‘Melo, Thunder come up big at deadline
One week ago, several NBA executives thought this year’s trade deadline would pass quietly because the league’s looming labor battle and the uncertainty of a new collective-bargaining agreement would make teams too skittish to participate in major deals.
Well … they were wrong.
The New Jersey Nets landed Deron Williams(notes). The Boston Celtics sent Kendrick Perkins(notes) to the Oklahoma City Thunder. Gerald Wallace(notes) ended up with the Portland Trail Blazers. Baron Davis(notes) found himself leaving the Los Angeles Clippers for, of all teams, the Cleveland Cavaliers.
Few trade deadlines have had as many twists and surprises as this year’s. Here’s a look at who has reason to smile – or complain – after the dust settled.
• Oklahoma City Thunder
Move over Los Angeles Lakers, San Antonio Spurs and Dallas Mavericks. Make room for the Thunder. Oklahoma City took a big step toward turning itself into a legitimate contender in the Western Conference by adding Perkins and former Charlotte Bobcats center Nazr Mohammed(notes).
With two young All-Stars in forward Kevin Durant(notes) and point guard Russell Westbrook(notes), the Thunder were missing only size. At 26, Perkins is still young enough to grow with Oklahoma City, provided he re-signs with the team. He’s also battle-tested, having reached the NBA Finals twice and winning the 2008 title with the Celtics. That experience will be valued among a group of players who have played only one playoff series together.
The big question for Perkins is his health; he’s had a history of shoulder and knee problems, missing most of the season’s first half while recovering from knee surgery.
There were questions whether the Celtics wanted to invest the money to re-sign Perkins after the summer. The Thunder should have the flexibility to do so.
Once Perkins gets over the emotion of leaving Boston, he should quickly warm to playing with Durant and Westbrook. A source close to the center also thinks he’ll like being closer to his hometown in Beaumont, Texas.
Parting with Jeff Green(notes) wasn’t easy, but if the Thunder were going to invest significant money in another core player in addition to Durant and Westbrook, it needed to be someone who could provide more of an interior presence. Nate Robinson(notes) also could provide some scoring off the bench.
And if the Thunder keep both Westbrook and Perkins?
• Carmelo Anthony
Anthony had to wait five months, but his wish was granted. After turning down the Denver Nuggets’ three-year, $65 million contract extension offer in the summer, Anthony was finally sent to New York, the place he always wanted to go.
“The whole city is energized right now,” Anthony told reporters Thursday. “New York has been looking for something like this for a long time.”
Though everyone knew Anthony wanted to go to the Knicks, he wisely created leverage for himself by meeting with the New Jersey Nets owner and openly talking about re-signing with the Nuggets. That helped spur the Knicks to trade for him and ensured he immediately received his maximum extension rather than having to enter free agency where he could have lost tens of millions of dollars under a new labor agreement.
• Denver Nuggets
New Nuggets president Josh Kroenke and Masai Ujiri were often criticized for their inexperience during Anthony’s season-long trade drama, but they never rushed into a deal. Instead, the Nuggets squeezed the Knicks for a large package of young players: Danilo Gallinari(notes), Raymond Felton(notes), Wilson Chandler(notes) and Timofey Mozgov(notes).
Losing Anthony and Billups will be difficult to overcome, but Kroenke and Ujiri made the best out of a difficult situation. And not only do the young players they acquired have the potential to make the Nuggets an intriguing team in the future, they also might keep them in this season’s playoff hunt.
• Portland Trail Blazers
The Blazers dangled guards Andre Miller(notes) and Rudy Fernandez(notes) and all three of their centers – Camby, Greg Oden(notes) and Joel Pryzbilla in trade talks. In the end, they gave up Przybilla, Dante Cunningham(notes) and Sean Marks(notes) and two first-round draft picks for former Charlotte Bobcats All-Star Gerald Wallace.
The Blazers now have another perimeter threat who can help impact games while Brandon Roy(notes) tries to work his way back from surgery on both his knees. Wallace’s addition also takes pressure off forward LaMarcus Aldridge(notes).
The Blazers figure to make some noise in the West playoff race. Portland has size, scoring and enough talent on the bench to pull off an upset in the postseason.
“We have some legitimate pieces to make a run,” Camby said.
• New Orleans Hornets
The Hornets’ biggest weakness was inside scoring and defense off the bench. They addressed those issues by acquiring Carl Landry(notes) from the Kings for expendable guard Marcus Thornton(notes) and cash considerations.
Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was infuriated the Hornets – now owned by the NBA – sent cash in the trade. Privately, the Hornets are wondering if Cuban is just worried about how his Mavericks could now match up with them in the playoffs. The Hornets have split two tough games with Dallas this season.
With Landry, the Hornets now have a player who can replace David West(notes) when West goes to the bench. And if West can’t be re-signed in free agency, maybe the Hornets keep Landry. While Landry will probably just be a short-term rental, it’s a quality rental for New Orleans who can pay dividends in the playoffs.
• Atlanta Hawks
In the weeks leading up to the trade deadline, the Hawks looked good enough to again reach the second round of the East playoffs. But they also again didn’t look strong enough to reach the East finals.
In other words, they needed a shakeup. The Hawks received one by acquiring veteran guard Kirk Hinrich(notes) and center Hilton Armstrong(notes). Hinrich gives them a bigger – and better defensive – guard than the smaller Mike Bibby(notes). Armstrong also adds some size at the center position and could allow All-Star Al Horford(notes) to play power forward alongside him.
While the move won’t push the Hawks to the same level as Boston, Miami and Chicago, it certainly makes them more competitive. Hinrich is under contract through the 2011-12 season, giving young point guard Jeff Teague(notes) more time to develop.
• Deron Williams
Talk about a tough couple of weeks for Williams. He shouldered most of the blame for Jerry Sloan abruptly resigning as coach of the Utah Jazz after the two had an argument the previous night. Then, on Wednesday, the Jazz stunningly shipped Williams to the New Jersey Nets for guard Devin Harris(notes), rookie forward Derrick Favors(notes) and two first-round picks.
With Williams holding the option to become a free agent in the summer of 2012, the Jazz wanted to avoid a situation similar to that of the Nuggets, where Anthony held their season hostage as he sought a trade. Not confident Williams would re-sign, the Jazz traded him.
Williams’ future is the Nets’ problem, not Utah’s.
Williams sounded confused during his introductory news conference with the Nets. First, he said there was a strong chance he’d re-sign and would help recruit free agents. Then, he said he’d need to take his time to figure out whether he’d re-sign.
Williams is under contract through next season which gives the Nets about a year and half to convince him to stay. Williams had become frustrated seeing some of his Jazz teammates leave in free agency and trades, but now he’s tasked with building the Nets into a winner.
“I can’t really give any assurances or say I will be here,” Williams said. “I don’t know what the future holds. I look forward to the possibility of it.”
• Boston Celtics
The Celtics’ starting five of Rajon Rondo(notes), Ray Allen(notes), Paul Pierce(notes), Kevin Garnett(notes) and Perkins were about as close as any group in the league after joining together three years ago. But that all changed after Perkins was dealt to Oklahoma City.
Not surprisingly, some of the Celtics weren’t happy with the trade. For the first time since the arrival of Garnett and Allen, there could be some chemistry issues within the Celtics.
Boston also traded young center Semih Erden(notes) to Cleveland. The Celtics ended up getting Green, a versatile forward, and Kristic, who will join Shaquille O’Neal(notes) and Jermaine O’Neal(notes) – both of whom are currently injured – in Boston’s center rotation. They also received the Clippers’ first-round pick in 2012, which can help them rebuild.
The question now is whether their trades will help them win a championship this season. Because Perkins missed the first half of the season – and neither the Knicks or Miami Heat have a dominant center – the Celtics could think they don’t need Perkins’ size any longer. They also will shop for buyout players, likely targeting forward Troy Murphy(notes).
Once Mikhail Prokhorov bought the Nets, he thought it would be important to get Jay-Z, one of the franchise’s minority owners, more involved in the recruitment of free agents. Sources said Jay-Z even received an increase in his ownership stake.
Maybe Prokhorov should consider bringing Drake to his next free-agent pitch.
• Baron Davis
One day after the Clippers sent Davis to the Cavs, the veteran point guard was still having trouble believing he’d been traded, a source close to him said.
The L.A. native was supposed to help turn around the Clippers after signing a big contract in 2008. Instead, Davis battled injuries, conditioning problems and his own inconsistent play. Clippers owner Donald Sterling had even heckled him early in the season.
Davis had played better since late December, but Sterling got the last laugh by sending him to the worst team in the NBA.
Cavaliers coach Byron Scott said he and Davis have moved past the issues each had with the other when they were with the Hornets. Davis is expected to stay with the Cavaliers the remainder of the season and is under contract for two more years.
Hamilton has bickered with Pistons coach John Kuester most of the season and has played in just one game since Jan. 10. The Pistons were close to trading him to the Cavs – along with a first-round pick – but Hamilton didn’t want to play in Cleveland. The Cavs would have still taken him if he would have given up about $9 million of the $25 million he’s owed over the next two seasons.
Hamilton balked. Now, he’s staying in Detroit with no clear role for the future.
• Golden State Warriors
The Warriors entered this season talking about how they were building toward a brighter future. They entered Thursday trailing the Memphis Grizzlies by 4½ games for the West’s eighth and final playoff seed and had hoped to use the trade deadline to get bigger.
Instead, the Warriors became smaller. They traded young forward Brandan Wright(notes) and center Dan Gadzuric(notes) to the Nets for Murphy’s expiring contract and a 2012 second-round pick. While Murphy, who began his career in Golden State, would seem to fit the Warriors, they have no interest in keeping him. He’s expected to be bought out, allowing him to sign with a contender.
Golden State had $17 million in expiring contracts to offer but didn’t make a trade to improve its roster.