Posts Tagged ‘Jarrett Jack’

Jack trade boosts Cavs fans’ hopes


VIDEO: The latest buzz surrounding LeBron and the Heat

Now “The Return” isn’t just wishful thinking or idle speculation. The notion that LeBron James might sign a free-agent deal to play again for the Cleveland Cavaliers is getting propped up with real, tangible maneuvering, in this case a reported three-team trade that would move Cavs guard Jarrett Jack as the first step in opening serious salary-cap space for James.

That makes James’ decision to go back to Cleveland a legitimate possibility, as some insiders see it.

It also makes the opportunity for heartache and a sense of being played – again – all the greater.

Are the Cavaliers and their fans ready for that sort of repeat hangover, four years removed?

A case can be made for moving Jack, a disappointment acquisition last summer to the Cavs’ young backcourt (Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters), and the two years, $12.6 million left on his deal regardless of its impact on a pursuit of James. The deal, first reported by ESPN, is a three-teamer that will send Jack and Sergey Karasev to Brooklyn. Boston will receive Nets guard Marcus Thornton, Cleveland center Tyler Zeller and a future Cavs first-round pick.

Cleveland, if it takes back only picks rather than guaranteed salaries, would be freeing up an extra $9.5 million and, ESPN reported, have $21.7 million in cap space to dangle in James’ direction.

Everything is on hold, of course, for the rest of Wednesday until the NBA’s moratorium on signings and trades lifts at midnight Eastern Time. By then, James reportedly will have met again with Miami president Pat Riley, owner Micky Arison and teammate Dwyane Wade in Las Vegas to discuss his immediate future, which many still think keeps him in south Florida. Riley, after all, has agreed to deals with Charlotte forward Josh McRoberts and Clippers forward Danny Granger, two pieces who make sense in both basketball and financial terms only if the Heat’s championship core returns.

That hasn’t deterred some unbridled enthusiasm in Cleveland. The Cavaliers removed from their Web site this week the emotional, vitriolic open letter penned by owner Dan Gilbert in the angry moments immediately after James’ “The Decision” TV farewell.

Cleveland fans might be having more trouble un-burning their LeBron jerseys, but plenty of them have gotten their hopes up while James lingers in committing anywhere for 2014-15 and beyond. Now this move – an update and half-twist from Mike Brown‘s firing and Byron Scott‘s hiring as a (futile) attempt to please James in 2010 – is being taken by some as proof of a remarkable reunion.

Good luck, Cleveland. But just remember the axiom, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice …”


VIDEO: Stu Jackson discusses LeBron’s decision

Reports: LeBron won’t meet with other teams, decision looms


VIDEO: GameTime: Aldridge on LeBron


‘Melo to New York
 | No LeBron decision expected tonight | Cavs eye ex-Heat players

Update 11:30 p.m. — Raptors, Vasquez agree to terms

While so many teams are wondering who’s coming and going, the Toronto Raptors keep re-signing their own. The latest to agree to terms is backup point guard Greivis Vasquez, a key player in the team’s resurgence after coming over from Sacramento in the Rudy Gay trade.

Update 10:57 p.m. — No more meetings; LeBron decision looms

After meeting with Heat president Pat Riley on Wednesday, LeBron James has all the information he needs to make his highly anticipated decision: Miami or Cleveland. Multiple reports suggest that James and his agent, Rich Paul, will not entertain meetings with any other teams, and that James will talk with his family and then make his decision.

Interesting about this decision is that James — unless privately or through back channels — has not met with Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert, new general manager David Griffin or new coach David Blatt.

Update 9:45 p.m. — Bosh to Houston if LeBron bolts Miami … Or will he?

Hours after news broke of the Mavericks and Rockets restricted free agent Chandler Parsons coming to terms on a lucrative offer sheet came a report that Chris Bosh will accept the Rockets’ offer if James leaves for Cleveland.

However, our own David Aldridge is hearing a different tune.

If this development is true, it could potentially help quicken a decision by James, who likely wouldn’t want to interfere with Bosh’s chances of joining the Rockets if James is indeed headed back to Cleveland. Once Houston receives the Parsons offer sheet, which Parsons can sign tonight when the clock strikes midnight, Houston will have 72 hours to match. But until general manager Daryl Morey knows where James is headed, and, thus, where Bosh is headed, they won’t have a clear indication of how to proceed with Parsons, which was Dallas’ intention.

The Rockets could theoretically sign Bosh and match the Parsons offer sheet, but it would take some hasty work to carve out enough cap space.

Update 9:30 p.m. — No Love for Cleveland

In a frenzy to boost its roster as it guns for LeBron James, Cleveland reportedly was trying to push for a trade to acquire Timberwolves power forward Kevin Love. Love, of course, wants out of Minnesota, but it appears team president and coach Flip Saunders isn’t ready to make a deal.

Update 8:08 p.m. — No decision expected tonight

According to several reports, LeBron James is not expected to announce his decision tonight.

Update 7:40 p.m. — LeBron, Riley wrap up meeting, direction unclear

The highly anticipated meeting between LeBron James and Heat president Pat Riley in Las Vegas has ended, and there is no clear indication of James’ intentions.

One media member, Chris Sheridan of sheridanhoops.com tweeted that James has decided to return to Cleveland.

However there has been no further confirmation.

Update 7:01 p.m. — Mavs make move for Rockets’ Parsons; Cavs want Love

Seeking to upgrade at small forward, the Dallas Mavericks have put the Houston Rockets on the clock by coming to an agreement with restricted free agent Chandler Parsons on an offer sheet reportedly for three years and in excess of $45 million.

Parsons can’t officially sign the offer sheet until midnight ET. When he does, the Rockets will have 72 hours to match, a move they have consistently vowed to make.

However, those plans could change depending if Heat free agent Chris Bosh accepts an offer already on the table from the Rockets. If Bosh remains undecided on his plans as the clock ticks down on a decision on Parsons, Houston could be put in a situation of having to decide to pass on Parsons at the risk of not getting Bosh — or matching on Parsons at the risk of losing Bosh if he indeed leaves Miami.

Bosh’s decision, in all likelihood, will revolve around James’ decision to either stay in Miami or bolt to Cleveland. And at this point (as James is currently meeting with Heat president Pat Riley in Las Vegas), there is no telling how much longer James might take to reveal his plan.

In more LeBron James machinations, the Cavaliers are reportedly seeking to put together a trade for Minnesota’s discontented power forward Kevin Love, on the contingency that they sign James.

Update 5:05 p.m. — It’s about this money

The NBA announced its salary cap for the 2014-15 season — an all-time high, 7.5 percent more than last year. It’s a bit of news that will come in handy in the Heat’s talk with LeBron James in about an hour.

The release from the league:

The National Basketball Association today announced that the Salary Cap has increased by 7.5% to an all-time high of $63.065 million for the 2014-15 season.  The tax level for the 2014-15 season increased by 7.1% to $76.829 million.

The Salary Cap and tax level go into effect at 12:01 a.m. ET on Thursday, July 10, when the league’s “moratorium period” ends and teams can begin signing free agents and making trades.

The minimum team salary, which is set at 90% of the Salary Cap, is $56.759 million for the 2014-15 season.

The current Collective Bargaining Agreement provides for three different mid-level exceptions depending on a team’s salary level.   The non-taxpayer mid-level for this season is $5.305 million, the taxpayer mid-level is $3.278 million and the mid-level for a team with room under the Salary Cap is $2.732 million.

Update 4:50 p.m. — Reports: LeBron’s meeting with Heat

After all the rumblings earlier in the day about Cleveland making room for a LeBron James return (scroll below), remember, James still has a meeting with Heat brass to talk things over … and who knows what might happen there.

James, evidently, will have company when he talks to boss Pat Riley:

Elisburg is the Heat’s senior vice president of basketball ops and a salary cap specialist.

The meeting, according to several reports, is scheduled in Las Vegas for 6 p.m. ET.

Update 3:46 p.m. — Report: Melo Back to the Knicks

Carmelo Anthony isn’t waiting on LeBron James or anyone else. He is sticking with the New York Knicks, according to Frank Isola of the New York Daily News. The official announcement is expected to come Thursday, the first day free agents can sign deals and trades can be stamped by the NBA:

A person close to Anthony told The News on Wednesday that barring a last minute change of heart Anthony will re-sign with the Knicks after “agonizing over this” for the past week.

“He will have something for everybody on Thursday,” said the friend who was with Anthony before Anthony’s scheduled workout with Kevin Durant and Kevin Love in Los Angeles on Wednesday. “He is really torn because this is the biggest decision of his career. But he wants to get it done in New York. He told me he believes in Phil.”

The Knicks offered Anthony a max deal of $129 million, some $33 million more than any other team could offer. The team, according to many sources, has yet to be told of the decision. But the Knicks had been considered by many to be the front-runners.

Isola’s source, who quotes ‘Melo, may have spurred an immediate catchphrase, as NBA.com’s Jeff Caplan points out:

Almost an hour after Isola broke his story, ESPN’s Ramona Shelburne put a brake on it:

Update 3:39 p.m. – No stress

This man has the entire basketball world on edge and yet he seems totally relaxed … SMH!

Update 3:26 p.m. — What happens in Vegas, Stays in Vegas!

What would this day be without a shameless plug from the fine folks of Sin City?

Update 3:17 p.m. — It’s about forgiveness in Cleveland

Can all really be forgiven in Cleveland?

Update 2:40 p.m. — Celtics still chasing Love

Don’t be fooled by the Celtics involvement in any deals this summer. They have one player and one player only on their minds and that’s Kevin Love.

Update 2:20 p.m. — LeBron ready to turn the other cheek to Gilbert?

J.A. Adande weighs in with the best question surrounding this LeBron-back-Cleveland narrative that has ruled the day, the one that includes LeBron’s face-to-face meeting with Heat boss Pat Riley.

How could you even consider going back to work for an owner like Dan Gilbert?

If I could get a meeting of my own with LeBron James, I’d ask him how he could even consider compromising his values and stepping down from the moral high ground he ascended to during the playoffs by weighing an offer from Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert.

LeBron produced the sharpest and most noteworthy criticism of Clippers owner Donald Sterling after TMZ made Sterling’s racially offensive diatribes public, saying “it’s unacceptable in our league.” No one has accused Gilbert of holding the same misguided racial perceptions as Sterling. With Gilbert, it’s about the personal attacks on LeBron’s character, and his diametrically opposed views on the business of the NBA.

Gilbert, for those who never bothered to read his unhinged response to The Decision in 2010 before the Cavaliersrecently purged it from their website, called LeBron’s departure to the Miami Heat a “cowardly betrayal” and said LeBron was a bad example for the children of Cleveland. This wasn’t just a critique of the televised announcement; it was a tantrum about the very premise of free agency, as if anything other than a career-long commitment to the team that drafted a player constituted treason.

A year later, Gilbert was among the group of owners holding to the hard line when the NBA locked out its players, willing to sacrifice games in order to institute a new collective bargaining agreement that limited player earnings and hampered the formation of superteams.

A return to the Cavaliers by James would be a tacit endorsement of all that he rejected. It wouldn’t represent just a swallowing of his own pride — it would be a surrender in the battle for self-determination for NBA players.

As much as people blasted LeBron about “The Decision,” Gilbert’s letter was the most egregious transgression made by any single individual in the summer of 2010.

The idea that all could be forgiven now is rather remarkable.

Update 2:06 p.m. — James arrives at his hoops camp

As we mentioned earlier, LeBron is in Las Vegas for his LeBron James Skills Academy, which just began and features many top-flight high school and college players …

Update 2 p.m. — LeBron silent as Cavs jockey for him

While Cleveland seemingly works to land him, LeBron James has had little to say the last few days …

Update 1:31 p.m. — A look into the (free-agent) future

If LeBron James takes a two-year deal with the Heat, who else would join him on the free-agent market in 2016?

Update 1:17 p.m. — LeBron more valuable to Cavs than Heat?

LeBron James has allowed the Miami Heat to reach a new level as a franchise. What would his return mean — in dollars and cents — to Cleveland?

Update 1:14 p.m. — The real reason LeBron is in Vegas …

We all know LeBron James is meeting with Heat boss Pat Riley today in Las Vegas, but the real reason James is there is to host his LeBron James Skills Academy, which begins today (sorry the list is upside down) …

Update 12:48 p.m. — Recapping the action thus far

We’ve hit a bit of a lull in the Cavs/LeBron/free agency news, so take a second and catch up on what you might have missed …

Update 12:22 p.m. — Report: LeBron talked to Miller; Heat moves impress James?

Update: 12:04 p.m. — No Love-to-Cavs deal lined up (yet)

Thinking this salary cap purge is being done to line Cleveland up to land Kevin Love? Think again …

Update: 11:57 a.m. — Parsons on Cavs’ radar; some crucial LeBron-to-Cleveland points

Informed observers Marc Stein and our own David Aldridge bring up key issues regarding a potential LeBron-Cavs reunion …

Update 11:42 a.m. — Cavs eye more ex-Heat players; what might Bosh do?

The Cavs are after two more ex-Heat players (Mike Miller and James Jones), but if LeBron does return to Miami, will Chris Bosh come back?

Update 11:39 a.m. — Deal may not be harbinger of anything

Hold off on those celebrations there, Cleveland …

Update 11:36 a.m. — Don’t fret just yet, Heat fans

Many GMs see a LeBron-Heat reunion as possible, but just maybe for not as long as some thought …

Update, 11:33 a.m. — Options aplenty in Cleveland

The Cavs will have some explaining to do whether or not this trade helps them land LeBron … or not …

Update, 11:28 a.m. — Cavs reportedly after Allen, too

If the Cavs are trying to get LeBron James back in the fold, maybe going after one of his old teammates wouldn’t hurt?

Update, 11:26 a.m. — Detailing the three-team deal

Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon-Journal spells out in further detail why the Cavs made this trade

https://twitter.com/JasonLloydABJ/status/486893073465483264 (more…)

Morning Shootaround — March 24


VIDEO: The Daily Zap for games played March 23

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Woodson takes blame, Knicks postseason hopes on the brink | Bryant confident as ever Lakers will get back to the top | Heat defensive focus lags, struggles continue | Thunder will contend as long as Westbrook’s knee holds up

No. 1: Woodson shoulders blame as Knicks fall to Cavs, postseason hopes hang in the balance – Done in by Jarrett Jack. Is that the epitaph that will be written on this season for the New York Knicks? After Cleveland’s veteran point guard, filling in for All-Star Kyrie Irving, shredded them late to snap their eight-game win streak, it’s a legitimate question. Knicks coach Mike Woodson took the blame, a noble endeavor considering he was going to get his fair share anyway. But the Knicks’ postseason hopes hang in the balance every night and losses to the likes of the Cavaliers destroy the cause, as Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com points out::

Atlanta lost on Sunday afternoon, so the Knicks knew exactly what was at stake when they took the court on Sunday evening. That made the loss to the Cavs all the more catastrophic.

“We didn’t handle our business,” Woodson said, “and I’ve got to take full responsibility for that.”

“It’s tough,” Carmelo Anthony said. “We should’ve won this game. We gave it away. They earned it. They beat us.”

The Knicks were up 15 at the half but allowed Cleveland to score nine straight to start the third quarter.

“I thought we came out a little flat,” Anthony said.

Anthony led the Knicks with 32 points but went cold late, missing 11 of his last 13 shots and all five in the fourth quarter.

The Knicks as a whole went 5-for-18 in the fourth and missed 11-of-15 3-pointers in the second half.

“They were just scrapping more, I think,” J.R. Smith said. “They were more hungry than us in the second half. … It’s a huge opportunity lost, one we can’t afford. But we can’t get it back. Just got to go out there on the road and win some games. Hopefully, [the Hawks] keep losing.”

That’s what the Knicks have been left with in this roller-coaster season: hoping the eighth-place Hawks can continue to give away their lead.

For what feels like the 30th time this season, the Knicks failed to do that. And it leaves Woodson and his team in a difficult spot. According to Elias Sports Bureau, just one team in the past 30 years has overcome a deficit of more than four games with 14 games or fewer to play in the regular season to make the playoffs.


VIDEO: Sunday’s top 10 plays

***

No. 2: Kobe in touch with Jim Buss, confident Lakers will get back to winning ways – Whatever he lacks in good health Kobe Bryant more than makes up for in unabashed confidence in himself and the Los Angeles Lakers resilience. This despicable season will be forgotten, as soon as he can get back to health and as soon as Jim Buss and the rest of the Lakers’ front office brass finish their franchise makeover. These tough times, Bryant insisted during an interview with ESPN’s sports business ace Darren Rovell, will not last. He did, however, acknowledge that things are going to be different without Dr. Jerry Buss around to fix the Lakers’ issues:

Bryant, who signed a two-year, $48.5 million extension with the team in November to lock up his 19th and 20th seasons in L.A., reiterated his message of urgency to Buss to return to the top as soon as possible.

“This organization is just not going to go [down],” Bryant said. “It’s not going to take a nose dive. But I think we need to accelerate it a little bit for selfish reasons, because I want to win and I want to win next season. So, it’s kind of getting them going now as opposed to two years from now.”

Despite already airing his concerns about what direction the Lakers might be heading, Bryant said his faith is as strong as ever in the Lakers’ ability to bounce back to contender status.

“Extremely confident,” Bryant said. “That was one of my concerns [when he re-signed] and they assured me, ‘This is fair for you for everything you’ve done for the franchise and will continue to do while being able to construct a team that is going to contend for a championship here over the next couple of years.’”

Bryant also responded to Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban‘s assertion that “I don’t know if the Lakers will ever be the Lakers,” because of the absence of longtime owner Dr. Jerry Buss, who died last year.

“It will be different,” Bryant said. “You can’t lead the way [Dr. Buss] did. Because Jeanie is different. Jimmy, who is running basketball operations, is different.

“So they have to find their rhythm and get in sync with each other and figure out exactly what their leadership style is going to be. It’s nearly impossible to try to separate basketball operations from the business standpoint so you got to kind of get in sync that with that and have one voice that is leading that charge. But once that happens, the idea might take shape. But you can’t look at what Dr. Buss did and say, ‘I’m going to try replicate that,’ and be exactly what he was. That’s just not going to happen.”


VIDEO:
Mavericks guard Monta Ellis was a flash against the Nets Sunday

***

No. 3: LeBron and Spoelstra point to lagging Heat defense as their struggles continue Bellyaching about your team’s energy, effort and championship focus in the wake of seven losses in your last 11 games is not a shocker, not even for the Miami Heat. But it’s good to get some specifics. And the Heat, fresh off of yet another head-scratching defeat (Saturday night in New Orleans), provided plenty. And it’s all about their defense, which has been uncharacteristically porous of late. That’s something everyone, from coach Erik Spoelstra and LeBron James and Chris Bosh, in the Heat camp can agree on. Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel highlights the particulars:

    “We’re not accustomed to this type of play, these types of standards, particularly on the defensive end,” coach Erik Spoelstra said before giving his team Sunday off in advance of Monday’s visit by the Portland Trail Blazers to AmericanAirlines Arena. “And if we want to change, we have to look inward. Every single one of us, including the staff, including the players, have to make changes.”

Forward LeBron James said the Heat are failing on the defensive end both individually and collectively.

“First of all,” he said, “you have to guard your man, and rely on help second. But when you break down, you’re going to have to rely on the help, and we’re not getting both.

“First of all, guys are not playing their man. And guys get beat, which you will be, which will happen in this league, because there’s great players, the help comes. We’re not doing anything.”

Factor in the Heat’s longstanding rebound issues and the defensive pressure has been unrelenting.

“Sometimes we get stops and we don’t get a rebound. Sometimes we don’t get stops,” forward Udonis Haslem said. “It’s a lot of different things. At this point, we’ve got to put it all together, we’ve got to get stops and rebounds. We can’t get a stop and then give up an offensive rebound and get another 24 [seconds on defense].

“We’ve got to guard the ball, and then when the ball gets in the paint, we’ve got to step up, we’ve got to contest. Shot goes up, we’ve got to box out both bigs and got to get it and go.”

The frustration has shown on the court and in the locker room.

“Defensively, we can’t stop a nosebleed,” center Chris Bosh said. “No good blitz, the pick and roll coverage, one-on-one defense, everything is bad.”


VIDEO: Check out the Kevin Love Show from Sunday, starring … Kevin Love!

***

No. 4:Thunder’s title hopes rest on Westbrook’s knee – Miami and Indiana aren’t the only places where championship hopes are in doubt these days. Folks in Oklahoma are also wondering just how fragile their title aspirations are in the wake of yet another knee scare from All-Star point guard Russell Westbrook. Even with MVP frontrunner Kevin Durant destroying the competition night after night, the Thunder’s confidence is tied directly to the health of Westbrook and that knee. It’s a dangerous way for an entire state and fan base to live. But it’s the only way they, according to Barry Tramel of the Oklahoman:

Nobody in our state slept well Friday night. Starting with Scotty Brooks, Sam Presti, Westbrook’s clothier, Rumble, that woman who screams “Russellllllllllllllllllllllll” during his foul shots and most everyone with a cable or satellite dish in every hamlet from Tuskahoma to Tonkawa.

For about 20 hours or so over the weekend, we all wondered if Russell Westbrook’s knee was tore up again. Westbrook limped off the court in Toronto on Friday, and the wind was replaced by “aarghs!” and “gulps” sweeping down the plain.

Of course, now word is that Westbrook is OK and might even play either Monday night (Denver in OKC) or Tuesday night (at Dallas). Whew. That was close.

Thunderland knows the feeling of life without Westbrook. Knows it all too well. And it stinks. When Westbrook went down with a torn meniscus in the Houston series last playoffs, the Thunder scraped by the Rockets, then was bullied by the Grizzlies in a five-game series defeat. When Westbrook has sat out periodically this season, the Thunder has mostly struggled, save for a magical 10-game winning streak in January during which OKC was the league’s best team.

Westbrook’s latest scare is reason to ask this question. Is the Thunder better prepared to play without him this season than last season? If Westbrook limps off in some game soon, or in the middle of a playoff series, is the Thunder better-equipped to survive?

Depends on what survival means. Win the NBA championship? No. Not going to happen without Westbrook riding shotgun.

But go deeper in the playoffs? Win a tough West semifinal? At least challenge the Spurs or the Clippers or whoever emerges as the Western Conference elite? Yes.

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: This is a different Raptors team than you are used to, one that is rising to the late-season challenge … Andre Miller finally clears the air about what went down in Denver … No one is doing it better these days than the bench mob from Phoenix … Kobe Bryant announces his partnership in a new business … Rockets big man Dwight Howard is practicing but remains “day-to-day” with that tender ankle … The surprising comeback for Steve Nash has already hit yet another injury snag

ICYMI of the Night: Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins wants you to know that this is his world and the rest of the big men in the league are just living in it …


VIDEO: DeMarcus Cousins goes hard for his 32 points and 12 rebounds

The Trade Deadline: Let’s Make A Deal?




VIDEO: Thunder guard Reggie Jackson gets it done on both ends

HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – The clock is ticking.

The trade deadline is near. It’s time for general managers and front office executives around the NBA to earn their money. Fix your team. Make it better. Pave the way for a brighter future by pulling the trigger on the deal, blockbuster or not, that creates the space for your franchise to go to the next level — whatever that level may be.

It’s easier said than done in most cases, mostly because a willing partner is needed to complete the trade dance. And everyone is out to fleece their potential partners in one way or another. Whether we see a blockbuster deal or not, we are guaranteed to see a flurry of activity by Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET deadline.

A team’s wants and needs are two very different things. We’re focusing on what is needed here, which should coincide with what these teams want out of the trade deadline. Planning for the future is fine, but these deals are designed for immediate returns for (almost) all involved …

1. Reggie Jackson to the Bulls – Jimmy Butler to the Thunder 

The skinny: This is a nuts-and-bolts trade for both teams, one that doesn’t rise to the blockbuster ranks by any means. But this deal involving youngsters with extremely manageable salaries allows the Thunder and Bulls to shore up their key weaknesses. Jackson would be Derrick Rose insurance for the Bulls, a young point/combo guard who could be groomed to play alongside a healthy Rose whenever Rose returns. He’s acquitted himself well in Oklahoma City in Russell Westbrook‘s absence but will be reduced to a role player when Westbrook returns and assumes his position alongside Kevin Durant (which is expected to happen Thursday). Butler fits the Bulls rough-and-rugged mode perfectly, but if they are in rebuilding mode, he’s expendable. He offers the Thunder something they simply don’t have on the roster right now, and that’s a player capable of matching up with elite small forwards on defense. Imagine him in a Thunder uniform in The Finals going after LeBron James the way Spurs forward Kawhi Leonard did last year.

2. Rajon Rondo and Kris Humphries to the Pacers — Danny Granger and George Hill to the Celtics

The skinny: This is a risky move for a Pacers’ team that has rock-solid locker room chemistry and has played at a consistently high level without boasting an elite point guard. Hill, an IUPUI star, is a hometown guy and is widely regarded as one of the league’s most respected professionals. He’s a guy Pacers All-Stars Paul George, Roy Hibbert and team leader David West trust to run the show. But Rondo gives the Pacers the chance to add a game-changer at point guard, a guy who, come playoff time, has an edge in either the talent and/or championship-experience department with any other East point guard. The hang up, of course, is going to be Danny Ainge trying to do his usual and shake everything he can out of the Pacers’ pockets in the name of his rebuilding efforts. Granger and Hill are established players who could help facilitate any rebuilding plans for the more immediate future. Of course, Pacers boss Larry Bird doesn’t have to play ball. He doesn’t have to deal. He can go to battle in the playoffs with the roster as is, though there is a consensus among most observers that an upgrade at the point would give them a clear edge in matching up not only against the Miami Heat but any team that they could potentially face in The Finals, were they to reach that summit.

3. Harrison Barnes, Marreese Speights and Jason Smith to the Cavaliers — Austin Rivers, C.J. Miles and Anthony Morrow to the Warriors — Earl Clark and Dion Waiters to the Pelicans 

The skinny: Believe it or not, the Cavaliers are just three games out of the eighth and final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff chase as the post-All-Star break portion of the season kicks off. As Kyrie Irving showed us at the All-Star Game, he knows how to shine amongst other elite players on his team. Since he hasn’t had any suit up with him in Cleveland, Thursday’s deadline is acting general manager David Griffin‘s opportunity to upgrade the crew around Irving and see if the playoffs can become a reality. Barnes needs a fresh start somewhere, as a starter, and would be a great running mate for Irving and Luol Deng. Both Speights and Smith would provide much-needed big man depth. The Warriors get role players to help fill out their roster and Waiters, a HT fave whose talents have never shined in Cleveland the way they have when we’ve seen him during All-Star weekend or during his stints with USA Basketball, gets a fresh start of his own in New Orleans. He and Anthony Davis could help elevate the Pelicans to a playoff-level team in the future.


VIDEO: Kyrie Irving stole the show at All-Star Weekend

4. Omer Asik to the Hawks — Elton Brand, Gustavo Ayon, John Jenkins and a Draft pick to the Rockets

The skinny: This is certainly not the way Rockets general manager Daryl Morey is used to doing business. He’s used to fleecing much more from the opposing team’s executives (that mode of operation would explain the bevy of assets the Rockets have piled up the past few years). Brand and Ayon aren’t big names but when healthy, yet they have been surprisingly productive for the Hawks. That said, the Draft pick is the Rockets’ real prize … that and getting Asik out of town. And that’s where the needy Hawks swoop in and rescue their season — they had lost five straight heading into All-Star weekend. Asik helps stabilize the frontcourt rotation and joins All-Star Paul Millsap as the staples up front for a team that still has lofty aspirations for playoff positioning. Fellow All-Star center Al Horford is not walking through that door in Atlanta as his torn pectoral muscle will keep him out of action until well into the summer. Adding a physical presence like Asik at a relatively reasonable price makes a ton of sense for the Hawks right now. And the three of them together in the future is complicated, but certainly something Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer could tinker with and make work.

5. Emeka Okafor, Alex Len and Chris Singleton to the Grizzlies — Zach Randolph to the Wizards — Trevor Ariza, Jan Vesely and Eric Maynor to the Suns

The skinny: Randolph and Marcin Gortat balancing the frontcourt in Washington with All-Star point guard John Wall and sharpshooter Bradley Beal would be an interesting mix for a Wizards team that is definitely on the rise in the Eastern Conference. Just think of Randolph and Gortat as the Eastern Conference version of Randolph and Marc Gasol (Grit and Grind lite?). The Wizards have been an above-average team defensively, and now they’d add some serious toughness in Randolph. The Grizzlies need a building block for the future and would get that in Len, who was always viewed as a long-term project when the Suns selected him with the 5th pick in the 2013 Draft. The Suns are taking the opportunity to seize their surprising playoff moment in the Western conference with the aid of quality veterans in Ariza and Maynor and would also have a developmental prospect to work with in Vesely. There’s always a healthy dose of risk involved when you talk about trade deadline deals. And this one would come with plenty for all involved.


VIDEO: John Wall talks with the Game Time crew after shining on All-Star Saturday night

Morning Shootaround — Feb. 18

NEWS OF THE MORNING

Report: Raptors interested in Rondo | Reports: Nets pursuing Jack, Hill | Report: Wolves, Grizz talking trade | Report: Knicks interested in Hawks’ Teague | Kidd went against D-Will in recent practice

No. 1: Report: Raptors showing interest in Rondo — Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, in the midst of a career-best season, has helped Toronto climb to the top of the Atlantic Division standings and has the team poised to end its lengthy playoff drought. But Lowry is also an unrestricted free agent this summer and whether or not he’ll be with Toronto in 2014-15 is very much an unknown (our David Aldridge spelled out some details on his future there a few weeks ago). Lowry remains a target of the New York Knicks (see below) and his current team appears to have eyes on another star point guard. According to Ryan Wolstat of the Toronto Sun, the Raptors are in multiple point guard-related trade talks, the foremost being a discussion to bring Celtics All-Star Rajon Rondo to Toronto:

UPDATE, 11:43 a.m. ET: Now, it seems, the Knicks are getting in on the Rondo action, too, per this tweet from ESPN.com’s Marc Stein:

UPDATE, 11:08 a.m. ET: While Rondo continues to have his name tossed about in trade rumors, Sean Devaney of The Sporting News reports that it is unlikely that the All-Star guard will be dealt before Thursday’s deadline:

As has become the custom, any period of NBA trade activity features Celtics guard Rajon Rondo prominently. Also customary, though, is this: Sources told Sporting News this week that there is very little chance the Celtics find a deal involving Rondo this year.

“It really is the same thing, teams call about him but the Celtics want him and he wants to be the leader of that team,” one source said. “It has always been his intention to establish himself in that role, to be part of the rebuilding and to stay in Boston for a long time. Nothing has changed.”

The Toronto Sun reported that the Raptors also inquired about Rondo, but a source told Sporting News that, unless there is a multi-team deal, Toronto does not have the assets to land Rondo. Which has been typical of the conversations involving Rondo for the last two years — teams call and ask, the Celtics give an idea of what it will take to make a deal happen, and the conversation ends there.

Rondo can be a free agent in the summer of 2015, and while preliminary discussions on a contract extension were held, the sides were never close to agreeing to a deal. Boston’s long-term plan is to focus on the summer of ’15, when they might be able to pair Rondo with some member of that year’s free-agent class, which could include Kevin Love, LaMarcus Aldridge, Roy Hibbert, Marc Gasol, Tyson Chandler, Brook Lopez and DeAndre Jordan — some of the league’s best big men.

Add the Celtics’ two picks in the stocked upcoming draft to that mix, and Boston will be ready to be a playoff team again after just a short retooling.

Of course, if the right deal comes up before that, the Celtics would make it. But it is unlikely that such a deal would include Rondo.

Here’s Wolstat’s earlier report on Rondo:

Ahead of Thursday’s trade deadline, the Raptors have been involved in talks with multiple teams that would change the team’s point guard situation significantly.

With the New York Knicks continuing to aggressively pursue Kyle Lowry, who has turned in a career season, Toronto has explored complicated deals that would bring back a replacement for the soon-to-be free agent.

It’s no secret Boston has dangled four-time all-star Rajon Rondo league-wide and while the asking price is steep, he has piqued the interest of Toronto’s front office, according to multiple sources. Toronto is eager to up its “star” quotient and is also enamoured with Rondo’s resume, particularly his four all-defensive team selections (two all-NBA first team). He has many backers in the organization.

Rondo would not come cheaply. Bulls.com’s Sam Smith said the price is believed to be “two unprotected first rounders” while one source told the Sun the ask is a combination of at least one lottery pick and talented young player.

Knicks owner James Dolan reportedly nixed a deal earlier in the season and Lowry responded by playing the best basketball of his career. He’s sixth in the league in three-pointers made, eighth in assists per game and sixth in win shares. With the future of star forward Carmelo Anthony uncertain, Dolan apparently has reconsidered as New York looks to improve its roster.

Sources confirmed that Atlanta is also aggressively shopping young point guard Jeff Teague, despite matching Milwaukee’s four-year, $32-million offer sheet to Teague last summer. Teague, who had a tremendous start to the season, has struggled mightily since the Hawks lost all-star big man Al Horford to injury. Teague could be a cheaper, fallback option in either Toronto or New York, should those team’s preferred choices fall through.

On the Boston side of things, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge is still mulling what to do with Rondo and the team’s many other assets:

“The public probably views us more as sellers than as buyers,” Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge told the Boston Globe recently. “But I do think that people around the league know that we have some good players — good veteran players, good young players — and lots of draft picks. I’ve had calls for both.

“I’ve had teams contact me with the idea of trying to acquire young players and draft picks, and I’ve had teams that have called that are looking to get some of those. And I’ve had teams that have called looking for some of our veteran players as well. I think it just depends on who you talk to, but I think everybody knows that we have a lot of young assets.”

Assets, yes. The Celtics potentially have as many as 17 draft picks over the next five years, 10 in the first round.

“Again, I think that we’ll be opportunistic. We’re just waiting for an opportunity to do something good. And I think it’s important, again — you can’t force these opportunities. You can’t just be so hungry for a deal that you try to do a deal. You’ve got to be patient. At the same time, you’ve got to be aggressive.”

In previous years, the Celtics were looking to add a piece or two that could help with a postseason push, but that isn’t the case now with the team 19-35, the sixth-worst record in the NBA.

“I think the difference between other years and this year is that there’s a lot of different directions we could go,” Ainge said. “In past years, we’re focusing on just getting better for the playoff run. And now, we’re looking for possibilities of flexibility, young assets, things of that nature, but, at the same time, [we’re] opportunistic for any deals that could come along and speed up our rebuilding process.”

Said Ainge: “If our record were reversed, I think there would clearly be a different role at this point. But we are what we are. I think that I’m more concerned with how we’re playing, how individuals approach their job, who’s developing as a player and fitting in with our new coach and our system and how that will work. There’s a lot of things to consider.”


VIDEO: The TNT crew discusses Rajon Rondo working himself back into game shape

***

No. 2: Report: Nets interested in Cavs’ Jack, Lakers’ Hill — Neither the Cleveland Cavaliers nor the Brooklyn Nets are where they’d thought they’d be in the Eastern Conference playoff race when the season began. As such, both teams are reportedly interested in making trades and may end up doing business with each other — with the Los Angeles Lakers also thrown into the mix — as the trade deadline draws closer. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports has news on a potential Lakers-Nets swap while ESPN.com’s Marc Stein and Ohm Youngmisuk has info on a Cavs-Nets trade being bandied about

Here’s Wojnarowski on a potential trade that could bring Jordan Hill to Brooklyn:

The Los Angeles Lakers have had discussions on a deal to send forward Jordan Hill to the Brooklyn Nets, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

The Nets have a $5.25 million disabled player exception that they can use in a trade or free-agent transaction until March 10, and could use a portion to absorb the remaining $3.5 million on Hill’s expiring contract.

Nevertheless, the luxury tax penalty on absorbing Hill’s contract would be extraordinary for Brooklyn: Nearly $17 million. Hill could give the Nets a capable power forward and center replacement for a run at the postseason, but ultimately ownership would have to be willing to sign off on expanding its record $190 million-plus combined payroll and luxury tax.

And here’s Stein and Youngmisuk on a trade between Cleveland and Brooklyn that would land Jarrett Jack in Brooklyn and Jason Terry in Cleveland:

The Brooklyn Nets are interested in acquiring Cavaliers point guard Jarrett Jack and have had discussions about a potential trade with Cleveland involving Jason Terry, according to sources briefed on the talks.

The Nets (24-27) emerged from the All-Star break sitting 3½ games behind the Atlantic Division-leading Toronto Raptors and want to upgrade their bench and backcourt.

Jack, 30, is averaging just 8.5 points on 39.7 percent shooting in 25 minutes a game in his first season with the Cavs after a strong 2012-13 season with Golden State.

Sources told ESPN.com that the Nets, eager to add a proven ballhandler and backcourt scorer to their bench rotation, are willing to take on the two remaining guaranteed seasons worth in excess of $12 million left on Jack’s contract despite the luxury-tax implications.

But it’s believed that the Cavs, if they decided to go ahead with such a move, would try to find a third team to absorb Terry’s contract. Terry, 36, has one season left on his deal after this one at $5.85 million and is averaging just 4.5 points on 36.2 percent shooting in 16 minutes per game.

***

No. 3: Report: Wolves, Grizz talking trade –The Memphis Grizzlies bolstered their team a few weeks ago with the additions of NBA D-League standout James Johnson and by pulling a trade for Celtics guard Courtney Lee. Both players have infused energy and 3-point shooting, respectively, to Memphis’ season and have helped get the Grizzlies back into the playoff mix out West. But despite that turnaround, Memphis is exploring a trade with the Minnesota that would send veteran small forward Tayshaun Prince and fan favorite Tony Allen to the Wolves for small forward Chase Budinger and guard J.J. Barea. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports has more:

The Memphis Grizzlies are discussing a deal with the Minnesota Timberwolves centered on forward Chase Budinger and guard J.J. Barea, league sources told Yahoo Sports.

Memphis wants to include forward Tayshaun Prince into the package and the deal could be expanded to include guard Tony Allen, league sources told Yahoo Sports. Components of a proposed deal are still fluid.

Memphis has been furiously trying to unload Prince and the remaining $7.2 million (2013-’14) and $7.7 million (2014-’15) on his contract, league sources said.

Minnesota general manager Flip Saunders is believed to want to add defensive toughness to his roster, and that would make Allen a natural to fill the Wolves’ void.

***

No. 4: Report: Knicks eye Hawks’ Teague, remain interested in Lowry– Back in mid-December, the Knicks nearly pulled off a trade for Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, but that deal fell apart when New York’s brass balked at Toronto’s request for a future first-round pick. Despite that, the Knicks remain interested in trying to work a trade for the near-All-Star guard and have also shown interest in Hawks point guard Jeff Teague as well.

Marc Stein of ESPN.com has the scoop on the Teague talks:

Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague has emerged as an appealing trade target for the New York Knicks, sources with knowledge of the situation told ESPN.com.

Sources told ESPN.com that the Knicks, leading into Thursday’s 3 p.m. ET trade deadline, are calling all over the league in an attempt to upgrade at point guard.

Teague’s name has surfaced as a prime target given the Knicks’ increasing fears that their longstanding top choice — Toronto’s Kyle Lowry — will not be made available before the deadline, according to sources.

The Knicks have been chasing Lowry all season, as ESPN.com first reported in November. But sources indicate that Lowry and his advisers expect to finish the season in Toronto with the playoff-bound Raptors before he becomes an unrestricted free agent July 1.

Teague’s name has thus surfaced as a prime alternative, provided that the Hawks are willing to part with him.

The Hawks would have to be interested in Iman Shumpert – and eager to shed Teague’s long-term contract — to give New York any hope of assembling a package to land the point guard.

And Ian Bagley of ESPNNewYork.com has more on the Knicks’ continued interest in Lowry:

With the NBA trade deadline three days away, the Knicks continue to try to engage the Raptors in an attempt to acquire point guard Kyle Lowry, according to league sources.

The Knicks are offering packages including Iman Shumpert, Raymond Felton and Beno Udrih, sources say. They have been reluctant to include sharpshooting rookie Tim Hardaway Jr. or a future first-round draft pick in any deal. One of those two pieces is believed to be a prerequisite for Toronto to consider giving up Lowry.

“It comes down to, can they talk themselves into getting rid of a first-rounder or Hardaway Jr. for Lowry?” one league source said.

Recent reports have stated the Raptors are no longer willing to deal Lowry, content to see how the rest of the season plays out. Lowry has been one of Toronto’s best players, and dealing him would send a bad message to the fan base.

One scenario to keep an eye on, though, is the possibility of a three-team deal involving the Hawks and point guard Jeff Teague. Atlanta has all of its first-round picks in the next four drafts and could conceivably send one to Toronto to satisfy the Raptors’ demand for a draft pick.

League sources say a scenario in which Teague ends up in Toronto, Shumpert goes to Atlanta and Lowry winds up in New York has been discussed. Another scenario could have Teague ending up in New York. The conversations are believed to be preliminary.


VIDEO: Raptors coach Dwane Casey talks about trade deadline day nearing

***

No. 5: Kidd squares off against D-Will at Nets practiceTry as he might, Nets point guard Deron Williams hasn’t been able to consistently recapture in Brooklyn the style of play that made him an All-Star during his days with the Utah Jazz and the Nets’ days in New Jersey. In an effort to try and spark some of those old juices in his star, Nets coach Jason Kidd reportedly took to the court at a recent practice and squared off against D-Will, writes Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:

Don’t let the tight suit fool you: Jason Kidd can still ball and still has those juices flowing.

During another disappointing and injury-riddled season for Deron Williams, Kidd stepped on the court and went head-to-head with the point guard in a spirited exchange at a recent practice, a source told the Daily News.

That’s one way to get through to the underachieving star: challenge him with Hall of Fame skills.

Exactly three years ago next week, the Nets acquired Williams in the franchise-altering deal with the Jazz, giving up a top prospect and two first-round picks for what GM Billy King called “the best point guard in the NBA.” It led to a debate about who acquired the better player at the 2011 trade deadline — the Nets with Williams, or the Knicks with Anthony.

But Williams has failed to live up to any expectations while battling injuries and confidence issues. Considering the MVP talk last summer, this season is probably the 29-year-old’s most disappointing, as he is averaging 13.3 points and 6.6 assists on 45% shooting. According to ESPN, the Nets turned down an offer to trade Williams to the Rockets, who were trying to package Jeremy Lin and Omer Asik.

“(Williams) is never going to get back to where he was in Utah,” Charles Barkley said recently. “His best days are behind him.”

***

SOME RANDOM HEADLINES: Pelicans coach Monty Williams doesn’t think Tyreke Evans or Eric Gordon will be dealt anytime soon … Sixers swingman Evan Turner is watching and waiting out the trade talks surrounding him … The Bulls still aren’t expected to do much at the trade deadline … Former Sixth Man of the Year Award winner Lamar Odom has signed with a team in Spain … The Celtics reportedly talked about trading Rajon Rondo to the Kings, but that discussion fizzled out … Portland is reportedly out of the running for the 2017 All-Star Game

ICYMI of The Night: The LeBron James All-Star Interview aired on NBA TV last night and it’s quite compelling, especially LeBron’s explanation of his early years with the Heat …


VIDEO: LeBron James opens up about his first season in Miami

Cavs Fire GM Chris Grant; Griffin Takes Over On Interim Basis

From NBA.com Staff Reports

The Cleveland Cavaliers were one of the most busy and active teams in the 2013 offseason, signing free agents Andrew Bynum, Earl Clark and Jarrett Jack to contracts as well as drafting former UNLV star Anthony Bennett No. 1 overall in the 2013 Draft. All those moves were supposed to help Cleveland reverse a three-seasons (and counting) playoff-less drought.

But, that hasn’t been the case for the Cavs and the man who oversaw many of those offseason moves, general manager Chris Grant, is reportedly out of a job. According to Yahoo!Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, Grant has been fired after nearly four years on the job:

The team confirmed the reported move this afternoon and said that Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin will serve as acting GM. As well, team owner Dan Gilbert issued the following statement regarding Grant’s firing:

“I would like to thank Chris Grant for his eight and a half years of service with the Cleveland Cavaliers, the last three and a half as General Manager. Chris always conducted himself with class, integrity and was motivated by what he believed was right for the organization. We wish Chris and his family the best in the years to come.”

“My entire focus the past eight years has been on trying to build a team that can contend and win and provide Cleveland fans the success that they deserve,” said Grant. “I have a tremendous appreciation for the players that are here and the coaches that I have worked with, as well as our front office. I thank them for all of their dedication and commitment to the Cavaliers.”

Gilbert went on to address the current situation and the path ahead:

“This has been a very difficult period for the franchise. We have severely underperformed against expectations. Just as this is completely unacceptable to our loyal and passionate fan base, season ticket holders and corporate partners, it is also just as unacceptable to our ownership group. I can assure everyone who supports and cares about the Cleveland Cavaliers that we will continue to turn over every stone and explore every possible opportunity for improvement to shift the momentum of our franchise in the right direction. There is no one in our entire organization who is satisfied with our performance, and to say that we are disappointed is an understatement. We all know the great potential of our young talent, seasoned veterans, as well as our recent all-star addition. We believe a change in leadership was necessary to establish the best possible culture and environment for our entire team to flourish.

“There is no move, nor any amount of capital investment, we will not make if we believe it will improve our chances of competing and winning in this league for both the short and long term. The fans of this great city have invested too much time, money and effort for the kind of product we have recently delivered to them. This must change,” concluded Gilbert.

After last night’s loss to the short-handed L.A. Lakers, Cleveland is 12th in the Eastern Conference and 5 1/2 games behind Charlotte for the eighth and final playoff berth. Grant has been at his post as Cavs GM since June of 2010 and oversaw the team’s hiring of Byron Scott as coach in 2010 (as well as his firing after the 2012-13 season) and brought back Mike Brown as Cavaliers coach last summer.

ESPN.com’s Brian Windhorst has more on the Cavs’ firing of Grant:

The team is mired in a disappointing season and a six-game losing streak that has dimmed playoff expectations that were set down before the season by team owner Dan Gilbert.

The 38-year-old GM just last week shouldered some of the blame for the Cavaliers’ poor season and addressed the team’s “unacceptable” lack of effort after a 1-4 homestand.

“We’re all accountable for it, including myself,” he said at the time. “It’s frustrating. It’s disappointing to our fans. The fans deserve better.”

Grant’s major moves since last summer have not worked including drafting Anthony Bennett with No. 1 overall pick, free agent signings Jarrett Jack and Andrew Bynum, and a recent trade for Luol Deng has failed to turn the team’s season around.

Grant was a driving force in re-hiring coach Mike Brown last year and the team has not responded to the change. Recently their lack of effort in games has brought Brown under fire as well. Wednesday the Cavs lost to a injury-depleted Los Angeles Lakers team that finished the game with only four healthy players.

The Cavs focused on the draft after losing LeBron James in free agency in 2010 and Grant worked to get six first round draft picks over the past three years. But other than Kyrie Irving, who was selected with the No. 1 overall pick in 2011, those picks have failed to turn the team around as they are on pace to miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season.

Grant, who was named general manager in 2010, had one season left on his contract.

Under Grant’s watch, Cleveland has gone 80-199.

Schedule A Part Of Cavs’ Struggles


VIDEO: The Starters chat about the struggling Cavs

HANG TIME NEW JERSEY – We’ve probably done enough dissection of the struggling Brooklyn Nets, whose main problem is the health of three of their top six guys. So let’s move on and try to figure out what’s wrong with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cavs didn’t have nearly the expectations that the Nets did, but they’ve been a lot more healthy and were a team we all expected to take a big step forward this season, compete for a playoff spot, and show potential free agents that this was a team you’d want to join. They have a new coach, a couple of new veterans, and a developing young core surrounding a star point guard in his third season.

But here they are at 4-11, tied with the Nets, having lost seven of their last eight games and ahead of only Milwaukee and Utah in point differential per 100 possessions. Their four wins have been by an average of 3.5 points and their 11 losses have been by an average of 13.0. So their point differential is that of a 3-12 team and it hasn’t been late-game luck that’s done them in.

There are trade rumors involving Dion Waiters, who they drafted with the No. 4 pick (ahead of Damian Lillard, Harrison Barnes and Andre Drummond, among others) just 17 months ago and their No. 1 pick from this year has shot 21 percent and is receiving DNPs. If things don’t turn around soon, this will be the ugliest situation in the league (if it isn’t already).

So how does it turn around?

Mike Brown, with help from a healthy Anderson Varejao, has made a difference on defense, where the Cavs are allowing 4.0 fewer points per 100 possessions than they did last season. They’ve defended the paint better, they’ve done a better job of keeping their opponents off the free-throw line, and they’ve rebounded better. Considering where they were last season, it would have been near impossible to regress in those three areas and they still have a long way to go on defense, but progress is progress.

On offense, the Cavs have regressed. In fact, only three teams – Utah, New York and Milwaukee – have taken bigger steps back on that end of the floor.

Most regressed offenses (points scored per 100 possessions)

Team 2012-13 Rank 2013-14 Rank Diff.
Utah 103.6 12 92.2 30 -11.4
New York 108.6 3 98.2 24 -10.4
Milwaukee 100.9 21 93.4 29 -7.5
Cleveland 100.8 23 94.1 27 -6.7
Oklahoma City 110.2 2 103.8 9 -6.4

The Cavs have shot better (and more) from 3-point range, but they’re not getting to the basket as much as they did last season and they’re shooting worse when they get there.

Cavs shooting from restricted area and 3-point range, last two seasons

Season RFGM RFGA RFG% %RFGA 3PM 3PA 3P% %3PA
2012-13 1,238 2,211 56.0% 32.0% 547 1,581 34.6% 22.9%
2013-14 170 329 51.7% 26.2% 106 302 35.1% 24.1%

%RFGA = Percentage of total FGA from the restricted area
%3PA = Percentage of total FGA from 3-point range

Kyrie Irving‘s 3-point percentage has dropped quite a bit this season (he’s 1-for-12 in his last three games), but he’s taken more of his shots from the restricted area than he did last season. Inside, the issue is the Cleveland bigs, who don’t exactly dominate the paint.

Andrew Bynum has shot 7-for-24 in the restricted area, Tristan Thompson has also shot less than 50 percent near the basket, and Varejao has turned into a jump shooter. He has taken 40 percent of his shots from mid-range, up from 23 percent over his first nine seasons. Overall, the Cavs have attempted 33.2 percent of their shots from mid-range, in a virtual tie with the Wizards for the highest rate in the league.

Turnovers are another issue. Last season, the Cavs had the sixth lowest turnover rate in the league, coughing up the ball only 14.3 times per 100 possessions. This season, they’re turning it over 17.1 times per 100 possessions, the eighth highest rate in the league.

Irving’s turnover rate is about the same, but Jarrett Jack has the second highest turnover rate (behind only Victor Oladipo) of guards averaging at least 20 minutes per game. A few other rotation guys have seen their turnover rates increase.

At this point in the season, schedule has to be taken into account. The Cavs have played the eighth toughest schedule in the league (accounting for location and days of rest). They’re one of only two teams (the Nets are the other) that has yet to play two consecutive home games and eight of their 15 games have been against the league’s top 10 defenses. (They’re 3-4 and scoring 101.5 points per 100 possessions against non-top-10 defenses.)

After they visit Boston on Friday (7:30 ET, League Pass), the Cavs get their first homestand, hosting the Bulls on Saturday and Nuggets on Wednesday. Amazingly, they won’t get their first homestand of more than two games until late January, but they’ll have a couple of practice days in the next week and only two of their next 10 opponents rank in the top 10 defensively.

So, just by virtue of their schedule, the Cavs should see their offense improve. And hey, they’re only two games out of a playoff spot.

But there’s still some fixing to do on offense. They have to cut down on their turnovers, take better shots, and hope that Bynum can be more effective as the season goes on.

It’s Getting Late Early In Cleveland

Kyrie Irving, Mike Brown and the Cavs are trying to figure things out. (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images)

Kyrie Irving, Mike Brown and the Cavs are trying to figure things out. (Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images)

Some Cleveland fans might have assumed that the drama around the Cavaliers left town about the same time The Multiple MVP Whose Name Shall Not Be Mentioned packed up and vamoosed. Mike Brown probably figured nothing could top the start of last season in L.A. for hyperventilating and zaniness, seeing as how he was terminated just five games into the season.

But they all would be wrong – Brown has even admitted it – because the first three weeks of 2013-14 for the Cavs has been dripping with turmoil and uncertainty, much of it only leaking out publicly in the past 24-48 hours.

An ESPN.com report Saturday disclosed that Cleveland’s players held a closed-door, players-only meeting after their 29-point loss at Minnesota. The comings and goings of players from center Andrew Bynum in his endless knees rehab to shooting guard Dion Waiters and his alleged blue flu have cut into those players’ opportunities and continuity, while having a trickle-down effect on the rest of Brown’s rotation.

Then there’s the protection mask point guard Kyrie Irving has had to don – and the speculation that it had more to do with physical manifestations of the Cavaliers’ internal strife than inadvertent contact with Minnesota’s Corey Brewer.

Jason Lloyd, who covers the Cavs for the Akron Beacon Journal, went to the unusual lengths of enumerating a 41-item list Saturday night, pegged to Irving’s 41 points in the 104-96 overtime victory at Washington but needed on merit to clear the air a little in northeast Ohio.

Consider a few of these nuggets:

1. There have been a lot of wild stories flying around regarding the Cavs’ players-only meeting Wednesday at Minneapolis and what did/didn’t happen. Here’s what I know.

2. Mike Brown entered the locker room to begin his postgame speech when Kyrie Irving interrupted and asked him to leave the room so the players could talk. Brown was happy to do so and Irving started things off.

3. The meeting was intense – the Cavs played terrible and lost by 29 points – but two players who were in the room both privately said some of the speculation has been overblown and it wasn’t combative, nor was Dion Waiters a target of the meeting. The players weren’t very happy, but no specific player was singled out.

And:

6. As for Waiters and this illness, Mike Brown said he has been to the doctor twice and has a prescription. I’ve heard whispers Waiters knew he was going to get demoted to the second team. Did he know that and make up this illness? Is he really sick? The only one who really knows the answer to that is Waiters.

7. No one on the team has really seen or heard from Waiters since Wednesday’s game. He didn’t attend Friday’s shootaround because of this illness and didn’t make the trip to Washington for tonight’s game. No one I talked to really knows how sick Waiters is or what all this is about.

And:

14. [Irving] obviously didn’t do a very good job of that last week when he blew past Mike Brown during the Chicago game, but I’ve been told numerous times that was an isolated incident between coach and player.

15. One player said Irving has never reacted inappropriately to a critical comment a teammate has aimed toward him.

16. All that being said, Irving has done well the last few days. He called the meeting in Minnesota on Wednesday and Brown raved about his ability to command the huddle and keep the guys together during Saturday’s win. More importantly, he finally shot the ball the way he is capable of shooting.

And:

20. Andrew Bynum is starting without really practicing with the starters. C.J. Miles has started the last two games at shooting guard without really practicing. Earl Clark shifted to power forward tonight without any practice there.

21. Brown told Clark on the flight Friday night to Washington he was going to use him at power forward. They went over a few things on the flight, talked more about it Saturday morning, but that was about it.

And that’s cherry-picking through barely half of Lloyd’s list of talking points.

A 3-7 start prior to Saturday’s OT outcome wasn’t in Cleveland’s plans when it staked out an Eastern Conference playoff berth for itself next spring. Neither, for that matter, was the meager production from No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett – modest, sure, but not this meager. Waiters might not be healthy but he certainly isn’t happy, based on news reports, and Irving has struggled with both his shot and his leadership ability.

Offensively, the Cavs have been a mess, ranking 29th with an offensive rating of 96.2. Last season, under Byron Scott, they were 19th. They have a lot to iron out, and it’s not clear if newcomer Jarrett Jack’s agenda – resolve stuff, now! – actually was served.

After Saturday’s game, Jack tried to smooth things out for reporters:

“Things happen. We’re able to talk amongst one another. You can have a disagreement. That’s very much OK. It’s not against the law. But the whole thing about it is, if you’re going to have a talk or any conversation, a resolution should be the reason for having it in the first place. That was the whole reason why we called the meeting, had the discussions. I like the place that we’re in right now.”

Cleveland’s next game isn’t until Wednesday when it faces Washington again, so it’s hard to know what’s what. Or who’s sick, who’s cranky and who’s getting under whose skin.

Cavs Sticking By Bennett As No. 1 PIck Endures Slow NBA Start


VIDEO: Greg Anthony on Anthony Bennett’s tough start to season

Gilbert Arenas famously kept a “hit list” of the teams that let him slide into the second round of the 2001 Draft, a perceived slight that he turned into a large chip on his shoulder and eventually three All-Star appearances. Other players scan the names of those selected ahead of them and commit themselves to proving the scouts, the experts and even those rivals somehow wrong for the draft order.

But when you’re taken No. 1 and you’re expected to be best in show, who do you use for motivation? If the target is on your back, where do you aim?

That’s just one of the snags on Anthony Bennett‘s slow start with the Cleveland Cavaliers this season.

“You look at your own resume at the end of the day,” said Cavs guard Jarrett Jack, a veteran and something of a guardian these days for the 20-year-old from Toronto who, somewhat surprisingly, heard his name called before all others last June. He has not heard his number called much since.

“Regardless if you’re a valedictorian, summa cum laude or if you were just a ‘C’ average student,” Jack was saying before Cleveland’s game in Chicago the other night, “you gave it everything you had and that’s kind of where the chips fell. So many people put up a measuring stick that’s not for them. Go out there and do what’s comfortable for you.

“People push you into believing you’re something that you’re not. Not to say he isn’t or he is, but it’s very, very early. In the season and in a lot of people’s careers.”

Bennett unexpectedly popped up at No. 1 – where a lot of the same experts and scouts expect to see his countryman, Kansas’ Andrew Wiggins, next June – for a bunch of reasons. from team needs to Nerlen Noel‘s prolonged recovery from knee surgery. Fast starts by Philadelphia’s Michael Carter-Williams (No. 11), Orlando’s Victor Oladipo (No. 2) and Boston’s Kelly Olynyk (No. 13) have grabbed most of the early rookie spotlight.

Cleveland, gifted in the lottery with the top pick, went in with dual agendas: add another long-term piece like Kyrie Irving, Dion Waiters and Tristan Thompson, while chasing a playoff berth. General manager Chris Grant settled on Bennett decisively – they phoned in their choice 15 minutes early to draft HQ that night – and haven’t wavered. (By the way, if Bennett somehow weren’t available and the Cavs kept the pick, they likely would have taken Ben McLemore, who went No. 7 to Sacramento.) (more…)

Overdue Irving-Rose Clash Finally On


VIDEO: Bulls.com previews the Cavaliers-Bulls showdown

CHICAGO – In a league built on pivotal individual matchups, this one so far has slipped through the cracks. Or the fractures, tears, sprains, spasms or other injuries:

Derrick Rose vs. Kyrie Irving.

For one reason or another, what ought to be one of the Central Division’s showcase showdowns three or four times each season has yet to occur even once. Rose, the Chicago Bulls’ MVP point guard, and Irving, the Cleveland Cavaliers’ All-Star-and-rising, might wind up sharing point guard duties for the Eastern Conference and Team USA for years to come. And of course, butting heads the rest of the time.

Yet more than two years into Irving’s professional career, they’ve yet to share a court as friends or foes. Finally, in Rose’s 314th game (regular season or playoff) and Irving’s 118th, that should happen Monday night at United Center (8 ET, League Pass).

Unless somebody pulls something at his morning shootaround.

“I’ve never played against him,” Rose said, and he meant never – not in AAU, not in high school, not in international competition.

Their 31-month difference in age – Rose turned 25 last month, Irving will be 22 in March – kept them apart until the Cavaliers’ guard reached the NBA in the post-lockout 2011-12 season. And assorted ailments have come between them since.

What would have been the first meeting in Jan. 2012 was thwarted by Rose’s sprained toe. Irving came away sick from All-Star Saturday and missed the second, and then both point guards missed the April 26 finale, Irving shut down and Rose prepping for the playoffs.

Two days later, Rose’s 2012-13 season effectively ended as well with his torn left ACL injury in the postseason opener against Philadelphia. But Irving only played in two of four games vs. Chicago as it was, missing one in December with a fractured left index finger and another in February with a sore knee.

So the bottom line: Rose has played in just one of seven possible meetings and Irving in three of seven.

Any sense of a rivalry, or a challenge from Irving to Rose, only begins now. Whether they acknowledge it or not.

“He’s a great young player,” Rose said. “Just for me, I try not to get into matchups. Just go out there and just play. If we was winning, I’d probably get into it. But we’re just trying to win games right now.”

The Bulls are 2-3, they’ve had their issues at both ends of the floor, Rose still is trying to sync up with teammates after an absence of 18 months and an easy victory over Utah hasn’t cured all of Chicago’s ills. Rose has been getting choked off by a gauntlet of double teams and traps to get the ball out of his hands, and is averaging 14.0 points, 4.0 assists and 5.0 turnovers in 31.0 minutes while shooting 32 percent.

Said Irving of Monday’s clash: “Another game. Always playing any Bulls team, with D. Rose or without him, they’re a good team. But now that they have him, they’re a threat. Obviously he’s a great point guard, a great player in our league and I have a lot of respect for him.’

Still, the Cavs guard added: “I get up for everybody. So it really doesn’t matter.”

Tell it to the 76ers. Cleveland was on the verge of falling to 2-5 until Irving’s driving layup with 0.6 seconds in the second overtime kept his team unbeaten at home. After missing shots to win in regulation and in the first overtime, Irving finished with 39 points and 12 assists.

It was the sort of performance, and closer’s role, that Rose began stringing together en route to the MVP award in his third season. Irving is averaging 19.9 points, 8.0 assists, 3.0 turnovers on 35.1 minutes.

“That’s the position we want him to be in,” Cavs guard Jarrett Jack told Cleveland reporters. “He’s proven himself as being able to come through in those clutch moments. Even though he missed a couple easy ones, or ones he thought he should have made, everybody was still very much encouraging him and telling him that we’re still here with you and ‘Let’s get out here, if you get another look, take it. Don’t be bashful, don’t be shy.’ “

Who among these guys is? Irving played nearly 82 minutes in Cleveland’s back-to-back set vs. Philadelphia Friday and Saturday, but likely will rise to the occasion in facing Rose. It’s a gunslinger thing with which the Bulls guard is familiar.

“Almost every night,” he said. “Every guy I play, everybody’s doing that.”

Rose is speaking from experience. Only a few years ago, he was the one eager to make his name.

“Hell yeah. I know the concept of how they’re thinking,” Rose said. “But I can’t get caught up into it. When you get caught up into it, that’s when things go the other way.

“Like I say, if we were winning, I’d probably be into it. But we’re losing right now. I can’t get caught up into the matchups. I have to stay focused on the team.”

Fine. The rest of us can focus on the two of them.


VIDEO: Kyrie Irving drops 39 points and 12 assists in the Cavs’ win over Philly