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Jazz, Cavaliers Involved in Jefferson-Bynum Swap

Credit: David Richard-USA TODAY Sports

It is no secret – the Cleveland Cavaliers want Andrew Bynum off of their roster. The 26-year-old big man has been suspended from the team indefinitely and has recently been involved in a potential deal sending him to the Los Angeles Lakers in exchange for Pau Gasol. Those talks, however, have stalled and now ESPN’s Marc Stein and Brian Windhorst are reporting that the Cavs are in discussions with the Jazz to send Bynum to Utah for forward Richard Jefferson.

If the 11-25 Jazz were to acquire Bynum by January 7, they would be able to waive the second half of his $12.3 million salary which owes him $6 million, while also ridding themselves of Jefferson’s $11 million contract.

The Cavaliers are looking to improve at the small forward position. Jefferson, who is averaging 10 points and 3 rebounds in over 27 minutes per game would be a solid addition in Cleveland and can emerge as a veteran leader for the young playoff hopefuls.

Credit: Sam Sharpe-USA TODAY Sports

Although Utah is interested in Bynum, the Cleveland Plain-Dealer reported that the team does not want to part ways with Jefferson. If the former All-Star is still high on their list, however, a deal can certainly still get done with other pieces.

Jefferson has previously stated he wishes to play for a title contender and described himself as a “gun for hire.”

Cleveland can also opt to keep Bynum on their roster and wait until the offseason to ship him off. All of his 2014-2015 salary is non-guranteed, making the two-time NBA champion a valuable trade piece.

In 24 games this season, Bynum is averaging 8.4 points and 5.3 rebounds, while shooting 41.9 percent from the field and blocking 1.1 shots per contest.

 

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Mark Cuban hates the Spurs

So Mark Cuban announced he hates the Spurs. Seems fair. After all, the Spurs and his Mavericks both play in Texas, they both play in the Western Conference, and the Spurs have four championships in the last eleven years.

Dallas? It has zero.

So it’s definitely understandable that the most passionate owner in sports is, well, passionate about his Texas compadres.

But the timing of this announcement is slightly troubling.

As if you didn’t know, the Mavericks and Spurs are competing in this year’s playoffs — a 2-vs.7 matchup. The Mavericks are, indeed, the favorites to win.

Dallas took care of business in Game 1, coming away with a hard-fought 100-94 victory and a 1-0 series advantage. All was well.

Then Mr. Cuban had to run his mouth. He had to announce to the world (and to the Spurs, in particular) that he loathes them. And how does San Antonio respond? With a 102-88 beatdown that has Mavericks fans very worried.

And worried they should be. After all, San Antonio — after struggling for most of the year — put it into high gear for the last month or so, taking the conference by storm.

Don’t forget, too, that the Spurs are constant playoff threats; they haven’t missed the postseason in some 13 years, and they can always sneak up on an unsuspecting opponent.

Sneaking up on an unsuspecting opponent … Sounds a little like Dallas’s predicament in 2007, after the Western Conference regular-season champions were dispatched by a ragtag Warriors team in the first 1-vs.-8 upset since Washington crossed the Delaware (or s0).

With that in mind, was this a good play by Cuban?

Was it wise to ignite a fire in one of the calmest teams in the league — a team on which the best player takes calm to a new standard?

Of course not. He awards San Antonio with yet another intangible leg up in a series that many expect to be the most competitive first-round battle of them all.

Was it wise to get the competitive juices flowing in Richard Jefferson after a mediocre season?

Of course not. Jefferson’s looking for any way to gain redemption in the eyes of the Alamo faithful. And he’s made him nostalgic about failed postseason appearance after failed postseason appearance in New Jersey. Why turn RJ into the difference maker he was supposed to be but didn’t appear to be?

Was it wise to rile up the Spurs fan base with three games still to be played in San Antonio?

Of course not. After the Game 2 defeat, he has now squandered precious home-court advantage in the series, and the Dallas players will be like fresh meat for the Spurs’ crowd in Games 3 through 5.

Was it wise to pile added pressure on the players who are already incredibly stressed?

Of course not. Dirk Nowitzki couldn’t miss a shot in the first game, and he goes and backs up that effort with a 9-24 circus. The starters as a group shoot 32 percent in the pivotal Game 2. Sure, attribute that in part to adjustments on Popovich’s part. But don’t discount the fact that the Mavericks had 2007 in their heads.

The bottom line here is that Mark Cuban incorrectly saw this announcement of his hatred as a way to pump up his team. In reality, though, it was just the opposite. He has jeopardized his team’s chances of winning. In a year that many expect is a one-year window for the Mavericks to come home with an NBA title in June, it’s a colossal misstep.

It’s great that Cuban’s passionate, but he has to keep it in check at the right times.

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Game of the Day: April 10

San Antonio Spurs at Denver Nuggets — 9 PM eastern, telecast on NBA TV

The San Antonio Spurs have lost two in a row, and the Denver Nuggets have won their last four — including a thrilling two-point victory over the Kobe-less Lakers. That doesn’t bode too well for the former team.

In what could very well be a first-round playoff matchup, Tim Duncan and the Spurs visit Carmelo Anthony and the Nuggets for the teams’ final meeting of the season.

This game will feature a number of great matchups, including Tony Parker and Chancey Billups at point guard; Manu Ginobili and Aaron Afflalo at the 2; Richard Jefferson and Anthony at the 3; and Duncan and Nene up front.

The Spurs need to attempt to slow down Melo and contain J.R. Smith’s shooting to win. Likewise, the Nuggets (whose defense is less reliable than the Spurs’) need to stop Ginobili from going off, like he has routinely of late.

The Nuggets have won two of the three previous matchups this year, and the Spurs look to even the series out and avoid having to play the top-seeded Lakers in the first round of the playoffs. They’ll need a balanced scoring effort again (they had seven players in double figures in their win February 11), and they’ll need to play their trademark quality defense.

I give the win to Denver, as it is playing well of late and is jockeying for position at the top of the conference amid several other teams close by. Watching Duncan go at Nene and Chris Andersen down low should be a lot of fun, as should Ginobili and Melo’s exchanging of ridiculous scores in the lane.

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Spurring debate: a new competitor in the West?

The Spurs are thinking championship for the first time since 2007.

The San Antonio Spurs are arguably the most dominating team of the last decade or so. What’s not arguable, however, is that they’ve been the most reliable. The Lakers won three straight championships to start the 21st century and added another one last year, but after Shaq left, they missed the playoffs and sported a mediocre 34-48 record. The Spurs, however, have made the playoffs every year since 1997-1998, including four championships during that span — establishing such consistency among the elite that their first-round exit last year was seen as an immense disappointment.

Despite the team’s early shutdown for the season, it was not willing to accept that Tim Duncan’s reign was behind him. Hoping to rebound, general manager RC Buford went out and acquired Richard Jefferson from the Bucks in a move that many suggested would make San Antonio the squad to beat from the Western Conference.

Alas, in the first half of the season, that was certainly not the case. Jefferson drastically underperformed prior to the all-star break, putting up averages of 12.2 points per game and a measly 3.6 rebounds per game. Last year? 19.6 and 4.6. They dealt with periodic short absences for point guard Tony Parker and one injury stint for Manu Ginobili. Surprisingly, Duncan — the team member whose deteriorating health has most frequently been brought into question — has missed only three games all year. But losses piled up, and many figured this was the end of the Spurs’ dreaded consistency.

Of late, though, the Spurs have bounced back. Incredibly, they have done so with Parker sidelined since March 6 with a broken hand. Yes, they reside in seventh place. They are, however, only two-and-a-half games back of fifth place and, incidentally, second place (with a four-team logjam five games back of the Lakers). Furthermore, they show no signs of slowing up (although George Hill’s departure from Sunday’s victory over the Lakers is a bit troubling).

In their last ten games, they are 7-3. More importantly, during that stretch they defeated the Cavaliers, the Celtics, the Magic, and the Lakers. So what if they lost to the Nets? That was a fluke. The teams they beat will be the ones they play in May and June when it matters. How are they doing this? After all, Tim Duncan’s numbers were way down in March at 14.2 points and 8 boards.

For starters, Ginobili’s on fire. After averaging 22.1 points per contest in March — five-and-a-half above his season average — he has scored even more effectively so far in April, putting up 75 points combined in two games against two of the NBA’s finest defensive teams, Orlando and L.A.

Moreover, Hill had filled in for Parker more than adequately, posting 16.5 points per game in March on 50 percent shooting and an astounding 49 percent from long range. And there’s been a greater commitment to defense on the part of the entire team. While the Spurs have averaged 96 points allowed per game over the course of the entire season, they have only allowed a fraction over 93 since the beginning of March. Combine Manu’s standout offensive play when Duncan is lagging and improved team defense and that’s a solution for winning — a solution that the Spurs have relied on for the last decade.

Factor in Parker’s return with, perhaps, two games to play in the regular season, and this is a team like the ones in 1999, 2003, 2005, and 2007: one that I wouldn’t want to face.

So while the Lakers are struggling to stay on track, the Spurs are surging, and they have a real chance to secure first-round home-court advantage for the playoffs. While many have resigned themselves to the fact that Ginobili will leave in free agency come July 1, fans still have this season to hold on to. And what a season it could be if the Spurs apply March’s fantastic formula to their rapidly approaching playoff series.

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