Zach Lowe: I’ve heard the same as you, which is that any, any, any calls to break up the Damian Lillard/CJ McCollum backcourt have been summarily rejected by the Blazers. Do they have anything cooking in terms of getting under the tax? Adrian Wojnarowski: I think Maurice Harkless is a player that has been discussed in some different places, and that’s certainly a position the Blazers have wanted to get better at and upgrade. But it’s tough, everybody in the league wants—there’s such a premium on wings. And Harkless had his best season a couple of years ago before they did the four-year deal, and he hasn’t played as well since. Sacramento, in the past, has had some interest in him.
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Born, bred and college-educated in Queens, Moe Harkless has firm roots in Knicks territory, an upward-trending NBA career and is now part of the never-ending Carmelo Anthony trade cycle. Still, as the Trail Blazers forward explained to the Daily News on Saturday, he doesn’t concern himself with the persistent rumors that he’s included in trade proposals to the Knicks. There’s no benefit. “It doesn’t do anything for me to get involved with that,” he said. “If it happens, it happens.”
The improvement is also why he’s been part of trade proposals involving Carmelo Anthony, according to sources, both in straight swap talks and three-team negotiations where Anthony would end up in Houston. In both instances, Harkless goes to New York.
“(Scott Perry and I) had a really good relationship. We still have a good relationship. We actually spoke not too long ago. We talk all the time,” Harkless said. “He’s a real down-to-Earth guy, a real dude. He doesn’t really sugar coat stuff. So I think that’s why players take a liking to him.”
As evidenced by their recent — and ongoing — trade discussions with the Portland Trail Blazers, members of the Knicks’ front office are seeking to acquire an additional draft pick. One source described talks between the Knicks and Blazers as “fluid,” with several different proposals — as is the case with most trade discussions. One scenario discussed involved the Knicks taking back a player — and Maurice Harkless’ name was among those that came up.
The Blazers have just shy of $133 million in guaranteed contracts on the books for the 2017-18 season. That puts the Blazers about $11 million over the tax threshold for next season, bringing a tax bill of roughly $20 million before filling out the final three roster spots. Evan Turner ($17.1 million due next season) and Allen Crabbe ($19.3 million) could potentially be included in a trade as well as Meyers Leonard ($9.9 million) and Moe Harkless ($9.7 million).
It remains to be seen whether Portland proves to be as active in the trade market as many league observers expected coming into the season, but here’s a pertinent bookkeeping note: Allen Crabbe, Maurice Harkless and Meyers Leonard all finally become eligible to be traded Sunday after the big new deals all three signed over the summer.
The trade restrictions for Turner and Ezeli expire Dec. 15, and the restrictions for Allen Crabbe, Meyers Leonard and Maurice Harkless will not be lifted until Jan. 15. Crabbe also would need to approve of any trade for one year because the Trail Blazers matched the Nets’ offer sheet for him this past summer.
The Blazers have an aggressive front office and more wings (Allen Crabbe, Evan Turner, Moe Harkless) and bigs (Mason Plumlee, Meyers Leonard and Festus Ezeli) than they need. So keep an eye on them. The suspicion among numerous league observers is that the Blazers’ non-stop spending this past offseason was asset collection as much as anything. Scan through all those names again and it’s clear Portland has no shortage of options to thrust itself into all kinds of trade talks as GM Neil Olshey continues to shape the roster around backcourt bedrocks Lillard and C.J. McCollum.
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February 21, 2018 | 8:43 pm EST Update
After spending 10 days before the All-Star break in New York consulting with a specialist to gather a second opinion on his right quad injury, All-NBA forward Kawhi Leonard bears the burden of determining when he’s prepared to play again, sources told ESPN.
Away from the Spurs to pursue second opinions in New York, Kawhi Leonard recently utilized the gymnasium inside the National Basketball Players Association headquarters in Manhattan for workouts, league sources told ESPN. The Spurs had team personnel accompanying Leonard in New York, sources said.
The injury, rehabilitation and timetable for a return has complicated the Spurs and Leonard’s relationship, causing tension and fraying the fabric of what was once a strong partnership, league sources told ESPN. The uncertainty surrounding this season — and Leonard’s future which could include free agency in the summer of 2019 — has inspired a palpable stress around the organization, league sources said.