Author: Rob Mahoney


Damion James diagnosed with Grade 1 concussion, will miss two games

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It’s a good thing that the NBA appeares to be taking concussions very seriously, because head trauma has become a prevalent theme in recent weeks. The latest victim: New Jersey Nets rookie Damion James, who suffered a serious, Grade 1 concussion that will keep him sidelined for a few games. From Conor Orr of the Star-Ledger:

During today’s shootaround, Avery Johnson offered a little insight into the concussion suffered by Damion James. Unlike the one Anthony Morrow suffered Friday — which was only a mild concussion that had no lingering symptoms — James’ concussion sustained Saturday is far more serious.

“He still has headaches, he still has a concussion,” Johnson said. “It’s not concussion-like symptoms, he has a Grade 1 concussion.”

As has been made abundantly clear through a number of related NBA injuries and the innumerable concussions suffered in the NFL, this is nothing to mess around with. The Nets are wisely approaching James’ concussion with the appropriate gravity, but even more important than this specific instance is the acknowledgment that there could be some negative systemic factors at work. Good on the league for addressing an issue that’s sadly common.

Mark Cuban has an eye on Ricky Rubio

Spain v USA

Ricky Rubio’s NBA relevance has gone from YouTube sensation to fanboy whimsy to actual draft pick to mythical figure, all with only one real constant: for all of the hype and criticism alike, Rubio has yet to play a single NBA game. It’s incredibly unclear when that might change, and if Rubio’s situation wasn’t tenuous enough on its own, a potential lockout definitely adds another variable to the mix. We could still be years away from Rubio’s NBA debut — if he decides to play in the States at all — and whether he’ll start his American career with the Timberwolves or some other team is a mystery.

That said, there’s at least one prominent owner with an eye on Rubio. Mark Cuban frequently describes his managerial style as “opportunistic,” and should Minnesota decide to trade either a signed Rubio or merely his rights, it sounds like you can count Cuban among the interested parties. From Jeff Caplan of ESPN Dallas:

“We’re very high on him,” Cuban said told the [St. Paul Pioneer Press.] “If they want to give him up, we’re very interested. We would do that in a heartbeat.”

The Mavs are going to need a starting point in two seasons. Jason Kidd’s contract expires after the 2011-12 season (assuming there is a season). Beaubois has been tapped the point guard of the future, but there’s plenty of uncertainty if he the lightning-quick slasher will ever be able to assume that mantle. Dallas was interested at the trade deadline of re-acquiring Devin Harris with designs of flipping him at some point for Deron Williams, but the New Jersey Nets took care of that. The Wolves want Rubio to play for them, but if not…

“I don’t think if he came in [to the NBA] now he would dominate the league or anything like that,” Cuban said. “But, I think he would have a big impact here.”

As Caplan notes in his post, there’s no tampering here. Although the Timberwolves own Rubio’s draft rights, he’s not actually a member of the team and thus fair game for discussion among NBA parties.

There’s no use going deep into the idea of Rubio as a potential Maverick, but he and Beaubois could form a pretty interesting backcourt pairing. If Dallas can’t reload on the fly with an established commodity following Dirk Nowitzki’s inevitable decline, Cuban will blow the core up and start from scratch. Rubio and Beaubois would be a solid foundation — or at least a nice pair of assets — to begin a rebuild.

Tyson Chandler tweaks ankle against Sixers, out two games

Dallas Mavericks v Miami Heat
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UPDATED: March 2, 2:11 pm: The good news is that X-rays on Chandler’s ankle were negative. But the bad news is he will be out at least two more games, according to the Dallas Morning News. Those games are against the Pacers and the surging Grizzlies. That Grizzlies game starts a four-games-in-five-nights stretch for Dallas, so it is possible Chandler will be rested more.

March 1, 8:31 pm: Scary moment for the Mavs on Tuesday night: during the second quarter of their game against the Philadelphia 76ers, center Tyson Chandler landed awkwardly on his right ankle and looked to be in a considerable amount of pain. Chandler attempted to stand up on his own, but eventually returned to the floor as he waited to be examined by the Mavs’ training staff.

However, Chandler’s injury wasn’t deemed to be too serious. According to Earl K. Sneed of, Chandler was diagnosed with an ankle sprain, and though he won’t return to the game tonight, it’s unlikely that he’ll miss considerable time. Dallas doesn’t play again until Friday, which should give Chandler plenty of time to rest his ankle. That said, all of this is based only on the training staff’s initial determination of Chandler’s injury, and his status could change with more time for assessment.

For now, the Mavs can breathe a sigh of relief. Although Dallas is deeper in the middle than most (having Brendan Haywood and Ian Mahinmi available on the bench is a significantly better center outlook than most teams can claim), Chandler is the unquestioned leader of the Mavs’ eighth-ranked defense. Haywood is a very solid defender in his own right, but he isn’t as athletic as Chandler, and not as capable of challenging ball-handlers on the pick-and-roll and recovering in time to defend the paint. Chandler is one of those uncanny defenders who can seem to be everywhere at once, and his ability to defend the interior compares with that of Dwight Howard and Kevin Garnett. Chandler can’t claim a defensive impact quite as profound as those two, but his impact on Dallas’ defense is similar.

The Mavs are among the best teams in the West, but a hard fall for Chandler (or Dirk Nowitzki) is all it would take for Dallas’ season to come crashing down. Injuries to other players would derail the Mavericks’ contending hopes, but Chandler’s play this season has made him an irreplaceable element. Dallas could try to make do with Haywood and Mahinmi, but neither can do what Chandler does for the team’s defense, just as no other player could do what Nowitzki does for the offense.

Charlotte sends Gerald Wallace to Portland for picks, savings

Orlando Magic v Charlotte Bobcats, Game 3

Gerald Wallace for Joel Przybilla, Dante Cunningham, Sean Marks, and two future first round picks. If we reduce the trade between the Charlotte Bobcats and Portland Trailblazers to that simple form, both teams did well for themselves. The playoff team acquired a talented piece to complement their already existing core, and the rebuilding club cleared cap space, saved money, and acquired draft picks. Yet if we bring that fuzzy mess into focus, questions of short and long-term strategy seem to loom over any fulfillment of those teams’ general, immediate goals.

Portland needs to restructure their team around LaMarcus Aldridge, and acquiring Wallace isn’t too bad of a start. He’s an incredibly versatile defender who should give the Blazers a lot of lineup flexibility. However, for Portland to field their most effective lineups — say, Andre Miller, Wesley Matthews, Nicolas Batum, Wallace, and Aldridge, for example — they necessarily have to play Wallace at a position he’s averse to playing and put Aldridge in a full-time position battling against opposing centers. Such a lineup decision isn’t inherently bad, but it does introduce quite a few questions. The biggest may be what exactly becomes of Marcus Camby upon his return; the positional fluidity of Wallace, Batum, and Aldridge creates a ton of interesting possibilities, but Camby has historically made such a profound defensive impact with the Blazers that it would be difficult to deny him major minutes.

However, assuming that Wallace introduces any kind of minute/positional crunch could be wishful thinking. Wallace’s production has declined rather sharply this season, primarily because of his complacency within Charlotte’s offense. His field goal percentage had fallen to the lowest of his Bobcats career (.433), in part because Wallace is taking (and missing) more jumpers than ever before, and getting to the rim less and less. This season’s Wallace has not been an accurate representation of his Bobcats career; he’s capable of more, but whether he’s willing to provide that dynamic slashing for the Blazers has yet to be determined. In principle, Wallace could be an interesting piece for Portland. But if we take him at face value based on his performance this season, it would be a stretch to see him as anything more than a good defensive addition and boost to the Blazers’ wing depth. Even then, losing Cunningham, Przybilla, and Marks obliterates Portland’s rotation of bigs, and puts Camby and Aldridge on an island.

There’s no reason for Portland not to make this trade, but for the moment it relies on the Blazers playing a lot of small-ball and Wallace reversing course mid-season. It’s palatable as an idea, but could be very different when we see the product on the court.

Charlotte received two “future” first round picks as the meat of their return, with Joel Przybilla, Dante Cunningham, and Sean Marks included as trimmings. Przybilla embodies the savings ($21 million over the next two seasons, compared to the Bobcats’ total had they retained Wallace) the Bobcats always crave, and cutting that kind of salary (combined with possibly moving another player or two in the off-season) puts Charlotte in a more flexible position moving forward. That said, a true rebuild doesn’t begin for the Bobcats until Boris Diaw and Stephen Jackson are off the roster.

The timing (and possible protectino) of the two first round picks acquired also greatly affects the outcome of this deal for the Bobcats. Michael Jordan’s club is in need of serious prospects; Tyrus Thomas, D.J. Augustin, and Gerald Henderson are decent pieces, but purely complementary ones. There is no Bobcats core, and teams in such a position should be in constant pursuit of finding even a single piece to begin building around. If it seems like the Bobcats are rudderless, it’s because they are.

The fact that the picks acquired are described as “future” first rounders is slightly troubling, if only because Charlotte could sure use some help this summer. Whether picks or prospects, the Bobcats need some kind of infusion of talent, and this deal may not even begin to pay off for Charlotte (in terms of actual players) for a few seasons. Savings and cap clearing are great, but the end goal is always to make the team better. The Bobcats set themselves up to maybe start improving down the road, but the actual rebuilding process won’t begin immediately.

Cavaliers’ move for the future could easily backfire

Portland Trail Blazers v Los Angeles Clippers

The Cleveland Cavaliers will have another lottery pick with which to establish a young core for the future, but they had better hope that in their trade deadline deal — which netted the Clippers’ Baron Davis and the aforementioned pick for Mo Williams — the only price they pay is measured in salary committed and cap damage. There’s a fundamental danger in trading appraised assets for mere opportunities (draft picks), and though the draft may be the best way for Cleveland to execute a proper rebuild, the decision to acquire Davis in order to add another reasonably high pick in this summer’s draft could end up doing the Cavaliers franchise considerable damage.

The Cavs’ decision to take on considerable salary — which will only clog up their cap space for the next three seasons, eventual buyout or no — in their current state is questionable enough, but the decision to take on the considerable salary of Baron Davis is another issue entirely. Kurt already touched on some of the pitfalls; Davis is largely unmotivated, insists on launching shots he has no business taking, and sees active defense as a mere suggestion. The on-court damage Davis could (and likely will) do to his team is considerable.

That starts with Ramon Sessions, who has undoubtedly been the brightest spot for Cleveland this season. If there’s any piece to build around on the Cavs’ roster it’s Sessions; J.J. Hickson is still far too inconsistent and is lacking as a shot creator and as a defender, and the rest of the pieces in Cleveland are either aging, injured, or underdeveloped. Sessions was all this team had, and now he likely won’t even start for the team that should be his. Acquiring Davis doesn’t necessarily spell the end of Sessions as a Cav, but it certainly makes the idea of a long-term marriage between player and team a bit more tenuous.

But it gets worse. Davis is the kind of player who — due to his personality and contract size — can immobilize a franchise. The combined $28.7 million Davis is owed over the next two seasons is fairly crippling, and while the exchange of massive contracts this season has proven that no player is untradeable, moving such players often requires paying a price of a different kind. When things inevitably get sour with Davis, the Cavs will do their best to find a taker for him, but that task will only get more and more difficult as contracts like Davis’ become increasingly anachronistic. A new collective bargaining agreement is expected to completely do away with deals of that size, and while that doesn’t necessarily make the prospect of moving Davis down the line an impossibility, it makes the proposition much more difficult.

Williams’ deal was much more movable than Davis’ is and will be, and that fact creates a set of problems separate from the impact of the differences in their salary. This is as good as Davis’ value gets. If he’s moved sometime in the next year, the Cavs will likely have to offer incentive to the team that takes him, just as the Clippers did here.

Cleveland cashed in on Williams’ value, and what they received is a chance to draft a player they like and the right to pay Davis exorbitant sums of money for the next three seasons. They gave away an asset for an opportunity in a game that’s stacked against them (stars can certainly come out of the mid-lottery, but it’s not the most likely outcome), and to have an extra pick in what many are calling a particularly weak draft class. That puts a tremendous amount of pressure on Chris Grant to produce with his pair of lottery picks this summer. Only positive ends can justify these means, and anything less would not only mark this trade as a failure, but also make Davis’ price tag even more painful.