Dion Waiters Makes Impression In Season Debut

Injuries forced the Heat to give Dion Waiters his first playing time of this season Friday, and he responded with a performance that might result in more opportunities, writes David Wilson of The Miami Herald. Waiters had 14 points and four rebounds in 18 minutes and nearly helped Miami pull off a comeback against the Clippers. He blocked a pair of late shots, then hit a 3-pointer with 34 seconds left that brought the Heat to within three points.

“He’s got big cajones, man, and you can definitely see it in his swagger,” Bam Adebayo said. “That’s what Dion’s all about: making the big shots, big plays and he’s built for those moments.”

Waiters’ chance came because Miami was short on wing players with Kendrick Nunn and Goran Dragic sidelined with injuries and Jimmy Butler leaving the game with a sprained ankle. There had been speculation that Waiters may not play at all this season because of off-the-court issues that included three separate suspensions. His contract, which carries a $12.65MM salary for next season, was considered virtually untradeable, and the Heat reportedly decided against trying to have it voided only because they didn’t want a confrontation with the players’ union.

Waiters now has a chance to escape the doghouse in Miami after learning that he would be active for Friday’s game when coach Erik Spoelstra sent him a FaceTime message earlier in the day. After the game, Spoelstra called him a “fearless” player who embraces the opportunity to make big plays. Waiters didn’t speak to the media, but is expected to be available following tomorrow’s practice.

“He definitely has been putting the work in behind the scenes. He has done his best to be a true professional,” Meyers Leonard said. “Had K-Nunn and Goran not been out, I don’t know if Dion comes in, but that’s part of being in the NBA. People get hurt, that’s when people get opportunities. People don’t play well and that’s when people get opportunities.”

Spoelstra On Butler Not Being All-Star Game Starter: ‘It’s A Joke’

After the All-Star game starters were announced earlier this week, Heat swingman Jimmy Butler was not among those voted to get the starting nod. Miami head coach Erik Spoelstra took exception to Butler’s snub, ESPN’s Nick Friedell writes.

Spoelstra stressed Butler’s flexibility in the Heat lineup and being able to essentially play all five positions as needed. The Heat coach expressed hope that voting changes in the future to not limit players based on position alone.

“These are such antiquated labels that I feel like we’ve moved on from that years ago when we started talking about positionless [players],” he said. “But either way, regardless of how you want to label it or discuss it, Jimmy Butler should be a starter in this All-Star Game. It’s a joke that he’s not. Hopefully this will change things in the future.”

Butler, 30, is in the midst of his first season in South Beach. The four-time All-Star is averaging 20.3 PPG along with a career-high 7.0 RPG and 6.5 APG. He has been a focal point in helping the Heat to a 31-14 record, tied with the defending NBA champion Raptors for second place in the Eastern Conference.

Butler left the Heat’s Friday loss to the Clippers due to a sprained ankle.

“You have to wait until the next day to see how a guy feels,” Spoelstra said.

Mavs Acquire Center Willie Cauley-Stein

JAN 25: The trade for Willie Cauley-Stein is official, according to the Mavericks’ PR account (Twitter link).

JAN 24: The Mavericks are finalizing a deal to acquire center Willie Cauley-Stein from the Warriors, Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN tweets.

Golden State will receive a 2020 second-rounder from the Jazz, which Utah owed to Dallas, in return for the big man, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania. The Warriors don’t own their own second-rounders from 2020-26 except for the 2022 draft, so this gives them another asset, Anthony Slater of The Athletic tweets.

The Mavericks will open up a roster spot once they complete a trade agreed upon with the Thunder in which they’ll receive center Justin Patton for forward Isaiah Roby and then waive Patton.

Dallas is using its $11.7MM trade exception to acquire Cauley-Stein acquired in the Harrison Barnes deal with the Kings last season. It’s needed since Cauley-Stein was signed with part of the non-tax mid-level exception, according to Marks (Twitter link). Golden State will get a $2.17MM trade exception out of the deal.

Dallas was seeking a rotation player to replace Dwight Powell, who suffered a season-ending Achilles injury. Cauley-Stein, who is making $2.18MM this season and holds a $2.29MM option on his contract for next season, fits that role at a modest cost. He’s averaging 7.9 PPG, 6.2 RPG and 1.2 BPG in 23.0 MPG for the Warriors.

The Warriors have plenty of monetary reasons to make this deal. The deal will save them $5.66MM on their luxury-tax bill, dropping it to $9.3MM, according to Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link). Golden State, which will have two roster openings once the deal is completed, will also drop $2.57MM below the hard cap. The team will have two weeks to get back up to the league-mandated minimum of 14 players.

Lillard Remains Loyal Despite Rough Blazers Season

Damian Lillard remains committed to the Trail Blazers regardless of what they do before the trade deadline, Jason Quick of The Athletic reports.

Lillard signed a four-year, $196MM super-max extension last summer and isn’t having second thoughts about it despite Portland’s tough season. The Blazers have been hit hard by injuries and Lillard doesn’t see a big trade changing the team’s fortunes this season.

“That don’t have nothing to do with my commitment to the team,” Lillard told Quick. “I mean, it’s not like we are going to do something that is going to take us to the championship at this point. I think it’s more important for us to protect the assets we have, the guys who are going to be here and who are going to help us going forward. I don’t think it makes sense to sacrifice that just to make a desperate play.”

Lillard says he has a good relationship with GM Neil Olshey but doesn’t interfere with the front office’s business.

“I don’t like to be involved with (teammates’) futures and all that,” he said. “If it’s free agency, and (Olshey) wants to ask me about somebody — if I think they can help the team or what players I like or whatever? I’m more than happy. But you know, I stay out of Neil’s way. I let him do his job and I do mine. I will lose every game before I go in there and be like, ‘Trade this guy for that guy’ or anything like that.”

Lillard has been on fire lately, scoring a combined 108 points over the past two games. But the team is mired in 10th place in the Western Conference with a 19-27 record, a huge letdown after reaching the conference finals last season.

Lillard is hopeful the Blazers can still reach the playoffs but doesn’t see the need to sacrifice the future to make that happen.

“It’s been a tough season, but the season is not over,” he said. “We can make something of this season as we are, but it’s not worth, you know, saying ‘OK, let’s force something and go do something that at the end of the day doesn’t make sense.’ But that has nothing to do with my commitment. I said it after last game (vs. Golden State): I feel like I can find a way. I can weather the storm. I can go through hard times.”

Thunder Trade Patton, Cash To Mavs For Roby

7:08pm: The trade is official, according to a Thunder press release. The Mavericks have also issued a press release confirmed the trade.

4:03pm: The Thunder and Mavericks have agreed to a trade that will send rookie forward Isaiah Roby to Oklahoma City in exchange for center Justin Patton and cash considerations, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Though the Mavericks could use some depth in the middle in the wake of Dwight Powell‘s season-ending Achilles injury, Patton will not stick around. The Mavs made the move to clear a roster spot and intend to waive him, The Athletic’s Tim Cato tweets.

It also creates some cap flexibility going forward, Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News notes (Twitter link). Patton has a $1.62MM contract this season but the remaining two years on his deal are not guaranteed.

Roby, a second-round pick out of Nebraska, is making $1.5MM this season as well as next season and all that money is guaranteed. The last two seasons of his four-year contract — at $1.8MM and $1.9MM — are not guaranteed, Bobby Marks of ESPN tweets.

With the deal, Oklahoma City’s projected tax bill drops from $2.3MM to $2MM and the Thunder are now just $801K over the threshold, according to Marks. The team is in position to potentially sneak under the tax line at the trade deadline by moving a minimum-salary player.

Patton has appeared in nine NBA games since being drafted in the first round in 2017, including five with OKC. He has spent most of his time this season in the G League. Roby, who was acquired in a draft-night trade, has yet to make his NBA debut.

Lauri Markkanen Out 4-6 Weeks With Pelvic Injury

The Bulls‘ disappointing season has taken another unfortunate turn, as the team announced today in a press release that starting power forward Lauri Markkanen will be sidelined for the next four-to-six weeks. According to the team, an MRI on Markkanen’s hip revealed an early stress reaction of his right pelvis.

The seventh overall pick in the 2017 draft, Markkanen had a strong rookie season, but didn’t take a major step forward in his second season and has leveled off in his third year. His 15.0 PPG, 6.5 RPG, .424 FG%, and .344 3PT% in 46 games in 2019/20 are all career lows.

This is also the third consecutive season that Markkanen has battled health problems. He was limited to 68 games in his first year, then missed 30 total games at the start and end of last season due to an elbow injury and a heart issue.

The 22-year-old will become extension-eligible for the first time this offseason, so even if Chicago falls out of the playoff race, he’ll want to return sometime after the All-Star break and finish the season strong. Currently, the 17-29 Bulls are 2.5 games back of the eighth-seeded Nets.

With Markkanen, starting center Wendell Carter, and rookie big man Daniel Gafford all on the shelf, the Bulls’ frontcourt depth will be tested. The team figures to lean heavily on Luke Kornet, Thaddeus Young, and Cristiano Felicio for the time being.

Andre Iguodala “Ready To Get Back On The Court”

Andre Iguodala hasn’t played in an NBA game since suiting up for the Warriors in last June’s Finals, but he sounds ready to return to action. During an appearance on ESPN’s First Take (video link), Iguodala said he’s feeling refreshed after a long layoff.

“It’s been a blessing in disguise, in terms of having this time off. I think it’s added some years to my career,” Iguodala said. “… When you wake up in the morning in January for the last 16 years and you’re looking for the pain like, ‘Oh, there it is,’ and then you don’t have that. So it’s kind of been good.

“I’ve been on the court, I’m in shape. I’m kind of slim, so I could use, like, three-and-a-half pounds of muscle,” he added. “It’ll take me a couple days to put that on. But I’m ready to get back on the court.”

When the Warriors overhauled their roster during the 2019 offseason, Iguodala was a victim of a cap crunch and was shipped to Memphis along with his $17MM expiring contract.

Iguodala apparently had little interest in playing for the Grizzlies and Memphis’ front office was fine with him remaining away from the team, even as the young roster exceeds expectations and contends for the No. 8 seed. However, the Grizzlies still believe the former Finals MVP has positive trade value and insist they plan on moving him by the trade deadline rather than buying him out.

With February 6 now less than two weeks away, it may not be long before we know where Iguodala will finish the season. Assuming the Grizzlies are right that they can find a trade, that would reduce the list of potential landing spots for the veteran, who will turn 36 on Tuesday. The Lakers, for instance, would be a top contender for Iguodala if he reaches free agency, but don’t really have the salary-matching pieces necessary to trade for him.

For his part, Iguodala believes he can still make a positive impact on a contending team, as he told ESPN’s First Take hosts.

“I feel like I still have a lot to give,” Iguodala said. “So hopefully the right situation comes about for myself and the Memphis Grizzlies as well.”

Love: I’d Be Happy To Stay With Cavs Through Deadline

Reports this winter have repeatedly suggested that Kevin Love would like to be traded to a contender, and it’s still possible the Cavaliers will find a deal in the next couple weeks. However, sources tell Chris Fedor of that Love’s value may be higher during the offseason when it won’t be quite so tricky to move a player with his cap hit.

If that’s the case, Love may end up remaining in Cleveland for at least the rest of the 2019/20 season. And he insisted on Thursday that he wouldn’t have a problem with that.

“I will be happy if I’m still here,” Love said, per Fedor. “I fully plan on continuing to help these guys, continuing to help — Tristan (Thompson), myself, Larry (Nance Jr.), these guys, being a leader with all the veterans. And this place, Cleveland, the fans, they’ve been really, really good to me. So, yes.”

Love had a series of outbursts – including an in-game show of frustration – earlier this season, and a source tells Fedor that many aspects of the Cavs’ season have “driven him crazy.” Fedor adds that the club’s “selfish” playing style has been a source of irritation for Love, though the veteran power forward vowed a few weeks ago to “be better” when it came to expressing that frustration and being an example for Cleveland’s young players. He has been more patient since then, Fedor notes.

As has been the case all season, there’s still skepticism that the Cavs and a trade partner will see eye-to-eye on Love’s value. The big man’s expensive, long-term contract, which will have three years and $91MM left on it after this season, is a deterrent for potential suitors. But the Cavs will continue to seek at least one valuable asset – such as a promising young player or first-round pick – in any deal for their most productive player. Love is averaging a double-double (17.4 PPG, 10.0 RPG) with a .450/.366/.841 shooting line this season.

Love is one of several veteran Cavaliers who are candidates to be moved at the deadline. The club also figures to discuss players like Tristan Thompson, Brandon Knight, John Henson, and Matthew Dellavedova, all of whom are on expiring contracts. However, things have been quiet as of late for the Cavs, and there’s some growing doubt internally that a massive shakeup is around the corner, according to Fedor.

Marvin Williams Considering Retirement

Hornets forward Marvin Williams will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, and while he might continue his playing career if he gets an NBA offer he likes, he has given some thought to the idea of retirement, as he tells Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer (subscriber-only).

“I’ll be honest with you, I’ve certainly thought about being done,” Williams said earlier this week. “I feel like that’s where I am right now: I could do it or I could not.”

Williams, 33, is averaging a career-low 19.6 minutes per game this season. His 6.9 PPG and 2.6 RPG also represent the worst marks of his 15-year career. Still, the underlying numbers suggest the former No. 2 overall pick can continue to be a capable rotation piece — his shooting line of .454/.377/.886 is strong and he’s a solid perimeter defender.

Whether or not Williams signs a new NBA contract in the summer, he has some ideas about what he’d like his next step to be when he eventually retires as a player.

According to Bonnell, Williams’ best friend is fellow UNC alum Deon Thompson, who has spent his entire professional career playing in overseas leagues, making stops in Greece, Germany, China, Israel, and Spain, among other countries. Thompson’s experience has helped fuel Williams’ interest in international basketball outreach.

“I like the Junior NBA (program) where you are basically a camp counselor all around the world,” Williams said. “Basketball Without Borders, I’ve done a couple of those: I went to Africa and I went to Indonesia. … Any opportunity I get to travel and work with kids? That’s what I would love to do.”

NBA Announces 2020 All-Star Starters

The NBA has revealed the 2020 All-Star starters. Let’s get right to them:

Eastern Conference

Giannis is the Eastern Conference leader in votes and will be a team captain for the second straight season. Young and Siakam both will be playing in their first career All-Star game (I still believe Siakam should have made it last season). Embiid will play in his third straight All-Star game while Walker will play in his fourth straight.

Western Conference

James, who was the top vote-getter in the Western Conference and the entire NBA, will again be a team captain. Kawhi gets his fourth All-Star nod, all of which have come over the past five seasons. Davis is onto his seventh consecutive All-Star appearance (his rookie year is the only season he missed) and Harden will make it eight-for-eight on All-Star appearances since joining the Rockets. Finally, Doncic will play in the game for the first time of what is expected to be many for the second-year guard.

While the starters were selected by conference, the rosters will be shaken up for the All-Star game itself, with Giannis and LeBron drafting four starters apiece.

Do you agree with the selections or should another player have been included with starters? If so, who’s in and who’s out?

Let us know in the comment section below. We look forward to what you have to say!