Portland Trail Blazers v Charlotte Bobcats

Recapping a crazy day in Portland, where the Blazers began to clean house

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This year’s Portland Trail Blazers campaign, to this point, has gone as badly as possible. Just before the NBA’s trade deadline passed at 3 p.m. ET on Thursday, the team began the process of doing something about it.

A flurry of activity went down in Portland today, and much of it set the team up nicely for a complete rebuild beginning with this year’s draft. Here’s a breakdown of the moves that were made.

Gerald Wallace traded to New Jersey

This deal netted the Blazers $10 million off of the salary cap once Mehmet Okur’s deal expires at the end of the season, and a draft pick likely to be in the lottery somewhere, even when you take into account the Nets’ improvement with Wallace aboard. Shawne Williams may or may not still be there next season, but if he is, it’ll only be for that one additional year at around $3 million.

This was strictly a salary cap dump, and an excellent one at that. When you add in the first round draft pick, this might have been Portland’s best move of the day.

Marcus Camby traded to Houston

The Blazers got rid of one of their problem personalities, sending Marcus Camby to the Rockets in exchange for Jonny Flynn, Hasheem Thabeet, and a second round draft pick.

Camby’s contract was expiring at the end of this season anyway, so dealing him for two draft busts whose contracts also expire is a wash. Also, taking back garbage in terms of talent for someone like Camby who can actually play is the true definition of tanking, and with Portland entering rebuilding mode, it makes sense to try to lose as much as possible the rest of the way to secure the highest draft position.

In the past week, Camby was seemingly trying to flagrant-foul his way out of town — first, by trying to start a fight with Kevin Seraphin of the Wizards for no good reason, and then, by attempting to murder Landry Fields of the Knicks on Wednesday, with his team trailing by 30 points at the time. Not exactly a classy way to go out, but Camby has been around a long time, and probably deserved better than to spend the twilight of his career dealing with this disaster.

A fine move from the Blazers’ standpoint to rid themselves of a clearly disgruntled veteran, and an extremely nice addition for the Rockets.

Nate McMillan fired as head coach

We all saw this coming; it was just a matter of “when.”

McMillan lost his team at some point during the course of the season, and it ultimately cost him his job. When you clash with your starting point guard as he did with Raymond Felton, and then lose by 42 points on national television to a team as dysfunctional as the New York Knicks, it’s safe to say the party is over.

McMillan is a good coach and will eventually get another shot. In the meantime, the Blazers gave 34-year-old assistant coach Kaleb Canales the interim head-coaching tag, with his first turn in the big chair coming at an extremely challenging time. Then again, when the preferred course of action is losing the majority of the remaining games on the schedule, he’s got it better than most.

Greg Oden is waived. Finally.

This move should have been made a long time ago, but the volume of players added through today’s trade finally made it a necessity.

It was clear long ago that Oden was never going to live up to the expectations placed on his shoulders when he was selected as the number one overall pick in the 2007 NBA draft; it certainly didn’t help that the number two pick that year was Kevin Durant. But through no fault of his own, Oden suffered multiple injuries that required surgeries which take months, or even years to properly heal from.

Oden did actually play at an above average level at times when healthy, and even showed flashes of being something special. But he was never going to be at Durant’s level, and when the injuries continued to stack up, Portland should have cut ties with him and moved on long before today.

The sum of Portland’s moves earned them an A-grade on our deadline-day report card, and it’s a beginning for a franchise that finds itself in need of starting over. Whether or not the moves they make in hiring a new coach, and using the cap space and draft picks that were acquired today will rate as high, well — that remains to be seen.

Dave Joerger: Kings will play more small ball

Sacramento Kings head coach Dave Joerger talks to reporters during the Kings basketball media day Monday, Sept. 26, 2016, in Sacramento, Calif. Joerger, who was fired by the Memphis Grizzlies at the end of last season, was hired by Kings to replace George Karl, who was fired by the Kings.(AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli)
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Shortly after the Kings chose center Georgios Papagiannis with the No. 13 pick in the draft, DeMarcus Cousins tweeted, “Lord give me the strength.” Sacramento already had an abundance of centers with Cousins, Willie Cauley-Stein and Kosta Koufos. If Cousins wasn’t talking about yoga, Sacramento adding center Skal Labissiere with the No. 28 pick would’ve driven Cousins batty.

At least Kings coach Dave Joerger is accustomed to using two bigs, as he did with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph in Memphis.

Joerger, via Cowbell Kingdom:

I anticipate us playing a lot more small ball this year.

I’m not playing big.

Oh.

This is going to lead to some unhappy campers in Sacramento. It won’t be Cousins (not for getting his role reduced, at least). But this will make it hard for Cauley-Stein and Koufos to get satisfactory playing time. It’ll also make it harder for Papagiannis and Labissiere to get minutes to develop.

Like with most things, winning is the best way to quash griping. The Kings have enough wings – Rudy Gay, Matt Barnes, Arron Afflalo, Omri Casspi, Ben McLemore, Garrett Temple and Malachi Richardson – to theoretically play small effectively. If Joerger goes that route, he better find success with it. Otherwise, he could get plenty of heat – including from general manager Vlade Divac, who spoke incredibly highly of his first-round picks, the players most likely to get squeezed out of a small-ball rotation.

Dwane Casey: Jared Sullinger has Raptors’ starting PF job to lose

BOSTON, MA - NOVEMBER 05: Jared Sullinger #7 of the Boston Celtics drives to the basket against Patrick Patterson #54 of the Toronto Raptors in the first half at TD Garden on November 5, 2014 in Boston, Massachusetts. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
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Last year, Patrick Patterson declared the Raptors’ starting power-forward job his to lose.

Well, he lost it.

Luis Scola started most of the regular season before Toronto tinkered in the playoffs. Patterson claimed the job. Then, the Raptors turned to DeMarre Carroll with Norman Powel in a small-ball lineup. Finally, Toronto reverted back to Scola.

A year later, there’s still no clear, great option at the position. Scola went to the Nets. Patterson returns. Pascal Siakam and Jarrod Uthoff are rookies. First man up: Newly signed Jared Sullinger.

Raptors coach Dwane Casey, via Doug Smith of the Toronto Star:

“I would say Sullinger is the guy now that it would be his to lose, but I reserve the right to change my mind,” Casey said, citing the need to see how that group reacts defensively.

If Sullinger’s bar is defensive, he’ll have a tough time clearing it. He neither protects the rim nor moves well on the perimeter – making him similar to Scola. But Scola got the job last year with similar contributions.

Sullinger rebounds well, and he has some shooting range, though he hasn’t been selective enough with it.

Patterson’s ability to defend the pick-and-roll might make him a better fit next to Jonas Valanciunas, especially if Patterson has confidence in his 3-point shot.

There should be a place for Sullinger in the rotation, but if he’s starting at power forward, that speaks to a lack of quality options.

Report: Cavaliers giving championship rings to 1,000+ workers

CLEVELAND, OH -  JUNE 20: The Cleveland Cavaliers mascot Moon Dog cheers on the fans prior to the arrival of the Cavs players return to Cleveland after wining the NBA Championships on June 20, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images)
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The Cavaliers will reportedly give David Blatt a championship ring, and Anderson Varejao also has one available.

They aren’t the only two unexpected ring recipients.

Joe Vardon of Cleveland.com:

Majority owner Dan Gilbert and his partners decided to present rings to more than 1,000 full and part-time employees throughout the Cavaliers and Quicken Loans Arena organization, employees who’ve been fitted for rings told cleveland.com.

A conservative cost for distributing rings to employees is more than $1 million.

This is very cool by Gilbert. Obviously, lower-level team employees won’t receive the same blinged-out rings the players get. But this is a nice way to reward their hard work.

Not to go all Jerry Krause, but organizations win championships. Some pieces – LeBron James – matter much more than others, but everyone plays a part. Security guards keep players safe, preventing a dreadful incident that could derail a playoff run. Public-relations staffers ease the burden on players. Ushers improve the fan experience, which increases revenue and helps Gilbert afford a massive luxury-tax bill.

It all adds up, as Gilbert clearly recognizes.

Mike D’Antoni: Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony rejected my system, but new (old) approach with James Harden

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 20:  Head coach Mike D'Antoni of the Los Angeles Lakers celebrates with Kkobe Bryant #24 and Pau Gasol #16 after the game against the Brooklyn Nets at Staples Center on November 20, 2012 in Los Angeles, California. The Lakers won 95-90.   NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
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I can’t understate how revolutionary Mike D’Antoni’s offense looked with the Suns. In his first full season, 2004-05, they scored 110.4 points per game – the most anyone had scored in a decade. And it wasn’t even close. Phoenix played fast and scored efficiently.

That offense eventually got D’Antoni jobs in the NBA’s biggest markets and with two of the league’s best scorers, Carmelo Anthony (Knicks) and Kobe Bryant (Lakers).

Ian Thomsen of NBA.com:

But his coaching relationships with Anthony and Kobe Bryant in Los Angeles did not turn out so well. The last two stars essentially rejected his system.

“They did,” acknowledged D’Antoni. “And they were paid 20-something million dollars for it — they were successful. So I don’t blame them. Nothing’s been proven up to that point.”

The Warriors had yet to show that D’Antoni’s offense could thrive in late May and June.

“They’re thinking, like, he’s crazy,” D’Antoni said of Anthony and Bryant. “So I don’t blame them at all. This is a much better situation.”

With the Knicks and Lakers, D’Antoni edged back from his own offensive principles in part because he wasn’t sure, either. He was in a lonely place as the proponent of a style that was rejected by NBA fundamentalists. In New York and L.A., D’Antoni lacked the proof that would be provided years later by the Warriors of Kerr, who when serving as GM of the Suns had himself objected to D’Antoni’s point of view. The inventor didn’t believe fully in his own invention.

“I wasn’t that confident,” D’Antoni insisted. “It was a little bit before analytics. Everybody was telling us that we couldn’t do it, no one was telling us we could. Analytics came in and said, hey, you can do this — this is good, actually. So now you’ve got (GM) Daryl Morey with the Rockets and how they play and different teams trying to do it, and now it’s kind of caught on.

This bucks the narrative that D’Antoni’s offense can’t work with a score-first star. If D’Antoni compromised his scheme for Kobe and Melo, we haven’t yet seen it full bore with a player like that.

We will this season in Houston, where D’Antoni has turned score-first James Harden into the Rockets’ point guard.

As D’Antoni said, it’ll be easier to sell his scheme now that it has been proven to work. But as other teams adopt elements of it, he’ll have less of a strategic advantage.

The best coaches have revolutionary ideas AND get their players to buy into them. D’Antoni’s methods are no longer as cutting-edge, but he’ll have an easier time selling his players. That’s a justifiable knock on D’Antoni’s overall coaching prowess, but he still brings positives.

We’ve seen D’Antoni’s system at full throttle, and we’ve seen him coach generational scorers. To get both simultaneously will be a fun experiment in Houston this year.