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Happy Wednesday, sports fans! Another day closer to the weekend, so that's always a good thing in my book.

Let's get right to it by shouting out an NBA team that, for some reason, has kind of flown under the radar of late.

Good morning to everyone but especially to...


Down as much as 17 points in the second half on the road, the Nets could have easily folded Tuesday night in Dallas. Instead, Brooklyn stormed back for a thrilling 102-99 win, with Kevin Durant scoring 11 of his team-high 24 points in the fourth quarter.

The Nets are 17-7 this season, tops in the Eastern Conference, and 9-2 on the road, tied with the Suns for best in the league. The team's great start, of course, had been overshadowed by the ongoing Kyrie Irving saga. The superstar point guard hasn't played this year, and his future with the franchise is in doubt as he remains unvaccinated.

But it's worth appreciating the Nets for what they are right now, and that starts with Durant:

  • At 33 years old, Durant is scoring 28.4 points per game -- on pace for his best mark since 2013-14.
  • Here's a list of players to average at least 28 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists (Durant's current averages) for an entire season at 33 years old or older: No one.
  • He's also been the Nets' de-facto center for stretches -- and that may have to reduce in the future. But he's an absolute joy to watch, scoring with captivating ease in so many different ways.

The team's other big star, James Harden, is not yet himself after a hamstring injury disrupted him in last year's playoffs and much of this past offseason.

  • According to tracking per Second Spectrum, Harden is driving to the basket far less often this season than last.
  • When he does drive, Harden is making under half of his shots within 10 feet of the basket this season, on pace to be his lowest rate since tracking began in 2013-14.
  • He still remains an elite passer, though. Tuesday marked his 11th game this season with double-digit assists; only Chris Paul and Trae Young have more.

This season has featured plenty of talking about who's not there when it comes to the Nets. It's time to appreciate who is there -- and what they've been able to do so far.

Honorable mention:

And not such a good morning for...



Ah, the Indiana Pacers. Where do I start?

From 2016-2020, they lost in the first round of the playoffs every year. Last season, they hired a first-time head coach in Nate Bjorkgren, and he lost the locker room and was fired. This year, they opted for more experience at head coach and hired Rick Carlisle.

But it hasn't gotten any better.

The Pacers are 10-16 this season and earned a C- in our NBA experts' NBA quarterly grades:

  • Maloney: "This is the same Pacers core that's been together for a while now, and they've never proven to be capable of making any real noise in the playoffs. ... [I]t's pretty clear that this group is just OK. Shaking up the core at some point would probably be best for everyone involved."

Maybe the Pacers' front office read that. Indianapolis is reportedly open to trading Domantas Sabonis, Myles Turner and/or Caris LeVert as part of a rebuild.

Sabonis and Turner -- two key big men -- are fascinating trade options, writes our NBA scribe Sam Quinn:

  • Quinn: "Sabonis is the more accomplished player on paper. He's a two-time All-Star, but he's also a harder player to fit onto most teams because of his weaknesses defensively. Turner hasn't posted the same individual numbers as Sabonis, but he is among the NBA's best rim protectors and he's among the better shooting big men in basketball. That makes him a comfortable fit on virtually any team in need of a center."

Not so honorable mention:

  • Injuries stink, and they really stink when the face of the sport suffers them. UConn guard Paige Bueckers -- who won basically every national player of the year award last season as a freshman -- will be out six to eight weeks with a tibial plateau fracture.
  • The injury news unfortunately doesn't end there. Blazers guard C.J. McCollum has a pneumothorax, which is a collapsed lung. He's out indefinitely. 

Washington Football Team jumps up in Pete Prisco's Power Rankings 🏈


Pete Prisco's latest Power Rankings are in, and the top five teams remain the same after they combined to go a perfect 4-0 in Week 13 (with a bye for Green Bay):

1. Cardinals
2. Packers
3. Buccaneers
4. Patriots
5. Chiefs

As for the biggest risers, they have a four-game winning streak. That's right: the Washington Football Team jumped up eight spots from 23rd to 15th.

  • Prisco: "[T]he defense has taken big strides. The secondary has been a big part of the reason for the turnaround, as has the inside play of defensive tackle Jonathan Allen, who is playing great football. The offense isn't explosive, but it's good enough. Quarterback Taylor Heinicke is coming off a so-so game against the Raiders, but he is capable of getting hot and leading the offense up and down the field."

Prisco hits the nail on the head here. During its streak, Washington ranks in the top 10 in total defense (287 yards per game) and third-down defense (31% conversion rate). The offense, meanwhile, has become a ground-and-pound, clock-chewing machine. Washington's offense leads the NFL in third down conversion rate (50%) over the last four weeks leads and, in turn, also leads the league in average time of possession (37:36) over that span.

The formula is simple: Stay on the field on offense. Get off the field on defense. Don't give up big plays. Win close games.

As for the teams falling off the most in the latest rankings...

  • 49ers (11th to 16th): "Losing to the Seahawks on the road is a bad loss for the 49ers and their playoff hopes. They seemed to fall apart in the second half."
  • Raiders (12th to 17th): "Losing at home to Washington isn't a good look after winning at Dallas. The offense sputtered for much of the day."

There are plenty of stars remaining on the MLB market. Where will they go? ⚾

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While the hot stove cools during the MLB lockout, there are still plenty of enticing free agents available. Currently, 25 of our MLB reporter R.J. Anderson's top 50 free agents are on the market.

When that market will open up again remains unknown, but in the meantime, we can look at best fits for the biggest stars, courtesy of MLB expert Mike Axisa:

  • Carlos Correa -- "Best fit: Astros: The short version is Houston's World Series window remains wide open and Correa is an elite player at a premium position, so he'd help the push for a title. ... Sleeper fit: Red Sox: Correa and Red Sox manager Alex Cora are very close (Cora was Houston's bench coach in 2017), and the Red Sox would be able to slide Xander Bogaerts over to second base, which might be his best defensive position at this point."
  • Freddie Freeman -- "Best fit: Braves. It is mind-boggling the Braves did not re-sign Freeman prior to the lockout. I expected him to be one of the first free agents to sign. Instead, he won't sign until the lockout ends. ... Sleeper fit: Mariners. ... The Mariners are finally -- finally! -- on the cusp of returning to the postseason, but they badly need another bat, and Freeman would provide offense, leadership, and championship pedigree."

What we're watching Wednesday 📺

🏀 No. 15 UConn at West Virginia (-2), 7 p.m. on ESPN2
🏀 Bucks at Heat (+7)
, 7:30 p.m. on ESPN
🏀 Trail Blazers at Warriors (-14), 10 p.m. on ESPN