It’s not easy to build a six-and-a-half game lead in less than a month, but that’s what the Pacers have done in the Central Division, where they’re the only team above .500. The Bulls are in second place, and the hole they’re in would have been somewhat of a challenge to overcome even if Derrick Rose were coming back this season. It’s probably impossible now that he’s done for the year, though Chicago at least has a strong chance of making the playoffs in the watered-down Eastern Conference. Here’s more on Indiana and the Central Division also-rans:
- Anderson Varejao would welcome former Cavaliers teammate LeBron James if the four-time MVP decides to re-sign with Cleveland this summer, a prospect Varejao believes could become reality, as Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio observes. The Brazilian big man thinks James will likely return to the Cavs at some point, even if it’s not for next season.
- Other reports suggest Luol Deng isn’t going anywhere soon, but executives from around the league who spoke to K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune expect trade talks involving the Bulls small forward to pick up.
- Johnson also notes in his piece that the Bulls chose to sign Mike Dunleavy over Marco Belinelli because they believed Dunleavy was a better fit with Rose. That points to the challenge the team faces opposed to last year, when they went into the season knowing Rose would be out. Despite his latest injury, Bulls GM Gar Forman says he’d be OK with Rose playing in the basketball World Cup this coming summer, according to Johnson.
- Pacers coach Frank Vogel is impressed with offseason acquisition Luis Scola, and didn’t expect the 33-year-old would defend as well as he has so far, writes Michael Pointer of the Indianapolis Star.
- The Bucks had the most turnover of any NBA team this summer, but they didn’t expect to have the worst record in the Eastern Conference a month into the season, as Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel examines.
Kobe Bryant is celebrating his 35th birthday today, but the passage of time doesn't bode well for his chances to catch Kareem Abdul-Jabbar for the top spot on the all-time scoring list. He has 6,671 points to go, notes Marc Stein of ESPN.com, who adds that Abdul-Jabbar, Karl Malone and Robert Parish are the only players to score at least that many points after they turned 35 (Twitter link). Of course, breaking records involves outperforming history anyway, so the numbers seem as unlikely to deter the Black Mamba as most of the defenders he's faced over the years. Here's more from the Association:
- Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Inquirer outlines the Sixers' priorities for the rest of the offseason, which likely include a few more front office hires. He also says Jason Richardson will likely miss the entire season and Kwame Brown will probably be waived, but that appears to be speculation on both points.
- Brier Dudley of The Seattle Times thinks Steve Ballmer's announcement today that he's retiring as Microsoft CEO is a boost to Seattle's effort to land an NBA team. Dudley also wonders if Ballmer will follow Paul Allen, another tech magnate, as owner of the Blazers (hat tip to Golliver).
- USA Basketball executive director Jerry Colangelo would have interest in making Roy Hibbert part of the program, but Hibbert's appearance with Jamaica during a game in 2010 likely precludes the Pacers center from ever joining Team USA. Michael Pointer of the Indianapolis Star provides further explanation.
- Ben Golliver of SI.com gives the Thunder a grade of D+ for their offseason moves, but he's high on first-round pick Steven Adams, doesn't think the departure of Kevin Martin will hurt too much, and believes the team could again win 60 games this season.
- Doc Rivers hasn't been with the Clippers for long, but the onus is on him to convert the team's potential into accomplishment, as Zach Harper of CBSSports.com examines.
Two Northwest stars, Kevin Durant and Kevin Love, announced yesterday that they'll play for Team USA in the 2014 World Cup of basketball, but we don't know exactly who'll join them. USA Basketball Executive Director Jerry Colangelo says he'll narrow the pool of prospects to 25 or 30 by January, and he'll have until 48 hours before next summer's event begins to name a final roster, as Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com points out (Twitter links).
Here's more from around the Northwest division:
Various recent reports have suggested the Pistons are looking for an upgrade at point guard, linking the team to Rajon Rondo and Brandon Jennings. Speaking to reporters today, including David Mayo of MLive.com, GM Joe Dumars confirmed he'd talked to the Celtics about Rondo, but adamantly denied offering Brandon Knight to Boston, or having any talks with the Bucks about Jennings.
Here's more out of the Eastern Conference:
- According to Grantland's Zach Lowe, a few teams inquired on Greg Monroe's availability prior to the draft, but were given a flat "no" by the Pistons.
- Although there were several teams interested in Gigi Datome, the Pistons viewed the Heat as the biggest threat to nab the Italian sharpshooter, tweets Keith Langlois of Pistons.com.
- Even after reaching deals with Paul Millsap, DeMarre Carroll, and Elton Brand, the Hawks have interest in bringing back Ivan Johnson, tweets Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal Constitution.
- Jeff Teague spoke to Shams Charania of RealGM.com about the Hawks' decision to match his offer sheet with the Bucks, indicating that he's happy to be returning to Atlanta.
- Gabe Giordano, the agent for Jeremy Tyler, is hopeful that his client will be able to finalize a contract with the Knicks in the next few weeks that will at least earn him a training camp invite, as Jared Zwerling of ESPNNewYork.com writes.
- Former Bulls lead assistant Ron Adams will be joining the Celtics' coaching staff in a similar role, says Baxter Holmes of the Boston Globe.
- George Hill of the Pacers and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist of the Bobcats have been added to the Team USA mini-camp roster, along with Oklahoma State's Marcus Smart, tweets Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com. Kawhi Leonard will no longer participate due to a left knee injury.
As USA Basketball prepares for the 2014 FIBA World Cup, the team has announced the 27-man roster that will participate in July's mini-camp in Las Vegas. Per USA Basketball's official site, here's the full list of next month's participants:
The Sixers ran up against a buzzsaw tonight, falling to the Heat as Miami ran its winning streak to 17. Philadelphia sits eight games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and even if the team was somehow able to climb into that position, it would likely have to overcome the Heat in the first round. Either way, it looks like the Sixers will soon be turning their attention to the offseason, and there are already a few rumblings about the summer, as we detail here along with other news from Philly:
- A source tells Tom Moore of Phillyburbs.com that the Sixers discussed sending Spencer Hawes, Evan Turner and another player to make the salaries match to the Jazz for Al Jefferson before the trade deadline, though a deal never became close. Moore also echoes deadline chatter about another proposed deal that would have sent Hawes and Turner to the Hawks for Josh Smith.
- Hawes isn't bothered by trade talk, as he tells Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports Florida, bringing up the Hawks rumor as well as one that had involved the Wolves (Sulia link). The center believes he'll be back in Philadelphia for the final season of his deal next year, but it appears he wouldn't be too surprised if he's traded.
- Bob Cooney of the Philadelphia Daily News tries to answer six key questions about the Sixers as they near an offseason he believes could be the team's biggest in more than a decade.
- Aside from Jrue Holiday and probably Thaddeus Young, no player on the Sixers roster is untouchable, Cooney writes, calling Evan Turner "the most intriguing movable piece they have."
- Doug Collins would like to coach Team USA, but as an assistant instead of the head man, Tomasson reports. Collins is lobbying instead for Doc Rivers or Gregg Popovich to be selected as head coach.
The Spurs announced today that Tony Parker will miss approximately four weeks with a grade-two left ankle sprain, injecting some drama into the race for the top playoff seed in the Western Conference. San Antonio has taken the No. 1 spot the past two seasons and has a three-game lead on the Thunder this time around, but without their All-Star point guard, the Spurs could be in danger of falling behind even the third-place Clippers, who are just three and a half games back. We haven't heard any serious rumors that the Spurs are looking for a replacement, and with a full 15-man roster, they'd have to waive someone to bring another point guard aboard. While we wait to see what happens in the wake of Parker's injury, here's more from the Lone Star State:
It's more than a week after the trade deadline, but the stream of rumors is far from an end. In his Weekend Dime, Marc Stein of ESPN.com puts a bow on last week's proceedings, and provides some scuttlebutt related to tonight's buyout deadline as well. Here's what Stein has to share:
- The Hawks wanted to trade Josh Smith at the deadline, and expected they'd get a deal done. But when the Bucks refused to part with Monta Ellis, Atlanta's main target, or Ersan Ilyasova, Plan B for the Hawks, GM Danny Ferry and company walked away from a package that would have featured Beno Udrih's expiring contract and Luc Mbah a Moute, who has two years and $8.97MM remaining on his deal this season.
- DeJuan Blair has been seeking a buyout from his expiring $1.054MM contract with the Spurs, but San Antonio is reluctant to grant his wish, fearing he'd sign with another playoff team. If he's not bought out before tonight's 11pm deadline, Blair would be ineligible for the postseason if he signs elsewhere this season. Stein says it's clear that neither Blair nor the Spurs wish to continue their working relationship in 2013/14, so perhaps Blair could be a buyout candidate after tonight, but that's just my speculation.
- The Spurs were seeking a first-round pick in offers for Blair at the trade deadline, but like everyone seeking that kind of return, they were rebuffed, as Stein notes the increasing value of those picks and the rookie-scale contracts that come with them.
- According to Stein, industry standard dictates that prospective owners in the midst of a pending sale may designate two or three players they wish the team to keep, freeing current management to trade anyone else on the roster. That makes it easier to understand why the Kings shed salary, including last June's No. 5 overall pick Thomas Robinson, at the deadline, even though we heard the Chris Hansen/Howard Ballmer group from Seattle was consulted before the move was made.
- Stein sizes up the competing chances of Gregg Popovich and Doc Rivers to become the next coach of Team USA, while adding that USA Basketball executive director Jerry Colangelo wants to wait until he hears from Mike Krzyzewski after the college season to definitely rule out the Coach K's return.
- The ESPN.com scribe also checks in with new Bucks shooting guard J.J. Redick, who felt like he was going to stay with the Magic right up until they traded him.
A pair of Central Division teams welcomed additions to their lineups last night, as J.J. Redick made his debut for the Bucks while Danny Granger saw his first action of the season for the Pacers. If and when Derrick Rose makes his way back to the Bulls this year, the Central's playoff-bound teams will be poised to enter the postseason on an upswing. Here's more on Redick, the Bucks, and other news from the Central:
- The Magic's pursuit of a first-round pick derailed talks the Pistons had about acquiring Redick, reports MLive's David Mayo. The Blazers' insistence on a first-rounder also put an end to Detroit's pursuit of J.J. Hickson, as we heard earlier, but according to Mayo, the Pistons never spoke to the Thunder about Will Bynum.
- The Spanish website El Contraataque is reporting that FC Barcelona is trying to engineer a buyout of Gustavo Ayon's contract with the Bucks so that he can sign a three-year deal worth the equivalent of $2MM annually with the overseas club (translation via HoopsHype). FC Barcelona acquired his Spanish league rights in October, but shortly thereafter, Ayon's agent, Emilio Duran, said his client is content to remain in the NBA. Milwaukee holds a $1.5MM team option on Ayon for next season.
- USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo told Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal that Kyrie Irving will be invited to a four-day tryout camp this summer in Las Vegas for Team USA's entry in the 2014 basketball World Cup.
Jonas Jerebko and Rodney Stuckey are the two Pistons players other teams ask about most, and sources tell Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press that while Detroit is likely to wait to make another major move until summer, a smaller deal isn't out of the question. "You have already had the main course. You aren't getting seconds," a source told Ellis, referencing the Jose Calderon/ Tayshaun Prince swap before adding, "You might get dessert."
While we wait to bite into the sweet spot of trade deadline chatter in the days to come, here's more of what we're hearing from the Eastern Conference: