NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Report: Gasol-for-Bynum talks stall out — Cavs center Andrew Bynum has been basically excused from the team since his suspension from the team for detrimental conduct five days ago. In the time since then, trade talks regarding Bynum have heated up — especially since moving him before Jan. 7 would spare the Cavs from having to pay Bynum anything more than half of his $12.25 million deal. One deal that seemed to be picking up steam involved Cleveland shipping Bynum to his former team, the Los Angeles Lakers, for big man Pau Gasol. But as ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst and Ramona Shelbourne point out, that deal is starting to lose its momentum of a few days ago:
The deal is not dead, but it is no longer progressing. The Cavs, who have until Jan. 7 to trade Bynum before his contract becomes guaranteed and loses its instant value in a trade, are now actively seeking other options.
The major issue, sources said, involves the Lakers’ desire to get an additional asset from the Cavs beyond Bynum’s team-friendly contract, which could save the Lakers more than $20 million in salary and luxury taxes. The Lakers are interested in also getting a young prospect or a first-round draft pick as part of the deal. The Cavs have been reluctant to part with either.
To satisfy NBA trade rules, the Cavs would have to add at least one more player to any trade involving Gasol for Bynum. Gasol is in the last year of a contract that pays him $19.3 million. Bynum’s contract is for $12.25 million but is only half guaranteed before next week, which is why the Lakers are interested. By trading for and then waiving Bynum, the Lakers could take themselves below the luxury-tax threshold for the first time in seven years.
The Lakers, though, remain reluctant to part with Gasol before giving the team time to recover from a wave of injuries that have derailed its season, sources said.
There is some pressure for the Lakers to get out of the luxury tax to help with future flexibility. If the Lakers remain in the tax this season, going into the tax in either of the next two seasons would trigger a “repeater tax” the franchise hopes to avoid. The Lakers are planning to be major free-agent players the next two summers.
Gasol, no stranger to trade rumors, addressed the latest one after the Lakers’ practice Thursday.
“I’m more accustomed to them and I deal with them better than I did at first, when it started,” he said. “But it’s just a reality, and I just got to stay cool and keep my mind on the game as much as I can.”
He also said he wants to remain in Los Angeles.
“It’s my home, it’s my team,” Gasol said. “It’s the team that I’ve been through so much with, and I’m not the type of guy that likes to jump ship because everything is not going right right now. So, I’m a loyal guy. I’d like to continue to be here and fight with the guys that are here and once we get bodies back, everything will be better. But right now, I’d like to continue to stay here. This is my team, this is my city.”
No. 2: Rondo says he’s ‘pretty close’ to a return, is open to D-League stint — Some good news for the Celtics as the New Year gets rolling — point guard Rajon Rondo told the Boston media yesterday that his rehab is moving along well and his return might not be far off. One idea that was floated by Celtics coach Brad Stevens to help get Rondo back into NBA shape was the send him down to the Maine Red Claws of the NBA Development League for a few games before he takes the court in Boston. That’s an idea that Rondo isn’t scoffing at, writes Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe:
Rajon Rondo said Thursday he is open to a rehabilitation stint with NBADL Maine and is getting “pretty close” after missing nearly a year following tearing his right anterior cruciate ligament.“I’m better than last week when I talked to you guys,” he said, referring to his Dec. 22 meeting with the media. “I’m still getting my endurance but I’m getting pretty close, feeling good, feeling better. Like I said, I feel better than last week.”
“A like a 12-minute quarter, straight,” he said when asked whether there is one sign that he’s ready to return. “I don’t want to go out there and get fatigued and cause another injury. I want to makes sure I’m ready to go and I’m in shape.”
Celtics coach Brad Stevens said Monday that the organization had discussed sending Rondo to Maine for game action and practice time. Rondo had been mum about the possibility until Thursday. If Rondo does play with the Red Claws, it would likely be away from Maine. After Sunday, Maine hits the road for five games on the West Coast before returning to Portland on Jan. 18.
“That’s an idea definitely,” he said. “That’s more game-like speed with our schedule, the Celtics, we don’t a chance to play a lot of pickup, so that might be a possibility. You just never know, I might just pop up and play. You guys won’t get the memo. You just have to catch me on YouTube or something. Each week I’m getting better so I just want to give it a test when I have a chance.”
When asked if he was truly open to playing in the D-League, he said: “That’s what it’s for. I’ll probably be the first (NBA player) to (use it as rehab) but it doesn’t make a difference. I want to make sure I’m healthy and I handle it the right way. I don’t want my first time to come back out game-like to be the first time with the Celtics. I haven’t had a preseason. I haven’t had a training camp. Right now, this is my training camp.”
The Celtics entered Thursday in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race despite a 13-18 record. Boston has been one of the league’s most surprising teams because of the chemistry quickly gained under Stevens but Rondo said the team’s record will have nothing to do with the timing of his return.
“I’m pretty motivated regardless of our team’s record,” he said. “I told myself before the season I wasn’t going to base it off our record. It’s based off how I feel. We could be 2-30 right now, if I’m able to come back and play I want to play. I love the game. I’ve been away for a long time, and when I feel ready to play, I’m going to play.”
No. 3: Report: Warriors, Kings interested in acquiring Nuggets’ Miller — ICYMI (and as we reported in this space yesterday morning), Nuggets point guard Andre Miller and coach Brian Shaw got into quite the shouting match during Denver’s eventual New Year’s Day loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. The fallout from that war of words resulted in Miller being suspended two games by the team yesterday. But there might be more to this tale as Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc J. Spears of Yahoo!Sports.com report that the Warriors and Kings are both trying to work a deal to trade for the apparently disgruntled Miller:
The Golden State Warriors and Sacramento Kings are intrigued with the possibility of acquiring suspended Denver Nuggets point guard Andre Miller, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
For now, Denver management is determined to smooth over the acrimony between Miller and coach Brian Shaw, and plan on bringing back Miller on Monday for practice, league sources said.
Denver had resisted trade overtures before Wednesday’s encounter between Miller and Shaw on the Nuggets bench, and teams reaching out to the Nuggets on Thursday insist that Nuggets GM Tim Connelly still seems committed to working through the issues with Miller and getting him back on the floor for Denver.
The Warriors have been shopping for a backup point guard and have been engaged for weeks with Toronto on Kyle Lowry, sources said. The Warriors and New York Knicks have been two of the most persistent suitors for Lowry, but Toronto’s recent run of success has made the front office more reticent to unload Lowry, league sources said. Toronto hasn’t completely changed course on a possible deal for Lowry, but they’re no longer simply auctioning him.
Sacramento GM Pete D’Allessandro was a longtime executive with the Nuggets and has long been an admirer of Miller’s. The Kings would love to use Miller as a veteran mentor for young point guard Isaiah Thomas, league sources said.
The frustration that started on the floor on Wednesday night extended into the postgame locker room too, sources told Yahoo Sports. Miller has grown frustrated with Shaw and had recently addressed some issues to him in a locker room meeting forum, league sources said.
Connelly spoke with Miller for approximately an hour late Wednesday night at the Pepsi Center, and the team suspended Miller on Thursday for its next two games.
No. 4: Blazers enjoy their record-setting night from deep — If you’ve spent any time at all this season watching the Trail Blazers on NBA League Pass or on national TV, you’ve surely noticed they have plenty of capable 3-point shooters and a willingness to fire from deep, too. Damian Lillard is third in the NBA in 3-pointers attempted with 240, while Wes Matthews (203, t-6th) and Nicolas Batum (185, 9th) are both in the top 10 in that category, too. The Blazers’ shooters were simply on fire last night in a win against the Bobcats as Portland set an NBA record by becoming the first team in history to nail 20-plus 3-pointers twice in a season. After the game, the Blazers soaked in their accomplishment, as Kerry Eggers of The Portland Tribune writes:
“I like being part of history,” Portland coach Terry Stotts said. “I think that’s pretty cool. It’s good to do something that’s never been done before.”
The Blazers entered the game shooting a league-best .396 from beyond the arc and improved on that considerably.
“It was a lot of fun, with shots falling like that, but we’ve been doing it all year,” Lillard said.
Well, not like Thursday night. But the Blazers have made the 3-point shot their calling card this season.
“Everybody has been willing to make that extra pass,” Lillard said. “We have a lot of good shooters. If we get in a good enough rhythm, if we get good looks and the ball is moving how it did, that’s the kind of night it can be.”
“We’re going to shoot 3’s and we’re going to shoot them well,” Stotts said. “We’re going to make our percentages, because we have a lot of good shooters.”
Seven Blazers knocked down at least one 3-point shot, and even LaMarcus Aldridge (0 for 1) and Meyers Leonard (0 for 2) tried to join the party.
“When the guys are hitting like that, that makes it easy for me,” said center Robin Lopez, who had 14 points on 7-for-10 shooting and five rebounds in 26 minutes. “All I have to do is get somebody on the floor open, set the screen, give him a little space and let him go to work.”
“Making those shots is contagious,” Matthews said. “Our crowd gets into it. Our crowd is almost willing the ball in for us, before we even shoot it.
“When that ball is flying around the perimeter like that, when (Aldridge) is kicking it out, it’s almost like it’s expected you’re going to make the shot.”
For a team with a league-best 26 victories, the Blazers have precious few blowouts. They are 14-3 in games decided by 10 points or fewer and had only two wins by more than 15 points before Thursday. Stotts was able to get at least seven minutes of action for all 13 players dressed, with nobody playing as many as 30.
“It’s always good to get a win like this,” Stotts said. “Guys on the bench can get some minutes; starters can get some rest. You have to enjoy these, because they don’t come often.”
“It’s a good feeling,” Matthews said, a smile forming on his face. “We didn’t get to do that much last year. It was on the other end, actually.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Good news for the Magic — Nikola Vucevic‘s ankle injury isn’t as bad as was initially feared … Although he says otherwise, it seems that Knicks guard J.R. Smith is still a tad upset about the team cutting his brother, Chris … Veteran Keith Bogans isn’t too happy about his lack of playing time with Boston this season … Kendall Marshall will become the sixth different player to start at point guard for the Lakers this season
ICYMI(s) Of The Night: Apparently, it was a good night to have the last name “Plumlee” as both brothers — Mason (of the Nets) and Miles (of the Suns) — got to finish off tasty alley-oops.