So what was Ja Morant doing? Here’s what: He was “walking the dog,” the fun, obnoxious, sometimes disrespectful, and — according to analytics — game-changing play that is taking over the NBA. The art of rolling the ball up the court on an inbound has quietly been a part of the game for seven decades. Now, stars across the league, including Chris Paul, LeBron James, Marcus Smart and Nikola Jokic, are increasingly using the technique — to show up their opponents, to create viral moments and, most importantly, to win games. The league is on pace to more than double its usage of the move this year compared to the 2019-20 season. No one does it as well, or as often, as Morant; he uses the move nearly twice as much as any of his peers, about once per game. But why? Why is it becoming so common, and why is Morant so obsessed with it? This is the secret history — and the secret value — of walking the dog in the NBA.
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January 31, 2023 | 4:33 am EST Update
Sacramento is said to be monitoring the availability of Philadelphia’s Matisse Thybulle as the Kings, unexpectedly holding the West’s No. 3 seed after a league-record 16 consecutive seasons out of the playoffs, ponder the pursuit of a more defensive-minded option on the perimeter.
As Kyrie Irving’s agent and stepmother Shetellia Riley Irving told my podcast partner Chris Haynes in a Bleacher Report story last week, Irving hopes to sign a contract extension with the Nets — but substantive talks between the sides have yet to begin. Some league observers have posited that this could be by design on Brooklyn’s part, with the Nets apparently convinced that they are under no pressure to move swiftly on the extension front when Irving would likely need their help via sign-and-trade to relocate in the offseason to any other team he likes.
Teams like the Los Angeles Clippers would like to improve at that position, with John Wall apparently available. The Orlando Magic have eyes on a quality veteran like VanVleet, per sources. The Dallas Mavericks are still looking for a Jalen Brunson replacement. The Washington Wizards don’t have a true answer at the point.
The Lakers are fighting to climb into the top 10 in the Western Conference. While coach Darvin Ham has found a viable role for Westbrook off the bench, the franchise does have concerns about his playoff viability, per multiple sources.
Despite changes at the very top, the team is expected to make more significant changes after the season, but sources say the team has come to terms with the likelihood that Paul is starting to decline (38 years old in May). Even if he can bring it for another postseason, the Suns need to find a long-term replacement.