Rajon Rondo was suspended for one game by the Mavs for conduct detrimental to the team, Marc Stein of ESPN.com tweets. The point guard and coach Rick Carlisle had a verbal altercation on the court that led to Rondo being benched in Dallas’ game against Toronto on Tuesday. The argument continued inside the Mavs’ locker room after that game, according to Tim MacMahon of ESPNDallas.com (Twitter link). Rondo becomes an unrestricted free agent this summer and it’s unknown if his friction with Carlisle will impact the veteran’s decision on possibly re-signing with Dallas.
In other news around the league:
- University of Kentucky forward Karl-Anthony Towns is threatening to surpass Duke big man Jahlil Okafor as the No. 1 pick in the June draft, according to draft expert Chad Ford of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required). Towns is more athletic, a better defender and a superior shot-blocker compared to Okafor, in Ford’s evaluation, and some NBA GMs that Ford interviewed believe that Towns is the better long-term prospect.
- Doc Rivers, who is the Clippers’ president of basketball operations, has been a failure as an executive, according to Ben Bolch of the Los Angeles Times. Rivers has not found an adequate backup at small forward behind Matt Barnes, secured a rotation player in the draft or fortified his bench, Bolch contends. Rivers’ inability to re-sign Darren Collison and his commitment to Spencer Hawes, whom he signed to a four-year contract during the off-season, are examples of his shortcomings as an executive, Bolch adds. Hawes is averaging 6.5 points and 3.8 rebounds this season, a reflection of his minimal impact.
- The Heat sent $369K to the Pelicans to complete the Norris Cole side of the deal which brought Goran Dragic to Miami, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders tweets. The Heat also gave the Suns $2.2MM in that same trade.
- Victor Claver could wind up with Spanish power Real Madrid, David Pick of Eurobasket.com reports (Twitter link). Any Liga ACB team seeking his services must negotiate with Valencia, which owns his rights, Pick added in a separate tweet. The 26-year-old forward played in 10 games with the Trail Blazers this season before he was acquired by the Nuggets last week. Claver was subsequently waived by Denver.
The Suns were already planning to a hard push for Brandon Knight in free agency before they traded for him at last week’s deadline, according to Chad Ford of ESPN.com, who writes amid a chat with readers. Phoenix was willing to trade the rights to the Lakers’ top-five protected first-round pick to Milwaukee for Knight, but the Bucks decided instead to take a package that included Michael Carter-Williams from the Sixers in what ended up a three-way deal, Ford adds.
Here’s more from the Pacific Division:
- It was tough for Kendrick Perkins to turn down former coach Doc Rivers and the Clippers, but a pitch from LeBron James was too tempting to pass up, notes Chris Fedor of the Northeast Ohio Media Group. “He was real honest with me,” Perkins said of Rivers. “He told me, ‘I think your best two situations right now is either us or Cleveland.’ So I was like, ‘Doc? Or I have a chance to go play with The King [LeBron James]. Doc? The King? Uh, I choose The King.”
- New Kings assistant coach Vance Walberg is being counted on to bring creativity to Sacramento’s offense, which is something the team was looking for when it fired former coach Mike Malone, Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee writes.
- The hiring of Steve Kerr as coach was the final ingredient needed to change the Warriors from a one-and-done playoff team into a title contender, Chris Ballard of SI.com writes. Ballard also runs down how GM Bob Myers constructed the rest of the team’s roster, which is currently an NBA best 44-10.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
The amount of cash the Thunder sent the Pelicans in the Ish Smith trade is $801K, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders reports (Twitter link). The 2015 second-round pick headed from Oklahoma City to New Orleans is Philly’s top-55 protected pick, as Pincus shows on his Pelicans salary page. The 2016 second-rounder headed to the Thunder is the less favorable of Sacramento’s top-55 protected pick and the Pelicans’ pick, according to RealGM.
Here’s more from around the league:
- The Hornets gave up Gary Neal two weeks ago in the trade that netted Mo Williams and Troy Daniels, but Steve Clifford can envision Daniels developing into the sort of role Neal has played in the NBA, notes Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. Bonnell’s piece examines just what the Hornets have in Daniels, who has a fully guaranteed minimum salary for next season.
- The Heat sent the Suns $2.2MM in cash in the Goran Dragic trade, according to Pincus (Twitter link).
- The Knicks did indeed take Alexey Shved‘s $3,282,057 salary into their $3,637,073 Raymond Felton trade exception as part of their trade with the Rockets, reducing that exception to $355,016, as Pincus tweets. The move allowed New York to create a new $1,662,961 trade exception worth the equivalent of Pablo Prigioni‘s salary, Pincus adds.
- A number of NBA GMs and scouts are beginning to view Karl-Anthony Towns as having greater long-term potential than Jahlil Okafor, and the freshman could play his way into being drafted No. 1 overall this June, Chad Ford of ESPN.com (Insider subscription required) writes.
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
Brandon Knight acknowledged that remaining with the Suns beyond this season is an attractive option for him, Matt Petersen of NBA.com writes. “They’ve got a lot of good talent, a lot of good pieces here, so I could definitely see myself being here long-term,” Knight said. “A good coaching staff, as well. We’ve just got to see what happens.” The point guard will become a restricted free agent at the conclusion of the season.
Here’s more from Phoenix:
- The Suns created a $5.5MM trade exception in their three-team trade with the Heat and Pelicans, Eric Pincus of Basketball Insiders reports (Twitter link). It’s equivalent to the difference between the salaries of Goran Dragic and John Salmons.
- Danny Granger and the Suns have engaged in “positive and open talks” regarding if the veteran will remain with Phoenix or pursue a buyout arrangement so that he can join a contender, Shams Charania of RealGM tweets.
- One major bright spot for the Suns this season is the play of Alex Len, whose potential has Phoenix’s front office and coaching staff excited, Ben York of NBA.com writes. “He continues to grow every single day,” coach Jeff Hornacek said about Len. “That’s why we’re so high on him for the future – a 21-year-old kid, the things he’s doing already. He’s going to get bigger, stronger and a better post-up game as these years go on. You’re going to look three to four years down the road – I don’t want to put any pressure on him, but [he has a chance] to be an All-Star.”
Chuck Myron contributed to this post.
The departure of Goran Dragic from the Suns became contentious, with Dragic saying the day before the trade deadline that he didn’t trust the team’s front office, prompting executives Ryan McDonough and Lon Babby to fire back the day after trading him to the Heat. Isaiah Thomas, another of Phoenix’s starting-caliber point guards shipped out on deadline day, also takes issue with a recent McDonough remark. The Suns GM shared more of his side of the story Monday with Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe, whose piece provides a fascinating look at the dynamics at play with one of the most active teams at the deadline. Washburn’s entire interview with McDonough is worth a read, but we’ll share a few highlights:
“I think the one thing that we took issue with more than anything else was one of our former players saying we lied to him. We didn’t lie to him. Maybe he forgets those comments. Maybe he doesn’t, you’d have to ask him but I feel like we’ve conducted ourselves with honesty, integrity. I feel like this is a place players like to come and want to do well. That was the thing that set us off and led to the comments that may have seemed a bit harsh.”
On the way the team meshed (or didn’t mesh):
“Heading into the All-Star break, we didn’t love the vibe around our team. I feel like there was a little more selfishness than there was last year. I think there’s some guys probably more concerned about their stats or individual contract status than team success. That’s one thing we’re trying to do here. We’re trying to build a culture, trying to find the core guys, the key guys to build around. I feel like we’re getting closer.’’
On the team’s experiment with Dragic, Thomas and Eric Bledsoe all together:
“Sometimes the players look at it and the agents look at it and say, ‘What’s best for my client?’ As a player, ‘What benefits me the most?’ That was a bit disappointing. [The three-guard offense] certainly didn’t succeed. It certainly didn’t fail but we’re fine with that.”
Isaiah Thomas insists he didn’t verbally push the Suns to deal him to the Celtics last week, as Mark Murphy of the Boston Herald relays. Suns GM Ryan McDonough said Thomas’ desire to start was the catalyst for last week’s swap, notes Paul Coro of the Arizona Republic.
“They said that? I did want to start, who doesn’t?” Thomas said. “I don’t get that. I was a team player, didn’t complain about anything. The guys who complain, you see it in the media. I didn’t say anything. For the most part, it was good. When we did play together it was positive and it worked, but it’s tough to do when you have three talented point guards who need the ball to be effective. It’s three point guards that want the ball.”
Thomas qualified that remark, saying that he would have liked to have played more, according to Coro. He called the Phoenix backcourt “a tough situation” that’s “not what I expected” in November, but later made comments indicating he was pleased with the setup. Here’s more from around the Pacific Division:
- Warriors co-owner Joe Lacob reiterated that he’s willing to pay the luxury tax next season, telling Sports Illustrated’s Chris Ballard that the team has no choice but to do so barring “some massive deal.” “[GM] Bob [Myers] keeps saying I must have the only owner in the NBA who says, ‘Stop worrying about the luxury tax,’” Lacob said. “Even today I said, ‘I don’t care about the luxury tax.’ I don’t want to make decisions based on the luxury tax. We want to get better. Our job is to get better. Secondarily, we’ll worry about the money.”
- Lacob wouldn’t address soon-to-be restricted free agent Draymond Green directly but said to Ballard, “It would take a lot to not sign our core players. Does that answer your question?”
- George Karl said he spoke with Kings GM Pete D’Alessandro about the idea of adding a point guard but added that he’d prefer not to make any more changes, observes Matt Kawahara of The Sacramento Bee. Darren Collison has missed the last six games with a right hip flexor strain and doesn’t appear on his way back anytime soon, so Karl has turned to Andre Miller and is giving him a much greater role than he had with the Wizards, as Kawahara examines.
- Karl’s reps impressed upon the Kings during negotiations earlier this month that the coach would likely have other opportunities in the offseason, putting pressure on Sacramento to hire him as soon as possible, according to Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com.
The Sixers were willing to trade rookie center Joel Embiid for a high draft pick, according to Mark Heisler of Forbes.com. Philadelphia drafted Embiid third overall last June, but he had offseason surgery to repair a broken bone in his right foot and has yet to take the court for the Sixers. Philadelphia was unable to work out a deal for Embiid, but did send reigning Rookie of the Year Michael Carter-Williams to the Bucks in a three-team deal that brought back the Lakers‘ top-five protected first round pick for this year.
There’s more news from around the league:
- The Rockets announced that they have recalled Nick Johnson from the D-League, according to Mark Berman of FOX 26 (via Twitter). Johnson’s assignment was his fourth trip down this season, as our assignments/recalls log shows. The 22-year-old guard has seen time in 18 games for the Rockets this season, averaging 3.1 PPG and 1.3 RPG in 10.3 minutes per contest.
- Some people, like Charles Barkley, aren’t so wild about analytics. However, Dan McCarney of the San Antonio Express News writes that the Spurs are undeniable proof that analytics can help to build a tremendous roster.
- New Celtics guard Isaiah Thomas did his best to squash rumors that he was unhappy with his role while with the Suns, Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe tweets. “The guy that complained, you seen it in the media. I didn’t say anything,” Thomas said.
Arthur Hill contributed to this post.
Blake Griffin has reached a significant milestone in his recovery from a staph infection in his right elbow, tweets Dan Woike of The Orange County Register. The Clippers star is out of his elbow brace and his stitches have been removed. Woike also reported that Griffin can start working out, but he won’t be joining the team on its upcoming road trip (Twitter link). Griffin, the Clippers’ leading scorer at 22.5 points per game, had surgery on the elbow February 9th.
There’s more from the Pacific Division:
- Suns guard Brandon Knight has moved around quite a bit, but he sees that as a positive, Paul Coro of The Arizona Republic writes. “I know if I would’ve been playing terrible or not playing as well as I was, I wouldn’t have been able to be moved for three players,” Knight said. “It’s a good thing and it’s a bad thing. I’m never going to try to play bad, but playing as well as I did put me in this position to be traded.”
- The Lakers‘ Steve Nash hasn’t lost his desire to play, reports Scott Stinson of The National Post. Nash had planned for this to be his 19th and final season in the NBA. but nerve damage in his back prevented him from ever stepping on the court. Instead, Nash has become involved with projects such as filmmaking and a fitness center, and it’s uncertain whether he would give the league another try next season at age 42. “It’s tough,” he said. “I still wanted to play, but my body wouldn’t let me.”
- George Karl has returned to coaching with the Kings because basketball is his calling, according to Kevin Ding of Bleacher Report. Karl still has a desire to teach the game the “right way,” which is the Dean Smith way he learned at North Carolina. That’s especially true with a talented but volatile young player like DeMarcus Cousins, who evokes memories of the relationship Karl had with Gary Payton in Seattle two decades ago.
Zach Links contributed to this post.
1:49pm: Robinson has agreed to sign a 10-day contract, though the Nets are expected to eventually sign him for the rest of the season, Wojnarowski reports in a full story.
1:26pm: Nets officials changed their minds about Robinson this weekend after they were initially uninterested in signing him, according to Tim Bontemps of the New York Post (Twitter link).
12:57pm: Robinson confirmed the agreement to Alex Kennedy of Basketball Insiders, as Kennedy relays in a pair of tweets.
12:47pm: The Nets and Thomas Robinson have agreed to a deal that will see the big man join the team after he clears waivers from the Nuggets, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports (Twitter link). Denver released him Sunday after agreeing to a buyout deal, so he’s poised to clear waivers Tuesday. It’s something of a surprise to see Brooklyn end up with the former No. 5 overall pick, since a report late Sunday indicated that the Nets weren’t interested. That ran counter to an earlier dispatch from Shams Charania of RealGM that said Brooklyn, along with the Spurs, Suns, Heat and Hornets, had engaged in talks with Robinson.
Brooklyn has an open roster spot, so no corresponding move is required. The Nets are limited to paying the Tony Dutt client no more than the prorated minimum salary, which is less than the other teams reportedly in discussions could offer, as I explained. Still, it’s not a shock to see him settle for the minimum, as he’s struggled to live up to his lofty draft position, and Brooklyn is poised to become his fourth team in fewer than three NBA seasons. The Blazers declined their team option on the fourth year of his rookie scale contract before trading him to Denver at the deadline on Thursday.
Robinson was one of three prospects the Nets were particularly enamored with when they traded their 2012 lottery pick to Portland, according to Mike Mazzeo of ESPNNewYork.com (on Twitter). That pick came in sixth, which the Blazers used to select Damian Lillard, so Brooklyn wouldn’t have had a chance to nab Robinson, since the Kings took him fifth. Since then, Robinson has displayed proficiency on the boards, hauling in 11.7 per 36 minutes for his NBA career, but he’s otherwise failed to make much of an impact.
The Sixers don’t want a buyout with JaVale McGee, and he doesn’t want one either, notes Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Still, coach Brett Brown indicated that the center has to prove his worth.
“We are coming into this whole thing with an open mind,” Brown said. “He is around a bunch of genuine people, coaches that care. That will give him every chance to keep moving and to be as good as he can be. And if it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. But it’s not going to be on us.”
McGee, who’s making $23.25MM combined this year and next, has four points and five rebounds in 24 total minutes across two games with the Sixers so far. Here’s more from around the Atlantic Division:
- The reason that Phil Jackson estimates that Carmelo Anthony will be out of action for four to six months instead of the eight-week timetable Anthony mentioned previously is because of a partial tear in Anthony’s left patellar tendon, reports Marc Berman of the New York Post. The Knicks star played with that tear most of the season, according to Berman.
- The first call Danny Ainge placed to a free agent this past July was to Isaiah Thomas, Ainge told reporters, including Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald. Of course, the Celtics lost out on Thomas this summer but wound up with him via Thursday’s trade with the Suns.
- Lionel Hollins has consistently expressed enthusiasm about rookie Markel Brown in spite of his lack of playing time for the Nets, but now injuries to others and a stylistic shift have Brown seeing more minutes, as Tim Bontemps of the New York Post examines. The shooting guard drafted 44th overall this past June is without guaranteed salary for next season.