Posted by Sekou Smith
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS — The New Orleans Hornets don’t even want to discuss these Chris Paul trade rumors.
What team wants to talk about moving its one golden asset in a summer of such uncertainty for so many, what with the draft and free agency all brewing like the perfect storm for something crazy to happen.
Since Hornets’ boss Jeff Bower and his crew are balking at even joining the conversation, his exact words to the Times Picayune:
“I’m not going to comment on rumors, regardless of confirming them or denying them or saying how believable or unbelievable they are. Because it’s something that will be there throughout the free agent process. I’m not going to begin commenting now.
“We have the duty to listen and have dialog with teams about all of our players. I’ve also always said we have a very high value and opinion of what Chris provides for us. Things really haven’t changed.”
… the Hang Time crew is happy to pick it up there.
If, as has been suggested at least once, that Paul could be the key to some team landing LeBron James in free agency (the Hornets can thank Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports for the firestorm), why wouldn’t you at least want to discuss it?
Sure, it’s being mowed down in nearly every direction — New Orleans, Cleveland, New Jersey and everywhere else James sits atop the summer wish list. That’s fine.
But to dismiss the discussion entirely is sheer craziness.
Unless the Hornets have grand plans to put a much improved supporting cast around Paul, a group that can thrive under new coach Monty Williams, don’t they owe it to themselves to at least explore all their options this summer?
“Everything sounds far-fetched when you first hear it as a rumor,” a former Eastern Conference general manager told me this morning by phone. “But no one is ‘untouchable’ in our league, not even Chris Paul. So if my phone is ringing right now and they are asking him about him, I’m going to take that call. I might not be listening seriously to whatever someone is trying to offer, but I’m taking that call.”
We would, too.
There’s not a single player in this draft more valuable right now than Paul, who when healthy is considered among the top two or three point guards in the game by most.
And if anyone needed to be told that having Paul on the roster makes their team a more attractive destination for James or any other marquee free agent … well, there’s always World Cup soccer to keep you busy this time of year.
Other Draft Day Eve tidbits from around the league
Michael Lee of the Washington Post says the Wizards are trying to move up (yeah, we know they have the No. 1 pick overall, but they also have other picks):
The Washington Wizards are actively attempting to acquire at least one more pick in Thursday’s NBA draft, with team president Ernie Grunfeld working the phones in hopes that the team can assemble to best possible talent around No. 1 pick John Wall. The eventual selection of Wall isn’t a secret, but the NBA does not allow teams to make the official choice known before David Stern steps on stage at Madison Square Garden to make the announcement.
The Wizards also have the 30th (acquired from Cleveland in the Antawn Jamison deal) and 35th picks in the draft, but they are not content with just those choices. New owner Ted Leonsis has already expressed his desire to add more players through the draft. They are also in pursuit of a pick between the late lottery and early 20s of the draft, Grunfeld said on Tuesday that “we’re having as many conversations as any team in the league about trying to move up and acquire another pick, but a lot of teams are trying to do the same thing.”
Washington is among several teams with multiple first-round draft picks. Minnesota and Memphis have three picks, and Oklahoma City and New Jersey have two. Miami and Atlanta could also be looking to move their lone first-rounders to create cap space for the 2010 free agency class. Grunfeld wouldn’t confirm or deny that he’s been in touch with any of those teams. But the Wizards have competition for first-round choices, with teams like Cleveland and Dallas — which don’t have selections — also looking to move in.
Dave Hyde of the Sun Sentinel says it’s time for the Heat to abandon the Michael Beasley project after just two years. That seems a bit harsh after such a short sample of what Beasley can and cannot do. But Hyde is convinced it’s time to turn the page:
Two years ago today, Michael Beasley entered a Manhattan, N.Y., ballroom, straight off the campus in Manhattan, Kan., whispering to himself, “You’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto.”
He saw the pre-draft media crowd part before him and said, “Look, it’s like I’m Moses before the Red Sea.”
He was so fun then. So loose. And so 19, as it turned out once you got to know him better.
Two years later, the best move for everyone is for the Heat to eat that decision to invest the second overall pick in Beasley. It will taste like cat litter in some ways, especially when the Heat’s best option might be to get nothing in return.
Yes, nothing. Which is still something in the salary-cap world. As we’ll see, it’s the last time the Heat can turn this nothing into something, too.
The telling image of Beasley that matters now is his sitting on the bench for the most important half of the past season, the Game 5 playoff loss at Boston. Couldn’t help, the coaches concluded. Wasn’t needed. If not then, when?
On a team constructed around expiring contracts, Beasley’s existing contract of about $5 million becomes his most valuable commodity for the Heat. It’s not like we’re reducing his game to a price tag. It’s reduced. He’s in the discount bin.
Michael Grange of the Globe and Mail says this is make-or-break time for Toronto Raptors as a team and organization, now that they are facing life after Chris Bosh:
This is normally the time of year when Bryan Colangelo is successfully climbing a mountain of information.
But as the Toronto Raptors head into what will surely be a franchise-defining few weeks, even their general manager acknowledges that, like almost every executive in the NBA, he’s feeling for an elephant in a dark room. There’s something big in there, but what exactly it is, he can’t be sure.
Welcome to the off-season of 2010, unlike any other in NBA history and almost unique in professional sports, where some of the biggest names in basketball – not just LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and the Raptors’ Chris Bosh, but all-star veterans like Ray Allen, Paul Pierce, Dirk Nowitzki and Amare Stoudemire – may be free agents angling for long-term contracts even as the league’s salary cap is shrinking and most insiders are expecting a labour stoppage prior to the 2011-12 season.
The uncertainty will affect Thursday night’s entry draft.
The Raptors are selecting 13th and have narrowed their list of desirable prospects to about a half-dozen after working out 36 or more players. Uncertainty abounds, however, because of Bosh’s unknowable decision, the desire of forward Hedo Turkoglu to be traded, and an apparent log-jam at point guard, where the Raptors have $17.7-million (all currency U.S.) tied up in Jose Calderon, Jarrett Jack and Marcus Banks.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty with the roster, and with that uncertainty there’s a lot of uncertainty around this pick,” Colangelo said after the Raptors’ final predraft workout Tuesday at the Air Canada Centre. “But we’ve said we’re going to take the best available player, the one we feel has the most talent, the most upside, that we feel will fit this organization long-term.”
Ron Tillery of the Commercial Appeal says Hang Time’s Grizzlies are weighing their draft night options and might make a move up the food chain. Whatever it takes to make HT’s Grizzlies better is fine with us:
A potential deal that would have the Griz exchanging their picks at 25 and 28 for the Timberwolves’ 16th selection has not been agreed upon but is one of several possibilities being seriously considered.
ESPN.com first reported the proposed trade. A person with knowledge of the talks said Minnesota presented Memphis with the deal. However, the Grizzlies remained hesitant Tuesday night, preferring to wait until the draft begins before committing to such a transaction.
Memphis brass wants to gauge which players might be available before agreeing to move up to 16. The Griz also own the 12th pick.
Griz general manager Chris Wallace had no comment when reached Tuesday afternoon.
During a pre-draft workout early in the day at FedExForum, Wallace said the Griz are very active in trade talks and weighing several scenarios.
“Talking about and doing are two different things,” Wallace said. “Every team in the league is talking about moving up, moving down, moving out … all of that stuff is swirling around right now.”
It’s not likely that the Griz will draft three times.
Mike Monroe of the Express News says the draft is just the first step in a franchise revival project soon to get underway in San Antonio. The name Tiago Splitter is being tossed around liberally in connection with the Spurs:
The NBA draft Thursday features a class of prospects deep enough to put a talented player in reach of the Spurs, who have the 20th selection, their highest pick since they made Tim Duncan the No. 1 overall choice in 1997.Spurs general manager R.C. Buford acknowledges a “larger pool of players than most summers,” though he warns it will take three years before anyone can truly know how good, and deep, the class is.
The standard belief among NBA personnel chiefs holds that three seasons are needed to fairly judge nearly every player who comes into the league.
Take, for example, the Spurs’ first-round pick in 2007.
Then, they selected a 6-foot-11, 22-year-old Brazilian center.
Three years later, this is what Buford knows about Tiago Splitter: “He’s the MVP of the Spanish league and of the Spanish finals. That hasn’t been done since (Arvydas) Sabonis.”
In his prime, the 7-foot-3, 290-pound Sabonis was one of the best big men in basketball history. In 1994, the Lithuanian giant was 28 when he had his double-MVP Spanish League season for Real Madrid. He was a few weeks shy of 31 by the time he got to the NBA, with the Trail Blazers.
Sabonis’ late-entry NBA career made fans wonder how good he must have been in his early-to-mid 20s, before he put on weight and his knees began to betray him.
Buford isn’t saying Splitter is another Sabonis. He isn’t even saying he would drop right into the Spurs’ starting lineup.
“We already have a pretty good starting center,” said the Spurs’ GM, acknowledging what everyone but Duncan himself knows about which post position the two-time MVP fills.
Mike Wells of the Indianapolis Star says there are still divided opinions on hometown star Gordon Hayward, who finished up his workout marathon with the Pacers:
ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas said Hayward reminds of him of former Oregon player Luke Jackson, the 10th pick in the 2004 draft.
“I really want to like him. I’m just not sure about him,” Bilas said Monday. “I do wonder a little bit on who he guards. He’s not a super athlete. The (small forward) spot seems a little bit difficult for him defensively and he’s certainly not a (power forward).
“So you ask, who does he guard? At that spot, when a guy is not a great shooter, not a super athlete and not a great defender, that raises a few questions that I think are fair ones.”
Hayward has been projected to go as high as No. 8 to the Los Angeles Clippers. He could go as low as the mid-teens. The Pacers aren’t expected to select Hayward if he’s available at No. 10.
“I have him ranked 13th or 14th,” Bilas said. “I think Hayward has a very good chance in the NBA. It’s just that my personal view, I would have some questions about him.”
Hayward said he hasn’t paid attention to mock drafts because he forgot his laptop charger while he was on the road working out for teams.
“I think just about everything is positive about him,” Minnesota Timberwolves assistant general manager Rob Babcock said. “He’s a versatile player. He’s a much better athlete than people think. He’ll get stronger as time goes on. He’s got a real good feel for the game. He’ll start out as a small forward with a chance to play some power forward down the road if he gets stronger.”
Mike Hunt of the Journal Sentinel says Milwaukee Bucks GM John Hammond nailed it again with his latest trade, bringing Corey Maggette into the fold for spare parts:
John Hammond was the NBA’s executive of the year for last season.
My question now is whether a higher award might be available for Trader John.
To make Dan Gadzuric finally disappear is one thing. But to make the Floppin’ Dutchman and Charlie Bell go away at the same time? And get a 20-point scorer for two players who made the Maytag repair guy look like an overachiever?
Somebody needs to text message the White House to ask if the president has one of those Wizard of Oz humanitarian/genius ribbons lying around in a cigar box or something.
OK, so Golden State is dumping salary, Gadzuric had an expiring contract and Corey Maggette has a reputation as a selfish player who has scored in bunches because somebody has to score for bad teams. And, let’s face it, being a good teammate is not exactly a job requirement for the Warriors and Clippers.
But let’s see this trade for what it is: Danny G. had long ago become the poster child for all that ailed the old Bucks, drawing $7 million a year for basically taking up the seat between Royal Ivey and Primoz Brezec.
And besides getting on the business end of the Scott Skiles glare for missing a Game 7 playoff bus, Bell can’t play anymore. He had completely fallen out of the rotation. Not only that, but he was making $4 million a year. For the next two seasons.
So there you have it, nearly the final purging of the crippling financial mistakes that symbolized the Larry Harris years and almost dragged the Bucks down to a place where no light could penetrate.
By Hammond’s hand, Gadzuric and Bell are gone. So are Bobby Simmons, Mo Williams and Yi Jianlian. Only Michael Redd’s ominous $18.3 million player option hangs over the Bucks now, and my guess is Redd, too, will vanish before the expiration of the last maximum contract this franchise could ever bestow.
These are the new Bucks, symbolized by the flexible value contracts of Luc Richard Mbah a Moute, Ersan Ilyasova and Carlos Delfino, not to mention the promising future that comes with having Brandon Jennings and Andrew Bogut locked up for the next four years. This is more about Hammond continuing to get the Bucks’ financial house in order as a means to give them a chance to compete.
Mike Bresnahan and Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times say Phil Jackson‘s decision to either return to or retire from coaching the Lakers could come at any time. And despite his daughter’s suggestion to Sports Illustrated that Jackson is “done,” no one knows for sure, including the Lakers:
Will Phil Jackson come back? Not even his players know the answer.
One by one the Lakers emerged Tuesday from end-of-season exit meetings with Jackson and General Manager Mitch Kupchak, and trying to find a consensus on Jackson’s plans was almost impossible.
“He gave no indication at all,” said center Andrew Bynum, throwing his hands in the air. “He just hit you with the stern face when you asked him. He didn’t tell me nothing.”
Lamar Odom turned a reporter’s question back on the reporter.
“I don’t know. Do you?” he said as he shrugged.
Jackson is expected to decide this week whether to come back for an 11th season with the Lakers after the expiration of a two-year, $23-million contract.
Jackson, 64, was unavailable for comment Tuesday after undergoing a series of medical tests Monday instead of attending the team’s championship parade.
Ron Artest thought he had an answer. Maybe. Perhaps.
“He said he was feeling OK,” Artest said.
Apparently Jackson felt healthy, at least on Tuesday. He has had both hips replaced and has a sore knee as well as painful kidney stones.
“His main issues are health,” Pau Gasol said. “He’s concerned about that. He wants to continue to be part of what we’re doing here. But the NBA schedule is very, very demanding.”
One consensus did emerge: Every player who was asked for an opinion said he wanted Jackson back.
“I’m going to put pressure on him,” Bynum said. “We all want P.J. to come back, every last one of us. Hopefully he makes the right decision.”