TV channel, NBA live stream info, start time

The Orlando Magic will head out on the road to face off against the Los Angeles Lakers at 10:30 p.m. ET on Monday at Arena. The Magic will be strutting in after a victory while the Lakers will be stumbling in from a loss.

Last Friday, even if it wasn’t a dominant performance, Orlando beat Portland 102-97. The team accrued 63 points in the first half and coasted on those for the win.

Meanwhile, the Lakers fought the good fight in their overtime contest against the Kings on Sunday but wound up with a less-than-desirable result. They took a 132-127 hit to the loss column at the hands of the Kings.

Despite the defeat, the Lakers got a solid performance out of Anthony Davis, who dropped a double-double on 30 points and 16 rebounds. Davis is on a roll when it comes to blocks, as he’s now blocked two or more in the last three games he’s played.

The victory makes it two in a row for Orlando and bumps their season record up to 2-0. As for Los Angeles, they now have a losing record at 1-2.

The Magic are hoping to beat the odds on Monday, as the experts think they’re headed for a loss. They finished last season with a 45-34-3 record against the spread.

The Magic came up short against the Lakers in their previous matchup back in March, falling 111-105. Can the Magic avenge their loss or is history doomed to repeat itself? We’ll find out soon enough.

Los Angeles is a slight 2-point favorite against Orlando, according to the latest NBA odds.

Bettors have moved against the Lakers slightly, as the game opened with the Lakers as a 3.5-point favorite.

The over/under is set at 218.5 points.

See NBA picks for every single game, including this one, from SportsLine’s advanced computer model. Get picks now.

Series History
Los Angeles has won 7 out of their last 10 games against Orlando.

Mar 19, 2023 – Los Angeles 111 vs. Orlando 105
Dec 27, 2022 – Los Angeles 129 vs. Orlando 110
Jan 21, 2022 – Los Angeles 116 vs. Orlando 105
Dec 12, 2021 – Los Angeles 106 vs. Orlando 94
Apr 26, 2021 – Los Angeles 114 vs. Orlando 103
Mar 28, 2021 – Los Angeles 96 vs. Orlando 93
Jan 15, 2020 – Orlando 119 vs. Los Angeles 118
Dec 11, 2019 – Los Angeles 96 vs. Orlando 87
Nov 25, 2018 – Orlando 108 vs. Los Angeles 104
Nov 17, 2018 – Orlando 130 vs. Los Angeles 117

‘I’ve never played on their team’

MILWAUKEE — Damian Lillard had one of the worst games of his career on Sunday in the Milwaukee Bucks’ 127-110 loss to the Atlanta Hawks, finishing with six points and six turnovers on 2-of-12 shooting. The good news is he’ll have to wait less than 24 hours to take the court again when the Bucks square off against the Miami Heat.

That is, of course, a loaded matchup for Lillard, who requested a trade to the Heat during the offseason, but was instead dealt to the Bucks in a blockbuster deal, ending his 11-year run with the Portland Trail Blazers. The veteran guard insisted, however, that despite his hectic summer and friendship with Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, it will be just another game.

“I’ve never played on their team,” Lillard said. “I mentioned that [it] was the destination for me when I asked to be traded last year, but I was traded here. I’m excited to be here, I’m happy to be here, I fit in great here. For me, personally, that was the end of it. I never thought about it again after that.

“So I’m not going into [tonight] like ‘this the team that I was supposed to be playing for’ or none of that. I know Jimmy, I know Bam, we’re cool, but I play for the Bucks. I’m not going into it like ‘that’s my former team’ or ‘we was tied in’ or nothing like that. It’s another game.”

At the morning shootaround, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra likewise downplayed the idea that his team would have any sort of extra motivation on Monday after everything that happened during the offseason.

“It’s beyond all that,” Spoelstra said. “It’s more about respect for Milwaukee and the battles we’ve had. It’s great competition in this building and it’s always a challenge, and they’re coming off a tough loss last night. Our guys love to compete, they love to compete against other really good teams. We expect it to be a tough battle.”

As for Lillard’s relationship with the Heat and star plays such as Butler and Adebayo, he emphasized that they didn’t have much contact throughout the trade process this summer.

“On the outside people made more of it than what was taking place,” Lillard explained. “It’s not like I was calling him every day or nothing like that. I said what I needed to say to the team that I was on at that time, and I went on about my time. I did my training, I spent time with my kids, and that was it. I’m telling you the real when I say it’s not that deep. Bam was my boy before I asked for a trade. He still is, and that was the extent of it.”

Speaking of Adebayo, he will not play due to a hip injury sustained in the Heat’s loss to the Minnesota Timberwolves on Saturday. “He just went through his warm-up and routine and does not have enough movement,” Spoelstra said pre-game. “We’ll give him a bunch of treatment and see what happens when we get back to Miami.”

The Bucks and Heat will tip-off at 8 p.m. ET on Monday on League Pass. Lillard will be looking to bounce back after setting a record for the biggest point differential between a first and second game with a new team in NBA history: 33 points. He had 39 points in an opening night win over the Philadelphia 76ers before scoring just six against the Hawks.

James Harden is ‘ecstatic’ to be joining Clippers, could attend Tuesday game vs. Magic, per report

James Harden has been angling for a trade to the Los Angeles Clippers for months. Such a deal has been rumored since June, when Harden opted into the final year of his contract with the Philadelphia 76ers hoping to return to his hometown and partner up with Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in an effort to win his first NBA championship. Now, that deal is all but complete, and according to ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne, Harden is “ecstatic” to be joining the Clippers.

In fact, according to Shelburne, Harden could be in attendance when the Clippers face the Orlando Magic on Tuesday in Los Angeles. He won’t be playing in that game, of course. There are still plenty of details to be worked out. As of this writing, details on a third team joining the deal and sending the 76ers another first-round pick have not been revealed. When the specifics are squared away, there will need to be a trade call with the league office and all of the players involved will need to undergo medical testing. Playing on Tuesday given that tight turnaround is simply not feasible.

However, if everything goes as planned, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that Harden suits up for Wednesday’s marquee matchup with the rival Los Angeles Lakers. After that, the Clippers have a four-day break before facing the New York Knicks on Monday at Madison Square Garden.

That Knicks game is probably Harden’s likeliest debut date for the Clippers. The 76ers had been holding him out of games for the sake of conditioning, and it is not yet clear what sort of shape he will be in when he joins the Clippers. If he needs a few more days to get up to speed, the Knicks game offers him that time.

Whenever he does ultimately suit up for Los Angeles, he will give the Clippers the point guard they’ve been seeking for the entire Leonard-George era. They paid a steep price to generate that trio, but with Harden joining the two established stars, the Clippers believe they have a genuine chance to win their first championship.

James Harden trade grades; Rangers two wins away from title; Lions crush hapless Raiders as NFL deadline looms

Today’s a big day for the NFL, followed by a big night for college football: The first College Football Playoff Rankings of the season are set to be released. Ahead of that reveal, we have Dennis Dodd’s Power Rankings — with a new No. 1 and No. 2!

Georgia (previous: 2) — “Nine weeks in, Georgia looks fully capable of winning three in a row.”
Ohio State (4) — “Fully armed and ready, the Buckeyes won a Big Ten classic at Wisconsin by bowing up and wearing down the Badgers.”
Michigan (1) — “Will Jim Harbaugh make it until the end of the season?”
Florida State (3) — “This is the most complete FSU team since Jimbo Fisher days.”
Washington (6) — “Are the Huskies slipping? Their last four wins have come by a combined 27 points.”
We also have a new CBS Sports 133 where Michigan remains on top. Clemson tied for the biggest drop in our full FBS rankings, falling from 35th to 44th after consecutive regular-season losses in the same season for the first time since 2011. In “The Monday After,” Tom Fornelli says Dabo Swinney and his team are at a crossroads.

Fornelli: “There isn’t one thing you can point to as the fatal flaw here, nor does this seem like an outlier season. While I wouldn’t anticipate Clemson fighting for its bowl life in years to come, its grip on the league has loosened, at a minimum, and may have been lost entirely. … If Swinney wants a quick fix, he’ll have to break character this offseason and utilize the transfer portal. It’s something he’s been allergic to doing until this point, but this approach has undoubtedly played a role in his team’s struggles the last few years.”
In more news on the coaching front, Brian Ferentz will not return as Iowa’s offensive coordinator next season; he will continue in his role through the end of this season. Yes, that kind of makes him a lame duck, but to be honest, his offense has been lame for a long time. The Hawkeyes are dead last in yards per game this year. Per his latest contract, Ferentz needed Iowa to average 25 points per game to keep his job. It was 14% below pace of that goal after Iowa’s to Minnesota.

Iowa ranks 131st in yards per game since Ferentz took over in 2017, but his status on staff was never really challenged because his father, Kirk, is the coach. This move away from Brian is long overdue.

Clippers land 76ers star and PJ Tucker for multiple picks, swap, four veterans, per report

The Philadelphia 76ers are trading James Harden to the Los Angeles Clippers, according to Adrian Wojnarowski. The Clippers will receive Harden, PJ Tucker and Filip Petrusev while the 76ers will receive an unprotected 2028 first-round pick, two second-round picks, a first-round pick swap, Marcus Morris, Nic Batum, Robert Covington and KJ Martin. Another first-round pick will be rerouted to the 76ers from the Thunder, Wojnarowski added Tuesday morning. The 76ers are waiving Danny Green to clear the roster space necessary to make the trade.

The deal ends a saga that began in June, when Harden was an impending free agent. Once it became clear that the Houston Rockets preferred Fred VanVleet with their maximum cap space, Harden had nowhere to go and was forced to opt into the final year of his deal with the understanding that 76ers general manager Daryl Morey would eventually trade him.

That trade came slower than Harden had wanted, and in August, Harden responded by saying at a camp in China that “Daryl Morey is a liar and I will never be a part of an organization that he’s a part of.” Harden ultimately reported to 76ers camp, but now, he gets the trade he seeks, and, in the process, positions himself for the contract Philadelphia was not ready to give him.

Rather than extending the 34-year-old Harden for the long haul, Philadelphia is planning to generate max cap space in the summer of 2024. To that end, they also have not extended young star Tyrese Maxey, though they will be able to retain him next offseason as a restricted free agent without significantly affecting their cap space. The four players that the 76ers acquired in this deal all have expiring contracts, but Tucker did not. At this moment, the 76ers only have two guaranteed salaries for next season: Joel Embiid and the fourth-year option on Jaden Springer.

The Clippers, on the other hand, are so far above the salary cap that they almost have to retain Harden beyond the season using his Bird Rights. They would have no means of replacing his salary slot if he were to leave for nothing, and the new CBA makes it significantly harder to sign-and-trade him elsewhere.

Of course, the Clippers wouldn’t be making this trade if they didn’t expect to keep Harden. Ever since they landed Kawhi Leonard and Paul George in the 2019 offseason, they’ve sought a traditional point guard to make their lives easier on offense. They’ve tried just about every low-end option from Reggie Jackson to Rajon Rondo to Russell Westbrook, but nobody has worked. Harden, who led the NBA in assists last season, would immediately become the best playmaker the Leonard-George duo has ever had, and with the Clippers set to open a new arena in time for the 2024-25 season, they could now potentially bring this star trio into their new building.

But the 2024-25 season is a year away. The goal is to win the championship right now. With Harden, the Clippers would be right back in the mix for the Western Conference crown. The 76ers, meanwhile, will now attempt to regroup and reload before reigning MVP Joel Embiid starts to get antsy. Neither Harden nor Simmons were suitable championship co-stars for Embiid, and now, it’s up to Morey to get it right on the third try.

Clippers take massive risk while 76ers win big

James Harden was reportedly finally traded to the Los Angeles Clippers early Tuesday morning in a deal four months in the making. Interest between the former MVP and the aging contenders was first established in June, when Harden could have become a free agent but chose to opt into the final year of his deal with the Philadelphia 76ers hoping to get dealt to his hometown team.

It took until the beginning of the season, but Harden got his wish. He will now join Kawhi Leonard and Paul George with the Clippers while the 76ers reload around Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. The deal has not yet been finalized and there are still details that need to be confirmed, but for now, here is the trade as it has been reported.

Unprotected 2028 first-round pick (via Clippers)
Two second-round picks (via Clippers)
First-round pick from Thunder
First-round pick swap (via Clippers)
Deals of this magnitude are rare during the season, when matching salary and fitting players within roster limits becomes more difficult. But the Clippers and 76ers have seemingly pulled it off, and now it’s time to figure out how both sides did in their massive trade. Here’s how both the Clippers and 76ers did in their long-awaited trade.

Clippers: C-
The Clippers did well on the margins of this trade. Getting P.J. Tucker was enormous. Remember the whole “let the power forward defend Nikola Jokic so the center can focus on playing help” scheme the Lakers popularized in the Western Conference finals? No power forward played that part better than Tucker a year ago. Keeping Terance Mann is a win as well. Someone on this roster needs to be able to push pace besides Russell Westbrook, who probably shouldn’t be on the team when the playoffs roll around if his history of fitting poorly next to Harden holds up. The Clippers probably made the best version of this trade that they reasonably could have made.

But their grade for the deal as a whole comes down to how much Harden ultimately increases their championship odds. The answer, on first glance, is not very much. The notion that the Clippers needed a point guard to organize their offense in big moments is significantly overstated. In four seasons with Leonard and George on their roster, the Clippers have ranked fourth, second, 10th and third in clutch offense. They made the Western Conference finals three years ago with Reggie Jackson as their primary ball-handler. The Clippers have never really had a ball-movement offense, but Harden’s teams never do either. Last season, the Clippers ranked 17th in passes per game while the 76ers ranked 13th. Leonard is the big shot taker on this team. He always will be.

The real value here for the Clippers is Harden’s durability. Clipper lineups featuring both George and Leonard ranked in the 91st percentile in terms of offensive efficiency last season, according to Cleaning the Glass. Remove Leonard and you see a sharp decline down to the 43rd percentile. Remove both and the Clippers fell all the way down to the sixth percentile. Leonard missed the entire 2021-22 season and an additional 65 games in three Clippers seasons on top of that. George has missed an average of around 32 games per season as a Clipper. They’re never healthy. Harden is an insurance policy against their inevitable injuries. He is still among the NBA’s best generators of regular-season offense. Aside from the 2021-22 season in which he was traded, no Harden offense has ranked lower than seventh since 2015.

Of course, Harden can only insulate the Clippers against brief, regular-season injuries to Leonard or George. If either is knocked out for the season or at any point in the playoffs, the Clippers are still out of luck. This is especially problematic in Leonard’s case, who has not played in the final Clipper game of any season since the Orlando bubble in 2020. The odds of both Leonard and George making it through six months of regular-season basketball and four playoff rounds is still relatively low.

The Clippers might be better-suited to weather such a loss if Harden solved any of their more tangible issues, but there’s little evidence suggesting he’ll do that. The Clippers have ranked in the bottom-four in fast-break points in Leonard’s last two healthy seasons. Harden’s teams have at times fared well on that front, but largely because his front offices have had the foresight to pair him with a faster guard. Philadelphia ranked eighth last season, but had Tyrese Maxey. Harden isn’t exactly going to inject pace into the Clipper offense. The Clippers ranked 22nd in offensive movement, according to tracking data, but the 76ers ranked 28th. It’s not exactly clear what Harden will do when Leonard has the ball. He’s never averaged even two catch-and-shoot 3’s per game. The Clippers are still going to be a slow, isolation- and pick-and-roll-focused offense.

The Clippers probably needed a significant offensive upgrade to justify what they’re giving up on defense here. Harden’s foibles on that side of the ball are well-known, but the more pressing issue here is all of the versatility the Clippers sacrificed. They swapped out two rangy forwards that could capably play small-ball center in Covington and Batum for one in Tucker, and, at 38, Tucker is the second-oldest player in the NBA. Leonard and George can defend guards, but are better-suited on wings. That might not be an option given their current personnel. Harden doesn’t chase opposing guards. Norman Powell is tiny. Bones Hyland is disinterested. Westbrook can get invested in playing on-ball defense against high-profile matchups, but is inattentive off of the ball and his effort is incredibly inconsistent. There are going to be weak spots to attack here.

And then there are the picks involved here. Yes, the Clippers overpaid to build this team when they gave up the world for George. That’s a sunk cost. What gave the Clippers a relatively bright future before this trade was how close they were to regaining control over their future drafts. They owe out picks to Oklahoma City through 2026, but none afterward. In a world in which Phoenix controls none of its picks for the rest of the decade, that’s not half bad. Leonard and George are on expiring contracts. If the Clippers hadn’t made this trade, they could have subtly pulled the plug on this roster if they’d so chosen, taken their lumps for two years and then been right back in the fray with their full complement of first-round picks and the Los Angeles market at their disposal.

That option is gone now. This is their team. For better or worse, the Clippers are now married to a 32-year-old Leonard, a 33-year-old George and a 34-year-old Harden until the wheels fall off. All three will almost certainly sign contracts next offseason that wind up aging poorly. Their rebuilding window has been pushed back even further now that the 76ers control two of their four picks between 2027 and 2030. There is no escape hatch here. The Clippers have to win a championship to justify this trade. The odds of actually doing so are relatively low. The odds of a very grim period beginning a few years from now are exceedingly high.

76ers: A-
The 76ers were, at best, the third-best team in the Eastern Conference with Harden on their roster. They were the No. 3 seed in last year’s playoffs. They were 0-3 in three playoff series against the Jayson Tatum-Jaylen Brown Celtics and lacked the championship pedigree of the newly upgraded Milwaukee Bucks. After back-to-back playoff meltdowns in two postseasons with Harden, it was reasonable to assume that this version of the 76ers were never going to win a championship.

It is also reasonable to suggest that the 76ers have just gone from being the third-best team in the East to being, uh, the third-best team in the East. That’s no certainty, of course. But Maxey is averaging more than 30 points this season. He seems more than ready for primary ball-handler duties. They’ll benefit from that two-for-one wing swap the Clippers will struggle with. Philadelphia is 41-20 with De’Anthony Melton in the starting lineup since acquiring him last offseason, and he is now presumably a full-time starter. Daryl Morey now has some extra chips to seek out an upgrade if he so chooses. Cleveland, New York and Miami have all underwhelmed this season. There is no obvious challenger to the Milwaukee-Boston Eastern Conference hegemony. At the very least, it’s hard to imagine Philadelphia slipping out of the second tier.

The real benefits here are of the longer-term variety. Philadelphia was never going to build a championship team around Harden, but it now has two realistic chances to do so without him in the relatively near future. The likelier path here revolves around 2024 free agency. At this moment, Philadelphia has the capacity to create more cap space than any other team in the NBA. The projected salary cap for next season is roughly $142 million. Embiid is owed $51.4 million. Maxey will have a $13 million cap hold. If the 76ers clear every other player off of their roster as they easily could, they’d be looking at roughly $65 million in space. That’s enough for one max player in any salary bracket with plenty of room to spare on supporting pieces.

The quicker path involves turning around and using some of the assets they just received to find an immediate Harden replacement. The Sixers just got two picks from the Clippers, one of which, as we covered, is a very valuable unprotected pick down the line. They can trade their own 2030 pick and offer a couple of swaps on their own picks as well. Toss in some of their new expiring salaries and they have the chips to land someone reasonably significant. No such player immediately exists on the trade market, but history suggests one will become available soon enough. How does Zach LaVine sound as a long-term running mate for Embiid and Maxey?

No matter what they wind up doing with this newfound flexibility, its mere existence is probably a best-case scenario for a 76ers team that was trending down even before this drama. In the grand scheme of things, isn’t getting assets for Harden now a better outcome than keeping him and losing in the second round would have been? Isn’t this non-championship season better spent spotlighting Maxey as a legitimate All-Star to possible free-agent targets?

If the 76ers had re-signed Harden to a multi-year deal in the offseason or simply kept him and let his contract expire, they may not have had a path to rebuilding a new, stronger contender around Embiid down the line. Now they do. They have a lot of work to do in order to traverse that path, but at least it exists. As ugly as this whole situation was, the 76ers have come out the other side of it in a far stronger position than they would have had they simply kept their aging, declining superstar.

With James Harden out of the way, budding 76ers star Tyrese Maxey is about to explode

Just as he did with Ben Simmons, Daryl Morey waited, and waited, and waited, for the right James Harden trade package to show up. It happened late Monday night, or early Tuesday morning depending on where you live, when the Clippers sent Robert Covington, Nic Batum, Marcus Morris, KJ Martin, their unprotected 2028 first-round pick (plus a 2026 first-round pick from OKC), and two future second-round picks to the 76ers in exhange for Harden, PJ Tucker and Filip Petrusev.

I’m going to tell you right now, the Sixers just became a better team without Harden than they were with him, if only because Tyrese Maxey is about to officially explode with Harden out of the way. This was an addition-by-subtraction move for the Sixers even without the awesome package they got back, which is now primed to be repackaged and shipped elsewhere should Morey want to put the pedal down on this season.

He may choose to stand pat. The Sixers are now positioned, if they drop everyone but Maxey and Joel Embiid, to have more cap space than any team on the market next summer. Perhaps Morey won’t want long-term money coming back this year.

Then again, next summer’s free-agent class isn’t star studded. Should the Raptors show interest in dancing for impending free agent OG Anunoby, that would be very intriguing for a Sixers team that still feels just one right piece away from real contention given how good Maxey has looked in Harden’s place.

Through three games, Maxey is averaging better than 30 points, six assists and six rebounds, He’s making half the shots he takes, including a 58% clip on over eight 3-point attempts per game.

He’s been insanely good, and he’s juicing the typically stagnant Sixers’ offense as Nick Nurse has replaced the paint-drying Harden probes and pick and rolls with more cuts and dribble handoffs with Maxey running a free-flowing system that is involving everyone and moving quickly.

Less a week ago, after Maxey picked apart the Bucks on opening night, I wrote the following:

If Morey wants to free his team of the drama and let it move forward with a fair chance of competing with a clear head, there’s a legitimate addition-by-subtraction case to be made here. Harden is still good, but he’s not doing anything anymore, for the most part, that is irreplaceable. He’s surely not the only point guard in the NBA who can score 20 points a night or drag defenders with him and hit a roller or kick to a shooter.

Hell, even at his peak, Harden was never as good a 3-point shooter as Maxey, and he has never offered anything close to Maxey’s full-court, straight-line, or even corner-turning speed.

Against Milwaukee, Maxey put up 31 points and eight assists. He didn’t commit a single turnover. He made three 3-pointers and got to the free-throw line 10 times. He lived in the paint. Drew defenders and dropped short-roll passes to Joel Embiid. Created an ocean of space on his step-backs.

Nobody is saying Maxey is, or ever will be, the force Harden was at his peak (he’ll never be the playmaker that Harden was or even still is today, to say nothing of the volume shooting/scoring). But this had the look of a peak Harden performance, and if you’re playing the “it’s only one game” card, you clearly haven’t been watching Maxey these past three years.

This was a performance in keeping with his immense talent and career trajectory. The Sixers have seen this from him before. A lot, actually. But they’ve never been able to fully utilize, or benefit from, Maxey’s abilities with Harden commanding so much control of the ball and offense.

Doc Rivers, who of course coached Maxey for the first three years of his career, told Bill Simmons as much: “Sam Cassell [former Sixers assistant coach] said it to me all last year: ‘[Maxey is] ready now, but you know, we’ve got two guys.”

Do you know how you fix a two-guy problem? Get rid of one of them. It’s going to require Morey to swallow a little pride and accept what he surely believes to be a lowball offer, but again, it’s addition by subtraction if nothing else. Give this team, and Maxey, an honest chance. They deserve it more than whatever it is that Harden thinks he deserves.

As it turned out, Morey didn’t have to accept a lowball offer. He waited, and he won big. As did Maxey, who now has an uninhibited opportunity to fully blossom into the All-Star player it’s obvious he can be.

Clippers acquire highly priced insurance policy that they didn’t need

I live in Florida. I know all about high-priced insurance policies that are only going to get more expensive in the coming years. The Los Angeles Clippers, who just traded for James Harden, are about to feel my pain.

A proven bad fit with Russell Westbrook (who has been pretty great with the Clippers, thus making Harden even less necessary), and largely redundant alongside Kawhi Leonard and Paul George as yet another iso-heavy scorer only with basically zero catch-and-shoot appetite, Harden’s greatest value to the Clippers is the short-term insurance he provides against Leonard and/or George getting injured.

That’s not nothing. Unlike my silly Florida insurance, with which I’ve yet to file a single claim in eight years of home ownership, Harden is a good bet to be worth at least some of the premium the Clippers just paid to get him as George and Leonard, if history has shown us anything, are likely to go down at some point.

In the past, the Clippers’ offense has fallen off precipitously without Leonard, and gone completely in the tank without both Leonard and George. Harden, in theory, can at least captain the dinghy while the big ship gets fixed.

But in the treacherous Western Conference waters, you can’t survive in a dinghy for long. If Leonard and/or George is out for any substantial length of time, let alone in the playoffs, the Clippers are sunk anyway. So again, the insurance is really only short term.

In the long term, it’s hard to see Harden being worth more than everything the Clippers gave up to get him. Frankly, I think PJ Tucker, who also comes to L.A. in the deal, is arguably a more valuable piece, but not at the expense of two versatile wings in Robert Covington and Nic Batum.

Throw in the pick swap the Clippers sent to Philadelphia, the 2027 pick swap with OKC — plus their own 2028 first-round pick, which could end up being very precious as this already-old team totally ages out — and to me, there’s no way Harden improves the Clippers enough to justify the various costs.

And the thing is, Harden is only going to get more expensive. After giving all this up, there’s almost no way the Clippers don’t re-sign Harden to a long-term deal this summer. And if you’re going to re-sign Harden, it only makes sense to then also re-sign Leonard and George, both of whom (player options) are almost sure to become free agents.

Leonard is 32. George 33. Harden 34. Which means the Clippers just signed up for three long-term deals that are probably going to start depreciating like a clunky car. Gone is the option to trade George and/or Leonard and start over with cap space, the 2027 pick they just swapped with OKC and the 2028 pick they sent to Philly.

By the end of this, the Clippers are going to end up paying well north of $100 million, before tax penalties, plus any near-future draft or cap-sheet flexibility they might’ve had, for a player that arguably doesn’t make them better in any meaningful way.

Again, what is Harden’s value as an off-ball player next to Leonard, who is going to have the ball when it counts? He doesn’t move. He doesn’t catch and shoot. The Clippers could use some juice to their pace, but Harden plays like a slug. His defense is obviously atrocious.

The one elite skill Harden still possesses is his playmaking, and that will help Leonard and George to not have to create quite so much in isolation. The Clippers can put a lot of shooters around Harden, which is the best way to get the best of him.

But all that requires letting him control the ball, and you can’t justify consistently giving him that opportunity when the Clippers already operate at an elite offensive level with both Leonard and George on the court.

In the end, while Harden will allow for Leonard and George to play fewer regular-season minutes while also providing the short-term injury insurance, when it comes down to actually winning a championship, which is the only way all of this becomes cost effective for the Clippers, he just doesn’t raise the ceiling of this team enough.

Honestly, at full strength, I’m not sure he raises it at all. Like the Sixers, who were a second-round playoff team with Harden same as they were without him, I believe that however far the Clippers end up going this year or any year with Harden on the roster, they would’ve gone without him anyway.

2023 NBA picks, Oct. 31 best bets from proven model

The San Antonio Spurs (1-2) and the Phoenix Suns (2-1) link up in the first game of a back-to-back on Tuesday night. The Suns are fresh off a win, notching a 126-104 victory over the Utah Jazz on Oct. 28. Meanwhile, San Antonio was blown out in its last outing. On Sunday, the Los Angeles Clippers knocked off the Spurs 123-83. Devin Booker (foot) is doubtful and Bradley Beal (back) is out for the Suns.

Tip-off is scheduled for 10 p.m. ET at Footprint Center in Phoenix. The Suns are 7.5-point favorites in the latest Spurs vs. Suns odds. The over/under for total points is 225. Before making any Suns vs. Spurs picks, you need to see the NBA predictions and betting advice from SportsLine’s advanced computer simulation model.

The SportsLine Projection Model simulates every NBA game 10,000 times and has returned well over $10,000 in profit for $100 players on its top-rated NBA picks over the past five seasons. The model enters Week 2 of the 2023-24 NBA season on a 77-41 roll on all top-rated NBA picks dating back to last season, returning nearly $3,000. Anyone following it has seen huge returns.

Now, the model has set its sights on Spurs vs. Suns and just locked in its picks and NBA predictions. You can head to SportsLine now to see the model’s picks. Now, here are several NBA odds and betting lines for Suns vs. Spurs:

Spurs vs. Suns spread: Phoenix -7.5
Spurs vs. Suns Over-Under: 225 points
Spurs vs. Suns money line: Phoenix -315, San Antonio +248
SA: Has hit the money line in nine of its last 24 games
PHO: Has hit the 4Q Game Total Under in 42 of its last 62 games
Spurs vs. Suns picks: See picks at SportsLine
Why the Suns can cover
Forward Kevin Durant is the best player on the floor for both sides. Durant utilizes his rare ball-handling and shooting skills to create efficient offensive chances. The 13-time All-Star leads the team in scoring (27.7) and assists (4.0) with 8.7 rebounds per game. On Oct. 26 against the Lakers, Durant finished a season-high of 39 points and 11 boards.

Guard Eric Gordon has stepped up offensively in the absence of Booker and Beal. Gordon is a smooth shooting option on the perimeter with the ability to put the ball on the deck. The 34-year-old is averaging 15.3 points and 2.7 rebounds per game. He’s finished with at least 15 points in two straight games, and in his last outing, Gordon totaled 21 points, four assists, and knocked down three 3-pointers. See which team to pick here.

Why the Spurs can cover
Center Victor Wembanyama towers over the opposing players due to his outstanding length and wingspan. Wembanyama is quick on his feet and has the shooting range to space the floor. The 19-year-old can also be dominant defensively as a shot-blocker and getting into passing lanes. Wembanyama leads the team in rebounds (7.3), steals (2.0), and blocks (1.7) with 15.7 points. On Oct. 27 versus the Rockets, he finished with 21 points, 12 rebounds, three blocks, and three steals.

Guard Devin Vassell provides this team with an athletic two-way force. Vassell can knock down contested jumpers and score off the dribble. The 23-year-old has the lateral quickness to stay in front of his ball handlers with ease. The Florida State product is averaging 20.7 points with 3.0 rebounds, and on Oct. 25 against the Mavericks, Vassell logged 23 points and five boards. See which team to pick here.

How to make Spurs vs. Suns picks
SportsLine’s model is leaning Over on the point total, projecting the teams to combine for 234 points. The model also says one side of the spread hits in well over 50% of simulations. You can only see the model’s pick at SportsLine.

Stars center isn’t traveling with team for Games 3 and 4 of series vs. Wild

The Dallas Stars are going to be without Joe Pavelski for at least the next two games in their opening-round series against the Minnesota Wild. The Dallas center isn’t traveling with the team for Games 3 and 4 as he remains in concussion protocol after being on the receiving end of a brutal hit, courtesy of Wild defenseman Matt Dumba, in Game 1.

Stars head coach Pete DeBoer said Thursday that he had “lots of hope” that Pavelski can return to the ice at some point during the first-round series.

“He’s getting better every day,” DeBoer said, according to TSN. “He was at the game last night, just not coming on this trip.”

During the second period of Game 1, Pavelski, 38, was lit up by Dumba on a play behind the net. Pavelski immediately left the game after the hit, one that left Dumba with a two-minute minor penalty for roughing. After a review of the play, he wasn’t given any major penalty.

“To be honest, I thought it was a clean hit. I figured (the refs) were going to see the same. Shoulder on shoulder,” Dumba said following Game 1. “I don’t even know why I got the roughing, probably because I was just in the box already.”

DeBoer stated after Game 1 that Pavelski’s head hit the ice when he fell after the hit.

“We have the best officials in the world. They called a five, they reviewed it, which is the right thing to do. If they reviewed and decided it wasn’t a bad hit then, you know, I guess it’s not for me to argue with that,” DeBoer added. “They got to look at it at multiple different angles and that was the decision they made, so we’ve got to live with that.”

The Stars are being extra cautious with Pavelski, as he does have a history of concussions throughout his length career. Pavelski didn’t play in Game 2, but the Stars rebounded in a big way with a dominant 7-3 win.