1. Did Magic Make One Deal Too Many?
J.A. Adande, ESPN.com: If the Suns are going to play Marcin Gortat a lot they'll be so ... conventional. They had relied on the 3-pointer as much as anyone in the league and they just traded their two most accurate long-range shooters (Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu). No one demands a double-team, and now it's easier to leave people when Steve Nash drives. So what's their identity?
Kevin Arnovitz, ESPN TrueHoop: Orlando incurred the most risk in these deals, both financially and otherwise, but Phoenix did something interesting -- it became much more conventional. After starting the season with roughly three dozen perimeter players under contract, the Suns will now field a rotation that gives them a chance to address some of their pressing problems.
In Gortat, they get another true big man to back up Robin Lopez, an addition that should help them on the glass. Mickael Pietrus is a solid wing defender who can help the league's least efficient defense.
Vince Carter isn't a difference-maker, but he can still create on occasion and his contract gets less burdensome by the day -- and it's a lot more palatable than Turkoglu's.
Chris Broussard, ESPN The Magazine: I actually like these trades for all three teams. But with the Wizards rebuilding and the Suns a mere West playoff qualifier at best, the real question is what does this mean for Orlando.
For this to work out, the Magic have to let Gilbert be Gilbert. He was neutered -- and rightly so -- this season in Washington. Orlando should start Gilbert Arenas, Jason Richardson and Hedo Turkoglu on the perimeter and bring Jameer Nelson off the bench. Give the ball to Arenas and let him go. It may not be enough to get the Magic out of the East, but I think it's the best shot they have.
Tom Haberstroh, ESPN.com: One could say the Magic are simply rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, but the all-in gamble does raise their title contention status, if only in the short term. Everyone will talk about Turkoglu returning to his former team and Arenas getting a fresh start (from the bench, interestingly enough), but Richardson was the real gem in the day's deals.
The Wizards made the deal in the vein of addition-by-subtraction and their new flexibility should make their franchise makeover less painful. I like the Suns' haul, even if the move signals that Suns management whiffed badly on its post-Stoudemire game plan.
John Hollinger, ESPN.com: All I can add to what I wrote Saturday is that a lot of times familiarity isn't necessarily a good thing, and I think this might be one of those times. Otis Smith basically chose the devil he knows in Gilbert Arenas, but I have to wonder if doing so blinded him to some better alternatives. The main benefit of the trade -- replacing Rashard Lewis with Brandon Bass and Ryan Anderson -- was available without ever calling up the Wizards. Meanwhile, there were players available in the trade market who come with far less financial and locker room risk than Arenas but are just as productive.
Marc Stein, ESPN.com: I'm usually a fan of bold and proactive and Orlando was certainly both with this deal. Kudos to the Magic for going through with their shakeup in mid-December -- as opposed to mid-February -- to give the new crew more time to find some chemistry before the playoffs. But put me firmly in the camp of those questioning why Magic president Otis Smith felt the need to do both trades. Bringing in J-Rich and Hedo, to me, would have been a sufficiently drastic change.
Especially if you believe, as I do, that Hedo will be rejuvenated not only by reuniting with Dwight Howard -- who was as important to Hedo's original Orlando success as Hedo's versatility was to Dwight's -- but because he needs Stan Van Gundy riding him to play his best. The Arenas part, though, is a needlessly risky step too far for me.
It makes the whole thing so much more of a desperate dice roll with potentially catastrophic consequences, for both Smith and the franchise as a whole, if it doesn't lead to a championship. And how much has Orlando really closed the gap here on the Lakers and Celtics?
Chris Sheridan, ESPN.com Kudos to Otis Smith for realizing now, in December, that his team was going to eventually get steamrolled by either Miami or Boston, for doing something about it now instead of later. Kudos for bringing in a ton of scoring capability at the price of an expiring contract (Vince Carter) who was a bust versus the Celtics last postseason, and a mammoth believed-to-be-untradeable contract (Rashard Lewis) who was producing less bang for the buck than anybody not named Eddy Curry.
Whether Arenas starts or comes off the bench, he's a 20-point guy every single night. J-Rich has 62 3-pointers -- almost as many as Lewis and Carter combined -- and Hedo knows the Magic's system and can go back to playing some point forward as he did when he was at his peak. They've lost their depth in the middle, but they're doomed anyway if Dwight Howard goes down.
Brian Windhorst, ESPN.com: It's a debatable point, but in the short term it does appear the Magic have a net gain with the deals. Otis Smith is betting that he's getting underachievers who will be reinvigorated by a change in scenery.
There's a case for that. But what Smith wants especially is the Arenas and Turkoglu of two or three years ago. That doesn't seem realistic for numerous reasons. And the gamble is even greater because they're now being paid for their great years, which seem to be in the past.
2. Truth Handles Triple-Double
BOSTON -- The compliment gets thrown in his direction fairly often and it's almost always sincere, especially when delivered by those who have observed all the greats: Paul Pierce is the best scorer in Boston Celtics history. And that's saying something considering the likes of John Havlicek and Larry Bird have worn the jersey.
But Pierce wouldn't mind someday being regarded as one of the most complete players in Celtics history. On Sunday against the Indiana Pacers, he gave the latest example of why he deserves to be in the conversation.
With Boston again playing without All-Star point guard Rajon Rondo (sprained left ankle), Pierce produced his second consecutive double-digit assist game, handing out a game-high 12 dimes. Pierce added 18 points and 10 rebounds for his seventh career triple-double in a 99-88 triumph over the Pacers at TD Garden.
"He's the chameleon," said Celtics coach Doc Rivers, a fitting description of a player who has spent his entire 13-year career in green, but found ways to adapt to those around him. "We would rather, honestly, have him in scoring mode all the time. But with this team, especially with the injuries, he's been a phenomenal utility player for us."Click here for the full story by Forsberg.
3. Pat Riley Notable For His Silence
MIAMI -- Amid all of the chatter, the speculation, the ire, the anger, the commotion and recent comeuppance the Miami Heat have already experienced this season, the architect responsible for assembling this controversial project has been a man of few words.
In fact, Pat Riley's silence has been almost deafening.
Riley has been stoic in his vow to remain publicly muted through the early-season evolution of the NBA's noisiest and most scrutinized team.
He's seen, but rarely heard. Ubiquitous, yet non-inhibiting. It seems to be all part of the Pat Riley space program. He's giving coach Erik Spoelstra and stars LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh enough room to operate with the understanding, of course, that the rope can always be tightened should a break-glass-in-case-of-emergency situation arise.
So far, it hasn't. Riley wasn't with the team in Dallas, when the season reached a low point that required a players-only meeting after a frustrating 9-8 start. He didn't travel with the team to Cleveland, when James re-entered the lion's den during the Heat's most galvanizing moment of the season. And Riley didn't plan on being in New York on Friday night, when Miami (19-8) carried its 10-game winning streak into Madison Square Garden to face the not-so-bad-after-all Knicks.
4. Bulls Missing Noah Already
CHICAGO -- In just a few seconds, Carlos Boozer summed up what the Chicago Bulls were missing most in Saturday night's 100-99 loss to the Los Angeles Clippers, and what they will continue to miss for the next two months while Joakim Noah recovers from a torn ligament in his thumb.
"His presence," Boozer said. "His presence defensively. I think he clogs up the middle so good for us. He blocks shots. He rebounds. Does a great job of putting pressure on the defense."
If you're wondering how the Bulls could have possibly lost to Vinny Del Negro and the lowly Clippers, there's your answer. Sure, Clippers man-child Blake Griffin is unbelievable, but the Bulls' problems went way deeper than that. They missed Noah badly. They were in desperate need of the intensity that he brings to the floor and his ability to shore up the back end of the defense.
"Energy," Derrick Rose said of what the difference was without Noah on the floor. "Of course, you know, rebounding. Just almost everything. He puts a lot into the game. Little things like passing, him talking, things like that. There's no excuses. We had a chance to win this game and we didn't."
5. Extreme Behavior
Grant Hill, Suns Who needs the yet-to-suit-up new guys? Calvin's 38-year-old kid went for a season-high 30 points (most points in a game since 2005) and pulled in 11 rebounds in a 113-110 road win over the Thunder.
Hawks offense: Joe Johnson's second game back from elbow surgery was something of a dud, with him hoisting 16 shots and making 25 percent in an 89-82 loss to Sasha and the Nets.
TWEET OF THE NIGHT
QUOTE OF THE NIGHT
"It's been awhile since I played a very important role. I like this style of play and I like being part of this team."
-- Nets newcomer Sasha Vujacic, who has already played more minutes this season in two games with the Nets (56) than with the Lakers (54).
6. NBA Video Channel
7. Foster Freeze
8. Well-Oiled Machine
The Nets defeated the Hawks, 89-82, and they outscored Atlanta 61-38 with Sasha Vujacic in the game. Vujacic's margin of plus-23, in only his second game since joining the team, was the highest such mark by any Nets player this season. In fact, during his seven seasons with the Lakers, Vujacic compiled a plus-minus that high only five times in 420 regular-season games.
9. Big Threes Compared
DALLAS -- The most dominant Big Three in recent seasons, to no surprise, belongs to the Boston Celtics. Since Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen joined Paul Pierce in Beantown, the trio has led Boston to a championship and a second NBA Finals appearance in three seasons.
It continues to be an unwavering force, ranking as the league's top three-man combination so far this season. On its heels is the most ballyhooed Big Three assembled since the Boston bunch. Riding a 12-game win streak, the Miami Heat's trio of Dwyane Wade, LeBron James and Chris Bosh now ranks as the NBA's second-best threesome.
Rankings are best measured on plus-minus rating, meaning how many points the trios outscore or are outscored by their opponents when on the floor together. According to ESPN Stats & Information, the Celtics' Big Three is a plus-229. Miami's, after Saturday's fourth-quarter comeback at Washington, is a plus-217. The Heat trio is a plus-150 during the win streak, and Saturday's nail-biter pushed another Big Three into third place.
Any guesses which trio that is?
For the full story by Caplan, click here