Western Conference home teams are 5-0 in playoff games so far, after Chris Paul's buzzer-beater lifted the Clippers to a thrilling Game Two win over the Grizzlies last night. The Nuggets will look to make it six straight victories for favorites in the West tonight against the Warriors. While we wait for that game, let's check out some items from around the conference:
Zach Randolph tells The Oregonian's Jason Quick that he loves living in Memphis and playing for the Grizzlies and will likely exercise his player option worth $16.5MM for the 2014/15 season (Twitter link). His statement has relevance for this summer, since teams probably won't consider Randolph's contract, which pays him $17.8MM next season, as an expiring deal, perhaps making him less attractive as a trade candidate.
Randolph's name surfaced in trade talk before the Rudy Gay swap this year, and Z-Bo was linked to the Kings and Rockets before CEO Jason Levien categorically denied that the Grizzlies had any serious discussions about dealing away Randolph. While Lionel Hollins recently denied rumors of a rift between him and Randolph, it appears both player and team are on the same page in Memphis.
Randolph, who regressed last year as he dealt with a torn MCL, hasn't regained the 20-points-per-game scoring prowess he displayed before the injury. Still, at 31 years old, he's still a consistent double-double threat, averaging 15.5 points and 11.4 rebounds per contest this season. His contract calls for him to receive a raise next year and take a paycut in his option year. That's a dynamic that wasn't supposed to be allowed under CBA rules, according to Mark Deeks of ShamSports, but is nonetheless a part of his deal, which he signed in 2011.
Since a deal to keep the Kings in Sacramento fell through last year, there seems to have been no love lost between the Maloof family, which owns the team, and Sacramento mayor Kevin Johnson. Lately, though, Johnson has taken a conciliatory tone toward the Maloofs, and Scott Howard-Cooper of NBA.com believes that could be strategic, since the Maloofs would still have to agree to sell the team to Sacramento investors if the league rejects their pending sale to Chris Hansen's Seattle group. We rounded up more on the Kings sale this morning, and we'll continue to monitor the story in advance of a key meeting coming up on Wednesday. In the meantime, here's more from around the Association:
Steve Kyler and Alex Kennedy of HoopsWorld both have new pieces up, in which they address various trade candidates or possibilities. Let's dive in and cover the highlights....
The latest news and notes from around the Southwest Division on Saturday evening:
Kyrie Irving is willing to listen to any pitch LeBron James might make about joining forces on the Cavaliers in 2014, a source tells Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio, who wonders if All-Stars from around the league will use this weekend to hatch plots to form more superteams. While we wait to hear if any such whispers emanate from Houston, here's the latest from the Association:
Grizzlies owner Robert Pera and CEO Jason Levien today held their first press conference with local media since November, and after a pair of trades within the last month, there was plenty to catch up on. Marlon W. Morgan of the Memphis Commercial Appeal rounded up comments from the presser, and fellow Commercial Appeal scribe Kyle Veazey followed up with an exclusive interview with the two men in charge of the team. Both pieces are worth a read, but we'll round up the highlights of what Pera and Levien had to say from both stories here:
Pera on Rudy Gay:
"I was actually a big Rudy Gay fan. He was 6'9", over a 7-foot wing span with a 40-inch vertical, really smooth and athletic and on the highlights all the time. He was awesome. But like I said, going back to basketball and how it’s a team sport and all the pieces fit together, the offense we run is really traditional. It’s inside-outside, a grinding type of offense. Rudy’s talent, his potential really couldn’t be maximized in our system. I think it was good for him and I think it was good for the team. I think the pieces we got back were much stronger. I wouldn’t say the players we got back were necessarily better than Rudy. Rudy’s a special talent. But for our team and for our fit, I think the personnel and the team we have constructed now is probably the best Grizzlies team when you’re looking at the total team and chemistry and how it fits our style of play.”
Pera on the team's reliance on advanced metrics:
"Well, we like the movie "Moneyball." They use a lot of advanced statistics for the Oakland A's teams. But the difference between baseball and basketball, is (in) baseball, you have individual players, they each have an on-base percentage and a batting average, defensive capabilities. All these parts added together equals the strength of the team, right? But in basketball it's completely different. A player can be immensely valuable in one system and maybe not as valuable in another system. I think it's the combination of pieces in basketball. Analytics are a great tool but you also have to look at the individual player analytics in the context of the system you're running."
Pera on whether coach Lionel Hollins, in the last year of his deal, will receive a new contract:
“I think all that for now is confidential. The final decision will come down to Jason and I’ll approve whichever direction he wants to go."
Levien on Hollins:
"I don’t think it behooves us to speak publicly about any kind of contract situation. We had a great meeting with Lionel and I’ve certainly enjoyed the interaction he and I have had over the past several months. He has a proven track record that’s very impressive as a coach. We see him as a big asset to the team."
Levien on Zach Randolph:
"There was never a serious discussion or dialogue around trading Zach Randolph. I can say that categorically. We’re really proud of him for going back to the All-Star Game."
Levien on the team's luxury tax strategy:
"We don't have a hard and fast rule about being in the tax or not being in the tax, being up to the line or not. We want to field the most competitive team. Part of it is — yeah, you don't want to throw money away — but part of it is, when you're in the tax, it restricts in the kind of trades you can make, the kind of free agents you can sign, the kinds of decisions you can make to get better. That's what the rules do now. It's not just about the money. So, we've talked about not having a hard and fast line, or where we're going to be, but thinking through what's our end game? Our end game is to be consistently very competitive and try to win a championship. I think some years you're going to see us in the tax, some years you're going to see us well below it, some years you're going to see us just up against it. The money is one of the factors, but the biggest factor is how do we field the best team going forward?"
Not content to simply rank the NBA's teams, one through 30, Marc J. Spears of Yahoo! Sports also includes plenty of interesting trade rumors and nuggets within his power rankings. Here are the items of note from Spears in this week's installment:
Marc Stein's Weekend Dime at ESPN.com is usually full of juicy rumors year-round, and with the trade deadline less than two weeks away, this week's edition is especially jam-packed. Let's dig in:
Earlier today, we heard from Ric Bucher that the Grizzlies may not be done dealing, but they're looking to add a piece rather than shed more salary. Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal backs up that report, tweeting that the Grizzlies have informed Zach Randolph he won't be moved this season.
The Grizzlies' activity within the last few weeks suggested strongly that the new ownership group was looking to cut long-term costs, making Randolph, who is owed $17.8MM next season and $16.5MM in 2014/15, a prime trade candidate. But while teams continue to call about Randolph, the Grizzlies are telling clubs that they're not interested in moving the All-Star forward, according to Tillery (via Twitter).
Bucher reported overnight that, in their search to add wing help using their $7.49MM trade exception, the Grizzlies discussed pursuing Courtney Lee. Tillery doesn't confirm the team's interest in Lee, but does indicate that using that exception to add a big man or a shooter is a possibility. Still, the likelihood of that sort of deal is only about 50/50, says Tillery (via Twitter).