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.

Kobe Bryant said he traveled by helicopter to spend more time with kids

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Kobe Bryant was such a superstar, his method of transportation to and from practice – helicopter – became a sensation.

Bryant died in a helicopter crash Sunday. In an old interview, he described why he traveled by helicopter.

Kobe Bryant on The Corp:

Traffic started getting really, really bad. Right? And I was sitting in traffic, and I wound up missing a school play, because I was sitting in traffic. And these things just kept mounting. I had to figure out a way where I could still train and focus on the craft, but still not compromise family time. And so that’s when I looked into helicopters and being able to get down and back in 15 minutes. And that’s when it started. So, my routine was always the same. Weights early in the morning, kids to school, fly down, practice like crazy, do my extra work, media, everything I needed to do, fly back, get back in the carpool line, pick the kids up. And my wife was like, “Listen, I can pick them up.” I’m like, “No, no, no. I want to do that.” Because you have road trips and times where you’re not – you don’t see your kids, you know? So, every chance I get to see them and spend time with them, even if it’s 20 minutes in the car, I want that.

The irony and tragedy of Bryant and his daughter dying in a helicopter crash is just gut-wrenching.

Grizzlies call up Josh Jackson from minor league

Josh Jackson
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A few months ago, the Grizzlies thought so little of Josh Jackson, they didn’t even bring him to training camp. He remained on an NBA contract. Memphis gained no roster or salary-cap flexibility. The Grizzlies planned to send him to their minor-league affiliate, but the Hustle hadn’t yet opened their training camp. There was nowhere else for Jackson to be. The Grizzlies just didn’t want him around.

Now, Jackson will get his chance on the parent club.

Grizzlies:

The No. 4 pick in the 2017 NBA draft, Jackson still has a lot to prove with his maturity, professionalism and production.

But this is an opportunity – for Memphis to showcase him before next week’s trade deadline and for Jackson to showcase himself before unrestricted free agency next summer.

Grayson Allen is injured. Jae Crowder is also banged up. Jackson could actually receive playing time.

Kobe Bryant’s death a unique tragedy

Kobe Bryant and Magic Johnson
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Magic Johnson – one of the NBA’s brightest stars – stood behind a podium, smiled and shook the world. Johnson had HIV and was retiring from the Lakers, he announced. Confusion, speculation and, most prominently, grief followed. Everyone thought he’d die. Charles Barkley said, “It’s kind of like somewhat of a death of a brother.” Larry Bird called it “probably the toughest day I’ve had since my father passed away, and I’ve been very depressed and sort of been out of it.” Pat Riley called for a moment of silence before a game.

More than 28 years later, Johnson mourned Kobe Bryant.

Bryant’s death yesterday was the tragedy everyone believed Johnson’s diagnosis to be. Sudden. Crushing. Unbelievable. All the same emotions came pouring out. Except this time there was no mistaking the finality.

Johnson has continued living, thriving, inspiring. He’s a renowned businessman, beloved celebrity and fantastic ambassador for basketball. It’s the type of retirement expected for Bryant, because why wouldn’t it be?

The NBA has grown accustomed to its titans aging gracefully. Unlike baseball, the NBA hasn’t existed long enough for multiple generations of old-timers to pass away. Unlike football, the NBA doesn’t subject its players to such traumatic physical tolls.

Just two MVPs in all of NBA history had died, Wilt Chamberlain (age 63 in 1999) and Moses Malone (age 60 in 2015), and those deaths felt far too soon.

Bryant was only 41.

Just four All-Stars died younger. Don Sunderlage was in a car crash at age 31 in 1961. Maurice Stokes suffered a head injury during a game, became paralyzed then – after teammate Jack Twyman cared for him for 12 years – died at age 36 in 1970. Pete Maravich had a heart issue while playing pickup basketball at age 40 in 1988. Reggie Lewis suffered a heart attack during what should have been the midst of his career at age 27 in 1993.

Lewis – like Len Bias (who died of a cocaine overdose at age 22 in 1986) and Drazen Petrovic (who died in a car crash at age 28 in 1993) – never got to fulfill their potentials. That creates its own kind of anguish.

There is no analogue to Bryant’s death.

Bryant’s accomplishments – one MVP, five championships, two NBA Finals MVPs, 11 All-NBA first teams, two All-NBA second teams, two All-NBA third teams and 18 All-Star appearances – place him among the very greatest of all-time greats. No player anywhere near that stature had ever died anywhere near this young.

Bryant could be charming and ruthless, sometimes simultaneously. His play and conduct earned him loyal fans and harsh critics. The never-ending Kobe debates seemed only to inflame the passion of his supporters.

Few adored him like fellow NBA players. They admired his skill and determination. He responded by mentoring many. It’s difficult to overstate just how cherished Bryant was in this league.

Few understand the cold realities of the NBA like Austin Rivers. He grew up with his father, Doc Rivers, frequently gone playing and coaching. As a result, they aren’t particularly close. Now an NBA player himself, Austin speaks of their distant relationship with far more acceptance than wistfulness. He’s too focused on competing to do much else.

Yesterday, Austin cried on the court:

Then, explained how little he cared about the Rockets losing a basketball game:

Others shed tears in arenas around the country. The NBA could have cancelled yesterday’s games. Playing while grieving proved difficult for many.

There was just no good way to handle the loss. Mere moments of silence felt insufficient.

The Spurs and Raptors began their game yesterday with shot-clock violations in honor of his No. 24. Other teams exchanged a shot-clock violation and eight-second violation in honor of his other number. Trae Young wore No. 8.

Other tributes popped up around the world. Bryant was a global icon.

He was also a loving father. As incredibly wide as this tragedy lands, it also cuts unimaginably deep. Bryant’s daughter, 13-year-old Gianna, also died in the helicopter crash.

Appearing on Jimmy Kimmel Live in 2018, Bryant just lit up when discussing her:

Bryant’s death is devastating – for those touched closely and, because of its unparalleled nature, even those not. Nobody was ready for this.

It’s a punch in the gut. The basketball world – which expanded far larger than imaginable in 1991, when Johnson made his announcement, because of people like Bryant – remains in a daze.

In wake of Kobe Bryant’s death, Kendrick Perkins seeks forgiveness from Kevin Durant

Kobe Bryant, Kevin Durant and Kendrick Perkins
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Kevin Durant once called Kendrick Perkins his favorite teammate of all-time.

A couple weeks ago, they were beefing on Twitter,exchanging barbs that didn’t look as friendly as previously.

Kobe Bryant’s tragic death has Perkins reflecting.

Perkins:

Good for Perkins. Amid all the sorrow, Bryant’s death creates an opportunity for people to re-assess their priorities. Grudges almost always aren’t worth it.