The Pacers’ Paul George has been one the hot topics during the NBA’s offseason. (Joe Robbins / Getty Images)
Just before 4:30 p.m. on Sunday, one of professional basketball’s top news breakers, Marc Stein, probably reached for his Blackberry (some NBA folks still swear by ’em) and pressed send on a Tweet that would send NBA fans into a tizzy.
The Denver Nuggets, one of the league’s asset-rich but superstar-poor teams, were a part of the a three-team trade discussion, he and ESPN’s Chris Haynes reported, that would ultimately put Indiana’s Paul George on the same roster as LeBron James and send Kevin Love and his already Denver-appropriate beard to the Nuggets.
Within 30 minutes, it’d been retweeted more than 4,000 times with another 3,500 likes.
Baseball might have a “hot stove” that burns for a few weeks each winter, but the NBA offseason is a furnace that burns for months, keeping fans warm in the four months or so between games.
Stein has long held the belief that the “transaction game” gets hardcore basketball fans as excited as the actual 48 minutes of court time, and this offseason, again, has proved him right.
Since Kevin Durant and Steph Curry annihilated all comers in the NBA postseason, a string of stories and rumors have defined conversations on the Internet, in newspaper columns and on television and radio airwaves.
Here is a partial list: George trade talks, Jimmy Butler trade talks, DeAndre Jordan trade talks, LaMarcus Aldridge trade rumors, Cleveland general manager David Griffin leaving, the Clippers hiring Jerry West , Kristaps Porzingis trade talks, Phil Jackson allegedly napping on the job, James’ future in Cleveland, Butler’s actual trade, the 76ers trading for the No. 1 pick in the draft, Dwight Howard being dealt for nothing of real value, Magic Johnson trading D’Angelo Russell before adding Lonzo (and, gulp, LaVar) Ball, Blake Griffin and Chris Paul’s free agency, Gordon Hayward’s free agency and Kyle Lowry’s free agency.
All of that’s happened in the past two weeks.
It’s why “content” might be the biggest winner of this past week’s NBA draft and, really, the offseason overall. Stein called the thirst “insatiable,” and it’s spawned an industry of insiders fumbling between two and three cellphones while they fire off texts to agents, scouts and executives.
As for actual basketball teams, a bunch got way better in the past seven days while a couple got way worse.
Dealing for an All-NBA, two-way forward was the biggest move on draft night, with Butler instantly making Minnesota a favorite for a spot in the playoffs next season (it’d be their first appearance since Kevin Garnett got them there in 2003).
Butler might not be suited to be the only star on the team, but in Minnesota, he won’t be. Center Karl-Anthony Towns is as skilled as any young player in the NBA, and Andrew Wiggins has quietly gotten better each of his three years in the league.
They undoubtedly got better this week, which is the exact opposite of the next team mentioned.
Butler’s former team got a pair of young guards in Zach LaVine and Kris Dunn and a nice prospect in Lauri Markkanen, but the haul for Butler only shines a light on management’s inability to retool the backcourt post Derrick Rose.
Last offseason, the Bulls acquired Jerian Grant, a former first-round pick, for Rose. Last season, they traded for Cameron Payne, a former first-round pick. And now, they added Dunn, a top five pick last year. None of these players have proven they can run a NBA offense.
There’s a chance they might not even get to if the Bulls decide to bring back Rajon Rondo, which is definitely a possibility. Oh, and they’re paying Dwayne Wade $24 million next season.
Most embarrassing, though, was the sale of their second-round pick, Oregon’s Jordan Bell — a do-it-all, versatile defender — to the NBA’s best team, the Golden State Warriors. The cash acquired, $3.5 million, could help them pay off Rondo or Wade to go away, triggering a full rebuild the team should’ve seen coming years ago.
“Winner: Sacramento Kings” is a three-word phrase that will have editors spit-taking all over their computer monitors, but the Kings had themselves a big night on Thursday.