Morning Shootaround

Shootaround (Feb. 7) -- Cavs respond to Melo rumor Staff

Cavs respond to Melo rumor | Kings keeping Cousins | Okafor deals with trade talk | Pelicans ponder future | Wizards come up short in thriller

No. 1: Cavs respond to Melo rumor — A New York Daily News report came out Monday evening that LeBron James would accept the cost of losing Kevin Love if it meant getting Carmelo Anthony from the Knicks. And after their thrilling, overtime win in Washington on Monday (in which Love scored 39 points), the Cleveland Cavaliers – the front office, the coach, and the players – did not hesitate to respond, as ESPN’s Dave McMenamin writes:

“What do they say?” Love said before reciting a quote often attributed to Winston Churchill. “‘A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to put his pants on.’ So, it’s a lie.

“You know, if Bron is having any problem with me,” Love said before smiling and snickering. “I mean, it’s just not true. It’s almost laughable. I’m on this team. I’m going to be on this team. And we want to win with the guys that we have.”

Cavaliers general manager David Griffin was also adamant, telling ESPN’s Michael Wilbon after the win that James had not pushed him to trade Love to the Knicks.

And further, a Cavaliers source told ESPN there have been no follow-up calls to the Knicks beyond the original call from New York to gauge Cleveland’s interest.

“It’s trash,” James said of the report. “And the guy who wrote it is trash too, for writing that, especially during the game like that. So it’s always about outside noise, and that’s just outside noise for us. We got to focus on what needs to be done and that’s to continue to compete for a championship. And we got who we got. Our GM will do a great job of figuring out if we need something else, but right now we’re in a good place.”

Our David Aldridge also contradicted Isola’s report earlier on Monday night.

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No. 2: Kings keeping Cousins — The Sacramento Kings are just 3 1/2 games out of a playoff spot, but are 12 games under .500 after Monday’s loss to Chicago and facing an 11th straight season out of the playoffs if they can’t turn things around quickly. So, as has been the case for the last couple of years, Kings’ center DeMarcus Cousins is a favorite subject of trade rumors. But Kings GM Vlade Divac set out to squash that kind of chatter on Monday, as ESPN’s Marc Stein reports:

In his strongest public statement to date on the subject, Sacramento Kings general manager Vlade Divac told ESPN on Monday that All-Star center DeMarcus Cousins is going nowhere before the Feb. 23 trade deadline.

Amid recent reports that the Kings had engaged the Phoenix Suns in talks involving Cousins, as well as suggestions that some in the organization were advocating a trade, Divac insisted by phone that any such speculation was untrue.

“We’re not trading DeMarcus,” Divac told ESPN. “We hope he’s here for a long time.”

Sources told ESPN that Divac recently met face to face with Cousins and his representatives to make it clear that the 26-year-old is not being made available to interested teams and encouraged them to ignore any media speculation leading up to the trade deadline.

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No. 3: Okafor deals with trade talk — With the trade deadline 16 days away, the Philadelphia 76ers, with their frontcourt logjam, are a team that will be at the center of rumors as well. Multiple Monday reports had Philly in discussions with the New Orleans Pelicans about a deal involving second-year big man Jahlil Okafor, and Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer talked to Okafor about the possibility of getting dealt:

The Sixers have been shopping him and Nerlens Noel, another center, for some time. Okafor is the one the team is more interested in moving, according to sources. It appears the Sixers may not wait until the deadline to part ways with him.

“I’m happy where I am right now,” he said. “So we will see what happens. It’s all rumors right now. Until it comes true, nothing I can do about it. I’m only going to worry about what I can control.”

But as long as he remains a Sixer, Okafor is a glaringly bad fit. That’s why he doesn’t play on the nights when Embiid plays. The Sixers use him on the nights when Embiid doesn’t play to showcase Okafor.

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No. 4: Pelicans ponder future — The Pelicans themselves have to figure some things out. Having played Anthony Davis almost exclusively at center since Christmas, the Okafor talk (along with some Brook Lopez chatter) may be an indication that they want to move him back to power forward. Either way, their attempts to surround Davis with a supporting cast that can compete in the Western Conference have failed thus far, and they’re open to suggestions on how to move forward, as ESPN’s Justin Verrier writes:

But with all signs still pointing to a second straight season in the draft lottery — the Pelicans entered the night with a 1.4 percent chance of making the playoffs, third-worst in the Western Conference — what Davis does or doesn’t let out in the coming days will have far greater consequences for a team very much at another inflection point in its long-term trajectory.

The Pelicans’ brass is expected to solicit Davis’ opinion on the potential trades they’ve worked through, and have openly acknowledged a willingness to listen to him and point guard Jrue Holiday when it comes to personnel decisions. That includes last offseason, when the team countered the departures of mainstays Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson by essentially creating a showcase for their foundational pick-and-roll partners, surrounding the duo with able-bodied defenders and players with something to prove yet lacking a top offensive gear.

But Davis has rarely, if ever, served up his feelings for public consumption. Even as the Pelicans’ brutal start to the season reached eight straight losses, even as he gritted his teeth following ugly home losses to the likes of the then-slumping Philadelphia 76ers and Brooklyn Nets, Davis held firm amid a crowd of microphones.

He seemed genuinely surprised when informed of reports that the Pelicans had engaged in talks that would net them Jahlil Okafor, before ultimately easing back into a familiar steadfast approach.

“Whatever the team needs,” he said. “Whatever happens, happens.”

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No. 5: Wizards come up short in thriller — The Wizards didn’t have to deal with trade rumors Monday night, just the heartbreak of losing a game because of a ridiculous shot and having their 17-game home winning streak come to an end at the hands of the Cavs. Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post took in what was a classic:

“One of 82,” Scott Brooks was saying Monday evening, and it seemed plausible. Sure, the Washington Wizards were the NBA’s hottest team, and the Cleveland Cavaliers were the defending champions, and Verizon Center was bursting at its ridiculous purple seams. Still, it was a Monday night in early February. How good could this be? “One of 82,” Brooks insisted, no different from Wednesday’s trip to Brooklyn.

Except then Washington’s most absurd NBA game in — one decade? Two? — roared its way through Chinatown. This was Bradley Beal entering his national-TV assassin mode, and Kyrie Irving doing him one better. It was an arena partying over a three-point Washington lead with 3.4 seconds left, until LeBron James banked in a twisting last-second three pointer, as unbelievable as anything Tom Brady did in Houston. It was the Wizards — the Washington Wizards — going back-and-forth with the Eastern Conference favorites in maybe the best NBA game of the season, a 140-135 overtime heart attack that left at least three pulsating impressions.

One: The Wizards’ 10-week-long surge was no fluke. Two: The once-simmering Washington-Cleveland rivalry finally emerged from a depressing hibernation, and let’s please do this six or seven more times in May. And three: The best Wizards team in a generation is again staring at a familiar postseason roadblock, a balding force of nature who just can’t let Washingtonians be happy.

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Brook Lopez is another big man will get talked about a lot in the next 16 days … Jimmy Butler will stay out of the Bulls’ personnel decisions … A new lineup worked for the Lakers … and DeMar DeRozan’s return was a boost for the Raptors.