Southwest Notes: Rondo, Stokes, Felton, Smith

December 20 at 8:44am CST By Eddie Scarito

During the press conference to officially welcome Rajon Rondo to Dallas, Mavs owner Mark Cuban indicated that the veteran point guard was acquired primarily to help the team’s defense, Brad Townsend of The Dallas Morning News relays. “We needed to be better defensively,” Cuban said. “I mean, teams were walking in and shooting better at the 3 than they were in the gym by themselves. So that had to change and stop. We didn’t have a lot of length at the point guard position, either. We needed to get a lot taller or a lot longer. Rajon’s the best of both. He’s not taller, but he’s so long that he’s as good as 6’4″ or 6’5″, so he can guard much bigger.

Here’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • With the acquisition of Rondo, Dallas still has four point guards on its roster, including Raymond Felton, who still hasn’t made his Mavs debut courtesy of his injured ankle. But coach Rick Carlisle says Felton is still a valuable member of the team, Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News reports. “Ray’s working his butt off to get himself back to a point where we can activate him,” Carlisle said. “He’s getting closer. I don’t know if he’s quite there yet, but he’s getting closer. Listen he’s a valuable guy. He’s a starting caliber point guard in the NBA, so you got an extra guy like that on your team, that’s a strong position to be in, so you got to keep working. I’ve said all along we’re going to need him at some point.”
  • The Grizzlies have re-assigned Jarnell Stokes to the Iowa Energy, the franchise’s D-League affiliate, the team announced. The 20-year-old has posted totals of 20 points, 10 rebounds and two blocks in 35 minutes over nine games with Memphis this season. This will be Stokes’ third sojourn  of the season to Iowa.
  • Dealing Brandan Wright to the Celtics as part of the Rondo trade has left the Mavs thin in the frontcourt. One possibility is for Dallas to sign free agent Jermaine O’Neal, and the Mavs are reportedly the front-runners for the big man’s services should he decide to play this season. But another option to replace Wright may already be on Dallas’ roster in the 6’10” form of Greg Smith, Sefko writes in a separate piece. “Greg Smith has been sitting here waiting for an opportunity,” Carlisle said. “So he steps up into the picture. He’s worked hard and he’ll get a chance. We need him at this point. Beyond that, we’ll keep our eyes open around the league for opportunities if there are some. We now have an open roster spot so as time goes forward, we’ll see what’s what.”

Sixers To Release Ronny Turiaf

December 19 at 10:58pm CST By Eddie Scarito

The Sixers will release Ronny Turiaf, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer reports (Twitter link). Turiaf was acquired by Philadelphia as a part of the three team trade for Corey Brewer earlier today in which the Sixers sent Alexey Shved to Houston. This move will reduce Philadelphia’s roster count to 14 players, leaving one spot open for GM Sam Hinkie to possibly work as a clearinghouse once again for another team looking to get a contact off of its books. After all, there still remain a few second round draft picks out there that Philadelphia hasn’t laid claim to. The Sixers currently hold a total of 14 second-rounders through the 2020 NBA draft.

Turiaf is likely out for the season after undergoing surgery on his right hip on December 16th. The 10th-year big man is on a fully guaranteed contract worth $1.5MM this year, which expires at the end of the season, so Philadelphia will eat the remaining salary owed to Turiaf.

The 31-year-old out of Gonzaga has only appeared in two games this season after playing in just 31 games for Minnesota last season. He started in 10 of those appearances and averaged 4.8 points and 5.6 rebounds in 19.5 minutes per contest. Turiaf’s career numbers are 4.7 PPG and 3.7 RPG. His career slash line is .533/.000/.636.

Celtics Notes: Rondo, Stevens, Smart

December 19 at 10:14pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Celtics coach Brad Stevens discussed what the new players garnered from the Rajon Rondo trade will mean to the franchise, Jimmy Toscano of CSNNE.com reports. “Well I think all three of them have roles on this team,” Stevens said. “I think we’ll determine the extent of those as I get my arms wrapped around everything more. They are three guys that add to our team. I mean Jameer Nelson is a guard that can really shoot the ball that has scored and has been a consummate leader and everybody talks about the kind of person he is. Former coaches, players.

 Jae Crowder is a guy that we think has a big upside. Can shoot the ball. Has shot it better this year, shooting it almost 35% from three. He’s a guy that can guard both the three and the four and even some twos on occasion. He’s a tough guy. Just a competitive tough guy. 

And obviously Brandan Wright. Brandan is a guy that, this is kind of how my job works in communicating with our front office, that after we play a game maybe I’ll say, ‘Man, I think he’s really under-valued,’ because of the way he gets to the rim, the way that he finishes, and I think his second jump on rebounds is as quick as anybody’s around. So we’ll figure out how they’ll all fit with what we’re trying to do and how we can fit ourselves to bees situate them.”

Here’s more from Beantown:

  • Rondo was the best player that Stevens ever coached, and he was sorry to see him go, Toscano writes in a separate article. “We all feel like Rajon had a tremendous impact,” Stevens said. “I’m understating it and stating the obvious here. He had a tremendous impact on this organization, the city, certainly as a championship member of the Celtics. I think to a man in that locker room, the coaching staff, the players certainly wish him nothing but the best.
  • Rookie point guard Marcus Smart was surprised that the Celtics pulled the trigger on the trade, Toscano also reports. “To be honest, yeah I am [shocked],” Smart said. “Seems like it just came out of nowhere to me because we weren’t really focused on a trade and everything that was going on. We were focused on this team. So I have to say I was [shocked].
  • Smart also said that trading Rondo shows the front office’s confidence in the team’s younger players, Toscano adds. “The confidence that it has in these young players including myself is tremendous,” Smart said. “That was a big move from the guys upstairs and it just shows a lot how they believe in these young guys and this young team that they have.

Atlantic Notes: Anthony, Rondo, Jack

December 19 at 8:59pm CST By Eddie Scarito

This past summer, Carmelo Anthony resisted the temptation to join the Bulls and instead re-signed with the Knicks, a move that cast him as greedy to his critics and perhaps placed him in basketball purgatory for at least one year, Michael Lee of The Washington Post writes. By taking the deal that paid him nearly $50MM more than Chicago could offer to return to New York, Anthony made a long-term business decision over a logical basketball one, Lee adds. “Regardless of what happened, it would all come down to the money. That’s just the life we live. You can’t escape that,” said Anthony, who admits that his attitude in approaching previous contracts was “don’t leave no money on the table.”

Here’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Trading Rajon Rondo was the right move for the Celtics, but GM Danny Ainge waited too long to make a deal, which likely reduced the return that Boston received for the point guard, Julian Edlow of WEEI 93.7 FM opines. Edlow believes it would have been better for the Celtics to have traded Rondo this summer after they struck out in their attempts to add a star like Kevin Love to play alongside him.
  • There has been much written about the Knicks‘ insistence on forcing the use of triangle offense on their players as a big reason for the team’s woes, but the reality is that New York simply does not have the talent to compete this season, Howard Beck of Bleacher Report writes.
  • Jarrett Jack‘s playing style doesn’t mesh well with that of the Nets, a situation that dealing Jorge Gutierrez to the Sixers has amplified, Robert Windrem of Nets Daily notes. Brooklyn has no other natural point guards besides Jack on its roster to back up Deron Williams, which could force the front office to sign or trade for a pass-first point man prior to the trade deadline, Windrem adds.

Rockets Acquire Corey Brewer

December 19 at 8:15pm CST By Chuck Myron

8:15pm: The trade is official, the Rockets have announced in a press release. Houston received Alexey Shved from the Sixers and Corey Brewer from the Wolves. Minnesota received Troy Daniels, along with the Kings’ 2015 second round pick (protected for picks 50-60), Houston’s 2016 second round pick (protected for picks 31-45) and cash considerations from the Rockets. Philadelphia received Houston’s 2015 second round pick and the rights to Serhiy Lishchuk from the Rockets, and Ronny Turiaf from Minnesota. The Rockets have also officially waived Francisco Garcia to reduce their roster count to 15.

5:52pm: The Sixers will also receive the rights to Serhiy Lishchuk from the Rockets, Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle reports (Twitter link). Lishouk was the No. 49 overall pick in the 2004 NBA draft.

5:24pm: Alexey Shved is likely to head to the Rockets as part of the deal, and Turiaf will go to the Sixers, Wojnarowski reports (Twitter links). Houston intends to release Garcia rather than include him in the trade, Wojnarowski also notes.

2:58pm: The Wolves receive Sacramento’s 2015 second-round pick, which the Kings previously sent to the Rockets, as long as it’s within the top 49 selections, reports Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune (Twitter link). The 2016 second-rounder going Minnesota’s way is Houston’s own, Zgoda adds.

2:48pm: Minnesota and Houston discussed Rockets swingman Francisco Garcia, Wolfson hears (Twitter link), though it’s unclear if he’ll be part of the final arrangement.

2:22pm: The Rockets are also sending cash to Minnesota in the deal, Feigen tweets.

NBA: Portland Trail Blazers at Minnesota Timberwolves1:36pm: The Wolves and Rockets have struck a deal that will send Corey Brewer to Houston, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link). Troy Daniels heads to Minnesota as part of the deal, Wojnarowski also tweets. Ronny Turiaf, who’s likely out for the season, is headed to the Rockets, though there’s a decent chance that he’ll wind up on a third team, Wojnarowski adds (on Twitter). Minnesota-Houston deal itself is liable to involve another team, too, a source tells Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle (Twitter link). As the deal stands, two future second-round picks are also heading from the Rockets to Minnesota, one of which is the 2015 second-rounder that Houston had acquired from the Kings, though the draft considerations are still being hammered out, according to Wojnarowski (Twitter links).

Houston GM Daryl Morey and his staff had been pushing to use a trade exception worth nearly $8.375MM by no later than today so that the Rockets could flip whomever they acquired in another trade that aggregates that player’s salary prior to the trade deadline. It’s not immediately clear what the other elements of the Brewer deal are, but the Rockets are indeed taking Brewer’s salary of nearly $4.703MM into the exception, as Wojnarowski writes in a full story and Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities tweets.

The teams first discussed a Brewer deal last month before Minnesota appeared to take him off the table amid injury woes. At the time it seemed as though Brewer’s suitors were pushing for him to waive his $4.905MM player option for next season, but it’s unclear if Houston was hung up on that notion or whether Brewer has indeed done so. The Cavs were also keen on acquiring Brewer both in November and this week, when Wolves coach/executive Flip Saunders reignited the talks. Reports indicated that the Clippers had interest at both points, too, and the Heat were apparently eyeing Brewer at least during the initial round of talks.

Houston’s coaching staff is reportedly enamored with Brewer, and, as Wojnarowski writes, it’s primarily his defense at the small forward position that’s driven the Rockets to make the deal. Still, that’s somewhat odd, since the Rockets have given up the second fewest points per 100 possessions in the league so far, per NBA.com, even without Brewer. His game seems an awkward fit for Houston, as I examined when I looked at Brewer’s trade candidacy. A November report from Feigen that first revealed Houston’s eagerness to use the trade exception, a vestige of this summer’s Jeremy Lin trade that doesn’t expire until this coming July, suggested that the Rockets were merely trying to bolster their rotation, regardless of fit. Thus, Houston could put together a more attractive trade offer in pursuit of a star at the deadline, when the Rockets would be able to aggregate the salary of whomever they used the exception on with other salaries.

The Wolves, who are in a rebuilding stage, as Saunders recently admitted, announced earlier this week that Turiaf is expected to miss the rest of the season after undergoing hip surgery. He’d appeared in only two games so far this season because of the lingering hip injury, and his contract, which pays him a guaranteed $1.5MM this year, is up at season’s end. Saunders indicated this week that Minnesota would waive Turiaf if an intriguing free agent came available, but instead the 10th-year veteran is departing the Wolves via trade.

Daniels is heading to Minnesota after re-signing with the Rockets this past summer on a two-year deal that’s fully guaranteed for the minimum salary. The 23-year-old swingman was surprising playoff hero for Houston last spring, but he’s seen just 6.4 minutes per game across 17 appearances for the Rockets this season.

Pacific Notes: Bogut, Clarkson, Crawford

December 19 at 7:06pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Andrew Bogut has struggled with various injuries throughout his career, something that weighs heavily on the Warriors’ big man, Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports writes. Bogut’s injury woes reached a boiling point during the middle of the 2012/13 season, and Bogut went as far as telling his agent David Baumann that he planned to retire at the end of that season, Spears notes. “I called him midseason and said, ‘I’m done, ‘ ” Bogut said. “My back was so bad at the time. After every game it was like a balloon and it was like catching my tail to get back to the next game. If we had two games in three days, my ankles were really swollen. I had to get around the clock treatment, anti-inflammatories. It got to the point where it just wasn’t responding.”

Here’s more out of the Pacific Division:

  • Bogut’s most recent malady involves his right knee, for which he recently underwent platelet-rich plasma therapy, and he’ll be sidelined indefinitely as a result. Despite his frustrations, Bogut will attempt to finish out his current deal with the Warriors, which runs through 2016/17, and then decide if he wishes to continue playing, Spears adds. “I got two years left [on my contract] and I will play it by ear,” Bogut said. “My goal is to play these two years out and see where I’m at. I am having fun, but it’s a grind though. Some days you wake up and you can’t walk. It takes you an hour to get your body right, to get to the gym, get to your car. But that’s a part of being a pro athlete.
  • The Lakers have recalled Jordan Clarkson from the Los Angeles D-Fenders, their D-League affiliate, the team announced (Twitter link). This was Clarkson’s fourth stint with the D-Fenders of the season.
  • Jamal Crawford has heard all of the trade rumors surrounding him, but the Clippers guard doesn’t let them get to him, Rowan Kavner of NBA.com writes. “I’ve been in trade rumors ever since I’ve been here, which is the weirdest thing,” Crawford said. “But that’s part of the business, honestly. I can play wherever. I can play here, I would love to play here. But if not, if something happens, you move on and do what you’ve got to do.

Central Notes: Anthony, Pistons, Bulls

December 19 at 5:10pm CST By Eddie Scarito

Bulls coach Tom Thibodeau reflected on Chicago’s recruiting efforts of Carmelo Anthony this past summer, and though Anthony chose to remain in New York, Thibodeau offered nothing but praise for the Bulls’ free-agency plan, as well as Anthony, K.C. Johnson of The Chicago Tribune writes. “I have great respect for what he’s done. He’s a great talent. But he’s a great person, too,” Thibodeau said of ‘Melo. “I got to know him a little through USA Basketball and Coach [Jim] Boeheim. And the things Coach [Mike] Krzyzewski and Coach Boeheim said about him told me that he would be a great fit for any team. When you look at his career, it speaks for itself. The numbers are incredible. He probably doesn’t get the credit for being the passer and playmaker that he is.

Here’s more from the Central Division:

  • Thibodeau was also asked how ‘Melo would have fit on the Bulls alongside Derrick Rose, who had been rumored to have declined to take part in recruiting Anthony, something all parties have since denied, Johnson adds. “I don’t even want to go there,” Thibodeau said. “I think he’d fit great with any team. He’s a great talent.
  • Pistons president Stan Van Gundy has previously stated that his team would be looking to add some quickness to their roster through the trade market. But the head man in Detroit also insists his team can play better even without any roster changes, Shawn Windsor of The Detroit Free Press writes. Van Gundy wouldn’t say whom the team was shopping or what players the Pistons have their eye on. What he did say is that the team could use more quickness and length, Windsor adds.
  • With the Pistons‘ winning percentage a dismal .192, Van Gundy can’t say he’s done a great job cultivating the talent he inherited, Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News writes. But he does possess the power to change the personnel and chart the course of whether moves will be made to salvage the season or to look ahead, although he would never directly admit to throwing away a season, Goodwill notes.

Southwest Notes: Rockets, Rondo, Mekel, Conley

December 19 at 3:31pm CST By Chuck Myron

The Rockets were runners-up in the Rajon Rondo sweepstakes, but they’re set to land Corey Brewer, whom they’d reportedly been targeting for a while. Brewer is excited to reunite with Rockets coach Kevin McHale, who was behind Minnesota’s decision to draft Brewer seventh overall in 2007, as the swingman tells Jerry Zgoda of the Star Tribune. Still, Brewer made it clear wasn’t anxious to leave the Wolves and never asked for or wanted a trade, Zgoda tweets, which seems to conflict with an ESPN.com report indicating that he had requested that the Wolves send him to a contending team.

“Kind of mixed emotions just because I really love Minnesota,” Brewer said to Zgoda. “People don’t understand how much I love Minnesota. I wanted to end my career here. That’s why I signed back here. I thought it’d be possible, but I understand we’re going young. It’s going to be a few years, but the Wolves have great, young talent.”

Brewer, who has a $4.905MM player option for next season, can hit free agency this summer. Here’s more from the Southwest Division:

  • New Mavs point guard Rajon Rondo wanted out of Boston, friend and former teammate Kendrick Perkins says, as Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports notes via Twitter. Rondo made several public statements indicating his fondness for the Celtics prior to the trade.
  • It’s unclear whether Brewer waived his player option as part of the Rockets deal, but Chase Budinger indicated that he wouldn’t do so with his $5MM player option when the Rockets gauged whether he would, as Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN Twin Cities hears (Twitter link).
  • Troy Daniels is disappointed that he’s leaving the Rockets as part of the Brewer trade agreement, he tells Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston, though he added that he’s hopeful that he’ll see more playing time in Minnesota than he has in Houston.
  • Pelicans coach Monty Williams confirmed that the team isn’t ruling out a new deal with Gal Mekel, whom New Orleans waived earlier today, observes Nakia Hogan of The Times-Picayune (Twitter link). That jibes with this morning’s report from David Pick of Eurobasket.com that the Pelicans hope Mekel clears waivers.
  • Mike Conley is a bargain for the Grizzlies, making just slightly more than $8.694MM this year on a contract that expires after next season, and an Eastern Conference executive tells Chris Mannix of SI.com that the point guard would garner at least $14MM annually on the open market.

How The Rajon Rondo Trade Worked Financially

December 19 at 1:05pm CST By Chuck Myron

The Celtics, at least on the surface, didn’t reap a package for Rajon Rondo that at all resembles what the Timberwolves received for Kevin Love this past summer. Rondo, who’s two and a half years older and nine inches shorter than Love and is averaging only 8.3 points per game, isn’t quite the sort of player that Love had proven to be when Minnesota relinquished him, but the Celtics surely wanted more for him than Dallas gave up. Boston was reportedly seeking as many as three first-round picks for Rondo at times over the past year or so, but the C’s reaped only one, and the deal weakened their cap flexibility for next season, since Jameer Nelson holds a player option worth $2.855MM for 2015/16.

Still, Celtics president of basketball operations Danny Ainge deftly crafted a trade that allowed him to use as many as three trade exceptions to create a new $12,909,090 trade exception that instantly becomes the league’s largest. Ainge and his staff took Brandan Wright‘s $5MM salary into the $5,285,816 trade exception that they created in their Keith Bogans trade and Nelson’s $2.732MM salary for this season into the trade exception left over from the deal that sent Joel Anthony away, as Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders points out. They folded Jae Crowder‘s $915,243 salary into either the remainder of the Anthony exception or the $1,334,092 that was left over from the original $4.25MM exception they created when they gave up Kris Humphries in a sign-and-trade with the Wizards this past summer, Pincus also notes.

Its unclear which path they took with Crowder, since there are benefits to both. Using the Anthony exception for Crowder preserves the $1,334,092 still on the Humphries exception, a larger amount than they’d have if they used the Humphries exception and left the Anthony exception at $1.068MM. But that’s not much of a difference, and the Anthony exception expires nearly three months later than the Humphries one does. Whichever exception Crowder’s salary went into would be reduced to an amount that’s less than the full-season minimum salary for a rookie, making it largely unusable.

The Rondo trade also allows the Celtics to create a $507,336 exception for Dwight Powell. That exception, equivalent to the rookie minimum salary, is only slightly more useful than whatever remains of the exception that Crowder’s salary went into. It’s nonetheless difficult to rule out much when it comes to Ainge and the use of trade exceptions, as this deal demonstrates. The trades that created the Humphries, Anthony and Bogans exceptions all took place within the last five months. Those transactions seemed to matter little at the time, since none of them netted the Celtics a player who remains on the roster, but collectively they gave Ainge the ammunition needed to enhance the Rondo deal. By contrast, the Mavs didn’t possess any trade exceptions entering the deal, and they needed to use all of their outgoing salaries to make the matching math work so they could absorb Rondo’s salary.

The first-round pick headed from Dallas to Boston, which will probably end up coming in the latter half of the 2016 first-round, given the protections attached to it and the Mavs’ prospects for success, isn’t necessarily the best asset that the Celtics acquired in the deal. Instead, the Celtics can use their trade exception to acquire a player or group of players who make as much as $13,009,090, or $100K more than Rondo’s salary for this season, anytime between now and next December, without sending out matching salary in return. It’d be difficult for Boston to pull that off now, since the team is still about $7MM shy of the luxury tax line, but the Celtics will have more leeway come the offseason. Indeed, the Rondo trade gives the C’s a little more breathing room beneath the tax threshold for now, since they were only about $2MM shy of it prior to the deal.

There are no guarantees that teams will be able to use trade exceptions at all, much less to use them to net star players. Still, they give teams power to make maneuvers they otherwise couldn’t. For now, that’s the greatest benefit the Celtics have reaped from parting with their point guard.

The Basketball Insiders salary pages were used in the creation of this post.

Southeast Notes: Stephenson, Hawks, Wizards

December 19 at 11:30am CST By Chuck Myron

The Heat are slumping, and they’re without Chris Bosh for the time being, but they’re still holding down a would-be playoff spot as they sit in seventh place in the Eastern Conference. They’ll play host to the division-leading Wizards tonight, and while we wait for that, here’s more from around the Southeast Division:

  • The Hornets believe that a groin injury is behind Lance Stephenson‘s decreased production this season, and that’s has helped motivate the team to back off trade talk regarding him, report Ramona Shelburne and Chris Broussard of ESPN.com. That’s even though Stephenson has had a negative effect on team chemistry, as sources tell the ESPN scribes.
  • The Hawks have sent Mike Muscala on D-League assignment, the team announced. Chris Vivlamore of the Atlanta-Journal Constitution originally reported the news (Twitter link). Muscala spent a two-day stint in the D-League earlier this season, and he’s averaged 4.9 points in 10.0 minutes per game across eight appearances with the big club so far this year.
  • The frequent D-League assignments for Jordan Clarkson help prove the Wizards were wise on draft night when they acquired $1.8MM in cash in a trade that sent out the pick that the Lakers used on him, argues J. Michael of CSNWashington.com. Rasual Butler‘s play since taking the roster spot that otherwise ostensibly would have gone to Clarkson is further evidence, Michael believes.
  • Versatility has been a key asset for Evan Fournier, who’s helping the Magic reap much greater benefit than expected from this summer’s Arron Afflalo trade, which brought Fournier from the Nuggets, as Andrew Perna of RealGM examines.