Expect bidding for Mayo to begin at some point
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"The most interesting name that I believe is going to come up is that of O.J. Mayo," writes Sam Smith. "I can’t say I’ve heard any discussions yet, but it’s as obvious as when I started writing about Pau Gasol being dealt a year before he was."
We’re going to hear three big names this season regarding trades. Carmelo Anthony, obviously, is one of them since no one around the NBA expects him to remain in Denver.
I’ve got a friend there, not in basketball, but a native who has a good sense of the community and the game. I was asking him about Anthony, and he thought it was time for him to go. I noticed popular Denver Post columnist Mark Kizla had the same sentiment a while back. My friend related that Anthony came to Denver and said he’d make them forget John Elway. My friend said it’s not like they’re losing Michael Jordan. Plus, my friend noted Anthony’s wife has been very negative about Denver and the community basically feels she’s calling the shots for him now. By the way, Anthony can sign that extension—which he will—anytime during the season. The Nov. 1 date is just on rookie deals.
Although they’ve denied it and said they want to stay where they are, it’s no sure thing for Tony Parker and Chris Paul. The Spurs seem like they’ll be hard pressed to extend Parker given Manu Ginobili’s extension, George Hill’s development and the small market payroll woes. Paul has said that flirtation with leaving is behind him, but the Hornets have looked awful, losing by 54 Sunday, and it’s tough to see where they’ll have the firepower to complement Paul. They won’t want to move him, but he might get uneasy again.
The most interesting name that I believe is going to come up is that of O.J. Mayo. I can’t say I’ve heard any discussions yet, but it’s as obvious as when I started writing about Pau Gasol being dealt a year before he was. The NBA more than any league is a have and haves not by market size, and with Rudy Gay getting a max deal this summer and both Zach Randolph and Marc Gasol, their two most important players, both with expiring deals this season, there’s no way Memphis is going to be able to afford four eight figure contacts.
So what do you know, in the team’s last preseason game, rookie shooting guard Xavier Henry started. Sure, coaches experiment in preseason. But Henry has been getting unusual attention in Grizzlies’ camp.
At one practice, according to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, the team needed a player to make two free throws to finish. Coach Lionel Hollins called on Henry, who made both. The next day, they needed one player to make a free throw, another to make two and a third player for a three. Henry shot the three.
Mayo’s a nice shooting guard, but not exceptionally athletic. He’ll never be an All-Star. He’s a good three-point shooter, but not great. Pretty good at a lot of things. Not great at anything. But he clearly considers himself a key to the team. Better to move a guy like that than get un an ugly negotiation at a time you have higher priorities.
"He's NBA ready," Tony Allen said of Henry. "He's pretty skilled and highly talented. He can shoot, score, defend and make plays. He's aggressive at all times, and that's the key to him being successful right now." Allen, by the way, has been very good as a tough minded free agent, and he knows success having played with the Celtics. And, by the way, he’s a shooting guard who just got a free agent contract.
I can’t figure out a deal for Mayo to the Bulls that makes sense to Memphis. Taj Gibson, James Johnson and a pick? Nah. But I do expect the bidding to begin at some point.
You too can be an NBA General Manager
-- I love the annual survey of NBA general managers. This is because it shows even more than usual that you too can be an NBA General Manager. No offense, as I am friendly with many, and, in fact, have to talk more with them now because, like me, they don’t know what LOL and IMAO means on Twitter and in text messaging. The league each year sends a long questionnaire to general managers to make predictions and observations. And then everybody writes about it the first week of preseason since hardly anyone is playing the top players, or for very long. By the way, Michael Jordan, who didn’t have to, always played in the preseason games, and played a lot. Not because he always wanted to, but he actually liked basketball and understood his responsibility to the league and the game. Anyway, back to the survey, which generally resembles my old science exams: D-. Yes, the GMs generally get just over half right, and this year they have the Lakers winning the title. Yeah, way to go out on the limb. They have John Wall as Rookie of the Year. Another one that had to take some thought. Most improved, which they usually blow by a lot, are the Knicks and Wizards. They had the Wizards last year as well. Oops. And in the division races, they have the Celtics, Bulls, Heat, Lakers, Mavs and Thunder. Reasonable, I guess, though they generally have at least two of the six wrong.
In last year’s survey, they had the Lakers winning the title and Boston winning the East. Good picks, actually. They had Boston, Cleveland, Orlando, San Antonio, Portland and the Lakers the divisions winners, a solid four of six, which is a D at 66.7 percent.
They had the best offseason moves as the Spurs in bringing in Richard Jefferson, Blake Griffin Rookie of the Year (though injuries are tough to guess), Anthony Parker the most underrated addition and the biggest impact with new players coming from Vince Carter, Ron Artest, Jefferson and Shaq.
So let’s go back a year to my favorite GM survey, 2008-09. They had the Lakers winning, which is always an easy pick, though the GMs tend to run in a pack of the last thing they saw. Sounds like they’d make good media predictors. They had the Spurs winning the title in every survey between 2005 and 2008, which would have been a four-peat for a team never to repeat. They got three of the six division winners right that season, they had Elton Brand the best offseason addition and my favorite, the rookie of the year vote in which they had in order: Michael Beasley, Greg Oden (he was out his first year), O.J. Mayo, Kevin Love, Anthony Randolph and Russell Westbrook as the top six for Rookie of the Year. That’s right. The world’s top talent evaluators didn’t have one single vote for Derrick Rose for Rookie of the Year. You can’t vote for your own guy, by the way. So send in your resumes: You can be a GM, too.
Will Wall be great?
-- John Wall isn’t going to be anywhere near as good as Derrick Rose. You know how I know this? Gilbert Arenas. We saw the Wizards Friday in the United Center, and it was obvious that Wall, seemingly a first class professional on and off the court, has an Arenas problem. Not that he doesn’t like or respect Gilbert. It’s just that he does it too much. Wall is a jet, but has been tentative in the preseason, clearly deferring to Arenas and trying to get him involved and engaged. I assume they had cable in Kentucky and he knew what happened. From the first days of camp, Gilbert was stepping in it, telling the Washington Post, "Right now I'm out there to hit open shots, teach John the ins and the outs of the game, and then eventually go on and move on. I'm on my way. This is the NBA. There's few players that stay in the same city.” Gilbert had to clarify the next day he wasn’t asking for a trade, though about everyone else thought so as Post columnist Michael Wilbon demanded the Wizards move Arenas. It’s not that easy with four years left on his deal, this gun thing not too far past and major labor changes coming. That’s right, impossible. Maybe after the labor deal or lockout with two years left, someone who didn’t hit big enough in free agency, like the Knicks or Nets, will take him. And Gilbert did look pretty good against the Bulls. He looks like he could be a resemblance of that onetime Gilbert, but he won’t have the ball now and who knows what he’s like as a spot up shooter. But now he’s just going to get in Wall’s way because Wall looks like a great teammate, clearly anxious to accommodate Gilbert. Rose, meanwhile, walked into a team that needed everything he could give on offense and his development was much quicker. It will be a few years before the team is fully Wall’s, so the only thing about him that might be slow is his race to individual stardom. But he’ll get there. The guy is really good.
NBA news and notes
-- Forget the internet blather about the Bulls investigating Carlos Boozer’s injury. Just another media fabrication. … Give the Celtics this: They know how to have some fun and break up the monotony. They finagled an invite to Fenway Park last week and played an intrasquad softball game on the field. Now, that’s a cool off day. Doc Rivers has become adept at using some of Phil Jackson’s distraction techniques. They also had Rivers’ annual duck boat ride around the city, which is what Boston champions do, and had an advance screening for the entire team of the upcoming movie, Due Date. “We sure as hell didn’t do it in Minnesota,” Kevin Garnett told the Boston Herald. “I haven’t heard about anything else in the league, nor do I care. We’re having a blast, man. We come in here and bust each others’ (butts). We go at each other pretty hard. And off the court we relax and try to get to know each other.” … And even the softer, gentler Stan Van Gundy is trying. Van Gundy has talked in camp about easing off on the players and did personal visits with most of the players this summer, including dropping in on Mickael Pietrus. In France. Van Gundy took day trips to visit Dwight Howard in Atlanta and now lifts weights with the players at times. There were whispers the team was beginning to tune out Van Gundy with some disappointing playoff play. Said Van Gundy to the Orlando Sentinel: "When you get beyond some of the X's and O's stuff, where I think we're pretty solid, I think communication with players is probably the biggest area of improvement that I need.”… The Magic whacked the Hornets by 50-something Sunday might and given the attention to the Heat this season, there’s been an unusual aura of seriosity, as Don King might say, even from often goofy Howard. … The Bulls have been pleased with the play of Omer Asik, and Boston is excited about its Turkish center, Semih Erden, who had 13 points, five rebounds and two blocks in a win over the Nets and has a nice post game. … The Bulls have yet to be hit with one of those new excessive whining technicals, though it was no surprise to see Boston with three in its last preseason game. … You gotta give Shaq this: He fits in pretty quickly in the community, if not always on the court as the Boston starters have been a bit loggy playing with him. But Shaq did announce a mime stunt where he is going to pose like a statute in Harvard Square so people can take pictures of him. But no talking. Rivers only wishes that of his players in games.
-- The Bulls see the Raptors Tuesday in the first of two preseason meetings, and if they don’t outrebound that team, well. The Raptors start Andrea Bargnani, a seven-footer who mostly shoots threes, and Reggie Evans at four and five. Reserve Joey Dorsey is their leading rebounder. … Guys already are noticing the Bulls defense. Said Drew Gooden after the Bucks beat the Bulls: "Every time we had penetration they stepped in and took charges. There was a point in the game where I had to ask Keith Bogans if they were getting money on the side for taking charges. I haven't seen anybody taking that many charges in a preseason game.” … Tough one for Detroit, which loses starter Jonas Jerebko for the season with a torn Achilles. Charlie Villanueva says he’s a new man and will make up for the lost toughness. We’ll see about that. … The Pistons have Ben Gordon back on the bench again with Will Bynum starting at point and Rodney Stuckey at shooting guard. And this with Richard Hamilton hurt. No, the grass is not greener, though the money can be. … I don’t think Jamal Crawford is a slacker, but it didn’t look good after his comments regarding the lack of an extension to skip the first preseason game with a bad back. … Rashard Lewis told Magic.com he was nervous about being so close to Mexico that when the Magic played the Rockets in Hidalgo, TX that he decided not to leave his room. It wasn’t that long ago the league was promising an expansion team in Mexico City. You don’t hear much of that anymore. … The NBA clarified that turtle necks are allowed for coaches, though Van Gundy wore a tie in Sunday’s preseason game. Yes, you know not that much is happening when I have to mention that.
-- Think we’ve heard this one before? And it was a compliment. Gerald Wallace told the Charlotte Observer on Tyrus Thomas: "I think he's still a little immature. But at the same time, when he focuses on playing the game the right way, and not worrying about the referees or worrying about getting fouled or getting hit, he's amazing.” … Sherron Collins is said to be a bit overweight, though doing reasonably well in his battle with Javaris Crittenton for the third guard spot in Charlotte. It’s hard to imagine Larry Brown going into the season with D.J. Augustin and Shaun Livingston his top two points. Thus the Devin Harris rumors. I can see the Bobcats still making a move. It’s been curious that Gerald Henderson still can barely get time, though he had a hamstring problem in camp. … Kevin Durant went to great lengths to defend LeBron James when the teams played last week, saying his treatment has been unfair and he still admires and looks up to James and James is much better than he is. But when Durant was asked about going to James’ party in Kansas City the night before the game, Durant declined: "I don't go out to parties the day before a game," Durant said. "I really don't go out too much during the season." Look, there’s nothing wrong with going out. I did it at that age, but it’s rare to find a superstar who fits Oklahoma City that well. … The Oklahoman newspaper listed five keys for the Thunder for the season, and one was whether they could replace assistant Ron Adams, now with the Bulls. … Dirk Nowitzki, who knows about such things, is no fan of the international goaltending rule being tried out in the D-League this season. Nowitzki says NBA players are too athletic and the rule reduces scoring. One side effect is it also has several GMs saying they won’t be sending guys to the D-League because the rule isn’t in use in the NBA and they don’t want players developing bad habits. … It’s just for the 15th spot for now, but I’ve watched Houston some, and little Wake Forest point guard Ishmael Smith has been a revelation. The guy looks like he could be quite a find.
-- Briefly a Bull Joe Alexander got a start Sunday for New Orleans as he contest Pops Mensah-Bonsu for a backup forward spot. He was one of seven in 17 minutes, but had the best plus/minus among the starters. Trevor Ariza was two of 12 and minus 35. Yeah, Paul’s going to like his shot. … It may be the end of the NBA line for the North Shore’s Jon Scheyer, who was cut by the Clippers after going zero for four in 19 minutes in two games. Scheyer left Miami’s summer league team after suffering a serious eye injury. … The Lakers lost to Barcelona in Spain last week as Phil Jackson said all this ruined training camp as the players apparently stayed out pretty late and even showed up late to a practice en masse after partying with native Pau Gasol. But the story was Ricky Rubio, the 2009 No. 5 overall pick of Minnesota who is supposed to come to the NBA after this season. He was zero for five and scoreless in 18 minutes and was being widely blamed in the local media for Spain’s poor showing in the World Championships. The sports paper Marca published a readers’ poll saying Rubio was the team’s worst player in the tournament, where he shot 27 percent and was two of 17 on threes. Phil Jackson after the Lakers lost said no way could an international team compete in the NBA, though Kobe Bryant, who continues to struggle coming back from knee surgery, says they could and Bryant said he was high on Rubio: "This my third time playing against him, and he is definitely ready to play in the NBA. The kid can play. I felt like in the Olympics he played very well and showed a lot of poise and he reads a lot of things that average players don't." No, this is not another Kobe-Phil thing. … Portland is crediting an improved defense to former Bulls assistant Bob Ociepka. But where centers go to expire, backup Jeff Pendergraph went out for the season while the team is raving about free agent shooting guard Wesley Mathews. Rudy Fernandez is having a good shooting preseason, but no trade talks for now. … It was looked at in L.A. as motivation when Phil Jackson said Andrew Bynum might have to be a part time, 24-minute player like Yao Ming. But just how do you have a team with Yao playing 24 minutes and not in back to backs? Brad Miller? I can’t believe he signed on for that much time. He doesn’t even get in shape until January. … I think Craig Smith meant this to the L.A. Times as praise for new coach Vinny Del Negro: "As far as Mike [former coach Dunleavy], it's not a million plays. Knowing we have young guys, he [Del Negro] brings it one step at a time versus 10 plays at a time. He is not a big film guy. But of course when something goes wrong, we'll absolutely watch film. But we won't watch it for two hours.” But the Clippers are hoping that Vinny calling out Baron Davis on media day for not being in shape will be the tough love to change Baron. Davis hasn’t played yet, but said he might play a few minute Tuesday. … Paul Westphal on Kings rookie center DeMarcus Cousins: "He showed why we think so highly of him. And if he ever gets in shape, he'll really be able to do a lot." Cousins is going to be something to deal with, though. He had 16 and 16 against the Suns when Westphal mentioned about thinking highly, but Cousins after the game pointed to Derrick Favors getting four points and one rebound in his debut and saying: ”I’m trying to see what’s so special.” Cousins shot five of 14 his next game.
-- Some of the better preseason quotes:
Marreese Speights: “Defense is all mental, so I'm good.”
Drew Gooden: "They don't know what I've been through. My career numbers are just as good as some of those guys who got 80 (million) this year."
Tracy McGrady: “I don’t see any reason why I can’t be the player I was before, if not better.” The Pistons sat McGrady out of the last exhibition game.
Brandon Rush back after his third drug incident which will cost him five games to start the season: "No. I don't think I have a problem at all."
Welcome back, fellas. We missed ya.