Dread it. Run from it. NBA offseason chaos still arrives.
It doesn't matter the date or the time ... the NBA offseason will always find a way to maximize drama and entertainment regardless of circumstances. That much became clear yesterday as the market officially opened ahead of this week's NBA Draft and free agency immediately provided some juicy trades and rumors. We'll be getting into those this morning, and I'm confident that things will only be getting spicier over the next couple of days. Buckle up!
If you slept through the madness, don't feel too bad ... I've got you covered. (I was up until 4 a.m. just refreshing Twitter waiting for the next Woj Bomb.) I might need an extra cup of coffee this morning but you better believe I'm ready to go, so let's get after it.
📰 What you need to know
1. James Harden demands trade to Nets 🏀
The NBA's offseason trade window is officially open and we're not wasting any time in getting a little crazy. Monday brought two blockbuster trades (we'll get to those in a bit) but the big story this morning surrounds another potential deal that could be coming at some point in the near future.
Could James Harden be destined for the Brooklyn Nets?
- Harden reportedly turned down a two-year, $103 million extension from the Rockets that would make him the first $50 million-per-year player in league history (Harden still has three years and $133 million left on his current deal)
- Instead, Harden is demanding a trade to the Brooklyn Nets, where he seeks to team up with Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant
- Harden reportedly views Brooklyn as a two-year play to win a title before deciding on the next steps in his career
- The Rockets and Nets have reportedly had discussions but aren't yet close to a deal
Oh boy. Kyrie, KD and Harden would certainly be ... something. For all the talent in that big three, it would also be an incredibly volatile collection of personalities and egos all sharing one locker room and one basketball. I'd venture to guess that it would either go incredibly well or incredibly poorly, with very little room in between.
So, should the Nets bite, take the risk and make a huge deal to bring in The Beard? Obviously it's intriguing -- those three might comprise the most talented trio in NBA history -- but our Sam Quinn says Brooklyn is probably better off not acquiring Harden. By dealing for him, they'd find themselves rich in star power but weak in three crucial areas: Depth defense and diversity on offense.
- Quinn: "Any win-now team that doesn't already have Kyrie Irving and Kevin Durant would improve significantly offensively by adding him. But he happens to want to play for one of the few teams that really doesn't need him, and as tempting as the prospect of three superstars might appear, Brooklyn's best bet is to stick to the original plan: Fix the defense, maintain depth, and add a third option on its terms, not Harden's, Houston's or anyone else's."
Whether this trade happens or not, it feels like Harden's time could be nearing an end in Houston. And if he does in fact land in Brooklyn, all I ask is that we keep a camera crew behind-the-scenes at all times because that's going to be incredibly interesting, for better or for worse.
Also, there's some weirdness in Harden's potential career path: Traded away from Durant and Russell Westbrook in OKC, then joined by Westbrook in Houston, then potentially traded away from Houston to join Durant. The circle of life?
2. NBA hot stove: Recapping multiple big trades 🔥
The James Harden story might be on top of the pile this morning but there's plenty more NBA hot stove action beneath the fold. A number of big trades went down yesterday -- a few of which you may have missed if you went to bed early. It was a busy night, so let's recap the action real quick:
- The Suns acquired Chris Paul from the Thunder in exchange for Kelly Oubre, Ricky Rubio, Ty Jerome and Jalen Lecque
- The Trail Blazers acquired Robert Covington from the Rockets for Trevor Ariza and two 1st-round picks
- The Bucks acquired Jrue Holiday from the Pelicans for Eric Bledsoe, George Hill and three 1st-round picks
- The Bucks acquired Bogdan Bogdanovich and Justin James from the Kings in exchange for Donte Divincenzo, Ersan Ilyasova and DJ Wilson
Paul was arguably the biggest household name to be dealt yesterday (our James Herbert believes that deal was a win for both sides) but the Bucks' deals are likely the most impactful -- especially that Holiday one. Not only do the pair of trades help the Bucks improve as contenders out of the East, they also serve as a showcase that the front office is willing to do whatever it takes to help convince Giannis Antetokounmpo to stick around.
It's a big gamble by Milwaukee -- you can argue they overpaid and are essentially mortgaging the future in an effort to keep the current window open. If it works, they keep a generational talent and franchise icon and those three 1st-rounders are likely late-round picks that don't end up looking like much of a loss. If it doesn't work, both the present and future are bleak.
What do you think ... is this big splash enough to persuade Giannis (who can get a supermax extension this offseason or become an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2021) to sign that new deal?
3. Vikings beat Bears on MNF, tighten NFC North race 🏈
Last night's NBA craziness helped provide a slight distraction from the stinker of a Monday Night Football game we got in Chicago. However, the VIkings-Bears game was an important one -- even if it wasn't pretty. The Vikings ultimately came away with the 19-13 victory, which continues the trend of these two teams moving in opposite directions: the Vikes have now won three in a row while the Bears have lost four straight.
Let's get some takeaways from our NFL crew:
- Why the Vikings won: Kirk Cousins played just well enough and got some help from stud rookie WR Justin Jefferson, who had eight catches for 135 yards. (Jefferson tied Randy Moss' club rookie record with his fourth 100-yard receiving game.) Minnesota's defense also did a good job of executing and not giving up many big plays
- Why the Bears lost: Chicago's offensive line was brutal and the offensive play-calling remained pretty rough. They only mustered 149 yards of total offense and their only touchdown came via a kick return. It was just another miserable offensive showing and you don't need to look much further than that to see why Chicago continues to slide after a strong start to the season
The Packers have a healthy lead in the NFC North at 7-2 but, following Monday night's result, the Bears, Vikings and Lions are now all within one game of each other in the standings. At this rate, it feels like a competition to see who can stink the least.
It should also be mentioned that Nick Foles was carted off with what appeared to be a hip injury during the second half of last night's game, which means that we could end up seeing Tyler Bray or the return of Mitch Trubisky under center. Foles will have an extra week to recover (the Bears are on a bye this weekend) but, honestly, he probably shouldn't get the start even if he is able. He's been brutal.
And speaking of that next Bears game -- a primetime Sunday night matchup against the Packers -- can we please get a schedule flex? Nobody wants to close out their weekend by watching that Chicago offense repeatedly yack all over themselves for four quarters ... not even Bears fans.
4. Ranking the NHL's 'Reverse Retro' jerseys 🏒
There's not a whole lot going on in hockey these days ... we're sort of in NHL purgatory at the moment. It's the offseason (but not the good part of the offseason) and we don't really know when the new season is going to start just yet.
Lucky for us, Adidas and the NHL released 31 brand new alternate jerseys yesterday as part of the league's "Reverse Retro" program for the upcoming season. Every team in the league was tasked with reimagining a classic jersey as part of the NHL's first-ever league-wide alternate jersey theme.
It's a cool project that produced some interesting results, for better or worse, and I graded each team's release yesterday. Here's a look at some of the best and worst grades:
- A grades: Coyotes, Bruins, Avalanche, Oilers, Panthers, Kings, Wild, Canadiens, Blues, Canucks
- F grades: Red Wings, Maple Leafs, Jets
You can find all of the jerseys and grades right here.
As a big fan of both hockey and sports fashion, it was an exciting day for me. I did manage to ruffle some feathers by criticizing the new Hurricanes' ownership for digging up the Hartford Whalers' grave too many times, but someone had to call them on it.
📝 Odds & Ends
- Drew Brees reportedly suffered a collapsed lung and multiple rib fractures and will be sidelined for more than one week
- The NCAA plans to move its entire 68-team basketball tournament to one city in 2021
- NBA Draft top 100 player rankings: Five of our experts have put together their final consensus big board ahead of tomorrow's draft
- Padres pitcher Mike Clevinger will undergo Tommy John surgery and miss the entire 2021 season, but he did sign a two-year deal to stay in San Diego
📺 What to watch tonight
🏈 Akron vs. Kent State, 8:00 p.m. | KENT -25 | TV: ESPN
📝 Top scores from last night
Kirk Cousins threw for 292 yards and two touchdowns in his first career Monday Night Football win.
💵 Winning wagers: MIN -3, Under (44.5)