Happy Wednesday, folks.
Let's get right to it.
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Good morning to everyone but especially to...
THE NEW ORLEANS PELICANS...
Welcome to the Big Easy, CJ McCollum. The veteran shooting guard -- who is averaging 20+ points per game for the seventh straight season -- is the centerpiece of a big trade between the Pelicans and Trail Blazers.
Trail Blazers get:
- Josh Hart
- Nickeil Alexander-Walker
- Tomas Satoransky
- Didi Louzada
- Protected 2022 first-round pick and two future second-round picks
McCollum makes a full-strength Pelicans team very hard to guard, writes our NBA expert Sam Quinn:
- Quinn: "Brandon Ingram has grown meaningfully as a playmaker over the past few months. Slot in McCollum's pick-and-roll shot creation and the unstoppable behemoth that is Point Zion [Williamson] and the Pelicans have more than adequately compromised for their unorthodox team construction. Throw in [Devonte'] Graham's shooting and Jonas Valanciunas' all-around offensive game and when the Pelicans are healthy, there is no reason to believe they won't have an elite offense."
Credit New Orleans for even getting to a point where the front office felt like it could make this trade. The Pelicans started the season 1-12 but have gone 21-20 since -- all without Zion Williamson -- and would be in the play-in tournament if the season ended today.
... AND ALSO GOOD MORNING TO THE ARKANSAS RAZORBACKS
Welcome back to the college basketball spotlight, Arkansas -- and welcome back to the loss column, Auburn. The Razorbacks took down the nation's top-ranked team, 80-76, in overtime last night.
- JD Notae led the way with 28 points.
- Jaylin Williams and Au'Diese Toney had double-doubles.
- It was Arkansas' second win over an AP No. 1 team. The other was in 1984 against Michael Jordan-led North Carolina.
- Arkansas' win streak is up to nine, and Auburn's is snapped at 19.
Arkansas is finally playing how it was expected to coming off an Elite Eight appearance, writes college basketball scribe David Cobb:
- Cobb: "Wins over LSU and West Virginia in recent weeks were nice, but even those victories have been somewhat de-legitimized due to the recent struggles of those teams. Beating Auburn is different, though. The Tigers are a projected No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament, and beating a team of that caliber adds some much-needed and long-awaited heft to the Razorbacks' resume."
Don't sleep on Eric Musselman and company come March Madness.
- American snowboarding stars Shaun White and Chloe Kim have both qualified for their respective halfpipe finals
- In honor of its 75th season, the NBA named its 15 greatest coaches, including four active coaches: Steve Kerr, Doc Rivers, Gregg Popovich and Erik Spoelstra.
- Here are the participants for the NBA All-Star Weekend festivities.
And not such a good morning for...
THE SACRAMENTO KINGS
Here's a quick list of every Kings player who has averaged at least 13 points and 5 assists in a single season while shooting at least 40 percent from three:
- Tyrese Haliburton, this season
Do you know who is no longer on the Kings? That's right, Tyrese Haliburton! Sacramento moved on from one of its best young players in a long time as part of a blockbuster trade with the Pacers. Here's who's going where:
Haliburton -- an All-Rookie selection last season -- and Sabonis -- a two-time All-Star -- are the headliners. Put simply, the Kings have made another underwhelming-at-best transaction.
Sacramento is 20-36 this season with one of the league's worst defenses: an area Sabonis won't help. Plus, Sabonis is...
- Not only four years older than Haliburton, but...
- He's making significantly more money than Haliburton (though that's less important with Hield's massive contract gone), and...
- He's likely under contract for a shorter amount of time
Simply put, the Kings are not contending any time soon, even if Sabonis does make them "better."
NBA expert Sam Quinn gave the Kings a C+ for the move:
- Quinn: "This grade should really be an incomplete. The Kings clearly aren't done yet. ... Philosophically, it's worth asking if the Kings should've held firm on Haliburton. His shooting makes him a cleaner point guard to build around, and he still has two years remaining on his rookie-scale contract whereas [De'Aaron] Fox is making the max. ... The cost here was substantial."
Not so honorable mentions
- Mikaela Shiffrin fell in the slalom, failing to reach the final in her second of five events at the Olympics. She also fell in the giant slalom.
- In other Olympics news, five women were disqualified from a ski jumping event due to baggy outfits.
Ranking every Super Bowl QB matchup: Where does Stafford vs Burrow land? 🏈
Entering this season, Matthew Stafford had never won a playoff game and Joe Burrow's only NFL season had ended early due to a torn ACL. Now, they're set to face off in the Super Bowl.
So where does this unlikely meeting rank among all 56 Super Bowl quarterback matchups? Right in the middle, according to our NFL expert Bryan DeArdo.
- DeArdo: "This matchup could eventually wind up in the top 20 if both Burrow and Stafford receive gold jackets once their careers are over. A win on Sunday would certainly help bolster Stafford's future Hall of Fame candidacy. ... Sunday will be only the 30th career start for Burrow, who could very well be on his way to a Hall of Fame career. But with neither earning his first playoff win until this season, for now we've got this matchup at 29."
I really enjoyed this piece, because it brought back memories from some great (Patrick Mahomes vs. Tom Brady) and not-so-great (Peyton Manning vs. Rex Grossman) matchups. Here's the full rankings.
Bradley Beal done for the season as Wizards' spiral continues 🏀
Remember when the Wizards were good? Yeah, me neither.
Washington -- which led the Eastern Conference nearly a month into the season -- is currently 11th in the East and just took its biggest loss of the year: Star guard Bradley Beal is undergoing wrist surgery and will be out the rest of the season.
Beal struggled this season:
- 23.2 PPG, lowest since 2017-18
- 45.1% field goal percentage, lowest since 2015-16
- 30% three-point percentage, lowest of career
- Wizards had better net rating with him off court than on court
Still, this couldn't come at a worse time for the Wizards. I'll let NBA guru Sam Quinn explain:
- Quinn: "Beal can become an unrestricted free agent this offseason, and he will be eligible to sign a five-year, $241 million contract to remain with the Wizards. He has thus far refused to commit to doing so, preferring to keep his options open for a possible move. With this injury, though, a midseason trade becomes extremely unlikely. ... Now the Wizards will have to figure out how to prove to Beal that they are capable of putting a winner around him without actually having him on the floor for the rest of the season."
The Wizards are stuck between a rock and a hard place. They can't compete for a title. Washington hasn't even made a conference finals since 1978-79. But the Wizards have also been reluctant to truly rebuild. Even if they do -- and they easily could (and probably should) over the next few days -- does Beal want to stick around for that?
Trevor Bauer won't face criminal charges; MLB investigation continues ⚾
Trevor Bauer will not face criminal charges following the Los Angeles court system's five-month investigation of sexual assault allegations against the Dodgers' pitcher.
However, that does not necessarily mean Bauer will be able to return to the field immediately, as our MLB reporter R.J. Anderson writes:
- Anderson: "Major League Baseball's investigation into the accusations remains ongoing, with [the Los Angeles Times' Bill] Shaikin noting that commissioner Rob Manfred is 'widely expected' to suspend Bauer under the league's domestic violence and sexual assault policy. A player does not have to be charged with a crime in order for the commissioner to suspend them."
Bauer -- the 2020 NL Cy Young award winner -- signed a three-year with the Dodgers last offseason and made 17 starts for Los Angeles. He last pitched in late June 2021.