NEW ORLEANS — With the fast-approaching Feb. 21 trade deadline as the backdrop, general managers were in full force in Houston this weekend.
Trades of a handful of players have been reported as likely, although as always, the destination sometimes changes. Not many carry a lot of significance.
One trade, though, could change the league’s picture come playoff time surprisingly involves the San Antonio Spurs. A team known for its chemistry and stability, the Spurs are said to be interested in obtaining Atlanta Hawks power forward Josh Smith after taking a look at Utah Jazz center/power forward Al Jefferson, both of whom are in the last year of their contracts.
Smith, a skillful power forward, would make the Spurs a more athletic, quicker team to go against the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Miami Heat. Jefferson would give San Antonio another strong low-post option to go with Tim Duncan, and would be Duncan’s heir apparent if he stays.
Utah is interested in getting Spurs center Tiago Splitter and is said to also want point guard Patty Mills.
Utah also is said to be interested in jettisoning power forward Paul Millsap. He and Jefferson are expendable because of the development of young, inexpensive bigs Derrick Favors and Enes Kanter, and like Jefferson, Millsap is in the final year of his contract. Brooklyn, Milwaukee and Denver are said to be interest.
Smith is frustrated with the Hawks’ direction and prospects for the future. The Houston Rockets expressed interest, and the Brooklyn Nets wants to trade Kris Humphries for Smith. Humprhies, who signed a multi-year contract before the season, has seen his role lessened since Avery Johnson was replaced by P.J. Carlisimo as coach.
With the Boston Celtics losing backup point guard Leandro Barbosa to an ACL injury on the heels of losing starter Rajon Rondo to an ACL, it bears watching if the Celtics will make a swap for a point guard to prepare for the playoffs.
DUE DATE APPROACHING
Many players use the All-Star break to spend time with family, sometimes taking mini-vacations to the islands.
Hornets backup point guard Brian Roberts will spend his time with family, too, but a growing one. He and his wife, Jenna, are due to have a second child, perhaps any day now, he said.
“It’s due in less than a week,” Roberts said. “If it’s developed, we’ll try to induce (birth) during the (All-Star) break.
The baby will be a boy, and the couple plans to name him Cole, Roberts said. Cole has a sister, Alana, 4, eagerly awaiting, Roberts said.
SYMPATHY FOR NOEL
Hornets rookie Anthony Davis said he feels for Kentucky freshman power forward Nerlens Noel, whose ACL was torn in a game last week at Florida.
Noel is out for the rest of the season, likely dashing any hopes for the Wildcats to make a splash in the NCAA Tournament. Noel leads the nation in blocked shots, just as Davis did last season at Kentucky. And, like Davis, who left after his freshman year, Noel was expected to be the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft.
“I’ve been texting with the guys about it,” said Davis. “I met him when he came to Kentucky on his recruiting trip, and he’s a good guy. I just hope everything will turn out alright for him and his family.”
There are many who are not in favor of college basketball players being able to play just one year before opting for pro basketball. However, those in favor of it say Noel’s injury is a great supporting argument.
Davis said that didn’t enter his mind when he decided to leave the Wildcats for the draft.
“I just thought I was ready to go and play at the next level,” he said. “I didn’t really think much about being hurt like that.”
ROOM TO GROW
Golden State point guard Stephen Curry was disappointed he didn’t make the Western Conference All-Star team after his strong play made the Warriors the surprise team of the league.
Golden State (30-22) is in second place in the Pacific Division and is the sixth seed in the West, seeking its first playoff berth since 2007.
Coach Mark Jackson seemed even more disappointed than Curry, tweeting that Curry is a big reason for the team’s standing and that it isn’t right for the Lakers (25-29), who are six games behind the Warriors in the division, to have multiple All-Stars.
Warriors power forward David Lee was selected as an All-Star, Golden State’s first since 1997.
Curry is averaging 21.0 points, 6.6 assists, 4.0 rebounds and is shooting 43.4 percent, including 44.7 percent on 3-point attempts, having made 149. The 3-point percentage and 3-pointers made are both second in the league.
He began to flourish after Golden State traded Monta Ellis, who is similar to Curry in that both are scoring point guards/combo guards. Jackson said Curry could coexist with Ellis on the court, even though neither is a pass-first “pure” point guard.
“Monta was such as dominating presence in the locker room,” Jackson said. “After the trade, (Curry) just blossomed as a leader and on the court.”
Jackson said Curry has to overcome one hurdle to become a great player and get his just due in the league.
“He has these nagging little injuries that take away from his consistency,” Jackson said.