Report: Grizzlies testing waters for potential Rudy Gay trade

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Memphis is one of those “maybe if everything goes right” contenders. They are not as talented as Oklahoma City or the Los Angeles Clippers, but they have a dominating front line with Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph. In the last couple weeks their elite defense has taken a step back, their already unimpressive offense has done the same, and they haven’t looked like much of a threat. But you look at that front line as a playoff matchup and you always think they have a puncher’s chance.

That may not be enough for the Grizzlies new ownership, which still runs a small market team over the luxury tax line.

They are putting out feelers to see what a Rudy Gay trade could bring, reports Zach Lowe at Grantland.

All of this explains why Memphis, over the last few weeks, has made it known in preliminary talks with other teams that Rudy Gay could be available via trade, according to sources around the league. Memphis also has a brand-new ownership and a revamped front office; John Hollinger and Jason Levien are in, longtime personnel gurus the Barones are out, and Chris Wallace’s current level of power as holdover GM is unclear. They can also cite their exciting 2011 playoff run without Gay, though that run involved a superhuman performance from Zach Randolph, a very good matchup in San Antonio, and a much deeper wing core with actual shooters.

You should go read the entire article. Lowe goes on to look at what teams might be interested in Gay. Minnesota makes sense if Gay is willing to play more off the ball and get passes from Ricky Rubio and Kevin Love. The Milwaukee Bucks are in the mix. Lowe lists the Boston Celtics, but good luck getting anyone to take on Jeff Green’s contract. The Rockets are open to just about anything. Toronto was interested in Gay in the past. There are options.

I don’t think it happens during the season for a couple reasons. First is the fact Gay is owed $37 million for the two seasons after this one. We have seen proven lately that no contract is unmovable (hello Gilbert Arenas and Joe Johnson) but that size deal makes it much harder, especially with teams afraid of the repeater tax and stiffer luxury tax penalties that kick in starting next summer. These larger, complex deals tend to be summer trades.

Second, if Memphis is serious about trying to make a playoff run they need him. When the Grizzlies roll out a lineup of Mike Conley, Tony Allen, Gay, Randolph and Gasol they are besting opponents by 12.8 points per 48 minutes. That is their bread and butter lineup, they have it on the floor three times more than any other single lineup. There have been some limited lineups that have had success (and they would be getting some talent back in any trade, someone like Andrei Kirilenko could step right into major minutes) but they are trading away a key piece if they want to take their shot at a ring, slim though it might be.

It’s something to watch, and how it plays out gives you a sense of how the new ownership and management view this roster and what they plan to do going forward.

Report: Tim Connelly rejects Wizards, staying with Nuggets

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Nuggets president Tim Connelly could have led the Wizards’ front office, worked close to his native Baltimore and presumably gotten a raise from his reported $2 million salary.

Instead, he’s stay in Denver.

Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN:

This is a huge win for Denver and even bigger setback for Washington.

Connelly has put the Nuggets into a great position. They’re young and good in a combination rarely seen in NBA history. Connelly drafted Nikola Jokic in the second round then built around him a short time later. This season, Denver won 54 games and reached Game 7 of the second round with 24-year-old Jokic flanked by Jamal Murray, Gary Harris and Paul Millsap.

More decisions always lie ahead – notably Millsap’s $30 million team option for next season. But the Nuggets’ core is already in place and mostly under team control.

The Wizards need far more work. John Wall‘s contract is arguably the NBA’s worst. Ian Mahinmi and Dwight Howard are also roadblocks. Several key players will be free agents this summer. If he makes an All-NBA team this season, Bradley Beal be eligible for a super-max extension – a tricky decision for the club.

It would have been great for Washington to entrust Connelly with all that. He has proven excellent at his job.

Troy Weaver, Danny Ferry or Tommy Sheppard might do well for the Wizards. But they’re candidates who offer far less certainty.

Kawhi Leonard tries to downplay leg issue, “I’m good”

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Toronto won a gritty Game 3 at home — and are back in the Eastern Conference Finals — because of Kawhi Leonard.

From the opening tip, he was the man guarding Giannis Antetokounmpo (although in a game with a lot of switching plenty of others also got their shot). It was the biggest adjustment Toronto coach Nick Nurse made — and it worked. Antetokounmpo had 12 points on 16 shots in the game and, according to ESPN’s tracking, was 1-of-9 when guarded by Leonard. On the other end, Leonard had 36 points, nine rebounds, and played 52 critical minutes. He was the MVP of Game 3.

And he did it all through a noticeable limp.

He landed awkwardly on a first-quarter layup and all game this clearly limited his mobility.

When asked about it after the game, Leonard shrugged it off.

For much of the season, whenever Leonard was mentioned so was with the phrase “load management.” He had missed all but nine games the season before with quadriceps tendinopathy — the treatment for that, and whether it was a muscular injury or not, was at the heart of Leonard’s discord with San Antonio — and in Toronto he missed 22 games in the regular season to help keep that issue at bay.

That may not be related to what is bothering him now, but the Raptors and Leonard had gone to great lengths to get him rest during the regular season so he would be ready for the playoffs. He has responded, being the best player in the East through the postseason so far. That includes hitting the game-winner to send Philadelphia home, then on Sunday keeping Toronto alive against the Bucks by force of will. But he has played a heavy load of minutes — physical, playoff minutes — to get there.

Will that slow Leonard Tuesday night in Game 4?

It can’t if they want to even this series. Milwaukee will play better in Game 4, keeping Antetokounmpo bottled up may be near impossible, and other Bucks had off-games as well (they shot 37.3 percent as a team in Game 3). Toronto will have to play better to keep pace. Marc Gasol will need to continue taking and hitting the threes (shots the Bucks dared him to take in the first two games), Pascal Siakam will have to have another big game, as will the Raptors’ bench.

But mostly, Leonard needs to be the best player on the floor again, the guy doing this:

If not, Toronto’s season will be on the brink.

After coaching search, Minnesota reportedly settles on owner-favorite Ryan Saunders for job

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“I think he has a good chance [to get the job]… I would just say I really like him as a person. I have known him since he was a young man, and I am really pleased with how he is starting out coaching this team.”

That was Minnesota Timberwolves owner Glen Taylor on his interim coach, Ryan Saunders, a statement made with about 20 games to go in the season. The Timberwolves reportedly negotiated the outline of a contract with Saunders, but when Gersson Rosas was brought in as team president, he was given the freedom to run a full coaching search.

He has settled on the guy the owner wanted, a story broken by Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic.

Rosas interviewed other candidates and ran a legitimate job search for the position, but it seems the smart political move for the guy new on the job to hire the guy the owner wanted, and the guy the star player bonded with.

That’s not to say Saunders is a poor choice, he earned this chance. Saunders was thrust into the big chair after Jimmy Butler‘s sabotaging of the team’s season led to coach/GM Tom Thibodeau being shown the door. Saunders quickly developed a strong relationship with Karl-Anthony Towns, who played much better under Saunders the second half of the season. There were other signs Saunders was up to the task and would be a good hire, not just a prudent one.

Now it appears Saunders has the job.

The real task for Rosas is to give Saunders a team that can live up to Towns’ potential. It will not be easy with a capped out roster and some anchor contracts (Andrew Wiggins).

Report: Cavaliers hire J.B. Bickerstaff to John Beilein’s staff

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The Cleveland Cavaliers are still trying to figure things out. LeBron James left for the Los Angeles Lakers last summer, and now the team has hired John Beilein to be its head coach. The team doesn’t have a top pick the way it has in years past, and barring any trades they will select 25th overall in the 2019 NBA Draft.

But at least they are figuring out there coaching staff Issues.

According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, the Cavaliers have hired former Memphis Grizzlies head coach J.B. Bickerstaff to be its top assistant coach. Bickerstaff was apparently also in talks with the Philadelphia 76ers, Boston Celtics, Los Angeles Lakers, and Sacramento Kings.

Via Twitter:

Bickerstaff previously headed the Houston Rockets from 2015 to 2016, and was the top man for the Grizzlies over the last two seasons after the team canned David Fizdale.

This is a solid hire for the Cavs. Bickerstaff has been a respected assistant in the league for the past decade-and-a-half, and he should give some veteran NBA oopmh behind Beilein, who most recently coached at Michigan for 12 years and is headed into his rookie season.