Winners and losers from massive four-team, 12-player, Clint Capela trade

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NBA Fans wanted fireworks this trade deadline, well here you go:

The largest NBA trade in two decades.

The Rockets, Timberwolves, Hawks, and Nuggets have agreed to a four-team, 12-player trade — the largest NBA trade since the one that sent Patrick Ewing to Seattle in 2000. That was a pre-Twitter trade, one where everyone had to pull out their Nokia 5190 to call their friend to talk about Ewing getting moved (it was next to impossible to text on those things).

Here’s how the 2020 four-team trade ultimately breaks out:

• Houston gets: Robert Covington, Jordan Bell
• Atlanta gets: Clint Capela, Nene
• Denver gets: Gerald Green, Noah Vonleh, Shabazz Napier, Keita Bates-Diop, Houston’s 2020 first-round pick
• Minnesota gets: Malik Beasley, Juancho Hernangómez, Jarred Vanderbilt, Evan Turner, the Nets’ 2020 first-round pick

Who won and who lost? A lot more winners than losers — and a few things still up in the air — out of this trade, but let’s break it all down.

Winner: Atlanta Hawks

Atlanta has been searching for a center since last summer — but not just any center. What they needed was a quality pick-and-roll center to pair with Trae Young.

They land one in Capela. For years the James Harden/Capela pick-and-roll was one of the most-run plays in the NBA because it worked, scoring above a point per possession (well above the league average, this was one of the more effective P&R combos in the league). Houston ultimately went away from it because Harden in isolation turns out to be even more efficient, but Capela is still a strong pick-setting roll man, plus he’s a quality shot-blocker in the paint on the other end. The bottom line, this is a much better fit for Atlanta than bringing in Andre Drummond.

Plus, the Hawks got their man without having to give up John Collins or this their first-round pick this year.

Winner: Robert Covington

Covington just went from being stuck in the NBA’s coldest city on a team that has lost 12 in a row to being in warm-weather Houston playing a key role on a playoff team. That’s a win.

Covington puts up nice raw numbers — 12.8 points and six rebounds a game this season, shooting 34.6 percent from three — but the advanced value stats (such as the different types of adjusted plus/minus numbers) love Covington. When he’s on the floor, teams simply perform better. On both ends of the court. Use whatever coach’s cliche you want — “he does the little things that don’t show up in the box score” or “he just plays winning basketball” — but the Rockets will be better when Covington plays, and that is the definition of an upgrade.

Winner: Fans of small ball… that means you, Mike D’Antoni

Mike D’Antoni may be on his way out in Houston, but if so he’s walking out that door on his own terms — the Rockets have gone all-in on small ball. P.J. Tucker as a 6’5″ center is no longer a gimmick, Houston is going to run with this (and the team is 3-0 in the past couple of weeks with Tucker starting at the five).

On offense, the Rockets have Harden — and sometimes Westbrook — working in isolation and surrounded by shooters. They will remain elite on that end. Defensively, the Rockets will switch everything and be physical, and Long Beach Poly’s own Jordan Bell fits in with that. (Side note to Rockets fans, please don’t bring up the Golden State “death lineup” as a defensive comparison — those teams had peak DPOY Draymond Green at the five making it work, Andre Iguodala and Klay Thompson are quality perimeter defenders, and the last three years they had a strong shot blocker in Kevin Durant on the floor.)

It is going to be entertaining and a fascinating experiment, although Rockets fans may want to run to a local church and light a candle for Tucker’s knees at 35 minutes a night.

Mike D’Antoni gets to be the full Mike D’Antoni. As it should be.

Here’s why I don’t have Houston as a flat-out winner: Small ball is not going to be a successful playoff strategy in the West. I’m not convinced the Rockets get out of the first round with this roster. Maybe they weren’t going to anyway in the Harden/Westbrook era, but the West is loaded with good size — the Lakers are just huge, Denver has Nikola Jokic, Utah has Rudy Gobert, the Clippers can be big and athletic across the front — I’m not sold on Tucker as center working in the postseason. It’s fun in the regular season, I get that Caplela is not as useful as a pick-and-roll partner for the Rockets in a world of Harden isolations, but I don’t think this trade made the Rockets a better playoff team. It just committed them to a style.

Loser: John Collins as a center.

This season, John Collins has split his time evenly between the four and the five, and he’s been a little better as a center offensively. Collins has a 102.9 offensive rating as a center and a 101.6 rating as a power forward this season (stats via Cleaning the Glass). He can hit the three, but 61 percent of his shots come within 10 feet of the basket, and as a center he averaged 23.3 points and 14.1 rebounds per 36 minutes.

Both Capela and Collins are at their best when they set a pick then dive to the rim, but there’s only one spot for that on the roster and Caplela has the job now. Collins must become more of a floor spacer — he’s shooting 35.6 percent from three this season — but that’s not his natural game. With Capela in house, one wonders if the Hawks might look to trade Collins rather than pay him what he’s worth in an extension to his rookie deal (he’s eligible for an extension this summer).

Winner: Rockets’ owner Tillman Fertitta’s pocketbook

This trade means that for the second straight year the Rockets will slip just under the luxury tax line. Of course, Fertitta says he’s willing to pay the tax for a winning team — literally every owner says that — but actions speak louder than words and two straight seasons just under the tax line is not a coincidence.

Winner: Minnesota Timberwolves bench

In general, this trade feels like the first move of many for Gersson Rosas – the man with the hammer in Minnesota — as he works to build a team around Karl-Anthony Towns. If I were grading this trade for the Timberwolves, I would give it an “incomplete” because this feels more like the first step than anything else.

However, picking up Beasley and Hernangomez gives the Timberwolves two solid rotation players that they can re-sign (or not) this summer, giving the team solid bench depth. That’s not a big, sexy move, but it’s the kind of thing smart teams do in rounding our a roster.

Loser: A Karl-Anthony Towns and D'Angelo Russell pairing… for now

The Timberwolves wanted desperately to pair good friends Towns and D’Angelo Russell last summer, and part of the construction of this trade (especially in earlier iterations) was the team lining up picks and assets to send to Golden State to entice the Warriors into this trade.

It was never going to happen at the deadline. Sources have been clear to NBC Sports from the start, Russell was going to spend the entire season as a Warrior (unless a Godfather offer blew the Warriors away). Part of that is what the Warriors have said publicly: They really do want to see what Russell and Stephen Curry look like together on the court (something not happening until Curry’s likely return next month). As the USA Today’s Mark Medina notes in our latest PBT Podcast, if the pairing does work it only ups Russell’s trade value.

The other part of this is the Warriors are up against the hard cap because Russell came in a sign-and-trade. That limits the moves the Warriors can make now. From Golden State’s perspective, if it waits until this summer — when a slow free-agent market has some teams more desperate for answers — then it can find a better, more creative Russell trade that works for them. Or, they can keep him. But there was no pressure to make a move yet.

Expect the Russell to Minneota talk to heat up again next summer.

Winners: NBA Fans

You wanted fireworks, you wanted a big trade — it’s not going to get bigger than a 12-player deal. Enjoy it.

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.