NBA rumors: Jimmy Butler will return against Celtics on Friday?

With Jimmy Butler set to rejoin his teammates on Friday, the Heat will gain some clarity on a key question: Has the gap between last year’s Eastern Conference finalists widened to the point that their records would suggest? Or is the Heat (10-12) still positioned to be competitive with Boston (18-4) should the teams meet again in the postseason? Butler was set to join the Heat in Boston on Thursday evening after missing seven games with a knee injury; Miami listed him as questionable for the game.
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The Lakers will remain active on the trade market, exploring deals both small and large. In the wake of the Irving-to-Dallas news, the two teams that have repeatedly popped up as Plan B options for the Lakers are the Utah Jazz and Toronto Raptors, according to league sources. Both teams have been linked to the Lakers in recent weeks and have starter-level players who have been rumored to be available. However, talks remain preliminary and nothing is imminent. The Charlotte Hornets, San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Bulls are three other teams to watch, according to those sources.

Russell Westbrook's contract would still require significant draft compensation for a team to take it in trade

But even if the Lakers determine the locker room chemistry can sustain the hits it took from the Irving trade drama, Russell Westbrook’s $47.1 million contract is its own issue. As SCNG previously reported, one of the reasons the Lakers decided to go into the 2022-23 season with Westbrook on the roster was to rehabilitate his trade value. But a rival front office executive told SCNG that Westbrook, who is averaging 15.7 points, 6.2 rebounds and 7.5 assists this season, still likely requires significant draft compensation to be moved, likely at least one unprotected first-round pick and maybe more.