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Please, sell me on the Cavaliers! Plus, new NBA All-Star Weekend courts, trade deadline chatter.


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I bought a No Limit Records starter jacket on eBay and can’t wait for it.


Cavs on Fire

Oddly, I’m struggling to buy in

I am open to the idea that this is more of a me problem than anything about the Cavs (32-16, second in East), because I openly see just how good they are. They have a lineup and team I was a big believer in throughout most of last season. This season, they’ve dealt with injuries better than anybody could have expected. Cleveland actually thrived when Darius Garland and Evan Mobley got hurt for extended periods. Donovan Mitchell played out of his mind while Jarrett Allen was incredible.

Since the team got healthy, nothing has slowed down for Cleveland. Things didn’t get clunky. Nothing disrupted the Cavs’ rhythm. They obliterated the Kings (29-20, fifth in West) last night, pulling away in the final minutes of the fourth quarter to ruin any chance for Sacramento heroics. Cleveland won 136-110 behind a game-high 29 points from Mitchell and six other Cavs players scoring in double figures.

The Cavs have won 14 of their last 15 games and currently sit second in the East. Mitchell has been All-NBA good. Mobley looks so effective in his return. The role players they picked up in the offseason are contributing as needed. The Cavs are deep, great on defense (second in defensive efficiency this season) and getting better on offense (fifth since Jan. 1, ranked 20th entering that day).

So, why don’t I believe in them when it comes to the postseason? Some Cavs fans reading this might be answering, “Because you’re an idiot, Zach.” Fair point! But let’s talk this out a little.

Much of it is due to the Cavs wetting themselves in the playoffs last year. After winning 51 games, they matched up with the Knicks in the first round before losing in five games. Not only did they lose — the Knicks manhandled them. All of Cleveland’s magic was lost. On top of that, Mitchell had another dud of a postseason series, aside from a couple moments.

Mitchell’s reputation as a playoff dynamo stems mostly from the 2020 Bubble showdown he had with Jamal Murray, which was incredible. But the reality is Mitchell’s playoff performances can be spotty. There have been so many times Mitchell has had questionable shooting performances and bad decision-making down the stretch of postseason games. And he once contributed to the worst defense I’ve ever seen as Jalen Brunson blew by him time after time. If you can’t figure out if that was when Mitchell was in Utah or Cleveland, exactly.

Cleveland doesn’t shoot it consistently from the outside nor reach the free-throw line often. Its defense kind of fell apart in last year’s playoffs after ranking first in the regular season.

And I lay that all out there to tell you I’m not trying to persuade you to question the Cavs. They’re really good and look better than last season. This simply remains my only hangup with them, as they continue to kick butt out there.

More from last night: 

Clippers 149, Hawks 144: Kawhi Leonard had a game-high 36 points, James Harden nearly got a 30-point triple-double, and the Clippers (34-15, third in West) outlasted a great effort from Atlanta (22-28, 10th in East) to move within a half game of the West’s top seed. These two teams combined for 90 points in the fourth.

Mavs 118, 76ers 102: Life without Joel Embiid is tough. Tyrese Maxey had 15 points on 16 shots for the 76ers (30-19, fifth in East), so the Mavs (27-23, eighth in West) won despite not really getting a great night from Luka Dončić (19 points on 15 shots).

Lakers 124, Hornets 118: LeBron James and Anthony Davis both had 26 points. Austin Reaves and AD each totaled 11 assists. Davis capped it off with 15 boards for his third career triple-double (second this season). D’Angelo Russell had 28 in the Lakers’ road win. Miles Bridges (game-high 41) and Brandon Miller (33, second straight 30-point game) combined for 74 points for the Hornets (10-39, 13th in East).

Pelicans 138, Raptors 100: Brandon Ingram had a season-high 41 points on 16-of-21 shooting as this quickly became a laugher. The 29-21 Pelicans (seventh in West) are half a game behind the Kings for fifth. Toronto (17-33, 12th in East) is five games behind the last Play-In berth. How will the Raptors handle the trade deadline?

Warriors 109, Nets 98: The Warriors played great defense in this one and dominated the boards to outlast the Nets (20-29, 11th in East). Klay Thompson was benched late. Shams has more on Golden State.


The Latest From Shams

Wiggins has garnered interest

The Warriors (22-25, 12th in West) sit a game out of the West Play-In. But despite their record and high payroll, I’m told there’s no mandate from owner Joe Lacob to shed player salary ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline.

That doesn’t mean the Warriors will stand pat over the next two days, though. The Mavericks and Pacers, I’m told, are two teams that are expressing interest in Andrew Wiggins But don’t expect the Warriors to move players just for the sake of doing so. Right now, there’s still a lot of wait-and-see in Golden State as the clock ticks toward Thursday and the market continues to develop.

League sources tell me that Boston’s Jaylen Brown is seriously considering participating in the slam dunk contest at All-Star Weekend later this month. If he does, it would be the first time since 2017 that a current All-Star takes part in the contest. You can keep track of all the 3-point and slam dunk contest participants that we know about right here.


More Bright Courts

Shiny, new NBA All-Star Saturday Night court!

Remember the In-Season Tournament courts? I’ll wait a minute while you try to stop yourself from convulsing. Okay, are you all better? Let’s resume. Those IST courts were jarring and accosting every time we turned on the quest for the inaugural NBA Cup. As a follow up, the league is bringing a special court to the All-Star weekend in Indianapolis, but it’s potentially a much better idea.

During the Celebrity Game, Rising Stars Game, the Skills Challenge, 3-point Shootout (including the Steph Curry v. Sabrina Ionescu shooting competition) and Slam Dunk contest, the NBA will have a completely immersive full-video LED court. For details, either could try to explain what that means or let you check out this GIF.

image1 24

They’ll have live replays, color changes, stats on the court, tracking animations based on player location, animations following big plays and games for fans during timeouts. I’m assuming they’ll also show some “Law & Order” episodes, the latest videos from “Chef Reactions” and lots of crowd work videos comedians post on social media.

Dare I say … I actually think this will be pretty cool.


Trade Deadline History

The third-best, third-worst deadline deal ever

The trade deadline is two days away! This past Friday, we started ranking the five best and five worst deadline deals of all-time. Today, we check out the third-best and third-worst trades on this list:

Third-best deadline deal: 02/20/2003

  • Sonics acquire Ray Allen, Kevin Ollie, Flip Murray, 2003 first-round pick
  • Bucks acquire Gary Payton, Desmond Mason

What a bold move by the SuperSonics (bring them back!) to trade arguably the best player in franchise history at the deadline. Payton was going to be a free agent, and Seattle was ready to move on. So, the team sent him to Milwaukee in exchange for Allen, a couple role players and a draft pick that ended up being Luke Ridnour (14th overall, 2003).

Payton left Milwaukee that summer for the Lakers. Allen averaged 24.6 points in nearly 300 games for the Sonics, maintaining the fifth-highest scoring average in team history.

Best deadline deals revealed (so far): 

5. Tim Hardaway Sr. to the Heat (1996)

4. Marc Gasol to the Raptors (2019)

3. Bucks-Sonics swap Gary Payton and Ray Allen (2003)

Third-worst deadline deal: 02/19/2015

  • Bucks acquire Michael Carter-Williams, Tyler Ennis, Miles Plumlee
  • Suns acquire Brandon Knight, Kendall Marshall
  • 76ers acquire 2018 first-round pick

I know what you’re thinking. Why is this so bad? Everybody lost in this trade. Carter-Williams played 79 games for the Bucks … poorly. Knight played 117 games for the Suns over two-plus seasons, but the team was terrible with him. Ennis and Plumlee did nothing for Milwaukee. Marshall was waived two days after the trade.

And that first-round pick for Philly? The 76ers used it to draft Mikal Bridges (10th overall, 2018) … and traded him to Phoenix for Zhaire Smith, whose NBA career lasted 13 games. It’s a big bag of nothing here.

Worst deadline deals revealed (so far): 

5. Clippers give up Kyrie Irving pick for Mo Williams (2011)

4. Lakers acquire Ramon Sessions (2012)

3. Sixers-Bucks-Suns three-team deal of nothing (2015)


Bounce Passes

Chris Finch laid out the Wolves’ fourth-quarter issues, leading to him coaching the West All-Stars.

Kristaps Porziņģis is a different person since his time in Dallas.

Lou Williams explained the story of that time he left the Bubble and ended up at Magic City.


Screen Game (All times Eastern)

  • Main Screen: Bucks-Suns (10 p.m. TNT). A rematch of the 2021 NBA Finals! This time, they’ll prove who really won the title. Milwaukee (33-17, third in East) is 1-3 under Doc Rivers. Phoenix (29-21, sixth in West) has won 10 of 13.

  • Second Screen: Magic-Heat (7:30 p.m.). Both teams have been slipping a bit recently and could really use this win. Orlando (27-23, seventh in East) is a game ahead of Miami (26-24, eighth in East) for Play-In contention.

  • League Pass Game of the Night: Rockets-Pacers (7 p.m.). Two of the best stories this season for teams rising above expectations. Houston (23-26, 11th in West) is a game out of Play-In territory. Can Indy (28-23, sixth in East) catch 30-19 Philly for the East’s No. 5 spot? Full schedule here.

(Top photo: Joe Murphy  / Getty Images)





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