NEWS OF THE MORNING
UPDATE: 1:03 p.m. ET –DENG, SHUMPERT ON MARKET?
A few new names are starting to surface in the trade rumor mill, with the biggest being Cleveland Cavaliers small forward Luol Deng. According to ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst, Deng, whom the Cavs acquired in a December trade with Chicago as they jettisoned Andrew Bynum, is on the block. Team officials are reportedly concerned they might not be able to re-sign the unrestricted free agent forward this summer:
As they evaluate the team and look to make a deal to help it secure a playoff berth, Cleveland Cavaliers officials are making recently acquired Luol Deng available ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline, multiple league sources told ESPN.com.
The Cavs traded three future draft picks and Andrew Bynum to the Chicago Bulls to acquire Deng on Jan. 7. But the deal hasn’t worked out how either side hoped.
Cleveland isn’t determined to trade Deng, but with his impending free agency a concern, new general manager David Griffin is testing the potential market for the veteran forward. Getting value for Deng may be a challenge because his contract expires in June. He cannot be packaged with another Cavs player in a deal due to trade rules, though trades can be structured in a way to get around this issue if teams are motivated enough.
Sources say the Cavs are concerned about being able to re-sign Deng this offseason, as he’ll be an unrestricted free agent for the first time. Several teams with cap space, including the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks, are expected to be interested in Deng.
Apart from Deng being put on the block, the Clippers and Knicks might also be working out a deal that would send guard Iman Shumpert to Los Angeles. Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski has more on the trade that point-guard hungry New York might be working on:
The Los Angeles Clippers and New York Knicks are discussing a deal centered around guard Iman Shumpert, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
In proposed deals, the Clippers would send the Knicks a package that includes point guard Darren Collison for Shumpert and point guard Raymond Felton, sources told Yahoo Sports.
The Knicks are shopping Shumpert hard, and the Clippers have been receptive to listening on a potential deal, league sources said.
The discussions and proposed players are still fluid, league sources said, and a deal isn’t close to being reached. Nevertheless, Shumpert is an object of interest for the Clippers and the recent return of All-Star point guard Chris Paul makes Collison more expendable.
No. 1: Howard hoping it is ‘Rockets’ time’ to shine — No need to get into all the gory details here, but suffice it to say, Dwight Howard‘s one season as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers didn’t work out how either he or the team expected. After joining the Houston Rockets via free agency last summer, Howard has slowly but surely found his footing and is looking more like the dominant force he once was as a member of the Orlando Magic. As the Lakers host Howard and the Rockets tonight (10:30 ET, ESPN), Howard said he’s plenty happy in Texas and talks about how he’s moved on from L.A. Ramona Shelbourne of ESPNLosAngeles.com has more:
Dwight Howard isn’t regretting leaving the Los Angeles Lakers. He’s happy in Houston and confident he made the right decision last July to spurn the Lakers’ five-year, $118 million offer for the Rockets’ four-year, $87.6 million deal.
But on the eve of his first game against his former team at Staples Center, he did admit there were things that could’ve changed the outcome.
“There’s a couple things that could’ve been done, but that’s over with now,” Howard said with a coy smile Tuesday afternoon. “I’m in a better place, our team is doing great and the Lakers, they’ll come back. But hopefully this is the Rockets’ time.”
Howard’s Rockets won seven games in a row heading into the All-Star break. The Lakers (18-35) are lottery bound after losing seven straight home games. Their .340 winning percentage is the franchise’s worst since 1959-60.
“I think I still might follow them on Twitter, that’s about it,” Howard said, when asked whether he’d been following the Lakers season. “I don’t pay attention to what’s on TV and what’s being said. I just focus on my team.”
His new team is on a roll, sitting in a tie for third place in the Western Conference at 36-17 after a torrid February. Howard is averaging 18.8 points and 12.5 rebounds this season, nearly identical numbers to what he put up last season in L.A. (17.1 points, 12.4 rebounds).
But Howard has noticeably improved each month as he continues to recover from back surgery in April 2012. Howard averaged 25.8 points on 65.7 percent shooting from the field in February after scoring 18.8 points a game on 54.9 percent shooting in January.
Rockets coach Kevin McHale attributes that to health and chemistry with his new teammates.
“Dwight’s one of those guys, I think he plays better when he’s having a good time and is comfortable,” McHale said. “There’s nothing wrong with that. He’s a guy who plays better when he has a joyfulness about him.
“When I watched him last year, he just looked out of sorts the whole year. He didn’t look like the guy that I’d seen in Orlando. Now what caused that? I would say 70 percent of that was physical with the back and probably 30 percent of that was environmental. I guess it was a funky environment around here.”
UPDATE: 1:49 p.m. ET — KINGS, NETS PULL OFF TRADE
Per our own David Aldridge, the Kings and Nets have completed a trade that sends Marcus Thornton to Brooklyn in exchange for Reggie Evans and Jason Terry, confirming a trade first reported on by Yahoo Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski
No. 2: Report: Kings’ Thomas has sprained wrist; trade talks for Thornton heat up — Sacramento Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas is in the midst of a career-best season, averaging 20.2 ppg and 6.3 apg. But he’s been dealing with a nagging wrist injury of late and an MRI reveals he has a wrist sprain that he’ll play through, writes Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports. Aside from that, though, the Kings are apparently heating up trade talks to help their guard depth, with Marcus Thornton at the center of those discussions:
Sacramento Kings point guard Isaiah Thomas has strained ligaments in his shooting wrist, an MRI revealed, and further complications could lead to him missing time, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
Despite the recent diagnosis, Thomas has been determined to play through the pain, sources told Yahoo Sports. Nevertheless, there could come a time in the near future when Thomas could need to consider procedural remedies for the wrist, sources said.
The wrist issue is considered “a short-term nuisance,” one source said, and will have no long-term bearing on Thomas’ career.
In the aftermath of the Kings’ trading of Greivis Vasquez to the Toronto Raptors in December, Thomas, who is 5-foot-9, has flourished as Sacramento’s starting point guard. Thomas will be a restricted free agent in July and has expressed a strong desire to remain with the Kings as a centerpiece of the franchise’s rebuilding with center DeMarcus Cousins and forward Rudy Gay.
As the NBA trade deadline approaches on Thursday, the Kings are in a state of upheaval. Sacramento’s talks with Brooklyn on a deal to acquire guard Jason Terry and forward Reggie Evans for Kings guard Marcus Thornton have progressed to a serious stage, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
The Kings are discussing a trade of guard Jimmer Fredette with several teams, sources said.
No. 3: Report: Knicks interested in Lin? – Remember back in the 2011-12 season when Jeremy Lin took New York by storm with his inspired, out-of-nowhere play for the Knicks? Apparently, the Knicks themselves haven’t forgotten about it either — even after Lin left N.Y. for Houston as a free agent in the summer of 2012. According to ESPN.com’s Chad Ford via a podcast with fellow ESPNers Bill Simmons and Zach Lowe, the Knicks are reportedly interested in re-acquiring the point guard. Keep in mind, too, that yesterday New York was linked in trade talks that might net it point guards Kyle Lowry or Rajon Rondo, too:
The New York Knicks are interested in trading for Jeremy Lin.
The Knicks let Lin sign with the Houston Rockets in the 2012 offseason.
New York has been searching for trade possibilities at point guard.
Lin’s contract expires after the 14-15 season, which preserves their cap flexibility for 2015.
No. 4: Report: Celtics interested in Jazz’s Hayward — This is one trade rumor that isn’t that hard to understand if you can play a simple game of connect the dots. Before he was Utah’s leading scorer, Gordon Hayward was a star at Butler University from 2008-10 and helped the Bulldogs to the NCAA championship game in 2010. His coach at Butler? Brad Stevens … who is now the first-year coach of the Boston Celtics. A Hayward-Stevens reunion has been much talked about when it comes to Hayward, who will be a free agent this summer and could pair up with his old coach in Boston. But according to CSNNE.com’s A. Sherrod Blakely, the Celtics are interested in trying to get Hayward sooner than that:
The Celtics have expressed some interest in acquiring Utah’s Gordon Hayward, a league source tells CSNNE.com.
Hayward, who starred for Celtics head coach Brad Stevens while at Butler, will become a restricted free agent this summer after he and the Jazz could not come to terms on an extension this past fall.
The biggest challenge appears to be finding assets currently on the Celtics’ roster that are appealing to the Jazz.
Despite Utah’s desperate need for a point guard, there’s little interest in Rajon Rondo primarily because they don’t anticipate he’ll re-sign with the club beyond his current contract which is up in the summer of 2015.
Jeff Green is another option, but the Jazz aren’t all that interested in him, either.
It would appear the one thing that might nudge Utah towards giving serious thought to dealing Hayward, would be if the Celtics were willing to part with at least one of their stockpiled first-round picks.
But two league sources, both having had recent conversations with the Celtics, told CSNNE.com on Tuesday that Boston is “very reluctant” to part with any of their first-round picks in facilitating a deal.
In fact, Boston appears focused on adding more picks or assets with any deal they strike between now and the trade deadline.
No. 5: James all about business in win over Mavs — As part of NBA TV’s interview with LeBron James, one of the questions asked of him was who would be on his theoretical NBA Mount Rushmore. James told the interviewer, Steve Smith, that he saw himself as being one of the NBA’s four all-time greats when his career is over and since then, that comment has sparked much debate about all-time greats and LeBron’s place among them. More talk on that topic last night before the Mavs-Heat game from Dallas might have also motivated James as he dropped 42 points in Miami’s win. Our own Jeff Caplan has more from Big D:
As news cycles go, Mt. Rushmore is burning Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman deep. James didn’t ask for it, but he did say it and now we, the media, can’t stop asking anybody associated with a round, orange ball whom they’d put on their own Mt. Rushmore.
Shawn Marion, the 6-foot-7 Mavericks small forward who did a magnificent defensive job on James during the 2011 Finals — and is just the type of savvy veteran (and a free agent this summer, to boot) Miami loves to place around its King sculptor — said after Tuesday morning’s shootaround that James wouldn’t be on his Mt. Rushmore, at least not yet.
By the time the news of this injustice got back to James during his pregame media session in the visiting locker room about 90 minutes before he buried Dallas with 42 points, nine rebounds and six assists in a 117-106 win, it came to him in the watered-down context that he flat-out didn’t make the cut on Marion’s Mt. Rushmore.
James was already in something of a foul mood, having decided to reveal a stern demeanor to show his teammates that the league was back open for business, and so was he. Less than 72 hours after rocking the stage with the The Roots at a New Orleans warehouse party, and 48 hours after playing in the All-Star Game, the Mt. Rushmore recurrence again put LeBron in a mood to scale the mountain.
“I really don’t care what people say or what people think, that’s not for me or my concern,” James said. “I think, once again, it was blown out of context. But, I feel like when it’s all said and done, my personal goal is that I can be one of the greatest to ever play this game, and I won’t sell myself short and I won’t continue to stop believing and saying and thinking what I believe in as far as personal goals. So, it doesn’t matter what Shawn Marion says, or what anybody says about the way I play the game of basketball.”
Is Mt. Rushmore becoming bulletin-board material? James was asked.
“I don’t need bulletin board material,” he answered. “My bulletin board material is the name on the back of my jersey and the name on the front of my jersey; and the youth and the kids that I inspire every day, every time I go out on the basketball court. And I witnessed that Saturday when I had my foundation event in New Orleans, when I was able to give back to a Boys And Girls Club and see over 30, 35, 40 kids smiling the whole time by my presence being there. My calling is much bigger than basketball. While everybody else focuses on just basketball, I’m focused on bigger and better things.”
He wasn’t finished: “And, you know, nobody can still guard me one-on-one.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Could the Kings be looking to part with star point guard Isaiah Thomas? … Celtics veteran forward Brandon Bass is plenty prepared to hear his name discussed in trade rumors … Gerald Wallace of the Celtics remains miffed at the Bobcats for trading him 2011 … Chris “Birdman” Andersen surprised fans and reporters last night by getting rid of his trademark mohawk. But after the game, he told Heat.com that it’s not gone, but merely “trimmed down” … Grizzlies coach Dave Joerger wants Mike Miller looking for his shot more on offense … Pacers center Andrew Bynum has been impressing coach Frank Vogel with his dedication to work out and improve himself … Bucks get swingman Carlos Delfino back in the mix soon
ICYMI(s) of The Night: Two posters served up last night, one by Nene (on Jonas Valanciunas) and another one from Gerald Green (on Kenneth Faried) …
VIDEO:Gerald Green posterizes Kenneth Faried with an alley-oop jam