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: The NBA got back to regular-season work after All-Star weekend in Houston and there were plenty of choice matchups to pick from. Bucks vs. Nets was a nice way to get things rolling, especially given Joe Johnson‘s display of clutch-itude in both the fourth quarter and OT. There was a great East vs. West matchup in the Mile High City as the Nuggets took on the Celtics, with Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson powering Denver to the win. But we’ll go with a good matchup between two teams scrambling to solidify their playoff footing: the Warriors visiting the Jazz. Multi-faceted forward Gordon Hawyard was back in the action after a 10-game absence due to a shoulder injury while Utah’s big men combo of Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson shook off the trade rumors surrounding them to lead the Jazz to a win and move them into a tie with the Warriors for No. 6 in the West.
News of the morning
Rival GMs expect Celts to deal | Bucks’ Jennings ‘untouchable’ | Jazz bigs ignore trade talk | Bargnani back in Toronto’s plans? | Gortat-for-Perkins swap? | Hornets prepared to deal Gordon? | Speights could get dealt again | Sixers’ Turner not on block | Williams criticism puzzles Carlesimo | Ferry’s plan at heart of Hawks’ changes | Gallinari steps it up
Celtics expected to make some kind of deal — Celtics boss Danny Ainge has steadfastly denied that he’s looking to tinker with Boston’s makeup or trade franchise stalwarts like Kevin Garnett, Rajon Rondo or Paul Pierce. But rival GMs are saying just the opposite (in what may be a smokescreen act) and think the Celtics are priming themselves for a deal of some kind. Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald has more:
As Danny Ainge downplayed the possibility the Celtics will be involved in a transaction before tomorrow’s NBA trade deadline, general managers and personnel people around the league are saying quite the opposite.
They’ll be stunned if the Celts don’t make a deal of some sort.
“They’re too active,” said one. “They’ve been putting a lot of different things out there, and you’d have to think at least one of them is going to come through.”
If the Celtics do pull off a trade, it’s likely something beyond what’s already in the public domain, and many of those talks were dead on arrival.
For example, the Celts did have a brief discussion with the Lakers, but word is Mitch Kupchak said flatly they are not going to deal Dwight Howard, stating that he is part of their future. It’s possible that outlook could change, but with Rajon Rondo rehabbing from ACL surgery, the Celts wouldn’t have enough to get in on such talks.
The Clippers remain a good target, with Eric Bledsoe an intriguing talent.
“An awesome athlete, but not really a pure point guard,” said one personnel guy. “He could be a Russell Westbrook type if he keeps developing.”
The Hawks’ Josh Smith talk seems a bit of a mystery from the Celtics’ standpoint. To begin with, it would be hard to put together the right package to get him. And it’s even more doubtful they would be willing to part with the kind of things Atlanta is looking for.
Start with the fact Smith almost certainly won’t be signing a three-year extension right after a trade when he can wait until summer and get a longer deal as a free agent. So there’s no guarantee a team trading for him has him beyond the next few months. Then there are the questions of just how much Smith is worth relative to what he can contribute.
“If you could get him to just do the things he does really well and stick to that, I think he’d be one of the best players in this league,” said one ranking team official. “But you get the whole package with Josh. You can probably absorb most of that on a really good team, but is he the kind of guy you’re going to go to in your halfcourt offense in the fourth quarter of a Game 7? For the kind of money you’re going to be paying him, you have to think about that.”
Jennings ‘untouchable’ for now — Just six days ago, Bucks guard Brandon Jennings reportedly had expressed frustration with the front office and had “irreconcilable differences” with team brass. But Jennings quickly reversed field on that story and, although he didn’t commit to a long-term future with the Bucks, seemingly patched things up. Maybe that has led to the news reported by ESPN.com’s Marc Stein that Jennings has become ‘untouchable’. More details here:
The Milwaukee Bucks continue to discuss Josh Smith trade scenarios with the Atlanta Hawks in advance of Thursday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline, according to sources with knowledge of the talks.
But those discussions, sources say, also serve as a strong indication of the rising likelihood that Brandon Jennings will not be moved this week.
ESPN.com reported Tuesday that Monta Ellis is the primary player Atlanta is targeting in its discussion with Milwaukee. Sources say that the Hawks, furthermore, want Milwaukee to add at least one expiring contract to the equation with Ellis and possibly take on some salary.
ESPN The Magazine’s Chris Broussard, meanwhile, reported Wednesday morning on “SportsCenter” that Smith would be interested in playing with both Jennings and Ellis if he wound up in Milwaukee, leading the Bucks to try Wednesday to make the deal without surrendering Ellis.
Yet amid all of those talks, sources say, Jennings has moved alongside Larry Sanders and John Henson on the Bucks’ list of near-untouchables.
The Dallas Mavericks were at the forefront of the list of teams hoping that the Bucks would make Jennings available this week, but Milwaukee appears intent on taking its chances in the offseason, knowing that Jennings will be a restricted free agent and thus unable to leave town unless the Bucks decline to match an offer sheet he receives.
Millsap, Jefferson shrug off trade chatter — As our own Fran Blinebury pointed out yesterday in this space, Jazz GM Dennis Lindsay could end up being active on trade deadline day … especially considering Utah’s bevy of big men. Paul Millsap and Al Jefferson are the names most teams would want to acquire and that duo is used to hearing their names bandied about in trade talks over the years. While no solid suitor has emerged (we’ve seen talk of Jefferson-to-San Antonio here and there), the Jazz’s veteran big man duo isn’t letting the talk affect their game. Mike Sorensen of the Deseret News has more:
When asked about trade rumors after returning from the All-Star break, Jazz players and coach Tyrone Corbin all shrugged off any talk about the subject.
“I’ve been in this league a long time. This is my ninth year and Paul’s seventh. We’re used to this,’’ said Jefferson.
“You don’t react. You just let it go,’’ added Millsap. “You can’t do anything about it because you don’t really know for sure. If it don’t come from (the Jazz’s) mouths it’s probably not true.’’
Millsap’s name has come up in trade rumors for years, and the Jazz forward says he’s used to it by now, saying he takes it as a compliment that he’s a wanted player. One of the latest rumors has him going to the L.A. Clippers for point guard Eric Bledsoe and others.That trade would potentially affect Mo Williams, the team’s current starting point guard, who has been sitting out with an injured thumb for more than a month.
Corbin was blunt in talking about trade speculation.
“It’s rumors and we don’t deal with rumors,’’ he said. “We are who we are and everybody here is part of our family. We’ll continue progressing in the way that we have and we expect everybody to respond accordingly.’’
Jefferson has been traded twice in his career, but he knows if the Jazz are involved, it’s unlikely anyone will know about it in advance.
“The one thing about the Utah Jazz is they’re a very professional team,’’ he said. “When a trade comes nobody’s going to know until it actually happens. They’ve been consistent with that. They’re just rumors.’’
Colangelo downplaying Bargnani deal — Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo already pulled off one significant remodel of his team this season by sending Ed Davis to Memphis and Jose Calderon to Detroit as part of the three-team trade that put Rudy Gay in Raptors red. The next name expected to be on the trade block is former No. 1 overall pick Andrea Bargnani, but Colangelo may be cooling on the prospect of trading the outside-shooting big man. Sam Amick of USA Today caught up with Colangelo and talked with him about Bargnani, Colangelo’s future in Toronto and more:
Colangelo, who came to Toronto from Phoenix in 2006 and has been attempting a massive rebuilding effort ever since Chris Bosh left for Miami in the summer of 2010, is in the final year of his contract. In an interview with USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday, Colangelo said he has no discussions with ownership about his updated status and remains hopeful that he’ll be around past this summer. The Raptors – who are 5-2 since Gay came on board and 21-32 overall after their horrific 4-19 start – play at Washington Tuesday and have a reunion game with the Grizzlies in Toronto on Wednesday night.
While Colangelo could make more moves before the Thursday trade deadline to help his team and improve his case even more, he downplayed the once-widely-held notion that center Andrea Bargnani would be traded before then. He called that situation “fluid” and said “there just may not have been enough runway prior to the deadline to get something” because Bargnani recently came back from injury.
On Bargnani, how he’s fitting in better now with Gay and the likelihood that he could be traded…
“We began this year with Bargnani as our No. 1 scoring option. He’s now No. 3 because Rudy has arrived and DeMar (DeRozan) has emerged. Now Bargnani is No. 3. There’s talk about possibly moving him – and again we’ve talked about it, not for talent reasons but because maybe sometimes a change of scenery is the best thing for somebody. But sometimes a change of scenery can happen just by redecorating the room.
“All of a sudden the outlook and the presence of a guy like Andrea is entirely different now. He’s not relied on as a No. 1 guy. He has never been paid like a No. 1 option, but people wanted to criticize that he couldn’t handle that role. I’ve always felt like he’s been slotted in salary-wise as a No. 2 or No. 3. Maybe he’s kind of fitting in nicely now.
“If a trade doesn’t occur before the deadline, or even this summer, maybe it’s because we figured out that with the evolution of the team he is the right guy to be a part of this team. He’s been through the hard part. This may be the easiest part ahead of him.
On his future in Toronto …
“There’s been no discussion (about his future since the trade). I certainly haven’t brought it up. I think that we’re, right now, transitioning with an ownership change of our own.
“I’ve proven that, despite all the things that have been happening with the rebuilding of this team simultaneous to the uncertainty with my contract, I always made the right long-term strategic decision with respect to the transactions that were being made or draft picks that were being made. Case in point was drafting (Jonas) Valanciunas (fifth overall in 2011) knowing that he was not going to be here for a year, and that when he did arrive that he’d be 20 and would still be considered a project. But you have to carry out your job with integrity and do the right thing for the organization. That’s what I’ve been hired to do and that’s what I’m doing. Whether or not that pays off for me long-term, with an extension or just even my option year being picked up (for the 2013-14 season), time will tell. But you can’t lose sight of what the job is.”
Suns find selves in trade discussion — In the past week or so, the Suns have been mentioned in deals to try to acquire the Knicks’ Iman Shumpert and even Jazz big man Al Jefferson. Veteran center Jermaine O’Neal is drawing interest from some contenders as is veteran guard Sebastian Telfair. Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic parses through the rumors and finds that a Marcin Gortat-for-Kendrick Perkins swap with OKC might also be on the table:
Much of the Suns’ trade talk seems to have simmered down as the Thursday 1 p.m. deadline nears, but there is one more possibility.
ESPN.com reported New York’s interest in Jermaine O’Neal and Toronto’s interest in Sebastian Telfair while another source said there was All-Star break talk of Oklahoma City exploring Marcin Gortat and P.J. Tucker for Kendrick Perkins, Jeremy Lamb and a first-round pick.
Perkins is the type of center to fit the new defensively geared culture, although he is limited offensively for a team wanting to post up its big men.
Lamb probably would have been the Suns’ draft pick in June had Houston not made a trade to move up two spots and take him in front of Phoenix.
The Suns do have $6.4 million of cap room to take on salary in a deal, but it is more likely that the Suns stand pat to protect their two first-round draft picks and salary-cap space, which leaves room to sign a maximum-level free agent.
Hornets readying to deal Gordon? — Hornets guard Eric Gordon didn’t make a ton of friends in New Orleans in the summer after he signed an offer sheet with the Phoenix Suns and said his heart was in Phoenix. Although the Hornets matched the Suns’ offer, the relationship between Gordon — who missed a significant part of the season recovering from a knee injury — and the Hornets’ front office and coaches has been tenuous at best. ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard tweeted Monday that the Hornets had made Gordon available for deals and the Warriors have shown interest. John Reid of The Times-Picayune has more:
After scoring a team-high 20 points in Tuesday night’s loss to Chicago Bulls, New Orleans Hornets guard Eric Gordon appeared unsure about what may happen before Thursday’s trade deadline. Trade rumors are starting to swirl that the Hornets might be willing to part ways with Gordon if they can land the right deal.
ESPN’s Chris Broussard tweeted Tuesday night that the Hornets have made Gordon available for a trade, but that it’s not likely to happen because teams are concerned about his health going forward.
Hornets officials had no comment regarding trade rumors Tuesday night, but Gordon said for the second consecutive day that he’s not concerned about the trade deadline. However, he acknowledged that anything is possible.
“I don’t really get caught up to it,’’ Gordon said Tuesday night. “But you just never know your situation. That’s part of the process but at the end of the day, you can’t worry about that as a player. If it happens, it happens. I’m definitely not worried about it.’’
Sources confirm the Hornets would be interested in any trade deal with the Golden State Warriors that would include second-year shooting guard Klay Thompson. But sources indicate the Warriors are reluctant to part ways with Thompson, whom they feel is a young emerging star. With the Hornets’ matching the Phoenix Suns’ four-year, $58 million offer sheet to retain him as a restricted free agent, Gordon has veto power over any trade deal going into Thursday’s deadline. The Hornets are restricted from trading Gordon to the Suns.
Sixers’ Turner safe for now — Evan Turner, the former No. 2 pick of the 2010 Draft, has shown flashes of the skill that made him a star at Ohio State and a top-flight NBA prospect. Still, the Sixers are waiting for Turner to make a true star turn and despite Philly shipping Andre Iguodala (who played Turner’s swingman position) to Denver, Turner hasn’t made the big statistical leap that many projected for him this season. All that said, the Sixers don’t seem likely to move Turner by the Feb. 21 deadline, writes Bob Cooney of Philly.com:
The 76ers are no doubt listening to any and all calls as Thursday’s trading deadline approaches, especially with the uncertainty surrounding the health status of center Andrew Bynum.
General manager Tony DiLeo has said numerous times that he is not willing to mortgage the future of the organization to get a player who will have only a short stay here.
The problem is that besides Jrue Holiday and Thaddeus Young, both signed to long-term contracts, who else is in the future plans? A report by ESPN’s Chris Broussard said that swingman Evan Turner, who is averaging career highs in points (13.8), rebounds (6.6), assists (4.4) and minutes (36.2), is on the trading block, though an NBA source told the Daily News nothing is going on with Turner.
Turner is in his third year after being taken with the second overall pick in June 2010.
With 31 games remaining and Bynum saying Tuesday he is still weeks away from a debut with his new team, the decisions that will be made by the Sixers’ front office will certainly be interesting.
Contract may put Cavs’ Speights back on block — Big man Mareese Speights was involved in the first trade of the 2012-13 season, going from Memphis to Cleveland as the Grizz cut salary for their future. After 10 games and scoring 130 points with the Cavs this season, Speights may be on the trading block again because of his contract. He has a player option on his contract for 2013-14 and the Cavs, like many teams around the league, are wary of their salary cap situation with the new luxury tax penalties looming. Although Cleveland is nowhere near the tax line for next season, getting Speights’ $4.5 million salary off the books might not hurt the long-term rebuild plan. The News-Herald’s Bob Finnan has more on Speights:
The 6-foot-10, 255-pound Speights came to the Cavs on Jan. 22 along with guards Wayne Ellington and Josh Selby and a first-round pick in exchange for forward Jon Leuer. Speights has fit in well with the Cavs (16-37) as their backup center.
He has a player’s option on his 2013-14 contract and is expected to become a free agent. That’s why the Cavs might entertain thoughts of trading him.
It’s similar to the Ramon Sessions situation last season. He had a player’s option on his deal and the Cavs traded him to the Los Angeles Lakers last February.
“It’s out of my control,” Speights said. “It’s up to the front office. Whatever they do on Thursday, we’ll see what happens.”
Speights is earning $4.2 million this season. If he decides to stay with the Cavs, he’ll be owed $4.5 million next season.
He might seek a multiyear deal.
“We will evaluate our option at the end of the season,” agent Andy Miller said on Tuesday.
If Speights becomes a free agent, the Cavs can’t go over the salary cap to sign him, even though he’s their own free agent. That’s because he waived his “Bird” rights when he approved the trade to Cleveland.
“When I was coming out of college, I spent like two weeks here before the draft,” Speights said. “I knew Alonzo (Gee) growing up in high school. I felt comfortable coming here.
“I’m not looking forward to free agency. I’m just trying to win games and get to .500. You have to live in the moment. You can’t live for the past or the future.”
If it works out, he said he’d love to be part of the Cavs’ future.
“I’m here, so why not?” he asked.
D-Will criticisms puzzle Nets coach — Deron Williams has hardly been the All-Star performer he was a season ago as his scoring average has dropped from 21.0 ppg to 16.8 ppg and his assists have fallen from 8.7 to 7.6 this season. He’s been about on par for his career in terms of shooting the ball (41.4 pct), including from deep (35.4 pct), but overall he just hasn’t looked like the D-Will that most NBA fans know. His coach, P.J. Carlesimo, knows his point guard has struggled through nagging injuries all season and, as such, wonders why D-Will is getting so much flak for his perceived drop in play. Mike Mazzeo of ESPNNewYork.com has more:
Williams entered the second half of the 2012-13 campaign averaging just 16.7 points and 7.6 assists and shooting 41.3 percent from the field. He missed the team’s previous two games due to inflammation in both of his ankles.
“Everybody else has problems with Deron, I don’t have any problems with Deron Williams,” Carlesimo said. “I love Deron Williams and he’s a great player. I’m a little bit befuddled at everything that’s being made. He’s a pretty good player. I don’t have the problem with him that everybody else has or seems to have. I don’t know what everyone else is looking at.”
The Nets hit the break at 31-22, but they had to overcome inconsistent play from Williams to get there.
The 28-year-old point guard, who failed to make the All-Star team for the first time since 2009, has been hampered by a myriad of minor injuries while struggling with fatigue and his jump shot. Williams also hasn’t been comfortable running a heavily isolation-oriented offense. On Monday, he explained that he couldn’t jump and had no explosion.
Still, Carlesimo is happy with the way Williams, who signed a five-year, $98 million contract to remain with Brooklyn in the offseason, has produced.
“He runs our team. He scores points. He gets assists. He draws double teams. He makes the other players better. He’s a way above-average defensive point guard,” Carlesimo said. “I’ve had a lot of teams that didn’t have a point guard nearly as good as Deron Williams. Again you can look at numbers and make numbers say whatever they want. I don’t know what the stats are. We’ve had more wins than this franchise has had in a bunch of years at the All-Star break. We’re playing in a new building and with new teammates. I don’t know how many games we won last year for the whole year.
“I think from the outside world, people will say things are OK in Brooklyn, and Deron has a lot to do with that. Deron’s basically been the single most important factor in transforming the franchise, so honestly I don’t understand it.”
J-Smoove just start of issues for Hawks — As our own Sekou Smith detailed in depth yesterday, the Hawks and Josh Smith seem almost certain to be headed for a parting of ways either by tomorrow or in free agency this summer. But jettisoning Smith won’t fix everything that plagues the Hawks: inconsistency, a middling place in the Eastern Conference pecking order and an unclear plan for the future. First-year GM Danny Ferry has his own vision of the Hawks in mind, especially considering his offseason trades of franchise stalwarts Joe Johnson and Marvin Williams. As Jeff Schultz of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution points out, what Ferry’s overall plan is matters more than what kind of trade the Hawks swing for Smith:
If Ferry trades Smith – and the odds appear tilted in that direction – it’s because he is still dealing with the damage done to this organization by previous regimes, which led to extended mediocrity.
The Hawks are 29-22. They have a legitimate chance to finish among the top four in the deteriorating Eastern Conference. But this is how a new general manager must view things: What are the chances this team wins more than one playoff round? What are the chances it upsets Miami? If the answers to those questions are near zero, the focus needs to be on the future.
Ferry wouldn’t come out and say that Tuesday. This close to the trade deadline, a general manager isn’t going to reveal much. But when I asked where he believed the Hawks are at the deadline, he responded, “We’re in a unique situation with the current roster being competitive, but also having good cap flexibility going forward. Like most teams, we’re evaluating ourselves and looking at the opportunities that come to us, especially this time of year. If there’s an opportunity that makes sense for us and for the long-term interest of the Hawks, we’ll look at it closely.”
Confused? Focus on this string of words: “… the long-term interest of the Hawks.”
This is Year 1 for Ferry, not years 4, 7 or 12. He has credibility and he has a plan. There’s still reason to believe in that plan.
Smith hardly is the Hawks’ biggest problem. They need a center. They need consistency at point guard. They need more players to build around. Moving past years of being a punchline isn’t easy.
Nuggets finding their go-to guy(s) — Questions have come up all season about Denver’s “star-less” system, be it from the media or from players like Andre Miller.The jury is still out on whether or not what coach George Karl is doing out West will lead to an extended playoff run, a Finals berth or a title. But if nothing else, two players — Danilo Gallinari and Ty Lawson — have started to emerge of late as go-to guys for a team stocked with talent. The Denver Post’s Benjamin Hochman has more:
They questioned it. Folks in the front office. Folks across the Front Range. Should Denver trade Danilo Gallinari? It was in late November, and the sharpshooter wasn’t even shooting 40 percent.
The Nuggets received calls about the 24-year-old forward, but the front office decided to wait. Let Gallo grow. Let Gallo find gall.
Well, the trade deadline is Thursday, and Gallinari is likely to stay. He spearheaded Denver’s 97-90 home win Tuesday against Boston, scoring 26 points while making 4-of-9 3-point attempts. In efforts to make up for teammate Andre Iguodala, who scored one point, Gallinari stuffed the stat sheet with a Dre-like night, tallying five rebounds and five assists, along with a plus-20, best of the night.
“(Gallinari) has been working on his shot. It’s a confidence thing. He’s more confident,” teammate Ty Lawson said. “Some people tell you not to shoot (in a slump) and just drive all the time, but defenders can read you easier and it messes with your confidence. But now he’s been playing within himself and taking care of business. We need him to keep playing like that.”
While the game was played at a slower pace, benefiting the visitors, the home squad took advantage of the whistle. Denver got to the line 36 times, making 24, which isn’t a good percentage (.667), but Denver tallied more points from the line than Boston (13-for-16).
Meanwhile, Lawson? On fire.
The speedy point guard entered Tuesday averaging 21.2 points and 7.9 assists in the past 13 games, while shooting over 50 percent from both the field and from 3. Well, by halftime against the Celtics, Lawson already had 12 points, and did so on 5-for-5 shooting.
He finished with 26, just like Gallinari, along with six rebounds and six assist (and was 8-for-13 from the field). And Lawson made one of the game’s bigger plays, somehow snatching an offensive rebound in the paint with around five minutes left, making the put-back, giving Denver a five-point lead — and forcing a Celtics timeout.
As for Gallinari, he entered the night averaging 19.6 points in the past 18 games. He looks like a keeper.
“Early in the season, between Gallo and Ty (Lawson) and Andre (Iguodala), we were having trouble getting two of them playing well at the same time,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “Ty and Gallo now are playing great, and it makes a foundation of your team, when you have two guys taking a lot of responsibility every night. It makes it easier for everybody else.”
ICYMI of the night: What’s better than one clutch shot? How about another one in OT to win the game? Joe Johnson pulled off both of those feats against the Bucks last night..: