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The Eastern Conference At The Deadline

Thursday at the NBA trade deadline, we saw a total of 26 players, seven second round draft picks, and zero blockbuster trades. On Friday, we covered how the 10 players that ended up on West teams will shape the playoff race, and now we are looking at the 16 that were sent to the D-League…whoops, I meant the Eastern Conference.

While the Western teams made a few smart, calculated trades to improve depth (Steve Blake to the Warriors) and cut costs (possible buyout for Jason Terry from the Kings), the East had the biggest deals of the deadline. The East deals included the only two All-Stars dealt (Antawn Jamison and Danny Granger), the two best players (Evan Turner and Spencer Hawes), and the smartest player (Professor Andre Miller, PhD).

The Brooklyn Nets traded their disappointing – but playoff tested – guard, Jason Terry, for the Sacramento Kings' disappointing – and never played in a playoff game – guard, Marcus Thorton. Thorton, who once averaged 21.3 points per game, is a solid sixth man and capable of scoring in bunches when needed though he has struggled badly this season. He will likely provide relief for Paul Pierce and Joe Johnson down the stretch of the season. However, adding his extra $730,000 in salary means paying a ridiculous $3.3 million in tax, bringing their total to over $88 million on taxes alone…for a team that won’t get out of the first round.

The Cleveland Cavaliers traded for 76ers' center, Spencer Hawes. He will likely anchor their team right to where they were destined to be before they traded for him…the lottery. Hawes is a talented 7-footer who leads all centers in three-pointers made and percentage, is an elite passer for his position, a good scorer and rebounder, and a capable body on defense when he cares. Forced to play on a hapless Philadelphia team, Hawes had no reason to try over the past few months, but as he heads into free agency this offseason, expect his production to go back up for the Cavs. Despite the addition of Hawes and recently acquired Luol Deng, this team is unfortunately still coached by Mike Brown, suggesting they are likely doomed to miss the playoffs and then ultimately lose Hawes and Deng to free agency for nothing.

Professor Andre Miller, PhD left his classroom for winter break on December 30th and has been M.I.A. ever since. However, after being traded to the Washington Wizards, you can rest assured Professor Miller will be making a teaching once again. Miller, who was restless under indecisive rookie head coach Brian Shaw will be a capable backup behind John Wall, likely helping lead this Wizards team to homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs.

The Charlotte Bobcats made a good deal at the trade deadline. Say it with me: “The Bobcats did something right.” They traded valuable but redundant point guard, Ramon Sessions to the Milwaukee Bucks along with Jeff Adrian for Luke Ridnour and Gary Neal. Ridnour is a terrific backup point guard who can play behind or with Kemba Walker, while Neal is an outstanding shooter who won an NBA Finals game last season by scoring 24 points in 25 minutes!

In the only move that might affect the NBA Finals this season, the Pacers trading former All-Star forward, Danny Granger to the 76ers for Evan Turner and Lavoy Allen. Turner is a do-it-all forward who has fallen out of favor league-wide because he has failed to live up to the hype of a second overall pick. Turner should play with the first unit as well as anchor the second for the Pacers. His ball handling will allow George Hill, Paul George and CJ Watson to get free and take uncontested shots while giving them insurance –albeit expensive at an $8.7 million qualifying offer or whatever long-term offer he receives – in case Lance Stephenson leaves in free agency. Additionally, Allen started in the playoffs only two seasons ago and is a capable big man off the bench. Most importantly, Larry “The Legend” Bird signed off on this trade, thus, it must be great.

The last set of trades involved the Miami Heat, Philadelphia 76ers and the Atlanta Hawks. Each team gave up players that weren’t part of their future and received cash, second round draft picks, and laundry service for a year in exchange for helping another team out. The Heat traded Roger Mason Jr. and cash for a pick they will likely never see in order to open a roster spot for Caron Butler (Tuff Juice wants to go home!). The 76ers, who were involved in a league-high four deals during the trade deadline ended up with five second round draft picks and five players that won’t be buying property in Philadelphia. Finally, the Hawks acquired Antawn Jamison from the Clippers and enough cash to take him out to a nice dinner before buying out his contract.

Compared to the four West teams that made a deadline deal, eight of the top ten Eastern franchises made a deal with only Chicago and Detroit remaining inactive. Whether this reflects the fragility of the Eastern Conference standings (5th place through 11th is separated by just 5.5 games), or the strength of the mighty teams in the West (3rd place in the East would be 10th in the West) is anyone’s guess. With that said, all these moves outside of Indiana and Miami are moot because none of them are making the Eastern Conference Finals.

Indiana Pacers Vs. Miami Heat, Round III starts May 20th – Get ready, America!

Toure' Murry Takes Humble, Earned Path To Knicks

As he worked to decide his NBA team over the summer, people awaiting his decision for a change, Toure’ Murry delved into his memory and remembered a conversation with Mike Woodson in July. Two games into summer league in Las Vegas, Woodson had pulled Murry aside and praised his feistiness and offered his game guidance, expressing how he appreciates the young guard’s progress.

In the end, Murry thought long and hard about where he’d accept his first NBA opportunity in training camp, but Woodson’s talk stayed with him and he kept wondering about the chance to make the iconic New York Knicks.

“Deciding was tough, but I believed in the Knicks and the team believed in me,” Murry told RealGM. “I felt any time you get some great comments from Mike Woodson himself early, you feel comfortable playing for the team. When I accepted the training camp offer, it was all on me. I felt I had a great chance to make the team.”

The Houston Rockets first discovered Murry in the form of a professional job, their Development League team trading for his rights a season ago, and he cemented himself as a viable NBA prospect, a champion with Rio Grande Valley. Here was a native of Houston, eagerly playing for a hometown organization.

Soon, the Rockets also brought Murry into summer league in Orlando, but he understood that more legitimate openings within the big league roster existed elsewhere. In Las Vegas, scouts saw cultivating aspects that caught their eye in the D-League: bothersome length at 6-foot-5, growing instincts at point guard and a developing jump shot.

For Murry, there was tremendous knowledge to take from his old Rio Grande Valley coaches. He consumed their detailed lessons, like a prerequisite course preparing him for the NBA’s challenging curriculum.

“To be in the Rockets’ organization last year, it was a step for me and they definitely helped me to get where I am now,” Murry said. “It was great. Those guys taught me a lot – the fundamentals, the spacing about NBA basketball – and that’s what I’ve taken from them.”

Behind Raymond Felton, Pablo Prigioni and Beno Udrih, the Knicks have slowly brought along Murry, the 24-year-old tasked with leaning on them with his questions. Murry had been a standout at Wichita State, a combo guard who held size and skill to manipulate counterparts. Even so, he knows his ability to run an offense goes a long way now.

In Felton, Murry sees dynamic ways to change pace. In Udrih and Prigioni, vast experience both in the NBA and elevated stakes in postseason and international play. With Felton and Prigioni sidelined now, Murry has risen to New York’s backup.

What has he grasped out of his three veteran point guards?

“Playing patient, playing within yourself,” Murry said. “A lot of times, point guards try to get out of their games, especially when you transition from the two. I’ve learned how to run the team from those guys. They’ve been in the league a long time, especially Pablo; he’s been playing professional for a while.

“Any time you learn from them and watch them, you’re going to get better and I know I need to be patient.”

For all of Murry’s persistence after an unheralded collegiate career, after a season in the D-League, he had wanted too much, too soon, sometimes. For all his humility, his quiet manner, he insisted how he maintained composure and found solace in continuing his growth.

When Knicks management let him know that he made the team out of camp in October, completing a dream the unsung route, Toure’ Murry says, “It was a testament to staying patient, believing in myself and staying the course.

“It’s easy to get off course and get frustrated in this business, but my experiences humbled me and made me work hard. When you do the right thing and work hard, good things come to you. That’s what I live by, that’s what I did.”

The Points In The Paint Separation Between Contenders, Pretenders

Soon to be commissioner, Adam Silver, is pushing for more fan involvement through the box score. The box score is where you find all players statistics and team total statistics throughout the game. The final box score is clearly the most important because it shows the total numbers for that game. It will clearly state why a team won or lost based on which team's statistics were better.

Most players of fantasy basketball want to know how many points their points got based on points, rebounds, assists, steals, etc. Adam Silver clearly knows more and more fans are looking at this box score. Smartly, he is marketing statistics for more fan involvement to the point that he is adding a video feature to the box score that can be found on NBA.com.

This feature has been available to NBA teams for a few years with the help of a company named Synergy. Synergy has made accessing a lot of video based on statistical categories very easy and user friendly. Obviously what an NBA general manager or coach wants to see will vary from what a NBA fan wants to see. Most NBA personnel want to see video on what the team is doing more so than just an individual, even though it’s necessary to breakdown an individual from time to time. Fans want to see what the individual player is doing. Both should want to see the category that can determine if they can be a championship team. That category is points in the paint.

The quickest formula to build a championship team is build a team that can score in the paint and also stop opposing teams from scoring in the paint. There are currently only three teams in the NBA in the top 10 in points in the paint and in the top-10 in opponents' points in the paint. They are the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs and Chicago Bulls. A fairly safe bet has two of those teams in the NBA Finals this year. Not surprisingly two of those teams were in the NBA Finals last year. Of course there are other categories that we could add to building a championship team. However if you’re not trying to figure how to dominate the paint both offensively and defensively, chances are you won’t win a championship.

The category of points in the paint is clearly important enough to be on the box score. I would even argue that it should be at the top of the box score instead of the bottom. It’s the one stat that can determine how dominate a team can be either offensively or defensively or both. Points in the paint are of little importance from a team perspective to fans, but they do remember the dunks and the blocked shots that happen in the paint. You don’t hear about fans sitting around the water cooler talking about how many points the New York Knicks scored in the paint. Or how many points that the Los Angeles Lakers gave up in the paint. They will discuss why the Knicks and the Lakers won’t win a championship this year.

Mike D’Antoni's Knicks were never known for scoring in the paint, and his Lakers are not dominating in the paint this year either. The Lakers are currently 25th in the NBA in points in the paint.

Mike Woodson’s current Knicks are not known for points in the paint either. The Knicks are currently 28th in the NBA in points in the paint.

To D’Antoni's credit, his Phoenix Suns teams did score in the paint thanks to the great Steve Nash. His teams could never stop teams from scoring in the paint. The Lakers are 29th in the NBA in opponents' points in the paint. The Knicks are better at stopping teams from scoring the paint, but they still give 40 points a game in the paint (9th in the NBA). San Antonio is 4th in the NBA in scoring the paint and 10th in the NBA in opponents points in the paint. Miami is 7th in the NBA in scoring in the paint and 4th in the NBA opponent’s points in the paint. Indiana who is currently first in the NBA in opponent’s points in the paint will struggle to beat Miami because they are 26th in the NBA in scoring in the paint. They will simply struggle to get easy baskets against Miami even though they will stay in the game with their defense.

It is very easy to say "dominate the paint and keep teams out of the paint", but it is very hard to do. You need a plan that starts with the GM that puts the right coach and players in the place. You need that coach to have a defensive scheme that keeps teams out of the paint along with players to take pride in keeping their man in front of them. You have to have a shot-blocker to help discourage players from driving at will because this is the NBA. A great NBA player will get to the basket, and you need those players to dominate the paint offensively. Kobe Bryant and Carmelo Anthony are jump shooters. Kobe can’t dominate the paint coming off an injury and Carmelo doesn’t want to dominate the paint. Neither player nor their teams can win a championship if they are not dominating the paint. Just look at the box score.

A Brave New World For Los Angeles, New York

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How The Andrea Bargnani Trade Compounds New York's Biggest Problem

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Chris Copeland Adds New Dimension To Knicks’ Offense

Chris Copeland’s presence helped the Knicks cut the rebounding deficit (43-40) by pulling Hibbert and West away from the basket on pick-and-roll plays and by roaming along the three-point line along the wings in Game 5.

Knicks Maximizing Value Of Prigioni

Pablo Prigioni has become an x-factor for the Knicks in the playoffs. Prigioni excels when orchestrating the offense in pick-and-roll sets as a pass-first point guard with the ability to make three-pointers if left open on defensive switches.

Carmelo's Next Step

Carmelo Anthony cannot truly become a great player until he consistently makes great plays that go beyond simply scoring. The championship chances of the Knicks depend on Anthony’s willingness to do more than shoot the ball.

J.R. Smith Puts Career-Season, Reputation, Future On The Line

Despite all that has occurred in the past two games, J.R. Smith remains confident he will return to his award-winning form and prove he is a changed player.

Celtics Pushed To Brink With Poor Performance In Game 3

Now, the Celtics, who many felt no one wanted to face in the first round, are a loss away from a sweep. Before long, the questions surrounding the team will have a much farther reach than just the scope of a poor playoff series.

Knicks Protect Homecourt With Second Half Defense

The Knicks allowed only 25 points in the second half of Game 1, only to allow 23 points in the second half of Game 2. New York’s second half performance in Game 2 set a new franchise playoff record for the fewest points allowed in a half.

Copeland's Transition From 15th Man To Important Volume Scorer

Chris Copeland has gone from an overlooked player rounding out the end of the bench to a valuable reserve and spot starter due to injuries along the Knicks’ aging frontcourt.

How Many Players Teams Acquire At Each Trade Deadline On Average

The Kings, Knicks, Rockets, Thunder and Cavaliers have been the most active teams at the deadline over the past decade, while the Spurs, Pistons, Heat, Lakers and Pacers have made the fewest deals.

Battle For The City

The Nets have changed the direction of their franchise by moving to Brooklyn and are now striving to take the city of New York in their budding rivalry with the Knicks.

Leroux's 2012-13 NBA Tier Predcitions

While the drop-off from the Heat to the rest of the Eastern Conference is severe, the Lakers, Spurs and Thunder have quick company in the second and third tiers.

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