Pacific Notes: Lakers, Johnson, Knight

February 28 at 5:24pm CST By Chris Crouse

The Lakers seem to have quite a bit of turmoil surrounding the team, writes Kelly Dwyer of Yahoo! Sports. Dwyer cites the franchise’s dismissal of new technology and advanced statistics as reasons to why Los Angeles could spend a considerable amount of time in the cellar of the Western Conference. Coach Byron Scott’s disdain for analytics is well documented and Dwyer points out that the Lakers were one of the last teams in the NBA to install SportVU cameras that allow the tracking of player movement on the court. Such drawbacks could severely hinder the team’s chances of competing for a championship in the near future. Having said all this, if the Lakers can hold onto their 2015 first-round draft pick, which will head to Philadelphia if it doesn’t fall within the top five, the team could see a turnaround sooner. Los Angeles has a record of 16-41, the fourth worst in the league and, as our Reverse Standings indicate, it has a decent shot at keeping its pick.

Here’s more from the Pacific Division:

  • Wesley Johnson has enjoyed his time in Los Angeles and hopes to be in the Lakers‘ future plans, writes Mark Medina of the Los Angeles Daily News“I want to definitely stay here,” said Johnson, who will be an unrestricted free agent this offseason. “I like coach Scott and the whole coaching staff. I love it here. I definitely want to be a part of when they get back.” Johnson is currently making slightly more than $981K this season.
  • A high draft pick is what the Lakers need but Scott doesn’t see obtaining one as a goal this season, writes Broderick Turner of the Los Angeles Times. “We’re not trying to tank games,” Scott said. “We’re going to try to win every game and whatever happens after that with the lottery pick, happens. I think if you go into it saying. ‘We’re going to lose every game to see if we can get the best pick,’ I think it backfires on you.”
  • The Suns believe new addition Brandon Knight can be a team leader, writes Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic. “He understands the game, so that’s always helpful,” coach Jeff Hornacek said. “If you’re out there just relying on athletic ability, it’s tough to talk because maybe you don’t even know what’s going on. When you get a smart player who understands the game, I think he’ll help us offensively to get into things.” The 23-year-old will become a restricted free agent at the end of the season.

Central Notes: Sloan, Blatt, Ennis

February 28 at 3:26pm CST By Chris Crouse

Donald Sloan has proven to be a valuable find for the Pacers this season, writes Joel Brigham of Basketball Insiders. Brigham compares Sloan’s path to the NBA to Hassan Whiteside‘s path. Both players came into the league with Sacramento in 2010, both spent time playing in the D-League and this season, both are playing major roles on their respective teams. Sloan hasn’t quite been as dominant as Whiteside, but the 27-year-old has started 21 games for Indiana this season. The Pacers are 24-34 on the season and currently own the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference. Sloan will become an unrestricted free agent after this season, in which he is making slightly more than $948K. The Texas A&M product is averaging 13.6 points, 6.2 assists and 5.0 rebounds per 36 minutes this year and with numbers like that, he should expect a raise on his minimum salary arrangement, although that is just my speculation.

Here’s more from the Central Division:

  • Cavs coach David Blatt almost ended up as an assistant on Steve Kerr‘s staff in Golden State, but despite some early season difficulties, Blatt is happy to be in Cleveland, Chris Fedor of The Northeast Ohio Media Group writes. “Once I had the opportunity to come to the Cavaliers I really didn’t feel any regret,” Blatt said. “It’s really through the good graces of Steve Kerr and the Golden State staff that I had the opportunity to interview for the job and they were willing to let me follow this path. I still hold a really good feeling of appreciation for the way they handled that situation. It’s turned out pretty good for both sides.”
  • Blatt heard all of the criticism levied at him when the Cavs began the season slowly, but he never felt the need to validate his coaching credentials, Fedor adds. “I’ve been a head coach for 22 years,” Blatt said. “People overlook that too easily and I think unfairly. I know I’m the new kid on the block in the NBA and I recognize the greatness of this league and the difficulty of this league and the fact that I’ve had to make, and am still going through the adjustment to coach in this league, but I am not now, nor have I been for quite some time, a rookie coach.”
  • New addition Tyler Ennis was excited about coming to Milwaukee and is happy with his increased playing time, writes Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel. Ennis has played 88 minutes in his first five games with the Bucks after seeing only 58 minutes of NBA action during his time with the Suns this season.

Eddie Scarito contributed to this post

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February 28 at 1:28pm CST By Eddie Scarito

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Western Notes: Blazers, Rondo, Thunder

February 28 at 12:05pm CST By Eddie Scarito

The Trail Blazers, who have an empty roster spot, are more likely to sign a younger player who they could possibly develop for a role off the bench next season than bring in a veteran, Jabari Young of CSNNW.com writes. There are a few NBA D-League players who Portland could target, including Seth Curry and Glen Rice Jr., or the team may look to ink Jordan Hamilton if the Clippers don’t sign him for the remainder of the season, Young notes. Hamilton was recently inked to his first 10-day contract of the season with Los Angeles.

Here’s more from the Western Conference:

  • Despite his recent one game suspension for conduct detrimental to the team that resulted from a dust up with Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, Rajon Rondo is committed to helping Dallas to contend for a title this season, Earl K. Sneed of Mavs.com writes. “I’m going to do what’s best for the team and play my heart out for these next 22 games we have left, and [help] make a run in the playoffs,” Rondo said. “We’ve moved forward and our team has moved forward, and we’ve got a game to look forward to tomorrow.  You know, I’m playing with some great players, with the addition of Amar’e [Stoudemire] now, and I think we’ve got a great chance to win a championship. So, that’s my main focus. I’m going to continue to work to get better and do what’s best to lead this team.
  • The veteran point guard also said that he and the team both want to achieve the same goals, Sneed relays (Twitter link). “I’ve talked to pretty much everybody in the organization, and everyone is pretty much on the same page,” Rondo said.
  • The trades that Thunder GM Sam Presti made this season will help the team not only in 2014/15, but in the summer of 2016 when Kevin Durant becomes a free agent, Shaun Powell of NBA.com writes. The depth that Presti has added should make the team more competitive, which will in turn make the franchise harder to walk away from for Durant, Powell opines. The Slim Reaper is enthusiastic about the Thunder’s mid-season moves, Powell adds. “It shows how great our organization is,” Durant said. “You keep getting talent after talent and keep rolling them in there like that. It shows we’ve got a great eye for talent.

Hoops Rumors Weekly Mailbag 2/21/15-2/28/15

February 28 at 10:29am CST By Eddie Scarito

In addition to our weekly chat, which Chuck Myron facilitates every Wednesday, we have a second opportunity for you to hit us up with your questions in this, our weekly mailbag feature. Have a question regarding player movement, the salary cap, or the NBA draft? Drop us a line at HoopsRumorsMailbag@Gmail.com or @EddieScarito on Twitter. Now for this week’s inquiries:

“What a deadline!! I don’t think I can ever remember a trade deadline that crazy! Anyway, my question was about the Suns’ day. It makes sense that they got rid of Goran Dragic, but they also got rid of two others [point guards] in Tyler Ennis and Isaiah Thomas. Getting Brandon Knight back was a good haul, but they also didn’t address their frontcourt (even weakened it some). What kind of message do you think this is sending? Are they giving up on the season while keeping the core for the future or are they gearing for a run and trying to improve the chemistry?” Matt E.

The Suns deadline moves told me two things. The first was that Dragic more than likely gave Phoenix the distinct impression that he wasn’t going to re-sign with them this summer. I don’t believe the team wanted to trade Dragic, but only did so to recoup something of value for him. The second message was that the multi-headed point guard experiment wasn’t working out as well on the court, or in the locker room, as the franchise had hoped.

If GM Ryan McDonough didn’t believe that Phoenix had a good shot to retain Dragic beyond this season, which I don’t think it did, flipping him for Knight was an excellent tradeoff. But I’m not as thrilled with the team parting with Ennis, who is a player with quite a bit of upside. I get the Suns wanting to move Dragic and Thomas, but the team dealing away three point guards seems like overkill to me. Keeping Ennis, who is on a team-friendly rookie contract, would have been a wise move for a rebuilding franchise like Phoenix. I also agree that the Suns’ moves failed to improve their frontcourt. This was one of the things McDonough had reportedly wanted to address heading into the deadline, and Knight does nothing to change the team’s needs. This is an area that Phoenix will absolutely need to address this offseason if it hopes to contend in 2015/16.

To be realistic, Phoenix wasn’t likely headed to the conference finals this season, so blowing up its nucleus isn’t necessarily a bad move. The trade will give the Suns a bit more cap flexibility this summer with Thomas’ deal off the books, and now the team doesn’t have to sweat out Dragic’s free agency decision. Knight isn’t going to be cheap to re-sign, but the Suns will be able to match any offer sheet that the guard is offered, which gives the team some more stability. I also really like Knight as a player, and he and Eric Bledsoe should form a dynamic tandem, though defense is going to be a persistent issue for the pair.

“Who are the Pistons more likely to keep–Greg Monroe or Reggie Jackson? Who should they push harder to retain?” Ozzie

Well, seeing how Monroe declined to work out a long-term deal with the team and has given a number of indications that he intends to depart this summer as a free agent, picking Jackson is the easy answer for who is more likely to remain in Motown. Jackson wasn’t acquired to be just a rental, so the team will likely match any offer sheet the point guard receives as a restricted free agent after the season. Monroe is an unrestricted free agent, so there is no safety net for Detroit in regards to re-signing him. My crystal ball sees Monroe wearing a Knicks jersey next season and Jackson still sporting Detroit’s in 2015/16.

As for who the team should push harder to keep, I would still say Jackson. That isn’t meant to diminish Monroe’s value, it’s about which player is the best fit for them right now. Monroe and Andre Drummond don’t mesh together very well offensively, and the Pistons need to improve their backcourt production, something Jackson’s presence will certainly help. Having Jackson and Brandon Jennings sharing a backcourt next season isn’t an ideal situation for anyone involved, but with Jennings set to become a free agent after next season, the problem should be short-lived. Jennings’ injury will complicate matters, but look for Detroit to try and deal him this summer. Drummond and Jackson are a nice foundation for Stan Van Gundy to work with, and if the team is able to retain Jackson this summer, this was an excellent trade by the executive.

“Which team won the trade deadline?” Parker

This one is a tough question since the success of many of the trades can’t be gauged until the playoffs are complete. But with that caveat in place, I’ll say that the Thunder won the deadline this season. Sure, the franchise gave up Reggie Jackson in the deal, but to add Enes Kanter, D.J. Augustin, and Kyle Singler for a player whose role had diminished significantly since the arrival of Dion Waiters was a strong move for GM Sam Presti. OKC added some needed frontcourt scoring in Kanter, and two solid rotation players in Singler and Augustin. I really like what the team accomplished at the deadline. This is a much better trade for the franchise than swapping for Brook Lopez would have been. Now if the Thunder could only remain healthy…

I would also like to give Heat president Pat Riley credit for making the second best deal of the trade deadline, acquiring Dragic was a solid move by the executive. But it is also one that will unfortunately be tarnished a bit by Chris Bosh being lost for the season. With Bosh and Dragic on the court, the Heat would have had a very real shot to go deep into the playoffs in the East and this deal looks like a master stroke as a result. Without Bosh, Miami will play out the string and hope to make a favorable enough impression on Dragic, with the hope that he’ll re-sign with Miami this summer.

“With the issues Rajon Rondo is having with [coach] Rick Carlisle, does this mean Rondo’s gone at the end of the season?” Clyde S.

The recent difficulties between Rondo and Carlisle won’t be the determining factor in Rondo’s free agent decision. They certainly don’t help, but Rondo should be used to having clashes with coaches by now, and the one game suspension he received as a result shouldn’t drive an irreparable wedge between Rondo and the team.

What Dallas should be more concerned about is how poorly Rondo has fit in with the team thus far. The Mavs seem to play more effectively as a squad when Rondo has been seated, which shouldn’t be the case when talking about an elite point guard like him. There will likely be more than a few teams that will pursue Rondo when he becomes a free agent this summer, and the point guard may find a fit he prefers to the one he has in Dallas. In the end, I think Rondo will end up leaving Dallas this summer, but for a multitude of reasons beyond a simple tiff with his coach.

“Which trade was the worst one of the season?” Roberto N.

I’m going to cheat a bit on this one and pick a deal that happened prior to the season beginning — the Knicks’ trade of Tyson Chandler and Raymond Felton to the Mavs for Jose Calderon, Samuel Dalembert, Shane Larkin, Wayne Ellington, and two second rounders. It’s an understatement to say that this deal didn’t work out on the court, with the Knicks currently owning the worst overall record in the league. But the bigger loss is what New York potentially missed out on at the trade deadline as a result of this previous transaction.

If the Knicks had held onto Chandler last offseason, it’s quite possible that Reggie Jackson would be wearing a Knicks jersey right now instead of a Pistons one, and New York would have the inside track on re-signing him this summer. With the Thunder’s reported pursuit of Brook Lopez, it’s more than likely that OKC would have had some level of interest in acquiring Chandler at the trade deadline. At the very least, the Knicks would have had a better than average shot at flipping Chandler for a major upgrade at the point, instead of having to watch helplessly on the sidelines thanks to a lack of assets. Knicks fans had to settle for the Zen Master unloading Pablo Prigioni to the Rockets as the team’s biggest splash of the trade deadline.

The Knicks also managed to make this trade look even worse by declining Shane Larkin’s team option. As a result, New York is unable to offer Larkin more than the $1,675,320 value of his option if they wish to re-sign him, which could prove problematic in retaining his services if the team so desires. The young point guard hasn’t set the world on fire this season, but Larkin does have the potential to develop into a valuable role-player, and that’s something the Knicks could certainly use more of.

That’s all the space I have for this week. Thanks for all of the submissions. Keep sending in your questions, and I’ll see you back here next Saturday with more responses.

Eastern Notes: Crowder, Anthony, Beasley

February 28 at 8:58am CST By Eddie Scarito

Celtics swingman Jae Crowder‘s stock has risen, fallen and risen again following his inclusion in the Rajon Rondo trade, as Chris Forsberg of ESPNBoston.com examines. The 24-year-old’s contract is up at season’s end, but Forsberg suggests it’s likely the Celtics will tender the qualifying offer worth more than $1.181MM necessary to match offers for him this summer.

Here’s more from out of the Eastern Conference:

  • There are many around the league who question Carmelo Anthony‘s decision to play 30 minutes in the NBA All-Star game after missing significant time for the Knicks while nursing his injured knee, Tommy Beer of Basketball Insiders writes. Chauncey Billups, ‘Melo’s former teammate, was vocal in his disappointment with Anthony’s choice, Beer adds. “If you are hurt and you know you are going to shut it down, just get the surgery and make that commitment that the Knicks made to him and just get better and not worry about playing for the fans and the All-Star Game,” Billups said. “I thought it was poor judgment but to each his own.”
  • Billups also believes that Anthony needs a strong leader to help guide him in New York, Beer relays. “My perception of him [is] he really needed my guidance, he needed my leadership,” Billups said. “I don’t know that he quite knew how to lead a team or a franchise, but at that time he was young. I can’t expect him to. He was already a great player, but he is best served when he doesn’t have to be the leader of the team.”
  • Michael Beasley was not re-signed by the Heat last summer due to concerns with his defense, consistency and maturity, but Chris Bosh’s season-ending injury changed Miami’s thinking regarding the player, Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald writes.
  • Sixers coach Brett Brown, when providing a status update for injured rookie Joel Embiid, said, “It would be misleading to say anything that’s promising about him playing this year,” Tom Moore of Calkins Media tweets.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.

And-Ones: Rondo, Beasley, Liggins

February 27 at 10:11pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Rajon Rondo downplayed the recent incident between him and Mavs coach Rick Carlisle, Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com writes. “I just got built-up frustration,” said Rondo. “I take a lot of the blame for what I’ve been doing on the court, but just a little frustrated. The most important thing is communication with Coach. I’ve talked to a lot of the coaches, I’ve talked to a lot of staff members. Coach and I, when I first got here, we were talking a lot and watching film after every game. He’s backed off a little bit with the addition of Amar’e [Stoudemire], trying to help get him up to speed. Our communication was great at first. Not that it wasn’t so great, but it’s just that we weren’t communicating enough. That shouldn’t be the case the rest of the season.

Here’s more from around the league:

  • Rondo insists that there are no lingering issues from his suspension, MacMahon tweets. “Everything is back to normal,” Rondo said. “He [Carlisle] had some frustrations with me and vice versa. Communication is definitely key.
  • The Heat are glad to have Michael Beasley back on the team, with the player having recently inked a 10-day deal, and may be looking at keeping Beasley for the remainder of the season, Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel writes. “Look, it is a business in this league,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “And faces do change. But we view Mike as a family member. We drafted him. We developed him. This summer we made a lot of different changes. So the way our team was set up, we didn’t bring him back. But that was not an indictment on how we felt about him. And then so, because of all the change right now, we feel fortunate that we’re able to bring somebody back with his skill set who has familiarity with our system and our culture at this time of year. We think it’s a good fit.
  • DeAndre Liggins has signed with the German club Eisbaren-Bremerhaven, the team announced (translation by Emiliano Carchia of Sportando). Liggins signed a pair of 10-day contracts with the Heat last season, but he appeared in just one game for Miami. Liggins averaged 6.0 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.3 assists in Russia this season before being waived last month.

Donnie Nelson On: O’Neal, Blatche, Sanders

February 27 at 8:09pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Mavericks president of basketball operations Donnie Nelson joined Dallas’ 1310 The Ticket today and discussed a number of topics regarding the team. The Dallas Morning News transcribed a number of the highlights from Nelson’s interview:

When asked if the team would still like to add another big man, Nelson responded by saying:

“We’re not opposed to the right addition. But, again, it’s gotta be changed for the right reason. We do like what we have and for it to settle down. I think one of our big needs was answered with Amar’e [Stoudemire]. If we do add a player he would be an end of the bench type, specialist piece; it’s a possibility, but I wouldn’t wait for something like that to happen because it probably won’t at the end of the day.”

On if he thinks the window to sign Jermaine O’Neal is closed:

“That’s really a question for him. The door is always open. We’ve always been fans and he’s our kind of guy. It’s really where he is at with his family, with his health situation. Whether it’s during the season or summer, he’s a Dallas resident and we’d love to have the conversation if and when it’s right for him.”

On if the team has any interest in Larry Sanders, who has hinted that he may not return to the NBA, Nelson said:

“For the here and now, we’re long enough and tall enough on our front line with Tyson Chandler and our backup situation. If there is any potential or possibility there it’d be a summer conversation.”

When discussing Dallas’ interest in free agent Andray Blatche, who is currently considering a lucrative contract offer to return to China, Nelson said:

“Yeah, and a lot of these depend on minutes. Some of the guys, as they’re looking over the NBA landscape, let’s face it. If you take a player of that caliber and put him on our team, how much is he going to play? That certainly resonates with him and his agent. Those are possibilities, whether it’s a shooter or a little more support in the front court. But, again, it’d have to be the right piece. I wouldn’t be optimistic that anything would happen at this point.”

Atlantic Notes: Robinson, Plumlee, Towns

February 27 at 6:12pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Thomas Robinson is pleased to be a member of the struggling Sixers despite Philadelphia’s waiver claim that prevented him from joining the Nets, who currently hold the No. 8 playoff seed in the Eastern Conference, on a 10-day contract, Mike Tokito of The Oregonian writes. “I was happy because the Sixers made it clear that they wanted me here,” Robinson said. “At the end of the day, I’m happy.” The forward is also glad to have the opportunity to garner playing time after failing to play in 21 of the 53 contests that he was with the Blazers this season, Tokito adds. “I’m going to play basketball,” Robinson said. “Let everything happen on its own. I’m not going to try to force nothing. I’m going to find my way to get comfortable. And then after that, everything will take care of itself.”

Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Sixers coach Brett Brown said that Robinson will have a chance to make his case for the team to re-sign him long-term, Tokito relays. “He fits all the things we like when we identify keepers. It’s a look that we couldn’t pass up,” Brown said. “He’s not going to have a better environment to have a legitimate chance to be a legitimate NBA player.
  • The Nets‘ acquisition of Thaddeus Young has impacted the playing time of Mason Plumlee, Tim Bontemps of The New York Post writes. “Time comes from playing well,” coach Lionel Hollins said. “He just hasn’t played well in a couple games. He can’t worry about Brook [Lopez] or not playing. He just has to go out there and play. That’s the game. You have to go play, and he’s the starter and I have no plans of changing that, and he’s just got to play better.”
  • Duke’s Jahlil Okafor is the consensus No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft according to NBA scouts, but the Knicks may be better served to select Kentucky’s Karl-Anthony Towns if given the choice, Adam Zagoria of SNY.tv writes. Though Okafor is more polished than Towns, scouts told Zagoria that the Kentucky big man’s superior athleticism and ability to stretch the floor on offense make him an intriguing prospect who could end up being the most talented in this year’s draft.

Central Notes: Sanders, Perkins, Pistons

February 27 at 4:10pm CST By Chuck Myron

Larry Sanders had a clause in his contract that would have allowed him to continue to be paid if he didn’t play for the Bucks as long as he received mental health treatment, according to Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN.com. Sanders this week acknowledged checking into a hospital to take part in a program for anxiety, depression and mood disorders, but Arnovitz indicates that he’s no longer in that facility, having departed shortly before he arranged his buyout from the Bucks. Before that, Sanders had broken off contact with the team, which nearly suspended him before the league did last month, Arnovitz also hears. One source who spoke with Arnovitz backed up a December report that Sanders was considering retirement, one Sanders quickly denied, though the center this week hinted that he might not play again. While we wait to see if Sanders can overcome his troubles and return to the NBA, here’s more from the Central Division:

  • Clippers coach/executive Doc Rivers pursued Kendrick Perkins even after he’d already committed to the Cavs, as Brian Windhorst of ESPN.com said today in an appearance on ESPN Cleveland radio (audio link at 32:10 mark).
  • It’s doubtful that Brandon Jennings and Reggie Jackson both remain Pistons long-term, tweets Keith Langlois of Pistons.com, who nonetheless believes it’s a distinct possibility that the two of them are still on the team next season.
  • The Pistons lavished more money on Jodie Meeks than they did with any of the team’s other free agent signees last summer in large measure for his outside shooting, but the slumping Meeks is knocking down a career-worst 30.1% of his three-point attempts, MLive’s David Mayo notes. Coach/executive Stan Van Gundy doesn’t regret failing to hire a shooting coach this summer but said he’ll consider it for next season, according to Mayo.