Posted on: February 8, 2010 10:33 pm
A year ago, one of the most active storylines of All-Star weekend in Phoenix was whether Amar’e Stoudemire’s last game with the Suns would be an exhibition game. This weekend, it’ll be the same storyline, but in a different city.
And this time, Stoudemire isn’t alone. The few contenders who are clear buyers at the trade deadline are feasting their eyes on an impressive list of big men who could change uniforms before the Feb. 18 trade deadline and perhaps change the playoff picture, too.
A high-level source involved in the Suns’ strategizing estimated that Stoudemire has a “30 percent chance” of being traded. His situation is the most intriguing of all the star players who could be moved by Feb. 18, given his status as an All-Star starter. The plot only became more interesting with Stoudemire’s recent comments/head fake that he’s leaning toward not exercising the early termination option in his contract, which would pay him $17.7 million next season. Some team executives believe Stoudemire, surmising that opting in would be the best move if Stoudemire doesn’t believe max money will be there for him this summer. Others find ignoring the ETO implausible for any player with a choice between signing a long contract under the current collective bargaining agreement and waiting for the new one, which clearly will be worse for the players.
One league source familiar with the market for Stoudemire expressed skepticism about rumblings that Stoudemire could be headed to Philadelphia. The person said there’s no consensus among the Sixers’ brass that Stoudemire would be the player they’d want to commit max money to – especially after the Elton Brand fiasco. From the Phoenix side, the person said, owner Robert Sarver’s non-basketball businesses (banking and real estate) have been hit too hard by the recession to make the Suns a credible landing spot for Samuel Dalembert’s $12.2 million due next season – not to mention Andre Iguodala’s four years and $56 million remaining.
With that, let’s get to the rest of the Post-Ups – pre-All-Star/trade deadline edition:
• Tyrus Thomas isn’t as big a name as Stoudemire, but league sources agree he’s far more likely to be dealt by Feb. 18 – if not sooner. One person familiar with the situation said it would be surprising if the Thomas situation stretched into next week after his recent dustup with coach Vinny Del Negro over losing his starting job to rookie Taj Gibson. Sources say the Bulls would prefer to package Thomas in a bigger deal that would clear cap space for a major free agent signing -- such as a scenario detailed here involving the Celtics’ Ray Allen. Short of that, the Bulls would be eager to unload Thomas in a smaller deal that would bring back less significant assets that could be used to surround and entice a marquee free agent. Two Western Conference teams intrigued by Thomas are the Nuggets, patiently seeking a big man to contend with the Lakers, and the Spurs, who were characterized by two rival executives as desperate to acquire an athletic big man. “They feel like they have to do something, like they’re behind the eight ball a little bit,” one of the execs said. The Spurs have a full complement of expiring contracts that would intrigue the Bulls, who want to avoid losing a significant player with no compensation (see Ben Gordon) for the second straight summer. The Spurs, who dipped their toe across the luxury tax line this season, will have to decide before the end of their annual circus road trip – which continued Monday night against the Lakers – what they’re willing to give up to see that investment pay off.
• Team executives differ widely in their assessment Marcus Camby’s availability, with some convinced Camby’s gone and others equally convinced he’s going nowhere. The truth is somewhere in between. A person familiar with the Clippers’ internal discussions said the team would move Camby and his $7.65 million contract only in a deal that would yield a significant player who could help them next season – or the cap space to sign one. The Clips are a small deal away from clearing the $15-$16 million necessary to sign a max player. If they can’t improve their 2010-11 position dramatically, Camby stays. Two of Camby’s former teams, the Nuggets and Knicks, are intrigued by the possibility of bringing him back for an encore.
• Another active buyer in trade talks, the Mavericks, haven’t pushed hard for Kevin Martin in their conversations with Sacramento, sources say. That’s an indication that the Mavs are focused on another wing who’d fit their needs – Washington’s Caron Butler. How aggressively the Wizards look to unload contracts as they try to pick up the pieces from Gilbert Arenas’ suspension depends on how a fundamental internal disagreement is resolved. Some elements of the Wizards’ power structure favor “completely blowing it up,” according to one source, while others are holding out for a more patient approach. “How badly does Dallas want Caron Butler?” one rival executive said. “Washington will find out.” The Mavs have not been pushing for Antawn Jamison in their talks with the Wizards, believing they have enough 30-somethings on the roster.
• An important factor to remember in trying to decipher the Wizards’ strategy is their ownership situation. Despite a recent hangup in the transfer of power from the family of late owner Abe Pollin to Ted Leonsis, rival executives believe a completed sale to Leonsis is a foregone conclusion. The Wizards have little hope of trading enough contracts to get under the luxury tax, but any savings derived from pre-deadline deals would produce double the benefit in tax payments – a scenario that would appease both the owner and the seller in that transaction.
• If the Wizards take the “blowing it up” route, their exploratory conversations with Houston involving Tracy McGrady would become more serious. But a high-level source familiar with the situation said T-Mac’s best chance to play again this season is in New York, which would willingly take on his $23 million expiring contract if it meant clearing some 2010-11 money off the books. The Knicks aren’t willing to part with anything Houston would want, however, so a third team would need to be recruited.
• Despite their active posture in trade talks, the Sixers aren’t willing to do strictly a financial deal for Iguodala. Thus, they’re not interested in McGrady alone, but instead are pushing for legit value in return.
• Miami and Charlotte remain in the mix with the Rockets and Trail Blazers for Wizards center Brendan Haywood. The Blazers continue to steadfastly reject any scenario that includes Rudy Fernandez or Nicolas Batum.
Posted on: February 8, 2010 5:24 pm
Labor problems, the potential for blockbuster trades, and yes, some basketball will be on the agenda at All-Star weekend in Dallas. Something else will command the attention of NBA team executives on Friday: The idea of a play-in tournament to determine the eighth playoff seed in each conference.
Posted on: January 28, 2010 11:53 am
Edited on: January 28, 2010 7:45 pm
First of all, as Charles Barkley would say, I love the seven first-time selections. All-Star weekend is badly in need of some juice, and I think there's a good chance that some of these first-timers -- Deron Williams, Derrick Rose, Rajon Rondo -- will provide some of the weekend's most memorable moments.
I know this is a knee-jerk sports world and we're supposed to fight about everything, but I don't have enormous problems with the coaches' selections. In the East, they picked Rose and Al Horford over my picks -- David Lee and Josh Smith. I disagree on Horford; Smith is the Hawks' most important player after Joe Johnson, and Horford doesn't play enough minutes to be an All-Star. Lee deserves to be there, too. Being based in New York, I have more than my share of chances to watch him bust his behind on a talent-less team. Rose? I don't have any problem with him being an All-Star. He'll be great to watch in an All-Star Game. Guys like Rose understand the moment and know how to rise to it.
In the West, I only differed with the coaches on one selection: They chose Zach Randolph; I chose Chauncey Billups. If I met with every coach who chose Randolph and we debated outside some NBA locker room, I don't think anybody would win. Z-Bo is having a great year on a surprisingly competitive team. Billups remains the glue that keeps the Nuggets together. I'll take the No. 2 pick in that draft and be happy.
In making my picks, I used the same criteria the coaches are instructed to use: select seven reserves, ranked 1-7 for weighting purposes, according to the following positional breakdown: center, two forwards, two guards, and two wild cards.
Here were my picks -- with the coaches' alternative in parentheses, where applicable:
1. Chris Bosh, F, Toronto: The "other" 2010 free agent went into the season determined to put up huge numbers, which he is. Bosh's steady play also is a big reason for the Raptors' recent resurgence.
2. Rajon Rondo, G, Boston: Nothing against Kevin Garnett or Ray Allen, but Rondo may have surpassed both of them as the most important Celtic after Paul Pierce.
3. Josh Smith, F, Atlanta (Coaches picked Derrick Rose): Defense, shot-blocking, scoring -- J-Smoove does it all, except take too many 3-pointers. He's eliminated that annoying aspect of his game and deserves to be rewarded.
4. Gerald Wallace, F (wild card), Charlotte: This is a tough call between Wallace and Danny Granger. I'll give the nod to Wallace because of defense and team success.
5. David Lee, C, Knicks (Coaches picked Al Horford): It's time to stop attributing Lee's machine-like double-double production to Mike D'Antoni's system and recognize that there's nothing wrong with being one of the best pick-and-roll big men in the league.
6. Joe Johnson, G, Atlanta: Johnson should send a thank-you gift to Jamal Crawford, whose ability to absorb some of the end-of-quarter/end-of-game scoring load has kept Johnson fresh.
7. Paul Pierce, F (wild card), Boston: Rondo makes the Celtics' engine go, but Pierce is still the closer -- one of the best in the league at both ends of the floor.
1. Dirk Nowitzki, F, Dallas: Still playing at an MVP level and never gets the recognition he deserves.
2. Chris Paul, G, New Orleans: In terms of statistics and overall talent, the best point guard in the league.
3. Brandon Roy, G, Portland: With all of Portland's injuries -- including Roy's own balky hamstring of late -- this budding superstar deserves credit for keeping the Blazers afloat.
4. Chauncey Billups, G (wild card), Denver (Coaches picked Zach Randolph): We take Mr. Big Shot for granted because he's so consistent, but remember: He's consistently great. Monta Ellis deserves serious consideration here or for one of the wild-card spots, but there are simply too many great guards in the West for him to break through.
5. Pau Gasol, C, Lakers: Despite missing a big chunk of the season, Gasol has played enough to warrant an All-Star nod. When he's on the floor, he's among the most gifted and impactful big men in the league. Gasol or Randolph? I'll take Gasol.
6. Kevin Durant, F, Oklahoma City: We knew he could score, but now KD is emerging as a much improved defender and leader.
7. Deron Williams, G (wild card), Utah: This is why there's no room for Randolph on my squad, despite his solid 20-point, 11-rebound averages on a much improved Memphis team. D-Will is too good -- and the Jazz's recent resurgence too notable to overlook -- for one of the top point guards in the NBA to continue to get overlooked.
Posted on: February 13, 2009 7:46 pm
PHOENIX -- There's no chance of Greg Oden getting hurt in the All-Star rookie challenge Friday night. The Portland Trail Blazers' center will miss the game between rookies and sophomores with a sore left knee.
Oden, a member of the rookie squad because he missed all of last season following microfracture surgery on his right knee, injured his left knee in a collision with Golden State's Corey Maggette in the Blazers' 105-98 loss to the Warriors Thursday night.
Posted on: February 7, 2009 7:53 pm
Charles Barkley has been on a leave of absence from his announcing duties with TNT since early January after his Dec. 31 arrest on suspicion of drunken driving in Scottsdale, Ariz.
I asked TNT officials on a pre-All-Star conference call last week if any decision had been made as to whether Barkley would return to the booth during All-Star weekend in his adopted hometown of Phoenix.
"Nothing has changed regarding Charles’ status," said Jeff Behnke, executive producer for Turner Sports. "He continues to be on a leave of absence and no date has been set for his return."
A person familiar with the situation said if a decision hasn't been made for Barkley's return by now, the chances he'll be part of TNT's All-Star coverage are remote. As difficult as it is to imagine the league's signature midseason event without the man who has become its signature voice and on-air personality, clearly some things take precedence. Like Charles getting his life back in order.
"There’s other things that are more important than All-Star weekend," TNT analyst Reggie Miller said. "Obviously, for himelf and for his family, this is time for them to take a step back and just re-evaluate things. The thing about the NBA and basketball, it’ll always be there. There’s bigger things in life to worry about."
It should surprise no one that Barkley's first public appearance since his arrest occurred on a golf course. Barkley kept his commitment to appear at a charity golf tournament Friday in Lakeland, Fla.
"Clearly, I made a mistake drinking and driving," Barkley told the Lakeland Ledger. "And I'm getting penalized for that, and rightfully so. "Drinking and driving is a very serious thing. It was stupid, and it was 100 percent my fault.'
According to the story, Barkley said his return to the booth is up to TNT.
Here's hoping that happens soon, but not a minute too soon.