Weekend Observations: 25 notes about the trade deadline

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We’re thee days past the trade deadline. Some players have already landed and played a game with their new teams, some haven’t even arrived in their new destinations (does Hasheem Thabeet really have that busy of a calendar?). But we’re starting to recover from the shock of a still-nuts-if-quieter-than-last-year deadline that saw two coaches let go the same week so many players switched laundry.

With that in mind, here are 25 things that came to mind from the decisions made in the past week.

1. So many “nothing to lose deals.” Sam Young to Philly, Leandro Barbosa to Indiana, and in part, Ramon Sessions to L.A..

2. The Cavs’ move of Ramon Sessions in terms of how you view it essentially comes down to whether you believe that the market for Sessions was good enough to get better or not. It’s easy to say that Chris Grant got poor return on what is considered a starter-quality point guard as a reserve (a position of leverage), but the point guard market was simply pretty weak at the deadline. Raymond Felton was a player mentioned repeatedly and that’s only because Portland would have sold off children to get rid of him.

3. What sold me on the trade for Cleveland was the pick swap in 2013. Should the Lakers continue to regress given that they have yet to make a significant move and both Kobe Bryant and Pau Gasol will be a year older, there’s a good chance that the Cavs could see their second draft pick in 2013 move up from 28-30 all the way to somewhere between 18 and 20. A ten-spot bump can be the difference between a training camp flameout and a quality rotation player.

4. I do hate them taking on the extra money from Luke Walton’s extra year. It doesn’t hurt because of their cap situation, I just hate the idea of a team that isn’t primed to contend with dead money.

5. What exactly did George Karl do to God? He seems like a good man, a good father, has tried to live his life well and coach his players responsibly. Why has God responded by giving him Carmelo Anthony, J.R. Smith and JaVale McGee inside of two years?

6. John Wall had to have been skipping when he found out he was getting Nene. “A real live NBA player!”

7. Flip Saunders is somewhere going “Now you get veterans. I get it.”

8. Nick Young’s not a bad pick-up for the Clippers, he just doesn’t solve any of the significant issues they have in front of them. The bleeding won’t stop because of Nick Young.

9. The Warriors were always going to make a move like they did in the Monta Ellis trade. They’ve been in pursuit of a defensive change to their culture for a year now. That’s why Mark Jackson was brought in. New ownership doesn’t want the fun and gun identity the Warriors have had. It’s going to take time and several moves to get a new mindset installed but adding Bogut, however healthy he is, is a good start.

10. For the Bucks, one thing that you have to hope Scott Skiles will do is post Monta Ellis. He’s a surprisingly killer post player and with the offensive putback bigs the Bucks have, a forced miss could be okay if they crash effectively.

11. There’s been a lot of hand-wringing over Ellis playing next to Brandon Jennings. But considering there rampant talks of moving Jennings, it doesn’t seem like the Bucks are sold on him long-term. The real challenge is Skiles getting Ellis to commit defensively.

12. The Lakers have never been big on sentimentality. So moving Derek Fisher shouldn’t stand as a monster shock for them. Ownership has long put the emphasis on the greatness of the team and its legacy rather than any individual player.

13. In unrelated news, Kobe Bryant is making $30 million in two years when the new CBA’s most punitive tax measures kick in and the team still hasn’t used its amnesty clause.

14. Mitch Kupchak was criticized for not amnestying Luke Walton and for the Jason Kapono contract. Then he managed to move both players and a pick they inevitably will not need for a significant upgrade. It’s like teams just line up to take the Lakers’ roster flotsam and jetsam.

15. Jordan Hill’s a better pick-up than considered, also. He’s not going to dominate at any time on the floor, but he’s a quality rebounder with some athleticism, the area they were really missing the most.

16. This is the team that has made D.J. MBenga and Josh Powell look capable, after all.

17. How did the Blazers not move Raymond Felton or Jamal Crawford? How do you have the two most unhappiest, most disruptive, arguably best value trade assets and not move either one? Or are those things related? Taking dirt-for-dollars on Felton likely would have been the best move for both sides.

18. But getting the Nets’ pick was genius. They sent them a player which can only help to make them slightly better but not significantly better, meaning they have a great chance at even the 4th pick, especially if one team leaps them in the lottery. That could work out disastrously for the Nets, who need to tank, violently.

19. New Jersey: “Well, we didn’t get Dwight yet, which means that our massive gamble of our long-term future failed and we’re facing losing Deron Williams after giving up all that for him in the trade to get him. I know! Let’s double down, mortgage more of our future, and do it for a player who if he opts in, costs us cap space and if he doesn’t means we have an even worse team to try and lure Deron back. Great!”

20. Gregg Popovich would have had to think about acquiring Stephen Jackson for about 35 seconds. Jackson doesn’t have to shoot well, doesn’t have to score a lot, just has to defend and wait for open shots. He can’t disrupt the locker room and he won’t fight with Popovich because of the respect he has. It works for both sides.

21. Detroit reportedly tried to move Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva. Should have tried harder. They’re among a handful of teams that should have done a deal at the deadline.

22. There were discussions to move D.J. Augustin to OKC according to a report from Oklahoma TV. That would have been the ultimate Thunder one-up of the Lakers on their grab of Sessions.

23. Richard Jefferson was in uniform and played Saturday night. Same for Barbosa. It doesn’t matter how they played. It’s the matter of professionalism. A lot of other, younger players still haven’t shown up for their teams yet.

24. There was a brief moment in time when the Blazers had on roster Hasheem Thabeet and Greg Oden. Let that sink in.

25. When Dwight Howard say he was just happy that “it’s over,” I wanted to know just what exactly he thought was over. Because in two months when the Magic are eliminated in the second round, the whole thing starts over again. Yay.

Watch LeBron James’ top highlight from each of his postseason appearances (video)

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LeBron James and Tony Parker are the only players to play in the last dozen postseasons.

(If you’re wondering, Manu Ginobili missed the 2009 playoffs due to an ankle injury.)

It’s fair to say LeBron was a bit more spectacular than Parker in that span. As LeBron enters his seventh straight Finals, the NBA released this awesome video showing LeBron’s best playoff highlight from each year:

There’s no entry for this year. Here’s betting it comes against the Warriors in the NBA Finals.

David Stern: We thought we could re-work Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade until Mitch Kupchak ‘panicked’

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NBA commissioner David Stern – acting as New Orleans’ owner representative, he says – infamously vetoed a potential Chris Paul-to-Lakers trade in 2011.

But that didn’t close the possibility of Paul going to the Lakers.

The New Orleans Hornets (now the Pelicans and not be confused with the current Charlotte Hornets), Lakers and Rockets tried to rework the three-team trade that would’ve sent Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to Houston and Lamar Odom, Kevin Martin, Luis Scola, Goran Dragic and a first-round pick to New Orleans. But talks fell apart around the time the Lakers dealt Odom to the Mavericks.

Stern on Nunyo & Company (hat tip: Harrison Feigen of Silver Screen & Roll):

In fact, in the course of the weekend, we thought we could re-do the deal. We really thought that Houston would be ready to part with Kevin Lowry, and we had a trade lined up for Odom that would have gotten us a good first-round draft pick – not we, but my basketball folks. But Mitch Kupchak at the time panicked and moved Odom to Dallas. So the piece wasn’t even there for us to play with at the time. So that was it — just about what was good for the then-New Orleans Hornets.

Remember, Stern – roundly criticized for his handling of this episode* – has blamed the Lakers and Rockets for the lingering perception. This could just be him again trying to shift responsibility.

*Somewhat fairly, somewhat not. Owners veto general manager-approved trades often enough, and Stern was acting as New Orleans’ owner after George Shinn sold the franchise back to the league. But Stern had an agenda as commissioner. He never should have assumed such a large conflict of interest. What he did with the Paul trade was reasonable for an acting owner, but because Stern was also commissioner, it’s fair to question how much New Orleans’ interests and how much the league’s interests factored into the decision-making.

But let’s take Stern at his word – that he and the Hornets thought they could re-do the trade and send Paul to the Lakers. That doesn’t mean they were right. Maybe the Lakers and Rockets (who had Kyle Lowry, not the “Kevin Lowry” Stern named) were never going to part with enough to get Stern’s approval.

And maybe New Orleans didn’t properly convey its interest in still completing a deal. Perhaps, Kupchak acted reasonably by trading Odom to Dallas – for a first-round pick, a deal Mark Cuban would ultimately regret – rather than wait around for the Hornets, who eventually sent Paul to the Clippers.

It’s easy to blame Kupchak, but he might tell a different story.

Isaiah Thomas makes it clear he wants to stay in Boston

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It’s been a long time since there was so much discussion about whether a team needs to trade or just let go of an All-NBA and All-Star player at his peak who is clear and away a fan favorite.

Yet that’s where the Boston Celtics and Isaiah Thomas find themselves. After landing the No. 1 pick in this year’s draft — where they will almost certainly take point guard Markelle Fultz — and with the Celtics looking a full couple steps behind the Cavaliers in the playoffs, the question about whether Thomas is part of the future in Boston has come up. He is a free agent in 2018 and are the Celtics willing to pay the big money it will take to keep him?

Know this, Thomas wants to remain a Celtic and win a Celtic. You can listen to his full comments above, but Gary Washburn of the Boston Globe has the money quote:

Outside of chasing Gordon Hayward, this summer the Celtics are going to focus on getter some frontcourt help, someone to help with rebounding and rim protection. They will look to get better, but Danny Ainge isn’t going to push all his chips into the middle of the table to make a gambit on immediate massive improvement. He will remain patient, building this team so that in three years and five years they will be a force in the East.

And the Thomas discussion likely gets put on hold for a year (unless there is a change of course and contract extension talks come up, but that’s only if Boston misses on Hayward and any other big targets).

Stephen Curry says talk of lack of competitive balance “disrespectful” to Warriors, Cavaliers

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This year’s NBA playoffs have been horribly lopsided and they lacked drama because we all knew where it was headed: Golden State vs. Cleveland. They were so dominant that between them they lost one playoff game so far. This has brought up discussions of competitive balance — we have seen the same Finals three years in a row, and we will almost certainly head into next season expecting a fourth. Then maybe a fifth.

Not surprisingly, Stephen Curry isn’t a fan of the lack of competition argument, saying it disrespects the Warriors and the Cavaliers.

“That almost is kind of disrespectful, because it’s not like it’s easy for us to get here. It wasn’t that at all. Us and Cleveland worked our butts off all year to put ourselves in a position to be playing for a championship. The league is as strong talent-wise across the board as it’s ever been. Every night we get challenged. Obviously, we had that one stat I guess, point differential, all year. We had a pretty solid showing in that respect. But, every night was hard. Every night was challenging. You can’t just sleepwalk through a season and sleep walk through the playoffs and expect to be here. You got to do something. You got to come out every night and prove yourself. Granted, anybody who was betting on who was gonna be in the Finals probably picked those two. It’s easy for them to say that and just wake up in June and see it happen. We had to put that work in all year long to make it happen.”

Curry is right in that nobody should question the work the Warriors and Cavaliers put in to get to this point, and that the other teams did not just roll over for them. Also, both teams did get a little lucky with injuries.

However, that doesn’t change the fact that right now there is a dominant team in each conference, and that sucks the drama out of the postseason. (Maybe a healthy San Antonio team could have pushed the Warriors, we didn’t get to find out.) Golden State has four of the top 15-20 players in the NBA, and that makes them a juggernaut — again, regardless of the work put in. Other teams don’t have much of a chance if the Warriors are healthy and focused, not in a seven game series. The fact that it was flukey circumstances that put a dominant team in each conference — there isn’t another LeBron James returning home, and out West it took a one-time salary cap spike to add Kevin Durant to a 73-win team — doesn’t change the fact this season has felt like a foregone conclusion from the start.

Right now we’ve got what we wanted and expected, the trilogy between the Warriors and Cavaliers. But if we head into next season expecting (and maybe getting) round four of this matchup in the Finals, is that good for the league? Why watch the movie if you know how it ends before it starts?