Aside from all the March Madness, the past few days have been some of the busiest sports days I have ever seen. Here’s a rundown of what has happened in case you missed it…
- Derek Fisher is no longer a Los Angeles Lakers. The Purple and Gold traded him and a 2012 first-round pick to the Houston Rockets for potential-filled center Jordan Hill. The Rockets had a game against the Clippers on Saturday but Fisher did not show up. This breaks his league-leading record of 537 consecutive games played. This was not an easy move for long-time teammate Kobe Bryant to take in.
- “Very difficult,” Bryant said. “I’m not used to it because I’ve been with him my entire career, aside from that little stint that he had away from us. So, it’s very different for me. It’s pretty weird.”
- Unlike Dwight Howard, who decided to stick with the Magic at least one more season, Deron Williams has made it clear he wil opt out of his current New Jersey contract this upcoming offseason and become an unrestricted free agent. Even with the Nets most recent “win now” move, all signs are pointing to a new team for D-Will. Unless the Nets make the playoffs and compete at a high-level, he has to be gone. His destination would seemingly be either Dallas or Orlando.
- The Portland Trail Blazers have finally given up on their 2007 No. 1 overall pick and waived Greg Oden. Even though he has played only 82 games the past 4 1/2 seasons and has never been able to get healthy, he has stated he will stay away from NBA teams for a while and try to heal his body. This has to be considered one of the biggest flops with a No. 1 overall pick, especially with what Kevin Durant has done since he came into the league.
- The Portland Trail Blazers fired Nate McMillan after 6 1/2 seasons when his club never made it out of the first round of the playoffs. Even though this sounds like a coach that needed to go, it’s unfortunate he had to because he brought the Blazers back to relevancy even though almost every single one of his seasons were filled with injuries. He is a great coach that will easily find another job. This might have been the first season when his team was finally relatively healthy, but with the Blazers’ current sub .500 record, a change needed to take place.
- The Blazers organization wasn’t done with their huge shake-up. They traded Marcus Camby to the Houston Rockets for Jonny Flynn, Hasheem Thabeet (he is, in fact, still playing), and a future second-round pick. Blazers’ owner Paul Allen clearly wants to leave the Oden-Roy-McMillan era completely behind him and move forward with a Aldridge-Matthews-Batum core. Their frontcourt now looks to be very weak as Joel Pryzbilla (came out of retirement this year) and Kurt Thomas (39 years old) will have to carry most of the load at the center position. Once all of the Blazers’ picks are cashed in, it will be easier to see what their new identity is.
- As Derek Fisher leaves Hollywood, a young point guard has stepped into his role. The Los Angeles Lakers sent Luke Walton (yes, after 11 seasons in the NBA, he’s finally playing somewhere else than L.A.), Jason Kapono, a 2012 first-round pick and the right to swap the Miami Heat’s 2013 first-round pick with the Lakers’ first-rounder to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Ramon Sessions and Christian Eyenga. Even though this trade looks like a mess, it boils down to one player: Ramon Sessions. He backed up Steve Blake in his first game with the team but eventually might take the starting point guard position. He is a scoring point guard and will look to take it into the paint. This radical change to the identity of the Lakers’ backcourt might give them just enough firepower to make a few more playoff pushes with the player that has the fifth-most points all-time.
- Stephen Jackson is headed back to the place where he received his one and only championship ring in 2003. The San Antonio Spurs sent Richard Jefferson and a 2012 first-round pick to the Golden State Warriors for the hot-headed shooting guard. (Interestingly, he played a total of zero games with the Warriors before this most recent trade.) Even though the Spurs have been unable to prove they can be successful in the playoffs with their new offense-first style, I think Jackson will fit in with their new tempo. Greg Popovich is a no-nonsense kind of coach and won’t put up with any shenanigans from Captain Jack. Also, that nickname will have to go if he wants to buy into what the Spurs are selling. Being a part of the Warriors, Bobcats and Bucks the past 6 1/2 seasons, he hasn’t had to worry about winning; he has focused on himself and his stastistics. Now, he will need to put the team before himself to be successful. Can he do that? The Spurs are willing to take that risk.
- In one of the oddest deals to take place on Thursday, three teams traded some unexpected names. Sending Nene to the Washington Wizards, the Denver Nuggets acquired Javale McGee and Ronny Turiaf from the Wizards. The Los Angeles Clippers also sent Brian Cook and a 2015 second-round draft pick to the Wizards for shoot-happy guard Nick Young. The Nuggets did not get the good end of this deal as Nene is a much better player than McGee. Denver must have been worried about Nene’s health and thought that they might as well bring more youth to their squad since big man Kenneth Faried has been playing so well. The Clippers should be very happy because Nick Young will be able to partially fill the role that Chauncey Billups left behind when he went down with a season-ending injury.
- Two Eastern Conference playoff teams made a few trades for the present, losing part of their future.
- The Indiana Pacers acquired Leandro Barbosa from the Toronto Raptors for a second-round pick. This gives the Pacers yet another role player to make them easily one of the deepest teams in the league. Paul George has averaged 30.2 minutes per game this season and will gladly let Barbosa take some of those minutes. Dropping all the way to fifth, the Pacers need Barbosa to provide some consistent play off the bench.
- The Philadelphia 76ers acquired Sam Young from the Memphis Grizzlies for the rights to Ricky Sanchez. Averaging four points less than his first two seasons with the Grizzlies, Young has not looked like the same player from his previous seasons. He eventually fell out of the Grizzlies’ rotation. Even with all these negatives, the Sixers are excited about what the 6-6 swingman can bring to the court.
- The biggest stories of this year’s NBA trade deadline pertained to the players that didn’t get traded (Dwight Howard, Deron Williams and Pau Gasol). One of the most surprising players to stand pat is Atlanta Hawk’s Josh Smith even though multiple sources stated Smith wants out of Atlanta. This story has died down, but if the Hawks have another mediocre season followed up with a quick outing in the playoffs, Smith might remind his current team of the request.
- The Golden State Warriors sent cash considerations to the Atlanta Hawks for a 2012 second-round pick. There isn’t much to this trade other than Atlanta trying to get under the salary cap.
- The Bills emptied out there pockets and gave Mario Williams a contract worthy of the best defensive player to ever play the game receiving. (Does he deserve to be on that level?) The Bills gave the defensive end a six-year deal worth $100 million and $50 million of the contract is guaranteed. That guaranteed money is what makes this signing ridiculous; it stands as the NFL record for guaranteed money. From a monetary standpoint, they did overpay him. However, luring a superstar to play in the not-so-thriving Buffalo sports market is difficult to do without a grandiose offer. Since Williams had the same amount of sacks as the entire Bills team in 11 less games, he will surely make a huge impact and possibly push them into the playoffs.
- It looks like the Denver Broncos, Tennessee Titans, and San Francisco 49ers are the finalists for the Peyton Manning sweepstakes. Who will be the team to take him? There is no clear front-runner right now, but it should be noted that Manning went to the University of Tennessee so he most likely has some ties in Tennessee. If he goes to the Broncos or 49ers, he would be taking the spot of a quarterback (Tim Tebow or Alex Smith) that won a playoff game last season. Whenever he makes his decision, be prepared to be inundated with Manning-Mania.
- The Dallas Stars and the Pittsburgh Penguins are catching fire with their current play.
- Even though the Stars have lost their last two games to Winnipeg and Chicago, they won six straight and 10 of 11 before that. They currently control the Pacific Division, leading the Phoenix Coyotes by two points. This would be big for a team that hasn’t been to the playoffs since the 2007-2008 season.
- Having an eight-game winning streak earlier in the season, the Penguins have surpassed that streak with their current 11-game winning streak. When you tack on two other four-game winning streaks, it’s easy to see that this team is streaky. That’s why even with all their winning streaks, the New York Rangers still lead their division by a comfortable 10 points. With Sidney Crosby hopefully being fully healthy and ready to lace up his skates every time the Penguins play, they might be able to put together a run for the Atlantic Division title.
- On a Saturday that Rafael Nadal and Roger Federer were expected to put on a show in the BNP Paribas Open semifinals (their game was rained out and delayed), John Isner decided to create his own story. John Isner defeated top-ranked Novak Djokovic 7-6 (7), 3-6, 7-6 (5) as he had 20 aces against the No. 1 ranked player in the world. Even though this isn’t a Grand Slam tournament, it is still classified as an ATP World Tour Masters 1000 event. Many of the top tennis players in the world travel to Indian Wells, California to compete. Isner will face Rafa or Roger in Sunday’s final. With the lack of American tennis success recently, a championship here would be great for our country.
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