Philadelphia, PA – The transformation has started in Oakland.
When Joe Lacob bought the Golden State Warriors in the fall of 2010, he was pretty vocal about reversing course and turning the organization toward a defensive mind-set.
The opening salvo in that direction was the hiring of head coach Mark Jackson, who has always preached defense first.
The other shoe finally dropped on Tuesday night when Golden State said its goodbyes to Monta Ellis, sending the high-scoring guard along with injured center Kwame Brown and promising power forward Ekpe Udoh to Milwaukee for talented pivot Andrew Bogut and disgruntled wingman Stephen Jackson.
When healthy Bogut has been one of the top centers in the NBA and is a guy who protects the rim as well as anyone not named Dwight Howard.
Few may think of Bogut as a star, but the former No. 1 overall pick had a breakout season in 2009-10 when he averaged a career-high 15.9 points, 10.2 rebounds and 2.5 blocked shots.
Injuries have derailed things a bit since, but he led the NBA in blocked shots last season (2.6) while averaging a career-best 11.1 rebounds per game. He was still solid in 2011-12, averaging 11.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2 blocked shots before missing the last 25 contests due to a fractured left ankle.
"We're extremely excited to acquire a player the caliber of Andrew Bogut, who we think is certainly one of the top centers in the NBA," said Warriors general manager Larry Riley. "He will add an element of toughness to our team and will provide us with scoring, rebounding and a defensive presence in the middle. We've lacked those elements in recent years and think that Andrew's addition will be a key factor in the growth of our team."
Meanwhile, "Captain Jax" as Stephen Jackson was called during his last stint in the Bay Area has always been a leader and solid defender when instructed by a coach he respects.
"Stephen Jackson enjoyed some of his best years in the NBA in the Bay Area and is a veteran who knows how to play on both ends of the floor," Riley said.
It likely hurt Jackson to give up Udoh, the one young promising defender he had on his roster, but this enables the Warriors to scrap their offensively gifted but painfully weak defensive backcourt of Ellis and Stephen Curry in favor of building a more well-rounded club.
There will be no more one-trick pony in the Bay Area, when Bogut returns. Golden State should morph into a team that can beat you in a variety of ways.
DISHING AT THE DEADLINE
The trade deadline is the one time of year you can play Cindy Adams or Perez Hilton and not get ridiculed for spending too much time under the hair dryer at the beauty salon.
The social media explosion in the country has helped fuel the seemingly endless string of gossip that used to be a staple of the entertainment industry, not professional sports.
The water cooler used to be the place you would discuss last night's box score. Now, it's all about where D-12 or Rajon will be playing come Thursday.
So cue up Marvin Gaye because it's time to talk about "What's Going On."
All the talk in Orlando has revolved around Howard and his eventual landing spot for months. Tuesday afternoon, it seemed like a foregone conclusion the big man was headed out of Central Florida. One salacious story even had the desperate Magic brass putting the fates of coach Stan Van Gundy and general manager Otis Smith in Howard's hands if he agreed to a contract extension.
"If anybody thinks I care about that, I really don't give a damn about being fired," Van Gundy said before tip-off against Miami. "That doesn't concern me in the least. If they want to fire me to please somebody, fire me."
Amidst that firestorm, Howard went out and scored 24 points while grabbing 25 rebounds as the Magic pulled within four games of first-place Miami in the Southeast Division with a 104-98 overtime win.
After the big victory Howard seemed to reverse course, telling reporters that he wants to stay with the Magic for the rest of the season and that he's been telling team officials exactly that for the past few weeks.
"We're playing some pretty good basketball right now and we just have to keep it up," Howard said. "We got a great opportunity to win and I told them that I want to be here, and I want to bring a championship here. I told them to give me a chance."
Staying with the status quo could prove costly for the Magic, however. The team could receive nothing this summer if Howard opts out of his contract and decides to walk away.
"I feel they have to roll their dice," Howard said. "It might be tough, but I feel like we have a great opportunity. They've got to roll it."
This will all come down to a power struggle. Van Gundy and general manager Otis Smith seem to have come to the grips with the fact that, left to his own devices, D-12 will be playing in Brooklyn or Dallas next season. They want to do what's best for the franchise. CEO Alex Martins, on the other hand, believes he can convince Howard, against all odds, to stay in Central Florida.
Believe it or not one of the most valued commodities at the deadline is Charlotte big man Boris Diaw. Teams love his expiring $9 million contract and he still has enough gas in the tank to help a host of teams as a rental.
THE GRASS ISN'T ALWAYS GREENER
The craziest rumor comes from where else? New York.
According to an explosive or comical (you be the judge) article in the New York Post, Carmelo Anthony wants out in New York.
The newspaper is claiming that 'Melo's discontent with the Knicks organization is so severe that after Monday night's loss in Chicago he told a confidant he preferred to be traded before Thursday's NBA deadline.
Don't buy this one. Think about all the wrangling 'Melo did just to get to Gotham and now things have gotten so bad in just over a year, he'd will be willing to flee for a smaller market?
Anthony was unquestionably upset, but he's also smart enough to know Mike D'Antoni was the one going. This was nothing more than a power play and sure enough D'Antoni saw the writing on the wall and resigned Wednesday afternoon.
Steve Nash isn't going anywhere.
The Phoenix Suns are no longer a contender and it's probably a prudent business decision to trade an aging point guard, but Phoenix respects Nash so much that the club has left it up to him.
If Nash wanted to move on, the Suns would do everything possible to move him to a possible contender, but the two-time MVP loves it in the desert.
Teams are calling, but Nash is staying.
CLIPPERS WANT TO REPLACE BILLUPS
The reeling Los Angeles Clippers have lost two straight at the start of an important six-game homestand and eight of 12 overall to fall two games behind their Staples Center rivals, the Lakers, in the Pacific Division.
Chris Paul and Blake Griffin are still playing at a high level most nights, but the team has missed the offensive punch and leadership qualities that the injured Chauncey Billups brought to the table and are committed to replacing "Mr. Big Shot."
Portland's Jamal Crawford is the most obvious answer, but for the short term at least, Boston's Ray Allen is a better fit than the me-first Crawford, especially for a team that fancies itself as an NBA title contender.
Speaking of the Trail Blazers, they might be the biggest sellers at the trade deadline. They are falling apart quickly and unlikely to make a return trip to the postseason.
Along with Crawford, who is almost sure to move on, the Blazers are shopping Gerald Wallace, Raymond Felton and Marcus Camby, among others. In fact the only untouchables in Rip City are All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge and Frenchman Nicolas Batum.
CALLING ALL POINT GUARDS
Despite dealing Lamar Odom before the season and the persistent trade rumors dogging Pau Gasol, the Lakers find themselves in a familiar position, atop the Pacific Division.
That doesn't mean they don't want to improve, however.
First-year Lakers mentor Mike Brown has been able to count on just three players this season as he implements a more complicated system, Kobe Bryant and his two 7-footers, Andrew Bynum and Gasol. The rest of the team, including battle-tested veterans Derek Fisher and Metta World Peace, has lacked consistency and offered little production.
The lack of athleticism in the backcourt is especially glaring and L.A. is intent on acquiring a point guard who can at least show up when a Tony Parker or CP3 is looming.
Cleveland's Ramon Sessions and Felton have been rumored as possible targets, but even a reclamation project like Houston's Jonny Flynn or New York's Toney Douglas could be an upgrade.