NBA AM: Bad Move By The Hawks
Bad Move By The Hawks?: The Atlanta Hawks, in a surprise move yesterday, opted to suspend star forward Josh Smith for conduct detrimental to the team, resulting from comments he made recently about his team’s struggles to win games.
Smith’s agent Wallace Prather told CBS Sports’ Ken Berger that he met with Hawks’ GM Danny Ferry and voiced his client’s frustrations with the suspension that cost Smith some $120,000 in lost salary.
Prather was clear that Smith was not happy with the Hawk’s decision to suspend him, which comes several weeks before the NBA’s February 21st trade deadline and several months before Smith hits unrestricted free agency.
The Hawks and Smith have been in lock step regarding his pending free agency with both Smith and the team singing the same song of wanting to continue the relationship with a new deal this summer and with Smith as the focal point of the team’s rebuild in July.
While it’s clear that Ferry and Hawks wanted to establish a clear policy on detrimental commentary from its players, the decision to suspend Smith, one of the Hawks’ team captains, now casts doubt on Smith’s future in Atlanta or at least the perception that Smith and Ferry are on the same page.
CBS Sports is reporting that Dallas, Houston and Memphis have all expressed interest in trading for Smith, with Smith’s agent being quoted as saying “I do know there are teams interested”.
Prather was clear with CBS Sports that whatever moves the Hawks make regarding the makeup of the team would be their decision and that Smith has made no demands of the team.
Smith is in the final year of his contract and is slated to earn $13.2 million this season.
Smith has said both publically and privately that he likes the plan in place with the Hawks and felt strongly about their future. However, this recent move is going to shove Smith squarely in the center of the trade market as Atlanta now has to answer the question over the next 35 days – will Smith re-sign or is he going to bolt via free agency?
If the Hawks don’t have a sense of Smith’s thought process they will have no choice but to trade him and it seems there are several teams ready to pounce if the Hawks make that decision.
West Has Been The Key: The Indiana Pacers got off to a rocky start to the season after losing Danny Granger to injury. With Danny out, the team had to lean on third year forward Paul George and veteran big man David West for the bulk of their offense.
West talked with HOOPSWORLD last night about his team’s surprising resurgence without Granger and how his teams looks heading into the second part of the season.
Orlando Has Options: It should come as no huge surprise that the Orlando Magic have plenty of trade options.
The Magic have two fairly significant ending contracts in J.J. Redick ($6.19 million) and Josh McRoberts ($3.13 million). They have a stable full of young players showing serious promise – E’Twaun Moore, Nikola Vucevic, Andrew Nicholson and Maurice Harkless. Add in some quality veterans like Jameer Nelson, Arron Afflalo and Glen Davis and the Magic have the roster parts some teams covet.
Factor in the $17.81 million Traded Player Exception the Magic netted in the Dwight Howard-Laker trade and a drawer full of draft picks and the Magic seem to be one of the prettiest girls at the dance.
Sources close to the situation said recently that Orlando has been involved in virtually every trade scenario out there and that Assistant GM Scott Perry has been aggressive in looking at everything that is possible.
The Magic did have some discussions with the Memphis Grizzlies regarding Rudy Gay, but ultimately bowed out due to Gay’s massive contract (two more years and $37.1 million) and a belief that he isn’t necessarily a good fit in Orlando.
The Magic have made it clear that they would entertain offers for almost anyone on the roster, which is exactly what a 14-win team should do that’s lacking a proven, go-to player.
Magic sources continue to say that Orlando is going to aggressively explore all of their options, but that exploring options is no indication that they will trigger a deal or tear the team apart just to make a change or cash out a contract.
The Magic do place considerable value on their promising young players, so don’t expect any of them to be moved unless the return to the Magic is game changing. The Magic also place a tremendous amount of value on future cap space, so don’t expect them to trade for huge bloated contracts either.
It is safe to say that the Magic are active and aggressive enough to believe they will be a player around the trade deadline. What the Magic ultimately do will be 100 percent about what they get back and it seems everyone is on the table for the right price.
Hickson Not Going Anywhere: Portland standout J.J. Hickson is looking a monster payday this July square in the eyes. Hickson has been re-born in Portland and has likely played his way into a serious free agent deal, leading some to question whether the Blazers would trade him at the trade deadline.
Hickson is on a one-year deal worth $4 million, but will be eligible for Bird rights this summer, which gives him some fairly uncommon power.
The Collective Bargaining Agreement allows for Hickson to have Bird rights after being with the same team or on the same contract for three or more years. Hickson was waived by the Sacramento Kings and scooped up by Portland last year. After the NBA Players’ Association won a grievance with the NBA regarding Bird rights and waived players, the Blazers were permitted to ink Hickson to a one-year deal using those rights, rights he still retains. But, with Hickson’s one-year deal he would lose them if traded, which then gives him the power to veto any trade.
It is a unique combination of circumstances designed to close salary cap loopholes, but also gives Hickson some control over where he’ll end the season.
Hickson has expressed several times how happy he is with the Blazers and there is a belief that Portland will do a new deal with Hickson this summer. The problem is Hickson may have played himself into a market value the Blazers won’t match.
There are several teams with interest in trading for Hickson. However, if he is traded he loses his Bird rights. The only way that makes sense for Hickson to approve is if the trading team is going to have cap space to sign him without Bird rights and expresses a willingness to do it.
Bad News Laker Fans: At 17-21 the LA Lakers have a tough road ahead of them if they want to make the playoffs. It typically takes at least 45 wins to reach the eighth seed in the West in most years and right now the eighth seeded Houston Rockets have a .525 winning percentage, meaning the Lakers would need to beat that to get in.
With 44 games left on the schedule the Lakers would need to win at least 44 games to pass Houston as they stand today, meaning the Lakers would need to go 27-17 (.613) for the rest of the season.
To make matters worse, those Lakers fans expecting the magic game-changing bullet via trade, may be in for even more bad news. Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak has not been overly active in trying to make a trade and said recently that his team didn’t have many options.
“We don’t have many options,” Kupchak said to Mark Medina of the Long Beach Telegram “It’s not like we’re going to be active or overly active in the trade market.”
The Lakers did apply for a Disabled Player Exception from the league in response to losing Jordan Hill for the season. If that exception is granted, the Lakers would gain $1.7 million they could use to land a replacement player. However, Kupchak has said he was unsure if his team would use it. It typically takes a week to ten days for the league to make a decision on that type of request.
The Lakers continue to preach patience with the process. However, with only 44 games remaining the Lakers sitting three and half games out of the playoffs; time is not on their side.
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