HANG TIME SOUTHWEST – It’s impossible to determine how much, if at all, trade speculation truly distracts a team. But in the case of the Memphis Grizzlies, it’s fair to speculate that it has a lot.
“Trade rumors have been in this league since they’ve allowed trades,” Memphis coach Lionel Hollins said in Dallas 10 days ago as rumors of the franchise shopping Rudy Gay — as well asZach Randolph and Marc Gasol — ran rampant.
Hollins is right, of course, but it doesn’t mean trade rumors are any less difficult to wrap the brain around now than in Hollins’ playing days. It’s actually an impossible argument to make in the Internet age and now with social media fueling speculation by the millisecond.
That night in Dallas was the start of three consecutive blowout losses for Memphis. Monday’s 82-81 home loss to Indiana makes it four in the last six games as the Grizzlies have fallen off the pace of the West’s top three teams and are fending off Golden State for fourth place.
A smaller-scale Cavs-Grizzlies trade consummated this morning gets Memphis under the dreaded luxury tax this season without needing to move any of its key pieces and perhaps gets it back to work with clearer minds.
The reported trade will send young Memphis reserves Marreese Speights, Wayne Ellington and Josh Selby, plus a first-round draft pick to Cleveland for end-of-bencher John Leuer.
Memphis’ new ownership group wants no part of the CBA’s harsher luxury tax penalties to come. And with Gay, Gasol, Randolph and point guard Mike Conley on the books for a combined $58.7 million next season, Tuesday’s trade ultimately only postpones the inevitable trade of Gay and/or others until the summer.
As CBSSports.com’s Ken Berger tweeted: “Welcome to luxury taxonomics.”
The new CBA, drafted with the intent to help small-market clubs keep their rosters intact, isn’t really working out that way. Chris Paul was traded from New Orleans to the Los Angeles Clippers before the start of the 2011-12 season. The Oklahoma City Thunder traded James Harden to the Houston Rockets before the start of this season. And the Grizz will ship out Gay and/or others this summer to align their books with the new economic times.
The trade can be considered a win-now for the Grizz’s key components and fans who didn’t want the core split up before they had a chance to attack the postseason one last time. Remember, in 2010-11, Gay got injured and missed the playoffs. Memphis upset San Antonio in the first round and lost in the second round in seven grueling games to the Thunder.
Randolph injured his knee early on last season, came back late, but never got to full strength. Memphis lost Game 1 — blowing a huge lead — and Game 7 on its home floor in the first round to the Clippers.
“I definitely want to see this team stick together,” Randolph said that night in Dallas. “I’ve been with these guys four years. Rudy’s been here the longest. You want to see us together because we’ve come a long way, definitely.”
The downside to the deal is that the Grizzlies’ bench gets a little lighter. Although Speights’ role had decreased with the return of Darrell Arthur from injury, the 6-foot-10, 255-pounder averaged 6.5 ppg and 4.7 rpg in just 14.5 mpg. Ellington was Memphis’ most accurate 3-point shooter (42.3 percent) on a team that desperately needs that component.
But, at least as the Grizzlies reach the halfway point of their season at home Wednesday against the slumping Los Angeles Lakers, the core remains and they can get back to work with minds more at ease.
LAS VEGAS — Memphis guard Josh Selby and Portland point guard Damian Lillard were named co-MVPs of the Las Vegas Summer League on Sunday.
Selby, the Grizzlies’ second-year guard out of Kansas, led all players in scoring at 27.5 points per game as Memphis went 2-2 entering its final game Sunday. Selby shot 59.3 percent from the floor — including 70.6 percent on 3-pointers. Selby made at least five 3-pointers in each game, talling 24 in the four games (24-for-34). Selby was also active defensively, averaging 2.5 steals.
Lillard, whom the Blazers took sixth overall in the 2012 Draft, averaged 26.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 5.6 assists in four games. Lillard shots 43.8 percent from the floor, highlighted by a 31-point, seven-assist performance in Thursday’s 84-78 win over Atlanta. Lillard finished second in scoring (first among rookies) and sixth in assists (third among rookies).
All-Summer League Team: Josh Selby – Memphis Grizzlies
Damian Lillard – Portland Trail Blazers Malcolm Thomas – Chicago Bulls Bradley Beal – Washington Wizards Tobias Harris – Milwaukee Bucks John Henson – Milwaukee Bucks Jeremy Lamb – Houston Rockets Dominique Jones – Dallas Mavericks Cory Joseph – San Antonio Spurs Jimmy Butler – Chicago Bulls Kemba Walker – Charlotte Bobcats Donatas Motiejunas – Houston Rockets Jae Crowder – Dallas Mavericks
LAS VEGAS — The last full day of seven games featured several returning players putting up big numbers.
Phoenix’s Markieff Morris wrapped up his solid showing, putting up 25 points and 11 rebounds to lead the Suns to a 96-87 win over the Grizzlies. Morris was 10-for-17 from the floor, hit a pair of 3s and looked like the best player on the floor, impressive considering Josh Selby did his thing again for the Grizzlies, scoring 23 points to maintain his scoring lead (27.5 ppg) over Damian Lillard (26.5 ppg).
Non-rookie of the day: Malcolm Thomas, Bulls. For the fourth straight game, the SDSU big man dominated the boards, pulling down 16 to go with 21 points in Chicago’s 77-74 win over the Clippers. Thomas is opening eyes in Vegas and should find himself on a roster this fall after spending most of last season bouncing around the D-League.
Other notables: Wes Johnson, Wolves. Minnesota’s swingman is looking confident with his shot and scored 28 points Saturday to increase his scoring average to 22.7 (fourth overall). “I just need to relax and play basketball the way I know how,” Johnson said. “I don’t think I’ve lost anything.” Jimmy Butler, Bulls. The second-year guard out of Marquette scored 23 points on 6-for-10 shooting. In four games, Butler has topped 20 points three times and is sixth overall in scoring at 20.8 points to go with 6.5 boards. His role could increase this season, so Chicago fans must love seeing these numbers.
Rookie of the day: Will Barton, Trail Blazers. Portland’s second-round pick (40th overall) has been overshadowed by the team’s two lottery picks (Lillard and Meyers Leonard) but has quietly been doing a little bit of everything. Saturday, though, with the Blazers resting their top players, Barton played all 40 minutes, scoring 27 points on 10-for-17 shooting. “I’m a role player, but when I get the opportunity to be the man, I take it,” Barton said.
Other notables: Jae Crowder, Mavericks. Crowder closed out his impressive showing with 21 points and six rebounds in Dallas’ 82-76 overtime win over San Antonio. Crowder, a second-round pick (34th overall) out of Marquette, finished with five-game averages of 16.6 points and 5.4 rebounds. Crowder could be a steal out of the second round. Kendall Marshall, Suns. The point guard taken 13th overall has looked terrible here, but closed out with his best game yet, scoring 15 points (on 6-for-10 shooting, 3-for-4 on 3s) and handing out 10 assists, giving him the overall lead in assists at 6.5 per game. Also, John Henson had another good game for the Bucks (22 and nine) in an 88-87 win over Boston.
Coming up: Summer League comes to an end Sunday with just three games on the slate. Two games will air live on NBA TV — Celtics-Clippers at 6 ET and Grizzlies-Wolves at 8 ET — while the Bulls-Bucks game will be shown on replay at 4 a.m. ET. The All-Summer League teams will be announced at the end of the day.
LAS VEGAS – With the events of Thursday night in Aurora, Colo., hanging over the crowd, the Denver Nuggets closed out their Summer League with a 95-82 loss to the Trail Blazers.
After a moment of silence to honor those killed in the tragic shooting in Colorado, Nuggets players donned black headbands to pay their respects to those suffering in the Denver suburb.
On the court, the Nuggets’ Jordan Hamilton capped off a stellar Summer League with an 18-point, eight-assist performance. The second-year guard out of Texas finished by averaging 19.2 points, 6.4 rebounds in Denver’s five games as he looks to have more of an impact entering his second season.
Non-rookie of the day: Josh Selby, Grizzlies. Memphis’ second-year guard took back the scoring lead with a 32-point outing in the Grizzlies’ 97-79 win over the Bobcats. Selby, who could see a more involved role this year with the departure of O.J. Mayo, hit seven 3-pointers and finished 9-for-14 overall. Other notables: Malcolm Thomas, Bulls. The second-year big man out of SDSU continues to dominate on the boards, notching his third double-double in as many games. Thomas had 12 points and 16 rebounds to bring his averages to 10.7 points and a Summer League-leading 14.0 rebounds.
LAS VEGAS — Nolan Smith’s scary injury put a damper on a busy and exciting Day 5 on Tuesday. Portland’s second-year point guard had 27 points before being carried off on a stretcher with 42 seconds left in the Blazers’ 99-88 loss to the Rockets. Smith was fouled hard on a breakaway and remained down on the floor for several minutes before being taken off the court. Smith reportedly suffered a concussion, and the injury overshadowed Smith’s second straight solid performance, in which he was 10-for-16 from the floor with five rebounds and five assists.
Non-rookie of the day:Josh Selby of the Grizzlies lit up the scoreboard with 35 points on a 12-for-21 shooting night. Even more impressive were the seven steals Selby racked up. Selby had 20 points in Memphis’ Summer League opener and is making a strong case to take the minutes left by departing free agent O.J. Mayo. Other standouts: Kawhi Leonard had 27 points and eight rebounds, looking like a man among boys in the Spurs’ 92-81 win over the Lakers; Markieff Morris had 24 points and 17 rebounds in the Suns’ 89-74 loss to the Cavs; and Byron Mullens capped off the night by scoring 33 on 13-for-24 shooting (3-for-5 on 3s).
Rookie of the day: Several rookies shined Tuesday, including Portland’s Damian Lillard (27 points including 5-for-10 on 3-pointers) and Jeremy Lamb (23 points), but it was another Houston rookie who gets the nod. Terrence Jones, whom the Rockets took 18th from Kentucky, had 24 points and 12 rebounds while hitting 11 of 20 shots. Jones also matched up well with Portland’s rookie big man Meyers Leonard, doing a good job keeping him in check.
Coming up: Four games will be televised Wednesday on NBA TV: Bucks-Wizards at 4 p.m. ET, Kings-Raptors at 6:30, Hornets-Suns at 8:30, Warriors-Heat at 10:30. One game will be shown on delay: Hawks-Mavericks at 4 a.m. ET.
The Grizzlies have a logjam at the point, so the team’s newest floor general is just trying to leave his mark in Las Vegas.
In his first action, first-round pick Tony Wroten made a nice case, doing a little bit of everything.
Wroten, whom Memphis took out of Washington with the 25th pick, looked impressive and in control, scoring 19 points to go along with eight rebounds and six assists in the Grizzlies’ 93-77 win.
“He’s got talent, man,” said Josh Selby, who scored 20 points and is also competing for playing time in a backcourt that features starter Mike Conley and the recently acquired Jerryd Bayless. “Anybody that can score and handle the ball is dangerous and you saw that out there.”
The mood has yet to strike us here at the hideout. Sure, we’ve got all the Turkey Day fixings ready for Thursday.
Inside our own little basketball world here, there is little to be thankful about these days. We’re thankful the entire season hasn’t been canceled (yet). We’re thankful there is still a scrap of hope that the sides will come to their collective senses and put an end to this dreadful lockout.
But without either side giving an inch in the coming days and weeks, we won’t have that scrap to hold onto. Time is running short and not even the holiday season seems to be affecting the mood of the major players in this drama.
Many of these owners know how damaging a lockout can be, having gone through the 1998-99 lockout. There are 33 active players living through the second lockout of their careers — Steve Nash, Jason Kidd, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce and Grant Hill among many others — an average of slightly more than one player per team. You’d think they would know exactly how costly this current fight will be on the collective psyche of fans that don’t care about the particulars and just want their game back.
But while millions of people will spend Thursday carving that Thanksgiving turkey and watching NFL games with family and friends, enjoying every second, our game will remain dormant. Someone needs to wake up and breathe life back into the game. All it takes is one phone call to get the proverbial ball rolling …
Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: The NBA season is now in the hands of lawyers who can’t even figure out how to start a game of phone tag. That’s where we are. In a media briefing Monday to announce that the players have consolidated and refiled two separate antitrust claims into one class action in Minnesota, attorney David Boies lamented the slow response and virtual silence from the NBA since the actions were first filed last Tuesday. In fact, he scoffed at the league’s response — delivered to reporters via email from NBA counsel Rick Buchanan, and not commissioner David Stern — as evidence for why making a phone call to begin settlement talks would be “a waste of time.” ”I think they’ve made pretty clear, including by the statement that they just made, that they’ve got no interest in talking to us,” Boies said at his Manhattan office. “It takes two people to negotiate.” But it only takes one person to pick up the phone and dial a number to get the ball rolling. And Boies said neither side had done that as of Tuesday, at least not at the highest levels of the law firms involved — the law firms that now hold the future of a sport in their hands. Legal protocol says that Stern can’t really call former union director Billy Hunter, and the attorneys for either side can’t call one of the clients on the other. It’s a tangled web they’ve woven, one that has made tracks in four district courtrooms in three states since the NBA first sued the players in August. As to whether the players’ attorneys should call the NBA’s attorneys, or vice versa, there is protocol for that, too. The players have sued the NBA, and thus it is incumbent upon the NBA to respond. The league has until Dec. 5 to formally respond to the lawsuit in the U.S. District Co in Minnesota. Or, its legal representatives can at any time pick up the phone and call Boies or any of his associates working on behalf of the players to initiate settlement talks. This would not only bring the league closer to stopping the clock on potential damages, but also would start the clock on possibly having a basketball season.
Howard Beck of The New York Times: The N.B.A. will argue that the players’ disbanding of the union is a sham perpetrated solely as a bargaining tactic, and that the antitrust laws should not apply. Boies said the primary goal remained a quick settlement that would save the 2011-12 season. “If the league’s approach is to ignore this litigation and try to go into a state of denial and hope it goes away, I think that will not be in anybody’s interest,” Boies said. “I don’t think it’s in our interest, I don’t think it’s in their interest. It’s certainly not in the fans’ interest.” Boies said he originally considered filing the lawsuit in Minnesota, which is in the Eighth Circuit, before choosing Northern California, which is in the Ninth Circuit. Both jurisdictions have a history of player-friendly rulings, with one notable recent exception. Last spring, the Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals rejected N.F.L. players’ bid for a permanent injunction to end that league’s lockout. Boies represented the N.F.L. in that case. The Minnesota court provides two advantages over the Northern California courts, Boies said. It generally has a less congested docket, and it has a history of moving cases along swiftly. Although antitrust cases can sometimes take years to resolve, Boies said he believed he could get a declaration of summary judgment much sooner, perhaps in three months. “This is not a complex antitrust suit,” Schiller said, adding, “It’s not going to take years. It’s going to take months, if not weeks.”
Chris Sheridan of Sheridanhoops.com: The next logical step in the illogical NBA lockout is for David Boies to call Jeffrey Mishkin, or for Jeffrey Mishkin to call David Boies. The latter attorney, Boies, who represented Al Gore against George W. Bush in the 2000 U.S. presidential election, now represents NBA players, and Mishkin is the outside counsel for NBA commissioner David Stern and the owners. It would take approximately 2 minutes for their secretaries to put that call together. And after obfuscating and posturing for the better part of an hour in a meeting with reporters Monday night, Boies finally yielded to the relentless logical questioning of yours truly, put his hands to his temples for 13 seconds and then said he may just go ahead and make that phone call sometime in the next day or two. “Some lawyers say to pick up the phone is a sign of weakness,” Boies said. “But if you’re weak, you’re weak, and if you’re strong, you’re strong. It doesn’t make you weak or strong by your calling or not calling. On the other hand, until they’re prepared to say something other than what they just put out in this statement, the question is, why are you calling?” This particular episode of peacocking … oops, I mean news briefing … was designed to be a show of strength from the players’ new lead attorney, an epic billable hour ($1,225 is Boies’ going rate) of rhetorical posturing about how the NBA owners are now in really, really big trouble because they are leaving themselves open for triple damages — about $6 billion if the entire 2011-12 season is missed.
Marcus Thompson II of the Oakland Tribune: Warriors rookie Klay Thompson, drafted No. 11 overall, crossed that bridge last week when his beloved Washington State Cougars took on rival Gonzaga. Watching from home, he said had he known the lockout would have come to this, “it probably would have affected my decision” to leave college early. Whether they should have stayed college isn’t the only nagging question. Should they go overseas? Should they borrow money or tough it out? It is common practice for rookies — especially first-rounders, millionaires-in-waiting — to get a loan from their financial adviser. Some, like Thompson, however, don’t want to accumulate debt. So he’s “living like a broke college student” while staying at home with his parents. Tyler is living with his brother in Cupertino. The hard part about the waiting, they say, is they have no idea when it will end. Eventually, they’ll get paid, get to play on the big stage. Until then, their time is filled trying not to go insane. ”They need to work out,” Oakland-based agent Aaron Goodwin said. “Take a class or two online. Do some work towards finishing their degree.” Both Warriors rookies said they work out daily. Preparing for camp, whenever it starts. Training for their debut, whenever it comes. Tyler, who’s been training at Cal, said he is embracing the center position. He’s trying to get in the best shape possible and work on his low-post game. Thompson trains at various spots in Southern California and plays pick-up with various NBA players in the area. Still, he acknowledged the monotony of it all. ”It’s de-motivating,” Thompson said. “Not knowing when the season is starting. Not knowing how long this will go on. We’re doing the same thing every day. I’m not going to lie. It’s hard to stay motivated.”
Kurt Helin of ProBasketballTalk.com: Hope of a partial season springs from the fact in the next few weeks (likely after Dec. 5) we can expect the judge to order more mediated negotiations between the two sides, PBT was told. Mandated mediation is commonly part of anti-trust lawsuits, essentially a chance for the judge to make sure the two sides really want to go down this path. To give the sides one more chance to settle their differences without a judge involved. (It is possible one side picks up the phone and calls the other to ask for a negotiating session, but that is the less likely scenario. The owners have said they wouldn’t do that and players attorney Boies said he would not because the league is not receptive.) A judge likely will order mediated negotiations by the middle of December if not before, according to the source. Talks would start soon after. This would be similar to the talks when federal mediator George Cohen sat down with the sides last month. The one key difference would be the level of pressure on both sides to figure this out — the players do not want to lose a season of salary ($2.2 billion), the owners do not want to lose a season of revenue (at a much higher percentage for them than the last deal), plus neither side wants to damage the game by costing a full season. What is the point of fighting over how to divide up the revenue pie if the pie itself gets smaller? In addition, the threat of summary judgment — which would certainly be a huge loss for whichever side did not convince the judge of its case — is another motivation for both sides to figure this out.
Lee Benson of the Deseret News:Derek Fisher isn’t unique or alone. He simply serves as a convenient and highly visible example of the serious dysfunction that is the NBA, a place where for decades well-paid, well-fed employees have constantly snapped at the hands that feed them. Here in Utah we’ve been watching it up close and personal since the Jazz first arrived in 1979. It’s been like living next door to the expensive house on the hill where the parents continually and lavishly spoil their children. They give them whatever they want, treat them like royalty — and in turn the children behave like ungrateful brats. We’ve all watched as salaries have increased like Argentinian inflation, as amenities that range from plush practice and playing facilities to charter jets have grown exponentially, as players have become so pampered they don’t even drive their own Escalades to the arena and wouldn’t think of paying full-price for anything. (And as the price of tickets and concessions rise year after year.) And yet, it’s never enough. Right now, the average NBA salary is $5.1 million, the median NBA salary is $2.4 million (half of the players make more, half make less), and the least anyone can make is $500,000 (the rookie minimum). And the players are revolting at the owners’ notion that they need to scale back because there’s a Great Recession going on, almost a 10th of America is unemployed … and by the way, two-thirds of the league’s franchises are losing money every year. In a way you can’t fault the players. Isn’t this how the overindulged always behave? By the same token, the owners have only themselves to blame. They purchased their season of discontent through their decades of constant pampering and acquiescence.
Michael Lee of The Washington Post:Andray Blatche may have missed out on his first NBA paycheck of the season last week – and might lose out on $6.4 million if the NBA lockout wipes out the 2011-12 campaign – but that hasn’t stopped him from trying to make Thanksgiving special for some families in need. Blatche plans to join Roger Mason Jr. and the National Basketball Players Association on Tuesday to hand out 100 turkeys on a first-come-first-serve basis at the Laurel Boys and Girls Club from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Blatche has given away turkeys through his charity foundation in the past, but he rarely had the opportunity to connect with people since he was busy playing for the Wizards. But already this year, Blatche has given turkeys to single-parent mothers, breast cancer survivors and battered woman in his hometown of Syracuse, in South Carolina and Florida. He also volunteered over the weekend at a round-robin basketball challenge sponsored by the Maryland-National Capital Park Police. “I’m at a point in my life where I’m straight,” Blatche said in a recent telephone interview. “I’m just doing what me and my family believe in, which is giving back and always count your blessings. That’s why I’m out here doing as much stuff as possible. Even though it’s not the season, I’m still continuing to do what I’ve been doing.” Blatche has been a steady presence over the past few months at the Laurel Boys and Girls Club, where he has worked out with trainer Joe Connelly four to five days a week. Mason and Wizards teammates John Wall and Hamady Ndiaye have also trained with Blatche in recent weeks. “They let me work out there, so I’m showing some love back,” Blatche said of his turkey giveaway.
Iman Shumpert for the New York Post: Friday night, I headed out to Bridgeport, Conn., to play in another charity game for us locked-out players. The people who came out — maybe 2,000 — provided us plenty energy with cheers and competitive boos. I decided to sit out the last part of the game after going up for a dunk and feeling an awkward pain in my knee. I could have kept playing, but decided just to ice it to ensure I was OK. Nothing major. I think it was due to not warming up at half because I was hanging out with fans and doing photos and autographs, which is partly why we were there. Some of the many participants were Tyreke Evans, Sam Young, Josh Selby, Wes Mathews, Nolan Smith, Howard Thomkins and Travis Leslie. My team won, 171-169. The best part for me was getting a chance to connect with more Knicks fans praying for a season! It was a great turnout. The last couple days, I’ve spent time in the studio where Tupac was shot — Quad Recording Studios in Midtown. Definitely a magical feeling in that sort of work environment. I did a collaboration with Billz, an up-and-coming, unsigned Brooklyn group. This Thanksgiving, I have a lot to be thankful for. The lockout has given me a chance to for once have a lot of down time to spend with family and friends.
NEW YORK — Monta Ellis deserves credit for being the man to get this all started a few weeks ago. And sooner or later someone’s going to give the wacky days of trade chatter and pure speculation leading up to the NBA Draft a name.
The Great Speculations?
Basketball’s International Moving Parts Festival?
We’ll keep working on that. In the meantime, it’s time to dive in and sort through the all the mess just hours away from the 2011 Draft and see if we can’t make a little sense of all these rumors:
According to an NBA source, new Warriors coach Mark Jackson has made at least two phone calls to Monta Ellis to tell Ellis how much he would love to coach him.
Here’s a full report and breakdown of the latest Ellis info by CBSsports.com’s Ken Berger, who has been all over this situation and everything I’ve heard is totally consistent with this.
It’s an open secret around the league that Ellis and his representatives are starting to believe that this might be the right time to move him to a title contender.
Ellis is in his prime, has put in many years with the Warriors, and two sources indicate that there has been some frank general discussion between GSW management and Ellis’ camp about his future, the team’s future, and whether the two should remain entwined.
Big point: Ellis loves playing at Oracle Arena. He apparently also appreciates what Jackson has been telling him.
But he’s wondering the same thing many execs around the league are wondering: How else could the Warriors get a necessary bigger player if they don’t trade Ellis?
In recent weeks, the Sixers have discussed trades involving swingman Andre Iguodala with both the Golden State Warriors and Los Angeles Clippers, along with various other teams, but have yet to find a deal they deem worthy of execution.
Two factors seem to be slowing the Sixers’ willingness to deal Iguodala: the impending change in ownership and the impending lockout.