Big names stay in place on NBA trade-deadline day
MIAMI — Paul George stayed put. So did Jimmy Butler, Carmelo Anthony and Derrick Rose.
And as the trade deadline passed Thursday, the NBA landscape seemed remarkably unchanged. In all, seven deadline-day trades were put together by the 3 p.m. Eastern deadline — but no last-minute blockbusters. All-Star DeMarcus Cousins was traded to New Orleans by Sacramento a few days earlier, yet every trade that followed paled in comparison.
“You know where all those big dominoes are? They’re still home, with the exception of one,” Miami President Pat Riley said. “I’m sure there were people that probably made some pretty significant offers. … When you have that kind of player … it takes a lot to say, ‘OK, we’re going to let this guy go.’ You stay with the sure thing there.”
George remained with the Indiana Pacers, even though the four-time All-Star knew other teams sought his services. Jimmy Butler stayed with the Chicago Bulls, and the New York Knicks held onto Rose and Anthony — the latter of whom would have had to waive his no-trade clause to make any deal occur anyway.
“I wasn’t concerned,” George said. “At the end of the day, I’m in a good situation. … I heard the rumors, different rumors, but I can’t control what was going to happen one way or another.”
The biggest moves of this trade season came long before deadline day.
Toronto getting forward Serge Ibaka from Orlando last week for Terrence Ross figures to improve the Raptors’ chances in the Eastern Conference, and Thursday’s move to land P.J. Tucker from Phoenix gives them another outstanding on-the-ball defender.
And the deal for Cousins that went down on All-Star Sunday — in New Orleans, no less — gives the Pelicans a frontline like no other in the NBA with him now alongside Anthony Davis. Plus, Cleveland snagged Kyle Korver last month.
But contenders mostly stayed quiet Thursday.
An earlier agreed-upon trade of note was officially completed, the one that sent Lou Williams to Houston from the Los Angeles Lakers and adds more serious scoring to the Rockets’ bench.
Boston, currently No. 2 in the East, has the right to swap picks with Brooklyn in this year’s draft, and the Nets right now would be favored to win the lottery and the No. 1 pick — something the Celtics would grab. Any big addition made Thursday almost certainly would have cost the Celtics that chance.
“It is a delicate balance of short-term goals and long-term goals,” Boston general manager Danny Ainge said.
Perhaps the most interesting moves Thursday were not trades at all. Dallas put five-time All-Star point guard Deron Williams on waivers, and a person briefed on the situation told The Associated Press that when Williams clears he plans to sign with the Cleveland Cavaliers, which would give LeBron James the extra playmaker he covets for the looming title defense.
“Obviously we have a great deal of interest, and we’ve said it for a long time, in a playmaker,” Cavaliers general manager David Griffin said. “I won’t speak to specific names just because nobody’s free currently that’s out there for us to talk about. But, obviously the need for a playmaker still exists … and we feel that we’ll be competitive in that market for sure.”
Another notable player who may get to choose his next spot is Andrew Bogut, who was traded by Dallas to Philadelphia — and figures to be a buyout candidate.
Bogut’s injury in last season’s NBA Finals coincided with the start of Golden State’s wasting of a 3-1 series lead against Cleveland, and he’s still considered an elite rim protector.
Of the players traded Thursday, only Roy Hibbert — traded for the second time this month, this time from Milwaukee to Denver — has been an All-Star in the past.
Philadelphia kept Jahlil Okafor and instead moved Nerlens Noel to Dallas as part of the deal that sent Bogut to the 76ers.
The backlog of big men in Philadelphia — Noel, Okafor, Joel Embiid, newly acquired Tiago Splitter and No. 1 overall pick Ben Simmons presumably at some point — made it seem like moves were going to happen, and Noel wound up being the one to go.
“Gonna miss my best friend,” Embiid said, “but I’m happy for him.”
So whether players stayed or went, when 3:01 p.m. arrived there was plenty of exhaling around the league. The All-Star break ended Thursday night, and now for the most part everyone knows where they’ll finish the season.
“We’re professionals,” said Minnesota point guard Ricky Rubio, the subject of many rumors in recent days. “But we’re human beings, too. We have feelings.”
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