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DAME GOES DOWN: Late in Portland’s Wednesday night contest against the Grizzlies, a vital one for playoff positioning for both teams, Damian Lillard injured his groin and came out of the game. It didn’t take long for us to hear what the exact injury was – either a Grade-1 or Grade-2 groin strain – and it likewise didn’t take long for Lillard to inform everyone that he’d be pulling himself out of the festivities he was supposed to partake in this weekend, the All-Star Game itself and the three-point shootout.
This injury couldn’t possibly come at a worse time for the Blazers, who are now four games out of the Western Conference’s No. 8 seed behind Memphis, and could be without Lillard for weeks. For context, Steph Curry and LeBron James both had groin injuries last season, the former missing 11 games due to his and the latter 17. Needless to say, with 26 games left on Portland’s schedule, if Lillard misses that much time, that could be a wrap on the Blazers’ playoff hopes this campaign.
The injury also opens up a spot in the All-Star Game for a replacement player, and Dame himself says he’d like to see Devin Booker take that spot. Considering both Karl-Anthony Towns and DeMar DeRozan are injured, Booker has to be the likeliest candidate to earn his first All-Star appearance this weekend. It would be well-deserved, too; his numbers this year – 26.4 points, 6.3 assists and 1.9 three-pointers per game – are awesome.
LAST NIGHT IN THE ASSOCIATION: LeBron James and Anthony Davis combined for 65 points and 22 rebounds to take down the Nuggets in Denver, 120-116. It really looks like there are only two teams capable of beating the Lakers in a seven-game series at this point, as the other top teams in the West seem to lack the firepower to keep up with L.A.
Elsewhere, Luke Doncic returned and looked as if he hadn’t missed any time at all, dropping 33 points (on 18 field-goal attempts), 12 rebounds and eight assists in a 130-111 win for Dallas over Sacramento.
DECENT FLYER: The Suns made a savvy, low-risk/high-reward signing, picking up Jonah Bolden from the Sixers on a 10-day contract. Bolden made his debut for the team last night, too, dropping six points, seven boards and two blocks for Phoenix.
TRADE REQUEST COMING? If the dynamic between Luke Walton and Buddy Hield doesn’t improve, the sharpshooting 2-guard could wind up demanding a trade this offseason. Walton and Hield simply don’t get along, and the fact that Sacramento’s first-year head coach recently benched the 27-year-old hasn’t helped matters remotely.
MORE DISARRAY IN SACRAMENTO: Besides the Hield stuff, Kings owner Vivek Ranadive isn’t happy with his team’s front office, particularly on the matter of drafting Marvin Bagley over Luka Doncic, who Vlade Divac, Sacramento’s general manager, reportedly didn’t think had as much upside as Bagley. To be frank, that notion by itself should be considered a fireable offense.
STINGY DEFENSE: Robert Covington’s addition has helped the Rockets see immediate improvements defensively, even if the numbers don’t exactly bear that out yet.
NOT FEELING THE LOVE: Marcus Smart, a 2019 1st Team All-Defense member, doesn’t think he gets enough respect from the officials on a nightly basis when he’s locking opponents up. There are probably countless players who feel exactly the way you do, Marcus.
WHAT EXECS ARE SAYING: Certain league execs don’t think the Lakers can beat the Clippers in a seven-game series, though that’s probably too bold of a proclamation considering how good the Lakers have been against every other opponent.
TWO CULTURES: Giannis Antetokounmpo may be known as the Greek Freak, but he’s happy to represent his other heritage, Nigerian, as well. Antetokounmpo’s parents were born in Nigeria, and Giannis says he grew up in a typical Nigerian household, just in Greece.
HOW THE TRADE WENT DOWN: Marc Stein breaks down how multiple high-power league execs still use Blackberries, as well as the behind-the-scenes scoop on how the D’Angelo Russell trade went down.
KOBE/GIANNA MEMORIAL: The official memorial for Kobe and Gianna Bryant will be held at the Staples Center on Feb. 24, and friends, family and NBA officials/players are expected to attend.
SALARY QUIZ: WHO’S THIS NBA PLAYER? 🤔
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