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:
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.
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:
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:
The Bobcats' desire to trade Ben Gordon has increased following an incident between Gordon and coach Mike Dunlap, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. Wojnarowski reports that Gordon was "beyond disrepectful" to Dunlap during Monday's shootaround, resulting in general manager Rod Higgins intervening.
Sources tell Wojnarowski that Gordon refused Dunlap's request to stop bouncing a ball while the coach spoke, and that the veteran guard began baiting Dunlap, telling him he needed to "humble himself." Gordon refused to give the ball to Dunlap and eventually tossed it toward a ball rack, according to the Yahoo! report.
The front office decided not to suspend Gordon following the incident, in part because the team felt it might diminish his trade value, says Wojnarowski. With a 2012/13 salary of $12.4MM and a $13.2MM player option for next season, Gordon doesn't have a ton of value anyway. Charlotte reportedly discussed sending him to Brooklyn for Kris Humphries, but Wojnarowski reports the Nets have put that trade on the back burner, believing it could be revisited closer to the deadline if they don't find another deal they like.
No team was more active last summer than the Nets, who signed two maximum-salary players and traded for a third in the span of a week. So it only seems appropriate that the club would be busy again at the trade deadline. Brooklyn has been linked to multiple possible trade targets this month, including Ben Gordon of the Bobcats and Josh Smith of the Hawks.
However, according to Mitch Lawrence and Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News, the Nets aren't overly optimistic about landing Gordon or Smith. The Daily News report indicates that Brooklyn has "cooled" on Gordon, who the club doesn't view as a good fit defensively. Lawrence and Bondy also suggest that the Nets are pessimistic about their odds of landing Smith, since the Hawks are seeking a more attractive package than Brooklyn's, which would include Kris Humphries and MarShon Brooks.
While talks with the Bobcats and Hawks may not be progressing, the Nets are still hoping to land a big man. Brooklyn is focusing on a group of power forwards that includes Paul Millsap, according to the Daily News report. Nearly a month ago, we heard that the Nets might try to make a play for Millsap, though a deal wasn't considered likely.
As trade rumors continue to swirl around the Nets, GM Billy King insists that he likes the current roster, and that a move isn't necessarily in the works. Even though he's in the last year of his contract, King wants to avoid making a desperation move, telling reporters yesterday that he won't shake things up for the sake of it.
"Are we going to make a trade? We may, we may not,'' King said. "I'm not going to make a trade just to make a trade. Do I believe this group can regroup and play well? Yes."
Not content to simply rank the NBA's teams, one through 30, Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports also includes plenty of interesting trade rumors and nuggets within his power rankings. Here are the items of note from Spears in this week's installment:
9:05pm: While the two teams are engaged in discussions, nothing is close yet, a source tells Broussard. The Nets are willing to give up Kris Humphries and guard MarShon Brooks for Smith, but it almost certainly will take more to make it happen and one source said the Hawks want a first-round pick.
Broussard writes that some scenarios that have been discussed include re-acquiring Anthony Morrow, but that would not be possible. A player cannot be traded back to a team within one year of that team trading him away, according to the CBA.
The Hawks also reportedly want a young center in return for Smith so the Nets may have to get a third team involved.
7:52pm: The Nets are going hard after Hawks forward Josh Smith, sources tell Chris Broussard of ESPN (on Twitter). While General Manager Billy King & Co. have also discussed a deal for Bobcats guard Ben Gordon, Smith is the bigger priority at the moment.
Earlier today, a report suggested that the Hawks aren't actively shopping Smith, despite the whirlwind of trade talk surrounding him. Meanwhile, Broussard handicapped the odds of Smith being shipped out of Atlanta at 60% earlier this week. It makes sense that the Hawks would explore a deal as they met with the 27-year-old's representatives this week and let them know that they're not interested in signing him to the max deal that he is seeking.
If General Manager Danny Ferry can take Smith off of the books, then he could potentially have room for two max deal players this summer. That prospect combined with the return that Smith could net would seem to make him one of the stronger trade candidates as we approach the deadline. The Suns, Rockets, and Bobcats have been said to have interest in acquiring Smith while the forward would like a trade to the Mavericks or Grizzlies if he had his way.