This is the big week in the NBA when Carmelo Anthony, Kevin Love, Greg Monroe, Pau Gasol and Rajon Rondo are not likely to be traded. But with the trading deadline Thursday, there could be some new addresses for the likes of Evan Turner, Jarrett Jack, Udonis Haslem and Emeka Okafor’s luggage.
The team that has been mentioned the most looking to make deals has been the Philadelphia 76ers, which is no surprise given their lottery inevitability and aspirations. The names of Turner, Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young have come up most frequently. Young is toughest to deal with two more seasons, the second a player option costing more than $19 million. It seems most likely Turner, with declining production throughout the season, moves on. So where?
At the trade deadline, you look at the teams which most need to do something. Those out of the playoff race only want draft picks, which are tough to come by these days given what is considered to be a strong, deep draft. Teams in strong position generally don’t want to tinker with chemistry if not necessary.
While Miami has been making a move on Indiana lately, there still remains big questions regarding Dwyane Wade’s health. To further rest Wade and perhaps give them more playoff strength toward helping persuade LeBron James to stay, it seems time to part ways with Haslem. They’ll bring him back in the organization like they have with Alonzo Mourning and Tim Hardaway. But Miami has the extra pieces to get a deal done for Turner with Haslem and perhaps James Jones. They can deliver a pick, which they never use.
The Suns having reached the break shockingly still in the Western playoff race may as well go for it now as missing the playoffs won’t yield them a much better pick. They have that big, Okafor expiring deal of about $14 million. Given the circumstances in Milwaukee, there are plenty of long contracts that would make sense moving given their situation. Ersan Ilyasova supposedly has expressed disappointment and could be a player the Suns can move forward with as a shooting power forward. Maybe the Bucks add Gary Neal, who played well for the Spurs and has been banished for some reason. The Suns have draft picks to sweeten a deal.
Though the move for Jarrett Jack sounded good at the time and seemed to make sense for a team making a playoff run, it hasn’t worked in Cleveland. Would the guard short Nuggets take Jack and his two more guaranteed years as he prospered in their kind of game in Golden State? The Cavs could bring back Andre Miller to where he started in 1999 and end his banishment. Plus, his contract expires. The Nuggets add in someone like Jordan Hamilton. I still don’t get these Kenneth Faried rumors, by the way, as he could be the best player on their team.
The Warriors need to do something to upgrade their bench, but they don’t have much to move other than Jermaine O’Neal’s expiring deal. The Timberwolves are about to fall out of the race and maybe need to try something desperate. Though the Thunder has done well, I wouldn’t be surprised to see them make a move as they can see themselves close again to winning. We’ve only got a few days to wait.
Noah addresses a variety of topics at NBA All-Star weekend
-- We always learn a little more about the All-Stars that we didn’t expect and weren’t about to ask given the entertainment nature of some of the interview questions. So for Joakim Noah, we learned he is “not too worried about mascots” when asked about the fear the Pelican issue (too scary mascot). For the newly named Smoothie King Center, Noah’s favorite smoothie has berries. Asked the name he’d give his smoothie, he responded: “My smoothie.” Noah also doesn’t play NBA video games but plays Fifa soccer video games and his hottest woman of all time is Jenny McCarthy.
-- The analytics craze in sports has become one of those things you are not supposed to dismiss even if you don’t believe in it. Especially if you are a general manager. The new core of NBA owners tends to be younger, more business oriented and less connected with basketball. So the technology summit at All-Star weekend has become a premier event even if it rarely produces much but droning lectures. But everyone who is anyone has to be there. Many in this new breed of owners have made their fortunes in technology and are more comfortable with that over basketball. So why not apply it? It’s taken over baseball, though since little actually happens in baseball it’s more understandable. But you better not be a general manager or a coach and dismiss that short corner three or driving them into the long two or any of the other formula talking points. It’s why I loved hearing Joakim Noah at All-Star weekend say, well, the statistical analysis is OK, but it doesn’t replace knowing what it takes to win. Said Noah when asked about the analytics focus: “I think it’s good and you can learn from it. It’s also overrated. Because there’s more to it than analytics and sometimes people forget that. A lot goes into it. How you practice and how you talk to teammates and how you deal with things when the game gets hot, how you deal with adversity. You can’t measure that. How you practice. How the 13th or 14th or 15th man practices. It’s the guy who lifts you up when you are down. How things are going at home. Analytics can’t measure that.” Yeah, go Jo!
It’s basketball’s Hall of Fame, not the NBA’s
-- The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame committees announced the inclusion of Guy Rodgers, Sweetwater Clifton and ABA coach Slick Leonard to the Hall of Fame Friday. Hall of Famer Rick Barry, who starred in the NBA and ABA, raised a good question about why the ABA continues to be considered a stepchild of the league. After all, the Hall of Fame is not the NBA Hall of Fame, but the Hall of Fame for all basketball. It’s why players like Bill Bradley, who didn’t have great NBA careers but excelled in college as well, are Hall of Famers. “They don’t do that for the AFL in football,” Barry noted in saying the long lack of inclusion of Artis Gilmore showed the inequity. Barry named many deserving ABAers , including Louie Dampier, Mack Calvin, Donnie Freeman, Jimmy Jones, Warren Jabali, Zelmo Beaty and James Silas.
-- During Sunday’s All-Star weekend, the players’ association was interviewing candidates to be president of its union, a position that will pay approximately $2 million. Fifty years ago, the players were looking for union recognition and a pension plan worth less than that. The owners promised on and off through the 1950’s, but it never happened. Which was why players like Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton, who was named to the Basketball Hall of Fame Friday, had to drive a taxicab after his career was over. Those players from the 1950’s would never truly be helped after their retirements. But it was 50 years ago at the 1964 All-Star game the NBA went on strike for the first time. It lasted about 20 minutes. It was a threatened boycott of the game, the first All-Star game to be on national TV. It would be tough to get future contracts if the players wouldn’t play. “It was really intense, very intense,” recalls Chet Walker, who later became one of the plaintiffs in the famous Oscar Robertson suit that led to free agency and the NBA/ABA merger. “We were threatening not to play. The game as on television, which was important to the owners.” Players literally locked themselves in the locker room, threatening not to come out unless the owners finally lived up to a promise. The leaders were Bob Cousy and Tom Heinsohn for the players with the game in the Boston Garden. Lakers owner Bob Short was pounding on the door threatening to release Elgin Baylor and Jerry West. “That was the beginning of the NBA labor movement,” said Walker, who later played for the Bulls as an All-Star. “The owners eventually agreed. We started a pension plan and played the game.” The East won with Robertson the MVP with 26 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists.
Delle Donne a star for the WNBA
-- One of the quiet stars of All-Star weekend was Chicago Sky player Elena Delle Donne, who participated in the Shooting Stars and Celebrity game. “It’s why I’m here and not overseas, to help grow (the WNBA) so that girls will not have to go overseas and improve the league here,” she said. Not only is the Sky 6-5 big guard/small forward one of the top players in the WNBA, but Delle Donne is one of the more inspirational figures in basketball and sacrificing for her fellow players like few do. It’s estimated that 85 percent of WNBA players spend the winters overseas because they make the huge majority of their money in international womens’ leagues. The WNBA pays a fraction compared to those leagues. But Delle Donne elected to remain in the U.S. to not only participate in All-Star weekend to help gain attention for the league but to continue to support her family. Delle Donne’s story is known of her close relationship with sister Lizzie, who has cerebral palsy and is blind and deaf. Delle Donne originally went to womens’ power Univeristy of Connecticut. But she withdrew before playing a game to return home to Delaware to remain closer to Lizzie. She went to the University of Delaware as a walk on originally to play volleyball and eventually basketball. She went on to an all-American career and WNBA rookie of the year over the more publicized Brittney Griner. The Sky made the playoffs for the first time in franchise history in 2013. “Chicago is a great basketball city and if we can continue to put a winning product on the court we feel people will come out,” Delle Donne said. She said she’s become a global ambassador for Special Olympics, which is vitally important to her and also is working to raise awareness of Lyme disease, which she has. “It’s such a thrill to be part of All-Star weekend and to help raise awareness in the WNBA,” Delle Donne said. With people who will sacrifice like she has, the league deserves a strong future.
NBA news and notes
-- Another of the impressive how did they do it stories is Chicago’s Anthony Davis, whose Perspectives Charter High School didn’t even have a gym. “I wasn’t sure at one point I was even good enough to make the league,” said Davis, who was a Western Conference All-Star in his second season. “I didn’t even know if I wanted to play basketball anymore. I wasn’t getting any college looks. I wondered, ‘Am I supposed to be doing this?’ A lot was going through my mind.” But Davis said family members helped him get through when he actually was thinking about someday being a coach just to stay in basketball.
-- Kevin Love was the big potential free agent guy at All-Star weekend with LeBron James not talking about his offseason and Carmelo Anthony saying he’d prefer to stay in New York and would even take a salary cut. “If I say I like Charlotte as the city, then all of a sudden I want to go to Charlotte,” Love said with a laugh. “Anything I said became a misconception or some sort of headache. Sure, it’s crossed my mind. Questions will always be brought up. In 2015 (when he can opt out), I’ll change my phone number. It will become something I’ll be asked about. I’m flattered other teams want me. But I like the team I’m with and I just want to win now. It will be more under the microscope next year, at the trade deadline, maybe after. It comes with the territory. Everybody who has been a free agent has been in this position. That’s the way it is.” Love then was asked about getting his body in shape and quipped, “Thanks, another fat question.”
-- After a hot start averaging more than 20 points and shooting 54 percent in October and November, Evan Turner averaged 16.5 points and 47.7 percent in December, 16.2 points and 50.5 percent in January and 13 points and 40 percent in February. … Your wacky Eastern Conference. The Cavaliers are three games out of the final playoff spot. They’re also the hottest team in the conference with a four-game winning streak. The Knicks in 10th are 2.5 games behind eighth place Charlotte. The only team with a longer winning streak than the Cavs entering the break is Houston with seven. The Bulls have three…Luol Deng after much maligned rookie Anthony Bennett had his first double-double with 19 and 10 against the Kings: "He's going to get it. These kind of games are going to come more often.” … It’s a great alumni shooting club for the Bulls with Kyle Korver now 20 games past the longest consecutive streak of games with a three and Marco Belinelli putting on one of the best shows in contest history in winning the three-point contest in a shootoff over Bradley Beal. Korver declined an invite to remain with his family. Belinelli became the third international player with Dirk Nowitzki and Peja Stokovic to win the contest and in his remarks thanked Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau. Said Belinelli: “He helped me a lot on my defense, on my confidence, to understand the game better.” Belinelli also said assistant Ron Adams, who worked with him individually, was important in improving his shooting and commitment to defense. … The West race looks like it’s come down to Memphis, Dallas, Golden State and Phoenix for the last three playoff spots. Minnesota and Denver have fallen six games out of eighth as two of the biggest disappointments. With Rick Adelman continuing to miss games with family illness issues, it’s certainly possible he could decide to retire with more than 1,000 wins and a likely place in the Basketball Hall of Fame. … The asking price if you can get Rondo is said to be two unprotected first rounders.
-- Quietly the Heat has moved two losses behind the Pacers for first in the East. But with Dwyane Wade lately complaining of nerve problems in his foot it’s tough to see LeBron James being able to carry the team the rest of the way and be able to complete a strong playoff run. … Welcome to the NBA, Brad Stevens, whose Celtics lost to the Spurs and, ah ha, so that’s it. Stevens on the Spurs: “Some of the most inspiring basketball I’ve ever watched is when they don’t have all their players. Some of the most inspiring basketball I’ve watched is when they do have their players. They move the ball, move bodies, know their system inside and out, can plug players into spots and on any given night someone can score 20 or 25 points. They have a tremendous system, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for them because they’re basketball in the purest form.”… Could even the Warriors Mark Jackson be in trouble if the high scoring Warriors slumped out of the playoffs? Owner Joe Lacob in an interview with the San Jose Mercury on the coaching staff: " I think you're always evaluating everybody, whether it be the players, the coaches. … It's hard to know if you don't quite win a few games you should, is it the coach's fault? Is it the players’ fault? It's hard to say. I think we'll have to look back on a body of work at the end of the season and look at that and make an evaluation. I do think our coach has done a good job. We have had some big wins, a lot of wins on the road, and that's usually a sign of good coaching. But some things are a little disturbing, the lack of being up for some of these games at home. That's a concern to me. I've stated it before and I'll state it again: My expectation was that we would be a serious competitor to be in the top four in the West.” Jackson, who’s had a pretty soft ride with the Warriors’ rise, also got tangled with the media last week, joking or being misinterpreted when he said Andrew Bogut may have been hurt sleeping. Bogut was upset and Jackson said media was trying to divide his locker room. Stay tuned. Well, however you do on a hand held device. … The Clippers were 20-9 after Dec. 16 with Chris Paul missing 18 games and J.J. Redick 16 while Blake Griffin scored at least 25 points 20 times, including 15 times in the past 17 games. Griffin has played so well that Kevin Love at All-Star weekend said he and LaMarcus Aldridge may have to take a back seat. Said Love: “Blake’s unbelievable. He’s playing some of the best ball (of all the West power forwards). And with Chris Paul down. He’s obviously proven the doubters wrong that he’s not a one dimensional player.”