Can the Pistons make a gamechanger move by trading Rodney Stuckey?

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stuckey_dunk.jpgRemember when Joe Dumars was considered arguably the best general manager in the league behind maybe R.C. Buford in San Antonio? Seems like a lifetime ago. After signing Charlie Villanueva and Ben Gordon last summer, effectively vaporizing their 2010 cap space and a chance at a major impact signing this July, Dumars watched the team underperform even conservative estimates.

Gordon couldn’t find his shot, really the only thing he has that’s above average about his game. Villanueva adds a lot in a lot of areas but no major impact in any one. And so the Pistons fell into the lottery and don’t appear to have much hope for the future.

But if one trade (the Billups-Iverson debacle) can demolish a franchise, one trade can rebuild it.

The Pistons have several significant assets if they were to try and make a trade for next season. Rip Hamilton may not be a game changer, but he’s a versatile scorer with a sizable contract. Tayshaun Prince is still an effective defender, and he comes with an $11 million expiring contract, just in time for the new CBA to be put in place. Pulling the plug on Gordon would seem like a desperation move, but there are still plenty of teams that could use a scorer of Gordon’s caliber and his contract isn’t toxic, being in a reasonable range over the next few seasons while he’s still in his prime, assuming he bounces back from last year.

But the Pistons would still need to sweeten any deal, if they want to bring in a gamechanger.

There will be several on the market this year, with multiple superstars looking for a change of scenery and their teams wanting to at least complete a sign and trade to save some small shred of face. But you have to have not only the monetary assets to make the salaries match up, but a young player with upside to throw in as a gem for cheap.

Enter Rodney Stuckey.

The Detroit News brings us the option of trading Stuckey, who is only 24 and could net significant assets in return. Point guard is a premium position in this league, and while Stuckey played a majority of minutes at shooting guard, he also played 21% of his time at point. In an era that has brought us Derrick Rose and Tyreke Evans at point guard, combo guards can thrive in this league.

Packaging Stuckey with one of the bigger contracts still probably wouldn’t land a top free agent, but with multiple pieces and a draft pick, that could be enough to interest teams facing the possibility of their franchise player just walking away. And if those players aren’t available, some of the lesser players, like Rudy Gay as a restricted free agent, might be available.

Losing Stuckey would mean giving up a player with considerable upside who looked to be on the path to stardom before last year’s team-wide regression. But it could also net the Pistons a fresh start with a major upgrade. And that’s a move that could save jobs.

Kevin Durant gets into Twitter debate with reporter over White House comments

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Kevin Durant became the latest Warrior — joining Stephen Curry, Andre Iguodala, and Shaun Livingston, that we know of — to say he would not visit President Donald Trump’s White House as NBA champion. Which is all kind of moot because it’s unlikely the White House invites them and outspoken Trump critic/Warriors coach Steve Kerr and his players any way. (The White House’s biggest concern should be that Kerr accepts the invitation and uses that platform to challenge the president’s policies and style in front of him.)

Durant’s comments led to plenty of talk on sports talk radio and around the sports world online about whether a player or team should decline an invitation from the president. It’s not a new debate, Tom Brady denied that politics is why he didn’t visit Barack Obama’s White House (although I’m not sure many believed him), but KD’s on a big stage now so it became a talking point.

Former ESPN reporter Britt McHenry questioned a player not visiting the White House, and Durant responded, leading to a little Twitter back-and-forth.

Durant had previously Tweeted in response “by doing the opposite, I am inspiring more people” but that Tweet was deleted.

There is no one correct way to protest a person/policy/action, McHenry may see things differently, but Durant has chosen to stay away. That’s valid — traditionally these “champions to the White House” things are tedious photo ops with a few bad jokes thrown in. Having a hoops fan/player in Obama in the White House made the NBA visits more entertaining the past eight years, there was some trash talk, but still, they are largely just a public relations moment. If KD doesn’t want to play the PR game with Trump, that’s a legitimate response.

This has all been a tempest in a teapot. Until/unless the White House actually invites the Warriors to come, it’s all kind of moot.

Dwight Howard on Hornets’ coach Clifford: “It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you”

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Dwight Howard‘s game is much better than his reputation among fans.

He’s not the Defensive Player of the Year/All-NBA/MVP candidate level player he was back in Orlando, but Howard is still one of the best rebounders in the game, he’s strong defensively, and he’s an efficient scorer inside. He’s a quality center, if he plays within himself and is used well. His perception as a guy who does not take the game seriously and held back Houston and Atlanta in recent years has validity (he plays better in pick-and-roll than on the move, but wants the ball in the post), but the idea he is trash is flat-out wrong. He’s still good.

Howard wants to change his reputation, rewrite the final chapters of his career, and told Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN that Steve Clifford’s Charlotte Hornets are the place that is going to happen.

“The other places I was, the coaches didn’t really know who I am,” Howard told ESPN. “I think that they had perception of me and ran with it. Cliff knows my game. He knows all the things that I can do. I’m very determined to get back to the top. It’s a great feeling when somebody believes in you. They aren’t just saying it; they believe it. It really just pushed me to the limit in workouts: running, training, everything. I want to do more.

“In Orlando, I was getting 13-15 shots a game. Last season, in Atlanta, it was six shot attempts. It looks like I’m not involved in the game. And if I miss a shot, it sticks out because I am not getting very many of them. But I think it’s all opportunity, the system. I haven’t had a system where I can be who I am since I was in Orlando.”

Howard averaged 8.3 field goal attempts per game in Atlanta, which is about five a game below his peak. Last season 75 percent of Howard’s shots came within three feet of the rim — is is not there to space the floor, however, he can still move fairly well off the roll and is a good passer for a big.

Last season, 28 percent of Howard’s possessions came on post ups, and he averaged a pedestrian 0.84 points per possession on those. On the 21 percent of shots he got on a cut, he averaged a very good 1.36 PPP. When he got the ball back as a roll man (again on the move), it was 1.18 PPP. The challenge long has been Howard is better on the move but doesn’t feel involved unless he gets post touches, and if he doesn’t feel involved and engaged he’s not the same player.

Maybe Clifford can make this all work with some older plays where Howard feels comfortable.

Charlotte, with Howard in the paint and on the boards, should get back to being a top 10 NBA defensive team, not the middle of the pack as they were last season. Clifford is better than that as a coach, and Howard is an upgrade in the paint (on both ends). Charlotte should be a playoff team again in the East.

But it all will come back to Howard. Fair or not. And Wojnarowski is right, this is Howard’s last best chance to write the ending he wants to his career.

Friday afternoon fun: Watch James Harden’s 10 best plays from last season

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James Harden had a historic season in Houston.

Since it’s Friday afternoon and your sports viewing options consist of watching guys about to be cut from NFL rosters try to impress, why not check out Harden’s best plays from last season. It’s worth a couple minutes of your time.

Mavericks sign Jeff Withey to one-year contract

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Jeff Withey‘s ex-fiancée accused him of domestic violence, but he was not charged.

That frees him to continue his basketball career, which he’ll do in Dallas.

Shams Charania of Yahoo Sports:

The Mavericks could use another center, even if they re-sign Nerlens Noel. Salah Mejri is the only other true center, though Dirk Nowitzki will now play the position.

Withey is a good rim protector. Just don’t ask him to do anything away from the basket.

Dallas annually brings excess players to training camp and has them compete for regular-season roster spots. Whether or not his salary is guaranteed, Withey will likely fall into that competition.