It started with the removal of Dion Waiters on late Tuesday night, as the guard had not lived up to the role as a starter or a bench player for the team. For him, they were able to acquire J.R. Smith (who made a not-so-glorious debut on Wednesday with an zero-of-five shooting performance), Iman Shumpert (out for at least two weeks with a dislocated shoulder) and a protected first-round pick from the Oklahoma City Thunder.
All in all, those were some fine returns for a guy who simply wasn’t fitting in with the Cavaliers personnel or the style they are hoping to transition into where the ball is largely dominated by LeBron James and Kyrie Irving.
Shumpert can be a pretty suspect offensive player (as in, he’s not at all an upgrade in that department over Waiters), but he is a much more capable defender, which is what the Cavaliers need desperately more than anything else right now. Smith’s shot selection (Dan Feldman of ProBasketballTalk explained why one particular shot Smith takes is a good one here) is probably no better than Waiters’, but one thing he can certainly do is shoot from long range and help spread the floor. The guess here is that Phil Jackson wasn’t going to let go of Shumpert unless Smith and his contract was taken with him, and that’s exactly what Griffin was willing to do to complete this deal.
Then came news on Wednesday that Blatt finally acquired a player he has been going after for much of this season: center Timofey Mozgov from the Denver Nuggets. More on that from Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo Sports:
In pursuit of a center to stabilize their roster, the Cleveland Cavaliers have acquired Denver Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov for two future first-round picks, league sources told Yahoo Sports.
The Cavaliers will send the Nuggets two picks they control via the Memphis Grizzlies and Oklahoma City Thunder, a league source told Yahoo. The Nuggets will give the Cavs a 2015 second-round pick. Mozgov is the only player in the trade.
The Memphis first-round pick is largely unprotected in 2017 (top five), and could become a late lottery pick in 2016 if the Grizzlies dramatically fall off.
The protections on the pick from Memphis: Nos. 1-5 and 15-30 in 2015; 1-5 and 15-30 in ’16; 1-5 in ’17 and 1-5 in 2018; unprotected in 2019. The protections on the OKC pick: Nos. 1-18 in 2015; 1-15 in ’16; 1-15 in 2017. After 2017, it becomes two seconds.
Cleveland has been purusing Mozgov aggressively for months, determined to reunite him with Cavaliers coach David Blatt. Mozgov played for Blatt on the Russian national team.
Yes, the Cavaliers were in desperate need of a true center (especially after losing Anderson Varejao for the season), and they get that in Mozgov. Was it worth the price, though? Two first-round picks – one that is largely unprotected? For a center who was slowly but surely falling out of favor as a starter for a very mediocre Denver team and couldn’t even generate a better real plus/minus than his backup? They couldn’t find a better deal with those kinds of assets (general managers go nuts these days over the words “multiple picks”, especially of the first round variation)? The fact that Griffin was so fixated on Mozgov and his size may have blinded him from looking into other teams for better possibilities and he more than likely rushed into this thing – the trade happened not 24 hours after he received that draft pick from the Thunder.
Still, a piece is a piece, no useful center is easy to come by these days, and this does improve their current situation when the full roster becomes available – James is still out with a sore knee (although he admits he could be playing right now if they were in the playoffs) and they’ll have to wait on Shumpert’s status. To make room, recently signed guard A.J. Price has been waived by the team.
Not surprisingly, David Blatt gushed about Mozgov earlier in the year, from Jeff Zillgitt of USA Today:
Just before the Cleveland Cavaliers played their fifth game of 2014-15 season, a Denver reporter asked Cavs coach David Blatt about Nuggets center Timofey Mozgov.
Blatt smiled, fondly remember coaching Mozgov on the Russian national team.
“Timofey is a great young man, and I had the pleasure and honor to coach him for a number of years on the Russian national team in the national team environment and we had a lot of great success together, winning medals and titles, and obviously he was a big part of that,” Blatt said on Nov. 7. “Except for tonight, I’ve got a very, very soft spot in my heart for him. Great kid. Great kid.”
Blatt is familiar with the abilities of Mozgov, so that may help in terms of how the center will be utilized on the team.
As for new Thunder Waiters, he had plenty to say about his situation with the Cavaliers and what he’s looking forward to with his new team, from Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports:
Said Waiters: “I get to come to an organization that has been to the Finals, young talented guys and there are big expectations here also. I’d love to be a part of something like that. I’m just glad it wasn’t no bad organization or a team that is not playing for the playoffs.”
[About playing with James and Kevin Love] “We never really played together,” Waiters said. “Of course, I played with ‘Ky,’ but we never played with ‘Kev’ or LeBron and those types of guys who dominated on the opposing team. For them to come to Cleveland, we all had to change our games for the betterment of the team.
“For instance, my scoring went down [along with] ‘Ky.’ We’re used to having the ball, and with LeBron he needs the ball to facilitate, make plays and things like that. It was a chemistry thing that was still building.”
“I knew something was going to happen with everything that was going on with the way we were playing,” Waiters said. “I just knew. I just sensed it.”
Asked about his reputation and what the Thunder should expect, Waiters said: “You can’t judge a book by its cover until you open up and read it. There are going be a million stories out there, true or not true. I say get to know me first before you judge me. Once that takes care of itself, everything else will fall into place.”
OTHER NEWS AND ITEMS FROM AROUND THE LEAGUE:
- The Memphis Grizzlies feel the need for an upgrade at the small forward position, so they are going after some notable names, according to Marc Stein of ESPN: “The Grizzlies, looking to bolster their scoring options on the wing in the ever-competitive Western Conference, are actively trying to obtain Miami’s Luol Deng or Boston’s Jeff Green ahead of the Feb. 19 trade deadline, according to league sources. No deal is imminent, sources said, but it has become clear the Grizzlies are intent on upgrading their wing rotation before the deadline in a conference where teams behind third-place Memphis (25-10) in the standings have already made notable in-season additions — such as Dallas (Rajon Rondo) and Houston (Corey Brewer and Josh Smith) — and where Oklahoma City has yet to move into playoff position… It is not immediately known how willing Miami would be to trade Deng, who is not yet even halfway through his first season of the two-year, $19.9 million contract he received from the Heat in the wake of LeBron James’ return to Cleveland via free agency… Green, meanwhile, is widely believed to be available leading into the deadline in the wake of Boston’s deal to send Rondo to Dallas last month.”
- Good news for Milwaukee Bucks fans: Larry Sanders claims the report about him not wanting to play basketball isn’t true, from Charles F. Gardner of the Journal Sentinel: “I figured with my absence that something was going to come out sooner than later. That’s not true. But what is true I would say is that I’m in the process of working things out now internally to do what’s best for my physique and my physical health going forward. “There’s a lot of evaluating going on. There’s a lot of inside talk just to put myself in the best place for my health right now.” As coach Jason Kidd has said repeatedly, there appears to be no timetable for his return. “There’s not right now,” Sanders said. “I kind of go by recommendations, so I’m definitely keeping my ear to those who are close to me and see what they say is best for my health moving forward. “I’m definitely making progress. I’m trying to get to the root of a lot of issues and get them corrected going forward.”
- The Atlanta Hawks will soon be available to purchase, and here are some of the suitors, from Chris Vivlamore of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution: “According to sources, those who have expressed a level of interest include:* Jason Levian. The former Memphis Grizzlies CEO left the organization in May. He is a co-owner of the MLS franchise D.C. United. * Steve Kaplan: The Los Angeles-based investor joined Robert Pera’s group as a limited investor to purchase the Memphis Grizzlies. He has reportedly made attempts to buy baseball’s San Diego Padres and Los Angeles Dodgers in recent years. Levian and Kaplan are working as part of the same group.* Sheldon Adelson: The billionaire businessman is the chairman and CEO of the Las Vegas Sands Corporation.* Byran Colangelo: The former President and CEO of the Toronto Raptors. The son of Jerry Colangelo, he was the NBA’s 2005 and 2007 Executive of the Year. * Grant Hill: The former NBA player and current analyst joined Antony Ressler and Bruce Karsh with a $1.2 billion failed bid to by the Los Angeles Clippers. Hill deflected questions about his interest in the Hawks during a recent segment on NBA TV.”
- The Los Angeles Clippers are interested in Tony Wroten. Told of the news, here is how he reacted, from John Gonzalez of CSN Philly: “Yeah. Other teams want you,” Wroten said. “You must be doing something right. But it’s also a much better feeling when the team you’re on doesn’t let you go.”… “You pretty much know that it’s going to happen, especially on this team,” Wroten said. “A lot of change. A lot of new faces. But it’s part of the business. You have to cherish the moment as best you can. “I’m auditioning for everybody. But I was blessed and fortunate enough, with a few guys, who got to stay on this team. It’s like you feel wanted. I continue to play for the lovely fans and the lovely community and see where it takes us.”
- Carmelo Anthony weighed in on his knee situation and what it means to lose some of his teammates, from Marc Berman of New York Post: “As of right now I expect to be coming back in London,’’ Anthony said before the Knicks’ 101-91 loss to the Wizards Wednesday night at Verizon Center. “I thought these two weeks would really help me out to see if rest is really the issue or if I [need to] take proper precaution or get something done.’’ Anthony missed his third straight game Wednesday since last playing on New Year’s Eve, and said it’s “sad’’ to miss a game near Baltimore, to where he moved from Brooklyn while in junior high. “Some days are better than others, sometimes it’s not [painful],’’ Anthony said. “It’s kind of like having a little rock or pebble in the shoe. Some days it’s not.’’… “I don’t want to say anything about a change of scenery, but as far as Cleveland getting two good players, yes, Cleveland got two good players,” Anthony said. “I think we all know what J.R. can bring to the game and what he’s capable of doing. We all know what Shump is capable of doing. To add those two guys to the Cleveland roster, I think it helps them out a lot.”… “To see them guys, it was a state of confusion,’’ Anthony said. “I got a chance to talk to both of them, talk to J.R. They were really hurt. I had to try to calm them down and let them know everything will be all right. You have to move on and get past it.’’
- Jeanie Buss says she will hold Jim Buss to his word about stepping down if the Lakers aren’t contenders in a couple of years, from Mark Medina of Daily News: “Jim Buss has said if the Lakers are not a contender in the Western Conference within three years, he will step down. Is that something that would happen?
Jeanie Buss: “I don’t know why he said that. That was a private conversation with our family. I don’t understand why he said. But I don’t think it will be a concern. By three years, we will be exactly where we should be in terms of the Western Conference.” Is that a standard that you’re holding him to, or that just something Jim said? Jeanie Buss: “That’s a challenge he presented to himself. Again, I don’t know why he made that public.” But would you hold him accountable to that standard? Jeanie Buss: “Of course. But do I see that happening? I don’t. Given all the resources that we have, given our legacy, given who our head coach is and who our front office is, I don’t see any problem getting as progress to where we need to be.”
- If you want to see some hilarious exchanges between Nick Young and Jeremy Lin, go here.
- Steve Ballmer has to be the most enthusiastic owner/fan out of any of them out there. The wildest, at the very least.
- You know who doesn’t mess around? President and coach Stan Van Gundy, who has helped rejuvenate the Detroit Pistons in a big way by simply waiving what turned out to be their only problem in Josh Smith. Check out Van Gundy in action.
Jim Park is a blogger and editor of Sheridan Hoops. Follow him on twitter @SheridanBlog.