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.

Raptors bench play key reason Toronto on cusp of first trip to NBA Finals

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There are multiple reasons the Toronto Raptors have beaten the Milwaukee Bucks three times in a row and now are one win away from the franchise’s first trip to the NBA Finals.

Kawhi Leonard and his play — particularly his defense on Giannis Antetokounmpo — is a huge one. So is the Raptors incredible halfcourt defense, which has held the Bucks to an 84.3 net rating on halfcourt possessions in this series. When the Raptors have been able to slow the game down (which they have done very well the last two games, with possession totals in the mid-90s) they win.

Just don’t forget about the Raptors bench.

Fred VanVleet, Serge Ibaka, and Norman Powell — the three guys coach Nick Nurse leans on in his regular rotations — have been critical for the Raptors, and if they are again on Saturday night in Toronto it will lift the franchise to a place it has never been before.

Toronto’s starters are -23 in this series. That fivesome — Kyle Lowry, Danny Green, Leonard, Pascal Siakam, and Marc Gasol — were -10 in Game 5, struggling against an impressive Milwaukee starting lineup.

In Game 5, it was the Raptors’ bench that led the comeback after the Bucks’ fast start. It has been that way all series. Lineups that have at least one of those core three Raptors bench guys on the floor are +30 this series. Lineups with all three of them on the court together are +12.

Different guys are stepping up each game. In Game 5 it was VanVleet’s turn. After a rough few games in this series, he got to Milwaukee late after being with his wife for the birth of their son, then proceeded to knock down 7-of-9 threes in Toronto’s come-from-behind win.

“He oozes the confidence that spreads to the other guys,” Toronto coach Nick Nurse said of VanVleet. “Again, he just stepped into the shots that were there tonight, and he was probably due to get hot in these playoffs. It’s been probably a long time coming. Great game by him.”

Toronto’s bench — and Leonard — are key reasons that this team responded to adversity, going down 0-2 in the series and bouncing back. It’s the experience of having been there before, having dealt with the pressure before, learning about themselves because they have been tested like this in previous years. Leonard and Green have rings from San Antonio, Gasol has been to conference finals in Memphis, Lowry has been there through all the Raptors struggles in recent playoffs. On the bench, Ibaka has seen plenty, and these guys have not been fazed by the moment.

It’s the test the Bucks are facing now — this group had never been challenged like this. Their athleticism and Antetokounmpo’s MVP-level season propelled this team to the best record in the NBA, then they swept through the first two rounds of the playoffs with an 8-1 record. After that, they beat the Raptors the first two games of this series.

However, now they have lost three in a row for the first time all season and they are learning about their weaknesses. The Bucks entire offense is based around the idea that nobody can slow Antetokounmpo one-on-one, except that Leonard has done just that. The Greek Freak has shot 35.5 percent this series (11-of-31, via Second Spectrum data) when Leonard has been his primary defender. Antetokounmpo also hasn’t found shooters and those guys have not hit the passes he does make, particularly in the halfcourt. Toronto has controlled the tempo the past few games, and when Antetokounmpo isn’t getting easy buckets in transition the Milwaukee offense stumbles. Toronto also has taken care of the ball and hit shots, with Leonard getting to his spots on the floor, which has limited the Bucks transition chances.

The Bucks need to make adjustments — finding ways to get Antetokounmpo the ball with better matchups, not having him attack from the top of the key every time and giving him some picks to force switches — and they need another ball handler, such as Eric Bledsoe or George Hill, to have a monster game. Khris Middleton and Malcolm Brogdon can and should do a little more shot creation.

And Milwaukee has to contain that Raptors bench and not get beat so badly when they are on the floor.

If not, the Bucks will be on vacation in Cabo next week while the Raptors are still playing.

Are Rockets trying to push Mike D’Antoni out the door?

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After a slow start to the season, by the end the Houston Rockets had found their groove and were the second best team in the West. That still wasn’t good enough to get by the Warriors dynasty. That has led to some soul searching in Houston.

And some changes to the assistant coaching staff. First came the news Jeff Bzdelik would not return in his defensive coordinator role. Then on Friday, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle put out a series of Tweets talking about the other coaching changes coming.

Cho had been with the Rockets for a decade. Roland worked closely with James Harden, among others.

This is a near total overhaul of Mike D’Antoni’s staff, which has led to speculation the Rockets are trying to push their coach out the door, reports Marc Stein of the New York Times.

D’Antoni has done an excellent job — and adapted his style — to coach these Rockets into being contenders. He is part of the reason this franchise is a contender. The Rockets have fallen short the last two seasons not because of D’Antoni, but rather because of the Warriors. Golden State is an all-time dynasty level team, they are beating everybody.

This feels like the East in recent years when coaches lost jobs and teams were broken up because they could not get past LeBron James‘ teams when the issue was really LeBron is one of the game’s all-time greats.

There could be other dynamics at play in Houston, but the challenge there is not the coach. If Tilman Fertitta is frustrated his team fell short again, he should start by looking in the mirror at the cost-cutting moves his team made this season to get under the tax line. That put a ceiling on this team more than anything D’Antoni did.

NBA makes it official, moves up free agency six hours to 6 p.m. June 30 (Eastern)

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I’d like to think this means we’ll all be able to go to bed at a reasonable hour on June 30. I also know better.

There is a frenzy of activity right as free agency opens (Tampering? There is no tampering in the NBA…), which traditionally has been as the clock turns to July 1 in New York, right at midnight. Things got so active that a lot of agents and players made sure they were in Los Angeles, even if they didn’t live there in the offseason, just so things started at the more reasonable hour of 9 p.m.

Now the NBA has made the rumors official: Free agency will begin at 6 p.m. Eastern on June 30. Six hours earlier than before.

This was done as an agreement between the NBA and the National Basketball Players Association.

This is going to be a wild July with a lot of big-name free agents — Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, Klay Thompson, Jimmy Butler — and maybe a third of the players in the league on the market, plus there are a lot more teams with cap space to spend this season. It’s going to be a frenzy.

Now we know what time the wild times start.

Why does Kevin Durant respond on social media? “I’m qualified to talk about basketball”

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Every NBA player gets ripped on social media, even the guys who are not on social media. Most of the time players just ignore it, the way they ignore fans yelling stuff courtside or distant family asking them for money.

Kevin Durant, however, gets into it sometimes, even with national media members (and even had a burner account). Which always becomes a thing.

Why? Why not just ignore it? From Durant himself at practice Friday, via NBC Sports Bay Area.

“Because I have social media,” Durant said Friday… “I mean, I’m a human being with a social media account. I could see if I ventured off into like politics, culinary arts or music and gave my input, but I’m sticking to something that I know. You know what I’m saying? This is all I know. I’m actually talking about stuff that I know. I’m qualified to talk about basketball.

“So when I respond to something, especially if it’s about me personally, of course I’m going to tell you if you wrong about it. When I’m on the training table getting treatment on my calf and I see a tweet that come by and I disagree — I don’t talk to people because I’m worried about what they say, it’s just that I’m interested. So if you talking about in-game or the NBA Finals, they’re the same to me, you know what I’m saying?”

Durant seems to have more time on hands to get into these spats while he is out injured. Which likely will last into the start of the NBA Finals.

Does this mean the Drake/Durant beef is inevitable?