Some of the more impassioned, green-blindered NBA fans in Boston are cranky about veteran shooting guard Ray Allen’s decision to leave and crankier still toward Allen for opting to sign as a free agent with the rival Miami Heat, who have put the Celtics down the past two springs.
Avery Bradley, though, approaches it from a different direction. He might have mixed feelings about Allen no longer being with the Celtics – it does, after all, further clear the way for Bradley’s rising role — but he has only warm fuzzies toward the man himself, regardless of his new address.
Without Allen’s generosity to a young, unproven backcourt player, this whole storyline might be playing out different. And Bradley appreciates that, as related by ESPNBoston.com’sChris Forsberg.
“Ray was a great tutor,” said Bradley, who struggled with his ability to generate offense early in his NBA career but blossomed last season as he became more confident in his jump shot.
“I’m sad that he’s gone, but we all wish the best for him. But he definitely meant a lot. He helped me out every single day. Sometimes I’d just be working out and he’d be watching on the side. He’d get up and tell me what I needed to work on, or tell me how I can be more consistent. I really thank him for that.”
Bradley shot a mere 34.3 percent from the floor during his rookie season, and those struggles trickled into his second season, particularly as the Celtics worked to develop him as a backup point guard.
Once the team put the focus on Bradley as a shooting guard, he flourished. His confidence grew as he utilized his cutting ability to generate easy hoops, and his jump shot — something coach Doc Rivers swore he showcased during the team’s practices — soon followed.
Other moves that have been unofficially reported over the last 10 days will officially announced in the coming hours and days. We might also find out where Dwight Howard is going to play next season!
Almost all of the top talent is off the board, but there are still some good players available. Here’s a list of the top 10 free agents who have yet to reach an agreement on a new contract…
1. Brook Lopez, C (Signed extension with Nets)
Lopez is at the center of the Howard trade talks. And if the Orlando Magic aren’t buying what the Nets are selling, Lopez is almost certainly heading to Brooklyn with Williams, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace. But according to a Yahoo! report late Tuesday, the details on Lopez’s contract haven’t been finalized, and another team (Charlotte, perhaps?) could step in and give him an offer sheet. So technically, he’s still on the board.
2. Elton Brand, PF (Signed with Mavericks)
Brand is still on the Sixers roster, but reports say that Philly will waive him via the amnesty clause in order to sign Nick Young and trade for Dorell Wright. Even then, he probably won’t be a free agent, because teams with cap space will bid on the final year of his contract. But he’s a better get than everyone below, and he will have a new team in the next week or so.
3. JaVale McGee, C (Re-signed with Nuggets)
McGee still hasn’t harnessed his freakish athleticism to become the elite defender that he really should be. If it ever clicks for McGee, it will probably happen in Denver. SI.com’s Sam Amickreported late Tuesday that the Nuggets and McGee were progressing on a new contract. (more…)
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – We’ll keep this warning for the Oklahoma City Thunder brief, since everyone has plenty of other stuff on their plate on Draft day.
Be careful. And be patient.
Don’t be hasty in whatever decisions you make tonight and in the immediate future.
We’re sending this warning to Thunder fans really, because the sting of defeat in The Finals lingers. It’s an impossible taste to get out of your mouth. We know because we’ve seen it before. We’ve watched teams overreact and make rash decisions and pay for them later, as Thunder general manager Sam Presti and his staff are surely aware of.
This year, on the eve of what was shaping up to be the least suspenseful first round in the franchise’s Oklahoma City era, a report surfaced that said the Thunder has sought to trade into the top three.
The supposed target: Florida guard Bradley Beal.
It’s the second report in the past two weeks that has connected the Thunder with trying to move into the top three. Typically, where there is smoke around this time of the year there is, well, more smoke. But the Thunder can’t seem to shake this cloud of speculation.
And this time, the player provided a firsthand account of Presti’s plans.
“He told me he was going to decide what they’re going to do and considered getting up there,” Beal told ESPN.com on Wednesday, relaying a conversation he had with Presti during an interview at the draft combine in Chicago.
In response to these reports (which are cute but have no legs, according to the folks we’ve spoken to regarding the Thunder), we’ll take this time to remind everyone of the Orlando Magic’s actions in the wake of their unsuccessful trip to The Finals in 2009.
If you’ve made it this far, then you’re still alive for a fantasy championship. I’m back with waiver wire advice at the toughest position to fill in fantasy hoops: shooting guard.
There once was a day when SG was arguably the deepest position in the NBA. Think about the 90s with Michael Jordan, Clyde Drexler, Reggie Miller, Joe Dumars, Mitch Richmond, Allan Houston, Steve Smith, Nick Anderson, Jeff Hornacek, John Starks, Hersey Hawkins, Latrell Sprewell, Ron Harper, and the list goes on and on…
Today, you have Kobe Bryant, Dwyane Wade, Ray Allen, Joe Johnson, Manu Ginobili, James Harden, Monta Ellis, Eric Gordon and Jason Terry headlining the 2-guard position. However, beyond those big names, it’s a collection of rising players like Paul George, DeMar Derozan, Marcus Thornton and Rodney Stuckey, the injury-prone Kevin Martin, and a plethora of timeshares.
Because filling the 2-guard spot in a position-based league has become so challenging, I will offer up five shooting guards for your perusal. They are listed in order of how much I trust them this week.
It doesn’t sound like Kevin Martin will return from his shoulder injury anytime soon, so it appears fantasy owners can safely expect Lee to get full run at the 2 for at least another week. In 15 starts this season, Lee is averaging 14 points, 1.6 threes, and 1.3 steals in 37.3 minutes. He should have no problem meeting or exceeding those digits this week.
HANG TIME LOS ANGELES BUREAU — After weeks of window shopping for a new shooting guard to replace the injured Chauncey Billups, the Clippers will let the trade deadline pass, barring an unexpected late development in the final hours.
They considered Jamal Crawford and Courtney Lee, discussions for Ray Allen never gained much traction, and reports of conversations with the Jazz about Raja Bell were wrong. In the end, the Clippers do not appear to have come close to a deal that would likely have required parting with second-year point guard Eric Bledsoe, at least one other player to make salaries match and perhaps even a first-round pick.
The Clippers are in win-now mode and Bledsoe is their best trade lure in getting some help. But their logic in holding off is understandable: No one in trade discussions would have been a major upgrade. They can re-consider options with Bledsoe heading toward the June 28 Draft, which is said to have a very weak point-guard class. L.A. is hoping an opponent will need to address the position, see no help is coming in the Draft and make a move for Bledsoe then.
HOUSTON – It’s one thing for fans to get caught up in the fever or for the media to fan the flames.
But you know that “Linsanity” is for real when Jeremy Lin is getting noticed in the other locker rooms around the NBA and the buzz is filling the pre-game talk.
“I think everybody is keeping one eye on him,” the Thunder’s Kevin Durant said with a grin on Tuesday night. “I mean, I don’t know that guy from a can of paint, but I’m happy for him. I’m rooting for him.
“Guys this locker room are not fans in terms of being in awe of other guys. But we see the good plays. We respect the good players. We respect the good teams. You have to respect what the guy is doing.
“It’s a little different than it was for me, because I was the No. 2 pick and I was supposed to do that. For him, people didn’t think he’d even come close to that. So that’s the unique thing about it. I’m so happy for him that he’s out there proving people wrong. He’s gotten his chance and he’s taking full advantage of it.”
Almost certainly it’ll pay off down the line, but the price the Bulls are paying in the conference finals is that the lack of a deal then means the Bulls don’t have enough offense now, not when Miami can send 6-foot-11 Chris Bosh and 6-8 LeBron James to double-team 6-3 Derrick Rose as happened more than a few times. Miami’s 96-85 Game 3 victory produced more than a few storylines, including Chris Bosh’s second huge game of the series.
But what should stand out even more is that the Bulls don’t have enough offense to beat Miami in a seven-game series. Back in late February when Forman and Paxson decided to put off finding a scorer to complement Rose until the summer, Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen said, “We’ll be able to beat good defenses, but against a team with great defense and scorers like Miami, we just won’t have enough firepower.”
As the Eastern Conference finals progress, we’re seeing more and more evidence of why Rose was the correct choice for MVP. He’s certainly had to do more of the heavy lifting and carry much more of the load for the Bulls.
The Heat can simply hand the baton off from James to Wade to Bosh in different games or in different quarters. But Rose has got to be the one driving Chicago on virtually every possession. And not coincidentally, when Rose is driving to the basket, Miami defenders have often been able to cut him off and prevent him from finishing.
The Big Three scored a combined 73 points in Game 3.
If Rose doesn’t play his best when Miami is at its best, the Bulls don’t have much of a chance.
Now the focus falls on (coach Tom) Thibodeau. After most practices, he and Rose watch film together to see how best to attack the other team’s defense. Thibs is going to have to be refitted for his genius hat. He has to figure out ways to get Rose free in time for Game 4. If he doesn’t, how does a 3-1 Heat lead feel?
It seems obvious: The Bulls need to run. Let Rose create. Let him improvise. Let him go. Rose in a half-court offense against this good a Miami defense is suicide.
“I tried to let my teammates create for others,’’ he said. “That’s what I made the team try to do. Sometimes I tried to beat the double team, and sometimes I just tried to pass and make it easy.’’
And that’s just it: I don’t want to see Luol Deng trying to create. I want to see Rose doing the creating. The options are limited when the Bulls aren’t shooting well. Rose can dish off all he wants, but if his team shoots 41.6 from the floor, which it did Sunday, forget it.
Can the Bulls now flip the series around and win three of the next four games from the Heat? How much closer would they be to accomplishing that feat if they had another wing scorer/finisher like Lee or Richardson in their lineup?
Conventional wisdom in sports says that if you have a chance to win a championship, you reach out and grab it, then worry about tomorrow when tomorrow comes while you’re already polishing your trophy.
But the 7-foot Asik is only 24 years old. He’s active and aggressive. He’s quick, he hustles, he’s improving constantly on offense and he is a big man who can defend the pick-and-roll. In other words, he’s exactly the kind of big man that every team in the league is seeking, which is why Houston and Orlando would have pulled the trigger on deals for Lee or Richardson in a heartbeat.
Will the Bulls regret not making the move sometime in the next two or three days if they can’t get past Miami in this series?
But what about the next two or three (or more) years?
It says here that Forman and Paxson may not have made the popular choice for now, but the right one for the future.
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.
In the trade, the Houston Rockets sent Ariza to the Hornets, who in turn will send Collison and James Posey to the Pacers.
The Pacers sent Troy Murphy to the New Jersey Nets. And the Nets sent Courtney Lee to the Rockets.
According to the sources, the Rockets, Hornets, Pacers and Nets have agreed to the details of the trade and made it official with the league on Wednesday.
The Hornets didn’t stop there. NBA front office sources told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein that in a separate deal, the team agreed to send swingman Julian Wright to Toronto for Raptors guard Marco Belinelli. That deal, like the four-team trade, was also expected to be completed Wednesday.