NBA Week in Review: Celtics don’t stop trading, Waiters Era over in Cleveland, and the Rockets adjust to life with Josh Smith
Fall behind this week in keeping up with the NBA? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with all of the latest happenings around the NBA this week. Who knows, maybe the Celtics will make a trade before you’re done reading this.
Cavaliers make a pair of trades, and one means the end of the Dion Waiters Era in Cleveland. – As LeBron James sat on the sideline for the second week in a row with his now infamously sore knee, the Cavaliers continued to lose on the court, but they made some valiant attempts to win off it.
Last week saw Cleveland make a pair of deals, one to address their perimeter defense and scoring that brought in Iman Shumpert and JR Smith from New York. That trade, sadly, sent Dion Waiters packing–which will hopefully lead to a tearful “I’m Coming Home” Sports Illustrated spread for when Waiters makes his inevitable Cavaliers comeback–but it also netted the Cavs a first-round pick that they later packaged for Timofey Mozgov to address their other biggest need: rim protection.
Shumpert’s still rehabbing an injury, but Smith and Mozgov have made immediate impacts for Cleveland. Smith scored 27 points while Mozgov netted a near double-double in just 27 minutes versus Golden State on Friday night. Until LeBron returns, it will be impossible to tell how well these guys can mesh, but one thing is for sure: when you’re missing the best player in the world, nothing is quite as bad as it seems.
“Let’s Make A Deal: 2015 Boston Celtics Edition” – After the Rajon Rondo trade signaled exactly where Boston is positioning themselves this year, the Celtics weren’t done making moves, so they outdid the Cavaliers and made a trio of them.
The first was a continuation from the Rondo deal: Boston moved backup center Brandan Wright to the Suns for a first-round pick (from the
Timberwolves) and a $5-million trade exception. Not a bad haul for a dude who wasn’t going to be a meaningful part of the Celtics’ future. Their other deal was sort of a two-parter, the first of which sent Jeff Green to Memphis in a three-way deal that netted Boston Tayshaun Prince, another first-round pick, and Austin Rivers. The third trade still isn’t confirmed, but it’s well in the works for Rivers to be shipped to the Clippers, where he’ll play for his dad, former Celtics coach Doc Rivers.
Whew, what a weekend in Boston. For the Celtics, it’s a great haul for a group of players who had no long-term future with the team, and it gives them a heap of assets with which to work in their attempts to secure a star player with which to build their rebuilding efforts around. Altogether, Boston owns 11 first-round choices and 11 second-round choices in the next 5 drafts, not including what they might receive for Rivers.
Western Conference arms race continues. – Meanwhile, the contenders in the West have benefited heavily from the Celtics’ auctioning off veteran rotation players. Wright was originally acquired from Dallas in the Rondo deal, but Boston traded him to Phoenix, a Western-Conference rival who believed Wright to be the best backup center in the league. Green was traded to Memphis to fill a huge scoring gap on the wing, while Rivers was sent all the way across the country to Los Angeles.
Altogether, three trades, all with Western-Conference teams–four if you include the Rondo deal–and all trades made those teams better. Boston was more than happy to bypass the needs of their intra-conference rivals and keep their own former personnel from coming back to bite them.
Rockets adjusting to life with Josh Smith. – Houston is “just” 6-4 since Smith joined the team around Christmas, and with the Pistons’ simultaneous winning-streak, many are attributed both phenomena to Smith’s presence, or lack-of in Detroit.
Based on the body language and solid attitude many of the Pistons’ players have been displaying lately, it’s probably fair to attribute their sudden winning to Smith’s absence. Their schedule has been forgiving, but Detroit was losing to everyone before Smith left, and now they’re suddenly playing with purpose and seemingly enjoying themselves. That sounds a lot more fun than watching Smoove clang some j’s for 35 minutes a night.
Meanwhile, in Houston, Smith has been on his best behavior, and the Rockets’ losses with him on the team have been close. Moreover, and more importantly, as Tim Cato points out at SB Nation, the Rockets’ most telling metrics–assist percentage, rebounding percentage, true shooting percentage, etc.–have remained almost identical to before Smith joined the team, so it’s hard to blame too much on him. He’s even limited his threes, only attempting 8 of them in his 10 games in Houston. So until we see Smith’s teammates start throwing up their hands in disgust again, it’s hard to put much blame on him for the Rockets’ recent hiccup.
Bucks do some K-Mart shopping and sign forward to a 10-day deal. – In the wake of losing Jabari Parker for the season, Milwaukee is still trying some different combinations, and the latest is one of coach Jason Kidd’s former teammates in New Jersey. Kenyon Martin will be providing some size and toughness for the Bucks for the next ten days, and he says he’s healthy again after injuries limited him last year in New York. He gave the Knicks a surprising boost late in the 2013 spring and into the playoffs, something Kidd and the Bucks are hoping he can recreate for them as they try to battle their way toward the top half of the Eastern Conference’s playoff race. Currently they sit in 6th place, and all teams below them in the standings are below .500.
Both the Knicks and Timberwolves hit 15-straight in their losing streaks. – Phil Jackson recently apologized for how bad things have become in New York, where the Knicks are basically tanking, shipping off veterans and sitting Carmelo as he continues to nurse a knee injury. They’re tanking better than Philadelphia right now.
Blazers are on fire and looking legit. – Portland has risen to the second spot in the Western Conference, behind Golden State and ahead of Houston and Memphis in the conference’s top half. They’ve played the third-hardest schedule in the league, according to Basketball Reference, and their defensive rating is still third in the league. That end was their Achilles heel last season, so this year’s team looks like it could be ready to take the next step, not surprising for a group that’s played together so much at this point. Now, as a team that relies heavily on their starting-five unit, they just need to stay healthy,
Mark Jackson returns to Golden State. – One last pleasant nugget: Jackson returned to Oracle Arena this week, where he was appropriately greeted with applause and cheers as he basked in the Warriors’ both past and current successes, which have largely been attributed to the work Jackson did.
Hopefully, though, this little bit of ceremony will help us leave those disclaimers and tributes in the past, as Jackson was a great mentor for a young, developing NBA team, but Steve Kerr has been the one to mold this team into real contenders. He’s perfected what Jackson already built, but this team was maxed-out in its three years with Jackson, and the atmosphere he has fostered was toxic, no matter whose fault it was. Kerr has unquestionably taken this team to the next level, so all due respect to Jackson, hopefully we can move on and start to talk about that now.
DUNK OF THE WEEK: No dunks this week, just Trevor Booker’s insane volleyball shot against the Thunder.