NBA shopping season is starting to warm up as Dec. 15 draws near

Nerlens Noel hasn't played since the Sixers' preseason opener on Oct. 4. Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE/Getty Images

The passage of Thanksgiving does not typically spark a shopping frenzy in the NBA.

You'll realistically have to wait another three weeks for that, until Dec. 15 hits and nearly 130 players who signed new contracts in the offseason become eligible to be stuffed into deals.

Yet there is a hint of trade chatter in the air as November dribbles to a close. You wouldn't describe it as anything super saucy yet, but there are players and situations to monitor. Such as:

Greg Monroe: Seven, zero, two and eight. Those are the minute totals Monroe logged in Milwaukee's four games leading into Thanksgiving. The esteemed Zach Lowe and I had a good discussion on the Lowe Post podcast this week about the challenges in trading big men in the current market -- specifically big men who are defensively challenged. The Bucks have explored the possibility of trading Monroe since last season's deadline in February, which illustrates how hard it can be, but the limited role he has in Brewtown these days is akin to screaming that the 26-year-old is available.

Omri Casspi: You undoubtedly want to know if Sacramento is going to trade DeMarcus Cousins or Rudy Gay between now and the Feb. 23 deadline. The answer remains: Too soon to say. The closest thing to a trade lock in the California capital is the exit of the popular Casspi, whose representatives have been blessed by the Kings to search out potential deals now that the versatile swingman -- coming off the best year of his career -- has been exiled from the rotation by new coach Dave Joerger.

Brandon Knight: Suns general manager Ryan McDonough recently went on the Burns & Gambo radio show in Phoenix and proclaimed (A) that he isn't actively trying to trade Knight and (B) that he'd prefer to take at least two months to evaluate his team before seriously considering trades. None of that, however, has stopped interested rivals from believing that the struggling Knight -- who started two games this week with TJ Warren out but mostly comes off the bench for the Suns -- will be made available.

Nerlens Noel: Nothing has changed here. Noel has yet to appear in a game this season after electing to undergo arthroscopic knee surgery last month, but word is he'd still prefer to be shipped to a new address with so many big men to battle for playing time in Philly. Count on the Sixers to accommodate him eventually.

Donatas Motiejunas: This isn't a trade story, but it counts nonetheless as one of those aforementioned ‎fascinating situations. Our story from late Wednesday night, co-scribed here with Calvin Watkins, details all the latest twists and turns, but here's an important footnote: One source close to the talks expressed confidence that Motiejunas isn't as far away from advertised when it comes to landing a contract. But from where? Motiejunas can sign with another team that has the requisite salary-cap space at any time, but Houston would have three days to match any offer sheet. If he elects to sign in a foreign league, Motiejunas would remain a restricted free agent in the NBA, giving the Rockets the right to match any offer.

A quick follow-up to our recent note about the NBA Development League and its expected salary jump into the range of $50,000 to $75,000:

The specifics should be known soon, because the new labor agreement between the NBA and the players' union that we've been hearing about for weeks is certain to be finalized between now and Dec. 15, which was the original deadline for either side to opt out of the current collective bargaining agreement.

To be clear, though, our forecast of a D-League salary increase was meant to apply specifically to the two-way contracts that numerous insiders anticipate will be introduced as part of the next labor pact for the additional 60 to 90 players who would be able to start signing with NBA teams next summer. Talk of NBA rosters expanding from 15 players to 17 or 18, with those final two or three spots reserved for two-way deals inspired by the NHL, has been rampant for months.

No one, though, is suggesting that all D-Leaguers would make that much. Two-way contracts, which would call for one salary if the player is in the NBA and the lower salary if the player is the D-League, will be struck directly with NBA teams. The expectation remains that the D-League could continue to employ its own salary scale for players it signs and distributes via the D-League draft and player pool; this season's two salary classifications are $26,000 and $19,000 with housing and health insurance provided.

P.S. D-League history buffs will want to be reminded that the day before Thanksgiving marked the 15-year anniversary of Chris "Birdman" Andersen's NBA debut, just two days after the Denver Nuggets summoned Andersen from the Fayetteville Patriots as the first D-Leaguer ever called up to the NBA.

Only one team in NBA history managed to record a double-digit scoring differential in its road games over the course of an entire season.

That would be the 1971-72 Los Angeles Lakers, who won a record 33 consecutive games in their most impressive burst and clocked in with a scoring margin of plus-11.3 in posting a road mark of 31-7.

Yet in the early days of this season, amazingly, three teams are in that zone. The Clippers, Warriors and Spurs take a combined road record of 23-1 into their respective away dates Friday night and can all claim to be on the Lakers' pace.

On this holiday weekend, I'm unabashedly thankful for crazy box-score lines.

I love that offenses seem to be way ahead of defenses in the opening month.

As a die-hard Buffalo Sabres fan dismayed by what the clutch-and-grab era has done to hockey -- with my Sabres having already endured seven 2-1 games this month -- I can only applaud a 149-106 final score for the sheer audacity Golden State imposed on the Lakers with 47 assists on 53 made baskets.

I relish sitting in a restaurant on a random Wednesday night, looking up at a TV and then struggling to keep my drink down when news of Kevin Love's 34-point quarter dribbles across the screen.

And in case Love's outburst made you curious about the highest-scoring quarters in league history ...

Had the opportunity this week to sit down with Rick Carlisle for a TrueHoop Conversations podcast and covered lots of ground with the Dallas Mavericks' coach, who finds himself in Cleveland on this Friday with a date against the Cavaliers and his injury-ravaged Mavs trying to halt a seven-game losing skid, which ranks as the longest drought of the Mark Cuban era.

Cuban, of course, bought the Mavericks way back in January 2000.

We talked about the various challenges of the early season, Harrison Barnes' development, Dirk Nowitzki's legacy, what it's like to coach under Cuban and why one of our shared favorites –- former Cavs, Rockets, Celtics and Clippers coach Bill Fitch -– belongs in the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts. A link to the full convo is enclosed for your holiday weekend listening pleasure, but here are some highlights:

Carlisle on Barnes' promising start:

"It's a totally different mindset and metabolic approach to how he's had to deal with offense in the last four years. He's been clear-cut the fourth option at Golden State. When you're playing with guys like, you know, [Stephen] Curry and Thompson and [Draymond] Green, you become kind of a bottom-feeder. You're playing off of all the attention those guys get and now he's one of those guys for us. This is a different level of responsibility. To say you're now sitting at the grown-ups' table is a great understatement.

"This is as challenging as it gets. but this guy wants to be great. He wants to learn. And he wants responsibility and you can't say that about every 24-year old in his position. ... And as a coach, if you have your choice of a kind of guy you want to work with who's a young player with the opportunity to get better, I wouldn't take anybody other than Harrison Barnes right now just because of his attitude."

Carlisle on Nowitzki's health:

"This is a guy who's given everything to this franchise and right now, as tough as it is for us, we've got to be mindful of the big picture. We've got to make sure that Dirk's last year or two or three, or whatever it is, come down the right way. I want him to be able to play in his last game, whenever that is. You don't want to see a situation where a great warrior like him, who's close to 30,000 points and is possible to get to top five in all-time scoring, can't get through the last few games of his career. That's not what you want to see."

Carlisle on Cuban potentially running for president in 2020:

"My guess would be that it's less likely to happen than happen, but I've certainly been wrong before and only he knows really what's going on. He owns so many other companies and has so many other interests, it just seems like that would be just a very difficult task to take on. But, listen, I don't discount anything with him. He got very involved in this election and with all the shocking things that went on with it, we all learned a lot about politics and life. I'm sure he's socked away all these experiences and four years is a long way away, but on the other hand it isn't."

Saad Yousuf of ESPN Radio Dallas (103.3 FM) contributed to this report.