Archive for the ‘2012 Trade Deadline’ Category

To trade someone so quickly after committing to them for so long is very rare, especially when you’ve owned the incumbent player for a full decade beforehand. But it does happen. In light of trading him Washington yesterday, a mere three months after re-signing him to a 5-year $65 million contract, Denver are being accused of demonstrating buyer’s remorse over Nene.

But this is not strictly true.

Sam Amick reports that Denver began working on trading Nene almost immediately after re-signing him. He is unmistakably right, and it took only three months to go from the planning stage to completion. However, looking to trade Nene immediately is not, in itself, evidence of buyer’s remorse. That is evidence of something else.

That, if anything, is reselling, pawnbrokering, wheeler-dealing, merchanting. That is buying purely with intent to sell later on. That is either asset management or borderline deception, depending on your opinion. Whatever it is, it is not remorseful.

It was deliberate from the start.

Denver knew something we didn’t, something they never told us. They never wanted to re-sign Nene in the first place. Nene was re-signed for five years and $65 million because that was the cost of re-signing Nene, and not because Denver thought he was worth it. Denver had a choice — either lose Nene for nothing, or overpay him significantly. Even knowing that they would rather give minutes to Kenneth Faried, Kosta Koufos and Timofey Mozgov, young bigs with potential, they chose the latter, re-signed Nene for big bucks, and then spend half the year playing him out of position. An overpaid asset is a better asset than no asset at all, and for as long as Nene’s perceived value (scorching hot after the summer courtship) outweighed his actual value, Denver intended to cash in. They did just that.

With this in mind, the trade starts to look a little different.

Regardless of any individual opinion with regards to the returned player, Javale McGee, Denver just got a productive, athletic, young big and emphatic salary relief in exchange for their non-All-Star highest-paid player whom they did not even want. “Buyer’s remorse” is not as fair of a representation of the saga as might be “buyer’s consolidation.” Denver didn’t regret re-signing Nene, as they did it specifically to deal him. A delayed sign-and-trade, if you will. And they’ve been able to complete it far soon than perhaps they expected.

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Indisputably, incontrovertibly and unmistakably, Derek Fisher can no longer play at a high level. He exists solely now as a mistake-free three-point specialist who even then hits only two threes a week, to the point that rookie Andrew Goudelock became the Lakers’ go-to three-point option instead of him. The defense has gone, the shot is going, and the point guard play was never really there. With all due respect, Fisher is a shell of his former self.

Of course, although he couldn’t play, he did play. A lot. Alongside the similarly struggling Steve Blake (24.7mpg, 5.7ppg, 3.5 apg), Fisher was half of the worst positional rotation in basketball. It was no secret that this week, somehow, the Lakers were getting a point guard. The only thing unclear was who.

The Lakers got that point guard yesterday, trading Luke Walton along with a first round pick and Jason Kapono as salary filler, to Cleveland in exchange for Ramon Sessions and Christian Eyenga.

Sessions had long been considered the target, so this was no surprise. The only surprise was the inclusion of Walton’s redundant, dead-weight, not-expiring, still-amazed-they-didn’t-amnesty-it contract (and its 7.5 percent trade kicker). Walton will now earn over $6 million next season to do nothing at all for Cleveland, and all they get to offset that cost (which is roughly equal to what Eyenga and Sessions would earn combined if Sessions opted in) is a protected low first-round pick. The Cavaliers, willing and able to pay bad salaries if they get future assets in the process, have done a much lesser version of what they did at the last deadline, taking on Baron Davis to get Kyrie Irving. But taking on Luke Walton to get Festus Ezeli isn’t quite the same. Sessions should have had more value than this, and only the threat of his possible opt-out this summer can really explain the cheap dump and hefty Walton penalty.

Eyenga and Kapono can be disregarded as salary filler. Eyenga lost any role he may have had with his underwhelming play, lack of development, and the emergence of Alonzo Gee as the far superior contributor. Like Fisher, Kapono is a three-point specialist who never actually shot them, mainly because he barely played. Their roles in the deal were merely financial. Even the pick and Walton were, and will be, largely meaningless. This was about Sessions.

Sessions gives the Lakers what Fisher and Blake never did: a pick-and-roll option. Criticisms of Kobe Bryant’s ball dominance and shot selection maybe be valid — very, very valid — yet they must be tempered with the realization that no one else could really do anything. It was tough enough for Fisher to get the ball up court sometimes, and the small forward trio of Devin Ebanks, Matt Barnes and Ronny Peace weren’t helping. Sessions gives the Lakers this ball-handling option, the man who gets the ball over halfcourt every time, can find Pau Gasol in pick-and-pop situations, will get Andrew Bynum the ball in the middle, finds the rolling man, hits cutters, and can drive-and-kick to the Lakers’ mediocre outside shooters. He expands a playbook that, whoever’s fault it is, wasn’t very expansive.

It must be noted, however, that Sessions is ball dominant. Whenever he has thrived as a player — most notably, the crazy Larry Krystkowiak era — Sessions did what he did because he had free reign to do what he wanted. No one else could handle the ball, so Sessions did, solely and exclusively. Off the ball, his usefulness is extremely limited. Moreover, since his explosion into the league as an assist machine, Sessions has bizarrely tried harder and harder to be a scoring talent. And he just isn’t one. His jumper is poor, his efficiency worse, and his finishing around the basket isn’t great, yet too often, Sessions looks for his rather than others. Considering how good he can be at looking for others, it is frustrating.

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As you know, Nene was traded to the Washington Wizards yesterday, possibly as punishments for his past transgressions. Whatever the reason — more likely that he is 30 years old and will be making a lot of money for a long time, despite the fact he often misses significant time due to various injuries — Nene is leaving the only team that he has ever known.

Plus, he’s leaving George Karl, a coach he’s been with since his third year in the league, and a coach who supported Nene through his cancer treatments and then forged a bond with the Brazilian big man while suffering through his own rehabilitation. As you’d imagine, Karl’s pretty bummed out about the trade. From the AP:

“Anytime you trade a guy that’s been with me since I’ve been here, and we have a personal connection because of our situations with cancer, it’s very difficult,” Nuggets coach George Karl said. “I hope to be friends with Nene for a long, long time after basketball.”

Well, this is about the sweetest thing you’ll ever hear in the NBA. I’m usually Constable Jerky Von Jerkjokes, but even I think this is heartwarming. I really, really want Nene and George Karl to stay friends now, which is something I didn’t ever really consider before yesterday. I hope they’re best friends forever and that is not sarcasm at all.

The NBA is a business and we all know that and mention it all the time whenever a trade goes down, but sometimes things like this happens and you’re like, “Why does the NBA have to be such a business all the time?” Can’t we just figure out a way to get these guys back on the same team so that they can continue being bros? I’m not demanding anything, but now might be a nice time for David Stern to hit the rescind button.

The Portland Trail Blazers’ 2011-12 season started terribly when Brandon Roy announced his retirement, and then it got worse. It got worse and worse and worse and worse and worse, to the point that they fell behind by 43 points in a recent loss to the Celtics, and damn near surpassed that with a 42-point loss Wednesday night to a team whose coach quit earlier that morning. And then yesterday, it got worse.

Or, if you like, better.

With two deals, and the firing of coach Nate McMillan, Portland didn’t so much press the reset button today as park a bus on top of it. They dealt Gerald Wallace to New Jersey for an expiring salary, a dead salary, and a potentially lucrative pick, and followed that with a second deal that sent Marcus Camby to Houston for Jonny Flynn, Hasheem Thabeet and a second round draft pick. They’ve enjoyed and suffered through the busiest day of anyone since Ray Liotta in “Goodfellas,” but in doing so, they may have stopped the rot.

What they didn’t do was what we most expected them to do — trade their backcourt. But it wasn’t for a lack of wanting to. Raymond Felton is in the midst of an absolutely terrible year on the court, turning it over too often, having more field goal attempts than points, demonstrating scant little understanding of time and score and yet seemingly not being too bothered about the whole thing. Off the court, he has one-upped that by leading a “revolt” against head coach Nate McMillan. In between his poor play and toxic behavior, Felton has made himself thoroughly undesirable, even (it seems) as an expiring $7.6 million contract.

The Blazers searched “desperately” for a taker for Felton, and the only option with traction was a swap with the Lakers centered around Steve Blake. But Blake has two guaranteed years of salary after this one, whereas Felton expires this summer. Felton may have been a mistake, but compounding it with another one solved nothing. So, for now at least, Felton stays.

Similarly, prized offseason acquisition Jamal Crawford was shopped all over the show, and no one offered enough. The L.A. Clippers offered Ryan Gomes, but the Blazers balked at it on account of Gomes’ guaranteed salary for next year. The same is true of the Lakers’ offer of Derek Fisher. The Timberwolves talked about a swap for Michael Beasley, but changed their minds, and the teams who competed with Portland for Crawford this summer — Chicago and Sacramento — no longer seemed interested. In between shooting 40 percent and selling out his coach, it appeared that like Felton, Crawford ruined his own trade value. And rather than committing to unwanted salary, the Blazers preferred to gamble on him opting out.

While those two survived the cull, a third supposed problem child did not. Not so long ago, whilst making known to the public the depth of the problems with Felton and Crawford, John Canzano also openly cited Camby and his “lethargy” as part of the problem with the team. Combined with the almost 350 career games that the near-38 year old has missed in his career, his declined athleticism, and almost total lack of contribution as an offensive player these days, Camby’s trade value has diminished to this point, a point where he’s dealt for nothing more than two emphatic draft busts and a pick in the 50′s.

The Blazers hope for addition by subtraction. The Rockets hope to score a cheap starter. Both might be right. For whatever reason, Houston thrives on rejects and misfits. Channeling the 1999 Spurs, they actively seek them out, which is why they had Flynn and Thabeet in the first place. It cost them a first rounder to get Flynn, and it cost them a second to move him; in light of what has transpired this season, Camby can be considered a reject, thereby continuing this trend.

Nevertheless, this is nothing but a short rental. All salaries involved in the deal were expiring. Houston had previously declined the team options on both Flynn and Thabeet, two former top six picks not even making it to the end of their rookie scale contracts. This is not the answer to Houston’s center search. This a rental for a second round pick. And Portland knows this too.

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Skeets and Tas will break down all of the trades on Friday’s episode of “The Overdose,” but until then, here’s a quick guide to the winners and losers of a very busy NBA trade deadline day.

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Stephen Jackson

Marc Spears of Yahoo! Sports has reported that the San Antonio Spurs have shipped Richard Jefferson and a conditional first round pick in the 2012 draft to the Golden State Warriors for Stephen Jackson. As you would expect out of any trade involving these two teams, it makes a lot more sense for the Spurs than it does for the Warriors.

Jackson was traded from the Milwaukee Bucks to the Warriors on Tuesday, but most people suspected that he would never play a game for Golden State. If there was one team that made sense as a final destination for Captain Jack — and I do mean final, since he turns 34 next month and he’s in rapid decline as a player — it was San Antonio. Jackson won a title with the Spurs in 2003, and Spurs coach Gregg Popovich feels he has a great connection with him.

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The biggest deal of deadline day thus far sees the New Jersey Nets trade Mehmet Okur, his expiring $10.89 million salary, Shawne Williams, his not-expiring $3 million salary, and a 2012 first round pick to Portland, in exchange for Gerald Wallace.

Wallace, a one time All-Star and long-time quality player, averages nearly 13 points, 7 rebounds and 3 assists on the year, in addition to quality, versatile defense. He dramatically improves New Jersey’s weakest position, small forward, where a whole host of players have been rotated through. After deciding Stephen Graham probably wasn’t the answer, the Nets turned to Damion James. When he got hurt, Keith Bogans, Larry Owens, Andre Emmett, Gerald Green and Dennis Horner all took turns. The longest runs have been given to Williams and DeShawn Stevenson, who are shooting 29 percent and 25 percent from the field respectively. Given that they had absolutely nothing at that position, and traded absolutely no production to get it, getting a fringe All-Star is a significant upgrade to the collective nothing that went before.

But let’s not lose sight of the issue. In spite of how good he is, and how bad D-Steve has been, New Jersey are not really trading for Gerald Wallace. They are really trading for Deron Williams, again.

And inevitably, it’s all for Dwight Howard.

The entire plan, the whole thing, the whole shaboodle, everything the Nets have thrown away the last two years for, is based around Dwight. Prokhorov didn’t buy the team to get Dwight, the team isn’t moving to Brooklyn because of Dwight and they didn’t trade their only semblance of a long term plan for Deron because, at the time, they expected to get Dwight. But it did become the expectation, and it did become the plan.

It became a very good plan, too. The future looked good. Deron Williams, the impressive rookie MarShon Brooks, the probably impressive rookie Harrison Barnes, Kris Humphries, Dwight. That’s some front five. New city, new arena, new fan base, plenty of money in reserve, Jay-Z adding some luster. No depth, but that doesn’t matter. That was the plan. It was beautiful. And when Howard declined a move to the Chicago Bulls, the best team in the league, because Derrick Rose was too famous or the weather was too windy or whatever the hell reason he used, the Nets’ plan looked almost consummated. You don’t disregard Chicago and consider joining the Nets unless you really, really want to join the Nets. Up until this week, it was all-consuming.

But it didn’t work. Dwight opted in. It seems now that he didn’t really, really want to join the Nets after all.

Not yet, at least. The pipe dream still exists. Dwight didn’t sign an extension with Orlando, commit his adult life to them, or declare an undying love that would only have looked facetious by this time; instead, he merely opted in. He opted in for only one year. In 12 months time, therefore, it is more than likely to be the case that Howard — who has trolled the entire NBA media and tormented his own team’s fans for a whole year — is going to be doing it all again. And so what is a stay of execution for Orlando is essentially an adjournment for New Jersey. The plan is still to get Dwight. By this time, it rather has to be.

However, in the time in between the two, one big variable exists. While Dwight Howard opted in, Deron Williams didn’t. The whole Dwight plan was, and is, dependent upon Deron. Concurrently, keeping Deron was, and is, dependent on getting Dwight.

New Jersey knows Dwight only joins them if Deron Williams is here. It’s why they traded for him in the first place. And it’s still the case. This year, they didn’t get Dwight, even with Deron. Now, to get Dwight next year, they need to keep Deron.

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