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Basketball Insiders Week in Review: 2/23/14

Basketball Insiders looks at some of the articles of the past week in case you missed them the first time around.

Kyle Cape-Lindelin

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Cleveland Back on Track?

By Bill Ingram

When the Cleveland Cavaliers fired general manager Chris Grant last week, it seemed the team was about to completely implode. The Andrew Bynum experiment was a dismal failure, recent lottery picks Dion Waiters and Anthony Bennett have failed to live up to their draft positions and head coach Mike Brown appeared to have lost the team. To make matters worse, trade rumors started swirling around Luol Deng, whom the team recently acquired from the Chicago Bulls. The team had lost eight of nine games and looked like it was preparing to implode.

But as soon as Grant got the axe, the Cavaliers turned things around in dramatic fashion, winning four games in a row heading into the All-Star break.

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John Wall: The First of Many All-Star Appearances

By Moke Hamilton

“What do you think about the league implementing a four-point shot? Do you think that would be a good idea?”

“If you could choose any two teammates for a three-on-three competition, one from this era and one from the past, who would it be?”

Among the sea of media and alongside some of the Eastern Conference’s other giants—LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Carmelo Anthony and Paul George, to name a few—John Wall answered some of the most interesting questions he has had to field since his professional career began back in 2010.

But hey, as an All-Star, in New Orleans, it comes with the territory. And if the first half of his 2013-14 NBA season is an indication, Wall should get used to taking part in the NBA’s midseason classic.

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Top 5 All-Time All-Star Performances

 By Joel Brigham

There’s no question that Sunday night’s All-Star game was one for the ages, as statistical records were broken all over the place. It was the most total points scored in a game, Carmelo Anthony broke the record for three-pointers in an All-Star game, Blake Griffin broke the record for most made field goals and the Eastern Conference scored more points than any other All-Star team in the history of the NBA.

Kyrie Irving was named the MVP after contributing 31 points and 14 rebounds in the East win, but it could have been any of a number of guys. Griffin scored 18 points in the first quarter and 38 points in the game, while his Western Conference teammate Kevin Durant also scored 38 and hauled in 10 rebounds. Anthony hit the eight three-pointers on his way to 30 points, and LeBron James finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and seven assists.

It was, put bluntly, an extremely memorable game, but there have been a lot of memorable games over the years. Here’s a look at some of the most impressive All-Star showings in league history:

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Wallace Still Irked by Bobcats Trade

 By Jessica Camerato

Gerald Wallace understands the nature of the NBA. He has seen teammates come and go. He himself has played for five teams over his 13-season career. But in spite of knowing basketball is a business, there is one move that irks him three years after the fact.

Rewind to February of 2011. The Charlotte Bobcats were coming off their first playoff appearance in franchise history, a season in which Wallace had earned his first All-Star selection. Even though the team was 25-32 at the deadline, Wallace believed in their postseason potential. He wanted to finish out the year in Charlotte, his NBA home since 2004.

Wallace had heard the rumors, yet after a while that becomes common for talented players with sizeable salaries. (He was set to earn over $20 million the next two seasons.) The afternoon of the trade deadline Wallace went to practice and says he was told by Bobcats personnel he would not be moved later on that day.

He returned home, only to be awoken by an unexpected phone call: he had been dealt to the Portland Trail Blazers.

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Less Than 30 Hours To The Deadline

By Steve Kyler

With roughly 30 hours remaining until the 3:00 pm EST NBA’s trade deadline, a lot of last minute chatter is leaking out as teams try and consummate deals before the mid-day cut off tomorrow. While there is a lot of talk taking place, the general sense around the league is that this may again be a very anti-climactic trade deadline with very few major players moved. With that in mind lets dig into what we know today.

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Biggest Available Names At The Deadline

 By Jabari Davis

With the NBA’s trade deadline (February 20, 3 p.m. ET) rapidly approaching, we are almost certain to hear of dozens of trade rumors and scenarios. While some will be more far-fetched than others, we wanted to take a look at some of the bigger names that could potentially be available in deals.

While the probable ‘buyers’ and ‘sellers’ may have been difficult to determine at times, both the standings and financial (cap) realities of certain franchises have made the picture a bit more clear. The Lakers, Sixers, Pistons and Bucks are the likely to be the biggest ‘sellers’ at the deadline, but given how unpredictable of a season 2013-14 has already been, we shouldn’t be surprised by much of anything over the next 28 (or so) hours.

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Who Are the Keepers: Toronto Raptors

 By Nate Duncan

The 2013-14 season has been notable for the number of teams in a clear rebuilding mode. The first step in a rebuilding process, and one that must continue as long as the rebuild does, is to take stock of what talent the team has. There is one major question that should dominate the inquiry: Which of these players will be a part of our next good team? The player’s skill, age, contract and fit all enter into this discussion, as well as a realistic understanding of when the team can hope to be competitive again. This can generally be defined as the date a team’s young core is collectively projected to provide the greatest production. Finally, teams also need to consider the need to maintain flexibility rather than locking up a mediocre core.

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Trade Reaction: Pacers Take Risk Moving Granger

By Lang Greene

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the Indiana Pacers have traded veteran forward Danny Granger to the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for forwards Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen.

Granger, a former All-Star and once unquestioned leader in Indiana, had witnessed his role significantly diminish due to the rise of Paul George and troublesome knee injuries.

There were plenty of rumors of the Pacers moving Granger throughout the summer and into the beginning of the season, but those talks cooled dramatically until this week’s deadline frenzy. Granger has undoubtedly lost a step in his game but the Pacers were intent on receiving some value for the veteran as opposed to losing him for nothing in return this summer in free agency.

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Trade Deadline Winners and Losers

By Yannis Koutroupis

There was no shortage of movement in the final hours of the 2014 NBA trade deadline, but overall the activity really lacked substance.

That was until the Indiana Pacers unleashed their latest power play in their quest to win the 2014 championship. Already equipped with one of the best teams in the league and a certified championship contender, the Pacers pulled off the biggest move of the deadline to put themselves in the winners category. We take a look at who joins them in that class, along with who didn’t do so well at the deadline.

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Ernie Grunfeld Explains Andre Miller Trade

 By Alex Kennedy

In recent weeks, the Washington Wizards were one of the busiest teams in the NBA as the trade deadline approached. Washington was determined to upgrade their backup point guard position and they called every single team that had a productive reserve guard and tried to pry them loose.

On Thursday afternoon, Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld succeeded in getting a floor general for his second unit, when he acquired Andre Miller from the Denver Nuggets in a three-team deal that also included the Philadelphia 76ers. Grunfeld only had to part ways with Eric Maynor, Jan Vesely and a 2015 second-round pick. Once the dust settled, Grunfeld was excited about the deal and addressed the media.

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Trade Deadline: Grading The Trades

 By Eric Pincus

The final 24 hours leading up to the NBA trade deadline proved to be a busy affair — even if only a few of the deals will actually have playoff implications.

How did each team do?

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Kyle Cape-Lindelin is based out of Portland, OR covering the NBA while being one of the newsline editors and contributor to "Out of Bounds."

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NBA Sunday: Kristaps Porzingis Sure Looks Ready To Be The Franchise

The Knicks hope Kristaps Porzingis can become their franchise. Thus far, he seems up to the challenge.

Moke Hamilton

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He stood in front of his mentor, isolated, just like they used to do in practice.

He’d seen the jab steps before and the head fakes—they were nothing new. And when Carmelo Anthony mustered the acceleration he still has in his 33-year-old legs to drive around Kristaps Porzingis, Anthony knew he had the 7-foot-3 Latvian big man beat.

Anthony triumphantly rose to the basket and delicately attempted his right-handed layup. Before he knew what hit him, though, Anthony’s shot had been sent to the free throw line.

The message was clear—Kristaps had taken the torch.

“It was fun,” Porzingis said about his confrontation with Anthony. “We went at it in practices a lot and one-on-one after practices.

“It was a lot of fun knowing what he was going to do and try to stop him.”

The Oklahoma City Thunder were much closer to the NBA Finals than the Knicks were last season, and removing Anthony from the Knicks and pairing him with Russell Westbrook and Paul George gives the Thunder a triumvirate that can at least conceivably challenge the Golden State Warriors. They are perhaps the only team in the entire league with enough firepower and defensive pieces.

So no, the Knicks may not be hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy anytime soon, but at the very least, the franchise seems to be in good hands—the big, soft hands of Porzingis.

As young NBA players come into their own and attempt to fulfill the lofty expectations that everyone has of them, the third year is the charm, almost invariably. And in that that year, a young player can’t control the other pieces that are around him—that’s why they shouldn’t be judged by their team’s wins and losses.

In that third year, a young player also can’t really control the frequency of his injuries. The simple truth is that many 21 or 22-year-old players simply lack the hardened bones of a fully grown adult that most men become after the age of 25.

But what the young player can prove is that he is prepared to shoulder the burden and take the fight to anyone who stands before him. Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks epitomizes this ideal better than any other young player in the league. He is absolutely fearless and it’s a pleasure to watch.

So is Porzingis.

Since the influx of European-born players began about 20 years ago, we have seen our fair share of “soft” European players. His talent aside (which is considerable), Porzingis has proven to be anything but, and that by itself can help players go a very long way.

In what must have felt like the longest summer ever, Porzingis saw the franchise that drafted him undergo an overhaul that resulted in a light beaming so brightly on him, you would have thought the third-year forward was starring in a Broadway musical.

Say what you want about Porzingis, but he has already done all that he can to notify everyone that have anything to do with the Knicks that his bony shoulders aren’t indicative of the weight he’s capable of carrying.

And in Oklahoma City, against his mentor, Porzingis did the heavy lifting.

“I saw energy,” head coach Jeff Hornacek said after his team’s opening night loss.

“He was great moving. He played 38 minutes, and maybe last year that would be a struggle. He would maybe get tired, and get some silly fouls, but even toward the end on that 37th or 38th minute, he was still up hollering, moving, blocking shots and getting rebounds, so he had a great game and we expect a lot more of that from him.”

Being a Knicks fan is something that nobody should wish on their worst enemy. The franchise has made scores of maneuvers that lacked wisdom and seemingly gone out of its way to alienate people beloved by the franchise. On top of it all, Knicks tickets are among the highest in the entire league.

Fans as passionate and dedicated as Knicks fans deserve a team they can be proud of and a front office that dedicates itself to putting winning ahead of petty feuds and politics.

The hiring of Scott Perry may signify just that.

So when the Knicks traded Carmelo Anthony and ended up getting back 10 cents on the dollar for his value, everyone should have prepared for a long season in New York City.

Coming in, Knicks fans once again found themselves in the unenviable predicament of having to talk themselves into believing that Ramon Session, Michael Beasley and Tim Hardaway were capable of giving this team feel good moments. And while they certainly are, they will surely pale in comparison to the amount of losses that the club accrues along the way.

If there’s one thing the Philadelphia 76ers have taught everyone, however, it’s that the losses don’t necessarily need to be in vain.

So heading into this season, what Knicks fans should have been looking forward to and hoping for is nothing more than the installation of a culture that’s marked by effort, communication and selfless basketball—the hallmarks of the Golden State Warriors.

Aside from that, yes, they should have also come in with the hope that Kristaps Porzingis would take an appreciable step forward and prove himself to truly be a capable franchise cornerstone.

To this point, from the way he holds his head highly, despite a win or a loss, and the way he competes to the best of his abilities, despite his limitations. For now, it’s really all that could reasonably be asked of him.

When it was all said and done—when Porzingis looked the Knicks’ past in the eyes after the Thunder had soundly defeated his New York Knicks—Carmelo Anthony probably told him that he was proud of him and that he wished him all the luck in the world.

He probably told him to continue to work on his game and hone his craft and to block out the background noise.

And above all else, Carmelo probably told Kristaps that he believes he is capable of being his successor.

With his nodding head and serious demeanor, Porzingis, in all his glory, listened intently. Even more so, he believed every word. 

It doesn’t take all day to figure out whether the sun is shining—it’s an adage that remains as true in basketball as it does on a May Day in New York.

For Porzinigis, the bright sky and the beaming sunlight—he’s basking in it all. Not only has he becomes the Knicks’ franchise by default, he believes he’s capable of shouldering the burden.

In this town, that’s more than half the battle.

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Dejounte Murray: The Spurs’ Latest Steal

The Spurs have a history of drafting talented players late in the draft. Dejounte Murray is emerging as their most recent steal, writes David Yapkowitz.

David Yapkowitz

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It seems like almost every NBA season, the San Antonio Spurs end up selecting a player late in the draft who unexpectedly goes on to become a valuable contributor, sometimes even a star. The entire draft in itself can often be a crapshoot, but the lower the pick, the lower the chances of a team finding a solid rotation player. But with the Spurs, it’s as if they hit far more often than they miss.

Their pick from a year ago is shaping up to be no exception as the injury to starting point guard Tony Parker has opened up a huge opportunity for Dejounte Murray; one that he is taking advantage of.

There is a lot of preparation by analysts leading up to the NBA draft. Several mock drafts are created up until draft night itself. Murray was often projected to be a high first-round pick, possibly even a lottery pick. He had a solid freshman season at the University of Washington where he averaged 16.1 points per game, six rebounds, and 4.4 assists.

Draft night arrived and he ended up slipping to the bottom of the first round (29th overall), far later than he had anticipated. Following his selection, LeBron James himself, who is represented by the same sports agency as Murray, tweeted out some words of encouragement for the young rookie. He let Murray know that he may not have been drafted where he wanted to, but that he was with the best organization in the league.

Murray pretty much rode the bench last season as a rookie, which is not at all uncommon for a first-year player on a veteran team with championship aspirations. He was inactive for most of the final two months of the season. In the first round of the playoffs against the Memphis Grizzlies, and most of the second round against the Houston Rockets, he was relegated to garbage time duty. Perhaps if he’d been drafted as high as initially projected, he might have had a bigger opportunity at getting minutes right away.

That all changed, however, against Houston in Game 2 when Parker went down with the injury that he is still recuperating from. Murray was thrust into the starting lineup and he responded as well as an inexperienced rookie under the bright lights of the playoffs could. In Game 4, although the Spurs lost, he had eight points on 50 percent shooting along with three assists. He actually didn’t play in Game 5, but in the Spurs closeout Game 6 win, he poured in 11 points, ten rebounds, five assists and two steals while shooting 50 percent from the field.

Even though the Spurs were ultimately swept in the Western Conference Finals against the Golden State Warriors, Murray continued his steady play with 8.3 points, 3.8 assists, and three steals.

At the start of this season, Murray has taken his momentum from the end of last season and carried it over. He was given the starting point guard spot in place of Parker on opening night against the Minnesota Timberwolves. He responded on national television with 16 points on 7-8 shooting from the field, five rebounds, two assists and two steals.

It’s still too early to tell, but it’s highly possible that the Spurs have found their starting point guard of the future once Parker eventually decides to hang it up. At 6-foot-5, Murray is a tall point guard and his length gives him the potential to develop into an elite defensive player. He can score the basketball and he is improving his court vision and playmaking.

One area he could improve in is his outside shooting. Although he did shoot 39.1 percent from the three-point line last season, he only took 0.6 attempts. In his lone college season, he shot 28.8 percent from downtown. If he can improve his range and really begin to put together his entire package of skills, we’ll be talking yet again about how the Spurs bamboozled the rest of the league and found a draft-day gem.

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NBA Saturday: Jabari Bird Experiences The NBA Whirlwind

Jabari Bird entered a hostile environment Friday night after being on his couch just three days before.

Dennis Chambers

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When Gordon Hayward suffered a season-ending injury six minutes into the Boston Celtics’ season on Wednesday, he wasn’t the only player who saw his season changed in the blink of an eye.

“I was at home in California watching the game as a fan,” Jabari Bird said.

Bird was the 56th overall pick in last June’s NBA Draft. After playing his college ball at the University of California, the Celtics gave the 6-foot-6 swingman a shot to continue his career. After impressing throughout the preseason, Bird was signed to a two-way contract with Boston and returned home to the west coast.

That didn’t last long.

“After the game was over my phone was going off that I had to get on the quickest flight to Boston,” Bird said about opening night. “Got in 7:30 the next morning, suited up against Milwaukee, now I’m here in Philly.”

With the massive hole Hayward left in Boston’s roster due to his injury, the Celtics are going to have to turn to some unlikely performers throughout the season to pick up the slack. Bird didn’t light up the scoreboard or stuff his stat sheet, posting just three points and one rebound in 13 minutes of play. But down the stretch in a close game against the Philadelphia 76ers Friday night, Bird came up big on defense.

As the Celtics trailed the Sixers 61-53 with six minutes remaining in the third quarter, Bird subbed in for Jaylen Brown and was tasked with guarding J.J. Redick, who was in the midst of carrying Philadelphia with his lights out shooting.

After wiping away the Sixers lead and gaining an 86-84 advantage in the fourth quarter, the Celtics still had Bird sticking Redick. The Sixers’ shooting guard — and highest paid player — rose up for another three-point attempt which would’ve given Philadelphia a late lead and a momentum shift at home with a raucous crowd behind them. Only this time, Bird’s hand was in his face and the shot attempt didn’t find the back of the net.

In a big-time moment on the road, for a team facing a potential three-game losing streak to start the season, the unlikely rookie answered the call.

“Like I said before, he’s one of the best shooters in the NBA, really good perimeter scorer,” Bird said of Redick. “For the team to trust me with that responsibility, with us being down on the road needing to get a win, I was hyped up and ready to go. I was ready for the challenge.”

Placing such a responsibility like guarding Redick on a night where it seemed like the Sixers marksman couldn’t miss on a player who was sitting on his couch three nights ago seems like a bold strategy. Head coach Brad Stevens, however, knew what he was doing.

“All the way through preseason and training camp I felt like he was one of our better perimeter defenders,” Stevens said. “I think he has huge upside. His rebounding spoke for itself in preseason practices. His ability to guard off the ball, especially shooters coming off screens is just really good. He’s not afraid, and you knew he’d step up.”

Going from the couch to a red-eye flight from California to Boston, to the bench in Milwaukee, to the court in Philadelphia is nothing short of a whirlwind experience. With such a series of events, it’s hard to be coached into that moment. As a player, sometimes you have to just go out and play.

“I wasn’t prepared at all for tonight. Mentally I just had to lock into the game,” Bird said. “Coach just looked at me and said ‘Bird get Jaylen.’ ‘Alright.’ So that’s what I did.”

After signing Hayward to $127 million contract this summer, the Celtics were expecting the small forward to provide an elite scoring 1-2 scoring punch with Kyrie Irving. Obviously, at least for this season, Boston will need to move forward without that possibility. An opening night loss, followed by another defeat to Milwaukee the following night, had the Celtics 0-2 heading into Philadelphia and searching for answers a lot sooner than they may have anticipated just a week ago.

Bird’s journey during his first week in professional basketball represents how quickly things can change, and how the ripple effects of injuries and other moves have far outreaching waves.

“I was already packed, I was ready to go to the G-League,” Bird said. “We had training camp coming up. My bags were already packed, I was ready to get out the house. Then I got the call to go to Boston and I was like alright I’m ready to go, just gimmie a flight. And that’s what happened.”

All-star point guard, and Bird’s new teammate, Kyrie Irving doesn’t foresee the rookie leaving the clubhouse anytime soon. With the adversity the Boston Celtics have felt in the first week of the 2017-18 season, Bird’s addition and impact are a prime example of being ready when your number is called, and the culture this team is looking to create.

“Jabari is now probably gonna be on every trip with us,” Irving said. “Guys are gonna be called up and called upon to be ready to play. We just have to have that expectation that when we come into the game we’re gonna be able to play, and we trust one another and have each other’s backs.”

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