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Wizards wear down Suns

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PHOENIX — Two nights after taking down the Indiana Pacers and clicking on all cylinders, the Phoenix Suns had very little left in the tank for the opportunistic Washington Wizards.

Forward Trevor Ariza scored 23 points and guard Bradley Beal had nine points in the fourth quarter, including two late baskets, as the Wizards held Phoenix to 38 points in the second half and won 101-95 on Friday night.

Guard John Wall had 18 points and 12 assists and forward Nene added 18 points as the Wizards forced 21 turnovers — seven in the third quarter — and pulled out a game that featured 19 lead changes with neither team ahead by more than eight points.

The Wizards forced the Suns, who averaged an NBA-low 11 turnovers per game in January, to 21 and turned them into 24 points on the other end.

Washington also grabbed 19 offensive rebounds and had a 20-14 edge in fast-break points against Phoenix, which led the NBA in that category.

The Suns, who led 57-51 at the half, have lost 12 of the 15 games in which they failed to reach 100 points.

“When we press up defensively and get stops, it ignites our offense and it gets me going,” Ariza said. “Beal came off the bench cold and made big shots that definitely helped us.”

The Wizards reached .500 or the fifth time this season. They will try to get above it for the first time since they were 2-1 against the Jazz on Saturday in Utah. Washington has won eight of its last 10 road games.

The Suns rallied from an eight-point deficit in the fourth quarter to tie the score at 93 on a hook shot by center Miles Plumlee with 2:43 left. Forward P.J. Tucker missed two free throws that would have put Phoenix up with 2:17 left and Beal nailed a 3-pointer off a Wall feed with 2:03 to go to put the Wizards ahead for good.

“Big-time player,” Wall said of Beal. “It’s great when you get going and different guys can make baskets down the stretch. We played a two-man game and ran Beal and Nene off screens. Beal made a 3 and a big pull-up for us.”

The Suns got back to 97-95 on a Plumlee dunk with 41.9 seconds left, but Beal answered with a 15-foot pull-up jumper with 26.9 seconds left and finished the game with a driving dunk with 8.9 seconds left.

“It was a bunch of things. We didn’t play well at all,” Suns coach Jeff Hornacek said. “It’s probably been six or seven games since we had a big turnover night like that, and then they get 19 offensive rebounds and all that stuff adds up. It was a tough night.”

Suns guard Goran Dragic had 19 points and 11 assists and forward Channing Frye added 16 points — 12 in the first half of the first quarter.

The Suns hit 11 of 16 3-pointers on Wednesday night against the Pacers — their best shooting percentage night behind the arc in more than five years. But the Suns missed 15 of 22 3-pointers against the Wizards and 11 of 12 in the second half.

“I feel bad because we let this game get away,” Dragic said. “We had a lot of turnovers that they scored off of, and it was always a fast break. It was a tight game at the end and when Tuck missed two free throws and they came back with that 3-pointer, we didn’t come back.”

NOTES: The Suns made 11 of 16 3-pointers in their 124-100 win over the Indiana Pacers on Wednesday night. Their 68.8 shooting percentage behind the arc was the best in a game since Phoenix went 15 of 21 (71.4 percent) in a win over Seattle in 2008. … Wizards C Marcin Gortat averaged 13.3 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 189 games during his three seasons with the Suns. His 54.5 shooting percentage from the field was fifth in team history for players who were in at least 150 games. … The Wizards evened the 116-game series at 58-58. … The up-tempo Suns came in averaging 11.5 turnovers in 11 January games, the best in the NBA. They are forcing 16.0 turnovers during that span and averaging 19.3 points off the turnovers. … The Wizards came in 7-2 in their last nine road games. Suns coach Jeff Hornacek on the Wizards: “They’ll go to their fourth or fifth option, which comes late in the shot clock. That when we can’t relax, we have to play all 24 seconds of defense.”

Up to the minute news and reports from the news wire of The Sports Xchange.

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Mavericks are expected to pick up Willie Cauley-Stein’s $4.1 million option

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Per ESPN’s Tim MacMahon, the Dallas Mavericks are planning to pick up center Willie Cauley-Stein’s $4.1 million option for the 2021-22 NBA season. The deadline is tomorrow. Last season, in 53 games played, the seven-foot big man averaged 5.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. The sixth-year player also shot 63.2 percent from the field last season.

On July 8, 2019, Cauley-Stein signed a two-year, $4.46 million contract with the Golden State Warriors. Then, on January 25, 2020, Cauley-Stein was traded to the Mavericks for a 2020 second-round pick. If everything goes smoothly, the 27-year-old center is set to earn $4.1 million next season. The 2015 sixth overall pick’s contract consumes less than three percent of the team’s total salary cap.

This news comes right after Dallas received center Moses Brown from the Boston Celtics. Brown is a seven-foot-two, 2019 undrafted player out of UCLA. In 2021, Brown was named to the All-NBA G League First Team and All-Defensive Team. On March 28, 2021, the 21-year-old center signed a four-year, $6.8 million contract with the Thunder.

However, on June 18, 2021, the Oklahoma City Thunder traded Brown, Al Horford, and a 2023 second-round pick to the Celtics for Kemba Walker, a 2021 first-round pick, and a 2025 second-round pick. With Boston, Brown was set to earn $1,701,593 next season. Of course, the Mavs’ organization is finalizing a trade to send Josh Richardson to the Celtics as well. In other news, today is Mavs’ owner Mark Cuban’s 63rd birthday.

Referencing Spotrac’s 2021-22 luxury tax totals, the Mavs’ current luxury tax space is $52,326,531. The 2021 NBA salary cap maximum is $112,414,000. Their current cap space is $27,595,632. Cauley-Stein’s contract is recognized as a club option, not a player option or guaranteed money. Richardson’s deadline is also tomorrow, so because he is getting traded to Boston, the team will not collect his $11,615,328 player option.

Plus, Jalen Brunson’s deadline is also August 1st. His guaranteed value is $1,802,057. Leading into the 2021-22 season, Kristaps Porzingis has the highest cap figure on the team, which is an amount worth $31,650,600, consuming 22.73 percent of the team’s total salary cap. At the moment, Porzingis is a popular name in trade rumor articles. Bettors and NBA analysts are predicting a possible trade to the Brooklyn Nets, Sacramento Kings, or Philadelphia 76ers.

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Jazz offering Mike Conley $75 million over next three years

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According to veteran NBA reporter Marc Stein, the Utah Jazz are preparing to offer point guard Mike Conley a three-year, $75 million contract to remain with the team. Of course, the exact amount is a ballpark figure. Stein stated, “Utah has made retaining Mike Conley its top priority, league sources say, and is preparing a three-year offer said to be in the $75 million range.” The 14-year NBA veteran is a significant piece to the Jazz’s championship window, playing alongside superstar teammates, such as center Rudy Gobert and guard Donovan Mitchell. He helped the Jazz finish their regular season with the league’s best record of 52-20 (.722).

Utah went on to defeat the Memphis Grizzlies in five games in the first round of the playoffs. Though, the team lost four games to two in the conference semifinals against the Los Angeles Clippers. In the 2020-21 NBA season, Conley averaged 16.2 points, 3.5 rebounds, and six assists per game in 51 games started. Then, in the postseason, he averaged 15.3 points, 3.5 rebounds, and 7.7 assists per game. The 33-year-old also shot 44.4 percent from the field in the regular season. Last season, the 2007 fourth overall pick earned his first NBA All-Star selection.

On July 6, 2019, the Grizzlies traded Conley to the Jazz for Grayson Allen, Darius Bazley, Jae Crowder, Kyle Korver, and a 2020 first-round pick. Furthermore, the Jazz can still trade Bojan Bogdanovic and Joe Ingles this offseason, if they wanted to improve their current salary cap situation. Referencing Spotrac’s 2021-22 cap holds, Mike Conley’s cap figure is $39,344,900. Cap holds are for pending free agents. Conley earned $34,504,132 last season.

The team’s current luxury tax space is $11,173,027. In addition to the aforementioned cap figures, Mitchell and Gobert have a combined cap figure worth 51.34 percent of the team’s total salary cap. These two players’ contracts alone are consuming a huge chunk of the team’s cap. Plus, on November 23, 2020, Mitchell signed a contract extension with Utah. He is set to earn $28,103,550 next season. On December 20, 2020, Gobert signed a five-year, $205 million extension with the organization. He will earn $35,344,828 next season and $38,172,414 in the 2022-23 season.

However, if the team were to still trade Bogdanovic and possibly Ingles as well, this would clear up an additional 25.68 percent of the team’s salary cap. Bogdanovic’s future guaranteed cash amount total is $19,343,000. They are contributing role players who play together well with the team’s big three, but re-signing the most valuable players is the team’s main objective this offseason. Jazz general manager Justin Zanik might contemplate trading role players who are not worth their asking price. Competitive teams in both conferences have to trim the fat at some point.

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Jazz agree to trade Derrick Favors, first-round pick to Thunder

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First reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Utah Jazz are trading power forward/center Derrick Favors and a first-round pick to the Oklahoma City Thunder for a future second-round pick. The goal here was to help reduce their tax bill. While the six-foot-eight Georgia native does not possess any notable NBA awards or honors on his basketball résumé, in the 2020-21 NBA season, Favors averaged 5.4 points, 5.5 rebounds, and a field goal percentage of 63.8 percent. The 11-year NBA veteran also recorded a free throw shooting percentage of 73.8 percent last season.

The 2020-21 Thunder finished 27-50 (.306), ranking 14th overall in the Western Conference. They could use another first-round pick. Plus, per ESPN’s Bobby Marks, this trade will put Utah $13 million below the luxury tax. On November 24, 2020, Favors signed a three-year, $29.2 million contract with the Jazz. Favors is set to earn $9,720,900 next season. This is the second time in his career he has left the Jazz.

He played with them from the 2010-11 season to the 2018-19 season, before he was traded to the New Orleans Pelicans on July 7, 2019 for a 2021 second-round pick and a 2023 second-round pick. For the 2022-23 season, he has a player option of $10,183,800. The Jazz plan to also re-sign Mike Conley, so this was somewhat of a drastic move to help clear up cap space. On July 6, 2019, Conley was traded by the Memphis Grizzlies to the Jazz, in exchange for Grayson Allen, Darius Bazley, Kyle Korver, and a 2020 first-round pick.

Moreover, scoring-wise, the 33-year-old point guard has not lived up to his performances from his last few seasons on the Grizzlies, but the Jazz need all the help they can get. Jazz general manager Justin Zanik will make it a top priority to re-sign Conley here soon. Conley earned $34,504,132 in the 2020-21 season.

According to Spotrac, Conley has a cap figure of $39,344,900. Center Rudy Gobert and shooting guard Donovan Mitchell have a combined percentage of 47.61 percent of Utah’s total salary cap. On December 20, 2020, Gobert signed a five-year, $205 million extension with the team. He will earn $35,344,828 next season.

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