The NBA held internal discussions about the Knicks‘ signing of Chris Smith and ultimately determined the move wasn’t in violation of circumventing the salary cap, reports Marc Berman of the New York Post. Previous reports have indicated rival agents believe the Knicks signed J.R. Smith and his younger brother as a package deal. However, a league official tells Berman that Chris is “one of those projects” who may not help immediately, but could develop into an NBA player.
Here’s more from around the Eastern Conference:
- If the Knicks need to add a free agent, Smith may be the player released to make room, but so far the team has been content to stand pat despite frontcourt injuries. The latest player sidelined is Metta World Peace, who had fluid drained from his knee on Monday, according to Ian Begley of ESPN New York. However, the procedure was believed to be minor, and MWP is expected back on the court by the end of the week.
- Bobcats guard Ben Gordon tells K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune that if the Bulls were to call him when he becomes a free agent next summer, he’d definitely listen. “I had a lot of success here, had a great time here,” Gordon said. “I’m not in position to rule anybody out.”
- According to John Wall, the Wizards’ players believe in Randy Wittman, who isn’t worried that his job is in danger. Michael Lee of the Washington Post has the details.
- Sam Amick of USA Today hears from a person with knowledge of the Wizards thinking that Wittman will still have the opportunity to right the ship in Washington before the team considers a change.
Greg Oden has yet to see any preseason action for the Heat, but the 25-year-old former No. 1 pick told HoopsWorld’s Moke Hamilton his primary goal when he returns to the hardwood is, “To walk on the court and play however many minutes…and to walk off healthy.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra says Oden’s “been great,” before adding that his journey from top of the 2007 Draft to the Heat isn’t easily relatable:
“He’s been through a lot; it’s tough for anybody to really relate, to have something you love taken away from you for multiple years, something you can’t control. So, we’re just trying to help him through the process until he can get back on the court.”
Here are some notes from around the Eastern Conference on a slow Saturday night:
- Pistons Rookie Kentavious Caldwell-Pope has struggled with his shot in preseason action, but Vincent Ellis of the Detroit Free-Press tweets that Chauncey Billups believes KCP can be a lockdown defender in the vein of Tony Allen.
- Billups tells Keith Langlois of Pistons.com, via Twitter, that he’s been watching tape with Caldwell-Pope and fellow Pistons rookie Peyton Siva.
- Billups tells Langlois that KCP is a good shooter, but “good shooters take good shots” (Twitter). Billups adds that all KCP has proven is he won’t lose his confidence, but that he’s young, too. (Twitter).
- Thanks to a scheduling quirk, the Celtics have played 6 preseason games in 9 days, and only have 2 games remaining before their October 30th opener in Toronto. Coach Brad Stevens, a first-time NBA coach after coming over from Butler, tells Celtics.com’s Marc D’Amico he doesn’t know if Sunday’s preseason game against the ‘Wolves in Montreal will be a dress rehearsal for his regular season rotation, or more tinkering with the minutes.
- Bobcats guard Ben Gordon will miss the rest of the preseason after a procedure on one of his knees to relieve soreness, writes Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. Bonnell adds, via Twitter, that coach Steve Clifford will play Ramon Sessions at shooting guard and give Jannero Pargo more run at the point in Gordon’s absence.
To no one's surprise, Ben Gordon has decided to exercise his player option for 2013/14, keeping him under contract for one more season, reports Ken Berger of CBSSports.com (via Twitter).
Gordon's decision will ensure his $13.2MM salary becomes guaranteed for next year, significantly cutting into the Bobcats' available cap space. Charlotte acquired the veteran guard last summer for Corey Maggette, who would have hit free agency this offseason. In exchange for picking up the extra salary, the Bobcats should land a pretty attractive draft pick, especially if the Pistons continue to miss the postseason. The first-rounder Charlotte received in the Gordon/Maggette swap is top-eight protected in 2014 and top-one protected in 2015.
We heard last night that rival executives are skeptical the Celtics will keep Kris Humphries after acquiring him from the Nets, and Chris Mannix of SI.com said to keep an eye out for the Bobcats. Gordon and Humphries have been connected in trade rumors before, so it's possible, perhaps even likely, that Gordon won't spend the entire '13/14 season with the Bobcats.
Bob Finnan of The News-Herald rounds up the latest NBA rumors in his weekly column, and though he usually focuses on the Cavs, his latest dispatch is heavy on Pistons news. We'll hit the highlights here:
- Re-signing Jose Calderon remains a priority for the Pistons, but Joe Dumars and company "don't want to break the bank" to do so, Finnan writes. It's unclear exactly what breaking the bank would constitute, but I'd say the Pistons would balk at any deal approaching $10MM per year, based on previous estimates that peg his worth at between $6MM and $8MM.
- The Pistons aren't high on Trey Burke, and they probably hope he's off the board by the time they draft eighth overall, since there's pressure from fans to draft the University of Michigan star.
- Detroit is instead enamored with Cody Zeller, though most observers believe they'll draft a guard, according to Finnan.
- The Cavs, like the Pistons, have drawn mention as a likely suitor for Andre Iguodala, but Finnan isn't so sure Cleveland is willing to shell out a lucrative deal for him. The News-Herald scribe figures another team will overpay the soon-to-be free agent.
- The Pistons and Raptors were certain the Cavs were going to draft Jonas Valanciunas with the fourth pick in 2011, and had a deal in place based on that contingency. Detroit would have sent Ben Gordon and the No. 8 pick to Toronto for Calderon and the No. 5 pick. The Pistons would have drafted Tristan Thompson, whom the Cavs wound up taking at No. 4 that year, while the Raptors would have picked Brandon Knight.
- Finnan unveils his latest mock draft as part of a separate piece. He has the Cavs taking Nerlens Noel first overall, despite rumors the team will pass him up. Finnan predicts the Pistons will take shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.
With the 2012/13 season officially over for 14 NBA teams, it's been a busy Thursday around the league, as teams look toward the offseason changes on the way in the coming weeks and months. Three Eastern Conference teams have parted ways with their head coaches, but that's not all that's going on in the conference today. Here are a few more Eastern updates:
- Speaking to Philadelphia media today, Evan Turner said he believes he'll still be a Sixer next season, and that his name has come up in trade rumors because he has value. He added that he isn't worried about potential extension talks — he'll be extension-eligible as of July 1st (Twitter links via Tom Moore of PhillyBurbs.com).
- Sixers owner Josh Harris has confirmed that Philadelphia is in "advanced discussions" to buy a D-League franchise, tweets Moore. A report back in November suggested that the 76ers may be targeting the suspended Utah Flash team.
- Ben Gordon can't see any reason to opt out of his contract for next season, as Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer tweets. Considering his 2013/14 player option is worth $13.2MM, Gordon's stance is hardly a surprise.
- Another player who would like to return to the Bobcats for 2013/14 is Josh McRoberts. However, Bonnell tweets that McRoberts "made it clear" money will be the biggest factor for him in free agency.
- John Wall isn't planning on doing much recruiting this summer, telling J. Michael of CSNWashington.com that he's not going to "beg" free agents to sign with the Wizards (Twitter link).
- Al Harrington, who has two half-guaranteed years remaining on his contract, recognizes he probably doesn't have a future with the Magic, but isn't 100% sure, according to Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel (Twitter link).
10:55pm: Howard Beck of The New York Times received an "emphatic denial" that the Nets are interested in a Gordon deal (Twitter link). TNT's David Aldridge hears the same, adding that the Nets told the Bobcats today they had no interest (Twitter link).
10:47pm: The Nets are hanging on to Humphries for now because he could be a part of a three-way deal with the Hawks, Amico adds (Twitter link).
10:24pm: The Nets have secured an deal with the Bobcats to trade Kris Humphries for Ben Gordon, but they're waiting to see what the Hawks do with Josh Smith before finalizing the agreement, tweets Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio. The Bobcats proposed the swap a few weeks ago, but it's been on the backburner since then. Amico classified the Nets as the frontrunner for Smith earlier tonight, so this could be an either-or situation for Brooklyn.
The salaries match up almost perfectly, with Gordon making $12.4MM this year and Humphries drawing $12MM. Humphries is signed through 2014, and Gordon has a player option for next season that he's likely to exercise.
The Nets had reportedly cooled on Gordon in recent weeks because of concerns about his defense, while the Bobcats intensified their efforts to move the 29-year-old shooting guard after he clashed with coach Mike Dunlap in practice. They made a pitch for Andrea Bargnani, but it doesn't appear the Raptors have nearly the motivation to trade Bargnani that the Bobcats do as they seek to get Gordon out of Charlotte.
Brooklyn appears anxious to move Humphries, as they've included him and MarShon Brooks in offers to the Celtics, Hawks and Bucks.
Chris Sheridan of Sheridan Hoops told Joe and Evan of WFAN 660 today that he believes there is a 50-50 chance that Dwight Howard winds up with the Nets by the trade deadline. Despite the Lakers' reassurances that they wouldn't be willing to deal their prized center, Sheridan thinks that they soon have to realize that this season cannot be salvaged and suggests that a deal involving MarShon Brooks, Kris Humphries, Tyshawn Taylor, Mirza Teletovic, Tornike Shengelia, the draft rights to some of their overseas prospects, and a few first round picks could be enough to get something done. Here's what else we're hearing this afternoon:
- In contrast to Sheridan's thoughts, Mike Trudell of Lakers.com tweets about Mitch Kupchak's insistence that Howard won't be traded and the unlikelihood that the Lakers acquire a talent upgrade anytime soon. Mike Bresnahan of the LA Times relayed Kupchak's thoughts explicitly: "I don’t anticipate anything dramatic talking place in the next two days" (Twitter link).
- Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News notes that coach Mike D'Antoni remains convinced the Lakers don't have to make any moves before the deadline and that Pau Gasol is hopeful he can return before the end of the regular season. Gasol, who suffered a foot injury two weeks ago, expects to be off crutches soon (All Twitter links).
- As we heard last week, Warriors ownership hasn't required the front office to make deals for the sake of avoiding the luxury tax and would be willing to make a deal if the right one came along. With that being said, team co-owner Joe Lacob told Tim Kawakami of the Mercury News that he likes how the current group has been performing and needs to see them continue to perform together for an extended period of time.
- Bobcats head Coach Mike Dunlap said that he's met with some of his players to talk about the trade deadline, adding that he feels "uncomfortable communication" is necessary too. Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer thinks that the latter was likely a reference to Ben Gordon, who has been notably unhappy with Dunlap this season (Twitter links).
The Bobcats are increasingly anxious to trade Ben Gordon, and that's sparked their interest in a trade with the Raptors for Andrea Bargnani, reports Marc Stein of ESPN.com. Stein believes the Raptors would be unlikely to go for a Gordon-for-Bargnani swap, citing the presence of Terrence Ross and Alan Anderson (Twitter links). Even though Gordon would be easier for the Raptors to take back than Carlos Boozer, whom the Bulls are offering, the Raptors aren't going to trade their former No. 1 overall pick just for the sake of unloading him, Stein tweets.
Gordon, Charlotte's highest-paid player, is making $12.4MM this year, and has a $13.2MM player option for 2013/14. Bargnani earns $10MM this season, gets a raise to $10.75MM next year and has an $11.5MM early-termination option for 2014/15. His deal includes a 5% trade kicker that the Bobcats would have to pay, but that probably wouldn't be an issue, since they'd be taking back less salary than they'd be sending out. Gordon wouldn't make the Raptors a taxpaying team this year, but it could push them farther into tax territory next season, since they're already set for a payroll of $74.349MM. They have some flexibility with options and non-guaranteed contracts, but taking on either Gordon or Boozer, who makes an average of $15.7MM per year through 2015, could give Toronto difficulty.
Gordon, acquired in a trade with the Pistons last summer, has clashed with coach Mike Dunlap amidst the fewest minutes per game in his nine-year career. He hasn't started a game all year, but he's seeing more shot attempts than in his last two seasons with Detroit, and is shooting 40.9% from behind the arc, a few ticks above his 40.6% career average. It seems reasonable that the Bobcats could get something of value for him, but his outsized contract, as well as the team's clear motivation to send him away, could be driving down his price.
The Raptors, too, seem to have encountered difficulty as they attempt to trade Bargnani, who's posted a career-worst 40.9% field goal percentage in an injury-plagued first half of the season. In addtion to the Bobcats and Bulls, he's also been linked to the Sixers in recent weeks.
Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times relayed some gems out of Bulls camp tonight, reporting that Chicago is still taking and making phone calls as the trade deadline approaches. He cites a source within the organization that says talks between the Bulls and Raptors involving Carlos Boozer are "off the table," and that there hasn't been a high demand for Richard Hamilton. As for Derrick Rose's status, the reality that he might not return this season hasn't put any additional pressure on Chicago to find more help or try to lessen the payroll. Here's more of what we've heard tonight out of the Eastern Conference:
- Several Magic veterans weighed in on the possibility of being traded before next Thursday's deadline including J.J. Redick, who is in the final year of his deal and has drawn significant interest from other teams. Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel says that although the front office has told their players that they aren't being shopped, they still acknowledge that they are responsible for listening to offers and taking into account what could make them better in the long term.
- Amidst reports of tension boiling over between Bobcats coach Mike Dunlap and embattled guard Ben Gordon on Monday, Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer notes that it wasn't the first time that the 29-year-old guard appeared frustrated this season and that Gordon and Dunlap have already met twice before to discuss his role.
- Celtics forward Kevin Garnett explained his comments that this Sunday would be his last All-Star game, as some had seen it as possible hint that he would retire after this year: "Let's just put it like this: I'm more than grateful for going. I'm not going to act like I've got more All-Star games in me. So I'm just going to actually enjoy this one with friends and family. That's what I meant" (NBA.com).
- Rich Levine of CSNNE.com said that nothing definitive can be concluded by Garnett's comments, and that only time will tell if he is actually contemplating retirement soon.