VIDEO: Highlights from games played Jan. 28
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Report: Kings willing to deal Gay — A mere 20 days and a handful of hours separate us from the NBA Trade Deadline and as we get closer, the chatter is starting to pick up. One name to keep an eye on, per ESPN.com’s Marc Stein, is Sacramento Kings swingman Rudy Gay. According to Stein, the Kings are willing to move the talented scorer … with some caveats, of course. He’s got that information and more in his roundup of trade chatter:
The Sacramento Kings are indeed willing to trade Rudy Gay, sources say, after fairly frequent speculation on that topic in recent weeks.
It’s conditional willingness.
Sacramento is said to be seeking a quality young player in return if it parts with Gay. Or a player they like with at least one year left on his contract after this season, which would give the Kings some insulation against trading for someone in February who turns around and leaves town in July. (Gay, 29, is scheduled to earn $13.3 million from the Kings next season before he’s forced to decide on a $14.3 million player option in 2017-18).
In short: Sacramento isn’t outright trying to move Gay but would be willing to do so in the proverbial “right deal.”
Sacramento, for example, rejected New Orleans’ recent offer of Eric Gordon and Alonzo Gee for Gay before Gordon suffered a fractured finger that will keep him out until after the deadline. They don’t want to move him just for the sake of it.
Much like the Atlanta Hawks are doing with point guards Jeff Teague and Dennis Schroder, Memphis is doing the same with free agents-to-be Jeff Green and Courtney Lee.
Which is to say: not flat-out shopping them, but taking the temperature of the market for both players, since that’s what you’re supposed to do with players like Green and Lee who can leave Memphis without compensation in a matter of months.
What the Grizzlies aren’t looking to do, sources say, is break up what they like to call Mount Grizzmore. All of the latest signals suggest they have no interest in parting with either Zach Randolph or Tony Allen before the deadline …
First Joakim Noah was lost to a potentially season-ending shoulder separation. Now Nikola Mirotic is out until after the All-Star break thanks to emergency surgery this week to remove his appendix.
Those injuries, sources say, have greatly increased the likelihood that Taj Gibson will be staying put now, since Chicago suddenly doesn’t need to make a trade to create more playing time for promising rookie Bobby Portis.
The reality is that rival executives have maintained for some time that the Bulls preferred to deal Noah, in the name of making sure they got something for their longtime emotional spark in the final year of his contract, rather than parting with Gibson.
No. 2: Wizards hold players-only meeting — We’re more than halfway through the season and the Washington Wizards sit at 20-24, hardly the record most expected of a young, up-and-coming team in the East. After last night’s loss to the Denver Nuggets, Washington has lost three in a row and five of its last six games. That troubling spell, coupled with a season of up-and-down results, led to the (sometimes ominous) players-only meeting last night. Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post has more:
In search for answers at perhaps the lowest point of their season, the Washington Wizards held a players-only meeting following their 117-113 loss to the Denver Nuggets at Verizon Center Thursday night. They are hoping the session will have the same effect as the players-only meeting they conducted after starting 2-7 two seasons ago.
“It’s kind of similar to the past years. We’ve been through the same thing,” Bradley Beal said. “It always takes a team meeting or two to figure it out, but we’re at the point now where we know what we need to do. we’re still in a great position to make the playoffs with 40 or however many games we have left. We have a great opportunity to make a run so it’s up to us to be able to put it together and get out here and get some wins.”
“It’s difficult because we were just on a four-game winning streak,” Wizards forward Jared Dudley said. “We followed the blueprint of what we have to do as a team. So we have the tools. We have everything we need.
“For us, let’s be honest … except for this game none of the games have been close. It’s not a positive. But we have to be positive. We’re close to the halfway point but we got to get some wins and we got get some good flow and we got to get back to our style. This team can’t score 80 points. This team is in the 100s. We have to be able to defend the three and stop turning the ball over.
Defense has been the Wizards’ most glaring shortcoming of many. They’ve allowed opponents to score at least 100 points in nine of the last 10 games and 27 overall this season. After surrendering 117-plus points in two non-overtime games all of last season, they’ve already done it four times this season, and their defensive rating, ranked top 10 in the NBA the last three seasons, is currently tied for 18th in the league.
“It’s individual. No matter what scheme we put out there, if guys don’t go out and execute the scheme and don’t compete d defensively, defense is all about heart,” guard Garrett Temple said. “You don’t have to be the quickest, you don’t got to be the strongest, you just got to have heart. And that comes with defending every possession and rebounding. All of that is heart. And no scheme can keep a guy off the offensive glass. You got to box him out and rebound. No scheme will keep a guy from going one on one, get in the paint for a layup. That’s not a scheme. That’s one on one defense and we got take pride. We got to guard people.”
No. 3: Lillard: All-Star snub will fuel Blazers’ playoff push — Just about a year ago, Portland Trail Blazers star guard Damian Lillard made it well known just how miffed he was about not being named an All-Star reserve. Although he eventually got a spot on the team as an injury replacement for Blake Griffin, the hurt of being passed over stung him for a while in 2014-15. As reserves for the 2016 All-Star Game were announced yesterday, Lillard was left off once again. While he wasn’t happy about it, he is instead going to use it as motivation for another goal as 2016 wears on, writes Mike Richman of The Oregonian:
Lillard spoke with a group of reporters prior to a Blazers season ticket holder event at the Moda Center. Here’s a transcript of what he had to say:
What was your initial reaction?
I wasn’t really surprised by it. You know, I knew that it would be a close decision I guess. I honestly wasn’t surprised by it.
How did you find out?
I saw something on Twitter. After practice I saw somebody said it was like breaking news or something. I saw a list and wasn’t on it. Then I went home and I was watching TNT and I wasn’t on that either. So that was how I figured it out.
How do you account for missing out on the All-Star selection a couple years in a row missing out? You have to feel like you’re at an All-Star level.
That’s it. There’s not that I could have done. The numbers speak for them self. My team is in playoff position, we’re in the eighth spot right now. So I really don’t know the answer to it. I feel like I’ve played at an All-Star level and obviously the coaches didn’t.
Did you teammates reach out to you yet?
After practice when I saw on Twitter that it was breaking or whatever I said to, I think it was G, to Gerald, I was like, ‘Man, I don’t think I made it.’ And then he was like, ‘What?’ And then everybody in the locker room turned around like, ‘What? How?’ And I was just like, ‘That’s just what happen, what it is.’ They were probably more surprised than I was.
You were kind of anticipating missing the team?
Yeah. I don’t know if you guys could tell. I was expecting the worse. Like I said before, I feel like everything I could have done to show or to prove that’s what I am or where I belong, I feel like I did that. Maybe it just wasn’t enough.
VIDEO: Damian Lillard talks about being snubbed for the All-Star Game
No. 4: Riley clears air on LeBron-Spoelstra firing talk — Shortly after the Cleveland Cavaliers fired David Blatt a week ago, Miami Heat part-owner Raanan Katz said Cavs star LeBron James tried to get Miami coach Erik Spoelstra in the early days of both being on the Heat. (Katz has since backed off from the statement a bit.) As the smell of it lingers in the air, enough so that Miami Heat president Pat Riley felt the need to chime in on the topic, writes Michael Wallace of ESPN.com:
If LeBron James ever wanted Erik Spoelstra fired as coach while a member of the Heat, he never expressed that sentiment to team president Pat Riley.
“Not from him to me, ever,” Riley said Thursday of James, who left the Heat two seasons ago in free agency to return to Cleveland. “So a lot of stuff is following him out the door. Whether it’s right or wrong, it’s just the nature of it. But as far as that goes, no, he never, ever walked in and said anything.”
Katz, who owns less than 10 percent of the Heat, has since told multiple media outlets that his comments in the interview with an Israeli radio station were taken out of context. James also denied that he had any meaningful dealings with Katz, who sits courtside at most Heat home games and routinely interacts with visiting players and coaches at AmericanAirlines Arena.
Aside from Katz’s courtside access during games and attendance at season-ticket holder events, multiple team sources told ESPN.com that he has essentially no role in the Heat’s basketball operations or personnel decisions.
Riley told reporters Thursday that some of the rumors that continue to surface from James’ time in Miami remind him of what he dealt with amid his own controversial moves, from coaching the Showtime Lakers in the 1980s to the Knicks in the 1990s and ultimately the Heat.
“I’ve been in that situation twice,” said Riley, who was presented with the Joe DiMaggio American Icon Award on Thursday. “I left Los Angeles, and a lot of stuff followed me out the door to New York. A lot of stuff followed me down here to Miami. It took almost 10 years to sort of get out of that storyline.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: It’s possible that Charlotte Hornets forward Michael Kidd-Gilchrist may play tonight … According to a report, the Los Angeles Lakers have ‘definitely not’ made DeAngelo Russell available via trades … Nicolas Batum is excited about his ‘weird’ return to Portland tonight … Don’t adjust your sets: the 3-point line will light up (virtually) during ABC’s telecast Saturday night of Spurs-Cavaliers … Get to know Noah Cutler, the 11-year-old boy who has Stephen Curry‘s dribbling skills down pat … Speaking of the Warriors, their new arena will be called the Chase Center … According to a report, ex-Houston Rockets video