VIDEO: Highlights from games played Dec. 7
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Report: Clippers tested trade market on Smith, Stephenson — When the Los Angeles Clippers added Josh Smith and Lance Stephenson via free agency and a trade, respectively, this summer, it was seen by many as a smart move. Unfortunately for the Clippers, neither player has lived up to the expectations most had for them and apparently were on the trading block last month. Yahoo Sports’ Marc J. Spears has more on that and what’s next for the duo:
Stephenson can be traded now while Smith is not eligible to be dealt until Dec. 15 after signing as a free agent in the offseason. Two NBA executives told Yahoo Sports that the Clippers would have hard time trading the struggling newcomers who have not fit in well during the team’s slow start.
The Clippers haven’t been as active in trying to move Stephenson and Smith in recent days because of the team’s injuries, another source said.
“There is not much of a market for them,” one NBA executive said. “They are buyout candidates. Maybe Lance goes back to Indiana, you never know. You won’t get back much for them.”
Said another team’s front-office executive: “They are talented, but when you add people like that it does affect the chemistry of their team. I don’t think they will be traded. It’s a tough thing to do because they didn’t have a lot of takers beforehand.”
The Orange County Register previously reported that Smith was involved in a loud shouting match with a Clippers assistant coach following a 90-81 loss to the Toronto Raptors on Nov. 21. The assistant in question was Mike Woodson, a source told Yahoo. Woodson coached Smith in Atlanta.
The Clippers have also been open to trading guard Jamal Crawford since the offseason, sources told Yahoo.
No. 2: Shumpert progressing faster than Irving in rehab work — As we reported in this space last week, Cleveland got some good news when star point guard Kyrie Irving returned to participate in a full practice last week. His return accompanied that of fellow guard Iman Shumpert, who has been a practice for a few weeks and, like Irving, is hoping to return to the active lineup soon. Cleveland.com’s Chris Haynes has an update on Shumpert and Irving and how one may possibly return sooner than the other:
Guards Kyrie Irving and Iman Shumpert, both recovering from surgeries, went through another full practice for the Cleveland Cavaliers on Monday.
By everyone’s account, the two are turning heads in practice and are almost back to form, but head coach David Blatt explains that there’s still no updated status on their return.
“We’re very much hoping we get them back sooner than later. I just can’t commit to you when exactly they’ll get back,” Blatt said. “But I believe sooner than later.”
They will travel with the team on the two-game road trip to Orlando on Friday and Boston on Tuesday. The Cavaliers will remain in Orlando until Monday. Making the trip will allow Irving and Shumpert to continue getting more practices under their belt.
When asked if it’s in the organization’s plans to have the two sidelined players make their season debuts together, Blatt responded, “Definitely not.”
Cleveland.com is told that Shumpert is slightly ahead of Irving in terms of recovery. Since Shumpert is coming back from a wrist injury and Irving a knee injury, the three-time All-Star’s road to full health has been tougher.
VIDEO: David Blatt talks after Monday’s practice
No. 3: Nowitzki: Porzingis ‘better than I was at 20’ — If you are somewhat reluctant to believe the hype surrounding New York Knicks rookie forward Kristaps Porzingis, we understand your point. Sure, his name is among the rookie leaders in several categories, but 20 games does not a career make. But maybe your view on the big man will change if a veteran voice backs the solid start to his career? That’s exactly what Dallas Mavericks star (and one-time foreign phenom himself) Dirk Nowitzki had to say after securing a win over the Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Monday. Ian Begley of ESPN.com has more:
Dirk Nowitzki has no problem with people comparing New York Knicks rookie Kristaps Porzingis to him.
“It’s more than fair,” Nowitzki said after his first game against Porzingis. “He’s probably way ahead of the curve. When I was 20, I was scared to death out there. … He’s almost averaging a double-double, so he’s way better than I was at 20. So the comparison’s probably unfair to me.”
Porzingis, 20, has been compared to Nowitzki often in his rookie season. Both Europeans are tall, perimeter-oriented players.
“He’s for real,” Nowitzki said after scoring a team-high 25 points for the Mavericks (13-9). “We’ve said it before. He’s tougher than you think. He’s long. He’s athletic. He can put the ball on the floor. … The sky’s the limit for this kid, not only because he’s good but also because I heard he lives and breathes basketball. He stays in the gym, he works hard and doesn’t let all this hype here get to his head. You’ve to root for him.”
In the days leading up to Monday’s game, Porzingis credited Nowitzki with creating a path to the NBA for European players. The rookie appreciated the kind words from one of the players he looked up to while growing up in Latvia.
“Obviously, he’s showing some respect to me. That shows me that maybe I have the potential to one day be as great as he is,” Porzingis said. “I’ve got to keep working, and hopefully, I can be as good as he thinks I can be.”
VIDEO: Porzingis, Nowitzki squared off at MSG on Monday
No. 4: Report: NBA owners lobbied for Sixers to make front-office changes — If you’re using any reasonable measure of success, the Philadelphia 76ers have been a failure at that the past three seasons. No team has lost more games — or given its fans less hope — than Philadelphia has in that span. A 1-21 mark this season has done little to create a feeling the future is bright in Philadelphia, and yesterday, the team announced it was hiring former Phoenix Suns and current USA Basketball executive Jerry Colangelo to help clean up the mess. Why this hiring now, though? According to ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst, the move was made after other NBA owners lobbied for the team to get someone to step in and fix things:
Since the summer of 2014, NBA owners have been lobbying the league’s front office to step in with regard to the direction of the Philadelphia 76ers, sources told ESPN.com on Monday night. It was that effort that helped lead to the hiring of Jerry Colangelo to a senior position earlier Monday, the sources said.
NBA commissioner Adam Silver was instrumental in forming the partnership between Colangelo and 76ers owner Joshua Harris, according to the sources.
The 76ers’ struggles on the floor have been readily apparent — they’ve gone 38-148 over the past two-plus seasons and 1-21 to start this season — while they undergo a long-term rebuilding process under general manager Sam Hinkie. But it was not the bad basketball as much as the hit to the business side that weighed on the rest of the league.
Owners routinely complained about the economic drag the 76ers were inflicting on the league as the revenues of one of the largest-market teams — a franchise expected to contribute more robustly to league revenue-sharing — sagged. For many teams, games featuring the starless and woeful 76ers as the visiting team have been the lowest-attended of the season, sources said.
Last year, the 76ers fought a proposal against reforming the NBA lottery rules because it would’ve disrupted their rebuilding plan, which is a transparent attempt to gain the highest draft picks possible by maximizing lottery odds over several seasons while developing young players.
This set the stage for other teams to challenge the 76ers’ strategy as they haggled over the rule changes, sources said. Ultimately, lottery reform was voted down and tabled until at least 2017.
While Colangelo’s addition sparked strong reaction in the league and the expectation of change, the 76ers attempted to project stability.
In addition to affirming Hinkie’s authority, coach Brett Brown said he was closing in on a contract extension.
“We are in deep discussions on my contract, and I have had amazing conversations with [owners] Josh Harris, David Blitzer and Sam Hinkie about my future,” said Brown, who is currently under contract through the 2016-17 season. “This is where I want to be. To go through what we have all gone through over the past two years and the first third of this year and still be passionate about seeing this through, I dream like everyone else.”
Despite Colangelo’s affirming Hinkie will retain final say on personnel matters and Harris’ saying this move was not a deviation from their plan, those who know Colangelo believe he will have major influence on significant decisions going forward.
“Jerry is not someone who just comes in and gives advice on something he’s invested in,” said one league executive with a long history with Colangelo. “I don’t see him as being just one voice in a collaborative process.”
“This is most certainly a wide-ranging deal,” another longtime league executive said. “Jerry is famous for being aggressive and getting perks, money and power in his deals.”
VIDEO: How Colangelo will help the Sixers’ efforts
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Golden State Warriors coach Steve Kerr is reportedly expected back sooner rather than later … The Los Angeles Lakers have moved youngsters Julius Randle and D’Angelo Russell to bench roles … NBA impersonator Brandon Armstrong‘s latest target? Hall of Famer Bob Cousy … What the changes in Philadelphia may mean for GM Sam Hinkie … Brooklyn Nets veteran Joe Johnson has no idea how to turn things around for the struggling squad … If there were no conferences is in the NBA today, 10 of the 16 playoff teams would be from the East …
ICYMI(s) of the Night: With the Spurs resting most of their starters on Monday in Philadelphia, it gave guys like Boban Marjanovic a chance to shine …
VIDEO: Bobjan Marjanovic puts some crazy ball fakes on the Sixers
… and we love a great defensive stop around here (especially one that saves a win), so props to John Henson this morning …
VIDEO: John Henson denies Meyers Leonard to preserve the win