What we could see before the trade deadline?

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Thumbnail image for NBA_mcgrady.jpgA lot of the big shoes dropped yesterday — Antawn Jamison going to Cleveland was the size 16 shoe of those moves — but there are still some trades hanging in the balance. What could happen?

The Knicks could get Tracy McGrady. The Rockets and Kings have a deal that sends McGrady, hard-working Carl Landry and Joey Dorsey to the Kings for sharp-shooter (at least before this season) Kevin Martin, Sergio Rodriguez, Hilton Armstrong and the ugly contract that is Kenny Thomas.

But that is not what McGrady’s agent, Arn Tellum, had in mind. He was picturing the bright lights of Madison Square Garden, and that could still happen. That two team deal could expand to bring in a third team deal that includes the Knicks. The scenario would likely involve Rodriguez and McGrady going to New York, and Jared Jeffries heading out. However, who would get him and who else would be involved is still being negotiated.

If the three team deal does not work, the two-team deal will go forward.

The Heat could get Amar’e Stoudemire. The trade to get Jamison in Cleveland was as much — or more — about making LeBron James happy and getting him to re-sign as it was about winning a title this year (although they could get both).

Miami has one of those frustrated free-agent-to-be stars in Dwyane Wade, and keeping him happy is why they may make a move. Stoudemire, with his tremendous athleticism and versatile offensive game, would be a good fit and add an offensive spark to the Heat. But, the nagging question is what Miami would give up. Second year forward Michael Beasley has been mentioned, but the deal is going to need a lot more than that.

There have been rumors that the Heat don’t want to make a big move, that the interest in Amar’e was simply to placate Wade. The Heat may be focused more on the free agent class this summer to bring help to Wade than right now. Stoudemire said he doesn’t think he’s going anywhere. But, stranger things have happened. Like Ray Romano having a hit show.

The Heat could trade Dorell Wright. This would be all about the cash — right now the Heat are just a hair over the luxury tax threshold. If they don’t go big with Stoudemire, they may want to go small and trade Dorell Wright and his $2.75 million expiring contract just to save the tax money.

Possible trading partners (those under the tax or with a trade exception they would use) are the Grizzlies, Wizards (after all their recent moves), the Nets and the Clippers. Those teams may want more than just Wright to make this happen (a second round draft pick, for example).

The Bulls could trade Tyrus Thomas/Kirk Hinrich. Chicago is still looking for anyone who wants Tyrus Thomas, in part for cap reasons and in part because he and Coach Vinny just don’t get along. They will listen to offers if a team wants to take on a very talented, not always so focused forward.

The Bulls showcased Kirk Hinrich last night, giving him 40 minutes on the court, and he had 10 points on 5 of 14 shooting. Since Chicago moved John Salmons, they may not be as inclined to find a deal, however Hinrich is owed $17 million over the next two seasons, and that is a lot of money. One possible rumored destination was the Lakers, but the defending champions said they likely would not be making any moves.

Nate Robinson deal finalized. While the news the Knicks and Celtics were close to a deal to send Nate Robinson to the Celtics to backup Rajon Rondo are true, the deal has yet to be finalized and get a thumbs up from the league office. We will see what the final details of this deal look like.

Indiana tries to trade Troy Murphy. It’s the hottest thing in the NBA — doesn’t everybody want a stretch four? Doesn’t everyone just like to say stretch four? Murphy is probably the best available at the deadline, and Indiana would love to be involved in talks where they are not just being used as leverage.

Golden State could trade Corey Maggette. Anywhere. Golden State would love to unload Corey Maggette’s deal, which goes three seasons after this one, starting at $9.6 million and climbing to $10.9 million. Maggettee is the perfect scorer/sixth man, and gets to the line with the best of them, but plays poor team defense and is not a good passer. Which is to say he is overpaid. Golden State is going to have a hard time moving this contract, but they will try.

The Spurs could move Antonio McDyess. Frankly, what the Spurs would like to do is move Richard Jefferson’s deal, but if all the other GMs are sober today nobody is taking that deal on. A lesser option being thrown around is to move Antonio McDyess. That would not be a surprise.

Charlotte could trade DJ Augustin. The Bobcats are shopping around second year point guard DJ Augustin. The former University of Texas player is still on his rookie deal, which is affordable, if someone is looking for a backup point guard. The Bobcats want a power forward in return.

Memphis could add depth. The Grizzlies like their team and will not be making major tweaks that could change future prospects, but they would like a little more depth. Discussion of all reasonably priced bench players welcome.

Don’t like the wait for this year’s Finals? Here’s the top 10 plays from the last two (VIDEO)

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Que the Tom Petty

Nobody is enjoying the week-long break between the end of the Eastern Conference Finals and the start of the NBA Finals (except maybe a few of the older Cavaliers players trying to get healthy). For those of us basketball junkies, we just want to get on to the two best teams in the league battling it out.We need a fix.

Here’s the best we can do today: The top 10 plays from the last two NBA Finals, the last two Cavaliers/Warriors showdowns. Courtesy the folks at NBA.com. There’s plenty of LeBron James, Stephen Curry, and a big shot by Kyrie Irving made the list. Enjoy. And just try to be patient.

Warriors’ center Zaza Pachulia cleared to play in Game 1 of NBA Finals

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These playoffs, the Golden State Warriors have been 15.4 points per 100 possessions better when Zaza Pachulia is on the court as opposed to on the bench. That’s a bit misleading, the reason for the gaudy number is he rounds out the dominant starting lineup, which has outscored teams by 32.6 points per 100 this postseason (that is actually better than the legendary “death lineup” in these playoffs). Pachulia is just the first big in the rotation with four All-Star, powerhouse players, but he fills his role well.

Pachulia was slowed by a sore right heel against the Spurs but is 100 percent and ready to go for the Finals when they tip-off Thursday night at Oracle Arena. Here are the details via Anthony Slater of the San Jose Mercury News.

Zaza Pachulia, the only injured Warrior rotation player late in the Spurs series, has participated in all parts of all three practices, without restriction on that sore right heel. He is on track to start Game 1 of The Finals on Thursday.

“We’ve done running, had scrimmages and he’s done everything,” Mike Brown said.

He will have a crucial role on the glass against the Cavaliers. Cleveland brings two dominant rebounders to the party with Tristan Thompson and Kevin Love (plus that LeBron James guy can get some boards), the Warriors will use Pachulia to counter. Before you roll your eyes, he had 13 boards in the second meeting of these teams in the regular season, a blowout Golden State win.

He’s the first big in a rotation of them the Warriors will throw at Cleveland — JaVale McGee may get a little time, but expect a lot of small-ball lineups from the Warriors. If Pachulia can give Golden State a solid 18 minutes a night where he is strong on the glass and helps protect the rim, it will be huge for them.

Pachulia is going to get his shot, he’ll be healthy and ready to go.

Celtics GM Danny Ainge: “Who doesn’t want Isaiah Thomas on their team?”

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Isaiah Thomas is the best and most popular Celtics player, leading his team to the No. 1 seed in the East and the Eastern Conference Finals — both significant steps forward for an up-and-coming team.

Yet, from the moment the Warriors landed the No. 1 pick in the NBA Draft, the talk about Thomas has been about his future with the Celtics: If/when they draft Markelle Fultz, will the Celtics want to pay Thomas max or near max money next summer? Do they want to be locked into four or five years with an undersized guard who will start that contract at age 29? Do they extend him this summer at a likely better price? Trade him?

Celtics GM Danny Ainge doesn’t understand all the talk. He certainly didn’t sound like someone looking to trade Thomas this summer speaking to Steve Bulpett of the Boston Herald.

“All I’m saying is those are things I have to worry about that even I don’t like to think about. And I know that those are going to be difficult decisions at some point. But we want to keep Isaiah.

“All I know is that he’s had an amazing year, and who doesn’t want Isaiah Thomas on their team? Like, you’ve got to be kidding me…

“Why do the fans need to worry about how much money he makes?” he said. “I can understand if Isaiah and his wife and his agent are worried about that, but I don’t understand why that’s a conversation that needs to be had in the media.”

Two things I want to unpack from all that. First, that’s a “get off my lawn” take from Ainge that completely misses the mark with where sports fandom online has shifted. It’s not that he’s wrong at the core of his argument — we all should appreciate the season Thomas just had, Celtics’ fans in particular. Thomas is a joy to watch play and one of the good guys in the league on top of it. Name anyone in the NBA who has gotten more out of his natural abilities than Thomas — the man has put in the work to rise way past expectations. He needs to be appreciated and lauded for that.

But here’s the thing: Fans more than ever like to play GM, and they now have the tools to understand the tough financial decisions that fall on Ainge and others in his shoes. Let me explain it this way: The NBA Finals start June 1, but as a website, the NBC NBA page will draw way more traffic around the NBA Draft at the end of the month, then free agency in July will blow that away. Always does. Player movement — including both rumors of trades and talk of free agents and moves teams should make — is a much bigger draw than the games themselves. That’s not just the NBA, it’s true of the NFL and MLB and NHL and the Barclays’ English Premiere League and on down the line.

Second, Ainge may not like the speculation, but the questions are valid — he and the Celtics have some hard decisions coming up. At the core of them is the question of patience: Push their assets into the middle of the table now, get a couple of players ready to win next season, and make a run at LeBron James and the Cavaliers, or be patient and build to be better than Cleveland in three years (then sustain that for five or more years beyond that)? Ainge has been on the patient side of that equation from the start, and likely will be again — don’t expect him to trade that No. 1 pick or do anything but bring Thomas back. He can be a decision for the summer of 2018.

Then again, he has shopped Thomas before. Ainge is as good or better than any GM in the league of keeping his cards close to his vest, he’s impossible to read.

That said, the smart money is on him being patient. There’s no need to trade Thomas now, that’s the kind of rash overreaction that got the Knicks where they are over the last decade plus. Ainge can wait things out.

 

Adding Durant and thinking dynasty, it’s championship or bust for Warriors’ legacy

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The Golden State Warriors have been the best team in the NBA for three seasons now. That’s not my opinion, that’s LeBron James‘ — here is what he said after advancing to his seventh straight NBA Finals.

“That’s been the best team in our league the last three years, and they added an unbelievable player in Kevin Durant this year, so that makes it even more difficult.”

Adding Durant did make them more difficult to beat, but it also added to the Warriors’ burden — after a 67-win season and a historic 12-0 sweep into the Finals, the series that their season will be judged on is the one still to be played. They may as well be 0-0 because the second they added Durant it was championship or bust in terms of how they want to be seen.

Win and a pattern of dominance over years starts to come into focus, they will have a couple rings and beaten LeBron — who will go down as one of the all-time greats in his own right — to get them. Lose and this season will be viewed as another failure.

The Warriors want us to look back on them in 10-15 years and see a dynasty. They talked quietly about it last season during their chase for 73 wins — they saw that as a part of their resume as one of the greatest teams of all time. That’s part of the reason for the push last year. They, like LeBron, are chasing the ghosts of greatness at this point, and the Warriors had a Jordan record in their sights.

Regular season marks are nice, but in the NBA the great teams’ legacies are built around championships. Plural. If you’re going to go down as one of the dominant teams of an era — like the Shaq/Kobe Lakers, or Jordan’s Bulls, or the Celtics and Lakers of the ’80s, etc. — there needs to multiple rings on fingers. The Warriors have one, but their historic season unraveled last year when a combination of LeBron’s utter dominance, Draymond Green‘s suspension, Andrew Bogut’s injury (that one was underrated as an issue) all came together to snatch victory from their hands (and help cement LeBron’sa legacy).

The Warriors need the 2017 title for their legacy.

Not just the team, but the legacies of Warriors players will be impacted by this series. Injured or worn down or just in a shooting slump (or, most likely, a combination of the three), Stephen Curry struggled defensively and was outplayed by LeBron last Finals when the Warriors needed him. Curry has been fantastic through these playoffs, but like the team he will be judged as much or more for the games to come than the ones already played. Fair or not.  Can Green keep his head about him when LeBron pushes his buttons? Durant is back on the Finals stage, will he rise to that moment?

The championship or bust mentality is too often the prism through which fans — and media — view sports. It’s unfortunate because it clouds the joy of the game itself, the growth of players, of guys doing the unexpected and rising to heights we did not expect from them. Isaiah Thomas‘ brilliant season in Boston is not diminished because it didn’t end in a ring, to use one easy example. But there are hundreds more like that around the league. Championship or bust blinds people to the little things that can make the game joyous.

However, the Warriors have put themselves in a different place. They are chasing legends. They have the wins and the statistics to make a case, more importantly, they also have a style of play being copied (even by college teams) and is changing how the game is played. That is a hallmark greatness.

Now they need the rings to go with it. They need more than one, but it starts with this year’s title — it is championship or bust for them. Fair or not. If the Warriors want to be mentioned in the pantheon of all-time greats, it will take the 2017 title to be part of it.