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.

LeBron James finishes left-handed alley-oop with head behind backboard

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We have reached the point with LeBron James and his legendary career that the incredible almost seems ordinary — he has made our jaws drop so many times it’s hard for him to clear the bar of amazing anymore.

He did Saturday night against Utah.

In transition, LeBron gave up the ball to Jeff Green, who returned the favor with an alley-oop pass. Just not a particularly good one, it was behind James.

So he reaches back with his left hand and throws it down as he ducks his head under the backboard. Then LeBron stops and stares at his left hand, like he can’t believe what he just did.

We can’t either.

Carmelo Anthony standing ovation in return to Madison Square Garden

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Knicks fans may have had their frustrations with Carmelo Anthony, but they know how much he has meant to the franchise over the years. He pushed to be a Knick and chose to stay, he carried the franchise for years.

Saturday night he returned to Madison Square Garden in an Oklahoma City Thunder uniform after a trade this summer, and he was welcomed with a retrospective video followed by a standing ovation from the crowd (you can see all of it above).

Well done Knicks fans. Well done.

Lakers’ Kentavious Caldwell-Pope will not travel with team for 25 days due to legal issue

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The Lakers’Kentavious Caldwell-Pope missed his new team’s first two games this season due to a suspension for a DUI case in Michigan.

But that was not all. Caldwell-Pope’s came with probation, and to get out of it early the Lakers’ forward has to go through an intensive rehab program — one that does not allow him to leave California with the team for 25 days. He did not play against the Cavaliers and that is just the first of multiple games he will miss, a story broken by Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.

Caldwell-Pope was originally cited for operating a vehicle while intoxicated but pleaded guilty in May to the lesser charge of allowing someone to operate his vehicle while under the influence, which carried a 12-month probation.

On Thursday, Caldwell-Pope had to return to California to begin an intensive program over the next 25 days that will result in some travel restrictions and could cause him to miss additional games but will end his probation early.

The Lakers are in a home heavy part of their schedule, and by my calculations KCP would only miss one or two games (for sure against Houston Dec. 20, then maybe against Golden State Dec. 22, but that is in California). The Lakers next road game after that is Dec. 31 in Houston again.

Caldwell-Pope signed a one-year, $18 million deal with the Lakers last offseason, and he has gone on to become one of the few reliable three-point shooters on the team, hitting 36.1 percent from beyond the arc, taking 6.1 shots from there a game. He’s been solid on defense and a player the Lakers’ need, although his overall efficiency is closer to average.

If the Lakers are successful with their big game hunting during free agency next summer, Caldwell-Pope will not return to the team. In a tight free agent market, he may once again not see offers near what he sees himself worth next summer. That said, his play in Los Angeles has been good. And now he will not have this legal issue hanging over his head during free agency.

LeBron James is good with televising All-Star team selections

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From the moment the NBA announced changes to the All-Star Game team selection format for this season, most NBA fans — as well as most media members I know — have wanted a live team selection show.

As a reminder, this year (as in past years) fans will vote for their favorite All-Stars, and those votes will be combined with media and player votes to name the five starters from each conference. Then the coaches will vote to select the teams.

What’s different is the top vote-getters from each conference — let’s be honest, it will be LeBron James in the East and Stephen Curry or Kevin Durant in the West — will be named captains and they will then pick their teams from the pool of other selected players. No East vs. West. If LeBron gets to choose first and he picks James Harden, then Harden is on that team. Curry can go second and select Giannis Antetokounmpo or whoever he wants from the starters pool, then the captains move into the reserves pool. Old-school playground style team picking.

Who wouldn’t tune it to watch that selection show?

The NBA officially has not decided yet if the selection process will be broadcast, but it probably won’t be. The reason is some player is not going to like being picked last (or next to last) and his agent will like it less. It gets political (would Curry have to choose Durant or Draymond Green first to keep his teammates happy?).

LeBron basically said Saturday why not televise it? From Nick Friedell of ESPN, when LeBron was asked if it would bother him to go against teammates in the All-Star Game:

“I hope not,” James said after Saturday’s shootaround. “We’re all grown men. It doesn’t stop their paycheck from coming. It won’t stop you from playing time once the season starts.”

And is he good with the pick order being made public or done live.

“It doesn’t matter to me,” James said. “It doesn’t matter. At the end of the day, if I’m rewarded to be a part of the All-Star Game again, that’s cool for me. It doesn’t matter. All that other stuff is extracurricular.”

That’s the right attitude, and whoever got picked last would say that publicly. But privately… who knows? Depends on the guy.

That selection show would be must-watch television. The NBA needs to broadcast this. But it won’t. Politics will win out.