For the most part, we know who will be around to contend in April, May and June. But the question today is who will be a real threat? And who will assert themselves over the next two months while Russell Westbrook and Chris Paul are sidelined.
Yes, Paul (separated shoulder) is out, too — for those of you who didn’t stay up for the late games.
First, however, the trade season is the hot topic, and we are spotlighting a league-wide update from CBS Sports Ken Berger. Berger provides some insight on where things stand with Houston’s Omer Asik and the Lakers’ Pau Gasol:
Word is the Rockets now expect to keep center Omer Asik past next month’s deadline and beyond. The team ramped up efforts to create a market for Asik last month because it believed that was the most realistic window to get a deal done. Now, Houston is caught in a bit of a no-man’s land.
Things can always change in Lakerland, but for now, the team intends to keep Pau Gasol and ride it out with the group it has. In fact, league sources say the Lakers lodged an inquiry with Toronto about a deal for Kyle Lowry to stabilize their injury-ravaged point guard position. The talks didn’t go anywhere. Nonetheless, with Kobe Bryant trying to come back from a second significant injury in eight months, the incentive — and temptation — to dump salary and avert a date with the dreaded repeater tax will remain. Especially if LA remains on the outside of the playoff chase in the West.
Just two weeks after the Lakers made a statement that they would not trade Gasol this season, rumors began to heat up just last weekend between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Lakers. With the suspension of Andrew Bynum — and the likelihood he has played his last game in a Cavalier uniform — the Cavs are looking anywhere they can to flip Bynum.
Enter Los Angeles.
The Gasol/Bynum swap would be an ideal fit for both teams, if they could just figure out their intentions for the rest of the season. The Lakers could save over $20 million in salary and luxury taxes and take a deep plunge into the NBA lottery. They’re almost too good for that right now at 13-19. And for some reason, at 11-20, the Cavs are looking to go the opposite direction and catapult themselves into the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Talks stalled mid-week for undisclosed reasons. My money says the Lakers are trying to haul more than they can from a stingy Chris Grant (1st round draft pick and/or young talent). But on Cleveland’s side, they may have cut off discussions after Kyrie Irving went down on New Years Eve with a knee injury. His MRI returned negative and he will likely be back for Sunday’s contest against the Pacers, but if he were to miss extended time, there wouldn’t be much sense in trading an asset for Gasol. Also, if they are going to save the Buss family $20 million, why wouldn’t they ask for a sweetener?
It appears as if the Cavs have a few options and are looking to make a move by Monday.
More from Berger on the Cavs and a Kyle Lowry update:
The Cavaliers and Kings have been among the most aggressive teams in pursuit of trades, league sources say. On the heels of acquiring Rudy Gay from Toronto, the Kings are “swinging for the fences” on the trade market, one rival executive said. One top priority is shoring up the point guard position, with Andre Miller jumping to the top of the list after his falling out with Nuggets coach Brian Shaw and ensuing two-game suspension. But Kings GM Pete D’Alessandro’s true long-term target is said to be Warriors sharpshooter Klay Thompson, who will be a restricted free agent after next season. With the Lakers having cooled on the idea of a Gasol-for-Andrew Bynum swap, the Cavs are now exploring other ways to end their experiment with the 7-footer before his $12.25 million salary for this season becomes fully guaranteed on Tuesday.
In addition to the Lakers, Knicks and Nets, the Timberwolves, Warriors and Celtics are among the teams that have inquired about a deal with the Raptors for Lowry, league sources say. Raptors GM Masai Ujiri has been encouraged by the team’s recent play, as Toronto has gone 9-3 since the trade with two of the losses coming against the Spurs But despite the Raptors’ fourth-place status in the pitiful East, Ujiri is determined to take the long-term view. With the deadline less than seven weeks away, Ujiri is said to have multiple deals he could do for Lowry that would involve receiving an expiring contract in return or slotting him into another team’s trade exception. Taking back future salary would come at a high price, i.e. a first-round pick.
Onto more from around the NBA
- The injury bug has stung again — this time taking down yet another of the NBA’s biggest stars. Chris Paul separated his shoulder in last night’s 119-112 victory over the Mavericks, and the early prognosis is a 3-5 week recovery period. Coach Doc Rivers said Paul could be out longer and will go to Los Angeles for evaluation while the Clippers head to San Antonio to face the defending Western Conference champion Spurs tonight. “It changes for everybody,” said Darren Collison, who figures to start in Paul’s place and had a season-high 22 points in his first game against the Mavericks after playing one season in Dallas. “Everybody’s got to step up and play big. But we’ll be fine.”
- The oft-injured Steve Nash hopes to return to the court by February: “”At some point, I have to also realize, do the safest thing, the best possible opportunity to play basketball again rather than letting my angst get the better of me and jumping back in there,” Nash said after the Lakers’ shootaround Friday. “I know I can get healthy. It’s a matter of, ‘Can I sustain it?’ And I’m just trying to get that health under my belt for an amount of time where we feel confident that it can be sustainable is the tricky part, and that’s probably going to take a little while longer than I was hoping.” Nash, the league’s oldest player — turning 40 next month — originally hoped to return to the lineup sometime during the Lakers’ upcoming seven-game Grammys road trip Jan. 15-26, but he has since decided to use that time to go back to Vancouver, British Columbia, for the fourth time this season to undergo rehab with personal trainer Rick Celebrini. If all goes well, Nash will practice with the Lakers for a week when they return from their extended road trip and attempt a comeback during the first week of February with about 35 games left in the regular season.”
- The Denver Nuggets have suspended Andre Miller for two games: “He hopes his message got through and possibly serves as a turning point in the season. The Nuggets are trying to snap out of an eight-game slump, their longest in nearly a decade. “Didn’t anticipate for (the meeting) to last as long as it did, but however long it needs to take to flush everything out and figure out what’s going on with our team, we decided to take that time today,” Shaw said. “It’s been a long morning after a long night of watching the game over and just playing everything back in your mind and trying to find a solution for where we are.” Miller was upset after not playing in a 114-102 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Wednesday night. It was the first “Did not play — coach’s decision” of Miller’s 15-year career. Asked how his meeting with Miller went, Shaw said he hasn’t talked to him yet. Shaw didn’t elaborate on why Miller was suspended but there were reports that Miller voiced his displeasure with Shaw over his lack of playing time. “It just came to a boiling point. We made a decision and we’re moving forward,” Shaw said.”
- He’s moved around a bit, but former coaches know the value of Andre Iguodala: “Thursday night in Miami was a prime example. The Warriors won their seventh straight game, and while Stephen Curry and David Lee provided 68 points combined, there should be no overlooking the job that Iguodala did. He had eight points with six rebounds and six assists, but he was instrumental in the poor showing by MVP LeBron James, who had 26 points but committed eight turnovers. No one understands the value of Iguodala more than those who have coached him before. Start with George Karl, who had Iguodala last year in Denver, where Iguodala helped the Nuggets to 57 wins. It was during last postseason that the Warriors knocked off the Nuggets in the first round of the playoffs, sparking Iguodala—who was to be a free agent—to consider Golden State as a potential destination. He signed on July 5.”
- “When that deal went down, I said to myself, there’s probably not a better team for Andre than Golden State as far as his personality,” Karl said. “Andre loves the team to play as a team, he is a team guy, he is unselfish. The only thing he has had problems with in his career has been when teams want him to score 20 points a game. Golden State doesn’t need him to score 20 points. They need him to do what he does at a high level.”
- The Orlando Magic have waived Hedo Turkoglu: “Waiving Turkoglu moves the Magic approximately $5 million under the cap and makes them a potential player leading up to the trading deadline as a facilitator in a three-team deal or taking back more salary in a conventional trade. Turkoglu has not spent of of this season with the Magic, who are rebuilding with young players. The sides were unable to agree on a buyout, and Hennigan was unable to trade Turkoglu’s contract for an asset. The Orlando Sun-Sentinel cited sources saying Turkoglu, 34, wants to continue his career. He has been working out at Rollins College in Florida. A combo forward, Turkoglu’s best asset in his ability to stretch the floor with a career 38 percent mark from 3-point range. Plenty of teams could use more shooting, and USA Today reports the Lakers and Hawks may have some interest. Turkoglu has averaged 11.9 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.1 assists in 897 career games with Sacramento, San Antonio, Orlando, Toronto and Phoenix. He was the 2008 Most Improved Player and helped the Magic reach the 2009 NBA Finals, where he was the team’s leading scorer.”
- Kendall Marshall will be the sixth starting point guard for the Lakers this season: “”I feel really bad for him,” D’Antoni said of Farmar. “It’s not in the same spot. It’s kind of weird. Of course, it’s kind of par for the course. In the last couple months we’ve just had some weird injuries.” Farmar said he suffered the new tear during the Lakers’ 111-104 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Sunday but thought he was just feeling the lingering effects of scar tissue from the previous hamstring injury. He pulled himself out of L.A.’s 94-79 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks on Tuesday. “Going through the game against Milwaukee I just couldn’t do it,” said Farmar, who was treated with a platelet-rich plasma injection in the left hamstring Thursday. “I told them I’d rather get it looked at so at least I know if it is scar tissue, then I know it’s something that I have to push through, and if it’s not, then we’ll know how to deal with it. Unfortunately, it was something new.””
- Kyrie Irving will miss Saturday’s game against Brooklyn and will not travel with the team: “Cleveland Cavaliers’ point guard Kyrie Irving injured his left knee during Tuesday’s loss to the Indiana Pacers. Irving was pushing the ball in transition and attempted to go around George Hill for a layup on the left side. As he was gathering his steps, he lost his balance and seemed to have his knee give way in a manner that caused him a considerable amount of pain. He returned to the game but was given an MRI the next day and listed as day-to-day. Irving’s knee is not good enough to play Saturday against the Brooklyn Nets and he will not even travel with the team to Brooklyn.”
- Look out for Pierre Jackson if he is called up in New Orleans: “Our own Scott Rafferty highlighted Jackson’s third forty-plus point performance of the season, a 41 point effort in a win against the Texas Legends, last week as well. Having said that, Rafferty also alluded to the fact that Jackson had a string of underwhelming games as of late, too. The aforementioned scout was said to have been present at one of Jackson’s less spectacular performances. Still, as noted, Jackson has been by far the most dominating forces of offensive nature the league has seen this season. The fact that New Orleans had someone in town checking him out means that their collective curiosity is peaked, to say the very least. The fact that the team recently freed up a roster spot only adds fuel to the fire. After acquiring Jackson’s NBA Draft rights following his second round selection by the 76ers, the Pelicans are the only team that can actually call the guard up to the NBA this season. That is, of course, they opt to trade his rights to another squad for future draft pick(s) and/or potential considerations instead.”