One of NBA commissioner Adam Silver’s sharpest moves since taking over for the retired David Stern was to give players a few extra days before returning to action.
While some may say it’s foolish to forfeit any time outside of the massive shadow the NFL casts, especially on the heels of All-Star weekend, rest assured, the league will capture plenty of headlines.
The silly season has arrived. Trade rumors will hold down the fort while players wrap up their decompression from the first 50-plus games. With Thursday’s deadline looming, team executives will take center stage and phones will replace basketballs as the league’s driving force.
Because of a drastic salary cap increase, multiple high-profile players entering free agency and 24 of 30 teams either currently in the playoffs or within five games of a berth, there are going to be a number of scintillating rumors set to make the rounds the next couple of days.
Last year’s pre-deadline activity saw point guards Goran Dragic, Isaiah Thomas, Reggie Jackson, Brandon Knight and Michael Carter-Williams switch teams in addition to multiple future first-round picks – center Enes Kanter, forward Thaddeus Young and wings Arron Afflalo and Will Barton.
While it might not be as busy this season, there may be bigger names involved, not to mention rampant speculation that puts everyone on edge between now and the 3 p.m. ET (noon PT) deadline on Feb. 18.
The NBA All-Star weekend doubles as a convention for media, which often produce wild rumors since the competition to land the biggest scoop is often a driving force to run with something a source has heard. In that sense, the sewing circle analogy definitely plays. Information is traded and often times the intensity behind some discussions is embellished or misrepresented. It doesn’t help that agents and front office personnel intentionally make things murky via strategic misinformation.
Clickbait never hurt anybody, especially basketball fans who go to bed every night dreaming their team makes that one move that pushes them over the top. Both LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony shot down the rumor that made the rounds in Toronto, as the New York Daily News reported that Boston had discussed a scenario that would land Kevin Love in Boston, Anthony in Cleveland and a package of players going to the Knicks, who are ready to build around first-round pick Kristaps Porzingis.
The scenario sounds plausible enough, but GM jokes aside, James would certainly know if one of his best friends were coming to join him on his quest to “win one for the land.”
While he would undoubtedly keep quiet about it if there was a chance the trade could come to fruition, emphatically shooting it down wouldn’t have been an option if there was a possibility something could go down. Anthony proclaimed he’s “not going anywhere” and has a no-trade clause that would need to be waived for any move to be made.
While it was predominantly point guards who were on the trade block last season, big forwards and centers appear to be on this year’s plate. Besides Anthony and Love, LA’s Blake Griffin, Houston’s Dwight Howard, Chicago’s Pau Gasol, Atlanta’s Al Horford and Miami’s Hassan Whiteside are all said to be available.
Griffin still faces a four-game suspension for beating up a team employee when he’s cleared to return to the Clippers from a broken hand, fueling speculation the team is willing to move on from him. Howard can opt out in the offseason and is said to be coveting one final long-term deal, so it makes sense that the disappointing Rockets would be open to a change since he and James Harden haven’t complemented one another as well as the organization had hoped.
Gasol has had a tremendous season and was appointed to the East All-Star roster to take injured teammate Jimmy Butler’s place, but the fact the Bulls’ top scorer is out until at least March could throw a wrench into things, especially since Gasol is also due a major payday.
Horford is in a similar situation in Atlanta, although the Hawks are currently further ahead of Chicago in the Eastern Conference standings. Considering he can leave in the summer if he decides greener pastures exist elsewhere, there’s a chance a team comes in with an offer to try and make a push this season with an eye for keeping him long-term.
Miami’s Whiteside has put up eye-popping numbers but has alienated veteran teammates and frustrates the Heat higher-ups with his inconsistency. Considering the young center is also said to be chasing a maximum contract, the time to part ways with him may indeed be now.
A very interesting next few days lie ahead.
Tony Mejia is a national sports writer and senior contributor at VegasInsider.com. He’s also the owner and operator of Antony Dinero, the most successful documented volume handicapper in the industry. View his analysis daily at VegasInsider.com. Email: [email protected].