2011 NBA Free Agency and Trade Current Events: This league is bananas, b-a-n-a-n-a-s

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Let’s say you had a full day of work on Thursday, and then a dinner engagement with a friend, or your kid had a basketball game or something. Then on Friday you had another full day, and then a work Christmas party. This is the holiday season, everyone’s busy. Perhaps you’ve missed what’s gone on in the NBA. Being a fan, you’ve heard some things. “Wait, the Celtics traded for David West? I thought he was a free agent!” “What do you mean the Hawks signed Tracy McGrady? Why?”

To help catch you up and straighten all this out, here are 88 lines about 44 NBA things in the past two days. (Inspiration here.)

1. So the Lakers had a deal to send Lamar Odom to the Hornets and Pau Gasol to the Rockets, while the Rockets would send Luis Scola, Kevin Martin, Goran Dragic and a pick to New Orleans, and New Orleans would send Los Angeles the best pure point guard in the league. Many people thought this was a fair deal for all involved, the same way many people thought seeing “Kangaroo Jack”  and “Paul Blart: Mall Cop” in the theaters was a good idea.

2. Psych, the league blocked it! Citing “basketball reasons,” the league shorted out the trade, making pretty much everyone in the known universe angry.

3. Oh, and Dan Gilbert wrote the commish a letter after the deal was already blocked. Because when he writes letters the reaction is usually positive.

4. Meanwhile, the Magic went from “not taking trade calls” to “taking trade calls” to “possibly having a deal with New Jersey” to “possibly filing tampering charges against the Nets” to “not filing tampering charges against the Nets” to “giving Dwight Howard permission to talk to other teams” to “having their CEO deny they gave permission for Howard to talk to other teams” to “No, just kidding, we totally gave Dwight permission to other teams, including the Lakers, Mavericks, and Nets.” And miraculously none of these things were the decision the Magic made under the influence of alcohol this week.

5. The Celtics managed to pull-off a sign-and-trade for David West, which would be really awesome if for any reason Kevin Garnett were to magically transform into a point guard. West and Rondo will be excellent in the pick-and-pop, though.

6. Tyson Chandler announced on radio that he was signing with the Knicks, which means that the Knicks elected to bring in size and defensive toughness over hyper-super-duper-starness or offense. Millions of people have already fled to the bunkers, have you?

7. Thaddeus Young inked a new deal with the 76ers, so that he can enjoy the feel of pine beneath his bottom while they try and sort out the 1,800 combo-forward/combo-guards they have. The deal is actually a really good one both in value and bringing back Young.

8. The Celtics re-signed Glen Davis. Just kidding, they hate Glen Davis, they sign-and-traded him to Orlando for Brandon Bass, because you know the old saying, “You can never have enough undersized power forwards.”

9. Grant Hill elected to return to the Phoenix Suns on a one-year deal. I can’t tell you the reason, but it rhymes with “schmountain of scmouth.”

10. The Pistons re-signed Tayshaun Prince to a four-year deal. The reason is… wait, why did the Pistons re-sign Tayshaun Prince to a four-year deal?

11. The Clippers signed Caron Butler to a three-year, $24 million deal. If you’re searching for answers, perhaps looking at the big name on the logo might be a start.

12. The Kings signed Marcus Thornton to a four-year deal which everyone is going to argue about. It’s the perfect combination of “too much for a bench player” (if he comes off the bench) and “great value on a young rising star” (if he becomes a star).

13. The Suns signed Shannon Brown to a one-year deal. Turns out Alvin Gentry felt they had a need at “garbage-time dunker.”

14. Brandon Roy announced his medical retirement and the world cried. Headlines read “Typical day in Portland happens.”

15. Greg Oden’s not going to be ready for the start of the season and has suffered a “setback” in his career. I was confused since in general his entire career has been a setback, poor guy.

16. The Bucks signed Mike Dunleavy to a cheap deal which most people think is really great value. Considering their confusing efforts to both move to go younger and bring in sub-super veterans, this season’s shaping up a lot like the last one.

17. Marquis Daniels signed a one-year deal with the Celtics. That’s actually a nice story after they ditched him because he couldn’t play due to nearly breaking his neck for them.

18. Tracy McGrady signed with the Hawks. It’s going to be good for Tracy McGrady to teach Josh Smith how to bail on his team and demand a trade right, veteran presence and all.

19. Mario Chalmers re-signed with the Heat. It’s not known if the Heat used the “Little Brother We Pick On” exception or not.

20. The Suns traded Mikael Pietrus to the Raptors for a second-rounder. Five more Euro players and Bryan Colangelo has the whole set!

21. The Pacers signed Jeff Pendergraph to a one-year deal, which makes you think Josh McRoberts is probably on his way out. I am the only person who finds this interesting.

22. The Pistons bought out Rip Hamilton. So that was that “Woo-hoo!” you heard all across America, we just don’t know whether it was from Hamilton or Pistons fans, collectively.

23. The Mavs are closing in on Vince Carter. Take a second to imagine Rick Carlisle dealing with Vince Carter on the floor, it’ll brighten your day.

24. Oklahoma City re-signed DeQuan Cook. I got nothing, that’s a pretty good signing for them.

25. The Knicks are closing in on Mike Bibby. In a related story, the walls are closing in on Knicks fans.

26. The Magic amnestied Gilbert Arenas. That’s it, that’s the joke.

27. The Cavs haven’t amnestied Baron Davis yet, and it’s unclear if they will. He did not show up to camp overweight, so you can decide which of those statements is more surprising.

28. Chicago, Denver, San Antonio, Utah, New Jersey and Washington want Josh Howard. And that pretty much sums up this free agency period.

29. The Spurs amnestied Richard Jefferson, which was a bit of a shock. So one franchise is still sane.

30. The Pistons brought back Jonas Jerebko for $4 million a year, which is a steal. Detroit’s been kind of bipolar with the good decision/bad decision last couple of days.

31. Because of the Tyson Chandler signing, the Knicks may amnesty Chauncey Billups. He’s literally threatened teams that are lottery squads about making a bid on him, because he’s Mr. Super Fun Happy Guy.

32. The Suns signed Sebastian Telfair. So we can all get excited for his redemption story for the 800th time.

33. The Spurs signed T.J. Ford. Get your “Texas boy comes home” stories here.

34. The Raptors signed Jamal Magloire. That should solve all of their problems.

35. The Heat signed Eddy Curry. That joke’s gotten old.

36. Shane Battier signed with Miami on Twitter. This is actually a quality signing that helps them, it just makes everyone else sick, because, you know.

37. The Kings signed Chuck Hayes to go alongside DeMarcus Cousins. He may slap DeMarcus Cousins (read: he will slap DeMarcus Cousins).

38. Really quietly in the Tyson Chandler deal, the Mavericks picked up a $13 million trade exception. That sneaky Cuban, and by Cuban we mean Donnie Nelson.

39. Oh, hey, the Chris Paul trade? Back on the table.

40. Apparently the Rockets are going to throw in some more young pieces, like Patrick Patterson or Courtney Lee. So the Hornets might actually get the type of players they need versus the ones they were getting before when everyone thought it was such an awesome deal.

41. Everyone hates David Stern. You knew that already, but the veto thing has made people go bonkers, including one associate of mine referring to it as a “crime.”

42. The Pacers re-signed Jeff Foster. Odd.

43. Nene is reportedly getting offered a bajillion dollars from New Jersey, who is desperate after Caron Butler got away. That tells you a lot about the Nets.

44. Charlie Bell showed up drunk for his DUI hearing. Welcome back, NBA.

Report: Rockets signing Thabo Sefolosha

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The Rockets’ minicamp has produced a signing – Thabo Sefolosha.

Marc Stein of The New York Times:

This is surely for the minimum. It’s unclear how much is guaranteed.

Houston has just 10 players with guaranteed salaries, including Nene’s dud of a deal. So, there’s room for Sefolosha to make the regular-season roster.

Sefolosha should fit well in Houston. He’s a smart, versatile defender and can knock down corner 3s. James Harden and Russell Westbrook will allow Sefolosha to concentrate on his strengths in a limited role. The biggest question is how much the 35-year-old Sefolosha has left in the tank.

NBA to better define traveling rule, increase enforcement, explain rule to players, fans

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Gather and two steps.

That is how the NBA has defined the traveling rule for many years now. A player can take a step if he is in the process of “gathering” a dribble or pass, then has two steps. Players such as James Harden have stretched that to the limit, frustrating opponents and non-Rockets fans, but it’s legal.

Now the NBA is looking to better define that “gather” step, then crackdown on enforcement of the rule. With that will come an education program for everyone from players to fans. All of this was approved at the NBA’s Board of Governors’ meeting in New York on Friday.

“One of the most misunderstood rules in our game is how traveling is interpreted and appropriately called,” Byron Spruell, NBA President, League Operations, said in a statement. “Revising the language of certain areas of the rule is part of our three-pronged approach to address the uncertainty around traveling.  This approach also includes an enforcement plan to make traveling a point of emphasis for our officiating staff, along with an aggressive education plan to increase understanding of the rule by players, coaches, media and fans.”

That “aggressive education plan” should be interesting.

At the meeting, the owners also made gamblers everywhere happy by saying that starting lineups now need to be submitted by coaches 30 minutes prior to the start of the game. In past years that had been only 10 minutes (and road teams complained that was not evenly enforced between home and road teams all the time).

This is a good bit of transparency by the league, as have been some of the recent changes in requirements of announcing injuries. But make no mistake, this rule change is all about gambling.

Under new anti-tampering rules, Adam Silver empowered to suspend execs, take away picks, void contracts

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LeBron James publicly courted Anthony Davis. Many free agents seemingly struck deals before free agency even began. Kawhi Leonard‘s uncle/advisor reportedly sought prohibited extra benefits from teams.

The NBA finally reached its breaking point on tampering and circumvention.

After late apprehension, the league will enact stricter enforcement.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

I’m not surprised this passed unanimously. NBA commissioner Adam Silver wanted this to happen and wasn’t going to have owners vote unless he knew it’d pass. At that point, any protest-voting owners would just put themselves at odds with the commissioner. Not worth it.

We’ll see how long this crackdown lasts. I think that anonymous general manager represents many. If nobody is tampering, it’s fine not to tamper. But if some teams tamper, nobody wants to be at a disadvantage.

This could slowly creep back toward the old status quo. But if there’s a clear violator early, Silver will have an opportunity to send a message. We’ll see whether he takes it.

This should be less about which communication is or isn’t allowed. It’s about fairness.

That’s why it’s important the NBA has rules it will enforce and only rules it will enforce. That hasn’t been the case. If it is now, this will be a success.

Knicks’ offseason a giant flop

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NBC Sports’ Dan Feldman is grading every team’s offseason based on where the team stands now relative to its position entering the offseason. A ‘C’ means a team is in similar standing, with notches up or down from there.

In the midst of agreeing to sign Julius Randle, Bobby Portis, Taj Gibson, Wayne Ellington, Elfrid Payton and Reggie Bullock, the Knicks released a statement.

“While we understand that some Knicks fans could be disappointed with tonight’s news, we continue to be upbeat and confident in our plans to rebuild the Knicks to compete for championships in the future, through both the draft and targeted free agents,” Knicks president Steve Mills said.

This is as close as we’ll ever get to a team apologizing for its transactions in real time.

What an embarrassment.

Knicks owner James Dolan went on TV in March and strongly suggested top free agents would sign with the Knicks this summer. Everyone inferred Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving.

Instead, Durant and Irving signed with the crosstown Nets without even meeting with the Knicks. The Knicks pathetically put out word they didn’t offer Durant the max due to his injury (as if they would’ve balked had he actually wanted to come) and cancelled a meeting with Kawhi Leonard, who was never coming.

All New York’s planning – stretching Joakim Noah, trading Kristaps Porzingis to clear salary, hyping itself – went to waste on mediocre free agents.

At least the Knicks remain flexible. It’s just tough to see how they turn that flexibility into winning.

Dolan said no incumbent players will become the centerpiece. New York is already acknowledging how disappointing the newly signed free agents look.

That leaves a lot of pressure on No. 3 pick R.J. Barrett, himself a disapointment.

Despite an 86% chance of not getting the No. 1 pick, Knicks fans treated Zion Williamson as a near-inevitability. He was viewed as the rightful reward for a miserable 17-65 season.

This was the wrong lottery to slip. There’s a huge drop in prospect quality from Williamson to Ja Morant to Barrett. Barrett profiles as a leading player, and maybe he’ll be good enough to fill that role on a good team. But this draft was always going to leave the third-picking team with unreliable options.

Randle (three years, $56.7 million with $4 million of $19.8 million guaranteed in year three) was the big addition in free agency. He’ll put up numbers. He’s also only 24 and has shown improvement throughout his career. Maybe he’ll develop defensively and better contribute to winning. Still, it’ll take major modifications to their games for Randle and Barrett to flourish together long-term.

Not that this team represents much of whatever the Knicks are building toward.

Portis ($15 million), Gibson ($9 million), Ellington ($8 million), Payton ($8 million) and Bullock ($4 million) look like stopgaps. After those starting salaries, each has a barely/unguaranteed second season. They all look like trade chips, though most must exceed expectations on the court to hold more than neutral value. Ellington looks like the best deal.

Really, the short contract I like most is Marcus Morris‘ (one year, $15 million). New York signed him after Bullock failed his physical and agreed to a smaller contract. I don’t know why the Knicks prioritized so many other players over Morris, who committed to the Spurs before Bullock’s spine injury gave New York more cap space.

The Knicks could really use a young player like Porzingis now. He’d provide plenty of optimism amid their listless present.

Still, New York can still come out ahead in the Porzingis trade. He was an injury-prone player on the verge of getting a max contract. The Knicks got a couple extra first-rounders.

But clearing Tim Hardaway Jr.‘s an Courtney Lee‘s burdensome contracts was a key part of the trade. That aspect has now gone for naught.

New York is heading toward another lost season. A weak free agent class follows. It’ll take a while for the Knicks to build back up.

This summer – which the Knicks began with the best lottery position, massive cap space and a premier market – was a huge missed opportunity. Even getting past the New York noise and the misplaced expectations this franchise incites, that burns.

Offseason grade: D