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Nets get Gerald Wallace, but future still rests on Deron Williams

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Gerald Wallace, who was shipped to the Nets, is likely to exercise his $9.5 million player option for next season. (Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)

After Dwight Howard ended the Nets’ dream of pairing him with Deron Williams next season, the Nets have apparently gone to Plan B: mortgaging the future, at least a bit, in an attempt to please Williams by constructing a mid-level playoff team next season and chasing a star free agent again in the summer of 2013.

New Jersey will acquire Gerald Wallace from the Trail Blazers in exchange for Mehmet Okur’s expiring contract, Shawne Williams and New Jersey’s first-round pick in the loaded 2012 draft, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski.

A key detail here: The Nets’ pick is only top-three protected, which means the Blazers receive the pick if it falls in the No. 4 slot or lower. The Nets currently have the sixth-worst record in the league, and it will be borderline impossible for them to finish below Washington, Charlotte or New Orleans in the standings; an upward push for the 8th seed would seem more likely now that Wallace is a Net. The protection allows the Nets to keep the pick if they exceed expectations in the lottery, but they will mostly likely send the Blazers a pick in the 5-10 range.

That’s a solid return for a Portland team in free-fall this season, and it allows it to slot Nicolas Batum in as its present and future starting small forward. Batum has been starting as the team’s nominal shooting guard of late, and that has created a log jam, given the presence of Wesley Matthews, Jamal Crawford and explosive second-year player Elliot Williams.

Wallace has a $9.5 million player option for next season, which he’s very likely to exercise; his deal expires after that.

Exchanging Wallace for Williams saves the Blazers about $6.4 million in salary for next season, and if Jamal Crawford declines his player option, Portland could have enough cap space to re-sign Batum at market price and have between $15 and $20 million in cap space left over. That’s not a bad place to be, especially if a certain max-level free agent point guard becomes available. The Blazers will have that cap space, plus a franchise big man in LaMarcus Aldridge, two solid wings in Batum and Matthews, some decent young pieces and (assuming Portland and New Jersey both miss the playoffs) two 2012 lottery picks. Again: Not bad. Read More…

  • Published On 2:38pm, Mar 15, 2012
  • Making sense of playoff race in West

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    It’s time to give up trying to figure out the Western Conference and just enjoy the ride, as 11 teams battle for eight playoff spots, and two others — the Suns and Warriors — improbably lurk just one game behind the 11th-place Trail Blazers in the loss column. I can’t remember a season in which it has been so difficult to get a firm grip on a simple question: How good is Team X? This is especially so in a lockout-shortened season, when veteran teams may well be saving something for the playoffs.

    We’re nearly 40 games into this thing, and I feel comfortable saying two things about the Western Conference:

    The Thunder are clear favorites, but their D needs improvement. (Layne Murdoch/NBAE/Getty Images)

    1. The Thunder, as we all expected, are the clear favorites. They’re 31-8, rolling to home-court advantage, and even if their scoring margin (plus-6.0 points per game) paints them as a team that really should be something like 27-12 and not all that far ahead of their conference peers, that scoring margin is still nearly two full points ahead of the Spurs’ second-best mark.

    That said, the Thunder, as documented here and here, are riding a ridiculous wave of super crunch-time play that has pushed their record above where it probably should be. They remain a so-so defensive team, except in the final minutes of close games, when they turn into the 2008 Celtics. They struggle to find any scoring at all beyond their top three players; Oklahoma City piled up 115 points last night against the Suns, and only five of their players scored any points. Floor-spacing can be an issue, Russell Westbrook remains addicted to pull-up 20-footers in the first five seconds of the shot clock and the three core big men –Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins and Nick Collison — are almost total non-threats on the pick-and-roll.

    If this team really has another gear on defense, as perhaps evidenced by its crunch-time play, they might be able to waltz through this conference. If they’ve been lucky, they could be had. Read More…

  • Published On 2:27pm, Mar 08, 2012
  • Court Vision: Greg Oden’s misfortune

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    Greg Oden underwent his third microfracture surgery since entering the league and will miss the remainder of this season plus next season. (AP)

    • It is hard to fathom the news that Greg Oden has undergone another microfracture surgery — his third since entering the NBA. Microfracture surgery normally requires a 12-month timetable, but given the complications Oden experienced recovering from his Nov. 2010 microfracture surgery, it seems likely that even in the absolute best-case scenario, Oden will miss all of next season in addition to what remains of this one. The worst-case scenario, one that seems more likely, is that Oden never again plays in the NBA.

    There really isn’t much to say at this point. It’s just a sad story, tempered of course by the fact that Oden has earned more than $20 million and can do things like have a family and friends. When Oden’s 2010-11 season ended, the Trail Blazers were still set to control his rights in free agency during the summer of 2011. Oden was in his fourth season, the last of his rookie deal, and he was to be a restricted free agent. The Blazers used those rights to keep Oden on a reduced one-year qualifying offer, and they could have matched any competing offer for him.

    The situation is different now. Oden will be an unrestricted free agent after this summer, and it might be time for Portland to move on. They have the maximum-allowed 15 players on their roster right now, and a full six of those players are either barely on the fringes of Nate McMillan’s rotation or out of it completely. The Blazers could use someone capable of playing actual NBA minutes, and so it wouldn’t be a total mind-blower if they released Oden soon.

    Regardless, he’ll be on the open market this summer. Will anyone sign him?

    Some Oden links:

    • Will Carroll, an contributor, has a very detailed but readable look at what exactly microfracture surgery is, which players have undergone the operation and how their games have changed after it. Read More…

  • Published On 4:18pm, Feb 21, 2012
  • Four teams in trouble amid short season

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    This year is a test for everyone, but there are four teams to watch for the remainder of the season — four teams that are either experiencing a temporary internal crisis or playing closer to what is really their true level. If it’s the latter, teams just outside the playoff races or holding a loose grip on the No. 7 or No. 8 spots — the Grizzlies, Jazz, Bucks and Timberwolves — might have reason for encouragement.

    A quick look at each:


    Despite Danny Granger's improved shooting, Indiana's offense still lags. (Gary Dineen/NBAE/Getty Images)

    The Pacers have lost six of eight to drop to 18-12, ceding that “feel-good threat to Miami and Chicago” status to Philadelphia and falling to a point where New York, Boston and Milwaukee can see them without squinting. Injuries and the schedule are both culprits here, but the collapse of Indiana’s formerly top-shelf defense and the shaky play of its bench are both worrisome trends to monitor.

    The Pacers are without George Hill, their best bench player and key insurance for Darren Collison, and Jeff Foster returned from injury only a week ago. They also just finished a stretch of seven games in 10 days that contained one segment of four games in five nights and a separate back-to-back-to-back  that ended Thursday night, with a much-needed win over Deron Williams and the Deron Williams Players.

    This Indiana team was always going to win by relying on solid defense to lift a mediocre offense, while hoping internal improvements to that offense might help it win more — and against better teams — later. The offense has remained inconsistent, even as Danny Granger has done the inevitable and rediscovered his jumper. This is a post-heavy team without an elite creator, and it can look very slow on the wrong night.

    The Pacers have been neck-and-neck with the Lakers all season in terms of devoting the greatest share of its possessions to post-up plays (per Synergy Sports), and Collison, despite flashes and generally solid play, just hasn’t made a leap as a penetrator or creator. Hill and Paul George can both run the pick-and-roll, but they often do so tentatively, dribbling sideways instead of into the teeth of a defense. Read More…

  • Published On 3:11pm, Feb 17, 2012
  • Tempting to blame new CBA as Gerald Wallace puts Trail Blazers in a bind

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    Gerald Wallace has reportedly told the Trail Blazers that he plans to opt out of his deal and enter free agency. (Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)

    Gerald Wallace has a player option to remain in Portland next season, but he’s going to become a free agent instead, according to Jason Quick of The Oregonian. The decision makes obvious financial sense for Wallace, but his move raises interesting (if overblown) questions about the new collective bargaining agreement and puts the Trail Blazers in a difficult position.

    Wallace is a fantastic two-way player. But he’s almost 30, and with a game built on speed, tenacity and quickness, it’s fair to ask how his game will change with age. The track record for wing players in their 30s is not encouraging.

    First, the particulars. Wallace’s option is worth $9.5 million next season. Various reports list the value at $11.4 million, but the reliable ShamSports and two other sources I spoke with today confirmed the $9.5 million figure, which doesn’t include some bonuses listed as “unlikely.” Under the new CBA, Wallace has two basic options:

    1. Sign a contract extension. He could do that now, or he could exercise his $9.5 million option for next season and sign an extension then. Regardless, the new rules limit the length of extensions to four seasons in total, including any years left on a player’s current deal at the moment he signs the extension. For Wallace, that means an extension could carry him through 2014-15 at the longest.

    Also, the starting annual salary of that extension would be limited to 107.5 percent of what Wallace makes now (about $10.2 million in the first season).

    Under the old CBA, that extension could have been one season longer. This will lead some to wonder if the new CBA might actually make it harder for teams to bring back players in Wallace’s situation. We’ll get to that shortly.

    2.  Opt out of his contract, become a free agent and sign a totally new deal. This path offers Wallace more money and more years, at least in theory. The Blazers, who have Wallace’s Bird Rights, could offer him a five-year contract — one that would run through 2016-17, or two years beyond the longest possible extension he could sign now. Rival teams could offer Wallace only a new four-year deal, but even that contract would run through 2015-16 — one season longer than the longest possible extension Wallace could sign. Read More…

  • Published On 12:54pm, Jan 11, 2012
  • Are the Trail Blazers now contenders?

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    About 28 of Portland's 83 shots per game (33.7 percent) have come at the rim so far this season. (AP)

    We’re not even 10 percent through the regular season, so the importance of any statistical trend falls somewhere between “totally meaningless” and “possibly indicative of larger things to come.” With that in mind, four teams rank among the top 10 in both points scored and allowed per possession: the Heat, Bulls, 76ers and Trail Blazers.

    The first two might be the two very best teams in the league. Philadelphia has played a league-low four games, and though all have been on the road, three have come against probable or certain lottery teams. And then there’s Portland, a sad sack franchise that draws sympathy but little respect as a legitimate contender. A few of us labeled the Blazers as potential sleepers in the Western Conference, but even the optimists didn’t quite expect Nate McMillan’s slow-poke team to turn into a fast-paced, rim-attacking, foul-drawing monster that destroyed every opponent three-point attack. And when the Blazers came out running at a breakneck pace that meshes well with Raymond Felton and Gerald Wallace, smart folks like SB Nation’s Mike Prada wondered how they’d fare against a good team that slowed things down a bit.

    The Blazers answered emphatically in a smart, efficient, fantastic win Tuesday at Oklahoma City, a team admittedly playing on the second end of a tough Dallas-Portland back-to-back. It was easily Portland’s slowest game of the season, featuring just 91 possessions, below the league’s average, let alone the average for a Portland team that ranks fourth in possessions per game even after last night. And the Blazers — not the Thunder — looked like the disciplined team ready to play grind-it-out ball. They got to the line 36 times, becoming a normal thing for a team that ranks fifth in free-throw rate after finishing in the middle of the league last season. They rebounded a decent share of their own misses, reminding us that what had been a top-five offensive rebounding team for two straight seasons remains solidly in the top 10 in offensive rebounding rate so far in this one. Read More…

  • Published On 12:41pm, Jan 04, 2012
  • Acquiring veterans in any deal for Dwight Howard won’t help Magic

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    Orlando discussed a possible Dwight Howard trade with Atlanta that would've involved Joe Johnson and other veteran players with big contracts. (AP)

    Marc Stein of has filed the latest on the Dwight Howard trade talks, focusing on the sort of package the Magic want:

    Sources familiar with Orlando’s thinking say that a picture of what the Magic will ultimately expect in return for their anchor has indeed begun to emerge, telling this week that Orlando would not hold out for youth and draft picks as the league-owned New Orleans Hornets were ordered to do in the Chris Paul sweepstakes. The Magic, sources say, would instead prefer to bring back multiple established veterans who can keep the team competitive.

    The Magic have a shiny new arena to fill, and their owner, 85-year-old Rich DeVos, has no taste for a rebuild.

    And then this:

    Sources told that the aforementioned Hawks, meanwhile, engaged Orlando in trade talks for Howard earlier this month with an offer believed to be headlined by $124 million guard Joe Johnson and swingman Josh Smith. You have to figure that the Magic, though, would insist on Al Horford if such discussions ever got serious.

    Atlanta believed it was making “progress” in the talks before Magic GM Otis Smith temporarily ended all Howard trade discussions, Stein reports.

    As you’ll recall, Stein and others reported a couple of weeks ago that the Nets, Blazers and Magic were working on a three-team deal that would have sent Howard to New Jersey and yielded Gerald Wallace, Brook Lopez and at least one first-rounder for the Magic, with the Blazers receiving multiple picks for their assistance. (The Nets were reportedly willing to send out as many as five first-rounders combined to Portland and Orlando.) The Magic would have dumped both Hedo Turkoglu and Chris Duhon on New Jersey, a contract-shedding bonanza that would have required the Nets to send at least one other asset — probably Jordan Farmar — out in the deal. Read More…

  • Published On 1:59pm, Dec 28, 2011
  • Reflecting on Brandon Roy’s career

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    Three-time All-Star shooting guard Brandon Roy leaves a rich legacy in Portland. (Rick Bowmer/AP)

    Jason Quick of The Oregonian and Ben Golliver of BlazersEdge have been around Brandon Roy for just about all of the guard’s five-year career with the Trail Blazers. They have seen everything — the game-winning shots, the understandable ying-yang of Roy’s emotions as he came to grips with his physical limitations, his openness with the media and his emergence as an icon in Portland.

    Today they have written separate farewell columns to Roy, who is retiring at the age of 27 because of recurring problems linked to a lack of meniscus cartilage in either knee. They are phenomenal reads in different ways. Quick scored an exclusive, one-hour interview with the three-time All-Star, who talked about his decision to retire and revealed that his knee problems had gotten worse. An excerpt:

    “Even when I felt like my knees were giving me problems, I remember telling my dad that I have to play in every game because I don’t know how many I will get to play,” Roy said. “There were times my knees were swelling up so bad I didn’t know how long they were going to hold up. So I felt I had to go for it, now.”

    I’m not going to excerpt any more, because I recommend you read the whole thing. Roy discusses his reaction to being named an All-Star, what his family did to celebrate his 52-point game in December 2008 and, perhaps most poignant of all, his wish to one day reflect in a unique way on his magical performance in Game 4 of Portland’s first-round series against Dallas last season. I dare you to conjure up the image Roy creates here and not feel moved.

    Read More…

  • Published On 11:12am, Dec 16, 2011
  • Potential Dwight Howard deal lacking for Magic

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    A proposed multiteam deal would send Dwight Howard to the Nets and Brook Lopez to Orlando. (AP)

    Yahoo! Sports, and’s Sam Amick reported that the Nets, desperate to keep Deron Williams as he approaches free agency, are trying to build a three- or four-team deal for Orlando’s Dwight Howard.

    The endless obsession over the Chris Paul trade has obscured this: Howard is a better, younger, healthier player than the Hornets’ point guard — a big man who changes the game on defense like no one else in the NBA, creates a playoff team on his own and stands as the league’s second-greatest talent. This is the sort of player for whom you trade your 22-year-old future All-Star if you have even a hint of confidence that Howard will stick around long-term. He’s that good.

    The Nets, on their own, can offer center Brook Lopez, a signed-and-traded Kris Humphries and multiple first-round picks — their 2012 pick, a lottery-protected pick they received from Houston last summer and others starting in 2014. They could also wait to try to sign Howard as a free agent in 2012, but that brings up complicated timing issues and risks the possibility that the Lakers — reportedly re-engaged in the Paul talks — swoop in on Howard.

    Read More…

  • Published On 1:16pm, Dec 14, 2011
  • Portland takes center stage amid lockout talk

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    Reports swirled after Thursday's labor meeting that Trail Blazers owner Paul Allen was looking into selling the team. (AP)

    What a crazy 72 hours for the Portland Trail Blazers, who became the center of the NBA’s lockout storm for a brief window. To recap:

    Amid the most rancorous set of press conferences yet in the lockout, union officials revealed on Thursday that Blazers owner Paul Allen emerged from nowhere to enforce a hard line on the split of basketball-related income and ultimately torpedo a once-promising federal mediation session. Allen didn’t speak a word at the meeting, union officials told reporters. He sat (or stood) in silence, refusing to even answer a query from union executive director Billy Hunter about whether Allen and the owners were serious in halting talks unless the players formally agreed to accept a 50-50 split of the league’s revenue. Allen, who had not attended a negotiating session before last Thursday, was painted as some sort of Terminator — a silent and robotic special weapon sent from an unknown location to destroy the union. It was weird.

    About 24 hours later, Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowksi expounded on that weirdness, reiterating (through sources) that Allen did not speak with Hunter and relaying speculation that Allen, suddenly a hard-liner after years of profligate spending, was prepping for the eventual sale of the Blazers.

    The league then went on something of p.r. offensive, having deputy commissioner Adam Silver phone Allen’s hometown paper, The Oregonian, and deny that Allen has any interest in selling the Blazers or that he played a crucial role in the breakdown of Thursday’s talks. Silver told the paper that Allen’s presence at the mediation in New York was a coincidence, since Allen was in town already for a separate meeting of the league’s Board of Governors. Here’s Silver: Read More…

  • Published On 12:13pm, Oct 24, 2011