VIDEO: Highlights from Monday’s games
NEWS OF THE MORNING
No. 1: Warriors hoping Varejao can chip in immediately — The Golden State Warriors are hoping the Cleveland Cavaliers’ loss at the trade deadline will be their gain in the long run. The Cavs had to cut fan favorite Anderson Varejao in order to pull off their trade with the Orlando Magic for Channing Frye. Varejao, who was dealt to Portland in the trade and later cut by the Trail Blazers, found a new gig soon as a backup center for the defending-champion Warriors. As Rusty Simmons of the San Francisco Chronicle writes, Varejao will likely play Wednesday vs. Miami and will have a chance to show he can contribute:
“He’s hard not to like,” Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said. “He’s a guy who gives effort multiple times in one possession and competes every second he’s out there.
“With the enthusiasm he plays with, and from what I gather, his personality in the locker room, he’s going to be a fan favorite … just like he was in Cleveland.”
The 33-year-old also considered signing with San Antonio after being released by the Trail Blazers and clearing waivers, but he has some strong ties with the Warriors. He played with lead assistant coach Luke Walton, backup point guard Shaun Livingston and reserve big man Marreese Speights in the NBA and with reserve guard Leandro Barbosa on the Brazilian national team.
“I’m glad I came here, because I can tell that they love each other. That’s what it’s about,” Varejao said. “When you want to win, you have to be like they are: friends who have fun out there (on the court) and fun in the locker room.”
The Warriors favored Varejao, because he’s a true center. Thompson is a hybrid power forward/center. Backup center Festus Ezeli will be rehabbing his surgically repaired left knee until at least mid-March; starting center Andrew Bogut returned Monday after missing Saturday’s game with a sore right Achilles.
Varejao is similar to Bogut on offense, favoring playmaking over scoring and seemingly being a natural fit in how the Warriors use their centers in dribble handoffs and as the hubs to make passes to backdoor cutters.
Varejao will be given a video playbook and is expected to practice with the team Tuesday. Kerr believes the center’s instincts for the game will help him incorporate quickly.
Carmelo Anthony is almost always the last player to leave the Knicks locker room. Monday night, when reporters were let in, an angry Anthony already was dressed at his locker, ready to get out of Dodge.
That’s all you need to know about the miserable state of the Knicks and of Anthony, who appeared to question his teammates’ desire.
“My mood?’’ Anthony said. “I need to go home and relax and decompress a little bit.’’
Anthony could not hide his utter despair — on the court or off — and seemed to question his teammates’ will, speaking in an ominous tone.
“We need to want to be out there, want to play, want to go deep,’’ Anthony said. “I think we need to take it upon ourselves individually. It’s not anything to do with X’s and O’s. We have to take it upon ourselves to take the challenge as a group.”
In the final ticks of the third quarter, Anthony threw a pass picked off by DeMar DeRozan, who flew in for a fast-break dunk with 0.5 seconds left. Anthony didn’t look up and just started trudging dejectedly off the court, even with time left on the clock.
That summed it up: a Knicks team that looks ready to quit at 24-34, losers of 12 of its past 14.
“Regardless of the record, just losing, accepting that,’’ Anthony said. “It’s hard to accept that. You can’t be accepting that. I hope that’s not the case with the guys. You don’t want to get used to losing.’’
Anthony was reminded Sunday was the five-year anniversary of his trade to New York, and he’s played for four coaches and with 70-plus teammates.
“It’s a lot — a lot to go through,’’ Anthony said. “It’s been tough. It’s challenging, but you got to stay strong and positive.’’
VIDEO: Carmelo Anthony talks after New York’s loss to Toronto
No. 3: Van Gundy: ‘Too much risk’ in Motiejunas trade — The NBA trade deadline passed with a whimper and few deals being consummated. The Detroit Pistons were one of the few active teams in trade week, acquiring Tobias Harris in a deal with the Orlando Magic and, on deadline-day itself, working a trade with the Houston Rockets that would have brought big man Donatas Motiejunas and guard Marcus Thornton to the Motor City. The deal, however, was rescinded by the Pistons after red flags about Motiejunas’ back were raised during the physical. Rod Beard of The Detroit News has more:
The Pistons were concerned about the status of Motiejunas’ back after he was examined by a back specialist in New York last Friday. They’ve been reviewing his medical history with team doctors and staff at the Detroit Medical Center.
Pistons president/coach Stan Van Gundy said the Pistons received a 24-hour extension — beyond the league-mandated 72-hour period for trades — to review Motiejunas’ status.
They didn’t like what they found and weren’t willing to move forward with the deal.
“Medical clearance was not given on all players and the trade is being rescinded,” Pistons general manager Jeff Bower said in a statement. “In view of privacy considerations relating to medical information, we will have no further comment.”
Van Gundy said there was some disappointment in the trade not going through, given the versatility Motiejunas could have added to the lineup and the depth the two players could have provided.
“It’s disappointing because we saw the possibilities,” Van Gundy said before Monday’s game at Cleveland. “I would do it over again. We did our due diligence and thought there was too much risk.”
Motiejunas had back surgery last season and said last week that he was 100 percent healthy and ready to return to game action, having practiced with the Rockets on Wednesday.
Now the Pistons have to move in a different direction. After dealing Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilyasova for Tobias Harris, they have 14 players on the roster.
Van Gundy said they’ll look at some options, but since the trade deadline has passed, they are somewhat limited to waiver-wire acquisitions and 10-day contracts, potentially of players in the D-League.
“We don’t have anything imminent right now,” Van Gundy said. “We’re looking at somebody to give us more depth at the (power forward) spot.”
No. 4: Buss assesses state of the Lakers as season winds down — The Los Angeles Lakers are in the throws of another lost season as they sport the worst record in the Western Conference and the second-worst record in the league. Young talent is on the roster in the form of Jordan Clarkson, D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle, but the Kobe Bryant farewell tour has stunted some of their growth. As the Lakers close in on the last few weeks of 2015-16, team president and part-owner Jeanie Buss talked with Sam Amick and Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today Sports on their podcast about what’s next for Los Angeles, including free agency, playoff hopes and more:
By the end of next season, the 54-year-old daughter of the late Dr. Jerry Buss will have some clarity that has hard to come by in the past few seasons – especially with the unique dynamic presented by Kobe Bryant’s twilight years. She will either be preparing to make major changes to the team’s front office because of another disappointing season, and thereby executing the shape-up-or-ship-out plan that was put in place by her brother and the team’s vice president of basketball operations, Jim Buss. Or, should the Lakers pull off a major turnaround, she’ll be celebrating a return to prominence along with the rest of them.
“I hope that we’re not having this same conversation a year from now (about the Lakers’ struggles),” said Buss, whose team entered Sunday with the second-worst record in the NBA (11-45) and with a combined record of 59-161 the past three seasons.
There is no change to the timeline that Jim first shared in April of 2014, when he indicated that he would resign if the team wasn’t contending for a title by next season. Since then, it has become clear that Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak would likely be part of this equation as well.
“I think that (Jim Buss) was very sure of himself when he promised that timeline, and I think that he has everything he needs to fulfill that promise of getting the team back competitive,” Jeanie Buss said. “And when I say competitive, it’s competing for the Western Conference Finals, which would mean at least second round (of the playoffs) – if not more … They have earned the right to take the time that they’ve needed to put together what they want to have out on the court, and if they can’t do that then we have to reexamine how things are going.”
Translation: despite recent speculation that she might expedite the timeline in order to bring her fiancé, New York Knicks president Phil Jackson, back to the Lakers, there is no such covert plan as it relates to next summer. Jackson signed a five-year, $60 million deal with the Knicks in March of 2014.
“It really isn’t about trying to get him back here (to the Lakers),” Buss said. “He is happy with what he is doing, and he … is up for the (Knicks) challenge, and he’s seeing the results of the work that he’s put in. But he has a ways to go.”
“I don’t buy into that, that Kobe is such a distraction,” Jeanie Buss said. “It’s about managing how things go. I see a player like Kevin Garnett who has done well in Minnesota with the younger players. A guy like Dwyane Wade playing with younger players (in Miami). I think you see it around the league everywhere.
“I don’t understand why that narrative has been created. It shouldn’t be that way – maybe Kobe’s popularity (affects it more)? But I don’t see what that has to do with training and practicing and things like that. Maybe I’m just naïve.”
With the Lakers poised to have approximately $66 million in salary cap space this summer, Jeanie is aware that this summer comes with high stakes. The Lakers’ plan, one that many around the league still see as far-fetched, is to finally land a top-tier free agent who can turn the franchise around.
But unless Kevin Durant or a prospective free agent like him shocks the world and heads for Laker Land with a few of his superstar pals, the immediate future might very well be as bleak as the recent past.
“I think that what we offered (the many free agents who passed on the Lakers in recent years) didn’t match where they were in their careers or what they were looking for,” Jeanie said. “Hopefully now, our story and what we have to present will be enticing to whoever they have targeted in terms of free agency to bring here. But again, I don’t make the decisions about the vision of basketball.”
SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Let’s just say New York Knicks interim coach Kurt Rambis isn’t exactly president of the Jimmer Fredette fan club … Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, Jerry West and Joe Lacob are going to play golf at Augusta National Golf Course today … How an unclear rule affected the voided deal between the Houston Rockets and Detroit Pistons … New Cleveland Cavaliers forward Channing Frye just wants to get in where he can fit in … The Boston Celtics may look to add some shooting for the season’s stretch run … Oklahoma City Thunder center and New Zealand native Stephen Adams will not play for his homeland in the FIBA Rio qualifying tournament this summer … The Detroit Pistons will be without forward Anthony Tolliver for 2-4 weeks …