Author: Dan Feldman

Vlade Divac, Vivek Ranadive

Vlade Divac: Kings on same page after players-coaches meeting

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DeMarcus Cousins said the Kings were facing issues serious enough to call a players-only meeting. George Karl’s job security came into question.

It appeared to be a pivotal moment for 1-7 Sacramento.

All better now?

That’s the vibe if you listen to veteran leader Caron Butler and general manager Vlade Divac.

Sean Cunningham of ABC10 Sacramento:

Jason Jones of The Sacramento Bee:

The proof of a breakthrough will be in the pudding. Butler and Divac are much more adept at presenting a positive spin than Cousins and Karl. Though Divac gained credibility by admitting in July the Cousins-Karl relationship was strained, it’ll take more than a couple interviews to become convinced this is a harmonious team.

Sacramento has talent and a good Xs-and-Os coach. With better communication from both sides, this team should win more. If that happens, it will make it easier for everyone to remain on the same page.

But if the Kings lose – and they’re not good enough to assume winning will just come – they’ll be more likely to fracture.

It’s a snowball effect either way.

At least today appeared to be a step in the positive direction. Involving the coaches in the meeting was a wise move. A players-only meeting would’ve made it too likely for the players unite against Karl.

Of course, owner Vivek Ranadivé looms over everything. At the snap of his finger, the Kings could return to chaos.

But it seems his employees have avoided their own combustion – at least for a day.

NBA reviewing Jeff Teague for ‘punching’ Nemanja Bjelica

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Jeff Teague‘s hand contacted Nemanja Bjelica‘s face last night. What would you call that?

According the Last Two Minute Report of last night’s Hawks-Timberwolves game: “Punching.”

Per the NBA officiating review:

Teague (ATL) makes contact with Bjelica (MIN) after the rebound. The contact is being reviewed by Basketball Operations.

If the league already called it punching, it’s probably only a matter of time until Teague gets suspended and/or fined.

Report: Heat trying to flip Beno Udrih, Jarnell Stokes before completing trade

Beno Udrih

The Heat reportedly agreed to trade Mario Chalmers and James Ennis to the Grizzlies for Beno Udrih, Jarnell Stokes and a second-round pick.

Why isn’t the deal done?

Marc Stein of ESPN:

The key question: Will the Heat still complete the trade if they can’t find a third team? A lot of trade ideas fall apart once you realize one team doesn’t want the players slated its way. If one team doesn’t want them, why would another team?

But I think this deal would happen without a third team, both because of how it was reported and how much it favors the Heat. If they’re going to flip Udrih and/or Stokes, it’d just be easier to do it simultaneously.

Udrih is a decent backup point guard, and a few teams could use one. Stokes has potential as a rebounder and interior scorer. But Miami is probably ready to make Tyler Johnson the full-time backup point guard, and Stokes probably wouldn’t crack the rotation. Above the luxury-tax line and subject to the harsh repeater rate, the Heat might rather dump those two than pay the high cost of keeping them.

If that doesn’t happen now, expect the Miami-Memphis trade to still go through – though that’s not a certainly – and Udrih and Stokes to be available for minimal return.

Dwyane Wade: ‘Kobe Bryant is the greatest player of our era’

Los Angeles Lakers v Miami Heat

Dwyane Wade has always been very complimentary of Kobe Bryant, but with the Heat and Lakers meeting tonight, Wade kicked it up a notch.

Wade, via Michael Wallace of ESPN:

“I do feel — and I’ve said this before the last couple of years with LeBron [James], when he became the best player in our game — that Kobe Bryant is the greatest player of our era,” Wade said. “The Kobe Bryants aren’t around no more. There are good young players, but there will never be another Kobe. So every opportunity you get to [face him], you want to seize that moment.”

Maybe Shaquille O’Neal is too old for the era, but I’d rank him ahead of Kobe on an all-time list. Shaq was more dominant at his peak than Kobe and the best player on the three Lakers title teams they shared, though Kobe has the longevity edge.

Maybe LeBron James is too young for the era, but I’d rank him ahead of Kobe on an all-time list. If Kobe is still ahead, it’s only a matter of time until the younger LeBron passes him. (It’s also difficult to exclude LeBron, because Wade said “our era,” and he was drafted the same year as LeBron.)

But Tim Duncan definitely shares the era with Kobe, and the Spurs star has had a better career than Kobe. Kevin Garnett, also clearly of the same era, is right in the mix with Kobe.

Kobe has had a great career. Being the second- or even fifth-best player of an era is a huge accomplishment.

We don’t need to overinflate his credentials just because he’s nearing retirement.

GM says Nets could trade their way into 2016 playoffs, but don’t want to

Billy King

Making the playoffs in the Eastern Conference isn’t that difficult.

Proof: The Nets did it last season.

The Nets – 0-7 and looking the part – have been far worse this season. But, on the bright side, they project to have major cap space next summer.

Or they could make the playoffs this season. If they wanted.

At least so says Brooklyn general manager Billy King.

King, via Tim Bontemps of the New York Post:

“We can trade now and eat all that space up, get to 30-something wins and make the playoffs in the eighth spot,” King said at the team’s New Jersey practice facility Monday afternoon. “[But] then, where’s the future now? So it’s about adding the right pieces and being patient.

“We didn’t get here overnight, and we are not going to get out of it overnight. That’s reality. There is not something where it’s, ‘OK, this is the magic wand and we are going to do this and it’s going to change overnight. We knew that going in, we knew that when we made those decisions and it didn’t work, and so now we’ve got to gradually, systematically dig yourself out of it.”

Trade what?

The Nets are over the cap, so they couldn’t simply absorb players on long-term contracts. They could theoretically deal Joe Johnson and his massive expiring contract for a better player on a less-favorable long-term deal, but there are several problems with that idea:

1. Johnson is already one of the Nets’ better players. Whom are they going to upgrade to?

2. Expiring contracts don’t have the value they once did. The Collective Bargaining Agreement demands shorter contracts, leaving fewer players on albatross long-term deals. Plus, nearly every team projects to have major cap space next season anyway, so the impetus to trade for additional space is reduced.

3. Which quality players could Brooklyn add? As noted by the No. 2, expiring contracts are less valuable. There isn’t much immediate help available for just an expiring deal.

At least the Nets can finally trade future first-round picks. In fact, they could deal their 2020 and 2022 first-rounders. Heck, they could even offer a swap in 2019 and 2021. That package of picks could probably command players who’d lead the Nets into the next postseason, even with an 0-7 start weighing them down.

But that’s a much higher price than 2016 cap space – a line Brooklyn shouldn’t, and seemingly won’t, cross.

The idea of exchanging 2016 cap space for the playoffs this season? That seems farfetched for the Nets, even if they think it’s an exchange they have the power to make.

Brooklyn fans ought to feel lucky King isn’t pursuing it.