NEWS OF THE MORNING
Report: Eight teams interested in Bynum | Report: Knicks gauging trade market for Smith | Deng denies he sought $15M-a-season deal | Report: Blazers’ Williams will opt out of deal | Rivers: I’m ‘always a Celtic’
No. 1: Report: Suitors lining up for Bynum — Despite his fallout with the Cleveland Cavaliers that resulted in his being traded to Chicago for Luol Deng (and the Bulls’ waiving of him a day later), no less than eight teams are pursuing Andrew Bynum. According to ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, Bynum is expected to sign with a team by the end of this week. Which team it will be, however, remains very much up in the air:
Eight teams have contacted Andrew Bynum’s representatives about adding the 7-foot center to their rosters, according to a source close to the situation.
The Miami Heat and Los Angeles Clippers are widely believed to be among the teams interested in acquiring the two-time championship center.
One league executive who recently spoke with Heat president Pat Riley told ESPN.com, “I’m certain that Riley is going to go hard after Bynum.”
Sources told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein on Wednesday that the Dallas Mavericks are among the eight teams that have registered interest in Bynum this week. But Dallas — one of the prime bidders for Bynum’s services this past summer before he signed with the Cleveland Cavaliers — is limited to offering him a minimum salary.
Sources say, furthermore, that the Brooklyn Nets are not planning to pursue Bynum despite being granted a disabled player exception worth up to $5.25 million in the wake of Brook Lopez‘s season-ending foot injury. The Atlanta Hawks, meanwhile, are “unlikely” to lodge a bid for Bynum to replace the injured Al Horford, according to one source close to the process.
Bynum’s decision will come down to several factors, according to the source. He will consider playing time, the club’s chances for playoff success and money.
“It doesn’t necessarily have to be a contender,” the source said of Bynum’s choice. “He’s looking to play and be utilized.”
Miami has its midlevel exception available as well as a need for a viable big man to combat Indiana’s Roy Hibbert.
The Clippers, on the other hand, are limited to offering Bynum the veteran’s minimum.
Bynum is expected to clear waivers Thursday at 5 p.m. ET.
No. 2: Report: Knicks gauging trade interest in Smith — A season ago, J.R. Smith was the Sixth Man of the Year Award winner and a key component to a division-winning New York Knicks team that reached the Eastern Conference semifinals. Little of that is the same this season for both Smith and the Knicks as player and team have struggled to find a rhythm on the court. As well, Smith has gained some of his most notoriety this season not for his 3-point shooting or his contributions on the court, but for his efforts at untying opponents’ shoes that netted him a $50,000 fine from the league office. While Smith’s shoe incidents hasn’t led to him being on the trading block for New York, writes Ian Bagley and Marc Stein of ESPN.com, it hasn’t necessarily helped, either:
Sources close to the situation said Wednesday that the organization has become increasingly frustrated with Smith’s on- and off-the-court transgressions and may feel that a fresh start would be best for all parties.
Wednesday’s fine didn’t necessarily push the Knicks over the top, but one source with knowledge of the team’s thinking said the organization has become “fed up” with Smith’s erratic behavior.
Coach Mike Woodson hinted at that frustration Wednesday when he called Smith’s conduct “unacceptable” in an interview with ESPN New York 98.7 FM’s “The Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco Show.”"I’m not happy about this, because he was warned, he comes back and he makes the same mistake, and it’s not right,” Woodson said.
“It’s just got to stop. I keep saying this every time something pops up, but it’s got to stop.”The coach later added that Smith has been “unprofessional about how he’s approached this whole thing. Something’s gotta be done. It has to stop. I’ll address it tomorrow when I see him, and then we’ll go from there.”
Smith can’t be traded until Jan. 15 because the Knicks are over the salary cap and Smith signed for more than 120 percent of his previous salary.
The Knicks, furthermore, privately acknowledge that it will be difficult in the current climate to trade Smith, who has two seasons left after this one on a three-year, $18 million contract.
No. 3: Deng denies asking Bulls for $15M-a-season deal — As we told you in this space on Tuesday morning (the day after the Andrew Bynum-for-Luol Deng swap between the Cavs and Bulls), Chicago apparently made one last-ditch effort to keep Deng in the fold before trading him. According to Yahoo!Sports.com’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Bulls offered Deng a three-year, $30 million extension that he balked at days before the swap with Cleveland. But Deng, in his first news conference with the Cavs, told the Chicago Tribune’s K.C. Johnson that he never asked the Bulls for a $15 million-a-season extension — as was reported during the summer — as he detailed his departure from Chicago:
He’s not bitter. And despite reports, he never asked for $15 million a year from the Bulls, who traded Deng to Cleveland on Monday in a financial move to create flexibility for the future.
“My thing is in the summer, I never came with a number,” Deng told the Tribune. “I heard on the radio that I asked for 15 (million). I would never ask for a number. We came to (general manager) Gar (Forman) last summer and we wanted to sit down and talk. And Gar didn’t want to talk. They felt like they wanted to wait and see how everything goes with Derrick (Rose).
“Three days before the trade, Gar called me upstairs and put three years, $30 million on the table. Take it or leave it. No negotiation. I said no and that was it. But 15? That’s the only thing that upset me. I’m not upset with the organization. I want everyone to understand that. If I was a GM, would I make that move? Maybe.
“I wanted to be in Chicago. I thought I was going to end my career there. Not talking during the summer, did that hurt me? Yeah. And then you come back with 10 (million). Who knows what I would’ve taken in the summer? That’s the part that is really bothering me. Other than that, I have no issues at all.”
“They paid me,” Deng said, referencing the $71 million extension he signed in 2008. “I can’t be mad at that. You don’t have to tap me on the shoulder every day. That’s not me. That’s not my personality.
“I had an opportunity to play for a great organization. I’ve been very lucky to play 10 years for the only team that I ever knew as a kid. I only knew Michael Jordan, Scottie Pippen and the Bulls when I was 7 years old and in Egypt. For me to be the fourth-leading scorer on that team, did I ever think a refugee kid in Egypt would even play for the Bulls? There’s a lot of amazing things that have happened.”
Deng saw the comments his teammates made in the wake of his trade, the ones that made it clear he’ll be remembered for more than being a two-time All-Star. He appreciated those.
“I wish (the trade) was face-to-face so I could say good-bye to my teammates,” Deng said. “I had to call them and talk to each one. There are workers at the stadium, people at the Berto, I wanted to say good-bye face-to-face. After nine or 10 years, those are not just people you work with. Some of them, I’m closer to them than teammates. The way I went down, I wish it wasn’t a phone call.”
No. 4: Report: Blazers’ Williams will opt out this summer — Point guard Mo Williams has been a vital part of the Portland Trail Blazers’ revival season and often teams with star guard Damian Lillard in the backcourt for key stretches each night. But Williams, who signed a two-year contract with Portland last summer, says he’s opting out of his deal this summer. The good news for Blazers fans, though, is that Williams wants to stay in Oregon and is simply looking for a longer term deal, writes Chris Haynes of CSNNorthwest.com:
Portland Trail Blazers guard Mo Williams tells CSNNW.com he will opt out of his deal with the team at the conclusion of the season and become an unrestricted free agent this summer.
The veteran guard, who head coach Terry Stotts considers the best backup point guard in the league, says this decision was always the plan and adds that his main objective is to secure a lengthened contract with the Trail Blazers.
“I would like to be here long term,” Williams revealed to CSNNW.com. “My goal is to work something out with Portland this summer. I like it here and I want to make this place home.”
Williams said team chemistry, camaraderie and fan support are why he and his family are drawn to the city.
“With our team, we have a makeup of individuals that do something really, really good and when we mesh together, it’s like gumbo,” he explained. “That’s the best example I can give you of our team. Some teams have a dish where you got your steak, potatoes and asparagus. We’re gumbo. Without one of the ingredients, the gumbo just doesn’t taste well. But when everything is in that pot, it’s just like grandma did it.”
No. 5: Rivers ‘always a Celtic’ in his heart — One of the key storylines of the offseason was Celtics coach Doc Rivers leaving Boston to head to L.A. to try and work his magic and turn the Clippers into a Finals-qualifying team. But in leaving Beantown, Rivers angered a fan base that remembered him saying he was a “Celtic for life” after signing his last contract extension in Boston. Rivers addresses that departure and many other topics in a wide-ranging interview with The Boston Herald‘s Steve Bulpett and Rivers says that no matter what team he coaches, Boston will always be a part of his heart:
It was less than three years ago that this newly baptized Angeleno, having signed a five-year contract extension with the Celtics, proclaimed his undying loyalty to Boston. Most people believed him, but Kris Rivers wasn’t buying it.
“My wife would tell me all the time,” said Rivers. “She’d say, ‘You love it there and I get that, but you know who you are. You need something.’”
That it would be the Clippers isn’t something he could have foreseen. But as he sipped on a glass of pinot noir Sunday, Rivers admitted last summer wasn’t the first time he’d made a move for the door in Boston.
“I left three times,” he said. “I really did. The year we won it, I was done after the year. I was going through my dad thing (his father’s passing), and I was just going to go home and do nothing. In 2010, I was definitely gone. After that last game, I almost said it. I was very close to saying it in the press conference after we lost to the Lakers. I was emotional and I was just going to leave.
“After the Miami loss (in 2011) when I said, ‘I am a Celtic,’ that’s when I got defiant about not leaving. It’s amazing how you go up and down. But I felt like I couldn’t leave then. It wasn’t the right time. We had Paul (Pierce), Kevin (Garnett) and, at the time, Ray (Allen), and I just thought it would be bad form. I couldn’t do it to them.”
Looking back on a trail of mixed messages and emotions, Rivers shrugged.
“It’s what you believe at that moment,” he said.
Back on the deck at Shutters, he insisted that he’s moved on from last summer’s Celtics divorce, but he hasn’t completely reconciled the departure.
“I don’t know if I’ll ever be comfortable with it, honestly,” he said. “I don’t think you can get comfortable with it. Danny and I did get together on it at the end, but I just thought after a while it got to the point of no return.
“It was just hard for me. I’m not sure anyone can understand. I fell in love with where I was at, but after the season I realized I just didn’t want to get into the whole rebuilding thing. I didn’t have it in me. Once I came to that conclusion, now I’m a mess. Do I stay and do it anyway? I thought about it and decided I just couldn’t.
“I’ve never had that type of feeling for a place. I was in Atlanta eight years and it was great. Orlando is nice and playing for the Knicks was nice, but nothing like Boston. And I don’t think I can ever get that again, no matter what I do. That’s just hard.”
“I don’t give a (expletive) what I do the rest of my life, I’m always going to be a Celtic,” he said. “It’ll never go away. I don’t give a (expletive) what I do. I think even if I win 10 championships here, it’s different when you win with the Celtics. There are only a few organizations in sports that have that history and have that following, and I was with one for nine years.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: The Raptors are fairly convinced that Kyle Lowry will sign a long-term deal with them this summer … Bucks rookie Giannis Antetokounmpo has a must-read blog entry on the Greek sports site Sport 24 (h/t BrewHoop for the translation) … For some reason, Blazers center Robin Lopez has a beef with the Toronto Raptors’ mascot … Leandro Barbosa is happy to be, as he puts it, “back with the purple” in Phoenix
ICYMI(s) Of The Night: In the first quarter of last night’s game against Boston, Blake Griffin gave his dunking partner in crime, DeAndre Jordan, a fast-break slam thanks to his nice outlet pass. Then, in the third quarter, Griffin targeted Kris Humphries and made him his latest dunk target …