When Orlando traded Dwight Howard to the Lakers last summer, the team did so with a long-term vision of entering a full-fledged rebuild in mind.
Made simpler, it meant that unless something truly incredible came across the desk of Magic GM Rob Hennigan, that it was fairly likely that the $17.8 million traded player exception the team received in the deal for Howard would go unused.
The problem with the Magic doing anything meaningful with the TPE is Orlando is still on the hook for the final $22.346 million year of Gilbert Arena’s contract, a contract that was waived using the amnesty provision in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. It removed that figure from the Magic’s salary cap, but still remains a bill the Magic have to pay.
The Magic also cut Quentin Richardson last year ($2.808 million this year) and Al Harrington this summer ($3.574 million this year and $3.804 million next year), leaving the Magic with more than $28.72 million payable to players no longer on the roster in addition to the $52.122 million owed to guys that will play this year.
Using the $17.816 million TPE would have only added to those numbers and there simply wasn’t anything worth doing that could justify spending more than the already committed $80.84 million.
Essentially, there are too many dollars already being paid to guys who aren’t playing in order for the team to take on any more salary to pay guys who will.
The only way to justify adding to the already astronomical payroll figure would be by adding a top-five NBA player to the roster. Since that level of talent is rarely available (and it wasn’t this past offseason, unless you count Howard), it’s no surprise that the Magic sat tight, content to rebuild through the draft at the team’s own pace.
Report: Derrick Rose away from Cavaliers, evaluating his future in basketball
Rose has been out with what seemed like a relative minor, for him at least, ankle injury. The 29-year-old could stick in the league for a while thanks to his reputation and ability to attack the rim to create shots for himself. But the guard is a shell of peak form after years of more serious injuries. This isn’t the career anyone expected for him when he was named the youngest MVP ever in 2011.
The Suns made Mike James – a 27-year-old rookie on a two-way contract – their starting point guard.
Though he eventually ceded the role to Tyler Ulis, James – the only player on a two-way contract to start an NBA game – is still a rotation regular. He’s an aggressive defender and possesses plenty of offensive moves.
The problem: Unless demoted to Phoenix’s minor-league affiliate before then, he’ll max out the 45 allowable NBA days for a two-way player Dec. 6.
We’d still like to get him on the 15-man roster and we’re looking at different ways to do that.
The Suns can unilaterally convert James’ two-contract into a standard one-year minimum deal. Both sides could also negotiate a longer contract.
The bigger issue is clearing a roster spot.
Phoenix has the maximum 15 players with standard contracts with no obvious cuts. Derrick Jones Jr. doesn’t play much, but the 20-year-old’s athleticism creates intriguing upside. Second-rounder Davon Reed is hurt, though teams rarely cut bait so quickly.
The Celtics established themselves as one of the NBA’s elite teams, a contender for the Eastern Conference title, during their 16-game win streak.
However, that hot streak to start the season will matter as much as Thanksgiving leftovers in the back of the refrigerator in April by the time the playoffs roll around. This is a team that still has work to do.
“There’s still a lot to accomplish going forward,” Irving said. “It was a nice streak. But it was time to come to an end.”
This team still needs to get better and more consistent. The Celtics had to come from behind in the fourth quarter in eight of the 16 wins, and while the team defense was impressive the offense still can be hit and miss. Al Horford and Kyrie Irving play well off each other, but this is still the 20th ranked offense in the NBA. They are taking more long midrange jumpers than most coaches want, but the bigger challenge is they have not been finishing around the basket.
Titles are not won in November. Irving gets that. Jayson Tatum will hit the rookie wall at some point (they all do) and he needs to prove he can break through. Al Horford is playing maybe the best ball of his career and needs to keep it up. The Celtics need to keep their defensive focus (the fundamentals are there to have a top five defense). I could go on but you get the point, and so does Irving — there is a lot of work for this team to do.
Boston is off to a fantastic start, but it’s just that.