NBA trends: Rumors surround big names as trade deadline approaches

What's trending around the NBA:

Make me an offer

The NBA's trade deadline is Thursday at noon Pacific time. Last year's deadline exceeded expectations with 37 active players dealt, including former Phoenix Suns guard Isaiah Thomas, now an All-Star with the Boston Celtics.

Some names percolating through the rumor mill ahead of this year's deadline include All-Star Al Horford (Atlanta Hawks), Dwight Howard (Houston Rockets), Rudy Gay (Sacramento Kings), David Lee (Celtics), Kenneth Faried (Denver Nuggets), George Hill (Indiana Pacers), Markieff Morris (Suns) and Jeff Teague (Hawks), among others.

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Grizzlies in limbo

The Memphis Grizzlies suffered a significant blow Tuesday when they announced two-time All-Star center Marc Gasol suffered a fractured right foot and is out indefinitely. The injury is thought to be serious enough to possibly keep Gasol sidelined through the summer, endangering his participation in the Rio Olympics with Spain's national team.

Complicating matters, Memphis traded its 2016 first-round pick in 2013 to dump the salary of forward Marreese Speights on the Cleveland Cavaliers (Speights is now with the Golden State Warriors). That draft pick has since been dealt to the Nuggets, but it has a strange set of protections. Memphis keeps the 2016 first-round pick if it winds up with one of the top five picks in the draft, or if its pick falls in the 15-to-30 range. This may give the fifth-place Grizzlies (31-22) added incentive to acquire help at the trade deadline, instead of dumping contracts and going into the tank to improve its draft position.

Psych 101

Twitter allows for just 140 characters, but New York Knicks President Phil Jackson got around the restriction by attaching the image of an essay about what he's looking for in a new head coach, after last week's firing of Derek Fisher. Jackson, who won 11 titles coaching the Chicago Bulls and Lakers, wrote about how he was influenced by noted psychologists Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow.

Jackson described his style of leadership as "transformation as juxtaposed to transactional," stressing culture and "the esteem of an individual fed by the group achievements." Kurt Rambis, a long-time assistant under Jackson, will try to translate Jackson's cryptic philosophies as the Knicks' interim head coach for the remainder of the season.

Walking wounded

The New Orleans Pelicans have underperformed all season and the team was dealt another blow when guard Tyreke Evans underwent surgery on his right knee Thursday. Evans played only 25 games this season and averaged 15.2 points and 6.6 assists. With guard Eric Gordon sidelined a few more weeks because of a broken finger, the Pelicans might regret trading veteran guard Ish Smith to the Philadelphia 76ers on Christmas Eve. While Philadelphia (8-45) has the worst record in the league, Smith is averaging 15.3 points and 7.9 assists with the 76ers and has helped fill a hole in their backcourt.

Rockets in disarray

The Rockets made it to the Western Conference finals last season, falling to the Warriors in five games. This season Houston (27-28) has played wildly inconsistent basketball. Coach Kevin McHale was fired in November and replaced by J.B. Bickerstaff. After the Rockets lost their third-straight game last week, Bickerstaff called his team "broken." Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey needs to decide how broken by Thursday's trade deadline — is there a worthwhile player he can acquire to repair the franchise, or should he dump his star center Howard, who can leave in free agency this summer?

Costly injury

On Wednesday Charlotte Hornets small forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist suffered a torn labrum in his right shoulder and probably is out for the season. In October the defensive-minded player had surgery for the same injury. Kidd-Gilchrist made a surprise return in late January, and lasted only seven games. The Hornets (27-26) went 5-2 over that span to overtake the Detroit Pistons for the eighth playoff berth in the Eastern Conference.

Looking ahead

CHICAGO AT CLEVELAND: Thursday at 5 p.m. PST. TV: TNT.

Chicago limped into the All-Star break, losers of 13 of its last 18 games. The Bulls’ best player, Jimmy Butler, is out several weeks with a knee strain and former MVP Derrick Rose, after major knee surgeries, plays with only a fraction of his former skills. So the Bulls have tumbled near the bottom of the playoff standings and are desperate for wins. Meanwhile, Cleveland remains atop the East but holds only a three-game lead over upstart Toronto. However, the Cavaliers have the best home record (22-4) of any team in the East.

--Barry Stavro

Follow Eric Pincus on Twitter @EricPincus

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