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NBA Notebook: James Harden intends to test free agency

Profile Picture: Rory Breasail

Rory Breasail

January 28th, 2022

This week’s news has been headlined by the announcement of the 2022 NBA All Star Game starters - including a controversial selection. We'll get you caught up on that and more in our NBA Notebook. Let’s dive in!

ALL-STAR STARTERS ANNOUNCED

The 2022 NBA All-Star starters were announced last night. In the East: DeMar DeRozan, Trae Young, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant, and Joel Embiid. In the West: Steph Curry, Ja Morant, LeBron James, Nikola Jokic, and Andrew Wiggins. As the leading vote-getters in their respective conferences, James and Durant will take on team captain duties.

Wiggins' inclusion as a starter is something of a head-scratcher. The former No. 1 pick has had a fine season, but he’s a strictly tertiary player, who benefits enormously from the Golden State Warriors’ system. Given the cases that so many other deserving frontcourt players have, it’s pretty egregious that Wiggins was given a starting spot.

That Draymond Green, Wiggins’ own teammate, failed to make the starters over Wiggins just demonstrates how superficial some basketball analysis is, as the only thing that Wiggins does better than Green is score points. Green is one of the best basketball players of all-time, and unfortunately, he’s become one of the most unappreciated even by his own fan base.

ALEX CARUSO INJURED, GRAYSON ALLEN SUSPENDED

In an incident that set NBA Twitter on fire, Grayson Allen committed a wildly dangerous flagrant foul that resulted in Alex Caruso’s injury earlier this week. Caruso was cutting for a dunk, and Allen had no realistic path to safely challenge his attempt. He challenged it anyway, making initial contact with the ball with his left hand, but then brought his right hand down on Caruso as well, severely unbalancing him as he crashed to the ground. 

Allen was given a flagrant two and ejected, but it emerged later that the play had resulted in Caruso fracturing his hand and that he will miss between six and eight weeks. Given Allen’s history with tripping and perceived dirty play in the NCAA (and an incident where he appeared to trip Derrick Rose earlier this season), some corners of the NBA world wanted severe punishment. The NBA opted to suspend Allen one game, which is in line with suspensions for similar actions in the past.

For the Bulls, Caruso's injury couldn’t come at a worse time, as the team recently lost Lonzo Ball to meniscus surgery for a similar time frame. The two guards are the heart of the Bulls' defensive identity and are essential to their success. 

JAMES HARDEN’S UNCERTAIN FUTURE

Jake Fischer dropped something of a bomb for Bleacher Report concerning James Harden this week. Citing sources close to the Brooklyn Nets star, Fischer makes it clear that regardless of what he’s said in the past, Harden fully intends to test free agency this offseason.

Some of the reasons cited include his frustration with Kyrie Irving’s vaccination status, Steve Nash’s rotations, and general dissatisfaction with living in Brooklyn. Daryl Morey, having a longstanding relationship with James Harden, has apparently been emboldened by this information and is unlikely to trade Ben Simmons before the deadline in order to use him as a sign and trade piece for the Nets this offseason.

ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported later that the Nets have received assurances about Harden and are not under any circumstances listening to trade offers for him, but given that the report is largely concerned with this coming offseason when Harden will be a free agent, they don’t exactly contradict Fischer’s reporting either.

It would be an unmitigated disaster for the Nets if Harden leaves this offseason, particularly given the uncertainty of Irvings playing future. The Net’s title window might be closed after this year.

NEW RISING STARS FORMAT

The NBA announced a new (and honestly pretty confusing) format for the Rising Stars Game as part of All-Star Weekend in Cleveland. The main takeaway is that four G League Ignite players will now play in the game.

The Rising Stars game is everything that’s wrong with the NBA All-Star game but worse, so I’m in favor of any revisions no matter how unintuitive and radical to inject some life into the event.

INJURIES AND ABSENCES

This was sadly a big week for injuries around the Association, but here are a few of the more impactful ones outside of Alex Caruso.

Tim Hardaway Jr. broke the fifth metatarsal in his left foot in a game against the Warriors this week. The recovery time for this injury is listed at 10 weeks, but in many cases is prone to setbacks. That same injury has kept Zion Williamson out all year.

Nassir Little suffered a torn labrum in his shoulder and could miss the rest of the season. It’s a particularly tough break for the 21-year-old forward as he was really breaking out over the last month.

And as if that wasn’t enough Portland injury news, backup center Cody Zeller had surgery to address a patellar injury and could miss up to 10 weeks. With Damian Lillard still recovering from surgery and the injuries piling up all over the roster, it’s well past time to bet against the Blazers making a playoff push.

NBA Championship 2021/2022

Sat, June 18 2022, 11:58 PM

Brooklyn Nets

+300

Golden State Warriors

+450

Phoenix Suns

+600

Milwaukee Bucks

+650

Miami Heat

+1200

Utah Jazz

+1400

Los Angeles Lakers

+1800

Philadelphia 76ers

+2000

Chicago Bulls

+2500

Memphis Grizzlies

+3000

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