An old cliché in the NBA says that any contract can be traded in the league, and on Wednesday night this old adage certainly proved to be true.
It’s worth noting that this was a swap for players making, essentially, the same money and, really, the only trade that could be made out there for any of them would’ve been this one. But after Wizards GM Tommy Sheppard said one week ago that the team “had no plans” to trade Wall, the idea of this deal lost all steam and was thought to be dead in the water.
The NBA is never one to disappoint, however, and the trigger was pulled. This trade that would normally just be reserved for fantasy leagues and NBA 2K franchise modes is now reality.
So then, what to make of all of this? We have a few questions about this whole thing we’d like answers to.
East has become tougher, but by how much?
Make no mistake, even if John Wall wasn’t coming off two missed seasons recovering from a ruptured Achilles and there were no question marks about his health and this deal was made, the Wizards still likely would’ve ended up with the better player between the two.
Though mercurial and frustratingly inefficient at times, Westbrook will improve the Wizards this coming season and, by proxy, make the Eastern Conference tougher. The question, therefore, remains: by how much?
Bradley Beal took a monster step last season, becoming an all-star for the second time in his career and transforming himself into a bona fide scoring machine, finishing second in league scoring with a 30.5 average. The Wizards also managed to re-sign sweet-shooting stretch four Davis Bertans, and are bringing back essentially the same group that at one point last season was among the league’s best, most high-octane offences.
And now Washington is adding Westbrook to this mix to possibly take it into overdrive offensively, something that the club is hoping will return it to the post-season.
The Wizards haven’t played a playoff game since 2018 and that’s rather unacceptable given the amount of money on their payroll.
However, looking around the Eastern Conference, you have to wonder how high a seed the Wizards could realistically get.
The powers of the conference are rather obvious in the Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat, Toronto Raptors, Boston Celtics, Brooklyn Nets, Philadelphia 76ers and Indiana Pacers. That’s already seven teams that most expect to make the playoffs next season. That leaves the good-but-not-great Orlando Magic, the ambitious-looking Atlanta Hawks and now the Wizards as the likely candidates vying for that final spot.
Westbrook is an upgrade for Washington, but is his addition really enough to leapfrog the Wizards past those seven teams first mentioned? If not, is the No. 8 seed in the East really that worth it?
What does this trade mean for Harden’s future in Houston?
For the time being, according to ESPN’s Tim McMahon, James Harden will not be traded, despite reports that he wants out of Houston.
Those reports came, obviously, before this Westbrook trade happened and if Harden didn’t want to play with his old childhood buddy anymore then the wish has been granted and there shouldn’t be animosity any longer.
However, if the issues are more deeply-seeded for Harden and there is actually a disconnect between he and the Rockets franchise, you have to wonder how much will bringing in Wall perhaps aid in retaining Harden?
As mentioned before, there’s no knowing what kind of player Wall will be after being out for two seasons. There’s a chance the trademark athleticism and explosiveness that made him a former No. 1 overall pick and allowed him to get to the rim almost at will and guard multiple positions at a high level could be robbed from him.
On the other hand, Wall was never the best nor most willing shooter, meaning shots that were taken away from Harden playing alongside Westbrook will be his again. Additionally, Wall was, and should remain, a great passer with very creative vision.
But you can’t discount the possibility that perhaps the Rockets themselves would look to move on from Harden after the apparent bad blood during this off-season. The Rockets’ payroll is exorbitant to say the least and they are saving a little bit of money by swapping Westbrook for Wall, so if owner Tilman Fertitta is looking to cut costs, finding a suitor for Harden for expiring contracts would be the play here.
Did anyone actually win this trade?
The more you think about this trade, the harder it becomes to determine who came out on top as the winner.
As the tweet above from ESPN’s Bobby Marks shows, the money between both players is very even and while Westbrook is probably the better player, these are still two very similar players, right down to their glaring flaws as being not-great shooters.
There’s an argument to be made that Washington did end up with the better deal because of the reunion between Westbrook and head coach Scott Brooks, who had Westbrook as a rookie and coached him and the Thunder for seven seasons.
Brooks has always had a strong relationship with Westbrook and helped turn him into the star he is today. That bodes very well for the Wizards with the caveat that sometimes Brooks’ reliance on Wesbrook came at the expense of Kevin Durant, an ultra-efficient scorer back then similar to what Beal is now, opening up the possibility of some friction between Westbrook and Beal over who gets the ball more and who gets more shots.
So then, would that mean the Rockets won the trade? Houston may have if Wall is anything like the five-time all-star he once was before injuries forced him off the floor. That’s a big “if,” however, as Achilles injuries are always tough to come back from.
There’s also the chance Wall could clash with Harden as he’s a player used to being the top dog in an organization, having spent the first 10 years of his NBA career in Washington.
Wall was supposed to be a franchise player that the Wizards could build around and looked like he could become that when he signed that supermax extension with Washington back in the summer of 2017. The contract didn’t kick in until this past season, and now he’ll go without ever playing for the team that originally signed him to it. Injuries suck, and the fact that they’re so commonplace sucks even more, but Wall is only human and may be looking to finally prove his worth now, for better or worse, in Houston.
So then, who won the trade? It’s too early to say for certain, but for the time being is it possible that both teams lost? Trading stars almost always ends up badly for the team giving one up, and that includes a case like this where it is a star for a star. The uncertainty among both Westbrook and Wall raises too many red flags on both sides for this deal to be healthy for either.
Boogie and Wall reunited
This isn’t a question, but how cool will it be see these two Kentucky Wildcats teammates reunited on the floor together again?
— DeMarcus Cousins (@boogiecousins) December 3, 2020
Warriors top Grizzlies for No. 8 seed
Stephen Curry scored a game-high 46 points en route to his second NBA scoring title and Jordan Poole stalled a rally with a late 3-pointer Sunday afternoon as the Golden State Warriors held off the visiting Memphis Grizzlies in San Francisco for a 113-101 win to claim the No. 8 position in this week’s play-in tournament.
With Curry scoring 17 of his 46 points, the Warriors appeared to take command of the game in the third quarter, but Dillon Brooks led a Memphis comeback. Before fouling out, Brooks contributed 13 points to a 22-5 flurry that made it 91 all with 6:32 still to play.
The Grizzlies went up by two twice after that, before Poole nailed his momentum-changing 3-pointer.
The loss ended Memphis’ five-game winning streak and landed the Grizzlies in the No. 9 spot in the play-in, where they will host 10th-seeded San Antonio on Wednesday.
Lakers 110, Pelicans 98
LeBron James scored 25 points as Los Angeles won in New Orleans on the final day of the regular season, but was unable to avoid the play-in round.
James left the game midway through the fourth quarter, slightly favoring the injured right ankle that sidelined him 26 games down the stretch.
But the victory wasn’t enough for the defending NBA champions to avoid the Western Conference play-in tournament. Portland defeated Denver to claim the sixth seed so the seventh-seeded Lakers will host eighth-seeded Golden State in a play-in game Wednesday.
Jazz 121, Kings 99
Jordan Clarkson scored 33 points and made six 3-pointers and Bojan Bogdanovic added 18 points to lead Utah past Sacramento and the league’s best regular-season record.
Rudy Gobert added 13 points and 16 rebounds. Mike Conley chipped in 11 points, nine assists and six rebounds. Utah clinched the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference and will have home-court advantage throughout the playoffs.
Terence Davis scored 20 points to lead the Kings. Damian Jones chipped in 19 points. Buddy Hield added 13 points, nine assists and seven rebounds for Sacramento, which rested several key players: De’Aaron Fox, Tyrese Haliburton, Harrison Barnes, Marvin Bagley III and Richaun Holmes
Timberwolves 136, Mavericks 121
Anthony Edwards closed his push for NBA Rookie of the Year with 30 points, and Minnesota dominated Dallas nearly wire-to-wire for a season-ending win in Minneapolis.
Edwards capped his debut season with his eighth game of 22 or more points over the final nine. He is in contention to be Minnesota’s first Rookie of the Year since teammate Karl-Anthony Towns, who won the award in 2016.
Dallas, which locked up the No. 5 seed and will play the Los Angeles Clippers in the first round of the playoffs, shot 16-of-38 from 3-point range, including Kristaps Porzingis making 4 of 5. Porzingis finished with 18 points.
Heat 120, Pistons 107
Precious Achiuwa had 23 points and 10 rebounds to lead Miami to a road win over Detroit in the regular-season finale.
With little to no incentive to win the game, each team rested several starters. Miami already had the No. 6 seed in the Eastern Conference playoffs clinched going into the game, while Detroit was looking to clinch the league’s second-worst record and enhance its odds of winning the first pick in the NBA draft lottery.
Saddiq Bey scored 22 points and Josh Jackson scored 17 points off the bench for Detroit.
76ers 128, Magic 117
Tyrese Maxey had 30 points, seven rebounds and six assists to lift host Philadelphia over Orlando in game in which the 76ers rested all of their starters.
Since the Sixers have had already secured the top seed in the Eastern Conference playoff race, Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Danny Green, Seth Curry and Tobias Harris sat the game out.
Isaiah Joe scored 17 points, rookie Paul Reed added season highs of 17 and 12 rebounds, and Shake Milton contributed 15 points and nine assists for the Sixers, who improved to 49-23. George Hill added 14 points.
Nets 123, Cavaliers 109
Kevin Durant totaled 23 points, a season-high-tying 13 assists and eight rebounds in three quarters as Brooklyn Nets secured the second seed in the Eastern Conference with a wire-to-wire win over Cleveland in New York.
The Nets ended the season on a five-game winning streak and edged out the Milwaukee Bucks for the second seed. A loss by Brooklyn and a Milwaukee win over the Chicago Bulls would have pushed the Nets into the third seed due to losing the head-to-head tiebreaker with the Bucks.
Kyrie Irving added 17 points on 7 of 11 from the field for the Nets and became the ninth player in NBA history to shoot at least 50 percent from the field, 40 percent from 3-point range and 90 percent from the free throw line.
Knicks 96, Celtics 92
RJ Barrett scored a game-high 22 points as New York completed a resurgent regular season and clinched the fourth seed in the Eastern Conference by hanging on for a win over visiting Boston.
The Knicks, who are headed for the playoffs for the first time since 2013, will open the quarterfinals at home next weekend against the fifth-seeded Atlanta Hawks.
The Celtics already were locked into the seventh spot in the Eastern Conference and the first seed in the play-in tournament. Boston, which needs to win just once to advance to the playoffs, will play the eighth-seeded Washington Wizards on Tuesday.
Pacers 125, Raptors 113
Canadian-born Oshae Brissett exploded for a career-high 31 points against his country’s displaced team, and Indiana earned a home game in the NBA’s play-in tournament with a thrashing of host Toronto.
Brissett completed a double-double with 10 rebounds, while Domantas Sabonis had one of his own with 25 points and 16 rebounds, as the Pacers snapped a two-game losing streak to clinch a tie for eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
Indiana assured it would finish tied with either Charlotte or Washington, who were playing each other in a contest that finished after the Pacers-Raptors game had ended. The Wizards secured the win 115-110 over the Hornets.
Wizards 115, Hornets 110
Bradley Beal made a go-ahead layup with 2:53 remaining as host Washington beat Charlotte to secure the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference.
Russell Westbrook collected 23 points, 15 rebounds and 10 assists and Beal added 25 points in his first contest after a three-game absence for the Wizards.
Robin Lopez posted 18 points and Rui Hachimura had 16 for Washington, which will visit the seventh-seeded Boston Celtics in the play-in round on Tuesday. Charlotte, which owns the No. 10 seed, will face the Indiana Pacers on Tuesday in Indianapolis.
Suns 123, Spurs 121
E’Twaun Moore poured in 22 points, including the deciding 3-pointer with 2.2 seconds to play, to lift visiting Phoenix past San Antonio.
Phoenix was without Devin Booker (rest), Chris Paul (rest) and Deandre Ayton (knee) as the Suns opted to keep key players on the bench despite the chance to earn the top spot in the Western Conference.
San Antonio pulled its starters at the end of the third quarter, allowing the two teams’ bench players to decide the contest. The Suns’ reserves had just enough to secure the win that forced Utah to win in Sacramento later Sunday in order to finish atop of Phoenix in the West.
Hawks 124, Rockets 95
Led by rookie Onyeka Okongwu’s career bests of 21 points and 15 rebounds, Atlanta tuned up for its first trip to the playoffs since 2017 with a win over visiting Houston in the regular-season finale on Sunday.
Okongwu, who posted his second double-double, was 10-for-13 from the field and added three assists, two steals and two blocked shots. The Hawks had eight players in double figures, including Skylar Mays with 16, John Collins with 15 and De’Andre Hunter with 14. Trae Young (sore big right toe) was limited to 16 minutes and scored 10 points with nine assists.
The Hawks will be the No. 5 seed in the Eastern Conference and face off with the No. 4 New York Knicks in the first round.
Bulls 118, Bucks 112
Thaddeus Young finished with 20 points and seven rebounds to help host Chicago finish its season with a victory over playoff-bound Milwaukee.
Young was one of six Bulls who scored in double figures. Coby White totaled 19 points, five rebounds and five assists, and Lauri Markkanen had 17 points and five rebounds.
Locked into the No. 3 spot in the Eastern Conference after the Brooklyn Nets’ victory over the Cleveland Cavaliers earlier in the evening, the Bucks rested all of their starters — Giannis Antetokounmpo, Khris Middleton, Brook Lopez, Jrue Holiday and Donte DiVincenzo.
Thunder 117, Clippers 112
Aleksej Pokusevski scored a career-high 29 points to lead Oklahoma City to a win over Los Angeles in the final night of the NBA regular season.
The loss sent the Clippers to the No. 4 seed in the Western Conference. They’ll face Dallas in the first round of the playoffs.
Pokusevski got off to a hot start and then hit a 3-pointer to break a tie in the final minute and snap the Thunder’s nine-game losing streak. He hit his first six shots and finished 10 of 19 from the floor, hitting six 3-pointers.
Trail Blazers 132, Nuggets 116
CJ McCollum scored 24 points and Portland clinched a Western Conference playoff spot with an easy victory over visiting Denver.
Damian Lillard recorded 22 points and 10 assists and Jusuf Nurkic added 20 points and 13 rebounds in the wire-to-wire victory that allowed Portland to avoid the play-in round and claim the No. 6 spot in the West.
Nikola Jokic scored 21 points in the first half before exiting for the Nuggets, who landed the third seed in West despite the setback because the Los Angeles Clippers lost to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Denver owned the tiebreaker with the Clippers.
–Field Level Media
Djokovic outlasts Sonego to set up Rome final with Nadal
Defending champion Novak Djokovic and Rafa Nadal will clash for the Italian Open title after the top two seeds advanced to the final of the Masters tournament on Saturday.
Djokovic, who beat Greek Stefanos Tsitsipas 4-6 7-5 7-5 in a rain-delayed quarter-final earlier in the day, was also stretched to three sets in the semi-final before overcoming local favourite Lorenzo Sonego.
Sonego, the first Italian to make the semi-finals in Rome in 14 years after he beat world number seven Andrey Rublev earlier on Saturday, had his dream run ended by Djokovic who triumphed 6-3 6-7(5) 6-2.
Djokovic failed to convert two match points in the second set that lasted 91 minutes as Sonego forced a tiebreak, where the Serb lost a 4-2 lead.
However, the world number one controlled proceedings in the decider and advanced after Sonego’s return on match point found the net.
Earlier, Nadal beat Reilly Opelka 6-4 6-4 to move into the final in Rome for the 12th time.
The match was Nadal’s 500th on clay where he has a formidable 458-42 record and the Spaniard advanced after twice breaking the big-serving American.
“When you play these kind of matches, you know it’s not going to be a beautiful match… you’re not going to find rhythm in the match. You’re going to have just a few chances to break,” Nadal told reporters.
“It’s important not to suffer much with your serve because if you are… you feel the stress all the time. So the positive thing today, I just faced break points in one game during the whole match.”
Djokovic was trailing Tsitsipas 6-4 2-1 when Friday’s quarter-final was halted by rain but the Serb raised his game at key moments to twice come back from a break down in the deciding set.
Djokovic has a 29-27 career record against Nadal but the Spaniard has won five of their eight matches in Rome.
(Reporting by Rohith Nair in Bengaluru and Sudipto Ganguly in Berhampore, India; Editing by Hugh Lawson and Ed Osmond)
New York Rangers get OK to interview Gerard Gallant for coaching job
The New York Rangers plan to interview Gerard Gallant for their head coaching job, TSN reported.
The Vegas Golden Knights, who fired Gallant during the 2019-20 season, reportedly have granted permission.
A first conversation between the Rangers and Gallant was expected to take place quickly, before Gallant heads to Latvia to coach Team Canada at the IIHF World Championship, which runs from May 21-June 6.
Gallant, 57, was the first coach of the expansion Golden Knights and led them to the Stanley Cup Final in their inaugural season in 2017-18. The Washington Capitals won in five games.
He was fired 49 games into his third season when the team was 24-19-6, and he had an overall record of 118-75-20 with Vegas.
He also coached the Columbus Blue Jackets (2003-07) and Florida Panthers (2014-17) and has a career record of 270-216-4-51 in 541 career games as a head coach.
The Rangers are in the midst of an overhaul. They fired head coach David Quinn and three assistant coaches on Wednesday, following the dismissal last week of team president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton.
The Rangers failed to qualify for the playoffs for the fourth straight season after posting a 27-23-6 record in 2020-21. They finished in fifth place in the East Division.
Quinn, 54, compiled a 96-87-25 record during his three seasons as coach of the Rangers after taking over for Alain Vigneault on May 23, 2018.
–Field Level Media
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