NBA@2: Kevin Martin And The Timberwolves?
It’s not really a secret that Kevin Martin is unhappy in Houston. His minutes have been inconsistent, and he’s heard his name come up multiple times in trade rumors after GM Daryl Morey told him he was untouchable. He also doesn’t appreciate that the Rockets are doing to him what they do to everyone come contract time. No early extension (Martin has one more year on his contract), and a promise to do everything possible to drive down his value to re-sign him as cheaply as possible.
Welcome to the club, Kevin. Carl Landry, Aaron Brooks and Kyle Lowry are all charter members.
It’s also no secret that Rick Adelman would welcome Martin with open arms, should the Rockets value something from the Timberwolves’ roster worthy of a trade for Martin. To date that connection has not been made, but it’s something that’s slow-cooking on the back burner as the trade deadline inches closer. Sources close to the situation believe the Rockets prefer to keep Courtney Lee, who is a better defender and will ultimately cost the team less money than Martin. Of course, Lee’s camp has asked for a trade after being told there will be no early extension for him, either, and that restricted free agency is likely to be a challenge since the Rockets have a history of scaring away potential suitors for their players.
Meanwhile, things are going south quickly for new head coach Kevin McHale, who was popular with his new players at first. The players have gone to McHale on multiple occasions suggesting that they run particular Rick Adelman plays that were very successful last season, but McHale has been unwilling to do anything Adelman did, regardless of the potential success. That hasn’t stopped Adelman’s former charges from running the occasional play from last season, which irks McHale to no end.
Yes, the situation in Houston is tenuous, to say the least.
To their credit, the players are still going out every night and giving it their all, and they are very much in the playoff discussion as we head into the All-Star break.
Then again, that’s basically where the Rockets have been at the All-Star break every year, before slowly falling behind the pack and just missing the postseason when the final seeds are claimed.
So what’s next for the Rockets? Should they go ahead and work out a deal with the Timberwolves and watch as Adelman’s new team takes their playoff spot with Martin in the backcourt with Ricky Rubio? That was the plan last season, when Morey sent Shane Battier to the Memphis Grizzlies for Hasheem Thabeet. Memphis went on to make the playoffs and advance to the second round while Thabeet played in the D-League and the Rockets missed out on the postseason again.
That would be pretty hard for Rockets fans to stomach.
Scouting Jeremy Lin
Dallas Mavericks sixth-man Jason Terry couldn’t help but be impressed as his team took on Jeremy Lin last Sunday. Terry talks with HOOPSWORLD about Lin’s game, how it might translate outside of the Mike D’Antoni system, and also shares his thoughts about meeting President Obama and a special raffle he’s holding to raise money for charity. He has designed a championship ring that will be auctioned off to benefit the Jason Terry Foundation.
Pau Gasol Trade Inevitable?
“If they want to do something, I wished they’d just (bleeping) do it, and if they’re not going to do it, come out and say you’re not going to do it.”
Those words were spoken by Los Angeles Lakers guard Kobe Bryant, referring to the ongoing commotion over whether or not All-Star forward Pau Gasol might be traded in the coming days.
I have to admit I agree, but it’s not that simple.
The Lakers have had the feelers out regarding what they might get in exchange for Gasol, but have primarily focused on either a younger model – Kevin Love – or a significant upgrade at point guard – Chris Paul, Rajon Rondo, Kyle Lowry. They nearly had Paul, of course, but the NBA killed the deal, and Rondo talks have cooled considerably. The Houston Rockets would love to have Gasol, whom they would have had if the Paul trade had been allowed, but they don’t want to part with Lowry to get him. They prefer to give up Kevin Martin, whom the Lakers don’t need at all.
In the mean time, Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak is on the record saying that he expects the Lakers team he has now to be the team he takes into the playoffs.
“Of course we’ll talk to a lot of teams [about trades], like everybody else does, leading up until the trade deadline to see if there is a way to improve the team,” Kupchak said following Gilbert Arenas’ workout with the team last weekend. “But the likelihood is that this is the team that’s going to finish into the playoffs. That’s just the way it normally works, but we’ll see.”
That doesn’t mean he won’t trade Gasol, it just means the right deal hasn’t come along. Kupchak made his position even clearer in a press release in which he responded to Bryant’s statement.
“As a former player, I understand how the days leading up to the trade deadline can be nerve-wracking for an NBA player. Nonetheless, as General Manager of the Lakers, I have a responsibility to ownership, our fans and the players on this team to actively pursue opportunities to improve the team for this season and seasons to come. To say publicly that we would not do this would serve no purpose and put us at a competitive disadvantage. Taking such a course of action at this time would be a disservice to ownership, the team and our many fans.”
As HOOPSWORLD’s Eric Pincus pointed out yesterday, this is anything but a flat denial on the part of Kupchak, who has given definite, firm denials when talking about Bryant or Andrew Bynum. What Kupchak is saying, in so many words, is that he is more than willing to trade Gasol if the right offer comes along.
He’s also saying he doesn’t anticipate such an offer.
The price tag for entering the Pau Gasol discussion has been fairly clearly defined. The Lakers want an elite point guard, preferably with All-Star potential, and/or a younger replacement for Gasol himself. The Timberwolves weren’t willing to give up Kevin Love, but a combination of Michael Beasley, who can play both forward positions, and Luke Ridnour might get it done. Chris Paul was the price of admission before the season started. For Houston it’s Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry, with the Rockets holding firm to the notion that they won’t trade their fierce point guard.
The way things stand right now, Kupchak’s decision to grant Lamar Odom’s request for a trade to the Dallas Mavericks looks like one of the worst front office moves of the season. Without Odom’s spark off the bench the Lakers have been a three-man team, and even three players as good as Bryant, Gasol and Bynum have a hard time winning consistently without backup. The Lakers are at 19-13 going into tonight’s game against the Mavericks in Dallas, and if they lose – they are 5-11 on the road – they could conceivably be in sixth place in the West.
This Lakers team is not going to get Kobe Bryant back to the NBA Finals . . .and Mitch Kupchak doesn’t want to spend a very long summer listening to his star player complain about not getting his sixth ring.
Kupchak may say he thinks the current Lakers squad is the one that will start the playoffs, but that’s certainly not his best-case scenario.
Pau Gasol is the only really good trade piece the Lakers have, and they absolutely have to cash it in if they’re going to contend come playoff time.
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