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.

James Harden helped recruit Lou Williams to Houston

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The Lakers had been shopping Lou Williams around in the run-up to the trade deadline, the only question was would they get a first-round pick for him. Rumors around the league say that Houston had offered them one weeks before, it was on the table, but the Jim Buss/Mitch Kupchak front office held their cards close and hoped a better deal would come through.

While all that was going on James Harden decided to ease the process and did a little recruiting calling up Williams, the sixth-man guard told Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports.

“When James called, he asked me if I was interested in playing with them,” Williams told The Vertical. “I told him that I loved the Lakers, but James and them have a group that fit my personality, fit how I play. He said he was going to make it happen.”

Williams then laughed, sitting on the edge of a visiting court following a recent practice. “I’ve heard that before, so I didn’t really put stock into it,” Williams told The Vertical. “I guess James did put the word in, and the team made it happen.”

We all know what happened, Jeanie Buss removed her brother and Kupchak a few days before the trade deadline, Magic Johnston stepped in, called around, and quickly pulled the trigger on a trade that sent Williams to Houston (the Lakers also got Corey Brewer). Williams has averaged 14.5 points per game and had some strong performances with the Rockets, although he’s still finding his groove with the team on the court. Still, he’s been an upgrade for the Rockets’ bench.

Harden knew he would be, so he did his part to make sure it happened.

Take a look back at just how great Shaq was with the Lakers (VIDEO)

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Shaquille O’Neal was as dominant a force as the NBA has ever seen.

His peak years came with the Lakers, when paired with Kobe Bryant one the court — and Phil Jackson manipulating both of them — they won three titles (and arguably would have had more if they stayed together). Those Lakers teams were one of the NBA’s great teams.

Friday night, the Lakers unveil Shaq’s statue at Staples Center. Take a look back at some of Shaq’s Lakers highlights.

 

Warriors’ Matt Barnes on facing Kings: ‘I’m trying to kill ’em’

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The Kings were very good to Matt Barnes.

They signed him to a two-year contract worth more than $12.5 million when it seemed he wouldn’t come close to that on the market. Then they waived him, allowing him to receive all his salary and escape basketball hell for the Warriors, who make him much happier.

Yet, he’s going into tonight’s Golden State-Sacramento game with an edge.

Connor Letourneau of the San Francisco Chronicle (hat tip: CSN Bay Area):

Matt Barnes holding a grudge? Why, I never.

Surging Heat have playoffs in sight after dreadful start

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MIAMI (AP) — They have won 24 times in their last 31 games. They put together the NBA’s longest winning streak this season, a 13-game run that was beyond surprising. They are on the cusp of doing something never accomplished in NBA history.

This Miami Heat comeback tale has been an epic one.

And now comes the toughest part – finishing the job.

None of the other 125 teams in NBA history who started 11-30 or worse made the NBA playoffs. The Heat, with 10 games left on their regular-season schedule, are in position to change that. They held the second-worst record in the league in mid-January, are tied with San Antonio for the best record since, and hold a one-game lead over Chicago and Detroit for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot entering Friday’s games.

“These guys want this so bad,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra – a reluctant coach of the year candidate who cringes when players lobby on his behalf – said Thursday after a loss to the Toronto Raptors. “They want this opportunity to be in the playoffs. We’ve fought, scratched, done everything we possibly can to put ourselves into a position to fight for it.”

More fighting and scratching awaits.

Of Miami’s final 10 games, a stretch that starts Sunday in Boston, eight are against teams still battling for either a playoff spot or playoff positioning. The only two exceptions are a home-and-home next week with New York, which earlier this season was seven games ahead of the Heat in the standings and now are eight games behind Miami (35-37).

“We’ve dug ourselves out of a deep ditch,” Heat center and NBA rebounding leader Hassan Whiteside said.

True, but they’re not on firm playoff footing yet.

Under normal circumstances, Whiteside almost certainly would not have played Thursday. He needed 13 stitches to repair a cut in his right (shooting) hand on Tuesday, and a similar injury two years ago left him sidelined for three games.

Not only did he start Thursday, he led the Heat with 16 points and 14 rebounds. Afterward, he had icepacks strapped to both of his knees, covered his right hand in a clear plastic bag so the stitches wouldn’t get wet in the shower, and had his newly sprained left ankle wrapped.

“He’s a tough dude,” Heat point guard Goran Dragic said.

He hasn’t been the only one.

Factoring in that Chris Bosh‘s on-court tenure with the Heat was declared over when he failed a physical in September, Miami has had at least two players unavailable to play in every game this season because of health reasons. Since Jan. 1, it’s been at least three every game – and often more.

A huge blow came last week when shooting guard Dion Waiters sprained his left ankle. He’s at three missed games and counting, and the Heat offense has struggled since.

“This is that time of the year,” Spoelstra said. “Everybody is feeling it, so this is the mental toughness we have to get to.”

The Heat have no practice Friday, though most players will be in the training room for treatments. Practice resumes Saturday, preceding the flight to Boston. And then Sunday, the 10-game sprint to the finish begins.

“I want our guys to enjoy this,” Spoelstra said. “I don’t feel that we’re putting any undue pressure, but everybody will feel like when they lose that the world is collapsing. This playoff race is still going on. And I think we need a day to get away from it, to decompress and to get back to work on Saturday.”