Game and a possible matchup against teammate Ja Morant.

Mavericks Notes: Ross, Irving, Harrison, Doncic, Trade Breakdown

The Mavericks thought they had a verbal commitment from Terrence Ross after the veteran wing secured a buyout from the Magic, Marc Stein reports in a Substack story.

Dallas found out on Saturday night that Ross chose the Suns instead. It’s possible that Ross had a financial motive, since Phoenix had leftover money from its midlevel exception while Dallas could only offer the prorated veteran minimum, but we still don’t know what his deal with the Suns will look like.

The Mavs pivoted to Justin Holiday after getting spurned by Ross.

We have more on the Mavericks:

  • Kyrie Irving had a message for the media during his introductory news conference on Monday. He requested that they not ask about his future plans beyond this season, Tim MacMahon of ESPN relays. Irving will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. “It puts unwarranted distractions on us and our team,” Irving said. “I’ve dealt with it before, and it’s very emotionally draining to ask questions like, ‘What’s the long term? What’s the long term?'”
  • Even though Irving could turn out to be a rental, GM Nico Harrison said he had no qualms about acquiring the mercurial guard, MacMahon tweets. “I don’t see any risk at all. I actually see risk in not doing it,” Harrison said.
  • The Athletic’s Tim Cato takes a look at the early returns on the Luka Doncic-Irving partnership. Cato notes that the trade has eaten into the Mavs’ depth and has created more defensive issues. On the flip side, the offense has hummed when they’ve played together and the team is more competitive when Doncic needs a breather.
  • While the Mavs are 0-2 with Doncic and Irving playing together, Doncic is excited about his new backcourt partner, MacMahon writes. “He’s an amazing basketball player, and I think it’s going to be really fun,” Doncic said.
  • In a story for, Eric Pincus breaks down all the financial aspects of the Kyrie trade with the Nets, including the math behind Irving’s and Finney-Smith’s trade bonuses.

Suns Notes: Durant, Irving, Booker, Roster Depth

Playing his first close game since joining the Suns, Kevin Durant provided a reminder of what a dangerous clutch-time scorer he can be, writes Duane Rankin of The Arizona Republic. Durant had 37 points in Sunday’s win at Dallas and hit a tough jumper over Tim Hardaway Jr. with 12.4 seconds remaining that proved to be the game-winner.

“Once I had him on my hip, I felt like I was in good position to just stop on a dime,” Durant said. “Glad I made it.”

In just his third game since returning from an MCL sprain, Durant was supposed to be on a minutes restriction. However, coach Monty Williams allowed him to stay on the court for 40 minutes as the game remained close throughout.

“I was out there for a while,” Durant said. “I didn’t look over to (Williams) on purpose. I wanted to keep playing, but I’m glad he trusted me out there. Glad the training staff trusted me. Hopefully we can build on this from here.”

There’s more on the Suns:

  • There was drama surrounding Sunday’s game because it marked the first meeting between Durant and Kyrie Irving since they both asked the Nets for a trade last month. But Durant said afterward that he had “no emotions at all,” noting that he played against Irving many times before they teamed up in Brooklyn, Rankin adds. In an appearance on ESPN’s “Get Up” Monday morning (video link), Brian Windhorst observed that Durant and Irving didn’t interact at all during the game, adding, “The only relationship they have right now is zero relationship.”
  • The Suns’ rivalry with the Mavericks was punctuated by a verbal altercation between Devin Booker and Luka Doncic late in Sunday’s game, per Tim MacMahon of ESPN. After Doncic missed a floater in the final seconds that would have tied the score, he took exception to a comment from Booker and they went nose to nose before being separated. “You guys say you don’t want everybody to be friendly-friendly,” Booker told reporters. “Here you go. We got some smoke.”
  • The Suns are considered to be among the favorites in the West after adding Durant, but they’ll need to overcome a lack of depth after giving up important rotation pieces in the trade with Brooklyn, Windhorst writes in an ESPN story. He notes that Josh Okogie, who has been inserted into the starting lineup, missed all eight of his three-point attempts Sunday, while Torrey Craig was just 1-of-4 from beyond the arc.

Southwest Notes: Doncic, Mavs, Daniels, Pelicans, Bane

Mavericks star Luka Doncic, who sustained a left ankle sprain on Thursday, has been ruled out for Saturday’s game in Utah, the team announced (via Twitter). However, the expectation is that Doncic won’t be sidelined for much – if any – additional time beyond that game.

Appearing on NBA Today on Friday (video link), ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski said that a worst-case scenario for Doncic would probably be missing two games: tonight’s contest in Utah and Monday’s vs. Detroit. After that, the Mavericks aren’t back in action until next Thursday, when they host New Orleans, so Doncic would have had a full week to rest an ankle sprain that Woj describes as “mild.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • As the trade deadline nears, it will be tricky for the Mavericks to balance their desire to improve this year’s roster with a “future-focused approach,” writes Tim Cato of The Athletic. As Cato outlines, a deal for a veteran like Bojan Bogdanovic would upgrade this year’s roster, but Dallas likely won’t be inclined to move a future first-round pick at the deadline for a player who would only serve the club’s short-term interests.
  • After spraining his right ankle on Tuesday vs. Denver, Pelicans rookie Dyson Daniels is expected to be out for “a little bit of time,” head coach Willie Green said this week, per Andrew Lopez of ESPN (Twitter link). That timeline is pretty vague, but Daniels missed Wednesday’s game and has been ruled out for Saturday.
  • Last season’s CJ McCollum trade buoyed the Pelicans down the stretch and helped them earn a playoff spot. Given that the team has so many trade assets still on hand, Christian Clark of wonders whether another in-season trade is inevitable.
  • Grizzlies wing Desmond Bane was unavailable for Friday’s game against Minnesota due to right knee soreness, per Evan Barnes of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Bane missed time earlier in the season due to a right big toe injury and sat out one game with right ankle soreness, but this is the first time his knee has prevented him from suiting up.

Luka Doncic Day-To-Day After Spraining Ankle

11:01am: Doncic’s sprain is considered “mild” and he’ll be day-to-day going forward, sources tell ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (Twitter link).

7:43am: On the same night that he was announced as an All-Star starter, Mavericks guard Luka Doncic exited his team’s win over Phoenix early in the first quarter due to a sprained left ankle, per Callie Caplan of The Dallas Morning News.

Doncic sustained the injury when he stepped on the foot of Suns forward Mikal Bridges about three minutes into Thursday’s game. He checked out of the contest shortly thereafter and didn’t return.

Any injury to a team’s franchise player is a cause for major concern, but the Mavericks expressed optimism after the game about Doncic’s outlook. As Tim MacMahon of ESPN writes, X-rays on the ankle were negative and head coach Jason Kidd said the Mavs star was in “good spirits.”

“He looked good, he looked fine,” Kidd said. “But we’ll see how he feels as we go forward.”

Doncic’s backcourt partner Spencer Dinwiddie told reporters, including Caplan, that Luka’s injury doesn’t appear to be one that will force him to sit out for an extended period.

“I don’t know if he’ll be back next game, or if he’ll miss a couple or something like that,” Dinwiddie said. “But it ain’t no cause for where we’re like, ‘Oh no, we’re about to go on a 10-game stretch without LD.’ He’s going to heal up nicely. He’s a young kid. Although he likes to think he’s old, he’s not.”

While the Mavs wait for further clarity on Doncic’s outlook, they can expect to be without another key player for the next few games. Kidd said on Thursday night that Christian Wood (fractured left thumb) will remain on the shelf for at least another week, according to Caplan. Wood has missed Dallas’ last four contests.

“I think it’s just week to week, just to see how the healing goes,” Kidd said before Thursday’s game. “It’s been a week now, so we’ll give you another update in a week just to see if there’s been any healing or improvement there.”

Kyrie Irving Trade Notes: Durant, Doncic, LeBron, Grades

The Kyrie Irving trade may lead to a flurry of deals before Thursday’s deadline, but John Hollinger of The Athletic expects most teams to hold onto their first-round picks in case three of the NBA’s biggest stars become available this summer.

It’s barely been seven months since Kevin Durant‘s last trade demand, and even if he doesn’t request it, Hollinger believes the Nets may consider moving him in the offseason. Durant will turn 35 in September, and Hollinger points out that he’s the only star left on a Brooklyn team that no longer looks like a contender and may not have the draft assets to pull off a major addition.

Hollinger also expects rival teams to start monitoring Luka Doncic‘s happiness in Dallas, especially if the Irving deal backfires. He cites league executives who speculated over the past week that acquiring Irving could be toxic for the Mavericks on the theory that he could eventually cause Doncic to ask to leave, the same way James Harden did in Brooklyn when he was paired with Irving. Even if Irving turns out to be a short-term addition, Dallas parted with two rotation players plus draft capital in the deal and doesn’t have an obvious path to improve.

The third star worth watching, according to Hollinger, is LeBron James, who tweeted “Maybe It’s Me” on Sunday after seeing the Lakers miss another opportunity to add talent. James was reportedly a strong proponent of trading for Irving, his former teammate in Cleveland.

There’s more on the Irving deal:

  • Even though they gave up the best player in the deal, Kevin O’Connor of the Ringer believes the Nets are in a better position. Spencer Dinwiddie and Dorian Finney-Smith provide additional depth, giving the team possibly 12 players capable of handling regular rotation minutes. O’Connor adds that Brooklyn could still use a backup center and states that the organization still has interest in the TimberwolvesNaz Reid.
  • The Durant-Irving era, which began when both players signed with the Nets in 2019, will go down as a disappointment, says Adam Zagoria of Even after adding another All-Star by trading for Harden in 2021, Brooklyn managed to win just one playoff series. Zagoria notes that this time will always be a “what if?” for Nets fans.
  • Bobby Marks of ESPN considers the trade a “win-win” for both teams (video link). He argues that Brooklyn got at least one starter, and maybe two, in return for Irving, while Dallas is taking an understandable chance to upgrade its talent level.
  • In grading the deal, Zach Harper of The Athletic gives the Mavericks a C-plus because of the risk involved and the Nets a B, as long as the deal doesn’t alienate Durant.
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