Kyrie Irving

Lakers Rumors: LeBron, Knicks, Bronny, Murray, LaVine, More

At the end of last month, Lakers forward LeBron James sent out an hourglass emoji on social media that led to plenty of speculation — and eventually an unsuccessful trade pursuit by the Warriors. Later that week in New York, James made some not-so-subtle comments about his love for playing in Madison Square Garden and said he considered signing with the Knicks as a free agent in 2010.

While James may have been attempting to put pressure on L.A.’s front office by using New York as leverage, the Knicks haven’t had any internal discussions about pursuing him this summer, a league source tells Sam Amick, Anthony Slater and Jovan Buha of The Athletic.

As The Athletic’s authors explain, the Knicks won’t have cap room in free agency to make a run at James if he declines his $51.4MM player option, and shedding salaries would mean parting with important rotation players. The Knicks view that possibility as a “serious setback to their long-term plan.”

Los Angeles, meanwhile, has no desire to trade James, and wants him to retire a Laker, multiple team sources tell The Athletic. For his part, James recently informed the team’s brass he wants to stay, per The Athletic’s report.

Here’s more on the Lakers, all from Amick, Slater and Buha:

  • Rival executives have become “increasingly convinced” that the 39-year-old superstar may want out of L.A., and view drafting his son Bronny James as something of a starting point to pursuing LeBron, according to The Athletic’s trio. James has spoken many times over the years about his desire to play in the NBA with his son. The Lakers are also open to the possibility of adding Bronny to keep LeBron happy, as that’s a priority for the organization, a high-ranking team source tells the authors.
  • According to The Athletic, James has long been in favor of adding a star-level ball-handler in the backcourt — hence 2021 trade for Russell Westbrook, which obviously worked out poorly. James pushed the front office to pursue Kyrie Irving over multiple transaction windows in the past, and supported the idea of trading for Dejounte Murray (Hawks) or Zach LaVine (Bulls) — two fellow Klutch clients — prior to this season’s deadline, sources tell Amick, Slater and Buha.
  • The Lakers will have three first-round picks available to trade this summer after standing pat at the deadline — either 2024 or 2025 (New Orleans can acquire this year’s pick or defer it to next year), plus 2029 and 2031. As Buha previously reported, L.A. would ideally like to use those draft assets for Donovan Mitchell (Cavaliers), Trae Young (Hawks) or Irving (Mavericks), though it’s unclear how many of those players – if any – will actually be available on the trade market this offseason. For what it’s worth, rival teams have been speculating that Atlanta might be willing to part with Young after holding onto Murray at the deadline.

Lakers Rumors: Reaves, Summer Targets, Prince, Buyout Market, Vanderbilt

Despite making and taking trade calls for weeks, the Lakers didn’t come particularly close to making a deal on Thursday, sources tell Dave McMenamin of ESPN.

According to Jovan Buha of The Athletic, the closest the Lakers ever get to reaching a trade agreement was several weeks ago when they discussed a deal with the Hawks that would’ve send Dejounte Murray to Los Angeles for a package centered around D’Angelo Russell, Jalen Hood-Schifino, and the Lakers’ 2029 first-round pick.

Atlanta’s resistance to taking Russell was long viewed as the primary holdup in those discussions, but Buha also hears from team and league sources that the Hawks repeatedly insisted on Austin Reaves‘ inclusion, which was a non-starter for Los Angeles.

Having not made a move at the deadline, the Lakers will have three first-round picks available to trade this offseason — either 2024 or 2025 (New Orleans can acquire this year’s pick or defer it to next year), plus 2029 and 2031. L.A. would ideally like to use their draft assets in a package to acquire a third star, Buha says, identifying Donovan Mitchell (Cavaliers), Trae Young (Hawks), and Kyrie Irving (Mavericks) as some potential targets. It’s unclear how many of those players – if any – will actually be available on the trade market this offseason.

Here’s more on the Lakers:

  • The front office mulled the possibility of trading Taurean Prince, but head coach Darvin Ham was a among the “vocal supporters” of hanging onto the veteran forward, team sources tell Buha.
  • The Lakers were in position to potentially duck the luxury tax by attaching a minor asset (such as a second-round pick or cash) to a minimum-salary player, but opted against it, deciding they didn’t want to save money at the expense of roster depth, Buha writes.
  • Rob Pelinka indicated that the Lakers will be in the market for a “ball-handling guard” or simply the best available player on the buyout market, per Buha. “Obviously, we signed Gabe Vincent and thought he fit really well, but his health just hasn’t (been there),” Pelinka said. “He’s played five games. I think that would be sort of top of the list. … That would probably be the area we’re trying to address the most, just because right now we have D’Angelo Russell at point guard, but after that we don’t have a point guard on the roster.” Los Angeles has interest in Spencer Dinwiddie and Kyle Lowry (assuming he’s bought out), but will face competition from rival suitors, including Dallas on Dinwiddie and Philadelphia on Lowry, Buha observes.
  • There’s some pessimism within the organization about Jarred Vanderbilt‘s odds of returning this season, with the possibility of season-ending foot surgery still on the table, according to Buha. “Until an injury is healed and the player’s back, you’re kind of always in the evaluation process of figuring out what it’s gonna take to get a player healthy and back on the court,” Pelinka said. “I would just say we’re hopeful that we can get Jarred back healthy and on the court without surgery, but you never know. Time will tell. But that’s certainly our hope.”

Southwest Notes: Williamson, Wembanyama, Adams, Irving, Doncic

Zion Williamson scored the game-winning layup against the Spurs on Friday night. Afterward, the Pelicans forward lavished praise on Victor Wembanyama, who finished the game with 16 points, 14 rebounds, seven assists, three blocks and two steals.

“Vic is a very special player,” Williamson said of the Spurs rookie, per ESPN’s Andrew Lopez. “We were just talking about it in the locker room. He’s a dude that can get two or three Defensive Player of the Years and also, I don’t want to put a limit on it, but he can get Defensive Player of the Year and MVPs. We haven’t seen nothing like that. We’ve seen things close, but not like that. He’s an amazing player. Especially with [Spurs coach Gregg Popovich] over there, he’ll continue to develop.”

We have more from the Southwest Division:

  • Wembanyama played 27 minutes against Cleveland on Saturday the second night of a back-to-back and appeared visibly fatigued at times coming off the floor, Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express News noted. The Spurs big man admits the NBA grind is starting to wear on him. “I’m glad my body’s healthy, even though it’s hard,” Wembanyama said. “It’s not giving me any red flags. Of course, I like everything, the conditioning to be perfect, but you got to pick your battle.” He has also battled allergies in recent days. “My immune system is also impacted,” Wembanyama said.
  • The Rockets’ acquisition of Steven Adams shows they are determined to make deals for their long-range impact, Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle writes. Adams is out for the remainder of this season but will give Houston a quality backup center behind Alperen Şengün. It’s highly unlikely the Rockets will pursue a star-level player before the trade deadline, especially since they included Victor Oladipo’s contract in the Adams deal. They are also cautious about acquiring players who would take minutes away from rookies Cam Whitmore and Amen Thompson.
  • Mavericks guard Kyrie Irving is listed as questionable for Monday’s game against Philadelphia, Tim MacMahon of ESPN tweets. Irving has missed the last six games with a sprained right thumb. Luka Doncic is also questionable after aggravating his sore right ankle.

Mavericks Notes: Lively, Kleber, Irving, Doncic

A broken nose will prevent Dereck Lively II from playing Monday in his home city of Philadelphia, according to Eddie Sefko of Instead of traveling with his teammates, the Mavericks’ rookie center will remain in Dallas to undergo a nasal procedure to ease the pain from the break. Lively tried out a face mask at Friday’s practice in hopes of playing tonight, but he didn’t enjoy the experience.

“Playing with the mask, I wouldn’t wish that on my worst enemy,” he said, “but you got to be able to go through the highs and lows and work through it. Today, I gave it a shot on being able to wear the mask and adjust it and feel like how it’s going to be on the court. We’re still trying to figure out what I’m going to be doing moving forward. But … I will be having a procedure on Monday to reset my nose since it is broken.”

Injuries are the only thing that have slowed down Lively, who is averaging 9.2 points, 7.9 rebounds and 1.4 blocks in 36 games. He was one of 11 rookies selected this week to participate in the Rising Stars event at All-Star Weekend.

“To be given this chance is amazing,” Lively said. “At the beginning of the season, if you told me I’d be able to get this far – no way, I wouldn’t have imagined it. So just being able to know I’m going to this game, I’m excited to be part of the atmosphere and getting to know everybody.”

There’s more from Dallas:

  • Maxi Kleber also suffered a broken nose this week, with his injury occurring on Wednesday at Minnesota, Sefko adds. Kleber was active for tonight’s game against Milwaukee.
  • Kyrie Irving sat out his sixth straight game with a sprained right thumb, but there’s optimism he’ll return soon, tweets Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Coach Jason Kidd told reporters that Irving had “two good days of practice” and said “hopefully he’ll be available” for the road trip that starts Monday.
  • Kidd also said he’s trying to manage the load on Luka Doncic, who’s averaging a career-high 37.5 minutes per game so far this season, per Shawn McFarland of The Dallas Morning News (Twitter link). However, Kidd added, “This could be a night where he does play 40-something minutes” due to a shortage of available players.
  • Kidd made headlines this week with his comparison of Doncic and Dirk Nowitzki, but the Mavericks shouldn’t expect Doncic to spend his entire career in Dallas like Nowitzki did unless they can build a team capable of competing for a title, Tim Cowlishaw of The Dallas Morning News argues in a subscriber-only piece.

Southwest Notes: Doncic, Kyrie, Lively, Rose, Champagnie

Mavericks head coach Jason Kidd was a part of the 2010/11 Dallas team that won the NBA Finals, but he has already seen enough from Luka Doncic to place him ahead of that year’s Finals MVP – Dirk Nowitzki – on the franchise’s list of all-time best players.

“He’s better than Dirk,” Kidd said of Doncic during a Tuesday radio appearance on 97.1 The Freak (story via Tim MacMahon of ESPN). “He’s in the atmosphere of MJ (Michael Jordan), the best to ever do it, LeBron (James), Kobe (Bryant). And so, just to appreciate what this young man’s doing at the age of 24, (it) is something that Dallas has never seen. I’ve said this internally: He is better than Dirk. He does things that Dirk could never do, and now is the opportunity of getting the right people around him to ultimately win a championship.”

Kidd made his comments in the wake of a record-setting run from Doncic, who followed up a 73-point outburst on Friday with a 17-assist triple-double on Saturday and a 45-point, 15-assist, nine-rebound performance on Monday.

Doncic is now averaging 34.7 points per game this season, far exceeding Nowitzki’s career high of 26.6 PPG in 2005/06. Of course, as MacMahon points out, Luka’s playoff accomplishments fall far short of Nowitzki’s, let alone those of Jordan, James, and Bryant — the Mavs have only advanced beyond the first round once during Doncic’s time in Dallas. However, Kidd is confident that it’s just a matter of time until that changes.

“This young man is 24 and is breaking all the records that stand in front of him,” Kidd said. “He’s a winner, and his ultimate goal is to win a championship. And he will get there and not just win one, but he will win multiple when it’s all said and done.”

Here’s more from around the Southwest:

  • Kyrie Irving (right thumb sprain) will miss a fifth straight game for the Mavericks on Wednesday in Minnesota, according to the official injury report. The banged-up Mavs will be down two more starters besides Irving, with Doncic (right ankle sprain) and Dereck Lively II (broken nose) also having been ruled out.
  • Grizzlies point guard Derrick Rose is nearing a return from the left hamstring strain that has sidelined him for nearly a full month, writes Damichael Cole of The Memphis Commercial Appeal. Rose, who hasn’t played since January 2, is participating in five-on-five work and is in the “latter stages” of his recovery, per head coach Taylor Jenkins. The hope is that he’ll be able to return within Memphis’ next three games.
  • As Jeff McDonald of The San Antonio Express-News (subscription required) details, Julian Champagnie was inserted into the Spurs‘ starting lineup last month and has hung onto that spot for the past 20 games by following some simple advice from head coach Gregg Popovich: “Don’t be Kobe.” Popovich wanted to see the second-year forward blend in with the rest of the starters and not try to do too much — so far, so good. “Fitting in is pretty easy, you know?,” Champagnie said. “Just stick to my role, hit open shots, play defense, play hard.”

Mavericks Notes: Luka, Kyrie, Kleber, Williams

Mavericks star Luka Doncic had a frustrating night on Wednesday against Phoenix, earning a technical foul for repeatedly complaining to the referees and then requesting that a heckling fan be ejected, per Tim MacMahon of ESPN. Both incidents came in the third quarter, with the Suns fan leaving voluntarily.

Wednesday marked Dallas’ third straight loss and fifth in its past seven games. Doncic’s frustration boiling over was noteworthy, according to Tim Cato of The Athletic, who says the front office is well aware that it needs to continue to surround its best player with more talent after adding multiple young role players over the summer.

Friday’s matchup with Atlanta went much differently for Doncic and the Mavs, however. The Slovenian scored a franchise-record 73 points, tied for the fourth-highest mark in NBA history, and became the first player to score 70-plus while shooting at least 75% from the field (he was 25-of-33 overall, including 8-of-13 from three and 15-of-16 from the line). He also contributed 10 rebounds and seven assists in 45 minutes during the five-point win (Twitter links via the Mavs and the NBA).

Guard Trae Young said Atlanta tried everything it could to stop Doncic, tweets Kevin Chouinard of

He was hot. He was going. S–t, we were trying everything,” Young said. “We were trying to trap him. We started off with Jalen (Johnson) on him … Sometimes you just have to pick your poison.”

While Doncic said the performance was probably the best of his career, he was more focused on getting a win, per

We’ve been struggling lately,” he said. “Mindset was [to] get a win. We played great.”

Here’s more on the Mavs:

  • Kyrie Irving missed his second straight game on Friday with a right thumb sprain. That marked his 18th missed game of 2023/24, which means he’ll miss out on a $1MM bonus for appearing in 65-plus games, tweets ESPN’s Bobby Marks. The bonus had been considered unlikely after Irving appeared in 60 games last year, Marks adds. The three-time All-NBA guard will also be ineligible for end-of-season awards.
  • Big man Maxi Kleber‘s toe is still bothering him, which is why he sat out Friday’s game after missing 35 games with a right small toe dislocation. As Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News observes (via Twitter), Kleber’s ongoing toe problem is a “significant consideration” for the front office with the trade deadline set for February 8. The Mavericks have reportedly been looking for frontcourt help.
  • Forward Grant Williams had nothing but good things to say about the Mavs in a conversation with Souichi Terada of Williams was acquired from Boston in a sign-and-trade last offseason. “I’m enjoying it,” Williams said of Dallas. “It’s a great organization, great team, bunch of guys that really want to win. It’s an opportunity to compete and step into a role that I didn’t have before. And performance-wise, I definitely want to be better, definitely want to get healthier, want to get in a good frame. But outside of that, I’m just focused on the day-to-day. We have a long season.”

Team USA Announces 41-Player Pool For 2024 Olympics

USA Basketball has officially announced a pool of 41 players who are in the mix for the 12 spots on the 2024 Olympic men’s basketball team.

While the pool is subject to change, Team USA’s 12-man roster for the 2024 Paris Olympics will, in all likelihood, be made up of players from this group.

The list figures to shrink as the summer nears due to players suffering injuries or opting not to participate for other reasons, but at some point prior to the July event the U.S. decision-makers will have to choose a final roster from the remaining candidates.

Here’s the full list of 41 players, 28 of whom have represented Team USA in a previous World Cup or Olympics:

  1. Bam Adebayo (Heat)
  2. Jarrett Allen (Cavaliers)
  3. Paolo Banchero (Magic)
  4. Desmond Bane (Grizzlies)
  5. Scottie Barnes (Raptors)
  6. Devin Booker (Suns)
  7. Mikal Bridges (Nets)
  8. Jaylen Brown (Celtics)
  9. Jalen Brunson (Knicks)
  10. Jimmy Butler (Heat)
  11. Alex Caruso (Bulls)
  12. Stephen Curry (Warriors)
  13. Anthony Davis (Lakers)
  14. Kevin Durant (Suns)
  15. Anthony Edwards (Timberwolves)
  16. Joel Embiid (Sixers)
  17. De’Aaron Fox (Kings)
  18. Paul George (Clippers)
  19. Aaron Gordon (Nuggets)
  20. Tyrese Haliburton (Pacers)
  21. James Harden (Clippers)
  22. Josh Hart (Knicks)
  23. Tyler Herro (Heat)
  24. Jrue Holiday (Celtics)
  25. Chet Holmgren (Thunder)
  26. Brandon Ingram (Pelicans)
  27. Kyrie Irving (Mavericks)
  28. Jaren Jackson Jr. (Grizzlies)
  29. LeBron James (Lakers)
  30. Cameron Johnson (Nets)
  31. Walker Kessler (Jazz)
  32. Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)
  33. Damian Lillard (Bucks)
  34. Donovan Mitchell (Cavaliers)
  35. Chris Paul (Warriors)
  36. Bobby Portis (Bucks)
  37. Austin Reaves (Lakers)
  38. Duncan Robinson (Heat)
  39. Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
  40. Derrick White (Celtics)
  41. Trae Young (Hawks)

Adebayo, Booker, Durant, Holiday, Lillard, and Tatum were part of the Olympic team that won gold in Tokyo in 2021. Jerami Grant, Draymond Green, Keldon Johnson, Zach LaVine, JaVale McGee, and Khris Middleton were also on that roster, but aren’t part of the preliminary pool this time around. It’s possible some of them turned down invitations.

“The United States boasts unbelievable basketball talent and I am thrilled that many of the game’s superstars have expressed interest in representing our country at the 2024 Olympic Summer Games,” national team managing director Grant Hill said in a statement. “It is a privilege to select the team that will help us toward the goal of once again standing atop the Olympic podium. This challenging process will unfold over the next several months as we eagerly anticipate the start of national team activity.”

USA Basketball also announced today that Team USA will face Team Canada in Las Vegas on July 10 in an exhibition game. It sounds like that contest will take place during the NBA’s 2024 Summer League.

Mavericks Notes: Irving, Williams, Prosper, Kuzma, Grant

So far, the Mavericks’ decision to re-sign Kyrie Irving is paying off, Tim MacMahon of ESPN writes. The Mavs currently rank sixth in the Western Conference standings and are considered a dangerous playoff matchup due to their dynamic backcourt.

“I feel like a lot of people misjudged me,” Irving told MacMahon. “Dallas gave me a chance to just focus on the main thing, which is being the best basketball player when I stepped foot here, and then off the court still support me.”

Irving has often come through in the clutch in close games this season, MacMahon notes. Irving feels an on-court connection to Luka Doncic.

“He’s a winner. I’m a winner,” Irving said. “He’s a big gamer. I’m a big gamer. We like going against the best. That’s where I feel like we connect.”

We have more on the Mavs:

  • Grant Williams doesn’t like talking about it, but injuries could be the cause of his inconsistent first season with the club, according to Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News. Acquired in a sign-and-trade with Boston, Williams lost his starting job after missing one game with a right knee bruise and two more with soreness in the same knee. He also missed a game early this month with a right ankle sprain. “You’ve got to stay disciplined, keep the work and keep being mindful of every little thing that’s going on. No matter the health, no matter what’s going on off the floor, you have to approach every single day like it could be your last,” Williams said. “No matter if I’m 100%, 60% or 50%, I’m gonna give this team all I have. If it’s 50, hopefully that 50 was valuable enough to help us get a win.”
  • First-round pick Olivier-Maxence Prosper could be the answer to the team’s defensive issues, Noah Weber of argues. The team could use his rebounding and positional size, Weber writes, noting that Prosper is 6-foot-8 with a 7-foot-1 wingspan and solid frame. “I want to guard the best players in the world,” Prosper said. “This is just a stepping stone towards that. I believe I will be that [a defensive anchor] for the Mavs.” Prosper has appeared in 23 games but none since Jan. 5.
  • Breaking down the roster and the team’s assets, ESPN’s Bobby Marks explains in his video trade guide (Twitter link) why it’s unlikely the team can put together a package for a starting power forward like the Wizards’ Kyle Kuzma or the Trail Blazers’ Jerami Grant.

Texas Notes: Doncic, Irving, Sengun, Smith, Wembanyama

Mavericks All-NBA point guard Luka Doncic knows how lethal he and backcourt mate Kyrie Irving can be when they’re both firing on all cylinders, writes Mark Medina of Sportsnaut.

“Some days, one is going to have a good game,” Doncic said of the All-Star twosome. “Some days, others are going to have a good game… But when we play both at our best, it’s tough to stop us. Hopefully we can get that to that next game.”

To wit, Medina notes that Dallas is scoring at an average clip of 119.1 points per 100 possessions in 21 games, across 479 Doncic’s and Irving’s minutes together. Doncic is notching a career-high 33.6 PPG on a .485/.376/.778 shooting line, plus 9.2 APG and 8.3 RPG, while Irving is averaging 25.3 PPG on .473/.410/.893 shooting, along with 5.4 APG and 5.0 RPG.

At 24-18, the Mavericks are firmly ensconced in the Western Conference playoff hunt, but seem to be a tier below the best of the West.

There’s more out of the Lone Star State:

  • Rockets center Alperen Sengun is quietly making a legitimate case for All-Star consideration this season, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN. “He’s so skilled,” Houston point guard Fred VanVleet told Bontemps. “He’s unguardable. He’s got a thousand moves. He’s learning the higher aspects of the game now that he’s going to be a featured guy and probably be an All-Star this year.” As the best player on the 20-21 Rockets, Sengun is averaging career highs of 21.9 PPG, 9.1 RPG, 4.9 APG, and 1.2 SPG.
  • Rockets power forward Jabari Smith Jr. suffered a sprained ankle Saturday night during the club’s 127-126 overtime victory over the Jazz, per Kelly Iko of The Athletic (Twitter link). Iko notes that a return timeline for Smith is unclear at present, but the 6’11” big man has been ruled out for tonight’s matchup against the Celtics, according to the NBA’s latest injury report
  • Spurs rookie center Victor Wembanyama has been playing on a minutes limit since spraining his right ankle three times in December. He has also been held out of one game in back-to-back sets. While head coach Gregg Popovich indicated that Wembanyama will be held to his current restriction of 27 minutes per contest at least through Monday, he hinted that things could change once San Antonio’s road trip concludes, as Andrew Lopez of ESPN relays. The Spurs will host the Thunder on Wednesday.

Minimum Game Requirement For Awards Looms Large For Super-Max Candidates

As we detailed back in September, there are several players around the NBA who would benefit financially from making an All-NBA team or winning a Most Valuable Player of Defensive Player of the Year award in 2023/24.

Heat big man Bam Adebayo, Kings guard De’Aaron Fox, Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram, Nuggets guard Jamal Murray are among the players who would become eligible to sign a super-max (Designated Veteran) contract during the 2024 offseason by earning one of those honors this season.

Mavericks guard Luka Doncic and Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander could ensure they become eligible to sign a super-max extension in 2025 by making this year’s All-NBA team. Grizzlies big man Jaren Jackson Jr. could do the same by winning a second consecutive Defensive Player of the Year award.

Additionally, Timberwolves guard Anthony Edwards, Pacers guard Tyrese Haliburton, and Hornets guard LaMelo Ball signed maximum-salary rookie scale extensions that will be worth 30% of next season’s salary cap (instead of 25%) if they make an All-NBA team this spring. These “Rose Rule” contracts are essentially “mini” super-max deals.

Not all of those 10 players look like legitimate All-NBA, MVP, or DPOY candidates this season, but many of them will be in the mix. However, as Tim Bontemps and Bobby Marks write at, the newly implemented 65-game minimum requirement for award winners looms large for this group.

Without appearing in 65 games (including at least 63 of 20-plus minutes and two of 15-plus minutes), these players will be ineligible to earn an All-NBA spot, and without that end-of-season honor, they won’t be in position to receive a higher maximum salary.

According to Bontemps and Marks, a player who misses more than 17 of his team’s games, falling short of appearing in the required 65, can technically still qualify for award recognition, but only in very specific scenarios:

  1. If the player appeared in at least 62 games (and 85% of his team’s games to that point) and then suffers a season-ending injury.
  2. If the player files a grievance and presents “clear and convincing evidence” that his team limited his games or his minutes with the intention of depriving him of award eligibility.

While there’s also a clause for “extraordinary circumstances,” the NBA and NBPA don’t expect that clause to apply to injury absences, since it would essentially defeat the purpose of the rule, per ESPN’s duo.

Of the 10 players mentioned above, one is already ineligible for a major end-of-season award — Ball has appeared in just 19 of the Hornets’ first 39 games due to an ankle injury, so even if he doesn’t miss a game for the rest of the season, he’ll max out at 62 appearances. Given Charlotte’s spot in the standings, Ball would have been an All-NBA long shot anyway, but he has been playing at a very high level when he’s been healthy.

The 65-game mark remains within reach for the rest of this group, though some players can’t really afford any sort of extended absence. Adebayo, for instance, has missed 10 of Miami’s 42 games so far and only logged 12 minutes in an 11th, which means it won’t count toward his 65. Seven more missed games would cost him his award eligibility.

Murray is in a similar spot — he has missed 14 of Denver’s 43 games and played just 10 minutes in a 15th, so three more missed games would make him ineligible for award consideration.

Doncic has missed seven games for the Mavericks, while Fox has missed six for the Kings, so they’re on pace to play in enough games, but if either player turns an ankle or tweaks a hamstring and is forced to the sidelines for a couple weeks, he’d be in trouble.

It looked like that might happen with Haliburton, who sat out just three of the Pacers’ first 36 games, then strained his hamstring earlier this month. He was expected to be unavailable for at least a couple weeks, but returned to action on Friday night, ahead of schedule, after missing just five contests.

Haliburton is a legitimate All-NBA candidate and would be in line for a projected $41MM pay increase across his five-year extension if he earns one of those 15 spots. Were those financial considerations a factor in his early return to action? Would he still have been inactive on Friday if that 65-game minimum weren’t in play?

It’s hard to imagine the Pacers allowing their franchise player to risk potential re-injury by coming back too early, but Haliburton certainly has a ton of motivation to play in every game he can this year.

As Howard Beck of The Ringer writes, that 65-game minimum will be a fascinating subplot to follow in the second half of the season. Although we’ve focused here on players whose future earnings could be directly tied to whether or not they claim an end-of-season award, there are many other potential All-NBA candidates who may fall short of 65 games, changing the equation for voters.

Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, Kyrie Irving, Donovan Mitchell, Devin Booker, Zion Williamson, and Lauri Markkanen are among the stars who have been out for eight or more games so far this season, Beck observes. Kevin Durant has missed seven.

The 65-game minimum isn’t necessary to earn votes for Sixth Man of the Year, Rookie of the Year, or an All-Rookie spot, but the other major awards require at least 65 appearances.

In 2023, five of the 15 players who made an All-NBA team appeared in fewer than 65 games, but that won’t be the case in 2024. The players who have the most riding on All-NBA honors from a financial perspective may be the ones most motivated to stay on the court, but as Adebayo points out, you “can’t stop injuries from happening.”

“God forbid nobody gets hurt, but you can’t [prevent] injury,” he said, per Bontemps and Marks. “I think it’s crazy that we even have the rule. It’s one of those things where you just accept the rule. … I guess use your 17 games as wisely as possible.”