NBA PM: Trade Brewing Between Jazz and Spurs?
Senior NBA Writer & College Basketball Editor
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According to Sheridan Hoops, the San Antonio Spurs are the frontrunners to land Utah Jazz big man Al Jefferson. Jefferson, who has been with the Jazz for the last three seasons, is averaging 17.1 points, 9.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.2 blocks a game and will be a free agent at season’s end. With youthful replacements ready to take his spot in Enes Kanter and Derrick Favors, it appears to be a foregone conclusion that Jefferson’s time with the Jazz is coming to an end.
As one of the premier low-post scorers in the league and a fringe All-Star, it makes sense for the Jazz to try to get something in return for him as he definitely has value around the league. Sheridan Hoops cites the relationship between the Jazz front office, which is now run by Spurs alumni Dennis Lindsey, as a key reason for why they are in the driver’s seat to land the big man.
The Spurs and Jazz went head to head in the first round of last year’s Western Conference Playoffs and Jefferson was solid, putting up 18.3 points on 52 percent shooting from the field and hauling in 8.5 rebounds a game. He would provide size and scoring next to Tim Duncan inside the paint that the Spurs currently lack. It could really come in handy as the path to the NBA Finals will likely feature encounters with either the Los Angeles Clippers, Memphis Grizzlies, Oklahoma City Thunder or Golden State Warriors – teams who all have a lot of size to deal with up front.
What also makes the Spurs an appealing team for the Jazz to deal with outside of the relationship the two have is that the Spurs can give them some talent in return while not jeopardizing the significant cap space they are going to have this summer.
The Jazz only have $26 million on the books for next season, which would give them roughly about $30 million to spend on free agents this offseason. It would be a great opportunity for Lindsey to really put his stamp on the team after taking over late in the offseason. He’s unlikely to give that up, but a package from the Spurs including Stephen Jackson, DeJuan Blair and Cory Joseph would not impact their cap space for this summer and give them two guys in Jackson and Blair who can be major contributors this season as they still look to make the playoffs. Joseph would also be a nice prospect for the future at point, a position where the Jazz currently lack a long-term solution.
It’s important to note that these two teams are amongst the best in the league at keeping their business private, so the fact that this rumor has hit the mainstream automatically decreases the likelihood of it. Typically, nobody knows about the Spurs moves until they are officially announced by the league office and that’s something that Lindsey is trying to mimic in Utah.
Jazz forward Paul Millsap is another guy in the same position as Jefferson. His $8.6 million contract expires this offseason as well, and he is definitely someone who is coveted around the league. The Jazz may not be able to or want to keep him this offseason, so it would make sense for them to cash in on him as well before the Feb. 21 deadline.
Millsap is averaging 14.9 points and 7.4 rebounds a contest and possesses the kind of toughness that Spurs head coach Gregg Popovich loves. However, between him and Jefferson, Jefferson appears to be the guy who would increase the Spurs’ chances of postseason success the most. The Spurs have $48 million in contract commitments for next season and could potentially keep him and Manu Ginobili, who will also be a free agent at season’s end, while avoiding the luxury tax threshold.
Stoudemire’s Seamless Transition: While the New York Knicks were thriving early this season without Amar’e Stoudemire in the lineup, there were questions about whether or not his return would have a negative effect on the team. After understandably getting off to a slow start, Stoudemire is now surging and has the Knicks a half game back of the Eastern Conference-leading Miami HEAT at 31-15. Over his last three games Stoudemire is averaging 19.3 points on 67 percent shooting from the field in just 24 minutes of action. He is giving the Knicks a major boost that has many believing in their chances to contend for the Eastern Conference crown.
“Right now it’s all about preserving man,” Stoudemire said to WFAN. “I’ve been persevering my whole career. Right now, developing a low post game has been very important for me.
“I’m fine with [limited minutes]. Whatever it takes to win. I’m not sure if I should keep saying it or not, but whatever it takes to win I am totally open to it.”
There was a lot of concern over how Stoudemire, as a big man who has to get touches on the offensive end of the floor, would mesh with the team’s leading scorer Carmelo Anthony. Anthony is having one of the best seasons of his career, if not the best, and Stoudemire says the two have learned how to best play off of each other.
“Absolutely, absolutely,” Stoudemire said. “We totally feel comfortable. We know what our advantages are and we know our portion and what we can do so we’re taking advantage of it.”
The guy who is making it all work is Knicks head coach Mike Woodson, a legitimate Coach of the Year candidate. After getting run off in Atlanta, few thought he would be the guy to resurrect basketball in the Big Apple, but he’s been the perfect fit for this Knicks group.
“I think the main thing is, as good players we want to be great players,” Stoudemire said. “We want to become complete players and in order to become complete you have to play both ends of the court. You have to be able to score offensively and also be a great teammate. That’s what Carmelo and I are both focusing on is becoming great, complete players.
“I just think Woodson is a defensive-minded coach and he demands a lot from you defensively, which required a certain amount of teaching to learn the details on the defensive end. A lot of those details I heard for the first time in my career. I wouldn’t say that I’ve never been taught defense but just to the magnitude of the expectation and details on the defensive end, that was the first time I heard a few of those terms.”
The Knicks, winners of five straight, play their next two games on the road at Washington and at Minnesota.
Outlook On Pau Not Good: In a season that has been riddled with injury woes for the Los Angeles Lakers, it looks like they’re going to have to deal with another serious injury to a key player. In last night’s victory against the Brooklyn Nets, center Pau Gasol went down in the fourth quarter with a right foot injury that is related to a persistent case of plantar fasciitis he has been dealing with all season long. Gasol said he heard a pop in his foot and underwent an MRI earlier this afternoon.
Results of the MRI have not been announced yet, but both Lakers head coach Mike D’Antoni and star shooting guard Kobe Bryant have voiced their concern over seriousness of it.
The Lakers are already without Dwight Howard, who is nursing a bum right shoulder on a day-to-day basis, and already without backup center Jordan Hill for the rest of the year due to a hip injury.
Losing Gasol for any extended period of time would be really detrimental for the Lakers are they are already without any time to spare if they are going to make the playoffs. At 23-26 they are three and a half games back of the eighth-seeded Houston Rockets. They have won three-straight, but Gasol was a huge part of those victories. He’ll be sorely missed.
His potential absence will put more of an onus on Howard to play through the pain, which Bryant has implored him to do.
The Lakers are off today but will be back in action Thursday when they take on their rivals, the Boston Celtics, on the road.