It’s no secret Westbrook isn’t exactly a fan of the…

It’s no secret Westbrook isn’t exactly a fan of the Blazers. His competitive, trash-talking spirit always seems to manifest itself against Damian Lillard. It’s not exactly an exact science pinpointing the origin of the rivalry, but it’s one that will probably last the ends of time. The rivalry had reared its head on a number of occasions in the evening, but as the game wore on and Portland distanced itself, Westbrook’s energy increased. Four minutes into the fourth quarter, with the Blazers up by 14, Westbrook had Lillard in the post—a commonplace for Westbrook against smaller defenders, but especially for Lillard. Lillard fouled him, yanking Westbrook on the arm. “A foul is a bucket,” Westbrook said shaking his head in a bravado. “He can’t guard me.”
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January 23, 2020 | 7:34 pm UTC Update
January 23, 2020 | 6:44 pm UTC Update
“I think Jimmy’s been very clear, and I think I’ve spoken a few times, it’s conversations that we had about Miami early on, and it’s certain people that you just know are Miami Heat guys when you know the culture,” Wade said during a conference call Wednesday to announce his new role with Turner Sports. “And for me, I always thought that Jimmy was that — not knowing that this would actually happen — but I always thought that Jimmy’s personality and his crazy is perfect for [Heat president] Pat Riley and [coach] Erik Spoelstra’s crazy.”
“I think it’s all based off of honesty, truthfulness, hard work and intention,” Butler told ESPN after scoring 24 points, dishing out 10 assists and grabbing 7 rebounds in a 134-129 overtime win over the Washington Wizards. “And I feel like when you talk about myself, you talk about Spo, you talk about Coach Pat, that’s what all of this thing is based off of: how hard you work, how you can keep it real with one another and not take anything personal. It fits for me here. I’m loving it, man. They’re constantly in my ear, and we’re constantly going back and forth, figuring out ways that I can be better. How I can make everybody else better. But this culture — I’m super happy to be here. I’m fortunate to be here, man. This is a great group of guys. It’s a great organization. But like [Wade] said, this is the right type of crazy for me.”
January 23, 2020 | 6:33 pm UTC Update
Jenkins has given Crowder his blessing to speak up in such situations. Crowder’s been a starter since Day 1 this season due in part to his ability to lead — both by example and with his sometimes harsh words. He barks at his teammates when they are not in position, and he speaks his mind when he disagrees with the coaching staff. And he might even applaud you if you pick up a technical foul.
“He’s an unbelievable leader,” Jenkins said. “Our first conversation, we sat down and had breakfast, and he was super excited about this opportunity. Obviously he’s bounced around the last couple of years, but he’s learned so much. He was freely sharing how much he’d learned from when he started in Dallas, the success that he had in Boston, going to Utah, a successful team. Obviously, as we started the season we had different expectations coming in. We didn’t know what we were going to have. But he was excited about helping these young guys grow and taking on a new role.”
Crowder arrived in Memphis as a piece in the Mike Conley-to-Utah trade. He was initially unsure about his place on the young roster and was apprehensive about playing on a team that many projected would be one of the worst in the Western Conference. Then the front office reached out to him and explained the team’s goals for the season. The Grizzlies wanted Crowder to be a mentor for their young roster. It wasn’t a role Crowder was accustomed to, but he accepted the challenge.
January 23, 2020 | 4:52 pm UTC Update

Mavericks, Sixers interested in Danilo Gallinari

Danilo Gallinari stands out as an option. Multiple playoff teams have expressed interest in the Thunder forward, including the Mavericks and Sixers, according to league sources. Gallinari is a potent scorer everywhere on the court, in any play type—whether he’s posting up, isolating, or in the pick-and-roll as a screener or ball handler. Though Gallinari, 31, has never been an All-Star, he’s played like one this season in Oklahoma City and last season with the Clippers. Gallinari can become an unrestricted free agent this summer, but few teams will have cap space, and most of them will be younger teams unlikely to pursue players in their 30s.
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The Mavericks are continuously cited by league sources as a potential landing spot for Grizzlies wing Andre Iguodala, who could help them this season as a secondary ball handler without compromising their future cap space. The Mavs have also made offers to the Timberwolves for Robert Covington, but those have been declined, according to multiple league sources. Covington won’t make many plays off the dribble, but he’d be an upgrade over Dorian Finney-Smith as a 3-and-D wing. It remains to be seen whether Dallas has the ammo to complete a trade, but it’s clear that the team is looking to bolster its postseason odds.
Whereas Marc Gasol is positionally adept and can occasionally draw charges or make life difficult with his no-jump verticality, Ibaka makes a scorer pause, think and sometimes change his shot. Both players’ defensive versatility is growing, though. “The good thing is this year we’ve been trying to give them the same coverages,” Fred VanVleet said of the two centres. “It doesn’t always work. But last year, it was like two different teams — when Serge was at the five and Marc was at the five, it was completely different. But I think this year, they’re in the same coverages a lot. We’re challenging them to switch and be up and move their feet. It gives us a lot in the toolbox at the end of the year.”
“I think there’s a plan of being more aggressive and looking at the basket as a first option,” Gasol said. “And after that, just playing out of that. Some games, the ball is going to go in more, sometimes it’s not, but I’m someone that always looks for the next play, next action, and try to get guys involved. … Sometimes I overthink the game, trying to get going some of the guys that are not getting going. And you know, by being sometimes too unselfish, you can be selfish in a weird way.”
January 23, 2020 | 4:04 pm UTC Update
“It’s not something that I think the coaching staff was overly comfortable with, just conceptually. But I also don’t really care. We’ve spent 14 weeks putting him in position to have a sustainable future, and we’re going to be very mindful of that moving forward.” David Griffin on Zion playing in limited minutes.
That one stretch left Pelicans fans less bothered by the loss than downright giddy about what the future will hold. His teammates weren’t that impressed, though, because they believe this is just the beginning. “I don’t think we’ve seen anything yet. He had some explosive rebounds and explosive (plays) to the rim,” said Brandon Ingram, who had 22 points on 6-of-22 shooting. “But I think as he gets comfortable, he can be even better.”
Privately, though, expectations for the 2019-2020 Knicks were set during the team’s first official meeting. Members of the front office addressed the players in the meeting and conveyed two distinct messages, according to SNY sources familiar with the discussions: 1. They said, in no uncertain terms, that they believed that the Knicks were a playoff team and anything less than that was a disappointment. 2. Players who were entering free agency in the summer of 2020 were told that they would be judged much more heavily on the team’s win-loss record than their individual play.
Why is LaMelo shutting it down now? We’re six weeks out from the original injury, and questions were starting to arise about his future there. Few NBA executives are surprised by this news, and even fewer who have spoken with The Athletic believe this is wholly about the injury. There has been an assumption throughout league offices that from the time Ball injured his foot, he was going to shut it down. That’s not to say the foot injury is illegitimate.
Simply put, folks within NBA front offices believed that Ball would come to the conclusion he had done enough to place himself into a comfortable position entering the pre-draft process. While one executive did make a case to me that Ball could legitimately help himself by playing, no one really expected it. Also, there wasn’t much left for him to compete for from a team concept either.
Having said that, the early indications from scouts that I’ve talked to have been largely positive. He’s put his head down and worked since he’s been in Australia. People who have come into contact with him have come away impressed with his maturity level after he’s had to deal with a lot of personal upheaval in his life over the last few years. His mother had a stroke. He was pulled out of high school. He’s traveled the globe trying to find a basketball home. It’s been a lot in the last 24 months. All of this occurring while achieving a level of viral internet fame that few people his age have received. And yet, sources say he’s adjusted to it all and is a good kid.
Storyline: LaMelo Ball Injury
Several veteran executives observing from the outside were surprised at the way things unfolded. “I don’t think I’ve seen a coach address the media, coach practice and get let go,” one exec said. “Terrible optics.” When reached by SNY for comment on the information in this story, Fizdale declined to discuss the specific details. But he did say that he hopes Miller gets “a chance to stay on as head coach after this year.” “I hope Mike, who I remain in touch with, and the players there can continue to build on what we started together,” Fizdale added.
As the losses mounted early in the season, the preseason playoff expectations weighed heavily on some of the Knicks. “They were definitely playing tight,” one person in touch with those players at the time said. “(Some of the players eligible for 2020 free agency) were already worried about next summer.” Those early-season losses also led to immediate speculation about Fizdale’s job security. The speculation increased, of course, after Mills and Perry held their impromptu press conference in early November.
Two people close to the head coach said that he is bothered by the suggestion, from some media reports, that he was content with being fired because he’d be collecting the money remaining on his $22 million contract. When asked about that theory after Miami’s recent game in New York, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra strongly refuted the idea. “That’s total BS. That’s not him at all,” said Spoelstra, who worked with Fizdale for 10 years in Miami. “I’ve worked with Fiz for a long period of time and he’s a great teacher and committed to his craft. Being content with anything is not in his DNA.”
January 23, 2020 | 12:53 pm UTC Update
The Spanish Charlotte Hornets player, Willy Hernangmez, said it will be “a dream to play again with Luka Doncic” before the ‘NBA Pars Game 2020’, the first regular season game on French soil in history to face the Friday Hornets and Milwaukee Bucks. “Of course it will be a dream to play again with Luka (Doncic) and with Kristaps (Porzingis), who have been my companions. You never know what is going to happen and where you are going to be, but right now I am focused on trying to take advantage of the opportunities, on playing anywhere and being able to give the maximum of m, “Hernangmez said. “With Luka we are always supporting each other, always playing the game console, talking on FaceTime… It makes me very happy for how he is playing, for how he is dominating the league and that he is always there, giving us courage to my brother and me, because he knows they are difficult times, “he added about the Dallas Mavericks Slovenian.
January 23, 2020 | 7:12 am UTC Update

Karl-Anthony Towns untouchable?

Despite recent rumors and speculation with the Feb. 6 NBA trade deadline quickly approaching, Rosas insists that Towns, 24, is Minnesota’s franchise guy for now and the future. “Karl-Anthony Towns is as untouchable as they come,” Rosas told ESPN. “He’s the best player on our team and he’s the guy we’re building around. Everything we do is to help him become the best player and to help us become the best team we can be. He’s a special talent that we’re going to do anything possible to help him achieve his highest potential.”
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Bucks not moving Eric Bledsoe?

The 39-6 Milwaukee Bucks have the best record in the NBA and have refuted a report that they would be willing to deal guard Eric Bledsoe if offered an enticing return package. “We have no talked to any teams about trading [Bledsoe], since the day that we traded for him,” Bucks general manager Jon Horst told Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck. “And I think it’s evident, pretty strongly, in the fact that we extended Eric, what he means to us. The fact that we currently have the best record in the NBA, had the best record last year in the NBA, he’s an All-NBA First Team defender and a guy that we feel strongly should be an All-Star for the Milwaukee Bucks this year. We have not had those conversations, and we are not going to trade Eric Bledsoe.”
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