Could the Hawks really look to trade Josh Smith?

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JSmith_Slam.jpgI won’t for a second claim to know what any of the decision-makers in Atlanta are thinking, but some rumors make you wonder if they are at all. Tim Povtak of NBA FanHouse posted a story linking the Hawks to Shaquille O’Neal (not crazy about it the idea, but why not?), and as something of a footnote, dropped this on us:

The Hawks have recently been exploring the possibility of trading power forward Josh Smith as part of their summertime makeover, according to sources around the league.

Oh, okay well that’s — wait, what? First the Hawks give Joe Johnson an absolutely insane amount of money to preserve the status quo, and now they’re bent on destroying it? Somehow this report makes absolutely no basketball sense and plenty of managerial sense (or rather, stands in line with the Hawks’ somewhat zany precedent) for Atlanta.

Josh Smith is at least one of the two most productive Hawks. He’s a great defender as long as he’s not asked to defend wings and a produces like a star even if he’s not a go-to option. Smith became a more efficient offensive player in ’09-’10 (he posted a career-high field goal percentage at .505), which had a fair bit to do with his continued rise. Yet the Hawks want to take that, they want to take one of the most gifted, young power forward in the game, and swap him out with another player who isn’t likely to be as gifted or productive.

Maybe the Hawks have fielded offers that have piqued their interest, but I just can’t imagine this ending well. It’s so hard to get fair return for talented players (particularly ones), and considering Smith’s established role and familiarity with his teammates (as well as new Hawks head coach Larry Drew), doesn’t it just make more sense for Atlanta to stick with the All-Star-caliber power forward that they already have?

The answer is yes, unless there’s something huge lurking behind the curtain. Obviously if Smith can be moved for one of the league’s established studs (and we’re talking the LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Paul, Dwight Howard mold here, folks), the Hawks should try their damnedest to make it happen. But if they’re simply moving Josh for, say, a decent replacement point guard, Atlanta would be dooming themselves to mediocrity.

With Joe Johnson set to make a king’s wage over the next five seasons, Atlanta won’t be a major player in free agency in the foreseeable future. They pretty much have to make modifications through trades, or else depend on the internal improvement from Smith, Al Horford, and Jeff Teague. Neither is likely to produce extremely positive results; Smith and Horford are terrific and Teague is certainly talented, but there’s no reason to believe they’ll make enough progress to seriously improve the Hawks as a while. Smith, Horford, and Teague will get better and better, but Atlanta needed a serious upgrade to take the next step as a franchise, and instead they gave Joe Johnson what will become known as the worst contract in basketball.

Ultimately, it’s an issue of trust. After everything we’ve seen from the Hawks as an organization with this core in place, do you trust them to get the right returns on a Josh Smith trade? 

Reports: Pelicans to sign Jameer Nelson with Rondo out

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With Rajon Rondo out 4-6 weeks with a sports hernia, the New Orleans Pelicans were looking for a solid backup point guard.

This week, to make room to sign Richard Jefferson, the Denver Nuggets waived veteran Jameer Nelson.

While other teams such as the Rockets were calling, the Pelicans and Nelson have reached a deal, reports both Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports added this.

Nelson, in his 14th NBA season, became the top free agent on the market and received interest from contenders such as the Houston Rockets and Oklahoma City Thunder and several other franchises that hoped to add the respected and accomplished veteran. But for Nelson, the Pelicans represent an opportunity to play significant minutes and provide leadership.

The Pelicans had a full roster of 15 players, they could have waited until next Tuesday and gotten a disabled player exception to add a 16th player, but they decided to go with something more permanent.

Jrue Holiday starts at the point for the Pelicans but with Rondo out — he was supposed to start next to Holiday — there is no depth at the position. The Pelicans can have Nelson step in and get minutes from the first time he steps on the court.

Nelson is still a solid pick-and-roll point guard, but what he brings to the table the Pelicans need more is shooting — he shot 38.8 percent from three last season and is a good spot up player. He can penetrate and make plays off handoffs as well, but it’s his shooting on a team that needs it that will be most valued.

The Pelicans have started the season 0-2 with losses to Memphis and Golden State. They take on the Lakers in Los Angeles Sunday night.

DeMarcus Cousins fined $25,000 for cursing at fan

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Near the end of New Orleans’ season-opening loss in Memphis, DeMarcus Cousins started getting into a war of words with a female Grizzlies fan, an exchange where allegedly “F-bombs” were dropped in both directions.

That’s going to cost Cousins.

Saturday the league announced that the Pelicans’ center has been fined $25,000 for “directing inappropriate language towards a fan.”

Cousins got a technical foul during this exchange, and that has been rescinded.

Cousins has averaged 31 points and 10 rebounds a game through two games this season, but it hasn’t been enough as New Orleans has started the season 0-2.

It’s not about the shoes: Kevin Durant loses his, blocks two shots anyway

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Shoes? Kevin Durant don’t need no stinkin’ shoes.

Early in the second quarter of the Warriors win in New Orleans Friday, Durant came out of his shoes on a layup in the lane. He then picked up his shoe, carried it to the other end, flipped it to the bench, and played defense without it, and while he got moved out of the way allowing an offensive rebound for the Pelicans he then proceeded to block Tony Allen twice at the rim.

Durant — after deciding to play the rest of the game in shoes — had seven blocks on the night, to go with 22 points.

Joel Embiid frustrated, wants more post touches, to play back-to-backs

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Joel Embiid remains a frustrated man.

He wants to be unleashed on the NBA, and he feels he’s being held back.

Part of that is not playing in back-to-backs — Embiid started Friday night against Boston but will sit out by plan Saturday night against the Raptors in Toronto. Embiid knows the plan to help protect a body that has played only 31 games in three seasons before this one and was not cleared for most of training camp, but that doesn’t mean he likes it, as he told Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“I just want to feel like an NBA player,” Embiid said.  “I feel like I’m not an NBA player because I can’t play back-to-back.”

I get his frustration, but can you blame the Sixers for treating the guy like he’s made of glass at this point? Hopefully, later in the season, he can be cleared to play on both ends.

His second frustration came from the loss to the Celtics on Friday — he wants more post touches. In the video above he is clear, “I didn’t get the ball enough in the post.”

He’s right here. Embiid had three post-ups all game, one in each of the game’s first three quarters (stat via Synergy Sports). Embiid is efficient in the post — he has shot 9-of-12 on those plays overall this season and the Sixers score 1.33 points per possession when he does. That will work especially well against teams going small (for example, the Cavaliers with Kevin Love at the five), although Friday night Boston had big man Aron Baynes starting at center (in part because of Embiid, in part because Marcus Smart was out injured). Still, Embiid can score on Baynes.

Take a look at Embiid’s shot chart from Friday night.

Part of this is on him with all the threes, but they have to utilize him better. It’s part of the Sixers growing pains that will come this season.