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.
The Heat are slumping, and they’re without Chris Bosh for the time being, but they’re still holding down a would-be playoff spot as they sit in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. They’ll play host to the division-leading Wizards tonight, and while we wait for that, here’s more from around the Southeast Division:
- The Hornets believe that a groin injury is behind Lance Stephenson‘s decreased production this season, and that’s has helped motivate the team to back off trade talk regarding him, report Ramona Shelburne and Chris Broussard of ESPN.com. That’s even though Stephenson has had a negative effect on team chemistry, as sources tell the ESPN scribes.
- The Hawks have sent Mike Muscala on D-League assignment, the team announced. Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution originally reported the news (Twitter link). Muscala spent a two-day stint in the D-League earlier this season, and he’s averaged 4.9 points in 10.0 minutes per game across eight appearances with the big club so far this year.
- The frequent D-League assignments for Jordan Clarkson help prove the Wizards were wise on draft night when they acquired $1.8MM in cash in a trade that sent out the pick that the Lakers used on him, argues J. Michael of CSNWashington.com. Rasual Butler‘s play since taking the roster spot that otherwise ostensibly would have gone to Clarkson is further evidence, Michael believes.
- Versatility has been a key asset for Evan Fournier, who’s helping the Magic reap much greater benefit than expected from this summer’s Arron Afflalo trade, which brought Fournier from the Nuggets, as Andrew Perna of RealGM examines.
The Pistons are 5-20 with three frontcourt pieces that don’t appear to fit, making them a ripe contender to pull a trade this season. There’s been plenty of chatter in recent days, and we’ll round up the latest here:
- Falk made it clear to Zillgitt, who writes in a full story, that Monroe doesn’t want a trade in part because he wants to honor a commitment he made to Pistons coach/president of basketball ops Stan Van Gundy. Teams have been calling the Pistons about Monroe, but the fifth-year big man continues to stonewall the idea of leaving Detroit. “He made a commitment to Stan (Van Gundy) when he took the qualifying offer that he would work as hard as he could and help the team as best that he could and he would keep his mind open and at the end of the season, he would evaluate all of his options,” Falk said. “That was his plan in July, and that’s his plan in December and that will probably be his plan in February and will be his plan when the season ends.”
- Monroe will be seeking the best fit and not necessarily the highest payday in free agency this coming summer, as he and Falk have said, Zillgitt writes.
- The Pistons are “shopping” Josh Smith and willing to trade him for the right return, writes Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News. The Kings remain interested in Smith, a source tells Goodwill, and Kings owner Vivek Ranadive was behind Sacramento’s pursuit from the start, Goodwill adds. Yet while the Kings are still thinking about trying to trade for Smith, they’ve been gradually moving past that idea, according to USA Today’s Sam Amick (video link).
- Greg Monroe says the Pistons would have to initiate discussions about a trade, since he wouldn’t ask for one, as Goodwill notes in the same piece, writing that it’s likely that Pistons GM Jeff Bower asked agent David Falk about his willingness to approve one. Monroe has a de facto no-trade clause this year because he signed his qualifying offer in the summer, and he’d lose his Bird rights if he gave the OK to a trade. Monroe prefers to play out the season as a Piston, agent David Falk told Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today, who passes along his report in the same video with Amick.
- Detroit asked the Hawks for Jeff Teague and Kyle Korver in exchange for Monroe this summer, but Atlanta wasn’t willing to go along with the sign-and-trade idea, Goodwill writes. The Hawks are reportedly set to pursue Monroe in unrestricted free agency this coming summer.
- The Pistons never believed that Monroe would ultimately sign the qualifying offer, according to Goodwill.
If the Hornets decide to move Lance Stephenson before February’s trade deadline, Yannis Koutroupis of Basketball Insiders sees a handful of teams that could be interested. Stephenson left the Pacers for Charlotte in the offseason, signing a deal that pays him $9MM each of the first two seasons, with a $9.4MM team option for 2016/17. However, the Hornets have stumbled to a 6-16 start, fueliing speculation that Stephenson might be moved. Koutroupis speculated that the Nets, Mavericks, Hawks, Nuggets and perhaps the Spurs would be
potential fits for the shooting guard.
There’s more news from the Southeast Division:
- John Wall wasn’t convinced that he had earned a maximum extension before the 2013/14 season, reports J. Michael of CSNWashington.com. Luckily for him, the Wizards had no doubt. “I was still in shock,” he said. “I thought I was still the player that hadn’t developed, hadn’t proved anything.” The Wizards’ belief in Wall paid off as he became an All-Star last season and led Washington to the playoffs. The first pick in the 2010 NBA draft, Wall is making nearly $15MM this year and is under contract through the 2018/19 season.
- Wizards teammate Rasual Butler is making the most of his second chance in the NBA, writes Jorge Castillo of The Washington Post. Unable to find an NBA job in 2012/13, Butler spent the season in the D-League, then played limited minutes last year in Indiana. But at age 35, he has become a valuable part of Washington’s rotation, ranking third in the league in three-point shooting percentage. “I was able to learn a lot about myself during that time,” Butler said. “I knew I had something more to give to this game. . . . I kept going to work out, wanting to have another opportunity, but also telling myself that when the opportunity would come, I would be prepared for it.”
- New Hawks diversity and inclusion officer Nzinga Shaw told Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today that she hopes to establish a diversity and inclusion counsel made up of team employees and community members. Shaw, who had been with the Edelman PR agency, was formally hired by Atlanta this week. The Hawks were embarrassed this summer when a racially insensitive e-mail from co-owner Bruce Levenson and racially tinged comments by general manager Danny Ferry about free agent Luol Deng were made public.
The Sixers‘ potential signing of Furkan Aldemir to a four-year deal was first reported back on November 24th. But since then, there have been numerous issues with getting the agreement finalized. Aldemir’s Turkish club was initially reluctant to let him out of his contract, and once that hurdle was taken care of, Aldemir was then said to be awaiting his FIBA letter of clearance which would allow him to sign with an NBA team. It’s been almost two weeks since there has been any movement on bringing Aldemir to Philly, and Bob Cooney of The Philadelphia Daily News tweets that it still doesn’t look like the signing will be completed anytime soon, if at all.
Here’s more from the East:
- Celtics coach Brad Stevens gave an update on James Young, who injured his shoulder during a D-League game earlier this week, Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com reports (Twitter link). Stevens said that Young has a “little bit of muscular damage” in his right shoulder, and will rehab the injury in an attempt to avoid surgery. Young is currently listed as being out indefinitely.
- The Bulls have announced in a press release that rookie forward Doug McDermott will have arthroscopic surgery on Saturday to repair damage to his right knee and will be out indefinitely. Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com was the first to report this news (Twitter link). In 17 appearances this season McDermott is averaging 3.2 points and 1.6 rebounds in 11.6 minutes per game.
- The sale of the Hawks is moving more swiftly than before, as USA Today’s Jeff Zillgitt notes. There has been little chatter regarding the sale since late October, when it was still unclear just what percentage of the team would be on the market.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
Sixers coach Brett Brown isn’t happy that Brandon Davies was traded to the Nets, Dei Lynam of CSNPhilly.com reports. Brown will miss Davies because of the player-coach relationship the two had, which helped ease the sting of enduring the Sixers’ escalating loss totals, Lynam adds. “When you start losing people that you are very fond of and have tremendous respect for … there is a human side of it that bothers me because you are trying to grow chemistry, you are trying to grow a culture,” Brown said. “That takes a hit when teammates lose teammates. There is a respect, effort-wise, of how they go about their business. There is a reality to our job that is just business in the NBA, but it doesn’t mean it has to feel right.”
Here’s more from the East:
- Sonny Weems turned down multiple offers from NBA teams this past offseason, including a fully guaranteed deal from the Hawks, as he tells David Pick, writing for Basketball Insiders. Weems instead remains overseas on a long-term deal with CSKA Moscow that will pay him $10MM over the course of the contract, according to Pick. Money, contract length and timing were some of the stumbling blocks that kept Weems out of the NBA, Pick writes, adding that Weems is widely accepted as the best small forward not in the NBA.
- Rajon Rondo has been receiving his fair share of criticism for the Celtics‘ struggles this season, and he’s been benched late in games recently, but it is something he has downplayed, Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com writes. “I’ve been playing here for nine years, I’m one of the best at what I do, and I’m human,” Rondo said. “I make mistakes. I own up to my mistakes and that’s just part of the game. It’s not weighing on me at all. It’s a team effort. I am the captain, but there are 15 guys on this team and we’re all in this together.”
- Prior to leaving Washington, current Clippers assistant Sam Cassell played a major role in helping the Wizards land Paul Pierce this past summer, Michael Lee of The Washington Post writes. “I talked to him [Pierce], told him how well he’ll do with them two guys John Wall and Bradley Beal] and he viewed it and made his decision,” Cassell said. “He took it seriously. He looked at the roster that we had and he realized it was a pretty good roster. He saw where he could fit in and do well at. Why wouldn’t he come and be a part of the Wizards?”
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
The Hawks and Philips Arena have named Nzinga Shaw as the organization’s new Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer (CDIO), the team announced. Shaw will be responsible for developing and embedding diversity and inclusion best practices throughout the organization. “I am excited to be a member of the Atlanta Hawks and Philips Arena organization at such a pivotal time. My goal as the CDIO is to help our organization rebuild trust and partnership in the Atlanta community, emphasizing civility, sportsmanship, and human decency in an effort to ensure that everyone can be a fan of the team, attend home games, and so that we can serve as a model for inclusion in the NBA,” Shaw said. “More specifically, I will lead the charge of creating a strategic framework to help shift the culture so that we can create greater inclusion and engagement with all of our fans and stakeholders.”
Here’s more from the Southeast Division:
- In an interview with Grantland’s Zach Lowe, Chris Bosh discussed a number of topics, including the teams that were courting him before he decided to re-sign with the Heat. When Bosh was asked if the offers he received from the Rockets, Suns, Lakers, and Nuggets had interested him, Bosh said, “It was just interesting to be wanted, after all that time of bashing, bashing, bashing. You kind of bask in it just a little bit. Like, ‘Hey, I’m still valuable. I can still play this game.'”
- When Bosh was asked by Lowe about whether any other team besides Houston truly tempted him to sign with them, Bosh replied, “Yeah. They make you think for a minute. But I was interested in staying put. But at the time, it’s like, OK, wow. I never imagined this. You just think about it. But for the most part, I was focused on staying with Miami.”
- With the Heat now third-worst in the NBA in field-goal percentage defense, some outsiders have questioned coach Erik Spoelstra’s defensive philosophy, Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald writes. But one Miami player said privately that a huge problem is the inability of the team’s wing players (guards especially) to consistently prevent penetration, which then exposes the team’s lack of size on the interior. This defensive weakness on the wing is the primary reason that the Heat have been mentioned as being interested in acquiring Corey Brewer from the Wolves, who is known as a strong perimeter defender.
The Hawks re-assigned Adreian Payne to the D-League on Sunday night, but instead of heading to Fort Wayne, the rookie was sent to the Austin Toros, the Spurs’ affiliate instead, Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reports. This was due to the maximum allowance of four NBA players already being on assignment to the Mad Ants at the time, though three of those players were recalled Monday, Vivlamore notes. In his two previous stints with Fort Wayne, Payne has appeared in a total of six games, averaging 13.5 points, 10.5 rebounds and 2.3 assists in 31.3 minutes per contest.
Here’s more from the East:
- This flexible assignment to Austin for Payne actually works in his and Atlanta’s favor since Austin runs a very similar system to the one the Hawks use, Vivlamore adds. “It’s not the same system that we run here [Atlanta],” Payne said of his previous assignments in Fort Wayne. “It’s different. It’s just like coming from college when you learn a different system.”
- With the Nets reportedly willing to trade Deron Williams, Brook Lopez and Joe Johnson, Bradford Doolittle of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required) runs down which teams would be the best fit for each. Doolittle opines that Williams would look good in a Pacers uniform, the Lakers would suit Lopez just fine, and Johnson could fit in with the Pelicans.
- The Raptors have no intention of utilizing the remaining $4,583,432 of the trade exception they created from the Rudy Gay trade, which expires tonight, Marc Stein of ESPN.com tweets.
- If the Nets do indeed trade Andrei Kirilenko to the Sixers for a player with a non-guaranteed contract, Brooklyn would be able to create a trade exception worth $3.3MM, Robert Windrem of Nets Daily reports (Twitter link).
This time last year, Robert Covington was on the Rockets roster but in the midst of a D-League assignment that had begun November 7th and wouldn’t end until this past January 18th. He went down for several more assignments last year, and after the Rockets released him just shy of opening night this year, he became the first pick in the D-League draft and spent a few more weeks on the circuit until the Sixers signed him in mid-November. Covington credits all of that D-League experience with helping him to a strong start in Philadelphia, where he’s knocked down 17 of 32 three-point attempts, as Tom Moore of Calkins Media notes via Twitter. No one on NBA rosters hopes to spend as much time in the D-League as Covington did, but they have a chance to benefit if they do. Here are the latest assignments and recalls:
- The Hawks are sending 15th overall pick Adreian Payne to the D-League again, just two days after recalling him, reports Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Twitter link). Vivlamore indicates that it’s unclear which D-League team he’ll play for. That signals that perhaps the D-League will be exercising its new rules for accommodating assignments for the 13 NBA teams that share the Fort Wayne Mad Ants, of which the Hawks are one. Still, it’d be odd if the D-League sent Payne to another affiliate, since the Mad Ants don’t have anyone else on NBA assignment aside from Glen Rice Jr. of the Wizards.
- That’s in part because Atlanta recalled John Jenkins and Mike Muscala from the Mad Ants today, the Hawks announced (Twitter link). Jenkins had been on assignment since November 28th, while Muscala was with the Fort Wayne Mad Ants for just two days.
- Russ Smith is back with the Pelicans after a three-day assignment to Fort Wayne, New Orleans announced. This year’s 47th overall pick averaged 14.5 points and 3.0 steals in 26.0 minutes per game over two D-League contests, but Smith, a point guard, totaled nine turnovers and just six assists.
- Ricky Ledo is headed on D-League assignment for the fourth time this year, the Mavs announced (on Twitter). He’s yet to appear in a game for the big club this season, and he’s putting up 12.0 PPG in 34.0 MPG across five D-League contests.
The Hawks and Knicks are set to pursue Greg Monroe in free agency this coming summer, according to Shams Charania of RealGM. Over a dozen teams should have the necessary cap space to attract Monroe, who will almost assuredly be seeking a max contract, notes Charania. The Knicks see him as a secondary target if they can’t convince Marc Gasol to leave Memphis and come to New York, Charania adds, and landing Gasol is prospect they’re reportedly pessimistic about.
Monroe took the risky route this offseason when he signed Detroit’s one year qualifying offer after he and the team were unable to come to terms on a new long-term deal. The fact that Monroe spurned the Pistons’ attempts to lock him up for the long term and that he was willing to accept a salary of approximately $5.48MM for 2014/15, which is definitely below the market value for a player of Monroe’s talents, suggest that he has no intention of returning to Motown next season, Charania notes.
Monroe’s camp was also reportedly active in seeking sign-and-trade deals this past summer rather than attempting to secure offer sheets, with the fear that the Pistons would match and he would then be forced to stay in Detroit. Despite speculation that big-market teams like the Lakers and Celtics were pursuing Monroe, neither were an interested party when Monroe was seeking suitors, Charania’s sources told him. For their part, the Pistons rejected the proposed sign-and-trade offers, and they instead decided to take their chances that new president of basketball operations and head coach Stan Van Gundy could convince Monroe during the course of the season that Detroit was indeed a desirable place for him to continue his playing career.
The Knicks’ interest in Monroe furthers the notion that New York is focused on adding a center via free agency next summer. Monroe is the No. 4 player on the Hoops Rumors Free Agent Power Rankings, and he’s the third-ranked center behind Gasol and Al Jefferson, who holds a $13.5MM player option for the 2015/16 season. The Knicks certainly will have enough cap flexibility to offer Monroe a maximum-salary deal, with roughly $25.9MM to spend. I do question how well Monroe would fit into the triangle offense that New York is transitioning to, since he is not known as a willing and competent passer, something that is required of big men in that system.
As for the Hawks, Monroe would be a curious fit alongside Al Horford and Paul Millsap and could find himself in a situation similar to the one he is now in with Detroit, where the Pistons’ experiment with an oversized frontcourt has not worked out well for any involved. Millsap is set for unrestricted free agency this coming summer, too, so Atlanta’s interest in Monroe could portend that the Hawks are either not confident in re-signing Millsap, or that they would prefer to add Monroe to their squad instead. Atlanta is expected to have more than $24MM in cap flexibility available next summer.