As we await word on David West‘s MRI results, we fear the worst. A torn ligament would end West’s season and make the Hornets short-handed as they look to clinch a playoff spot in the final 2 1/2 weeks of the season.
According to NBA.com StatsCube, the Hornets have been a better offensive team with West on the floor and a better defensive team with him on the bench.
Hornets efficiency, 2010-11
West on floor
West off floor
Pace = Possessions per 48 minutes
Off. Eff. = Points scored per 100 possessions
Def. Eff. = Points allowed per 100 possessions
The defensive numbers are somewhat encouraging, but we have to remember that, when West is on the bench, the Hornets are likely defending against second units that are weaker offensively.
Obviously, the trade the Hornets made at the deadline looks more important now. Marcus Thornton may be putting up big numbers in Sacramento, but Carl Landry makes for a somewhat suitable replacement at power forward with West out.
Landry’s numbers with the Hornets compare pretty well with West’s numbers for the season…
More rumblings on trade rumors from around the league …
WARRIORS AND NETS TALKING
The Golden State Warriors and New Jersey Nets are discussing a potential trade that would send disgruntled Nets forward Troy Murphy and a second-round draft pick to the Warriors in exchange for center Dan Gadzuric and forward Brandan Wright, according to league sources. But the deal has not yet been agreed to, according to sources involved in the talks.
The Nets have been committed to moving Murphy for weeks, after he fell out of favor with Coach Avery Johnson. Murphy has been home since early January, having played in just 18 games this season for New Jersey, averaging 3.6 points. But the 30-year-old Murphy has long been considered one of the league’s best rebounders and would be a good fit for a playoff team’s rotation. There has been speculation that Murphy will be bought out by whatever team trades for him, given that he’s on an expiring contract ($11.9 million this season), and would then sign with a contending team before the March 1 playoff roster deadline.
One source involved in the discussions cautioned that the potential trade was at best “50-50,” but confirmed the teams were talking, as has been rumored for a couple of weeks. Yahoo! Sports reported the trade was close to being done Tuesday.
The Nets acquired Murphy last August from Indiana as part of a four-team deal that sent guard Darren Collison from New Orleans to Indiana, along with swingman James Posey, with forward Trevor Ariza going from Houston to New Orleans and Houston getting guard Courtney Lee from New Jersey.
The 23-year-old Wright was a first-round pick in 2007 but has been slowed by injuries during his years with the Warriors, appearing in just 98 career games in almost four full seasons. Golden State acquired Gadzuric and guard Charlie Bell from Milwaukee last summer in a trade for forward Corey Maggette.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – For the longest time, going all the way back to middle of summer, we weren’t sure what it was Chris Paul was looking for.
We heard the rumors. Then we heard from him, dispelling the rumors. And then came the sit down meeting with the Hornets’ brass and word that everything was good.
But we still had no idea what it was CP3 wanted.
Then the season started and everything cleared up. The Hornets rolled to the best start in the league and went about their business like the summer and all the drama had never happened.
We see it now. Chris Paul wants his crown back, the one Deron Williams, Rajon Rondo, Steve Nash, Derrick Rose and several others have tried on in his absence from the throne as the NBA’s top point guard.
Even better, Paul is going about getting it back the ol’ fashioned way, he’s going to earn it back. It always helps when the organization has your back. And the Hornets are making all the right moves these days.
Their weekend trade — Toronto sent Jarrett Jack, David Andersen and Marcus Banks to New Orleans for Peja Stojakovic and Jerryd Bayless — is just the latest master stroke of new GM Dell Demps, who knows a thing or two about building a winner after working in San Antonio prior to taking over the Hornets in the summer.
(The Nuggets might want to take notes or at least call Demps for some pointers, what with Carmelo Anthony‘s name being mentioned more prominently than Paul’s in nearly every trade rumors since draft night.)
The message the Hornets are sending is as simple as it is impressive. If you want to keep your superstar happy and in the fold, don’t just talk about it, act like it!
The Hornets have not only reshaped the roster and shown Paul that they can put the winning pieces around him, they’ve also slid out from under the looming guillotine of the luxury tax, proving that you can be proactive and tax-minded at the same time (while retaining just enough usable assets to make more moves, if need be, in the coming months).
Think about all the work the Hornets have done since summer, all of the new faces that have been added and all of the dead weight tossed overboard. It’s a rather remarkable makeover on the go when you sit back and admire the changes. And they’ve used a splendid mix of old and new to run off this 11-1 start, which is a product of the approach of coach Monty Williams (the defensive-minded Hornets have allowed just one opponent to score 100 point so far).
David West and Emeka Okafor are playing fantastic basketball right now, as the top-flight recipients of Paul’s assists tend to do. But raise your hand if you knew where Marco Belinelli‘s played this time a year ago. Trevor Ariza, Willie Green and Jason Smith are all doing their part. And the additions of Jack and Andersen give the Hornets some much-needed depth.
With Jack in the backcourt rotation, he can play both spots, ensures that Paul’s minutes can be managed throughout the course of the season and the Hornets can continue their feel good story for the foreseeable future.
In the meantime, it might be time for someone to get Paul his crown back!
HOUSTON – Anybody need a 33-year-old shooter with a well-rested arm?
And a $15-million price tag?
Four games into the new season, a healthy Peja Stojakovic has already racked up a DNP and on Wednesday night was placed on the inactive list by first-year Hornets coach Monty Williams.
Stojakovic has been squeezed out of the rotation by the acquisition of Trevor Ariza and the 4-0 Hornets’ new emphasis on defense. He played a total of 22 minutes in the first two games of the season, taking a total of just seven shots and scoring 10 points.
“We mutually decided, myself and Peja, that he would go on the inactive list,” Williams said. “It’s a tough spot for him, not knowing when he’s going to play for the first time in his career.
“I take a lot of that blame, actually all of it, because I probably didn’t do a great job of communicating to him when he was going to play or if he wasn’t going to play. I tried to talk to him, but juggling all this stuff for the first time, well, I don’t want to make any excuses at all. I could have done a better job with him.”
It would seem like only a matter of time before the Hornets can get something for Stojakovic’s expensive expiring contract. But with so many teams trying to get their financial houses in order ahead of next summer’s potential labor shutdown, he could wind up as the league’s most expensive hood ornament.
At this point, Stojakovic and his expiring $15.3 million contract are more valuable on the bench than at any place in the New Orleans lineup.
All you need to know is that the Pacers were the big winner of the day, though we love Trevor Ariza alongside Chris Paul in New Orleans and Courtney Lee in Rick Adelman‘s system in Houston could produce major fireworks for Rockets fans.
Whenever one of these multi-team, multi-player trades go down people start gushing about cap space gained or luxury tax thresholds avoided, but none of those (very important) things can … A) run a team, B) make a shot, or C) grab a rebound.
The Pacers snagged the best tangible piece of the deal in Darren Collison, a franchise (I didn’t say All-Star, yet, just franchise for now) point guard that would have been the first point guard taken in the June draft had he spent five years at UCLA instead of four.
It’s been a while since the Pacers had a player with this kind of talent, stability and clear-cut leadership potential at that position — someone suggested this morning that Mark Jackson was the last point guard to wear a Pacers uniform with the complete package of skills and make-up that Collison brings.
Pacers boss Larry Bird certainly seems pleased.
“We liked him coming out of college. I didn’t think he’d have the year he did last year,” Bird said (check for more of his thoughts in the video above). “He’s solid. He likes to defend. We know he can shoot the ball. He did a great job in college of putting the ball in the hole. We think he’s a complete player. He’s a young point guard to go with the rest of the core group we have, and we’ll just keep building on it.”
They get their point guard. They get a veteran with a defensive mind-set. And they rid themselves of a lousy contract — although, it should be said that Murphy was relentlessly productive here.
This is what the Pacers were planning for when they embarked on their long-term rebuilding plan. They knew they couldn’t count on hitting some kind of free agent bonanza next summer, not with the dearth of big names out there — and good luck getting Carmelo Anthony to Indiana. But they knew their increasingly favorable financial status would put them in a position to steal players from teams desperate to get under the luxury-tax threshold.
Like the New Orleans Hornets.
And this is just the beginning of the wheeling and dealing.
The Pacers still figure to go into the season with several players in the final year of their deals — Mike Dunleavy ($10,561,984), T.J. Ford ($8.5 million) and Jeff Foster ($6.655 million), and Jamaal Tinsley‘s $5.5 million will come off the books. They can trade them now, trade them near the trading deadline or hold onto them and watch their dollars come off the payroll at season’s end.
It’s been so long since the Pacers were a factor in the Eastern Conference playoff chase that one current NBA player laughed Wednesday night when we tried to explain to him that they were a power on par with the Utah Jazz, in terms of consistent playoff appearances, as recently as five years ago.
I know it sounds crazy to anyone with long-term memory issues, but there was a time (before LeBron James showed up in Cleveland and before the Detroit Pistons seized control of the East for half a decade) that the Pacers were considered a model franchise.
They had a blend of veterans and quality young talent, a stable front office and marquee value around the league.
Then the brawl at the Palace of Auburn Hills happened (in 2004). The Pacers long road to recovery has been going on ever since, but we must admit that the road got a lot smoother with the addition of Collison.
He’s the first young, franchise-pillar they’ve added since they lucked into All-Star swingman Danny Granger with the 17th pick in the 2005 draft (courtesy of the miscalculations of a dozen teams that drafted ahead of them).
So if the Pacers are indeed just getting started with Granger and Collison as their main cogs, we like where this is going.
In the trade, the Houston Rockets sent Ariza to the Hornets, who in turn will send Collison and James Posey to the Pacers.
The Pacers sent Troy Murphy to the New Jersey Nets. And the Nets sent Courtney Lee to the Rockets.
According to the sources, the Rockets, Hornets, Pacers and Nets have agreed to the details of the trade and made it official with the league on Wednesday.
The Hornets didn’t stop there. NBA front office sources told ESPN.com’s Marc Stein that in a separate deal, the team agreed to send swingman Julian Wright to Toronto for Raptors guard Marco Belinelli. That deal, like the four-team trade, was also expected to be completed Wednesday.
That’s been Ron Artest‘s path throughout his first postseason as a member of the Los Angles Lakers.
One minute he’s taking an ill-advised jumper, the next he’s making a great defensive play to make up for it.
One minute he’s embroiled in a media/tweet-feud with his head coach about his penchant for those aforementioned ill-advised shots and the next he’s saving the day and rebounding and putting back a Kobe Bryant miss to win a game in the Western Conference finals against Phoenix.
No one still playing, on either team, has endured more of a roller coaster playoffs than Artest.
In a desperation Game 6 Tuesday night at Staples Center, Artest silenced his many critics — at least for one night — with one of his best performances of this series. He was controlled, efficient, tenacious and played with plenty of positive emotion on a night when his team needed his very best.
“I think Ron kick-started us with a couple [3-pointers] and got confidence in what he was doing,” Lakers coach Phil Jackson said. “He made some plays out there. Defensively, he felt more comfortable with what we were trying to do out there, I think, on the floor. And I thought he continued his game. It wasn’t just a little quarter burst or a little half, but I thought he continued playing the right way.”
Artest scored 15 points on 6-for-11 shooting, including a 50 percent showing (3-for-6) from beyond the 3-point line to pace everyone that worked on this night. It was an inspired effort from a guy that was torched by Paul Pierce for 27 points just 48 hours earlier in a dismal Game 5 showing in Boston.
“Ron played extremely well on both ends of the ball,” Bryant said. “He was patient, offensively and took the opportunities that were given to him. And defensively, he made things tough for Paul, and Paul is a tough cover, and he did a good job on him.”
The Lakers need him Artest to carry this momentum into Game 7.
And Artest needs to play well to finally rid himself of the perception that you can’t win big with him in your mix.
He needs to play well to shut up the crowd that’s still arguing for Trevor Ariza over him.
But more importantly, he needs to play well for Ron Artest.
HANG TIME HEADQUARTERS – Sorry Stephen Curry and Brandon Jennings.
You both made spirited runs for the Rookie of the Year honors. But the award already the name Tyreke Evans carved on it.
Any time you enter the ring with guys named Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James (as the only rookies to average 20, 5 and 5 for the season), you move to the head of the class.
That didn’t stop my main man Vince Thomas from trying, foolishly and without success, to argue against Evans on Episode 5 of the Hang Time Podcast with myself and NBA.com’s numbers guru John Schuhmann.
“Royalty of the political sort lined up for a close look at history in the making.
Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson and California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger sat in the courtside seats usually occupied by Kings owners Joe and Gavin Maloof.
The governor later was joined by new Kings President of Business Operations Matina Kolokotronis.
They would see Tyreke Evans join the elite company of Oscar Robertson, Michael Jordan and LeBron James.
But it was a former King and his new Houston teammate that proved to be the stars in a win.
Evans scored his 24th point with 6:46 left in the game to guarantee he would average at least 20 points, five rebounds and five assists for the season, joining Robertson, Jordan and James as the only rookies in NBA history to do so.
Meanwhile, former King Kevin Martin and Trevor Ariza led a comeback in what became a 117-107 win for the Rockets on Monday night in the Kings’ home finale at Arco Arena.
Martin, who was traded to Houston in February, scored 39 points in the manner Kings fans were accustomed to seeing him to do so in five-plus seasons. He made all 16 of his free throws to go with 11-of-20 shooting.
Ariza scored 29 points. The Rockets trailed by 14 in the first half but came back when Ariza got hot. He scored 19 points in the second half.
The result was of little consequence to fans who stayed to see Evans presented with the game ball and hope to catch a free T-shirt celebrating the occasion.
Kings coach Paul Westphal admitted the chase for 20-5-5 became a bit of a distraction as Evans neared 24 points but was glad Evans reached the mark at Arco.
“We’re pleased (Evans) got the record,” Westphal said. “Sorry it came in a loss. I understand the distraction because Tyreke forgot how to make layups when he was on the cusp.
“He’s the best layup maker in the NBA, and I think he was probably nervous, though I doubt he’d ever admit it.”
Here’s hoping we can put this argument to rest until John Wall, Derrick Favors and Evan Turner and the boys show up at the party.
Because right now, there’s only one guy for this award and his name is Tyreke Evans.