NBA news roundup: What’s cooking? Lots

“Timing is everything. Chemistry is something that you don’t just throw in the frying pan and mix it up with another something, then throw it on top of something, then fry it up and put it in a tortilla and put in a microwave, heat it up and give it to you and expect it to taste good. You know? For those of you who can cook, y’all know what I’m talking about. If y’all can’t cook, this doesn’t concern you.” – Kevin Garnett, Dec. 13.

And so you might ask … what’s cooking?

Aside from the usual simmering of Dwight Howard and Chris Paul trade rumors?

There is no better place to start than with the defending champion Dallas Mavericks, who stole Lamar Odom from the Los Angeles Lakers but then gift-wrapped Rudy Fernandez and Corey Brewer to the Denver Nuggets in exchange for a bag of basketballs or some such thing.

Is Mark Cuban crazy?

Or, as the expression goes, is he crazy like a fox?

Tyson Chandler is gone. J.J. Barea is gone. Fernandez and Brewer are gone. Brian Cardinal is back. Vince Carter and Delonte West have come aboard, and won’t they look just a little out of place at the championship ring ceremony, eh?

The Mavericks traded a first-round pick to Portland to acquire Fernandez last June, and now they’ve dumped him like a two-day-old tray of leftover paella. What gives?

From Dwain Price of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram: “Since Brewer was prepared to make $3.059 million this year and Fernandez set to collect $2.18 million, the Mavs had $5.239 million removed from their payroll. Fernandez had all sorts of issues with his visa while trying to leave his home country of Spain since the lockout ended Nov. 26. The Mavs were hoping Fernandez could give them some meaningful minutes at shooting guard. But with the recent additions of Vince Carter and Delonte West — along with the steady hand of Jason Terry — the services of Fernandez were no longer needed. The same premise applied to Brewer, who would have been the odd man out of a small forward field that included Lamar Odom, Shawn Marion and Carter.

From Brad Townsend of the Dallas Morning-News: “All Dallas is getting in return is a 2016 second-round pick that originally belonged to Memphis. But according to Nelson, the biggest thing Dallas gains is financial and roster flexibility. It also might be a signal that Nelson and owner Mark Cuban aren’t done improving this year’s roster. “It really gives us the ability to add players that could help us this year, as well as create room for next year,” Nelson said. “Flexibility is key with the new world order.”

The “new world order,” as Nelson put it, includes having the means to go after Dwight Howard, Deron Williams or Chris Paul next summer if any of them want to leave their current (or future) teams to enter unrestricted free agency. The Mavericks now have the ability to get somewhere in the area of $20 million under the salary cap, and somewhere Erick Dampier, Raef LaFrentz and Shawn Bradley are shaking their heads in disbelief, thinking they didn’t know Cuban had it in him.

It has been nearly three months since Cuban opined at length on anything, and he is due for some explaining. In the meantime, we’ll hand it over to Jeff Caplan of ESPNDallas, who has done the best job of making sense of all this maneuvering:

“Let’s keep things focused on the here and now. Job No. 1 for the Mavs’ front office was to give coach Rick Carlisle another deep team. They’ve done that. Carlisle has the necessary bodies to navigate through the regular season and, barring injury, he should be able to steer this ship into the playoffs with a roster that’s ready to roll. “It’s going to be really a matter in my mind,” Carlisle said, “of the deepest team that can stay healthy and stay together is going to be the team that’s going to have the best chance of coming out of the West.”  On paper, there is no team is deeper than the Mavs. Consider that two of the last three NBA sixth men of the year will be coming off the Mavs’ bench in the ultra-versatile, 6-foot-10 Odom and gunner Jason Terry. West, a veteran with a needed edginess, will back up Jason Kidd. Shooting guard is loaded with Carter, Terry and a finally healthy Rodrigue Beaubois. Center is the lone question mark, but after Dallas dealt wings Rudy Fernandez and Corey Brewer to the Denver Nuggets on Tuesday, it now has roster space to go after depth in the middle. There’s no such thing as paper champions, but just days ago despair had set in among the fandom. Now, the Mavs suddenly look like bona fide contenders in the Western Conference.”

As for the Paul and Howard situations, we’ve got the same old same old in regards to the first guy, and something new involving the second. I discussed the status of both players this morning with Brian Fritz on 740-The Game radio in Orlando. Click here to listen to the interview.

Paul remains on the block in New Orleans, where it will be media day today. He is expected to be there, unless general manager Dell Demps NBA honchos Stu Jackson and Joel Litvin can negotiate a trade that is better than the one their boss, David Stern, vetoed exactly one week ago today. Jackson hasn’t made a trade since he was running the Vancouver Grizzlies and gave up a future No. 1 pick (unprotected in 2005, when LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh were draft-eligible) in exchange for Otis Thorpe. Litvin is one of Stern’s top in-house lawyers, who has shifted over to the basketball operations side of the league office after earning his stripes as the guy on the other end of the phone on the league’s trade hotline when teams called in and said they were ready to make a deal. (Talk about a guy who knows where the bodies are buried!) 

From Mitch Lawrence of the New York Daily News: “Frustrated that the NBA has twice rejected trades that would have allowed him to leave New Orleans, Hornets superstar Chris Paul is moving closer to taking legal action against the league. A source told the Daily News Tuesday that Paul could file a lawsuit “in the next couple of days” charging the NBA, which owns and runs the Hornets, with collusion and violating the league’s collective bargaining agreement. The NBA’s labor deal has an anti-collusion clause that prohibits teams from conspiring with the league to influence contracts, signings or transactions. If he proceeds, Paul would likely seek doubled monetary damages, along with injunctive relief, meaning he would ask the court to stop the collusion immediately and allow a trade to go through to the Lakers or Clippers.

From Marc Stein and Chris Broussard of ESPN.com: “League officials representing the New Orleans Hornets and the Los Angeles Clippers continued discussions into Tuesday night on a trade that would put Chris Paul on the same team with Blake Griffin, according to sources briefed on the talks. But the sides have yet to find a framework that satisfies both, sources said, with the NBA not relenting on its desire to acquire the Clippers’ top five available trade assets in return for Paul, who would invoke the 2012-13 option in his contract as part of any trade between the teams to ensure the Clippers would have him for at least two seasons. “They’re still asking for everyone,” said one source with knowledge of the Clippers’ thinking. With a deal seemingly imminent, talks hit an impasse Monday when the Clippers finally decided that the league’s asking price for the All-Star guard was too steep. Sources told ESPN.com that the Clippers balked when the Hornets, at the league’s insistence, asked for Clippers shooting guard Eric Gordon, youngsters Al-Farouq Aminu and Eric Bledsoe, former All-Star center Chris Kaman and Minnesota’s unprotected 2012 first-round draft pick. Sources said one of the wrinkles added to the deal in Tuesday’s talks involved the inclusion of Clippers point guard Mo Williams going to the league-owned Hornets in a swap for swingman Trevor Ariza, an L.A. native. But the Clippers, feeling even stronger about their position after acquiring Chauncey Billups on Monday on a waiver claim, are insisting that the league has to scale back its demands if it wants a trade, believing that they’re the only reasonable trade suitor in circulation for Paul. The Los Angeles Lakers, however, continue to loom as a potential destination, sources said. … ESPN.com learned Tuesday that a Lakers deal for Paul has not yet been ruled out, contingent on the fact that they can recruit at least one other team to supply some of the young pieces that the league is demanding. But the Lakers do still have Gasol as a centerpiece, who could either replace Paul as the Hornets’ franchise player or give New Orleans a top-20 player to be dangled in subsequent deals. “The Lakers are definitely still in this,” said one source close to the talks. The NBA’s preference, however, remains a trade with the Clippers.”

From Adrian Wojnarowski and Marc J. Spears of Yahoo.com: The Clippers are selling the NBA on the idea that the market for Paul has shrunk and the league’s demands have to be lowered, too.One league source close to Paul said the Hornets guard is optimistic a deal will be completed. “He has a sense that something is going to happen soon,” the source said. For the talks to gather significant momentum again, the Clippers want the NBA to return with a far more modest proposal of what they want for Paul. “They’re scrambling now,” one official said of the NBA. “But it’s still hard to tell if they really want to trade him, or they’re just determined to keep the asking price in a place where they can hold onto him for the next owner. …These guys in New York had no idea how hard this process would be.” The Clippers are waiting for the NBA to return with far reduced demands, or they’ll simply start the season with an improved, playoff-ready roster. Clippers officials believe the NBA has to drop its asking price for Paul significantly with the acquisition of Billups, because there’s no urgency for Los Angeles to uproot its core for Paul for possibly only a season or two – not when the Clippers could have the salary-cap space to sign Paul in free agency after the season. The Clippers could be willing to give the Hornets a future first-round pick, sources said, but they’re enthralled with the idea of the unprotected 2012 first-round pick they acquired from the Minnesota Timberwolves possibly turning into an Anthony Davis of Kentucky or a Harrison Barnes of North Carolina. The Clippers remain resistant to the thought of surrendering both that pick and shooting guard Eric Gordon in a package.”

As for Howard, the New Jersey Nets are still trying to get him, and one of their fallback options was eliminated when Nene reportedly reached an agreement to re-sign with the Denver Nuggets for five years at an average of roughly $13 million per season.

From Wojnarowski of Yahoo: “Talks between the Orlando Magic and New Jersey Nets for a Dwight Howard blockbuster trade have gathered momentum over the past several days, and the framework of a possible four-team deal has taken shape, league sources told Yahoo! Sports. Front office sources say Nets general manager Billy King has aggressively pursued the necessary players and picks to try and satisfy Orlando’s demands for Howard, one of the league’s most dominating and popular players. The biggest hurdle for the Nets to acquire Howard will still ultimately be the Magic’s willingness to give up their future with him and concede that re-signing him is a lost cause. Orlando could also decide to keep Howard until the trade deadline in March and re-evaluate the market for him. There’s still a belief within the Magic a successful season could help them keep Howard for the long-term. No deal was imminent, but several league sources said talks were entering a crucial time, and the Nets were trying to get the proposal’s complex framework completed in the near future. … New Jersey and Orlando are working toward a core deal that would send center Brook Lopezand another significant player obtained elsewhere to the Magic for Howard and Hedo Turkoglu, sources said. The Magic are listening, but there is still real doubt about their willingness to completely give up hope on convincing Howard to re-sign with them after he opts out of his contract in July. Howard has been willing to sign extensions with the Los Angeles Lakers and Dallas Mavericks, but the Nets’ future in Brooklyn has been most intriguing to him. Howard has been sold on the idea of pairing with Deron Williams in a new Brooklyn arena beginning in 2012-13, and informed Magic officials he wants a trade to New Jersey. Howard hasn’t rescinded his trade request to the Nets, but as one source close to him says: “He runs hot and cold. … He just doesn’t always know what he wants.”

From Ken Berger of CBSSports.com: The Magic last week were weighing the possibility of filing a tampering charge against the Nets over a reported meeting in Miami involving Howard and Nets officials. The alleged meeting occurred before Magic GM Otis Smith gave Howard’s agent, Dan Fegan, permission to speak with the Nets, Lakers and Mavericks about a possible trade. A person familiar with the Magic’s strategy told CBSSports.com Tuesday that the potential tampering charges are “on the back burner” while the team weighs its options with respect to Howard’s apparent desire to be traded. Knowing that the Nets may turn out to be the best trade partner, the Magic were reluctant to burn that bridge before the negotiations even got off the ground, sources said. A lot is in flux in the Magic front office, with team president Alex Martins taking over as CEO for the departed Bob Vander Weide, and now the brass are trying to evaluate what is the best option for dealing with the Howard situation, sources said. First and foremost is to convince him to stay, but if the Magic are forced to trade Howard, they are determined to get the best deal — including opening up the bidding to teams beyond those on Howard’s list. “There’s going to be a little bit of a bidding process if anybody wants him,” a person familiar with the team’s strategy said. The best the Nets can offer is center Brook Lopez, less accomplished but more durable than the Lakers’ Andrew Bynum, plus multiple first-round picks and a signed-and-traded Kris Humphries. But the Nets have been exploring ways to bring in a third or even fourth team that could convey more assets to Orlando, and New Jersey GM Billy King has signaled to associates that such a maneuver won’t be a problem. King has proved to be one of the most adept executives in the league at assembling complicated, multi-team deals.”

ESPN is reporting this morning that one of the teams in the multi-team Howard scenario is Portland, which would be giving up Gerald Wallace after heisting him from Charlotte at the trade deadline last season. No word yet on what would be in it for the Blazers other than multiple first-round picks, but as part of the trade New Jersey would also take back Chris Duhon from the Magic.

The best free agent still out there is Jamal Crawford, who has turned down a two-year, $10 million offer from Indiana and appears set to choose between the Sacramento Kings, New York Knicks and Portland Trail Blazers.

If it comes down to money, Crawford will go to one of the two Western Conference teams, as both can offer more than the Knicks, who have only the $2.5 million room exception available. But Crawford enjoyed his time in New York before he was dealt away in a cap-clearing move, and he could take a deal with only one guaranteed year and supplant Landry Fields as the starting two-guard.

No matter what, he’ll end up making a heck of a lot less money than Kwame Brown, the former overall No. 1 pick who has been a bust on every single team he has played for. But as we have mentioned before, there is a premium paid to centers in the NBA, and Brown showed how true that is by agreeing to a $7 million, one-year deal with the Golden State Warriors.

From Alan Hahn of Newsday: “Mike D’Antoni‘s bench lacks any kind of scoring inspiration and that’s why the Knicks are heavily recruiting one of the NBA’s best bench scorers, Jamal Crawford. “I think he’s really good at that role, he was Sixth Man of the Year,” D’Antoni said of Crawford, who won the award in 2010 by averaging 18 points per game off the bench for the Atlanta Hawks. “That’s something that he’s thrived in. We’re lucky enough to have the opportunity to sit down and talk . . . I don’t think we’re locked into anything, but he’s shown he’s been a great starter and a great sixth man and we’ll just figure out what’s best for our team.” Crawford is in his hometown of Seattle, mulling several offers. … The concern is in accepting a contract far below his market value. “That 2.5 can set the tone for free agency after this season,” a person close to Crawford said last night, adding that the 31-year-old guard is “not at that point” of his career where he can take less than his market value. Last season Crawford made $10.8 million. Crawford’s agent, Andy Miller, has tried in vain to arrange a sign-and-trade with Crawford’s former team, the Hawks, which holds his Bird rights, but the Knicks are not interested in giving up any of their young players, especially Toney Douglas or Landry Fields.

Richard Hamilton, who was waived by the Detroit Pistons, should become a free agent later today. There has been rampant speculation that he will sign with the Chicago Bulls.

But two other teams are in the mix.

From Neil Hayes of the Chicago Sun-Times: “The Bulls have an undeniable need to add a shooting guard, but whether that addition will be Rip Hamilton came into question Tuesday night. Hamilton is expected to clear waivers on Wednesday but cast some doubt as to whether he’ll sign with the Bulls when he officially becomes a free agent. Hamilton tweeted from his account @ripcityhamilton: “Got my list narrowed down to 3 teams. 17 hours until I clear waivers. Can’t wait Yesssssirr.

 

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  1. Larry Linville says

    Not even a mention of the best player in the free agent class- Nene- signing with the Nuggets last night? Weird oversight by you, and maybe because most of the talking heads were wrong about Nene leaving Denver. This is a big deal for Denver and gives them one of the deepest teams in the West. Mad props to Josh Kroenke and Masai Ujiri, the best executive team in the NBA.

    • ignarus says

      Yeah, it felt odd hearing that Jamal Crawford was the best free agent out there when clearly he’s not worth as much as much as other guys.

      I guess there’s not much left “out there” at this point.

    • Nussdorfer AC says

      I’m guessing you didn’t read the article or you have trouble focusing. Try Ctrl+F and type in Nene. See what you find.

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