Connect with us


NBA AM: Celtics Won’t Move Rondo At Deadline?

According to source, Rajon Rondo won’t be traded at the deadline. Greg Monroe staying put in Detroit? Kobe Bryant’s return delayed further

Lang Greene



Source Says It’s Highly Unlikely Rondo Moved At Trade Deadline

The 2013-14 NBA trade deadline is set for 3:00 p.m. (ET) on February 20, which is roughly just three weeks away. The buildup to the deadline will undoubtedly be filled with a plethora of rumors floating in the media, well rehearsed cliché answers from players on the trading block and executives around the league tirelessly working the phone lines behind the scenes.

While the number of deals completed at the deadline rarely matches the hype in the weeks leading up to the frenzy, this year’s crop of players to watch will continue to make things interesting.

One of the marquee names who has routinely surfaced in trade rumors this season is Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo. The four-time All-Star recently returned to action after suffering a torn ACL in January 2013, but has long been considered one of the Celtics’ prime trade chips during their ongoing rebuilding project.

However, a source with direct knowledge of the situation has informed Basketball Insiders that the Celtics have demonstrated little activity as it relates to potentially moving Rondo at the deadline. The team has stopped short of giving Rondo a no-trade guarantee, but has made it clear it would take a substantial offer for the team to deal away its floor general.

According to the source, the New York Knicks have been the team with the strongest interest in potentially acquiring Rondo from the Celtics as the deadline nears. The Knicks’ interest should come as no surprise as the team has endured their own struggles at point guard with the trio of Raymond Felton, Beno Udrih and Pablo Prigioni underachieving. However, the Celtics have no interest in the Knicks’ current assets at the moment.

Rondo has appeared in six contests since returning from injury and is still attempting to regain his form posting averages of 6.7 points and 5.7 assists on just 28 percent shooting from the floor.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Boston Globe last week the team had been engaged in discussions with Rondo on a contract extension but the guard turned down the overture. Rondo’s refusal to sign an extension at this time came as no surprise because of how the Collective Bargaining Agreement limits the value of extensions. Come July when they’re able to offer him a three year extension instead of two, which is all they can offer right now, talks will be much more meaningful.

If things stay on its current course, the Celtics (15-32) are currently headed to the draft lottery. Here are some of the team’s draft assets in 2014:

2014 — Owed first-rounder (top-14 protected through 2015, otherwise becomes 2015 and 2016 second-rounders) from Philadelphia 76ers (Arnett Moultrie, Joel Anthony)

2014 — Owed first-rounder from Brooklyn Nets (Kevin Garnett swap) — will be lesser of theirs and Atlanta Hawks pick (Joe Johnson)

2014 — Owe second-rounder to Dallas Mavericks (Kelly Olynyk)

Pistons Not Actively Shopping Greg Monroe?

To say things haven’t gone according to plan for the Detroit Pistons this season would be an understatement. Pistons owner Tom Gores publicly stated before the season began he would like to see the franchise return to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

As a result, president of basketball operations Joe Dumars added two talented players to the roster in Josh Smith (free agency) and Brandon Jennings (trade). But while the team remains in the hunt for a low Eastern Conference playoff seed, the on court product has been one plagued by night to night inconsistency.

Smith, who the club invested over $50 million in free agency last summer, has routinely struggled adjusting to playing small forward on a full-time basis – particularly on the perimeter. The Pistons envisioned Smith playing small forward with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond manning the power forward and center slots. The trio hasn’t worked well together, particularly on the defensive end of the floor. But offensively you can also see signs of ineffectiveness.

Smith is shooting a woeful 24 percent from three-point range on the season. The Pistons as a unit rank last in the league in three-point shooting at 31 percent.

As the trade deadline approaches the team is expected to explore the market in order to strengthen their perimeter attack. The team’s most notable trade chip has long been rumored to be Monroe, who is set to be a restricted free agent this summer.

But according to a recent report by ESPN’s Marc Stein, sources say the Pistons are reportedly telling interested parties in acquiring Monroe that the emerging forward isn’t on the market at this time.

Monroe figures to continue surfacing in trade rumors up until the deadline as team’s try to wait out Dumars’ current stance of holding firm on parting with a talented asset.

Lakers’ Bryant Still Weeks Away From Returning

The Los Angeles Lakers (16-30) will likely miss the playoffs this season for the first time since the 2005 campaign. The unit has suffered from a rash of injuries throughout the season and has likely dug itself a hole to deep to dig out of in the competitive Western Conference standings.

All-Star guard Kobe Bryant’s absence from the lineup is the primary driver in the Lakers’ recent demise. The guard returned to action earlier this season, after suffering an Achilles injury in the 2013 campaign, but played just six contests before suffering a left tibial plateau fracture.

While Bryant is expected to return to action at some point this season, the team recently announced the guard could be out until late February or early March.

According to the team’s press release, Bryant was examined by team physician Dr. Steve Lombardo prior to Tuesday’s game and evidence of pain and swelling are still prevalent in his ailing left knee. The Lakers say Bryant will be examined again in three weeks and he will continue a regimen of non-weight bearing exercises, which is mostly of working out on a stationary bike moving forward.

Bryant averaged 13.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists in just under 30 minutes per game this season.

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons




Monte Morris: Waiting for his Chance

Nuggets two-way guard Monte Morris talks to Basketball Insiders about his time with Denver.

David Yapkowitz



Monte Morris has only seen action in three NBA games with the Denver Nuggets this year. While most players who receive little playing time spend most of their time at the end of the bench cheering their teammates on, Morris’ situation is a bit different. He’s spent the majority of his rookie year in the G-League.

The NBA’s minor league has grown tremendously since it’s inception in 2001. All but four NBA teams have a G-League affiliate now. There are plans for the New Orleans Pelicans to have their own team by next season, and NBA Commissioner Adam Silver has spoken about having a team in Mexico.

As part of the NBA’s new collective bargaining agreement, they expanded the partnership between NBA teams and their G-League affiliates even more by adding two-way contracts. Essentially creating a 16th and 17th roster spot, two-way players are allowed to split time between an NBA team and the G-League.

For Morris, two-way contracts are an added opportunity for players to make an NBA roster.

“It’s a good chance for guys to make a roster, especially second-round picks to get a chance,” Morris told Basketball Insiders. “With two-way contracts, I feel like they’re going to get a lot better as far as rules and things like that go. This is the first year so they’re testing it out, but it’s a good opportunity. It’s a blessing at the end of the day.”

Morris was drafted by the Nuggets with the 51st overall pick in last summer’s draft. Second round picks are not afforded the guaranteed contract stability that comes with being a first-round pick. He was tabbed for a two-way contract almost immediately after he was drafted.

He had a stellar four years of college at Iowa State, where he was one of the top point guards in the nation as a senior. He also had a strong showing in Las Vegas with the Nuggets’ summer league team.

The Nuggets were a little crowded in the backcourt to begin the season with Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay ahead of Morris in the rotation. When Mudiay was injured and out of the rotation, Mike Malone opted to go with Will Barton as the backup point guard. The Nuggets’ trade deadline acquisition of Devin Harris pushed Morris farther back on the depth chart.

“The toughest thing is just staying mentally tough, staying true to yourself, and developing your own craft,” Morris told Basketball Insiders. “Just not losing that self-confidence cause you might not play when you go up. When you come down here [G-League], take advantage of it, have fun, and keep getting better.”

Morris has definitely done his part to stand out in the G-League. The Nuggets are without a sole affiliate, so they’ve used the Houston Rockets G-League team, the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, to get Morris additional experience. In 36 games with the Valley Vipers, he’s put up 18.2 points per game on 47.8 percent shooting from the field, 35.6 percent from the three-point line, 4.6 rebounds, 6.6 assists, and 1.8 steals.

He believes that if called upon, he can be a major contributor for the Nuggets. There are certain aspects he can bring to the team and he thinks it’s possible for him to play with Murray in the backcourt together.

“I think I can bring energy off the bench. I feel like me and Jamal Murray, the way the game is going you can play small ball. I feel like I can bring pace to the game and play defensively,” Morris told Basketball Insiders. “I like getting after it when I’m up there with those guys on defense and getting guys open shots. I know we got a lot of scorers, my goal would be getting everybody their shots.”

Morris has been able to show he can produce at the NBA level, even if it’s a small sample size. On Feb. 9, only the second game he’s played in with Denver, he scored ten points on 4-5 shooting from the field, dished out six assists, and nabbed three steals against the Rockets.

Players on two-way contracts are allowed a maximum of 45 days with the NBA team. Those days are not solely game days; they include practices and travel days as well. Once those 45 days are up, NBA teams have the option of converting a two-way contract to a standard NBA deal provided they have roster space.

If a player uses up the 45 days and does not have their contract converted, they go back to the G-League. They can rejoin their NBA team once the G-League season ends but are not able to play in the playoffs.

For now, Morris is just biding his time, waiting for his opportunity. He’s staying ready for when the Nuggets might need him. In the meantime, he’ll continue to take advantage of what the G-League has to offer.

“It’s definitely a good starting point. It’s just all about how guys attack it on and off the court,” Morris told Basketball Insiders. “It’s just being a pro and not losing confidence in your ability when you go up and don’t play. You just got to be ready, you’re really one injury away, one call away to step on and have to play.”

Continue Reading


Middleton, Bucks Aiming To ‘Lock In’ As Season Comes To Close

Spencer Davies catches up with Milwaukee Bucks swingman Khris Middleton in a Basketball Insiders exclusive.

Spencer Davies



Basketball Insiders had the chance to chat with Khris Middleton about the direction of the Milwaukee Bucks as the season comes to a close.

You guys won three out of four before you came into Cleveland. What was working during that stretch?

Just being us. Doing it with our defense, playing fast-paced offense. Just trying to keep teams off the three-point line. We haven’t done that. We didn’t do that [Monday] or two games ago, but it’s something we’ve just gotta get back to.

With the offense—it seems like it’s inconsistent. What do you think that’s got to do with mostly?

Just trying to do it by ourselves sometimes. Standing, keeping the ball on one side of the floor. We’re a better team when we play in a fast pace. And then also in the half court, when we move the ball from side-to-side it just opens the paint for everybody and there’s a lot more space.

For you, on both ends you’ve been ultra-aggressive here in the last couple weeks or so, does that have to do with you feeling better or is it just a mindset?

I’ve been healthy all year. Right now, it’s the end of the season. Gotta make a push. Everybody’s gotta lock in. Have to be confident, have to be aggressive. Have to do my job and that’s to shoot the ball well and to defend.

Have you changed anything with your jumper? Looking at the past couple months back-to-back, your perimeter shooting was below 32 percent. In March it’s above 45 percent.

I feel like I got a lot of great looks earlier this year. They just weren’t falling. Right now, they’re falling for me, so I have the same mindset that I had when I was missing and that’s to keep on shooting. At some point, they’re gonna go down for me.

Is knowing that every game at this point means more an extra motivator for you guys?

Definitely. We’re basically in the playoffs right now. We’re in a playoff series right now where we have to win games, we have to close out games, in order to get the seeding and to stay in the playoffs. Each game and each possession means something to us right now.

Is it disappointing to be in the position the team is in right now, or are you looking at it as, ‘If we get there, we’re going to be alright’?

I mean, we wish we were in a better position. But where we’re at right now, we’re fine with it. We want to make that last push to get higher in the seeding.

Lots of changes have gone on here. Eric Bledsoe came in two weeks into the season. You had the coaching change and lineup changes. Jabari Parker’s been getting situated before the postseason. How difficult does that make it for you guys to build consistency?

Yeah, it was tough at first. But I think early on we had to adjust on the fly. We didn’t have too many practices. There was a stretch where we were able to get in the film room, get on the court, and practice with each other more.

Now it’s just at a point where we’re adding a lot of new guys off the bench where we have to do the same things—learn on the fly, watch film. We’re not on the court as much now, but we just have to do a great job of buying in to our system, try to get to know each other.

Does this team feel like it has unfinished business based on what happened last year?

Definitely. Last year, we felt like we let one go. Toronto’s a great team. They’re having a hell of a season this year, but I feel like we let one go. This year’s a new year—a little add of extra motivation. We’ve been in the playoff position before, so hopefully, we learn from it when we go into it this year.

Would you welcome that rematch?

I mean, we welcome anybody man. We showed that we compete with any team out here. We can’t worry about other teams as much. We just have to be focused on us.

What has to happen for you guys to achieve your full potential?

Lock in. Just play as hard as we can, play unselfish, and do our job out there night-in, night-out.

Continue Reading


NBA Daily: Raptors Look To Fine-Tune The Defense

The Toronto Raptors’ defense had a letdown against the Cavaliers, but has been outstanding overall.

Buddy Grizzard



The Cleveland Cavaliers and Toronto Raptors engaged in an offensive shootout on Wednesday that could be a playoff preview. The Cavs protected home court with a single-possession, 132-129 victory. Afterward, the Raptors spoke about the types of defensive adjustments the team needs to make as the postseason rapidly approaches.

“That’s how a playoff game would be,” said DeMar DeRozan, who missed a three at the buzzer that could have forced overtime. “This is a team we’ve been playing against the last two years in the postseason. Understanding how we can tighten up things defensively, how to make things tougher for them [is key].

“[It’s] little small things that go a long way, and not just with them … with every team.”

Raptors coach Dwane Casey concurred with DeRozan that fine-tuning of the defense is needed. He also pointed out that, with young contributors such as center Jakob Poeltl and power forward Pascal Siakam on the roster, defensive experience against the league’s best player, LeBron James, is something they will have to gain on the fly.

“I don’t think Jakob Poeltl played against him that much, and Siakam,” said Casey. “This is their first time seeing it. I thought Jak and Pascal did an excellent job, but there are certain situations where they’ve got to read and understand what the other team is trying to do to them.”

Poeltl was outstanding, leading the bench with 17 points and tying for the team lead in rebounds with eight. Casey praised the diversity of his contributions.

“I thought he did an excellent job of rolling, finishing, finding people,” said Casey. “I thought defensively, he did a good job of protecting the paint, going vertical. So I liked what he was giving us, especially his defense against Kevin Love.”

Basketball Insiders previously noted how the Raptors have performed vastly better as a team this season when starting point guard Kyle Lowry is out of the game. Much of that is due to Fred VanVleet’s emergence as one of the NBA’s best reserve point guards. VanVleet scored 16 points with five assists and no turnovers against Cleveland. It’s also a reflection of how good Toronto’s perimeter defense has been up and down the roster.

According to ESPN’s defensive Real Plus-Minus statistic, three of the NBA’s top 15 defensive point guards play for the Raptors. VanVleet ranks seventh while Lowry is 12th and Delon Wright is 14th. Starting small forward OG Anunoby ranks 16th at his position.

The Raptors also rank in the top five in offensive efficiency (third) and defensive efficiency (fifth). Having established an identity as a defensive team, especially on the perimeter, it’s perhaps understandable that Lowry was the one player in the visiting locker room who took the sub-standard defensive showing personally.

“It was a disgraceful display of defense by us and we’ve got to be better than that,” said Lowry. “We’ve got to be more physical. They picked us apart and made a lot of threes. We’ve got to find a way to be a better defensive team.”

Lowry continued the theme of fine-tuning as the regular season winds down.

“I think we’ve just got to make adjustments on the fly as a team,” said Lowry. “We can score with the best of them, but they outscored us tonight. We got what we wanted offensively. We’re one of the top teams in scoring in the league, but we’re also a good defensive team.”

Lowry was clearly bothered by Toronto’s defensive showing, but Casey downplayed the importance of a single regular-season game.

“We’ve got to take these games and learn from them, and again learn from the situations where we have to be disciplined,” said Casey. “It’s not a huge thing. It’s situations where we are that we’ve got to learn from and be disciplined and not maybe take this step and over-help here. Because a team like that and a passer like James will make you pay.”

While the Raptors continue to gain experience and dial in the fine defensive details, Casey was insistent that his players should not hang their heads over falling short against Cleveland.

“Hopefully our guys understand that we’re right there,” said Casey.

The Raptors host the Brooklyn Nets tonight to open a three-game home stand that includes visits from the Clippers Sunday and the Nuggets Tuesday. After that, Toronto visits the Celtics March 31 followed by a return to Cleveland April 3 and a home game against Boston the next night. With three games in a row against the other two top-three teams in the East, the schedule presents plenty of opportunities for the Raptors to add defensive polish before the playoffs begin.

Continue Reading

The Strictly Speaking Podcast


Trending Now