In addtion to Steve Nash's Lakers debut tonight, another major talking point in the Pacific Division involves the Kings' suspension of DeMarcus Cousins. According to Jeff Zillgitt and Sam Amick of USA Today, a source close the team's plans says that the former Kentucky big man isn't untouchable. Jarrod Rudolph of RealGM feels that Sacramento and the Magic would benefit by exploring trade talks, as both have pieces that could help the other side (Twitter link). Chris Sheridan of Sheridan Hoops also weighed in, offering four different scenarios in which the Kings could deal the fourth-year player. With that aside, here are some of the other notable stories we're hearing from the NBA this evening:
- Jim Eichenhoffer of Hornets.com tweets that Eric Gordon has been cleared for full contact practice.
- Jenni Carlson of NewsOK believes that dealing James Harden to Houston has made the Thunder a better and more fluid team, pointing to the significant increase in assist numbers by Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.
- Jan Vesely has yet to earn a consistent role during a turbulent start to his second-year campaign with the struggling Wizards, writes Michael Lee of the Washington Post. “It’s tough, especially when the team is losing,” Vesely said of his current role. “Everybody try to stay positive but sometimes it’s hard. I try to practice everyday, work on my game and stay ready for my chance to play.”
- Darius Morris may not be ready for a starting job, but Eric Pincus of the Los Angeles Times writes about how the Lakers' sophomore guard has found a significant role in Mike D'Antoni's rotation (Sulia link).
- Two years ago and just months removed from "The Decision", Jazz guard Mo Williams (then with Cleveland) and Heat superstar LeBron James may not have necessarily been on each other's holiday greetings list. Today, Bill Oram of The Salt Lake Tribune notes how the two former teammates had nothing but glowing remarks to say about each other heading into tonight's matchup between Utah and Miami.
The teams that would occupy the top four playoff seeds in the Eastern Conference are all in action tonight, and all of them are in fairly compelling matchups. The first-place Knicks and would-be No. 4 seed Bulls square off, while the Hawks, the third-best team in the conference, travel to Memphis to face the Grizzlies, who sit atop the league. The Heat take on the lowly Hornets, but after Miami's loss to the Wizards this week, nothing's a given. Here's today's news from around the East:
- Ersan Ilyasova signed new a five-year, $40MM deal with the Bucks this summer, but has since been benched, as Yannis Koutroupis of HoopsWorld chronicles. "It is a little bit (tough)," Ilyasova said. "We got a lot of big guys in different spots. It’s hard to find room some times. It doesn’t really matter. Whenever I step out on the floor I just try to be myself and give 100 percent."
- The Bucks also acquired Samuel Dalembert via trade this offseason, and he, too, is on the bench despite a $6.7MM salary in the final season of his contract. Dalembert is questioning the way the team has deployed him, according to Koutroupis. "It is not working," Dalembert said. "It’s not quite, I thought my role would have been a little bit more. But, like I said it’s coaching and everybody is doing their best."
- Tom Moore of Phillyburbs.com cites examples from Sixers coach Doug Collins' comments as he argues that Collins' patience with Andrew Bynum has worn thin, and wonders if the coach has moved on from the idea of having a franchise center around.
- Stephen Brotherston of HoopsWorld believes any player on the Raptors roster is liable to be traded, and predicts a major move in the near future. Brotherston thinks GM Bryan Colangelo and coach Dwane Casey might not be long for Toronto, either.
- Jan Vesely, the sixth overall pick in the 2011 draft, has fallen out of the Wizards rotation, but the team isn't planning to send him to the D-League, sources tell Michael Lee of The Washington Post.
The Wizards completed a major chunk of bookkeeping today, exercising 2013/14 options for six players, according to a press release from the team. John Wall, Kevin Seraphin, Trevor Booker, and Jordan Crawford had their fourth-year options picked up, while Jan Vesely and Chris Singleton had their third-year options exercised.
"We have been able to bring in and develop this core group of talented,
mature young players over the last several years, and we’re pleased to
have them all signed through next season," said Wizards president Ernie Grunfeld in a statement. "Combining
them with the veterans we’ve added gives us a solid foundation that can
be competitive now while allowing us to continue to build towards future
Wall will earn a salary of about $7.46MM in 2013/14, while the other five players range from about $1.62MM (Singleton) to $3.34MM (Vesely). Wall, Seraphin, Booker, and Crawford will now be eligible for restricted free agency in the summer of 2014, unless they're extended next summer. The Wizards will have an additional year of control (2014/15) for Vesely and Singleton.
Check out Hoops Rumors' option tracker to keep tabs on which rookie-scale players have had their 2013/14 options picked up so far this offseason.
We've already covered a few stories out of the Eastern Conference today, including Rashard Lewis' desire to play for five more years, the latest on Rasheed Wallace's timetable with the Knicks, and camp cuts by the Sixers and Cavaliers. Now, let's round up another handful of East-related links....
- In the first episode of NBA TV's "The Association," which debuts next week, Nets GM Billy King says Deron Williams urged him not to wait on Dwight Howard and miss out on other opportunities to improve the roster, according to Mike Mazzeo of ESPNNewYork.com.
- Johan Petro tells Lang Greene of HoopsWorld that he wasn't caught off guard by the trade that sent him to the Hawks, though his destination was a bit of a surprise. "I knew Brooklyn was really trying to do something with Deron," Petro said. "I didn’t know half the team would be gone but I knew they were going to try and do something."
- Though it's been two years since he played for the Bulls, Kirk Hinrich is already feeling comfortable again in Chicago, and his teammates, new and old, are glad to have him on board. Nick Friedell of ESPNChicago.com has the details.
- With Wizards owner Ted Leonsis recently conceding that his team is better equipped to develop its own stars rather than recruit them, Washington will be looking for continued growth from Jan Vesely this season, says Michael Lee of the Washington Post.
- Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald examines Dionte Christmas' quest to earn a spot on the Celtics' roster.