Watch Ja Morant switch hands mid-air then throw down dunk … – NBC Sports

Ja Morant is the most entertaining player in the NBA.
As if we needed more evidence on top of the mountain of highlights Morant has amassed, I present an early Dunk of the Year candidate — Morant switching hands midair for the throwdown against the Pelicans.
The hand switch into the dunk is ridiculous, Ja.
He has 31 PTS heading into Q4 on TNT 👀 pic.twitter.com/rjMAyzwvNX
— NBA (@NBA) November 16, 2022

Morant finished with 36 points but it wasn’t enough against the Zion-less Pelicans (out with a right foot contusion), who had a 30-point, nine-assist night from CJ McCollum plus 19 each from Brandon Ingram and Larry Nance Jr.
Jakob Poeltl is the kind of quality rotation center that can help a team. For example, plug him in with the Celtics and he gives them a solid option for the nights Robert Williams III could miss, plus he helps keep the minutes down for Al Horford. He would make the best team in the NBA this season better.
Two first-round picks better?
That’s the question facing teams interested in the Spurs’ Poeltl, according to reports out of The Athletic. Ideally the Spurs want to keep Poeltl, but he wants to compete in the playoffs and the Spurs are rebuilding, so the fit is not there, Shams Charania reports.
Spurs center Jakob Poeltl has gained significant trade interest from teams such as the Toronto Raptors and Boston Celtics, according to league sources… San Antonio will be able to offer more to Poeltl in the offseason and is slated to have in excess of $50 million in salary-cap space. Rival executives believe Poeltl will approach the $20 million per year range in a new deal during the offseason. There’s no question the Spurs will hold a high price threshold for any deal involving Poeltl.
That price, according to Jared Weiss, is two first-round picks.
The sticking point has been, as always, price. San Antonio has made it known to interested parties throughout the league the Spurs want two first-round picks for Poeltl, according to team and league sources, which was the same stance they took on Derrick White last season. The Celtics were able to acquire White for what ended up being the 25th pick in the most recent draft and a first-overall protected pick swap in 2028.
It seems a longshot the Spurs would get two first-round picks for a free agent to be. A first and a pick-swap, maybe. A first and a second, now that’s more likely, so long as that team believes it can re-sign Poeltl (likely for the three-year, $70 million range).
Poeltl is averaging 12.3 points a game on 63.4% shooting, plus he is pulling down 9.3 rebounds a game and is playing decent defense. He should be more than a backup in the NBA, but would he accept a smaller role to win (as long as he got paid)? The Celtics may find out. Or, maybe Poeltl is the first step in a roster shift coming to Toronto.
Or, maybe the Clippers or another team a little off the radar steps in and makes a move. Whatever it may be, there will be a lot of Poeltl rumors for the next three weeks.
Three Things To Know is NBC’s five-days-a-week wrap-up of the night before in the NBA. Check out NBCSports.com every weekday morning to catch up on what you missed the night before plus the rumors, drama, and dunks that make the NBA must-watch.

1) NBA trade rumors roundup as deadline nears

We are just 22 days away from the NBA trade deadline of Feb. 9, and talks are warming up… kind of. It seemed time for a roundup of the latest trade rumors and discussions around the league. This is not a comprehensive list but a snapshot of where some big names stand.
• The temperature of talks around the league are warming up, but everything is still on simmer so far and this is looking like another quiet trade deadline. Blame the play-in tournament that has more teams looking to hold on to stars. Because there are not a lot of sellers on the market, the few there are can keep their prices high, cooling down the market. Don’t expect many moves; the best players traded may be John Collins and Bojan Bogdanovic.
• Speaking of Collins, the Jazz are the team going hardest to land him, reports Marc Stein. With Utah having slid to 23-24 on the season and eighth in the West some teams thought they would be sellers at the deadline, but instead they are looking to pair Collins with  Lauri Markkanen (there seems a lot of overlap of positions there, but the Jazz are looking). The Wizards, Nets, and Pacers also have interest in Collins.
• One three-team trade involving Collins would send Malik Beasley from Utah to Cleveland, while the Jazz would acquire John Collins, and the Hawks would get Caris LeVert and another player or pick. The draft compensation moving around in that deal appears to be the hold-up.
• The Jazz may be sellers on one front: They are discussing Mike Conley trades, with the Clippers being one of the more aggressive suitors (Los Angeles is open to sending out John Wall in any trade). The Clippers seek help at the point, more size on the wings, and a backup big at the deadline.
• The Timberwolves also have interest in Conley and are checking the trade market for their own point guard, D’Angelo Russell, after the two sides couldn’t reach a deal on an extension.
• The Heat have interest in Russell as an upgrade for them at the point, but the Timberwolves have no interest in a Kyle Lowry for Russell swap (it would put them next season right back to having to extend or trade a point guard they don’t see as part of the long term with the team). It’s tough to make the trade work without Lowry, unless the Timberwolves suddenly want Duncan Robinson (they don’t).
Fred VanVleet is having a down season in Toronto (18.2 points per game on 37.6% shooting overall), leading other teams to call. However, the Raptors seem more interested in working out an extension after the season than looking for a trade.
• The Raptor most likely to be traded is wing Gary Trent Jr., however, the wing that other teams hopes becomes available is OG Anunoby. However, he is a favorite of the Toronto front office, and it will take multiple first-round picks to get them to consider a move.
• Bojan Bogdanovic trade rumors are everywhere, but the Pistons are keeping the price high and want an unprotected first-round pick in any trade to move him. The Lakers are the most mentioned suitor — and he would fit their needs on the court next to LeBron James and Anthony Davis — but have not been willing to give up a first-round pick in other trades. The Bucks, Pelicans, Cavaliers and Mavericks are also interested in Bogdanovic.
Jakob Poeltl is absolutely available from the Spurs (they’d ideally keep him around, but he’s a free agent at the end of the season and likely walks), but (as Jared Weiss confirmed today at The Athletic) the asking price is two first-round picks. I doubt any team is willing to meet that, but what about a first and a high second (or a young player the Spurs like)? Will the Spurs drop that price? The Celtics, Raptors and Clippers are among the teams interested.
Jae Crowder is still out there waiting for the Suns to trade him. The Heat get mentioned but that deal is a longshot, and his trade value drops as the season gets shorter. Crowder reportedly is looking for his new team — whoever it might be — to give him an extension in the ballpark of the three-year, $33 million deal P.J. Tucker got from Philadelphia.
One seller at the deadline is the Charlotte Hornets, who are open to moving nearly anyone not named LaMelo: Terry Rozier has drawn considerable interest, but also available are  Mason Plumlee, Jalen McDaniels and Kelly Oubre Jr.
Damian Lillard had himself another big night in an impressive bounce-back season for the Portland icon, scoring 44 against the Nuggets.
44 points and 8 dimes for @Dame_Lillard tonight.
He’s got 40+ in 3 of his last 4 games. pic.twitter.com/3cvJnEUC2B
— NBA (@NBA) January 18, 2023

It just wasn’t enough. Nikola Jokic, finished with 36 points on 13-of-14 shooting plus 12 rebounds and 10 assists to spark a Nuggets win, 122-113.
Just another unreal night for Nikola Jokic.
36 PTS
12 REB
10 AST
13-14 FGM
9-10 FTM@nuggets W pic.twitter.com/unmXEyDUuZ
— NBA (@NBA) January 18, 2023

The Nuggets have won seven in a row overall, 14 in a row at home, and at 31-13 lead the West.
A local artist in Dallas spoke to the mood of Mavericks fans (and maybe Luka Doncic himself, although he would never say so publicly) by painting this mural.

A post shared by The House of Pannek (@thehouseofpannek)

Mark Cuban was not a fan of this artwork and called it “disrespectful.” Not long after, Doncic called the artist himself, and now the mural is painted over with this message.

A post shared by The House of Pannek (@thehouseofpannek)

I get the change, but that first message was pretty on the mark.
DENVER (AP) — Nikola Jokic had 36 points as part of his 13th triple-double of the season to offset a 44-point performance from Damian Lillard, and the Denver Nuggets won their 14th straight home game by topping the Portland Trail Blazers 122-113 on Tuesday night.
Jokic, who was 13 of 14 from the floor, finished with 12 rebounds and 10 assists. The Nuggets improved to 13-0 this season when the two-time reigning NBA MVP records a triple-double.
“We’re going in the right direction,” Jokic said. “We’re playing with a lot of confidence.”
Just another unreal night for Nikola Jokic.
36 PTS
12 REB
10 AST
13-14 FGM
9-10 FTM@nuggets W pic.twitter.com/unmXEyDUuZ
— NBA (@NBA) January 18, 2023

The Nuggets were without head coach Michael Malone, who missed the game after entering the league’s health and safety protocols. Acting coach David Adelman stepped in and the Western Conference-leading Nuggets didn’t miss a beat.
In the locker room after the game, the team dumped a bucket of cold water on Adelman to celebrate.
“It was cold. No, it was cool,” cracked Adelman, who’s the son of longtime NBA coach Rick Adelman. “The guys were excited.”
This was a game that, at times, turned into the Jokic vs. Lillard Show. It was Lillard’s 214th career game with 30 or more points.
But Jokic proved too difficult to contain.
“You call plays for him and those plays sometimes turn into team-conceptual basketball because of him. He gets guys involved,” Adelman explained.
Michael Porter Jr. had 23 points and Jamal Murray added 17 for Denver, which improved to 20-3 at home as a capacity crowd braved a snowstorm that was starting to hit the city.
The Trail Blazers dropped their eighth straight road game.
Denver led by 13 points in the fourth quarter but saw the Blazers slice into the lead. A Bruce Brown dunk helped spark another run by the Nuggets to pull away.
44 points and 8 dimes for @Dame_Lillard tonight.
He’s got 40+ in 3 of his last 4 games. pic.twitter.com/3cvJnEUC2B
— NBA (@NBA) January 18, 2023

After the game, Lillard voiced his frustration with the officiating late in the game.
“It’s a lot of stuff that we could have done better, but down the stretch I just felt like the refs just decided the game,” said Lillard, who drew a technical foul late in the fourth quarter. “Obviously it’s going to be bumps, it’s going to be a physical game, both teams working hard to win a game. We get down the stretch and it was just like everything we did was a foul. That’s just what it seemed like to me.”
This time, there was no need for any late-game theatrics by Jokic, who hit a last-second, game-winning 3-pointer against Orlando on Sunday.
Lillard had a big first half with 30 points. He’s no stranger to turning in an explosive half against Denver. He had 32 points in the second half against the Nuggets on Dec. 8.
“He’s an all-time, all-time player,” Adelman said of Lillard. “He’s something.”
In a trade season on simmer (at best), the eyes of the league are on the Toronto Raptors — they can turn the market to a boil with just a couple of moves. Will a team currently stuck in the middle — somewhere Masai Ujiri will not let the team live — will make a dramatic move to pivot at the trade deadline?
Probably not, but nothing is off the table. Here is the latest on where things stand with them, according to a report from Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports.
Fred VanVleet is a name that interests other teams, but the Raptors are likelier to reach an extension with the 29-year-old point guard after the season than to move him.
Fred VanVleet’s apparent trade candidacy seems far more rooted in his down performance this season, as the smaller guard approaches his 29th birthday, than the front office’s willingness to part with such a central team leader.
Both VanVleet and the Raptors agreed to shelve extension talks until after the season. Fischer estimates something in the Kyle Lowry extension range — three years, $100 million — although that may be a bit high after a down season (18.2 points per game, but more disturbingly on 37.6% shooting overall). Then again, a Tyler Herro contract (four years, $130 million) could come together. If the Raptors and VanVleet cannot reach a deal before July 1, expect the Suns and Magic to be among the teams interested in the free agent.
• The guy other teams hope will become available is OG Anunoby. Don’t bet on it. He has been maybe the best perimeter defender in the league and the Raptors see him as a core part of the future.
Meanwhile, Raptors officials have left rival front offices with the impression, sources said, it would take a haul at least in the ballpark of Atlanta’s offseason price for Dejounte Murray — multiple unprotected first round picks — for Toronto to even consider parting with OG Anunoby, a known favorite of Ujiri.
Pascal Siakam — an All-NBA player — would shake up the market but it seems unlikely to be available. If he is, this would require a near Harden-level haul to get a deal done (more of a summer move than a deadline one).
• The Raptor most likely to be traded: Gary Trent Jr.
Trent appears to be the most likely Raptor to be traded, and by a wide margin. Various rival executives are under the impression Toronto will even search to move Trent before the deadline, as Trent is positioned to decline next season’s $18.5 million player option and test free agency. Early indications are that Trent will be seeking upward of $25 million in average annual value before the 2023-24 campaign begins.
Trent is the kind of player in demand around the league — a wing who can both defend and knock down 3s — but whoever trades for him has to know they can re-sign and keep him this summer.
Much like the Bulls, a lot of teams are watching to see if the Raptors’ front office decides to do something bold at the trade deadline. The smart money is on the smaller, Trent move only, but teams are watching and will make calls.

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