Intra-division trades are fairly rare. They happen when teams are desperate for a change, or have eyes for a player they can’t pass up, but otherwise, teams are generally reluctant to face the possible consequences of divisional dealings four times a year. It’s one thing to see one of your former players find prosperity elsewhere, and another thing entirely to have that prosperity rain down on you several times a season.
That’s what made the Bucks’ acquisition of John Salmons from the Bulls much more interesting than the players and salary relief involved. The early returns make Chicago look absolutely foolish, as Milwaukee has clearly supplanted them in the Central Division hierarchy. But the long-term picture could be far different, as the cap space opened up by trading Salmons could help the Bulls to swing a big-name free agent this summer. From Bob Wolfey of the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:
Hammond was asked if in trading for Salmons he was helping set up the Chicago Bulls to land a top free agent, hence making life tougher for the Bucks in the division.
“We talked about it over and over and over again before we made the decision what to do with Chicago,” Hammond said. “That was a concern for us, but you know what? At the end of the day, we had to do what was going to be right for us. We needed a piece like John. He’s fit in for us. It’s been worthwhile for us. I’m not going to tell you it was not a concern. It’s still a concern. If Chicago can sign one of these major free agents, it’s going to be a concern for us and we will have to live with it.”
It’s hard to say that the Bucks made the wrong move. Milwaukee’s spectacular brand of defense has vaulted them up the Eastern Conference standings, and while they’re unlikely to jump into the cream of the conference crop anytime soon, Salmons is exactly the type of two-way player that has solidified their place as a playoff contender. The Bucks aren’t reaching for a title just yet, but their success is at least concrete.
Meanwhile, the Bulls only benefit from the possibility of improvement. If the cap space gained by ditching Salmons is never properly utilized, then it’s the Bulls who were had. It’s so difficult to evaluate trades on a one-year time frame because the outlook of each involved franchise is altered beyond that. So while the Bucks may be one of the teams of the moment, keep in mind that they may have facilitated the Bulls’ rise to prominence as a team of the future.
Wednesday night in Boston Gordon Hayward underwent surgery to repair his dislocated ankle and fractured tibia suffered just five minutes into the season-opening game, a gruesome injury that put a pall over the rest of the night.
There had been hope from some Celtics fans that Hayward could return this season, likely for the playoffs, but now that the surgery is complete Hayward’s agent told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN not to expect him back until next season.
This shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone who saw the injury. Hayward is in the first year of a four-year deal with the Celtics, they were always going to choose a cautious path rather than rush him back. Under Danny Ainge Boston has always taken the long view, even with all their moves this summer — specifically bringing in Hayward and Kyrie Irving — the target was to be the team set up for next as LeBron James and the Cavaliers faded. That plan does not change now.
Earlier in the day, Hayward had sent a video message out to Celtics fans thanking them for their support in the past 24 hours.
Without Hayward, the Celtics now will focus more on smaller lineups, rookie Jayson Tatum will get more run, as will Marcus Smart in his contract year. Jaylen Brown will be thrust into a more significant role. Also, Kyrie Irving will be asked to do more as the team’s second-best playmaker is now out for the season.
The Celtics will take a step back this season without Hayward, who was going to be crucial for them on both ends of the floor. That’s evidenced by their 0-2 start, falling to the Cavaliers and Bucks on the first couple nights of the season. Boston should still be a team well above .500 and in the playoffs, but they will not be quite the same this season.
Any controversy over C.J. McCollum‘s suspension for the season-opener should be put to rest. The Trail Blazers fared fine without him.
More than fine.
Portland beat the Suns, 124-76, Wednesday. The 48-point margin is the largest ever in a season opener, even as the Trail Blazers let a 58-point fourth-quarter lead dwindle.
Here are the most lopsided season-openers in NBA history (openers for both teams appearing twice):
The 48-point defeat is also the Suns’ worst lost in franchise history, topping a 44-point loss to the Seattle SuperSonics in 1988. It could be a long year in Phoenix.
Marcus Smart and Matthew Dellavedova thrive on aggravating opponents, so when matched up, of course they aggravated each other.
Deduct points from Smart for pulling the hold-me-back charade behind a referee. Plus, Dellavedova’s Bucks beat Smart’s Celtics, 108-100.
The Nets’ projected record this season came under greater scrutiny when the Celtics traded Brooklyn’s unprotected first-round pick to the Cavaliers in the Kyrie Irving trade. After finishing third-to-last and last the previous two years, were the Nets poised to take a step forward, or would they convey a very high pick to the Cavs?
Jeremy Lin, who missed 46 games last season, getting healthy was a reason for optimism in Brooklyn and pessimism in Cleveland. But it appears the veteran guard could be out a while.
Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:
Billy Reinhardt of Nets Daily:
If the injury is as bad as feared, what a bummer for Lin. He came to Brooklyn expecting to play a leading role on a developing team, and he just can’t stay healthy.
The Nets were probably more focused on developing their younger players, but – especially without their own draft picks – there was no harm in shooting for the playoffs. This appears to a blow to that (already unlikely) dream.
It’s a boon to the Cavaliers, though. And whenever something significantly affects LeBron James‘ team, it has ramifications into the entire power dynamic of the Eastern Conference. For an injury to a player on a team most expect to be bad, the medical developments here will be tracked closely around the league.