HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Proving an age-old theory that absolutely every NBA contract, no matter how bad it looks at the time, is a tradeable at some point, the Detroit Pistons sent Ben Gordon and a lottery-protected Draft pick in 2013 to the Charlotte Bobcats for Corey Maggette.
The nearly $15 million in savings for the Pistons was clearly their motivation for doing the deal. Maggette is a nice veteran scorer to have, but by no means changes your franchise’s fortunes. He does have an expiring $10.9 million deal. And since Gordon is owed $25.6 million on the final two years of his deal, the Bobcats get a seasoned shooter to add to their mix, but are only the hook for the short-term.
This is one of those rare trades that actually makes complete sense for both sides. Gordon will never live down the disappointment fans in Detroit have experienced since the Pistons handed him that $55 million free agent deal in 2009. Maggette has played all over the league with the Pistons marking the sixth team in the 12-year veteran’s career.
The Draft pick the Pistons gave up has extra layers of protection, as well, through the eight pick in 2014 and No. 1 in 2015.
But it’s clear that both teams get the salary relief they needed (the Pistons needed to shed some while the Bobcats needed to add some) in the form of veteran scorers that will benefit their respective teams immediately.
Once again, Shaq is back to countdown all the ridiculous plays from the around the league. This week, foolish honors go out to Corey Maggette, KG, Mike Miller, Carlos Boozer’s hair and to all the ugly Valentine’s Day moments in the NBA. Vote for your favorite Shaqtin’ A Fool moment!
Scorers come, scorers go and still the Milwaukee Bucks struggle to light up the scoreboard.
For the second time in as many offseasons – or what passed for one this time in the post-lockout rush job between Thanksgiving and Christmas – the Bucks have tried to spruce up their offense. With dreary results.
Prior to 2010-11, it was Corey Maggette, John Salmons and an offensive-boarding Drew Gooden who were going to get buckets for the Bucks. Instead, Milwaukee slipped from 23rd in points per game to dead last in the NBA (91.9), from 29th in field-goal percentage to last (.430) and from 12th in 3-point shooting to 24th (.342).
This time around, Stephen Jackson, Mike Dunleavy and Beno Udrih were brought aboard with similar hopes and expectations. And yet, after 10 days and five games, Milwaukee is having trouble scoring again. It ranks 24th, 25th and 27th in the three categories above, while its raw numbers have declined – 90.8 ppg, .412 and .253 – in part due to lockout rust but in part, frankly, because the Bucks and coach Scott Skiles earn their scoring shortcomings.
The 85-73 loss at Utah Tuesday was the latest example of Milwaukee putting the uh-oh in offense, as blogged byCharles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel:
Drew Gooden, starting in place of Andrew Bogut after the Bucks starting center had to leave the team for personal reasons, scored 24 points and was the only Milwaukee player to shoot better than 50% from the field (12 of 20).
Take Gooden’s shots out of the mix and the rest of the team made 22.7% on field goal attempts (17 of 75).
“We’ve got to recognize when we’re not scoring, and when we’re going through droughts, slow down and try to execute,” Bucks guard Shaun Livingston said. “Try to get great shots, not good shots.”
An asterisk was in order, because Bogut was joined in absentia by Dunleavy (groin injury) and Udrih (shoulder). Also, Milwaukee did average 98.3 points in its first three games, hanging 95 on the Bobcats, 98 on the Timberwolves and 102 on the Wizards. But then the Bucks’ output dropped to 86 at Denver Monday, followed by 73 last night. And remember, this is with Jackson and Carlos Delfino presumably green-lighted by Skiles and his staff and Ersan Ilyasova firing away as if he is, at least, healthy.
One contributing factor is point guard Brandon Jennings, who is back down to 37.6 percent (32-of-85) after bumping his accuracy ever so slightly from 37.1 percent as a rookie in 2009-10 to 39.0 last season. And let’s face it, bad shooting can be contagious same as good; if a defense can sag off one or two men, it can devote more attention to others. Utah contested a lot of shots at Energy Solutions Arena – Derrick Favors had five blocks and Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap swatted two each – but there were open clangs as well that made life a little easier on the Jazz.
The question now is whether the Bucks have both the personnel and the wherewithal to improve offensively. Michael Redd is gone. Ray Allen, Marques Johnson and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar aren’t walking through that door, either. The pattern under Skiles isn’t promising: Since he took over in 2008-09, Milwaukee has not ranked in the top 10 in any of the three areas above, getting as high as 12th in 3-point shooting two seasons ago.
Everyone knows, and many appreciate, the bulldog defense that Skiles preaches. But it seems odd that the guy who, as a Magic point guard, holds the NBA record for most assists in a game – 30, Orlando vs. Denver, Dec. 30, 1990 – can’t set up his team for more easy buckets.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Stunning is the only way to describe the mood shift here at the hideout in the past 24 hours.
From giddy anticipation for potential progress that could come from the first full bargaining session since the lockout began to the depths of despair in the aftermath of said meeting producing nothing of the sort. I tried to warn folks. No deal would be struck. The two sides were probably not going to move off of their initial positions. They did not.
The owners and players (and their representatives) are as far apart right now as they were when this entire ordeal began. It’s as if the calendar hasn’t moved one bit since July 1.
NBA commissioner David Stern and union executive director Billy Hunter might even agree on that. There is no next bargaining session scheduled. Not even a brief get together for coffee. Nothing.
You can choose sides all you want, but as far as these eyes can see the only real losers in this entire affair are those of us who love the game and want to see it played as soon as possible.
Still, we have to gauge the reactions from all sides and examine the fine points of each and every argument. More importantly, we have to sort through the rubble now and figure out exactly where we go from here. Because optimism is no longer a part of this equation …
The Union’s Next Test … Decertification
Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: When [Hunter] goes to Las Vegas on Wednesday for the most important players meeting of his tenure as executive director, does he find a coup awaiting him?
“Now Billy has to go to Las Vegas with nothing to bring the players,” a prominent agent told Yahoo! Sports on Tuesday night.
“He’s chosen a particular path, and there hasn’t been any progress on that path. There was all this false optimism in the last week about how the league was going to come with a new proposal that he could take back to the players, and they came with nothing. Stern wants to stall, and stall until the players start missing paychecks.
“Billy was hoping that he could keep the players engaged, excited that a deal was coming. There was all that rhetoric of good feelings, and today was the day that Stern was going to come with a proposal. He was relying on the fact that Stern would negotiate in good faith with him, that he didn’t want to lose games. He thought that Stern would blink, start to negotiate. He was relying on the fact Stern didn’t want to hurt the game, and he was wrong.”
Yes, there had to be a pit in Hunter’s stomach. Three hours waiting for the owners to debate among themselves, big markets wanting to cut a deal, and small markets willing to lose games – lose the season – to get guaranteed profits and maybe a better chance to chase championships.
There’s a big labor meeting in Las Vegas on Thursday, and Hunter is competing for the hearts and minds of his rank-and-file players. He’s already lost the top agents, who are laying the groundwork for a coup, sources told Yahoo! Sports. The decision to make a move on Hunter could come as soon as this week, agents privately said.
Each week, we’ll ask our stable of scribes to weigh in on the three most important NBA topics of the day — and then give you a chance to step on the scale, too, in the comments below.
Team that will gain the most ground down the stretch run of the season?
David Aldridge: I’m going with Philly. Doug Collins has his players believing in the system and in each other, and one would expect bigger second-half contributions from rookie Evan Turner after he struggled early. The Sixers also have a +4 home/road split the rest of the way, and they’re 17-9 at Wells Fargo Center this season. They have a long west swing in mid-March and they have road games afterward at Miami and Chicago. If they’re still in the race after that, it’s mostly downhill sledding the rest of the way.
Steve Aschburner: The Milwaukee Bucks have the most room for improvement. Their lineup has been riddled by injuries to the point that coach Scott Skiles hasn’t yet had a full complement for practice. The guys who have been on the floor have struggled mightily to score: The Bucks are last in offensive rating (101.0, compared to 107.0 league average) and are 24th in field-goal percentage overall and from the arc. Signees such as Drew Gooden, Corey Maggette and John Salmons have disappointed. But that mess has produced 22 victories already. The schedule is friendlier now and Skiles got a surge down the stretch last season that they might be able to replicate. (more…)
More rumblings on trade rumors from around the league …
WARRIORS AND NETS TALKING
The Golden State Warriors and New Jersey Nets are discussing a potential trade that would send disgruntled Nets forward Troy Murphy and a second-round draft pick to the Warriors in exchange for center Dan Gadzuric and forward Brandan Wright, according to league sources. But the deal has not yet been agreed to, according to sources involved in the talks.
The Nets have been committed to moving Murphy for weeks, after he fell out of favor with Coach Avery Johnson. Murphy has been home since early January, having played in just 18 games this season for New Jersey, averaging 3.6 points. But the 30-year-old Murphy has long been considered one of the league’s best rebounders and would be a good fit for a playoff team’s rotation. There has been speculation that Murphy will be bought out by whatever team trades for him, given that he’s on an expiring contract ($11.9 million this season), and would then sign with a contending team before the March 1 playoff roster deadline.
One source involved in the discussions cautioned that the potential trade was at best “50-50,” but confirmed the teams were talking, as has been rumored for a couple of weeks. Yahoo! Sports reported the trade was close to being done Tuesday.
The Nets acquired Murphy last August from Indiana as part of a four-team deal that sent guard Darren Collison from New Orleans to Indiana, along with swingman James Posey, with forward Trevor Ariza going from Houston to New Orleans and Houston getting guard Courtney Lee from New Jersey.
The 23-year-old Wright was a first-round pick in 2007 but has been slowed by injuries during his years with the Warriors, appearing in just 98 career games in almost four full seasons. Golden State acquired Gadzuric and guard Charlie Bell from Milwaukee last summer in a trade for forward Corey Maggette.
It wasn’t that long ago when the Mavericks were hot on the heels of the Spurs for the best record in not only the Western Conference but the league. San Antonio is still setting the pace. Dallas? Not so much.
The Mavs have fallen on hard times. First they lost Dirk Nowitzki for nine games with a bum knee. During Dirk’s absence, Caron Butler was lost for the rest of the regular season with a torn patella tendon. (Butler does expect to be back during the playoffs.)
Instead, what Kobe, the “Boy Toy” coach and the rest of the two-time champion Los Angeles Lakers might find Wednesday night at American Airlines Center is the shrinking, scattered mess of a team that’s been recently dusted by the Toronto Raptors, the Indiana Pacers, the Memphis Grizzlies and, as of Monday afternoon, the Detroit Pistons.
So the questions now in Big D are now what position the Mavs will be in once the postseason gets here — they’re fallen to fith in the West — and if a big trade is in the works. Mark Cuban isn’t shy when it comes to pulling blockbuster triggers. What does Dallas have to deal with?
Caron Butler’s expiring $10.8 deal is at the top of the list. As for the potential targets the replace Butler, Marc Stein of ESPN.com gives us names such as Stephen Jackson, J.R. Smith, Tayshaun Prince, Corey Maggette and former Maverick point guard Devin Harris.
The Mavs also eagerly await the return of scoring whiz Roddy Beaubois, but it’s looking like the second-year guard won’t be back until February at the earliest.
Through Monday, the NBA season is exactly 25 percent done. The quarter pole is a great time to evaluate a lot of things, but here we’re going to look at early candidates for the Most Improved Player award.
There isn’t clear criteria for the award, as indicated by the 13 different players who received first-place votes last season. Personally, I thought that Kevin Durant, who went from non-All-Star to MVP candidate, was the only choice, but only 17 of the 123 voters agreed with me.
Statistically, there are a few different ways you can compare performance from one year to the next. And I’ll probably explore all of them by the end of the season. But for now, since it’s still early, I’ll keep it simple.
To see whose production has taken the biggest jump from last season to this one, I looked at efficiency per game. Efficiency is a stat that’s been used here on NBA.com for a while now, and it’s fairly simple to understand. You just add up a player’s positive stats (points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks) and subtract turnovers and missed shots (both from the field and from the line). So the formula is this:
D.J. Augustin probably isn’t one of the first guys you think of when it comes to Most Improved. But he’s clearly a step ahead of the field (especially since Reggie Evans is out for two months with a broken foot), having stepped into Raymond Felton‘s role as the starting point guard in Charlotte.
None of the other names on the list are real surprises.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, we have the 10 players who have regressed most in terms of efficiency per game…
Most Regressed: Efficiency per Game
The name that stands out here, of course, is LeBron James. We all knew that his statistical production would fall off, but maybe not this much. People talked about him averaging a triple-double with the Heat, but his rebounds have gone down from 7.3 to 5.7 per game, and his assists have gone down from 8.6 to 7.3.
Last year, James led the league in efficiency at 32.4 per game, which was more than four points better than the next player on the list, Durant at 28.0. It’s obviously not easy maintaining those numbers when you’ve got to share the ball with two other All-Stars.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The hump day schedule in the NBA is usually a robust 12 or 13 games deep, but we went with the diet plate (just 10 games) this week.
Lucky for us all, there was no skimping on the action.
Between John Wall‘s triple double, the Bucks’ beatdown of the Hawks, Michael Beasley‘s 42 points in a Minnesota win, David Lee‘s triumphant return to Madison Square Garden and a second straight epic comeback for the Utah Jazz in Florida, our table is loaded with plenty for you to chew on.
So all we have to figure out now is Did You See What We Saw?
The Prime Minister kicks things off with this special report on that Jazz-Magic thriller:
UTAH 104, ORLANDO 94
Looking good: Another night with Jerry Sloan‘s comeback kids! The Jazz rode the back of Deron Williams in the third quarter and Al Jefferson down the stretch to rally from an 18-point hole and sweep their annual trip to Florida. In their last five quarters (four regulation, one overtime), Utah outscored its opponents (Miami and Orlando) 153-112. And, as our man Dick Scanlon points out, the Jazz have rallied from 16-, 19- and 10-point halftime deficits in the last four days. Safe to say, the Jazz have this whole comeback-wins thing down.
Sound the Alarm: For Stan Van Gundy‘s bottle of Pepto Bismol, which is surely taking a pounding right now. Unlike when the Jazz beat the Heat two nights ago, Orlando’s lack of killer instinct wasn’t an aberration. Van Gundy was not pleased that after nearly blowing an 18-point lead against the Bobcats two games ago, the Magic didn’t learn from their mistake and totally blew their big lead against Utah. A jingle of the bell, too, for starter Ryan Anderson, whom Van Gundy cited for a lack of effort in his postgame comments.
HT’s Take: Big props for Sloan, who in back-to-back nights made crucial in-game adjustments. One night after the Jefferson-for-Kyrylo Fesenko center swap down the stretch in Miami, he switched to a zone defense in the second half against Orlando. That move flustered Orlando’s shooters and kept Dwight Howard a little more under control, allowing the Jazz to get some stops and sway momentum their way. Jefferson’s little rest in Miami worked out well last night, too, as he nailed a bunch of clutch shots in the post to seal the win.
MILWAUKEE 108, ATLANTA 91
Looking good: An early 13-point deficit for the Bucks disappeared when the reserves hit the floor. Corey Maggette and Ersan Ilyasova entered the game and promptly turned things upside down. By the time the Bucks’ reserves had finished their first half work they were up 54-40 and the rout was on. The Bucks are finally looking like the team many of us thought they’d be with a healthy Andrew Bogut back in the mix.
Sound the Alarm: The Hawks did that for us. Did you hear what they had to say about their power outage on their home floor? “I don’t understand what happened,” Al Horford said. “When adversity hit us in the face we went our separate ways,” Josh Smith said. Not exactly the sorts of things coach Larry Drew wants to hear from a team that was undefeated as recently as Sunday morning.
HT’s Take: The Bucks weren’t just good last night, they were fantastic once they got going. Like Bucks coach Scott Skiles said, if you get up 30 on the Hawks in their building, you’re doing work. If the Bucks can keep this up, they might look back on this early stretch of the season as the turning point. It certainly helps that Brandon Jennings (19 points and 4-for-5 from deep in the win over the Hawks) is heating up right now, too.