NBA Saturday: Getting Trade Deadline Stars
Teams Just Getting Their Own Players Back At the Trade Deadline
While there are a handful of different reasons to make a trade at the deadline, the most obvious one is to acquire a player that can make an immediate difference for a team. Normally, that means having to give up assets, but there are an usual number of teams this season that are going to get major contributors back into their lineups in mid-to-late February simply because injured players got themselves healthy.
A player returning to the court isn’t necessarily as exciting as a major transaction (except maybe in the case of Derrick Rose in Chicago), but for a lot of these teams, long-injured guys—many of whom are All-Stars and/or their teams’ leading scorers—are nearing returns, and the really odd thing is that they’re all happening at exactly the same time.
Take a look at the following list of players, and notice how often the phrase, “after the All-Star break” comes up. Fans are about to see a ton of star power injected back into the league, and much of it looks like it’s headed our way sometime between the end of All-Star Sunday on Feb. 17 and the trade deadline on Feb. 21.
Here are some injury updates on soon-to-return guys that have been out for very long stretches, and, in some cases, the entire season:
Andrew Bogut, Golden State Warriors:
Bogut, who played only the first four games of the year before bowing out on Nov. 7 to recover more fully from his offseason microfracture ankle surgery, finally returned to the floor this past week. He’s the only guy on this list to be back officially, but Bogut is still limited to 25 minutes per game and will not participate in back-to-backs for now. The current vibe is that he should be able to get back to a more rigorous schedule after the All-Star break, but even in limited his minutes he’s already making his presence felt, on the defensive end in particular.
Derrick Rose, Chicago Bulls:
As of Wednesday, Rose is taking full contact in practice, which means he’s cutting, shooting, and dunking at full speed. Chicago doesn’t want to rush him back and risk their $100 million investment getting damaged further, but it’s really starting to look like Rose is ready. The timetable right now is right around the All-Star break, but it’d be safer to bet he makes his season debut after the festivities rather than before. The Bulls host the Miami HEAT for their first home game after All-Star Weekend. What better time to debut than that?
Andrew Bynum, Philadelphia 76ers:
Bynum, who did some running and dunking this past week, spent Thursday in New York getting more injections in his healing knees and is looking like he’ll resume basketball-related activities as early as Sunday. Bynum himself said earlier in the week that he sees himself returning “right after” the All-Star break, which could mean his Philadelphia debut could happen as early as Feb. 20 in Minnesota.
Danny Granger, Indiana Pacers:
Another marquee player that has yet to play a single game this year, Granger has been active in practices all week and Indiana head coach Frank Vogel has said he expects to see Granger in uniform before teams break for All-Star weekend. However, he also cautioned that the team is in no hurry to rush him back and would have no problem waiting until after that weekend’s events. His timetable for a return is muddier than some of the other players coming back around the same time, but it seems like he’s close. Sometime in the next 2-3 weeks, it’s a safe bet that Granger will be back out there for the Pacers.
Andrea Bargnani, Toronto Raptors:
It has been almost two months since Bargnani last took the court for the Raptors, and they’re hoping to get him back as soon as possible so that they can shop him in advance of the trade deadline. Bargnani has a torn ligament in his elbow that is apparently most of the way healed, and Bryan Colangelo said this past week that he sees him returning to the floor within the week. At the latest, he should be back the week before the All-Star break.
Al Harrington, Orlando Magic:
It’s easy to forget about Harrington, whose large expiring contract played a major part in getting this past summer’s Dwight Howard trade to go down, but Harrington and his career 13.8 ppg are close to finally making their Orlando debut. He’s been dealing with a staph infection in his right knee, on which he had surgery over the summer, but he’s been taking part in some practices and appears to be making good progress with his rehab. There’s no current timetable for his return, but sometime in February seems like a pretty educated guess at this point.
Mo Williams, Utah Jazz:
Mo is scheduled to have the pin removed from his surgically-repaired right thumb during—you guessed it!—the All-Star break, at which time he and the Jazz will have a better sense of when he’ll be able to get back on the court. Williams himself hopes to return shortly after getting that pin removed, and considering the estimate for his healing process was six weeks from December 22nd, the date of the injury, that seems about right.
Chauncey Billups, Los Angeles Clippers:
Billups has played in all of three games for the Clippers this season, and he hasn’t been on the floor since the first week of December thanks to that nagging tendonitis in his left foot. He did, however, take part in contact drills this past week, and there’s a general feeling that he’ll return at some point over the course of L.A.’s current eight-game road trip.
Players get hurt in the NBA every year, and unfortunately there are also a number of guys who end up missing huge chunks of time, as has been the case this season. What’s so weird about this particular campaign is that so many of those injured guys are not only some of the best players on their respective teams, but are also scheduled for a return at more or less the exact same time.
It’s the reason why the Chicago Bulls, for example, don’t seem destined for any major deadline moves. Their trade deadline “deal” will be getting Rose back on the floor, and chances are some of these teams may feel the same way about their own returning injured stars. Even if this deadline ends up being a snoozer, the injection of all this star power back into the league is going to make the final third of the season very, very exciting.
And while it probably goes without saying, if any of these guys should happen to still be hanging around the waiver wire in your fantasy league, now would probably be a good time to pick them up, particularly the bigger name stars that may have been dropped by frustrated owners months ago.
So Far, the Gay Trade Proving Successful for All Involved
There have been plenty of opinions about the Rudy Gay trade over the course of the last few days, with plenty of pundits complaining that the Grizzlies broke up their core too soon, and others griping about Toronto saddling themselves with too much long-term salary, but the fact is that, at least through the first game in which most of the players involved donned the uniforms for their new teams, the trade looks like a pretty good deal for everybody.
Gay, in particular, was dynamic is his Raptors debut, scoring 20 points to help lead the team to a blowout victory over the visiting L.A. Clippers. Every seat in the building was occupied and the place was clearly very excited to have a little star power injected into the lineup. Gay himself admitted how nice it was to get a fresh start.
“It felt great to be accepted like I (was) today,” Gay said after the game. “It just makes you want to play hard.”
The full transition will take time, but for now, Gay is enjoying the process of acclimating himself with a new system, new teammates and new fans.
“Great teammates,” he said. “They all helped me. They helped me get in the right spots and make sure I didn’t look too bad out there.”
Tayshaun Prince, meanwhile, was by far the most effective player off the bench for Memphis in their win Saturday night over the visiting Washington Wizards. In 32 minutes, Prince shot 7-for-11 from the field to score 14 points, while chipping in three assists and a block, as well.
The Memphis crowd gave Prince a standing ovation the first time he checked into the game, but Prince didn’t get warm and mushy after the victory; he only wanted to talk about the win.
“Getting the ‘W’ was the main thing,” he said. “Once we got in a good rhythm, we were able to pull through late in the game.”
Ed Davis only played five minutes for the Grizzlies last night, so it might take a little time for him to find his own role in that rotation, and Jose Calderon didn’t even play for the Pistons in their own home win Saturday night because of visa issues, but the early vibe is that this is going to work out, at least in the short term, for both Memphis and Toronto. Wins are a great way to kick off their tenures with their new teams, and if both guys continue to play as well as they did on Saturday, it’s easy to see those good vibrations continuing.
Seven Teams To Don “Throwbacks” This Month
Seven NBA teams have plans this month to wear retro uniforms from the 1990s, even though “retro” is a generous description for jerseys that NBA players wore fewer than 20 years ago. In fact, Jason Kidd actually wore the original black Phoenix Suns throwback alternate and Jermaine O’Neal wore the Pacers’ old uniforms for quite a few years, so it’s not like these are ancient history. Still, a few of them are historically hideous, and it will be fun to see them back in circulation.
The ugliest of the batch are the old green Milwaukee Bucks alternates, which prominently feature a couple of different ridiculous purple-and-white gradients, as well as a gigantic seven-point buck. Milwaukee wore them Saturday night in a road loss at Madison Square Garden, but it’s hard to blame the deer for that.
The old Atlanta Hawks jerseys, which also use a gradient for the jersey’s main color, are pretty bad too, thanks to the Hawk logo that runs over the entire the front of the jersey. That one might actually be worse considering it was the team’s everyday jersey for a while, but picking a winner between the two is like deciding which ‘90s boy band was more annoying.
Chicago, Indiana, and Miami wore their ‘90s throwbacks on Saturday night, as well, with much more aesthetically-pleasing results. The Bulls wore their gorgeous pinstriped black jerseys, Miami wore their old silky red alternates, and the Pacers wore the pinstriped jerseys they last used in the 2004-2005 season.
The only teams that have yet to debut their Hardwood Classics this season are the Hawks and the Sacramento Kings (two-tone material with checkerboard trim), but the only real tragedy here is that those black-and-powder-blue Cleveland jerseys from the Terrell Brandon era weren’t included in this ‘90s set. What a shame.
Click here for full images of the jerseys, which will be a joint effort between adidas and NBA Hardwood Classics.