Fred VanVleet

Ben Simmons “In Step” With Sixers’ Trade Efforts

Ben Simmons and his agent – Klutch Sports CEO Rich Paul – are “in step” with the Sixers‘ efforts to trade the 25-year-old to a new team, reports ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski (via Twitter).

Sources tell Wojnarowski that the 76ers continue to canvass the NBA exploring potential trades involving Simmons and have established a “steep” asking price. While a draft-night trade is a possibility, the discussions may continue into the summer, according to Wojnarowski.

It remains unclear which teams will emerge as the most serious suitors for Simmons. A report earlier today indicated that the Heat, Wizards, and Raptors are possibilities. However, a subsequent report threw cold water on the Miami scenario, and Washington is likely only a realistic landing spot if Bradley Beal is going to Philadelphia — so far, there’s no indication Beal wants out of D.C.

Toronto’s interest in Simmons has been reported by multiple outlets, though it’s unclear if there’s a realistic match between the two division rivals.

Matt Moore of ActionNetwork.com reported earlier this week that the Sixers proposed a framework that included Kyle Lowry (via sign-and-trade), Fred VanVleet, OG Anunoby, and the fourth overall pick, which Toronto obviously rejected. If that report is accurate and Philadelphia’s asking price remains anywhere near that high, it’s probably safe to assume the Raptors will look elsewhere for roster upgrades.

Meanwhile, as Jeff Garcia of News 4 San Antonio relays, Kevin O’Connor said on The Ringer’s The Mismatch podcast that the Sixers are rumored to have asked the Spurs for four first-round picks, three pick swaps, and a young player in exchange for Simmons.

O’Connor added that he doesn’t expect Simmons to be moved unless Sixers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey drastically lowers his asking price or a player like Beal or Trail Blazers star Damian Lillard becomes available and Philadelphia uses Simmons as the centerpiece of an offer.

Atlantic Notes: Blake, Thibs, FVV, Randle

Nets power forward/center Blake Griffin‘s role will increase with recently-inked starting center LaMarcus Aldridge now retired, as Peter Botte of the New York Post details.

“It’s not so much about, ‘It’s my time’ or anything like that. It’s just, when your name is called and when you’re asked to do something, you be ready and do it,” Griffin said of his increased opportunities with the Nets. “And that’s sort of our mindset here is everybody has their part. You’ve got to stay ready and execute when you’re called.”

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau is striving to keep his club dialed in with the playoffs in sight, according to Ian Begley of SNY.tv. Thibodeau has guided the Knicks to six straight victories during the season’s home stretch. The club is now 31-27, the No. 6 seed in the East, and just 0.5 games behind the fourth-seeded Hawks for home court advantage in the first round of the playoffs. “We try not to get wrapped up in any of that stuff,” Thibodeau said after winning the team’s fifth straight game Friday. “If we’re taking care of all the little things, the big things will take care of themselves. Just stack good days.”
  • Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, in the first season of his new four-year, $85MM contract with Toronto-by-way-of-Tampa, has criticized the NBA’s treatment of a truncated 2020/21 season in the midst of a pandemic, writes Eric Koreen of The Athletic. “It’s pretty much all about business this year on every level and it’s hard to hide it, you know what I’m saying?” VanVleet said. “The NBA is a great balance of like the pure love and joy of one of the best sports in the world mixed with a billion-dollar industry, and I think this year the industry side has taken precedence over some of the love and the joy.”
  • All-Star Knicks forward Julius Randle is proving his doubters wrong with a career season at age 26, writes Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. Randle, who appears to be well worth the three-year, $63MM deal he signed with New York in 2019, detailed how he has improved his approach for the improved Knicks. “It’s not just about the weight room and the court. I’m going to handle that,” Randle said Friday. “But my mentality and my mindset was just different. So I changed that aspect as well. And the results are showing.” Randle is averaging 23.6 PPG, 10.6 RPG and 6.0 APG for the Knicks, all career-bests. He is also connecting on 41% of his 5.1 three-point attempts per game.

Atlantic Notes: Tatum, Knicks, Tolliver, VanVleet, Raptors

It’s been about three months since Jayson Tatum tested positive for COVID-19, but the Celtics forward is still dealing with the aftereffects of the virus, he acknowledged on Tuesday, per Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

“It’s a process. It takes a long time,” Tatum said. “I take an inhaler before the game since I’ve tested positive. This has kind of helped with that and opened up my lungs, and, you know, I never took an inhaler before. So that’s something different.”

Tatum said he “for sure” feels better now than he did a month ago, though he admitted he’s not sure when he’ll be able to stop using an inhaler before games.

“There’s no exact timetable,” Tatum said. “(It’s) just when I feel comfortable enough and I think I don’t need it.”

  • The Knicks had internal discussions last week about the possibility of adding Anthony Tolliver, per Marc Berman of The New York Post. As Berman explains, New York was looking for a player who could play the center position, and Tolliver – who ended up signing with Philadelphia – is more of a forward.
  • Raptors head coach Nick Nurse said on Tuesday that there was no timeline for Fred VanVleet‘s return from a hip injury, as Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca tweets. However, according to Blake Murphy of The Athletic (Twitter link), VanVleet will serve his one-game suspension on Wednesday. Because VanVleet was suspended while injured, he wasn’t able to serve the one-game ban until he was cleared to play, so it sounds like his return may be imminent.
  • Besides missing VanVleet tonight, the Raptors will also be without Kyle Lowry (rest/toe) and Gary Trent Jr. (ankle), Murphy notes (via Twitter). Despite a brutal 4-17 slump, Toronto is still just two games out of the 10th seed in the East, but injuries have prevented the team from making a push for a play-in spot.

VanVleet, Bembry, Horton-Tucker Receive One-Game Suspensions

The NBA has suspended three players – Raptors guards Fred VanVleet and DeAndre’ Bembry, along with Lakers guard Talen Horton-Tucker – for one game apiece, the league announced today in a press release.

The three players left the bench area during an on-court altercation during the Raptors/Lakers game on Tuesday (video link). After Dennis Schröder committed a foul on a OG Anunoby shot attempt, the two players got tangled up and Anunoby grabbed Schroder by the leg, flipping him to the ground. Players from both teams entered the fray at that point.

According to today’s announcement, Anunoby received a $30K fine for initiating the incident, while Lakers big man Montrezl Harrell has been docked $20K for aggressively entering the altercation and shoving Raptors guard Gary Trent Jr.

As Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets, the one-game suspension will be costliest for VanVleet, who will forfeit $146,552 of his salary. Bembry ($11,980) and Horton-Tucker ($10,469) will also each lose one game’s worth of pay.

Horton-Tucker and Bembry will serve their suspensions tonight, while VanVleet will serve his one-game ban once he’s healthy and ready to return from his hip ailment.

Although they’ll be missing Horton-Tucker, and Kyle Kuzma is listed as questionable with calf tightness, the Lakers will get some reinforcements for Thursday’s contest vs. Miami, as head coach Frank Vogel said today that both Ben McLemore (protocols) and Andre Drummond (toe) will be available (Twitter link via Mike Trudell).

Atlantic Notes: Aldridge, Celtics, Thibs, Raptors

Speaking to reporters for the first time since signing with the Nets, big man LaMarcus Aldridge discussed his willingness to fulfill whatever role Brooklyn has in mind for him, according to Ryan Dunleavy of the New York Post. Aldridge started at center in his Nets debut tonight, a 111-89 victory over the Hornets. He scored 11 points on 4-of-10 shooting from the field, pulled down nine rebounds, and dished out six dimes.

“I’m just trying to bring value, try to bring the things I’m good at, and trying to help this team win,” Aldridge said to reporters following a Nets practice Tuesday. “I’m not worried about being an All-Star anymore.

“If you could start, you’re always going to want to start,” Aldridge added of his potential role with the Nets. “As far as minutes, I think if you go out and you compete and you do everything you can, everything is going to be fine. And we’re all here to win, so it’s not about that.”

Aldridge did draw the start tonight. Nicolas Claxton earned the lion’s share of bench minutes at center, and DeAndre Jordan was a healthy scratch. The team rested oft-injured veteran power forward Blake Griffin given that the game took place on the second night of a back-to-back.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • The Celtics did not acquire their top trade or buyout targets, and rival front office executives believe their days as a top East threat may be over for now, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of Bleacher Report. Boston had to settle for the third-most coveted Orlando trade target in shooting guard Evan Fournier, and was unable to lure big men Andre Drummond or LaMarcus Aldridge on the buyout market. That doesn’t mean the team won’t continue trying to build around All-Stars Jayson Tatum and Jaylen Brown in the months ahead, however. “I would be very surprised if [Celtics team president Danny Ainge] doesn’t make a big, bold move this summer,” an Eastern Conference executive opined.
  • Steve Popper of Newsday discusses how Knicks head coach Tom Thibodeau used his ill-fated tenure with the Timberwolves to improve his methodology, New York’s recent 102-101 loss to Minnesota notwithstanding. “For me, I loved having the opportunity to step away [after being let go in Minnesota],” Thibodeau had commented during his first press conference as Knicks head coach. “Part of it was just to recharge and get away and relax, and the other part was to learn. Whatever your circumstances are at that particular time, you try to make of those.”
  • Several big Raptors contributors, including Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam, are struggling with the aftereffects of COVID-19 as they try to work themselves back into NBA condition, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. “There’s spurts where we play high-level basketball and spurts where we suck, and it’s just fighting uphill,” VanVleet said after the Raptors’ 113-103 loss to the rebuilding Thunder Wednesday night. The club posted a 1-13 record in March, but are currently just two games behind the Bulls for the No. 10 seed and a play-in berth in the East.

Raptors Notes: VanVleet, Siakam, Anunoby, Powell

The Raptors had four players – including starters Fred VanVleet and Pascal Siakam – cleared from the NBA’s health and safety protocols for Wednesday’s game, allowing their rotation to regain some semblance of normalcy, writes Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca. However, VanVleet and Siakam were predictably rusty in their returns, shooting a combined 5-of-24 from the floor in a loss to Detroit.

The loss was Toronto’s sixth straight, dropping the club’s record to 17-23 just one week away from the trade deadline. While the belief is that the Raptors are a better team than their record has shown, the front office will have to make some big decisions at the deadline, so there won’t be much time to assess the roster once it gets back to full strength, Grange notes.

Here’s more on the Raptors:

  • The one player who remained out on Wednesday due to the health and safety protocols was OG Anunoby. However, he traveled to Detroit and the hope is that he’ll be cleared to play vs. Utah on Friday, Grange tweets.
  • Blake Murphy of The Athletic weighs the pros and cons of trading Norman Powell, who will be eligible for unrestricted free agency at season’s end and is making a strong case for a lucrative new deal, with 19.7 PPG on .500/.446/.875 shooting this season. Multiple teams have inquired on Powell, according to Murphy, who wrote his article before the swingman went off for 43 points on Wednesday, further complicating the equation.
  • The NBA has rescheduled a pair of Raptors games, the league announced in a press release. The February 28 game vs. the Bulls that was postponed has been moved to April 8, while an April 9 game vs. Cleveland has been pushed back to April 10.

Atlantic Notes: Sixers, VanVleet, Ainge, KD

As the Sixers head toward the NBA trade deadline, Derek Bodner and Rich Hoffman of The Athletic catalogue just which players Philadelphia’s revamped front office might be willing to move. Unsurprisingly, Bodner and Hoffman do not think the 28-12 Sixers will be willing to trade All-Stars Joel Embiid or Ben Simmons this season.

Conversely, Danny Green, Mike Scott, Terrance Ferguson, and Vincent Poirier are all earmarked as possible trade candidates for salary-matching purposes in hypothetical outgoing deals. Bodner and Hoffman think that the Sixers will be reluctant to move Shake Milton, Tobias Harris and Seth Curry, as those players probably have more value to Philadelphia than they would in a trade.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Yesterday, Celtics team president Danny Ainge claimed that trade chatter around the NBA has been relatively quiet, but that he anticipated talks to heat up next week, tweets Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe. There have already been three trades agreed upon today.
  • Raptors guard Fred VanVleet, who returned to the court for Toronto tonight, detailed his bout with COVID-19, as Doug Smith of the Toronto Star details. VanVleet dealt with a sore back and body, plus a high fever. “I wouldn’t wish it on anybody,” he said. “I’m just happy to be back with the team right now.”
  • Nets head coach Steve Nash says that All-Star forward Kevin Durant remains a few weeks away from a return to game action, according to Malika Andrews of ESPN. Durant continues to recover from a right hamstring strain that has kept him sidelined since February 13. “We’re monitoring it and expect him to make a full recovery,” Nash said. “And hopefully it won’t be too long. But he’s probably got a couple weeks of ramp-up left.”

Raptors’ Starters Siakam, VanVleet Cleared To Practice

The Raptors, who have been decimated by the league’s health and safety protocols, are getting closer to having their team back at full strength.

Starters Pascal Siakam and Fred VanVleet, as well as reserves Malachi Flynn and Patrick McCaw, have been cleared to practice on Tuesday, ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski tweets. The Raptors play at Detroit on Wednesday.

That leaves only OG Anunoby remaining under the COVID-19 restrictions. He’s listed as out for Wednesday’s game by the team, according to Blake Murphy of The Athletic (Twitter link). VanVleet is listed as doubtful to play, while Siakam, Flynn, McCaw are listed as questionable.

Toronto’s coaching staff, including Nick Nurse, were also placed under those protocols during the week leading up to the All-Star break.

The team’s fortunes have nosedived while playing shorthanded. The Raptors have lost five straight to fall five games below .500.

Injury/Protocol Notes: Reddish, Durant, Thompson, Raptors

Hawks forward Cam Reddish reportedly received a PRP injection earlier this month and was ruled out for at least two weeks at that time, per general manager Travis Schlenk. However, it sounds like Reddish’s absence will extend well beyond that window.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic, Reddish has an initial recovery timeline of four-to-six weeks following the non-surgical procedure to address his right Achilles soreness. Even if we assume one of those weeks has already passed, it still sounds like we won’t see Reddish back on the court until sometime in April.

Here are a few more updates from around the NBA on players who are injured or in the league’s health and safety protocols:

  • Nets star Kevin Durant is expected to miss another week or two as the team takes a cautious approach to his left hamstring strain, sources tell Charania. Durant has now been on the shelf for over a month, but it hasn’t slowed down Brooklyn at all — the team has won 10 of its last 11 games.
  • As we relayed on Sunday, Warriors sharpshooter Klay Thompson is aiming to return early next season from his Achilles tear. However, he admitted that he’s not expecting to look like his old self right away. I’ll be honest, I don’t expect to come back balls-to-the-wall, 38 minutes a night, guarding the best player, running around 100 screens,” Thompson said (video link via Anthony Slater of The Athletic). “I’m going to get to that point. I guarantee that. But… it might be 20 minutes to start the season… We’ll see where I’m at. This is usually a 12-month process with the Achilles and that’ll take me to mid-November.”
  • Raptors head coach Nick Nurse expects his five players in the health and safety protocols – Fred VanVleet, Pascal Siakam, OG Anunoby, Patrick McCaw, and Malachi Flynn – to all return at some point this week, according to Doug Smith of The Toronto Star, who says some of those players are out of quarantine and doing work in the team’s gym.

Atlantic Notes: Raptors, Barrett, Smart, Rose, Knicks

The Raptors were severely short-handed prior to the All-Star break due to the league’s health and safety protocols and those issues will carry over to this weekend. Starters Pascal Siakam, Fred VanVleet and OG Anunoby, as well as Patrick McCaw and Malachi Flynn, won’t play against Charlotte on Saturday, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets. They’re also expected to miss Sunday’s game against Chicago.

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks guard RJ Barrett plans to play for Team Canada in the Olympic qualifying tournament this summer, Mike Vorkunov of The Athletic tweets. Barrett is optimistic about Team Canada’s prospects. “We got an All-NBA team,” Barrett said.
  • Marcus Smart‘s return from a calf strain provides the Celtics with more offensive versatility, according to Jared Weiss of The Athletic. The Celtics can now put four scorers on the floor who can create plays off the dribble. Smart also solves many of the team’s spacing issues with his hard cuts to the basket, Weiss adds.
  • The Knicks, who acquired Derrick Rose last month, will continue to look for upgrades before the trade deadline, coach Tom Thibodeau told Vorkunov and other media members. “I have a strong bias towards good players,” he said. “I know (the front office is) looking at all the possibilities. If something makes sense for us, we’ll do it.” Rose will miss the team’s game against the Thunder on Saturday due to the league’s health and safety protocols, Vorkunov tweets.