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Miami Heat’s Bam Adebayo targets Monday return after 6-week absence, sources say

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After an absence of six weeks in the wake of right thumb surgery, Miami Heat All-Star center Bam Adebayo is targeting a return against the Toronto Raptors on Monday, sources told ESPN on Friday.

Adebayo has been ramping up for a return in practice, and his return comes with the Heat surging into second place in the Eastern Conference with wins in seven of their past nine games.

Adebayo, who has averaged 18.7 points and 10.2 rebounds this season, had a Dec. 5 procedure on his thumb to repair a torn ulnar collateral ligament.

Without Adebayo, the Heat have benefited from solid play at center by Omer Yurtseven, who has averaged about 11 points and 14 rebounds in 10 games.

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Sacramento Kings pull out of pursuit for Philadelphia 76ers’ Ben Simmons, sources say

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The Sacramento Kings — one of the most aggressive teams in the trade market and once an eager suitor for Philadelphia‘s Ben Simmons — have ended their pursuit of a deal with the 76ers and turned elsewhere in trade talks, sources told ESPN on Friday.

Inside of two weeks until the Feb. 10 NBA trade deadline, the Kings believe the asking price is too steep and that a pathway to a trade agreement with the Sixers doesn’t exist, sources said.

The Kings, who have lost five straight and sit 13th in the Western Conference, are determined to reshape their roster and remain engaged on other fronts, sources said.

Sacramento has several players as viable trade assets, including forward Harrison Barnes, guard Buddy Hield and center Richaun Holmes.

The Kings’ roster represented one of the Sixers’ best options for a Simmons deal ahead of the trade deadline. Losing them in the marketplace somewhat diminishes the chances of an in-season trade, although the Sixers still believe there are potential avenues to a deal, sources said.

With the Kings exiting talks and sources saying the Brooklyn Nets will not engage on a James Harden trade, it becomes increasingly possible that 76ers president of basketball operations Daryl Morey will be willing to advance the Simmons discussions into the offseason.

Morey and the Sixers have long believed that the offseason could bring higher-profile players into the trade market for Simmons. Along with free agency, playoff disappointments often give teams and star players reason to pursue change, which could offer the Sixers a wider spectrum of options.

The Sixers’ public and private threshold for a Simmons deal has consistently been stated as a return that would keep them as NBA championship contenders.

Simmons is signed through the 2024-25 season, and the Sixers believe that gives them leverage to wait on a deal. Simmons has sought a trade and declined to play, citing mental health reasons, as center Joel Embiid has turned into an MVP favorite while leading the Sixers to a 29-19 start — two games behind first-place Miami.

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Brooklyn Nets’ James Harden ‘ready to go’ after missing NBA game with hamstring injury

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NEW YORK — Brooklyn Nets guard James Harden, who missed one game with left hamstring tightness, is “ready to go” against the Golden State Warriors on Saturday night, coach Steve Nash said Friday.

Harden was a late scratch against the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday because of the hamstring injury.

The Nets, who come into Saturday’s game having lost three straight, are counting on Harden to provide offensive stability over the next few weeks as the group tries to continue to weave Kyrie Irving back into the lineup — while still playing without star Kevin Durant, who is expected to miss several more weeks because of a sprained MCL in his left knee.

Nash said Irving “needs the time” on the upcoming five-game road trip to keep building up his rhythm after not playing NBA basketball for almost three months.

Irving, who is not vaccinated against COVID-19, is not currently allowed to play in home games because of a New York City vaccination mandate.

“He’s still trying to find his game,” Nash said. “His level’s so good that it’s hard to tell, but we can tell, he can tell. He knows that he’s not fully back yet. He’s right there, and he has patches, but he needs the time. … He needs reps. And games are reps for him right now. So it’s great for him individually. And as a group, it’s great to get more comfortable with him, to spend more time with him. To get him reincorporated with the things we’re doing and try to move this thing forward.”

The issue of how to integrate a star player back into the lineup is one shared by the Nets’ opponent on Saturday. The Warriors are working to get their rhythm back with Klay Thompson, who returned earlier this month after missing close to 2½ years while rehabbing separate ACL and Achilles injuries.

“Knowing Klay, it’s a little deeper one for me in that I know how much he loves the game,” said Nash, who spent five seasons with Golden State as a player development consultant after his own Hall of Fame career ended. “And to have him have back-to-back season-ending injuries more or less was devastating for him personally, so to see him back playing where he needs to be, where he should be, where he wants to be, is a beautiful thing.”

Nash said he’s been impressed by what he’s seen from Thompson after so much time off.

“Missing any extended period of time, it’s not straightforward coming back,” Nash said. “You have to find your rhythm, you have to find your timing, you have to get your legs back under you. So two years is like an eternity … that’s some people’s NBA careers. So for him to come back and play at the level he’s playing at is really impressive, and he’ll continue to get better.”

The Warriors (36-13) are second in the Western Conference standings entering Saturday’s game.

“They have that championship experience and pedigree,” Nash said. “You also have a bunch of guys that are hungry. They’re used to doing that. So Klay, how hungry do you think he is right now? Steph [Curry], after their last couple years, how hungry do you think he is? I think Draymond [Green], as much as anybody’s come back this year, [is] in incredible form. So they’re hungry, they’re motivated. They have that history, and knowing and corporate knowledge.”

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Orlando Magic’s Cole Anthony fined $25,000 for derogatory remarks toward official

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NEW YORK — Orlando Magic guard Cole Anthony has been fined $25,000 by the NBA for directing profane and derogatory remarks toward a game official.

The incident occurred at the conclusion of Orlando’s 111-102 loss to the LA Clippers on Wednesday night at Amway Center. Byron Spruell, the president of league operations, announced the fine Friday.

The Magic (9-40) have endured a frustrating season and own the NBA’s worst record. They host the Detroit Pistons on Friday night.

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