Here's a look at the Southeast Division as the Heat look to go up 2-0 on the Bucks..
- While Nik Vucevic is getting noticed, he's not considered totally untouchable to the Magic, according to Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel (on Twitter). Orlando, of course, would require a star in exchange for their promising young big man.
- Schmitz tweets that if he was making the decisions for the Magic, he'd try to see what the Clippers want for guard Eric Bledsoe. Earlier this week, Chris Paul opined that Bledsoe should be starting somewhere and is likely to be wearing a different uniform next season. The guard is under contract for about $2.6MM in 2013/14.
- Bobcats executives Rod Higgins and Rich Cho sat down with Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer and the Associated Press and Bonnell has the highlights. Higgins indicated that player interviews factored into the club's decision to fire coach Mike Dunlap, but said that they weren't the only element involved. Meanwhile, Cho said that the team won't limit their search to a more experienced coach.
It's a Wednesday night full of storylines in the NBA, as LeBron James and the Heat go for their 20th consecutive win in Philly and Carmelo Anthony returns to Denver for the first time since he was traded to the Knicks. Let's round up all the other Wednesday links from around the league here:
- An NBA executive told Sports Illustrated's Ian Thomsen, via text, that he would be "shocked" if any team picked up Gilbert Arenas or Tracy McGrady in the final month of the season. Both former NBA stars have spent this season playing in China.
- Tom Moore of PhillyBurbs.com caught up with 76ers president Rod Thorn on what has become an intriguing organizational situation in Philadelphia due to Andrew Bynum. While Thorn initially refused to comment on Bynum, he eventually said, "It's a little bizarre, no doubt about it." (Twitter links)
- With regard to Nikola Vucevic, who the Sixers gave up for Bynum and is now averaging a double-double at 22-years-old, Thorn said, "Nik is a very skilled player with great hands. You could tell he had a very good future ahead of him." (via Twitter)
- Sacramento city officials have given themselves an eight day window to construct a financing plan for a new downtown arena, writes Ryan Lillis, Tony Bizjak and Dale Kasler of the Sacramento Bee. With that timeline, the plan would be complete five days before the city council voted on the plan on March 26. Cementing the terms of an arena deal is vital in the city's claim to keep the Kings.
- The Bee's Marcos Breton writes that many knowledgable businessmen in the Sacramento area and beyond consider the city's last-ditch effort to keep the Kings a fool's errand. Breton spoke with a leading authority on arena financing who describes the offer from the Seattle group "considerably stronger."
Nikola Vucevic gives the Heat fits, having twice gone for at least 20 points and 20 rebounds against the team after tonight's 25-point, 21-board performance. The second-year Magic center could have been putting up those numbers for the Heat instead of against them if Miami had been willing to part with either Mario Chalmers, Norris Cole, or both, according to John Denton of Magic.com (Twitter link). Denton tweets that the Heat were "feverishly" trying to trade for Vucevic when he was with the Sixers last season, but apparently they weren't willing to give up their top two point guards to make it happen.
The Sixers dealt Vucevic to the Magic in August as part of the four-team Dwight Howard/Andrew Bynum blockbuster. The 22-year-old native of Switzerland has blossomed in Orlando, where he averages 12.1 points and 11.2 rebounds per game as the starting center. He's seeing twice as many minutes per game as he did last year with Philadelphia, which made him the 16th overall pick in the 2011 draft. Vucevic saw even less time in the playoffs, notching just three minutes during the Sixers' run to the Eastern Conference semifinals.
The Heat had evidently seen enough to believe he could address their deficiencies in the paint. Miami has grabbed the fewest rebounds of any team in the league, and certainly the addition of Vucevic would have helped remedy that. Money likely wasn't an inhibiting factor for the Heat, since he's on a rookie-scale contract that pays him just $1.7MM this season. Still, Heat president Pat Riley and the rest of the team's front office probably didn't predict Vucevic would develop as well and as quickly as he has. If they had foreseen it, they might have had pause about dealing away both of their top two point guards, though they're apparently confident enough in the ballhandling abilities of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James to go without a third point guard this season.
The Eastern Conference may have been on the losing end of yesterday's All-Star Game in Houston, but there's still plenty happening around the conference. Here's the latest:
Here are some news and notes from around the NBA on Sunday evening:
- With his Magic hosting the Mavericks, Nikola Vucevic says that the career of fellow European Dirk Nowitzki inspired his game and his confidence as he developed his game as youngster, writes Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel. After being somewhat of a 76ers throw in in the Dwight Howard blockbuster, Vucevic has been a revelation in Orlando, averging 11.6 points and ranking third in the NBA in rebounding as a 22-year old.
- Dale Kasler of the Sacramento Bee puts the Kings move scenario into context by providing other similar examples from professional sports, including the 1994 instance where the NBA blocked the Minnesota Timberwolves from moving to New Orleans. As we have seen recently, it appears as if the NBA has sided with Kevin Johnson and the city of Sacramento over Seattle.
- Citing the team's abundance of youth, Daryl Morey says this trade deadline may very well be the first that goes by in his tenure as GM without the Rockets making a move, reports Jonathan Feigen of Ultimate Rockets. In addition to their youth, Morey understands that he must land another star to become a realistic contender - the type of star that doesn't appear to be available in the coming month.
- With the franchise committed to building through the draft, Byron Scott is not worried about the Cavaliers 10-32 start, writes Mary Schmitt Boyer of the Plain Dealer. Improved toughness and consistency, Scott says, will be the focus of the season's second half for his young team.
Ric Bucher of CSN Bay Area (Sulia link) hears that the trade rumor involving Rudy Gay to the Suns in exchange for Jared Dudley and Michael Beasley was leaked in order to facilitate more offers from around the league. In terms of the Grizzlies dealing Gay for luxury-tax purposes, Bucher notes that the Wizards and Warriors only have trade pieces that would relieve Memphis of the super luxury tax in two years, but not after this season. You can find more of tonight's miscellaneous notes from the Association here:
Baumann of Bright House Sports Network tweets that the Celtics covet J.J. Redick as a
possible trade target before February's trade deadline.
- Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel provides a primer of what the Magic front office has to think about heading into next month's deadline. He thinks that GM Rob Hennigan might want to deal for more young players and draft picks while shedding salary, adding that Redick, Glen Davis, Arron Afflalo, Jameer Nelson, and Josh McRoberts are among the team's most tradeable assets. Lastly, Robbins thinks that Orlando is unlikely to part with Nikola Vucevic and that the team has almost no interest in dealing for Rudy Gay.
- Noting that Chris Johnson had been a member of Timberwolves' training camp before the season, Ray Richardson of the Pioneer Press says that his familiarity with the team provided an advantage during the team's search for help at center.
- The recent struggles of Nuggets swingman Andre Iguodala prompted him to admit after today's practice that he's "probably behind the curve" and has had trouble finding his comfort level this season (Benjamin Hochman of The Denver Post reports).
- HoopsWorld's Alex Kennedy (Sulia link) anticipates a quiet trade deadline for the NBA considering a busy offseason that saw 31 deals involving 96 players.
- Alex Raskin of HoopsWorld looks at Jeff Teague, one of four players who are guaranteed to remain in Atlanta beyond this season, as a viable long-term investment for the Hawks.
With six games on the NBA docket tonight, let's round up any odds and ends from around the Association here:
- In HoopsWorld's NBA PM column, Alex Kennedy summarizes some of the trade chatter we've heard recently from the Mavericks, Grizzlies, Raptors, Rockets, Lakers, Magic and Jazz.
- Speaking of the Mavs, despite Mark Cuban's recent bold proclamations, Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas writes that it is business as usual in Dallas. While some of the Mavs players admit that swirling rumors can be a distraction, Rick Carlisle says it has always been the norm in his time under Cuban.
- In a Yahoo Sports video, Greg Anthony and Marc J. Spears discuss the leading candidates for the NBA's Most Improved Player award, specifically mentioning Paul George, James Harden, Greivis Vasquez, Nikola Vucevic and Jrue Holiday as the current contenders.
- In the New York Times' Off The Dribble blog, Jim Cavan writes that the Pacers have been one of the few teams that has arguably benefited from losing a superstar to injury this year, citing the emergence of Paul George as a franchise player in Danny Granger's absence as the reason.
Lakers coach and former Knicks boss Mike D'Antoni was a little thrown by Amare Stoudemire's recent assertion that he was never taught defense before this year, as Newsday's Al Iannazzone documents. D'Antoni, who coached Stoudemire in New York and Phoenix, said he didn't think Stoudemire meant to be malicious, but still found the comment "mind-boggling" and implied that Stoudemire threw him and his assistant coaches with the Knicks under the bus. Here's more from around the Eastern Conference.
- We heard earlier today that the Magic, unsurprisingly, will not try to sign Dwight Howard in the offseason, and Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel reports that the team isn't interested in acquiring fellow Dan Fegan client DeMarcus Cousins, either.
- Schmitz also writes that Nikola Vucevic is off the market unless a team "blows away" the Magic with a proposal (and a Cousins offer wouldn't qualify). Still, Schmitz wonders if Orlando could swap him for a marquee talent when he gets closer to the end of his rookie deal in 2015.
- HoopsWorld's Yannis Koutroupis checks in with Nets interim coach and former Spurs assistant P.J. Carlesimo, who has admiration for the San Antonio model but doesn't think it's one that can be applied in Brooklyn.
- In a video attached to the same piece, Nets swingman MarShon Brooks, who's been seeing more playing time under Carlesimo, predictably gives the coach his stamp of approval, and brushes off trade rumors.
- Former Raptors small forward Gary Forbes had his sights set on an eventual return to the NBA when he signed with the Zhejiang Guangsha Lions in China in November, but his next move will be to Puerto Rico, where he'll play for Atleticos de San German, reports Manolo Rodriguez of Tiro Al Blanco (translation via Sportando).
While none of the five teams that make up the Southeast division play on Thursday night, that doesn't mean things are quiet. Here are some links from around the division:
- Lost in a dominant two seasons plus has been the relative mediocrity of the Heat on the road, writes Chris Tomasson of Fox Sports. While it obviously hasn't significantly hindered their overall success, Miami's players and coaches alike seem to think it is something they need to improve on.
- Couper Moorhead breaks down the anatomy of a Dwyane Wade steal in a lengthy story on Heat.com. While his 1.2 steals-per-game average in 2012-13 is easily the lowest of his NBA career, Wade is normally one of the league's best ball thiefs.
- Two of the pieces the Magic got for Dwight Howard appear to be, in the short term, headed in opposite directions, according to a story from Brian Schmitz of the Orlando Sentinel. Rookie Maurice Harkless is frustrated as his playing time has been slashed with the return of Hedo Turkoglu. Meanwhile, Nik Vucevic is thriving in his second year, particularly from a rebounding standpoint. The USC product had 20 points and 29 rebounds on New Year's Eve against the Heat.
- While we heard earlier that ESPN's Marc Stein thinks DeMarcus Cousins would fit in Dallas, Steve Kyler of HoopsWorld tweets that Cousins is "the wrong kind of personality" for what the Magic are building in Orlando.
The latest news and notes from around the NBA on Wednesday evening: