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NBA AM: Celtics Won’t Move Rondo At Deadline?

According to source, Rajon Rondo won’t be traded at the deadline. Greg Monroe staying put in Detroit? Kobe Bryant’s return delayed further

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Source Says It’s Highly Unlikely Rondo Moved At Trade Deadline

The 2013-14 NBA trade deadline is set for 3:00 p.m. (ET) on February 20, which is roughly just three weeks away. The buildup to the deadline will undoubtedly be filled with a plethora of rumors floating in the media, well rehearsed cliché answers from players on the trading block and executives around the league tirelessly working the phone lines behind the scenes.

While the number of deals completed at the deadline rarely matches the hype in the weeks leading up to the frenzy, this year’s crop of players to watch will continue to make things interesting.

One of the marquee names who has routinely surfaced in trade rumors this season is Boston Celtics point guard Rajon Rondo. The four-time All-Star recently returned to action after suffering a torn ACL in January 2013, but has long been considered one of the Celtics’ prime trade chips during their ongoing rebuilding project.

However, a source with direct knowledge of the situation has informed Basketball Insiders that the Celtics have demonstrated little activity as it relates to potentially moving Rondo at the deadline. The team has stopped short of giving Rondo a no-trade guarantee, but has made it clear it would take a substantial offer for the team to deal away its floor general.

According to the source, the New York Knicks have been the team with the strongest interest in potentially acquiring Rondo from the Celtics as the deadline nears. The Knicks’ interest should come as no surprise as the team has endured their own struggles at point guard with the trio of Raymond Felton, Beno Udrih and Pablo Prigioni underachieving. However, the Celtics have no interest in the Knicks’ current assets at the moment.

Rondo has appeared in six contests since returning from injury and is still attempting to regain his form posting averages of 6.7 points and 5.7 assists on just 28 percent shooting from the floor.

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Boston Globe last week the team had been engaged in discussions with Rondo on a contract extension but the guard turned down the overture. Rondo’s refusal to sign an extension at this time came as no surprise because of how the Collective Bargaining Agreement limits the value of extensions. Come July when they’re able to offer him a three year extension instead of two, which is all they can offer right now, talks will be much more meaningful.

If things stay on its current course, the Celtics (15-32) are currently headed to the draft lottery. Here are some of the team’s draft assets in 2014:

2014 — Owed first-rounder (top-14 protected through 2015, otherwise becomes 2015 and 2016 second-rounders) from Philadelphia 76ers (Arnett Moultrie, Joel Anthony)

2014 — Owed first-rounder from Brooklyn Nets (Kevin Garnett swap) — will be lesser of theirs and Atlanta Hawks pick (Joe Johnson)

2014 — Owe second-rounder to Dallas Mavericks (Kelly Olynyk)

Pistons Not Actively Shopping Greg Monroe?

To say things haven’t gone according to plan for the Detroit Pistons this season would be an understatement. Pistons owner Tom Gores publicly stated before the season began he would like to see the franchise return to the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

As a result, president of basketball operations Joe Dumars added two talented players to the roster in Josh Smith (free agency) and Brandon Jennings (trade). But while the team remains in the hunt for a low Eastern Conference playoff seed, the on court product has been one plagued by night to night inconsistency.

Smith, who the club invested over $50 million in free agency last summer, has routinely struggled adjusting to playing small forward on a full-time basis – particularly on the perimeter. The Pistons envisioned Smith playing small forward with Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond manning the power forward and center slots. The trio hasn’t worked well together, particularly on the defensive end of the floor. But offensively you can also see signs of ineffectiveness.

Smith is shooting a woeful 24 percent from three-point range on the season. The Pistons as a unit rank last in the league in three-point shooting at 31 percent.

As the trade deadline approaches the team is expected to explore the market in order to strengthen their perimeter attack. The team’s most notable trade chip has long been rumored to be Monroe, who is set to be a restricted free agent this summer.

But according to a recent report by ESPN’s Marc Stein, sources say the Pistons are reportedly telling interested parties in acquiring Monroe that the emerging forward isn’t on the market at this time.

Monroe figures to continue surfacing in trade rumors up until the deadline as team’s try to wait out Dumars’ current stance of holding firm on parting with a talented asset.

Lakers’ Bryant Still Weeks Away From Returning

The Los Angeles Lakers (16-30) will likely miss the playoffs this season for the first time since the 2005 campaign. The unit has suffered from a rash of injuries throughout the season and has likely dug itself a hole to deep to dig out of in the competitive Western Conference standings.

All-Star guard Kobe Bryant’s absence from the lineup is the primary driver in the Lakers’ recent demise. The guard returned to action earlier this season, after suffering an Achilles injury in the 2013 campaign, but played just six contests before suffering a left tibial plateau fracture.

While Bryant is expected to return to action at some point this season, the team recently announced the guard could be out until late February or early March.

According to the team’s press release, Bryant was examined by team physician Dr. Steve Lombardo prior to Tuesday’s game and evidence of pain and swelling are still prevalent in his ailing left knee. The Lakers say Bryant will be examined again in three weeks and he will continue a regimen of non-weight bearing exercises, which is mostly of working out on a stationary bike moving forward.

Bryant averaged 13.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 6.3 assists in just under 30 minutes per game this season.

Lang Greene is a senior NBA writer for Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA for the last 10 seasons

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NBA veterans are offseason targets for LeBron James and Lakers

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From Bleacher Report’s Jake Fischer, the reporter mentioned, “Lakers have a ton of veteran-type players ready and interested to come sign on minimum deals.” Now, this is not necessarily breaking news near the end of July, but this gives fans a reason to believe that Los Angeles is going all in this offseason to win their eighteenth championship next season. Concerning trade rumor speculation, the Trail Blazers, Kings, Wizards, Lakers, and Suns have all been involved and mentioned by NBA analysts across the Internet.

LeBron James is turning 37-years-old this December, and Anthony Davis suffered a few injuries last season, such as a strained calf and groin. Davis is a 9-year NBA veteran, but of course, him and James are not getting any younger. As they continue to age, these players will be placed at a greater risk of sustaining more injuries. The organization will need all the fire power they can acquire this offseason, if they hope to remain at the top of the competition in the Western Conference.

According to another report by Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer, the Los Angeles Lakers have “stepped up their efforts” in their pursuit of Kings‘ shooting guard Buddy Hield by including the No. 22 pick to an existent trade deal that would also be comprised of Montrezl Harrell and either Kyle Kuzma or Kentavious Caldwell-Pope. Harrell has a player option this offseason, and he may even be interested in playing in Sacramento.

Sources say he has strong connections with Kings’ developmental coach Rico Hines. On November 22, 2020, the 27-year-old center/power forward signed as a free agent with the Lakers. The contract he signed was a two-year, $19 million deal. Regarding the trade rumors, Harrell reacted on Twitter tweeting, “Lmaoo this is wild man!”

Last season on the Lakers, Harrell averaged 13.5 points, 6.2 rebounds, and 1.1 assists in 69 games. In 71 games played in the 2020-21 NBA season, Hield averaged 16.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, and 3.6 assists. The 28-year-old Bahamian also shot 40.6 percent from the field last season. On October 21, 2019, Hield signed a four-year, $94 million contract extension with the Kings. He will earn $22.4 million next season.

This news about Hield comes one week after the story broke concerning Wizards’ guard Russell Westbrook’s potential trade to the Lakers. The trade was pertaining to a Westbrook sign-and-trade for Kyle Kuzma, Dennis Schroder, and Talen Horton-Tucker. Suns’ guard Chris Paul was another mentioned player target on the Lakers’ offseason list. In 65 games played last season, Westbrook averaged 22.2 points, 11.5 rebounds, and 11.7 assists. The 13-year NBA veteran led the league in turnovers last season (312), but he also has the most career triple-doubles (184) and the highest assist percentage in the league (48.6 percent).

Westbrook is also projected to lead the league in assists and triple-doubles in the upcoming season as well. He finished his performance last season with 38 triple-doubles, the second most in a season in his NBA career. On December 2, 2020, the 32-year-old point guard was traded from the Houston Rockets to the Washington Wizards for John Wall and a 2023 first-round pick. However, Westbrook is set to earn $44.2 million in the 2021-22 season. Lakers GM Rob Pelinka will have to make a big decision on this one.

Additionally, Chris Paul, who finished third in assists per game (8.9) last season, is set to earn $44.2 million in the upcoming season, too. This amount is recognized as Paul’s player option. Either way, the organization might have to overpay for their talent. Referencing Spotrac, the current contracts of Davis and James consume nearly 63 percent of the Lakers’ total salary cap. If Kuzma and Caldwell-Pope get traded, this will clear up $26 million of cap space.

Plus, Harrell’s salary represents almost 8 percent of the team’s total salary cap. With all things considered, the Lakers are much better off working out a trade with the Kings to acquire Hield rather than Paul or Westbrook. Team chemistry is a notable factor in this discussion, and LeBron might not be on board with an isolation-style player, similar to that of Westbrook. Head coach Frank Vogel hinted back in earlier January that randomness was the key to the team’s offensive scheme.

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Mike D’Antoni to step away as Nets assistant coach

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On Wednesday evening, the Brooklyn Nets organization announced that assistant coach Mike D’Antoni would not be returning to Steve Nash’s coaching staff for the 2021-22 NBA season. Coach D’Antoni is deciding to step down from his position after one season spent with the organization. The reason D’Antoni is deciding to leave the team is unknown. In late June, D’Antoni met with the Portland Trail Blazers for the vacant head-coaching position; he was interviewed twice.

From ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the 70-year-old veteran coach is still seeking to pursue another job as head coach. Coach Nash commented on the story stating, “I will forever be grateful for his guidance and will carry on a lifetime of lessons from the many years we’ve spent together. Our players and staff all benefited from this time in Brooklyn and we wish Mike, Laurel, and their family the very best in what lies ahead.” This news has personally shocked Nash, considering their history together.

In his 16-year NBA head coaching career, D’Antoni’s W-L record is 718-555 (.564). Despite never winning an NBA championship, D’Antoni won the 2005 Coach of the Year award with the Phoenix Suns when Nash was his star point guard, and he won his second award while coaching the Houston Rockets in 2017. The 2004-05 Suns finished 62-20 (.756), ranking first in the Pacific Division and first overall in the Western Conference. However, the Suns went on to lose four games to one against the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference Finals.

The 2017-18 Rockets ended their season 65-17 (.793), ranking first in the Southwest Division and first in the Western Conference Finals. Though, once again, D’Antoni’s team came up short, losing in Game 7 versus the Golden State Warriors in the Western Conference Finals. Coach D’Antoni was also the NBA All-Star Game head coach in 2007 and 2018. Moreover, the Nets lost another assistant coach this offseason after the Boston Celtics hired Ime Udoka to become their next head coach. On July 9, 2021, the Nets hired former Trail Blazers assistant coach David Vanterpool to their coaching staff.

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NBA Draft: Déjà Vu in Detroit

Tomorrow night the Detroit Pistons will make the first overall selection in the NBA Draft for just the second time in team history. They selected a Hall of Famer with that pick 51 years ago. Chad Smith details why it might happen again, this time with a player that resembles a guy that was once the face of their franchise.

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It has been 18 years since the Detroit Pistons had a top-three pick in the NBA Draft. Unfortunately, it was arguably the worst selection in the history of the event as they took Darko Milicic second overall ahead of Carmelo Anthony, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade. It was a night that everyone in Detroit would love to forget, and now they might be able to do just that.

Detroit will kick off the 2021 NBA Draft on Thursday night in what has been labeled as a loaded draft class, especially at the top. The last time the Pistons had the top overall pick, they did well by selecting Hall of Fame center Bob Lanier out of St. Bonaventure in the 1970 draft. The organization is hopeful that history will repeat itself.

Cade Cunningham is the consensus number one pick this year, which speaks volumes when considering the other candidates. While Detroit has not publicly hinted that they will take Cunningham, it would be an absolute shocker if he does not end up in the Motor City. It is a place that Cunningham has already grown fond of.

Should things go according to plan on Thursday night, there could be some déjà vu in Detroit. Aside from the Darko debacle, the last top-three selection by the franchise came in 1994 when they took Grant Hill out of Duke. The physical attributes are quite clear. Both players are listed at 6’ 8” tall and around 220 pounds. Just as their build is the same, so too is their demeanor on and off of the court.

Both Cunningham and Hill have similar playing styles and share many of the same strengths and weaknesses. They have incredible vision and passing ability that allows them to create for teammates. They use their size and strength against smaller defenders near the basket and are incredibly versatile with the ball in their hands. They are able to initiate offense from anywhere on the floor and have a complete all-around game that includes defense.

Hill recorded 29 triple-doubles in his career. That is something that Detroit hopes to get out of the 19-year old playmaker. Unlike many situations where the top overall pick finds himself on a team lacking talent, the Pistons have done a marvelous job of transforming their roster under Troy Weaver. Most of their core is already under contract for next season and will be earning less than $6 million.

Cunningham will join Jerami Grant and Mason Plumlee, as well as two All-Rookies in Saddiq Bey and Isaiah Stewart. With Killian Hayes missing much of his rookie season due to injury, the Pistons have plenty of talent surrounding their new floor general. With some more talent and veteran leadership possibly coming onboard during free agency, Detroit should be able to return to the postseason next year.

As gifted as Cunningham is, he is not the most explosive athlete for his size. He won’t blow by defenders on the perimeter or leap over them for a highlight dunk, but that doesn’t stop him from attacking the basket. Like Hill, he has shown the ability to either create for teammates, create for himself, or simply finish at the rim. He makes the right reads against traps and hard hedges, making him even more difficult to defend.

The versatility is on full display whether it be on offense or defense. Cunningham’s seven-foot wingspan adds another element to his game as a physical defender with active hands. His high basketball IQ allows him to capitalize on filling passing lanes and his timing on shot-blocking. His improved jump shot has also elevated him as a true dynamic threat, scoring from all three levels.

As a Freshman at Oklahoma State, Cunningham averaged 20.1 points, 6.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.6 steals per game while shooting 44 percent from the floor. He plays under control and never looks rushed or uncomfortable. It may take him some time to adjust to the NBA game but he has all of the tools and attributes you would want a top prospect to possess.

The fit in Detroit is tailor-made for the versatile guard. Cunningham can do a little bit of everything and elevates the play of his teammates. Whether he is facilitating, scoring, or playing off the ball, his impact on the court is significant. Despite not being an elite athlete, he can initiate the offense and get his own shot when needed.

Detroit clearly lacked guard play last season, with Hayes out of the lineup. They relied upon Grant and Plumlee to fuel their offense, with the rookies filling in at times. With the addition of Cunningham and the return of Hayes, the Pistons will have a sensational young backcourt to go along with their already established frontcourt.

There is also the potential for Detroit to have one of the most improved defenses in the conference. With their length and athleticism, this young core fits right in with the culture of a blue-collar team built around defense. Much of their success will ride on the shoulders of Dwane Casey, as he returns for his fourth season in Detroit.

Both Hill and Cunningham are from Texas and their birth dates are just ten days apart. Hill spent his first six seasons in Detroit, where he enjoyed the prime years of his playing career that included the Rookie of the Year Award. Five of his seven All-Star seasons came as a member of the Pistons and he was often seen as the next great superstar.

While injuries derailed his career, Hill’s journey ended with a trip to the Hall of Fame. While it is too early to put those expectations on a 19-year old, it is safe to say that the Pistons are in good hands for many years to come.

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