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NBA deal day: A whole lotta not much
KERRY EGGERS ON SPORTS
Notes, quotes and observations about our sporting world
What a wild day it was Thursday as the NBA trade deadline hit. Not.
The most eventful deals in the 24 hours leading to the deadline were Orlando landing Brandon Jennings and Ersan Ilysova from Detroit for Tobias Harris, and Memphis first sending Courtney Lee and cash to Charlotte for some odds and ends, then taking on troubled Lance Stephenson along with a future first-round draft pick from the Los Angeles Clippers in exchange for Jeff Green.
To borrow from Jerry Lee Lewis, there wasn't a whole lotta shakin' going on.
Orlando, 3 1/2 games out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the East, picked up a pair of players who may help its postseason chances. The Clippers added a useful player in Green to bolster their bench and unloaded a head case in Stephenson.
Coach Dave Joerger swears the Grizzlies aren't "running up the white flag" in trading two of their top seven players in Lee and Green. Both have expiring contracts, and Memphis evidently didn't expect to retain them.
But the Memphis rotation now includes a questionable consortium of personalities that includes Stephenson, Matt Barnes and Chris Andersen. The Grizzlies, at 31-22, are in fifth place in the West, 4 1/2 games ahead of Portland (27-27). There's a very real chance the Grizzlies could slide some in the remaining third of the regular season.
The Trail Blazers wound up exchanging substitute point guards -- adding Brian Roberts from Miami and waiving Tim Frazier -- and acquiring a 2018 first-round pick in exchange for taking Anderson Varejao off Cleveland's payroll.
It wasn't that long ago that the 6-10, 275-pound Varejao was a productive player, averaging 14.1 points and 14.4 rebounds in 25 games for the Cavaliers in 2012-13. He has a history of injury problems, though, and wasn't even in Cleveland's rotation this season. The Blazers promptly waived Varejao after acquiring him Thursday.
Portland needed Varejao's $9.7-million salary, along with the $2.85 million commanded by Roberts, to get its 2015-16 payroll up to $53 million and within $800,000 of the minimum figure allowed by the NBA. That's a bad deal for the rest of the players on the Portland roster, who figured to each make nearly $1 million in dispersal money, and now will reap closer to $50,000 apiece.
It's a good deal, though, for owner Paul Allen, who will have to pay Varejao and Roberts only a pro-rated salary for the rest of the season -- about $4 million total, saving in the neighborhood of $9 million. Varejeo will be on the Portland books for his $9.3 million salary next season, but the Blazers are expected to use the "stretch" provision to extend the payment over five years, or less than $2 million per season.
Roberts -- who caught my eye with a 17-point, 24-minute bench performance in a 109-91 loss at Moda Center on Jan. 29 -- is an upgrade from Frazier. And general manager Neil Olshey added a future first-round pick at no cost. Something for nothing is always a good deal. If LeBron James opts out of his contract with the Cavs after this season and moves on, it could wind up being a very good deal.
Most important, Olshey hung on to everyone on his current roster. It's worth it to get a look at all the young players through the end of the season and to see what they can do in the playoffs. Despite their brutal stretch of 11 of 13 games on the road between Feb. 27 and March 20, the Blazers are going to make the postseason. If they can win a few on the road, the door is open for them to climb as high as fifth in the West.
The Brooklyn Nets made an out-of-the-box hire when they hired Sean Marks as their new general manager.
Marks, 40, is just five years removed from finishing an undistinguished 11-year NBA career by playing 29 games as a reserve forward with the Blazers. The New Zealander served one season as an assistant coach with San Antonio and was in his second season as the Spurs' assistant GM when the Nets came calling.
A San Antonio pedigree is like gold in NBA circles, and Marks -- a delightful personality in the locker room in his partial season in Portland -- is the latest to benefit. He has his work cut out in cleaning up the mess of a franchise that is in disarray.
After the David Blatt firing, Charles Barkley voiced on air what many of us have been saying all along about Cleveland's use of Kevin Love:
"The Cavaliers need to play at a faster pace. The players have to push the ball. They need to put Love at the box, instead of standing (at the 3-point line). I said that LeBron (James) deserves the blame for that. David Blatt deserves blame, and Kyrie (Irving, too). They should have said, 'Kevin, get on the box, we're giving the ball to you.' That kid is a hell of a player on the box. He is not strictly a 3-point shooter."
Did you enjoy the NBA All-Star Game as little as I did? The game has increasingly become a circus over the years, the league's biggest names prancing around the 3-point line and going in for uncontested dunks. It's a badge of honor to play as little defense as possible. Maybe I'm wrong, but I don't think that's what the game should be about.
I've written before about the injustice of big names but undeserving All-Stars (such as Kobe Bryant) being voted by fans into the starting lineup, taking away a spot for a much more deserving player by performance through the first part of the season.
If you follow hockey, you know the same thing happens in the NHL. Celebrated goon John Scott not only was voted by fans into the recent 2016 All-Star game as captain of the Pacific Division team, but he also wound up scoring a pair of goals and gaining the most valuable player award as a write-in candidate.
The joke was on the NHL, I suppose.
Starters for All-Star games in both sports should be determined by a vote of the coaches or the sport's regular media. Yeah, they say it's a game for the fans. But do fans really want such injustices to happen? I would think not.
Sports Illustrated's Andy Staples recently made a case for something I've endorsed for years. "National (football letter-of-intent) signing day needs to go away," Staples writes.
Staples contends that instead of allowing verbal commits to flip at the 11th hour, high school seniors should be allowed to sign letters at any time during the year leading up to an early February deadline.
I would set Aug. 1 as the date to allow seniors to begin to sign. Once a student-athlete puts a signature on the dotted line, it's binding. As it is now, verbals are now essentially meaningless. A player can take up one of a school's annual 25 scholarships, then change his mind at the last minute. It works both ways, of course. A coach can offer a ride and get a commitment, then rescind the offer if he finds a better option in another player.
As Staples points out, the NCAA would have to change its rule about official visits, which can't come now until after the start of the school year. Move the timing up to spring term of the junior year. It's not a perfect plan, but it's better than the one currently in place.