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It turns out if you don’t impulsively label a rookie a huge bust less than halfway into his first season, he might actually improve with more NBA experience. But life isn’t that simple when you’re Lonzo Ball.

The Lakers point guard has dealt with plenty of criticism, both fair (those taking aim at his poor shooting) and unfair (those taking aim at the hype train driven by his father and any hyperbole that pushed him as a failure because he had not turned around the Lakers in his first few months on the job). While Ball has certainly struggled as all first-year players at his position often do, his recent stretch of success should give Lakers fans plenty of hope.

Ball might not be able to sustain that level of play over the Lakers’ final 20 games of the regular season, and we’re working with a small sample size. But it’s not just the uptick in production and efficiency �� it’s how Ball looks on the floor.

The Rockets are the one team whose win truly means something. They are better than the Cavs, there is no way around it. With 19 made 3-pointers and 28 assists on 44 field goals made, Houston is a well-oiled machine that is looking more and more like a team that could challenge the Warriors for the Western Conference title, especially with Chris Paul at his best. The former Clippers guard finished the night with 22 points, 11 assists and eight rebounds with a plus-47 differential when he was on the court.

Irving, a well-known conspiracy theorist, said he appreciated the speculation and the tangents it spawned. But it wasn’t that complicated, really.

When I actually had hair on my face and they put the beard on, Irving explained, with the makeup, I had to put on a full-blown mask, tie the hair in, it would rip some of the hair out. There was one time where I had glue stuck in my beard. After the day was done, I was combing my beard and some of the glue was actually still stuck in my beard, so as I am combing, some of the hair was coming out.

Being on set for the movie did help Irving. While his Uncle Drew character is a purveyor of old-school ways, he spent time with co-stars who are now old enough to qualify as old-schoolers. Shaquille O’Neal has a major role, alongside Reggie Miller, Chris Webber, Lisa Leslie and Nate Robinson. They gave Irving some lessons on how things have changed in basketball in the last 15 or 20 years.

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While looking to recruit elite high schoolers in the summer may be a possibility, it wouldn’t be surprising to see NBL teams in Australia and New Zealand also consider saving their roster spot for players like Melton, Wiley or Mitchell Robinson (who withdrew from Western Kentucky after just a few weeks) and adding them to their roster during the season. Not only will they be able to pick up a talented player, they could also put themselves in place to earn a significant financial windfall.

NBA rules currently allow franchises to pay up to $700,000 in buyout money to international teams. Should the NBL be able to convince a high-level NBA draft prospect to join one of its team on a multiyear contract, it could be richly rewarded with a buyout the following summer, which would then be split between the club and the league itself .

NBA trade deadline week arrives a little earlier than usual this year. Instead of crossing paths with NBA All-Star weekend �� sorry about that, DeMarcus Cousins �� trades must be finalized a week before All-Star events take place from Feb. 16-18.

Rampant rumors and speculation will be flying around prior to the trade deadline with several valuable contributors still available. However, NBA fans should temper expectations for star trades, as plenty of teams will be confined by the salary cap after the spending spree of 2016.

While the coaching staff at Adelaide did an admirable job of incorporating Ferguson into its roster and ended up finishing the regular season in first place, the young wing proved to be too raw and physically immature at times. He averaged just 15 minutes per game and posted modest numbers of 4.6 points and 1.2 rebounds per game. Examples like these have made other NBL teams (as well as clubs in Europe) somewhat hesitant to invest significant resources in attempting to lure similar prospects, as it could hamper them from winning games and potentially result in coaches being fired for poor results.

The Thunder are canvassing the league for the right move ahead of Thursday’s deadline, according to USA Today’s Sam Amick. A few possibilities: Clippers guard Avery Bradley, Raptors guard C.J. Miles, Hawks center Dewayne Dedmon or Suns center Alex Len.

In case you’re throwing LeBron James in the trade machine ahead of Wednesday night’s Timberwolves-Cavs game on national TV, just remember he’s not going anywhere. James addressed speculation about his no-trade clause after a rough loss to the Magic on Tuesday.

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Imagine you’re searching for a new apartment because you think there’s a better living situation out in the world. You’re done with your roommate and ready to see what’s available. But the longer the search goes, the more you realize there’s not a great deal to be found. So you stick with your old roomie, pretending you wanted to stay there all along. And now the rent has gone up, and it’s due soon. Awkward, right?

Los Angeles actively shopped Jordan throughout the season but ultimately kept the big man past the Feb. 8 trade deadline. The Clippers felt they were getting close to completing a deal with the Cavs this past Thursday, according to ESPN’s Brian Windhorst, but once it was clear the Cavs were going in a different direction with multiple trades as opposed to a Jordan blockbuster, the Clippers decided to keep their current roster intact.

The Grizzlies have been giving heavy minutes to lineups featuring Jarell Martin, JaMychal Green and Marc Gasol — two power forwards and a center. For stretches of their completely unwatchable foul-fest against Phoenix on Wednesday, they had Martin guarding Elfrid Payton. You won’t believe this, but it went poorly — and those super-big lineups cannot score, like, at all. Also: Has any coach told Marquese Chriss that fouling is bad? Does he think it’s good?

The Kings have been playing retrograde double-center lineups all season, and they stepped it up in Monday’s loss/win against Minnesota by sliding Bruno Caboclo — still two years away from being two years away, and maybe a few months away from China — to small forward alongside Skal Labissiere and Kosta Koufos.

This season has been particularly interesting after all movement last summer of big-name players such as Chris Paul, Dwight Howard and Zach Randolph. Some of these tributes made sense, some of these did not. Some players even received fan tribute videos.

Sporting News ranked the top 15 tribute videos so far this season, from least deserving to most deserving. For the sake of conciseness, this list was limited to active players (i.e., no Paul Pierce).

The night before the 2012 trade deadline, Dwight Howard unexpectedly signed his opt-in waiver with Orlando, effectively killing the Nets’ chances at trading for him. Instead, they went all-in on acquiring veterans in an attempt to convince Deron Williams to re-sign that summer.

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