Zach Lowe of Grantland unveils 32 predictions for the upcoming season in his latest post, but the column isn’t based entirely on speculation. Lowe passes along several tidbits from conversations with execs around the league, so let’s dive in:
- Multiple sources tell Lowe that the Nuggets are gauging the willingness of other teams to trade for Kenneth Faried. The sources say Denver is demanding plenty in return for the power forward, and Nuggets officials deny they’ve had any talks with other teams about Faried, but Lowe predicts a deal will happen.
- The Hawks‘ roster is “built to trade,” but Ferry has emphatically turned away teams calling about Al Horford‘s availability, Lowe hears.
- The NBA is considering the removal of the center position from All-NBA teams, shifting to two backcourt and three frontcourt players as the league did with the All-Star ballot last season. That could alleviate a logjam among forwards and result in more money for Paul George, whose new extension will become more lucrative if he earns another All-NBA selection, under the terms of the Derrick Rose Rule.
- Several executives believe Jason Collins will find an NBA home after January 10th, the date when all contracts become guaranteed for the season. Many of the guys on non-guaranteed deals will be released in advance of that date, creating opportunities for teams to sign the player who would become the first openly gay male athlete in major North American pro sports.
ESPN.com's Marc Stein (via Twitter) points out that the Lakers, Bulls, and 76ers are the three teams that still need to sign players in order to reach the league minimum of 13 players by opening night, although it's worth noting that L.A. is still yet to sign second round pick Ryan Kelly and Philadelphia is in the same boat with Nerlens Noel and Michael Carter-Williams. Also, as we pointed out a few days ago, Dexter Pittman accepted a training camp invite with Chicago and could fill that 13th roster spot if they end up offering him a guaranteed contract.
Here are more of tonight's news and notes from around the league:
- Jeff Haubner of ESPN.com offers a two part preview of the upcoming FIBA Americas tournament.
- Charles F. Gardner of The Journal Sentinel notes that the Bucks/Suns deal keeps Milwaukee about $1.9MM under the salary cap and saves Phoenix around $5.6MM in cap space. Gardner also has more comments from Caron Butler regarding his happiness with the trade.
- Former 76ers star Charles Barkley isn't happy with the way his former team handled their assistant coaching situation, saying that those who were released upon the Brett Brown hiring had worked for the team the entire summer and therefore didn't have the opportunity to look for another job (Michael Kaskey-Blomain of The Philadelphia Inquirer).
- Keith Schlosser of RidiculousUpside.com takes a look at Kyle Hunt, who while eligible for the D-League draft in the fall is also looking to earn an NBA training camp invite.
- Tim Cowlishaw of SportsDayDFW suggests Mavericks fans should be happy with 45 wins and a 7th seed in the Western Conference next season.
- Ben Couch of BrooklynNets.com provides a brief breakdown of the Nets' depth at the center position, profiling Brook Lopez, Andray Blatche, and Mason Plumlee.
- Former Knick and now a member of the Canadian men's national basketball team, Andy Rautins tells Steve Buffery of the Toronto Sun about how prepared he and his teammates feel heading into the FIBA Americas tournament.
- NBA.com posted an article from Atlanta-based freelance writer Jon Cooper about Hawks head coach Mike Budenholzer. Though he stressed the importance of forming good relationships with each player up to the 15th man, Budenholzer specifically mentioned Al Horford and Jeff Teague as two players that he's very much looking forward to working with.
- Suns.com passes along an article from the archives which delves into the mind of the late former Suns coach Cotton Fitzsimmons.
Blazers GM Neil Olshey met Sunday in Las Vegas with members of LaMarcus Aldridge's camp who suggested several trade scenarios, a source tells Chris Haynes of CSNNW.com. The source described the meeting as productive, with both sides focused on the best outcome for all involved. Still, Haynes hears the team is in no hurry to trade the All-Star power forward, particularly if there isn't a fair deal available. Olshey and company don't want a package of draft picks in return, according to Haynes.
The Bulls, Timberwolves, Clippers, Hawks and Pelicans have declined to include Joakim Noah, Kevin Love, Blake Griffin, Al Horford and Anthony Davis, respectively, in any deal for Aldridge, Haynes hears. Aldridge has told Haynes and others that he has not requested a trade, and Haynes has confirmed that he hasn't done so. Still, Aldridge isn't opposed to a trade, just as he'd be OK with returning to Portland, as Haynes writes, echoing his report from last month.
A strong performance from Aldridge this season could help Olshey find the deal he wants next summer, when Aldridge will be down to one more year on his contract. The 28-year-old Arn Tellem client will make $14.628MM this season and $15.756MM in 2014/15.
Sam Amico of FOX Sports Ohio leads off his latest column by going into more detail on Friday's report, which suggested the Cavaliers were weighing the possibility of drafting Ben McLemore first overall. With Dion Waiters already on board, the fit wouldn't necessarily be ideal, so it remains just one of many options Cleveland is considering. Amico has plenty more notes on the Cavs, so let's check out the highlights from his piece….
- Due to concerns about Anderson Varejao's ability to stay healthy, the Cavs are expected to focus on adding frontcourt depth this summer.
- Amico hints that Al Horford and Nikola Pekovic could be among the Cavs' offseason targets as the club looks to add another big man, though the Timberwolves will have the ability to match an offer sheet for the restricted Pekovic, and I'd be surprised if the Hawks traded Horford.
- Andrew Bynum isn't on Cleveland's radar, but the team is still eyeing Greg Oden, in spite of some skepticism about the health of his knees.
- The Cavs also have reservations about Danny Granger's knee problems, but still have interest if the Pacers consider moving him, which it sounds like they will.
- The Mavericks continue to "intensely" shop the No. 13 overall pick, with one offer asking for the Cavs' 31st and 33rd overall picks, along with a 2014 selection, in exchange for the 13th pick and Shawn Marion. Cleveland turned down that proposal, but the club remains a willing trade partner, with only Kyrie Irving viewed as untouchable.
- Cleveland remains interested in Alex Len and Otto Porter, but would probably want to trade down a little to draft either player, rather than selecting one of them first overall. However, trading down a few spots "appears very unlikely," according to Amico.
The future looks very bright for the Rockets
, and Jonathan Feigen of Ultimate Rockets
hears from GM Daryl Morey
that the organization is set on building around the current core of players: “We’re very excited about the foundation…We were careful to make sure all the key pieces could stay. People are going to see mostly the same team back next year because of that."
Considering that they're a young team that pushed the Thunder
to six games after being down three games to none – along with the emergence of Patrick Beverley
- it's difficult to disagree with the optimism in Houston. Here are a few more miscellaneous links we've gathered up tonight:
- Eric Prisbell of USA Today reports that NBA draft hopeful Ben McLemore's AAU coach received cash and other benefits in order to help influence the former Kansas Jayhawk to leave college after one season and declare for the draft.
- Hoopsworld's Steve Kyler tweets that Al Horford is a player that the Hawks would like to keep rather than trade as the team handles a roster that could be in heavy flux.
- Kyler also says that the front runners to sign Josh Smith this summer will be the teams that miss out on Dwight Howard (Twitter link).
- Magic CEO Alex Martins doesn't foresee a long rebuilding period in Orlando and is confident that the team can return to title contention in the near future (John Denton of Magic.com).
- Hawks GM Danny Ferry feels that the 2012-13 season was a very significant year in terms of taking the initial steps toward becoming a contender and likes the flexibility that his team has moving forward (ESPN via the Associated Press).
- Tim Kawakami of the Bay Area News Group looks back on the 10 most important moves the Warriors made to build the team that starts the second round Sunday against the Spurs.
- According to a report from Sportando, Leones de Ponce of Baloncesto Superior Nacional in Puerto Rico have released Garret Siler and replaced him with Mike Harris.
Chuck Myron of Hoops Rumors contributed to this post.
Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News examines the fast starts of the Knicks, Warriors, and Hawks, but believes the script could have been drastically different for Atlanta this season. Here's a roundup of a few rumors he's sharing.
- The Hawks offered up Al Horford as part of a strong push to acquire Dwight Howard in August, according to Lawrence, who notes the Hawks will have enough cap flexibility to pursue the Atlanta native when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in the offseason.
- Tom Thibodeau and Bulls management are waging a "cold war" over the coach's heavy minutes for his starters this season, Lawrence hears. Thibodeau offered his side of the argument to reporters yesterday, as Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago documented.
- Chris Paul, a free agent next summer, had been privately griping about Blake Griffin's play, but has ceased doing so amid an eight-game winning streak for the Clippers, Lawrence writes.
Hawks center Al Horford will not be return for his team's first round series against the Celtics, according to the Associated Press. After waffling back and forth earlier this week, conflicting reports had said Horford might be able to come back in time, but today he said there was no chance he'd be ready for the first round. Horford has missed most of the season after having surgery to repair a torn left pectoral muscle.
"I have very, very little strength," he conceded. "The playoffs are intense. The intensity goes way up. I can go in and play with the guys in practice here. I might even be able to play in a regular-season game. But the playoffs are different. The way I play, to be most effective to the team, I’m not at that point yet."
Horford is still hoping to play in the second round if the Hawks advance.
Hawks center Al Horford will return from a pectoral injury on Thursday after saying earlier today he thought he would miss the playoffs, reports Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports.
As Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta Journal Constitution writes, Horford's comments over the last few days sent mixed signals on his playoff eligibility, so this latest development shouldn't come as too much of surprise. Still, it's a huge boost for the Hawks, even though he'll be limited to 15 minutes a game in the first round. Atlanta's frontcourt has been so depleted lately that Josh Smith started at center against the Knicks yesterday.
Here are a few more Monday links from around the league:
With 12 games on the docket, let's round up links from around the league on this Friday night:
- In an insider piece, ESPN's John Hollinger takes a look at what he calls a flawed Clippers' roster. While Vinny Del Negro is taking most of the heat for the team's recent struggles, Hollinger says that poor defense and the lack of a true wing player to go with Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are the true culprits.
- In the same story, Hollinger says the Bobcats coach Paul Silas has let his son, Stephen Silas, run the team on certain nights and that nepotism is rampant in the NBA. Situations like the one in Charlotte enable guys like Stephen to build their resumes in hopes of landing a bigger job.
- Hawks' beat writer Michael Cunningham of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution tweets that injured center Al Horford has been cleared for weight work and while he may be able to return for the playoffs, would not be at full strength. Horford has surgery to repair a torn pectoral in January.
Deron Williams may have scored a franchise-record 57 points en route to a Sunday victory over the Bobcats, but the news out of Charlotte wasn't all good for the Nets. In just his fifth game back from a foot injury, Brook Lopez rolled his ankle badly and left the arena on crutches. There's still no official word from the team on the severity of the injury, but as Fred Kerber of the New York Post writes, it could deal a serious blow to the Nets' hopes of trading for Dwight Howard in the next ten days.
Lopez isn't the only trade candidate who could be on the shelf as the March 15th deadline approaches. Here are a few more players whose injury statuses may affect the deals their respective teams can make in the next week and a half:
- Jermaine O'Neal: The Celtics would need to include salary to make any deal of substance, so O'Neal's $6.23MM expiring contract made him a prime candidate to be included in a trade to ensure salaries match. Unfortunately for Boston, O'Neal recently suffered a wrist injury and may undergo season-ending surgery. If he elects for the surgery, there's a chance O'Neal could be waived by the Celtics.
- Al Horford: Marcus Thompson II of the Bay Area News Group reported last week that the Hawks were still interested in Dwight Howard, perhaps in a deal involving Horford. While such a trade would be a long shot to begin with, Horford's torn pectoral makes it even trickier. Already reluctant to deal Howard, the Magic would probably be even more wary about doing so for a player who is just recently out of a sling.
- Anderson Varejao: Varejao will be re-evaluated this week, but it looks like he won't return to the Cavs' lineup until after March 15th. Before the injury, the Cavs said they didn't intend to trade Varejao, though there was some speculation that stance could change by the deadline. With Varejao still out, he'll definitely be remaining in Cleveland.
- Jordan Hill: Among the Rockets' numerous former lottery picks on expiring contracts, Hill is the most attractive asset. While that may be faint praise, Hill has been the most productive of the group of four 2009 draftees that also includes Hasheem Thabeet, Jonny Flynn, and Terrence Williams, and his salary ($2.86MM) is very reasonable. However, a sprained MCL has kept Hill out of action for the last couple weeks, and even though he expects to return within the next week, he won't have much time to showcase his health before the deadline.
- J.J. Hickson: The Kings are reportedly quite interested in moving Hickson, but they've stumbled upon a roadblock besides his disappointing production this season — he'll miss his third straight game tonight with a hip pointer.
- Thabo Sefolosha: Having missed 18 games with a foot injury, Sefolosha is shooting jump shots again, but it doesn't appear he's ready for game action yet. Steve Kyler wrote this morning that the Thunder could try to acquire a replacement if the team feels Sefolosha will miss much more time. The 6'7" wing also represented a potential trade asset for the Thunder, but questions about his health will hurt his value.
- Andrea Bargnani: Bargnani seems to be getting closer to returning from a calf injury, and could be back in plenty of time for the trade deadline, but it may not matter either way. As Kyler reported today, the Raptors are getting inquiries on Bargnani, but don't seem interested in dealing him.