Trade Deadline Winners/Losers: It’s a good day to be a Pacers fan

27 Comments

It was the day of the role player.

There was a fair amount of action at the NBA’s trade deadline but none of it involved the big names that floated around a little — no Rajon Rondo or Pau Gasol, and Kevin Love was never in play. Still, some teams made smart moves, and some players did not have a good day.

Yes, it’s really too early to know who will be the winners and losers from the trade deadline, but we’re going to do it anyway.

WINNER: Evan Turner and the Indiana Pacers. Indiana rolled the dice here but you have to love a contending team willing to take smart risks to get better. Larry Bird showed some stones with this move. Evan Turner could be a big winner too — and could make himself a lot of money. Indiana shipped out Danny Granger, who since his return from knee surgery was a shadow of his former All-Star self — 8.3 points a game with a true shooting percentage of 49.1. Evan Turner is better scorer right now than Granger — he’s not better from three (although Evans showed a much better touch shooting 36 percent from deep last season) but he is a slashing volume scorer putting up 17 points a game and doing it with a true shooting percentage of 50.4 (below the league average but better than Granger). Turner brings to the Pacers’ second unit the kind of attacking Lance Stephenson brings to the Pacers’ first unit — just not nearly as efficiently. That is the key. Turner has benefited (and inflated his scoring totals) with the fast pace the Sixers play at, but the Pacers are betting he come in and put up numbers off the bench for Indiana. The question is how will he fit the system? Can he be effective when not pounding the rock for seven seconds than driving? Can he work off the ball? Can he defend? Can he play well with C.J. Watson and Luis Scola and blend in as a scorer? If the answer to those questions is yes not only did the already imposing Pacers get better, they got deeper (Lavoy Allen also can add some shooting to the bench). And if he shows he can fit in with a team like this, Turner will make himself more money as a free agent this summer.

LOSER: Thaddeus Young. Evan Turner is competing for a title with the Pacers now. Spencer Hawes is going to Cleveland to get passes from Kyrie Irving and see if he can help lift a team that won six in a row into the playoffs. Thaddeus Young is stuck in Philadelphia without those guys. Young is a proud, professional veteran and this kind of losing and struggling with a young team can’t be fun. Now he gets to do it alone… well except for Danny Granger.

WINNER: Golden State Warriors. Klay Thompson is second in the NBA in total minutes played. Stephen Curry is 15th on that list. That’s a lot of minutes for a guy in Curry with an injury history. Mark Jackson has had to ride his starting backcourt because of a lack of quality guard depth — Steve Blake fixes that. He is rock solid, can play the one and the two, shoots the three ball, plays well in space or in the half court, he is just a top-to-bottom professional guard. Exactly the kind of guy that the Warriors needed. Golden State stumbled before the All-Star break, this is the kind of move they needed.

LOSER: Danny Granger. You can’t feel too bad for a guy in the last year of a $13 million contract, but this had to be emotional and hard for him. Pacers fans on twitter seemed torn — their heads knew this was a smart trade by Larry Bird, but they are still emotionally invested in Danny Granger, and in his comeback. Now he gets ripped out of the place he has ever played as a pro and thrown onto a rebuilding team in Philly. That’s rough.

WINNER: Charlotte Bobcats. Charlotte may not have come into this season looking to make the playoffs, but after their fast start and now as the eight seed in the East, they don’t want to give it up. This move helps that. The Bobcats need floor-spacing shooting — Al Jefferson scores on the block and Kemba Walker is a slasher, but they need shooters and they got one in Gary Neal (36 percent from three this season, 39 percent for his career). Neal will not be asked to play the point and create in Charlotte (which is a good thing for all basketball fans), he just needs to shoot. In addition he has plenty of playoff experience from his time in San Antonio. While Ramon Sessions is a solid guard off the bench, he’s a scoring slasher, he is not a passer. Now the Bobcats bring in a solid, professional backup pure point guard in Luke Ridnour who will orchestrate the second unit. With talent around him he makes good decisions. Charlotte got better with this trade — they are just 1.5 games out of the five seed in the East and they have to look at climbing the ladder now, not worrying about who is behind them (they just swept a home-and-home from the Pistons anyway).

LOSER: Jimmer Fredette. There are just not a lot of Fredette fans in front offices around the NBA. According to reports, the Kings were asking for a second round pick for Fredette and nobody wanted to take that deal. Fredette is making $2.4 million this season and no other team thought that cost and a second pick was worth Fredette, which seems a little bit of a surprise but that is how far his stock has fallen.

WINNER: Andre Miller. Freedom, sweet freedom. He had been banished to Brian Shaw’s dog house in Denver, now he gets a chance in Washington to be the veteran voice in the locker room (along with Nene) and get some quality minutes behind John Wall. Now, Miller is an outspoken veteran and let’s just say not every one of his former players is a big Randy Wittman fan — fireworks are a real possibility — but for now Miller gets to play and be a part of a team again, and that is a win.

LOSER: We the fans. We love trades, we love to play GM and find a way we can get LeBron James and Paul George to our team and all we have to give up is an aging veteran and a case of ankle tape. And in years past we’ve seen some monster trade deadline moves in the NBA. Not the last two years. For one, the new CBA shortened contracts and teams got to amnesty their worst ones, so the day of “take my expiring contract, please” are gone. In addition, teams are hesitant to give up picks both because they like the draft (this year’s in particular but the next couple are also good) and because under the new CBA rookie contracts are important. Also, more and more deals just get done in the summer or earlier in the season (Rudy Gay and Luol Deng this season, for example). I can explain the “why?” That doesn’t make it any more fun — we love big splashy deadline day trades and we haven’t seen those for a couple of years now. And we may not for a while.

Lakers loving LeBron’s leadership in first practice together

Getty
Leave a comment

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) Although the Lakers’ first official practice of the LeBron James era was focused on defense and learning new terminology, they ended it with a good old-fashioned 3-point shooting contest.

The Lakers’ new superstar was just another teammate during the spirited back-and-forth competition Tuesday. When James wasn’t draining his own 3s, he marveled along with everybody else at the surprising perimeter prowess shown by JaVale McGee, the 7-foot veteran with exactly one 3-pointer during a game in his 10-year NBA career.

The Lakers have many weeks of work ahead to become a cohesive team assembled around James, but he can already sense they’re heading down the right path. They’re planning to have plenty of fun along the way, too.

“I’m not a very patient guy, but I understand that I have to be patient right now,” James said. “I’ve got to be patient with myself, too, because this is a new start for me. It’s my first year in a new system. I know how to play the game of basketball, but this is all new to me, too. So I have to be patient with myself, not only with my teammates.”

James was both upbeat and businesslike after his first workout under coach Luke Walton, who entered the NBA in the same draft class as James in 2003. The Lakers will hold double practices and a scrimmage on the first two days of camp leading toward their preseason debut in San Diego on Sunday night.

James intends to enjoy the process in his new city.

“We’re here for one reason and one reason only, and that’s to someday hoist the trophy,” James said. “Obviously that’s the end of the road, but you have to have those types of championship habits every day, not only on the floor, but off the floor as well. … Everyone is excited to get back to work. That’s a good thing. No one is coming in today and wishing it was still summer. It’s the best time of the year. Basketball season is back up, baseball season is on its way to the playoffs, and the NFL is in Week 4. So what could you ask for as a sports fan?”

James naturally becomes the center of attention on any team, and he quickly assumed a leadership role for the Lakers. He’s also eager to see his veteran teammates assert themselves to help the Lakers’ young returning core, whether it’s Rajon Rondo instructing his fellow guards on assignments, or Lance Stephenson vocally calling out defensive instructions in half-court work.

“He’s LeBron. He’s one name,” Rondo said. “It speaks for itself. He’s been a leader and a mentor in this league for a long time, on and off the court. He has a blueprint off the court as well. So he embraces his role. He embraces all the pressure that he’s ever dealt with in his career, and he’s always risen above the occasion.”

Although Walton and James are just getting to know each other, the coach is grateful that his new star is leading by example from the opening practice.

The Lakers have lacked this level of respected on-court leadership in the two seasons since Kobe Bryant’s retirement, but LeBron and his fellow new veterans have strong ideas about how an NBA team must approach its work to be a winner.

“I could see it yesterday,” Walton said. “The way he’s approaching (practice) has changed from the pickup we were playing in the summer. It definitely set the tone. We’re on a journey that started today, and we’re very serious about the business that we got done today.”

More AP NBA: http://www.apnews.com/tag/NBA and http://www.twitter.com/AP-Sports

Dion Waiters looks a little out of shape as training camp starts (PHOTO)

Getty
6 Comments

Each summer in the NBA we have to sit around and watch as players seemingly add pounds of muscle to their body. Over the course of the season, this added muscle typically melts away as players spend less time in the weight room and start running more than ever.

#MuscleWatch is a hilarious and staid part of the summer. But its cousin, Weight Watch, is a bit different.

On the flip side, some players show up in worse shape than they ended the season prior. Boris Diaw used to be the king of the early fall extra poundage. Now it appears that Miami Heat wing Dion Waiters is carrying a little bit of baggage with him as he starts training camp.

When Waiters’ headshot was published this week, Twitter had a bit of a field day with it.

Via Twitter:

This is not to body shame Waiters in anyway of course. As an athlete, his body is up for intense scrutiny with regard to his readiness for the season. And, how Waiters looks heading into training camp is markedly different than how he looked last summer.

No doubt when training camp starts, Waiters will get himself into shape and he will be ready to play by the time games start in October. Still, it’s always shocking to see a professional athlete add some lbs.

Damian Lillard says he started breaking Twitter news to put the ‘shoe on the other foot’

Getty
3 Comments

Damian Lillard surprised us all this summer when he shockingly started tweeting out new destinations for media members as they changed jobs. It was a twist on the typical script, which would normally see journalists break news about athletes.

It was a fun moment on social media, and most people sort of shrugged it off as Lillard reporting information fed to him by members of the media who could be considered his friends.

Left unsaid was the place Lillard’s newsbreaking had with regard to the natural opposition some NBA players feel toward the media. No doubt Lillard getting to break some news instead of having news broken about him gave him some kind of satisfaction. While speaking to The Athletic’s Sam Amick this week, Lillard said as much.

Via The Athletic:

It was just a case of putting the shoe on the other foot. I think there’s a lot of stuff that we go through as players, or a story might come out that might have a little bit of truth, but somebody adds (to it) or put their own spin on it or whatever. We don’t have a chance to say, ‘No, I don’t want that to get out. Yeah, it happened, or yeah that’s accurate but I don’t really want that story to be told at the moment. I don’t want to have to deal with that right now. Our situation is just not considered a lot of times.

I’m just basically showing you how it feels to be vulnerable, I guess, or to be at somebody else’s mercy about something that you might not want out.

… It’s almost like anybody can report anything now. I’m not a journalist, I’ve never done this before, but all of a sudden I can report something and it’s fair game, you know what I’m saying? Why is that even respected? Now if it was CJ, that’s one thing, he went to school for journalism, and he does that. He does podcasts, and he writes articles and things like that. I don’t, so that was part of it. Anybody can drop this information.

Lillard isn’t exactly wrong here. Modern journalism is so skewed from what it once was, it’s hard for those in the industry to even keep track of who is reliable and who is not. The availability of social media and mobile audio and visual capture means that just about every citizen can relay first-hand information quickly. And while it’s a bit of a stretch for Lillard to say that his teammate CJ McCollum is more journalistically reliable than he is, the Blazers star seemingly becoming frustrated with the idea of journalism-as-horsetrading strikes home.

As professional sports across the world have grown in value, and truly become multibillion-dollar businesses, so too has the public relations aspect of professional sports. Beat reporters no longer fly on team planes, and everyone from the athletes to the teams and the agents want to try to control the message. That has driven a wedge between sports journalists and athletes in today’s coverage.

Even Lillard’s description of his reason for dropping his information came, in part, from a stated desire for better public relations management. That is, that stories often are not narrowed to information the athlete wants available, and may come at inconventient time for athletes.

Of course, “I don’t really want that story to be told at the moment” isn’t a good reason not to publish something. That’s what delineates journalists from public relations. But in an era where high-powered media entities wield power with information that is, altruistically, perhaps more trivial than necessary, it seems possible that the pillar on which journalistic ethics once stood has slowly begun to erode. If that’s the case, it’s reasonable to think there are times which you can’t blame players on being upset with writers.

Who knows if Lillard will continue to dip his toes in the news breaking pool? The season is not far away, and he’s probably too busy working out.

Report: Cavaliers, Larry Nance Jr. talking contract extension

Getty Images
Leave a comment

When the Cavaliers made the trade deadline deal with the Lakers last February, they got Larry Nance Jr. (the son of a Cavs legend) and Jordan Clarkson (surrendering Channing Frye, Isaiah Thomas and a 2018 1st round draft pick that became Moritz Wagner).

Nance is the one the Cavaliers seem intent on keeping, and they may extend him, reports Tom Withers of the Associated Press.

This seems like a good fit for both sides, if they can find a number that works. The Cavaliers are committed to not bottoming out right now — which is why Kevin Love got a new massive contract — and Nance fits with that.

This is not going to be a max contract, but Nance has made it clear he likes playing in Cleveland and wants to stay. After he came over last season he averaged 8.9 points on 55 percent shooting, 7 rebounds, 1.4 assists, and 1.4 steals a game. Those numbers could go up with LeBron James no longer in the picture.