Inside how the Deron Williams trade went down

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The Deron Williams trade was as out of the blue as an NBA trade can be.

Nobody saw it coming — not even Williams. But a great bit of reporting by Brian T. Smith of the Salt Lake Tribune pulls back the curtain a little on the normally very secret Jazz organization.

The story explains how the trade went down. How the Jazz felt like they were going to lose Williams. How the moves by LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony had the Jazz even more concerned. How Williams himself was frustrated because he didn’t think the Jazz would pull off the big trade to bring in enough talent for him to win.

How the Jazz did have the guts to make a superstar move, but it was to send Williams out. Go read the entire story. Here are just a few highlights.

(Williams’) increasingly bitter tone and obvious frustration had not gone unnoticed by Jazz management. (Former coach Jerry) Sloan, general manager Kevin O’Connor and anyone within the organization with basketball sense easily recognized Williams’ undeniable Olympic talent. But he still had 1½ years left on his contract and his power was growing; former small-market stars such as LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony had put their old teams through the fire; and the idea that Williams — who turned down a maximum contract with Utah in 2008 and could opt of his deal after the 2011-12 season — would choose loyalty over pride, money and power had gone from a possibility to nearly nonexistent.

“He never said what [Phoenix’s] Steve Nash said,” O’Connor said. “He never said, ‘Hey, I signed a contract, I really like it here. I want to finish it out. I’m committed to staying in Utah. Let’s get some players.’ It was always, ‘I’ll wait and see….’ ”

The Jazz had spent the weeks leading up to Anthony’s trade gauging Williams’ market value — a process that started after teams began dialing Utah’s number when news of Williams’ seasonlong clashes with Sloan went public, as opponents tried to sweep in and steal the disgruntled guard.

Once Anthony was finally moved, the Jazz cashed in. Utah spent the night leading up to Williams’ trade contemplating the decision, weighing whether a team that started the season 27-13 was for real, or really just one that would face another disappointing first-round playoff exit. But once the Jazz realized what was on the table — a future-laden deal that contained as little risk as possible, and one that would immediately send Williams and his mounting problems packing —Utah did not hesitate.

Moreover, by intentionally keeping the trade as quiet as possible, the Jazz negated any leverage Williams still held. By not allowing him to first go public and back the organization into a corner if he disapproved of the move, Utah was able to completely elude the 24-7 Internet rumor mill and discreetly pull off the most shocking trade of the season.

Sprained ankle has LeBron James questionable for opener vs. Celtics

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INDEPENDENCE, Ohio (AP) — LeBron James‘ playing status for Tuesday’s season opener against Boston remains unclear.

James has been slowed by a sprained left ankle for more than two weeks and it’s still not known whether he’ll be on the floor when the Cavaliers take on the Celtics and Kyrie Irving, who asked to be traded by Cleveland this summer.

Following Monday’s practice, Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said “I really don’t know” when asked if James will play.

James took part in some post-practice shooting drills with teammates. He did not speak with the media as the Cavaliers prepared for their opener, a rematch of last year’s Eastern Conference finals.

James has never missed an opener in his NBA career, and teammate J.R. Smith doesn’t expect him to miss this one.

“Oh, he’s going to go,” Smith said. “He’s going to go, trust me that. I don’t care what he’s got to do, he’s going to play.”

 

Report: Richard Jefferson signing with Nuggets

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Update: The Nuggets will waive Jameer Nelson, according to Wojnarowski:

It looks like Denver will ride with the younger Jamal Murray and Emmanuel Mudiay at point guard — a risky proposition. Nelson stabilized the position in the event Murray or Mudiay weren’t ready for bigger roles. The Nuggets aren’t hedging their bets now, which puts plenty of pressure on Murray and Mudiay.

Murray should be fine eventually. Mudiay’s promise is far less certain. But this is a team trying to reach the playoffs now, and it might have to ride out growing pains from its point guards without Nelson as a safety net.

 

Richard Jefferson became a late entrant into free agency when the Cavaliers traded him and the Hawks waived him.

But the forward is landing on his feet.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Jefferson could help the Nuggets, who look primed to end a four-season playoff drought. They were set to squeeze backup small-forward minutes behind Wilson Chandler out of the undersized Will Barton and oversized Juan Hernangomez. Jefferson is far more comfortable at the position.

He’s 37 and doesn’t offer long-term upside, but he’s a savvy defender and still pretty athletic. He picks his spots well enough offensively to help on that end, too.

But Denver also has a deep roster that already had 15 players on standard contracts. There’s not an obvious cut to make room for Jefferson, though the Nuggets clearly have something planned.

Sixers to keep Joel Embiid’s minutes in teens to start season, he’s not happy

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Joel Embiid wants to get on the court, he wants to unleash himself on the NBA this season. After three seasons of being bottled up — even in the 31 games he has played there was a minutes restriction — Embiid wants to impose his will on the league.

He’s going to have to do that in less than 20 minutes a night, at least to start the season.

Sixers coach Brett Brown says to start the season there will be a tight minutes limit on Embiid, who averaged less than 15 minutes in two preseason games after finally being cleared to play. Embiid does not like that. Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia has the quotes.

“I don’t really know if there’s a solid number,” Brett Brown said Monday after practice. “I can tell if you were to choose a number, it’s somewhere in the teens.”

“I didn’t know about that, but that’s very disappointing,” Embiid said Monday of the minutes restriction. “I feel great and hopefully that changes based on today’s practice and tomorrow’s practice.”

The Sixers being cautious with Embiid is about as surprising as the last Transformers movie sucking.

That said, if any particular game is close going into the fourth quarter don’t be shocked if Embiid breaks his minutes limit — this is a team that wants to start winning, and that means keeping their best players on the court longer. If Saturday night against the Raptors Brett Brown thinks giving Embiid 22-23 minutes helps get them the win, he will. The goal will be to get him up to the high 20s by the end of the season.

The real test for these Sixers will not be how the offense fairs with Embiid sitting — they have guys that can create and knock down shots if needed, such as Ben Simmons or J.J. Redick – instead it’s how well they can defend with him resting.

Report: Spurs signing LaMarcus Aldridge to two-year, $50 million contract extension

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From troubled to extended, LaMarcus Aldridge‘s Spurs tenure has changed directions in a hurry.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

Piecing this together, Aldridge is exercising a $22,347,015 player option for 2018-19. That means his extension is worth $50 million over two years will carry him through age 35. All in all, Aldridge is now under contract for four more seasons.

Aldridge is a borderline All-Star, and he raises San Antonio’s floor. His back-to-the-bask mid-range games remains reliable, and he’s a willing defender. Him signing this deal should end pining for greener pastures, but it certainly won’t force him into diligent acceptance of his role forever. Players can become discontent whenever they please.

This extension significantly limits the Spurs flexibility the next two summers and maybe even in 2020, depending on Aldridge’s guarantee in the second year of his extension. They seem fine with that, perhaps believing they already have enough to topple the Warriors if Kawhi Leonard is healthy.

With Aldridge, Pau Gasol and Patty Mills all under contract for the few years around Leonard, San Antonio should remain stably good. But will these deals for aging veterans limit the Spurs’ ceiling? That’s the risk for an organization that has built its identity on championships and already has a young, in-his-prime superstar who has proven capable of being the best player on a title team.