POSTED: Feb 19, 2014 6:17 PM ET
• With the NBA trade deadline less than 24 hours away and one member of the Lakers, veteran point guard Steve Blake, already packing his bags in the dressing room and leaving Staples Center for Golden State, they still have a game to play tonight and it's not your typical opponent either. The Rockets will pay a visit to Staples Center, bringing All Star center Dwight Howard back for his first game against the Lakers at their home arena since bolting last summer following one season in L.A. The Lakers have a bit of good news to share with two of their half dozen injured players returning tonight. Jodie Meeks will move back into the starting lineup after missing the last five games with an ankle injury and backup point guard Jordan Farmar will be available in a limited capacity after missing 21 of the last 22 games with hamstring issues. Kobe Bryant (knee), Pau Gasol (groin), Steve Nash (upper respiratory infection/back), Nick Young (knee) and Xavier Henry (knee) remain out for the Lakers.
• San Antonio will be without three starters tonight -- Tim Duncan, Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard. Duncan, who played 38 minutes in a 113-103 victory over the L.A. Clippers Tuesday night, will sit out the second of back-to-back games. Parker will rest due to various nagging injuries (Achilles' tendon, groin, shin, shoulder). Leonard will miss his 13th straight game with a broken hand. The Spurs will start Cory Joseph and Marco Belinelli at guard, Danny Green and Boris Diaw at forward and Tiago Splitter at center. Manu Ginobili, who played 15 minutes against the Clippers after missing the previous eight games with a hamstring injury, will be available.
• Portland is shorthanded, too. Starting power forward LaMarcus Aldridge (groin) will miss his first game this season, while centers Joel Freeland (knee) and Meyers Leonard (ankle) won't play. That leaves only starting center Robin Lopez and backup power forward Thomas Robinson available at the 4-5 spots. Coach Terry Stotts wouldn't reveal his starters, but he was expected to have small forward Dorell Wright join Lopez, forward Nicolas Batum and guards Wesley Matthews and Damian Lillard in the Blazers' first five. That would mean Robinson and small forward Victor Claver -- who hasn't been active since Nov. 15 and has played four minutes all season -- will be in the rotation at the power spots for Portland.
• General manager Pete D'Alessandro continued his aggressive rebuild of the Sacramento Kings today, trading starting shooting guard Marcus Thornton to the Brooklyn Nets for veterans Jason Terry and Reggie Evans. "For us, we get a couple of veterans, which is always a good thing for a young team and we get opportunity for young players," D'Alessandro said during pregame.
• With Thornton gone, coach Michael Malone will look to rookie Ben McLemore to fill the void. "I think it's a great opportunity in these 29 games to allow Ben McLemore to play and play heavy minutes every night," Malone said.
• DeMarcus Cousins is expected to miss tonight's game with a strained left hip flexor. The 23-year old center injured himself last Wednesday in Sacramento's 106-101 overtime victory over the New York Knicks and is listed as day-to-day. Malone said that he had not decided if he will go big with Aaron Gray or move Jason Thompson to the center position and start former Warrior Carl Landry.
• Golden State comes to Sacramento without their man in the middle as well. Andrew Bogut has missed the Warriors last four games with left shoulder inflammation. "He will not play tonight," coach Mark Jackson said. "He will continue to get treatment and we look forward to having him back healthy and whole. But we're going to be smart and make sure that he gets right before he steps on the floor."
• The Brooklyn Nets made headlines earlier today by trading guard Jason Terry and forward Reggie Evans to the Sacramento Kings for guard Marcus Thornton. Thornton is only averaging 8.3 points per game during a disappointing season, but the Nets are hoping he can provide some scoring punch. Obviously, Thornton isn't available tonight, so that means Brooklyn will be short-handed after sending Terry and Evans away. "Coming off the (All-Star) break hopefully everybody is fresh," said Brooklyn coach Jason Kidd. "Everybody will get a chance to play."
• Today's trade is expensive for the Nets, who are already in the highest bracket of the luxury tax. It will cost Brooklyn close to a reported $7 million over the next two seasons, and the freewheeling Nets may not be done dealing before Thursday's trade deadline. "I think we were way above (the tax line) before (the season) started," Kidd said. "Our owner (Mikhail Prokhorov) is about trying to get the team in the right direction with different pieces. He's probably not done, so we'll see what happens."
• The Jazz are also short-handed for tonight's game, but in a more impactful way. Starting center Derrick Favors is sidelined after suffering a strained right hip last Wednesday in Utah's final game before the All-Star break. Coach Tyrone Corbin said Favors, who was drafted by the Nets in 2010, has practiced the last couple of days at half speed, and that he isn't sure when he'll return.
• The Suns' regulars are healthy. The Suns appear to expect guard Eric Bledsoe, out with a knee injury, to return well before the end of the season.
• Celtics starting guard Avery Bradley will miss the team's 4-game Western trip with an ankle injury. Also missing the trip will be reserve center Vitor Faverani with a sore left knee.
• Indiana continues to maintain its East-leading best record at 41-12, 2.5 games ahead of the Miami Heat. With Miami elevating its game the Pacers can't afford to lose focus against an undermanned Timberwolves squad, "The dog days are behind us. Now it's into the home stretch and we are closer than ever to reaching our goal (of home-court advantage). We know Miami is going to make a heck of a push. So every single game matters," said Frank Vogel.
• If the Wolves are going to stand a chance tonight, though, they will need to find offense from unlikely sources. Nikola Pekovic (ankle) and Kevin Martin (thumb) are still out indefinitely, and the two account for 37 points per game. Their absence could prove impossible for the Wolves to overcome against Roy Hibbert and Indiana's top-ranked defense that allows just 90.5 points per game, "He's (Hibbert) so big, he's so long. It affects shots big time....he's got great timing. Hibbert's really done a nice job," said Rick Adelman before the game.
• With guard Jrue Holiday still sidelined with a stress fracture in his right tibia, coach Monty Williams has stuck with Brian Roberts in the starting lineup. And he has been rewarded. Roberts is shooting 47.1 percent from beyond the arc in nineteen starts and has scored in double figures in 12 of his past 16 starts. In his career, he has made 134 of his 145 free-throw attempts, including 64 of 68 this season.
• The Knicks will sit center Amar'e Stoudemire tonight against New Orleans with a sore left knee. Stoudemire played Tuesday night against Memphis, scoring 12 points on 4 of 11 shooting. He has played in 40 of New York's 53 games this season. But it doesn't appear to be anything to worry about, according to coach Mike Woodson. "It's just soreness from what I've been told," Woodson said.
• The Hawks (25-27) will go into Wednesday night's game against the visiting Wizards (25-28) not only saddled with a season-long six-game losing streak but beat up as badly as all season. Cartier Martin, who began the season with the team but is now on his second 10-day contract with the Hawks, will start at small forward in place of DeMarre Carroll (hamstring). Martin's contract expires Thursday at midnight.
• Washington has lost three straight games overall, five of six, and perhaps more ominously still 11 straight games in Atlanta. The Wizards have not won in Philips Center since Jan. 11, 2008 — more than six years.
• Raptors forward Patrick Patterson remains in the starting line-up for his fourth consecutive game, while Amir Johnson will come off the bench.
• Cavaliers shooting guard Dion Waiters (left knee hyperextension) and center Anderson Varejao (sore back) are both out — and coach Mike Brown said no timetable has been set for their return. Waiters was injured Tuesday when he landed awkwardly on a dunk in the second quarter of Cleveland's 114-85 win in Philadelphia, but an MRI revealed no structural damage. Leading rebounder Varejao, who has not played since logging 43 minutes on Feb. 9 against Memphis, will miss his fourth straight contest. "You always hope for the best, but you can't speculate," Brown said. "You just have to let the doctors do their job."
• Cavaliers center Tyler Zeller will make his seventh start of the season in place of Varejao. The second-year pro scored a season-high 18 points and grabbed a career-best 15 rebounds Tuesday against the 76ers. "Tyler can be a very, very effective player for us," Brown said. "He has size and length, but he just has to keep being active and not relax as much out there." Zeller is averaging 10.7 points and 7.3 boards over the last three games since Varejao was hurt, but has only played 570 minutes in 43 contests on the season.
• Detroit and Charlotte will battle for the second time in 24 hours tonight at Time Warner Cable Arena. The Bobcats have a 1.5 game lead over the Pistons for the final playoff spot at the moment after their win last night in the Motor City. Detroit coach John Loyer said, "We have to come out ready to play. That wasn't the case last night. We let them score early and were never able to recover."
• The Bobcats are playing their second game as part of a stretch of four games in five nights. With the team in the midst of a playoff push Charlotte coach Steve Clifford knows what's needed. "I'm playing our starters more minutes and it's allowed us to play at a better level," Clifford said. "We're playing better basketball. The weeks where we play 4-in-5 leave us a bit tired around the fourth game, but I think it's the best way for our team to have a chance to win every night. We're just going to keep going and if we have to make an adjustment, we will."
• Charlotte's inactive list tonight is Brendan Haywood (stress fracture, left foot) and Jeffery Taylor (ruptured right Achilles tendon). Detroit's inactive list is Chauncey Billups (coach's decision) and Peyton Siva (coach's decision).