Not What Expected Was It?: The day before the NBA Trade Deadline is always a little anti-climactic. There is usually talk of two or three big names that would require complex deals and those get kicked around all day only to putter out and die by day’s end. That’s the normal script of the trade deadline. What transpired on Wednesday is typical of deadline’s past. So here are the two things that got completed yesterday.
Lakers Trade Steve Blake To Warriors: Roughly 70 minutes before tip-off of last night’s game Laker guard Steve Blake was pulled aside and told he was dealt to the Golden State Warriors in a package deal that will return guards MarShon Brooks and Kent Bazemore. The move makes a lot of sense for both franchises. The Warriors get a tough and gritty veteran point guard in Blake to help solidifying a shaky second unit in Golden State, while the Lakers get to take a 28 game look at Brooks and Bazemore, who they will hold rights to this summer. Should either show the promise that some of the other Lakers “finds” have shown this season the Lakers can re-sign them this summer after spending their cap money in free agency or in trade. Brooks will be an unrestricted free agent, so there is a chance he walks and Bazemore has a qualifying offer worth $1.115 million that can restrict his free agency. The Lakers traded a veteran for two promising young players that might fit in nicely to what the Lakers have stumbled upon this year as they construct the next evolution of Lakers basketball. The deal did not get the Lakers under the $71.748 million luxury tax line; they will still need to clear some $5.341 million to achieve that. The Lakers are believed to be trying to offload big men Jordan Hill ($3.5 million) and Chris Kaman ($3.183 million). If they are able to achieve that, the Lakers would avoid another luxury tax year and actually receive luxury tax payments for the first time in franchise history.
Kings Trade Marcus Thornton To The Nets: The Kings had been trying to move Marcus Thornton for most of the year and triggered a deal yesterday that returned veterans Jason Terry and Reggie Evans to the Kings. The logic behind the move was two part: The first being the moving of Thornton’s contract, which had $8.05 million owed this year and an additional $8.57 million owed next year. This deal breaks that money up into two veteran players and allowed the Kings to create two more manageable ending deals for next summer. The second part is it added some veteran leadership to the locker room, which is something the Kings felt they desperately needed. For the Nets they added another volume scorer in Thornton to add more punch from the bench. Terry was having his worst year as a pro in Brooklyn averaging just 4.5 points per game on a dreadful 36.2 percent field goal percentage and Player Efficiency Rating of 7.60, by far the worst of his career. The addition of Evans gives the Kings some inside toughness to pair with DeMarcus Cousins. The Kings continue to work angles in addition to this move which includes shopping forward Jason Thompson and guard Jimmer Fredette.
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Here are some of the things still getting serious play today:
Lakers Moving Jordan Hill: The Lakers continue to talk about deals involving big man Jordan Hill and his $3.5 million ending contract. It looked as though the Cleveland Cavaliers were the front runners to obtain Hill as of last night, although the word is that Brooklyn, Charlotte, New Orleans, and Dallas are all still very much in the hunt. By acquiring Spencer Hawes, the Cavaliers are now seemingly out of the race for Hill. The Lakers are not looking to return a roster player in the transaction, which means they are really only interested in moves that allow them to remove Hill’s contract from their books. That’s going to be complicated for teams that do not have a traded players exception or an disabled player exception to absorb the deal unless a third team is involved. The Lakers are also talking with teams about veteran big man Chris Kaman. Much like Hill the Lakers are trying to offload Kaman’s contract, which like Hill would require a team with room to take the contract without returning salary to the Lakers. Talks are expected to continue on both front today. If the Lakers can move both players they will get themselves under the luxury tax line.
Knicks Moving Beno Udrih: The New York Knicks were dreaming big as trade talks got underway this week, however as the 3:00pm EST deadline gets ever so closer, it’s starting to look like the Knicks may not have anything more than a deal to move disgruntled guard Beno Udrih. The word yesterday was that Udrih and the Wizards seemed likely, although there are a few additional teams said to be at the table including the Spurs and possibly the Nuggets. The Knicks seem like they will do a deal to rid themselves of Udrih, it just remains unclear if the deal will be with the Wizards or another team. Knicks swingman Iman Shumpert went down to a sprained MCL last night, so there may be some urgency on the Knicks part to get a serviceable roster player in return.
Bucks Moving Gary Neal: There has been a lot of talk about the Bucks having multiple suitors for disgruntled guard Gary Neal, however with Golden State addressing their point guard needs with the Lakers last night, acquiring Steve Blake in a deal, it seems that Milwaukee may have lost one of its favored dance partners. The Bucks are fielding calls on a number of fronts and are said to have Phoenix, Charlotte, Oklahoma City and Sacramento in the mix. So Neal still seems like a player on the move. The Bucks are reportedly open for business on a number of players, so it’s expected that they will make a move or two before the clock strikes 3:00pm EST.
»In Related: The History of NBA Trades
Kings Moving Jason Thompson: The Sacramento Kings are trying to move forward Jason Thompson, however there does not seem to be a huge market for him. There was talk that the Cleveland Cavaliers were at the table with a deal built around Cavs guard Jarrett Jack, but only if the Cavs could offload Thompson to a third team. Thompson is a tough sell mainly because he has five percent trade kicker in his deal and has two more fully guaranteed more seasons worth roughly $12.46 million and a third season worth $6.85 million of which $2.65 million is fully guaranteed. Three more years and $15.11 million guaranteed is a hard sell for some teams, especially for a player averaging 7.6 points per game. Talks are expected to continue today, although this deal could very easily fall apart.
Grizzlies Sniffing For A Small Forward: The Grizzlies have been linked to a number of players, however sources close to the process label their activity as far lower than being reported. The Grizzlies did have some very cursory talks with Golden State early in the process. The Warriors were looking at Grizz big man Kostas Koufos, when the Grizz asked for Harrison Barnes in a deal the talks died on the table. The Grizz have been linked to the Minnesota Timberwolves, although those talks were labeled as “old news” and that nothing seemed likely on that front. The Grizz have had some recent talks with the Washington Wizards and would love to extract Martell Webster from the Wiz, but it’s unclear if the Wizards will move on that front. The Grizz are open for business and have a number of interesting chips to move, the question remains can they get something done before the deadline?
»In Related: Every NBA Teams’ Salary Cap Situation – At A Glance.
No Market For Andre Miller: As much as Denver and Miller would love to see a deal today, sources continue to paint a bleak outlook for Denver and Miller getting a divorce today. The general consensus is that Denver won’t bring Miller back to the roster and at some point are going to have to waive him. Most teams didn’t value Miller much to begin with and now that the Nuggets almost have to move him the ability for Denver to extract any return for him seems to have dried up. That’s hasn’t stopped Nuggets GM Tim Connelly from trying to make a move, it’s simply that other teams do not see a reason to give up assets for a player that might get cut after the deadline. The Nuggets have more than Miller on the market. They are reportedly shopping Jordan Hamilton and have been fielding calls on forward Kenneth Faried. It seems unlikely that Denver is going to do anything with Faried, however Denver is still very much in play.
On Again Off Again Magic: For most of the season in this space we’ve talked about how reluctant the Orlando Magic were in making a trade unless it was a landslide in their favor or it allowed them to clear up their roster for the offseason. For weeks the Magic stance has been that they were not going to do anything at the deadline and that very well could be the case. Sources close to the Magic process said Saturday that they did not expect anything to happen at the deadline; however a number of sources from other teams labeled the Magic as being active again.
The Magic played last year’s trade deadline in a similar fashion, for weeks they denied interest in trading guard J.J. Redick only to pull the trigger on an eleventh hour trade with Milwaukee.
The prevailing thought is that Orlando is going to hold the line, although it seems that Orlando may have done one last pass through the league before the deadline to try and drum up interest in some of the pieces they do not want or to see if the return price on guard Arron Afflalo has gotten to the point of pulling the trigger.
If there is a dark horse for a deal today it might be Orlando, or they could do exactly what they said they’d do and that’s sit this one out.
A couple of names to watch on the Magic front are veteran guard Jameer Nelson ($8.6 million), Glen “Big Baby” Davis ($6.4 million), big man Andrew Nicholson ($1.48 million) and guard Arron Afflalo ($7.5 million).
The Magic’s stance has been for weeks that their assets might be more valuable around the draft and free agency, so there is a really good chance that unless someone makes the right kind of offer that Orlando sits this one out.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”