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NBA AM: Who Is Touchable In Cleveland Now?

The Cavaliers are not going to panic and do something drastic, but they do need to do something and it seems they are open to it… Why Boston isn’t listening to Rondo trade talk… The Other Gasol.

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No One Is Untouchable?:  Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin created a mini-controversy this week when he candidly told Chris Haynes of The Plain Dealer that as an executive in the NBA you can’t be closed minded on the construction of your team’s roster saying: “No one is untouchable and you’re never done building a team so we’re always paying attention to what opportunities are out there.’

Well maybe not “no one”. LeBron James isn’t going anywhere, but it’s clear what the Cavaliers had hoped would be a smooth run to the NBA Finals is turning out to be anything but.

With the Cavs having played 10 games and sitting at 5-5 on the season. Things are not coming together as quickly as many were hoping. Most around the team knew the first week or so of the season was going to be a learning process, especially considering the core in Cleveland really hadn’t played much together, as guys missed preseason games for various minor injuries.

But now that the curtain is open and games are being played on the big stage, things are starting to rub the wrong way in some regards.

James has already made proclamations about the minutes he and the other core starters are playing. He is averaging the third most minutes in the NBA at 38.6 per game. He sitting just behind Reggie Jackson of the Oklahoma City Thunder, who is logging 40.2 minutes per contest on an injury ravaged Thunder team, and Bulls guard Jimmy Butler, who was tied for the most minutes last season and is again sitting at the top of the per game minutes chart at 40.3 minutes per game.

Kevin Love has said a few times now he’s thinking about his touches and how to fit into the offense. Love is shooting a career worst 38.9 percent from the field on an average of 13 attempts per game.

Love said last night after the nail biting loss to the Spurs that he knows there are points there for him.

“I’m just trying to find myself in this offense,” Love said to Chris Fedor of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. “It’s just one of those things. We’re 10 games in. I think everyone knew coming in that we would have to sacrifice. At some point we are going to need some low-post scoring and outside shooting.”

“I haven’t really said much. I’m just trying to be a part of this team as best I can to help us win. As far as getting into a rhythm it has been tough.”

Star guard Kyrie Irving has been blasted for his style of play and not being a facilitator. Despite being surrounded by more talent than at any point in his career Irving is averaging a career low five assists per game. In the 10 games the Cavs have played, Irving has logged six or more assists just four times. He chipped in just two assists last night.

The Cavaliers are far from the team they will be in mid-December, but given the surface layer issues that continue to present themselves for the Cavs, it’s not surprising that the front office is at least open to a change. While the idea that “no one” is untouchable is a little bit of hyperbole, the truth is the Cavs seems to be missing that glue guy that can bring it all together.

Some of that admittedly is on the shoulders of rookie head coach David Blatt, but some of that is also on the front office to find those complimentary players that can bring the per game minute load down, help spark some offense other than James and maybe help Irving set some guys up.

Sounds like a tall order to fill, but that’s what Griffin was talking about when he said a roster is never done. That’s why teams that are competing for something will entertain change, because even good teams can get better and there is no doubting the Cavs can and need to get better to get where they set out to this season.

Trading Rondo:  December 15 is usually the first milestone of the trade season as that’s the date when the bulk of the players signed to contracts this summer become eligible to trade. As it stands now, about 175 players have some form of restriction on being traded and for some rosters, like the LA Lakers for example, have almost half of their players with some type of trade restriction.

So while the trade market in the NBA isn’t going to heat up for roughly a month, that’s hasn’t stopped teams from looking around the league and trying to gauge who is going to be buyers and who are going to be sellers.

One of the top teams viewed as seller is the Boston Celtics. They have one of the biggest impact trade chips in the game in guard Rajon Rondo.

Both Rondo and the Celtics are playing this thing the right way – they are both saying his potential free agency in July isn’t going to be a problem and that both sides want to make a new, long-term deal.

Incoming trade calls on Rondo’s status are being met with roughly the same story, that they are not trading him.

That in and of itself isn’t overly surprising for a couple of reasons: The Celtics genuinely do want to keep Rondo, but they also can’t extract nearly what they would want for him right now, so why entertain the concept and create unnecessary chaos?

If a buyer can’t pay the price, why have the conversation?

That’s not to say that Boston is going to put Rondo on the market, because they may very well hold true to what they have said to Rondo and to the press.

But if a Rondo deal is going to happen, it’s going to happen when the full complement of trade assets are available, so nothing is likely to get real consideration until after all the trade restrictions are lifted.

Equally, what’s more likely is the Celtics ride this out with Rondo until closer to the trade deadline in February, and then gauge who the motivated buyers are. That’s the key.

Right now there really isn’t a desperate team that’s going to overpay for Rondo. Until that situation surfaces it’s going to be hard for Boston to extract the kind of assets they would ultimately want in a Rondo deal, and that is what’s going to determine whether Boston changes course – what do they get back?

The Other Gasol:  There has been some media driven commentary about the future of Memphis big man Marc Gasol. Like Rondo, he too can hit unrestricted free agency in July and while there are a number of teams that are going to throw max-level money at Gasol and try and tempt him out of Memphis, the truth is the Memphis Grizzlies have positioned themselves cap wise to give him a full max offer themselves, which would include a fully guaranteed fifth year, ensuring they can put the most money on the table.

There is some truth to the idea that Gasol is a name high on both the New York Knicks and the LA Lakers wish list, but the problem is neither of those teams offer what Gasol has right now in Memphis: a winning team and culture.

Some have tried to imply that Gasol would be swayed by Phil Jackson because of the success his brother Pau had under Jackson, and while Marc has been around Phil and knows him through his brother, he has never played for Jackson, so this idea that Marc is jumping ship for the Knicks because of his brother’s past is a little far fetched. Even Pau turned Jackson away this summer.

The idea that Marc covets the LA spotlight, is even more far fetched after he watched the Lakers try unsuccessfully to trade Pau for the final two years of his contract. Pau walked away from more money in LA to be on a winner in Chicago.

It’s understandable why fans in both markets mention Marc, he is arguably one of the top big men in the game and he could be obtainable as an unrestricted free agent

The problem with the wishful thinking and hair-brained logic is it overlooks that Marc is having a solid season. His team is again among the best in the West and his current team can and will pay him every dime possible under the cap.

Could Marc leave Memphis? Maybe. But what’s far more likely is Marc is going to sign a new $100 million deal with the Grizzlies this summer and finish what he has started with the Grizz.

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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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