HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – You could feel the vibe from 3,000 miles away.
That energy was real.
The Portland Trail Blazers were on the verge of something special with one of the league’s best young executives, Kevin Pritchard, best young coaches, Nate McMillan, two new young stars, Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, already in the fold, and the new No. 1 pick, Greg Oden, smiling on the stage in front of a sea of thousands and the “Welcome To Rip City” banner hanging behind him.
Nearly five years later, Aldridge is the only one left amid the rubble that was the Trail Blazers’ championship blueprint. Pritchard was the first to go, fired on draft night two years ago. Injuries forced Roy into retirement in December, McMillan was fired Thursday and Oden’s injury-plagued career with the Trail Blazers (82 games is all they have to show for his actual game time in uniform) came to an end later that evening when he was waived.
This isn’t yet another savage poke at an already wounded rabid and wickedly loyal fan base in Portland. On the contrary, they have been the one constant and positive force surrounding this cautionary tale. Their plight is a reminder for any fan base, and the franchise they love, out there dreaming about what could be. The future is always now in the NBA, right now, in fact!
And if you operate with any other theories in mind, you do so at your own risk.
ORLANDO – He was welcomed by Orlando like a cool breeze in August, or a five-minute line to ride Magic Mountain. He was the hero who professed his love for the city and the only sports team in town, at least for another year. But who’s counting down the days, anyway? Instead, you had to count the “signs” of appreciation at Amway Center.
“We Love You Too, Dwight.”
“Dwight Is All Wight.”
A day after Dwight Howard relieved the anxiety in Orlando by saying he wouldn’t exercise his Early Termination Option, and therefore was good for 2012-13, he received a rousing standing ovation during pregame introductions. Moments before, a somewhat dejected Nets coach Avery Johnson said: “He’s appreciated here, and why wouldn’t he be?”
He would’ve been appreciated in New Jersey, or Brooklyn, just as well. The Nets were his top free agent destination before he changed his mind for the final time and decided to stay. And so, in a cruel bit of scheduling, the Nets visited Amway Center Friday and had to endure a rousing reception for a player who chose not to play for the tea on the other bench. One of the spectators was Deron Williams, in street clothes and still smarting with an injury, perhaps wondering what could’ve been had two All-Stars decided to team up and attempt take New York from the Knicks.
“He made the decision that’s best for him,” Williams said. “I can’t be mad about that.”
Johnson said: “We move forward. Our focus for the most part has always been Deron Williams.”
After he was introduced, Howard ran to a spot on the floor, was surrounded by his teammates, and did the Dougie. Yes, it was a night for celebration, and everyone understood what it meant. Dwight is All Wight, at least for now. Imagine if he actually commits to the fullest and signs long-term. They may name a ride for him at Disney.
But before we get to all that, here’s a quick recap of all the drama you might have missed (if you were trapped on an island without Internet or television access, or any digital device capable of updating you on the basketball world getting turned inside out in one afternoon):
Easily the most shocking deal of the day, the Celtics ship Kendrick Perkins and Nate Robinson to Oklahoma City for Jeff Green and Nenad Krstic, thus ending the Shrek (Big Baby Davis)-Donkey (Robinson) era after just one trip to the NBA Finals. Even tougher to figure is why the Celtics would spend all season talking about how great things would be once they got Perkins back from offseason knee surgery and then move him after just 12 games. Green and Krstic would appear to be good fits on a Celtics team already stocked in all the right places.
Portland gets Gerald Wallace while Joel Pryzbilla, Dante Cunningham and two first-round draft picks head to Charlotte in a deal that wasn’t nearly as surprising as some others, especially when you consider how often Wallace’s name came up in trade rumors with other teams. Wallace has the kind of motor and plays with the sort of reckless abandon that should make him a hit with the fans in Portland. LaMarcus Aldridge and Brandon Roy certainly are happy to see him. It’s hard to tell what exactly is going on with the Bobcats, who were also shopping Stephen Jackson. But the draft picks will make this all go down a lot easier later on.
Baron Davis is on the move once again, this time to Cleveland for Mo Williams, Jamario Moon and a first-round draft pick. Williams must have good karma to go from riding shotgun with LeBron James to riding shotgun with Blake Griffin. He’s certainly going to put that ugly losing streak and those cold Cleveland winters behind him now that he’ll occupy space in the Clippers’ locker room — he gave up his early termination option to get the deal done. Things don’t look nearly as sweet for Davis, who seemed to be having a ball in his native Los Angeles, whose days popping out of Kia sun roofs are probably over.
Memphis Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley said Thursday that he and his team did not pull out of a proposed deal that would have sent guard O.J. Mayo to the Indiana Pacers in exchange for power forward Josh McRoberts and a first-round pick.
“Indiana was not able to get it all together,” Heisley said in a telephone interview. “People are going to say I have reservations (about the proposed trade). I think from our point of view, we were interested in the trade going forward. It was a very, very difficult conversation for us. It took us a long time to decide. We were getting a lot of players at the two and three position and we were getting a little skinny at the four. We had three candidates we were looking at and when we decided on one, O.J. had to be part of that trade. It wasn’t that we were anxious to get rid of him.”
The Grizzlies also re-acquired forward Shane Battier, who spent his first five NBA seasons in Memphis, earlier Thursday from Houston in a trade for Hasheem Thabeet, the second pick of the 2008 Draft that had gotten next to no run in Memphis.
Mayo had been on the block for weeks, after receiving a 10-game suspension last month by the league for violating its substance abuse program — he tested positive for the steroid DHEA — and getting into a fight before the suspension on the Grizzlies’ team plane with teammate Tony Allen over a card game. Heisley, though, insisted that Memphis didn’t want to trade Mayo and wouldn’t have put him in the deal except for the Pacers’ insistence.
“We’ve already got Tony Allen, (Sam) Young, Battier, Rudy Gay, Xavier Henry,” Heisley said. “We’ve got a lot of guys in that (wing) area, and we’ve only got (Darrell) Arthur and Zach (Randolph) at the forward position.”
Heisley said he didn’t think the Grizzlies needed to mend any fences with Mayo, whom the Grizzlies acquired in a draft day trade in 2008 from Minnesota in exchange for Kevin Love.
“People call up for O.J. all the time,” Heisley said. “We received a number of calls on O.J. What I would say to O.J. is there are a lot of people — including us — who think you’re a good player. It’s not that we’re down on O.J., it’s just that we’ve got a lot of players who’ve blossomed in recent time. It’s not that they’ve beaten O.J. out, but we’ve just got a lot of players vying for limited minutes.”
A team source tells TNT’s David Aldridge that the Phoenix Suns will not trade forward Jared Dudley before today’s deadline. Several teams gave been trying to get Dudley, including the Celtics and Rockets.
Dudley, a fan favorite in Phoenix, signed a four-year, $17 million deal with a player option for a fifth season back in early November. He came to Phoenix along with Jason Richardson in a 2010 trade that sent Boris Diaw and Raja Bell to the Charlotte Bobcats. Though his scoring average has increased to a career-high 9.6 ppg this season, his 3-point shooting is down from 45.8 percent last season to 39.1 percent this season.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The one thing you don’t want these days in the NBA is a superstar player that is unhappy with his teammates, the organization, his situation or all of the above.
Magic star Dwight Howard seems ready to check at least two of those boxes after his team’s loss to the lowly Kings. Howard was extra salty after the game, throwing daggers in every direction after he spent most of his night imploring his teammates to play harder. More from the Orlando Sentinel:
He exploded on his team during a timeout in the second quarter. He harped on his team in almost every huddle. Even between whistles he’d bark words at his teammates.
After the game, Howard was tired of talking.
“I’ve said everything there is to say,” said Howard, sitting dejectedly in front of his lockers with a semi-circle of reporters around him. “That’s it. I’ve talked every timeout, when we’re in the huddle, in the locker room… What, you want me to Tweet about it? I’ve done everything I’m supposed to do as a leader.”
Maybe an inflammatory Tweet would help the Magic, whose embarrassing loss to one of the league’s worst teams certainly serves as the team’s low point this season.
“If guys don’t want to play, they’ve got to sit down,” Howard said. “We just can’t have guys or anybody out there not playing hard.”
The phrase “it’s a waste of talent” came out of his mouth during his postgame session with the media (above), an interesting exchange for a player that could find himself at the center of attention, so to speak, when the topic turns to the next player eager to bolt for a better situation when his contract allows it.
“We’ve been talking for a long time,” Howard said. “That’s all we seem to do is talk.”
If you’re a Magic a fan, these are not the words you want to hear coming out of the mouth of the face of your franchise!
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The last time the Hawks swung a trade deadline deal for a point guard, they got Mike Bibby from Sacramento and proceeded to make the playoffs three years in a row with the veteran big shot artist directing their attack.
That was February 2008. Fast forward to now and the Hawks are still trying to find the right fit at point guard. They traded Bibby, Mo Evans, Jordan Crawford and their 2011 first-round Draft pick to Washington for Kirk Hinrich and Hilton Armstrong yesterday.
The Hawks are trying, once again, to solve the point guard problems that have plagued them since Draft night 2005, when they passed up Deron Williams, Chris Paul and Raymond Felton to take Marvin Williams with the No. 2 pick.
“In hindsight, that might be the biggest top three Draft mistake since the Pistons took Darko [Milicic],” an Eastern Conference executive said. “And it’s not just about the player you take, it’s about the player or players you pass up when you make that pick.”
The Pistons passed on Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh to take Milicic after LeBron James was selected with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2003 Draft.
“Anyone that doesn’t think you’ll pay for your Draft mistakes for years to come, just take a look at the Hawks and Pistons right now,” the exec said. “It doesn’t mean you can’t have some success even with those mistakes. But at some point, you will pay for the mistake.”
The Hawks reportedly targeted both Felton and Devin Harris as potential trade pieces but came up empty both times. Bottom line: the Hawks still don’t get the point. Hinrich is yet another short-term answer to a long-term problem. He only has one year left on his deal (at $8 million), meaning the Hawks will have to make decisions about their point guard future all over again this time next year.
Jeff Teague, the Hawks’ second-year point guard, is clearly not ready for a starring role … and might not be anytime soon. He was given every opportunity to supplant Bibby and couldn’t do it. He’s the latest in a long line of supposed point guard solutions that ended up being a problem (Speedy Claxton, Acie Law) for the Hawks.
They’ve tried everything at the point from Royal Ivey to Anthony Johnson to Tyronn Lue to even playing Joe Johnson at point guard during his first season with the team. That’s nine different point guard options spanning two different regimes (former general manager Billy Knight is the man who drafted Marvin Williams, paid Claxton, drafted Law and also traded for Bibby while current general manager Rick Sund is the man who shipped Claxton and Law out of town for Jamal Crawford, drafted Teague and made the deal for Hinrich).
While Hinrich is clearly an upgrade over Bibby, particularly at the defensive end, he still doesn’t solve the Hawks’ seemingly eternal point guard problem.
A six-game winning streak before the All-Star break may have changed the Portland Trail Blazers from sellers to buyers before Thursday’s trade deadline.
Several league sources say that Portland has changed its mind about trading most of, if not all, of its veteran big men for youth before the deadline. The Blazers had informed teams around the league that they would likely be tearing down their roster after hearing the severity of guard Brandon Roy’s knee maladies, and after losing center Greg Oden for yet another season due to a knee injury.
Teams believed the Blazers would definitely trade point guard Andre Miller before the deadline, and perhaps move both Marcus Camby and Joel Przybilla as well.
But the inspired play of forward LaMarcus Aldridge, who took on a bigger scoring burden with Roy out, and the team’s rally before the break have the Blazers now thinking they could not only maintain their fifth-place standing in the Western Conference, but perhaps get a spot higher with a couple of targeted trades. Portland is looking for a backup point guard and a scoring big man to play in the rotation behind Aldridge–and perhaps alongside Aldridge when he plays center. That would likely explain Portland’s interest in Charlotte forward Gerald Wallace, as reported by multiple outlets Wednesday. But getting Wallace, who makes $9.5 million this season in Charlotte, would have to include at least one of Portland’s veterans to make the deal work–though the Blazers do have Oden’s $6.7 million salary as a potential chip to use.
The Los Angeles Clippers and the Cleveland Cavaliers have finalized a trade that sends guard Baron Davis to Cleveland for guard Mo Williams.
The deal includes forward Jamario Moon going to L.A. The Cavs also get the Clippers’ 2011 first-round Draft pick. Cleveland now has two first-round and two second-round picks this year. They also have a $14 million trade exception that could be used before the deadline.
Davis did not dress for Wednesday’s game against New Orleans with what the team said was a sore knee. Williams returned for Cleveland just before the All-Star break after missing 13 games with a hip injury.
The Cavaliers would be able to absorb Davis’ $13 million salary by virtue of the large trade exception they received from Miami in the LeBron James sign-and-trade deal. Williams has a $9.3 million deal, but has player options this season and next season. However, NBA.com’s Scott Howard-Cooper reports that as part of the deal, Williams waived the early termination option on his deal for next season, meaning he won’t be able to opt out until after the 2012-13 season. Moon’s $3 million deal expires after the season.
Though slumping from the floor of late, Davis has played much better for the Clippers after starting the season at odds with coach Vinny Del Negro when he came to camp out of shape. Williams reached out to Cavs fans via his Twitter account before the trade was finalized.
“I wanna say thank you to all Cavs fans,” he wrote on mogotti2. “It’s been great. We’ve had some really good yrs and memories. I will never forget u guys.”
DALLAS – This isn’t supposed to happen to the Utah Jazz.
In the span of 13 days, the league’s model of stability for two decades parted ways with Hall of Fame coach Jerry Sloan and All-Star point guard Deron Williams. Just like that, a team that looked every part a serious contender earlier this season — remember that November road sweep through Florida? — is possibly rebuilding.
Karl Malone and John Stockton are rolling over in their graves.
“I haven’t even gotten over Coach Sloan,” Jazz center Al Jefferson said, “so when they hit me with [the Williams trade], it was just like ‘wow,’ I was super surprised.”
Paul Millsap said the team was as caught off guard as the rest of the league was when the trade with New Jersey went down. The Jazz get back point guard Devin Harris, rookie lottery pick Derrick Favors and two first-round picks.
“It’s been crazy, a little weird,” Millsap admitted. “A lot of stuff we didn’t really expect to happen, it happened. Everybody was surprised by that. You never know what can happen in this league.”
That the Jazz rolled D-Will, one of the constants in the “best point guard in the league” debate, so quickly after many speculated he helped run Sloan out of town is noteworthy in itself. It didn’t help that Williams was critical of many of Utah’s cost-cutting moves of the last few years, so many speculated the front office was just getting rid of a locker room headache.
But closer to the truth is the economic realities of the day, namely making sure you don’t lose your best player for a bag of chips. Cleveland and Toronto didn’t learn that lesson in time. Denver did. And now Utah has lobbed the most extreme preemptive strike to date by trading away its face of the franchise more than a year before he potentially hits free agency.