Jennings Looks Like Jennings
Detroit Pistons guard Brandon Jennings played 18 minutes last night in the Pistons 115-89 win over the Orlando Magic. While the sample size for Jennings was small in terms of minutes, the production on the floor was solid with Jennings posting 17 points on 5-for-9 shooting and 3-for-4 from the three-point line. Jennings was agile and aggressive and looked every part of the NBA starter he was before his Achilles tear this time last year.
Jennings’ name has been floated around in NBA trade rumors mostly because the Pistons have found gold in guard Reggie Jackson, who they gave an enormous contract to this summer. As a result, the team does not have a very big role left for Jennings. Factor in Jennings’ pending unrestricted free agency and there has been a sense that Jennings could be the best point guard obtainable as the February 18 trade deadline approaches.
Pistons president and head coach Stan Van Gundy has tried to quell the notion that his point guard was available, and said as much again last night.
“Our plan, right now, is that Brandon can help us make a playoff push, and that’s what we’re going to do,” Van Gundy said to David Mayo of MLive.com. “That’s our plan right now. If something happens in the next five weeks, we’ll look at it. But right now, he’s a very good player who can help us, and that’s the only way we’re looking at him.”
League sources that have tried to engage the Pistons on a Jennings trade label the Pistons as lukewarm, at best, on moving Jennings primarily because Van Gundy likes the depth and change of pace Jennings provides and that the team has eyes for improvement through free agency in July and is unwilling to take on any money that would impact their 2016 salary cap position.
The belief from some around the league is that eventually the Pistons would explore moving Jennings, rather than risk losing him for nothing to unrestricted free agency. However, it seems unlikely that a deal will be made unless the offer is a knockout in favor of the Pistons. Van Gundy seems more concerned about breaking the Pistons’ six season playoff drought than getting an ending contract or draft pick in return for Jennings.
Things in the NBA change and change quickly, but what Van Gundy is saying publicly mirrors what the team is saying privately.
As things stand today the Pistons are 19-16 and have won five of their last 10 games. If the Playoffs began today, the Pistons would make the cut as the 8th seed.
There is little doubt that Jennings has trade value, especially if he continues to post games like he did last night, but it does not seem that the Pistons are nearly as interested in moving Jennings as other teams are in acquiring him.
The Elton Brand Signing
In case you missed it yesterday, the Philadelphia 76ers agreed to a deal with veteran forward Elton Brand. In a piece Brand penned for The Cauldron, he explained that he chose to return in part because he wanted to finish his NBA career on his terms, but that he also felt that he had an obligation to help some of the younger players, specifically the 76ers, find their way in the NBA in ways he had to find out on his own.
Philadelphia has been desperately searching for a few veterans that would agree to come in and mentor the younger 76er players and help them evolve into professionals. Brand was identified very early on as a prime target. Brand took his time in making a decision, ultimately deciding to sign.
The narrative here is interesting because it’s commonly believed in fan circles that pairing up a young rookie with a proven veteran should happen all the time. However, what’s neglected in this thinking is that not every veteran is willing to share their experiences and play the mentor role, especially as they get to the twilight of their career and the end of their playing days becomes more imminent.
The other part is that not all young guys are open to veterans coming in and playing big brother.
Putting two guys together does not always equal chemistry and the connections that are required to foster the learning and development that a mentor-relationship requires.
Adding Brand sounds great on paper and based on what he wrote about his reasons for returning to the NBA, he is approaching it with the right attitude. The question is will the young guys in Philly truly connect with Brand enough for him to make a difference? That’s the burning question.
Some have criticized the 76ers for not bringing in players like Brand at the start of the season, and that might be a fair criticism. The problem is when you are a team that’s going nowhere this season (like the 76ers) how desirable is that situation to a free agent?
As Brand explained in his piece, deciding to join the 76ers required some significant soul searching. It’s not easy to put your career in your pocket to play wet nurse to first and second year players. Joining the 76ers, even in training camp, would have amounted to exactly that given their desire to play the young guys and get them experience.
Hanging around for one more season in the gym isn’t always as appealing as it may sound on paper, especially if you won’t play.
It’s admirable that Brand decided to sign on, however, keep in mind the number of players that would be willing to do it and that have a resume like Brand’s is pretty small.
You Won’t Like This
It’s almost without question that Laker Nation is the loudest most vocal fan base in the NBA, especially on social media.
No trade rumor is too small; no trade combination is too outrageous. Lakers Nation is loud, proud and ready to pounce.
The problem is that’s not at all how the organization works.
As much as fans would like to see change from the franchise, whether that’s firing head coach Byron Scott, trading away all of the veterans or cashing in the young guys for a proven star. The Lakers just are not that engaged on any of those topics.
League sources labeled the Lakers stance as “looking”; they are doing the normal due diligence teams do as the deadline approaches. They apparently are not actively shopping anyone on the roster. If the right deal fell into their laps they would look at it, but it seems that the Lakers are more than ready to let this season play out and re-tool after Kobe Bryant retires.
Lakers head coach Byron Scott is safe by all accounts. Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak said the team would look at his situation in the off-season but that a change now simply wasn’t being considered or even deemed necessary to consider.
You were warned at the start of this that you wouldn’t like this piece.
As much as Laker Nation wants to see change, it does not look like the Lakers are nearly as interested in making a move as their fans are.
The vibe from the Lakers has been this is a transition year. It’s the swan song for Kobe Bryant and that unless something special falls their way, they’ll play out the season.
The Lakers are not concerned about their draft pick, which is top-three protected (if it falls outside the top-three it goes to the 76ers). Kupchak admitted recently to season-ticket holders that he vacillates on that situation but that the team has been instructed to compete as hard as they can and if the pick lands with them, it lands with them.
There are two names that other teams talk about. One is Metta World Peace, who has played pretty well for the Lakers. The other is Brandon Bass, who has a very team friendly deal worth $3 million this year with a $3.13 million Player Option for next year.
The idea of moving off Nick Young, Roy Hibbert or even Lou Williams has been labeled as unlikely from teams that have talked to the Lakers.
You never say never in this business because the right phone call tomorrow can turn a resounding “no” into an overwhelming “yes” depending on what’s offered, but the stance from the Lakers seems to be one of holding the line and that’s not going to make many in Laker Nation happy.
As things stand today, the Lakers have $23.126 million in firmly guaranteed salaries for the 2016-2017 season. That number does not include Bass’ option, the $2.155 million Qualifying Offer on Ryan Kelly, or the $1.18 million Qualifying Offer on Jordan Clarkson and Tarik Black.
Assuming the Lakers issue all the offers they can and Bass stays in his current deal, the Lakers have $31.851 million against what’s expected to be a $90 million salary cap, giving the Lakers roughly $58.149 million in cap space.
As much as fans may want to see change, preserving that cap position seems to be priority number one and that’s likely why the Lakers are sitting out of the trade market.
That could change as the deadline approaches, especially if the Lakers could offload some salary for an ending deal or two, however, today that does not seem to be very likely.
Told you, you wouldn’t like this.
More Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys on Twitter to ensure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @LangGreene, @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @SusanBible, @TommyBeer, @MokeHamilton, @JCameratoNBA, @iamdpick, @jblancartenba, @eric_saar and @CodyTaylorNBA .
Make sure to follow Basketball Insiders on Twitter at @BBallInsiders.