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February 29 at 10:59pm CST By Chuck Myron
With just about every team back in action after the All-Star break, here are a few leap day notes from around the league:
- The Celtics have intensified their efforts to trade Rajon Rondo, reports Chris Broussard of ESPN. Broussard says sources have told him the Celtics consider Rondo to be too high maintenance, and so the team is considering a deal with the Warriors for Stephen Curry that's been percolating since December. Other players would have to be in such a deal for it to work. ESPN's Chris Forsberg also contributed to the report.
- Shabazz Muhammad, a premier college prospect who currently sits atop the class of potential 2013 draftees according to NBADraft.net, could be in trouble with the NCAA, report Jeff Goodman and Gary Parrish of CBSSports.com. The NCAA has informed schools recruiting Muhammad that his amateur status is in question. According to Goodman and Parrish, there are concerns that the 6'5", 210-pound shooting guard has been receiving payments for unofficial visits to campuses, among other benefits. Since NBA draft rules prohibit Muhammad from entering the league until a year after his high school class graduates, he may be forced to head overseas next year.
- Matt Moore of CBSSports.com doesn't see much truth in the rumored swap of Lamar Odom and Steve Nash, unless several other components are involved.
- It seems every other day we find out about another team that came close to signing Jeremy Lin, but whiffed. Today that team is the Italian club Banca Tercas Teramo, reports Adam Zagoria of SNY. The team was "extremely close" to signing him, Lin said, but they went with Charles Jenkins instead.
- The Chris Paul trade may have transformed the Clippers, but since amnesty claim Chauncey Billups was lost for the year with an Achilles' tear, the Clips have gone 5-5 and appear to have lost their mojo, as Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times examines.
- Before handing the Spurs just their second home loss of the season, Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau praised San Antonio's ability to identify and nurture the talent necessary to keep the team on top, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN Chicago. Thibodeau hopes the Bulls can copy that model.
- Jazz swingman Josh Howard, an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season, has responded well since Raja Bell's injury forced him into the starting lineup, notes Brian T. Smith of The Salt Lake Tribune.
February 29 at 9:53pm CST By Chuck Myron
The Bulls, with a five game lead over the Pacers, are the class of the Central Division, and tonight they're challenging their mettle against the red-hot Spurs. Here's a look at what's going on with some of the teams trying to chase down Chicago:
- The contract of Cavs big man Samardo Samuels is not guaranteed past this season, and coach Byron Scott says he'll have to step up his effort and energy to remain with the team, tweet Tom Reed and Mary Schmitt Boyer of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. Samuels, who played 11 minutes last night against Boston but has otherwise fallen out of the Cavs rotation, seems at a loss, telling the Plain Dealer, "It's hard to determine where I'm at and what I need to do to get on the court. I don't know what I did to get off (the court)."
- Bucks swingman Stephen Jackson, a subject of trade rumors, has indicated before that he has a rocky relationship with coach Scott Skiles, but a frustrated Skiles is unwilling to go back and forth with him on the issue, tweets Sean Deveney of The Sporting News.
- Deveney says Australian Andrew Bogut may not be healthy in time for the Olympics, but Adam Zagoria of SNY writes that Kyrie Irving, who was born in Melbourne before moving to the U.S. at age 2, is considering suiting up for Australia instead.
- Stephen Brotherston of HoopsWorld takes a look at Pistons guard Rodney Stuckey, whom he calls the team's best trade asset.
February 29 at 8:52pm CST By Chuck Myron
8:52 p.m.: The Warriors are not interested in giving up Ellis if they don't get Dwight Howard in return, reports Marcus Thompson of the Bay Area News Group. Thompson believes there's little chance the Magic could find a player from another team to satisfy the Warriors' demands.
8:39 p.m.: The Magic are in talks with the Warriors about Monta Ellis, reports Jarrod Rudolph of RealGM. Chris Broussard of ESPN adds that the Magic, who don't possess the assets the Warriors are looking for, are trying to get other teams involved in what would be a multiteam swap.
Both the Magic and the Warriors have been linked to the Nets and Brook Lopez of late, and the Warriors have been pursuing Dwight Howard. There's no indication at this point that Howard would be a part of an Ellis deal, though Broussard notes the Warriors were willing to send Ellis to Orlando for Howard earlier this year.
The 26-year-old Ellis is the league's seventh leading scorer at 22.2 PPG, though that figure is off from last year's 24.1 PPG and a career-high 25.5 in 2009/10. He's due $11MM each year through 2013/14, though he could elect an early-termination option after next season.
Broussard says that Ellis is on Howard's list of players he'd like to team with someday.
February 29 at 8:17pm CST By Chuck Myron
Earlier today, in an expansive Insider-only piece for ESPN that we summarized here, Chris Broussard reported that two players the Blazers are particularly willing to bring up in trade talks are former Charlotte teammates Raymond Felton and Gerald Wallace. Broussard characterizes Felton as "uncomfortable and unhappy," and there have been some rumblings around the point guard of late, so let's take a look at what he can offer.
The past 12 months have not gone as planned for Felton, who was atop the free agent point guard market in the summer of 2010 and drew All-Star consideration after a strong first half with the Knicks last year. He went to Denver in the Carmelo Anthony trade and suddenly found himself on the bench behind fellow former Tar Heel Ty Lawson. Shipped off again this past summer to Portland, Felton has posted career lows in PER (10.8), PPG (10.2) and shooting percentage (37.6%) and recently lost his starting job to Jamal Crawford.
Felton, an unrestricted free agent at season’s end, spoke earlier this season of wanting to re-sign with the Blazers. His more recent comments seem to indicate he’s not as keen on sticking around anymore. The Lakers have reportedly begun to sniff around. His contract, which pays him $7.56MM this year, is expiring, so it’s not hard to see Felton getting traded for the third time in a little more than a year.
The latest we hear on the Lakers and Felton is that he and Ramon Sessions are the team’s top choices at point guard. He fits the Lakers’ needs at that position, but unless the Blazers want to go with Crawford, a combo guard, as the long-term starter at the one, such a move would leave a lot of question marks in Portland. Even though ex-Blazer Steve Blake was the starter in Portland as recently as 2009/10, I doubt the Blazers are high on Blake or Derek Fisher, both of whom have multiple years left on their deals. Realistically, another team would have to be in on the trade for Felton to get to L.A.
An intriguing destination for Felton might be Dallas, where Jason Kidd’s shooting, which had helped him perpetuate his career, has deserted him as he stares down his 39th birthday in March. The Mavs could take Felton in the hopes he returns to the 17.1 PPG, 9.0 APG form he exhibited in New York and can contribute to a title defense. They’d have Felton’s Early Bird rights, so if they missed out on Deron Williams this summer, they’d have the inside track on re-signing Felton, who’s 12 years younger than Kidd. The Blazers would replace someone who might not want to be there with a steadying influence who can help them nail down a playoff berth. This would be a low-risk trade for the two sides, since both contracts are expiring, but it’s just my speculation at this point.
February 29 at 7:40pm CST By Chuck Myron
The tightest divisional race in the NBA is in the Pacific, where the Clippers lead the Lakers by a single game. As packed together as the Western Conference is, that single game would represent the difference between the third seed and the sixth seed if the playoffs began today. Here's what's happening in the far west:
- Steve Nash and Lamar Odom could be trading places, tweets Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The move would get the slumping Odom closer to his beloved L.A. beaches and reunite Nash with his old friend Dirk Nowitzki. The rumor comes as the Suns and Nash continue to dance around the issue of a trade, as both player and team are not interested in a deal unless the other asks first. The Mavs would have to throw a little extra into the deal to make the salaries match up under cap rules.
- The Lakers have inquired about Hawks guard Kirk Hinrich, according to a tweet from Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld. Hinrich is averaging career lows across the board, including his 19.9 MPG, after missing the first month of the season with a left shoulder injury. At 31, though, he's still probably closer to his prime than either Steve Blake, 32, or Derek Fisher, 37, the Lakers' pair of veteran point guards.
- Rumors of Gilbert Arenas joining the Lakers have slowed down of late, and that's because he wants to make sure he's in top condition first, tweets Steve Kyler of HoopsWorld. Arenas doesn't want to ruin what could be his last chance in the NBA, Kyler says.
- The city of Sacramento will contribute $255.53MM to the new arena, the total cost of which has been bumped up to $391MM, according to details of the deal reached Monday, write Tony Bizjak, Ryan Lillis and Dale Kasler of The Sacramento Bee. The city council will vote to approve the terms of the plan agreed to by city officials, the Kings, the NBA and several private companies.
- Brian Kamenetzky of ESPN Los Angeles says the report that the Lakers turned down an offer of Michael Beasley because of tax concerns demonstrates how the team will be limited like never before under the new collective bargaining agreement.
February 29 at 6:51pm CST By Chuck Myron
Michael Beasley's 27 points off the bench in a win over the Clippers last night apparently aren't swaying the Timberwolves, who are pushing hard to trade him, perhaps to the Celtics, tweets A. Sherrod Blakely of CSNNE.com.
Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio reports that while the Nets, Rockets and Lakers have all had talks with the Wolves about Beasley, Boston is in the lead for his services. The deal would center around the expiring contract of Jermaine O'Neal, who's making close to $6.23MM this year.
Our Luke Adams profiled Beasley's trade candidacy yesterday. The fourth-year forward is averaging career lows in almost every major statistical category, despite his strong performance last night. Nonetheless, he was the second pick in the draft in 2008, and at only 23, his still-bright potential will make him a sought-after restricted free agent this summer.
O'Neal, averaging 5.0 PPG and 5.4 RPG in 22.8 minutes a night, is probably not in the Wolves' long-term plans. It's also hard to see where he fits in Minnesota's crowded frontcourt now, especially with the recent emergence of Nikola Pekovic. That the Wolves would ship out Beasley, whom they could simply just let go this summer, for little in return suggests that Minnesota simply doesn't want Beasley around.
February 29 at 6:24pm CST By Luke Adams
Orlando's roster could have an entirely new look a month from now, and Magic players are all aware of that fact. Nonetheless, as they tell Joshua Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel, their goal for the second half will be to avoid being weighed down by off-court distractions and focus on playing good basketball. Here's the latest on Dwight Howard, who figures to dominate Orlando's on- and off-court headlines in the coming weeks:
- Add the Hawks to the list of potential Howard suitors. Marcus Thompson, while looking for Warriors rumors for the Bay Area News Group, tweets that Atlanta is offering Joe Johnson and Al Horford to the Magic for D12. Howard grew up in Atlanta and went to high school at Southwest Atlanta Christian Academy. Thompson notes that Howard and Hawks forward Josh Smith are friends.
- Howard wants the Magic to pursue Steve Nash, and would consider staying at least another year in Orlando if the team can acquire Nash and re-sign him, according to Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld. Of course, given the Suns' current stance on their point guard, such an acquisition would be a challenge.
- An Eastern Conference executive tells Chris Broussard of ESPN.com that he thinks if Howard is dealt by March 15th, it will be to the Nets, but the longer the saga drags on, the better the Mavericks' odds become. While the Knicks and Clippers aren't on Howard's list of preferred destinations, Broussard says D12 would consider both teams, though neither has engaged the Magic in trade talks.
- The Warriors say they're not interested in trading Monta Ellis unless he's part of a package for Howard, sources tells Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News (Twitter link).
- We covered some Howard-related links in our notes on the Warriors earlier this morning, as Golden State remains in the hunt for the Magic superstar. SI.com's Zach Lowe confirms the Warriors would be willing to acquire Howard without assurances he'd sign long-term or even opt into the final year of his contract next season. This seems a little crazy to me, but as Lowe points out, Golden State will likely have to break up its core at some point to become a legit title contender anyway. I suppose if the Warriors were able to deal David Lee along with Ellis and others, even just renting Dwight would create a ton of cap flexibility for future seasons. Still, I don't think it's a likely scenario.
February 29 at 5:00pm CST By Luke Adams
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February 29 at 4:36pm CST By Luke Adams
We'll round up today's notable international and D-League-related transactions here, with the latest up top....
- Josh Powell has signed with Swiss team Neuchatel, according to Sportando. Powell played most of this season in China, and was thought to be drawing some interest from NBA teams. He appeared in 54 games for the Hawks a year ago.
- The Timberwolves have assigned Malcolm Lee to the team's D-League affiliate in Sioux Falls, according to the team (Twitter link). It's Lee's second D-League assignment this season.
- Spain's Gran Canaria has signed Zabian Dowdell to a contract for the rest of the season, according to the team's website (hat tip to Sportando). Dowdell signed a pair of 10-day contracts with the Suns a year ago before the team brought him aboard for the remainder of the season. After appearing in 24 games in 2010/11, he was cut by the Suns prior to this season.
- Via Mike Trudell of Lakers.com (Twitter link), the Lakers announced last night that they've recalled Devin Ebanks from the L.A. D-Fenders, their D-League affiliate. Ebanks, who started four games for the Lakers earlier this season, had been assigned to the D-Fenders two weeks ago.
February 29 at 4:08pm CST By Luke Adams
Odds and ends for Wednesday afternoon....