The Nets had their hearts set on seeing Dwight Howard playing for them — either beginning this season by acquiring him via trade, or starting next year after signing as a free agent. New Jersey was widely reported as the team at the top of Howard’s list of where he wanted to play if he forced his way out of Orlando.
But after changing his mind multiple times throughout the process, Howard has committed to stay in Orlando at the very least through next season — a development which now leaves New Jersey scrambling to add enough talent to its roster to keep Deron Williams happy enough to where he won’t bolt this summer in free agency.
The Nets began that process by trading for Gerald Wallace, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports. New Jersey is sending Mehmet Okur, Shawne Williams, and a 2012 first round draft pick (which is top-three protected) to Portland in return.
This is a pretty good deal for the Blazers, but only in the context of just how far the team has gone off the rails since the season began. Head coach Nate McMillan is likely to be fired at some point, and the team’s locker room has reportedly turned toxic. Going through a full-fledged rebuild and starting from scratch isn’t a great place to be for a franchise that’s had star power in recent years, but hasn’t won a playoff series in more than a decade.
Williams has a player option for next season at just over $3 million, and Okur’s deal of over $10 million expires at the end of the year. The cap space is good, and the Nets — even with the addition of Wallace — still are going to be hard-pressed to make the playoffs, making the draft pick more valuable to the Blazers.
Looking at it from the Nets’ perspective, is Gerald Wallace enough to make Deron Williams think about staying in New Jersey? Doesn’t seem like it, but if nothing else, the franchise is showing him that they’re trying. And if they can pull off another, more-impactful deal or two — either before today’s deadline, or this summer — then they may ultimately be able to convince him to stay.
When Danny Ferry’s racism scandal came to light, Hawks coach Mike Budenholzer publicly supported his general manager. Budenholzer called the “African” remarks about Luol Deng “very much out of character” and said Ferry was trying to learn from his mistakes.
And while Budenholzer might not have done anything privately to contradict his public statements, his tone apparently differed with Ferry and then-owner Bruce Levenson last fall.
Kevin Arnovitz and Brian Windhorst of ESPN:
Budenholzer very much owed his job to Ferry. His former Spurs colleague had pleaded with Levenson that the Gregg Popovich assistant was the man for the position. Yet Budenholzer felt Ferry should resign, lest the Hawks be subsumed in disruption when training camp opened, and he made his wishes known in a heartfelt conversation with Ferry and Levenson at that time.
In some respect, Budenholzer was just doing his job as coaching – trying to maximize his teams chances of on-court success. Ferry didn’t resign. He took a leave of absence that lasted until he agreed to a buyout this summer. That was apparently enough to avoid a paralyzing distraction. The Hawks won 60 games and reached their first conference finals since moving to Atlanta.
Ferry’s departure also significantly benefitted Budenholzer personally. Budenholzer ran the Hawks’ front office during Ferry’s leave, and the new owners have installed him as the teams permanent president.
The only other four active coaches with personnel control experienced much more success before getting the dual president/coach title.
Gregg Popovich coached the Spurs to four championships and 11 playoff berths before they named him president in 2008. Doc Rivers won Coach of the Year with the Magic and then guided the Celtics to a title during his 14 seasons before the Clippers plucked him to run their franchise. Stan Van Gundy steered the Heat and Magic to the playoffs in all seven of his full seasons, including a trip to the 2009 NBA Finals with Orlando, before getting hired by the Pistons. Flip Saunders won more games than every other Timberwolves coach combined, is responsible for every playoff win in franchise history and made four trips to the conference finals (including thrice with the Pistons) over 16 total seasons before Minnesota gave him the huge role.
Budenholzer has been a head coach just two seasons, including a 38-44 debut year. He has done a good job, winning Coach of the Year last season, and he might make a good team president.
But he lacks the track record most coaches need to gain such status. Budenholzer, more than anything, was at the right place at the right time.
The Rockets tried signing Sergio Llull this summer, but he opted for a long-term extension with Real Madrid.
So, they’ll just turn to another player in their large chest of stashed draft picks – Alessandro Gentile.
Marc Stein of ESPN:
Gentile, who was selected No. 53 in the 2014, is a 22-year-old wing for Armani Milano. He’s a good scorer, but he primarily works from mid-range – an area the Rockets eschew. He can get to the rim in Europe, but his subpar athleticism might hinder him in the NBA.
If Gentile comes stateside, he’ll face a steep learning curve. But he’s young enough and talented enough that he could develop into a rotation player.