Tag:Magic
Posted on: May 10, 2011 7:06 pm
Edited on: May 10, 2011 8:04 pm
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Another tough call for Rivers

MIAMI – In the opening minutes of overtime, in a game the Celtics had to have, Doc Rivers faced a decision he never imagined he’d have to confront.

Badly in need of a basket and unable to afford another turnover from the Heat’s relentless trapping of Rajon Rondo, Rivers had to sit his courageous point guard in the hopes that a healthier Delonte West would handle the ball better and Jeff Green would provide better floor-spacing in the most important minutes of the season.

This was barely a minute-and-a-half into overtime of Game 4 against Miami on Monday night, and it was a problem for which there was no good answer. Take Rondo out? With the inspiration he’d provided and desperation he’d infused into the Celtics after returning from what should’ve been a season-ending dislocated elbow in Game 3? Put the heart and soul of the Celtics on the bench?

“I don’t know what the right call was,” Rivers candidly admitted after the 98-90 overtime loss to Miami, which put the Celtics in a 3-1 hole in the best-of-7 series.

With the Celtics facing elimination Wednesday night in Miami, this was not the last difficult decision Rivers will have to make. However and whenever this series ends, Rivers’ next dilemma will be personal and will affect just what happens to the Big Three era Celtics from here.

Five players remain from the Celtics’ 2008 championship. Rondo’s emergence as one of the top point guards in the league and also a leader with incalculable toughness has since transformed the Big Three into the Big Four. But you can’t mention Rondo, Kevin Garnett, Paul Pierce, and Ray Allen without mentioning the coach who held them all together.

Rivers has stated that he soon plans to take a sabbatical from coaching to watch his son, Austin, play college ball at Duke. It is a father’s dream, to have the freedom and security to enjoy his children’s accomplishments – especially when those accomplishments intersect on the basketball court.

Rivers hasn’t officially proclaimed his intentions, not wanting to become a distraction for a team that he believed had one more championship run in it. Also, Rivers is a basketball coach, not a basketball spectator. It is a hard game to walk away from if it is ingrained in you as it is in Rivers.

But the reality is that the Celtics’ core isn’t getting any younger, and Rivers’ son figures to play one season at Duke before following in his father’s footsteps to the NBA. It’s a now-or-never moment for Rivers, who is needed away from the court in the same way he was needed in Boston to coax enough sacrifice out of his trio of stars to hang a 17th championship banner from the rafters at the new Garden. If Rivers’ legacy as Celtics coach is two Finals appearances and a championship, he can walk away with his head held high.

Pierce has three years left on his contract, while Garnett and Allen have one each. Rivers and the members of his coaching staff are up after this season, and with at least a truncated lockout looming, there could be no basketball work to do until September or so. If you’re Rivers, how do you view the impending labor crisis as it relates to you? Do you chalk up the potentially shortened season to your sabbatical, and get the best of both worlds – some games with your son and one more chance with the Celtics? Or do you walk away and not look back?

Whatever he decides, Rivers must now prepare for more than the diabolical talents of Heat stars Dwyane Wade and LeBron James, who would like nothing better than to slam the window shut on the Celtics’ run of success. He must prepare for some serious soul searching, and for the accompanying speculation that goes with any accomplished coach who steps down with work still to be done.

The Lakers’ Phil Jackson hasn’t even gotten to Montana yet and already the rumor mill has him coaching the Knicks after next season. The hype machine will churn even more vigorously for Rivers, who will be able to name his team and price whenever he decides to come back.

His history with the Knicks makes him a logical fit in New York if Mike D’Antoni doesn’t last beyond next season. His championship pedigree and ability to manage stars and their egos makes him one of the few men breathing who are up to the task of coaching the Lakers. One high-level coaching source told me recently that the most fitting place for Rivers is Orlando, where he lives. In addition to sons Austin and Jeremiah, who played at Georgetown before transferring to Indiana, Rivers has a daughter, Callie, who played volleyball at the University of Florida.

There are plenty of decisions to be made, not the least of which have to do with trying to keep this season alive for the Celtics Wednesday night in an elimination game on the road. But the bigger dilemma is looming on the horizon for Rivers, and it might just have everything to do with whether the Celtics as we know them are finished.
Posted on: May 2, 2011 4:32 pm
Edited on: May 2, 2011 6:42 pm
 

Pierce OK for Game 2; will Celts respond?

MIAMI -- Paul Pierce will not face further disciplinary action for his altercation with James Jones in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference semifinals, a league source confirmed Monday to CBSSports.com. Whether the rest of the Celtics will show up with him for Game 2 against the Heat remains to be seen.

After reviewing the incident that resulted in the first of Pierce's two technical fouls in Miami's 99-90 victory in Game 1, league officials decided Pierce's actions did not warrant a fine or suspension. Before practicing Monday at the University of Miami, Pierce said he was "definitely worried" about how the league would view the incident, but the Celtics clearly have more problems to worry about as they try to avoid falling behind 0-2 in a playoff series for the first time in the Big Three era.

"I was surprised at getting kicked out, yeah," Pierce said. "I didn’t think what I did warranted an ejection. But sometimes, players get caught in the heat of the game and sometimes the refs do, too."

Pierce and Jones received technicals after Jones wrapped Pierce up as the Celtics star pump-faked him into the air with 7:59 left Sunday. Pierce and Celtics coach Doc Rivers said Monday they believed that play, as well as a later altercation between Dwyane Wade and Pierce, should have resulted in flagrant fouls on the Heat. 

Instead, Pierce was assessed his second technical foul after Wade tried to run through him on a screen with 7:00 left. Referee Ed Malloy gave Pierce a technical, and crew chief Dan Crawford explained after the game that Pierce received it -- and the accompanying automatic ejection -- for a "verbal taunt." 

UPDATE: After reviewing the incidents Monday, NBA officials rescinded Jones' flagrant foul from the Pierce incident but charged him with a flagrant foul, penalty-one for striking Pierce around the neck. In addition, the league office downgraded Jermaine O'Neal's flagrant-one with 2:30 left in the third quarter to a personal foul. The call was devastating to the Celtics, resulting in a five-point swing when Jones made both free throws and Mike Bibby added a 3-pointer that gave the heata 72-58 lead.

While Rivers disagreed with the explanations given by Crawford after the game, he expertly turned the tables on his team Monday -- essentially taunting his players for allowing the Heat to dictate everything in Game 1, including the physical tone and an aggressive defensive posture that forced the Celtics into a timid, impatient offensive approach.

"Miami wants to show us they’re physical," Rivers said. "That’s cool with us. And we just want to play the way we play. I honestly don’t know if that’s physical or not. That’s for everyone else to say. But at the end of the day, they’re going to play their style, we’re going to play our style, and somebody’s style is going to win."

This is the fourth time the Celtics have trailed 1-0 in a playoff series during the Big Three era; they've yet to lose a Game 2. In 2009, Boston lost Game 1 of the conference semifinals to Orlando at home and lost the series in seven games. The other two instances came on the road during the 2010 playoffs: against the Cavaliers in the conference semis (Boston won the series in six games) and in the NBA Finals against the Lakers (Boston lost the series in seven).

"This is the first time we’ve been in the playoffs with this team," Rajon Rondo said. "It’s different. Obviously, the Big Three have been here. But it’s only five guys now -- myself and Baby (Glen Davis) -- and everyone else hasn’t been in a playoff series with them. So it’s a different team. But we’re confident that we can win Game 2."

How do the Celtics avoid falling behind 0-2 for the first time since Pierce teamed with Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen in 2007? Five things:

1) Listen to Rivers and be the aggressor: Rivers has such a good feel for the personality of his team, and he knows how insulted his players will be when hearing him belabor the point about how Miami dictated the physical tone in Game 1. Look for the Celtics to come out much more assertively at the start. This means A) clean but hard screens and fouls from the get-go from the Celtics, and B) the officials will have their hands full even more than in Game 1. If you thought that was physical, chippy, cheap, or whatever, just wait until Tuesday night.

2) Channel the aggression into better execution: It's not enough to be aggressive. It has to come with a plan. Rivers has needled his players in recent days by publicly stating again and again how much more athletic the Heat are, saying at one point that if this were an Olympics, Miami would win. That may be true, but this is a basketball game. Rondo has to be in attack mode, but under control and with a purpose. He also has to limit his turnovers; he had five of Boston's 13 in Game 1. The Celtics have to get into their offensive sets early, and stay with them long enough to get to the second or third option instead of letting Miami's athleticism break them down into isolation or desperation -- or worse, turnovers, which activate Miami's unstoppable transition game.

3) Find James Jones: In the film session at the team hotel Monday morning, Rivers highlighted how Jones got free for seven 3-point attempts (he made five) without being forced to take a single dribble. "That's poor defense," Rivers said.

4) Win the matchups they should win: The Celtics actually got decent production from the bench (23 points), but they need more from Rondo and Garnett -- especially when both teams' starters are on the floor. Rondo vs. Mike Bibby and Garnett vs. Chris Bosh should be clear-cut advantages for the Celtics, but Rivers admitted they got away from going into the post to Garnett too early in Game 1.

5) Hope the Heat shoot too many jumpers ... again: The Celtics actually should have been pleased with Miami's shot selection in Game 1. Especially early in the game, Miami fell in love with the jumper. According to Synergy Sports Technology, 43 of Miami's 68 field-goal attempts were jump shots. That plays right into the Celtics' hand. Unless, of course, they go in.



Posted on: March 29, 2011 12:35 am
 

Melo puts Knicks out of their misery

NEW YORK – Hours before the game, after the Knicks’ first home shootaround of the season, Carmelo Anthony called it “almost a must-win game.” When it was over – the game, and the Knicks’ six-game losing streak – Melo took the liberty of upgrading it to “definitely a must-win.” 

Forgive him that bit of revisionist history, since most of Anthony’s first month as a full-time resident of New York since he was 8 years old has been a nightmare. 

“Tonight was the starting point for us,” said Anthony, who scored at will to the tune of 39 points – 33 in the second half and overtime – in the Knicks’ bizarre 113-106 victory over Orlando. “We got that monkey off our backs.” 

The Knicks didn’t solve the world’s problems, or even figure out how to get consistent offense from both Anthony and Amar’e Stoudemire in a game they won. They did find out that with supreme effort and intensity, they can defend well enough to win even without personnel built for, you know, defending. And they learned that as cruel as the basketball gods can become, they can be just as charitable. 

“We showed that when we play with energy, we play with intensity, and we just play hard, a lot of things fall into place for us,” Anthony said. 

And so the most compelling train wreck of the NBA season north of South Beach is over. Move along; nothing more to see here.

It took Orlando being without starting point guard Jameer Nelson and reserves Quentin Richardson and Chris Duhon (who left the game with a jammed finger) for the Knicks’ chemistry experiment gone awry to snap a skid in which they had lost nine of 10. (Orlando, of course, also was without J.J. Redick, who missed his ninth straight game with an abdominal injury.) It took Gilbert Arenas to shoot a miserable 2-for-11, including 1-for-7 from 3-point range. It took Dwight Howard missing the final 1:17 of OT after recording his sixth personal foul of the night and 17th technical foul of the season – putting him one tech away from a second one-game suspension with eight games left in the regular season. 

And finally, it took Jason Richardson’s offensive foul for tripping Anthony, waving off what would’ve been a tying 3-pointer by Hedo Turkoglu with 51 seconds left and the Knicks leading 109-106. This after Anthony had first tripped Richardson after the two had scrapped for a loose ball. 

“That’s what happens in life, man,” Anthony said. “The second guy always gets caught.” 

At least Melo was honest about that one. A significant weight lifted from his shoulders, he finally could smile again Monday night. 

“I’ve seen him score 40 and 50 points before, clutch baskets and all that,” Chauncey Billups said. “But I just think that he was so locked in. The kid was rebounding, he was all over the place – grabbing extra rebounds, doing extra effort plays, steals, blocked shots. You know that he wanted to win this game.” 

Before Anthony and the Knicks could win it, of course, they had to almost lose it. And the end of regulation was a near catastrophe that would’ve sent the panic meter to new heights. 

Out of a timeout with 10.2 seconds left in regulation and the Knicks leading 100-97, coach Mike D’Antoni opted – as he always does – to defend Orlando’s search for a 3-point shot rather than foul. Some coaches are dead-set against fouling in that situation, while others believe that’s the only way to play it. This time, the Knicks got burned when Richardson drilled a tying 3-pointer with 5.7 seconds left. 

“I played with him,” Stoudemire said of his former Suns teammate. “He makes shots like that all the time.” 

With the pressure building to win a game with his newly assembled All-Star duo, D’Antoni didn’t show it on the sideline as the Knicks prepared to inbound the ball for their final trip of regulation. As the Knicks were assuming their spots on the floor, D’Antoni was engaged in what looked like a good-natured and spirited debate with several fans behind the bench – presumably over why he didn’t opt to foul. 

“It’s kind of a tricky situation,” Richardson said. “If I was a coach, I wouldn’t do it, either.” 

On the Knicks’ final possession of regulation, the ball went to Anthony – as it did nearly every trip after he checked into a tie game (80-80) with 8:49 left in the fourth. He drove the lane, got up in the air and had to double-clutch. Realizing he had to clear shot at the rim, he said he deliberately tossed the ball off the backboard to himself – but missed the putback at the buzzer. 

“I should’ve thrown it on the other side (of the rim),” Anthony said. “There was nobody there.” 

Then came overtime, and the Howard foul and tech, and the curious case of J-Rich getting caught for doing what Melo had done to him – costing Orlando Turkoglu’s tying trey. But if you were expecting Magic coach Stan Van Gundy to have his usual fun with the league’s officiating and disciplinary system, you would’ve been disappointed. Asked three officiating-related questions in his postgame media session, Van Gundy each time responded with dead silence. Commissioner David Stern, who’d promised we wouldn’t be hearing from Van Gundy anymore on such issues, was right. 

And for one night, so were the Knicks. 

“They played really hungry,” Richardson said. “They dove, they hustled. It was a must-win for them. You lose six in a row, you start getting hungry. You start feeling that starvation kicking in.” 

Making the Knicks’ first victorious post-game meal in nearly two weeks a must-eat.
Posted on: March 23, 2011 8:12 pm
Edited on: March 23, 2011 9:53 pm
 

Van Gundy: Rose-y outlook for MVP

NEW YORK – Stan Van Gundy has read the tea leaves – and lots of NBA articles, including on this site, evidently – and declared the MVP race over. 

“I don’t think it’s wide open,” Van Gundy said before the Magic played the Knicks Wednesday night. “I mean, the media seems to have made their decision and they’re the ones who vote, so I think it’s over. … Derrick Rose has it. I haven’t really read or heard a media guy who is going another way at this point. I’d be shocked if he doesn’t win it.” 

Van Gundy, clearly chastened by recently having been called on the carpet by commissioner David Stern for voicing his opinions, suffered a momentarily lapse into his previous persona when asked about the MVP race – which he clearly believes, once again, that Dwight Howard should be winning. 

“To me, with his rebounding, his scoring and his defense, I just don’t think there’s anybody who impacts as many possessions in a game as Dwight does,” Van Gundy said. “I think Derrick Rose has been great. I will have no problem if Derrick Rose wins the MVP. They’ve got the best record in the East, and he’s been clearly their leader. You can make a great case for him. 

“He’s been great,” Van Gundy said. “But I still don’t think anyone impacts the game as many possessions in a game as Dwight does.” 

Howard, speaking in the locker room before the game, declined an invitation to state his own case for MVP. 

“Derrick Rose has been playing great basketball,” Howard said. “I’m not a guy that likes to talk about myself, but I think I do a lot for my team in order for us to have a chance to win every night. I think that’s about it. I don’t like talking about myself.” 

As chronicled here, my personal opinion for about two thirds of the season was that LeBron James would get my vote for MVP. But Rose has come on – not statistically or efficiency-wise all the time, but in terms of lifting the Bulls to elite status in the East and being their undisputed floor leader and scorer. Since losing two straight on the road in early February, the Bulls have beaten Miami and Atlanta twice and San Antonio and Orlando once apiece. In February and March, Rose is averaging 25.7 points and 7.1 assists in 23 games.

Earlier this month, Matt Moore and Ben Golliver had a spirited MVP discussion in our Eye on Basketball blog that you can relive here.
Posted on: February 23, 2011 11:06 am
Edited on: February 23, 2011 5:49 pm
 

Deron Williams to Nets

The Nets have acquired All-Star point guard Deron Williams from the Jazz for Derrick Favors, Devin Harris, two first-round picks, and cash, the teams announced Wednesday.

In a swift and astonishing comeback from their failed pursuit of Carmelo Anthony, New Jersey also will get Dan Gadzuric and Brandan Wright from Golden State for Troy Murphy, who will be bought out, sources said. Murphy is considering signing with Boston, Miami or Orlando once his buyout is complete. That separate transaction, with Golden State also getting a 2012 second-round pick from the Nets, is expected to be completed later Wednesday.

The deal, first reported by the Bergen (N.J.) Record and Yahoo! Sports, represents a major coup for Nets owner Mikhail Prokhorov, who lost out to cross-river rival New York in his pursuit of Anthony but arguably gets an even better prize for some of the pieces that were bound for Denver in a deal that was agreed to last week for Anthony. The Knicks acquired Anthony Tuesday for four players and three draft picks in a masssive, three-team, 13-player blockbuster. The Williams-to-New Jersey deal was agreed to Wednesday, hours before Anthony was set to make his debut for the Knicks at Madison Square Garden.

Williams, arguably the best point guard in the game, had grown disenchanted in Utah, where friction between he and coach Jerry Sloan resulted in the Hall of Fame coach resigning Feb. 11. CBSSports.com reported during All-Star weekend that Williams began planning his exit from Utah last summer, telling associates that if Amar'e Stoudemire wound up signing with the Knicks, Williams wanted to follow him there as a free agent in 2012.

In a chaotic environment that has changed the landscape of the NBA, the Jazz boldly got out in front of the looming soap opera with their superstar, opting to trade him for assets a year before his free agency would become a major issue. By doing so, general manager Kevin O'Connor has taken one of the marquee 2012 free agents off the market and spared his organization the kind of drama and distraction that besieged the Nuggets until Anthony finally was dealt to the Knicks.

As one rival executive noted, the Nets turned the "guts of the Melo deal" into a far superior talent and didn't have to give up as much as Denver was asking for Anthony -- or even as much as the Knicks gave up for him. But in the end, the players and draft picks surrendered on both sides of the Hudson River will be all but forgotten once Williams, Stoudemire and Anthony embark on what will be without question the most heated rivalry the New York area teams have ever had.

And with early indications that Williams is not happy with the trade, the Nets took a calculated risk -- but one that could pay enormous dividends. The Knicks got a player who wanted to join them while Williams will have to be sold. But he'll have the rest of this season and next -- barring a lockout -- to evaluate whether he'll have enough talent with him by the time the team moves to Brooklyn in 2012.

The deal saves the Jazz about $3.6 million in salary and luxury-tax payments, but does not push them under the $70.3 million tax threshold. Given the obvious decision to go in a rebuilding direction, the Jazz could be poised for other deals to clear the remaining $4.9 million they're over the tax. The Jazz get New Jersey's 2011 first-round pick and Golden State's 2012 first-rounder, which also comes from the Nets after being acquired in a previous trade.

The Jazz play in Dallas Wednesday night in the first game of the post-Williams era. New Jersey's next game is Friday night in San Antonio, where it is expected that Williams will make his Nets debut.

With star players aggressively angling for better markets and fellow stars to team up with, following the blueprint set forth first by the Celtics and Lakers and then by Miami's Big Three last summer, the Jazz snuffed out what could've been another long, painful march to free agency for Williams.

During All-Star weekend, Williams danced around the report by CBSSports.com that he hatched an escape plan to New York last summer and proclaimed that he would not be addressing his impending free agency until he made a decision. On Wednesday, about 28 hours before the trade deadline, the decision was made for him. Williams has two years left on his contract after this one, including a player option in 2012-13 -- when the Nets are scheduled to move into their new home in Brooklyn and truly ignite their rivalry with the Knicks.

In so many ways, that rivalry has been smoldering for months as the Knicks and Nets pursued Anthony. It was elevated to five-alarm status Wednesday, with Prokhorov trumping Madison Square Garden chairman James Dolan's acquisition of Anthony on the very day the Knicks' new superstar makes his home debut against the Bucks.

Williams isn't eligible for an extension until July 1 -- or whichever comes first, July 1 or the ratification of a new collective bargaining agreement. By trading him a year before he had the leverage of being able to force his way to the team of his choice -- like Anthony did with the Knicks -- the Jazz not only avoid the drama, but they also get a better deal than one they would've gotten under such duress.

The deal not only represents a short-term victory for the Nets in their battle with the Knicks over superstar talent -- it was 2-0 New York until Wednesday, with Stoudemire and Anthony on board at the Garden -- it also has wide-ranging implications in the chase for 2012 free agents. Will Williams stay in New Jersey, buy into the Brooklyn mystique, and try to topple the Knicks' star tandem of Stoudemire and Anthony by serving as a magnet for future free agents? Will he decline to sign an extension and try to force his way to the Knicks? Does his presence on the Nets virtually assure that fellow star point guard Chris Paul will make his summer wedding toast come true by joining Stoudemire and Anthony in New York in 2012? Whom does Dwight Howard team up with when his free-agent clock starts ticking? The Lakers, Knicks, or Nets?

Only this is for sure: The floodgates pushed ajar by LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh last summer have blown wide open.


Posted on: February 6, 2011 8:58 pm
 

The artist formerly known as Gilbert Arenas

BOSTON – Gilbert Arenas was once one of the most prolific scorers and entertainers in the NBA. On Sunday, he missed all seven of his shots from the field and all of his explanations in the locker room afterward, too. 

Maybe that’s because the entertainer formerly known as Agent Zero really has zero feel for how he’s supposed to fit in with the Orlando Magic

“I expected to struggle a little bit because I have to learn how everyone plays,” Arenas said after going scoreless in a 91-80 loss to the Celtics. “I’m the point guard. I’ve got to learn where everybody wants the ball, how they move, where they like it, where they dislike it. So I can’t be as aggressive as I want to. I can’t just go down there and play my basketball. That’s not what we do here. 

“I’m so focused on trying to get people the ball that when I do have open shots, it’s like, ‘Oh, open shot,’ and then I shoot it,” Arenas said. “Instead of saying, ‘I’m going to shoot, if I see somebody, I‘ll pass it.’ When you’re a scorer and you think about scoring, everything comes easy. If you think about any scorer that’s in this league, scoring is so easy. But when you have to make plays, it’s just weird. I catch myself not being aggressive, so when I do turn it on, I don’t have a rhythm.” 

Arenas said he was not affected by the turmoil from two nights ago, when he was served with child-support papers at halftime of a game in Washington against his former team. 

“I don’t actually pay attention to it because I have my lawyers that deal with it,” Arenas said. “… That’s what humans decide to do these days because it is a media world now. They use media to get their points across. I’m not going to go back and forth. My kids have to read this one day.” 

But Arenas did offer an explanation – a peculiar one at that – for his offensive struggles. Aside from adjusting to Stan Van Gundy’s structured offensive style, Arenas also is dealing with pain in his surgically repaired knees – but only in cold weather cities. Arenas asserted that an arthritic condition causes his left knee in particular to stiffen up in cold weather. 

“Cities that are high on the map, I have trouble with,” Arenas said. “Like this city during the winter. But as soon as February shows up – that’s why they call me Mr. February, because I’ll be dunking and jumping around in practice. I’m glad we’re about to have a month basically at home so I can just get my rhythm and be in the warm weather where my knee is going to feel a lot better. It’s like day and night. It’s weird.” 

Asked when it will feel better, Arenas said, “As soon as we land in Orlando. When it’s cold, the coldness swells in my joints and puts moisture in my joints and that’s what makes it stiff. So once I get to a warm city, or any city that has high humidity, I’m fine.” 

The crisis of health and identity that Arenas is enduring couldn’t be playing out at a worse time for the Magic, who fell to 16-10 since the trades with Phoenix and Washington that reshaped their roster. 

“Everyone always talks about the injury, but last year when I was playing I was averaging 22, seven (assists) and four (rebounds),” Arenas said. “And then I missed 50 games.” 

Given the suspension for bringing guns to the Wizards’ locker room last season, on top of the knee issues and the change of system and city, it’s no wonder Arenas is having trouble figuring out who he is. 

“Let’s go back a year ago with everything he went through and then let’s go back a year earlier to where he was and how we beat him down to zero,” Magic GM Otis Smith said. “And then let’s change his job, change his boss and say, ‘OK, now go be the same.’ Could you do it? And at the same time, you’ve got to read about it every day. I’m not sure anybody could do it and come out on the other end.”
Category: NBA
Posted on: December 21, 2010 8:14 pm
 

Sources: Mavs poised to enter Melo chase

The Dallas Mavericks are plotting an aggressive push to acquire Carmelo Anthony, even if they don’t get assurances that the three-time All-Star would agree to a contract extension as part of the trade, league sources told CBSSports.com. 

Despite his team’s emergence as one of the powers of the Western Conference -- and, as Dallas proved Monday night in Miami, the whole league -- owner Mark Cuban is said to be not only willing to take a chance on Anthony, but eager to steal him from the Nets, who are owned by his billionaire rival, Mikhail Prokhorov. In a deal that would provide Denver with little more than future savings, the Mavs are planning what one rival executive described as a “hard” push. 

The Mavs’ interest has yet to take the form of a concrete offer, as one person connected to the Anthony drama told CBSSports.com Tuesday that Dallas had yet to present one. Any prospects the Mavs might have to pull off such a coup would be contingent on Anthony declining to sign an extension with New Jersey. With a signed extension as part of the deal, the Nets still possess by far the most attractive assets to Denver -- Derrick Favors, the expiring contract of Troy Murphy, and multiple first-round picks. 

But that is the question that the Anthony saga has hinged on for months. Part of Dallas’ strategy, according to sources, is to shift the Anthony discussions to what Cuban recently called the “rent-a-player” phase, which would drive down the price and encourage other teams to present offers without assurances that Anthony would stay put for five years -- the two he has remaining (including the early-termination option for 2011-12) plus the extension. 

Such potential suitors, including the Mavs, do not have enough of what Denver is looking for to compete with New Jersey’s best offer. But if Dallas is successful in shifting Denver’s focus to “rental” deals, the Nets would then have to decide how much they are willing to give up to acquire a franchise cornerstone for their move to Brooklyn -- even if Anthony could leave them in the dust as a free agent before the team even got there. 

Meanwhile, the Nuggets remain in a patient posture and are not in any apparent rush to push a New Jersey trade to fruition. And after acquiring two more first-round picks in a three-team trade with the Lakers and Rockets last week, Nets executives are continuing their ongoing efforts to sweeten the deal for Anthony by acquiring a veteran he’d want to play with in Newark, N.J., for a year-and-a-half. Such inducements could come in the form of Al Harrington and/or Chauncey Billups, whom Anthony might be comfortable having on board. The other scenarios, according to one executive familiar with them, are numerous and “beyond challenging” because multiple teams would be needed. 

Among the contending teams with the deep pockets and championship core to take a risk like trading for Anthony without a signed extension as part of the deal, Dallas has the most expiring money to make it worth the Nuggets’ while. Any Dallas proposal would have to include the expiring contracts of Caron Butler and DeShawn Stevenson. More money would need to be added -- Tyson Chandler? -- or a third team would need to be recruited in order to take Harrington and/or Billups off Denver’s hands. 

The notion of Anthony going to a contender -- or to the Nets, for that matter -- without signing his three-year, $65 million extension is exactly what New York Knicks officials are hoping for. Sources say the Knicks continue to believe that the longer the Anthony situation plays out, the better their chances of landing him through a trade, or more likely, as a free agent after the season and anticipated lockout. New York has been Anthony’s preferred destination since his operatives began pushing for a trade in September, and a person directly involved in Anthony’s decision-making process told CBSSports.com earlier this month that he’d become more entrenched in his desire to agree to an extend-and-trade only if he would up with the Knicks. CBSSports.com also reported that Anthony has not shared his position with Nuggets officials, and that Nets officials have been told differently by Anthony’s camp. 

Another team that various team executives believe is very much in the mix -- either to make a push to land Melo as a rental or become involved as a third-team facilitator -- is the Rockets. Houston fully expects to receive a disabled-player exception for Yao Ming totaling $5.8 million and already has a $6.3 million exception from the Trevor Ariza trade. Such exceptions can’t be combined, but individually they could be used to absorb a contract -- such as, for example, the Nuggets’ J.R. Smith’s or Harrington’s -- without sending equal money back. In return, the Rockets would either have to get a player they want or be compensated accordingly with draft picks or other assets. The Rockets also are flush with the expiring contracts of Shane Battier, Jared Jeffries, and even Yao, whose contract is insured due to his season-ending foot injury. 

Rockets owner Leslie Alexander has a history of bold moves, and has placed few restrictions on his front office, led by GM Daryl Morey, to spend money in order to win. The Rockets, for example, are currently a tax-paying team and are under no mandate from ownership to shed salary even though they are off to a slow start and have lost Yao for the season -- and maybe for good. 

A dark horse in all of this? The Mavs’ opponent Tuesday night, Orlando. The Magic have a little more than two months before the Feb. 24 trade deadline to see if their revamped roster will be good enough to contend for a title after this week’s blockbuster trades with Phoenix and Washington. But the only piece that is likely to be available and enticing to Denver is Jason Richardson, whose $14.4 million contract expires after the season. Richardson cannot be combined with other players in a trade for 60 days, which would leave just enough time before the trade deadline to involve him in the Anthony discussions. 

If -- and this is a big if -- Anthony is still a Nugget by then.
Posted on: December 18, 2010 2:57 pm
Edited on: December 18, 2010 5:32 pm
 

Magic getting Arenas, Turkoglu in blockbuster

In a blockbuster trade that changes the complexion of the Eastern Conference, the Magic are getting Hedo Turkoglu and Jason Richardson from the Suns and Gilbert Arenas from the Wizards, league sources confirmed to CBSSports.com.

The Suns send Turkoglu back to Orlando, where he thrived, along with Richardson and Earl Clark for Vince Carter, Marcin Gortat and Mickael Pietrus. Orlando also sends a 2011 first-round pick and cash to Phoenix and acquires Arenas from Washington for Rashard Lewis, the sources said.

It is a swing-for-the-fences for Orlando, which came under immense pressure to make a big trade while losing five of its last six games and taking an obvious back seat to Boston and Miami in the East. Turkoglu, who struggled in stints with Toronto and Phoenix, returns to Orlando -- where he was a key piece in Magic's run to the 2009 NBA Finals.

Arenas is the bigger name, but the key to the deal could be Richardson, a perimeter sniper who fits the Magic's style and gives them a clutch scorer and big-time shooter to further space the floor for Dwight Howard.

The Rockets tried to get into the mix for Gortat, whom they've coveted for several years, but wouldn't give up Kevin Martin, two people familiar with the situation said.

In addition to making Orlando a more potent offensive team -- and, once again, a matchup nightmare with Turkoglu back in the role that suits him best -- the second part of the deal gives a much needed fresh start to Arenas. The former All-Star gets an improbable chance to resurrect his career away from the place where his status as the face of the Wizards franchise crumbled amid persistent knee injuries and a 50-game suspension for bringing firearms to the Verizon Center locker room last season.

Aside from trying to reload in a way that justifies their $94 million payroll, the Magic also are taking bold steps to placate Howard and dissuade him from entering the 2012 free-agent class. Some members of the Magic organization, including Howard and coach Stan Van Gundy, have had serious reservations about bringing in Arenas since CBSSports.com first reported in October that a deal had been arranged for the mercurial superstar over the summer. That deal was built around Carter going to Washington.

Magic GM Otis Smith, who has a close relationship with Arenas from their days in Golden State, will consummate his months-long effort to extract Arenas from Washington. The Wizards, who have turned the franchise over to No. 1 pick John Wall, are all too willing to oblige -- especially given the $62 million Arenas is owed over the next three seasons.

"It was a challenging situation for Gilbert," Arenas' agent, Dan Fegan, told CBSSports.com. "Ted Leonsis gave him a clean slate and really worked to make this situation work. He did a very decent thing by brokering a trade to Orlando and giving Gilbert a second chance."

That is the price Orlando had to pay to make room for Turkoglu and Richardson, whose presence made Lewis -- whose production has significantly declined -- no longer necessary. While the Magic are taking on significant money with Arenas and Turkolgu, Richardson's $14.4 million contract expires after this season. And Turkoglu eases the burden because he accepted a reduction in guaranteed money in 2013-14, the final year of his contract, as part of the trade that sent him from Toronto to Phoenix.

The dual swaps presumably give Orlando a starting lineup of Howard at center, Brandon Bass at power forward, Turkoglu at small forward, Richardson at shooting guard and -- here's the big question -- either Arenas or Jameer Nelson at point guard. Van Gundy also has the flexibility to play Turkoglu at the four in smaller lineups that might feature Richardson at the three with Nelson and Arenas in the backcourt. While Smith could've waited until the 11th hour on the Feb. 24 trade deadline to complete the Lewis-for-Arenas portion, the upside is that Van Gundy gets more time to figure out how to fit all of these pieces together. With Boston having the most continuity among its stars in the East, and with Miami beginning to make its Big Three work on an 11-game winning streak, time is a valuable commodity to the Magic as they try to retool on the fly.

From the Phoenix perspective, the Suns get a much-needed big man in Gortat, a poor man's version of Richardson in Pietrus, and the essentially expiring contract of Carter, who has only $4 million guaranteed next season. But besides Gortat, the primary haul for Phoenix is a first-round pick and $3 million for cash-strapped owner Robert Sarver -- raising serious questions about whether Steve Nash will want to stay in Phoenix to rebuild.



 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com