The Los Angeles Clippers need upgrades, but making needle-pushing trades might be out of the question with a depleted roster.
Waiting on buyout guys seems like it'll be the Clippers' strategy for a second straight season, even if rolling the dice on other teams' garbage didn't exactly pay off last year.
The revolving door of veterans that head coach Doc Rivers brought in during the 2013-14 season never really made a true impact. Danny Granger and Glen Davis did enter the L.A. rotation, but that was more out of necessity than earned privilege. Meanwhile, the Hedo Turkoglus of the world didn't do much, either.
Blake Griffin's injury adds a new wrinkle to a story with too many arcs, already. Griffin will miss somewhere between two and six weeks after undergoing surgery on his right elbow because of a staph infection. If his absence is extended enough, the Clippers have an outside chance to miss the playoffs altogether, as long as the Oklahoma City Thunder or New Orleans Pelicans get hot and the Clips continue to falter during the toughest stretch of their schedule.
The squad has needed a wing defender all season, and it could always use an upgrade at the third big, given Spencer Hawes' struggles. But with Griffin missing significant time, adding a big man is more essential than ever. The Clippers need some serious help, and signing guys who have been bought out might be the most realistic way they'll go about adding players.
Everyone loves to talk about a potential Garnett-Rivers reunion, and why not? The two of them were together for seven extraordinarily successful seasons in Boston. Why should it be any different in Los Angeles (other than KG's age along with the Clippers' health and roster situations)?
It's trendy to push for the narrative of KG and Doc reuniting. It elicited similar emotions to discuss the prospect of Paul Pierce and Rivers getting back together this summer when the current Washington Wizards small forward was a free agent.
That didn't happen, though, and likely, neither will KG.
The Brooklyn Nets may be a rancid 21-29, but that smell doesn't stand out much when it's surrounded by the stink that is the bottom of the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Brooklyn is technically in ownership of the No. 9 seed but has an identical record to the Miami Heat, who sit uncomfortably at No. 8. As long as the Nets have a chance at the playoffs, why would they buy out a legitimate contributor in their starting lineup? It wouldn't make any sense to a team that has no reason to tank given that it will certainly end up swapping picks with the Atlanta Hawks in the first round of this year's draft.
If KG came to Los Angeles, he could help both as a rebounder and defender, especially with Griffin out of the lineup, but it appears the most likely future for Garnett is that he remains with the hipsters in Brooklyn.
It's a question if Stoudemire actually gets bought out in New York, and he will apparently take the All-Star break to decide his own future.
Griffin's injury could actually trigger Clipper interest in Amar'e, even if it was reported over the weekend that the Dallas Mavericks, who have had their own issues at the third big spot after trading Brandan Wright, are a strong favorite to land Stoudemire if the New York Knicks do in fact buy him out of his contract.
He may be made of glass at this point in his career, and you do need to watch his minutes, but Amar'e can still play.
The Knicks power forward is averaging 17.9 points and 10.1 boards per 36 minutes, and even if his defense leaves just about everything to be desired, he can still be a legitimate stopgap for Griffin—especially in the unlikely event that the Clippers are able to work out a deal involving Spencer Hawes, which could happen if they receive good injury news on Griffin before the trade deadline.
Stoudemire still kills it from mid-range. Every once in a while, he'll have one of those "I used to be an incredible athlete and I still kind of am" moments around the rim, rattling down a dunk that reminds everyone that there was a time not too long ago when he was one of the most ferocious finishers in the NBA.
Amar'e can help. The two questions are: Will he be available? And will he have interest in moving thousands of miles across the country to don red and blue?
Hey, it's another guy past his prime! Except Kirilenko comes with an added bonus to the old, unable-to-play reputation: He doesn't even want to stand on a basketball court.
That's right. It's extremely possible Kirilenko no longer has an interest in playing in the NBA (which is completely cool considering he's almost 34 years old, has missed almost the entire season for personal reasons and made more than $100 million throughout his 15-year career).
When the Philadelphia 76ers acquired Kirilenko from the Nets earlier this season, the thought was that Philly would buy the forward out and allow him to go wherever he wanted. That was certainly the Russian's belief—but the exact opposite happened.
Now, Kirilenko is actually suspended after failing to report to the team. So, the Sixers got another one of those desired second-round picks for taking on some extra, unwanted money, and they don't want to get rid of those dollars even though they have the chance.
The prospect of a buyout, however, still looms for general manager Sam Hinkie's franchise. It's always possible he or the organization no longer wants to deal with the stresses of someone who is probably never joining the team, anyway. If the Sixers do in fact buy out the guy who was once a First-Team All-Defense selection, his presence could be enticing to Rivers, even if he is a shell what what he once was as he enters the twilight of his career.
Prince is the ultimate Rivers candidate: strong perimeter defender when he was in his prime, veteran leader, capable, low-volume three-point shooting when left open (save for last season).
The problem is that Prince doesn't defend, handle, shoot or score like he once did. He may be sinking a high percentage of his long balls this season, but defenses are still helping off him comfortably, so he doesn't exactly contribute positively to spacing. Meanwhile, he struggles to stay in front of bigger, quicker ball-handlers on the other end.
That's not Prince's fault. There was a time when he was an upper-echelon stopper on the wing, but it's not that time anymore. The dude is 34 years old, and he's acting like it.
All of that won't rule out a Prince cameo on the Clippers near the end of the year, though. He serves no use to the Boston Celtics as long as the team believes it's out of the playoff race in the East or if general manager Danny Ainge decides that getting a high draft pick is more important than making it into the postseason. (Yes, the Eastern Conference is so poor right now that Tayshaun Prince is arguably a needle pusher. Well, not actually, but it's worth making the point.)
The rumor is, however, that Brad Stevens prefers to keep him around for his veteran leadership.
All that said, the Clippers need help on the wings, and if they can't make a trade because they decided to purchase the rope and duct tape in previous deals that would eventually tie their hands together, then Prince may be the only option to help if he does in fact become available.
Fred Katz averaged almost one point per game in fifth grade but maintains that his per-36-minute numbers were astonishing. Find more of his work on ESPN's TrueHoop Network at ClipperBlog.com. Follow him on Twitter at @FredKatz.