Messy 2014 NBA Breakups on the Horizon

Grant HughesNational NBA Featured ColumnistFebruary 13, 2014

Messy 2014 NBA Breakups on the Horizon

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    We've all been focusing on the wrong aspects of the upcoming NBA trade deadline.

    Sure, it's exciting to imagine how shakeups and relocations could alter the league's landscape. And yes, it's important to consider the complexity of new locker-room dynamics and the eternal bean-counting exercise that is salary-cap math.

    While it's fun to guess at how contenders might bolster their lineups for a stretch run, or wonder what it'll be like when big names find themselves jettisoned for cap relief, the real entertainment of the NBA's annual transaction cutoff is the potential for a few disgruntled players to pop off about their former teams.

    Who doesn't love hearing millionaires bash ownership, throw former coaches under the bus and question the commitment of past teammates?

    That kind of stuff is always in play when trades are afoot. Freed of a frustrating situation, guys on the move are more willing to speak their minds about the past.

    It's not hard to predict which unstable situations could explode with a deadline trade. We've heard enough rumblings to know which powder kegs are primed to blow.

    Nothing's guaranteed, and we might see a relatively uneventful deadline again this year. But if any of the following deals go through, fireworks could soon follow.

    Here's hoping we get a trade deadline filled with verbal barbs and aired grievances.

Pau Gasol, Los Angeles Lakers

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    Let's be honest: Pau Gasol is probably too classy to really pop off if the Los Angeles Lakers decide to move his expiring $19 million deal at the deadline. He's been remarkably diplomatic and professional all season long, recently telling Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times: "My preference would be to stay."

    If the big Spaniard hasn't reached a boiling point after being dangled in trade talks for years, he's probably not going to get there if a deal is finally struck.

    Nobody would blame him for firing a few shots, though.

    He could call out Kobe Bryant for laying on the tough love a little too thick over the past few seasons, bury Mike D'Antoni for publicly ripping him or lambaste Dwight Howard for loafing through the 2012-13 campaign. L.A. has been a mess recently, and Gasol has all the dirt.

Iman Shumpert, New York Knicks

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    Frank Franklin II/Associated Press

    This spot could have gone to any one of the numerous New York Knicks who might be on the move. But since Iman Shumpert is the man tied to the most recent rumor, he gets first billing.

    Per ESPN's Marc Stein: "The Knicks, I'm told, are trying to re-engage Denver in what has become a season-long crusade to convince the Nuggets to consent to a trade that essentially swaps Iman Shumpert for Kenneth Faried."

    Keep in mind, any rumor involving the Knicks has a strong chance of being a deliberate leak meant to create the illusion of a front-office plan. But Shumpert has no doubt heard this rumor, and he's been jerked around by the organization since he joined the club in 2011-12.

    It'd be great to hear him air some dirty laundry if he ever escapes New York.

    Does Mike Woodson literally have an input jack in his head through which James Dolan transmits instructions? Has J.R. Smith ever practiced?

    We could get the answers to those questions and more!

    Obviously, the famously uninhibited Smith would provide the most exciting explosion, and Beno Udrih could have some ugly things to say if he were to be dealt. Come to think of it, anybody who gets away from the Knicks could have some devastating criticisms to share.

    Stay tuned. This could get good.

Eric Gordon, New Orleans Pelicans

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    Paul Bereswell/Associated Press

    Remember, Eric Gordon didn't want the New Orleans Pelicans (then the Hornets) to sign him in the first place. Back in the summer of 2012, Gordon signed a max deal with the Phoenix Suns—one he hoped the Hornets wouldn't match.

    Per ESPN's Chris Broussard, he said at the time: "Phoenix is just where my heart is right now."

    Since then, Gordon's career has been marked by injuries, overly long recoveries and spotty play. The Pelicans would probably love to get rid of him, especially now that it's clear he'll never live up to the $15 million annual salary he's set to collect through the 2015-16 season.

    Perhaps the presence of Anthony Davis has Gordon feeling differently about sticking around, but you can bet the Pellies will deal him and his bloated salary at the first opportunity.

    If that happens, maybe we'll get accounts from Gordon about Monty Williams' curious defensive strategy. Better yet, we might get an unfiltered take from New Orleans about Gordon's apparent lack of commitment.

    Good times.

Omer Asik, Houston Rockets

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    Many sads.
    Many sads.Scott Halleran/Getty Images

    How has an Omer Asik trade not happened yet?

    The big man voiced his displeasure from the moment Dwight Howard came aboard last summer, and he's been sidelined by some combination of injury and general crankiness ever since. Asik has suited up for a couple of games recently, but it's hard to look at his return as anything more than a pre-deadline showcase.

    Anyone willing to complain about his playing time before training camp begins is a good candidate for a post-trade blowup.

    The only problem is the Houston Rockets haven't been able to move Asik to this point, which could mean there's just not a market for him.

    If something materializes, though, we could see GM Daryl Morey (who has been candid about mistakes like Royce White in the past) get very honest about his disappointment with Asik.

Dion Waiters, Cleveland Cavaliers

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    Bill Baptist/Getty Images

    Sam Amico of Fox Sports reports new Cleveland Cavaliers general manager David Griffin has assured Dion Waiters and Kyrie Irving the organization has no plans to trade either of them.

    That's quite a change from the days of departed personnel decision-maker Chris Grant. Frankly, it's hard to believe.

    Per Grantland's Zach Lowe, Cleveland would be crazy to rule out a good deal if one were to come along:

    The Celtics have an appetite for low-cost risk on high-upside talent, even talent with “attitude” issues, but Waiters might be too far down the road for Boston at this point. But if the Cavs can find a decent future first-rounder for Waiters, they have to think about it.

    Those attitude issues—combined with an alleged locker-room altercation between Waiters and Irving that left the latter with a black eye—mean there's plenty of bad blood that could be spilled if a deal ever goes down.

    Waiters has taken a lot of heat for his play, conditioning and demeanor. Expect him to send a few hot shots the Cavs' way if he gets traded.

Andre Miller, Denver Nuggets

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    Sue Ogrocki/Associated Press

    Andre Miller already blew up at Denver Nuggets head coach Brian Shaw, which is why he's been on a timeout from the team ever since.

    During his exile, perhaps Miller has had an opportunity to cool off. Then again, maybe his discontent is festering. After all, his days in the league are numbered; no matter how crafty the Professor is, he'll eventually be too slow to survive.

    He'll be 38 next month, and he's not getting a chance to showcase himself as his NBA clock ticks down. That might have him stewing.

    The Washington Wizards are a sensible destination, as Eric Maynor hasn't done anything to show he's a capable backup for John Wall. Miller could help Washington at a position of real need.

    If the Nugs and Wiz can work something out, Miller might let us all in on what his beef was with Shaw. And even if he keeps quiet, the circumstances of his departure are bound to be messy.

Mike Woodson, New York Knicks

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    Seth Wenig/Associated Press

    This isn't a potential trade deadline breakup in the traditional sense. But with the way things are going in New York, Woodson could find himself out of a job in the very near future.

    His would be the messiest breakup of all.

    Nobody could pull back the curtain on the nonsense in MSG like Woody could. He knows the secrets, has seen where the bodies (figuratively, I hope) are buried and might not be afraid to burn every bridge between himself and the Knicks.

    Getting fired from the Knicks is really more of a liberation at this stage, so he'd probably have no reservations about ripping his former employers to shreds.

    The fact that Woodson hasn't been fired yet makes it almost impossible to predict when the axe will eventually fall. But if the Knicks cut him loose before the deadline, we'll get to hear Woodson lash out at an organization that has made him a punching bag for years.

    Oh, and I'm guessing the Knicks won't handle their end of the PR battle with much class, either.

    It's not cool to root for a man to lose his job. But if it happens in this instance, there'll be fireworks aplenty.