Posted on: February 18, 2010 1:44 am
Edited on: February 18, 2010 2:36 am

Rockets agree to acquire Kevin Martin from Kings

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 16, 2010 5:57 pm
Edited on: February 18, 2010 12:35 am

Knicks-Rockets talk T-Mac; Bulls fade

The Knicks' negotiations with the Rockets on a blockbuster deal that would send Tracy McGrady to New York continued to progress early Thursday as a key piece of Houston's leverage faded from the picture: the Chicago Bulls.

While New York and Houston continued negotiating the level of protection the Knicks would place on two first-round picks involved in the discussion, the Bulls were having trouble finding a third team -- preferably one with extra first-round picks to offer -- as a way to sweeten their proposal, sources said.

Though nothing was resolved over the draft pick issue, it appeared that the Rockets and Knicks were confident enough in the framework of their deal that the Bulls dropped out of the discussions, a high-level source involved in the process said. The situation was described Wednesday night as strictly between the Rockets and Knicks, with the key issue remaining how much protection the Knicks would require on two first-round picks involved in the trade.

In a sign of the Bulls' retreat, John Salmons did not play against the Knicks Wednesday night after management told him to stay at the team hotel in New York while they finalized a trade. Later, the Bulls engaged the Bucks in discussions that would send Salmons to Milwaukee for a package of expiring contracts -- perhaps Kurt Thomas and Francisco Elson, sources said. That deal would pave the way for the Knicks and Bulls to finally orchestrate their long-discussed swap centered around Al Harrington and Tyrus Thomas.

"It's still in play," a person with knowledge of the talks said.

New York officials reported back to the Rockets earlier Wednesday with their protection parameters, and the Rockets were pushing hard for less protection, two people familiar with the talks said. Sources have indicated that once the Rockets received New York's final determination on pick protection, they would choose between offers from the Knicks and Bulls for McGrady, whose $23 million expiring contract is one of the most coveted assets before Thursday's 3 p.m. ET deadline.

The Knicks, having been burned under previous regimes for giving away draft picks with little or no protection, were seeking to adequately protect a 2011 first-round pick that Houston would have the option of swapping with New York and a 2012 first-round pick that could go to the Rockets based on where it falls in the draft. Before word came Wednesday night of the Bulls' withdrawal from the talks, one person familiar with the negotiations said Houston was "asking for too much," while a second person with a stake in the deal continued to say the Knicks continued to have the leading proposal to extract McGrady.

The Knicks would get a package centered around McGrady in exchange for Jared Jeffries, Larry Hughes, Jordan Hill and the draft pick considerations. Shedding Jeffries, owed $6.9 million in 2010-11, comes at a high price -- one that Knicks president Donnie Walsh was having trouble getting comfortable accepting, sources said. The Rockets were asking for so much because they'd face little in the way of negative implications by keeping McGrady and simply letting his contract fall off the books.

Moving Jeffries is crucial to the Knicks' 2010 free agency plan because it would get New York within striking distance of its stated goal of clearing maximum cap space and flexibility heading into the crucial free-agent class that begins July 1. The Rockets, who are getting nothing from McGrady this season, would benefit from an approximately $7 million swing in luxury tax payments -- but that issue was described by one source as "not material" compared to the pick protection.

If the Knicks were successful in shedding Jeffries' $6.9 million contract for next season -- along with Hill, their No. 8 pick in 2009, and Hughes -- they'd be within about $2 million of their elusive goal of clearing space for two max free agents this summer. By completing the McGrady deal as currently constructed, New York would be able to get to the approximately $33 million needed for two straight-up max signings by buying out Eddy Curry's $11.3 million contract for next season. Curry's agent, Leon Rose, also represents the No. 1 potential catch in the 2010 sweepstakes, LeBron James.

Emboldened by the uncertainty surrounding the draft pick issue, the Bulls intensified their research on McGrady late Tuesday night and into Wednesday, a source said. The framework of the Bulls' offer was believed to have included Brad Miller, Thomas, and either Kirk Hinrich or Salmons. If Hinrich were involved, the deal likely would've had another player going to Chicago with McGrady; the Bulls are believed to have wanted either Luis Scola or Carl Landry. The Bulls' interest in one of those players -- combined with their desire to move either Hinrich or Salmons, both owed significant money next season -- appeared to have hurt Chicago's proposal. Hinrich has two years and $17 million remaining, and Salmons is owed $5.8 million next season.

The Knicks completed a minor deal Wednesday, sending Darko Milicic to Minnesota for Brian Cardinal in an exchange of expiring contracts that did not directly impact the McGrady discussions. Walsh told reporters at Madison Square Garden Wednesday night that the NBA had awarded the team cap relief on Cuttino Mobley's $9.5 million, insurance-protected contract -- another step in getting the team's books in order. Also on Wednesday, the Knicks became deeply involved in talks that would send Nate Robinson to Boston as part of a package that would yield 3-point specialist Eddie House.
Posted on: February 10, 2010 6:32 pm

McGrady's escape window opens

Nobody wants to go to New York right now, considering the weather. But if talks progress on a three-team trade proposal involving the Knicks, Rockets, and Wizards, Tracy McGrady might be on his way to the Big Apple by the time the snow is cleaned up.

Though sources cautioned that no deal has been finalized, two people with knowledge of the situation confirmed that the teams have discussed a swap that would send McGrady to New York, Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood to Houston, and Al Harrington to the Wizards. Other pieces would have to be involved, but those are the main ones.

The holdup, according to one of the sources, is indecision on the part of the Rockets and Knicks to sign off on the proposal. The second person familiar with the scenario characterized it as one of many discussions the Wizards are actively engaged in as they try to clean house in the wake of Gilbert Arenas' season-wrecking firearms suspension.

Among those discussions, other sources say, involve Butler going to Dallas in an exchange that almost certainly would include Josh Howard. If the Mavs are able to follow through on their desire to trade Howard, they essentially must do so before the Feb. 18 trade deadline. Howard has a team option at $11.8 million for the 2010-11 season, and as such couldn't be traded after the season unless the Mavs picked up the option -- which would guarantee Howard's contract for next season.

As far as McGrady, what would the Knicks' motivation be to import an aging star coming off microfracture surgery -- one who has played all of six games this season? Thus, the hangup. Teams have balked at the Knicks' efforts to divest themselves of Jared Jeffries and Eddy Curry, both of whom are hampering New York's plan to clear further cap space for its free-agent shopping spree this coming summer. Moving Harrington's expiring contract (and another piece to make the trade work under CBA guidelines) and taking on McGrady's $23 million expiring deal wouldn't dramatically improve the Knicks' cap position for 2010-11. The motivation, therefore, would be hoping that McGrady has enough left to help push the Knicks back into the playoff picture. As of Wednesday, New York was 6 1-2 games out of the eighth spot.

Newsday reported Wednesday that Knicks president Donnie Walsh has visited Chicago seeking an answer to that question. Since the Rockets banished him in December, McGrady has been splitting time between Houston and Chicago, where he's worked out with personal trainer Tim Grover at the Attack Athletics gym. Walsh, according to Newsday, could be planning another trip. What he sees could be the tipping point in what would be one of the most significant deals to occur before the deadline.
Posted on: February 1, 2010 4:34 pm
Edited on: February 1, 2010 4:37 pm

Best and worst contenders in January

January is the month when NBA teams start figuring out what they are. The feeling-out period of November and December gives way a time when night-to-night performance dictates the tweaks that are needed at the trade deadline.

Based on the standings as we sit here on Feb. 1, there are nine teams legitimately in the Eastern Conference playoff picture (the line is drawn at the Knicks, who enter the month six games out of the eighth spot). In the West, 11 teams are strong playoff contenders (drawing the line at the Clippers, who are six games out of eighth). Of those 20 teams, which ones performed the best and the worst in the month of January, and why?

The “who” is easy. For the “why,” we need some statistical analysis. And for that, we turn to adjusted plus/minus expert Wayne Winston. In his blog, Winston opines on all 30 teams and why they performed the way they did in the month of January. Let’s break out Winston’s analysis of the playoff contenders with the five best and five worst records last month:

(To review, adjusted plus/minus tells you how many points better or worse a team would perform if a given player were paired with four average players against five average players. For example, LeBron James’ was plus-21 in January, meaning his team was 21 points better than average when adjusted for whom LeBron was playing with and against.)

Five Best

1. Cleveland (12-3): It’s all about Shaquille O’Neal, whose adjusted plus/minus through December was minus-4 but in January was plus-4.
1. (t)Denver (12-3): Carmelo Anthony and Chauncey Billups are overrated, according to Winston. Nene and Chris “Birdman” Andersen each had a plus-23 rating in January.
3. Charlotte (12-4): The Bobcats’ success can be attributed to Gerald Wallace (plus-15), Flip Murray (plus-11), and Stephen Jackson (plus-8).
4. Utah (10-4): Deron Williams registered a plus-17, but Andre Kirilenko, Carlos Boozer, and Kyle Korver all were plus-10 or better, too.
5. New Orleans (12-5): Chris Paul (plus-8) and Marcus Thornton (plus-9) combined to form an effective starting backcourt – a plan that will have to be adjusted with Paul out indefinitely due to a left knee injury requiring surgery. Darren Collison, you’re up ...
5. (t) Lakers (12-5): Winston says Ron Artest (minus-1) has been fading steadily since his Christmas night fall and unrelated foot ailments. Remarkably, his system credits Sasha Vujacic with a plus-16 – same as Kobe.

Five Worst

1. Houston (5-9): David Andersen (plus-7) has been helpful. Chuck Hayes (minus-9), not so much.
2. Boston (6-8): The main culprit, as you might expect, has been Kevin Garnett (minus-11), whose offensive rating was even worse than his overall adjusted plus/minus (minus-21). Glen “Don’t Call Me Big Baby” Davis also struggled (minus-14).
3. Phoenix (7-9): Channing Frye’s rating went from plus-13 through December to plus-2 in January. Amar’e Stoudemire, Jason Richardson, Grant Hill, Goran Dragic, and Louis Amundson all hovered between minus-9 and minus-11. Robin Lopez was plus-9.
4. Portland (7-8): Nicolas Batum (plus-16), Andre Miller (plus-13), Martell Webster (plus-13), and Jerryd Bayless (plus-10) kept the Blazers afloat. But they need a big man in the worst way, as Juwan Howard (minus-18) and Jeff Pendergraph (minus-14) killed them.
5. Miami (8-9): Rafer Alston (minus-14) hasn’t solved the Heat’s point guard woes. Dorell Wright (plus-11) was solid.

No single statistical method is the be-all, end-all for evaluating a team’s performance. Depending on which front office you’re talking to, you’ll get different accounts of which data are most meaningful. But these numbers shed some light on some common beliefs about what certain contenders need to add or subtract before the Feb. 18 trade deadline. In Denver’s case, the performance of Nene and Birdman seemed to debunk the notion that the Nuggets desperately need to acquire a big man. In Portland’s case, the data proves that the Blazers need an upgrade in the frontcourt.

The Celtics? They need Garnett to be as healthy and dominant as he was two years ago. (Don’t hold your breath.) Do the Jazz need to trade Boozer? If they want to get under the luxury tax they do, but not if they want to continue playing their best basketball of the season.

Which team that’s currently a long shot to make the playoffs had the best January? That would be the Bucks, who went 8-7 in January – better than six teams currently in the hunt. The Bucks are an aberration to Winston, as well, because all he could come up with to explain their success was Charlie Bell’s plus-10 rating in January. It’s an imperfect system that nonetheless provides some interesting stuff to think about as we close in on Feb. 18.

Posted on: December 31, 2009 1:38 pm

McGrady on pace to be All-Star starter

Tracy McGrady is a man without a team. Unless you count the Western Conference All-Star team.

When the third returns in the 2010 All-Star balloting were released Thursday, McGrady had passed Steve Nash and moved into second place among Western Conference guards behind Kobe Bryant. Paper balloting will continue until Jan. 10, while wireless and online voting concludes Jan. 18. The All-Star starters will be announced Jan. 21.

Oh, the delicious irony of McGrady starting the All-Star game in the state of Texas while he's gotten himself banished from the Rockets for complaining about playing time. As the New York Times' Jonathan Abrams needled on Twitter, is McGrady going to wear a Rockets jersey, or one from Attack Athletics, the Chicago gym where he trains with Tim Grover?

Should T-Mac somehow hold off far more deserving candidates like Nash, Chris Paul, Chauncey Billups, and Brandon Roy, the best part will be this: The All-Star Game could very well be his last in a Rockets jersey. The game will be played Feb. 14 -- four days before the NBA trade deadline.

If McGrady is voted into the All-Star starting lineup in a season during which he's played all of 46 minutes, should fans be banned from casting All-Star votes? Nah, let the fans have their fun ... the All-Star Game is meant for their entertainment. However, it's worth discussing whether All-Star appearances should be dropped as an official statistic for consideration for such honors as induction to the Basketball Hall of Fame. McGrady starting for the West and Allen Iverson for the East at a time when both are running on fumes would provide plenty of proof that such accolades are meaningless.
Posted on: December 27, 2009 10:25 pm

Rockets, McGrady's rep to discuss next move

The Rockets and Tracy McGrady's agent, Bob Myers, will have discussions at the conclusion of the team's current road trip to decide the next step for the disgruntled former All-Star.

According to an NBA front office source familiar with the situation, the only logical step now is for McGrady to formally request a trade.

McGrady was given permission to fly home to Houston before a road game againsty the Nets on Saturday after coach Rick Adelman rebuffed his latest request for an increase in playing time. McGrady logged about eight minutes per game in the first six games of his comeback from microfracture knee surgery, but has bristled at Adelman's refusal to play him more.

Now, the situation appears to have reached a point of no return, despite McGrady's recent statements that he's happy in Houston and actually wants to re-sign with the Rockets when his $23 million contract expires July 1.

The Rockets (18-13) have been one of the surprising teams in the league this season, staying in playoff contention without Yao Ming and McGrady. After McGrady returned to action Dec. 15, a person with knowledge of the situation told CBSSports.com that the Rockets' clear intention was to get him into playing shape to increase his trade value.

Houston GM Daryl Morey has steadfastly rebuffed such a notion. And a front office exec with a team that would seem to be a good fit for McGrady told CBSSports.com that he's had no substantive talks with Morey about McGrady. But another team exec said Sunday that McGrady's six-game stint would be enough to assuage any doubts on the part of interested teams.

"They showed he can play," the executive said. "That's all they needed to do."

McGrady, 30, is the highest-paid player in the league at $23.2 million, and his expiring contract would be valuable to any team trying to clear cap space for a major free-agent signing next summer. For the same reason, his contract would be just as valuable to the Rockets if they let it come off their books. But if trading McGrady is what the Rockets want, the former All-Star's departure from the team Saturday takes the onus off them. If McGrady requests a trade, as expected, then there's no reason to continue the charade. 

Category: NBA
Posted on: December 16, 2009 12:44 pm

T-Mac returns, but for who? For what?

CHICAGO -- Tracy McGrady returned to the Houston Rockets Tuesday night, and the fans cheered. T-Mac hit a 3-pointer, his only points during an eight-minute stint, and all was right in Rocket Land again. Right?

No, not so much.

McGrady's comeback is only part of a larger plan to increase his minutes and prove his worth to a team willing to take a chance on his once-breathtaking ability to score and benefit from his $23 million expiring contract at the same time. The Rockets were 14-10 this season without Yao Ming and McGrady, and now the only question is how long they'll have to keep up the charade until McGrady is in good enough condition to help another team.

"The plan is to increase his minutes because they’re gonna trade him," said a person familiar with the Rockets' plans. "I know they are. It doesn’t do them any good to have him playing eight minutes a game on that contract. They’ll find somebody, and there are plenty of teams that are interested, in spite of the contract."

In fact, there will be plenty of teams interested because of that contract. McGrady's $23 million salary comes with two built-in perks: It comes off the books on July 1, 2010, making it a vehicle for clearing cap space for the highly anticipated free-agent signing period, and it's 80 percent insurance-protected. The insurance provision already has kicked in, since McGrady missed 41 consecutive games during his recovery from microfracture knee surgery. The Rockets, or McGrady's new team, would receive 80 percent of his per-game salary for any games he misses the rest of this season.

Any number of teams desperate for short-term scoring punch while they prepare for a 2010 spending spree would be obvious fits; the Bulls and Knicks are at the top of my list. The Heat reportedly also are intrigued by McGrady, and team president Pat Riley is said to be closely monitoring T-Mac's progress.

On Wednesday, I brought all of this information to someone who is personally invested in McGrady's success -- Tim Grover, the renowned trainer at Attack Athletics on the West Side of Chicago. Grover famously trained Michael Jordan and has recently worked with such stars as Kobe Bryant, Gilbert Arenas, and McGrady. Grover wouldn't speculate on the Rockets' motives with regard to T-Mac, but said McGrady's debut Tuesday night was "long overdue."

"I wasn’t down in Houston, and I don’t know what the situation was or why they felt they needed to hold him out this long," Grover said. "Obviously, they had their reasons. They must have found something they wanted to be cautious with. The end result is we're happy to have him back on the floor."

Grover didn't merely help McGrady recover from microfracture surgery, which despite its name is a major procedure requiring months and months of rehab. He reinvented McGrady's body, which had no core strength when he got to Grover's gym.

"We took care of every single issue that he ever had -- the knee, the back, everything that’s ever bothered him in the past," Grover said. "We realigned his body and balanced everything out and made it much stronger and got a lot of his explosiveness back. Now getting back mentally 100 percent is the challenge. And the only way to do that is go out there and compete against NBA players."

At least McGrady is doing that now. Though in a perfect world, he won't be doing it in a Rockets jersey for much longer.
Posted on: December 2, 2009 4:06 pm
Edited on: December 2, 2009 4:53 pm

Ron Artest: Pass the Hennessy

The NBA now fines players for Tweeting during games, including halftime. Damn, imagine what David Stern would've done to Ron Artest if he'd known the future Malice at the Palace star was sipping Hennessy at halftime while with the Chicago Bulls?

These and other shocking revelations from Artest are coming out in the Dec. 7 edition of the Sporting News, excerpts of which were published on the Sporting News web site Wednesday.

Among the headlines in the Sporting News interview with the controversial Lakers star:

* "I used to drink Hennessy … at halftime," Artest said. "I (kept it) in my locker. I'd just walk to the liquor store (near the stadium) and get it."

* "When I was a 19-year-old father, whew. I was a single pimp! I was wild," Artest said of his days as a college star at St. John's. "A lot of marijuana and alcohol—even before (that age). … I (still) party and I have fun, but not like I used to. I used to drink every night and party every night."

* "It wasn't my fault," he said of the 2004 brawl in Auburn Hills for which he was suspended 73 games and forfeited $7 million. "… I don't see anything I could have done different. The only thing I could have done was have God pause time so I could have said, 'Oh, look, you're about to run in some stands, so stop.'"

* "(Referee) Joey Crawford basically said, 'Who cares about the Houston Rockets? Kobe Bryant's on the floor,'" he said of the Rockets' loss to the Lakers in the '09 Western Conference semifinals.  

* "It's weird because people don't think about the whole basketball game," he said of fitting in as a member of Bryant's supporting cast. "There's offense: Kobe averages 30 and is a great offensive player. Then you have defense. So on defense, now I have my supporting cast. … I'm one of the best defenders to ever play basketball, so I'm still the first option on defense."

Artest also said he's "on guard" whenever he sees Ben Wallace, whose altercation with Artest touched off the melee at the Palace. "I'm always in the mood to fight him," Artest said. "… I'll get suspended 10 games, 15 games (because) I'll just fight him right there. It won't go into the stands."

The NBA is aware of the comments, though it's unclear whether any disciplinary action is forthcoming. Clearly, the comments that will generate the most scrutiny are those about drinking during games and the refs wanting the Lakers to beat the Rockets. Already, some of Artest's former teammates and other members of the organization who were there with him are downplaying the comments , chalking them up to, "Ron being Ron," according to the Chicago Tribune.

Either way, gotta love him.

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