Rockets center Clint Capela (traded to Hawks) and Timberwolves forward Robert Covington (traded to Rockets)
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Report: Rockets, Timberwolves, Hawks, Nuggets make four-team trade

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The Warriors pulled out of trade talks with the Rockets, Timberwolves and Hawks. So, Houston, Minnesota and Atlanta are completing a four-team trade with the Nuggets instead.

The terms, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, Jonathan Feigen of the Houston Chronicle and Shams Charania of The Athletic:

Rockets

Timberwolves

Hawks

  • Give: Evan Turner, 2020 Nets first-round pick (lottery protected)
  • Get: Clint Capela, Nene

Nuggets

  • Give: Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangomez, Jarred Vanderbilt
  • Get: Shabazz Napier, Noah Vonleh, Keita Bates-Diop, Gerald Green, 2020 Rockets first-round pick

How it looks, via TradeNBA:

Robert Covington should fit excellently in Houston. He’s an elite team defender who’ll provide a major upgrade at forward. His spot-up 3-point shooting will complement James Harden and Russell Westbrook, and those stars will minimize Covington having to go outside his comfort zone as a playmaker. Covington is also relatively cheap (more on that later) and locked in two more seasons after this.

Jordan Bell should also fit well with the Rockets, who lost their starting center in this deal. As a finisher at the rim and mobile defender, Bell can replicate some of what Clint Capela provided. However, at 6-foot-8, Bell is small for the position.

Houston can also use P.J. Tucker, Isaiah Hartenstein and Tyson Chandler at center. Expect the Rockets to target someone capable of matching up with traditionally sized centers. Houston could make another trade or comb the buyout market.

Despite their earlier proclamations, the Rockets got under the luxury-tax line with this trade. The tax won’t be assessed until the final day of the regular season, so don’t write anything in pen just yet. But ducking the tax definitely appears to be a key aspect of this trade.

Nene (contract rendered a burden by NBA) and Gerald Green (season-ending injury) hold negative value. Unloading their salaries was part of the Rockets’ motivation to make this deal. As someone on a one-year contract who would’ve had Bird Rights afterward, Green could have blocked the trade. But the Houston native seems to be on good terms with the Rockets. I wouldn’t be surprised if he signs with them next summer.

So, yes, Houston upgrades on the floor with Covington and Bell. But Capela and a first-round pick surely would’ve yielded even better return if those assets weren’t partially used to dump Nene and Green.

In Capela, the Hawks get a good center who’s relatively young (25) and cost-controlled (due $51,310,344 over the next three seasons). The price – Brooklyn’s lottery-protected first-round pick and eating Nene’s contract – was relatively low. (Evan Turner’s expiring contract was a neutral-value conduit).

But I’m not sure why Atlanta made the trade now. The Hawks’ season is a lost cause. They had the cap space to pursue centers in free agency or trade next summer. They might also be positioned to draft James Wiseman, who already turned pro out of Memphis. They could have waited until the offseason, when they’ll have a clear picture of center possibilities.

Maybe Atlanta just likes Capela that much. Maybe another quality player will ease Trae Young‘s frustration.

This also raises questions about John Collins‘ future with the Hawks. Maybe they’ll keep him at power forward, but his rim running overlaps with Capela’s skill set. It’s not a clean fit.

The Timberwolves get a few solid, though no great, assets. Malik Beasley and Juancho Hernangomez are heading toward restricted free agency this summer. Minnesota will get a chance to test both then leverage their matching rights in the offseason. (For perspective, Beasley reportedly rejected a three-year, $30 million contract extension.) Beasley and Hernangomez both showed promise in Denver, but neither got quite enough opportunity on a deep Nuggets team. That should change on the Timberwolves, who are desperate for outside shooters.

Denver loses a rotation player in Beasley without necessarily adding one – at least when everyone is healthy. Noah Vonleh can play center behind Nikola Jokic with Mason Plumlee sidelined. Shabazz Napier is also capable, but the Nuggets already have Jamal Murray and underrated Monte Morris at point guard. Perhaps, Denver will use more two-point guard lineups. Keita Bates-Diop (No. 48 pick in 2018 draft) looks more NBA-ready than Jarred Vanderbilt (No. 41 pick in 2018 draft), but neither has shown much.

The Nuggets get value for two players – Beasley and Hernangomez – who might have been too expensive to re-sign this summer. At least for a team resistant to paying the luxury tax.

But Denver is good enough to prioritize winning this season, and this trade was a step back. I wouldn’t assume the Nuggets are finished. That Houston first-rounder could be ammo in another deal before Thursday’s trade deadline.

Kobe Bryant, Tim Duncan, Kevin Garnett Hall of Fame induction pushed back to May

Kobe Hall of Fame
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ASSOCIATED PRESS — Kobe Bryant and the rest of this year’s Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame class won’t be inducted in 2020 – or at the birthplace of basketball.

The Hall announced Friday that the enshrinement ceremony will be held May 13-15, 2021, and the entire festivities will be moved to Mohegan Sun Casino in Connecticut.

This year was to be a highlight for the Hall of Fame, located in Springfield, Massachusetts. Bryant, killed in January in a helicopter crash, headlined a decorated class featuring Tim Duncan and Kevin Garnett that would have been enshrined in the recently renovated museum.

But the coronavirus pandemic scuttled those plans and hit the Hall so hard that it eliminated several full-time positions and cut senior management pay in the 25-40% range.

“These are people who have been a big part of the Hall’s success in recent years; it hurts deeply,” said John Doleva, President and CEO of the Hall of Fame, said in a statement. “The decision to reschedule Enshrinement into May of next year, along with diminished museum guest visitation and a very uncertain future regarding our multiple collegiate and high school basketball events this fall, has forced us to make these very difficult decisions. Our goal now is to conserve resources so that we may stabilize in 2021 and return to our growth trajectory in 2022 and beyond.”

“For this single event, and only because of the pandemic, we will relocate the entire event one time to Mohegan Sun which has been a long-time marketing partner of the Hall. Mohegan Sun has shown they can effectively operate a ‘near-bubble’ for our event which provides a more secure environment for our guests,” Doleva explained. “In making this announcement today, our goal is to provide this date and location change with ample notice for our network broadcast partners, nationally and internationally traveling guests and the many basketball constituents the Hall serves.”

Mohegan Sun is a long-time partner of the Hall. Doleva says it can operate a “near-bubble” to provide a secure environment for guests.

 

Vlade Divac steps down as Kings GM; Joe Dumars takes over in interim

Vlade Divac out
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Days after the Kings’ playoff drought reached 14 seasons — second-longest in league history and only one year behind the Donald Sterling Clippers — the repercussions hit GM Vlade Divac and he is out.

Divac has stepped down as the Kings’ general manager, the team announced Friday. Joe Dumars, the former Pistons GM who had been working as a consultant with the team, will step in during the interim while the search for a new GM takes place.

“This was a difficult decision, but we believe it is the best path ahead as we work to build a winning team that our loyal fans deserve,” Kings owner Vivek Ranadivé said in a statement. “We are thankful for Vlade’s leadership, commitment and hard work both on and off the court. He will always be a part of our Kings’ family.”

While there are legitimate questions about the job Luke Walton did in his first season in Sacramento, his job is safe, something first reported by Sam Amick of The Athletic and since confirmed by James Ham of NBC Sports Bay Area. The Kings also said there will be no other major roster moves made until a new GM is in place.

“Joe has become a trusted and valued advisor since joining the team last year, and I am grateful to have him take on this role at an important time for the franchise,” said Ranadivé.

Divac was a member of the best Kings’ teams ever (during the Chris Webber era) and is in the Hall of Fame as a player. Playing and being a GM, however, are two very different skill sets. Divac did sign a contract extension with the Kings a year-and-a-half ago.

The NBA restart bubble was not kind to the Kings, and that ultimately doomed Divac.

After a promising finish as the ninth seed a season ago, playing a fast-paced style that suited young star De'Aaron Fox, Divac made a move to switch coaches last off-season and fired Dave Joerger to hire Walton. However, under Walton the Kings played slower and were much easier to defend. The Kings did get healthy and start to find a groove right before the league was shut down, going 7-3 in those last 10, but once in the bubble Sacramento was a mess again with a bottom-10 defense in Orlando, and they finished 3-5 in the seeding games.

The salt in the wound in Orlando — and what really eats at Kings’ fans — was the elite play of Luka Doncic in Orlando, and all season long.

Divac — who had scouted in Europe and has deep connections there — chose to use the No. 2 pick in the 2018 NBA Draft on Marvin Bagley out of Duke instead of Doncic. While the Kings had scouted Doncic extensively (Ranadive even went to Europe to watch him play and backed taking Doncic), Divac and the front office staff thought the athleticism of Bagley gave him a higher upside than Doncic. (Scouts were often divided on Doncic: Nobody thought he would be bad, but some questioned his ceiling because he already had so much polish to his game and he’s not an explosive athlete by NBA standards. Divac and the rest of the Kings’ front office fell into this camp.) Plus, Divac liked the idea of a big man to pair with their point guard Fox, rather than bringing in another ball handler in Doncic.

Doncic almost certainly will make an All-Seeding Games team out of the bubble in Orlando, and in his second NBA season is an MVP candidate (he will get bottom of the ballot votes). Bagley did not play in any seeding games due to another injury, this one to his foot.

Moving on from Divac may be the right move for the Kings, but it begs the question: Who are they going to hire to replace him? What is the new GM’s basketball philosophy and what kind of team does he want to build? And, will he have the power to do it, or will Ranadive keep his reputation as an owner who likes to meddle in basketball operations?

The Kings need a change — but they need the right change. That will be the tricky part.

Miami’s Derrick Jones Jr. taken off court on stretcher after collision

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It was the kind of play that happens countless times a game: Miami’s Derrick Jones Jr. was trying to chase Doug McDermott over an off-ball (and moving) screen when collided with pick-setting 6’11” center Goga Bitadze.

This ended up being no standard collision — Jones’ head and neck whipped back, and he instantly went to the ground.

Jones was grabbing his neck at first and was on the ground for about 10 minutes — in the eerie silence of a fanless bubble arena in Orlando — before being taken off the court on a stretcher.

The good news is Jones has just suffered a neck strain, the team announced. There is no timeline for his return, but this could have been much worse.

The Heat and the Pacers, who already have tension between them thanks to a beef between Jimmy Butler and T.J. Warren, will face each other in the first round of the playoffs starting Monday.

Jones, who tested positive for the coronavirus before coming to Orlando (and was quarantined), will be an unrestricted free agent this summer. He has been making the NBA minimum since coming into the league and was in line for a life-changing payday this summer after playing strong defense while averaging 8.6 points per game — and some spectacular dunks — in nearly 23 minutes a night for Miami. Our thoughts are with him after this incident.

The time Shaq peed in Suns teammate Lou Amundson’s shoes – and worse!

Suns players Lou Amundson and Shaquille O'Neal (Shaq)
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Gilbert Arenas has earned a reputation as the NBA player who relieved himself in a teammate’s shoe (Wizards forward Andray Blatche’s).

But Arenas’ tactic wasn’t unique.

Shaquille O’Neal got into a prank war with Suns teammate Lou Amundson during the 2008-09 season. It got intense as Phoenix, coached by Alvin Gentry, reached the final game of its season.

ESPN’s Amin Elhassan on “The Dan Le Batard Show With Stugotz” local hour, hosted by Mike Ryan:

Shaq is the big prankster, the big joker. But if you do something against him, there’s no tit for tat. There’s tit for nuclear war.

He goes to Lou’s locker, grabs his sneakers, pees in them.

That’s the start, right? He then goes and let’s just say “messes with” some of Lou’s haircare devices, like his brush and his comb and stuff. Messes with them. Let me put it this way: Messes with them in a way that – I was comfortable telling you he peed in the shoes. I’m not comfortable telling you what he did to the hair stuff. And then this part, I will tell you: He tampers with Lou’s mouth guard.

He tampers with it.

He tampers with it.

Lou shows up at like 8 or whenever he usually shows up. And he’s skittish and nervous. And Suns.com is there like, “What do you think Shaq is going to do?” “I don’t know. I think he’s going to do something, though.”

So, I’ll never forget this. He’s sitting at the locker, and he opens – he starts to reach for the sneakers and then looks at them and says, “Nah, something doesn’t feel right.” Opens the door up, pulls out a fresh pair of sneakers for the last game of the year, right? Again, this is irregular behavior. Usually, you have a couple of sneakers. You break them in for the year, and you switch between two or three or three or four, whatever. So to break out a whole brand new pair … was weird.

Most of the time when you’re an NBA player, you don’t put on the mouth guard immediately. You have it in a case, and you give the case to the trainer. Then, you go out to the bench. Then, when you’re about to come into the game, that’s when you grab your mouthpiece.

There’s no funnier image than Alvin drawing up a play, kneeling down, coaches standing around him. Lou is sitting there, because now he’s in the game. The guys who are in the game are usually seated. Sitting there just staring at the clipboard, like, “OK, coach. I got you.” And everyone else is just staring at Lou. No one’s paying attention.

Puts the mouth guard in. One, two [sounds of disgust], takes the mouth guard out and flings it with tremendous accuracy at the bench. Everyone starts dying. I remember going back and watching the broadcast, “Oh, Suns bench seems to be getting a lot of fun.” They had no idea what’s happening.

What did Shaq do to Amundson’s mouth guard? My imagination is running WILD.

Elhassan also explains why Grant Hill took 25 shots – his most in four years – in that game. Hill needed to score 26 points to average 12 points per game for the season, which would trigger a large bonus in his shoe contract. Hill’s gunning got him 27 points.

It’s a good podcast with other fun anecdotes and worth a listen.