Jazz not worried about slow start for Gordon Hayward

2 Comments

SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Gordon Hayward entered the season ready to raise his profile in the league. Things are off to a slower start than expected through three games.

Hayward has averaged 12 points, 3.7 rebounds and 2.7 assists going into Wednesday’s home opener against the Trail Blazers. Those aren’t the numbers those around the organization – or Hayward – hoped for, but there’s certainly no panic from such a small sample size.

“Just a little bit of a slow start for me personally, but the team is playing well and that’s what I’m focused on,” Hayward said. “I’ll find a way to get it going and get back in the groove of things. Hopefully I can find it in this next game. But feeling good about where we’re at as a team.”

Hayward returned from the summer visibly stronger and said he worked on finishing during the offseason. He showed that late in a season-opening loss to Detroit after struggling much of the night. Shots just haven’t fallen, as Hayward is shooting what would be a career-low 35.3 percent from the field. The points, rebounds and assist averages would all be the lowest since 2011-12 for the sixth-year player.

Hayward finished last season with an average of 19.3 points, 4.9 rebounds and 4.1 assists.

Coach Quin Snyder wasn’t interested in dissecting Hayward.

“I’m not in the evaluate Gordon business,” Snyder said. “At least not after every game. Gordon’s established himself as one of the best players in the league. Every game’s going to present different challenges.

“I thought he played really well against Indiana. He’s gotten some offensive fouls that, to me, are baskets. I like what he’s doing and where he’s going.”

There will be some developmental time for this Jazz (2-1) team. There’s a different dynamic with Dante Exum injured and rookie Raul Neto starting at point guard. Alec Burks is back from a shoulder injury that ended his 2014-15 season. He plays the same position as Hayward and is a creative player with the ball in his hands. Derrick Favors has been extremely aggressive with the new range on his jump shot and leads the team with 21.3 points per game. Second-year wing Rodney Hood has blossomed himself and has averaged 15.3 points.

“From the first week of practice (Hayward had) been really aggressive. That’s what we want,” Snyder said. “There’s different ways for him to be aggressive. Whether it’s shooting the ball, making plays defensively. I think we’ve seen a little bit of everything. At certain times too he’s going to put all that together.

“It’s an adjustment for him, too, with Rodney and Alec back and Dante not here. Everyone’s kind of finding where their shots come, what their role is. I think those roles will be dynamic. I think they’ll change as the season progresses. Not in a major ways, but we’ll see them evolve.”

Hayward explained that he’s not going out looking to get his offense. He’s just as involved in spacing the floor and making the extra pass, not to mention his defensive effort.

And that’s most important for an organization that led the league in defense after the All-Star game last year. The team just isn’t built to win shootouts.

“We’re a young team,” Hayward said. “We’re going to struggle sometimes offensively, but as long as we can maintain our defensive principles, I think we’ll be all right.”

The Jazz are currently No. 23 in the league in scoring (94.3 points) after an Eastern Conference swing that included the Pistons, 76ers and Pacers. Utah leads the league in defense after giving up just 79.7 points per game. The Spurs are No. 2 with an opponent’s average of 89.5 points.

The defensive effort is off to a fast start. Things are still developing on the other end of the floor, but there are few concerns about Hayward.

“Gordon’s one of the most unselfish superstars in the league,” Jazz forward Joe Ingles said. “He’ll take the shots that he gets. He doesn’t force much, either. … I think we’ll have a lot, this year, of different guys having big games each week.

“He’ll break out soon and you guys will leave him alone. He’s fine.”

Report: Mavericks looking for another star at trade deadline. Good luck with that.

Toronto Raptors v Sacramento Kings
Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

Two things are true. First, the painted-over mural was right, the Dallas Mavericks desperately need a second star to go next to Luka Dončić. Second, they have backed themselves into a corner without the trade assets or cap space to easily make that happen.

It may be a longshot, but the Mavericks are open to trading anyone but Dončić to find that second star at the deadline, Callie Caplan of the Dallas Morning News reminds us.

It shouldn’t be a surprise Dallas is open to this, of course they are.

The challenges start with, what star is available? The best player maybe on the market right now is John Collins or Bojan Bogdanovic, and while both would help the Mavericks neither is changing the team’s fortunes the way they would hope.

If Toronto decides to become sellers things get interesting. However, as of the latest reports, they are on the fence and telling teams they are waiting to decide what they will do at the deadline (sell, stand pat, or become buyers). Fred VanVleet could be available, and would essentially be a Jalen Brunson replacement, certainly a step up from where the Mavericks are currently. However, the Clippers and others could drive up the asking price, plus the Mavericks would have to step up and pay him this summer, VanVleet is expected to opt out of his $22.8 million contract. O.G. Anunoby would be a great fit next to Dončić, but he is not a star, he is more of a high-level role player.

Pascal Siakam could be that second star next to Dončić, a 6’8″ wing who can finish at the rim, shoot 3s, and would be a great secondary shot creator. It’s a good fit. Siakam is not an elite defender — Dallas would want some 3&D guys added to the roster — but he would be the kind of addition Dallas needs.

Dallas can offer its three first-round picks starting in 2024, but is some combination of those picks and Spencer Dinwiddie, Tim Hardaway Jr., Christian Wood and Dorian Finney-Smith going to entice the Raptors? They will look for a massive package for Siakam and likely see better offers than Dallas can construct.

It may not be easy to pull off, and likely will wait until the offseason (at the earliest), but know the Mavericks are serious about a second star.

Knicks reportedly very interested in Anunoby, if Raptors make him available

Toronto Raptors v Golden State Warriors
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
0 Comments

The Toronto Raptors are the one team that could move this trade deadline from a dud to shaking up the playoff race. There are 29 other GMs waiting to see what Massai Ujiri will do, and when they called, they’ve been told “the franchise will make a decision about being a buyer or seller – or standing pat – near deadline day,” reports Shams Charania of The Athletic.

If Toronto does decide to trade a player beyond the expected Gary Trent Jr., then the Knicks want to be at the front of the line for defensive wing O.G. Anunoby, Charania reports.

The Knicks and Suns are among the interested suitors in Raptors forward O.G. Anunoby, sources say. New York has shown a willingness to offer multiple first-round picks for Anunoby, according to those sources. The Suns, meanwhile, have control of all of their first-round picks — eight in total —through 2030. SNY first reported the Knicks’ interest last week.

There would be a lot of teams in line for Anunoby, but he is a very Thibodeau-style player — an All-Defensive Team level wing stopper who can finish and is averaging 16.9 points per game — so you can see where the interest comes from. Anunoby also is just 25 and is locked in next season at $18.6 million. While the demand for wings in general is lower this trade season — point guards and centers are more in demand — a lot of teams could use a player the quality of Anunoby. Including the Knicks.

Getting him won’t be cheap — two unprotected first-round picks (or lightly protected) with matching salary would be the price range.

All of that is moot if the Raptors don’t make him available, which is what everyone is waiting to see.

Report: Bucks have been given permission to talk to Jae Crowder

NBA 2022 Playoffs - Phoenix Suns v Dallas Mavericks
Glenn James/NBAE via Getty Images
0 Comments

Jae Crowder may be the most likely player to be traded at the deadline. The Suns need a shake-up (and to get Devin Booker back), and they are sitting on a $10.2 million player that is not helping them on the court and has yet to bring back any trade value they want.

We may have movement on that front, based on reports from Shams Charania of The Athletic.

In a new development, the Suns have given permission to the Bucks to meet with Crowder and they met over the weekend, league sources tell The Athletic. The Bucks are believed to be the only team that has received permission to visit one-on-one with Crowder, those sources have also indicated…

Both the Suns and Bucks have engaged in serious trade talks for months, with current proposals surrounding Jordan Nwora, George Hill, Serge Ibaka and second-round draft compensation to Phoenix for Crowder, according to sources. The Bucks and Suns have searched for a third team to provide Phoenix with a forward – so what outcome will emerge between now and next Thursday?

Those talks between the Bucks and Crowder likely focused on his role on the team this season (backup four) and possibly re-signing him after this season (he will be a free agent).

Crowder has sat out the season after asking for a trade but is still a Sun because Phoenix head of basketball operations James Jones had a very specific ask in the trade — a forward with a similar skill set to Crowder. It’s tough to trade like-for-like in the league, so nothing has happened. It’s also why that offer from the Bucks doesn’t seem the fit the Suns want. Nwora is a forward but a fringe rotation player, Hill can help with some backup point guard minutes, but nothing really moves the needle for Phoenix. The problem is the Suns have waited so long to get a trade done that Crowder’s value has gone down — by the time he is traded, works his way back into game shape, then steps on the court for his new team he’ll be lucky to play 30 games in the regular season. Teams aren’t going to give up as much for a rental.

The report states the Heat also are interested, which is not a shock they want a P.J. Tucker-like player at the four and Crowder fits the bill, but putting together a trade that works for both sides is difficult (unless the Suns suddenly fell in love with Duncan Robinson, which would be a bigger trade). The Hawks come up, but there is a growing sense around the league that the new Landry Fields-led front office is less inclined to trade John Collins, and they may ride with him at the four.

It’s likely Crowder gets traded somewhere at the deadline and the Bucks maybe make the most sense, but this deal could have been done long ago if the sides wanted to.

Free agent Candace Parker announces she will sign with champion Aces

SPORTS-BKL-ACES-PARKER-SKY-1-TB
Stacey Wescott/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
0 Comments

The WNBA champion Las Vegas Aces are about to get better.

Two-time MVP and two-time WNBA champion Candace Parker announced she plans to sign with the Aces when free agency opens on Feb. 1

The WNBA champions just got better — a starting frontcourt of Parker and reigning MVP A’ja Wilson (with Kelsey Plum in the backcourt) could make Las Vegas the best defensive team in the league. While Parker may not be the scorer she once was, she can serve as a fulcrum for the offense, get the ball to the other players on the deeply talented Aces, and make them a serious threat to repeat.

Still, a cloud hangs over the Aces organization after what Dearica Hamby alleged after she was traded to the Sparks. Hamby said she was “lied to, bullied, manipulated, and discriminated against” by the Aces front office surrounding her pregnancy and contract. Those are serious allegations, and the WNBPA is looking into the matter.

On the court (if the investigation results don’t weigh them down), the Aces have to be title favorites now. However, when WNBA free agency comes on Wednesday that could shift, depending on what Breanna Stewart chooses to do (along with other key free agents). There has been speculation Stewart could head to New York to team up with Jonquel Jones, Betnijah Laney and Sabrina Ionescu on a Liberty team that would instantly be the biggest threat to the Aces (if not the outright favorite).

Stay tuned, it’s going to be an interesting WNBA free agency.