Utah’s Deron Williams traded to Nets in surprising deal

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In a move that has flown under the radar like a stealth bomber about to unload its payload on an unsuspecting NBA, the New Jersey Nets have acquired Deron Williams from the Utah Jazz.

This is a deal that would send D-Will — one of the game’s best point guards — to the Nets. Derrick Favors and Devin Harris (who Dallas had been going hard after) plus two first-round picks will go to the Jazz. Parallel to this deal, the Nets will send Troy Murphy to Golden State, and Warriors send Dan Gadzuric to Nets, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo. He reports the deal is done. (Al Iannazzone of the Bergen Record was first with the news.)

Willaims told one Salt Lake based reporter (David Locke)  that he was stunned and did not ask for this, but did not answer questions.

Favors has been pulled out of Nets practice this morning and reportedly was told he was traded, and now multiple sources have confirmed this deal as going down.

It is a brilliant move by the Nets and owner Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov, who stayed in the Carmelo Anthony sweepstakes to drive up the Knicks price then turned around and got the better player in a good deal.

This move gives the Nets the star they craved in a trade that is similar to the one they could not complete for  Anthony with the Nuggets. It also is the Nets and Prokhorov taking one of the rumored targets of the Knicks in the summer of 2012 (although the Knicks have always preferred Chris Paul).

Williams can opt out of his contract at the end of the 2012 season, and you can bet the Nets want to offer him an extension. However, according to the current CBA the Nets would have to wait several months before starting extension talks, to a date after the current CBA expires. That means any extension would have to be under the new rules (and it is possible Williams could still walk). The Nets certainly want Williams to open their new building in Brooklyn in the fall of 2012. Williams also would be the lure to recruit other elite players to the team.

Rumors had swirled around Williams in Utah when Jerry Sloan departed the Jazz recently. It was said that the ongoing fights between Williams and Sloan over control of the offense — Williams wanted to run more, Sloan wanted it more controlled — was causing tension and Sloan decided to walk away rather than continue to fight. Especially since he was going to have to be part of the team convincing Williams to sign an extension in Utah.

Some close to the Jazz said with the perception that he pushed the beloved Sloan out the door, the Jazz could not keep Williams long-term.

For the Jazz, if they thought that Williams would leave as a free agent in 2012, and if they think the lockout could wipe out next season, then this would be their last chance to get anything for him.

The Jazz did well for themselves in this trade — they get last year’s No. 3 pick in Favors (a guy with amazing upside), a former All-Star point guard in Harris, the Nets 2011 first round pick (certain to be lottery) and Golden State’s 2012 pick (the Nets owned that). Don’t be shocked if the Jazz use their Nets pick on Jimmer Fredette, the BYU star. We can debate how he fits in the NBA, but that would give the Jazz a huge star in the state and that would sell tickets.

LeBron James denies that Lakers must repair relationship with him

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Lakers president Magic Johnson reportedly planned to fire coach Luke Walton and wanted to fire general manager Rob Pelinka. Instead, Johnson resigned with a stunning public announcement without first telling owner Jeanie Buss. Pelinka, who has many detractors throughout the league, is now in charge of the front office. The Lakers reportedly offered to keep Walton, but he bolted for the Kings. The Lakers have no coach. They do have a roster LeBron James described as “[fart noise].” Johnson will reportedly help the team recruit free agents.

Nearly one year after signing LeBron James, the Lakers are a mess.

Dave McMenamin of ESPN:

I think it’s very precarious right now. I think the trust that LeBron James has in the Lakers organization has been damaged – maybe irrevocably. I’m not saying it can’t be repaired. But right now, there’s a tough bridge that has fallen that’s going to be need to be put back together. And that’s going to have to be a proving ground for Jeanie Buss, for Rob Pelinka, for Kurt Rambis, for Linda Rambis – whoever else is involved in this process now. And there’s going to be an initial thing proven with whoever is hired as the coach and then this summer.

LeBron, via Instagram:

Even if LeBron has lost confidence in the Lakers, his denial is important. It means he doesn’t want to escalate this issue.

LeBron, for good reason, holds extreme confidence in himself. I’m sure he believes, as long the Lakers have him, they’ll be alright.

But he can’t do everything, and he knows that, too. He often held the Cavaliers’ feet to the fire. He signed a series of short-term contracts, creating the threat of departure. He demanded Dan Gilbert spend more. He, often passive-aggressively, called on executives, coaches and teammates to perform better.

LeBron hasn’t shown that same urgency in Los Angeles, starting with locking in for three years – longer than any contract in his return to Cleveland.

Maybe this is an older and more mature LeBron trying to present steadiness amid chaos.

Or maybe this is yet another sign LeBron went to Los Angeles with priorities other than winning. After all, the Lakers’ shoddy operation won’t prevent him from enjoying his L.A. lifestyle and Hollywood proximity.

Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts makes Russell Westbrook ‘next question’ jokes (video)

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Damian Lillard took a well-deserved victory lap after his buzzer-beating 3-pointer sunk Russell Westbrook – who seemingly took a shot at Lillard last year – and the Thunder.

Trail Blazers coach Terry Stotts had fun at Westbrook’s expense, too.

Westbrook has repeatedly answered questions from Berry Tramel of The Oklahoma with, “Next question.” Though Westbrook shifted to variants of “not sure” after the last couple games of the series, he still didn’t meaningfully answer Tramel’s questions.

Stotts interjected himself into Westbrook’s feud with Tramel before Game 3.

Clay Horning of The Norman Transcript:

Also, when former Sooner standout Terry Stotts, who is head coach of the Trail Blazers, entered the pregame interview room on Friday, the first thing he said was, “Go ahead, I’ll answer your question, Berry.”

Then, Stotts really laid it on thick after Game 5 last night, as shown in the above video. He specifically called on Tramel to ask a question then joked how badly he wanted to answer with “next question.”

Stotts landed on the hot seat after Portland got swept in the first round last year. He kept his job and did a fantastic work with the Trail Blazers this year. It’s great to see him enjoying himself.

I also can’t help but wonder how Westbrook feels about Stotts.

Kyle Lowry’s ring finger “popped out” during Game 5, he will be ready for Game 1 vs. 76ers

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In the second quarter of the Raptors’ close-out win against the Magic, Kyle Lowry injured his finger, apparently dislocating the ring finger on his right hand, his shooting hand.

However, it’s the playoffs, he was back in the game quickly and he will certainly be ready to go Saturday when Toronto begins a second-round showdown against Philadelphia. Kevin Arnovitz of ESPN has the details.

Lowry jammed the finger while deflecting a ball in the second quarter. During the subsequent timeout, the Raptors’ medical staff attended to Lowry’s hand on the bench. He returned to play but went back to the locker room with 2:41 remaining in the first half.

Lowry, who was wearing a splint on the finger during the postgame news conference, started the second half for the Raptors and finished with 14 points, 9 assists and 4 rebounds in 26 minutes.

“It popped out, but it’s fine,” Lowry said. “I popped it back in. Got a couple days to get it back and recover, and hopefully it will be better by Game 1. Well, it will be better by Game 1.”

It needs to be because the Raptors can’t have another 0-of-7 shooting start from him, which is what they got in an ugly Game 1 loss to Orlando. The 76ers are not the Magic, Toronto can’t have another dreadful start in Game 1 and dig themselves a hole at home.

Lowry’s shooting and playmaking will be a big part of that next series.

Grizzlies’ Jaren Jackson Jr. wants to work out with Kevin Garnett this summer

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Last summer, Jaren Jackson Jr. did some workouts with Kevin Garnett before embarking on his rookie campaign. It made sense for a lanky 6’11” rookie who can score in the post or step out and shoot threes to work with Garnett. There’s a similarity to the style of their games.

This summer Jackson wants to go back to that well, he told David Cobb of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

Specifically, Jackson said he wants to improve his “motor” and his ball-handling and his shooting mechanics entering year two.

And he hopes to work on some of those skills with Garnett over the coming months. Jackson and Garnett spent time together last summer and again in February when Garnett visited Memphis to feature Jackson game for his “Area 21” segment on TNT.

The veteran Conley had some ideas for that workout and what Jackson needs to add to his game.

“I think for him, working out of the post, like mid-post, being able to jab and shoot off the glass, basically like Kevin Garnett would do,” Conley said.

Jackson had an impressive rookie season, averaging 13.8 points a game, shooting 35.9 percent from three, playing good rim-protecting defense, and he fit well with veteran point guard Mike Conley (and Marc Gasol, before the Grizzlies traded him). Despite being shut down with a thigh bruise after 58 games, Jackson is almost a lock for All-Rookie First Team.

He showed the potential to be a future All-Star and the cornerstone of the Grizzlies franchise into the future. Most importantly, he seems willing to put in the work to get there.