In a couple days, all of the NBA's best and brightest will descend upon the great state of Texas for All-Star weekend festivities. Celebrity games will be played, dunk contests will be had and an All-Star Game MVP trophy will go on the mantle of one of the league's greatest stars.
While the weekend will undoubtedly have lasting memories for all involved, the true takeaways won't happen on a basketball court. They'll happen behind the scenes, where NBA general managers will speak in person about the players who could be on the move prior to the Feb. 21 trade deadline.
By now most cats have already been let out of the bag. Josh Smith has seemingly been linked to all 48 continuous states, including the ones that don't even have basketball teams. Brandon Jennings' relationship with the Milwaukee Bucks may have also deteriorated past the point of no return.
It's all speculation and innuendo for now, but over the weekend we'll really start seeing all this smoke leading to some actual fire. With that in mind, here is a look at the latest rumblings from across the Association as we head into All-Star weekend.
Brandon Jennings Has 'Irreconcilable Differences' With Bucks?
A restricted free agent this summer, Milwaukee Bucks point guard Brandon Jennings has been the subject of speculation throughout the season. There hasn't been a "for-sale" sign placed in his front yard by the Bucks or anything, but it's long been known that Jennings could be had for the right (hefty) price.
Though Jennings is the only franchise-level talent on Milwaukee's roster, there are plenty of mitigating reasons he could be moved. He's averaging 18.5 points and 6.5 assists per game this season, but is shooting a paltry 39.5 percent from the field, including a cringe-worthy 31.2 percent during February.
That's not an aberration either. Jennings is a career 39.3 percent shooter and has long been a volume shooter rather than a truly valuable scoring option. In fact, over the past three seasons, Jennings' effect offensively has been rather negligible while his laissez-faire attitude on defense has made Milwaukee a much better squad on that end with him on the bench, per NBA.com.
Those are rather incriminating facts for a player who wants a maximum contract extension this offseason. In fact, it's that contract impasse is what led a source to tell ESPN's Chad Ford that Jennings has "irreconcilable differences" with the Bucks:
Jennings has, according to one source, "irreconcilable differences" with Milwaukee. He's frustrated, according to sources, that the two sides weren't able to work out a long-term extension this summer. In addition, he feels as though he doesn't get the attention he deserves and wants a bigger market to take his talents to.
The team ultimately controls Jennings' rights because of his restricted free-agent status, but that's led many to wonder whether Milwaukee is better off trading its disgruntled point guard.
If the Bucks decide to trade Jennings before next Thursday's deadline, they should have no shortage of suitors. Despite Jennings' noted deficiencies, he's still abundantly talented and just 23 years old. In a league increasingly controlled by the point guard position he's a commodity—especially if a team views him as a "one good coach away"-type talent.
The Dallas Mavericks have been linked to Jennings by ESPN's Marc Stein, and they certainly have the right kind of infrastructure in place. If Jennings cannot thrive under Rick Carlisle, then there may be no coach currently in the league who could make an impact.
The rub, of course, is what Dallas would give up in return. The Mavericks have a complete dearth of young trade chips, and Milwaukee, understandably, isn't just going to give Jennings away. The situation bears some level of monitoring, but until we catch wind of a third team, Jennings-to-Dallas seems unlikely.
Luke Ridnour on Knicks' Radar?
The New York Knicks are many things, but guard-needy is not one of them. Their regular starting lineup consists of Raymond Felton, Jason Kidd and Iman Shumpert, all of whom are naturally point guards. J.R. Smith, Ronnie Brewer and Pablo Prigioni comprise New York's bench guard rotation, with each bringing an effective, albeit limited, skill set.
Though none of their star players come out of the back court, the Knicks undoubtedly have one of the most guard-heavy rosters in the NBA. So most were understandably shocked when HOOPSWORLD's Alex Kennedy reported New York could target Minnesota Timberwolves guard Luke Ridnour before the deadline.
Moving Ridnour has become a priority in Minnesota almost from the minute Ricky Rubio came back to action. The Timberwolves want to move forward with Rubio and Alexey Shved in their backcourt, but Ridnour's presence mucks those plans up. He'll be moved by the deadline with Minnesota essentially taking whatever it can get.
However, New York won't be Ridnour's ultimate destination.
I do not doubt Kennedy's reporting here, but Ridnour makes less than zero sense for the Knicks. He's a smart, veteran guard who would be joining a roster of smart, veteran guards. Adding Ridnour would be the ultimate exercise in redundancy, like adding a 5-Hour Energy Drink to a bottle of Mountain Dew.
The only slightly logical scenario in which the Knicks acquire Ridnour involves them moving one of their current guards. Iman Shumpert's name has been bandied about as a possible target of the Phoenix Suns, but Mike Woodson has said the young guard would not be moved (per ESPN's Jared Zwerling).
Woodson may have just been saying that to keep the spotlight off Shumpert, but he's never been that sort of coach. The far more likely scenario is New York standing pat at the deadline and Ridnour going somewhere where they don't have as many guards as taxicabs.
Nets Focusing on Adding a Power Forward; Paul Millsap a Target?
The Nets are nine games above .500 and would be the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference if the season ended today, but that doesn't mean anyone involved with the organization is especially thrilled.
Deron Williams, Joe Johnson and Gerald Wallace have all pretty much busted from the get-go, disappointing despite massive contracts. Williams in particular has gone from once getting consideration as the NBA's best point guard to barely hanging on as a top-10 option at the position.
Surprisingly enough, it's been Brook Lopez's ascent that has kept Brooklyn alive. The oft-injured center is averaging 18.9 points, 7.4 rebounds and 2.2 blocks per game while putting up a player efficiency rating 25.01, fifth-best in the league.
But with his surrounding parts struggling, it seems like the Nets are among the most active buyers at the deadline. According to the New York Daily News' Mitch Lawrence, Brooklyn's biggest target is a power forward, particularly the Utah Jazz's Paul Millsap:
Still, the Nets are focusing on Utah's Paul Millsap or another power forward to add by the trading deadline. The Nets and Jazz have been trading partners in the past, highlighted by the Nets' bold move to get Williams at the 2011 mid-season deadline. But [GM Billy] King also insists he hasn't given up on this group.
The purpose of adding a player like Millsap is pretty clear. Barring significant, sweeping changes to its roster constitution, Brooklyn will be over the salary cap through the 2015-16 season. Under the new collective bargaining agreement, the Nets will have heavy restrictions placed on their ability to acquire new talent.
Trading for a player like Millsap would be a smart way for them to circumvent those restrictions. Millsap's Bird rights would transfer over from Utah to Brooklyn, giving the Nets the ability to re-sign the 28-year-old forward despite being over the salary cap.
For obvious reasons, look for Brooklyn to desperately try to acquire a Millsap-type player. The only problem is what the team would give up in return. Kris Humphries is an obvious name for cap purposes, but the Jazz already have a logjam in the middle and won't want to take on that salary for next season.
With a dearth of young pieces on the roster, a three-team trade is almost a certainty if the Nets want to make a deal happen. Billy King will try his darnedest, but he's stacked the odds pretty heavily against himself by loading up on bad contracts.
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