OG Anunoby

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.

Olympic Notes: Spain, Simmons, Nigeria, Turkey, Garland

Veteran center Pau Gasol, who has represented Spain in four Olympic tournaments so far, remains on track to be part of the team in Tokyo, per an Associated Press report. Gasol was one of 18 players included on Spain’s preliminary roster for the Tokyo games, joining his brother – Lakers center Marc Gasol – and Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio.

Timberwolves forward Juan Hernangomez, Pelicans big man Willy Hernangomez, and projected first-round pick Usman Garuba are among the other notable names on Spain’s preliminary roster, according to The Associated Press.

Here’s more on the Tokyo Olympics:

Raptors Notes: Birch, Trent, Anunoby, Harris, More

Fourth-year center Khem Birch will be an unrestricted free agent this summer, giving him the freedom to sign with any team, but his comments following Sunday’s regular season finale made it sound as if he’d like to stick with the Raptors, according to Josh Lewenberg of TSN.ca, who tweets that Birch said fit is as important as money in free agency.

“I got lucky,” Birch said of his late-season move from the Magic to the Raptors. “If I would’ve stayed in Orlando people probably would’ve thought I’m just a regular bench big who can’t score. I’m fortunate these guys believed in me.”

After averaging 4.7 points and 4.4 rebounds in 188 total games in Orlando (16.5 MPG), Birch put up 11.6 PPG and 7.2 RPG in 18 games (29.8 MPG) with Toronto and didn’t sacrifice efficiency — his field-goal percentage increased to 55.8% despite the fact that he was attempting a career-high 1.6 threes per game as a Raptor.

Here’s more on the Raptors, who missed the postseason for the first time since 2013:

  • As a restricted free agent who was a key trade-deadline acquisition for the Raptors, Gary Trent Jr. is a good bet to remain with the team, though he indicated today that he’s prepared for any scenario. According to Lewenberg (Twitter link), Trent said he understands that the NBA is a business and that – as an RFA – his future isn’t fully in his hands, but said he’d “definitely” be open to being a Raptor going forward.
  • OG Anunoby said that his injured calf is getting better and that he’s looking forward to carrying over his work this season into the summer, tweets Blake Murphy of The Athletic. Anunoby missed the final eight games of the season due to that calf issue.
  • With so many regular contributors injured or resting near the end of the season, many of the Raptors’ bench players have had a chance to shine. As Holly MacKenzie writes for the team’s official site, Stanley Johnson and Jalen Harris each established a new career-high for points in a game in the season’s final week (Harris did it twice).
  • Harris and Malachi Flynn didn’t receive a ton of attention this season compared to other members of the 2020/21 rookie class, but both players look like good fits in the Raptors’ culture and could stick around for a while, writes Eric Koreen of The Athletic.

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: Griffin, Nurse, Curry, Toppin

Blake Griffin is close to making his Nets debut, coach Steve Nash told the media on Friday (hat tip to NetsDaily.com). Griffin is traveling with the team on its current road trip. “He looks good, is improving, and is working hard off the floor as well,” Nash said. “I think he is addressing all of the things he needed to address to land safely back in the game and transition into our team, which is not always easy. … He has to adapt to the way that we play, new teammates, new system, and new style.”

We have more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Raptors coach Nick Nurse hinted that his team’s troubles go beyond COVID-19 related absences, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets. With OG Anunoby returning on Friday, the Raptors have all of the players who were under the league’s healthy and safety protocols back in action. Toronto lost to Utah on Friday, its seventh straight defeat, and Nurse seemed to indicate the team needs more help. “We’re getting our (butts) kicked at the rim on both ends, not rebounding,” he said. “I mean the ship has got holes all over the place that we’re trying to patch up.”
  • Sixers guard Seth Curry will miss at least two games due to a sprained left ankle, Derek Bodner of The Athletic tweets. He’ll be re-evaluated after Sunday’s game against New York. Philadelphia plays Sacramento on Saturday.
  • Knicks lottery pick Obi Toppin has seen his playing time drop in recent games, Barbara Barker of Newsday notes. Toppin has played single-digit minutes in his last four outings and has gone scoreless the last three games. Julius Randle has averaged 40 MPG over that stretch, which has led to Toppin’s lack of activity.

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.

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.

Raptors Remain Short-Handed Due To COVID-19

A week off for the All-Star break didn’t resolve the Raptors‘ coronavirus situation, tweets Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports. Fred VanVleetPascal SiakamOG AnunobyMalachi Flynn and Patrick McCaw all remain in the league’s health and safety protocols and won’t be available for Thursday’s game with the Hawks.

Toronto’s issues with the virus began in late February when a member of the coaching staff reportedly tested positive, forcing head coach Nick Nurse and most of his assistants into contact tracing. Assistant coach Sergio Scariolo, who was in quarantine at the time after coaching the Spanish national team, has been filling in as head coach ever since. There’s no update on the status of the coaches, but Lewenberg suggests that more information may be available after practice later today (Twitter link).

Siakam, who returned an inconclusive rapid test at the same time, has been in the protocol for 12 days, Lewenburg adds (via Twitter). The other four players have been sidelined for eight days each.

The Raptors’ February 28 game against the Bulls was postponed because Toronto didn’t have enough eligible players, and a game against the Pistons was rescheduled from March 2 to March 3. Currently in eighth place in the East, the Raptors are 1-2 since their COVID-19 problems began.