It’s Deadline Day!
All the hype about trades in the NBA comes to end today at 3 p.m. EST. While there has been a flurry of deals already this week, the bulk of moves usually happen at the eleventh hour, so here are some of the things we have heard recently:
Paul George Will Be Expensive
Yesterday, Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical dropped a story suggesting that after meeting with Pacers ownership in New Orleans during All-Star weekend, Pacers forward Paul George pledged a desire to be a Pacer long-term, but only if the team is in a position to compete for a championship.
This has prompted the Pacers to not only pick up the pace in trying to add serious talent to the roster, but it’s also prompted the Pacers to consider which road is easier; moving George in trade or adding talent.
A league source (whose team inquired about George) said yesterday that George would be massively expensive to obtain in trade, suggesting his team did not have nearly the assets to pursue a trade for George. The same source said that anything involving him would require almost everything a team had to offer based on the stance the Pacers had this week.
There have been reports that both the Boston Celtics and LA Lakers view the price tag on George as too high, especially considering George could be a free agent in 16 months.
There are a couple of factors that still need to play out before the Pacers have to decide whether to trade George, the first being whether he lands on an All-NBA team this season and qualifies for a Designated Veteran Extension. If that occurs, the Pacers can pay George $30 million more in salary than any other situation, giving them a huge financial advantage. The second part is what the team can do today at the deadline and again around the draft and free agency in adding the kinds of player George seeks.
Given his stance on his future, this likely won’t be the last of Paul George trade rumors. While there is still time for things to evolve, the stance this morning seems to be no one will meet the price for his service today, although things can and often do change at the trade deadline.
Denver Not Giving It Away
The Denver Nuggets completed one deal already in the current trade cycle, dealing for Mason Plumlee. There have been a few additional names on the market for some time, including veteran Wilson Chandler and possibly free agent Danilo Gallinari. Chandler was viewed by many around the NBA as the most likely player moved, mainly because his camp has been pushing for a trade all year.
The problem some teams are facing with regards to Chandler specifically is the Nuggets won’t just give him away for a second-round pick as many expected to be the case as the deadline approached.
The prevailing thought today is that if Denver can’t get the value they are looking for they would rather keep Chandler for their playoff push.
Chandler was viewed as the primary target for the Oklahoma City Thunder after Kings forward Rudy Gay tore his Achilles back in mid-January.
Reports this week suggest that the Thunder have dropped their purist of Chandler, mainly due to the expected cost of a high-level first-round draft pick or promising rookie scale player.
Chandler was linked to both the Toronto Raptors and Washington Wizards. However, the Wizards completed a deal yesterday to obtain Bojan Bogdanovic from the Nets.
Denver remains active at the deadline, according to a source close to the situation. It remains to be seen if the Nuggets will come down on their expected return on a deal.
Oklahoma City Still Looking
While the Thunder may have moved on from Nuggets swingman Wilson Chandler, they remain aggressive at the deadline trying to add some talent to the roster. There are a few names that continue to circulate as possiblities for the Thunder, one of which is Kings swingman Aaron Afflalo.
Afflalo has just $1.5 million of his $12.5 million salary for next season guaranteed, making him a low-risk short-term rental. The Kings are believed to be pushing for an Afflalo trade fairly aggressively. With Chandler no longer considered an option (unless Denver lowers the price), Afflalo could be the next choice.
Another name that could come at a very low price for the Thunder is Lakers guard Nick Young. While Young has played well for the Lakers this season, there is still a considerable stigma around him as a personality in the locker room.
Young has a Player Option for next season worth $5.6 million, which could be a deterrent for a team unsure of his fit. The Lakers are said to be looking for just a second-round pick for Young in efforts to move him, and to get his possible cap hit off the books.
The Thunder were linked to Chicago’s Taj Gibson this morning by ESPN’s Marc Stein as the Bulls continue to weight their options on moving Gibson and their pursuit of Philadelphia big man Jahlil Okafor.
The Thunder have a long history of making deals at the deadline; they remain a team that’s expected to trigger a deal today. The question remains whether they can sway the Nuggets into the deal they really want or if they move on to secondary options.
Kings Got Pieces To Move
While the Kings have expressed interest in moving guard Aaron Afflalo, there are more names to watch in Sacramento; namely big man Kostas Koufos, guard Darren Collison and guard Ben McLemore.
With the Kings moving on from DeMarcus Cousins, there is a belief the team is headed towards a full-on tank job and moving off or cashing out guys that are no longer part of the game plan.
A Kings source warned that the team wasn’t just giving away guys, but that they were very open to deals that included rookie scale players or draft picks in the near term; either this year or next year.
Given the timing of all of this and how the Kings front office has approached trades under Vlade Divac, there may not be enough time to complete everything the Kings would be open to doing, but there is a sense almost any of these players could be had for a good return.
Knicks Still Working
Hopefully you did not buy a Derrick Rose Knicks jersey, as it may be a collector’s item after 3 p.m. today. The prevailing thought from New York is that Rose can be had for very little in return. The problem with moving Rose is managing the cap implications of his $21.3 million base salary. While the Knicks have paid 70 percent of the cash owed, the acquiring team must be able to absorb the contract value into its cap. This is where the Minnesota Timberwolves and their remaining $12.68 million in cap space come into play.
The Wolves and Knicks have been talking about a swap built around Derrick Rose and Ricky Rubio. The challenge for the Knicks is they are lukewarm on Rubio’s remaining $29.2-plus million in contract money, specifically the $14.25 million owed next season, which would bite into the Knicks’ free cap space.
There has been talk that if the Wolves include Nemanja Bjelica or Shabazz Muhammad in the deal that this might get done today, but as of this morning it still seemed up in the air.
The Knicks have also been dangling big man Kyle O’Quinn and guard Courtney Lee to would-be trade suitors. The Knicks are believed to be looking to shed the long-term money owed to both players while returning draft picks for the future.
One player who is not expected to change teams is Knicks forward Carmelo Anthony. While the Knicks would love to move Anthony today, he has made it pretty clear that he is not waiving his no-trade clause.
Sources close to the Anthony situation said he’d be open to a discussion on being traded this off-season when he and his representation can be more involved in the process.
While the trade deadline is always fluid and chaotic process, stay tuned for the deals that get done and reaction to the ones that matter the most.
The Basketball Insiders Trade Deadline Diary is up, and will have all of the trade scuttle we can find in one place, including the deals that get done, the rumors surrounding them and any original insight we come across.
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Tyronn Lue’s Health Concerns Latest Bump In The Road For Cavaliers
Spencer Davies outlines Tyronn Lue’s decision to take a leave of absence to deal with health issues and covers the reaction around the NBA.
The win-loss record is not where they want it to be.
The performances have not been up to par with what they expect.
With that said, one thing is for certain: There is no other team that will have been more battle tested going into the playoffs than the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Day after day and week after week, there’s always something going on with the team. Between in-house arguments, on-court miscommunication, roster turnover, and more, it has been one giant roller coaster of a season.
Monday morning, another twist was added to the ride. In a statement released by the Cavaliers organization, Tyronn Lue and general manager Koby Altman announced that the head coach would be taking a leave of absence to address his health:
“After many conversations with our doctors and Koby and much thought given to what is best for the team and my health, I need to step back from coaching for the time being and focus on trying to establish a stronger and healthier foundation from which to coach for the rest of the season.
“I have had chest pains and other troubling symptoms, compounded by a loss of sleep, throughout the year. Despite a battery of tests, there have been no conclusions as to what the exact issue is. While I have tried to work through it, the last thing I want is for it to affect the team.
“I am going to use this time to focus on a prescribed routine and medication, which has previously been difficult to start in the midst of a season. My goal is to come out of it a stronger and healthier version of myself so I can continue to lead this team to the Championship we are all working towards. I greatly appreciate Dan Gilbert, Koby Altman, our medical team and the organization’s support throughout.”
There were multiple instances where Lue either missed part of a half or an entire game this season. The symptoms are definitely not to be taken lightly. According to a report by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski and Dave McMenamin, Lue attempted to return to the bench Saturday night in Chicago but the team didn’t allow him to. Evidently, Lue was “coughing up blood” some nights.
Seeing it first hand after postgame press conferences, Lue was visibly exhausted and stress could likely be playing a part. He’s been fighting through the tough times the team has been going through and avoided stepping away twice this season.
Charlotte Hornets head coach Steve Clifford had his own battle with health problems earlier this season and temporarily left the team for those reasons. He has attempted to reach out to Lue, a friend and former player of his.
Other head coaches around the league—Joe Prunty, Steve Kerr, and Luke Walton—have all gone to bat for Lue when discussing the rigors of an NBA schedule and the toll it takes.
Altman supports the decision for Lue to get to the bottom of what’s going on.
“We know how difficult these circumstances are for Coach Lue and we support him totally in this focused approach to addressing his health issues,” he said.
LeBron James is glad that Lue is going to take some time to get better.
“Obviously, health is the most important with everything in life,” James said Monday after shootaround. “Not surprised by it at all. I knew he was struggling, but he was never not himself. He was just dealing with it the best way he could, but he was never not himself when he was around.
“It doesn’t matter what’s going on here. We play a great sport, our coaches get to coach a great sport, and you guys get to cover a great sports. But health is most important right now and that’s what our coach is doing right now and we’re all in favor for it.”
The latest piece of news is a blow to the already injury-ridden Cleveland group. Assistant coach Larry Drew will take over duties until Lue returns.
The good news for the Cavaliers is that Kevin Love can potentially return to the mix as soon as Monday night against Milwaukee.
NBA Daily: Calderón’s Late NBA Start
Jose Calderón might be the only player in the league who didn’t grow up dreaming of playing in the NBA.
There are a lot of different ways to get to the NBA, but most of them involve lifelong scouting and an unceasing dream to play in the world’s premier basketball league.
Cleveland Cavaliers guard José Calderón didn’t really have either of those things.
“I never even thought of the NBA when I was a kid,” Calderón told Basketball Insiders. “I grew up in a small town in Spain, and I played basketball because my dad played and I loved it. I was having fun, always playing with the older guys because I was good at that age, but I never really even thought about playing any sort of professional basketball.”
Having grown up in Villanueva de la Serena, Spain, Calderón watched his father play for Doncel La Serena, which was his hometown team as a child. He was something of a prodigy, having attended practices and games with his father from a young age, and as burgeoning teenager he left home to play professionally for the lower-level Vitoria-Gasteiz team.
“They wanted to sign me at 13 years old, and we didn’t even know that they could sign people that young,” Calderón remembers. “So I did that, and I tried to get better. I tried to advance into the older clubs, but I never really did think about the NBA at all, honestly.”
That changed as he got older, though, especially after Spain finished 5th in the 2002 FIBA World Championship and Calderón started to get some stateside recognition.
“After that summer, [my agent and I] got a call from Milwaukee asking about my situation, and asked would I think about coming to play over here. It was sort of a let’s-see-what-happens sort of situation, but I couldn’t at that time because I was under contract. That was the first time I was really approached.”
As his teammates from the Spanish National Team made their way to the NBA, Calderón grew increasingly intrigued.
“Pau Gasol obviously opened a lot of doors for us,” he said. “Raul Lopez came, too. I was just playing basketball, though. I didn’t know anything about scouts. Later, when we started to get the calls from Toronto, I started to realize how possible it really was. That’s when I thought, ‘Hey, why not?’”
Despite being eligible for a few drafts in a row, Calderón never did get drafted, which was fine by him. Growing up the way he did, Calderón never had any dreams of his hearing his name called by Commissioner Stern, so playing his way through most of his deal with TAU Vitoria was no big deal for him. He could take or leave the NBA.
“Not getting drafted was the perfect situation for me,” he said. “In my satiation, coming from Europe, I was already playing professionally for a good team and making some good money. That was perfect for me at the time, and I was happy to be a free agent at 23, choosing where I was going to sign instead of going in the second round and having to play for one team.”
He signed with the Raptors in 2005 since they were the most aggressive in recruiting him to the NBA. As a 23-year-old rookie, he wasn’t overwhelmed physically the way a lot of rookies are, but he did find his new league challenging in other ways.
“The hardest part was just having to start over,” he said. “You start over from zero. It doesn’t matter if the other players know you or don’t, you have to prove yourself all over again. You could be the MVP of Europe, but to get respect in the NBA you have to gain it on the court.”
The talent differential was immediately noticeable, as well.
“There are so many guys out there that are better than you. It’s not just like a guy or two; there are six, seven guys on the floor any given time that are better than you.”
That meant making some changes in the way that Calderón played. He was asked to do a lot more offensively for his EuroLeague team. Playing with so many talented scorers completely changed his approach.
“I went from taking 20 shots a game to doing something else, and as a point guard in the NBA I had to approach that point guard role even more, to make those guys respect my game, to make them want to play with me. I had to be able to pass the ball, to do something different from all the other players, so I became a fast-first point guard to make sure we always played as a team. That’s how I get to where I am as a professional.”
Now 36 years old, Calderón is one of the league’s oldest players, making it easy for him to look back at where he came from to transform into the player he is today.
“I’ve grown so much, but I was lucky to be given the opportunity,” he said. “When you arrive from Europe, whether you’re good or bad, it doesn’t always matter if you don’t have the opportunity. Toronto gave me the opportunity to play 20 minutes a night, and that’s a lot. I made a lot of mistakes, but they let me play through those mistakes. All those little things added up for me, and I learned a lot.”
He owns two silver medals and a bronze in the three Olympics he’s participated in over the course of his career, as well as gold medals in FIBA World Cup and EuroBasket, but he’s never won an NBA championship. Joining up with LeBron James improves those odds, but that’s the thing that would really put an exclamation point on an excellent career.
Calderón could have stayed in Spain and been fine. He jokes that while the NBA has been very good to him, he and his family could have stayed in Europe and he could have made good money playing basketball there. He’s been happy with his career, though, however unorthodox his journey here, and he hopes his most prestigious accolades are yet to come.
Emeka Okafor Impacting 2018 Western Conference Playoff Race
Sidelined for several years with a neck injury, Emeka Okafor is back in the NBA and helping the Pelicans fight for a playoff seed.
When DeMarcus Cousins ruptured his Achilles tendon, most people in and around the league assumed the New Orleans Pelicans would eventually fall out of the Western Conference Playoff race. It was a fair assumption. In 48 games this season, Cousins averaged 25.2 points, 12.9 rebounds, 5.4 assists, 1.6 steals and 1.6 blocks while shooting 47 percent from the field and 35.4 percent from beyond the arc.
Anthony Davis and the Pelicans had other plans. Davis put the team on his shoulders, played at an elite level and, arguably, has forced his way into the MVP race. Behind Davis’ efforts, the Pelicans are currently 39-29, have won 7 of their last 10 games and hold the sixth seed in the Western Conference.
While Davis has been carrying the team since the loss of Cousins, he has received significant help from his teammates, including Emeka Okafor.
More recent NBA fans may be less familiar with Okafor since he has been out of the league since the end of the 2012-13 season. For context, in Okafor’s last season, David Lee led the league in double-doubles, Luol Deng led the league in minutes per game and Joakim Noah made the NBA All-Defensive First Team. However, Okafor entered the NBA with a lot of excited and expectations. He was drafted second overall, right behind Dwight Howard. Okafor played in 9 relatively successful NBA seasons until being sidelined indefinitely with a herniated disc in his neck prior to the start of the 2013-14 season.
Okafor was medically cleared to play in May of last year and played in five preseason games with the Philadelphia 76ers but was ultimately waived in October, prior to the start of the regular season. However, with the injury to Cousins, the Pelicans were in need of help at the center position and signed Okafor to a 10-day contract. Okafor earned a second 10-day contract and ultimately landed a contract for the rest of this season.
Okafor has played in 14 games so far for the Pelicans has is receiving limited playing time thus far. Despite the lack of playing time, Okafor is making his presence felt when he is on the court. Known as a defensive specialist, Okafor has provided some much needed rim protection and has rebounded effectively as well.
He has been [helpful] since the day he got here,” Pelicans head coach Alvin Gentry said about Okafor after New Orleans’ recent victory over the Los Angeles Clippers. “I think his rim protection has been great. But, he’s capable of making a little jump shot and you can see that today. But just having him in there, his presence there has been great.”
Okafor has never been known as an elite offensive player, but he did average 15.1 points per game in his rookie season and has shown glimpses of an improved jump shot in his limited run with the Pelicans.
“You know, I’m happy it’s falling,” Okafor said after he helped seal the victory over the Clippers. “Kept in my back pocket. I was invoked to use it, so figured I’d dust it off and show it.”
Okafor was then asked if he has any other moves in his back pocket that he hasn’t displayed so far this season.
“A little bit. I don’t want to give it all,” Okafor told Basketball Insiders. “There’s a couple shots still. But we’ll see what opportunities unveil themselves coming forward.”
Okafor will never have the elite offensive skill set that Cousins has but his overall contributions have had a positive impact for a New Orleans squad that was desperate for additional production after Cousin’s Achilles tear.
“It’s impossible to replace a guy that was playing at an MVP level,” Gentry said recently. “For us, Emeka’s giving us something that we desperately missed with Cousins. The same thing with Niko. Niko’s given us something as far as spacing the floor. Between those guys, they’ve done the best they could to fill in for that. But we didn’t expect anyone to fill in and replace what Cousins was doing for us.”
Okafor is currently averaging 6.2 points, 5.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocks per game while shooting 54.5 percent from the field. While his averages don’t jump off the page, it should be noted that his per minute production is surprisingly impressive. Per 36 minutes, Okafor is averaging 13.4 points, 11.8 rebounds and 2.9 blocks. Those numbers are nearly identical to his averages from the 2012-13 season, though he is averaging twice as many blocks (up from 1.4).
The Pelicans have exceeded expectations and currently are ahead of teams like the San Antonio Spurs, Utah Jazz, Denver Nuggets and Los Angeles Clippers in the extremely tight Western Conference Playoff race. Okafor is doing more than could have reasonably been expected when he first signed with the Pelicans, though he would be the first person to pass the credit toward Anthony Davis.
When asked about Davis’ recent play, Okafor enthusiastically heaped praise toward his superstar teammate.
“It’s to the point where it’s like, ‘Alright, he has 40 doesn’t he?’ It’s impressive,” Okafor said about Davis. But it’s becoming so commonplace now.
He’s just an impressive individual. He gives it all. He’s relentless. And then off the court too, he’s a very, very nice kid. He really takes the leadership role seriously. I’m even more impressed with that part.”
There is still plenty of regular season basketball to be played and even a two-game losing streak can drastic consequences. But the Pelicans have proved to be very resilient and Okafor is confident in the team’s potential and outlook.
“I think we’re all hitting a good grove here and we’re playing very good basketball, said Okafor.”
Whether the Pelicans make the playoffs or not, it’s great to see Okafor back in the NBA and playing meaningful minutes for a team in the playoff race.