The Cavaliers return to the road with a stop in New Orleans, and the rest of the league continues to eye moves to keep up with the defending champs.
Here's the latest from around pro hoops:
Per the Akron Beacon Journal: "The Cavs’ 30-12 record entering Monday’s game at the New Orleans Pelicans is identical to last season. They went 30-11 under Tyronn Lue through the first half of this season just as David Blatt went last year. But there is a full belief in Lue after he engineered a comeback from 3-1 behind to beat the Golden State Warriors that lacked with Blatt." (Full report.)
Per the Akron Beacon Journal: "Lue was so obsessed with fixing the offense last season — finding Kevin Love’s comfort zone, quickening the pace, etc. — that he didn’t have time to focus on the defensive end, which has been his trademark for years. He acknowledged recently the Cavs are not a good defensive team, something the numbers bear out." (Full report.)
Per Cleveland.com: "There is no panic in Cleveland -- far from it. The Cavs maintain a three-game lead over the Raptors in the East. They're still incorporating Kyle Korver into the system, don't have a true backup point guard, and J.R. Smith's return is a ways off." (Full report.)
">Amico Hoops: " I’ve written too much about it already, but the Cavs need to find a backup point guard soon and they need to start Kyle Korver. … On the Korver front, I mean, didn’t you bring him here to try to fill in for J.R. Smith?" (Game Preview: Cavaliers at Pelicans
Per ESPN: "Hard to believe that Kevin Love got a championship ring in Cleveland before he managed an All-Star berth with the Cavs. But it's true: This will be Love's first appearance on the East squad after conference coaches bypassed him the past two winters." (Full report.)
The Bulls and Knicks have a strong interest in available Timberwolves point guard Ricky Rubio, per multiple sources.
Per the Chicago Sun-Times: "According to multiple sources, the Bulls have been shopping guard Rajon Rondo and forward Nikola Mirotic in hopes of bolstering the roster and making a second-half run in the wide-open Eastern Conference." (Full report.)
Per Forbes.com: "Chicago seems to be in a state of limbo in regards to the trade season as there have been reports on the possible departures of Jimmy Butler and Dwyane Wade in the past few weeks." (Full report.)
Per Forbes.com: "One thing is clear, the Heat are, at the very least, picking up the phone for teams interested in talking about Dragic. I wouldn't put this rumor to rest just yet, as it still remains likely that the Heat deal Dragic by the deadline." (Full report.)
Per the New York Post: "Of course, you could say that about a lot of moves during Phil Jackson’s tenure with the Knicks. And that’s why it might be best for both parties if the organization can trade Anthony and get enough in return to start rebuilding." (Full report.)
Spurs point guard Tony Parker will skip the rest of the team's four-game road swing to return home for an MRI on his ankle, per the San Antonio Express-News.
Kings small forward Rudy Gay will undergo surgery Monday on his ruptured Achilles tendon, per the team.
Per the Akron Beacon Journal: "He’ll turn 32 in a few days and he’s playing in another new country for the first time, but Dru Joyce III is responding with his best season in basketball." (Full report.)
Per the Akron Beacon Journal: "Joyce, the former St. Vincent-St. Mary and University of Akron standout, left Germany after last season as the country’s all-time assists leader. He fired his German-based agent and joined Klutch Sports Management-World Division, signed a one-year contract with Tsmoki-Minsk last summer and moved up to the VTB United League in Russia. (Full report.)
Here are the latest D-League assignments and recalls, per Hoops Rumors.
Former D-League guard Trey Davis (Massachusetts, Canton Charge) has agreed to a deal with Sigal Prishtina of Kosovo, per Amico Hoops.
Undrafted guard D'Vauntes Smith-Rivera (Georgetown) has signed with Greek club Koroivos, per Amico Hoops.
Undrafted guard Melvin Johnson (VCU) has agreed to a contract with Italian club Unieuro Forli, per Amico Hoops.
Per the Akron Beacon Journal: "LeBron James stood annoyed at his teammates on at least two separate occasions Saturday night: When Kyrie Irving and Tristan Thompson botched a play late in overtime and when Kevin Love fired a pass to Kawhi Leonard when he tried saving the ball from going out of bounds." (Full report.)
Per the Akron Beacon Journal: "Would Irving have made the shot? We’ll never know. The Spurs would’ve had a full shot clock and could’ve held for the final play. So butchering that play didn’t outright lose them the game, but it was certainly a contributing factor. And the mental lapse is what annoyed James most. He glared at both Thompson and Irving after the turnover." (Full report.)
Per Amico Hoops: "James’ blunder (and make no mistake, it was indeed his) came with 24 seconds left and the Cavs down three. He threw a bounce pass to the corner. No one was in the corner. The ball went out of bounds." (Full report.)
Per ESPN: "Now, as the Cavs experienced in their 118-115 overtime loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Saturday, they're dealing with fine-tuning a title team. That process is proving to be far more excruciating than Tyronn Lue's first days on the job, when incremental improvement felt far more significant because of the newness of it." (Full report.)
Per ESPN: "As he sat at his locker after the game, icing his back, knees and feet, James tallied the toll on his body. 'Halfway through season No. 14,' James said. 'When do the playoffs start again?'" (Full report.)
Per Amico Hoops: "It may be time to start Kyle Korver if I’m coach Tyronn Lue. (And coach Tyronn Lue is grateful I’m not.) But Korver may be more effective alongside the Big Three of James, Kyrie Irving and Kevin Love, all of whom could create some open looks for the veteran shooting guard." (Full report.)
Per the Detroit News: "While Stan Van Gundy admitted that general manager Jeff Bower is working to gauge other teams in the league to find deals that might interest the Pistons, Van Gundy said there’s no real consideration and nothing more than normal chatter in the Reggie Jackson-for-Ricky Rubio talk." (Full report.)
Per the Detroit News: "With the trade deadline approaching on Feb. 23, Van Gundy admitted that Bower is taking calls and listening to offers, but is weeding through them to find the ones that are serious and viable and could potentially benefit the Pistons." (Full report.)
The Spurs have signed veteran free agent center Joel Anthony to a 10-day contract, per Yahoo Sports.
Pacers president Larry Bird to USA Today: "I don’t want to get into Paul George's free agency. Before the year started, I told Paul and I said, ‘Look, if you want to sign a long-term deal, we’re willing to do that max (contract) and if you want to wait, I understand.’ But this year, we’re not going to worry about it, we’re not going to talk about it and he’s going to make the decision that’s best for Paul when it comes down to it." (Full report.)
Lakers guard D'Angelo Russell will miss 1-2 weeks with an MCL sprain and calf strain, per ESPN.
Per the Philadelphia Inquirer: "Joel Embiid had an X-ray on Friday. At first glance, it looked as if he might have hyperextended his knee on the play. Embiid could be out for about a week assuming that's what happened." (Full report.)
Per Basketball Insiders: "With Gay off the market, things could get interesting, as teams struggling to cement the postseason may have to get more creative. This could work to the advantage of teams like the Trail Blazers, Minnesota Timberwolves, Los Angeles Lakers and Phoenix Suns -- all of whom have players to move." (Full report.)
Per ESPN: "Despite expressing frustration over his role to French newspaper L'Equipe, the Pelicans' Alexis Ajinca tells ESPN that he hasn't asked to be traded."
Former NBA and D-League guard Mustafa Shakur has signed with German club Wurzburg, per Amico Hoops.
Former D-League guard Michael Stockton has agreed to a contract with Apollon Patras of Greece, per Amico Hoops.
Former D-League guard Dee Davis (Xavier) has signed with Sigal Prishtina of Kosovo, per Amico Hoops.