Month: April 2024

Atlantic Notes: Rondo, Bargnani, Blue

Rajon Rondo says he hasn’t put much thought into the notion of becoming an unrestricted free agent in 2015, but it nonetheless intrigues him like “college recruitment” did, as he told reporters, including Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe (Twitter link). Rondo recently indicated he’d like to remain with the Celtics long-term, but it doesn’t sound like it’s a certainty he’ll end up doing that. Here’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Knicks coach Mike Woodson is comfortable with traditional lineups and says that’s part of the reason the team traded for Andrea Bargnani this past summer, observes Marc Berman of the New York Post. Still, Woodson isn’t so sure he’ll stray from small-ball even when Bargnani returns from an elbow injury.
  • The Celtics will assign 10-day signee Vander Blue to the D-League, Danny Ainge says, according to A. Sherrod Blakely of (Twitter link). Unless they merely plan to send him down for tonight’s game and let him go, since today’s final day of his contract, this appears to signal that the C’s will give him another 10-day deal, though there’s still no decision about that, Blakely notes (on Twitter).
  • The Knicks have sent Toure’ Murry to the D-League, the team announced via Twitter. Murry will play with the Erie BayHawks tonight and return to the Knicks on Saturday, the team also tweets.
  • The Blazers have dropped Dorell Wright from their rotation, but he’s not pouting, and he’s still glad he signed with Portland this summer after spending last season with the Sixers, as he tells Joe Freeman of The Oregonian“I’d rather be here, winning, out the rotation right now and back in the rotation later, than in Philly, cold, muggy and ugly,” Wright said. “I’ll take this any day.”
  • Khalif Wyatt and the Guangdong Southern Tigers have parted ways, according to Sportando’s Emiliano Carchia. The shooting guard spent camp with the Sixers. Royal Ivey, who spent last year with the Sixers, is replacing him.

Trade Candidate: Emeka Okafor

Emeka Okafor probably won’t have any sort of on-court impact this year, since he seems destined to miss the season after suffering a neck injury this past autumn.  The 31-year-old center could nonetheless have a significant effect on the Western Conference playoff race and this summer’s free agency, thanks to his outsized expiring contract.

The Suns have been planning to trade Okafor ever since acquiring him from the Wizards just before the regular season began, as Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports wrote this week. He’s making nearly $14.5MM in the final season of a six-year, $72MM deal on which he’s already been traded three times. Whichever team finally winds up holding Okafor’s hot potato of a contract can renounce his rights this summer and clear significant cap room for a free agent push.

The cost of taking on Okafor’s deal will probably involve at least one veteran who could help the Suns make the playoffs. Phoenix has won five of its last six, including two victories over the Pacers, but while the Suns are in sixth place in the Western Conference, only three games separate them from the ninth-place Grizzlies, who’ve been even hotter since Marc Gasol returned from injury. It’s uncertain when Eric Bledsoe will come back from his torn right meniscus to try to give Phoenix a similar boost, so the Suns, who are determined to make their fairy tale push for the playoffs come true, appear to be seeking outside help.

The current collective bargaining agreement makes it easier for teams to create cap space, so expiring contracts like Okafor’s aren’t as valuable as they used to be. The Suns may have to attach a first-rounder or two with Okafor to find the kind of deal they want. GM Ryan McDonough suggested last month that the team is willing to trade one or more of their four potential 2014 first-round picks for a star player. The Suns are also prioritizing the acquisition of players on short-term deals so they can preserve their cap space, but those might be competing aims.

It seems logical that if the Suns were to acquire a star, they’d want to find someone who wouldn’t simply be a three-month rental. If Phoenix instead receives offers that include second-tier players, it would be difficult for the Suns to trade Okafor and receive only players on expiring contracts, and virtually impossible unless Phoenix includes at least one first-rounder. Perhaps a rival team would be willing to package one or two expiring contracts that would allow the Suns to retain their flexibility going forward along with another deal that ends after next season, but that would also be hard to for Phoenix to pull off.

A workable scenario might exist between McDonough and the Celtics. Boston GM Danny Ainge, McDonough’s former boss, is reportedly anxious to trade Jeff Green and Avery Bradley in an effort to clear cap room. Green, a non-star whose four-year, $36.24MM deal runs through 2016, probably wouldn’t interest the Suns, but Bradley might. The fourth-year guard’s aggressive on-ball defense could help solidify a Phoenix team allows the 12th most points per possession in the league, according to, and he could provide backcourt depth while Bledsoe is out. He’s up for restricted free agency this summer, so the Suns can retain him if they want to or renounce him and clear his cap hold from their books. If McDonough could convince Ainge to give up Brandon Bass, and he accepts Keith Bogans from Ainge, the Suns could come away with a pair of useful players and no commitments beyond next season. The cost would probably be Okafor plus draft considerations, and Ainge has spoken about his belief in building through the draft.

The Sixers are looking for first-rounders in exchange for Evan Turner, Spencer Hawes and Thaddeus Young, so perhaps the Suns could get involved with Philadelphia. Turner would be an upgrade over Bradley, but Phoenix would be in a similar position, since he’s also a restricted free agent this summer. Hawes is on an expiring deal, but Young’s contract, which pays him an average of more than $9MM a year through 2016, could be tough for McDonough to stomach. Still, the salaries would match if the Suns traded Okafor for just Turner and Young, and the Suns could facilitate such a deal with a first-rounder.

Okafor might not bring the sort of return he could have under the old CBA, but he’s nonetheless an intriguing asset who could bring in a return that helps the Suns now and for the future, too. I wouldn’t be surprised if Western Conference GMs, fearing Phoenix’s warm-weather, large-market advantages in free agency, are skittish to help the fast-rebuilding Suns along, leaving McDonough to deal chiefly with Eastern Conference clubs. GMs around the league expect the Suns to trade Okafor somewhere, so I’d be surprised if Phoenix doesn’t cash in its Okafor ticket by the deadline.

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Cavs Rumors: Irving, Brown, Grant, Bynum

Brian Windhorst of points to Dan Gilbert’s vow that he’d never again let a star hit free agency as a reason why this summer’s extension negotiations with Kyrie Irving will be critical. Windhorst wonders if the Cavs, frustrated with Irving’s lack of on-court and off-court growth, might be hesitant to commit the maximum salary to the former No. 1 overall pick.

If the Cavs don’t see Irving as a max player, they could lose him in restricted free agency to a team that is willing to give him the max in the summer of 2015. That demonstrates the urgency surrounding the Cavs and their All-Star, and we have more from Windhorst’s piece and others here:

  • Irving and coach Mike Brown share a mutual discontent about each other, while Irving’s failure to click with Dion Waiters and the disappointing play of Anthony Bennett have led the point guard to lose confidence in GM Chris Grant, according to Windhorst.
  • The Cavs thought they’d resolved their issues with the departure of Andrew Bynum, but the center was clearly not at fault for all the team’s problems, observes Mary Schmitt Boyer of the Plain Dealer.
  • Odds are Brown and Irving will both be staying in Cleveland for a while longer, writes Sam Amico of Fox Sports Ohio, who believes it’s incumbent on them to work together to lift the team. Bob Finnan of The News-Herald shares similar thoughts, opining that the Cavs should try to smooth out their differences with Irving.

Cavs Brass Feels Mike Brown Has Lost Team?

11:07pm: Amico has been told there’s no fear that Brown has lost the team, in addition to the Cavs strongly refuting the report. When asked by a Twitter follower about the quick contradiction of the earlier report, Amico responded with “different sources say different things” (Twitter links).

9:51pm: According to Sam Amico of FOX Sports Ohio, although Cavaliers brass is concerned that Mike Brown has lost his team, league sources say there aren’t any plans to fire him at the moment. Amico also relays that there isn’t much hope for Brown re-gaining command of the locker room without a “significant occurrence” (Twitter links).

These tweets come along shortly after the Cavs were dealt a 31-point drubbing to the Knicks tonight and on a day that includes a report of Kyrie Irving telling confidants of his displeasure in Cleveland.  At 16-30, the team has dropped 17 of its last 22 games and have lost three straight. Earlier this season, GM Chris Grant was reportedly on “shaky ground” with the franchise, and the Cavs’ performance thus far certainly doesn’t help his case. As we relayed earlier today, there’s widespread belief among NBA executives that Grant won’t last in Cleveland beyond this season if the team can’t turn things around.

Things haven’t gone very smoothly for the Cavs this season, and despite the fact that Grant was able to conclude a rocky situation with Andrew Bynum by trading for Luol Deng, the concern about Brown losing his grip on the roster, speculation of Irving wanting to leave, a more-disappointing-than-not season for number one overall pick Anthony Bennett, and the possibility that Deng has the option of bolting this summer to explore free agency only further complicates things.

Kyrie Irving Denies Report He Wants Out

10:14pm: According to Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer, Irving emphatically shot down reports that he wants to leave Cleveland. Adam Zagoria of and Jason Lloyd of the Akron Beacon Journal (Twitter links) relayed some of his post game quotes on the matter, but you can read a more complete transcript of Irving’s interview with reporters tonight from Schmitt’s piece:

“There’s been so much so-called reports, ‘I don’t want to be here…That’s what you guys get paid to do.’I’m still in my rookie contract and I’m happy to be here…And I’m pretty sure I’m going to be here for a long time…Yes, I’m in Cleveland. I enjoy myself. I enjoy going out there and competing at the highest level for the Cleveland Cavaliers. That’s what it’s about. It’s not about me and it’s not about this controversy surrounding do I want to privately come out when my contract is up. I’m still in my rookie contract and I’m happy to be here and I’m pretty sure that I’m going to be here for a long time. I’m not saying anything to foretell the future, but I’m pretty sure the relationship I have with Dan Gilbert and management extends off the court and I enjoy being here.”

Irving also curbed a question about signing a max-extension this summer and vouched for Mike Brown:

“It’s still too early to (say anything about an extension). I’m still trying to get through this season…Everybody is trying to antagonize this team and put it on me. I’m here for my teammates, I’m here for Coach Brown.”

1:10pm: Kyrie Irving has been confiding in those close to him that he wants to leave Cleveland, according to Chad Ford of, who reveals the news amid a chat with readers. The pressure’s on Chris Grant, as nearly every other NBA decision-maker believes the Cleveland GM will be out of a job this summer if the team can’t reverse its fortunes this season, Ford writes.

Irving will be up for an extension to his rookie scale contract this summer, and if he doesn’t sign one, he’ll become a restricted free agent in the summer of 2015. The Cavs wield all the leverage if they’re willing to sign him for the maximum, since they’d have the ability to match offers that summer. If Irving is determined to leave Cleveland as soon as possible, he could sign a qualifying offer from the Cavs that summer, and that would make him an unrestricted free agent in 2016. Signing the qualifying offer, worth nearly $9.2MM, would be a drastic step, since he would be sacrificing anywhere from $4-7MM that season if he turned down a maximum salary contract to do so.

Irving and agent Jeff Wechsler could also agitate for a trade, although the decision to deal him away would still rest with the Cavs front office. Ford expects Grant to be heavily involved in talks at the trade deadline in an effort to swing deals for players who can provide Irving with immediate help on the court. Cleveland is in 11th place in the Eastern Conference, three games back of the final playoff spot.

Western Notes: Sloan, Phil, Nash

During Friday night’s game against Golden State, the Jazz will honor former head coach Jerry Sloan by raising a banner with the number “1223” embroidered on it, which denotes the total number of wins (regular season and playoffs) he helped deliver to Utah over his coaching career. Kurt Kragthorpe of The Salt Lake Tribune caught up with former Jazz and current Nets guard Deron Williams to get his current thoughts on Sloan:

“A big part of my success early in my career was due to him and the things he kind of instilled in me…So I’m definitely happy for him, and it’s going to be a special moment. The fans there just love him to death.” Williams also elaborated on the halftime argument with Sloan several years ago which reportedly triggered the former coach’s resignation:

“We got into a little argument — nothing more than we’ve ever done…So the way the fans perceive it is just one thing I can’t really control. Like I said, there’s no hard feelings on my end, and I enjoyed playing for him. I miss playing for him.”

Here’s more out of the Western Conference tonight:

  • During an appearance on NBA TV, former Lakers coach Phil Jackson said that while he agreed with the decision to give Kobe Bryant a two-year extension, he also thinks the team “paid him more than I would have gone for” (Bill Oram of the OC Register via Twitter).
  • Oram also wrote about Steve Nash‘s return to practice today, noting that the former MVP is eight days away from celebrating his 40th birthday. Nash hasn’t had much to celebrate about since arriving in Los Angeles, and was candid about his frustration with injuries: “This is the toughest thing I’ve been through in my career…I came to L.A. with nothing but the highest hopes and expectations, and it’s been nothing but personal disappointment.” 
  • Dave McMenamin of ESPN Los Angeles has more from Nash: “Ever since I broke my leg, nothing’s been the same. Nothing’s been easy. But I also look for challenges in life, so this is a great opportunity for me to learn about myself and try to fight through it and hopefully on the other side, I’ll be a better person.”
  • Sid Hartman of the Star Tribune discussed his thoughts on the Timberwolves’ struggles: “At times they have no energy whatsoever…They need a great point guard, and (Ricky Rubio) is not a great point guard.” Rubio is averaging 8.5 PPG, 8.2 APG, 4.6 RPG, and 2.6 SPG on the season, but Hartman appeared to imply that Rubio’s struggle to score points in the fourth quarter is a glaring weakness.
  • Grizzlies guard Mike Conley may not have been selected to the All-Star team this year, but opposing coaches know his value, writes Ronald Tillery of The Commercial Appeal (Subscribers only).
  • Bill Ingram of Basketball Insiders presents his list of this year’s All-Star snubs from the Western Conference.

Eastern Notes: Irving, Rondo, 76ers

Earlier today, we made note of the rumblings that Kyrie Irving privately wants out of Cleveland. Cavaliers head coach Mike Brown told Mary Schmitt Boyer of The Plain Dealer that Irving has never approached him to complain about the team or wanting out (Twitter link). Sam Amico of FOX Sports Ohio may not be sure of what Irving has or hasn’t said behind-the-scenes, but he does know that Drederick Irving – Kyrie’s father – has been very vocal about his irritation with how the Cavaliers are utilizing his son this year. As the plot thickens in Ohio, you can read more of what’s going on elsewhere in the Eastern Conference tonight:

  • As recently as Tuesday, Schmitt Boyer writes that Irving came to Brown’s defense when reporters asked if Cavs players were starting to tune out their head coach: “I’m leaving my trust with coach Brown…I’m riding and dying with coach Brown. We’re going through ups and downs together. We’re all in this together, everybody in the locker room. We’re all going through this together. I have my teammates backs and I know they have mine.”
  • Howard Beck and Ric Bucher of the Bleacher Report discuss Rajon Rondo‘s future and tackle the topic of whether the Celtics should trade or build around the four-time All-Star.
  • Marc Narducci and Keith Pompey of the Inquirer talk about Michael Carter-Williams‘ historic rookie season and the mood of the 76ers locker room as the team has gone 3-10 over their last thirteen games. More from Pompey about the roster: “A lot of these (guys) are marginal NBA players and they came here for the opportunity to (showcase themselves) for next year…they know it’s not about wins and losses at the end of the day, it’s about attracting the eye of another GM so you can get another job somewhere else.”
  • The Boston Herald’s Steve Bulpett says to look for Vitor Faverani to have a two-day stint with the Red Claws on Friday and Saturday before being called up again to the Celtics on Sunday (Twitter link).

Draft Rumors: Harrison Twins, Wiggins, Parker

In studying NBA history, one would be hard-pressed to find a championship team that didn’t draft and develop at least one star player who eventually led them to the Larry O’Brien trophy. As far as recent history is concerned, the 2003/04 Pistons appear to be an exception and Kobe Bryant technically wasn’t selected by the Lakers (he was traded for on draft night), but for the most part, fostering homegrown talent has been an undeniable component of the title equation.

Although not every team finds their future franchise cornerstone in every draft, the possibility of finding a young prospect who shows promise or presents a skill set that fills a need is enough to make the event an important one for the development of every NBA franchise. Sean Deveney of the Sporting News passes along the latest of what he’s heard regarding the 2014 Draft, and you can find it below:

  • Kentucky coach John Calipari has been telling people from around the NBA that his twin recruits, Aaron Harrison and Andrew Harrison, won’t be entering the 2014 NBA Draft. Deveney adds that many of the mock drafts worth reading have already moved the two to their 2015 projection.
  • With that being said, a source with knowledge of the situation doesn’t think the Harrison twins should be counted out of this year’s draft just yet. Both are still reportedly giving strong consideration to entering their names for 2014, and while Calipari will be influential, their family – who played a big part in their commitment to Kentucky last year – will help make the final decision.
  • Although there are restrictions against college players accepting anything from agents, there is no rule prohibiting them from forming relationships, even during the college season. According to Deveney, it’s no secret that potential number one pick Andrew Wiggins has been tied with Rich Paul of LRMR Marketing, the same agency that represents LeBron James. Most fellow agents expect the Kansas star to sign with Paul once he declares for the draft.
  • Paul is also believed to be a candidate to represent Duke’s Jabari Parker, although Deveney writes that former Bulls guard B.J. Armstrong – an associate of reputable longtime NBA agent Arm Tellem – is also in the mix, especially since Parker is a Chicago native.
  • Marcus Smart of Oklahoma State – currently projected to be a top five pick – has been linked to Aaron Mintz of the CAA, who represents Pacers star Paul George among others.

Odds & Ends: Durant, ‘Melo, Rockets

There are plenty of things to look forward to tonight in the NBA, including the announcement of the All-Star game reserves as well as the follow-up showdown between the Warriors and Clippers, whose Christmas Day match-up gave us a taste of how intriguing the playoff atmosphere in the Western Conference could be come April. Shortly after the 105-103 loss, Clippers forward Blake Griffin spoke about being ejected and didn’t seem too happy with Golden State:

“If you look at it, I didn’t do anything and I got thrown out of the game. It all boils down to they (referees) fell for it…To me, it’s cowardly basketball. I don’t know their intentions, but it worked…If I knew the answer I’d probably be in a different position. Tonight I got two technicals for nothing.”

Although Warriors coach Mark Jackson continues to insist that LAC-GSW isn’t a rivalry, Matt Moore of CBS Sports provides the evidence which suggests otherwise. In the meantime, here are some links to pass along from around the Association this afternoon:

  • Kevin Durant‘s decision this summer to sign with Jay Z’s Roc Nation Sports agency came from a desire to enhance his off-court marketing, and it had nothing to do with his feelings about Oklahoma City, sources tell Steve Kyler of Basketball Insiders.
  • An agent with ties to the Knicks tells Bleacher Report’s Jared Zwerling that he thinks Carmelo Anthony is “too Hollywood” to choose the Bulls in free agency and prefers New York or Los Angeles instead.
  • Some executives around the league were put off by the public negotiating the Rockets did when Omer Asik was on the block, and other front-office types were annoyed with Houston’s boasts after the Dwight Howard signing, as Zwerling reports in the same piece.
  • The Bulls would be “ecstatic” if Nikola Mirotic signed this summer for the mid-level exception, tweets Nick Friedell of He’s almost certainly referring to the non-taxpayer’s mid-level, which would allow for a starting salary of $5.305MM.
  • Marco Belinelli says the Bulls didn’t make an offer to re-sign him this past summer, and he finds that surprising, as Nick Friedell of observes. The Bulls chose to sign Mike Dunleavy instead, reportedly because they felt he was a better fit with Derrick Rose.
  • Emiliano Carchia of Sportando relays a report from El Mundo Deportivo that China and Russia have decided to withdraw their bids from the FIFA World Cup Wild Card. Ryan Wosltat of the Toronto Sun (via Twitter) says that with those two teams out of the picture and Brazil, Greece, and Turkey locks for the tournament, then Canada should have a shot to make it as well.

Chuck Myron contributed to this post.