Orlando Magic guard J.J. Redick traded to the Milwaukee Bucks

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There were plenty of rumblings about Atlanta Hawks forward Josh Smith going to Milwaukee in a blockbuster three-team deal with Orlando, but that trade died when Atlanta reportedly pulled out of the deal.

That trade falling apart didn’t deter the Bucks from acquiring a piece to help them in their playoff push, however. Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports that the Bucks have acquired Orlando Magic guard J.J. Redick in a six-player deal right at the deadline.

The Milwaukee Bucks receive Redick, Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith while the Orlando Magic recieve Beno Udrih, Tobias Harris and Doron Lamb.

Let’s start with the big piece, which is Redick. The 28-year-old shooting guard is a career 39.8 percent 3-point shooter and has posted career highs in assists per game (4.4) and points per game (15.1) this season. Redick’s career year coincides with a contract season, as he’ll become an unrestricted free agent after this summer. Redick was one of the most highly sought after pieces at the deadline, and should immediately help the Bucks offense with his shooting and playmaking. Milwaukee is 26-27 on the year, hampered mostly by their 24th ranked offensive efficiency.

Efficiency is really the name of the game for Redick. His 59.2 percent true shooting percentage is right there among the shooting guard elite with guys like Ray Allen and James Harden. Redick has a reputation as just a shooter, but he’s made great strides as a defender and as a great distributor.

Redick has done the majority of his damage for Orlando this year coming off screens and either popping a jumper or slipping a nice pocket pass to a rolling big men. Orlando essentially designed an entire offense around Redick’s skills, but it will be interesting to see how Redick will work alongside two ball dominant guards like Brandon Jennings and Monta Ellis. With Redick and Mike Dunleavy both coming off the bench, Milwaukee’s second unit should see a pretty drastic spike in scoring.

To get Redick, the Bucks parted with a couple of interesting prospects in underutilized small forward Tobias Harris and rookie shooting guard Doron Lamb. Backup point guard Beno Udrih — who was included to match salaries with Redick — is on an expiring deal and almost certainly won’t factor in Orlando’s plans past the next few months.

Along with Redick, the Bucks received Gustavo Ayon and Ish Smith from Orlando. Ayon is a highly intelligent but very limited young big man, and Ish Smith is a similarly limited point guard with great athleticism, elite floor vision, but no jumper to speak of whatsoever. Smith is a career 36 percent field goal shooter, and a 57 percent free throw shooter.

The main focus in this trade, obviously, is Milwaukee’s addition of Redick. Early chatter says that Milwaukee has interest in re-signing Redick this offseason, which would make sense if Monta Ellis truly did opt out of his contract, as Gery Woefel of Racine Journal Times has speculated. The Bucks have a roster filled with shot blocking bigs who don’t space the floor, which makes a pure shooter like Redick a much better future fit than Ellis, who needs driving lanes to be at his best.

For Orlando, Harris and Lamb are two cheap young players still on rookie deals, which is a huge deal to a rebuilding team. While the original talks centered around Milwaukee possibly sending back Luc Richard Mbah a Moute for Redick, Orlando did well to land Harris instead.

Although he’s only played roughly 800 minutes in two seasons, Harris has been a solid producer in his time on the floor, averaging 15.4 points and 7 rebounds per36 minutes with a PER of 13.8. At just 20 years old, Harris is still a long way from being a known entity — which could be a great thing for Orlando. Along with Maurice Harkless, who is just 19, the Magic have a small forward combination they can mold and be patient with.

While you can certainly view Orlando losing Redick and not getting a draft pick in return as a bit of a failure, Orlando at least got two young prospects for a player they were likely uninterested in signing had they not moved him today. That’s better than nothing — especially since they had to take on no future salary to do so.

Milwaukee gets better now with the addition of Redick, but this trade can’t really be graded until this offseason. If the Bucks convince Redick to take a reasonable deal and stay in Milwaukee this offseason, they did very well for themselves. But if Redick and Dunleavy, who both expiring, take bigger deals elsewhere, and if Ellis ends up opting out, the Bucks will have zero returning shooting guards or small forwards on the roster. With Brandon Jennings likely taking up a lot of cap room as a restricted free agent, constructing a suitable wing rotation could be a huge issue going forward.

Kobe Bryant in Big3 next year? One league co-founder says yes.

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Ice Cube — the hip-hop legend, actor, and co-founder of the Big3 — knows Kobe Bryant, because he’s Ice Cube and everyone wants to know him. Cube has said every time he sees Kobe he tries to get the former Laker to join the Big3, and every time Kobe shoots him down.

But Friday, Big3 co-founder Jeff Kwatinetz said he expects Kobe will play in the league next year.

It was during a conference call to promote the Big3 title game (this Friday night in Brooklyn, and broadcast on Fox at 8p.m.). Myself and other media on that call did a double take (if you can do that on a phone call). Everyone else on the call from the Big3 let it die.

This came after last weekend when a reporter asked Stephen Jackson if Kobe could handle the Big3, to which Jackson offered to slap the reporter then basically begged Bryant to join the league

.Don’t bet on it happening.

First, Kwatinetz says a lot of things and has grand ambitions for the league, as he should, but what he says also should be taken with plenty of salt. This year more name stars did jump in — Amar’e Stoudemire, Nate Robinson, Metta World Peace — but Kobe would be another level (or three). The league would love to land him (or Kevin Garnett, or Paul Pierce) but so far that level of recent star has eluded the Big3. Someday that likely will change.

But not with Kobe.

Kobe was as well prepared for life after basketball as any NBA player ever can be. He’s got other interests and threw himself into those — he won an Oscar — plus has kept his toes in the NBA waters talking to and working out with young players such as Jaylen Brown. Also, he’s done a film breakdown series for ESPN. He’s spent more time with his family. All of which is to say, he may miss basketball but he’s got a full plate.

Ice Cube will keep asking Kobe, and one should never say never. But until Kobe comes out and says he’s in, don’t bet on seeing this happen.

 

Marcus Morris smoked marijuana to deal with anxiety while with Pistons

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When the Suns traded Marcus Morris to the Pistons, he called it “betrayal.”

It wasn’t that, but it’s also worth understanding why he felt that way – and what it means in a greater context.

Marcus signed a below-market contract extension to stay with his twin brother Markieff Morris in Phoenix. That was foolish, because it made Marcus more tradable – and the Suns dealt him. Marcus just didn’t understand enough about how the NBA operated.

Why did he make that error? At least in part because he was blinded by a very understandable loyalty to Markieff.

Jackie MacMullan of ESPN:

When the twins were in high school, their house burned down with their family cat trapped inside. Their mother, Angel, moved them and their brother Blake into a small home in Hunting Park with their maternal grandparents, a tight squeeze for teenage boys who would grow to be nearly 6-foot-10. They lived in the basement and slept on a mattress, with no heat and a ceiling that was only 6½ feet high, which made it impossible for them to fully stand up. Yet they were grateful, because at least they had family who cared. Only one in 20 of their friends had a father around — the twins’ dad was nowhere to be seen, either — and their mother worked long hours so she could pay for their basketball shoes and something to eat at supper. The twins leaned on each other for companionship, solace and courage.

“We were just trying to survive every day,” Marcus says. “As a kid, it’s fun for a minute. You don’t see yourself in any danger. Once you become a teenager, you’re unprotected. Now you’re a target. If you’re wearing some Jordans, they’re coming for you. There were plenty of times I had to protect myself. You walk out the door every day looking around, watching your back, just trying to stay out of the line of fire.

“You see shootings, pistol whippings. One wrong decision, one wrong word, and it escalates so quickly into a full-blown war. It’s like that in Philly. You’re trapped in a box. Your opportunity is so small, so once a person gets ahold of something, they protect it with their life. It’s hard to explain if you haven’t lived it.

“We just walked out stressed all the time. I said to my brother once, ‘You know, this is no way to live.'”

The Morris’ situation is unique, but it’s not totally atypical. The black experience in America has always been subject to large amounts of violence. Redlining continues to keep black people in more violent neighborhoods with more poverty, worse schools and harsher policing – elements that continue the cycle.

Those stressors contribute to mental-health issues, and if the NBA – whose players are predominantly black – is concerned about mental health, it can’t ignore this greater context.

The Suns didn’t sound like they empathized. Marcus began his pro career in Houston, and it didn’t sound like Rockets general manager Daryl Morey – who doesn’t have the best track record of discussing mental health – knew how to relate to Marcus, either. MacMullan:

That summer, he refused to go to Houston for offseason workouts and wouldn’t answer calls from the Rockets’ staff. “[Rockets general manager] Daryl Morey is telling me, ‘You’re hurting your career,’ but I was thinking, ‘Well, you guys are hurting my career,'” Morris recalls. “I didn’t trust them. I didn’t trust anybody.”

The results weren’t better in Detroit, either. MacMullan:

Morris couldn’t sleep because his mind was racing all the time. The Pistons tried to make him feel welcome, but he wasn’t very responsive. He was often up all night replaying a missed shot or a mistake on the floor, and his play was suffering. He seriously considered quitting, but what would he do? Go back to Philly? That notion led to more anxiety, more stress. He tried sleeping pills. He smoked marijuana. Nothing granted him peace.

I’m very curious how this will be received. White coaches Steve Kerr and Phil Jackson admitted to smoking marijuana to help with pain after back surgeries, and people were generally understanding. Black player Larry Sanders – trying to cope with anxiety, depression and mood disorders – essentially got run out of the league for using marijuana and espousing its benefits.

White people get more benefit of the doubt on drug use. Physical pain is taken more seriously than mental pain.

Marijuana isn’t the answer for everyone dealing with anxiety and stress, because there is no single answer for everyone. But criminalizing marijuana – banned legally in many places and by the NBA’s Collective Bargaining Agreement – isn’t the answer. The appropriateness of marijuana for NBA players should be explored.

Perhaps it will be as we remove the stigma around mental health. Players like Marcus Morris opening up about their issues is a huge step forward – and especially important one considering the NBA’s majority-black demographics.

It sounds as if Morris is getting far better help from the Celtics. I highly recommend reading MacMullan’s full article for more on that and how mental health and race intersect as it pertains to the NBA.

NBA rookies agree on little, but Trae Young’s shooting and playmaking supremacy comes closest

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You might see stories today about Bulls center Wendell Carter Jr.‘s peers picking him to have the best career among this rookie class. After all, he was the top vote-getter in that category in the NBA’s annual rookie survey.

But 87% of polled rookies chose someone else. That Carter’s 13% of votes led means only so much.

That was the story throughout the survey.

The leaders for predicted Rookie of the Year (tie between Suns’ Deandre Ayton and Cavaliers’ Collin Sexton), biggest steal based on where he was drafted (Timberwolves’ Keita Bates-Diop), most athletic (76ers’ Zhaire Smith) and best defender (Grizzlies’ Jevon Carter) each received less than 30% of the vote in their category. In other words, more than two-thirds of polled players picked a rookie other than the leader in each category.

The exceptions: best shooter (Hawks’ Trae Young at 47%) and best playmaker (Young at 35%). But even he didn’t get a majority of votes. Still, I appreciate many of his peers recognizing his passing ability. That’s his best skill, not the deep shooting that draws so much attention.

Report: Mavericks awaiting potential NBA punishment due to predatory work environment

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The Mavericks’ investigation into their predatory work environment is progressing more slowly than some expected.

The latest holdup?

Eddie Sefko of The Dallas Morning News:

The investigation into the Mavericks’ front-office scandal remains in idle, awaiting input and possible sanctions from the NBA as well as ensuring that details in the investigators’ report are double-checked, sources said Monday.

The hope is that the results can be made public next week. But there is no firm timetable.

Hopefully, the Mavericks identify and fix problems in their organization. No employees should be subject to sexual harassment. That’s most important.

But there will also be a close eye on how the league responds, specifically whether penalties affect the team on the court. NBA fans won’t see the most significant changes in Dallas. Most Mavericks employees are out of sight, out of mind. But fans will watch the players perform, and forfeited draft picks or anything like that will draw more attention.