The Whiteboard: 3 players who would like a do-over on the 2022-23 NBA season

HOUSTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 28: Jalen Green #0 of the Houston Rockets in action against LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers at Toyota Center on December 28, 2021 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
HOUSTON, TEXAS - DECEMBER 28: Jalen Green #0 of the Houston Rockets in action against LeBron James #6 of the Los Angeles Lakers at Toyota Center on December 28, 2021 in Houston, Texas. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images) /

As the NBA regular season enters its final phase, not everyone is having fun. These players would probably love to go back to the beginning and start over.

Even for the teams at the bottom of the standings, there are things to be gained during the grind of an 82-game NBA season. Players are supposed to develop their skills. Coaching staffs are supposed to figure out how better use their rosters. Front offices are supposed to tinker with rosters and cap sheets to lay the groundwork for the future.

But it doesn’t always work that way — young players regress and languish in bad situations. GMs make gambles that don’t pay off and even moral victories can be elusive. That’s how it’s been for these players and teams, who would probably love a mulligan on this entire NBA season.

3. John Collins and the Atlanta Hawks

It seems painfully clear at this point that the relationship between John Collins and the Hawks is not working out. His scoring has declined for the third straight year. He’s averaging fewer rebounds than he did as a rookie. The Hawks have mostly relegated him to the role of spot-up shooter despite the fact that he’s shooting a career-low 24.9 percent from beyond the arc. They have repeatedly asked him to sacrifice his strengths and play to the weaker parts of his game, to the detriment of his own numbers and, honestly, the team’s success.

And they decided not to trade him…

Perhaps new coach Quin Snyder will be able to revitalize Collins and allow him to thrive again. but Collins could be forgiven for fantasizing about an alternate reality where he, not Kevin Durant, ended up on the Suns at the trade deadline with an opportunity to help lead a contender.

2. Jalen Green, Jabari Smith Jr. and the Houston Rockets

The Houston Rockets knew they were going to be closer to the No. 1 pick than the playoffs this season. But all that expected losing can feel like a win if you know you’re adding talent and your current crop of young players are improving. The Rockets have a great chance at the No. 1 pick but two of their most important players haven’t demonstrated much growth.

Green, in theory, is the dynamic primary perimeter-scoring threat of future iterations of this team that are competing for the playoffs. He upped his scoring average but his shooting percentages are down across the board, he’s turned the ball over on a higher percentage of his offensive possessions and his shot selection has been an abject disaster — he’s shooting 35.2 percent on pull-ups 2s but taking 3.2 of them per game, more than Damian Lillard, Steph Curry or James Harden. The volume of his scoring is increasing but that’s only because he’s taking more shots and his efficiency and decision-making both seem to have regressed in the lack of offensive structure.

Jabari Smith Jr. was going to be a project especially because he had so much defensive upside which, historically, can take a bit longer to manifest. But his outside shooting was billed as a bankable skill and it hasn’t materialized at all. He’s shooting just 28.7 percent on catch-and-shoot 3s and has just 32 unassisted, non-putback 2-points across 61 games. And with the mess that is the Rockets’ defense, it’s not like he’s had much chance to effectively learn how to develop or hone his skills at that end of the floor.

1. LeBron James and the Los Angeles Lakers may have wasted this NBA season

I’m sure exactly what the worst-case scenario for the Lakers would have been this year, but reality has to be pretty close. The Patrick Beverley signing was a disaster. No one could hit a 3-pointer for like a full month. They found a diamond in the rough in Thomas Bryant but then he almost immediately became disgruntled about playing time and had to be traded. Anthony Davis has been a fringe MVP contender, at least when he’s been on the court — he’s only played in 40 of a possible 65 games.

Even their much-ballyhooed trade deadline additions have largely flopped. Malik Beasley is shooting 40.2 percent from the floor and 35.6 percent from beyond the arc. Rui Hachimura is below 30 percent from beyond the arc and D’Angelo Russell has only been healthy enough to play in four games.

And then there is LeBron James, who has played just 47 games himself and is still in a walking boot, out for who knows how long with a foot injury. He’s done everything he could when healthy but has precious little to show for it. Per FiveThirtyEight, the Lakers have just a 48 percent chance of making the playoffs.

And their cap sheet, which was going to be completely clean this offseason except for LeBron and Davis, will either now be cluttered with $30 million for Mo Bamba, Malik Beasley and Jarred Vanderbilt, as well as an extension for Rui Hachmiura and a new deal for D’Angelo Russell. Or they’ll have to swallow the fact that those trades didn’t actually make them better, they gave away their 2027 first-round pick for nothing, let Russell and Hachimura walk, decline Beasley’s option and cut Bamba’s non-guaranteed salary.

The clock is ticking for LeBron James and it’s hard to look at this as anything but another wasted NBA season.

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Latest updates on Ja Morant

It’s been a rough few days for Ja Morant and the Grizzlies. A report in the Washington Post included new allegations of threatening behavior and added new details to older incidents from earlier in this NBA season. Then Morant flashed a handgun in an Instagram Live video while out at a club this weekend. Here’s what you need to know:

  • The initial suspension: Not long after the video, the Grizzlies announced a two-game suspension. However, this is preliminary and it could be extended by either the team or the league.
  • Why would the suspension be extended? There is language in the CBA that could allow the suspension to be extended as long as 50 games. Players who own legal firearms are still prohibited from traveling with them when on league business or bringing them into any official venue. The video of Morant was taken in Denver which could indicate he brought the handgun with him on the team plane.
  • What did Ja Morant have to say? After the initial suspension, he released a statement that said: “I take full responsibility for my actions last night. I’m sorry to my family, teammates, coaches, fans, partners, the city of Memphis and the entire Grizzlies organization for letting you down. I’m going to take some time away to get help and work on learning better methods of dealing with stress and my overall well-being.”
  • What did head coach Taylor Jenkins say? In a postgame press conference, Jenkins said: “There’s not a definitive timeline. We have said that it’s gonna be at least these two games, we’re taking it one day at a time. This is going to be an ongoing healing process… it’s really not a timetable situation.”

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