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NBA AM: Who Is Calling Who?

Does it really matter who initiates the call?

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Does It Matter Who Called Who?:  Nets General Manager Billy King told the team’s website pre-game show that his club was not the ones making calls on their roster, rather his club was receiving calls. King was attempting to defuse the notion that he was trying to dump guys, namely guards Joe Johnson and Deron Williams along with big man Brook Lopez. Which begs the question: Does it matter who is making the call?

The Nets have been actively engaged in conversations with other teams about all three players. They have pondered deals with all three players and have almost traded Brook Lopez twice according to sources close to that process, only to back away at the last minute because the return on Lopez wasn’t substantial enough.

During the run up to the February 19 NBA trade deadline teams will at one point have at least one conversation with their counterparts. This is normal business. This is how it’s done every year.

Are you happy with your roster? Are you looking to do anything? Is there something you are looking for?

These are common questions that are tossed out to start up a conversation.

Teams know who other teams are open to moving, so the chit chat is designed to gauge interest and move the ball a little further down the field.

Some teams will be more open about their pursuits. “What do you think it would take for us to get Player X?”. That initial response is rarely what gets a deal done. It’s the game of back and forth and “let me think about it” that ensues from there.

For the most part a typical NBA teams is going to make three dozen or more calls over the next 16 days, with the volume and frequency of conversations picking up after the All-Star Break.

This is not an indicator of desperation to make a deal, just simply how things work.

As one team executive joked recently, the NBA is a league motivated by deadlines. While some deals happen out of necessity earlier in the season, there is a sense that waiting until the 11th hour can somehow create a better deal and a lot of teams try to exploit that.

Last season we saw eight transactions take place at the deadline with Spencer Hawes being traded to Cleveland and Danny Granger being moved to Philadelphia serving as the two biggest deals.

In 2013 the deadline yielded 12 transactions, some of the notable moves then were Marcus Morris being traded to Phoenix, Tobias Harris being traded to Orlando in exchange for J.J. Redick, Hakim Warrick was traded from Charlotte in exchange for Josh McRoberts.

Most of the deadline deals that take place are often more accounting related as luxury tax teams try and trim costs, while other teams try and loosen up the end of their bench for either development purposes or a stretch run to the playoffs.

Teams have until 3pm on February 19 to complete a trade, which requires submitting the details of the trade to the NBA and scheduling a trade call. The physical call to ratify a trade can happen after 3pm, however all the details must be submitted prior to that deadline.

So while GMs like King are going to try and downplay who called who in the march up to the deadline, who initiated the call may not be nearly as immaterial as how aggressive or far along the conversations are.

There is a sense that Brooklyn has a workable offer from the Oklahoma City on Lopez, but is simply holding out for a better offer. There have been numerous reports that the Nets may also have a deal for Johnson with the Charlotte Hornets, but that seems to be more talk than substance. There were reports prior to his most recent injury, that Deron Williams and his contract could be headed to Houston, however with Rockets big man Dwight Howard on the shelf for what could be a month or more to a knee injury, the Rockets may be re-thinking their stance.

The Nets don’t seem to have a shortage of situations to explore, so does it really matter who called who – the Nets are talking now and King said as much last night.

John Lucas It Is:  In speaking with Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press, Pistons president and head coach Stan Van Gundy said his club explored a number of options in the trade market before settling in on a 10-day contract for free agent guard John Lucas III, but said his team unwillingness to take on long-term money sort of killed bigger moves.

“We knew that, in a group of guys who were free agents, John was a guy we wanted,” Van Gundy said. “Again, (general manager Jeff Bower) was looking at some trade possibilities … a couple of them could have materialized, but it would have meant us taking on money for next year, which we weren’t willing to do. And trades for guys at the end of their contracts didn’t materialize.”

The Pistons were linked to a number of player including Kings point guard Ramon Session and HEAT backup guard Norris Cole, but were unwilling to part with the assets necessary to land either option.

There was a sense that maybe the Pistons would swing for Knicks guard Jose Calderon, but his remaining two years and some $15 million in contract money have made him tough to move for the Knicks.

Lucas told reporters that he was not promised anything beyond his current 10-day deal by the Pistons, however they can issue a second deal if they choose to! which would allow the Pistons to continue to look at the marketplace around the trade deadline before committing to a balance of the season deal with Lucas.

Lucas has logged time with four NBA teams and has played in 216 NBA games. He has also played in the D-League, Italy, Spain and China.

Move Along, Nothing To See Here:  The Memphis Grizzlies have won seven straight games. Did you notice? With all the talk of the Atlanta Hawks setting records and the Cleveland Cavaliers finding their groove, the Grizz have slid into the second chair in the West and are playing some really good basketball.

Since trading for forward Jeff Green on January 12, the Grizzlies have lost just one game in the 11 since the trade, have won six of them by double figures and three of them by 18 or more points. They drubbed the Denver Nuggets by 30 last Thursday.

Looking at the Grizzlies upcoming schedule – at Utah on Wednesday, at Minnesota on Friday, home against Atlanta on Sunday, home against Brooklyn on February 10 before rounding out the pre-All-Star schedule at Oklahoma City who they dropped by 11 points on Saturday. Could the Grizz run the table? The Atlanta is the toughest matchup on the board but is it conceivable that the Grizzlies go into the All-Star break on a 12-game winning streak?

Maybe.

This year’s All-Star Break was expanded to allow for all the All-Star participants to have some time off as well, so the Grizzlies will have 10 days between their final game versus the Thunder and their first post All-Star game on February 22.

So not only could Memphis be rolling into All-Star, they could come out on the other side rather well rested.

The Grizzlies have 34 games left on their schedule, which includes 15 home and 19 away games. That includes 18 versus teams with a record above .500 and 23 versus Western Conference teams.

If the 2015 NBA Playoffs started today, the Grizzlies would draw the San Antonio Spurs in the first round, the Grizzlies currently lead the regular season series versus San Antonio 2-1.

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Steve Kyler is the Editor and Publisher of Basketball Insiders and has covered the NBA and basketball for the last 17 seasons.

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