LeBron James, Greg Monroe, Josh Smith

Report: Greg Monroe wants Josh Smith traded


Greg Monroe, Josh Smith and Andre Drummond spent last season getting in each other’s way.

Drummond is the Pistons’ franchise player, so he’s not going anywhere. If the problem will truly solve itself, something must be addressed between Smith and Monroe.

Monroe, a restricted free agent, is trying to make a power player assuring that happens.

Zach Lowe of Grantland:

multiple sources say Monroe’s camp has made it known Monroe will sign the one-year qualifying offer if Smith remains on the roster. Monroe’s camp denies that, and that kind of empty threat is not atypical from top restricted free agents. It’s really their only form of leverage.

You might have seen the same thing from Kyrie Irving. Was he really unhappy in Cleveland, or was he just feigning displeasure to convince the Cavs to offer him $23 million more than any team could – maybe $41 million more if he’s voted a starter to the 2015 All-Star Game –  a year earlier than they had to?

Irving’s only leverage was convincing the Cavaliers they needed to keep him happy.

Monroe has even less leverage than that, though.

His qualifying offer is $5,479,934. Would he turn down a max contract to take that, just due to Smith?

Stan Van Gundy surely knows the problems Smith brings. The Pistons’ new president/coach has already indicated Monroe, Smith and Drummond can’t  share the court and has talked Smith trade with the Kings.

But dumping Smith, who’s owed $40.5 million over the next three years, is easier said than done. Monroe applying pressure to the Pistons doesn’t make it any easier – or harder. It’s already difficult enough.

This actually might bode well for the Pistons, who have about $7 million left in cap room after signing Jodie Meeks. (I’m assuming Cartier Martin is on an minimum contract and would sign after the cap space is used.)

Monroe’s cap hold of $10,216,135 is less than his projected max starting salary of $14,756,881. As soon as Monroe signs, with the Pistons or an offer sheet elsewhere, his 2014-15 salary replaces his cap hold on Detroit’s books. If that’s a max contract, the Pistons immediately lose $4,540,745 of cap space.

So, if Monroe holds out – no rush to sign the qualifying offer – that gives the Pistons more time to use their cap space first. If Monroe’s demands get Smith traded, that would likely be even better for Detroit.

But in the unlikely event Monroe signs the qualifying offer, which would give him a no-trade clause and make him an unrestricted free agent next summer, this could all backfire in a big way for the Pistons.

I don’t think it would come to that, but Monroe wants Van Gundy to know the option is on the table.

Breaking news: Leandro Barbosa dunked

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The Warriors became the first team in NBA history to start 16-0.

In the process of getting that record-breaking win over the Lakers, something nearly as historic happened.

Leandro Barbosa dunked.

The 32-year-old Golden State guard last jammed in January 2011.

For a little more perspective, look how Barbosa handled a breakaway layup earlier in the fourth quarter:

You think that man can still slam?

Yes. Yes, he can.

Magic benching Victor Oladipo, starting Channing Frye

Stephen Curry, Victor Oladipo, Channing Frye
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Elfrid Payton, Victor Oladipo, Evan Fournier, Tobias Harris and Nikola Vucevic have started eight of the Magic’s 14 games, including the last three.

But after Orlando dropped two straight, Scott Skiles hinted at lineup changes.

The Magic coach will deliver against the Knicks tonight, swapping Channing Frye for Oladipo.

Skiles, via Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel:

“It’s nothing punitive,” Skiles said after the Magic’s shootaround.

“It’s just we feel like we’ve got to try to find a little bit better balance. I’d like Victor to have some more opportunities like he’s had a little bit in the past where he can be on top of the floor and attack and get a little bit more vertical and not only get to the rim but just be a little bit more on the attack but not necessarily start the game that way.”

Here are the offensive/defensive/net ratings for the

  • Former starting lineup: 94.7/111.2/-16.5
  • New starting lineup: 117.2/90.3/+26.8

The new unit has played just 33 minutes in two games, so major sample-size caveats apply. But I like idea of seeing more of what has worked.

I suspect Skiles also wants to keep his players from becoming content. At 6-8 and coming off three straight seasons outside the playoffs, they should have no reason to feel satisfied, but the hard-driving Skiles will be proactive.

If Oladipo – whose defense Skiles values – can get sent to the bench, anyone can.

At some point, the Magic must determine whether Oladipo and Payton – both below-average 3-point shooters – can share a backcourt. But it’s also worth knowing whether Oladipo can excel as a super sub leading bench players.

This switch might help the Magic win now, but at worse, it’ll give them more information for evaluating their young roster. Seems smart all around.

Dwight Howard says he’s cleared to play back-to-backs

Dwight Howard
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The 5-9 Houston Rockets need some wins.

The Houston Rockets have a back-to-back coming up, Sunday against the Knicks then Monday against the Pistons (both on the road). Two teams with quality big men.

Combine those things and you end up with Dwight Howard being re-evaluated by team doctors and getting the training wheels taken off, via Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle.

This, plus a mini training camp the past few days, is part of new coach J.B. Bickerstaff’s effort to turn Houston’s season around.

Houston’s defense is 1.9 points per 100 possessions better this season when Howard is on the court and the Rockets are stronger on the glass. The problem is the offense is 7.8 points per 100 worse with Howard on the court. How much of that can be changed with some roster tweaks — like limiting the time James Harden and Ty Lawson share the court — and how much is due to Howard demanding touches and not doing enough with them we will find out quickly.

Byron Scott doesn’t see reason D’Angelo Russell should play more in fourth


The Lakers’ clear top priority for this season should be simple: develop their young stars.

Julius Randle is a beast with the ball in his hands, but a one-handed beast who needs to work on his right hand. D'Angelo Russell has shown flashes but is trying to adapt to the speed and style of the NBA game. Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance Jr. can be pieces on a good team, eventually. The Lakers need to build that foundation.

Which is why coach Byron Scott sitting Russell in the fourth quarter of games, even blowouts, is perplexing. As were his responses when asked about it after the Lakers’ lastest blowout loss, Tuesday night to the Golden state Warriors. So Scott, is there value in playing Russell in blowouts to get him more time on the court? Mark Medina of the LA Daily News had the answer.

“Nah. There’s really no reason to. At that particular time we’re down 30 [points],” Scott said. “I wanted to get Ryan [Kelly] some time and Marcelo [Huertas] as well and some other guys that haven’t played a lot.”

That would be 32-year-old Marcelo Huertas, who played the fourth quarter Tuesday while Russell sat.

This is not Gregg Popovich resting his stars to keep them fresh for the playoffs here. We are talking about a 19-year-old rookie point guard whose game is based on court vision, anticipation, and angles, a guy who has to learn how to apply those in a league where everybody is long and fast. He needs time on the court to adapt. Is he going to make mistakes? Yes. A lot of them. That’s what rookies do. If you coach them up, they learn from those mistakes and make fewer each time out. It’s a sometimes painful process, but it’s how rookies learn.

Except in Byron Scott’s world where they get benched. Because that will teach them. Meanwhile Kobe can do whatever he wants, because he was once great and that gives him carte blanche.