Some media members trying to grade out the trade deadline — myself included — had the Rockets in the losers category for the trade deadline. The logic goes like this: the Rockets had a disappointing team with dysfunctional chemistry with Dwight Howard, James Harden, and Ty Lawson. Firing the coach didn’t fix things. So at the deadline GM Daryl Morey tried to repair the roster by shopping Howard and Lawson hard, but nothing came of it (because Howard wants to be a free agent this summer and would not opt-in to the final year of his deal). They are the same dysfunctional team they were before, and good luck to J.B. Bickerstaff trying to get that group to play as a unit now.
That said, this wasn’t a disaster for the Rockets. First, they didn’t make any stupid, panic trades that set the franchise back. Second, the one deadline deal they did make — Donatas Motiejunas and Marcus Thornton to the Pistons for a top-eight protected 2016 first-round pick (and Joel Anthony, who the Rockets flipped in another deal) — is a good one for them.
Morey went on The Vertical Podcast with Adrian Wojnarowski after the deadline and defended the moves they made.
“We’re not feeling good about how we’re playing, but we feel good about our roster. It’s the group that made the Western Conference finals last year….
“James and Dwight together have made the Western Conference finals, have won more than two-thirds of their games. This is a group that we would be very reluctant to split up. Obviously there was a lot of interest in (Howard) — I think there was a lot of noise about that — but that was something we were going to be very reluctant to break up. As part of my job, I do have to listen to everything, but nothing got close and we weren’t going to split that up unless it was something significant.”
The buzz is the Rockets were asking a high price for Howard, and some teams might have paid it because he still has real value on the court, but they weren’t going to spend those assets for a rental. They wanted him to say he would opt-in to the final year of his contract. Howard wouldn’t do that, he intends to be a free agent.
So the Rocket will ride this roster into the playoffs, where as it stands they are the eight seed and would get Golden State in the first round. Maybe the Rockets get on a little run, and they could face the Spurs or the Thunder in the first round. They have the talent on the roster Morey likes to create some matchup challenges for any of those teams. But they are not going to get out of the first round.
Then this summer in Houston will be interesting.
Last season, Indiana’s Nate McMillan finished fourth in Coach of the Year voting, taking a team that lost star Victor Oladipo after just 36 games and still got them into the playoffs. McMillan is going to get COY votes again this year for much the same reason — his teams play good defense and overachieve.
Indiana coach Nate McMillan is also on the hot seat.
It’s surprising, and it’s just a rumor, but ESPN’s Jeff Van Gundy and Zach Lowe had this conversation on a recent episode of The Lowe Post podcast (hat tip PacersTalk.net).
Van Gundy: “I had two people come up to me since I’ve been here [in the NBA restart bubble] and say, ‘Nate McMillan’s in trouble.’”
Lowe: “It’s been the hottest rumor all season… What you’ve heard in Orlando’s been going around all season…
“Let me be clear: It’s just a rumor. I don’t know if it’s true. When you talk to people around the Pacers, they say, ‘It’s not true’ or ‘Where you’d hear that from?’”
Maybe management wants a more modern offense, the Pacers are bottom eight in both three pointers attempted and pace. Overall, Indiana’s offense is middle of the pack (18th in the league), which is not bad considering it was without Oladipo for most of the season (and he was playing his way into shape when he returned and was not at an All-NBA level).
It’s hard to imagine that the Pacers would make a change this offseason, which will be short and give a new coach less time to ramp up a program. Plus, does owner Herb Simon want to pay two coaches? The finances of the league are helping other coaches keep their jobs.
More than all that, McMillan doesn’t deserve to be fired.
Not that “deserved” has had much to do with NBA coaches keeping their jobs in the past.
No NBA players have been diagnosed with coronavirus in the bubble. And they want to keep it that way. A championship and a lot of money are on the line.
That means preventing players from having close contact with anyone outside the bubble. And, in case someone contracts coronavirus, wearing masks (intact masks) to prevent a wider outbreak.
The NBA set up a hotline – quickly dubbed the “snitch” hotline – for players to report violations.
Chris Haynes of TNT:
Players have been circumventing that process. Sources informed me that multiple players are personally calling commissioner Adam Silver to issue their complaints with things they’re seeing in the bubble.
Adam Silver is accessible to players – particularly the president of the union.
I’m not sure about tattling straight to the top boss when there are other protocols in place. Are hotline calls not resulting in changed behavior?
Either way, it’s important for the NBA to keep players safe – both for their health and the league’s revenue (about half of which goes to players in salary). So, cut Chris Paul anyone calling Silver a break. They’re at least trying to help. And so far, violations inside the bubble have led to reminders, not harsher discipline.
The Pelicans have been one of the NBA’s most disappointing teams in the bubble. New Orleans has gone 1-3 at Disney World and fallen to 13th in the Western Conference.
Still (barely) hanging in the race to make the play-in, the Pelicans must face the Wizards without Zion Williamson.
The Pelicans are treating Williamson carefully – and they should. He’s their 20-year-old franchise player with major health concerns.
But New Orleans still has its highest ceiling now with Williamson on the floor. He’s an offensive force. His interior scoring and gravity create efficient looks for himself and teammates.
Williamson has been woeful defensively, and the Pelicans have bigs – Derrick Favors and Jaxson Hayes – to take Williamson’s minutes. New Orleans can go small, too.
The Pelicans should still beat Washington, even without Williamson. Ideally, this will have Williamson ready for a closing stretch against the Spurs, Kings and Magic without sacrificing today’s game.
Yet, this is really just proof New Orleans isn’t as ready to launch as it appears during Williamson’s most exciting moments. His availability remains murky. His team has run hot and cold. I wouldn’t assume a win over the Wizards – though it’s a game the Pelicans need to preserve their fading playoff hopes.
The NBA could reportedly delay the start of next season – currently planned for Dec. 1 – if fan attendance becomes foreseeable.
How long would the league wait?
Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times:
one plan includes starting in March if the NBA feels they can get fans in the arena by then, as well as not lose personnel and viewership to the Summer Olympics.
I understand the temptation to delay. The coronavirus pandemic has made it more difficult for NBA teams to turn a profit.
But this plan would invite all sorts of complications:
- What if there’s no vaccine, cure or comparable solution by March? Then, the league would have wasted months getting practically no revenue – rather than reduced revenue – without reaching a more favorable point. (However, maybe owners could also reduce costs with a lockout.)
- Starting the season in March would radically alter the NBA’s calendar. Shifting back to an October – or even December – start date would mean even more upheaval, potentially for several years.
- The Tokyo Olympics are scheduled for July and August 2021. The Olympics have been a powerful tool for the NBA and its players expanding their global reach.
These are unique and trying circumstances. Coronavirus is a massive and confounding variable. Everything should be on the table.
Do I predict next season will begin in March? No. But apparently the possibility is being considered, which is something.