Pistons announce deals with Martin, Gray (Yahoo Sports)

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — The Detroit Pistons have formally announced contract agreements with forward Cartier Martin and center Aaron Gray.

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NBA Free Agent Signings 2014: Tracking the Latest Deals and News

Let the NBA‘s offseason officially commence. Beginning at 12:01 a.m ET on Tuesday, teams and perspective free agent targets could officially begin negotiations on a series of contracts that could reshape the Association’s hierarchy.

LeBron James, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh and Carmelo Anthony lead a group of players that ranks among the best free-agent classes in history—though there is speculation on how “free” a certain Big Three actually is. James, Wade and Bosh exercised their early termination options with the Heat over the past week, seemingly calculated moves to allow Pat Riley to retool the roster around them. Not to break up.

Still, as James proved the last time he hit the free agent waters, anything is possible. And even if the Miami threesome is planning a quick reunion, Anthony’s wide-open outlook on free agency promises to mirror James’ and Dwight Howard‘s that came before him.

The Knicks forward, having already made seven All-Star teams and been selected to six All-NBA teams, is ready for championship contention. With New York’s roster undergoing a complete retooling under Phil Jackson, Anthony will have to wait at least one more season before having a winner in the Big Apple. That has him courting offers from the likes of the Chicago Bulls, Houston Rockets, Dallas Mavericks and a couple other suitors more equipped to win now.

Besides Anthony, Kyle Lowry, Lance Stephenson and Luol Deng highlight a second tier of free agents who could make an impact in new cities. Stephenson might be the most interesting, given his high talent level, young age (23) and proclivity for antics on and off the floor that frustrate teammates.

The restricted free agent pool is also unusually deep and not necessarily guaranteed to return to their current stomping grounds. Eric Bledsoe, Chandler Parsons, Greg Monroe, Isaiah Thomas and Gordon Hayward lead the pack, each possessing a dichotomy of potential and flaws that makes each player’s contract level something to watch.

With roughly half the league boating $10 million or more, the high-salaried offers are going to be flying off the shelves like an auction house. When folks call this the silly season, it’s about these next few days—a never-ending flurry of rumors, innuendo and negotiations that leave even the most strident NBA fan unable to keep up.

Be sure to check back here as we highlight every deal that goes down over the next few weeks and days. (Note: No contract signed is deemed official until July 10, the date the NBA’s moratorium on transactions ends.) 

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UK president deals blow to Rupp Arena renovations

Kentucky president Eli Capilouto sent a scalding letter to the head of the project.

     
 

 

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College Basketball Recruiting: Dream Package Deals from the 2015 Class

On the heels of Duke’s success in landing both Jahlil Okafor and Tyus Jones, package deals have become a major storyline in college basketball recruiting.

Although few high school stars will actually wind up tying their college selection to that of a friend as Okafor and Jones did, the chance to get two elite prospects for the price of one is tough to pass up for a coach—and tough to ignore for fans speculating on how to secure the best class.

One such hypothetical pairing could see two of the nation’s most celebrated big men arrive on the same campus, with Stephen Zimmerman and Chase Jeter forming a potential package. The two high-powered centers have already shown that they can play together effectively for Las Vegas’ Bishop Gorman High, so continuing their partnership at the next level wouldn’t be too much of a reach.

Read on for more on the twin-towers possibilities for Zimmerman and Jeter, along with a half-dozen more package deals (announced or imagined) that might come out of the class of 2015. Note that only uncommitted players were considered for these packages, and that (in the interest of variety) only one suggested package is discussed for any given player, though other possibilities often exist.

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Miami Heat’s Loss to Pacers Leaves Them Lamenting Rough Plays and Raw Deals

INDIANAPOLIS — The fourth quarter was about to begin Wednesday night and, if not for the already overwhelming din in Bankers Fieldhouse, you might have made out a ringing bell. 

LeBron James was more than ready for this final round.

The four-time MVP broke the Miami Heat huddle early, bounced along the baseline toward the Heat’s defensive basket, turned to the crowd, shrugged his shoulders and blew into his fists. 

“Come on, let’s go! Let’s go!” 

It looked as if the Heat were going to do some serious damage to the Pacers‘ collective psyche: Miami led by five, with a chance to pull into a tie in the loss column for the Eastern Conference lead. Nor was James going to allow Erik Spoelstra to pull him now.

He had already scored 31 points—nearly half of Miami’s output to that point—and he had done so on just 14 field goals, stashing his previous strategy of trying to go over and around the pugnacious Pacers.

Instead, he kept going at, and through, them.

Yes, even Roy Hibbert.

And so it was, just over three minutes into that quarter, that the men would meet again, an encounter that—if not definitively altering the outcome—will still hover over these teams until they scrap in Miami on April 10, and four to seven times in late May.

It will serve as the defining image of Indiana’s rugged, razor-thin 84-83 victory, a victory that likely means the Pacers, even after their late winter stumble, will fulfill their season-long goal: ensuring that if there is a Game 7 in the Eastern Conference Finals, that game will be played in Bankers Life Fieldhouse.

The Heat did this largely to themselves, with a recent stretch of squandered chances to make up ground on Indiana, and make Wednesday’s game a bit less meaningful. 

Instead, every decision was magnified, and every possession was pressurized. Hibbert had controlled the game early, scoring more points in the first seven minutes than in most of his full games in March, but Udonis Haslem had largely handled him thereafter.

He still loomed as a defensive presence, and was planted in the paint when James caught a looping pass from a trapped Dwyane Wade in full sprint, bounced low with two hands, gathered, propelled himself forward and upward, shifted the ball high to his left hand, and knocked Hibbert’s chin with his right elbow.

Hibbert sprawled backward, holding his head as he hit the floor, rocking back and forth, and then wobbling as his teammates yanked him up.

Initially called a common foul, it was changed to a flagrant. Hibbert missed a free throw, but then made a free throw, starting a streak of seven straight Pacer points, broken only when Lance Stephenson was ejected and Wade made a technical. 

About 30 minutes later, after the Heat had surged back to a four-point lead, after James and Mario Chalmers had committed costly turnovers, after Evan Turner’s nifty spin for a Pacers layup, after Wade’s hamstring spasm rendered him a spectator, after David West made his fourth three-pointer of the season, after George Hill missed two free throws and after Spoelstra’s self-described “gunslinger” choice of a Chris Bosh buzzer-beater backfired, James seethed deep in his locker, sore-nosed and sour, offering a series of short answers.

“It is what it is,” he kept saying.

But, eventually, the restraint receded. He revealed plenty with limited language, whether his feelings about the play of Udonis Haslem and the long-shelved Rashard Lewis (“they need to be in the rotation”) or his role as a passer in the final possession (“we just ran the play”).

Then, when asked if he felt targeted when driving the lane, he paused for four seconds.

“I don’t want to fall into the pit of what’s going on,” he said, before plunging. “Um, between me and Blake Griffin, we take some hard hits. And, you know, they call it how they call it. It’s very frustrating, though. It’s very frustrating. As a player, you play the game the right way and, uh, you know, sometimes…” 

It was hard to make out what he said next. It wasn’t hard, however, to hear his animated response when asked if the elbow to Hibbert was retaliation for two earlier fouls that he felt should have been flagrants—one by Ian Mahinmi in transition and one by Luis Scola that had bloodied his recently broken nose. 

“Nah,” James said. “I made a basketball jump. If I could jump in the air, elbow somebody in the face in the air and still try to finish the play, I’m gonna be a Kung Fu master or something. I mean, his face happened to hit my elbow.” 

Wrong place, wrong time? Intentional or inadvertent?

The league will likely review, and rule on, that.

And it will likely take note of Bosh’s postgame comments, with the Heat center/forward declaring that “our guys are getting get in the face, man. You know what I’m saying? They’re getting punched in the face and clotheslined. And we get (just) two shots. And then we get an offensive foul and it’s a flagrant.

I guess we need to really decipher what flagrant means, because I don’t feel they were going for the ball. Especially in those two situations. If you come down and clothesline somebody, it’s open season. People are going to get hurt.” 

Bosh said it he could accept the flagrants if they were called evenly. 

“But they had one, and we had none,” Bosh said. “LeBron got punched in the face and clotheslined. I guess it was a play on the ball.” 

As Bosh sarcastically spit those words, there was no other noise in the losing locker room. Silence, stewing. Only later, after some of the media shuffled out, did Heat players start loudly spewing their anger, about the Wade three-pointer the officials wiped out, about Stephenson’s ongoing antics, about repeated rough plays and perceived raw deals.

Other teams will take the Heat’s place in that room over the next several weeks, but none will mutter quite like Miami. Few, if any, will have had as much at stake. 

No matter now. It is what it is, as James so succinctly said. And, as far as the race for the East’s top seed goes, it was what it was. 

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Knicks sign Earl Clark, Shannon Brown to 10-day deals

Knicks had roster spots after releasing Metta World Peace and Beno Udrih

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NBA Trade Rumors: Latest News on Potential Deadline Deals

The NBA trade deadline is mere hours away. This is the time when teams that are desperate to move unwanted players may take less in return to dump their baggage or non-retainable pending free agents.

Who’s going to get moved, and who’s going to stay put? We’ll know soon enough. That said, here’s a look at some of the hottest information circulating.

 

The Price for Iman Shumpert

Apparently, New York Knicks guard Iman Shumpert is very available, but the team has an ultimatum for potential suitors, per Marc Stein and Ian Begley of ESPN:

Given the Knicks’ current cap-strapped situation and major underachiever status, it seems odd that the team would be in position to make demands.

That said, Felton’s contract really isn’t that bad.

After this season is over, he has one more year left on his deal. He’ll make $3,793,693 in the 2014-15 season, per Spotrac. He can be a free agent after that, but he does have a player option for the 2015-16 season at $3,950,313.

Either way, it’s not a horrible pill to swallow. He’s averaging 10 points and 5.8 assists per game this year. A team looking for backcourt depth could do worse than adding Felton and Shumpert.

 

Jordan Hill is Becoming a Hot Commodity

At this point, it’ll be a shock if Jordan Hill isn’t traded from the Los Angeles Lakers. Per Yahoo! Sports’ Adrian Wojnarowski, the Brooklyn Nets are interested, but the Phoenix Suns could intervene and grab him:

The Suns have a need for depth in the frontcourt. While Hill wouldn’t be the big splash the team may be looking to make, he would bring length, youth and athleticism.

The Lakers are obviously building for the future, so clearing cap space and potentially acquiring draft picks is paramount for them.

Hill seems to be taking the trade talks in stride. Bill Oram of the Orange County Register quotes Hill discussing the business side of the NBA:

 

Could Luol Deng Be Traded Again?

Deng has only been with the Cleveland Cavaliers for a little over a month, but his name is already popping up in trade rumors again.

Per ProBasketballDraft on Twitter, the Cavs aren’t positive about their abilities to re-sign Deng when he becomes an unrestricted free agent in the offseason. Because of this uncertainty, the team is apparently making him available:

Without a question Deng could make an impact for a contending team, but what general manager or owner is willing to gamble on whether they can re-sign him, or be OK with renting his services for the rest of the season?

If no deal is done, the answer will be pretty plain.

 

Follow me. I’m addicted to hoops.

@BMaziqueFPBR

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NBA Trade Deadline Deals Ric Bucher Wants to See Happen

As we near the NBA trade deadline, we asked analyst Ric Bucher to put together a sort of “wish list” for deals he thinks should happen (or deals he’d like to see happen) at the deadline.

Tune in to the video above to see which teams and players are on Bucher‘s radar, and make sure you hit us up in the comments section below.

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NBA Trade Speculation: Who Says No to These Cleveland Cavs Fallout Deals?

After a disappointing first half of the season and the firing of general manager Chris Grant, it’s clear that Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert wants the team headed in a different direction. 

Although it’s not fair to place all of the blame on Grant for Cleveland’s issues this season, his recent signings and draft picks failed to make the Cavs even marginally better.

While most of the focus was placed on the drafting of Dion Waiters, Tristan Thompson and Anthony Bennett, don’t forget that Grant spent quite a bit of cap space to sign Andrew Bynum, Jarrett Jack and Earl Clark. There were just too many misses—and all in a row—to overcome.

Going forward, it will be interesting to see what interim GM David Griffin gets to do with the team. If he’s allowed full freedom to wheel and deal, perhaps we’ll see the Cavs ship off a few pieces before the deadline and try to salvage some value from Grant’s prior mistakes. 

Of course, there’s also the chance that Griffin is just keeping the seat warm for Cleveland’s next hire. If the goal is to still make the playoffs in the Eastern Conference, though, something probably needs to be done before the deadline.

For ideas on what the Cavs could look into, Bleacher Report NBA editor Joel Cordes shot over a few trade ideas, as per usual. Let’s take a look at three deals he composed and see which side would ultimately say no.

 

Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: C Emeka Okafor and a 2014 first-round pick (via Washington Wizards)

Phoenix Suns Receive: SF Luol Deng

Trade Link

Is it crazy for Cleveland to give up on the idea of being able to retain unrestricted free agent Luol Deng this offseason? Maybe not.

Considering how poorly Cleveland has played and the rumored dysfunction in the locker room, keeping Deng looks less and less likely as time goes on. According to Mitch Lawrence of the Daily News, here’s what Deng recently told a friend about Cleveland:

“The stuff going on in practice would never be tolerated by the coaching staff or the front office back in Chicago. It’s a mess.”

That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement, so perhaps it would make sense for the Cavs to cut their losses, gain a top-12 protected draft pick via Washington that should end up materializing in the late teens and save some money.

Due to a neck injury, 80 percent of Okafor’s remaining salary will be covered by insurance, which Gilbert will likely appreciate if the season truly looks lost.

It may be hard to pull the plug on the Deng acquisition and the playoffs, but the threat of losing him in free agency and receiving nothing in return seems very real. 

For Phoenix, trading for Deng is much less of a risk given the number of draft picks the Suns have to play with and the fact that Phoenix is already a playoff contender. Although Deng isn’t a perfect fit with what Phoenix does, he would add a nice veteran and defensive presence for a playoff run.

There’s also a decent chance that Deng would want to stay long term as well, as Phoenix has a great young core and cap space to play with. At the very least, it would certainly be an upgrade from Cleveland.

While this would be a great deal for Phoenix, it’s hard to see the Cavs giving up on Deng after forfeiting a future first-round pick (via Sacramento), the right to swap picks in 2015 (with top-14 protection) and two future second-round selections.

Given how the LeBron James situation played out, Gilbert may be a little too delusional to fully accept that Deng can leave as well. It seems unlikely Cleveland would give up this soon, both on the playoffs and on Deng.

Who Says No: Cleveland

 

Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: SG Eric Gordon, SG Austin Rivers

New Orleans Pelicans Receive: PG Jarrett Jack, SG Dion Waiters, SF Earl Clark

Trade Link

One of Cleveland’s primary issues has been finding players on the wing who complement Kyrie Irving. Both Waiters and Jack need the ball in their hands to have any effect on the game, and that doesn’t jive well with Irving’s skill-set.

In Eric Gordon, the Cavs would at least be upgrading in talent and fit. Gordon is a very strong spot-up shooter who can play off the ball more easily but yet still slash to the rim and draw fouls. He’s a solid option defensively as well.

There are obvious injury and contract concerns with Gordon, but he’s by far the best player in this deal.

For New Orleans, this would be a curious move. Jack is on a painful long-term deal and isn’t necessary with Jrue Holiday, Tyreke Evans and Brian Roberts already handling the ball so much. Waiters should be a sixth man for any decent team, and the same could be said for Jack. It’s hard to see why any team would acquire them together after how poorly that’s worked out this season in Cleveland.

Although Clark’s deal can come off the books next year, this move wouldn’t save New Orleans nearly enough in cap to justify downgrading so severely the team’s talent level. Waiters could pull it together in the right situation, but New Orleans probably isn’t the right place for that.

If the Pelicans are going to trade Gordon, a frontcourt piece next to Anthony Davis is likely the intended target. The upside is just so limited to this deal, particularly if the front office is still high on Austin Rivers. 

Gordon would be a worthwhile high-risk, high-reward acquisition for the Cavs, but New Orleans should be able to do much, much better than this haul in terms of talent, fit and future flexibility. 

Who Says No: New Orleans

 

Cleveland Cavaliers Receive: SF Jared Dudley, SF Reggie Bullock

Milwaukee Bucks Receive: SG Dion Waiters, C Byron Mullens

Los Angeles Clippers Receive: PF Ersan Ilyasova

Trade Link

 

This three-way deal between the Cavaliers, Bucks and Clippers isn’t imbalanced, but it would almost certainly a produce a “no” from all three teams.

Unless Waiters is really a bad apple spoiling everything he comes in to contact with, trading him for a player with no upside in Dudley makes very little sense.

Giving up on Waiters this early seems a little foolish, especially since he’s shown flashes of being a very capable sixth man. Bullock should be a good 3 and D guy with size, but value-wise this is a poor return for Waiters. He should be able to bring back more than this in a deal.

That being said, acquiring Waiters doesn’t make much sense for the Bucks.

With Brandon Knight and O.J. Mayo, the Bucks have their score-first combo-guard quota already filled. It’s not a bad move to turn Ilyasova‘s long-term deal into younger, cheaper talent, but you can’t have your entire backcourt play the exact same style. This would just be Milwaukee copying Cleveland’s prior mistakes.

For the Clippers, turning Dudley and Bullock into Ilyasova would be a steal, if it weren’t for two things. The first issue is that Ilyasova is a poor defender who couldn’t play next to Blake Griffin in the same frontcourt.

The second issue is that Ilyasova‘s salary would push the Clippers even deeper into the luxury tax now and moving forward. Ilyasova would essentially have to be the final piece, and given how he’s played this year and the composition of the Clippers frontcourt, that would be an awfully risky bet. 

Who Says No: All three teams

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NBA Trade Rumors: Latest Buzz Surrounding Potential Deadline Deals

With the NBA trade deadline still over a month away, it appears talks have once again heated up following the deal that sent Luol Deng to the Cleveland Cavaliers and Andrew Bynum to, well, look for a job like over seven percent of the U.S. population.

There isn’t exactly a proposition like the one that sent Rudy Gay to the Sacramento Kings or the Deng trade out there, but there are still several players that could be on the move before the trade deadline on Feb. 20.

To clarify before we get into the actual rumor discussions, there will be no talking about a Carmelo Anthony for Blake Griffin trade. Especially not after Doc Rivers told Complex Magazine that the deal was preposterous:

Taking all of this into account, here are a few trades that have been rumored as the trade deadline approaches.

 

Ben Gordon Being Shopped

The Charlotte Bobcats are currently in a free fall after being one win away from .500 on Dec. 23. But even at 15-21, Charlotte still has a shot at making the playoffs in an Eastern Conference that only has four teams at or above the .500 mark.

With that in mind, Alex Kennedy of Hoopsworld reports that the Bobcats are testing the waters on Gordon, likely for a player with a long-term contract or other asset that helps the team:

But the market doesn’t seem as promising as the Bobcats would like it to be.

Pau Gasol still sits out there as a potential candidate for any trade that could lower the Lakers’ salary cap below the luxury tax, but the Lakers appear to be holding onto Gasol at this point after not making the Bynum deal.

The return for an expiring contract—Gordon’s contract is up at the end of this season—isn’t exactly what it used to be. But currently sitting in the No. 7 spot in the East, the Bobcats will look to get something back for Gordon’s contract before the deadline to continue their playoff hopes.

No teams have been reported at this time, but the Bobcats are doing as much with Gordon as the Cavaliers were with Bynum—nothing.

 

Could Andre Miller Find a New Home in California?

The Denver Nuggets have been actively trying to trade Andre Miller for a few days now and may have found a potential suitor in the Sacramento Kings. Ken Berger of CBS Sports reports that the Kings are trying to move the disgruntled guard.

According to the report, the Kings have put a few deals on the table, with the most likely being Marcus Thornton and a second-round pick. The other option might be trading Jimmer Fredette, while forward Jason Thompson is also a possibility.

Miller has been with Denver for a total of seven seasons in two different runs with the team. He has averaged 5.9 points, 3.3 assists and 2.4 rebounds in 30 games this season.

While the deal hasn’t been set in stone, it appears that the Nuggets are intent on moving the 37-year-old after he confronted coach Brian Shaw after being benched in a 114-102 loss to Philadelphia on Jan. 1.

 

Are the Bulls Trading Away More Players?

The Bulls finally got the deal they wanted for Deng and he was out the door. It appeared the trade train had found its way back to the station. Apparently it hadn’t

According to Sam Amick of USA Today, Chicago is looking for a team that would like the services of Kirk Hinrich. The serviceable guard helped the Bulls make the playoffs last season without Derrick Rose and has been useful during their current three-game winning streak.

But the Bulls are in full-blown auction mode and looking to move players to save money this season. According to Amick‘s report, the Bulls have found a suitor in the Golden State Warriors.

Hinrich’s ability to facilitate the ball coming off the bench is exactly what the Warriors need to help starting point guard Stephen Curry. With Hinrich averaging nearly five assists per game this season, Curry would have the ability to rest and avoid the same nagging injuries that have hindered him over the last few seasons.

The deal has not happened yet, but with both teams having a need filled in the deal, it could be one that goes through before the deadline passes.

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