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NBA’s Western Conference is getting crowded + trade chatter as deadline nears


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Have you ever been in a speakeasy playing dubstep? It’s disorienting.

Trade Deadline

Yes, it’s deadline week …

The NBA trade deadline is tomorrow at 3 p.m. ET, and … things are kind of quiet. We’re all waiting with bated breath to find out if Dejounte Murray, who is likely to be the deadline’s biggest name, will end up on the Lakers or elsewhere. Or will the biggest name moved be Bruce Brown Jr. or Tyus Jones? Kyle Kuzma? Are you starting to sense a theme here? We might be looking at a very marginal trade deadline.

Why is that? Well, we’ve already seen big names get dealt since late September. Dating back to Sept. 27, there have been 10 trades, starting with Damian Lillard heading to Milwaukee and Jrue Holiday joining the Celtics shortly after. Weeks into the season, James Harden was shipped to the Clippers. OG Anunoby was acquired by the Knicks in late December. Pascal Siakam to the Pacers and Terry Rozier to the Heat round out the big-name deals so far. Trades are different now.

This could be one of those rare years in which all of the big names are gone long before February hits, so we’ll see if teams can fill their gaps with intelligent moves for key role players. Here’s John Hollinger’s list of deadline guys to keep an eye on.

… but the standings are more interesting

Suns 114, Bucks 106: Milwaukee (33-18, third in East) fell to 1-4 since Doc Rivers took over because Kevin Durant, Devin Booker and Bradley Beal combined for 85 points. Without Damian Lillard, the Bucks couldn’t keep up with the Suns (30-21, sixth in West). Neither could anybody during this Durant poster on Giannis.

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Pacers 132, Rockets 129: Both teams combined for 80 points in the first quarter, but the 29-23 Pacers (sixth in East) shot 62.8 percent for the game to get the win. Houston (23-27, 12th in West) is two games behind the last Play-In spot.

Mavs 119, Nets 107: Kyrie Irving returned to Brooklyn (20-30, 11th in East) to put on a show with a game-high 36 points. Luka Dončić had 35 points, 18 rebounds and nine assists to overcome 9-7-9 from Ben Simmons. Dallas (28-23, eighth in West) is 1.5 games behind fifth.

Heat 121, Magic 95: The Heat’s struggling offense made 54 percent of its shots against one of the best league’s defenses. Miami (27-24, seventh in East) owns Florida now. Orlando (27-24, eighth in East) is 12-17 on the road.

Knicks 123, Grizzlies 113: A game-high 32 points from Donte DiVincenzo improved the 33-18 Knicks (fourth in East) to 21-0 against losing teams this season. Memphis (18-33, 13th in West) has lost six in a row.

Bulls 129, Wolves 123 (OT): Minnesota (35-16, third in West) led by 23 points in the second half before losing in overtime because Coby White had 33 points. Chicago (24-27, ninth in East) is three games behind seventh-place Miami and searching for its long-term identity.

Jazz 124, Thunder 117: Incredibly impressive win by the Jazz (26-26, 10th in West), who took down another big-time team thanks to a game-high 33 points from Lauri Markkanen. Utah should assess its approach for the trade deadline. By the way, look at the log jam in the West.

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Seems chill!

The Latest From Shams

All-Star Weekend taking shape

As I noted yesterday, Celtics All-Star Jaylen Brown is leaning toward participating in the slam dunk contest at NBA All-Star Weekend in Indianapolis. We now know his expected competition, per league sources: Miami’s Jaime Jaquez Jr., New York’s Jacob Toppin and the Osceola Magic’s Mac McClung, last year’s champion.

We also know a couple of groups slated to compete in the skills challenge in Indy, per sources: Tyrese Haliburton, Myles Turner and Bennedict Mathurin from the hometown Pacers; and an all-No. 1 pick squad featuring Minnesota’s Anthony Edwards, Orlando’s Paolo Banchero and San Antonio’s Victor Wembanyama.

Once Thursday’s trade deadline comes and goes, attention across the league will shift even more toward All-Star festivities, set for Feb. 16-18. Expect more participant names to be revealed in the coming week.

Snub Over?

The Trae Young snub debate is weird

Yesterday, Adam Silver named the two Eastern Conference All-Star injury replacements for Julius Randle (shoulder) and Joel Embiid (knee). Scottie Barnes of the Raptors earned his first All-Star selection, vindicating coach Darko Rajaković’s tirade on his behalf earlier this season. And then, our long-lived national crisis ended with Trae Young of the Hawks being named for his third career selection.

The talk around Young’s initial snub has been interesting, ranging from “How could he not make it??” to “He’s averaging 27.3 points and 10.9 assists!” or “People are hating on Trae!

Even LeBron James publicly wondered what’s happening with Young not being selected the last two seasons (before the injury replacement).

The coaches haven’t believed he was worthy of a reserve selection the last two seasons. For last season’s game, Bam Adebayo, Siakam, DeMar DeRozan, Holiday, Jaylen Brown, Randle and Haliburton made the cut. Holiday would be the most highly debated option here, but coaches really respect his impact on winning basketball.

Gilbert Arenas, on his internet show, claimed the NBA changed the system that is now against Young in a way unlike before, saying players hate Young and the media doesn’t like him, so it’s hard for him to make it as a starter. Here’s the thing, though, everyone: That system — where fans have 50 percent of the vote while players and media account for 25 percent each — was implemented in 2016-17, before Young even entered the NBA. He has twice been voted in as a starter under that system.

Young’s numbers are impressive, but his team has dramatically underachieved since the Hawks surprisingly made the Eastern Conference finals in 2021. That might be the reason Young wasn’t initially picked in the previous two selection processes. Also, there are some really good options in the East, so he just got initially squeezed out. Young made it as a replacement this time, so let’s just enjoy the show.

Trade Deadline History

The second-best, second-worst deadline deals

The trade deadline is tomorrow! Last Friday, we started ranking the five best and five worst deadline deals of all-time. Today, we check out the second-best and second-worst all-time deals on this list:

Second-best deadline deal: 02/22/2001

  • 76ers acquire Dikembe Mutombo, Roshown McLeod
  • Hawks acquire Toni Kukoč, Theo Ratliff, Nazr Mohammed, Pepe Sánchez

As the 76ers tried to place proper help around Allen Iverson, they found a way to turn a Mo(hammed) hill into a Mt. Mutombo. Sure, that wordplay execution wasn’t great, but you know why I’m here. Mutombo was an eight-time All-Star and on his way to his fourth Defensive Player of the Year award that season. The Sixers were actually 41-14 upon making the trade, so they weren’t at all hurting for success.

Philly’s front office wanted to punctuate its chances for a Finals run. This deal turned out to be absolute thievery. Mutombo was amazing in that run to the Finals (13.1 points, 14.2 rebounds, 3.4 blocks through conference finals), but the Sixers ran into prime Shaquille O’Neal (33 points on 57.3 percent shooting, 15.8 rebounds, 4.8 assists, 3.4 blocks in 2001 Finals). There was nothing you could do there.

Best deadline deals revealed (so far):

5. Tim Hardaway Sr. to the Heat (1996)

4. Marc Gasol to the Raptors (2019)

3. Bucks-Sonics swap Gary Payton and Ray Allen (2003)

2. 76ers bring in Mt. Mutombo (2001)

Second-worst deadline deal: 02/18/2010

  • Knicks acquire Tracy McGrady, Sergio Rodríguez
  • Kings acquire Carl Landry, Joey Dorsey, Larry Hughes, cash
  • Rockets acquire Kevin Martin, Hilton Armstrong, Jordan Hill, Jared Jeffries, 2011 pick swap, 2012 first-round pick

Technically, the Rockets made out the best on this deal because Kevin Martin was used for acquiring James Harden in 2012. But this trade was incredibly deflating. The Kings couldn’t play Martin and Tyreke Evans together, so they acquired … Carl Landry? T-Mac was heavily declining by that point and just there to give some cool jerseys to Knicks fans. And the pick the Rockets acquired was Royce White (2012, 16th overall). He played in three NBA games. Yikes.

Worst deadline deals revealed (so far): 

5. Clippers give up Kyrie Irving pick for Mo Williams (2011)

4. Lakers acquire Ramon Sessions (2012)

3. Sixers-Bucks-Suns three-team deal of nothing (2015)

2. The infamous T-Mac, Landry, K-Mart (not that one) swap (2010)

Bounce Passes

The red-hot Cavs (32-16, second in East) climbed my Power Rankings.

50 Cent says he took the Ja Rule curse off the Wolves. He also believes A-Rod will give him a ring.

Payton Pritchard reflected on his elevated role with the Celtics.

Screen Game (All times Eastern)

  • Main Screen: Pelicans-Clippers (10 p.m. ESPN). Give me Kawhi Leonard against Brandon Ingram for 35 minutes of this game, please.
  • Second Screen: Warriors-Pacers (7 p.m.). Steph Curry versus Haliburton. This game will determine the best point guard in the world.
  • League Pass Game of the Night: Hawks-Celtics (10:30 p.m.). Young is no longer an All-Star snub. Will he show it against the East’s best? Full schedule here.

(Top photo: Kevork Djansezian / Getty Images )

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