Pau Gasol’s trade tip put his and Marc Gasol’s All-Star futures in motion

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In February 2008, the Grizzlies shook the NBA landscape by trading Pau Gasol to the Lakers for an expiring contract, a 76ers assistant coach, a rookie point guard who had more turnovers than assists, two future first-round picks and the rights to a second-round pick who was playing in Europe had no plans to ever join the NBA.

Outside Los Angeles, many were livid. Rumors swirled former Grizzlies executive Jerry West facilitated the deal to his former team. It seemed the Lakers had stolen the missing piece to a championship, giving up scraps for a star.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich was direct:

“What they did in Memphis is beyond comprehension,” he told SI.com “There should be a trade committee that can scratch all trades that make no sense. I just wish I had been on a trade committee that oversees NBA trades. I’d like to elect myself to that committee. I would have voted no to the L.A. trade.”

That European player with no plans to play in the NBA? Marc Gasol.

As the rest of the league struggled to grasp the trade, Marc believed he understood at least one aspect – why he was included.

“I thought that the Grizzlies knew me better because Pau was here, and Pau was talking to the guys how well I was playing that year and so and so,” said Marc, who was then playing with Akasvayu Girona in Spain . “And I don’t think the Lakers knew how I was playing there.”

Did Pau see something the rest of us hadn’t yet?

“Loving my brother, I saw that he had potential to turn into a great player,” Pau said.

As few others in NBA circles shared that optimism, criticism of the trade as one-sided indirectly demeaned Marc’s value. Pau said he was too focused on the Lakers to worry about that perception. Marc wasn’t bothered by it, either.

“I know my rights got traded, but I didn’t see myself as part of the trade,” Marc said. “I thought that the organization, the Lakers, didn’t know much about me – and nobody at that time, even I think the Grizzlies or anybody, even myself, could see it going to where it is today.”

Where it is today: Pau and Marc Gasol have become the first brothers in NBA history to start an All-Star game.

With Pau’s 2006, 2009, 2010 and 2011 selections and Marc’s 2012 berth, the Gasols had already joined Tom and Dick Van Arsdale as the only brothers to make an NBA All-Star game.  But neither Van Arsdale twin started an All-Star game, let alone both in one year. Pau (now with the Bulls) and Marc (still with the Grizzlies) are also each starting for the first time.

The recognition has even the well-spoken pair rambling a bit. Pau said the honor made him “beyond, beyond proud and thrilled and honored and thankful and all of the above.” Said Marc: “It’s hard to understand what it means and how many things we accomplished and where we come from and all the way through up to here and how many people were behind this voting and how many people helped us get to where we’re at.”

Since they were traded for each other, their careers have gone nearly as well as either could have hoped.

Pau won two titles and made three All-Star games with the Lakers. Marc became an All-Star and Defensive Player of the Year with the Grizzlies, helping them reach the 2013 Western Conference Finals.

Their 2015 levels might be even more incredible.

Marc, averaging a career-high 19.1 points with 8.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game, is an MVP candidate and arguably the NBA’s top big man. Not bad for someone who didn’t change his plans about staying in Europe until he saw his Spanish club going bankrupt.

Pau is having a resurgent season in Chicago, averaging 18.3 points (his most in five years), 11.8 rebounds (a career-high) and 2.1 blocks (his most in eight years) per game. At an age and with a résumé that would make many content, Pau is playing with even more passion. If his numbers hold, he’d be the third-oldest player to average 18-11 behind only Robert Parish and Wilt Chamberlain.

This is Pau’s first All-Star berth in four seasons. At 34, he’s hardly the oldest player to become an All-Star. But many of those aging players were legacy All-Stars, players selected year after year. Only Johnny Green, who made it at 37 while playing for the 1971 Cincinnati Royals, played three years without an All-Star appearance and then got one at such an old age.

The brothers are doing it in different ways – Pau is longer and a better scorer, and Marc is more defensive-minded and physical – but they’re both having awesome seasons. If they weren’t voted starters by fans, their conferences’ coaches should have (and likely would have) made them reserves.

Yet, neither made the All-Star game the last two years. So, they discussed getting together for the break this February. Marc figured they’d spend a quiet weekend somewhere, playing board games and cards.

“Even when we’re playing Monopoly or we’re playing Uno or we’re playing charades, we want to win. We’re playing ping pong or pool, whatever we’re doing,” Marc said. “…We both know it’s competitive, even though we might not show it. We might laugh it off, but it’s in our DNA. We can’t do anything about it.”

Instead, they’ll take that same competitive spirit to New York for the All-Star game for a head-to-head meeting on the court.

“We know each other’s games so well that it’s not easy,” Marc said. “We’ve got to come up with new tricks and new counters for us to score, because I know he’s not going let me score easily. And he knows for sure – for damn sure – I’m not going to let him score.”

“We have so much respect for each other and know how much one another care about the game that we barely even talk,” Marc said. “We barely make eye contact.”

Marc figures they’ll have a little more fun with each other during the All-Star game, and he’s particularly looking forward to meeting his brother at center court for the opening tip.

“It’s going to be a hell of a moment, that’s for sure,” Marc said. “And it’s going to be something that’s a picture for the rest of lives, just like many others. But this one kind of symbolizes a lot of things and summarizes two different ways of doing things and getting to the same spot.”

Hawks’ Collins out weeks with sprained ankle, Hunter also at least a week

Atlanta Hawks v Philadelphia 76ers
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images
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ATLANTA (AP) — The Atlanta Hawks will be without both of their starting forwards for at least the next three games.

John Collins will miss at least the next two weeks with a sprained left ankle and De'Andre Hunter will be sidelined for at least one week with a right hip flexor strain, the Hawks said Thursday.

Both departed with injuries during Wednesday night’s win over Orlando. Hunter played only seven minutes and Collins was hurt after a dunk that didn’t count at the halftime buzzer.

Hunter is third on the Hawks in scoring at 14.9 points per game, and Collins is fourth at 12.3 points.

Hunter, a fourth-year player out of Virginia, has yet to play a full season because of various injuries.

Draymond Green wants to play 4-5 more years, ideally with Warriors, not stressed about contract

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Jordan Poole got a contract extension from the Warriors this summer. So did Andrew Wiggins.

Draymond Green did not — and he punched Poole and was away from the team for a time.

All this has led to speculation about the future of Green in Golden State. He has a $27.6 million player option for next season, but he could become a free agent this summer. With the Warriors’ payroll through the roof — Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson are on max extensions, Poole and Wiggins just got paid, and contract extensions for Jonathan Kuminga and the rest of the young players are coming — there are questions about how long Green will be in the Bay Area.

In an open and honest interview with Marc Spears of ESPN’s Andscape, Green talked about everything from his relationship with Poole after the punch to his future. Here are a few highlights:

“I want to play another four or five more years. That would be enough for me.”

“You can look around the NBA right now. There are five guys that’s been on a team for 11 years-plus. We have three of them [along with Stephen Curry and Klay Thompson]. It’s a very rare thing. There’s 470, 480 players in the NBA? There are five guys that’s been with his team for 11 years plus. That’s amazing. So, you don’t just give that away. So, absolutely I’d be interested in that.”

On rumors he wants to play with LeBron James and the Lakers: “I never said that. People can say what they want. I’m also not really one to react much to what one may say. I react to things when I want to react to it. I don’t react to things just because somebody said it.”

Is he worried about his next contract: “No, not at all. I have a great agent [Rich Paul]. The best agent in the business. That’s why you align yourself with an incredible agent, because they handle the business. I play basketball. That’s what I want.”

I don’t doubt there is mutual interest in Green staying with the Warriors, the question is at what price. It’s not a max. As for the threat of him bolting, Green is still an elite defender and secondary playmaker, but it’s fair to wonder what the free agent market would look like for him. Green is not the scoring threat he once was, and his unique skill set is not a plug-and-play fit with every roster and system (does he really fit on the Lakers, for example).

The conventional wisdom around the league right now is that Green will opt into the final year of his contract with the Warriors — especially if they make another deep playoff run — because that level of money is not out there for him. That said, it only takes one owner to fall in love with the idea and send his GM out to get the deal done. The market may be there for him after all, or he may be open to the security of three or four years with another team but at a lower per-year dollar amount.

Green also talks about his relationship with Poole in the Q&A and makes it sound professional and business-like. Which is all it has to be, but it’s not the “playing with joy” model the Warriors are built upon.

 

Lakers reportedly leaning toward packaging Beverley, Nunn in trade

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While the Lakers have looked better of late winning 6-of-8 with a top-10 offense and defense in the league in that stretch, plus Anthony Davis continues to play at an All-NBA level at center.

That run — which still has Los Angeles sitting 13th in the West — came against a soft part of the schedule (three wins against the Spurs, for example), and is about to get tested with a few weeks of tougher games, starting with the suddenly healthy Milwaukee Bucks on Friday. While the Lakers have been better, nobody is watching them and thinking “contender.” Are they even a playoff team?

Which is why the Lakers are still in the market for trades. But Jovan Buha reports at The Athletic the Lakers realize moving Russell Westbrook and his $47 million may not happen, so they are focused more on a smaller deal moving Patrick Beverley and Kendrick Nunn (with maybe a pick) to bring back quality role players to round out the roster).

The Lakers are leaning toward [a Nunn/Beverley trade] at this point, the team sources said. That would entail making a smaller move to marginally upgrade the roster while retaining the possibility of following up with a larger Westbrook deal later in the season…

Beverley ($13 million) and Nunn ($5.3 million) are both underperforming relative to their contracts. With the Lakers’ needs for additional size on the wing and a better complimentary big next to Anthony Davis, along with the roster’s glut of small guards, Beverley and/or Nunn are expendable. Packaged together, the Lakers could acquire a player or players in the $20 million range.

Trading Nunn and Beverley lines up with a couple of good options from the Lakers’ perspective. For example, the salaries work to get Bojan Bogdanovic out of Detroit, or it matches up with a deal for Jakob Poeltl and Josh Richardson out of San Antonio. However, neither the Pistons nor Spurs care much about adding veteran guards on expiring contracts in Nunn and Beverley, so it’s going to require the Lakers throwing in one of their first-round picks unprotected (2027 or 2029) and maybe a second-rounder to get it done. (With how well the Pacers are playing, it’s not a sure thing that a Myles Turner/Buddy Hield trade is still available.) The Spurs trade may be more appealing to the Lakers because Richardson and Poeltl are expiring contracts, so it doesn’t change the Lakers’ plans to use cap space to chase bigger names this offseason (Bogdanovic was recently given a two-year, $39.1 million extension).

These may not be the “move us into contender range” blockbuster Rob Pelinka and the front office hoped was out there, but either of those trades would make the Lakers better. It could move them into playoff-team status, and considering LeBron James turns 38 at the end of the month they can’t waste a year and retool next offseason.

The Lakers have made a number of miscalculations over the years, but they are all-in with this group now and have to find a way to maximize it, even if the cost is a little painful.

Khris Middleton reportedly set to return to Bucks Friday vs. Lakers

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The Milwaukee Bucks are about to get better. Likely a lot better.

Which should worry the rest of the league because the Bucks have looked like one of the two best teams in the Association this season: A 15-5 record with the best defense in the NBA and an MVP and Defensive Player of the Year candidate in Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Now they are about to get Khris Middleton back.

Middleton — the Bucks Olympian and All-Star forward — is set to make his season debut Friday night against the Lakers, reports Adrian Wojnarowski at ESPN. Middleton had been recovering from wrist surgery.

Middleton averaged 20.1 points and 5.4 rebounds and assists per game last season. More importantly in Milwaukee, Middleton is the hub of the Bucks’ halfcourt offense — he is the ball handler in the pick-and-roll at the end of games, asked to create for himself and others in the clutch (with Antetokounmpo working off the ball and sometimes setting picks). Without him so far this season, the Bucks’ halfcourt offense has struggled, ranked 21st in the NBA this season in points per possession (via Cleaning the Glass). Overall the Bucks have a middle-of-the-pack offense because of it.

That is about to change.

While Mike Budenholzer will ease him back into the rotation as he gets his wind back, having Middleton back makes the Bucks much more dangerous. Which is bad news for the rest of the NBA.