NBA Rumors: BS Meter on Marc Gasol, Jahlil Okafor and Other Hot Topics
Playoff mainstays are crumbling, coaches are getting fired and cornerstone centers once thought untouchable could soon be on the move.
In other words, it's just another week in the NBA.
There's an odd commonality in this edition of the B.S. Meter, in that we're seeing several teams in tough spots because they didn't make difficult decisions several months (or years) ago. The Memphis Grizzlies didn't address a deteriorating relationship between then-head coach David Fizdale and star center Marc Gasol before the season, and now look where they're at. And if you want to get critical (with the benefit of hindsight), much of Memphis' downfall can be traced back to bad contracts signed to stave off a rebuild.
Now, the Grizzlies may not have a choice.
Elsewhere, the Los Angeles Clippers are stuck in a no-win situation with DeAndre Jordan, and Jahlil Okafor is rotting on the bench because the Philadelphia 76ers didn't move him when his stock was higher...or give him a real chance to play.
The rumors are flying, and before real transactions follow, we need to sort out which reports to believe and which to ignore.
Grizzlies on the Brink of Destruction?
There are several ways to view head coach David Fizdale's firing, as ESPN.com's Adrian Wojnarowski first reported. But the clearest framing is as a simple choosing of sides.
A discord existed between Fizdale and Marc Gasol for a long time, according to ESPN.com's Jonathan Givony, and an eight-game losing streak that came to a head with an unhappy Gasol benched for the entire fourth quarter of Sunday's loss to the Brooklyn Nets clinched it.
After the game, Gasol aired his frustration with the benching, via Ronald Tillery of the Memphis Commercial Appeal.
"I don't like it one bit. I'm more (angry) than I can show, and frustrated. But for the benefit of the team, I've got to show good leadership and continue to do my job. ...
"If I start venting, that would be counterproductive. But at the end of the day, I'm as competitive as anybody. I hate not playing. That's what I value most. If I'm not out there, I'm not valued. I'm sure they knew that would hurt me the most."
The Grizzlies made the same decision most teams do when faced with a coach vs. superstar standoff, even if Marc Stein of the New York Times reports Gasol didn't lay down an ultimatum. Firing the widely respected Fizdale was rash, and it would seem to indicate Memphis is all-in on its aging star.
But what if Gasol agitates for a trade anyway? After all, firing Fizdale doesn't cure the Grizzlies' ailments. It doesn't undo huge deals for Mike Conley or Chandler Parsons, both of whom have had significant injury issues in the past and haven't moved past them this year. It doesn't amend the series of botched drafts and player development failures. It doesn't add depth to a roster that badly needs some. It doesn't recoup that 2019 first-rounder Memphis owes to the Boston Celtics.
Gasol may quickly realize Fizdale wasn't the problem and want out of a situation that is clearly spiraling.
"Marc Gasol is 32 and had major foot surgery in 2016," The Ringer's Kevin O'Connor tweeted. "He'll be 35 and will cost $25.6M during the final year of his deal in 2019-20. Oh, and he's unhappy. It's too late to maximize a return."
"I don't think they're done making changes," one league executive told Sean Deveney of Sporting News on Monday. "They could still move Gasol, they could still go into a rebuilding situation, but it would be harder if Gasol was saying he wants out. They have had plenty of offers for Gasol, and they have a couple of months to sort out whether they pull the trigger. But don't be surprised if they do, even after this."
The logistics are brutal for the Grizz, who cannot expect a fair price for Gasol.
This has an ugly feel to it, and even if the idea of Memphis trading Gasol seems impossible, we need to acknowledge that this could actually happen. The Grizzlies aren't competitive right now. They're old, thin and have a disgruntled big man.
The sun may finally be setting on this era of Memphis basketball. Let's hope for a bidding war between the Cleveland Cavaliers and Boston Celtics.
B.S. Meter Reading: Very Little Bull
Nobody's Willing to Pay Up for Okafor?
Something isn't adding up on the Jahlil Okafor front.
According to Wojnarowski:
"More than half of the NBA's teams suggested to ESPN that they would have an interest in acquiring Okafor as a long-term project. But none seem inclined to give up a draft asset to do so. All prefer to wait until he's a free agent—which is why Duffy and Okafor are pushing hard for a buyout, especially considering that the Sixers are flush with multiple first- and second-round draft picks over the next several years.
"So far, Colangelo has rejected discussions on a contract buyout that would allow Okafor to become a free agent. Colangelo is holding out the possibility that Okafor's $5 million salary could be packaged as part of a bigger deal before the Feb. 9 trade deadline, even if he can't find a singular move involving Okafor, league sources said.
None of this makes any sense. Leave aside the initial problem of Okafor not playing despite improved physical shape and better health. There isn't enough time to pick that apart. Instead, focus on the idea that half the league supposedly has interest in Okafor but won't surrender a pick to get him.
It's one thing if you're the Boston Celtics. A club like that can wait for a buyout with confidence in its ability to attract Okafor. Good teams that think they can sign a player shouldn't surrender assets for him.
But what if you're the Chicago Bulls, Phoenix Suns, Sacramento Kings or any number of other bottom-feeding teams who don't have Boston's (or the high-functioning, winning team of your choice's) culture, winning pedigree and coaching?
The teams that need Okafor the most are the ones who have no choice but to surrender something to get him. If the Bulls, for example, aren't willing to give up a few second-rounders or even a protected first and a second for a former No. 3 overall pick who has never had a real chance to show what he can do, then they don't want him that badly.
Okafor is a lottery ticket. Teams residing at the bottom of the standings should be falling all over themselves to get him if the price is as cheap as it seems.
So are Colangelo's demands higher than what has been reported, or are there far fewer than 15 interested teams?
Either way, something doesn't sound right here.
B.S. Meter Reading: Immense Heaps of Bull
Avery Bradley Not Sure About His Future with the Pistons?
The Detroit Pistons aren't enjoying a bounce-back season because of Avery Bradley alone—Andre Drummond, Reggie Jackson and Tobias Harris have something to do with it, too—but the 27-year-old shooting guard acquired this past summer sure is helping.
Bradley, who's in the midst of a contract year, isn't sure whether his long-term future is in Detroit, however.
When asked whether he envisions himself sticking with the Pistons beyond this year, Bradley replied, "I can't answer that question now," per Jay King of MassLive.com. "We'll see as the year goes on, and once that time comes, I'll worry about it. But right now, I'm just focusing on basketball."
Classic B.S., right? It's inhuman to ignore the future to that extent. Bradley is already thinking about where he'll be next year. Perhaps not to the point of distraction, but he must have some idea of what he'd like to do.
Head coach Stan Van Gundy shed some more light on Bradley's prospects, via Rod Beard of the Detroit News: "He knew right from the time we got him that we made the move thinking it would be a long-term thing, but he knows it's not something we're going to talk to him at all about during the season."
Considering the Pistons traded Marcus Morris and effectively let Kentavious Caldwell-Pope go to add Bradley, this relationship likely won't be a rental. The timing may work out nicely for the Pistons, who offered KCP a five-year, $80 million deal that was well below his max, only to see him turn it down. The salary-cap landscape indicates Bradley won't command that much, as only a handful of teams will have enough wiggle room to make decent offers.
Back in July, one executive referred to 2018 as "nuclear winter" for free agents, per ESPN.com's Bobby Marks and Tim MacMahon.
Bradley likely won't cost Detroit anywhere close to $80 million because so few other teams will be able to drive up the price.
Long story short, Bradley can punt on the question all he wants. But it feels like a lock he'll be back with Detroit on his next free-agent deal.
B.S. Meter Reading: Significant Bull
Will the Clips Trade DJ?
When NBA.com's David Aldridge hears "the Clippers have put feelers out to a handful of teams" on DeAndre Jordan, it's official: You have a rumor.
And while he only went so far as to suggest destinations that would make sense or qualify as interesting fits, Aldridge also ran down what potential deals with the Cleveland Cavaliers, Milwaukee Bucks, Washington Wizards and Toronto Raptors might look like.
Most of the options seem unlikely, but a source told Cleveland.com's Joe Vardon the Cavs would consider a Tristan Thompson-for-Jordan swap. That's closer to shared speculation than corroboration, but it's fair to say there's more smoke in the air than usual on the Jordan trade front.
Whether it means there'll be any fire is another question.
The Clips could lose Jordan for nothing this summer if he opts out of the final year of his deal. Paying him huge money to stay would be an on-brand move for L.A., which just maxed out Blake Griffin in July. But seeing the current season headed down the drain as injuries have predictably arisen might finally push the Clippers away from the status quo of retaining vets. Add Griffin's recent knee injury to the mix, and you have even more reason for the Clippers to avoid high-cost, long-term commitments wherever they can.
That means it's time to pivot from what has long been a skeptical view of the Clippers' willingness to move Jordan. To be clear, getting away from him before the decision becomes "max out or watch walk for nothing" has always been the right move. It's just that there hasn't been enough of an indication that the Clips were willing to make it.
B.S. Meter Reading: Finally, A Lot Less Bull
Jason Kidd's Job Safe as Bucks Underwhelm?
"It's still hard for me, though, to see Kidd's star dimming under the Bucks' current ownership," Aldridge explained when asked about Kidd's seat heating up as the Bucks underwhelm. "He and his agent are just too tight and close with co-owner Marc Lasry to imagine Milwaukee souring on him."
Kidd is under contract through 2019-20, and the relationship Aldridge mentions also cuts against Kidd getting canned. But the analogy that slots Kidd into the Mark Jackson role, the one that paints him as the right coach to get things going but the wrong one to take a team to its full potential, is just too perfect to ignore.
The Bucks have a transcendent talent in Giannis Antetokounmpo, just like the Dubs did with Stephen Curry. The Bucks are playing a strange, stubborn style of defense (hyperaggressive trapping, preferred by Kidd) that parallels Golden State's stodgy, iso-heavy offensive approach under Jackson.
Consider this a bet that, eventually, Milwaukee will go looking for its Steve Kerr. There's too much potential with this roster to keep watching it underachieve.
B.S. Meter Reading: Mark Jackson Postgame Presser Levels of Bull, Circa 2012 (Which Is to Say: A Decent Amount of Bull)