NBA PM: The Zach Randolph Trade Scenario
One of the problems NBA fans and analysts alike have at this time of year is sorting out what’s real and what’s not surrounding the plethora of trade rumors that are floating around.
In this case, the news of Zach Randolph potentially being traded is something of a holdover from days gone by. In fact, the root of this most recent rumor came from a source that was speaking about a situation that existed before Rudy Gay was traded to the Toronto Raptors and is no longer even relevant. In fact, the original story that the Grizzlies were talking about trading Randolph to the Houston Rockets has since been denied by both sides.
For more than a year there has been talk that Gay was unhappy in Memphis because the ball tended to run through Randolph first, and now that Gay has been shipped out it makes absolutely no sense for the Grizzlies to deal Randolph.
Today Ron Tillery of the Memphis Commercial-Appeal offered some clarity on the matter in a series of tweets, stating that while the team continues to get calls about Randolph, they are telling everyone that he is not available. Tillery reports that Randolph was told by the team that he will not be moved before the deadline, and that the only move they might make would be in the form of a tweak, possibly adding a shooting guard, but nothing in the way of a blockbuster move.
That doesn’t mean the Grizzlies absolutely won’t trade Randolph – never say never in this business – but it does mean that a Randolph trade is extremely unlikely.
The Trail Blazers’ Big Leap
The NBA’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement adds layers over the next two years, and it’s going to be more and more difficult for teams to just buy as many great players as they can buy. Given that, many around the NBA were surprised when Portland Trail Blazers forward Nicolas Batum, thanks in part to an offer sheet from the Minnesota Timberwolves, landed a four-year contract worth roughly $46 million last summer. That kind of money is supposed to be reserved for franchise players, and it was questionable whether or not Batum could be a franchise player.
So far this season Batum is setting aside those doubts, averaging career-highs across the board with 15.6 points, 6.1 rebounds and an impressive 4.9 assists per game. Far from feeling the pressure to perform after signing a big contract, Batum feels freedom to focus on basketball.
“I feel no pressure, that’s why we took care of it and it gives me more freedom,” Batum tells HOOPSWORLD. “The team showed me that they love me and they trust me, so I have more freedom now.”
The passing aspect of Batum’s game is a breakthrough of sorts. When new head coach Terry Stotts took over the team last summer he felt he could expand Batum’s involvement in the offense by putting the ball in his hands more.
“I wasn’t the coach when he signed his contract, but one of my jobs that I was hired for was to develop the young talent, that meant not only our draft picks, but guys like Nic, Wes (Matthews), guys who were still early in their careers,” says Stotts. “What I wanted to do with Nic was see what he could do handling the ball, working the pick-n-roll and being the facilitator. Over the last few months it’s really grown, but it’s taken some time and there’s still a lot of growth to be made, but he’s embraced that responsibility.”
The new role was hardly a stretch for Batum, who has been pushing to be more of a facilitator since being drafted into the NBA.
“I like it,” says Batum. “I always asked to do more, let me do more on the court and I couldn’t do it because I was the best defensive player on the team and it wasn’t my job. This year the coaches told me that they were going to put me into a situation that I’ve never been in while in the NBA. So I was like, ‘great, let’s try it.’ It gave me a chance to upgrade my game. In four years the most I assists I ever got in a game was seven assists and in the last two months I’ve had at least ten with over eight assists.”
Batum’s expanded role in facilitating the offense doesn’t mean the team needs his scoring any less, however, as LaMarcus Aldridge is quick to point out.
“We need him to score as well as pass the ball guy to guys,” says Aldridge. “He can’t just be a guy who passes, he has to make shots, too, for us to win.”
It will be an evolving process for Batum, who loves his new role but also has a knack for knocking down big shots. In January he averaged 16.6 points per game, shooting 38% from three, while also dishing 5.9 assists and grabbing 6.6 rebounds per contest. More and more he’s looking like a player who is very much work in excess of $10 million per season, even in the new NBA economy.
Better News For Rajon Rondo?
When Boston Celtics president Danny Ainge said he expected to have Rajon Rondo back for the start of training camp it seemed overly optimistic. After all, a torn ACL is almost always an 18-month injury no matter how hard you rehab. Today, however, reports indicate that perhaps there was good reason behind Ainge’s optimism.
ESPN reports that Rondo is getting some additional opinions about his ACL, which is now thought to have only a partial tear rather than a full tear. That could mean a drastically reduced recovery time for Rondo, who is expected to have surgery to repair the injury before the end of next week.
Rondo is seeking additional opinions from Dr. James Andrews, who repaired Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson’s torn ACL, and renowned Vail, Colo., surgeon Dr. Richard Steadman. In addition, Celtics team physician Dr. Brian McKeon, who performed knee surgeries on Kevin Garnett, Kendrick Perkins and Tony Allen, also has consulted with the point guard and could perform the surgery.
The real question for the Celtics, of course, is if Rondo is ready for the start of training camp, will he finish training camp as a member of the Boston Celtics?
There was a strong feeling inside the Celtics’ locker room that Rondo dominated the ball too much, and as a result players stopped moving and did more watching. With Rondo out the ball has started moving again and players have responded in kind. As a direct result the Celtics have now won six games in a row and are out of the Eastern Conference’s basement and in the seventh seed.
If the Celtics continue their strong play and push deep into the playoffs, as they did last season, Rondo might just be rehabbing for a different team.
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