Christmas brings with it plenty of gifts and hope for the new year. In the NBA, there aren't a lot of fresh starts after things have gotten underway, but we see teams able to make runs at various points in the season.
For instance, everyone assumes the Lakers are in trouble, and they may well be. But we haven't seen this team at full strength on the court. They may not be as good as we all assumed before the year, but it is hard to imagine them missing the postseason.
This time of year always brings out the optimist in fans around the world. They all have high hopes for what is to come, so it is time to round up the latest rumors from around the league and separate fact from fiction.
Lakers and Hawks Not Compatible for Gasol?
While the Lakers insist they have no interest in trading Gasol until they see how he blends in with Kobe Bryant, Dwight Howard and Steve Nash, one team they can cross off their list if they do decide to move the beleaguered power forward is the Atlanta Hawks.
According to Steve Kyler of HoopsWorld.com, the Hawks have no interest in Gasol and have never had any interest.
Despite speculation from the L.A. Times, in which the Times claims, “The Hawks called this summer to inquire about a Smith-for-Gasol trade,” the Atlanta Hawks have zero interest in Pau Gasol and according to well-placed sources in Atlanta, they never have.
The Lakers have no reason to try and move Gasol right now. His value is as low as it has ever been, and they still need to get a look at what the team can be when all of the pieces of the puzzle are out on the floor.
Considering that Gasol thinks he will be back later this week, it makes sense for the Lakers to shut down any and all rumors regarding anyone.
UPDATE: Gasol will get the opportunity to start raising his trade stock Tuesday night, as he will reportedly start vs. the Bobcats.
Cavaliers Want a Hefty Ransom for Anderson Varejao
Which player is most likely to be dealt before the deadline?
With the Cleveland Cavaliers once again sinking to the bottom of the Eastern Conference, the time is rapidly approaching where they have to make decisions about their aging, expensive players.
One of those players is Anderson Varejao, who is having a career year with 13.8 points and 14.6 rebounds per game. He is signed to a very reasonable contract through 2015, which makes it easier for the Cavaliers to ask for a lot in return.
According to Marc Stein of ESPN.com, the Cavaliers want at least two young players in exchange for Varejao, if they decide to move him.
The Cavs, sources say, want multiple young assets in return for the 30-year-old, who is averaging 14.3 points and 14.8 rebounds and possesses a very manageable contract that calls for Varejao to receive $9.1 million next season with a $9.8 million team option in 2014-15. The Thunder are the rare title contender also blessed with the sort of youth/stashed draft picks to appeal to Cleveland, but sources say OKC has shown little interest to date.
As good as the Irving-Varejao battery looks, this is a franchise that needs so much help to even have a chance to compete in the future. If someone comes along willing to offer what it would take for them to deal Varejao, they absolutely should take it.
Remember, there is a window for this franchise to improve itself before Irving becomes a free agent. If he doesn't feel the team is moving in the right direction, there is no incentive for him to stay.
Everyone Wants a Piece of Josh Smith
With the Atlanta Hawks playing so well, thinking of trading Josh Smith looks more and more like a fantasy for anyone on the market for a small forward.
According to Steve Kyler of HoopsWorld.com, the list of teams that did call on Smith is a long one, though it is not likely to lead to anything.
Hawks sources said they have heard from most of the league on Smith in one way or another, validating their interest in keeping Smith long-term and clearly establishing a large marketplace should they want to trade him.
The Hawks have a very open and two-way conversation going with Smith and believe him to be happy in his situation. As long as that’s the case, the Hawks say they are not entertaining trade offers on Smith.
Even though a lot of analysts keep waiting to see the Hawks fall flat on their face, this franchise just continues to play solid basketball every year. They are not an elite team, but there is something to be said for consistency and being a perennial playoff contender.
Smith is the leader of the pack, so you can imagine that the Hawks would be looking to get a lot in return for their best player. The good news is, they don't have to worry about establishing a market right now.