NBA Playoffs
By Andy Roth, Contributing Editor - Archive - Email
The Pulse of the NBA
New York, NY (Sports Network) - The NBA trading deadline is in the rear mirror and I can say with absolute certainty that I won't miss the 24/7 rumors and reports that were mainly incorrect.

With that being said, let's take a look at two teams that were significantly impacted in very different ways by what occurred prior to the deadline.


Dwight Howard's decision to stay in Orlando probably made the Nets the biggest losers last week. Unlike the Magic center, New Jersey's impending free agent star Deron Williams will become an unrestricted free agent this summer.

"I'm not going to opt-in. It's not monkey-see, monkey-do," Williams told the New York Daily News Friday. "Wherever I go is, hopefully, where I'm going to retire."

The three-time All-Star, who is one of the league's elite point guards, doesn't think his situation is comparable to Howard, who wavered about his decision before finally deciding to remain with the Magic through the 2012-13 season.

"I'm not (going through the same things) because I've said all year I'm going to play this whole year out and see what happens," said Williams, who announced his intention through his agent to opt out before the 2011-12 season began. "So I haven't been flip-flopping and gone back and forth. It's not even close to being the same situation."

Williams wants to win now and not be part of a rebuilding process, so that's probably why general manager Billy King took a very big and questionable risk by dealing for Portland's Gerald Wallace.

In exchange for the former All-Star small forward, who, by the way can opt out of his contract at the end of the season, King gave the Portland Trailblazers the Nets' first pick in the 2012 draft, which is top-three protected, along with center Mehmet Okur and his expiring $10.9 million contract, and forward Shawne Williams. So not only did King give up King a potentially high draft pick, but he left the Nets with a lot less cap space for next season.

"You never want to trade a pick, but you look at the pick and the potential and what you may get there, but after meeting with our scouts, we felt the player we might draft beyond the protection, would be somebody that would probably take a couple of years," King said. "We're trying to speed the process up a bit and start winning a little further rather than continuing to rebuild."

I think King gave up too much for a player who will turn 30 this summer, is not guaranteed to be with them next year and at best makes the Nets a lower- level playoff team. And that certainly may not be enough for Williams to follow the team to its new home in Brooklyn, N.Y., next season.


I guess you could say a legitimate championship run is "in session" in Los Angeles with the Lakers' acquisition of Ramon Sessions from the Cleveland Cavaliers.

The deal finally gives the Lakers a point guard who can break down a defense and create shots for teammates, has some athleticism and on defense can do a much better job of staying in front of many of the explosive point guards in the league.

The addition of Sessions should make the offense flow a lot better and make life much easier for Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum, as well as the rest of his new teammates. His impact was felt immediately in his first game as Gasol and Bynum got numerous touches off running the pick-and-roll with Sessions, while Bryant and Matt Barnes, who have struggled from 3-point range this season, benefited greatly from his penetration and passing, as they combined to go 8 of 12 from downtown.

Despite leading the league in scoring at 28.7 points per game, Bryant is shooting just 43 percent from the field and hitting on less than 30 percent of his 3-point attempts (29.6 percent) for only the third time in his career. Kobe has taken a lot of high degree-of-difficulty shots this season without having another player to create shots for him, but that is no longer the case with the arrival of the Lakers' new point guard.

Sessions had seven points and five assists in 19 minutes in his Hollywood debut, and drew some pretty good praise from his superstar teammate.

"Extremely fast, extremely crafty," Bryant said of Sessions. "Just in the conversations that I had with him out on the floor about execution and things like that, he seems to have a really high basketball IQ."

Lakers general manager Mitch Kupchak was more than happy to surrender their 2102 first-round pick, which is projected to be in the mid-20's, as part of the deal to acquire Sessions.

"In terms of the draft picks, I don't think we could have found a Ramon Sessions if he were available in the 20's this year in the draft," Kupchak said.


* While on the subject of the Lakers, head coach Mike Brown said Steve Blake will be the starting point guard for the foreseeable future following the departure of Derek Fisher and the acquisition of Sessions.

Coach, you may want to rethink that strategy considering how bad Blake was in his first two starts. He was scoreless in 29 minutes against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Friday and put up another zero in the scoring column in 27 minutes in Sunday's loss to the Utah Jazz.

You can't tell me you're worse off with Sessions in the starting lineup while he gets acclimated to the team rather than an awful player like Blake.

* The play of rookie Kenneth Faried probably played a role in the Denver Nuggets' decision to part with Nene and deal him to the Washington Wizards.

In Saturday's win over the Boston Celtics, the 6-foot-8 power forward, who has tons of athleticism and a motor that never quits, put up quite an amazing line. In only 24 minutes, he shot a perfect 5-for-5 from the field and 8-for-8 from the foul line as he scored 18 points and pulled down 16 rebounds.

Faried hasn't played enough games to qualify for any of the statistical categories, but his .594 field goal percentage would rank him only behind league-leader Tyson Chandler.

* Watch out for the Memphis Grizzlies. Former All-Star Zach Randolph is back after tearing the MCL in his right knee on New Year's Day in Chicago, and scored 25 points and grabbed nine rebounds in just 25 minutes in Friday's loss to the Toronto Raptors in his first game back.

"I felt pretty good once I got into the groove," said Randolph following the game. "My timing is a little off. I felt rusty on both ends. I just have to get getter and keep improving."

If Randolph can return anywhere near his old form, the Grizzlies will be a very tough out in the Western Conference playoffs, much like they were last season.

Even during Randolph's 2 1/2-month absence, Memphis was still a very good team, putting up a 23-14 mark. Give a nice assist to Marreese Speights, who filled in admirably for Randolph after being acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers following Randolph's injury.

* Blake Griffin made the highlight reel last week against the Atlanta Hawks, but it wasn't for the usual reason. The high-flying Los Angeles Clippers forward did nearly the impossible when he shot airballs on back-to-back free throw attempts.

I don't know if that's a first in NBA history, but I can't recalling seeing that feat in the 40-plus years I've followed the league.

Free throw shooting is a major problem for Griffin and the Clippers in general. They're the second-worst free-throw shooting team in the NBA (69 percent), with only Howard and the Magic sitting behind them (64.9 percent).

As bad as Griffin is from the line (55 percent), he's not the worst foul- shooter on the team. That dubious distinction belongs to center DeAndre Jordan who's shooting 49.5 percent.

Poor free-throw shooting has cost the Clippers some regular-season games and it doesn't bode well for them once the real season - the playoffs - starts.

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