Central Notes: Cavs, Bucks, Bulls, Pistons

December 21 at 8:57am CST By Chris Crouse

Coach David Blatt believes the mediocre play of the Cavs this season is a result of their play on the defensive end, writes Chris Haynes of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. “That’s the battle for consistency,” Blatt said of the defensive woes. “A lot of that is the plan and the principles and inherence to those things. A lot of that is commitment on the part of the guys to doing it. Of course you have the element of effort, which is critical. And then finally it’s the pride that you take in doing it if that is really and truly going to become part of who you are. And we’re working towards that.” The Cavs are allowing 99.7 points per game, which ranks 16th in the league.

Here’s more from the Central Division:

  • The Bucks are unexpectedly in the playoff hunt at 14-14, but even after the season-ending injury to rookie Jabari Parker, the team isn’t likely to make any moves with an eye only on contention this season, writes Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel.  “Nothing has changed. This is still about the future and the goals we have as we move forward, and that is to build this into a championship-caliber team,” GM John Hammond said. “We like where we’re at today, and we’re going to continue to battle throughout the season.”
  • The Bulls have a fortunate problem in that they have too many high caliber players competing for playing time, opines Mike McGraw of the Daily Herald. McGraw argues that although Pau Gasol, Joakim Noah and Taj Gibson are all veterans who have earned their stripes, rookie Nikola Mirotic is playing at a level that doesn’t warrant being sent to the bench once they are all healthy. The forward is shooting 44.1% from the field and 80.9% from the foul line during his potential rookie of the year campaign.
  • The Pistons are off to a rough start at 5-22, but the team isn’t making any trades with the short-term in mind, writes Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press. Ellis notes that Detroit would like to trade Josh Smith, but other teams are asking for a first-rounder to take the the 29-year-old forward. The Pistons were in a similar predicament in 2012 when they sent a first-rounder to Charlotte in order to move Ben Gordon because of his player-friendly contract. Ellis adds that the team is unlikely to have a repeat of such a short-sighted move.

Western Notes: Rockets, Williams, Green

December 20 at 10:59pm CST By Arthur Hill

Houston may have lost to the Hawks Saturday night, but that didn’t dampen the enthusiasm of the newest Rockets, reports Jenny Dial Creech of The Houston Chronicle. Corey Brewer and Alexey Shved left cellar-dwelling teams to join the Rockets in Friday’s three-team trade. They couldn’t play Saturday because all the players in the deal hadn’t undergone physicals in time, but they were happy to be in Houston. “In Minnesota we were the last seed and now I am with a team competing for the playoffs,” Brewer said, “so I am really excited to be here.”

There’s more from the Western Conference:

  • Troy Daniels, who was shipped from Houston to the Timberwolves in the Brewer deal, has an unlikely new teammate, writes Jerry Zgoda of The Star Tribune. As a member of the Trail Blazers, Mo Williams tried to intimidate Daniels during their playoff series last spring. Now that they’re teammates, Williams downplays the incident. “It’s all in competition and it was all in fun on my part,” he said. “He really didn’t do anything to me. He just made a couple of shots and I was like, ‘Where did this kid come from?’ It was like, ‘Let me get in his head, being the veteran I am,’ and I got a lot of attention on me, which was good.”
  • The SunsGerald Green has spent time in the D-League and been cut in China, so the soon-to-be free agent tells Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic he won’t be fazed by bad shooting nights. Green has been pulled from the last two games in the fourth quarter, but doesn’t plan to change anything. “If I’ve gotten to this point, nothing is going to make me not do what I need to do. I’m never going to stop because I had a bad game,” he said.
  • Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy got a surprise visitor after Wednesday’s game with the Mavericks, writes Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press. Dropping by was Jameer Nelson, who told his former coach how happy he was to be in Dallas. The next day, Nelson was shipped to Boston as part of the package for Rajon Rondo“He’s not a guy who’s going to pout or hang his head or anything else,” Van Gundy said of Nelson’s transition to the Celtics. “Not only a good player, they got a great locker room voice and a great teammate.”

Atlantic Notes: Anthony, Sixers, Powell, Nets

December 20 at 10:06pm CST By Arthur Hill

Carmelo Anthony gave a familiar answer to a familiar question Saturday, insisting that the Knicks‘ losing won’t drive him out of New York, according to Al Iannazzone of Newsday. The Knicks are off to a disastrous 5-24 start, but Anthony says he isn’t second-guessing his decision to re-sign with the team as a free agent last summer and won’t demand to be traded. “I won’t do that,” he said. “As long as I can go out there and play, I always feel like any game that I’m in, we have a chance to win the basketball game. So I would never start thinking like that.”

There’s more from around the Atlantic Division:

  • The Sixers will continue their strategy of winning by losing, especially if they can keep collecting draft picks, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Pompey defends the team’s two most recent deals, which brought Philadelphia more second-round picks but cost the team Alexey Shved and Brandon Davies. He notes that Shved had been unhappy because of decreased playing time, while Davies was likely to lose minutes to the now-healthy Jerami Grant and the newly signed Furkan Aldemir.
  • Rajon Rondo wasn’t the only player the Mavericks coveted from the Celtics in Thursday’s blockbuster trade, reports A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com. After watching center Dwight Powell in draft workouts last season, Dallas was determined to get him on the roster. “He can shoot threes, he can rebound, he can defend,” said Mavericks owner Mark Cuban. “He’s a stretch four in a lot of respects, a stretch five in a lot of respects, … and so that’s why he’s here. That’s why we wanted him.”
  • He might be the only one who considers it “fun,” but Nets coach Lionel Hollins is embracing the challenge of trying to win with an injury-limited lineup, writes Zach Braziller of The New York Post. Brook Lopez is expected to miss his eighth straight game Sunday against the Pistons with a strained lower back, while Deron Williams is out with a right calf strain. We’re working hard, we’re playing together, we’re laying a foundation,” Hollins said. “We’re just [shooting] ourselves in the foot sometimes with poor decisions. We got to get better at that, more disciplined on defense in our schemes, but I’m happy with our effort.”

Rondo Trade Reaction: Cuban, Carlisle, Wright

December 20 at 8:59pm CST By Arthur Hill

Mavericks owner Mark Cuban tells Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News that this week’s Rajon Rondo deal will be the team’s last major move for a while. “That’s the plan,” Cuban said, although with Rondo headed for free agency this summer and backcourt mate Monta Ellis eligible to opt out of his contract, more changes may be necessary. Coach Rick Carlisle expects Rondo to fit in right away. “He’s going to do great,” Carlisle said. “He’s really smart, picks things up quickly, so I don’t see a big adjustment period. He’s just got to get ready to compete with our guys.”

There’s more fallout from the Rondo trade:

  • The Mavericks are indeed confident they can reach a long-term deal to keep Rondo in Dallas, according to A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com. “We wouldn’t give up picks if we didn’t think it was long term,” Cuban said. “We’re past the days of rent-a-player. We want him to be here for a long time.” The Mavericks owner plans to spend the rest of the season trying to convince his new guard that Dallas is the best spot for his basketball future.
  • Defense and rebounding are the keys to Rondo’s transition to the Mavericks, opines Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com. He notes that Rondo made the NBA’s All-Defensive Team four years in a row, but the last time was the 2011/12 season and his reputation in that area has slipped. MacMahon also argues that Rondo isn’t a perfect fit for Dallas’ league-best offense and that his poor three-point shooting will present spacing challenges.
  • New Celtic Brandan Wright may have to fight harder for playing time in Boston than he did in Dallas, according to A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com.  Although the 10-14 Celtics are less talented than the 19-8 Mavericks, one area where they have an advantage is frontcourt depth. “It’s hard to choose which of the four frontcourt players to keep in because they’re all being very productive,” said Celtics head coach Brad Stevens. His current four-man rotation consists of Jared Sullinger, Tyler ZellerKelly Olynyk and Brandon Bass. Wright is in the final season of a two-year, $10MM deal.

Nets, Kings Discuss Deron Williams Deal

December 20 at 8:24pm CST By Chuck Myron

8:24pm: Talks aren’t ongoing for now, according to Alex Raskin of The Wall Street Journal (Twitter link). The Kings made the initial inquiry, according to Raskin and Devin Kharpertian of The Brooklyn Game (Twitter link). Still, the discussion is liable to pick back up, since the Nets are listening to all offers, Raskin tweets, adding that Brooklyn considers none of its players untradeable, an assertion that would seem to conflict with the other reports indicating that Plumlee is off-limits. Sources “emphatically” told Tim Bontemps of the New York Post that Plumlee isn’t going anywhere, however.

5:49pm: The Nets and Kings are in trade talks about Deron Williams, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, who cautions that no deal is imminent. A source confirms the talks to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, who nonetheless hears that the sides aren’t at all close to a deal that this point (Twitter link). The discussion involves Darren Collison, Derrick Williams and Jason Thompson from Sacramento’s side, according to Wojnarowski. The Kings would like for Mason Plumlee to be a part of any transaction, and that’s a stumbling block from the Nets’ perspective, Wojnarowski adds. Plumlee is virtually untouchable as far as Brooklyn is concerned, Bleacher Report’s Howard Beck tweets, and the same is true of Sergey Karasev and Bojan Bogdanovic, as NetsDaily’s Robert Windrem hears (Twitter link). The Kings are high on Collison and hesitant to give him up, but the Nets want to have a point guard to replace Williams should they give him up, as the Yahoo scribe details.

The relationship between Deron Williams and the Nets has chilled over the past two years, and there’s mutual appeal to parting ways, sources tell Wojnarowski. Conversely, Williams and Kings coach Tyrone Corbin have a relationship that’s persisted since their years together in Utah, where Corbin was an assistant coach while Williams played with the Jazz. The Kings are thrilled with Collison so far this season, Wojnarowski writes. Still, they’ve poked around for an upgrade at point guard since signing Collison over the summer, having asked the Timberwolves about Ricky Rubio before Rubio signed his extension with Minnesota in October, according to Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities (Twitter link). The Kings maintained interest in Rajon Rondo, though the Celtics’ demands for him were reportedly too high for Sacramento’s liking.

The Nets have had talks about moving Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson of late as they appear ready to make major changes. They also looked into the idea of trading for Lance Stephenson and spoke to Boston about Rondo before he went to the Mavs, according to earlier reports.

Deron Williams’ salary of more than $19.754MM for this season and the two additional years that remain on his contract make him tough to move, especially considering the decline in his performance since he signed the maximum-salary deal as the marquee free agent in the 2012 market. He averaged 20.1 points and 8.7 assists the season before he signed the max contract and is putting up 15.6 PPG and 6.8 APG this season. Those numbers are similar to the 15.6 PPG and 6.1 APG that Collison is putting up for the Kings this year, as Windrem notes (on Twitter). Collison makes about $4.798MM this season, less than Derrick Williams and his salary of more than $6.331MM and Thompson, who’s getting almost $6.038MM.

Central Notes: Rose, McDermott, Van Gundy

December 20 at 7:17pm CST By Arthur Hill

The Bulls may have to adjust to life with an “ordinary” Derrick Rose, opines Steve Aschburner of NBA.com. The former MVP is averaging 16.2 points, 5.1 assists and 3.2 rebounds in the 13 games he has been healthy enough to play this season, while shooting 41.4% — all far below his usual standards. “The thing about Derrick, he is the same person, he’s the same player,” teammate Taj Gibson said. “[The media] is so hypocritical in what he does. You got to understand, he’s playing with hamstring injuries. That stuff is tough. Track runners sit out after getting their hamstrings hurt.” Rose’s contract runs through 2016/17 and is worth a total of approximately $41.4MM over the final two seasons.

There’s more from the Central Division:

  • The BullsDoug McDermott is focused on returning as soon as possible from his meniscus tear, reports Sam Smith of Bulls.com. McDermott said he was “shocked” to learn the MRI results. His prognosis is three to six weeks out of action, but the rookie is hoping to cut that down. “I’m trying to take it as a positive,” McDermott said, “settle down and take a deep breath and learn from Jimmy [Butler] and Mike [Dunleavy] and watch them play and watch [coach Tom Thibodeau] and how everyone reacts on the floor. I think it will be a good thing to watch practice every day and get better.”
  • Give Stan Van Gundy a second chance at the offseason, and David Mayo of MLive believes several things would have turned out differently. Mayo speculates that if Van Gundy, the Pistons‘ coach and president of basketball operations, knew what he knows now, he would have traded Josh Smith to the Kings, spent money on a high-profile wing player and not connected any other moves to Greg Monroe‘s decision. The writer also believes the team would have passed on Aaron Gray and Cartier Martin.
  • Bucks coach Jason Kidd tells Ric Bucher of Bleacher Report that he has no regrets about leaving the Nets. Kidd said Brooklyn’s front office was leaning toward letting him go after a slow start last season, then agreed to let Milwaukee talk to him about the coaching job in the summer. Everybody can run with their conspiracy theories or power struggles,” Kidd said. “But at the end of the day, Milwaukee asked Brooklyn for permission and they granted it.” The Bucks dealt two second-round picks to the Nets in July for the rights to Kidd.

Eastern Notes: Rondo, Muscala, Cavs, Nelson

December 20 at 4:44pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge said that lingering uncertainty about Rajon Rondo‘s future in Boston, along with the team’s inability to immediately surround him with impact players, contributed to his decision to trade him to the Mavs, Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com reports. “There was definitely uncertainty into what might happen [with Rondo as a free agent] this summer,” Ainge said. “That was a big factor. We liked the players that we got in the trade. But, listen, with his impending free agency, and the uncertainty of what might happen this summer, I think that gave us the impetus of wanting to do a deal.”

Here’s more out of the East:

  • Ainge also discussed how difficult it was to trade away a player like Rondo, Forsberg adds. “It was hard. Yeah, it was very difficult to move Rajon,” Ainge said. “I know it’s a business in professional sports, but you really develop a lot of close relationships and I loved watching Rajon, I loved visiting with him, our one-on-one conversations were fun, entertaining, frustrating sometimes. And always a surprise. The guy was a very unique person. But watching him grow and watching him develop as a man and as a person and as a basketball player, I just enjoyed my interactions with him. It was an emotional time as we met last night. It was not an easy thing to do. But I believe it was the right thing to do.
  • The Hawks have recalled Mike Muscala from the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the D-League, Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports (Twitter link). This was Muscala’s second jaunt of the season to Fort Wayne, and in three D-League games, he has averaged 15 points and 9.7 rebounds.
  • Cavs GM David Griffin considered trading for Corey Brewer, but decided that he wanted to hang on to Cleveland’s $5.3MM trade exception, Terry Pluto of The Northeast Ohio Media Group reports. Griffin has decided to wait instead, with his primary goal being to add a big man who can protect the rim and rebound, Pluto notes.
  • The Celtics and Jameer Nelson have had preliminary discussions on his future role with the team and “what if” possibilities before the February trade deadline, but buyout negotiations have not taken place yet, Shams Charania of RealGM reports.

Pacific Notes: Durant, Rondo, Jackson

December 20 at 2:45pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Mark Jackson said that his recent meeting with Chris Mullin, GM Pete D’Alessandro and DeMarcus Cousins in Sacramento had nothing to do with the Kings‘ coaching position, Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee reports (Twitter links). Jackson said the get together was simply to catch up with some old friends. Jackson is one of the names mentioned to be in the running for Sacramento’s coaching vacancy along with George Karl, Vinny Del Negro, and Mullin.

Here’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • Kevin Durant has openly praised Kobe Bryant and said that he would love to play alongside the Black Mamba. While Bryant has stated that he has not begun recruiting Durant, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent in 2016, Bryant didn’t rule out trying to lure the Slim Reaper to the Lakers, Baxter Holmes of ESPNLosAngeles.com writes. “No, I think we know each other pretty well,” Bryant said. “I don’t think it’s a discussion that you have in terms of coming here. But I think it’s more of an understanding how to play with each other. If the opportunity came up, then that’s the time to have that discussion.”
  • The Lakers were lucky to miss out on acquiring Rajon Rondo, Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report writes. Though he believes Rondo is a good player, he isn’t the superstar that Los Angeles needs to build around, and re-signing him this summer, if Rondo was willing, would have eaten into its cap space that could be used to nab a far superior player in the future, such as Durant, Ding opines.
  • A Lakers official downplayed the reports that the team offered Steve Nash’s expiring $9.8MM contract and a first-round pick to Boston for Rondo, Mark Medina of The Los Angeles Daily News writes.
  • Goran Dragic, who can opt out of his contract with the Suns at the end of the season and become a free agent, was mentioned as a possible target for the Knicks either via trade or free agency. Dragic responded to the report by saying he would be open to the Knicks — as well as everybody else — when he gets on the market this summer, Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv reports. “Every team that is going to be available is going to be an option,” Dragic said. “New York has great fan base, great basketball organization.”

Western Notes: D-League, Daniels, Garcia

December 20 at 12:45pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Prior to being waived by the Rockets yesterday, Francisco Garcia declined to be traded to the Wolves, Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports reports (Twitter link). There is still a possibility that Minnesota will claim Garcia off of waivers, Spears adds.

Here’s the latest from out west:

  • The Wolves‘ acquisition of Troy Daniels in the trade for Corey Brewer nets them an effective outside shooter, something the team was lacking, Michael Rand of The Star Tribune writes. If Daniels can indeed fill that role, his team-friendly salary for this season and next will make him a steal, Rand opines.
  • The Pelicans have recalled point guard Russ Smith from the Fort Wayne Mad Ants of the NBA D-League, the team announced in a press release. In two D-League assignments this season, Smith has appeared in six games with Fort Wayne, averaging 16.5 points, 6.2 assists and 1.8 steals.
  • Ricky Ledo has been recalled by the Mavs from the Texas Legends, their D-League affiliate, the team announced in a press release. This was Ledo’s fifth sojourn of the season to the D-League.
  • The improved play of Darrell Arthur should benefit the Nuggets big man when he inks his next deal, Christopher Dempsey of The Denver Post writes. Arthur is in the final season of a three-year contract worth $9MM, and will become an unrestricted free agent this summer. Judging by the high-volume of trade calls Denver has received about him this season, Arthur’s value on the open market will likely be high, Dempsey adds.
  • For the fifth time this season, the Thunder have assigned Grant Jerrett to the Oklahoma City Blue, their D-League affiliate, the team announced.

Knicks Notes: Anthony, Dragic, Jackson

December 20 at 10:44am CST By Eddie Scarito

The Knicks’ rough start to the season could cost Madison Square Garden shareholders a projected $6MM in profits, Darren Rovell of ESPN.com reports. The estimate was posited by Rich Tullo, director of research for Albert Fried & Company, which covers the MSG stock, Rovell notes. “As the Harlem Globetrotters are the only New York professional [basketball] team winning in Madison Square Garden this season, we cut our estimates to reflect light TV ratings,” Tullo said. “Following more than 20 games highlighted by creative destruction, we think the sample set is large enough to determine lower estimates.” Rovell does note in the article that  MSG stock is actually up more than 14% over the last three months.

Here’s more from the Big Apple:

  • Carmelo Anthony says that his new $124MM contract and superstar status can influence the Knicks’ winning ways only so much, Marc Berman of The New York Post writes. “I didn’t think it would be like this,’’ Anthony said.  “I’m like, why? Time goes by so fast and one thing you realize, you can’t control winning. It’s out of your control. You can control what you do. You can control your work ethic and your mindset when it comes down to winning. Everything has to be synchronized from ownership all the way down to the staff. Everything has to be in sync.’’
  • Suns point guard Goran Dragic, who has a player option for next season of $7.5MM that he is likely to decline, would be a perfect fit for the Knicks and the triangle offense, Berman writes in a separate article. Any deal to acquire or sign Dragic would mean the Knicks would have to move Jose Calderon, who has two more years left on his contract after this season, Berman notes.
  • TNT basketball analyst Charles Barkley believes that the Knicks’ theory that free agents will flock to New York because Phil Jackson is team president isn’t a sound one, Ian Begley of ESPNNewYork.com writes. “This theory that [the Knicks] got all these expiring contracts, they got all this money, that people are going just be flocking to New York because of the great Phil Jackson, I think it’s a flawed theory,” Barkley said. “You got to admire and respect what Phil Jackson has accomplished but this notion that all these free agents are going to give up [money]? To think guys are going to turn down $30, $40, $50 million dollars to come to New York just because you got Phil Jackson, I just think that’s a flawed theory.