Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: Most of Thursday night was filled with the release of the participants in the Sprite Slam Dunk Contest, the Taco Bell Skills Challenge, the Foot Locker Three-Point Contest, the Sears Shooting Stars and, last but not least, the BBVA Rising Stars Challenge draft that featured Team Shaq and Team Chuck filling out their rosters. Whew!
After that, we had just two games on the schedule and both of ‘em were blowouts. That makes our job a little tougher around here, but we’ll go with the Bulls-Nuggets game because the highlights in this one were, in a word, Manimal-tastic. Kenneth Faried said he wanted to make a statement on national TV and did he ever, going for 21 points, 12 rebounds and two steals while throwing down a boatload of memorable dunks as Denver won its eighth straight game.
News of the morning
Bulls, Raptors could swap point guards, too — Word broke last night of the Raptors and Bulls opening up discussions on a deal that would send Chicago’s Carlos Boozer to Toronto for oft-maligned Raptors big man Andrea Bargnani. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein broke the story and says several factors are key in any move, including whether or not the Raptors could afford Boozer’s salary as well as that of newly acquired swingman Rudy Gay. Toronto, like most teams in the new NBA economy, is weary of paying the luxury tax and that could scare it from the trade.
The Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson reports that two other players, the Bulls’ Nate Robinson and the Raptors’ John Lucas III, could be involved in a swap, too:
The Bulls and Raptors engaged in trade talks centered on Carlos Boozer and Andrea Bargnani over a week ago, according to two league sources.
ESPN.com’s Marc Stein first reported the talks, which a source told the Tribune were initiated by the Bulls and initially dismissed because of the Raptors’ desire to land the Lakers’ Pau Gasol. Though talks are not currently active, a source said the Raptors know the trade is available and could expand to include Nate Robinson and John Lucas III. Another source suggested it’s unlikely the Raptors would take on Boozer’s contract, which has $9.1 million more than Bargnani’s over the next two seasons.
The Raptors recently added Rudy Gay’s long-term contract via trade.
Boozer makes $5 million more than Bargnani this season. Coach Tom Thibodeau long has been an advocate of Lucas III, who is playing sparingly for the Raptors.
Despite the talks, there are no plans to use the amnesty provision on Boozer this summer. Boozer is having a strong season, but shedding his salary could improve the Bulls’ long-term financial picture.
Uneasy Dwight-Kobe partnership rearing its head? — After Kobe Bryant took to the media yesterday to say how ‘urgent’ it is that Dwight Howard try to play through the pain of his torn labrum, everything blew up all over again in Lakerland. After Bryant’s comments, Howard had his say and Bryant came back and said he hadn’t tried to push Howard to play again … well, you can read it all here.
Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski takes the long view on this Bryant-Howard partnership in L.A. and dissects in a way that only he can. From news about Lakers (and former Knicks) coach Mike D’Antoni shooting down a trade for Howard to delving into why Bryand and Howard likely won’t ever get on the same page, Wojnarowski has a cutting review of what’s gone wrong so far in L.A.:
Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard had always been a reluctant partnership, two stars long suspecting what turned out to be the indisputable truth: They were destined to be terrible teammates.
When Bryant and Howard hung up on a pre-trade deadline call a year ago, the suspicions of a toxic mix were confirmed with a most uncomfortable conversation. They had different visions on the way Howard would fit into the Lakers, which promised to compound the gulf between them as people. They were going to win with the Lakers and tolerate each other; or lose and develop a deep disdain.
On his way out of the Garden, out of a humiliating 116-95 loss to the Boston Celtics, Bryant returned a clichéd question – “Are Dwight and you on the same page?” – without a clichéd response.
With a bemused face and a shrug, Bryant told Yahoo! Sports: “What page is there to be on? Defend. Rebound…”
He shrugged again.
“I mean, what else is on the page?”
Nevertheless, Bryant reached out to Howard early on Thursday to diffuse the drama, he told Yahoo! Sports. He fired off a text to message to insist that a part of his interview with the great Boston sportswriter, Jackie MacMullan, had been misconstrued in the public eye. Bryant swore he wasn’t calling out Howard about sitting three straight games with a shoulder injury, that he wasn’t questioning his toughness.
“Listen, I really think people ran in the wrong direction with those quotes,” Bryant told Y! Sports. “And I think that put Dwight on the defense, put him a little on edge. But that wasn’t the intention, nor the purpose.
“I didn’t say anything earth-shattering. I didn’t say anything I haven’t been saying all year.
“Honestly, I didn’t take a run at him.”
Part of the problem of Howard’s clowning act is that people don’t take him seriously in times of crisis. It’s easier to doubt his toughness, tenacity, when they’re watching him grab the microphone to do impressions on team charters or booming farts in the locker room. Bryant never wanted Howard’s disposition to rule the day in the Lakers’ locker room, never wanted his own culture of seriousness and duty to be undermined with the frivolity that comes with Howard.
This was Bryant’s concern before the trade this summer, and after it. Rest assured, there was a reason the Lakers were third behind the Brooklyn Nets and Dallas Mavericks on Howard’s preferred list of trade partners. First of all, there were doubts about the depth of talent to win a championship – and those turned out to be legitimate. What’s more, he knew the partnership with Bryant would be troublesome for him. And when Bryant and Steve Nash were enthusiastic about the arrival of Mike D’Antoni as coach, Howard badly wanted to play for Phil Jackson.
D’Antoni had no use for Howard with Team USA, nor the New York Knicks when his name was raised in possible trade discussions. D’Antoni made sure to tell everyone Howard had been medically cleared to play in each of the three games he missed recently, and he sounded minimally sympathetic toward Howard’s endurance of pain on Thursday night.
Gasol’s gone, Howard is searching and these Lakers simply aren’t constructed to resurrect themselves in the playoff chase. For the future, the Lakers’ play hasn’t changed, nor will it. They have to give Dwight Howard a chance to recuperate his back, his shoulder, and understand that he can eventually still be a franchise center.
And yet, as Bryant told MacMullan, “We don’t have time for [Howard’s shoulder] to heal. We need some urgency.” Bryant has been around a long time to be too surprised his words were construed as a call to arms for Howard. Make no mistake: That interview practically promised Howard would be in the lineup on Thursday night, that he would push through the pain and redirect the narrative on himself.
Nevertheless, Howard still seemed bothered with Bryant, and, well, Bryant seemed unbothered with it. He shot Howard his text, let him know he wasn’t making a run at him. Whatever. From the start, this partnership promised to be an uneasy proposition, and it’s been something of a self-perpetuating prophecy. Kobe and Dwight always knew the deal here. With winning, perhaps they could tolerate each other. With losing, a deep disdain.
“We communicate,” Bryant told Y! Sports. “We do often.” This doesn’t mean they have a relationship, or trust, and that’s part of the reason Bryant is a minimalist when it comes to the sharing of the basketball season’s page. All along, they were destined to be terrible teammates. They knew it, but could do nothing to stop an inevitable consolidation of their talents. In the end, Kobe Bryant and Dwight Howard need each other, and that’s still the best chance for the salvation of these Los Angeles Lakers. Someday soon, they’ll need to go far deeper on that page together. Someday soon, the future of the franchise depends upon it.
K.G. doesn’t want to go anywhere; Ainge likely to oblige — The Kevin Garnett trade rumors have been bubbling up since early this week, with the Clippers being mentioned most as the destination for the current All-Star starter and future Hall of Famer. Garnett has been mostly quiet on the rumors, but had some comments after last night’s win over the Lakers where he didn’t mince words about his future. As well, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge says he doesn’t see himself dealing Garnett (or star Paul Pierce) and is for the most part happy with Boston’s roster. The Boston Globe’s Gary Dzen and ESPNBoston.com’s have the reports from both camps:
K.G. on staying put:
Kevin Garnett ended his postgame press conference Thursday night with an unprompted message to reporters that he’d like to stay in Boston.
“I just want to say that I love my situation here,” said Garnett. “I don’t know what all your sources are, or whoever’s making up this [expletive] articles about me getting traded to Denver and all these other places.
“But I bleed green, and I will continue to do that. And if it’s up to me I’m going to retire a Celtic.”
Garnett scored his 25,000th NBA point in the second quarter of Thursday night’s game. He said his daughter was in attendance (“Thank you for snow days”), a rare occasion, and he thanked every coach and teammate who had helped him along the way. While in a reflective mood, Garnett went back to a familiar metaphor — cooking — to explain why the Celtics might be playing better in the absence of Rajon Rondo.
“Rondo does so many different great things for this team,” said Garnett. “You can kind of get lackadaisical. It’s very similar to when you have someone cooking for you, and you’re expecting that every day. But as soon as you start to feed yourself, all of a sudden you start making these gourmet dishes. You start having more people to the house. And you never know you really possessed that. It’s kind of like that.”
Ainge on keeping the stars together:
Boston Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said Thursday that despite rumors to the contrary, he doesn’t expect to trade Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce.
“Yeah, I think that’s by far the most likely thing. Sure,” he said when asked whether he was comfortable saying the two stars will remain in Boston.
“I’ll just repeat what I always tell you guys — the things that are out there are the things that aren’t true and the things that are happening are not being reported,” he said regarding trade rumors.
“I can’t give you much juice other than it’s this time every year. There’s a lot of conversation, and usually at this time of the year, the conversation isn’t as serious. As it gets closer to the deadline, it gets a little bit more serious. You get a little bit better offers. It’s still most people trying to make one-sided deals, as opposed to doing what’s best for both teams. Which is — a trade like a Rudy Gay trade is fairly unusual this time, this early before the deadline.”
Ainge said he will be patient moving forward and that he doesn’t expect any wholesale changes to his roster this season.
“I want to see how our team plays over the next little while before the trade deadline, too,” he said. “But I don’t think we’ve had a true test of exactly what team we are yet. And I think that, because I’ve been doing this for 10 years now, but with this group of guys for the last couple of years, I don’t see that much changing. There aren’t a lot of teams that are trying to pursue players of KG and Paul’s age, and I just think that we value them more than other teams value them.
“There’s so many teams that are trying to get younger, so many teams that are trying to rebuild, so many teams are trying to get high draft picks already. I think that where we value them as players is just much greater than the rest of the league, which I think is common among players of their age.”
Why hasn’t Iguodala become ‘the man’ in Denver? — When he was dealt to Denver as part of the Dwight Howard-Andrew Bynum deal, most folks around the NBA thought the Nuggets finally acquired their long-sought after go-to scorer in Andre Iguodala. Yet Iguodala, a free-agent this summer, is the Nuggets’ No. 3 scorer (behind Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson) while still delivering the consistent defense and all-around play that helped him become an All-Star as a member of the Sixers.
Mark Kiszla of The Denver Post delves into whether or not the Nuggets — as successful as they’ve been of late — should seriously give Iguodala a max-level contract next season, especially if he can’t even be the team’s top player scoring-average wise:
So here’s the key question for Denver coming down the stretch: Can the Nuggets afford to build a contender around Iguodala, given the constraints of the NBA salary cap and this franchise’s aversion to paying the luxury tax on talent?
Iguodala is a clamp-down defender, a true professional and a compelling interview.
But the NBA is not a spelling bee. You don’t get paid $15 million for giving intelligent sound bites or getting eliminated in the first round of the playoffs.
For $15 million, was it too much to expect for the 29-year-old Iguodala to lead the Nuggets in scoring, be an all-league defender and stamp his personality on the locker room?
His defense has met expectations. The rest of the shiny package? Empty.
After 50 games with the Nuggets since arriving in trade, Iguodala is in danger of finishing with career lows for field-goal percentage, free-throw percentage and rebounds per game. But the real head-scratcher is why an Olympic gold medal winner from the Dream Team hasn’t been more forceful in establishing high standards for these young, often- inconsistent Nuggets.
“It’s a little bit of an adjustment. It’s hard to change habits, especially when you’re the new guy coming into a new situation,” Iguodala said Thursday. “There are some things guys have been accustomed to doing their whole careers, and when you come in here, you can’t just jump on them right away and say, ‘Change it.’ It’s a process.”
So was it too much to expect Iguodala to lead the Nuggets in scoring and shoot better than 60 percent from the foul line? Coach George Karl is never afraid to tell me I’m wrong, so I asked him.
“I’m not unhappy. That’s unrealistic. You thought he’d be our leading scorer? I never thought that,” Karl said. “He’s a good scorer for us, and we have other guys we plug in. The way we play, we don’t tilt the offense to one player until the end of the game. We just play basketball, go out, run and see who gets the touches.”
You can unearth basketball metrics that argue Iguodala is among the NBA’s premier defensive players. But there are also advanced stats that suggest the nine-year pro is struggling worse than at any time since his rookie season, despite Karl’s transition-friendly offense that seems ready-made for Iguodala’s skill set.Iguodala is the highest-paid player on Denver’s roster.
But is he really more valuable to the Nuggets’ future than Ty Lawson, Danilo Gallinari or Kenneth Faried? Given salary cap constraints, would it be wise for Denver to make Iguodala among the league’s 15 top-paid players?
ICYMI of the night: The best thing about this highlight from JaVale McGee (other than it won’t land him on Shaqtin’ A Fool)? Ty Lawson seeing the whole time that McGee is camped out just outside the key, pointing in the air for the alley-oop and Lawson delivers it perfectly: