It’s a light Saturday night in the NBA with only a single marquee matchup featuring crucial playoff implications. Here’s a look at what’s on tap:
LOS ANGELES CLIPPERS at MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES (8 p.m. ET, NBA TV): These two teams clashed in an epic seven-game, first-round series last season. The Clippers won it, taking two at Memphis, including that massive comeback in Game 1. These clubs are a mismatch made in heaven. The Clippers are a bunch of high-flyers and freakish athletes that know how to throw it down. The Grizzlies are burly and far more earth-bound and would rather kill you slowly with defense. These clubs are locked in a raging battle with the Denver Nuggets for the Nos. 3-5 seeds, critical positioning that will determine not only matchups, but homecourt advantage.
The Clips and Grizz are both coming off wins Friday night. Memphis had a short flight home after an 82-78 win at Houston while L.A. made the quick hop over from New Orleans after scratching out a tough one. Memphis is tied in the standings with No. 3 Denver at 54-25, but remains in the No. 5 slot because the Nuggets hold the tiebreaker and the Clippers, one game back at 53-26, get the No. 4 slot by virtue of being the Pacific Division champs. Still, homecourt advantage in the 4-5 series will be decided by best record. As for the season series, the Clippers hold a 2-1 edge on the Grizzlies, and both teams are 32-17 in the Western Conference, the next deciding factor for the tiebreaker if Memphis ties up the series tonight.
CELTICS (at Orlando, 7 p.m. ET, League Pass): The Celtics are one of two teams among those headed to the Eastern Conference playoffs with a negative point-differential. The eighth-seeded Bucks are the other. Boston will finish with the No. 7 seed and a date with the New York Knicks in the first round. These final games are nothing more than tune-ups for the Celtics, who are re-integrating Kevin Garnett.
BUCKS (at Charlotte, 7 p.m. ET, League Pass): Milwaukee begins its final three games and they might want to get serious about these ones if they harbor any hope to even be somewhat competitive against Miami in the first round. Of course, the Bucks weren’t even that last week when Miami beat Milwaukee with Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh sitting it out. The Bucks have lost three in a row and are 3-7 in their last 10, hardly the push J.J. Redick figured his new team would be making.
Whatever lack of enthusiasm or even dread the Milwaukee Bucks might be feeling about their rapidly approaching postseason public flogging is entirely understandable. Assuming the Bucks do eventually nail down the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference bracket, their reward will be worse than a lump of coal or a Miss Congeniality award.
They’ll get to face the Miami Heat in a best-of-seven series, requiring them to endure four spankings as the NBA’s defending champions rev up for their title defense.
So yeah, we get it. It’s not much to look forward to. But the way the Bucks have gone about their business lately, you’d think Milwaukee would rather not participate in the playoffs at all. There are several teams headed for the lottery, but playing smarter and harder than Milwaukee lately, that look as if they’d appreciate the opportunity more and give a better showing than the Bucks. Orlando, for one, bad as its record is. Minnesota, for another.
Losers in seven of their past 10 games heading into Saturday’s home clash with Toronto and just 4-10 since a moderately encouraging 2-1 West Coast trip a month ago, the Bucks have been busy fulfilling all the concerns about them when the year began. And squandering what was a legit chance to move up to No. 7 by catching Boston.
The dynamic backcourt of Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellisis undersized and defensively challenged. On too many nights, there’s a your-turn, my-turn pattern to their offensive probes, and a disjointed or absent playmaking that has Milwaukee’s frontcourt players all too happy to come off the bench if it spares them some standing around with that starting duo.
Short-timers abound, in contract terms, and the resultant lack of cohesiveness and long-term vision predictably has followed. Jennings is headed to restricted free agency and has handled it poorly, pouting in or after games, through actions or words, more like an immature rookie than a fourth-year floor leader. Ellis can opt out of his deal and, at times in the past month, has played as if on a salary drive.
Samuel Dalembert, acquired to stem some bleeding up front, was needed less once Larry Sanders finally got traction this season. So first coach Scott Skiles and then replacement Jim Boylan warehoused Dalembert – over there on the bench next to drydocked Drew Gooden.
Dalembert’s deal is up once the Bucks head into summer, as is Mike Dunleavy‘s, as is J.J. Redick‘s, who probably will test the free-agent market and revive criticism that Milwaukee maybe gave up too soon on the small forward shipped to Orlando in that deal, Tobias Harris.
Ersan Ilyasova only recently has played up to the deal he landed last summer in free agency. Sanders reverted to some bad tossed-from-games-habits in a recent stretch. Luc Richard Mbah a Moute was hurt less and in better shape before he got paid a couple years ago. Whatever bump the Bucks got from parting ways with Skiles appears to have been temporary – they’re 20-23 under Boylan – and the defense (104.1 ppg over the past 14) hardly is Miami-ready
Meanwhile, the locker room has been light and largely unaffected by all of the sputtering. During postgame media time Wednesday, after the loss to the nowhere-bound Timberwolves, somebody kept humming the tune of “The Final Countdown,” loud enough to be picked up in audio reports. Their third-quarter collapse at New York on Friday kept their magic number for clinching the playoff spot at two.
They’ll get it soon enough. But it’s too bad the NBA has no surrogate system, in which the disinterested Bucks players could vote someone pluckier and more eager to take their place in the first round. The way they’re going, the playoffs will be an opportunity wasted on them.
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: Last night’s trio of games weren’t the most exciting matchups on paper, with two games (Nuggets-Kings and Lakers-Thunder) being matchups that were pretty one-sided (and ended up being that way in the final result, too). That makes Celtics-Sixers our pick this morning, mostly because we were treated to a performance from Avery Bradley that was reminiscent of the work he did in the 2012 Eastern Conference semifinals against these Sixers. As you’ll read below, Celtics coach Doc Rivers credits Bradley’s play with a lot of Boston’s success since Rajon Rondo was lost for the season, and this game last night was a great case in point.
West: LeBron ‘in another world’ right now — Around the All-Star break, the LeBron James vs. Kobe Bryant debate was stirred up anew after Hall of Famer Michael Jordan said he’d pick Bryant over James. Another Hall of Famer, Warriors executive Jerry West, has his thoughts on the LeBron debate — specifically where James ranks among all-time performers and whether or not he is on Jordan’s level. West’s answer to that, as well as his thoughts on the struggling Lakers, his old owner, Jerry Buss, and more are all a must-read in this Q&A from Sports on Earth’s Shaun Powell:
Q: After 50 years in the game, you’ve seen just about everyone. Are you ready to call LeBron James the greatest after Jordan? Or maybe he trumps Jordan? Or is this all too silly?
A: I’ll say LeBron is in another world right now. He’s a player for the decade. You watch him and you can tell his teammates love him. What you can’t do is judge him by the championships right now. Just his all-around play and skills. He’s a superstar who’s very unselfish. You don’t find that too often. He could lead the league in scoring every year if he wanted. But he’d rather find any way to beat you even if it meant giving up the ball. To watch his growth as a player and person has been pretty special. I would have enjoyed having him as a teammate.
Q: Miami has made it work by combining three All-Stars. But weren’t you, Elgin Baylor and Wilt Chamberlain the original Big Three?
A: Oh, I don’t know. That’s just a label. The difference between us and them is they’re in their prime. Elgin battled injury and wasn’t the same player when we came together. I wasn’t the same player because I battled knee injuries and we didn’t have the medical advancements then as we do now. I was almost constantly in pain. Wilt wasn’t the same, either; he was at the end of his career. And we didn’t win together because Elgin retired before the championship. I know people didn’t like what Miami did by teaming them up, but I thought it was fantastic. LeBron is special, Dwyane Wade is right behind him and Chris Bosh is a very good player. They’ll win championships or be right there as long as they’re healthy and on the same team. People should enjoy and respect what they’re seeing right now.
Q: Meanwhile, your old team has struggled with Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash although to be fair, Howard and Nash haven’t been healthy from the jump. Will they get it together? Or will this be basketball’s Titanic?
A: What people don’t understand is the enormous adjustment you have to make as a player in those situations. I was a scorer, Elgin was a scorer and Wilt, even then, liked the ball. We all had to put everything else aside. The Lakers are playing better now, especially defensively, and I think they’ll make the playoffs. I think the worst is behind them.
Q: You knew Jerry Buss as well as anyone, maybe even better. Got a favorite Dr. Buss story you could share?
A: Well, because of the personality he had, I couldn’t tell you any of the best ones for print. But everything you heard about him as an owner was true. He always did what was in the best interest of the game, from a Lakers perspective and a league perspective. I wish all owners were like him. He was a real innovator. He wasn’t afraid to make a decision. You liked him and cared about him. He was a good guy who was able to buy something and become an incredible steward of a historic franchise. I was lucky to have known him. Working for him wasn’t even work, it was fun. I never saw it as a job. Not for one day. I miss him already.
Kings’ Cousins has words for fan — For DeMarcus Cousins against the Nuggets on Tuesday, it was a night to forget. A season-worst shooting night (1-for-12) coupled with a relentless barrage by Shootaround favorite Kenneth Faried led to a 120-113 loss in which Cousins sat on the bench for the final 10 minutes, 15 seconds. But as Cousins left the game, writes Jason Jones of the Sacramento Bee, he got into a bit of a verbal altercation with a fan — another black mark in a season where Cousins has had his fair share of on-court dustups:
Cousins sat out the final 10:15, and his exit wasn’t the usual jog to the bench. He engaged in a shouting match with fans seated on the baseline near the Kings’ bench.
“He said some disrespectful things, and I had some things to say back,” Cousins said. “That was it.”
Cousins said he believes it was a Kings fan, “which makes it even worse.”
Coach Keith Smart said sitting Cousins had nothing to do with that verbal exchange and instead was about finding the best matchup to slow down the Nuggets (40-22).
“The focus is on the game. The focus is on what we’re trying to do on the floor,” Smart said. “And whatever happens with someone on our team in the stands, whatever needs to be dealt with, is dealt with.
“These are our fans and they come out here to support us, and we’ve got to make sure we do the right things at all times”
Asked about fan support, Smart made it clear the team’s focus needs to be on the court.
“That’s why it’s very important that we focus on playing good basketball instead of being focused on the fans,” Smart said. “They pay good, hard-earned money to come to a game to do or say whatever they might want to say. But overall the fans in Sacramento have been great to our basketball team.”
‘Melo asked out of game before he got hurt — Although the Knicks rallied from a 22-point deficit to take down the Cavs in Cleveland on Monday, they suffered a loss as Carmelo Anthony left the game in the second quarter after injuring his knee. A day after that mishap, Knicks coach Mike Woodson says the injury could have been avoided had Woodson agreed to let Anthony out of the game when the Knicks’ star started feeling pain. Ian Bagley of ESPNNewYork.com has more on the situation:
Woodson revealed Tuesday during an interview with ESPN New York 98.7 FM that Anthony had asked to be removed from the game due to knee discomfort before suffering the injury in the second quarter.
The Knicks announced later Tuesday that Anthony officially has been diagnosed with a sore knee and will be listed as questionable for Wednesday’s game against the Detroit Pistons.
Woodson called Anthony’s injury “alarming” during his interview on “The Stephen A. Smith and Ryan Ruocco Show” and admitted his decision to leave the star forward in the game was “stubborn.”
“Melo was hurt,” Woodson said. “For him to ask me to come out of the game before he actually took that spill made me realize that something wasn’t right. He’s never ever, ever, even hinted about coming out of the game [before Monday]. I play him too much in that regard. Melo’s a trooper — he’s a warrior, he’s a tough kid.”
Woodson was asked during the interview why he chose to leave Anthony in the game after he requested to come out.
“I should have [taken him out],” Woodson said. “Stubborn coach — I just didn’t.”
Woodson explained that he hoped Anthony would help dig the Knicks out of their 22-point first-half deficit.”Maybe I should have taken him out before he actually stumbled and took the fall,” Woodson said. “But again, I’m thinking [during] the game, ‘Hey, he’ll play through it. He’ll figure it out.’
“But he was hurt. He walked out after he took the spill and he didn’t come back, and that’s not Melo-like. Obviously, his knee is bothering him.”
Anthony said on Monday that his knee had been bothering him in recent days, and an MRI taken recently revealed no structural damage.
“Today I just woke up, and you know how some days you really don’t feel right,” he said after the game. “I came out here and I tried to warm up and I thought it was going to loosen up before the game, but some of the things that I was doing, I felt like I was dragging it.”
Knicks general manager Glen Grunwald said Tuesday in an interview with radio station WFAN that he did not believe the injury was “serious,” even though Anthony has been bothered by the knee for two or three weeks.
Sans Rondo, Celtics up their intensity — As was mentioned by the Inside the NBA crew last night, the Celtics are 12-4 since Rajon Rondo was lost for the season on Jan. 27. While getting key players back (such as Avery Bradley and Chris Wilcox) and adding a little depth (via a trade for Jordan Crawford) have helped, Boston coach Doc Rivers says Rondo’s departure probably did more to help get the team on a winning track than anything else. Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe has more on the Celtics’ sudden improvements:
The Celtics began Tuesday two games from the fourth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and home-court advantage in the first round, which is stunning considering Boston was 20-23 when Rondo went down and was expected to sink in the second half.
“I just think we’re playing better, for whatever reason,” said coach Doc Rivers. “You have all those injuries, you usually go the other way. I just think our guys kind of came together and realized we don’t have a margin of error anymore.
“And maybe that’s why. But overall, I think a lot of things happened, too. I think Avery [Bradley] was just coming back, so our defense improved dramatically with him.”
Rivers said Bradley’s presence has been critical. The Celtics had improved to ninth in the league in points allowed entering Tuesday night’s game.
“When the guy is on the point of the ball putting pressure, it makes everyone else kind of join in, I think that helped,” Rivers said. “I thought our second unit was just about to take off before all the injuries. So they were finding their way.”
Kevin Garnett said the team’s decision making has drastically improved to compensate for Rondo’s missing floor leadership.
“I would say [we’re] more decisive,” he said. “You get to whatever you’re doing and if you’re going to pass it, pass it, if not you make your move. Consistency is something that I always put our hat on. The more consistent we can be with stopping the ball . . . that’s been the formula for success since I’ve been here and getting guys to buy in.”
Perhaps this is a blessing and curse, because professional sports can break a ballplayer’s heart this way. Redick’s loyal this way. He immerses himself in the franchise’s fabric, invests in the community. His two old coaches – Mike Krzyzewski and Stan Van Gundy – still get calls and texts on a regular basis.
“My wife Chelsea and I built a life in Orlando,” Redick told Yahoo! Sports. “Listen, there was no anger [over the trade], but there was a little bit of disappointment.
“Part of me wishes I could’ve been there my whole career and been part of the rebuilding, part of the turnaround, and gotten back to the finals in my 11th or 12th year. That’s the romantic in me, the idealist.”
With Redick, the Bucks have won four of five games. With the Bucks, Redick is relevant again.
“There’s been a number of moments since I’ve been here – in the fourth quarter, in overtime – where I’ve thought, ‘Man, I missed this,’ ” Redick says. “And I did.
“Even in Orlando, in a close game, coming down to the wire, you still think to yourself: ‘We’re 15-37 or whatever.’ ”
So far, the vision of Bucks general manager John Hammond has been validated. Redick will be a free agent this summer, and Hammond gambled with the trade for him. As hard as the Bucks tried to get Josh Smith, Redick was the player whom they believed could become their starting shooting guard for years. Brandon Jennings is a restricted free agent, Monta Ellis can opt out of his contract and, almost assuredly, only one of them returns next season.
Milwaukee can’t afford to pay the three of them, so Jennings or Ellis will stay, and Milwaukee is prepared to pay Redick as a starting shooting guard. Redick will be in great demand, but make no mistake: To leave the Bucks, he’ll have to take less money – probably a lot.
Hammond and his assistant GM, Jeff Weltman, have the Bucks positioned to be an Eastern Conference playoff team for years to come. For them, Redick has arrived to make shots, yes, but also bring professionalism to the workplace.For Redick, it was over in Orlando. The Magic disassembled into a total rebuild. Part of him will always live with the regret of how everything fell apart, how they fired Stan Van Gundy and traded Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers.
In Redick’s mind, the best thing that ever happened was getting drafted into Orlando with a coach who refused to insert him into the rotation. For two years, Van Gundy challenged him to become a more complete player and Redick thinks “a lot about what kind of career trajectory I would’ve had without Stan, and I’m grateful for what he did for me.”
“Those years in Orlando humbled me,” Redick said, “and gave me perspective on basketball and life.”
Bynum visits knee specialist– In the seemingly daily update of how Andrew Bynum‘s knees, the Sixers big man headed off the New York to visit an orthopedist to get more news on his problematic joints and the long-term outlook for his career. Jason Wolf of The (Wilmington) News Journal has more on Bynum’s visit with Dr. David Altchek of the Hospital for Special Surgery and what next steps are ahead for the big man:
The 7-foot, 300-pound Bynum, whose right knee continued to swell more than a week after taking part in his first practice of the season on Feb. 22, is considering arthroscopic surgery and no longer confident he’ll play for the Sixers this season.
Bynum also visited with at least one doctor on Monday, Sixers CEO Adam Aron said in two broadcast interviews.
“We’re all trying to gather information and see what the best course of action is,” Sixers general manager Tony DiLeo said. “I’m sure Altchek will have an opinion, our doctors will have an opinion, and Andrew, basically, will have an opinion. It’s just gathering information now. And like I said before, he’ll continue to rehab and see how that goes. The option of washing it out [with arthroscopic surgery], we’ll see what happens there.”
Bynum has been sidelined by bone bruises and damaged cartilage in his knees since September. The Sixers acquired him from the Los Angeles Lakers in a four-team trade in August.
He is making $16.9 million this season and will become an unrestricted free agent in July, when he’s hoping to land a long-term deal and a nine-figure pay day.
“He set it up. That’s his doctor,” DiLeo said. “I know it’s a late appointment, so I don’t know if we’ll hear [results] tonight or tomorrow. … [The swelling] has gone down. But the activity has gone down.”
ICYMI of the night: Kenneth Faried got Dunk of the Night honors from our multimedia crew for this jam, but we like this one so much better:
HOUSTON — A week ago nobody could figure out the Bucks. It seemed they had spent most of trade deadline day trying to trade Monta Ellis to Atlanta for Josh Smith and, when that failed, added another guard in J.J. Redick.
Can you spell “crowded backcourt?” Redick joined Ellis and Brandon Jennings in what looked like the kind of traffic jam that could tie up an intersection, let alone a team trying to hang on in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
“I don’t know what Milwaukee is doing,” Charles Barkley said on TNT. “They are just trying to cover the market on guards.”
The rest of the pundit class joined in a collective scratching of heads.
On Wednesday night, the Rockets were left scratching their heads when Jennings almost held onto the ball a half-tick too long, finally got it to Ellis and he put up a running, one-legged, one-armed turnaround that practically licked all of the paint off the rim before falling in to give the Bucks a 110-107 win.
It was the second time in two nights that Ellis played key role down the stretch. Coach Jim Boylan had sat Jennings for the final 3:32 on Tuesday night in Dallas and used Ellis to close out a win in Dallas. He finished with 22 points, nine assists and six steals against the Mavs. In Houston, Ellis racked up 27 points, 13 assists and six steals.
“I play basketball. Whatever the team needs me to do, I’m willing to do,” Ellis said in Dallas.
“I just got the shot off and got out of there,” Ellis said in Houston.
Nothing really has changed about Ellis’ game since the trade deadline. He’s still the most indiscriminate shooter in the league, hitting just 9 of his 24 shots against the Rockets, and that horn-beating prayer truthfully wasn’t much of a stretch from some of the others he’s hoisted along the way.
The Bucks lost their first three games coming out of the All-Star break by a combined six points, including one overtime defeat. But now they’ve taken a mini-sweep through Texas because the player they tried to trade away and who could opt out of his contract next summer, has given them the kind of sudden charge that usually comes from grabbing onto a high voltage wire.
So Ellis can bolt from Milwaukee if he wants; Redick might just be a short-term rental until he becomes a free agent in July; the starting point guard Jennings has got to wonder if he’ll watch end of any more games from the bench as the backcourt resembles a crowded elevator at quitting time. Oh, and the question remains how the deadline deal really made the Bucks any more capable of knocking off Miami or Indiana in the first round of the playoffs.
While everyone else is trying to figure out the strategy of the front office, all the Bucks are trying to do is win enough games to maybe catch Boston for the No. 7 seed.
Shocked? Only the guy who provided the electricity isn’t.
As the referees gathered ’round a TV monitor to review the final shot and some of his celebrating teammates returned to the floor to wait for an official ruling, Ellis was out the tunnel and gone without checking.
“I didn’t need to,” he said. “The buzzer went off when it was rolling around the rim. There was no need for me to come back out … I didn’t need [any] explanation.”
Despite all the coast-to-coast puzzlement at the trade deadline, apparently neither do the Bucks.
DALLAS – Now that J.J. Redick is gone from Orlando, and likely for good, he reflected Tuesday night on his six-plus seasons, all but this one spent with Dwight Howard, and how close the Magic seemed to a dominant run.
Orlando traded the 3-point sharpshooter to the Milwaukee Bucks at last week’s trade deadline. All that’s left of the 2008-09 Finals team that lost in five games to Los Angeles Lakers is Jameer Nelson and the suspended Hedo Turkoglu (who left as a free agent in ’09 and returned in a trade in ’10).
“I can remember being in my third year in the NBA and playing in The Finals,” Redick said Tuesday after scoring 14 points in the Bucks’ 95-90 win over the Mavericks. “You look at Dwight’s contract situation, you look at Rashard’s contract situation, Jameer’s contract situation, we had a chance to re-sign Turk, so you’d think maybe the team would have kept its core together. And you think you’re going to be back in The Finals the next year and the year after that, and it’s frustrating in that sense because I thought we would be back at some point, and we weren’t.
More from Redick in his own words:
Q: How close did you feel the team was to being a dominant force in the Eastern Conference?
A: We were very close. I think the big decision was what to do with Hedo. We didn’t necessarily want to give him a five-year deal and he had options out there, two five-year deals in excess of $50 million with Portland and Toronto. He made his decision and it was a good decision for him. As a player you have to strike while the iron is hot and take advantage of your small window to make a living. We made the trade for Vince [Carter] and for whatever reason we just couldn’t get over the top and beat the Celtics the next year. The following season we had a bunch of injuries and sicknesses early on and got off to a little bit of a slow start, and we made two separate blockbuster trades (Carter, Mikael Pietrus and Marcin Gortat to Phoenix for Jason Richardson, Turkoglu, Earl Clark anda first-round pick; andRashard Lewis to Washington for Gilbert Arenas).
And, to me, that was the turning point. We never really got back to elite status after that.
Q: How did things begin to devolve with Dwight Howard’s ongoing situation?
A: Dating back to a year and a half, two years ago is when things started to get a little hectic in Orlando. It definitely changed the makeup of the organization and the franchise. And obviously, when you have a player of Dwight’s caliber you’re in contention to win a championship. When you lose a player like that there’s a strong possibility you’re going to have to rebuild and it might get a little ugly.
Q: It’s been a little ugly in Los Angeles. The Lakers are essentially backed into the same corner as the Magic were, waiting with bated breath for Howard to make a decision, one he says he won’t make until this summer. He says he doesn’t want another circus, but isn’t he creating another one by being non-committal?
A: I think he’s non-commital, I guess, for a reason. I’m not sure what that reason is, but if he wanted to explore his free agency he could have done it last summer. I’m not sure why he opted in [last year] because he wanted out of Orlando. I’m not really sure.
Q: You dealt with weeks of speculation about where you would be traded or if you would be traded at all. Now that you are with the Bucks, a team that appears, at worst, locked into the No. 8 seed and headed to the playoffs, is there a sense of relief?
A: Yeah, there’s definitely a feeling of relief. My feeling on just being traded in general is it’s part of the business. I’m a guy who just believes in making the best out of any situation. You can’t always change or control your circumstances, but you can change your perspective and your attitude. So no matter where I went, if I had stayed in Orlando, I would have made the most of it.
I’m back with fantasy winners and losers from last week’s trade deadline.
Josh Smith, Hawks: As good as Josh is, fantasy owners would much rather keep the status quo than suffer through the volatility of a mid-season change of scenery. J.Smoov is going to hand out lots of goodies down the stretch for three reasons. One, he’s in a playoff push. Two, he’s in a contract push. Three, don’t forget about his annual All-Star snub.
Thomas Robinson, Rockets: Robinson barely played for the Kings, who selected him 5th overall in the 2012 draft after leading the NCAA in double-doubles last year. Not sure why the Kings bailed on Robinson after 50 games, but his high-energy style should fit in perfectly with Kevin McHale’s run-and-gun Rockets. If he gets 30 minutes a night, he’ll average a double-double with solid defensive numbers.
Moe Harkless, Magic: When the Magic traded J.J. Redick to Milwaukee, my first thought was that Harkless is free to play all the minutes he wants in Orlando. In upwards of 35 minutes a night, look for 15 points and five rebounds, with 1+ and 1+ in the blocks and steals.
Tobias Harris, Magic: As long as Harkless and Aaron Afflalo stay healthy, Harris will have limited upside. But he is big fantasy winner from the trade deadline because he went from out of the rotation in Milwaukee to a rotation player in Orlando. Harris had 14 points, six rebounds and three blocks in 25 minutes in his Magic debut on Saturday, and similar lines would not surprise me going forward.
J.J. Redick, Bucks: Redick was having a breakout season for the Magic, averaging 15.1 points, 4.4 assists, and 2.3 threes in 31.5 minutes. I realize Redick had 16 points and seven assists in 35 minutes in his Bucks’ debut on Saturday, but with Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis hoarding most of the backcourt minutes and shots, that stat line was more aberration than trend.
Patrick Patterson, Kings: Patterson was having a hard time maintaining consistent minutes in Houston with Marcus Morris and Greg Smith behind him. Now, he has to battle for playing time with Jason Thompson and Chuck Hayes. I like Patterson, but he has been shipped to the Power Forward Abyss known as Sacramento.
Derrick Favors, Jazz: Paul Millsap, who is finishing out the last year of his contract, was the subject of trade rumors heading into to deadline. However, he’s still in Utah—and Favors is still on the bench. Had Millsap been traded, Favors would have been the poster child for fantasy winners of the deadline. At this point, I wouldn’t be mad at you for dropping Favors.
Kris Humphries, Nets: I picked up Hump and stashed him for two weeks leading into the deadline. When he wasn’t traded, I dumped Hump faster than Kim Kardashian.
Rick Kamla is an anchor on NBA TV. You can follow him on Twitter at @NBATVRick.
If Thursday’s NBA trade deadline was a movie, the audience would have walked out in the middle from boredom. This freeze came straight from the script that is the league’s new collective bargaining agreement — with its harsher luxury tax penalties and diminished roster flexibility for tax offenders — it put the clamps on a stunningly uneventful deadline day.
The big names were on the opening credits: Josh Smith, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Eric Gordon, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis.
Yet, when the curtain closed at 3 p.m. ET, Orlando Magic sharpshooter J.J. Redick stole the show as the lone player of significance to switch teams. The Milwaukee Bucks acquired the career 39.8 percent 3-point shooter in a six-player deal that involved five other relatively anonymous NBA names.
Only one potential blockbuster deal percolated, but ultimately died on the vine with the Atlanta Hawks going the distance in an attempt to strike a deal with the Bucks for Smith before pulling back. One reason so few big deals were discussed was simply because there wasn’t much talent realistically in play, a point that goes beyond any ramifications of the CBA.
The CBA that took effect in December 2011, and begins to smack tax-paying teams with stiffer fines next season, has clearly put franchises on the defensive. Teams that were once willing to add salary to consummate a deal no longer are. Teams that once didn’t think twice about sweetening a deal with a first-round pick, suddenly guard them with their lives.
“Cap room and draft picks, which are usually the currency of how these [big] deals get done, were at a huge premium and are something that everyone wants to have,” said Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who steered the most active club at the deadline with a couple of lower-tier deals.
There’s really no greater example of the effect of these changes than the Dallas Mavericks and their braintrust, owner Mark Cuban and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson. Chronic and strategic over-spenders and tax payers under the old CBA, Cuban, who took on salary in deadline deals for Jason Kidd in 2008 and Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson in 2010, analyzed the new rules and reversed field last year.
He dismantled the 2011 championship team, choosing to covet cap space and the roster flexibility granted to teams that remain under the tax threshold, as well as newfound valuing of first-round draft picks as low-priced labor and trade assets.
It’s a strategy that no longer has the Mavs on speed dial of teams looking to make a deal and dump salary.
“It’s definitely a factor,” Nelson said of the CBA’s chilling effect Thursday after the deadline expired. “There’s no question that folks have their eye on the inevitable, and there’s no question that people are getting their collective houses in order.
“There’s some teams that see that on the horizon and act early, and other teams that will procrastinate and pay a dear price. But I think we’re right in the middle of that. It’s not brand-new news and so, yeah, I think you’re going to see a lot of teams try to correct themselves financially.”
The so-called “repeater” tax really has teams scared. Several clubs tried to deal away lost-cost players to avoid the repeater tax, which will whack franchises with an additional fine if they go over the tax line in three of four seasons. Golden State was successful in this venture. Chicago was not and will pay a luxury tax for the first time since its implementation.
This “repeater” penalty deterred teams from making deals that would have pushed payroll even slightly over the tax line, deals they might have normally green-lighted in the old days. So, is this the way of the future under the current rules?
“I can’t predict the future,” Morey said, “but I think the trend is more this way.”
Rockets: Morey’s stockpiling of assets the last couple years has been questioned, but he’s turned it into quite a haul starting with James Harden prior to the start of the season. The day before the deadline, Morey acquired the No. 5 overall pick, Thomas Robinson, from Sacramento. Morey’s dealing didn’t damage an abundance of cap space next summer that will be used to pursue a top free agent such as Dwight Howard and Josh Smith.
Bucks: GM John Hammond didn’t get his big fish in Smith, but he pulled off the deal for Redick, who should really help a club that’s been skidding down the East standings and needs a boost. Hammond held onto Jennings and Ellis and will have room to maneuver in the summer to add more pieces.
Thunder: GM Sam Presti continues to make shrewd moves. The acquisition of Ronnie Brewer from the New York Knicks for a second-round pick gives OKC another strong perimeter defender to help Thabo Sefolosha.
Celtics:Jordan Crawford might not be Jamal Crawford, but he can score in bunches and Boston was desperate to bolster its injury-ravaged guard backcourt. Boston fans are the winners here, too, with the team’s heart and soul, Garnett and Pierce, staying put.
Mavericks: Sure, on the surface, picking up 3-point specialist Anthony Morrow for defensive-minded guard Dahntay Jones doesn’t sound like much. But then SheridanHoops.com reminded us of this Dwight Howard interview in Russia when he named Morrow as one of a handful of players he’d like to have as a teammate.
Blazers: The team with the leanest bench in the NBA finally got some help in a minor deal that netted OKC guard Eric Maynor, who lost his job early on to Reggie Jackson. Maynor will help Rookie of the Year frontrunner Damian Lillard reduce his 38.5 mpg workload.
Hawks: They didn’t get the deal done to ship out Smith and now it seems they will lose him for nothing in free agency. On one level, however, it’s hard to say that this is a definitive loss. They’ll keep Smith (who might or might not come away from this experience deflated) for the rest of the season, and, with any luck, try to keep him while recruiting friend and fellow Atlantan Howard next summer. If GM Danny Ferry wasn’t pleased with the deals presented, it doesn’t always pay to take something, anything just because in the end you could be left with nothing. If Smith leaves, the Hawks will take the cap space and look to spin it in their favor.
Magic: They deal away a useful player and one they drafted in Redick and hand over his Bird Rights to the Bucks. There was no guarantee that Redick would re-sign with Orlando, but he at least had said the door was open to a return. The Magic’s Josh McRoberts to Charlotte deal for Hakim Warrick is a head-scratcher.
Knicks: They didn’t upgrade at any position and gave away a solid defender in Brewer, who was starting for the club during their hot start out of the gates, but had slipped out of the rotation. New York did use the roster vacancy to sign veteran power forward Kenyon Martin.
Nets: They failed to land another high-priced player in Smith and failed to unload one of their own, Kris Humphries.
HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – The 2013 trade deadline will be remembered more for the lack of movement than for any deal that was made. We had a handful of transactions in the final hours before the deadline, but the best player dealt this week was a guy who has started a grand total of 52 games over seven seasons.
That would be J.J. Redick, who is heading to Milwaukee in a six-player trade. The Bucks are also getting Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith from Orlando. The Magic will receive Beno Udrih, Doron Lamb and Tobias Harris in return.
Redick is a role player, but one who should help the Bucks, who have struggled on both ends of the floor as they’ve lost eight of their last 10 games, dropping below .500 for the first time since early December. Now in eighth place in the Eastern Conference, they’re just three games in the loss column ahead of ninth-place Philadelphia.
The Bucks were reportedly the leaders in the race for Josh Smith, who is surprisingly staying in Atlanta … for the next few months or so. The Hawks apparently did not have a deal they liked, and will have to hope for a sign-and-trade deal in July if they want something in return for Smith. Our own Sekou Smith says that the Hawks will have “no chance” to re-sign Smith.
Atlanta did make a minor move, sending Anthony Morrow to Dallas for Dahntay Jones.
As much as the lack of a Josh Smith move was a surprise, so was the fact that the Utah Jazz stood pat. With Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter waiting in the wings, the Jazz have both Al Jefferson and Paul Millsap on expiring deals. We don’t know if the Jazz had an opportunity to upgrade their backcourt this week, but maybe, like the Hawks, they’d prefer to let one (or both) of those guys walk in the summer.
The Boston Celtics made a minor deal, but held on to both Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett for the stretch run. They’ll be adding Jordan Crawford to their backcourt, sending Jason Collins and the contract of Leandro Barbosa to Washington in exchange for the volume scorer who has been out of the Wizards’ rotation for the last couple of weeks.
The Heat sent Dexter Pittman and a second-round pick to Memphis.
The Bobcats traded Hakim Warrick to the Magic for Josh McRoberts.
In order to get under the luxury tax line, the Warriors are sending Jeremy Tyler to Atlanta and Charles Jenkins to Philadelphia.
The Raptors traded Hamed Haddadi and a second-round pick to the Suns for Sebastian Telfair.
The Thunder sent Eric Maynor to Portland.
The Knicks sent Ronnie Brewer to OKC for a pick.
In addition to Smith, Richard Hamilton (Bulls), Andrea Bargnani (Raptors), Kris Humphries (Nets), Ben Gordon (Bobcats), DeJuan Blair (Spurs) and Evan Turner (Sixers) aren’t going anywhere. The Denver Nuggets didn’t get a shooter, the Brooklyn Nets didn’t get any of their targets (Smith, Millsap, etc.), and the Los Angeles Clippers will try to get past the Spurs and Thunder with what they have.
The new collective bargaining agreement certainly had a role in the inactivity. The new, steeper luxury takes goes into effect next season, so contracts that don’t expire this season are a heavy burden to bear. Two years from now, the repeater tax goes into effect, so there’s plenty of incentive for teams to get under the tax line this year as well.
And now that the deadline has passed, we can get on with the remainder of the season, knowing that the landscape hasn’t changed one bit.
Spurs miss out on Redick? – As of trade deadline day, the Spurs were one of several teams hot on the trail of Magic guard J.J. Redick. But despite a push to acquire him, it looks like San Antonio can forget about adding another shooter to the league’s best team, writes Jeff McDonald of the San Antonio Express-News.
Small move — or no move at all — likely for Grizz –Unless someone pulls off a major blockbuster between now and the 3 p.m. finish line, the Memphis Grizzlies will be the team on record in 2012-13 for pulling off the biggest trade after they shipped out Rudy Gay on Jan. 30. That said, it doesn’t look likely that Memphis will pull off another big deal, but a minor one may be in the cards. Ronald Tillery of the The Commercial-Appeal has more on what the Grizz may do:
The reality is that Griz brass is trying to be opportunistic today in hopes of getting something for nothing at the 11th hour (Orlando has made it clear J.J. Redick can’t be had for anything less than a first-round pick). As of this morning, the Griz were looking at their exceptions one of three ways: 1) acquiring a guard/swingman they like from the end of another team’s bench 2) grabbing an established big man only if he’s accompanied by a second-round pick 3) not using the exception at all.
The Griz need more size and could always use more shooting. However, they don’t want to acquire a guard who has no shot at cracking the rotation. It’s been difficult enough for Austin Daye to get minutes now that Quincy Pondexter is healthy.
So don’t be too surprised if the Griz did something minor today or nothing at all. But as is the case at the trade deadline, you can always expect the unexpected. Doing nothing would mean the team would likely pick up a D-League player they like to occupy the 13th roster spot. (more…)
DALLAS – Orlando Magic guard and wanted sharpshooter J.J. Redick is so tired of receiving texts from friends with the latest trade rumor and being asked by reporters where he thinks he’ll play after Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET trade deadline, that he proposed his own three-way trade Wednesday night.
It’s a doozy: “Between the Cincinnati Reds and Baltimore Ravens,” Redick said. “[The Magic] pick up [Joe] Flacco.”
So where’s Redick headed?
Apparently the Reds player in the deal is TBD.
“For me, it’s just annoying if anything,” said Redick, who struggled for a second consecutive game with just 10 points on 3-for-12 shooting in yet another loss, 111-96, to the Mavericks. “I want to play, no matter what happens, I just want to play and not have to deal with this. I’m getting a new phone number; friends have been texting me crazy stuff all day. Probably should have just cut it off the last couple of days. You know, it comes with the territory, I guess. It’s for the birds, though.”
Redick is a coveted 3-pointer shooter that any contender would love to have coming off the bench. While Redick has said he’d be fine finishing the season with the only team he’s ever known in his seven-year career, he also dropped some hints that suggest he wouldn’t mind escaping a losing situation for the chance to chase a ring.
After saying he wouldn’t be “disappointed” if he is not traded, Redick followed by saying, “Look, if any player is in this situation and they’re on a team that’s one of the five or six teams in the league that has one of the worst records and they go to a contender, it’s not a bad thing. If I were to stay here, though, it would be great.
“Again, the issue is if I get traded to the Reds. That’s the issue.”
Redick said he’s had no conversations with Orlando management about the remainder of this season or beyond. He will become an unrestricted free agent on July 1. He said he is open to a return and he believes the Magic are, too, but that there has been no commitment from either side.
Orlando (15-39) has lost 15 of their last 16 and have the worst record in the league since Dec. 20, at 3-26. Redick had a key blunder late in the third quarter, having a layup that would have put the Magic up eight, blocked from behind by O.J. Mayo. It led to an alley-oop dunk and a complete reversal of momentum.
Dallas outscored Orlando, 28-14, in the fourth quarter and 21-2 after it was a 90-88 game.
Wouldn’t a trade be a refreshing reboot to a season that has provided little relief from last season’s Dwightmare?
The Magic head to Memphis on Thursday for a game on Friday night. At least Redick’s bags are packed if gets the call that he’s gone.
“In terms of speculating, there’s no point,” Redick said. “You’ve obviously seen 72 different trade rumors regarding Josh Smith and different players around the league. Iman Shumpert has been rumored to go to every team in the NBA. Until something happens, there’s really nothing to make a worthwhile comment on.
“Wherever I am when tomorrow afternoon, I’ll just be focused on finishing the season well.”