NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Granger to discuss buyout — It’s no surprise that the Philadelphia 76ers and newly acquired Danny Granger are in talks to buy out his contract. The Sixers have the second-worst record in the NBA at 15-41 and have little use for Granger, who could aid many teams’ playoff push. Rumors have already emerged that the San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Bulls would have interest in the former All-Star. But the situation is not so simple because if Granger is bought out he would lose his Bird rights, which allows him to sign for more money this offseason, potentially as part of a sign-and-trade out of Philadelphia. Here’s more on the situation from John Gonzalez of CSN-Philly:
“We’re going to speak with him,” Hinkie said. “He’s coming in, like all the players are, they’ll come in, [take] physicals, we’ll meet with them, we’ll talk with them. Danny I hold in really high esteem. It’s going to be interesting. I think we’re going to just sit and talk like men and say ‘What is it that you want out of the rest of this year?’
“You want to talk about shell-shock, he’s been in one place his whole career, and he’s had a heck of a career already, and I think has a good bit to go. So we’re going to sit and talk to him about what it is he wants and the kind of role he sees on our team and vice versa. Where that goes, I don’t exactly know.”
Granger, who will turn 31 in April, is in the final year of a $14 million contract and will become a free agent this offseason. The former All-Star played just five games for the Pacers last year after suffering a left knee injury. He started just two of 29 games for Indiana this season, averaging 8.3 points, 3.6 rebounds and 1.1 assists in 22.5 minutes.
Given how Hinkie put the situation — that he and Granger would sit down and “talk like men” — someone asked whether it was possible that the Sixers might “buy out” Granger. Here, again, Hinkie had a vague but interesting answer.
“I think there’s a chance for us to have a discussion,” Hinkie replied. “How that goes, I don’t exactly know. He hasn’t come, but we’re organizing a flight for him to be here soon.”
No. 2: Young feels left out — Staying in Philadelphia, forward Thaddeus Young is having a career year and he feels like he was left out of the trade-deadline action. His name was in rumor discussions, but many reported that the asking price given by the Sixers was too high for potential suitors to sustain interest. Now stuck in a situation without Spencer Hawes and Evan Turner, Young decided to speak out, as reported by Bob Cooney of Philly.com:
“Come on,” he said with a smile. “I know y’all want to talk.”
Young doesn’t hide on or off the court. Thursday’s trades that sent away fellow starters Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes left him as the elder statesman of the team, and the lone remaining vet left to endure what is sure to be gut-wrenching end of the season.
“This situation, I don’t know how much worse it can get, but there’s a lot of great guys in this locker room who can play,” he said dutifully. “Hopefully, we can just go out there and get better as a team and continue to play hard.”
“I am not going to lie, a little bit,” he said of feeling left out on trade day. “Certain things don’t always happen in your favor or it doesn’t happen the way everybody else thinks it should play out. It’s been a very tough year so far, but you try to make the best of the situation.”
No. 3: Nick Young not sure about opt out — Lakers’ GM Mitch Kupchak recently guessed that guard Nick Young would opt-out of his $1.2 million player option after the season in hopes of finding a more lucrative deal on the open market. Young’s agent Mark Bartelstein says not to be so sure, as reported by Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News:
This week, Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak credited Young for having a “great year,” averaging 16.9 points per game and showing a better commitment toward defense. Kupchak then added, “my guess is he’s going to opt out” of his $1.2 million player option in hopes of securing a longer and lucrative deal.
Young politely declined to address Kupchak’s foreshadowing. But Young’s agent, Mark Bartelstein told this newspaper it’s presumptuous to think Kupchak’s prediction will pan out.
“Nick wants to be a Laker,” Bartelstein. “But his focus right now is to get healthy, get back on the court soon and finish rest of the season. That’s a conversation Mitch and I will have, but it’s too early at this point to talk about what he’s going to do.”
If Young exercises his player option, he secures his standing with the Lakers for one season albeit with money perhaps below his market value. If Young opts out of his current contract, he could secure a longer and more lucractive deal with the Lakers. But that scenario could prompt the Lakers to allow Young to sign with another team considering the team’s hope to maintain financial flexibility.
Considering his scoring output ranks second only behind Pau Gasol, is Young at least leaning toward opting out of his contract?
“No. Look, Nick’s play speaks for itself,” Bartelstein said. “He’s proven that he’s worth more than what his contract entails when he signed with the Lakers. But again, we’re not focused on that right now. He’s focusing on getting healthy and continuing to play well.”
No. 4: Villanueva seeks buyout — It seems everyone is in the market for a buyout. This time it’s Detroit Pistons power forward Charlie Villanueva. The nine-year veteran out of the University of Connecticut is currently in the middle of the worst shooting season of his career with percentages of 38.5 percent from the field and 23.1 percent from 3-point (but this doesn’t stop him from shooting nearly three 3-pointers per game). He spoke about his frustrations in Detroit with David Mayo of M Live:
Charlie Villanueva said he already has made the difficult transition from frustration to accepting his exclusion from the Detroit Pistons’ rotation, and if he happens to be playing elsewhere by the end of the month, he would accept that too.“Nobody wants to accept that, you know? But what can I do, other than work hard and keep working? That’s all I can do is keep working. If my name isn’t called, I can’t do nothing about that,” Villanueva said.…It’s still possible that he and the Pistons could agree on the buyout of the remainder of his salary, which could allow another team to pick him up by March 1 and still have him eligible for postseason.If that opportunity arises, “we could look at it, for sure,” Villanueva said after today’s shootaround before a 7:30 p.m. home game against the Atlanta Hawks.“I want to play. If it’s not here, then I’m still young, I’ve still got a lot of years of playing left. I just want to play,” he said.He hasn’t gotten that chance regularly for three seasons, under three different head coaches, which has left him “past frustration.”Villanueva has appeared in 14 games this season and played 125 minutes.“It’s hard because I love this game, I’m very passionate about this game, so it’s hard not to let my frustration out,” he said. “But you’ve just got to come to grips with it. They made their decision. It is what it is. So there’s nothing I can do about it. There’s nothing I can do about it. It doesn’t matter what I do in practice. It doesn’t matter what kind of work I put in. It doesn’t matter.”…John Loyer‘s promotion to interim coach after Maurice Cheeks was fired last week brought with it a restoration of the Will Bynum–Andre Drummond pick-and-roll combination.That pairing worked best last year when coupled with either Villanueva or Austin Daye, forwards who offered perimeter shooting options.Bynum said several weeks ago that he clamored to see the trio restored, to no avail.“I’m no coach,” Villanueva said. “I’m not gonna say nothing about it. But amongst players, we talk amongst ourselves and, I mean, has it been looked at? No. I feel like it’s something that can definitely work. But again, I’m no coach.”A buyout could prove too expensive for Villanueva to accept. He makes about $105,000 per game, so even if the Pistons bought him out after this three-game homestand with 25 games remaining — they currently have 28 games left — Villanueva would have to balance their offer against his $2.6 million remaining salary at that stage.For all the criticisms, Villanueva has been a good soldier during his three years of inactivity.“My situation ain’t so bright right now,” he said, “but I’m still living my dream.”
No. 5: Love records first triple-double — Kevin Love put on a show Saturday in Utah to record 37 points, 12 rebounds, and 10 assists to notch, surprisingly, his first career triple-double. This performance could act as ignition for a run by the Timberwolves, who sit 6.0 games out of the Western Conference playoff picture. Jerry Zgoda of the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports on Love’s career game:
With his top two centers and starting guard Kevin Martin all out injured Saturday, Wolves coach Rick Adelman asked Love for as much as he could conceivably give him, within the bounds of reason, of course.
That turned out to be a 37-point, 12-rebound, 10-assist triple-double reached before Love sat down for the final nine minutes after he had propelled his team to a 21-point lead and its third consecutive victory.
“Just do more,” Love said.
That was the challenge that faced the All-Star forward and all of his teammates with Nikola Pekovic, Ronny Turiaf and Martin out. Love responded by scoring 22 points in the third quarter alone, when the Wolves stretched a 10-point halftime lead to as many as 21. Love made five of his six three-pointers in the third quarter.
“He’s unbelievable and because he does it all the time, sometimes we don’t realize how big it is,” teammate Ricky Rubio said.
“He put up video-game numbers. It’s just fun to play with him.”
“He was incredible, that third quarter was incredible,” Adelman said. “To get a triple-double in three quarters, that’s pretty darn good. I think he really realizes now that he can go out there, not have that many points and in a four-minute span just explode.
“That’s what we need. That’s what we needed at the start of the third quarter. He certainly dominated the game, but that third quarter was incredible.”
Love tied [Kevin] Garnett’s franchise record for consecutive 30-point games by reaching his fourth in a row, and he extended a streak of 25-point, 10-rebound games to nine, the NBA’s longest single-season mark since former Utah star Karl Malone did so in 10 consecutive games in the 1991-92 season.
“That’s good company to be in, especially when you do it in a game where you win,” said Love, who reached a career high in assists while still playing fewer than 35 minutes. “I just go out and play. I’m not looking for assists or rebounds or stats. I’m just going out there and playing hard.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Celtics coach Brad Stevens received his first NBA technical and ejection. … The Hawks sign Dexter Pittman to a 10-day contract. … Four players scored over 30 points in the Pacers-Bucks game. … Nene dunked a game-winner with .3 seconds left for the Wizards.
ICYMI of the Night: The Sacramento Kings have been one of the most fun teams to watch in the NBA this season, despite their lack of wins. This off-the-backboard alley-oop from Isaiah Thomas to Derrick Williams proves the point:
VIDEO: Backboard Jam