- Nuggets center Nikola Jokic raved about new teammate JaMychal Green after Thursday’s win over Golden State, as Alex Ladibou of Nuggets.com writes. “I’ve always said JaMychal is a guy I’d like to play with for the rest of my life,” Jokic said. “He is amazing.” A source tells Mike Singer of The Denver Post that Jokic expressed a similar sentiment privately to Green after the game.
Now that the Rockets have moved James Harden, there’s an expectation that the team will be more open to trading P.J. Tucker as well. A report earlier this week indicated that multiple teams are asking about Tucker, and Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic says the Timberwolves are among the clubs expected to be in the hunt for the veteran forward.
The Wolves, who reportedly inquired on Tucker during the offseason, have been monitoring his situation in Houston since before the draft and have maintained contact with the Rockets since then, according to Krawczynski.
Minnesota’s president of basketball operations Gersson Rosas worked in Houston’s front office before joining the Wolves in 2019, though it remains to be seen whether his friendly relationship with the Rockets’ top decision-makers will help grease the wheels for a potential deal. As Krawczynski points out, Tucker’s versatility and his $8MM expiring contract will make him a logical trade target for several contenders.
Still, the Wolves look like an especially good fit for Tucker, given their lack of reliable options at the power forward spot. Rosas himself has acknowledged that the team could use an upgrade at the four, as Krawczynski relayed earlier in the week.
“The power forward position is probably one of the areas where we have the most questions right now,” Rosas said. “Part of it is there’s some young guys there and we’re trying to get to a good fit. But I wouldn’t be doing my job if we’re not trying to improve and get better and address our needs.”
Having opted for a Harden package loaded with draft picks and swaps, the Rockets would likely prioritize draft assets again in talks for Tucker and would presumably attempt to land a first-round pick. That may reduce the Wolves’ chances, according to Krawczynski, who points out that Minnesota has already traded away a top-three protected 2021 first-rounder and isn’t in a great position to be selling off more picks for a 35-year-old on an expiring deal.
Even if the Rockets do intend to move Tucker, there’s no rush to do so right away, as the trade deadline isn’t until March 25. While we wait to see which other teams might be in the mix for the former Texas Longhorn, it’s worth noting that the Nuggets weren’t among the teams to inquire as of Wednesday night, per Mike Singer of The Denver Post (Twitter link).
After starting Nuggets small forward Michael Porter Jr. cleared his initial quarantine due to COVID-19 contact tracing last week, he saw his isolation window extended for an extra 10-to-14 days. The team did not disclose the reason for the new quarantine period when it was announced last week.
Tonight, head coach Michael Malone finally verified that Porter’s continued absence from the team was a result of his testing positive for the novel coronavirus, according to Kendra Andrews of The Athletic (Twitter link).
The Nuggets could certainly use the 22-year-old’s contributions on the floor. After a 122-116 loss to the Nets tonight, Denver fell to 5-6 on the season and currently hold the No. 11 seed in a talented Western Conference.
Across four games, the 6’10” forward out of Missouri is averaging 19.5 PPG, 6.8 RPG, 1.8 APG, 1.5 BPG, and 1.0 SPG in 29.4 MPG during the 2020/21 season. Veteran swingman Will Barton has started in Porter’s stead thus far. Denver is next scheduled to host the Warriors in a TNT broadcast on Thursday.
While James Harden‘s offseason trade request has dominated NBA headlines for the last month or two, league sources question how willing Rockets general manager Rafael Stone is to deal the superstar guard this season, according to Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer.
With the likes of John Wall, Christian Wood, and even rookie Jae’Sean Tate playing well, front office executives around the NBA believe the Rockets are becoming more confident that Harden will be comfortable staying in Houston for the rest of the season, writes O’Connor. The former MVP still prefers to be traded, but if the Rockets can build upon their early promise and improve their 3-5 record, he may not push quite as hard for a deal.
Here’s more from O’Connor:
- Teams around the NBA are keeping close eye on the 2-8 Wizards in case Bradley Beal grows frustrated and decides he wants out. Both O’Connor and John Hollinger of The Athletic suggest there’s a case to be made that Beal could be even more appealing as a trade target than Harden. Beal is nearly four years younger than Harden and has “a more malleable game” that makes him a great fit in any system, O’Connor argues.
- The presumed top suitors for Harden, including the Nets and Sixers, would also have interest in Beal, league sources tell The Ringer. The 76ers are a threat to acquire any available star player if they’re willing to put Ben Simmons on the table, but people around the league are more skeptical about Brooklyn’s ability to land a star, says O’Connor.
- O’Connor asked 14 executives which under-the-radar teams could be candidates to acquire a star player via trade, and six named the Pelicans — rival execs don’t necessarily expect David Griffin to hoard New Orleans’ excess draft picks for years, given how good Brandon Ingram and Zion Williamson already are. The Heat, Knicks, Mavericks, Nuggets, and Spurs also received votes.
- In case you missed it, O’Connor also said that Wizards head coach Scott Brooks is “firmly” on the hot seat, as we detailed earlier today.
Despite the Nuggets opening the season with a 4-5 record, the team is widely recognized as having one of the best offenses in the league — one that significantly improves when Gary Harris finds his rhythm, head coach Mike Malone acknowledged.
“Gary allows us to be a different team when the offense is flowing like it was tonight,” Malone said after Denver’s 115-103 win over Philadelphia on Saturday, according to Mike Singer of The Denver Post. “…Gary deserves it. He’s been working so hard, and for him to see the ball go through the net, I’m just happy for him because I know it’s been on his mind.”
Harris finished with 21 points against the Sixers, shooting 7-of-11 from the field and 5-of-8 from three-point range in 28 minutes. He’s been a key cog in Denver’s offense for several years, averaging double-digit points per game in each of his last six seasons. The team could use his offensive production as it looks to contend in an already-crowded Western Conference this season.
There’s more from the Northwest Division tonight:
- Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic examines the return of Timberwolves star Karl-Anthony Towns, who finished with 25 points, 13 rebounds and four assists in an overtime loss against the Spurs on Saturday. “People don’t know the toughness that he has, not just physically but mentally, too,” head coach Ryan Saunders said postgame. “I’ll always ride with KAT. Tonight was evident of that. He was clearly limited. I thought he was unbelievably effective.”
- Damian Lillard and his camp have advocated for the Blazers to acquire Warriors forward Draymond Green over the past couple of years, according to Sam Amick of The Athletic (hat tip Dan Feldman of NBC Sports). However, there has been no indication that Golden State has any interest in trading Green, who has spent all nine seasons of his career with the Warriors.
- Marc Spears of The Undefeated examined the Jacob Blake decision and more with Thunder guard George Hill, who offered insight about topics on and off the court. “I can’t speak for everybody. I can only speak for myself. I just think with the way the world is going, I just think we all need to come together,” Hill said as part of a larger quote addressing where players should go with the social justice movement this season. “We’re 450 [players] and when 450 stand strong, we’re more powerful than everyone thinks. We’re way more powerful than they think we are. I learned a lot from LeBron [James] and how he migrated and moved on and off the floor. He is a huge inspiration with how he uses his leverage to open doors and how powerful he is. That is just one guy. Four hundred and fifty can be really strong if we just come together.
12:32pm: Embiid and fellow All-Star Ben Simmons will miss tonight’s game because of injuries, per Shams Charania of The Athletic (via Twitter). The Sixers will now only have eight eligible players, which is the technical threshold for fielding a team.
When asked whether or not he believed Philadelphia should take the floor, coach Doc Rivers said, “I don’t think we should,” according to Tim Bontemps of ESPN.
“An hour ago we were told we were playing,” Rivers said to reporters, per Mike Singer of the Denver Post (Twitter link). “We have eight active players. One is Mike Scott, and I can tell you right now there’s no way I’m going to play him.”
Scott is currently listed as day-to-day with a knee injury. The power forward has appeared in five games this season for the Sixers, averaging 16.0 MPG.
11:25am: Amid the Sixers‘ rash of contract tracing due to a positive COVID-19 test, the team will play its Saturday afternoon game against the Nuggets, tweets ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.
Philadelphia had expected to be without several players, as Joel Embiid, Tobias Harris, Danny Green, Shake Milton, Matisse Thybulle, Vincent Poirier and Paul Reed were listed as questionable for today’s game. Embiid, Green and Reed were cleared from the protocol, Wojnarowski tweeted Saturday afternoon.
Harris, Milton, Thybulle and Poirier are all out and still in the protocol, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic.
Wojnarowski adds that the Sixers have nine eligible players for today’s game, one more than the required total of eight. However, that does not guarantee that Embiid will play — clearance from the protocol simply allows him to be counted as an eligible player toward the requirement of eight players to avoid a postponement, Wojnarowski noted.
9:47pm: Because of COVID-19 health and safety protocols, Porter will have to quarantine for an additional 10-to-14 days, Shams Charania of The Athletic tweets.
The reason for the additional quarantine is unclear. It’s possible that Porter was exposed to an additional person who later tested positive for the coronavirus, violated the league’s protocols, or perhaps recorded a positive test himself.
3:49pm: The Nuggets had expected forward Michael Porter Jr. to clear his seven-day quarantine for COVID-19 contact tracing on Wednesday night and to be available for Thursday’s game vs. Dallas, but it seems they’ll have to wait a longer to get him back in their lineup.
Porter has been ruled out of tonight’s contest due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, reports Mike Singer of The Denver Post. According to the latest injury report from the Nuggets, the 22-year-old still wasn’t back with the team on Thursday, though a league source tells Singer that his absence isn’t a result of his contact-tracing quarantine being extended.
The Nuggets have yet to comment on the exact reason for Porter’s unavailability and it’s not clear when he’ll be available, Singer adds. The team will be in action in Philadelphia on Saturday and in New York on Sunday, so we’ll have to wait to see if Porter is able to play in either of those contests.
Porter had gotten off to a strong start this season, averaging 19.5 PPG on .566/.423/.875 shooting in his first four games (29.3 MPG). As long as MPJ remains out, Will Barton figures to continue starting at small forward.
- Timberwolves head coach Ryan Saunders is excited for the development of No. 1 draft pick Anthony Edwards out of Georgia, whose understated production (5 points, 4 assists) in a 123-116 Sunday loss to the Nuggets masked his game-reading improvement. “Even if it wasn’t your highest-scoring game, that was your best game as an NBA player because of the way he was reading defenses, the things that we’ve been trying to fast track for him over the last month,” Saunders said of the rookie swingman, per Chris Hine of The Star Tribune.
- Nuggets forward Michael Porter Jr. will be clearing the league’s health and safety protocols-necessitated quarantine tonight and should be available for Denver tomorrow against the Mavericks, per Mike Singer of the Denver Post.
- Former Real Madrid star Facundo Campazzo had looked relatively invisible in his first five NBA games, but he showed on Sunday why the Nuggets brought him over from Spain this offseason, writes Mike Singer of The Denver Post. “I thought this was the best version of Facundo Campazzo that you could imagine,” head coach Michael Malone said of the 29-year-old point guard, who had 15 points and three steals in Denver’s win over Minnesota.
- Before he signed with the Nuggets as a free agent in November, Isaiah Hartenstein drew interest from the Trail Blazers, Cavaliers, Pelicans, and Wizards, league sources tell Singer in a separate Denver Post story.
With Timberwolves star center Karl-Anthony Towns still out of commission due to a dislocated wrist, starting guard D’Angelo Russell has struggled as the new focus of the club’s offense, writes The Athletic’s Jon Krawcyznski. The Wolves have lost three straight games in which they have been down by at least 30 points.
Russell has recently been moved by Timberwolves head coach Ryan Saunders to the shooting guard position to play in tandem with distributor Ricky Rubio at the point. “It can’t be different every night. It’s going to be something we’re running with and we’re sticking with and we build from it,” Russell said.
There’s more out of the NBA’s Northwest Division:
- Second-year Thunder guard Ty Jerome continues to recover from an ankle injury he incurred in training camp this season, Joe Mussatto of the Oklahoman tweets. “I think [it happened] in the first practice,” head coach Mark Daigneault. said. “He’s back in OKC on a return-to-play, getting his work in.”
- Mike Singer of the Denver Post details how the Nuggets signed Isaiah Hartenstein to a two-year, veteran’s minimum deal in free agency this offseason. Hartenstein discusses his frustration with a lack of consistent chances on his prior squad in Houston. “With the Rockets, every time they gave me an opportunity I performed,” Hartenstein said.
- Rookie Thunder power forward Aleksej Pokuševski has been placed in the league’s concussion protocol after suffering a concussion in a team practice today, according to a team press release. He has appeared in all five of the Thunder’s outings so far, and is averaging 16.0 MPG.