FanPost

Prowling the NBA: Dec 19 - All I Want for Christmas...

...is my two front teeth.

Or, if you're Carl Landry, your five front teeth.

It's that time of year again, but let it be noted, that like the postman, snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night will halt the NBA. In fact, the NBA does your mail one better...it won't even stop for a holiday.

There are 5 pro basketball games playing on Christmas day, including one that's sure to get everyone's attention: Lakers and Cavaliers. But let's take a moment first to look back at the things that caught everyone's attention this past week.

Starting with why Carl Landry is singing that classic Christmas song...

Carl Landry has 5 cracked teeth:

Landry suffered the injury in the second quarter of Houston's 116-108 overtime win against the Mavericks, when Dirk Nowtizki inadvertently hit him in the mouth with an elbow on the way to the hoop.

More gruesome still is that not only did the collision also open up Dirk's elbow, but he found two of Landry's teeth embedded in it.

Both players were taken off the floor and did not return.

This isn't the first time Landry has lost teeth on the court. Last year he lost a tooth in a similar collision with Carlos Boozer, and another one a month later when he caught an elbow from his own teammate, Dikembe Mutombo.

And speaking of the that game...

Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban says the team will formally contest the Rockets' win:

And if the NBA rules in his favor, the remaining part of the game after the play in contest will be replayed.

The main play the Mavs plan to protest is Erick Dampier's flagrant 2 foul on Aaron Brooks in the overtime stage of the game that resulted in Dampier's ejection. Cuban contests...and is right....that the referees didn't have license under the NBA's rules to use instant replay to change the initial flagrant 1 call to a flagrant 2. The delay held up the game for 8 minutes.

Cuban also plans to include two other plays on the docket. The first is a clear-path foul called on Jason Terry on a play where it appeared Terry was ahead of Kyle Lowry on the way to the hoop. The second is Aaron Brooks' turnover at the end of regulation, where time was incorrectly taken off the clock and not added back in.

The Mavs' have until Sunday to officially file the complaint with the NBA.

And speaking of Mark Cuban....

Mark Cuban hosted WWE Raw and got thrown through a table at the end:

For the record, I don't watch the WWE. But I had it on waiting for White Collar to start, and....well, this was pretty amusing.

At least he really gets into the role. Notice Shawn Marion in the stands trying not to laugh at the end.

Now for some trade news...

The rumor that Anthony Randolph is on the trading block isn't entirely accurate, because the truth is the entire Golden State roster is up for grabs:

The Warriors are the most dysfunctional team in the league, and yes, that includes Memphis. Here's the deal.

Anthony Randolph is most certainly on the trade block. Probably the biggest indication of how little the team thinks of Randolph came in last night's loss to the Wizards, when Don Nelson started DLeague callup Chris Hunter over him. This is just the latest (and most insulting) move in a long series of actions the Warriors have taken to slight and devalue Randolph, which has included refusing to start him at any cost and giving him incredibly inconsistent playing time. It's still not clear why Nelson doesn't like the kid, but it's incontrovertible now. No question.

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Randolph hasn't asked for a trade, but he and his agent made it clear this past week he wouldn't exactly mind one either. "If Golden State wants to trade Anthony, we're not opposed to that," his agent, Bill Duffy, said. "He hasn't asked for or demanded a trade, but if the Warriors feel it would be beneficial to them to trade him, we wouldn't be opposed to that at all."

But Randolph isn't the only one unhappy in Golden State, nor the only player the Warriors are said to be shopping. Despite their strong play, tensions reportedly haven't cooled between Don Nelson and Monta Ellis, nor Don Nelson and Stephen Curry. And that's even considering that the Warriors thought so highly of Curry, they turned down a trade for Amare Stoudemire for him.

Several NBA teams say Golden State officials have offered Randolph in trade discussions, but as one Eastern Conference executive said: "I think all of their roster could be had."

On Western official agreed, saying, "The Warriors are willing to do anything and everything."

Said one Warriors fan to me: "We might as well give him away....not like we have a good future anyway as Warriors fans ."

Bleak.

So....let's put this in a Timberwolves perspective. The Warriors have several players that would very much help the team. Anthony Randolph is the kind of long, athletic, skilled big man a lot of us covet. Stephen Curry and Anthony Morrow can both shoot the lights out. Andris Biedrins would go a long ways towards shoring up the interior defense. CJ Watson would provide more of a shooter's touch at the point guard spot.

If any team should be making phone calls to the Warriors, it should be us, right? Plenty to gain, and a stockpile of assets to get it done.

While you think it over, I'll leave you with Anthony Randolph's rookie mix to watch:

Also in trade news...

Nate Robinson has asked for a trade:

Today, actually. Just a few hours ago.

Nate Robinson hasn't played in New York's last 8 games, during which time the Knicks have gone 5-3. Mike D'Antoni continues to try and rationalize the benching to the media, but anyone who's been paying attention knows it's a personal issue: Nate is undisciplined and disrespectful, and thus D'Antoni hates him. And as punishment, he's taken away the one thing that will actually get his message through Nate's stubborn head: his playing time.

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The trade market on Robinson is unclear. It certainly doesn't help that he's in the doghouse on a team that openly declared this year is meaningless anyway, nor does it help he's drawn the ire of one of the NBA's most well-liked and affable coaches. It takes a lot to upset Mike D'Antoni.

Nate has certainly fallen a long way from being the guy who jumped over Dwight Howard to win his second dunk contest. But hey, it could be worse....at least he's still in the league *cough*GeraldGreen*cough*

I'm sure there will be a team willing to risk his questionable attitude to bring his incredible athleticism and scoring ability to the team.

And finally, a piece of news that might qualify as trade talk....?

Tracy McGrady has finally played his first minutes of the season:

TMac stepped onto the court for the first time since midway through last season, scoring 3 points and grabbing three rebounds in 8 minutes in the Rockets' 107-96 victory over the Detroit Pistons.

The playing time came under very odd circumstances. Houston's starting shooting guard, Trevor Ariza, was suspended that night for throwing an elbow at Toronto's DeMar DeRozan earlier in the week. Houston head coach Rick Adelman initially said that he "didn't consider McGrady an option" to replace Ariza's minutes, but apparently had a last-second change of heart (or intervention...). McGrady said he was informed he would be playing just hours before tipoff that night.

As you can see, Rockets fans still very much back TMac, and rightly so. When healthy, he's one of the most electrifying players in the league and....dare I say it....the most complete player in NBA history. There's literally nothing McGrady can't do on a basketball court when he decides he wants to.

But as I've been reporting for weeks, the Rockets don't want him. And maybe don't even like him anymore. And unfortunately for McGrady, they're the ones with the upper hand.

According to CBSSports, the supposed plan with Tracy McGrady for the Houston Rockets is to slowly increase his playing minutes and show him off to other teams in hopes of trading him before the deadline. Again, the team is fully committed to Trevor Ariza and Aaron Brooks now. Playing McGrady is probably a concession to the inevitable. He has to play to have any solid trade value, whether the team wasn't to field him or not.

Several teams are interested, with the leading speed-dialer still being the Knicks, who are hoping to dump off Eddy Curry and/or Jared Jeffries for an expiring contract. Unfortunately for Walsh, they aren't the leading candidate. Reports say the Rockets couldn't be less interested in either player.

McGrady himself says he has no desire to leave Houston:

"Through all the stuff that we've been through, you haven't heard it come out of my mouth that I want to leave. This is home for me. My wife and kids love it here; I love it here. This is where I live in the offseason. I love everything about the organization - the owner, the fans and my teammates. This is it. I feel comfortable here. This is where I want to be."

Also of note is the growing discord between McGrady and the Rockets over why he hasn't played more. The Rockets haven't well-hid their intentions to move on without TMac, but continue to say that he isn't 100% and it's his health that is forcing them to keep him off the court.

But McGrady disagrees, and so does Tim Grover, the legendary ATTACK Camp trainer whom McGrady spend the summer rehabilitating with:

"We took care of every single issue that he ever had -- the knee, the back, everything that’s ever bothered him in the past. We realigned his body and balanced everything out and made it much stronger and got a lot of his explosiveness back. Now getting back mentally 100 percent is the challenge. And the only way to do that is go out there and compete against NBA players."

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I've said all along that there's a bad divorce pending here, and McGrady is likely to be the one screwed over in the settlement. Still looks that way.

And speaking of players unhappy with their teams.

Chris Bosh is very unhappy in Toronto:

Which isn't surprising considering the Raptors' terrible record and even worse defense.

As I mentioned in a previous game thread, the Raptors are the poster children of how a bad defense can completely undermine a good offense. Toronto ranks sixth in PPG at 104, but last in points allowed at 108 (well, second to last, but considering the Warriors' pace of play.....)

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A lesson to be learned by rebuilding teams: offense alone won't get it done.

As for Bosh, he had a block quote worth of complaints following the 118-99 beating Toronto took at the hands of Orlando:

"We make adjustments with teams before we play the game. That sends the wrong message to ourselves. We practice all the time so we should trust our system. We need to go out there and play hard. If they beat us for one quarter doing the things we normally do, then okay. Now we can change it up.''

"We're taking two steps forward and three steps back. We're there some nights, but not there others. We've got to look ourselves in the mirror, and do what we're supposed to do. It's always talk, talk, talk, but it's about action.''

"We are all over the place on defense right now. That usually happens when we lose a game because guys don't know what they are doing. We are not talking on defense, and all the things we can do to help ourselves out, we're not doing.''

Inevitably, the question came up about Bosh's pending free agency:

"Anytime you have another All-Star, it makes things easier. That would be fun. I don't know if it would work with Dwight. We're both in the post, and we might be in each other's way. We both demand the ball. Now Wade is a guard. That would be different.''

Chad Ford reported last week that Rudy Gay is on the Heat's radar (no doubt thanks to his 41 point annihilation of their defense that week...) If the Wolves want to make acquiring Gay a bidding war, then Bosh going to the Heat would be the best thing that could happen.

But even Bosh has been one-upped this week by a guy who's unhappy with the entire NBA.

It's official: Darko Milicic is going back to Europe next year:

After a disappointing NBA career filled with limited minutes, massive culture shock, constant criticism (both fair and unfair) and angry outbursts, Darko has made the speculation official: the instant his contract is up at the end of the year, he's gone.

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"I don't give a bleep about the money," Milicic said. "I just want to enjoy the basketball. I'd like to have the ball in my hands and have an offense run through me. I'm not just a defensive player."

It's unfortunate in that Milicic really did have sky high potential, and at just 24 years old, still has plenty of time to realize it. What killed his career wasn't his own low talent level, but simply that he wasn't ready when he came to the NBA and played his first two years under a coach who killed his confidence.

Perhaps Darko's youth and unreadiness were on the mind of Ricky Rubio this past summer.

But speaking of the NBA's overseas ties...

Russian billionaire Mikhail Prokhorov has all but completed his acquisition of the Nets:

Prokhorov finalized the deal with current Nets majority owner Bruce Ratner this week, after the litigation over the Atlantic Yards development was cleared up, allowing development of the Nets' new arena in Brooklyn and the complexes around it to proceed.

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The agreement provides for the sale of 80 percent of the Nets and 45 percent of a new Nets arena to Prokhorov's Onexim. It also includes an option for Prokhorov to acquire up to 20 percent of Atlantic Yards, which would surround the new Barclays Center arena with apartments and office towers on 22 acres in Brooklyn. Ratner plans to have a master closing on the Barclays Center next week.

All that remains now is approval from the NBA's board of governors, which is expected to be an overwhelming yes.

Prokhorov owns Russian basketball powerhouse CSKA Moscow, for which Andrei Kirilenko has played several FIBA tournaments for.

"He is going to be a great owner," Kirilenko said. "He is a guy who has a passion for basketball and he's a successful businessman. Everything he touches turns into a very successful project and I hope New Jersey will be the same."

Nets general manager and interim head coach Rod Thorn said today that he hopes to remain with the team under Prokhorov. Also, Kirilenko's contract expires just in time for the team's move to New York....hmmmm....

And speaking of players and contracts...

Pau Gasol has reportedly reached an agreement with the Lakers on a contract extension:

The deal will keep him with the Lakers through 2014, netting him a potential $64.7 million between now and then. Kobe Bryant is also reportedly in the middle of "positive negotiations" for a three year extension of his own.

Kobe-y-gasol_medium

The extensions will let both players play out their primes with LAL, setting them up for championship runs every season for the next 5 years at least.

Meaning that the Lakers are the team to beat. Any rebuilding team should keep the bar they set in mind, and build a roster that can compete with Los Angeles' core of all stars.

And in all star news...

Kevin Durant has turned down an invitation to participate in the dunk contest this year:

"I don’t jump high enough for those guys," Durant said. "Shannon Brown, LeBron, Rudy Gay, Dwight Howard, Nate Robinson, they’re like all the way at the top of the mountain. I’m all the way at the bottom, trying to climb my way up."

Durant later added in his blog, "I don't even do any good dunks in games."

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Nate Robinson is expected to be back, seeing as how he's the defending champ. But Dwight Howard has said he's done with the contest, and LeBron has said he's 50/50, after saying he would enter during last year's all star weekend.

"I'm like 50-50 right now. I don't know if  you can get it back to the 80s and like in '98 when Vince (Carter) was in it. It was more about the dunks and less about what was going on around the dunks. We'll see what happens."

Now for a little bit of rookie news...

Blake Griffin will have a CT scan done this week on his knee:

The main thing to note here is that the Clippers are extra wary of his injury, and are reportedly considering pushing back his return date, in light of what happened to Greg Oden.

Griffin has the same injury Oden had...a fractured kneecap. Oden suffered his injury last February in a collision with Corey Maggette. Unlike the Clippers, the Blazers opted not to have Oden's surgically repaired, and well....you all know what happened. LAC certainly doesn't want to lose Griffin for the whole year, so expect extra caution on their part over the next month or so.

And now for the annual "worst idea ever" award...

The Washington Wizards are running a contest for fans to create and offensive play for them:

And get this: the winning play will actually be run in a Wizard's game.

This is incredibly stupid for three reasons:

1) Um. It's made by a fan.

2) The Wizards are 8-16.

3) The Wizards have lost 6 games by one possession.

Do the math. Ya...

Draft Watch:

Someone finally made a mixtape for Wes Johnson. For those who missed it, I'll repost the highlight videos from last week here as well.

Quieter week for our potential draftees. One game apiece for Wall, Johnson and Aldrich, two for Favors, none for Turner.

John Wall:

Another solid performance for him today in a 90-69 win over Austin Peay. He continues to struggle with turnovers (6 today), but also continues to score at will.

Wesley Johnson:

Another solid performance for Wes Johnson as well: 17 points, 10 rebounds in Syracuse's win over St. Bonaventure (I know....who???)

As I mentioned last week, Syracuse's schedule doesn't get real difficult until January/February, when the play UConn, and Villanova, and both Georgetown and Louisville twice.

Cole Aldrich:

Another disappointing performance for Aldrich, as he scored just 5 points (all of them on free throws) in Kansas' win over Michigan. Aldrich took just 3 shots in 27 minutes, missing all three, and was again bothered by players much shorter and lighter than him.

Last year and earlier this year, Wolves fans seemed hellbent on drafting Aldrich. I hate to break it guys, but he's just not shaping up to be the star player a lot of people thought he would be.

Derrick Favors:

Favors had his best game of the year this week, posting 15 points, 11 rebounds, 3 steals, 4 blocks and no turnovers in Georgia Tech's 65-53 win over Ark-PB. This followed a 14 point, 10 rebound, 3 assist effort in a win over UT-Chatt last weekend.

Like Johnson and Syracuse, Favors and GT will start seeing much stiffer competition next month when the Jackets start playing the likes of Duke, UNC, Wake Forest and Clemson.

Evan Turner:

Is hoping to return in January 9th...about three weeks ahead of schedule, against (brace for it...) the Minnesota Gophers.

"I don't feel overly hurt," Turner said last week. "Judging from the pain I first had when I first fell compared to now, I feel completely different."

Turner seems to be progressing well from his injury. The Plain Dealer reports:

There are a lot of things Turner wants to do, and some he already can. He shoots free throws and dribbles in the gym, pretending he's still leading the OSU offense. He power-walks on a treadmill, and he just started to lift weights.

But Tuner also has some serious limitations on his movement right now, mostly concentrated on an inability to but significant torque on his lower back by bending or twisting it too much. "One day I rolled onto the floor, and I tried to get up, and thankfully Dallas Lauderdale came over and picked me up," Turner said Friday. "It was tough. I was thinking, 'What am I going to do for the next six to eight weeks?' "

To his credit, and in a good display of how good a kid he is, Turner has consistently shunned the spotlight, even now. "I just really want to be good at basketball and get the full effect of being in college and being around my team and enjoying the fruits of life and building memories," Turner said, echoing his thoughts from when he chose to turn down a first-round spot and return for this season. "The only thing I'm worried about in regards to money is my family. All I really like is gym shoes and Waffle House."

 

 

Draft Watch extended:

I'm going to add this in this week because there's two players that I want to mention in addition to our main five.

Jeremy Lin (Point guard - Harvard):

Lit up, and I mean lit up, UConn, dropping 30 points on Kemba Walker and Jerome Dyson. He followed this with a 25 point effort in a win over Boston College.

Lin is the point guard for the Harvard Crimson, a four year athlete who has the distinction of being Taiwanese-American in a sport in which you can count the number of Asian pro players on one hand.

The UConn game put him solidly on the map for NBA scouts. Chad Ford reported that interest in Lin after the UConn game skyrocketed, and continued to climb after his performance against BC. Lin can solidify himself as a legit draft pick with a great performance against Georgetown on the 23rd.

The bonus for Lin is that this is an exceptionally weak class of point guards. Outside of John Wall, there isn't a single AAA prospect projected in the draft right now.

For the record, I'm not at all advocating taking Lin in the lottery. But as a pick at the end of the first round or beginning of the second round, I think he'd be a great acquisition.

Xavier Henry:

A lot of you have already been talking about Henry for a while, so I don't think I need to add any points, other than keep a close eye on him. Several ESPN and SI writers are saying his stock will fluctuate proportional to Cole Aldrich's, and right now Aldrich's stock in plummeting. Henry won't be a secret for long.

 

Be glad you don't need Carl Landry's dental plan people.

And Merry Christmas.

Until next week....

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