Winderman: Battier a big loss for Rockets in playoff race

7 Comments

The reasoning might have been right, but perhaps the target was wrong.

Few approaches at the NBA trading deadline are considered as egregious as trading away your team’s chances at a playoff berth.

So when Michael Jordan traded away (although “gave away” would be closer to the truth) Gerald Wallace to the Trail Blazers at the deadline, it came off as little more than continuing the Bob Johnson penny-pinching approach with the Bobcats.

Yet there stands Charlotte, a mere game out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. While the Pacers certainly have been accommodating, perhaps Jordan knew more than we suspected.

By contrast, when it comes to front-office intelligence, we’ve long assumed that Daryl Morey was smarter than the rest of us.

Now? Not so sure.

When the Heat was scoring at record paces with all their 30-point performances Sunday night against the Rockets, one couldn’t help but wonder: What would Battier do?

As it turns out, that was the deadline deal that proved most confounding.

In trading Shane Battier, Houston  not only surrendered the type of defensive presence that at least might have slowed LeBron James or Dwyane Wade during their breakout performances Sunday, but they also dealt Battier to their prime competition for the final playoff berth in the Western Conference, the Memphis Grizzlies.

So, to reset:

Without Battier’s defensive presence, the Rockets lost 125-119 to the Heat on Sunday night.

With Battier’s contribution, the Grizzlies defeated the Spurs 111-104 Sunday.

The upshot is a 2 1/2-game Memphis lead over Houston for the final playoff spot in the West.

As for what the Rockets got in return for Battier? That would be Hasheem Thabeet, who currently can be found in the D-League.

Somehow, we never quite viewed the NBA trading deadline as a vehicle to improve the playoff prospects of the Rio Grande Vipers (although Thabeet did have a solid two-point performance in a Sunday loss to the Texas Legends, dominated by former Nets center Sean Williams).

It would be one thing if the Rockets moved Battier to the opposite conference, as the Bobcats did with Wallace.

But the deal with the Grizzlies was one that hardly put Battier out of sight, out of mind.

Instead, he stands front and center as a face who could decide the final playoff berth in the West.

Ira Winderman writes regularly for NBCSports.com and covers the Heat and the NBA for the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. You can follow him on Twitter at @IraHeatBeat.

Markelle Fultz will miss start of training camp, at least, with broken toe

Orlando Magic v Charlotte Hornets
Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images
0 Comments

The basketball gods continue to turn their backs on Markelle Fultz.

A torn ACL had limited him to 26 games over the past two seasons, but he was healthy and ramping up to a larger role this season with a young and interesting Magic team. Then came the news he fractured his left big toe during a training session. As a result, he will be out for at least the start of training camp, the team announced. From the official announcement:

“He has been placed in a walking boot and his return to play will depend on how he responds to rehabilitation and treatment. Fultz suffered the injury during a preseason workout prior to returning to Orlando and imaging confirmed the fracture.

He will not need surgery, according to the team.

Fultz was set to split point guard duties with Cole Anthony, this injury means RJ Hampton could see more run at the point for now. Fultz should be able to return either during the end of the preseason or early in the season.

Fultz was the No.1 pick in the 2017 NBA Draft but never found his footing with the 76ers (in part due to injury). However, since getting out of that spotlight and allowed to develop in Orlando he’s been a solid rotation point guard when healthy. Last season in 18 games he averaged 10.8 points and 5.5 assists a game, and while he’s still not an efficient shooter he can run a team.

How Anthony and, eventually, Fultz will work off the ball as rookie Paolo Banchero gets the opportunity to create more offense will be just one of the interesting things to watch with this Magic team this year. We’ll have to wait a little while to see Fultz.

 

Vintage Kobe: Redeem Team recalls him running over Pau Gasol

Streeter Lecka/Getty Images
0 Comments

If the goal of a trailer is to get you to want to see the movie, then well done Netflix. I’m in.

Netflix released a trailer for its upcoming Redeem Team documentary on the 2008 Olympics, featuring some vintage Kobe Bryant. Just as a quick refresher, in 2008 the USA’s toughest opponent would be a deep Spanish team led by peak Pau Gasol but also with Marc Gasol, Ricky Rubio, José Calderón, Rudy Fernández, Juan Carlos Navarro and more. This was a legitimately dangerous team and one the USA would face first in group play.

Kobe wanted to set a tone — and did by running through his friend Gasol. (Warning: There is NSFW language in the video clip below.)

“‘First play of the game I’m running through Pau Gasol.’ And we was like, ‘What?’ He said, ‘First play of the game, I know what they’re gonna run.’ And he knew Pau was gonna be the last screen and he said ‘I’m running through him,'” Dwayne Wade said

Spoiler alert: The USA thrashed Spain in group stage play. However, come the Gold Medal game it was a lot tougher for the Americans to beat the Spaniards, with Kobe having to have a big fourth quarter and — what often goes unremembered — a master class from Chris Paul in game management to control the tempo and flow.

I’m all in for the documentary, which drops on Oct. 7 on Netflix.

Spurs’ Keldon Johnson to miss start of training camp with shoulder injury

San Antonio Spurs v Denver Nuggets
Morgan Engel/Getty Images
0 Comments

Keldon Johnson is poised to have a monster season on a rebuilding Spurs team.

Except he’s going to miss the start of training camp and the team’s preseason games. And could be out longer.

Johnson suffered a “right shoulder posterior dislocation during Spurs open gym” the team announced Saturday. Posterior dislocations are rare (less than 5% of all dislocations) and are usually from a fall on an extended arm. Recovering from the injury depends on many factors but can extend out for months. However, the Spurs said Johnson is expected to be available for the start of the regular season less than a month from now.

Johnson averaged 17 points and 6.1 rebounds a game last season, and is an elite perimeter shooter off the catch-and-shoot (39.8% from 3 overall), who also can put the ball on the floor and finish at the rim. He was the team’s second-leading scorer last season (to Dejounte Murray, who is now in Atlanta).

The Spurs will be cautious with bringing Johnson back. Even in what could be Gregg Popovich’s last season as coach the Spurs are looking more to be part of the Victor Wembanyama sweepstakes than push for a playoff spot. Johnson is a quality player who helps San Antonio win games, which both is why they want him back healthy and why they are not going to rush him.

Cavaliers reportedly extend Dean Wade for three years, $18.5 million

Pregame of Cleveland Cavaliers and Philadelphia 76ers
Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
0 Comments

This could be a steal for the Cavaliers — Dean Wade could be the starting three for the Cavaliers by the end of this season and he’s got a genuine upside.

The Cavaliers have extended Wade for three years, $18.5 million, a story where multiple sources were on top of it, including Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

Wade’s counting stats aren’t eye-popping — 5.3 points a game and shooting 35.7% from 3 — but he is a quality wing defender who has improved as a floor spacer (sometimes setting picks and popping out). He’s a two-way player who has put in the work and could pass Isaac Okoro on the depth chart this season.

The Cavaliers have four All-Stars who will undoubtedly be starting for them — Darius Garland and Donovan Mitchell in the backcourt, Jarrett Allen and Evan Mobley up front — and the looming question is at the three. Wade has a chance this season to step into that role.

Which makes extending him at a little over $6 million a season a potential steal for the Cavaliers.