When the New Orleans Pelicans decided not to deal power forward Ryan Anderson prior to the February 18 trade deadline, many executives around the NBA were surprised. That’s because sources close to the situation say that Anderson is prepared to hear pitches from other teams as an unrestricted free agent this summer and, at the moment, seems to be leaning toward leaving New Orleans.
Sources close to Anderson have said that the power forward is strongly considering a change of scenery and a fresh start with a new team, and there will be a long list of suitors trying to sign the stretch-four.
Prior to the deadline, sources say that the Pelicans received plenty of calls regarding Anderson. Teams that registered some level of interest in the forward included the Washington Wizards (who eventually acquired Markieff Morris), Detroit Pistons (who eventually acquired Tobias Harris), Cleveland Cavaliers (who eventually acquired Channing Frye), Los Angeles Clippers (who eventually acquired Jeff Green), Sacramento Kings and Phoenix Suns among others.
Reports have indicated that Anderson will command a ton of money this summer – perhaps even a maximum contract – since teams are increasingly looking for big men who can shoot the three ball and rebound. Not to mention, with the salary cap skyrocketing, as many as 17 teams could have the available cap space to offer a max deal to a free agent (and there won’t be 17 stars available on the market).
For what it’s worth, Anderson is trying not to turn his looming free agency into a distraction and is saying all of the right things when asked about his future.
“Obviously that’s 21 games from now. That’s a situation that I’ll approach then,” Anderson told Justin Verrier of ESPN. “It’s not something I can even think about right now. … Although I know you guys want an answer right now [laughs], but I don’t have one for you. I really don’t. Anything can happen, really. Anything can happen. I’ve never been a part of free agency, an unrestricted free agent. I don’t know what it’s like. I don’t know what it’s going to be like. Don’t know who’s going come into play – at all. It’s definitely something I’ll approach then.”
When asked if he’s talked with Pelicans general manager Dell Demps or executive vice president of basketball operations Mickey Loomis about free agency, he admitted he hasn’t.
”No conversations at all about it,” Anderson told John Reid of NOLA.com. ”Obviously I think they are in the same boat, so many things can happen they may have multiple pieces they are thinking about. A lot of stuff that I don’t know about obviously that they talk about behind closed doors. So I haven’t communicated at all with them.”
The 27-year-old has spent four seasons in New Orleans and this season has averaged an impressive 16.9 points and 5.9 rebounds off of the bench. He has shot 37.6 percent from three-point range on 5.4 attempts per game – the skill that makes him so attractive to teams.
While Anderson has posted impressive numbers during his time with the Pelicans, the team has battled injuries every year. Anderson, Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon and others have been sidelined, which hasn’t allowed the group to play to their full potential.
“As a team, obviously we’ve gone through a lot. Every year our group has gone through a lot. I’ve seen everything, everything in these four years here,” Anderson told ESPN. “This was another injury-prone year, another without Tyreke. Eric missed a lot of the year. We missed him here. Anthony’s been out a few games. Jrue. That’s been tough, but that’s something you can’t control.
“And I think that’s the frustrating part about it. You can’t control it. It’s part of the game, guys get hurt. Unfortunately, it’s just another season where we’ve had to fight through that and guys have had to step up. I think a lot of guys have, and guys have played well and played their hearts out. At the end of the day, it would really benefit this group to have everyone healthy. We haven’t really fully seen what this group can do for a full season all healthy together. And that’s tough. Looking back right now, that’s probably the No. 1 thing to look at. We’ve talked about that kind of thing for so long.”
This year, the Pelicans have failed to live up to expectations. They are currently 24-38, which is the fourth-worst record in the Western Conference. Entering the season, this team was projected to emerge as a legitimate contender so this campaign has been a major disappointment.
Anderson’s time in New Orleans has been difficult, so it’s completely understandable if he wants to move to a new city and get a fresh start. However, he also acknowledged that he’s had some great times with the Pelicans too.
“A lot of highs and a lot of lows,” Anderson told ESPN. “Obviously for me personally, anybody that knows my story here, I never could have imagined ever going through different things in my life, obviously. Just personal stuff, the neck injury, a lot of different things.
“For me individually, if I’m going to talk about myself, I grew up a lot over the past four years. You can’t take things too seriously. This game can frustrate you, it can get in your head, but there’s more important things in life and I think that’s definitely what it’s taught me here. But, yeah. This four years have been a big molding point in my life, I think. To really change my mind about how I think about life in general. It’s changed me outside of basketball more than it has inside of basketball.”
This will be a huge summer for Anderson, as he’s expected to receive enormous offers in July. Anderson is one of the more intriguing free agents to watch this summer, since he’s seemingly obtainable and has the skill set to significantly impact a team.
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.”
Mavs Guard Devin Harris on Personal Leave from Team
Guard Devin Harris will take an indefinite leave from the Dallas Mavericks after the tragic death of his brother, Bruce.
“I was with him yesterday and just encouraged him that when he’s ready to come on back,” coach Rick Carlisle said. “I don’t know when that will be. He can take as long as he needs.”
Source: Tim MacMahon of ESPN