Rockets general manager Daryl Morey has his hands full.
I don’t want to pile on, but he might have one more responsibility that previously seemed completed: Trading Omer Asik.
Houston reportedly agreed before the draft to trade Asik to the Pelicans for a future first-round pick. The deal was slated to become official after the July moratorium, which ended last night.
At the time the trade was agreed upon, it wasn’t exactly clear how New Orleans would clear the cap space to absorb Asik, who has a cap number of $8,374,646. It seemed simple enough, though.
The Pelicans could waive the unguaranteed contracts of Melvin Ely and Luke Babbitt, use the stretch provision on Austin Rivers
Maybe New Orleans didn’t want to dump Rivers, Ajinca and Withey for no return. But the Pelicans could, theoretically, at least assure Houston they’d take such measures if no trades emerged.
Now, that set of transactions leaves New Orleans $102,228 shy of having enough room for the trade.
Unless they stretch one of their top-five players – Anthony Davis, Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans, Eric Gordon and Ryan Anderson – the Pelicans can’t unilaterally create enough cap space to trade a first-round pick for Asik.
Safe to say, they’re not stretching those valuable players. That means a New Orleans player must get added to the Houston trade or dealt elsewhere.
Trading one of the big five could clear room, but again, I can’t see the Pelicans going that route unless they had something lined up independent of the Asik trade.
Much more likely: New Orleans trades Ajinca or Rivers. Dumping either would clear enough room to add Asik.
Ajinca, due $981,084 next season, is a decent backup center. He averaged 5.9 points on 54.6 percent shooting and 4.9 rebounds in 17.0 minutes per game for the Pelicans last season.
Rivers has struggled to shoot efficiently in the NBA, but he was the No. 10 overall pick just two seasons ago. His 2014-15 salary is $2,439,840, and he has a $3,110,796 2015-16 team option that must be decided by Oct. 31.
These players are movable. It’s even possible New Orleans already has contingencies in place to complete the Asik trade.
But the NBA didn’t release the actual salary cap until yesterday, and the league’s estimates tend to be conservative. This is the rare official NBA cap estimate that overestimated reality. I’m not totally convinced the Pelicans and Rockets were ready for it.
At this point, dealing Ajinca or Rivers might be somewhat cumbersome. If teams know why New Orleans must shed salary – or even if they don’t – they might demand a second-round pick to take on Ajinca or Rivers. So many teams are trying to maximize cap space, even these small guaranteed salaries could get in the way.
Trading a first-rounder for Asik was already costly. If New Orleans must add another pick to dump Ajinca or Rivers, the value of the deal drops for the Pelicans.
A simple answer would be dealing Ajinca or Rivers to Houston as part of the Asik trade. But the Rockets are already likely asking Bosh to sacrifice salary. Adding another guaranteed salary would certainly reduce the effectiveness of trading Asik to trim salary, even if just a small amount.
When the margin for error is so slim, it’s easy to look back at previous moves and wonder what could have been.
Why did the Pelicans keep Withey past July 5? That triggered a $100,000 guarantee, and though that amount alone doesn’t alter the feasibility of the Asik trade, it’s a hindrance.
Why did New Orleans give Ajinca, who hadn’t played in the NBA in two years, a guaranteed two-season contract when signing him in December? If that second year were unguaranteed, a reasonable stipulation for a player of Ajinca’s caliber, this problem would have been avoided.
The Pelicans can’t undo these previous decisions, and they’ll have to deal with the fallout. But their problem is now Morey’s problem.
On the clock with Parsons, Morey must address this if he hasn’t already.
The Pelicans also face a time crunch to address this. Barring a much bigger move, they can’t feasibly trade for Asik after using the mid-level exception. That means free agents are picking other destinations as New Orleans handles this issue.
I still expect Asik will be traded to the Pelicans (though I wouldn’t be shocked if the deal falls apart). It will just be a little more complicated now.
However, I’m not sure those complications will be sorted out before Parsons’ deadline or before New Orleans’ top MLE target signs elsewhere.
Entering the season, Dwane Casey’s seat was a little warm. He was not hired by the GM now in charge, and last season the Raptors had taken a step back, especially defensively.
After Toronto just ended the greatest season in franchise history — 56 wins and a trip to the Eastern Conference Finals — Casey’s job is safe. In fact, the Raptors want to make sure he sticks around a while longer, reports Marc Stein at ESPN.
The Raptors and coach Dwane Casey are expected to soon begin talks on a contract extension, league sources said Friday night after Toronto’s season ended with a 113-87 loss to the Cavaliers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference finals.
Casey has one season left on his current contract at the Raptors’ option for $4 million next season.
Both sides want to get a deal done, which usually means things happen quickly.
This is a smart move by the Raptors, clearly Casey connects with this team and knows how to get the most out of them, and he adapted well in the playoffs looking for rosters and lineups that worked. He’s the right coach for this team.
This is a sad and stunning development.
Dejean-Jones was just 23.
“It is with deep sadness that the Pelicans Organization acknowledges the sudden passing of Bryce Dejean-Jones,” the Pelicans’ organization said in a statement. “We are devastated at the loss of this young man’s life who had such a promising future ahead of him. Our thoughts and prayers are with Bryce’s family during this difficult time.”
The coroner’s office would not give a cause of death, but Shams Charania of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports had the tragic detail.
The account of him being shot has been confirmed by multiple sources, including the Dallas Police Department, which released an incident report to the Dallas Morning News. Here is that report:
“On May 28, 2016, at approximately 3:20 a.m., Dallas officers responded to the 2500 block of Bennett Avenue regarding a shooting. Upon arrival officers found one individual had been shot. The resident of the apartment reported that an individual had kicked open the front door and entered his apartment. The resident, who was asleep in the bedroom, heard the individual enter and retrieved a handgun. He stated he called out to the individual, but was not answered. As the individual kicked the bedroom door, the resident fired his gun. The individual left the apartment and collapsed in the breezeway. The individual was transported to a local hospital where he died from his injuries. This offense is documented on case number 127685-2016 and Dallas Police Homicide is conducting an investigation.”
As someone who spent years as a crime and police reporter, let’s just say come at these initial police reports of incidents — and what people tell the police — with a critical eye.
Understandably, players who knew Dejean-Jones are greiving.
Dejean-Jones was undrafted out of Iowa State, he was picked up on a 10-day contract by New Orleans this season, but the rash of injuries the Pelicans suffered pushed him into a starting role for 11 games. He averaged 5.6 points, 3.4 rebounds, and 1.1 assists per game, and to his credit did shoot 37.5 percent from three. On Feb. 19 he took a hard fall and fractured his wrist, which eventually required surgery and ended his season. He was a guy known for attitude problems at the start of his college career at USC the UNLV, but had seemed to mature and his game had as well. He looked like someone who could stick as a reserve guard in the NBA.
Our thoughts go out to his family and friends.
It speaks to an incredible level of talent — talent that was honed in countless hours in the gym.
It speaks to an amazing durability.
It speaks to leadership.
LeBron James has a long resume of accomplishments — two titles, four MVPs, and he hasn’t missed an All-Star Game or an All-NBA team for a decade — but he reached one of his more impressive milestones in leading the Cavaliers past the Raptors to the NBA Finals on Friday night.
LeBron has reached six straight NBA Finals.
He’s the first player to do so in 50 years.
The last guys to do this were Bill Russell, Tom Heinsohn, K.C. Jones, Bob Cousy and other members of the 1950s-60s Celtics dynasty. Nobody since has done it — not Magic, Bird, Jordan, Wilt or the rest.
Yes, it helps cement LeBron’s legacy as one of the all-time greats, but more than that it’s something we need to step back and appreciate. These were all LeBron-led teams — he has been the leader on and off the court, setting the tone. That requires incredible talent and skill on the court, plus knowing how to make those guys better not just drag them along on your coat tails. It also takes incredible physical durability. It’s an amazing accomplishment.
“There’s only one LeBron James,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said after his team was eliminated by James and company. “He makes a difference on whatever team he plays on.”
I can feel the typing in the comment section already: “But he’s 2-4 in the Finals, Jordan was 6-0” or “But he’s done it in a weak East” or “He keeps just jumping teams to where he has the most help.” It’s all just sad. Because LeBron James is the first NBA superstar of the social media age he faces a volume of criticism that past stars did not. It’s not that LeBron hasn’t brought some criticism on himself, but there is a need to tear him down that the mythologized Jordan never dealt with. We savored Jordan at the time; LeBron has never gotten that. Jordan took 13 NBA teams to the playoffs, six made the Finals; LeBron has taken 11 and seven are in the Finals. The thing is, it’s difficult to compare across eras in the NBA:
All of this is not to say LeBron’s record is better than Jordan’s, you and your buddies can debate that while sitting on bar stools until last call, but LeBron has been on an epic run through the peak of his career the likes we haven’t seen in a long time. If you’re a fan of the game, you should appreciate that, not try to tear it down (as if Jordan’s legacy somehow needs protecting).
What LeBron has done is a stunning accomplishment. If you’re in the same sentence with the legendary Russell Celtics teams, you’re doing something right.
For the Thunder, it is a chance for validation and an opportunity to get the ring Kevin Durant (and Russell Westbrook, and the rest of them) crave. For the Warriors, it is their biggest test of the last two seasons. Game 6 is Saturday night in Oklahoma City, here are four things to watch.
1) Dion Waiters and Andre Roberson need to play better for the Thunder. After a couple of series where Waiters suddenly has been reborn as a quality NBA player who is the third playmaker the Thunder need, and after Andre Roberson dropped a career playoff high of 17 points the game before, both were MIA in Game 5. Roberson was 2-of-5 shooting and had as many points as fouls (six). Waiters didn’t hit a shot all night. This was tied to the Thunder returning to the bad habits of too much Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant taking on the world and OKC not enough ball movement in the halfcourt. The Scott Brooks Thunder of the past few seasons showed up in Game 5, if the Thunder fall back to those bad habits again, they will lose again.
I expect the Thunder to treat this like their Game 7 and play much better. They will have a real sense of urgency; their defense will again be energized. The question becomes can the Warriors match it?
2) Can Andrew Bogut keep the Thunder from scoring in the paint? In Game 5, the Thunder were 8-of-18 shooting in the restricted area, and 7-of-19 in the rest of the paint. That’s not going to get it done. A lot of that was the impact Bogut had in the paint — plus he got help, the Warriors switched pick-and-rolls more, they packed the paint more and took away driving lanes. It all worked, in part because Bogut and Draymond Green played with much better energy than in previous games. Steve Kerr said he didn’t play Bogut as many minutes in the first four games due to foul trouble, he has to trust the veteran to play through fouls in this game. The Warriors have simply been better with him on the court this series and they need close to 30 minutes from him this game.
Tied to Bogut’s play…
3) Golden State defense needs to show up on the road. As noted above, the Warriors went back to a more traditional defense in Game 5 — they started guarding Roberson (rather than having a big “guard” and ignore him to protect the paint), they switched, they stayed home in the paint, and they just trusted each other and played their system better. It was a marked improvement. However, they did it at home — now they need to do it on the road, where Green, in particular, has been more prone to mistakes and frustration.
One key here worth emphasizing is the Warriors got back to switching most pick-and-rolls — that’s what they did all season, that’s part of why the “death lineup” is so successful defensively, yet in this series they increasingly went away from it (in part because of how they guarded Roberson). Switching is part of who the Warriors are, and while it will create some mismatches teams don’t want to stray too far from their core identity.
4) Stephen Curry needs to be MVP level Curry. Draymond Green needs to be his All-NBA self. I’m not saying the same thing about Durant and Westbrook because I have no doubt they will show up with urgency in their games Saturday night. However, Curry and Draymond have been shadows of themselves in the two previous games in Oklahoma City, and if that happens again only one team is flying back to the Bay Area postgame.
Curry finished his drives a little better in Game 5, and at moments he blew by bigs switched onto him off of picks, something we have seen far less of this series than during the season. Green played well defensively in Game 5, he hit the boards hard, but he made some head-scratching offensive decisions. If the Warriors are going to force a Game 7, those two guys have to be elite in this game. The Warriors best players must lead. It’s that simple.