Tagged in: Trade

Rockets rally past Spurs 109-105 in 1st game without Harden

Houston’s first game without James Harden went better than anyone could have expected.

Christian Wood had 27 points and 15 rebounds, and the Rockets rallied to defeat the San Antonio Spurs 109-105 on Thursday night in their first game since trading away the franchise cornerstone.

“It was fun. It was really cool stuff,” Houston’s first-year coach Stephen Silas said.

Sterling Brown, who took Harden’s spot in the starting lineup, had 23 points, seven rebounds and three assists in 36 minutes. Jae’Sean Tate added 13 points, 10 assists and five rebounds.

San Antonio forward Keldon Johnson had a career-high 29 points and Lonnie Walker IV added 16 points while tying a career-high with four 3-pointers. Houston sent Harden to the Brooklyn Nets in a four-team blockbuster trade on Wednesday. 

Victor Oladipo, Dante Exum and Rodions Kurucs, who the Rockets acquired along with numerous draft picks and draft swaps for Harden, are not with the team yet.

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It was Houston’s first match without Harden since 2012, when Oklahoma City traded its young guard to the Rockets primarily due to salary cap constraints.

Harden remained publicly quiet through months of rumors about his unhappiness with the Rockets, but he broke that silence following a second blowout loss to the Lakers on Tuesday. He bluntly said the Rockets were “just not good enough” and that he did not believe the situation could be fixed.

Houston showed otherwise, at least in their first chance to do so.

“We had a team meeting after that last game against the Lakers and we drew the line there,” Tate said. “Everybody has so much to prove.”

The Rockets were also without John Wall and Eric Gordon due to injuries. The upheaval led to more minutes for the remaining roster, and they took advantage of it.

“Spirit is something I believe a lot in and talk a lot about,” Silas said. “We had spirit tonight.”

Seven players scored at least nine points, with Mason Jones scoring a career-high nine points.

The Rockets staged a 15-2 run to lead 105-101 with 1:46 left.

“It’s got nothing to do with defense (or) offense,” Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said of the late swoon. “It has to do with between the ears and being ready to play. And we had four or five guys who were out to lunch.”

Brown had a wild, overhead shot land on the top of the backboard for an out-of-bounds call with 9.5 seconds remaining. San Antonio veteran DeMar DeRozan missed a 15-footer with 0.4 seconds left, and the Spurs fouled P.J. Tucker, who made two free throws to seal it.

DeRozan had 13 points, seven assists and six rebounds in his return from a two-game absence due to personal reasons.

The teams meet again Saturday at the AT&T Center in the finale of a two-game set in San Antonio.

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Emotional Yu Darvish caught off guard by Chicago Cubs trade, excited about San Diego Padres

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As he was announced by his new team Thursday, Yu Darvish said he was shocked by his trade to the San Diego Padres and grew emotional talking about his time with the Cubs and the bonds he created in Chicago.

“With what’s happening with the coronavirus, and the money the Cubs have, I wasn’t thinking about being traded,” Darvish said Thursday through an interpreter. “And also, they are a winning team and I thought we would be able to compete.”

Darvish, however, is excited about joining a “strong” Padres team that should challenge for the National League pennant.

“I’ve been having my kids watch highlights of the Padres’ lineup on YouTube,” the right-hander said. “They’re a strong team, and I’m really excited to watch batting practice.”

Darvish stated he has pitched better over the past 18 months than at any time in his career. He ended second in Cy Young voting this past season after going 8-3 with a 2.01 ERA, and he credited his improvement to a decision to work slow and “be himself.”

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“The Cubs were telling me to prepare however I wanted to prepare,” Darvish said. “The Cubs let me be myself. That helped me back to form.”

He was traded along with Victor Caratini, his personal catcher, to San Diego for starter Zach Davies and four prospects earlier this week. The move came one day after the Padres acquired lefty Blake Snell from the Tampa Bay Rays.

Darvish’s mom once told him that she thought he would play for the Padres, but he said he didn’t think that would materialize after signing a six-year, $126 million deal with the Cubs.

With Chicago in cost-cutting mode, however, that premonition came true.

Darvish hopes to find the same chemistry with his teammates in San Diego as he did in Chicago.

“A lot of [Cubs] people reached out to me and everyone was pretty shocked and felt bad,” Darvish said. “So this reality is great. I’m excited to play for the Padres.”

The 34-year-old Darvish said he found out about the trade on Twitter, though his representatives knew there was a possibility he could be moved that day.

“My first year with the Padres, going into spring training, I really want to be open and meet everybody,” said Darvish, who already has a relationship with Padres general manager A.J. Preller from their days with the Texas Rangers.

Darvish was asked what his trade might mean for Japanese baseball fans who live in San Diego. “With coronavirus and everyone being a little down with what’s going on in the world, I just hope to build excitement and help build happiness to the Japanese people around me,” Darvish said.

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San Diego Padres set to acquire Yu Darvish from Chicago Cubs

The San Diego Padres are on the verge of making their second trade for a star pitcher in as many days, with the team expected to get righty Yu Darvish from the Chicago Cubs, according to sources familiar with the deal.

Darvish and catcher Victor Caratini, who emerged as the right-hander’s personal catcher in Chicago, will go to San Diego once the deal is completed, sources said.

In return, the Cubs are poised to get right-hander Zach Davies and four young prospects: outfielders Owen Caissie (18) and Ismael Mena (18), and shortstops Reggie Preciado (17) and Yeison Santana (20). Darvish, 34, is in the middle of six-year, $126 million contract he signed with the Cubs before the 2018 season.

After an elbow injury sidelined him that year, he started to come into his own in 2019, leading to a stellar 2020 campaign. He compiled a 2.01 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP in 76 innings, finishing second in NL Cy Young Award voting to Trevor Bauer.

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Sources told ESPN on Sunday that the Padres also are concluding a deal with the Tampa Bay Rays for former Cy Young winner Blake Snell.

Like Darvish, that trade has not been officially announced.

But once they are, the two star pitchers will join Dinelson Lamet and Chris Paddack to form a formidable rotation in San Diego. Righty Mike Clevinger also is on the team but will miss the 2021 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

For the Cubs, the Darvish trade starts a reset under new president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer. That reset will include salary relief as Darvish is owed $59 million over the next three seasons.

The team already non-tendered left fielder Kyle Schwarber, which also saved it money.

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Cincinnati Reds, Colorado Rockies involved in four-player trade

The Colorado Rockies and Cincinnati Reds agreed to a four-player trade on Wednesday, the teams declared. The Rockies will get right-handed pitcher Robert Stephenson and outfielder Jameson Hannah in exchange for a pair of right-handed pitchers, in Jeff Hoffman and Case Williams.

Stephenson, 28 come February, is the most seasoned of the four personalities involved. He’s appeared in more than 100 big-league games to date, accumulating a 5.15 ERA while walking nearly five batters per nine.

Stephenson, who appeared on a handful of top-100 prospect lists before debuting in 2016, has turned into a two-offering pitcher: a slider that coerced whiffs on nearly half the swings taken against it last campaign, and a rising mid-90s fastball. He’s out of options but should make the Rockies’ Opening Day bullpen.

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Hannah, on the other side, will join his third organization since being drafted in the second round in 2018.

He had previously been part of the trade that sent Tanner Roark to Oakland in 2019. Hannah has some bat-to-ball skills, but he lacks the power projection necessary to forecast him as a starting corner outfielder. He also lacks the arm strength to play right field.

On the other side of the ledger, the Reds could give Hoffman another chance to make it as a big-league starter. He’ll turn 28 in January, and he’ll enter the new season with a career 6.40 ERA in 68 appearances.

Hoffman threw three pitches more than 10 percent of the time in 2020: a mid-90s rising fastball, a mid-80s changeup, and a curveball. Both of his secondary pitches posted whiff rates exceeding 30 percent. Hoffman is also out of options and will have to be on the Reds’ Opening Day roster or otherwise will be exposed to the waiver wire.

Williams was chosen in the fourth round of the 2020 draft. He’s yet to make his professional debut. 

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Pistons acquire Trevor Ariza, No. 16 pick in NBA draft in trade with Rockets

The Houston Rockets and Detroit Pistons have settled to a trade ahead of the 2020 NBA Draft. Houston will send Trevor Ariza and the No. 16 overall pick in this year’s draft to Detroit in exchange for a future first-round pick, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski. 

That future pick from the Pistons will be heavily protected, however, according to The Athletic’s James Edwards III, and it’s likely it will eventually turn into multiple second-round picks.

In addition, the Rockets will obtain the Pistons’ 2021 second-round pick — via the Los Angeles Lakers — for $4.6 million.  Earlier this week, the Rockets acquired Ariza and two first-round picks — one of which was No. 16 overall — from the Portland Trail Blazers in exchange for Robert Covington.

With their own first-round pick already owed to the Denver Nuggets, the Rockets now do not have a first-round pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. 

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This was, first and foremost, a cost-cutting move by the Rockets, which isn’t surprising given their ownership situation.

It will also give them a bit of cap flexibility by allowing them to use their mid-level exception now that Ariza is off the books. Whether they’ll do so, however, remains to be seen.

There are obviously bigger issues at hand for the Rockets, with both James Harden and Russell Westbrook agitating to move elsewhere.  As for the Pistons, this was a savvy bit of business to take advantage of the Rockets’ financial desperation.

Barring the unlikely scenario that the pick they owe the Rockets conveys, they essentially got a free first-rounder for taking Ariza off the Rockets’ hands. And they’ll probably be able to move Ariza elsewhere for even more future assets.

Even though this isn’t the best draft class of all time, the Pistons need all the young talent they can get, and another shot at the draft surely doesn’t hurt. 

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Phoenix Suns complete trade to acquire Chris Paul from Oklahoma City Thunder

The Phoenix Suns on Monday obtained All-Star guard Chris Paul in a trade with the Oklahoma City Thunder.

In return for Paul and forward Abdel Nader, the Thunder received Kelly Oubre Jr., Ricky Rubio, Ty Jerome, Jalen Lecque and a 2022 first-round pick from the Suns.

Suns owner Robert Sarver is bringing the future Hall of Fame guard and franchise leader to Phoenix, delivering star Devin Booker a running mate. After ending last season by going 8-0 in the bubble and establishing momentum, the Suns are set to become a factor in the Western Conference this campaign.

“We are excited to welcome Chris Paul and Abdel Nader to Phoenix,” Suns general manager James Jones said in a statement. “Chris’ leadership and competitive approach to the game will have an immeasurable impact on our team. Abdel possesses all the traits on and off the court that will complement our culture.”

Paul, 35, reunites with Suns coach Monty Williams, who coached the point guard for one season (2010-11) in New Orleans. The team went 46-36 that season and lost in the first round of the playoffs.

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“His basketball mind,” Paul said of Williams in December, “I used to get so excited before games about the plays he was drawing up.”

Paul was acquired by the Thunder from the Houston Rockets last summer in exchange for Russell Westbrook, two future first-round picks and two pick swaps. Adding another future first-rounder increases the haul for Westbrook to three firsts, plus the pick swaps (along with one successful year with Paul).

Paul had a resurgent season with Oklahoma City, reclaiming his reputation as the “Point God,” as he took command of OKC’s young roster to lead it to a surprising playoff berth. Paul made the All-Star Game for the first time since 2016 and was named to an All-NBA team (second) for the first time since 2016.

He has been plagued by injuries at various times during his career, but Paul had one of his most complete and durable seasons with the Thunder, missing only one match because he was mourning the loss of close friend Kobe Bryant.

In 70 games, Paul averaged 17.6 points, 6.7 assists and 5.0 rebounds. He also led the league in clutch-time scoring, spearheading the Thunder in close games, which is what propelled them to the 5-seed in the West.

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Los Angeles Lakers intend to acquire Dennis Schroder from Oklahoma City Thunder

Ahead of the lifting of the transaction window on Monday afternoon, the Los Angeles Lakers intend to obtain Oklahoma City guard Dennis Schroder, sources told ESPN.

The deal can be formally agreed to in principle Monday and finalized after the NBA draft on Wednesday night.

As part of the trade, the Lakers are preparing to send the player they select with the 28th overall pick and guard Danny Green to the Thunder, sources said.

Los Angeles cannot outright send the draft pick to Oklahoma City because there is a rule that restricts teams from trading first-round picks in consecutive years. Los Angeles sent the No. 4 overall pick in the 2019 draft to the New Orleans Pelicans as part of the Anthony Davis trade.

The Thunder already own the 25th pick in Wednesday’s draft.

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Schroder, 27, has been one of the most sought-after guards in the trade market, and he fortifies a Lakers backcourt that potentially could lose veteran guards Rajon Rondo and Avery Bradley in free agency.

Schroder has one year and $15.5 million left on his contract and would be acquired with the intention of eventually signing him to a new contract to stay with the defending NBA champions, sources said.

Oklahoma City got Schroder in 2018 from the Hawks in exchange for Carmelo Anthony and a lottery-protected 2022 first-round pick. If the pick doesn’t convey, it turns into two second-rounders, which is an increasingly likely scenario given the Thunder’s rebuilding plan beginning in action.

Schroder finished runner-up for Sixth Man of the Year last campaign, becoming a key component to one of the best combinations in the NBA, a three-point-guard lineup alongside Chris Paul and Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.

Though he excelled in his role, averaging 18.9 points and 4.0 assists, Schroder was never shy about his wish to return to the starting lineup and the Lakers are poised to give him that chance.

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San Francisco 49ers trade LB Kwon Alexander to New Orleans Saints

The New Orleans Saints continued their aggressive approach toward the 2020 season by obtaining linebacker Kwon Alexander from the San Francisco 49ers in exchange for veteran linebacker Kiko Alonso and a conditional fifth-round draft pick.

Both linebackers are on the mend from injuries. Alexander missed the past three weeks with a high ankle sprain but returned to practice last week. Alonso, meanwhile, has not played yet this season after tearing his ACL in January. But he also returned to practice last month.

The 49ers signed Alexander to a four-year, $54 million contract as a free agent from Tampa Bay last campaign. But Alexander, 26, was limited last year by a torn pectoral muscle before returning for their playoff run.

This was a way for the 49ers to shed salary because they like their depth at the position — specifically second-year linebacker Dre Greenlaw, who has started in Alexander’s place whenever he has been injured.

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The Saints, meanwhile, have one of the NFL’s best run defenses.

But the athletic 6-foot-1, 227-pounder should help their pass coverage while playing alongside All-Pro Demario Davis. Both players are Mike/Will linebacker hybrids.

Coach Sean Payton stated Monday the Saints envision Alexander as a Will linebacker, where he will compete for playing time with current starter Alex Anzalone while Davis plays more of the Mike linebacker role.

Payton said it would be difficult for Alexander to play Sunday night at Tampa Bay because of the five-day onboarding process that is required. But Payton said the “goal” is for Alexander to be able to suit up in Week 10 — versus the 49ers of all teams in New Orleans’ Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

The Saints can easily afford Alexander’s deal for the rest of this season, as he is due less than $1 million in base salary and per-game roster bonuses over their final nine matches. However, they will have a decision to make next year before Alexander is due an additional $13.4 million in salary and bonuses.

Only $2 million is guaranteed for injury-only. Alexander is due another $13.5 million in 2022, none of which is guaranteed.

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Cincinnati Bengals trade Carlos Dunlap to Seattle Seahawks

Veteran defensive end Carlos Dunlap has been traded to the Seattle Seahawks for offensive lineman B.J. Finney and a seventh-round pick in the 2021 NFL draft, it was revealed Wednesday.

The Seahawks’ defense has permitted the most yards of any team through six games in NFL history, and their pass rush has been a primary issue. The unit has only nine sacks through six games and didn’t even register an official hit on Kyler Murray during an overtime loss to the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday night.

Due to having to go through COVID-19 protocols, the earliest Dunlap could make his Seahawks debut is Week 9 at Buffalo.

“I’m not going to lie, I’m nervous as hell but I’m excited,” Dunlap said on Instagram story about joining the Seahawks. “… It’s all up from here. It’s all up from here. Let’s go. I get to play. Above all, I get to play.”

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The trade ends a Cincinnati saga that spiraled past its breaking point Wednesday, when the Bengals asked Dunlap not to come to the team’s facilities as they sought a trading partner, sources told ESPN’s Dianna Russini, confirming a report by NFL Network.

Dunlap, 31, had two years left on a contract extension that was set to expire at the end of the 2021 campaign.

However, the likelihood of Dunlap finishing his career in Cincinnati diminished after the events of recent weeks.

The 2010 second-round draft pick had grown increasingly frustrated with his role in the Bengals’ defense and had come off the bench in the past three matches.

At the end of the team’s 37-34 loss to the visiting Cleveland Browns on Sunday, Dunlap went after defensive coordinator Lou Anarumo regarding his playcalling, according to a source.

The defensive end also posted a property listing minutes after the loss on social media in posts that were later deleted.

Bengals coach Zac Taylor called a news conference Wednesday evening after the trade became official.

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Le’Veon Bell released by New York Jets

The New York Jets’ rocky relationship with Le’Veon Bell came to a sudden end on Tuesday when the Jets informed they had released the running back.

It ended a 19-month tenure that was filled with disappointment and broken promises. Bell, who arrived as a marquee free agent in 2019, never clicked with coach Adam Gase, who opposed the signing from the outset.

“After having conversations with Le’Veon and his agent and exploring potential trade options over the past couple of days, we have made the decision to release Le’Veon,” the team said in a statement.

“The Jets organization appreciates Le’Veon’s efforts during his time here and we know he worked hard to make significant contributions to this team. We believe this decision is in the best interests of both parties and wish him future success.”

As a vested veteran, Bell is not subject to waivers. He will be a free agent at 4 p.m. ET Wednesday.

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Frustrated by his lack of participation in the offense, Bell met with Gase and general manager Joe Douglas on Monday, a source said. They told Bell they would explore a trade, and they gave his agent authorization to speak with other teams.

The Jets contacted every team but found the contract was difficult to move.

They were willing to eat some of the $6 million remaining on his 2020 base salary, but the sticking point was an $8 million injury guarantee in 2021, a source said. No team wanted to take on that much risk, fearing a serious injury this campaign.

In the end, neither did the Jets. They could’ve continued to shop him until the Nov. 3 trading deadline, hoping to recoup a late-round pick, but they too were wary of the injury guarantee, knowing they were planning to cut him in the offseason.

The Jets are responsible for the remaining $6 million on Bell’s 2020 base pay, but there’s an offset clause that will defray it by the amount of the salary on a new contract with his next team.

Bell returned to the lineup on Sunday and carried the ball 13 times for 60 yards. He was targeted only once in the passing game.

On several occasions, Gase talked about getting Bell more involved as a receiver. On Sunday, rookie running back La’Mical Perine saw no action.

Bell’s departure should create playing time for Perine, who will share the workload with the 37-year-old Gore.

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