NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Clips reportedly set to add Granger; where do other players fit best? — Late last night, news broke that recently waived Sixers forward Danny Granger was set to sign with the L.A. Clippers for the stretch run of the season and the playoffs. Our Sekou Smith has more on that report and also chimes in with some possible destinations for other name free-agents like Jimmer Fredette, Caron Butler and Metta World Peace.
Phase 2 is the buyout market, when teams lock up veteran help at an area of need when teams start purging their rosters of players that were moved last week or veterans on lottery-bound teams in search of work with a contender. And that means we switch our focus from superstars who were rumored to be traded (yes, you Rajon Rondo and Pau Gasol) to those players who were actually moved or probably should have been (guys like Danny Granger and Caron Butler, headliners in the buyout market).
Now it’s just a matter of matching the right player with the right team …
The race for Butler’s services has turned into a battle between two teams that could very well end up battling for the ultimate prize this season. The Oklahoma City Thunder and Miami Heat, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, are the leaders for Butler. They both have a need for a quality veteran to help work on the perimeter. Butler’s career began in Miami and he has institutional knowledge of how to operate in the Heat’s system. He could slide right into the mix with LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and crew and fit in well. But the chance for more meaningful minutes might actually come with the Thunder, where Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook could use another wise vet with a championship ring (Butler won his with Dallas) to help with some of the heavy lifting.
The rumblings of a Fredette move to the Bulls started early Thursday, courtesy of a report from ESPN’s Marc Stein. It would be an odd marriage considering the Bulls’ defensive-minded focus and Fredette’s allergy to anything defensive during his time with the Sacramento Kings. But if Fredette wants to continue his playing career in the NBA and not abroad, proving himself as a contributor and key component for a rugged playoff outfit coached by Tom Thibodeau would do wonders for his cause.
The Bulls need the scoring help, particularly on the perimeter and from a shooter with Jimmer’s range. And he’ll get a chance to learn the fine art of true team defense playing for a coach and a team, led by All-Star center and defensive backbone Joakim Noah, that could very well save the No. 10 pick from the 2011 Draft.
World Peace has nine NBA lives. Who’d have thunk it a decade ago when his career was hanging in the balance? This is admittedly more of a guilty pleasure exercise for us than it is a necessity for the Spurs, but the potential World Peace and Gregg Popovich chemistry experiment is one that would keep social scientists up at night trying to figure out how it works. Metta proved during his run with the Lakers that he was capable of folding himself into the fabric of a championship outfit. He could do it again with the Spurs and Pop, who has made an art form of integrating veteran role players into the right spot in the rotation.
No. 2: Making playoffs won’t be enough to sway Anthony’s decision — Give the New York Knicks some credit for their performance last night against the Miami Heat. Although they ultimately were routed by Miami 108-82, New York kept the game close through three quarters behind a 29-point night from Carmelo Anthony. But Knicks fans shouldn’t hold out hope that a miraculous run to the playoffs is going to affect Anthony’s decision to re-sign (or not) with the team this summer. Al Iannazzone of Newsday has more on ‘Melo and the Knick superstar’s thoughts on how the postseason will factor into his future:
Although Carmelo Anthony said he supports Raymond Felton, Felton’s arrest was just another low point in a season that could affect whether the superstar forward re-signs with the Knicks this summer.
“A lot of things are going to be thought about when that time comes,” Anthony said before the Knicks faced the Heat Thursday night. “Off the court, on the court, just a lot of things are going to have to be put all on the table.”
The Knicks’ blowout loss to the Heat dropped them to 21-37 and 51/2 games out of the last playoff spot in the East.
But just making the postseason — and the way the Knicks have been playing, that is a long shot — might not be enough to keep Anthony, who said, “Everything that can go wrong for us is going wrong.”
Anthony has said he wants to meet with Knicks officials after the season and see what their plan is about building a team that can consistently contend.
“I don’t think about it like that, that I want to make the playoffs before I make that decision,” Anthony said. “That decision is going to happen regardless. That time is going to come. Me making the playoffs is something that I want to do, something that I never experienced before, not making the playoffs. That’s a different motivation.
“Coming into this season, we felt like we could make the playoffs and we could do something. Unfortunately, we’re in this situation we’re in right now, fighting for our lives, fighting for a playoff spot. But us making the playoffs and then that decision don’t even have anything to do with it.”
After scoring 44 points Tuesday in a loss to the Mavericks, Anthony said, “You kind of ask yourself is it worth it?”
He was referring to how much he is scoring as the Knicks continue to find ways to lose. He had 42, 44, 35 and 44 in the four games before last night and the Knicks lost three of them.
“He’s been so solid this season for our ballclub and I don’t think that’s going to ever change, regardless who’s around him and where he plays,” Mike Woodson said. “I just wish our season would have been better.”
No. 3: Brooks not worked up over OKC’s low shot-contesting rate — As our own John Schuhmann pointed out in a great post on this very blog the other day, the Oklahoma City Thunder are the worst team in the league when it comes to opposing foes’ jump shots. The post goes on to point out that despite that flaw, the Thunder are still a great defensive team and that shoring up that one aspect of things would make them even better. Oklahoma City coach Scott Brooks responded to the post in a sense and as Anthony Slater of The Oklahoman notes, Brooks isn’t too worried about how well — or poorly — his team contests shots:
According to the new SportVu data, OKC ranks dead last in the NBA at contesting opposing jumpshots.
A contested jumper, according to NBA.com, is defined by a shot taken at least 10 feet away from the hoop in which a defender is within at least four feet of the shooter.
Entering Wednesday, OKC only contested 23.8 percent of such shots. The league average is 30.9.
“We’ve been one of the better defensive teams the last three years,” Scott Brooks said, brushing off the number a bit. “… I do focus exclusively on defensive field goal percentage and last I checked a couple games ago, we were second in the league.”
Entering Wednesday, the Thunder was tied for second in the league in that category, allowing only 43 percent shooting. And in many other defensive metrics, the Thunder ranks near the top.
No. 4: Bynum plays 3-on-3 in Pacers practice — With Indiana’s recent acquisition of Evan Turner at the trade deadline drawing the latest buzz, the notable player the Pacers acquired a few weeks earlier — ex-Cavs center Andrew Bynum — has had time to fly under the radar a bit. Bynum is still mending from various knee injuries and has been slowly becoming more and more active at team practices, notes David Woods of the Indianapolis Star:
Andrew Bynum practiced three-on-three Thursday, and coach Frank Vogel said he was optimistic the 7-foot center would be ready to play soon. Soon doesn’t mean a week from now, the coach said.
“The goal is to get him to the point where he’s able to play every night,” Vogel said. “We don’t want him to play one game and sit three games.”
Bynum signed with the Pacers as a free agent Feb. 1. Vogel has said a priority is improving the condition of Bynum, who missed the entire 2012-13 season with knee injuries and last played Dec. 26 for the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“We know what we can expect from him when he’s healthy and in shape. He’s one of the best centers in the NBA,” Vogel said. “We’ve seen flashes of that in practice that he’s shown here.”
Pacers.com writer Mark Montieth, in a recent mailbag offering on the website, has his view on when Bynum might hit the court:
Q. Does anybody know when Andrew Bynum is expected to play? – Matt
A. If they do, they aren’t saying. Bynum is practicing with the team, and has begun to participate in some of the “live” or contact portions of it. Coach Frank Vogel takes a conservative view, saying it might be a few more weeks before Bynum plays in a game, while Bynum talks as if it won’t be that long.
The training staff will do its best to get him healthy and in shape before then. He still would have at least a month of regular season games to get into a rhythm.
It’s interesting, though, that Ian Mahinmi is playing so well recently. Suddenly, the need for a backup center seems less pressing. But if the Pacers have three capable centers heading into the playoffs, they’ll be residing in the lap of luxury. It would be kind of like owning three models of a Bentley. The longest three.
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Veteran Bobcats guard Ben Gordon is likely to be bought out soon, but there has been a snag in the process … The Nuggets’ locker room was apparently like a library after Denver was routed by Brooklyn at home last night … Speaking of the Nets-Nuggets game, ICYMI, Nets center Jason Collins scored his first bucket since his return and, after the game, met with the parents of Matthew Shepard and gave them his jersey … By beating the Raptors in triple-OT last night, the Wizards have already passed their win total from last season
ICYMI of The Night: Mask or no mask, LeBron James is a force to be reckoned with as he drives the lane …