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Kings Interested In Harrison Barnes

The Kings have interest in Harrison Barnes ahead of the Feb. 7 trade deadline, according to Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com (hat tip RealGM).

Barnes is currently in the third season of a four-year, $94MM deal with the Mavericks. His contract contains a $25.1MM player option for the 2019/20 season, with the 26-year-old averaging 18.1 points per game on 41 percent shooting this year.

“I know the Kings would love to have Harrison Barnes,” Windhorst stated on the Hoop Collective Podcast. “Whether or not that can work out? I don’t know.”

Sacramento was on a three-game win streak entering Thursday’s loss to Charlotte, holding a 23-22 record just over the halfway point of the season. The team sports a young, dynamic core of De’Aaron Fox, Buddy Hield, Marvin Bagley lll and others.

The Kings were also said to be eyeing Wizards forward Otto Porter Jr. back in November, according to The Athletic’s Jason Jones. Porter is set to make $26MM this season and $27.2MM next season.

Dennis Smith Jr. Hasn’t Requested Trade From Mavs

The Mavericks and Dennis Smith Jr. have held positive discussions in recent days, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic, who also adds that Smith hasn’t requested a trade to this point.

ESPN’s Tim MacMahon reported earlier in the day that Dallas hopes to reconcile and move forward with Smith on the roster, despite shopping the 2017 lottery pick in recent weeks. Teams have yet to give the Mavericks a tempting trade package for Smith, with the 21-year-old expressing interest in moving on from the team and finding a new situation, according to MacMahon.

The fractured relationship between Smith and coach Rick Carlisle is partially to blame for this mess, with team officials characterizing the relationship as a veteran coach being demanding of a young player to ultimately help his development, MacMahon added. Smith missed the Mavs’ game on Wednesday due to an illness, sitting out the previous three games with what the team listed as a “sore back”.

Dallas has other contracts that could be used in trades — particularly Wesley Matthews, Salah Mejri and the injured J.J. Barea — but is clearly motivated to keep Smith on the roster and see how the pairing of him and young star Luka Doncic pans out in the longterm.

The NBA’s annual trade deadline falls on Feb. 7 at 3:00 pm ET this season.

Mavs Hope To Reconcile With Dennis Smith Jr.

2:51pm: The trade issue is being pushed from Smith’s side rather than the Mavs’ side, multiple sources tell Townsend, who confirms (via Twitter) that DSJ isn’t thrilled by the change in his role this season.

2:36pm: After reports earlier this week suggested that the Mavericks were ramping up their efforts to trade Dennis Smith Jr., the team is now hoping to reconcile with its frustrated second-year guard and move forward with Smith on its roster, writes Tim MacMahon of ESPN.com.

As MacMahon details, the Mavs have explored the trade market for Smith for much of the season, and still sound open to making a move if they get good value for him. However, the team believes the 2017 lottery pick can develop into a star and won’t move him without getting a significant return, sources tell MacMahon.

“Plan A is still to fix this,” one Mavs source told ESPN.

Those reports from earlier in the week indicated that Smith’s uncertain fit alongside Luka Doncic and his relationship with head coach Rick Carlisle were among the reasons why the Mavericks were pursuing a trade. In his latest report, MacMahon confirms that both of those issues have been frustrating for Smith, who has “recently expressed that he hopes to be traded.”

Multiple team sources downplayed the friction between Smith and Carlisle, according to MacMahon, who writes that the club chalks it up to typical growing pains for a young player. Carlisle would welcome the opportunity to continue coaching the 21-year-old, MacMahon adds. Still, Tim Cato of The Athletic notes (via Twitter) that the Mavs want to retain Smith on their own terms, playing the role Carlisle envisions for him.

If Smith’s camp isn’t on board with that plan or if the Mavs receive a favorable offer, the trade chatter surrounding the guard could increase once again. In fact, one league source suggests to Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link) that the club isn’t necessarily convinced that fences can be mended with Smith.

Nonetheless, the Mavs don’t want to be forced into a bad deal, so for now it looks like the franchise will try its best to make things work with one of its top young prospects.

NBA To Televise All-Star Draft On February 7

February 7 is shaping up to be an eventful day on the NBA calendar this season. Already the date of the 2018/19 trade deadline (at 2:00pm central time), Thursday, February 7 will also be the day on which the NBA televises an All-Star draft for the first time.

The league confirmed today in a press release that the 2019 All-Star draft will air on TNT on February 7, starting at 6:00pm CT. As was the case last season, the top vote-getter in each conference will be an All-Star captain, and will draft a squad of four starters from a pool of eight players selected by fans, players, and media members. The captains will subsequently select seven players apiece from a 14-player pool of All-Stars named by NBA coaches.

This year’s All-Star starters will be announced on January 24, with the remaining All-Stars revealed on January 31. Based on the latest voting results, released today by the NBA, LeBron James and Giannis Antetokounmpo project to be the All-Star captains this season — LeBron (3,770,807 votes) is ahead of Luka Doncic by about 469,000 votes in the West, while Giannis (3,626,909 votes) leads Kyrie Irving in the East by approximately 440,000 votes.

This is the second time the NBA has used this All-Star format. James and Stephen Curry were captains last season, but the draft was conducted privately. After talking things over with the players, the NBA has decided to make that event public this time around, which should make for an entertaining broadcast.

Wizards’ Owner: “We Will Never, Ever Tank”

With his Wizards set to face the Knicks today in London, owner Ted Leonsis told reporters, including Candace Buckner of The Washington Post (Twitter link), that the plan is for the club to continue contending for the postseason, despite the season-ending injury to star point guard John Wall.

“We will never, ever tank,” Leonsis said, per Buckner.

Since Wall went down, the Wizards have held their own, winning five of nine games, including victories over Oklahoma City, Philadelphia, and Milwaukee. Bradley Beal has taken his game to another level during that stretch, averaging 30.2 PPG on .472/.413/.804 shooting as Washington’s go-to offensive option. And, according to Leonsis, Beal believes that the Wizards still have enough talent on their roster to earn a playoff spot.

“Bradley Beal has told me, ‘We have enough. … We’re not going to let you down,'” Leonsis said today to reporters (Twitter link via Hoop District). “We’re not letting anybody off the hook — we’ve got to make the playoffs.”

While the Wizards are still just 18-26, their path to a postseason berth isn’t as challenging in the Eastern Conference as it would be out West. Currently, the eighth-seeded Hornets have a 20-23 mark, putting them just 2.5 games ahead of Washington. The Pistons (19-24) and Magic (19-25) are also in the mix for that No. 8 seed.

If the Wizards are all-in on making a playoff push, as Leonsis states, it will likely eliminate a couple significant in-season trade chips from the market. Beal and Otto Porter have been at the center of a number of trade rumors this season, since they’d be excellent fits for teams in need of an offensive play-maker or a three-and-D wing, respectively — plus, moving one or both could help Washington clear up its long-term salary cap outlook. But the Wizards figure to hang onto both players, as they’ll be critical parts of any second-half run.

Gregg Popovich Unsure If He’ll Coach Spurs Beyond 2018/19

Longtime Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich remains undecided about his future beyond the 2018/19 season, writes Marc Stein of The New York Times. Popovich is in the final season of his current contract, and while the team would be happy to extend him for as long as he wants, he’s unsure whether he’ll continue his coaching career next season.

“I don’t know the answer,” Popovich said when asked about his coaching future.

According to Stein, Popovich – the NBA’s longest-tenured head coach by 12 years – said that he and general manager R.C. Buford have “periodically” discussed the Spurs’ options beyond this season. Buford notes that Popovich will remain on San Antonio’s bench for “as long as he wants to coach.”

NBA observers have speculated that Popovich would coach the Spurs for one more season after 2018/19, then retire after working with Team USA in the 2020 Olympics. However, while Popovich remains on track to coach the U.S. basketball squad in Tokyo in the summer of 2020, there’s no guarantee he’ll still coach the Spurs leading up to that event.

As Stein observes, Popovich will also coach Team USA during this year’s World Cup, which takes place in September, just two weeks before NBA training camps get underway. With international competitions bookending the ’19/20 season, Popovich may prefer to focus on those Team USA responsibilities.

Stein also points out that Popovich will turn 70 years old later this month. Only three other head coaches in NBA history have worked into their 70s, per Stein — Bill Bertka (71), Hubie Brown (71) and Larry Brown (70).

Popovich currently has the third-most wins of any coach in league history, with 1,223, and also ranks fifth in all-time winning percentage (.686) among coaches who have been on the sidelines for at least 100 games.

Quincy Acy Signs Second 10-Day Deal With Suns

JANUARY 17: The Suns have made it official, announcing in a press release that they’ve re-signed Acy to a second 10-day contract.

JANUARY 16: Veteran forward Quincy Acy is signing a second 10-day contract with the Suns, per Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.

Acy agreed to the first 10-day deal of the 2018/19 season back on January 5, but didn’t make it official until January 7, so his first contract is set to expire tonight. His new deal, if signed tomorrow, will run through January 26, covering the Suns’ next six games.

Once the second deal expires, the team will have to decide whether to re-sign Acy to a rest-of-season deal or let him walk, as NBA rules don’t allow a team to sign a player to more than two 10-day contracts in a single season.

Acy, a 2012 second-round pick, has appeared in four games with the Suns in his first 10-day go-round. He has averaged less than one point and one rebound in 8.8 minutes per game, but the club apparently saw something it liked.

Like Acy’s first 10-day contract, this deal will have a cap hit of $85,468, increasing his total cost for the Suns to $170,936.

Kyrie Irving Called LeBron James To Apologize

Following the Celtics‘ big Wednesday night win over Toronto, Kyrie Irving told reporters, including Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com, that he recently called former teammate LeBron James to apologize for resisting criticism and not fully appreciating his leadership during their time in Cleveland.

“Obviously, this was a big deal for me, because I had to call ‘Bron and tell him I apologized for being that young player that wanted everything at his fingertips, and I wanted everything at my threshold,” Irving said, per Bontemps. “I wanted to be the guy that led us to a championship. I wanted to be the leader. I wanted to be all that, and the responsibility of being the best in the world and leading your team is something that is not meant for many people.

“[LeBron] was one of those guys who came to Cleveland and tried to show us how to win a championship, and it was hard for him, and sometimes getting the most out of the group is not the easiest thing in the world,” Irving added.

Irving’s comments came just a few days after he publicly expressed frustration with some of his younger teammates during the Celtics’ three-game losing streak. As a veteran in Boston, Kyrie has essentially assumed the sort of leadership role that LeBron had in Cleveland, and acknowledged that he made a mistake by calling out his teammates in the press.

“I did a poor job of setting an example for these guys of what it’s like to get something out of your teammates,” Irving said. “You go and you say something publicly and it ends up received in so many different ways and you never know how fragile or what guys are going through when you say things like that. You’re expecting results, but at the same time, I should’ve kept it in-house. Going forward, I want to test these young guys, but I can’t be a bully like that.”

In a fascinating twist, Joe Vardon of The Athletic reports that James was actually having dinner with the other member of the Cavaliers‘ old Big Three – Kevin Love – when Irving called him to apologize. While LeBron missed Kyrie’s call at the time, he returned it privately later, according to Vardon, who hears from a source that James was “very appreciative” that Irving reached out to him.

As Vardon observes, Irving’s admission is a “pretty big deal” to anyone involved with Cleveland’s four-year run of NBA Finals appearances. The trade that sent the star point guard to Boston was essentially the beginning of the end of that mini-dynasty, so hearing Irving confess that he didn’t handle the situation as well as he could have creates some tantalizing “what-if” scenarios.

Still, Irving didn’t go so far as to say he regretted forcing his way out of Cleveland — he welcomes the challenge of leading the Celtics to a title of their own. He also believes he has a better idea now of what it takes to assume that sort of leadership role and wants to share his perspective with the younger C’s.

“Now I’m in this position; I asked for this and I want this. I want the responsibility. And I take it on full force,” Irving said, according to Bontemps. “But it’s also good to reach out for help and really take responsibility for what you’ve done in your career. It takes a real man to go back, call somebody and be like, ‘Hey, man, I was young. I made some mistakes, I wasn’t seeing the big picture like you were. I didn’t have the end of the season in mind.’ I just wanted to get my stats and make All-Star Games, which in his career means like this much at that point. So it was just good, and it gave me a peace of mind to go about what I’ve gotta go do.”

Grizzlies Want 2019 First-Round Pick To Convey To Celtics

Coming into tonight’s action, the Grizzlies were in second-to-last place in the Western Conference standings, but only four games back of the eighth seed and a playoff berth. And while the playoffs are certainly always a goal for a team not in rebuilding mode, Memphis has another important reason for not embracing the tank.

Per Chris Herrington of The Daily Memphian, a secondary but equally important goal for the Grizzlies this season is to ensure that their 2019 first-round pick is conveyed to the Celtics. As we relayed yesterday, the 2019 draft class is viewed as fairly average, and if the Grizzlies keep this year’s pick (protected 1-8), they’ll just owe Boston a future first-rounder with fewer protections (1-6 in 2020 and unprotected in 2021).

If the Grizzlies do keep their pick this summer, they could certainly get lucky, move up in the lottery, and draft one of the consensus top picks such as Duke teammates Zion WilliamsonR.J. Barrett, or Cam Reddish. But the odds of this are low. For instance, the eighth-worst team (i.e. the best the Grizzlies could finish and not have their pick convey) only has a 21.1% chance of getting a top-3 pick.

And even if the Grizzlies were to embrace the tank, the worst three teams (which the Grizzlies would be hard-pressed to become given the Cavs, Bulls, Suns, and Knicks’ issues) each still only have a 40.1% chance at a top-3 pick. So either way (finishing worst to eighth-worst), it’s more likely than not that Memphis wouldn’t get a difference maker in this year’s draft, explaining why the front office would rather the pick convey this summer and ensure the team has its 2020 first-round pick.

Rockets Sign James Nunnally To 10-Day Deal

5:02pm: The Rockets have signed Nunnally to a 10-day deal, per an official release from the team. In anticipation of the signing, Nunnally had the following to say, per Kelly Iko of The Athletic.

I thought I would sign with (the Rockets) after meeting them on July 1st in LA. It didn’t happen. Now over six months later, I was going to make a decision today to go to a great Euroleague situation and the Rockets called last night. Crazy 24 hours! I am very excited.”

9:26pm: The Rockets are expected to fill the opening on their 15-man roster by signing veteran sharpshooter James Nunnally to a 10-day contract, reports Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

A source confirms to Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle (Twitter link) that the Rockets are “heading in that direction.” Feigen first reported on Tuesday that Houston would likely sign a veteran wing to a 10-day contract, identifying Nunnally as a candidate.

After playing in Europe for the past two seasons, Nunnally signed with the Timberwolves during free agency, as Minnesota was looking to add players that could space the floor and provide solid defense. However, Nunnally was not a regular part of the rotation and rarely saw the court during his time with the Wolves, who waived him last week before his full 2018/19 salary became guaranteed.

The 28-year-old wing only played 64 minutes this season, averaging 2.1 points per game while knocking down 38.5% of his 3-pointers. Despite his limited role in Minnesota, Nunnally received offers from multiple teams in Europe when he became a free agent again this month, according to Feigen, who hears that the former UC Santa Barbara standout is “giving up a lot” by opting instead for a 10-day contract (Twitter link).

Nunnally may get an opportunity to play a little more over the next 10 days in Houston than he typically did in Minnesota, given the Rockets’ injury and depth issues. While Eric Gordon‘s return appears imminent, the Rockets are missing Chris Paul and Clint Capela due to injuries, while Danuel House has returned to the G League for now and Carmelo Anthony remains away from the team.

The Rockets will incur a cap hit worth just over $76K for Nunnally’s 10-day deal, which will slightly increase the club’s projected year-end tax bill.