NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Knicks trying to swing deal for Rondo? — Last week, trade rumors surrounding Knicks guard Iman Shumpert began to stir with the prominent deal being floated about was a Shumpert-for-Kenneth Faried swap with Denver. According to our own David Aldridge, that deal is unlikely to happen, but that hasn’t stopped the Knicks from keeping Shumpert in the trade rumor talks. ESPNNewYork.com’s Ian Bagley reports that the Knicks are interested in trying to send Shumpert and forward Amar’e Stoudemire to Boston in an effort to land injured All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo. The chances of that deal coming to pass aren’t likely, though:
UPDATE — Celtics boss Danny Ainge tells the Boston Herald‘s Steve Bulpett there’s ‘nothing to’ the Rondo rumors:
The recent spate of rumors regarding the possible trade of Rajon Rondo are not based in any Celtic reality.
“I haven’t talked to any teams about Rajon Rondo,” Celts’ president of basketball operation Danny Ainge told the Herald this morning.
He has, however, fielded a number of calls wanting to now if the rumors are true.
“It’s frustrating,” Ainge said.
He went on to reiterate that Rondo, still rehabbing from ACL surgery, is a major part of the Celtics’ plans going forward.
The reports in the last two days have focused more on opposing teams being interested in Rondo, but the packages of lesser players being floated as a return make no sense for the Celts.
Here’s Bagley’s report on the trade talks:
The New York Knicks continue to dangle Iman Shumpert in trade talks, including a recent proposal to the Celtics that would send the third-year guard and Amar’e Stoudemire to Boston in an effort to obtain star point guard Rajon Rondo, league sources confirmed Sunday.
The Celtics, though, have yet to show interest in the deal, instead preferring to unload forward Gerald Wallace in a trade, sources said.
The Knicks have inquired about Rondo in trade talks before, but both times the Celtics made it clear they were not interested in trading him.
Sources did say the Celtics would be willing to take on Stoudemire’s contract if they could unload some of their longer deals, namely those of Wallace and Courtney Lee.
The Knicks may be reluctant to take Wallace back because they’re hesitant to take on salary beyond the 2014-15 season.
The Knicks have three large contracts (Stoudemire, Tyson Chandler and Andrea Bargnani) coming off their books at the end the 2014-15 season and would like to be in position to acquire a top-flight free agent.
A trade including Wallace and Stoudemire would seem to benefit the Celtics financially. Boston is in rebuilding mode, and Stoudemire’s contract expires a year before Wallace’s.
One factor that could complicate trade talks involving Shumpert is that the 2011 first-round pick had a second surgery on his left knee this summer, league sources confirmed on Sunday.
The Knicks and Nuggets discussed a Shumpert-for-Kenneth Faried swap last week. New York believed it had a deal completed on Tuesday morning, a league source told ESPNNewYork.com. But the trade fell through when Denver asked the Knicks to include at least one draft pick.
And then there are these tweets from ESPN.com’s Chris Broussard on a possible Rondo-Shumpert/Stoudemire swap:
No. 2: Humphries frustrated with minutes in Boston — Not since the 2008-09 season, when he averaged 9.1 mpg, has Kris Humphries seen his playing time dwindle as much as it has this season. Humphries is playing 11.2 mpg with Boston and has appeared in just six of the team’s 11 games. The veteran power forward is growing frustrated with his lesser role and future on the team, writes A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNewEngland.com:
Humphries wants to play somewhere, even if it means leaving Boston.
He’s not quite ready to demand a trade, but it’s clear that the lack of playing time and erratic minutes he has played is weighing on him.
The 6-foot-9 veteran did not play (coaches decision) in Boston’s 109-96 loss to Portland on Friday, his fifth DNP-CD this season.
“I’m just waiting for a break or an opportunity to get in there more consistently,” Humphries told CSNNE.com. “It would have been great to have played better (Wednesday) night and us win. That would help. But as a guy playing inconsistent minutes, it’s not going to happen every night for you. You have to try and make it happen and do whatever you can to help your team win.”
The 28-year-old veteran has appeared in five games this season, averaging four points and 2.8 rebounds while playing 11 minutes per game.
But in the rebuilding process that the Celtics are currently in, there’s always some form of collateral damage along the way.
While he has often thought about what he has to do in order to get more minutes in Boston, he hasn’t asked for a trade.
“That’s why players have agents,” Humphries said. “We just have to as players, focus on what we can control. If you sit there and say, ‘hey I want a trade,’ it’s going to take away from the team and what you’re trying do to.”
Celtics head coach Brad Stevens has praised Humphries often for his professionalism and work ethic throughout training camp and into the regular season.
And while it’s clear that Humphries doesn’t fit into the regular rotation now, the parity of so many players on this roster makes it such that everyone has to be ready to play every night.
“It’s been tough. I’m here so that’s what I’m focused on,” Humphries said. “I’m playing some 4 (power forward) now, which I think will help out a little bit. But nothing has ever been easy for me. I’e always had shorter-term deals, always had to prove myself.”
No. 3: Report: Asik certain to be dealt — Late last week, news broke courtesy of the Houston Chronicle that Rockets center Omer Asik had asked the team to trade him. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein confirms that Asik is a near-lock to be dealt, but the questions remain about not just where Asik will land, but what Houston does with him until it can find a trade partner:
The mystery here, apart from the obvious question about where he ultimately winds up, is what Houston does with Asik until it can locate that appealing deal.
The center was scratched from Saturday’s home game against Denver essentially because he’s so unhappy with his new role that he’s in no state to play. Word is Asik has been asking the Rockets pretty much once a week, since Dwight Howard‘s arrival in July, to please trade him elsewhere. And now losing his starting spot, on top of what was already a reduced role, has clearly knocked the 27-year-old back.
Sources with knowledge of the situation told ESPN.com that Asik was challenged by coaches and teammates this week for not being “engaged” in the wake of the lineup change, which took effect when Asik was moved to the bench for Wednesday’s game in Philadelphia. And he hasn’t played since the challenge, logging zero minutes Thursday night in New York while in uniform and not even dressing against the Nuggets.
The new challenge for the Rockets, then, is getting Asik’s mind right and getting him back on the floor as soon as possible, given the very real chance that a workable trade won’t materialize until after Dec. 15, when dozens of players who signed new contracts in July become eligible to be moved.
Dec. 15, for those not inclined to count it up, is still 28 days away.
“I understand it’s tough for him,” Howard told reporters after Houston’s morning shootaround. “The only thing I can do is be his friend off the floor and help him any way I can. I understand it’s a tough situation for him, but we are all family and we have to learn to fight through frustrations.”
Rest assured, though, that eager suitors for Asik will materialize eventually, no matter how mopey he seems right now and even with Houston hoping for a front-line player in return. The rebounding ability and rim presence Asik can provide makes him a starting-caliber center for numerous teams in this league.
No. 4: Old habits keep holding Kings back — With a new arena in the works, new ownership leading the team and a contract extension for talented big man DeMarcus Cousins, excitement for the Kings was at a fever pitch as the 2013-14 season opened. Yet, nine games into the season, Sacramento finds itself in a familiar position: with a losing record and among the worst teams in the conference (they only have one more win than the NBA’s worst team, the 1-10 Utah Jazz). Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee talks about how the culture of the Kings and, perhaps, some of the players are keeping Sacramento from where it wants to go:
How the Kings continue to play with a lack of urgency is befuddling. They did so again this afternoon in losing to the Memphis Grizzlies, 97-86, at Sleep Train Arena.
Perhaps it’s a case of old habits dying slow. Or maybe this is just who the Kings are – a team with unpredictable levels of effort and focus – and that won’t change unless players change.
There was talk of changing the culture postgame, and how much work that takes.
The work will begin to take hold when the Kings realize they have to hold themselves accountable and not accept subpar effort from themselves and teammates.
“As a group, as a unit, as a team, we’ve just got to get tired of losing,” said forward John Salmons. “If you’re tired of losing when we’re down in the third quarter like that you wouldn’t come out with the lack of energy like we did. I think guys are used to it and it shows on the court. When you have that mentality it’s hard to break those habits.”
A lot of these players have been around in past seasons when players have admitted to being overconfident for games when most night the Kings had a losing record entering those games.
No. 5: Warriors hurting over O’Neal’s injury — For a squad led by youngsters Klay Thompson and Steph Curry, the stability a veteran voice like Jermaine O’Neal can provide to an up-and-coming squad is invaluable. O’Neal hasn’t just provided sagely words for the Warriors, though, as he’s proven to be a key cog in the team’s bench unit and had been hitting his stride. All of those factors made O’Neal’s injury in Golden State’s 102-88 win over Utah on Saturday all the more costly to the team’s chemistry, writes Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle:
It’s not that the Warriors don’t have options to take the backup center’s place. It’s just that it’s nearly impossible for a single player to do everything the 35-year-old was doing for the team.
O’Neal, who was initially diagnosed with a sprained right knee and strained right groin before additional tests late Sunday afternoon, has been a steady defensive anchor on the second unit and the team’s most proven scorer from the low post. More importantly, since signing a free-agent deal in the summer and arriving in Oakland before his 18th NBA season, the six-time All-Star’s voice and experience have provided his younger teammates with a different focus level, toughness and mind-set than they’ve ever known.
…Though the Warriors could sign NBA Development Leaguer Dewayne Dedmon, who was with the team during training camp, they can’t issue 10-day contracts until Jan. 6. It was fitting that Draymond Green and Ognjen Kuzmic acted as O’Neal’s crutches as he was helped to the locker room, because those two probably will receive an increase in minutes.
Starting power forward David Lee will play some backup-center minutes, and backup power forward Marreese Speights can bump up a position. Still, the Warriors will need Green and/or Kuzmic to play more depending on matchups.
“I know he’ll bounce back,” shooting guard Klay Thompson said of O’Neal. “He’s one of the toughest guys I’ve ever met.”
In the meantime, the Warriors will need to find someone to match O’Neal’s production. Having found a comfort zone, he averaged nine points (on 75 percent shooting), four rebounds, one blocked shot and one steal over the past three games.
O’Neal said last week that his mind was going “100 miles per hour” because he was pressing to meet the team’s expectations, but after talking with his wife, brother and high school coach, and praying, he found a place of calm.
“I’ve been playing this thing called basketball for 20-something years,” O’Neal said Wednesday. “Nothing really changes. The same shots I could make in the past, I can still make now. There’s no difference from when I’m working out in practice and knocking a shot down than when I’m in a game, but I had to tell myself that.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Nuggets coach Brian Shaw is still mad at himself for using the Hack-A-Howard strategy … Detroit is taking a cautious approach with Chauncey Billups’ return from tendinitis in his knees … Is it time for the Raptors to consider gunning for a top pick in the 2014 Draft? …
ICYMI Of The Night: You’ve got to watch this alley-oop from Brandon Jennings to Andre Drummond a couple of times, first because it looks like it is a missed shot and, second, because once you realize it’s a great pass, you’ve got to see it again and again …