NBA @ 2: Three-Team Trade For Grizzlies?
The Memphis Grizzlies were looking for additional front court depth even before they lost Darrell Arthur to a season-ending Achilles’ injury, but that twist of fate ramped up their efforts considerably. According to multiple reports, the Grizzlies are closing in on a three-team deal that will land Philadelphia 76ers forward Marreese Speights in Memphis. The New Orleans Hornets would land Xavier Henry in the deal, while the Sixers would receive two second round draft picks – likely one from each of the other two teams.
Speights is a player with loads of potential, but he hasn’t been able to find his way into Sixers head coach Doug Collins’ good graces. A number of teams have shown interest, including the Denver Nuggets, but now it seems the Grizzlies will have a chance to see what he can do.
The Grizzlies have limped out of the gate this season despite the highest expectations in franchise history. After eliminating the San Antonio Spurs in the first round of last year’s playoffs and then pushing the Oklahoma City Thunder to the limit in the second, the Grizzlies are the favorite of many NBA pundits to win their division and possibly contend for a championship this season. They spent the money to keep Marc Gasol in town long-term and have a fully healthy Rudy Gay in the lineup, but have won just two of their first five games.
Injuries have contributed, of course, with Arthur out, Zach Randolph nursing a bruised knee (now diagnosed as a torn MCL, sidelining Randolph for up to eight weeks) and Henry out with torn ligaments in his knee. Their hope is that by adding Speights they can get headed in the right direction.
Speights showed improvement over his first two seasons, but when Collins stepped in as head coach his progress stopped. He averaged just 11.5 minutes per game last season after getting more than 16 minutes per game in each of his first two season and hasn’t played at all this year. Still, Speights has scored at least 20 points in three games last April, which is an indication of why there is so much interest in him. If he can give the Grizzlies significant production off the bench he could prove to be an invaluable addition to the team.
This trade is not complete, but is expected to be official before the end of the day.
Raptors Still Point Guard Shopping?
The hiring of head coach Dwane Casey signaled a significant turning point in the Toronto Raptors’ rebuilding process. His expectations and focus on the defensive end of the floor will help the team move closer to the playoffs, and his impact is already being felt. That said, there are still some roster issues that must be addressed, and point guard continues to be as area of concern.
“Guard play is clearly one of the true focal points of successful teams, and point guard in particular,” Raptors GM Bryan Colangelo tells HOOPSWORLD. “When you’ve got a guy who can run a team and push the ball and get a team into their offense, but be a coach on the floor, it’s clearly the head of the snake if you will. We’ve got two very solid guards that are competing right now against each other and for us and as we continue to evaluate where they are. You’ve got guys at different points of their career, obviously. Jose comes in with a lot more experience, many more point guard instincts are in play. He’s had success at this level, but also on the international level, so he’s the incumbent walking in. Jerryd obviously is more of a scoring point guard, or a scoring guard that is still learning certain aspects of point guard play and decision making and I think sometimes you might even see him play a little bit tentative because he’s trying to feel both out. There’s no doubt that he can go in and score very quickly and put points up on the board but he’s being asked to make better decisions and be more of a point guard and he kind of finds himself in between sometimes but love his talent, love his work ethic, love his focus, love his athleticism, his strength, love his ability to defend the ball, so he’s got a chance. He’s got a chance to be that guy for us in the future, and again it’s nice to kind of have a coach who can relate to him and talk to him everyday and continue to motivate him. But as we move forward are we still looking for that point guard of the future? Yeah, I think that’s something that we’ve got to be discussing. Whether or not Jerryd’s that guy is still an unknown, but we’re not ruling it out.”
For all of the talk about trading Jose Calderon, including one failed attempt to send him to Charlotte, the seventh-year guard is off to a great start this season. Through five games he’s averaging 12.0 points and 9.8 assists per contest, while shooting 49% overall and 47% from three. We’re not exactly talking Jason Kidd territory, but it could very well be that Casey’s coaching style will help Calderon raise his game to another level. He has another year at roughly $10.6 million left on his contract, so the Raptors’ best option may be to maximize Calderon and then look for a replacement in free agency or via the draft once his contract expires.
The other area of concern for the Raptors is the front court, where Andrea Bargnani is taking his game to a new level, but still needs a front court partner. The Raptors believe they filled that need when they drafted Jonas Valančiūnas last summer. The 6’11″ 240-pound center won’t be able to join the Raptors until next season due to a $2.5 million buyout with Lietuvos Rytas, but they love what they’ve been seeing from him in international play. Last month he was named the Lithuanian Basketball Player Of The Year.
“We’re pretty excited about obviously what he was able to accomplish this past summer,” says Colangelo. “Now he’s playing back in the league. His team did not qualify for the Euroleague, they did qualify for the Eurocup competition. He’s done very well. I think early on he suffered a minor setback with a calf injury but, it just limited some of his playing time, but we’ve very excited obviously about what his potential is and about where he is as a player and where he’s coming. I think he was a little burned out just from the repeated competition, the back-to-back world championship under nineteen, to the Euro championship and it was something that he had to recover from, emotionally and physically, but I think he is a very bright spot on our future horizon. As you look at him potentially being a cornerstone five in this league, he’s got a chance – we’re not going to anoint him anything – he’s got a chance to be special. Now it’s up to us to make sure we take the necessary steps and preparation for him to come into the league next year, healthy, ready to go, understanding the concepts and principles. There’s work being done to establish that foundation now in preparation for next year.”
Sounds a lot like the Raptors as a team, doesn’t it? They have a lot of work to do, and next year is expected to be the year when they make radical improvements. A full year under Dwane Casey will help, the addition of Valančiūnas will help even more, and having another decent draft pick in next summer very deep NBA draft will be the icing on the cake. Even so, the Raptors have made measurable improvements already through just five games, so the darkest times seem to be behind them.
Houston’s Defense Takes A Hit
Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant seemed to be throwing a party last night as his team hosted the Houston Rockets. The Rockets were always a tough game for Kobe, as it meant he would spend the evening running away from persistent defender Shane Battier. With Battier gone, traded to Memphis and then signed by Miami as a free agent, Bryant danced all over the Rockets, scoring 37 points en route to a 108-99 Lakers win.
It didn’t help Houston’s cause that Courtney Lee, their best perimeter defender, went down with 10:40 left in the game. Lee pulled up lame on a play that didn’t involve any contact and had to be helped from the court.
“I have no idea what happened,” Lee said after the game. “I went to the hole, got ready to run back and then my leg just buckled and I went down. I didn’t feel anything at the time, so I didn’t know what it was. So I tried to get back up run again, and I couldn’t.”
It looked like he might have snapped his Achilles’, but fortunately for the Rockets the prognosis is much better for Lee. The injury turned out to be a strained calf, meaning he is likely to be day-to-day going forward. The calf has been bothering Lee since training camp.
The bigger problem in the game for Houston was Andrew Bynum, who has been on a tear since returning from his suspension. Playing against the front court deprived Rockets Bynum compiled the first 20-20 game of his career, amassing 21 points 22 rebounds against Jordan Hill and Samuel Dalembert.
Houston’s defense will suffer without Lee in the lineup for any amount of time, but without a legitimate starting center the Rockets are going to continue to struggle to win games.
HOOPSWORLD Twitter: Make sure you are following all of our guys to insure you are getting the very latest from our team: @stevekylerNBA, @AlexKennedyNBA, @jfleminghoops, @TheRocketGuy (Bill Ingram), @EricPincus, @joelbrigham, @alexraskinNYC, @TommyBeer, @YannisHW and now Susan Bible (@SusanBible).