By Rob Mahoney
With All-Star Weekend and the subsequent trade deadline looming, we take yet another trip around the NBA rumor mill:
• The Bobcats are likely open to moving any of their non-essential rebuilding pieces, but appear particularly inclined to deal volume shooter Ben Gordon before the trade deadline. According to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, the motivation to move Gordon -- aside from whatever assets Charlotte could get in return -- largely comes from a problematic episode at a shootaround session earlier this week:
As Dunlap led the Bobcats in a morning shootaround on Monday before a victory over the Celtics, Gordon refused Dunlap's request to stop bouncing a ball as the coach spoke, sources said. Before long, Gordon began baiting Dunlap, telling him that he needed to "humble himself," sources said.
Gordan refused to give the ball to Dunlap, and eventually tossed it toward a ball rack, sources said.
Bobcats general manager Rod Higgins was in the practice session and ultimately intervened, sources said.
"Beyond disrespectful," was how one league source described the scene.
Yikes. Wojnarowski notes that the Bobcats opted not to suspend Gordon so as to not slash his remaining trade value, but his playing time has been noticeably reduced since the incident (Gordon has averaged about 15 minutes per game in the two contests since, relative to a season average of 22 minutes). Gordon has already been linked to the Nets in a possible deal involving Kris Humphries, according to ESPN.com's Chris Broussard, though it's likely that any team looking to bolster its offense could be interested in the still-effective Gordon. Don't let his raw per-game numbers fool you; Gordon is still as prolific a scorer as he was earlier in his career, but has seen his playing time crunched by a team that has little motivation to play him. His defense and contract (Gordon is owed $13.2 million next season, supposing he picks up his player option) could make potential suitors think twice, but Gordon remains among the players most likely to be moved before the trade deadline.
• On Wednesday, a report from Chad Ford of ESPN.com (ESPN Insider access required) made the rounds, citing that, according to an anonymous source, Brandon Jennings had "irreconcilable differences" with the Bucks. Charles F. Gardner of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel approached Jennings directly about that report, and this was his response:
"Just because I got a new agent, that doesn't mean I'm trying to leave Milwaukee or I'm unhappy," Jennings said. "That has nothing to do with it.
"It was just a time for a change and it was a decision me and my family made. So all these stories coming out about me not wanting to be here and this and that, I never said that.
"That never came out of my mouth. If anything, I've always said I love Milwaukee."
There isn't much to read into the situation in one direction or another. Even if Jennings and the Bucks really were at odds, it's likely that he'd take on this same tact of public denial.
• In an utterly bizarre development, Marc Stein of ESPN.com intimates that the Bulls still have interest in odd-fit Raptors forward Andrea Bargnani, with the most sensible swap involving Carlos Boozer's cap-killing contract:
[The odds of the Bulls moving Boozer are] 25 percent. If the Raptors hadn't already acquired Rudy Gay, this figure would be a lot higher, because Chicago's interest in Andrea Bargnani has not waned ... and Toronto doesn't have a long list of teams willing to take Bargnani on. But the Raps, eager as they are to ship Bargnani out, have understandable concerns about the luxury-tax implications of having both Gay and Boozer on their payroll. And Chicago likewise doesn't have a long list of teams prepared to absorb Boozer's contract. So if there's no Boozer deal to Toronto, I'm not sure that I see one.
• In a deadline-focused roundtable, five ESPN.com reporters agree that there is a 50 percent chance (or greater) that Atlanta's Josh Smith will be moved before the trade deadline. Here's Stein's take on that developing situation, which he clocks at an even 50-50 proposition:
... sources close to the situation keep telling me to hike that number higher. I've stayed conservative on this for some time because (A) Atlanta is said to expect a lot in return to do anything with Smith that impacts this summer's projected salary-cap space and (B) Atlanta wants to recruit Dwight Howard in free agency. The same Dwight Howard who's tight with Josh Smith. Yet whenever I suggest that the Hawks will thus keep Smith for the rest of the season to see how things play out with Howard, I get pushback. The latest rumbles on the personnel grapevine are getting louder that the Hawks are indeed looking to part with Smith sooner rather than later. So J-Smoove, next to Rudy Gay, might end up being the biggest name who moves this trade season.
• A promising rookie season for Anthony Davis, a terrific year for sharpshooting forward Ryan Anderson and a breakout campaign from point guard Greivis Vasquez apparently haven't convinced Eric Gordon of the benefit of his current situation. Gordon has moped ever since the Hornets matched an offer sheet given to him by the Suns last summer, to the point where some teams around the league are reportedly calling the Hornets to gauge their interest in potentially trading Gordon. It hasn't yet come to that, but ESPN.com's Chris Broussard expands on that possibility (ESPN Insider access required).
I'm told a Gordon trade this season is highly unlikely, with one source with knowledge of the situation telling ESPN.com this week that, as things stand, there's "less than a 10 percent chance'' New Orleans would move Gordon before the deadline. Still, the fact that the Hornets made calls around the league implies that they are at least warming up to the idea of moving him at some point.
Word is Dallas, Houston and Golden State are among the teams that have inquired about him. Houston envisions playing him alongside James Harden and Jeremy Lin in its fast-paced system, with Harden at small forward. Of course, both Houston and Dallas view Gordon as Plan B. Both clubs are saving their max cap room this summer to make a run at the disgruntled one, Dwight Howard. If that falls through, the loser(s) will turn their eyes to Gordon, among others.