Morning shootaround — Dec. 24


VIDEO: Highlights from games played Dec. 23

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Rockets, Heat, Mavs pining for Smith | Report: Cavs fear long-term injury to Varejao | Knicks interested in Monroe? | Pau bracing for first game vs. Lakers

No. 1: Nelson confident Mavs will land Smith or O’Neal; Heat stars lobbying for J-Smoove; Howard makes his plea in Houston — Another day has come and gone and the list principal parties interested in signing ex-Pistons forward Josh Smith hasn’t changed much. ESPN.com’s Marc Stein reports that Dallas Mavericks president Donnie Nelson is confident the team will ink either Smith or free-agent big man Jermaine O’Neal (or, perhaps both). Out in Miami, Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem are also pushing for J-Smoove to join them, writes Joseph Goodman of the Miami Herald.  And, lastly, out in Houston, Dwight Howard says he’s been in contact with his former AAU teammate to join him in Texas, writes Jenny Dial Creech of the Houston Chronicle.

Here’s Stein’s report on the Mavs angle on things:

President of basketball operations Donnie Nelson expressed confidence that the Dallas Mavericks would soon bolster their bench with the addition of Jermaine O’Neal or Josh Smith.

The Mavs, who are searching to replace traded backup center Brandan Wright in their rotation, are among several teams who have expressed interest in O’Neal and Smith, a pair of high-profile available veterans.

“I feel pretty good that we’ll be able to come to terms with one,” Nelson said Tuesday on ESPN Dallas 103.3 FM. “Certainly to come up with both would be just hitting a grand slam home run. Look, there’s a long line for suitors on both fronts.

“I think the fact that Jermaine has chosen Dallas to be his home in the long term certainly has its place and resonates with time with family and such. And here’s a guy who has a long history not only with our coach but with our point guard/quarterback. That certainly has a place.

“With Josh, again, we’re one of a number of potential teams and suitors. It’s got to be right with him and with us. We’re kind of in the swings of putting our best foot forward. If we’re able to hit that one home, it just would be a real, real nice get for us.”

Sources told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein that the Houston Rockets are confident that they have the inside track who land Smith, who was released by the Detroit Pistons on Monday less than halfway into his four-year, $54 million contract and is expected to clear waivers Wednesday.

The Rockets have their biannual exception, valued at $2.1 million, to offer Smith. The Mavs can only offer the veteran’s minimum of $1.45 million.

And here’s Goodman’s report on the Heat angling for J-Smoove, too:

Wade and Haslem would like Smith to join Miami and help fill in for injured power forward Josh McRoberts. Smith was released by the Pistons on Monday and is expected to clear waivers on Wednesday. McRoberts underwent season-ending knee surgery on Monday, and the Heat applied for the Disabled Player Exception in hopes of using $2.6 million on Smith.

“He’s an amazing talent,” Haslem said. “He definitely could help us. He’s another big guy who can handle the ball and make plays similar to what Josh can do.”

Smith fell out of favor with Pistons coach and president Stan Van Gundy, but Wade said Smith could thrive in the right environment. His implication, of course, is that Miami is the right environment for the free-shooting forward.

“My initial thoughts with Josh Smith is the same as anyone’s initial thoughts,” Wade said. “He’s a very talented guy who can, in the right situation and right place, can help a team and a team can help him.

“From there, he has a decision to make. A lot of teams will be open arms for a guy like that and we’re no different, but that’s pretty much all I’ve got to say about that until the decision is made.”

And, lastly, here’s Creech on Howard pitching for his buddy to join him in Houston:

“I would really love to see him here, Howard said. “I think he would bring some more defense to our team.

“He is one of those guys who can play the three, four or the five. We played together back in high school and he actually played the three. We were very successful as a unit together.”

Howard said he thought Smith could bring another dimension to the Rockets’ defense.

“I would be great to have him here,” Howard said. “He could do a lot of stuff for us on the defensive end. Blocking shots, rebounding, playing against some of those big two and three guards in the league. I think having him would take some of the pressure off of some of our other wing defenders.”

Howard said he has had some communication with Smith about the Rockets.

“Yeah I’ve been in his ear,” Howard said. “The only thing I told him was if you want to win this would be a great place for you. We are headed in the right direction as a team. We have won together in AAU. Let’s get another one.”


VIDEO: Which team would be the best fit for Josh Smith?

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No. 2: Report: Cavs worried Varejao has long-term foot injury — En route to a 125-104 handling of the Minnesota Timberwolves last night, the Cleveland Cavaliers got some bad news. Big man Anderson Varejao went down with an injury in the third quarter and had to be helped off the court and now, writes Brian Windhorst and Marc Stein of ESPN.com, the team is fearing he may be out with a long-term foot injury:

Varejao landed awkwardly in the third quarter of Tuesday’s 125-104 win over the Minnesota Timberwolves and left the floor without being able to put weight on the leg. Initial tests weren’t able to determine the severity of the injury. League sources told ESPN.com that the Cavs fear one potential outcome is a torn Achilles.

Varejao left Quicken Loans Arena on crutches and with his leg immobilized in an air cast.

Following the game, coach David Blatt provided little detail about Varejao’s injury.

“He has an ankle injury of some sort,” Blatt said. “I really don’t know right now.”

If Varejao is out for a significant period, it’s believed the Cavs will intensify their monthslong efforts to trade for a big man. The team has been seeking additional help for its front line going back to the summer, having specifically targeted Timofey Mozgov of the Denver Nuggets and Kosta Koufos of the Memphis Grizzlies.

Sources say the Cavs, in recent days, have been in contact with the Boston Celtics about working as a facilitator in three-team trade scenarios. The Celtics, blessed with frontcourt depth in the wake of their recent acquisition of Brandan Wright in the Rajon Rondo deal, have been aggressive recently in their attempts to acquire future draft picks.

The Cavs cannot trade their own 2015 first-round pick because they already sent their 2016 pick to the Celtics in a previous deal. But they do own a protected Memphis first-rounder that they could trade.

The Cavs also possess a $5.2 million trade exception to use in a potential deal, which is one of the reasons they sought Mozgov and Koufos, as both of their contracts could fit into that exception.

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No. 3: Monroe to Knicks? One rival exec thinks so — Take this one with a big grain of salt because when rival executives start talking anonymously about where a player could go in free agency there could be all kinds of motives. But according to a story on SheridanHoops.com written by Michael Scotto, several folks around the league seem to think Detroit Pistons big man (and 2015 unrestricted free agent) Greg Monroe could be New York-bound next summer:

Now that Josh Smith is gone, what does the long-term future hold for Greg Monroe? A rival executive believes he will end up with the New York Knicks.

“I could see $48 million for four years. I don’t think he’s a max (contract) guy, but he is pretty good. He might get more based on who is left on the board. I could see New York overpaying him,” the executive told SheridanHoops.

Monroe has a trade veto after signing his qualifying offer with the Pistons over the summer, and if he were to accept a trade, he would waive his Bird rights. The Knicks have only $44 million in committed salaries for next season, and their choices in free agency will be especially limited if, as many believe, Marc Gasol chooses to stay in Memphis and LaMarcus Aldridge opts to remain in Portland. They will have the cap room to offer Monroe or someone else (Goran Dragic?) a max deal, and the executive who spoke on condition of anonymity believes Monroe may be the perfect fit.

Might the Knicks try to trade for Monroe before then? If they had something to offer the Pistons that was not a first-round draft pick, perhaps. But it behooves Phil Jackson to wait until July, when he can have his lottery pick and Monroe, too.

While most of the attention around the NBA in the past two days has been focused on where Josh Smith might sign, the Monroe question carries bigger long-term implications.

An Eastern Conference scout also believes Monroe and the Knicks could be a fit down the road.

“I think the Knicks are a possible free agency destination,” the scout told SheridanHoops. “He has above-average passing ability, which makes him attractive for the triangle. If the Knicks strike out on the so-called top-tier guys, I think it makes sense.”

“It only takes one team to think he is worth a max (contract),” the Western Conference executive told SheridanHoops. “This new TV deal might change player values too.”

“With all the money on the market and the cap rising, I suspect someone offers him close to the max,” another Eastern Conference general manager told SheridanHoops.

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No. 4: Gasol expecting Bulls-Lakers to be ’emotional’ for him — From the midway point of the 2007-08 season to last season, Pau Gasol toiled in Los Angeles with the Lakers, helping lead the team on three Finals trips, winning two championships in the process. While he was an All-Star and go-to guy in L.A. most of that time, toward the end he heard his name bandied about in trade talks and was on the outs with the coaching staff at times, too. With the Lakers and Gasol’s current team, the Chicago Bulls, set to meet on Christmas Day, he’s preparing for seeing the purple and gold again. ESPN.com’s Nick Friedell has more:

Former Los Angeles Laker Pau Gasol said it will be “emotional” and “weird” to face his old teammates on Christmas night when his new team, the Chicago Bulls, takes on his former one.

“Emotional, weird, hard to focus,” Gasol said of what he expects for his range of emotions Thursday night. “But at the same time, I kind of look forward to it in a way. To see some of the people that I’ve been through a lot with.”

There will be another reunion Thursday, with Lakers power forward Carlos Boozer facing the Bulls for the first time since leaving Chicago.

The Bulls exercised their amnesty rights on the final year of Boozer’s contract over the summer, paving the way for Gasol to come to Chicago. Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau and his players are hoping Boozer is received warmly by Chicago fans.

“When you look at what he did over his time here, he won a lot of games,” Thibodeau said. “I’ve said this many times: He was a lightning rod for us. But he was very productive — a double-double every night — and we won, and that’s the biggest thing. The guy’s had a great career and we wish him well, but I think he should be received well.”

Boozer, who was the consolation prize for the Bulls in the free-agency bonanza of 2010, was a frequent target of criticism for fans because of his struggles on defense and his performance during some crucial games in his four-year tenure.

Still, Thibodeau is hopeful fans won’t boo Boozer.

“I have great respect for him because the situation we were in,” Thibodeau said. “The first year I believe we had the best record and I believe we got to the Eastern Conference finals. The second year was the lockout year, same thing [best record in the East], and then we took the two injuries on in the playoffs [to Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah]. Then we had to battle like crazy for two years just to keep it afloat, and he was in the middle of that and he wouldn’t let it sink. So I’ve got great respect for what he did and what he meant to our team.”

Rose shared those sentiments as well.

“I hear a lot about [the criticism of Boozer],” Rose said. “But as far as myself and the relationship that we had, he’s a great, great dude, great teammate, and the way that Chicago looked at him is that he didn’t hustle hard and all that in the way that he played, but it’s to each his own. He’s somewhere else right now. He’s trying to still keep his career going. I haven’t even watched him as much as I wanted to but … I don’t know how [the fans] are going to accept him when he comes back. Who knows? But I just know that they’re really excited about our team.”

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SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Those Deron Williams-to-the-Sacramento Kings talks have cooled, but they may pick up again come FebruaryKobe Bryant is disappointed the L.A. Lakers didn’t trade for Rajon Rondo … Milwaukee Bucks rookie Jabari Parker sees his injury as a ‘chance to learn’ … Ex-Magic standout Jameer Nelson meant an awful lot to current big man Kyle O’Quinn … Lance Stephenson is reportedly confident the Charlotte Hornets won’t be trading him anytime soon … Minnesota Timberwolves coach Flip Saunders says he’s not allowed to talk about Kevin Love … New Jersey Governor Chris Christie isn’t a big fan of Commissioner Adam Silver‘s lobbying to legalize sports gambling

ICYMI(s) OF THE NIGHT: All-Star point guards Russell Westbrook and Damian Lillard put on quite a show in OKC …  


VIDEO: Lillard and Westbrook each net 40 points in an OT thriller

Vlade Divac stepped up and hit a halfcourt shot to award a charity $90,000


VIDEO: Vlade Divac drains a halfcourt shot for charity

and lost in all the great games last night was a triple-double by the Suns’ Eric Bledsoe


VIDEO: Eric Bledsoe notches a triple-double in the Suns’ win

7 Comments

  1. harriethehawk says:

    Let’s Go Hawks! Let’s Go Hawks! Let’s Go Hawks!

  2. KoolESP says:

    Blazers went to OT by using the EXACT SAME PLAY that won them the playoff series versus the Rockets. Have Oklahoma City not heard? It’s #LILLARDTIME

  3. dustydreamnz says:

    The Cavs season might have gone Blatt.
    Some people have to realise that when players choose bad teams, it’s not just about winning but about the money, where is best for them and their family to live and many other things.
    I’m a big fan of Jabari Parker-for a young guy he seems to have the right attitude and be honest.
    Lance Stephenson will surely be traded, not just a matter of if, but when.

  4. Indiana'sownLarryBird says:

    Wiggins is going to be good. Tyler Zeller for Boston nice game Indiana’s own, Hawks are just playing light’s out, I like it, The Laker’s WOW, I don’t know if the shot at half was more impressive or the Lakers play it self?? It’s time for Kobe to move on to a contender… G Hill back in the line up for the home team Go Pacers….. Sixers 2 in a row fight’n for a playoff spot??? LOL

  5. ftb says:

    Smith is in houston

  6. KG says:

    Whoever adds Josh “J-Smove” Smith will fail hard the rest of the Season. Most overrated Player ever. Why has a Player like him such a Big Contract?