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NBA AM: Almost Trade Season In The NBA

On Dec. 15, free agents signed last summer can be dealt so some teams have started weighing their options.

Steve Kyler

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Almost Trade Season:  As the NBA enters the quarter mark of the season, several NBA teams are starting to ponder the direction they are headed and some teams have already started sniffing around the trade market. The problem with trades at this point in the season is that a large chunk of NBA rosters are still under trade restrictions involving the players signed as free agents this summer. However, on December 15 – roughly two weeks from now – those restrictions will be lifted and the unofficial trade season in the NBA will begin.

Here are some of the situations to watch over the next couple weeks:

Houston Rockets

The Rockets pulled the trigger on firing head coach Kevin McHale, but after firing their coach things really have not changed in a meaningful way. The Rockets have lost seven of their last 10 games and rank 24th in point differential, losing by an average of 6.1 points per game and have yet to find the defensive presence the coaching change was supposed to help restore.

During the offseason, the Rockets pulled the trigger on a deal bringing in point guard Ty Lawson, who at the time was believed to be the missing piece for a Rockets championship run. However, Lawson has been a shell of himself on the court and is now coming off the bench in favor of 38-year-old Jason Terry.

The Rockets have been sniffing around the league for deals and there is a belief among other teams that Lawson could be had in trade, and had cheaply. Lawson is owed $12.4 million this season with the final $13.21 million of his deal being fully non-guaranteed.

As the Rockets search for ways to change, there is a belief that Lawson could be the first Rocket player moved. But given how poorly Lawson has played in Houston and his troublesome off-the-court history, it’s hard to imagine that Lawson alone is going to yield much in return. But as teams start to get desperate, Lawson does have a career assist average of more than 6.5 assists per game and averaged 9.6 per game last season for the Nuggets. Lawson’s salary could return an asset or two and given the rut the Rockets find themselves in, they seem to be a bit more motivated to deal than normal.

Milwaukee Bucks

The Milwaukee Bucks were the darling of the NBA this time last year with a swarming and effective defense that has all but evaporated this year. The Bucks added forward Greg Monroe and traded for guard Greivis Vasquez this summer to complement their deadline trade for Michael Carter-Williams last year. The addition of those three players has yet to yield a lot of positive results, and one of the NBA’s best defensive units has devolved into one of the worst. Add in the fact that the Bucks’ offense has been sputtering, to say the least, and the Bucks find themselves sitting outside the Eastern Conference playoff picture, with very little light at the end of the tunnel.

Surprisingly, league sources say the Bucks are not being overly aggressive in looking for trades. However, it seems like a matter of time before the Bucks have to decide who they’d part with to the get the ship turned around.

The Bucks are sitting on a couple of compelling contracts, namely the $8 million ending contract on reserve guard O.J. Mayo and the $3 million ending deal for guard Jerryd Bayless. Both are proven NBA veterans and are prime rental-type pieces for teams looking to bolster their roster.

While both players are key leaders for a very young Bucks team, the clock on the season isn’t slowing down.

The Bucks have lost seven of their last 10 games, and have the Pistons, Knicks and Raptors on their schedule before Christmas. Falling further behind in the East may change how the Bucks approach the trade market, especially if their defense continues to struggle.

L.A. Clippers

The Clippers are not ready to blow things up, but there is a growing sense that the Clippers are willing to make a deal and that move may involve the ending contract of swingman Jamal Crawford.

The Clippers have been up and down all season and have lost five of their last 10 games. Amid reports of infighting in the locker room, it seems the Clippers may be open to a splashy move if one surfaces.

Sources close to the situation continue to say the Clippers are being opportunistic – saying if a solid player becomes available they’d do a deal – however, league sources say the Clippers may be more desperate than they’ll admit, sensing that a major change is needed.

The Clippers have won their last three games and are still above the line in differential, but with losses to the Jazz, Blazers and Warriors still lingering, the next group of games could go a long way toward quieting the rumbling or fast tracking the process. The Clippers have the Pacers and Magic at home this week before heading out on five-game east coast trip next week.

The Clippers should know a lot more about themselves after the trip, which happens to line up with the December 15 trade restriction deadline being lifted for most of the players signed this past summer.

L.A. Lakers

With the formal announcement that Lakers guard Kobe Bryant will call it a career after this season, there continues to be talk that the Lakers will ultimately look at selling off some of their veteran players as the NBA trade deadline gets closer. The two players to watch are forward Brandon Bass and center Roy Hibbert.

Bass signed a two-year, $6.135 million deal in July and could return a reasonable asset for the Lakers. Hibbert, on the other hand, waived part of the trade kicker in his contract to get out of Indiana and there is a sense the Lakers might want to re-sign him in the offseason if he is agreeable to a lower-dollar deal. If the Laker decide Hibbert isn’t an answer in the long-term, they are not restricted from moving Hibbert – they simply need to find a taker for his $15.592 million deal. At the trade deadline, the Lakers will have paid roughly 70 percent of that cash value.

The Lakers have no shortage of value priced veterans to peddle if they so desire. Guard Lou Williams is set to earn $7 million over the next three years, while Nick Young is scheduled to earn $5.219 million this season and roughly $11 million more over the following two seasons.

None of the Lakers’ veterans are likely to return unprotected draft picks, but there is a sense the Lakers could turn one or two of the veterans they have into rookie-scale contract players, especially from some of the teams looking to cash out a little youth in exchange for a playoff push.

Washington Wizards

The Washington Wizards have struggled as of late, with some questioning if the team has started to tune out head coach Randy Wittman, who is in the first year of a three-year contract extension, while others wonder if it’s simply a case of the team not having enough bench punch to compete in what’s becoming a much tougher Eastern Conference.

The Wizards are planning to waive injured forward Martell Webster, which will open up a roster spot that could be used to add an additional player or open up room for a two-for-one trade at some point in the near future.

Wizards sources labeled replacing Wittman as a last resort – one that’s not being actively considered. However, making a roster move is deemed more likely, even if it’s grabbing a free agent or one of the promising veterans from the D-League.

The Wizards have no shortage of tradable players on ending contracts including Nene, Jared Dudley, Kris Humphries, Alan Anderson, Ramon Sessions and Gary Neal.

The Wizards are not open to absorbing any long-term contract money since they have eyes for a max-level free agent offer this July, but there is a sense that to be the attractive free agency destination they want to be viewed as they have to turn things around.

Its seems the Wizards are looking at changes, the question becomes will it be a cosmetic change with their open roster spot or will they try to shake up the bench?

New Orleans Pelicans

It’s easy to blame the Pelicans’ lackluster start on early injuries. That’s a fair and valid excuse. However, with 13 losses and not a lot going their way, there is an increasing sense that the Pelicans may have no choice but to look at a significant trade sooner than later.

The Pelican player whose name surfaces the most among league sources is sharp shooting forward Ryan Anderson, but sources close to the team say that Anderson is incredibly valued inside the organization and it would take a monster offer for the Pelicans to consider moving him. Anderson is in the final year of his deal and will be an unrestricted free agent in July, so the Pelicans may have to explore his value despite how the organization feels about him as a player and leader in the locker room.

The Pelicans don’t have a lot of attractive contracts to shop. Shooting guard Eric Gordon is at the end of his deal, but is owed $15.5 million, which may be tough to trade given his injury history.

Center Omer Asik is owed roughly $60 million and might be the least attractive contract on the roster.

With few avenues to influence change, the Pelicans may have to explore moving pieces they’d like to keep if they want to salvage this season. And considering this year was billed as the season they make a leap up the standings and compete in the playoffs, waiting for the roster to get healthy might be too little too late, especially with the losses already on the ledger.

NBA teams are not restricted from making trades at this point in the season, the only limitations in making a deal are the willingness of teams to pull the trigger at this point and those players who signed contracts this summer.

In two weeks, most of those players become trade eligible and that’s when most of the teams searching for immediate change will start getting serious about trade talk.

The 2015-16 NBA trade deadline is 3 p.m. EST on February 18, which is roughly 79 days from today.

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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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Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team

Basketball Insiders

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Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.

“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”

Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN

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