Kristaps Porzingis is ready to play same as LeBron James but their return is sure to take some time before anyone sees them playing in an NBA arena. Luckily for DeMarcus Cousins, he just got two games under his belt after a lengthy stay out of competitive basketball.
If players are practicing after recovering from injuries, why are teams so reluctant to play them? Well the simple answer has got to do with protection of investments. Teams have invested so much money into prime assets of their organizations and putting players in situations where injuries recur isn’t entertained.
Fans pay to see top players play every night, television channels pay enormous amount of money to get people far and away the chance to see such players in action. So if that means risking bad performances and losses in a few games for the chance to have excellent production for a longer period, front office wouldn’t think twice about picking the latter. However, there is the team’s objective to be looked at that varies season after season.
The New York Knicks aren’t going to make the playoffs so keeping Porzingis in rehab till the tail end of the season is the best move. Trotting him out for about 10 or 15 games to showcase his fitness as an audition to free agents who are likely to include the Latvian’s fitness before signing with the team, is the best way to go.
LeBron James is sure to have a heavy workload come playoff time and the Lakers need to give him all the rest they can manage.
On the flip side, Indiana Pacers came into the season aiming to play in the Eastern Conference Finals after falling a game short of beating eventual conference winners Cleveland Cavaliers in last year’s playoffs. It is the reason behind the team’s purchase of Doug McDermott, Tyreke Evans and Kyle O’Quinn while drafting Aaron Holiday this offseason. Bringing in the quartet fortified Indiana’s weak bench giving the team solid options in its second unit to get starters longer rest periods.
Until, main star Victor Oladipo hurt his knee badly in the 110-106 win over Toronto Raptors, everything was going just as planned. Indiana sits third in the East with 32 wins and 15 losses ahead of preseason favorites Philadelphia Sixers and Boston Celtics in fourth and fifth respectively. But meeting that target is likely to go amiss as Oladipo could miss the rest of the season due to the injury. Without its main star and points leader and with 35 games left to play in the regular season, the Pacers season could unravel in bad way.
Luckily for the team, Oladipo’s potential season ending injury hit just as the NBA trade timeline heats up. This puts the club in a good position to make a trade for a quality player to fill the sizable gap left behind by the former Oklahoma City Thunder and Orlando Magic Guard. Unless, Boston Manager Danny Ainge goes into savage mode and trades soon to be free agent Kyrie Irving, the best Guard on the market is Mike Conley of Memphis Grizzlies.
Despite playing out another solid season thus far with 20 points and six rebounds per game averages, Memphis have just a win in its last ten games. The team’s sharp drop after a fast start has signaled to management to finally give up on a playoff push and seek trade offers for its best players Marc Gasol and Conley. While several teams are interested in the pair, very few are committed in taking on their massive salaries and sending young productive players and future draft picks away.
Gasol is to be paid $24 million this season and has a player option next season worth $25 million. Conley is to be paid $30 million this season and $32 and $34 million in the next two seasons respectively. That is a high amount of money but Indiana can take on his contract due to its clean financial sheet. Beyond this season, only two players Center Myles Turner and Oladipo are taking big money ($18 million and $21 million) while six other players will be paid below $10 million; the highest being McDermott’s $7.3 million deal.
The remaining members’ contracts come off after this season. This makes moving Darren Collison and O’Quinn’s expiring deals to Memphis very easy as the veteran pair is likely to be moved on quickly to another team preferably contending teams in need of depth-Sixers- for draft picks. Conley and Tyreke Evans are more than capable backcourt options to keep Indiana’s conference title winning chances alive with Cory Joseph and Holiday featuring as backups.
When Oladipo returns and pairs with Conley, Indiana would have two All Star caliber players in its backcourt, a talented backup in Holiday joined by returning either Evans or Joseph whose contracts run out after this season for an extended stay.
By Yaw Adjei-Mintah
@YawMintYM on Twitter