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.
NEW ORLEANS (AP) Marc Gasol scored a career-high 38 points and grabbed 13 rebounds, and the Memphis Grizzlies beat the New Orleans Pelicans 113-104 on Tuesday night.
New Orleans lost despite the return of starting guard Tyreke Evans and top reserve Norris Cole. Evans was the Pelicans’ best offensive player with 20 points and 10 assists, but that wasn’t enough to overcome a Memphis squad that scored 52 points in the paint and missed only one of 26 free throws.
Anthony Davis had 17 points, 14 rebounds and career high-tying nine blocked shots for the Pelicans. But he struggled with his shooting, going 4 of 15 from the field and 8 of 13 on free throws.
Mario Chalmers and Mike Conley each scored 11 for Memphis, which outshot New Orleans 47.8 percent (43 of 90) to 43.2 percent (35 of 81). The Grizzlies trailed most of the first half and did not lead by more than six until the fourth quarter, when they were the more composed team.
Energized initially by the return of two key players, the Pelicans led by as many as 14 on Cole’s 3 to start the second. Memphis then began to chip away, hitting 14 of its first 18 shots in the quarter. The Grizzlies needed about 7 minutes to completely erase their deficit, taking a 54-53 lead on Vince Carter‘s tip-in.
After shooting 70 percent (14 of 20) in the first, the Pelicans went 8 of 22 in the second period.
Meanwhile, the Grizzlies’ lead grew to 60-55 on Gasol’s 16-foot fadeaway, giving him 22 points in the half. New Orleans then surged back into the lead with an 8-0 run that included Anderson’s dunk and 3-pointer, and the Pelicans led 65-64 at halftime.
Grizzlies: Memphis outrebounded New Orleans 49-37. … Gasol also reached a career high for free throws made, and his rebound total was a season high. … Memphis won for only the third time this season (against seven losses) when Jeff Green scores fewer than 10 points. He had just six.
Pelicans: Coach Alvin Gentry started Alexis Ajinca at center over regular starter Omer Asik. Gentry said he wanted to see how spacing on the offensive end might change with Ajinca, who has better shooting range than Asik. But Ajinca got in early foul trouble and played fewer than 13 minutes.
Grizzlies: Host San Antonio on Thursday night.
Pelicans: At Houston on Wednesday night.
Last month, LaMarcus Aldridge returned to Portland for the first time as a member of the Spurs, and the reception was decidedly mixed. That wasn’t the case on Tuesday night, when the Mavericks made their first trip to the Moda Center since Wesley Matthews signed a four-year, $70 million deal in Dallas in July. Matthews was beloved in Portland, and there’s a chance he and Aldridge would both still in town if Matthews hadn’t torn his Achilles in March, effectively ending their chances of contending.
PHILADELPHIA (AP) Kobe Bryant won over the fans – he just couldn’t beat the previously winless Philadelphia 76ers.
With the spotlight on Bryant during the final game of his career in his hometown, the Sixers stole the show and defeated the Los Angeles Lakers 103-91 on Tuesday night for their first victory of the season.
The Sixers had lost their first 18 games, and 28 overall dating to last season – the longest losing streak in the history of major professional sports in the United States. But they remained tied for the worst start in NBA history with the 2009-10 New Jersey Nets, who also opened 0-18.
It was the first win for the Sixers since March 25 at Denver.
Hours earlier, Bryant felt the love in Philadelphia as soon as he entered the arena.
He took selfies with fans who might never see him play again, and his presence injected a playoff atmosphere into a city that has lost much of its interest in NBA basketball.
With a packed crowd standing and roaring in appreciation, Bryant was introduced to an ovation worthy of a hometown hero, not the “Hometown Zero” he was once labeled in Philadelphia’s tabloids.
Bryant, who will end his 20-year career this season, opened the first leg of his farewell tour in his hometown and was feted with the kind of reverence and gratitude normally reserved for a Sixers great.
He buried a step-back 3-pointer off the opening tip.
He hit another 3 on the next possession.
Bryant made it 3 for 3 and had the Philly crowd chanting “M-V-P!” as he turned back the clock to his championship form. He scored 20 points on 7-of-26 shooting and made four 3s.
By the fourth quarter, the Philly fans had turned their attention toward the home team, chanting “Beat LA!” when beleaguered rookie Jahlil Okafor made a layup for a 94-80 lead.
Okafor, the No. 3 overall pick out of Duke, has been attached to a string of off-court incidents that included reckless driving and a fight in Boston. He has apologized for his recent decisions. Sixers coach Brett Brown said Okafor will likely soon be accompanied by team security on public outings.
Bryant said he would simply tell the 19-year-old rookie to stay focused on basketball.
The Sixers stayed focused and finally finished the job after taking an 80-75 lead into the fourth.
The 76ers had led after three quarters three other times this season: Nov. 21 at Miami (led 74-67, lost 96-91), Nov. 25 at Boston (led 62-57, lost 84-80) and Nov. 29 at Memphis (led 67-64, lost 92-84), according to STATS.
The win belonged to Philadelphia. The night belonged to Bryant.
His homecoming game came with a rare emotional tug for the player fans loved to boo through the years. He waved to the crowd and bowed his head in appreciation as a “Kobe! Kobe! Kobe!’ chant filled Wells Fargo Center during pregame introductions.
He was greeted at midcourt by his Lower Merion high school coach Gregg Downer and 76ers great Julius Erving. Bryant hugged both in front of a crowd filled with purple-and-gold No. 24 jerseys.
He smiled after every shot and bantered with fans, some who made “Thank you, Kobe” signs.
In a reference to the sorry state of the entire Philly sports scene, one fan held a sign that read, “Why Can’t Chip Kelly Retire Instead.”
Bryant even smirked in the third when a brief scuffle broke out among Lakers center Roy Hibbert, who appeared to push a referee, and Philadelphia’s Isaiah Canaan and JaKarr Sampson. All three were hit with technical fouls.
Bryant thumped his chest, waved to the fans, blew a kiss and was serenaded with “Kobe!” chants as he walked off Philadelphia’s court for the final time.
Lakers: Los Angeles is 2-15 and has the worst record in the Western Conference. … The Lakers opened an eight-game road trip.
Sixers: Moses Malone, the late 76ers star selected one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players, was honored at halftime. Malone, who died in September at 60, was the NBA Finals MVP in 1983 when he led the Sixers to the title. His No. 2 was on the back of Philadelphia’s warmup jerseys with “Chairman of the Boards” on the front. The Sixers will retire his number next season. … F Nerlens Noel returned to the lineup after a two-game absence with sore knees. He scored 14 points.
Lakers: At the Washington Wizards on Wednesday night.
Sixers: At the New York Knicks on Wednesday night.