Utah’s Deron Williams traded to Nets in surprising deal

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In a move that has flown under the radar like a stealth bomber about to unload its payload on an unsuspecting NBA, the New Jersey Nets have acquired Deron Williams from the Utah Jazz.

This is a deal that would send D-Will — one of the game’s best point guards — to the Nets. Derrick Favors and Devin Harris (who Dallas had been going hard after) plus two first-round picks will go to the Jazz. Parallel to this deal, the Nets will send Troy Murphy to Golden State, and Warriors send Dan Gadzuric to Nets, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo. He reports the deal is done. (Al Iannazzone of the Bergen Record was first with the news.)

Willaims told one Salt Lake based reporter (David Locke)  that he was stunned and did not ask for this, but did not answer questions.

Favors has been pulled out of Nets practice this morning and reportedly was told he was traded, and now multiple sources have confirmed this deal as going down.

It is a brilliant move by the Nets and owner Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who stayed in the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes to drive up the Knicks price then turned around and got the better player in a good deal.

This move gives the Nets the star they craved in a trade that is similar to the one they could not complete for  Anthony with the Nuggets. It also is the Nets and Prokhorov taking one of the rumored targets of the Knicks in the summer of 2012 (although the Knicks have always preferred Chris Paul).

Williams can opt out of his contract at the end of the 2012 season, and you can bet the Nets want to offer him an extension. However, according to the current CBA the Nets would have to wait several months before starting extension talks, to a date after the current CBA expires. That means any extension would have to be under the new rules (and it is possible Williams could still walk). The Nets certainly want Williams to open their new building in Brooklyn in the fall of 2012. Williams also would be the lure to recruit other elite players to the team.

Rumors had swirled around Williams in Utah when Jerry Sloan departed the Jazz recently. It was said that the ongoing fights between Williams and Sloan over control of the offense — Williams wanted to run more, Sloan wanted it more controlled — was causing tension and Sloan decided to walk away rather than continue to fight. Especially since he was going to have to be part of the team convincing Williams to sign an extension in Utah.

Some close to the Jazz said with the perception that he pushed the beloved Sloan out the door, the Jazz could not keep Williams long-term.

For the Jazz, if they thought that Williams would leave as a free agent in 2012, and if they think the lockout could wipe out next season, then this would be their last chance to get anything for him.

The Jazz did well for themselves in this trade — they get last year’s No. 3 pick in Favors (a guy with amazing upside), a former All-Star point guard in Harris, the Nets 2011 first round pick (certain to be lottery) and Golden State’s 2012 pick (the Nets owned that). Don’t be shocked if the Jazz use their Nets pick on Jimmer Fredette, the BYU star. We can debate how he fits in the NBA, but that would give the Jazz a huge star in the state and that would sell tickets.

Reports: Rockets think Chris Paul could be sidelined for up to a month

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The Rockets’ opening night win over the Warriors was a boost to their confidence — they believe they can challenge the Warriors next May in the playoffs.

Chris Paul is a big part of that plan, which is why we may not see him for up to a month (even though he is listed as day-to-day, and officially only out Saturday). With that, the Rockets are considering adding another point guard to the roster. Marc Stein of the New York Times and Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN broke the news Friday afternoon.

At the top of the free agent point guard list is Jameer Nelson, the veteran was just waived by Denver to make room for Richard Jefferson, and the Rockets have reached out to him. C.J. Watson and Trey Burke also are available.

Chris Paul and Harden still need to smooth out playing together, something that will take time on the court together. CP3 being out until mid-November is not ideal, but the Rockets are thinking about May, and ideally June, so they will sacrifice a few games now to have him healthy then.

Dwight Howard still feeling ‘super’ expectations with Hornets

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DETROIT – Dwight Howard went from leading Orlando in the NBA Finals to playing in star-studded Los Angeles to joining a Houston team that also fancied itself a contender to being the highest-paid player in his hometown Atlanta to… landing in Charlotte, a small-market franchise with modest ambitions.

The spotlight finally off the former No. 1 pick, Howard doesn’t feel reduced pressure.

“Everybody expects me to be Superman every single night,” Howard said.

Howard is diving into his new situation – his third team in three years – headfirst. He’s leading pregame huddles and the Hornets onto the court.

“I have the most experience,” said Howard, in his 14th season. “So, it’s not to come in and fit in. It’s to come in and be a leader.”

This is the latest referendum on Howard. Despite eight All-NBA selections (most of them first-team) and three Defensive Player of the Year awards, he faces relentless criticism of his legacy.

His exit from the Magic was so ugly, it’s known as the Dwightmare. His feuding with the Lakers great is the stuff of legend in Kobe Bryant mythology. Howard never clicked with James Harden with the Rockets. The Hawks unloaded him for a paltry return in what was more salary rearrangement than salary dump, and his former teammates reportedly cheered.

Howard just seems to rub people the wrong way.

That makes his latest test in Charlotte so interesting. Howard is supplanting maybe Kemba Walker as the face of the team and definitely Cody Zeller as starting center. The Hornets have found success with Zeller, going 63-53 when he starts and 57-73 otherwise the last three seasons.

“The nature of his game, he plays in a way to help other people play better,” Hornets coach Steve Clifford said of Zeller. “He is a screener. He is a ball-mover.”

In other words, the type of player teammates love.

Is Howard?

Howard is still solidly productive. In Charlotte’s season-opening loss to the Pistons, he posted 10 points, 15 rebounds and two blocks – and ruffled a few feathers. Vince Ellis of the Detroit Free Press:

https://twitter.com/Vincent_Ellis56/status/921100491362365440

Dirty-work players who irritate opponents are revered. High-priced players who irritate their teammates are loathed.

Howard walks a fine line.

He returned to Atlanta with emotion and expectations. By the end of his time with the Hawks, everyone seemed unhappy. Still, Howard says he’s grateful for the opportunity to play in front of people, especially his grandparents, who watched him grow up.

“Atlanta is going to be my home,” Howard said. “The Hawks is always going to be my favorite team.”

It’s just never easy for Howard.

Even a career Basketball Reference pegs as 99% likely to end in the Hall of Fame based on his tangible accomplishments stirs controversy.

“He’s a Hall of Famer right now if he never played another game,” Clifford said.

Said Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy, who coached Howard in Orlando: “It’s mind-boggling to me that would be any debate there.”

It’s probably easier for Van Gundy and Howard to recall their time together fondly than it was to enjoy it while partnered. Clifford, who was an assistant in Orlando and Los Angeles while Howard was there, is just getting into his time as Howard’s head coach.

It’s those middle moments, in the throes of long seasons, that have proven difficult for Howard and those around him.

Here he is in Charlotte, hosting the Hawks tonight, and facing another challenge. The Hornets would probably be happy just making the playoffs and ecstatic advancing, which would be their first playoff-series victory since reemerging as the Bobcats in 2004. Howard, who has reached three conference finals, is counting on himself to lead them there – even if nobody else is anymore.

Kobe Bryant still has it, bounces shot in from near half court

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This was a Nike gala, an event with a basketball theme. The court was lit up from below, there were tables at half court, and people had drinks in their hands.

Kobe Bryant was there, stylishly dressed in black. So was famous model Winnie Harlow.

Know that regardless of the setting, Kobe still has game.

Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala cleared to play vs. Pelicans Friday

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Without Draymond Green in the fourth quarter Tuesday night in the opener, and with Andre Iguodala out for the game, the Warriors defense fell apart against Houston. The Rockets scored 34 points in the quarter and came from behind to beat a Warriors team that had been in control of the game up to that point. There was more to it than just Green’s balky knee, but without the Defensive Player of the Year they are not the same.

Bad news for the Pelicans: Green and Iguodala have been cleared to play in New Orleans Friday. Green had an MRI and it came back negative.

Green admitted he was concerned that the injury, via Anthony Slater of The Athletic.

Now it is the Pelicans who should be concerned. The Warriors will want to wash the feeling of that opening night loss off them.