Friday, February 7, 2014
Larry Sanders latest and more chatter
By Marc Stein
The question was posed Thursday on ESPNDallas.com and is starting to be asked with regularity in Big D by restless fans of the Dallas Mavericks:
Could the Mavs make a legitimate play for Milwaukee Bucks big man Larry Sanders before the Feb. 20 trade deadline?
The answer, for now, appears to be no.
Sources briefed on the situation told ESPN.com that teams asking whether the defensive specialist has fallen far enough out of favor with his frustrated bosses to be made available are being turned away.
Even after the steady stream of Sanders missteps almost from the moment he came to terms on a four-year, $44 million extension in August, sources say that the Bucks don't seem to think they can afford to trade the 25-year-old this month.
Reason being: Milwaukee is said to be fearful that trading Sanders so soon, when his value has taken so many hits in the wake of that October nightclub fight and the Bucks' subsequent nosedive to a league-worst record of 9-40, makes it tough to get something resembling a fair return.
You can certainly understand why Dallas would have an interest. Before this stock-dropping season and despite a few clashes with teammates over the years, Sanders won raves from NBA numbers-crunchers for his ability to protect the rim and anchor a defense. And history shows that putting a defensive-minded center with athleticism next to Dirk Nowitzki -- as Dirk and Tyson Chandler proved together -- is an ideal tag team.
Yet the Bucks appear intent on resisting, at least in the short term, though we stress the word appear and have to throw in the caveat -- as we did on Stein Line Live with Detroit's Greg Monroe last week -- that there's still time for teams to change their trade stances.
The trade deadline is 13 days away. And nothing stops teams from listening even when they're telling suitors on the other line that so-and-so is completely off the table. The Bucks, furthermore, are widely described by rival teams as a club busily exploring all possible options in advance of deadline after assembling a team they thought could compete for a playoff spot before promptly falling to the bottom of an unsightly Eastern Conference.
So you inevitably do wonder how firm the Bucks' stance is, knowing that the focus in Milwaukee, just since the summertime, has shifted pretty quickly. It's all about Giannis Antetokounmpo (and a dash of John Henson) in Brewtown these days.
PS -- One other important caveat to note here: Trading Sanders this season is a bit tricky because of his Poison Pill status as he waits for his extension to kick in next season. Sanders' salary-cap number if he's dealt before the deadline is only $3.05 million on the Bucks' payroll. But his cap number for trade purposes is $9.41 million for any team trying to acquire him.
The two-year deal New Orleans finally completed this week with stretch power forward Luke Babbitt, after some complicated negotiations, was an intriguing signing on a number of levels.
The second year of Babbitt's new contract is unguaranteed, but the Pelicans -- needing a big man who can face up and shoot after the injuries suffered by Ryan Anderson and Jason Smith -- had to pay roughly $200,000 to Babbitt's Russian club BC Nizhny Novgorod to get the 24-year-old lefty released.
Babbitt, like Patrick Beverley last season when the Houston Rockets plucked him out of Russia, did not have an NBA buyout in his contract with Novgorod. But Babbitt, like Beverley, was able to extricate himself from his European obligations when the NBA came calling through the help of agent Bill Duffy, who orchestrated Beverley's move from Spartak St. Petersburg to the Rockets in January 2013.
The Pelicans, for the record, were not the only NBA team interested in bringing Babbitt back to the States. The former Portland Trail Blazers first-round pick struggled in his first three pro seasons, shooting only 37.2 percent from the field in limited looks as a Blazer, but he returns to the NBA as one of Europe's hottest shooters after hitting on better than 57 percent of 3s in Russia.
The Sixers, sources say, continue to hold out hope that they can acquire a future first-round pick for either forward Evan Turner or center Spencer Hawes before the Feb. 20 trade deadline. Both players become free agents in July. ... The Clippers have been described this week as "itchy" to make a deal, with veteran swingman Jared Dudley unexpectedly available mere months after arriving in L.A. with J.J. Redick in the Eric Bledsoe sign-and-trade extravaganza.