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#pounditTuesday, March 2, 2021

Basketball

Mark Cuban denies that Kristaps Porzingis is on trade block

Mark Cuban

Kristaps Porzingis is staying put in Dallas if you want to take Mark Cuban’s word for it.

The Dallas Mavericks owner Cuban denied the rumors that emerged this week suggesting that the team has gauged the trade market for Porzingis.

“It’s not accurate,” said Cuban, per Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning News. “We have not discussed him in a trade at all. Has not happened.”

The 25-year-old Porzingis has not quite looked like himself this season since returning from meniscus surgery. His surface numbers (20.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game) seem strong. But Porzingis is playing extremely poorly on the defensive end and has yet to re-establish himself as a reliable No. 2 option behind Luka Doncic. Dallas is also under .500 (14-15) on the year.

The trade rumors about Porzingis did seem to be pretty believable. But if anything, the Mavs might be better off waiting until Porzingis brings his trade value back up before considering such a dramatic move.

D’Angelo Russell has strained relationship with fired coach Ryan Saunders?

D'Angelo Russell

Ryan Saunders became the first NBA head coach to be fired this season, and some friction with one of his star players may have been partly to blame.

Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic reported this week that the fit between the ex-Minnesota Timberwolves coach and guard D’Angelo Russell appeared to strain as the season went along. Krawczynski adds that Russell would jaw at Saunders during some games.

The NBA-worst Wolves fired Saunders, who had gone 43-94 (.314) in three seasons with the team, over the weekend. Toronto Raptors assistant Chris Finch is set to become their new coach. He will try to better navigate a roster that has been ravaged by both injuries and COVID cases this season.

Russell himself is sidelined with a knee injury and has appeared in just 20 games so far this year. If his relationship with Saunders was indeed strained, it would not be the first time that Russell clashed with a head coach.

Pau Gasol announces he has signed with Barcelona

Pau Gasol

Pau Gasol has signed a contract to resume his professional basketball career, but we won’t be seeing him back in the NBA this season.

Gasol announced on Tuesday that he has signed with FC Barcelona for the remainder of the season. The 40-year-old said he is happy to be returning to his home country of Spain to play for “the club where I began.”

Gasol played for Barcelona from 1998-2001 before he was selected third overall in the 2001 NBA Draft. He recently denied that he was planning to sign with Barcelona, but that was likely because negotiations were still ongoing.

Reports about Gasol signing with Barcelona have been around since the summer. Returning to Spain may not have been his first choice, however, as it seemed like Gasol wanted to join his brother Marc on the Los Angeles Lakers.

Pau last played in the NBA in the 2018-2019 season. A stress fracture in his left foot has kept him out since May 2019.

Photo: Patrickpedia/Wikimedia via CC-BY-SA 4.0

Fan has hilarious encounter with Jimmy Butler on the street

Jimmy Butler

Jimmy Butler has long been one of the most popular players in the NBA, but the Miami Heat star was reminded this week of just how enthusiastic some of his fans can be.

Butler was catching a ride on a baggage cart in the middle of a city street when a fan spotted him. The guy was so excited he sprinted next to Butler in the middle of the street. Butler hilariously told him to “get your a– out the middle of the road.”

The fan’s reaction to Butler telling him to get out of the road was awesome.

We don’t know the fan’s identity, but we are certain he was not one of the contestants on this recent “Jeopardy!” episode. That is an encounter neither he nor Butler will ever forget.

DeMarcus Cousins released by Rockets

DeMarcus Cousins

Following days of speculation about his future with the Houston Rockets, veteran big man DeMarcus Cousins has been released.

Shams Charania of The Athletic reported on Tuesday that the Rockets are releasing Cousins. The move will allow the 30-year-old to hit the open market and explore other opportunities.

The Rockets have already guaranteed Cousins’ $2.3 million salary for this season. Charania also notes that they have given positive feedback about the center’s brief time with the team, so it seems like the two sides are parting ways on good terms.

Cousins averaged 9.6 points and 7.6 rebounds in 25 games with Houston. It does not sound like he will have trouble finding another job, as multiple teams are said to have interest in him. You may not be surprised to hear which team is the favorite to sign Cousins.

Vanessa Bryant calls out Meek Mill for ‘insensitive’ Kobe song lyric

Vanessa Bryant

Vanessa Bryant on Monday called out rapper Meek Mill for his “insensitive” song lyric about her late husband, Kobe Bryant.

Meek Mill has a collaboration song with Lil Baby called “Don’t Worry (RIP Kobe)” that has not yet been released. A reported lyric from the song was released, and it caught attention online.

“Yeah, and if I ever lack, I’m goin’ out with my chopper, it be another Kobe,” one of the lyrics from the song reportedly says.

Bryant’s death is a sensitive subject, especially for Vanessa and her family. Vanessa lost her husband, Kobe, and second-oldest daughter, Gianna, in a fatal helicopter crash last year.

“Dear @meekmill, I find this line to be extremely insensitive and disrespectful. Period.,” Vanessa wrote on her Instagram Story. “I am not familiar with any of your music, but I believe you can do better than this. If you are a fan, fine, there’s a better way to show your admiration for my husband. This lacks respect and tact.”

Meek Mill had to know that such a lyric would attract attention. He shouldn’t be shocked to see such a response from fans and even Vanessa.

Vanessa has dealt with many issues since the death of Kobe and Gianna. She had a lawsuit with Los Angeles County, lots of drama with her mother, and now this is added to the list.

Report: Mavericks testing trade market for Kristaps Porzingis

Kristaps Porzingis

The Dallas Mavericks do not appear to be completely satisfied with Kristaps Porzingis.

The Mavs acquired Porzingis in a big trade with the New York Knicks a little over two years ago. They signed the 25-year-old to a massive 5-year, $158 million contract extension later that summer. They appear to have some buyer’s remorse.

Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer reported on Monday that the Mavericks have gauged trade interest in Porzingis.

One person told Fischer that the Mavs gauging trade interest on Porzingis was pretty standard operating procedure for Donnie Nelson. However, it was noted that the Mavs have checked around the trade market for any of their players except Luka Doncic. If Porzingis were playing better and the team were higher than No. 9 in the West, the team probably wouldn’t be asking about his trade value.

Dallas’ defense has been worse when Porzingis is on the floor compared to when he is not. But Porzingis’ scoring has been solid this season at 20.5 points and 8.2 rebounds per game.

What’s interesting is that back in October, a report said Dallas was willing to trade anyone except Doncic and Porzingis. Now that Porzingis has not looked great in his return from surgery on his meniscus, Dallas could be willing to deal him.

Karl-Anthony Towns still committed to Timberwolves despite turmoil

Karl-Anthony Towns

Despite his team seemingly crumbling around him, Karl-Anthony Towns is holding the line.

After a loss to the New York Knicks over the weekend, the Minnesota Timberwolves star reaffirmed his long-term commitment to the team.

“If you want to build a legacy, we gotta win. I want to build my legacy here,” said Towns, per Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. “I want to win with the Wolves. I’m gonna do everything I possibly can to step-by-step, brick-by-brick build something, a culture here that’s gonna stand for a long time.”

The Wolves are now an NBA-worst 7-24. They just fired head coach Ryan Saunders and replaced him with Toronto Raptors assistant coach Chris Finch. Former All-Star guard D’Angelo Russell is also out multiple weeks with a knee injury, so the bumpiest part of the ride may still be to come.

Towns is the longest-tenured Wolves player and the undisputed pillar of the franchise. He is also under contract through 2024. Not a lot is going right for the team at the moment. But the continued faith of their franchise player, who is himself enduring a lot right now, is a good consolation.

Lakers are favorites to land DeMarcus Cousins?

DeMarcus Cousins

DeMarcus Cousins never got a chance to take the court for the Los Angeles Lakers, but the opportunity may soon be presenting itself again.

Heavy.com’s Brandon ‘Scoop B’ Robinson reported this week that the Lakers are believed to be the favorites for Cousins once he parts with the Houston Rockets. Robinson mentions the Miami Heat and the Brooklyn Nets as expected suitors for the former All-Star big man as well.

Cousins, 30, was on the Lakers last season but did not appear in a single game for them after tearing his ACL in an offseason pickup game. He did receive an NBA championship ring for being on the roster however.

As for the Lakers, Anthony Davis is in the middle of an extended absence, and the aging Marc Gasol is the only true center on their roster. Cousins might only be good for 12-15 minutes per game on the Lakers. But they are clearly looking to upgrade their frontcourt, if not by adding Cousins then perhaps by adding this fellow Rocket.

Damian Lillard upset Timberwolves passed over David Vanterpool as coach

Damian Lillard

The Minnesota Timberwolves made a big head coaching move on Sunday night, and Damian Lillard is disappointed with it.

The Timberwolves announced the firing of Ryan Saunders amid a 7-24 campaign, which is the worst record in the league. But then reports said they planned to hire Raptors assistant Chris Finch in his place.

The move is odd, as most of the time when a coach is fired, they are replaced by an interim coach already on the staff. In this case, Minnesota talked with someone outside the organization, who will be taking over midseason. It’s a highly unusual situation.

Lillard was upset that David Vanterpool wasn’t hired instead, considering he’s an assistant already on the staff.

Vanterpool, 47, was an assistant with Lillard’s Blazers from 2012-2017, which explains why Dame is stumping for him.

Vanterpool has been an assistant with Minnesota since 2019. He has interviewed for a few head coaching jobs but has not received one.