A Few Names Need to Come Off the Board
The 2015-16 NBA trade deadline gets closer – 24 days and counting if you are keeping track at home. The trade market has been relatively quiet, and that does not look to be changing any time soon. However, with the lack of trade chatter around teams, fans eager to see movement have started flooding social media with speculation and trade combinations that are simply not based in reality. They also continue to include names that are not going anywhere.
Carmelo Anthony, New York Knicks
When Carmelo Anthony opted to stay in New York with the Knicks, one of the things his camp pushed for was a no-trade provision in his contract. Anthony wanted control of his future, and the Knicks were willing to give him that in exchange for his signature on a deal. As a result, the Knicks have zero influence on trading Anthony, and unless he made it clear he’d want a change, the Knicks can do very little about it going forward.
Knicks sources were adamant that there have been zero conversations internally about trying to convince Anthony to consider a trade, and that as things stand the Knicks are pleased with where they are with Anthony and with the emergence of rookie Kristaps Porzingis. There is a growing sense that adding the right point guard either in trade or in free agency could turn the team in the direction they want to go and that’s competing in the playoffs and maybe competing for a championship.
Anthony has a large number of the off-the-court business ventures in New York, and given how much his side pushed for the no-trade clause, no one in the equation believes Anthony would consider a trade. Until that changes, there is no point in even contemplating what Anthony could return in trade as he isn’t going to agree to a trade anyway.
That might change at some point in the future, but as things stand today Anthony is about as unobtainable as they come.
DeMarcus Cousins, Sacramento Kings
The Sacramento Kings have won five straight games, seven of their last 10. So far in 2016, DeMarcus Cousins is averaging 32.5 points, 13.7 rebounds and 2.9 assists per game, logging arguably some of the best basketball of his career.
If that’s not enough reason for the Kings to laugh at incoming trade calls involving Cousins, let’s add this: Ownership, specifically majority owner Vivek Ranadive, has made it clear internally that Cousins is untouchable in trade.
As the Kings continue to move toward the opening of their new downtown arena the Golden 1 Center in October, Cousins is a central figure in their marketing and sales plans around the new building.
League sources continue to say that Kings president Vlade Divac shuts down conversations about Cousins at ‘hello,’ and that a Cousins deal is a complete non-starter in Sacramento.
Dwight Howard, Houston Rockets
As much as Dwight Howard’s name was kicked around earlier in the season, league sources continue to say that Houston is not looking at Howard trades and that the odds of Howard being moved are so incredibly small it’s not worth exploring.
Let’s be clear if the Oklahoma City Thunder showed up with a Kevin Durant deal, the Rockets would move Howard in a heartbeat, but that deal is not coming and neither is a Howard trade.
The Rockets have known since the day they landed Howard that he would be a free agent this July, and they have been planning for a new contract for Howard since they acquired him. That does not mean the Rockets will give Howard the expected $30 million maximum salary that he is eligible to receive as a free agent, but the Rockets are prepared to do a new long-term deal with the big man this summer.
Trading Howard at this point is not in the plans. There is a risk that Howard could walk away for a more lucrative package elsewhere, but there continues to be a sense around the Rockets that Howard wants to remain a Rocket and that there is a deal to be reached in July.
Trading Howard now ensures the Rockets take a step backwards, and league sources say because of the huge financial commitment it will take to secure Howard in July, his value in trade is extremely low and that’s before you consider his team-high $22.359 million salary.
Al Horford, Atlanta Hawks
Like Howard, Al Horford will be an unrestricted free agent in July. Horford also becomes eligible for a salary starting at what could be north of $25 million per season, which becomes a tough decision for the Hawks.
As things stand today the Hawks are the four seed in the East, but not nearly the dominant and cohesive team they were this time last year. Horford is posting reasonably strong numbers this season, but is off his career averages in a pretty significant way, posting 14.4 points and 7.5 rebounds so far in 2016; not exactly max-contract type numbers.
Hawks sources found the notion of trading Horford laughable, pointing to how important he was to the team dynamic in Atlanta and that he’s a core guy in Mike Budenholzer’s system.
There is a sense among NBA insiders that a hefty offer could steal Horford away from the Hawks, especially if the team continues to regress from their record setting form from last season.
As things stand today, the Hawks have $52.717 million in 2016 salary cap commitments, which means they could have $38 million in useable cap space in July. Horford’s salary cap hold is $18 million, so the Hawks could have roughly $20 million in cap space to spend and then exceed the cap to retain Horford.
The question facing the Hawks is do they want to pay market value for a long-term max level contract with Horford in July? As things stand today, it seems the Hawks are staying to course with Horford and believing they have the means to retain him in July – making him a name you can take off the board.
While historically there have been some franchise-changing deadline deals, most of the deals that have gotten done over the last five years have been more cap management in nature. It’s possible a big-name player hits the trade market, but the general consensus from league sources is that if there are a flurry of deals, they will be smaller in nature and that the odds of a franchise-level player becoming available are fairly small.
It’s Not Us
If you watched the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Bulls game on Saturday (and based on ratings many of you likely didn’t – 1.4 rating in adults 18-49 for 3.69 million viewers), during the second quarter ESPN commentators Jeff Van Gundy and Mark Jackson took issue with the editorial coverage of fired Cavs coach David Blatt.
The jist of the rant was that unnamed sources are bad, and that when coaches get fired reports try to gain favor by blasting the outgoing coach.
“Nothing is more predictable than after a coach is fired that soon after, sportswriters who are trying to curry favor with those people and trying to gain more access and more information that they immediately attack that coach’s character and competence,” Van Gundy said.
If you have followed Van Gundy’s broadcasting career, he has made a big name for himself speaking outlandishly about subjects he knows very little about. Van Gundy is a heck of a basketball coach, but listening to him talk about subjects outside the realm of basketball coaching, he often makes comments that are at best half-baked and are usually massively uninformed. That’s his broadcasting shtick and it’s worked out well for him.
The point in this space is not to try and comment on the mindset of an individual writer or reporter, but to explain – as Van Gundy does about coaching – what really happens in the process.
Let’s start with sourced materials.
Every writer in the world would love to name their source. Doing so would end debate on the veracity of a news piece and close the door on any challengers to the material being discussed. The problem is it just does not work that way.
Let’s say for example that a writer prints, “LeBron James told me he wanted David Blatt fired.” What happens next?
James gets surrounded by reporters looking for a comment on his comment. Then there are reporters who will surround James looking for a comment on the comment about the comment and the next month is about a single statement.
People with information are usually willing to share it, if they don’t have to deal with the horde that follows.
What’s amusing about Van Gundy’s chastising of the media is as a head coach, he would often share his thoughts about things in an off-the-record setting, so it is curious to see him blasting a process he himself has been part of.
There are a large number of people who talk on what is called “background,” that’s non-sourceable material to help the writer understand the dynamics of something they are writing about.
As a writer, you sometimes need to have things explained to you so you get the details right and a large number of people in the decision-making process want the details right, without being a “character” in the story.
“Background” is where a lot of the inside politics come out. The writer is not having things explained to create gossip or to be a focal point of a story, but rather to help ensure that what’s being put out there is accurate.
There are two options for people with information. They can help shape the story or they can let the story run wild. Most understand that helping shape the story on background is better than getting hit with something that’s not accurate.
So let’s get to the rumor portion of the program.
By and large rumors, do not originate from the teams that are directly involved. That’s not to say it never happens, but for the most part rumors come from sources around the process, whether that be teams that are trying to get in on a deal, agents that have players in a deal or league sources that are talking to the people making the deals.
Most credible news outlets require two independent sources before they will allow someone to run a trade rumor. Over the last few years, that process has relaxed a lot in major media because rumors are fun and they draw fan attention and the mentality is, ‘In a page view world, what’s the harm if it’s coming from a credible place?’
Van Gundy and Jackson’s criticism of sourced materials is partly fair. It would be great if every writer could name the people they are talking to, but if that happened fewer and fewer people would talk. As a writer you have a choice: You can withhold the names and get the information, or you can print names and get no information.
It’s pretty safe to say that most people want the information, assuming it was gathered in a credible and responsible way and by and large that’s exactly what the bulk of writers do. There are always outliers, voices that have a track record of not being credible, but for the most part, especially as it pertains to the Cavaliers and David Blatt, the voices involved in explained the firing are as credible as they come, as informed as they come and as connected as they come.
There were no vendettas being settled and no agendas being served, and nothing said was done to curry favor. Sometimes what’s unflattering is what happened, and if you think about it, the Cavaliers paid David Blatt roughly $10 million to go away, while having the top record in the East coming off an NBA Finals appearance. Something like that does not happen without a lot of thought and some pretty serious issues that the team felt could not be resolved. That’s unflattering. That does not make it any less true, whether it was sourced or unsourced.
That’s simply the nature of the news business.
As they say, don’t hate the player, hate the game. If more people were willing to stand behind their words, more people would be quoted.
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