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NBA PM: Wolves Linked Again to Lakers’ Gasol
Posted By Eric Pincus On February 16, 2012 @ 6:30 pm In All,Main Page,NBA | No Comments
According to Chris Tomasson of FOX Sports, the Minnesota Timberwolves are pursuing a possible trade with the Los Angeles Lakers for forward Pau Gasol. The bait would be rookie forward Derrick Williams, draft picks and other players to match salaries.
“The only players considered untouchable by the Timberwolves, who are seeking to add a veteran by the trade deadline, are Kevin Love and Ricky Rubio,” according to Tomasson. “The Timberwolves believe it could be enticing for Gasol to play on the same team as fellow Spaniard Rubio.”
The notion of the Wolves wanting Gasol has been long-covered by HOOPSWORLD. In June, Minnesota offered the Lakers the second pick in the draft (ultimately Williams) for Gasol but the Lakers insisted they would need Love as well.
While LA would have seriously considered Gasol for Love without the pick, their opinion may not have changed on Williams.
The Wolves have since given Love a contract extension and have no intention of dealing him. Sources verify that Rubio as well is off-limits.
The New Orleans Hornets are in possession of Minny’s 2012 first-round pick through a number of deals (Chris Paul, Sam Cassell, Marko Jaric, etc.). The soonest the Wolves would be able to deal another first would be 2014.
As it currently stands, the Wolves may not have a combination of players to make a two-team deal under those restrictions.
Los Angeles does have feelers out to see what is available for Gasol. The team has invested in Andrew Bynum as the primary inside option. While the possibility remains that the Lakers go after Dwight Howard, the premise remains the same – Gasol at about $19 million a season and 31-years of age, makes too much to be their third-best player.
Gasol represents the Lakers best bet as a trade asset in order to rebuild the franchise quickly and within the confines of the new Collective Bargaining Agreement.
If Laker ownership believed the team that won titles recently with Coach Phil Jackson was capable of reaching those same highs moving forward, they wouldn’t have cut ties with everything Jackson/triangle-offense related and dealt Lamar Odom for a trade exception.
The team has already attempted a blockbuster deal with Gasol as the centerpiece but the Chris Paul trade was halted by Commissioner David Stern.
Instead, the Lakers are looking to see if there’s a way to build a third championship core around Kobe Bryant.
In the Wolves, the Lakers could a number of viable pieces who would help including Nikola Pekovic, Michael Beasley, Darko Milicic, J.J. Barea, Wesley Johnson, and Luke Ridnour (among others). Both Martell Webster and Brad Miller have cap-friendly contracts with minimal guarantees next season.
The Lakers do have financial commitments they’d like to climb out of, including Metta World Peace, Luke Walton and, if the return is sufficient, Steve Blake.
Minnesota, as a trade partner, makes a lot of sense in many areas but don’t appear to be the obvious answer in a straight-up deal for Gasol, arguably the most highly-skilled big in the league.
General Manager Mitch Kupchak hasn’t been shy in saying the Lakers need to acquire a starting-level point guard. Ridnour or Barea wouldn’t necessarily fit the bill when LA has had eyes for All-Stars like Chris Paul, Deron Williams and Rajon Rondo.
Other possible destinations for Gasol could be the Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics or even the Golden State Warriors. Equally, the Lakers can afford to be patient and wait until the summer where they may find better opportunities.
In the original Paul deal that fell through, Kupchak turned to a multi-team trade. The Wolves may be an ideal partner if the Lakers can find other teams willing to be creative.
In Gasol’s absence, the Lakers would certainly need a replacement power forward and Williams on a rookie contract is the right idea economically. If another team were willing to give up a high-level point guard for the young forward, perhaps Derrick is LA’s ticket solving their issue at the one.
When Kupchak dealt Shaquille O’Neal, he added two forwards (Lamar Odom and Caron Butler) and a forward/center near the end of his career (Brian Grant). Later the team would acquire Chris Mihm from the Celtics and then draft current All-Star Bynum.
If the Lakers do ultimately decide to significantly re-tool their roster, it may again have to be in a series of moves. The team still has their $8.9 million trade exception, two draft picks this summer (although the Dallas Mavericks’ pick is top-20 protected) and an open roster spot.
Small moves are always a possibility. A stopgap like Gilbert Arenas is more of a secondary thought until the bigger picture questions are answered.
The trade deadline is March 15th. Players who were signed by teams over the summer (in most cases) can’t be dealt until March 1st. Look for talks to heat up around the league in that span.
J.R. Smith Reportedly to Knicks
Smith had signed overseas with the Zhejiang Golden Bulls during the lockout. His team didn’t make the playoffs; pending a Letter of Clearance Smith will re-join the NBA within a week.
As noted previously by HOOPSWORLD (J.R. Smith Looking for a Big Contract), the priority for Smith was a combination of salary and opportunity to showcase his skills.
It’s interesting that the Orlando Magic, a team that has indicated to date that they’d like to retain center Dwight Howard, and make moves to try and entice him to stay, didn’t play a more sizable role in the Smith chase (NBA @ 2: Magic a Favorite for J.R. Smith?) given their spending power.
The Knicks have their $2.5 million Room Exception to offer Smith, more than the $1.1 million the Los Angeles Clippers or Lakers had been offering (all numbers are pro-rated). The Magic could have neared $4.9 million for Smith.
Both LA coaches (Vinny Del Negro and Mike Brown) acknowledged to talking to Smith in the past week- each claiming to have had good conversations with the shooting guard.
The Clippers were hopeful that peer pressure would sway Smith. Former teammates Chris Paul, Kenyon Martin and Chauncey Billups all reached out to him.
“J.R. stays with me during the summer,” said Paul. “He was at my wedding. He’s one of my really good friends.”
Of course Smith also played with Carmelo Anthony in Denver. Given the excitement surrounding point guard Jeremy Lin, New York has quickly become must-watch basketball. In New York, Smith will certainly get his showcase.
The Knicks will have to create a roster spot for J.R. which could mean veteran Mike Bibby is cut loose.
Del Negro Not Concerned about Griffin’s Free Throw Shooting
Blake Griffin is deservedly an All-Star and with the Los Angeles Clippers at 18-9, he’s been the primary reason for the franchise’s dramatic turn-around.
Given his 21.2 points a game and 11 boards, it’s easy to overlook that he’s still just a 22-year old, second-year player.
On Monday night against the Dallas Mavericks, Blake had a difficult stretch of basketball where his biggest flaw was exposed . . . free throw shooting.
Griffin has shot 53.2% from the field this year, a jump from last year’s 50.6%. Conversely, his free throw percentage has dropped from 64.2% to 52.4%.
Against the Mavericks Blake was so rattled, Mavericks Coach Rick Carlisle had his players intentionally send Griffin to the line. After missing seven-straight, the Clipper forward made his final two.
The Clippers would almost survive Dallas but Caron Butler, who was hot all night from three, missed an open look and LA would fall 96-92.
Did Coach Vinny Del Negro opt to talk to his star forward about his difficulties at the line?
“No,” said Del Negro. “Blake’s got a lot on his shoulders. He was shooting free throws really well and we’ve worked on a lot of things. He’s changed some of his routines. He just had an off night from the line.”
Del Negro instead blamed the loss in Dallas on his team’s 21 turnovers.
Poor free throw shooting can be a problem for a power player, especially late in games. Some never quite figured it out (Shaquille O’Neal) and still thrived. Others it devastated their overall confidence (Andris Biedrins).
Legends like Karl Malone and Hakeem Olajuwon started out their careers as poor free throw shooter but in their primes were automatic.
Does Del Negro have any concerns?
“I’m not worried about Blake at all,” said Vinny. “He’s going to be fine. He handles things really well. He understands the importance of making plays for us. He’s done a fantastic job all season. It’s not always going to be perfect but the effort’s there and the intent is right and he’s coachable and he works on things. He’s in the gym all the time working on stuff so it’s not always going to be perfect but the competitiveness is there, the toughness and the right approach . . . so I can deal with the rest of it.”
The Clippers, after their Wednesday night victory in Los Angeles over the Washington Wizards, get right back to it on Thursday night in Portland against the Blazers.
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