HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The countdown clock is ticking … and on the Orlando Sentinel‘s Dwight Howard Watch page, it’s literally ticking … down to next Thursday’s trade deadline with no guarantees as to what’s going to happen to the Magic’s superstar center and the city and franchise that don’t want to lose him.
A week away from what could be doomsday for Magic fans if Howard is dealt and no one is quite sure what’s going to change in Orlando.
There is a strong belief that the Magic will call Howard’s trade request bluff and keep him on the roster with no chance of getting anything for him if he leaves via free agency this summer, as ESPN.com’s Marc Stein makes clear here:
I’m sure some of the “Magic resolve” chatter that’s been gaining traction in recent days about how increasingly determined they are to keep him beyond the deadline is at least partly designed as a means of trying to improve the offers that come in before the deadline. Yet it seems evident that the stronger belief in the Magic Kingdom is that it’s better to keep Dwight and face the worst-case-scenario consequences of losing him for nothing if there’s so much as a 10 percent chance of him changing his mind.
The vibe coming from the Magic is that owner Rich DeVos prefers that scenario, frightening as it is, to what Orlando can get for Dwight in a trade today. Fortunately we have only about a week more to wait to find out whether Orlando’s bravery has staying power … or whether the claim that it’ll take its chances with mere salary-cap space should Dwight bolt was just posturing.
It’s strange, with all of the wild and crazy rumors that were flying around a week ago this time you’d expect we’d have more of the same. But instead, rumors are being shot down with increasing frequency.
Take a spin around the league and see all of the guys who were supposed to be on the block who are no longer considered to be in that mix, and that includes the likes of Rajon Rondo, Pau Gasol and a few of our other trade rumor faves:
ALL IS QUIET IN BOSTON …
Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe suggests the Celtics and coach Doc Rivers are willing to let the deadline pass without messing with the Big 3+1 right now:
The deadline is March 15, which comes in the middle of their critical eight-game road trip, and the recent five-game winning streak may have skewed some thinking regarding the breakup of the Big Three.
With a division title within reach and 28 games left, Rivers said he doesn’t anticipate any major moves.
“I’m sure there will be more rumors, there’s nothing you can do about that,’’ Rivers said. “We pretty much know what we want to do.
“Like I said a week ago, I’d be surprised if we did anything. Obviously, if we find someone out there who wants to give us a player, we’ll take them.’’
The Celtics have the expiring contracts of Kevin Garnett, Ray Allen, and Jermaine O’Neal to offer in trade, but according to an NBA source, they will not give away those commodities for other teams’ unwanted contracts or young players with uncertain futures.
The Clippers reportedly have an interest in Allen but are only willing to give up veteran guard Mo Williams, who has a player option for $8.5 million next season and has asked the team for an extension. With the emergence of Avery Bradley and the potential of second-round pick E’Twaun Moore, it’s highly unlikely the Celtics would acquire an aging backup point guard.
Allen to the Clippers would certainly spice things up in Los Angeles, but do the Celtics really believe some of these youngsters they’ve acquired in recent years are ready to step into Allen’s role, particularly in a playoff series?
RUMORS ERODING TRAIL BLAZERS’ FOUNDATION …
That might seem like a convenient excuse for the struggles in Portland, but there might also be a little something to the theory that all of trade rumors and speculation wearing on the Trail Blazers.
As [Jamal] Crawford headed to the bench late in the fourth quarter, with a Blazers loss in sight, a fan from the front row shouted, “It’s OK, Jamal. You’re going to be a Timberwolf soon.”The trade deadline is a mere week away and a host of Blazers, including Crawford and [Raymond] Felton, have been circulating the non-stop rumor mill. Crawford, who has been linked the Timberwolves, acknowledged the chatter could be starting to affect the roster.“I think at the end of the day, we’re only human,” said Crawford, who made 3 of 13 shots and scored six points. “So no matter what somebody says, I’m sure it’s in the back of their heads. They hear about the rumors and stuff. But we have to be professional and go out and do the best job we can.”Felton didn’t seem slowed by the outside noise as he played perhaps his best game in the Blazers uniform, finishing with 23 points, nine assists and four rebounds. It was the most points he’s scored since Dec. 29, when he had 23 against the Denver Nuggets, and the fifth-most assists he’s recorded all season. If anything, his performance might entice potential suitors.The same could be said for Timberwolves’ guard Luke Ridnour, who has been rumored as a possible target of the Blazers. He finished with 22 points, five assists and four rebounds and was clutch late.
A rumored Crawford-for-Ridnour swap would reunite Blazers coach Nate McMillan with his old point guard from their Seattle days. And it would free Crawford from whatever is ailing his game with the Blazers. But it doesn’t drastically alter the fate of either team in the grand scheme of the playoff structure.
GASOL AND KUPCHAK TALK IT OUT …
One situation that seems a bit more settled than it was a week ago is Pau Gasol‘s fate with the Lakers.
That doesn’t meant the Lakers won’t do anything at the deadline. It just means that Gasol and Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak have at least discussed the possibilities and come to an understanding of how to continue working with all of the drama swirling, as Ramona Shelburne of ESPNLosAngeles.com reports:
“I have an understanding of where things are,” Gasol said after the Lakers’ shootaround in Detroit on Tuesday, “where they stand and where he stands and where I stand. He [Kupchak] told me to just keep doing what you do, keep playing hard and playing on and from that point on, we’ll see.”
While Kupchak did not tell Gasol that he wouldn’t be traded, the conversation seemed to go a long way in settling Gasol’s nerves because he hadn’t been given much if any feedback about his status since he was involved in the failed Chris Paul trade in early December.
“It was kind of calming to have that feedback,” Gasol said. “Since before training camp, it was the first time I was approached by them.”
Gasol admitted he was disappointed that the conversation didn’t happen earlier. As a four-time All-Star and a key figure in the team’s back-to-back NBA championships in 2009 and 2010, he figured he deserved that.
Gasol does seem to understand why he hasn’t been told much, however.
“It’s hard because when an organization is going to pull the trigger [on a trade], I guess the less involvement and the less contact, the easier it is,” he said. “That was the point if you watched that movie ‘Moneyball,’ where Brad Pitt doesn’t want to be involved with players. I don’t know if that’s the case or not, but you could see that kind of factor.”
Gasol said he ended the conversation with one request of Kupchak.
“I told him, ‘When there’s something real on the table, just let me know,’ ” he said.
And did he get a sense that would happen?
“Ummm, there’s always potential,” he said, “because things can turn around or they’re not willing to give up a certain player that they were before. You have to understand that.”
Two straight losses shouldn’t color the Lakers’ vision of what to do with Gasol. If they were intent on dealing him in training camp, there’s no reason to believe they have abandoned those plans completely a week before the deadline. It’s a matter of what they can get in return that should dictate what they do now.
SILAS FED UP WITH DIAW …
It looks as if Bobcats’ swingman Boris Diaw, who showed up after the lockout in less-than-stellar physical condition, might have run afoul of his coach for the last time.
Bobcats coach Paul Silas lit into Diaw in explaining why he wasn’t active for last night’s game against the Jazz. And Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer captured every word:
“I think if he had played all out, the way he should have, it would have been a much, much better club,” Silas said, when asked why Diaw has fallen out of the rotation entirely.
Diaw was active, but didn’t play vs. the Orlando Magic Tuesday, breaking a string of 384 consecutive game appearances. Diaw’s agent has contacted the Bobcats about a buyout, but the team would only consider that after the March. 15 trade deadline.
Diaw was not in the locker room during the 45-minute period before the game when media have access.
Silas was quite direct in describing his dissatisfaction with Diaw’s play this season. The forward is averaging 7.7 points and 5.6 rebounds and shooting 41 percent.
“I like a player who is really committed to not only the team but to himself and then doing the best he can as a player,” Silas said. “Some of the things that would go on, like not shooting the ball (and) passing all of the time… I needed hoops and he could put the ball in the hoop. When that wouldn’t happen it was very disturbing.”
Asked if Diaw would ever play again for the Bobcats, Silas replied, “We just have to wait and see.”
Wait to see what? It’s obvious Silas would rather continue without Diaw.