The timing is interesting, given how anemic the roster King has assembled has looked in its last two games against the Chicago Bulls. But Brooklyn was the most improved team in the league this season, and in his time with the Nets, King has turned Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow and Travis Outlaw into Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace.
Most improved teams, 2011-12 to 2012-13, NetRtg
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
The problem is that King gave up a Lottery pick for Wallace, who has really regressed this season and is owed over $30 million over the next three years. And he’s the fifth-highest paid player on the team. Given the restrictions of the new collective bargaining agreement, the Nets are mostly stuck with the roster they have, a roster that had no major injuries this season and finished fourth in the weaker conference.
They do hope that they have one card to play: trading Kris Humphries‘ contract (which expires next season) to upgrade one of the forward positions. In one of King’s more interesting moves last summer, Humphries was essentially re-signed to be traded. The Nets didn’t necessarily want to bring the power forward back, but if they let him go, they didn’t have the cap space to replace him with anything but a minimum-salary player. Re-signing Humphries gave them the opportunity to eventually deal him for someone who makes similar money, but they might not have the add-ins (young players with potential or potentially high draft picks) to entice another team to trade them a real difference maker.
A(nother) coaching change could also make a difference. Multiple reports indicate that interim coach P.J. Carlesimo probably won’t be retained at the end of the Nets’ playoff run. Carlesimo has stuck with vanilla lineups despite his team’s struggles against quality opponents, and the Nets could move up a couple of spots both offensively and defensively next season with a little more innovation from the bench.
So while his roster is mostly set, King still has some work to do. He has to try to find a taker for Humphries, and he has to (likely) hire a new coach.
BROOKLYN – The Brooklyn Nets gave one away on Thursday, blowing an early 16-point lead and falling to the very undermanned Chicago Bulls, 92-90. Ultimately, the loss may not mean anything, because the Nets still have a 1 1/2 game lead on the Bulls for fourth place in the Eastern Conference and face Lottery teams, against whom they’re 29-6 this season, in five of their last seven games.
A fourth-place finish in the East would give the Nets home-court advantage in first round, likely against Atlanta or Chicago. A loss in that series would be a disappointment, especially when you consider Brooklyn’s payroll. A win would set them up to lose in four or five games to the Miami Heat.
Other than losing in the first round, there’s no avoiding that fate, which has basically been the path the Nets have been on for the last couple of weeks, since the Knicks and Pacers started playing well again.
Injuries have been an issue. Deron Williams has missed just three games this season, but was clearly not at his best for the first 50 games, dealing with sore ankles and other various ailments. He’s been much better since the All-Star break, but Joe Johnson has had a couple of different injuries since then. Brook Lopez‘s foot injury in late November is what really knocked the Nets off track after a strong start. And Gerald Wallace, in standard Gerald Wallace fashion, has been banged up too.
The Nets have looked like a great team at times. They have road wins in Boston, Oklahoma City, New York and Indiana. But, other than a 12-2 stretch after P.J. Carlesimo took over for Avery Johnson, success has always been rather fleeting.
Carlesimo made some minor changes, gave Mirza Teletovic a shot in the rotation after the break, and is now giving MarShon Brooks more consistent playing time than he’s had all season. But he has been pretty vanilla with his lineups, and that’s where the Nets may be leaving something on the table.
Of Lopez’s 2,079 minutes on the floor, 1,639 (79 percent) have been played with either Reggie Evans or Kris Humphries at power forward. Neither Evans nor Humphries, of course, spaces the floor very well.
Teletovic is very different from Evans or Humphries, in that he can shoot from beyond five feet. But he has played just 112 minutes at the four next to Lopez.
Andray Blatchehas also shot the ball well out to 19 feet or so. But he has played just 86 minutes with Lopez. The Nets’ five best players are arguably Williams, Johnson, Wallace, Blatche and Lopez, a group that has played just 20 minutes together over four games this season.
One of the best lineups the Nets have had this season is a small one. Williams, Keith Bogans, Johnson, Wallace and Lopez have outscored their opponents by 18.3 points per 100 possessions in 107 minutes together. Now, those numbers are skewed somewhat by a couple of late-December games against the Bobcats and Cavs, but that lineup has played just seven minutes together since the All-Star break.
In total, Lopez has played just 242 minutes with someone other than Blatche, Evans, Humphries or Teletovic at power forward. And those minutes have been very good, especially defensively.
Nets efficiency with Brook Lopez on the floor
Other (small lineups)
OffRtg = Points scored per 100 possessions
DefRtg = Points allowed per 100 possessions
NetRtg = Point differential per 100 possessions
When asked about his lineups, Carlesimo has said that he goes with matchups. But he has obviously been leaning heavily on Evans of late, even using him on two crucial offensive possessions in the final minute of Thursday’s loss, thinking Evans might get the Nets a second chance with an offensive rebound.
The Nets have actually been better offensively with Evans on the floor (scoring 105.4 points per 100 possessions) than with him off the floor (103.8), but most of those off-floor minutes have come with Humphries, similarly limited offensively, at power forward.
This is why it’s hard to know if we’ve seen the best of the Nets this season. Those 242 minutes of small-ball aren’t a lot to go on. And neither are the 86 minutes Lopez has played with Blatche.
Lopez is Brooklyn’s most important player on both ends of the floor. And in the playoffs, his minutes should surely increase from the 30.7 per game he’s played in the regular season. Does that mean that Blatche will be limited to just 10-12 minutes, or will we actually see the two on the floor together? Is there a matchup (Josh Smith, perhaps) that will allow Carlesimo to play Wallace at the four?
In four games against Atlanta (all under Carlesimo), the Nets have played small a total of seven minutes. So the answer to that last question is probably “no.”
Now, it’s unfair to really condemn the coach for not taking more chances with his rotation. He took over in the middle of the season, with the Nets going through a serious rough patch. More than anything, they just needed to get their best players playing well. And obviously, Lopez and Williams are doing just that.
Still, we have to wonder if this team has reached its potential.
Missed a game last night? Wondering what the latest news around the NBA is this morning? The Morning Shootaround is here to try to meet those needs and keep you up on what’s happened around the league since the day turned.
The one recap to watch: Fourteen games on the slate all-but ensured plenty of drama around the Association … and that’s exactly what we got. There were several comeback games, but most notably Jazz-Cavs (which Cleveland won), Celtics-Pacers (which Boston won), Lakers-Hornets (which L.A. won) and Magic-Heat (which Miami won). Whew! Lot of great games to pick from just from that slate, and we’re not even getting to Blazers-Grizz (another rally, this time by Memphis) or Kings-Warriors (where Klay Thompson played the hero). Picking one comeback over another is never easy, but that is what we’re here to do: make the tough decisions. All that said, we’re going with Celtics-Pacers as our one to watch this morning. Indiana seemingly had this one in the bag thanks to some clutch baskets by George Hill, but Kevin Garnett showed why he’s a future Hall of Famer with his pinpoint pass to Jeff Green to clinch the win.
Lakers bond stronger after rally — In case you were living under a rock last night (or even this morning) and missed the Lakers’ epic comeback from a 25-point hole in New Orleans last night, our multimedia crew has all the best moments from L.A.’s stunning win. A win like the one the Lakers experience last night not only helped get them closer to the No. 8 spot in the West playoff race, but also created more of a bond amongst the team. Mark Medina of the L.A. Daily News has more:
The Lakers’ 108-102 victory Wednesday over the New Orleans Hornets didn’t just mark a game in which they overcame a 25-point deficit against a sub.-500 opponent.
This didn’t just mark the first time the Lakers overcame such a large gap since overcoming a 30-point deficit against the Dallas Mavericks in 2002. The Lakers’ latest win gave them renewed confidence they can overcome any obstacle.
“Games like this really strengthen the bond between us players,” Lakers guard Kobe Bryant said. “That’s really what the playoffs are all about. You have adversity. It’s about who’s going to stick together and who’s not going to break.”
It helps that the win improves the bottom line results, too.
With the Utah Jazz losing Tuesday to Cleveland, the Lakers (31-31) trail Utah (32-29) by only 1 games for the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot.
The Lakers sat in their locker room afterwards eagerly watching the final minutes of Houston’s loss to Dallas.
“Come on, Dallas!” Lakers forward Metta World Peace yelled from his stall. “Do what you gotta do!”
With Houston’s loss, the Lakers are only two games behind the Rockets (33-29) for the seventh seed.
Bryant took over the offense by scoring 18 of his 42 points in the fourth quarter. Dwight Howard overcame early foul trouble by taking a large defensive role, including blocking Robin Lopez’s layup attempt with 27 seconds remaining. Reserve guard Jodie Meeks posted 12 of his 18 points in the fourth quarter by making 4 of 5 three-point attempts.
“Dwight played big. When he’s like that and Kobe’s like this, that’s kind of what everybody envisioned it would be,” Lakers coach Mike D’Antoni said. “We hope we can build on this.”
The roles worked out perfectly.
Woodson: Anthony has fluid buildup in knee — After admitting that he should have pulled Carmelo Anthony out of Monday’s game in Cleveland when Anthony asked instead of letting him suffer a knee injury, Knicks coach Mike Woodson said his star forward will get his rest now. An MRI revealed that Anthony has fluid buildup in his injured right knee and will be taking a seat for a few games, writes Al Iannazzone of Newsday:
Mike Woodson said the MRI on Carmelo Anthony’s injured right knee showed “some fluid buildup” in there.
“That’s what’s causing the stiffness,” Woodson said. “Rest will probably be the best thing for him.”
Anthony rested Wednesday night, sitting out against the Pistons. Woodson said Anthony would be evaluated again Thursday night and if he feels better, he could play against the Thunder at the Garden. Woodson said it will be Anthony’s decision.
“I’ll do whatever he wants to do,” Woodson said. “Trust me. Players know their own body. If he tells me he wants to play I’m going to play him. I’m not going to fight him on that . . . If he says, ‘Coach, I need to sit down and rest a game or two,’ I’m going to grant that, absolutely.”
The irony is Woodson said Anthony asked out of Monday’s game in Cleveland before he aggravated his knee and the coach didn’t listen to him.
“He just kind of nodded that his knee wasn’t right,” Woodson said. “I kind of ignored it somewhat. Maybe I shouldn’t have.”
After tripping over his own feet, Anthony fell in the second quarter in Cleveland. When he got up, he walked right to the locker room and never returned. The Knicks were down 22 at the time and rallied to win behind a strong game from Amar’e Stoudemire. This was the seventh game Anthony has missed all or part of this season.
“Obviously he was hurting,” Woodson said. “He asked me to bring him out. I kind of ignored it because we were down. I probably should have taken him out and then he took the spill and he left the game because he was hurting. I didn’t heed to it because I’ve seen him banged up and hit and things of that nature.”
Howard’s comments irritate ex-Orlando mates Lewis, Nelson — In the 2004 Draft, the Magic took Dwight Howard with the No. 1 overall pick and, 19 picks later, worked out a savvy trade with the Nuggets to add Jameer Nelson to the fold, too. Three seasons later, with the Magic as a budding young team in the East, Orlando added Rashard Lewis as a free agent. From there, the Magic began a steady climb in the East, culminating in a 2009 Finals appearance as well as three division titles. Nelson and Lewis joined Howard as All-Stars in 2009, but apparently Dwight’s memory of his teammates and his days in Orlando isn’t so clear. His comments to a local CBS affiliate in L.A. about his Magic teammates riled up Nelson and Lewis, who is now with the Heat. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel has more:
Former Magic forward Rashard Lewis called Dwight Howard’s recent comments about his former Magic teammates “disrespectful” and defended Jameer Nelson, once one of Howard’s closest friends.
Howard told a CBS affiliate in L.A. that “my team in Orlando was a team full of people who nobody wanted, and I was the leader and I led that team with a smile on my face.”
Howard, Lewis and Nelson were on the Magic team that defied odds and reached the NBA Finals in 2009.
“It’s disrespectful more than anything. We helped Dwight become the player he was,” said Lewis, who signed this summer with the Miami Heat, which faced the Magic on Wednesday night.
“We made a good run. Hell, look at those (conference and division) banners hanging in the stands. They don’t say Dwight Howard on them…”
Nelson said after shootaround that he was disappointed in Howard’s professionalism.
“At some point, when are you a gonna as a man, when are you going to take ownership and stay out of the media in a professional manner,” Nelson told the Sentinel.
“I would be less of a man to comment on certain things that people comment on about me and my teammates. We had a great run as a group, as core guys, and he was a part of it (reaching the 2009 Finals) and for him to say things about anybody in a negative manner, that’s up to him.”
Nelson and Howard were close, drafted together in the first round in 2004.
But their relationship eroded after Howard said before he was traded to the Lakers last summer that he would love to play with some of the league’s elite point guards, such as Chris Paul.
Former Magic General Manager Otis Smith said that Howard “threw Jameer under the bus.”
Said Lewis, “Everybody on that team was very close friends. Not only that, but Jameer Nelson, out of all people. I don’t care. I got thick skin. That stuff bounces off me…but him and Jameer are supposed to be best friends.
“Jameer kept his mouth shut for a long time..you hear him (Dwight) say stuff like Chauncey Billups, Chris Paul, this guy, that guy and Jameer Nelson is the one who took us to the Finals, who helped, even though he got injured.”
Nets opt to bench Humphries — Enteringthe season, Nets forward Kris Humphries was fresh off back-to-back double-double campaigns in which he had elevated himself as one of the free-agent gems of 2012. Humphries re-signed with Brooklyn and was the Nets’ starting power forward for the first 18 games, but since then has seen his minutes dwindle. He’s averaging a mere 5.5 ppg and 5.9 rpg this season, with averages of 2.1 ppg and 4.1 rpg since the All-Star break. It’s not much of a surprise, then, that the Nets are going to dwindle Humphries’ minutes even further as they gear up for the playoffs, writes Seth Walder and Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News:
Kris Humphries’ official divorce from Kim Kardashian is fast approaching, but his divorce from playing time will come much sooner. According to a league source, Humphries was informed by coach P.J. Carlesimo Wednesday morning that he will no longer be part of the Nets’ shortened rotation.
Carlesimo has said in recent days that he wants to limit the rotation to nine or 10 players as the Nets head into the stretch run before the postseason.
The 6’9″ forward is averaging 18.4 minutes per game this season, a number that has dwindled substantially since the beginning of the year.
The decision to bench Humphries is curious given how fervently the Nets have worked to keep him. In July, the Nets inked the forward to a two-year, $24 million contract. Two weeks ago, at the trade deadline, the Nets could have traded Humphries to their opponent Wednesday night, Charlotte, in a deal that would have brought back Ben Gordon. And yet, despite their commitment to Humphries financially and the value he could have returned in the trade market, his only spot on the team for the foreseeable future will be on the bench.
Carlesimo has preferred Reggie Evans to Humphries since taking over as coach, despite the fact that Evans essentially offers nothing in the offense department (3.4 points per game). Evans has shot just 46% from under and around the basket, according to NBA.com. Evans has had 22% of his shots blocked this year and 33% blocked in February and March. Though Humphries hasn’t displayed a vast improvement on the offensive end of the floor this year, he has been better, and has demonstrated some talent in that respect of the game in previous seasons.
Humphries hasn’t performed at the level that the Nets presumably hoped when they signed him to a lucrative contract in the offseason.
Carlesimo spoke about the rotation Wednesday morning in Charlotte, saying he wanted to limit it to 10 players and that MarShon Brooks will be part of that rotation.
“I think 10 for now. We’re looking more 10. We want to play minimum four bigs and it would be hard to take one of the smalls out of the rotation,” Carlesimo said. “I’m not hung up on the number as much as, for us, coming off the bench, there’s nights we need defense and there’s nights we need offense.”
Budinger, Love await word from doctors– As our own Steve Aschburner documented on Hang Time last night, the Wolves lost 242 man games through their first 57 games to injuries. Two key names on that list, Chase Budinger and All-Star Kevin Love, have missed a combined 90 games and have been a big reason why Minnesota has disappointed so much this season. Good news may be on the horizon for those two players, though, as they are scheduled to talk to their respective doctors this week, writes Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune:
Injured Timberwolves forward Chase Budinger will speak by phone with his Florida knee surgeon Tuesday, hopeful he’ll be cleared to practice again with his teammates soon thereafter.
On Wednesday, two-time All Star Kevin Love will revisit his New York City surgeon seeking clearance to play with a healing right shooting hand he has broken not once but twice this season.
Both could be back playing games within two weeks, three weeks at most for Budinger.
With such similar timetables, could both such long-awaited returns possibly come on the same night?
“You never know,” Love said. “You never know.”
Either way, both hope to play at least the season’s final 15 games, Love perhaps a little more than that.
Love said he’ll join the team in Houston the Friday after his Wednesday’s doctor’s visit. He said he won’t play immediately that night even if he does get doctor’s clearance —like he did when he came back the first time in November — because he had surgery this time, on Jan. 15.
But probably not too terribly long after that …
“It’s really up to the doctor and myself and Glen and David,” he said, referring to owner Glen Taylor and basketball President David Kahn. “But until I see what the doctor says, I just won’t know.”
ICYMI of the night: We aren’t sure if this Jamal Crawford-to-Blake Griffin is the dunk of the year, but it has got to be in the running:
If Thursday’s NBA trade deadline was a movie, the audience would have walked out in the middle from boredom. This freeze came straight from the script that is the league’s new collective bargaining agreement — with its harsher luxury tax penalties and diminished roster flexibility for tax offenders — it put the clamps on a stunningly uneventful deadline day.
The big names were on the opening credits: Josh Smith, Paul Millsap, Al Jefferson, Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett, Eric Gordon, Eric Bledsoe, Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis.
Yet, when the curtain closed at 3 p.m. ET, Orlando Magic sharpshooter J.J. Redick stole the show as the lone player of significance to switch teams. The Milwaukee Bucks acquired the career 39.8 percent 3-point shooter in a six-player deal that involved five other relatively anonymous NBA names.
Only one potential blockbuster deal percolated, but ultimately died on the vine with the Atlanta Hawks going the distance in an attempt to strike a deal with the Bucks for Smith before pulling back. One reason so few big deals were discussed was simply because there wasn’t much talent realistically in play, a point that goes beyond any ramifications of the CBA.
The CBA that took effect in December 2011, and begins to smack tax-paying teams with stiffer fines next season, has clearly put franchises on the defensive. Teams that were once willing to add salary to consummate a deal no longer are. Teams that once didn’t think twice about sweetening a deal with a first-round pick, suddenly guard them with their lives.
“Cap room and draft picks, which are usually the currency of how these [big] deals get done, were at a huge premium and are something that everyone wants to have,” said Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, who steered the most active club at the deadline with a couple of lower-tier deals.
There’s really no greater example of the effect of these changes than the Dallas Mavericks and their braintrust, owner Mark Cuban and president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson. Chronic and strategic over-spenders and tax payers under the old CBA, Cuban, who took on salary in deadline deals for Jason Kidd in 2008 and Caron Butler, Brendan Haywood and DeShawn Stevenson in 2010, analyzed the new rules and reversed field last year.
He dismantled the 2011 championship team, choosing to covet cap space and the roster flexibility granted to teams that remain under the tax threshold, as well as newfound valuing of first-round draft picks as low-priced labor and trade assets.
It’s a strategy that no longer has the Mavs on speed dial of teams looking to make a deal and dump salary.
“It’s definitely a factor,” Nelson said of the CBA’s chilling effect Thursday after the deadline expired. “There’s no question that folks have their eye on the inevitable, and there’s no question that people are getting their collective houses in order.
“There’s some teams that see that on the horizon and act early, and other teams that will procrastinate and pay a dear price. But I think we’re right in the middle of that. It’s not brand-new news and so, yeah, I think you’re going to see a lot of teams try to correct themselves financially.”
The so-called “repeater” tax really has teams scared. Several clubs tried to deal away lost-cost players to avoid the repeater tax, which will whack franchises with an additional fine if they go over the tax line in three of four seasons. Golden State was successful in this venture. Chicago was not and will pay a luxury tax for the first time since its implementation.
This “repeater” penalty deterred teams from making deals that would have pushed payroll even slightly over the tax line, deals they might have normally green-lighted in the old days. So, is this the way of the future under the current rules?
“I can’t predict the future,” Morey said, “but I think the trend is more this way.”
Rockets: Morey’s stockpiling of assets the last couple years has been questioned, but he’s turned it into quite a haul starting with James Harden prior to the start of the season. The day before the deadline, Morey acquired the No. 5 overall pick, Thomas Robinson, from Sacramento. Morey’s dealing didn’t damage an abundance of cap space next summer that will be used to pursue a top free agent such as Dwight Howard and Josh Smith.
Bucks: GM John Hammond didn’t get his big fish in Smith, but he pulled off the deal for Redick, who should really help a club that’s been skidding down the East standings and needs a boost. Hammond held onto Jennings and Ellis and will have room to maneuver in the summer to add more pieces.
Thunder: GM Sam Presti continues to make shrewd moves. The acquisition of Ronnie Brewer from the New York Knicks for a second-round pick gives OKC another strong perimeter defender to help Thabo Sefolosha.
Celtics:Jordan Crawford might not be Jamal Crawford, but he can score in bunches and Boston was desperate to bolster its injury-ravaged guard backcourt. Boston fans are the winners here, too, with the team’s heart and soul, Garnett and Pierce, staying put.
Mavericks: Sure, on the surface, picking up 3-point specialist Anthony Morrow for defensive-minded guard Dahntay Jones doesn’t sound like much. But then SheridanHoops.com reminded us of this Dwight Howard interview in Russia when he named Morrow as one of a handful of players he’d like to have as a teammate.
Blazers: The team with the leanest bench in the NBA finally got some help in a minor deal that netted OKC guard Eric Maynor, who lost his job early on to Reggie Jackson. Maynor will help Rookie of the Year frontrunner Damian Lillard reduce his 38.5 mpg workload.
Hawks: They didn’t get the deal done to ship out Smith and now it seems they will lose him for nothing in free agency. On one level, however, it’s hard to say that this is a definitive loss. They’ll keep Smith (who might or might not come away from this experience deflated) for the rest of the season, and, with any luck, try to keep him while recruiting friend and fellow Atlantan Howard next summer. If GM Danny Ferry wasn’t pleased with the deals presented, it doesn’t always pay to take something, anything just because in the end you could be left with nothing. If Smith leaves, the Hawks will take the cap space and look to spin it in their favor.
Magic: They deal away a useful player and one they drafted in Redick and hand over his Bird Rights to the Bucks. There was no guarantee that Redick would re-sign with Orlando, but he at least had said the door was open to a return. The Magic’s Josh McRoberts to Charlotte deal for Hakim Warrick is a head-scratcher.
Knicks: They didn’t upgrade at any position and gave away a solid defender in Brewer, who was starting for the club during their hot start out of the gates, but had slipped out of the rotation. New York did use the roster vacancy to sign veteran power forward Kenyon Martin.
Nets: They failed to land another high-priced player in Smith and failed to unload one of their own, Kris Humphries.
HANG TIME, Texas — The clock ticks down, the trade deadline draws near and all 30 NBA general managers are burning up their phones with possibilities realistic and absurd.
Some need to make deals to solidify playoff teams, others simply can’t bear the thought of sitting still. As Thursday gets closer, here are seven GMs with big decisions to make:
Danny Ferry, Atlanta Hawks
Is it finally time to give up on the hope that Josh Smith can be more than a numbers-gatherer in Atlanta? Ferry, the first-year Hawks’ GM, wasted no time in moving out Joe Johnson’s big contract. Part of the decision was that J-Smoove would blossom without Iso-Joe taking up a big part of the offense. Instead he’s averaging 1.4 fewer points and one rebound less than a year ago, his efficiency rating is down from 21.14 to 19.90 and he’s shooting only 50 percent from the free-throw line. The sense is that it’s “just time.” Still, that doesn’t mean Ferry has to move him. He’s positioned the Hawks so that they could afford to keep Smith and still sign a pricey free agent next summer. But that won’t stop the likes of the Bucks, Suns, Celtics, Wizards and Sixers from making a run. The Rockets have long had eyes for Smith, but might be more inclined to wait to make their moves in free agency.
Danny Ainge, Boston Celtics
Despite their 8-1 record since Rajon Rondo’s season ended due to torn knee ligaments, it’s too hard to see the Celtics making a serious and deep playoff run on the aging legs of Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. The obvious move would be with the 36-year-old Garnett and making that long-rumored deal to the Clippers (Eric Bledsoe). The challenge is getting K.G. to waive the no-trade clause in his contract. Can Ainge appeal to Garnett’s own best interest to get another ring or his loyalty to the Celtics organization to help them start over? Even if Rondo’s knee injury isn’t as severe as first thought and he’s able to get back on the floor for the start of training camp, the rebuilding in Boston has to start sometime. It might as well be now.
Billy King, Brooklyn Nets
If King could know for sure that Deron Williams will shake off the injuries and inefficiency and return to the All-Star form he showed in Utah, then he’d be more inclined to sit back and put his feet up. Or maybe not in the realm of Mikhail Prokhorov. The Russian billionaire owner is willing to shell out big bucks, but also expects immediate results and does not handle mediocrity well. See Avery Johnson, who was fired with a 14-14 record, a Coach of the Month title pinned to his resume. The Nets will likely try to get Paul Millsap from the Jazz and could be in the running for the popular Josh Smith. Last year’s All-Rookie team member MarShon Brooks is on the block. Would Charlotte’s offer of Ben Gordon for Kris Humphries be enough? The Nets have been so inconsistent that with the possibility of a first-round bounce due to a bad matchup looming, you have to believe King won’t sit still.
Donnie Nelson, Dallas Mavericks
“The Bank of Cuban is open.” That was team owner Mark Cuban’s declaration last month, but what must be determined is in which direction the Mavericks are headed right now. They enter the post-All-Star stretch six games under .500 and 4 1/2 games out of the last playoff spot in the West. If the Mavs decide they’re better off reloading with a fully-recovered Dirk Nowitzki next season, they certainly have a good trade chip in Vince Carter, who’d be a wonderful addition to any playoff contender. He could also bring in future assets for Shawn Marion, Chris Kaman and Elton Brand.
Daryl Morey, Houston Rockets
You put him in this slot just because Morey lives with an itchy trigger finger and might be inclined to make a deal just because he can. But with the James Harden steal under his belt and the free agency hits on Omer Asik and Jeremy Lin, the Rockets will probably strike only if it’s a chance at a home run. With the youngest team in the league, a position in the West playoff race and a payroll that could make them big, big players in free agency, next summer is probably when they’ll make their move. But Houston is now big-game hunting for talent to play with Harden. If a chance to scoop up a true All-Star comes their way, Morey won’t hesitate.
Mitch Kupchak, L.A. Lakers
It’s almost obligatory to put the Lakers on any potential trade deadline list, despite Kupchak saying publicly that he’s not at all interested in dealing Dwight Howard or breaking up his All-Star group of underachievers at this point. He can’t trade Pau Gasol as long as the possibility exists that Howard walks as a free agent next summer — which it does. Besides, the Lakers problems are not about needing more players but getting the ones they have to play every night with passion.
Dennis Lindsey, Utah Jazz
Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson? Al Jefferson or Paul Millsap? With the contracts of both of the frontcourt veterans expiring, it was assumed since Day One of this season that the rookie GM Lindsey would have to deal one of them by the deadline, if for no other reason than to make room and more playing time for Derrick Favors. It would seem to make sense, but only if the Jazz can get a bonafide star in return. That’s what the 30-24 team lacks right now. But there is no reason to make a deal just to make a deal. The future is based on a young core of Favors, Gordon Hayward, Enes Kanter and Alec Burks. Millsap is the more likely one to go, but maybe only for another expiring contract in return. Salt Lake City is not a desired location for free agents. But as the effects of the new collective bargaining agreement are felt and big names teams try to avoid the increasingly punishing luxury tax, players will want to simply get paid. Don’t expect a panic move here.
I don’t know about you guys, but my inbox is flooded with trade offers in my four leagues. It would be great if any of the deals were better than Goran Dragic and Klay Thompson for Carmelo Anthony. Yawn. Unfortunately, most of the offers are 2-for-1 deals where I’M the one giving up the best player. The idea is to consolidate depth into a better starter, so make sure you are getting the best player in any proposed deal.
In order to get out in front of the Feb. 21 trade deadline, I’m back with several players to pick up and stash with the hope that a deadline deal will improve their fantasy value.
Kris Humphries, Nets: With the Nets talking to the Hawks about Josh Smith, Humphries could be heading to Atlanta, where he would play starter’s minutes and get back to average a double-double. Suffice to say, if the Nets are going to reunite Josh with Joe Johnson in Brooklyn, the Hawks better get a lot more than Humphries in return.
Derrick Williams, Timberwolves: When you see Williams soaring through the air for alley oop dunks and stopping on a dime for long threes, you think he might be about to realize the potential that made him a #2 overall pick. Problem is, the more you watch Williams, the more you see how weak his motor is. There’s a reason why he can’t stay on the floor even when Kevin Love is out. That said, I want to give Williams one change of scenery before I label him a bust. Not sure where he’s going, but my guess is that Williams will be dealt in the next 7-10 days.
Marcus Thornton, Kings: After his trade from New Orleans to Sacramento in 2010-11, Thornton averaged 21.3 points in his first 27 games as a King. Last year, he averaged 18.7 points in 35 minutes. This year, Thornton barely plays, averaging 11.4 points in 24 minutes. I realize he’s shooting only 40 percent from the field, but I’m confident that percentage would rise with more consistent playing time—right along with his threes and steals. The Kings are usually good for a deadline deal or two, which could increase Thornton’s fantasy value.
Enes Kanter, Jazz: Speculation entering the season was that the Jazz were going to trade Paul Millsap or Al Jefferson to open up playing time for Kanter and Derrick Favors. As we approach the trade deadline, I am even more confident that one of Utah’s veteran bigs will be dealt. As such, beat the rush and pick up Kanter now because he may be playable as early as next week.
Moe Harkless, Magic: If the Magic decide to trade JJ Redick, then the rookie out of St. John’s will play more minutes and take more shots. Redick recently missed three games with a shoulder injury and Harkless averaged 41+ minutes during that stretch. Then Redick returned on Sunday against Portland and Harkless played only 30 minutes, racking up 4 points and 4 rebounds. If Redick goes to Chicago or anywhere else, the Magic will take a longer look at their potential small forward of the future. Harkless is a defensive stat stuffer, going for at least one steal in 6 of the last 7 games, and at least one block in 4 of the last 5.
The Nets’ Gerald Wallace was fined $35,000 and Boston’s Kevin Garnett $25,000 for escalating the fight.
Rondo will sit out Friday night when the Trail Blazers visit Boston and Saturday’s game in Milwaukee.
According to ESPNBoston.com, Rondo did not seem to regret his action when he spoke to the media at Thursday’s practice, prior to the announcement of the suspension:
“I know I have to be out there for my teammates,” he said. “That’s the only thing about it. But I was sticking up for my teammates. I didn’t try to start a fight. I’m not trying to be a bully. I just didn’t think the play was fair that he made on Kevin, that’s all.”
Never mind the lame excuse that the snarling Garnett needs somebody to stand up for his honor. It’s not like this was the first time for Rondo. He was suspended for a game in the playoffs last season when he bumped a referee and was slapped with a two-game suspension for heaving the ball at an official in the 2010-11 season.
As long as he keeps piling up 10- and 20-assist games and triple-doubles, Rondo’s sheer talent will keep him in any conversation about the league’s best point guard.
But when it comes to being The Guy, temperament, composure, just plain cool in the heat of the battle matters.
It’s like the old saying about the lottery: You’ve got to play to win.
Just when it looks like they could really be building something, all everyone wants to talk about is their building, the futuristic and upscale Barclays Center.
And here in the early weeks of the 2012-13 NBA season, when a 5-2 start is enough to get Jay-Z’s toes tapping, New York and the rest of the league is dancing in amazement at the 6-0 start by the Knicks.
Yet for all that, maybe it’s quite understandable for the Nets to be uncelebrated, because theirs is a lineup that in a celebrity-driven league can go as undetected on the radar.
Deron Williams is a big-time name that belongs up on any marquee. But the trio of Joe Johnson, Brook Lopez and Kris Humphries has the bland aura of a buttoned-down law firm.
What matters, of course, is winning and the appreciation will overtake the image if the Nets continue to do that. For now, what’s changed is that the relocation to Brooklyn and the new digs has given them a bit of swagger, as was noticed by even the always-swaggering Celtics in Thursday’s loss.
“They have a lot more confidence,” Kevin Garnett noticed, about these new Nets. “They also got a lot of calls tonight.”
It was good to hear an opponent gripe about officiating, rather than smirk at another feeble effort from the home team. And here’s another change from the Jersey era: most fans actually cheered for the Nets in Brooklyn, instead of for the Celtics.
“It was a fantastic environment to play in,” Lopez said. “It hasn’t been like that here in a long time.”
Not everything is perfect. Avery Johnson has yet to completely trust his team’s defense, understandably. He ordered his players to foul the Celtics in the final minute, sending them to the line, rather than let Paul Pierce launch a possible back-breaking three-pointer. Boston missed four foul shots in those waning seconds, rendering the Net coach an accurate soothsayer.
“It was one of the bigger games that we had,” Johnson said. “To win a close game like that without Gerald Wallace means a lot.”
The Nets are now 5-2, while reminding nobody of Dave DeBusschere, Willis Reed, Charles Oakley or even Kenyon Martin. New Yorkers have always worshipped the fine art of stubborn resistance, from shot-blocking to sacrificing the body in the lane. We may have to make some new allowances for these Nets, who are doing things differently.
When comic actor Charles Grodin (The Heartbreak Kid, Midnight Run) penned his sardonic autobiography a couple decades ago, he entitled it “It Would Be So Nice If You Weren’t Here: My Journey Through Show Business.”
If Brooklyn Nets center Brook Lopez were to slap a headline on his journal entries for 2012, he could pretty much use the same thing, swapping “Nets organization” for the reference to show biz.
For the first six months or so of 2012, it looked like the best thing Lopez could do for the Nets would be to leave. Leave, that is, specifically as the centerpiece of a package of players and draft picks shipped to the Orlando Magic for All-Star Dwight Howard.
Instead, Lopez will be the Nets’ center piece for their dramatic first season in Brooklyn. Never mind that snazzy Maserati in the showroom, kids. We’re driving home in the Buick!
Lopez and still-teammate MarShon Brooks made an appearance at the Nets’ inaugural team store at the Barclays Center, and Howard Beck of the New York Times wrote about the big man’s reset button getting pushed:
Lopez is one of two Nets (along with Kris Humphries) remaining from the humiliating 2009-10 season, when they lost a franchise-record 70 games. He chuckled when it was suggested he had earned this moment.
“I’m pumped,” he said. “Throughout that whole process, everyone kept talking about Brooklyn and stuff like that, how exciting it was going to be. So I just focused on making myself a better player, helping my team in any way possible. And with all the talk I heard about Brooklyn, I knew it was just something I wanted to be part of. It was something that was going to be big.”
Yeah, well, that’s what Nets fans felt about Howard. When the dominating diva, early in his soap opera-ish final season in Orlando, cited the Nets as the one destination he would accept via trade, Lopez immediately became expendable. Chattel frankly, an asset to be moved, a salary to match up against Howard’s per NBA trade rules, a facilitator of greater days ahead for the franchise with which he had spent his first four NBA seasons.