Posted on: February 18, 2010 1:44 am
Edited on: February 18, 2010 2:36 am
The Rockets and Kings have agreed in principle to a deal that would send Kevin Martin to Houston, two sources confirmed to CBSSports.com, while Tracy McGrady would go to the Kings or Knicks depending on whether the trade expands into a three-team deal.
Details of the agreement were still emerging early Thursday, but one of the sources indicated that the Rockets' aggressive pursuit of a landing spot for McGrady and his $23 million contract may not have taken its last turn before the 3 p.m. ET Thursday deadline. A second person involved in the process was hopeful that McGrady would be rerouted to New York, the former All-Star's preferred destination.
Those familiar with the Kings' thinking have long professed their lack of interest in McGrady, but it wasn't clear early Thursday whether T-Mac would be rerouted to New York by the Kings or sent there in a more standard three-way arrangement. Earlier Wednesday, a person with knowledge of the Kings' posture placed the likelihood of Martin remaining in Sacramento past Thursday's deadline at "100 percent." When pressed, the source opened the door slightly. "OK, 95 percent," the person said.
So there you go.
The players involved in the initial version of the deal were Martin, Kenny Thomas, Sergio Rodriguez, and Hilton Armstrong leaving the Kings, with the Rockets contributing McGrady, Carl Landry, and Joey Dorsey.
The tangled web was woven out of discussions among the Rockets, Knicks, and Bulls surrounding McGrady, whose cap-clearing contract was coveted by both Chicago and New York as they get their books in order for the 2010 free agency class. The discussions took numerous turns, including the Bulls failed efforts to recruit a third team to meet the Rockets' demands. Houston, in the end, may have found its own trading partner; the addition of Martin to the scenario significantly enhances what was already a premium price the Rockets were extracting for McGrady, a player they banished in December after an ill-fated return from microfracture knee surgery.
The Knicks and Rockets had spent the past 48 hours discussing a deal that would've sent McGrady to New York as part of a package for Jared Jeffries, Jordan Hill -- the No. 8 pick in the 2009 draft --Larry Hughes and draft pick consideration. The protection on the picks was the sticking point, as the Knicks and Rockets were unable to agree on the conditions under which they would swap 2011 first-round picks and send New York's 2012 first-round pick to Houston.
The Bulls, frustrated with the Rockets' demands and unable to successfully recruit a third team to sweeten their offer, moved on to discussions with Milwaukee, where they will send John Salmons and his $5.8 million owed next season for two expiring contracts.
The Knicks and Rockets may yet get a chance to revive their negotiations if the McGrady deal evolves into a three-way exchange. If not, sources say McGrady hopes to negotiate a buyout and land with a playoff contender.
Posted on: February 7, 2010 6:32 pm
Few grand conclusions can be drawn from February NBA games. But in this case, the Celtics' latest disappointing loss only underscored what has been a poorly kept secret among NBA executives for weeks: Ray Allen's time in Boston is likely coming to an end.
If the Celtics kept Allen and let his contract come off the books, they'd still be over the cap this summer with no avenues besides sign-and-trades to acquire a starting shooting guard. That's why Boston also has expressed interest in the Bulls' Kirk Hinrich, an excellent defender and ball-handler who would give the Celtics a starting two guard next season at $9 million and in 2011-12 at $8 million. The Bulls' motivation would be cap relief.
The Kings, who are not planning to be big free-agent shoppers this summer, aren't seeking to acquire cap space alone. They want assets -- and the Celtics don't have a young big man to offer. The Bulls, who almost certainly will move Tyrus Thomas, might need to be invited into that conversation to satisfy everyone's needs.
Whatever avenue they pursue, the Celtics don't want to go into this summer with no cap flexibility and no assets that could be used to keep them among the elite. Before Ainge struck the 2007 draft-related deal for Allen and then plucked Garnett from Minnesota with the help of former teammate Kevin McHale, the Celtics had just endured a 24-win season and hadn't been out of the first round since 2002-03. Ainge and Doc Rivers were on the brink of getting fired until the perfect remedy presented itself -- and the Celtics parlayed the Allen and Garnett deals into their 17th NBA title.
"Kevin McHale's out of the league," one rival executive said, only half-joking. "So they're not going to be able to recreate that deal again."
The period leading up to that was so grim that nobody in the organization wants to revisit it. The best way to avoid such a scenario would be to part ways with Allen. It wouldn't be starting over. Instead, it would be a bold attempt to have a chance against Cleveland, Orlando, and Atlanta in the playoffs and avoid going back to the depths of rebuilding.
Posted on: December 22, 2009 10:21 am
Not long ago, ARCO Arena was one of the most unique and hostile environments in the NBA. The Kings are a long way from recreating those glory days, but it’s time to notice their surprisingly good start.
Sacramento improved to 13-14 Monday night with a truly amazing comeback from a 35-point third-quarter deficit to beat the Bulls 102-98. Caveat No. 1: This outcome said more about how dysfunctional the Bulls than how good the Kings are. Caveat No. 2: It’s ridiculously early to start talking about a playoff race, but the Kings are only 2 1-2 games out of the eighth spot with 55 games to go. Just saying.
What are the keys to the Kings’ early success? Where do they go from here? Let’s break down the team from Sac-Town:
• Tyreke Evans: Brandon Jennings got much of the early buzz in the rookie of the year race, but Evans is fashioning a death grip on the award lately. Even if Blake Griffin comes back after the New Year, puts up consistent numbers, and single-handedly saves the Clippers, he will be hard-pressed to overtake Evans. This kid’s the real deal.
• Paul Westphal: Some thought the former Suns coach was coming back simply to go through the motions and cash a paycheck. Think again. Westphal, who hadn’t drawn up an NBA play since 2001, was the perfect coach for this team. He’s always excelled at coaching young players, and more importantly, he enjoys it. That kind of coaching is infectious.
• Jason Thompson: After showing flashes as a rookie, Thompson is taking full advantage of an expanded role, more minutes, and increased confidence. His averages have increased in every major offensive category, starting with scoring (from 11.1 ppg to 15.4). What’s interesting is that the Kings’ brass aren’t necessarily surprised by Thompson’s progress. Sources say he’s improved about as much as the team expected.
• Omri Casspi: While Evans, Jennings, DeJuan Blair, James Harden, Ty Lawson, and others have stood out in a surprisingly strong rookie class, no team has two rookies performing as well as Evans and Casspi. The first Israeli-born player in NBA history has exceeded the team’s expectations, emerging as a reliable starter with three 20-point games in the Kings’ last seven – two of them on the road.
• Beno Udrih: As with Luke Ridnour in Milwaukee, most people assumed Udrih would fade into the background with a talented lottery pick starting from Day 1 in the backcourt. But just as Ridnour has with Jennings, Udrih has settled into a key support role for Evans. Not only can Udrih’s ball-moving abilities allow Evans concentrate on penetrating and scoring, he’s also shooting 53 percent from the field and 45 percent from point range, both career highs.
• Kevin Martin: All of this is happening with the Kings’ best player out since early November with a wrist injury. Martin has begun shooting before games and is inching closer to his projected January return.
Disclaimer: The Kings understand that unexpected success can easily revert to expected mediocrity. GM Geoff Petrie and assistant GM Jason Levien also understand that Sacramento has enjoyed the third-easiest scheduled in the league thus far, with an opponent winning percentage of .452. Only the Nuggets and Celtics have had it easier. But the Kings’ rapid progress with this young group has changed the game for the front office as the trade deadline looms in February.
Having believed that this was probably going to be a non-playoff/development year, the team had every intention of letting Kenny Thomas’ $8.6 million expiring contract come off the books next summer and then explore at most a mid-level free agent. But if the Kings keep winning once Martin returns, Petrie is expected to be more open to dealing Thomas as part of a package that would bring back a solid front-line player with an eye toward transforming this lightning-in-a bottle start into a playoff berth.
Stranger things have happened. And at a time when the NBA is dominated by the haves at the expense of the have-nots, it’s good for the game when a plucky team from the hinterlands authors a surprising success story.
Posted on: December 22, 2009 12:26 am
Just when things began looking exceedingly grim for Vinny Del Negro last week, all indications from the Bulls' front office were that the team was in no hurry to fire him.
Minutes before the Bulls and Kings tipped off Monday night, I spoke with a trusted front office executive familiar with the Bulls' plan, and he said it was status quo. Rather than push the panic button too early and send the surrender message to the players, GM Gar Forman and advisor John Paxson were telling confidants that they preferred to give Del Negro until mid-January to prove this season was going somewhere.
This season went somewhere Monday night, all right. Somewhere really, really bad -- a point of no return for Del Negro.
The Bulls blew a 35-point lead and lost to Sacramento 102-98. They were outscored 54-17 in the final 16 minutes of the game. Not only that, Del Negro's rotation was only seven deep on the first night of a back-to-back. The Bulls, losers of 14 out of the last 20 games -- losers in every sense of the word -- will be in New York on Tuesday night to play the Knicks, who have won six of nine.
It's not advisable to change coaches in the air on the way to the second night of a back-to-back, with no practice time in between. In this case, it's hard to argue the alternative is any better.
With one catastrophic meltdown, Del Negro's window went from mid-January to Christmas Day. (Historical note, as pointed out by Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports: The Bulls fired Scott Skiles and Tim Floyd on Christmas Eve. Ho, ho, ho!)
The rationale behind giving Del Negro more time has been the message it would send to the players. The only logical choice on the bench is veteran coach Bernie Bickerstaff. If the Bulls turned to Bickerstaff before Christmas, the players would see that as a surrender flag.
But the players did a pretty good job of running that symbolic fabric up the flag pole Monday night.
I've seen a lot of coaches in a lot of sports tip-toeing around before getting fired. When I was in Chicago last week, I noticed how Del Negro was using injuries as an excuse and lamely praising his players' effort -- as if they'd respect the fake kudos. On Monday night, Del Negro took the next step in the "Coach About to be Fired Handbook:" He went after the players.
"This one stings, but players win games," Del Negro said. "You have to execute. We kind of got a little bit complacent there. But what are you going to do? Put your head down and feel sorry for yourself?"
No. You fire somebody. For example, the coach.
But given the organization's qualms about going with Bickerstaff -- which would signal that the season's over -- it's time to think outside the box. It's worth wondering whether there's another option at Forman's disposal. That would be the former GM and current executive vice president, Paxson.
"John's got a great eye for the game," Lakers coach Phil Jackson said last week when his team touched down in Chicago to collect another victory. "And he works really hard. He's a hard-work guy."
Firing the chef and appointing the guy who bought the groceries is the new fad in the NBA. The Hornets did it, sending GM Jeff Bower into the trenches to replace Byron Scott. The Nets did it, handing the keys to Kiki Vandeweghe -- and, ironically, former Bulls assistant Del Harris -- after throwing Lawrence Frank overboard.
Why not the Bulls? Why not Paxson, who relinquished the day-to-day GM duties to Forman last summer?
"I doubt it very much," said a person familiar with the Bulls' situation, citing how Paxson's relationships with certain players are frayed. But at least he has relationships with certain players. How can Del Negro command respect in the huddle -- and vice versa, frankly -- after what happened to this team Monday night?
Another option that has been mentioned is Frank, who was fired by the Nets and, as such, would come cheap since he's collecting $4 million of Bruce Ratner's money for the rest of this season. But this is probably not the best situation for either one. Frank will be looking for a clean slate after starting the season 0-16. The Bulls will have a hard time getting a spark out of hiring a coach who hasn't won a single game all season.
None of this is ideal. None of it was part of the plan. The Bulls will be major players in free agency next summer, and there's no appetite for paying Del Negro to go away and committing to a new coach before the direction and makeup of the team are known.
But sometimes, these things work themselves out. On Monday, the Bulls stopped playing.
Posted on: October 27, 2009 7:49 am
The NBA season tips off Tuesday night, but already something quite normal and expected has happened.
Something bad has happened to the Clippers.
The news that No. 1 overall pick Blake Griffin will miss up to six weeks with a broken left kneecap seriously dampens all the optimism that has surrounded the league's most star-crossed franchise. When the Clippers take the court Tuesday night against the Lakers, they'll not only have to watch their co-tenants in Staples Center receive their championship rings, but they'll have to do so without the player who has come to symbolize their potential resurgence.
Besides putting the brakes on the Clippers potential resurgence behind Griffin, the injury seriously opens up the rookie of the year race -- before a ball has even been dribbled yet. Going into the season, I predicted that Griffin would hold off a formidable challenge from Sacramento's Tyreke Evans to win the award for the league's best rookie. Now, all bets are off.
The question is, will the injury create a longer-term problem for the Clips? if you're wondering you someone misses only six weeks with a broken knee cap, it's apparently only a stress fracture; the Clippers have promised more info later Tuesday. But any way you look at it, this is a bad break for the Clips and a significant development in the race for rookie honors.
On my way to Cleveland, folks. Time to get the ball in the air.
Posted on: October 9, 2009 6:58 pm
Ladies and gentlemen, kindly put away your yoga balls. Thank you.
Posted on: July 1, 2009 1:18 am
Edited on: July 1, 2009 10:37 am
Determined to make the first splash of the NBA's free-agent negotiating period early Wednesday, the Portland Trail Blazers are making a strong push to sign Hedo Turkoglu, the prized free agent of the summer.
While negotiations across the league were in the early stages, a person with knowledge of the discussions said the Blazers are trying to lure Turkoglu with a deal in the $50-million range. Contracts cannot be signed until July 7, when the annual moratorium on signing and trading players is lifted.
Other teams expected to make a play for Turkoglu, who earned a huge pay day by helping Orlando get to the NBA Finals, were Toronto, Detroit, and Sacramento. The Magic, who acquired Vince Carter from the Nets on the belief that they could not retain Turkoglu, are not expected to be a factor in a situation that involves Turkoglu getting $10 million a year.
UPDATE: Turkoglu's agent, Lon Babby, told the Oregonian that the Blazers were the first team to call. "They were enthusiastic and well received by us," Babby said. "We are engaged in the process. We will see where it takes us in the next couple of days and take it from there."
GM Kevin Pritchard and assistant GM Tom Penn first called Brandon Roy and LaMarcus Aldridge, who are seeking extensions from the team, the Oregonian reported. In order to clear cap space for Turkoglu, the Blazers likely would have to renounced their rights to both Joel Freeland and Petteri Koponen, both playing overseas.
UPDATE: Several team executives confirmed the Blazers' interest in Turkoglu Wednesday. But as is usually the case, the Blazers were operating in somewhat of a clandestine environment. One agent who has been in contact with numerous teams since the free-agent bell rang at 12:01 a.m. said Blazers officials insist the talks with Turkoglu were still in the developing stages. It's difficult to imagine where Turkoglu would do better than the Blazers, though. The Pistons, according to sources, are targeting Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. Oklahoma City -- another rare team with cap space -- appears to be focused on restricted free agent Paul Millsap or New York's David Lee.
Posted on: June 25, 2009 4:16 pm
Edited on: June 25, 2009 7:21 pm
It's three hours and counting until the Clippers are on the clock, so here's another dose of buzz and other tidbits. A caveat: This late in the game is when some of the most scurrilous subterfuge is pawned off -- not only on reporters, but on the executives and other high-level people who provide information to reporters. It gets harder and harder to see through all the smoke, but here's the latest of what my sources are hearing: