Posted Mar 16 2012 10:26AM
Another trade deadline, come and gone. So what have we learned?
We learned "The Indecision" was almost as dramatic as "The Decision." But at least Dwight Howard won't feel any public backlash for temporarily sticking with Orlando, not even in New Jersey or Brooklyn, because he might eventually wind up there after all.
And why is that? Because we learned "loyalty" has its limits. One year, or less, in this case. We'll see how loyal Dwight feels if the wheels fall off during the playoffs and no help arrives this offseason.
We learned Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy and general manager Otis Smith are trying to step up their game. For their sake.
We learned the Magic are title contenders. At least that's what Howard gave as one of the main reasons he decided to stick around. This came as news to Miami and Chicago.
But while Howard was the man who shook up the trade deadline, and the epicenter was located in Orlando, the rest of the league didn't exactly choose to be innocent bystanders. A handful of deals were done to satisfy both short-term and long-term goals.
Here's what else we learned:
The Blazers stopped fooling themselves. The dismantling of the Blazers was made official on what will be known in Portland as Bloody Thursday. But it began four years ago when Greg Oden's body began to break down. Quite fittingly, Oden was released on the same day the Blazers dumped Gerald Wallace and Marcus Camby and fired Nate McMillan, who had lost the locker room. Their reasoning is sound: Better to break it down, sink toward the bottom, hit the reset button and start over. They essentially bought themselves a (Draft) lottery ticket and a new start.
The Olympic coaching gig is cursed. Both assistants for Team USA this summer, McMillan and Mike D'Antoni, are out of work (though not for long). What next, Coach K retiring from Duke?
The Wizards want to be taken seriously, not silly-ously. Under normal circumstances, no team would rid themselves of a young and athletic 7-footer with amazing potential. But this is JaVale McGee, who has what we might kindly label as "maturity issues." The Wizards were done waiting on him and Nick Young to grow up. Getting Nene to replace McGee was a no-brainer; the Wizards didn't want to make a big-money decision on McGee this summer when he became a free agent. And Young, now with the Clippers, wasn't going to be re-signed this summer anyway. As much as this was addition by subtraction, what are they saying in Washington today? "Shoulda been you, Andray Blatche."
The Nets are still the Nets. When Howard chose "loyalty" over the Nets, it was a body blow felt from Newark to Brooklyn. Obviously, now the question is whether the Nets can re-sign Deron Williams this summer, and even if they do, if they can surround him with talent in a reasonable amount of time. The last thing the Nets need is to bring their stigma with them through the Lincoln Tunnel and across the Brooklyn Bridge to their new arena next season. That's because they'll have the tough task of making a name for themselves in Knicks Country, possibly without Williams in addition to Howard.
The Lakers are tired of Slowtime. An old and unathletic team received a needed touch-up with Ramon Sessions and Jordan Hill. Sessions, especially, is an upgrade over Derek Fisher, who couldn't keep up with quicker point guards. By keeping Pau Gasol, the Lakers can still call themselves a contender. But if they don't reach the Finals this summer, Gasol's no guarantee to return next season.
Only Gregg Popovich can connect with Stephen Jackson. You know Cap'n Jack. His honeymoons are absolutely glorious, but the sunsets can be downright brutal. Ask his former coaches and former general managers. They all loved his passion and energy and work ethic, but he quickly wore out his welcome in certain corners. But nobody worked better with Jack than Popovich, who gave Jackson his big chance a decade ago; Jackson transformed from a basketball misfit into a solid scorer who helped the Spurs win a title. Pop loves Jackson's toughness and believes it will fill a void for the Spurs in this, perhaps Tim Duncan's best chance to win a final title. They gave up Richard Jefferson, who didn't seem like a Popovich guy in his time in San Antonio.
The Warriors are shooting for Most Improved Team in 2012-13. You can sleep on the Warriors now, but make sure to wake up in time for next fall. Assuming Andrew Bogut can stay in one piece for a change, they'll have a good mix of young players and vets and could become a fan favorite in the Bay. Giving up Monta Ellis will free up time for Klay Thompson, a pure shooter. Jefferson will find a role and Bogut, a solid passing big man, can find the open shooter. If Steph Curry's ankle issues are in the past, they could push for a playoff spot next season.
Larry Bird is on a roll in Indy. Finally free of the financial shackles caused mainly by the Malice in the Palace -- yes, the reverberations lasted that long -- Bird has made some solid moves. In the last few years he's added David West, Roy Hibbert, George Hill, Darren Collison, Paul George and now Leandro Barbosa to give Danny Granger help. The Pacers were a tough out for the Bulls last summer, and at the very least, they're equipped to give Chicago or Miami a scare this postseason.
It's Carmelo or bust with the Knicks. If you believe the reports out of New York, D'Antoni wanted the Knicks to swap Carmelo Anthony for Deron Williams by the deadline. That never happened; D'Antoni left and Melo stayed. For better or worse, Melo is with the Knicks, who are still trying to find the best way to take advantage of what he can do while masking what he can't. It's far too early to suggest Melo will not work with the Knicks, but better players have received a much shorter leash in the big city than Melo. He and the Knicks are on the clock.
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