#IMHO: Trade SZN, saying goodbye to Vince Carter, and Coach of the Year candidates

Grind City Media’s Lang Whitaker and Michael Wallace have been covering the NBA since shorts were short and socks were long, but their opinions about the League don’t always mesh. #IMHO is their weekly chance to weigh in on the most pertinent news from around the NBA. What’s lit? What’s lame? Find out each week right here.

 

From: Lang Whitaker

Sent: Tuesday, December 17, 2019 at 10:27 AM

To: Michael Wallace

Subject: IMHO

Happy holidays, Mike, and as we reach the holiday season, it means it’s not only time to go load up gifts for our loved ones, but we also need to put an eye on the NBA trade wire. The last NBA player who was traded was Russell Westbrook, all the way back in July. Since then? Crickets.

However, we have now reached the end of the moratorium period, and guys who signed as free agents this summer are now allowed to be moved. So with more flexibility should come more trades. And there are a lot of teams – New York, Cleveland, Portland all immediately come to mind – that might be in the mix.

So let’s start with this: Which NBA player will be the first moved since July?

 


From: Michael Wallace

Sent: Tuesday, December 17, 2019 at 12:30 PM

To: Lang Whitaker

Subject: Re: IMHO

Happy holidays to you and your family as well, Lang, and all of our Grind City Media crew and supporters out there. As far as your question on who’ll be the first player moved via trade, I’d really, really, really like to say Andre Iguodala. It would be great for both the Grizzlies and a well-respected veteran like Iggy to finally get some closure on this arrangement.

The Grizzlies have some momentum right now, pieces are developing according to schedule and there’s just a positive and productive mindset around this team and roster. Getting another asset and/or quality role player would only keep this Next Gen Grizz training rolling in the right direction. And, at this late stage of his career, Iggy doesn’t have long left to be an impact player on a potential title contender. So time, on both ends, is of the essence, although the Grizzlies will continue to be smart and prudent about their options on the Iggy front moving into the coming weeks.

Beyond Iguodala, I’ve said all along that Minnesota is the team that strikes me as the one most likely to make a move soon. They have to get on track there before another season slips into apathy and mediocrity. Jeff Teague, Robert Covington and even Andrew Wiggins should all be on the market. I could also see Dallas making a move, especially if Luka Doncic is going to miss a chunk of time with that ankle injury. The Mavs are ahead of schedule, but there’s no reason NOT to double down on the good thing they’ve got going right now as the league’s most surprising squad so far.

Lang, since you invoked the holiday spirit, I’ll toss this one your way: What was the best basketball-related gift you’ve ever received for Christmas? For me, what quickly comes to mind is that Double Dribble video game I got back in 1987 for my Nintendo. It felt like my younger brother and I played that game non-stop from the time we opened it that morning until New Year’s Day 1988 without coming up for air or food.

 

Luka Doncic

From: Lang Whitaker

Sent: Wednesday, December 18, 2019 at 9:44 AM

To: Michael Wallace

Subject: Re: IMHO

It’s funny, because the type of player this Grizzlies team could really use is a 3-and-D guy, a wing player who can help Dillon Brooks on the perimeter, knock down open jumpers and get out and run when it’s necessary, who can provide veteran leadership and help keep things steady down the stretch of games. So I guess what I’m saying is, the Grizzlies could really use a player almost exactly like Andre Iguodala?

I get it – Iguodala apparently wants to play on a contender instead of a rebuilding team. And the Grizzlies probably have better current long-term value in developing the young players on their roster so they’ll be useful down the road. Still, it’s funny how things work out. And by the way, what would have happened if he was still on the Warriors? They’re worse than the Grizzlies right now!

Anyway, to your question about the best basketball-related Christmas gift, I don’t really have an answer for you. If I ever got basketball shoes it was usually with my own money (when it was time to buy sneakers, my parents would pay $50 and I had to pay for whatever it was above that). It wasn’t at Christmas, but maybe the best basketball-related gift I ever received was coming home from church one Sunday night when I was 5 or 6 years old, and we found a basketball goal sitting in our garage. I’d been badgering my parents to get me a hoop, and suddenly one just appeared, as if by divine intervention – we eventually found out it had been left by my father’s boss, who saw it cheap at a garage sale and, knowing my Dad was in the market, picked it up for us. We mounted that sucker on the edge of the garage and the rest was history.

Mike, speaking of veteran wing men, this week Vince Carter played his final game in Madison Square Garden. It’s been remarkable watch Vince go from being an oft-injured high flyer to becoming one of the most durable veterans in the league, playing below the rim and teaching the other young players how to play the game. When Vince hangs up his Shox at the end of the season, what will be your enduring memory from his career?

 

Andre Iguodala

From: Michael Wallace

Sent: Wednesday, December 18, 2019 at 12:23 PM

To: Lang Whitaker

Subject: Re: IMHO

The thing about Vince is that he’s done every bit as much to impress me off the court as he’s accomplished on it. One of the most rewarding and exciting projects I’ve ever done was an oral history digital piece on Vince Carter and the 15-year anniversary of his epic dunk OVER France’s Fred Weis in the 2000 Olympics.

So there’s that. But my favorite memory and moment from his career was sitting with him years after the fact and hearing him passionately defend and underscore his once-controversial decision to attend his University of North Carolina graduation ceremony the morning of Toronto’s Game 7 playoff clash against Allen Iverson’s 76ers. Vince got plenty of backlash from that move, especially in light of Toronto losing the game in the final seconds.

But looking back, the criticism was just silly at the time. Vince still played his tail off and proved that traveling to the ceremony didn’t impact his game one bit. But he was hurt. And it was one of the factors that created some of the initial bad blood that contributed to his eventual departure from Toronto. But Vince stood by his values and principles established while growing up in a family of educators. Vince knew then, 10 years later and even now, that he made the right decision. Vince lives by the examples he sets on and off the court. That’s why he’s lasted this long in the league and will have any job he wants in the NBA for the rest of his life.

Lang, we’ll wrap up on this: we’re now a third of the way through the NBA season, and races for awards are taking shape. We’ve discussed the early season MVP and rookie of the year frontrunners before. Now, let’s talk two other categories: Coach of the Year and Most Improved Player.

Based on what I’ve seen to this point of the season, my first Trimester Coach of the Year is Miami’s Erik Spoelstra, who guided the Heat to the East’s second-best record entering the week despite injuries and disciplinary issues with key veterans. And my Most Improved Player is Charlotte’s Devonte Graham, who production has spiked from 4.7 points and 2.6 assists as a rookie to 19.4 points and 7.4 assists while shooting 40.7 percent on threes in his breakout sophomore campaign.

Who you got for those two distinctions?

 

Vince Carter

From: Lang Whitaker

Sent: Thursday, December 19, 2019 at 9:03 AM

To: Michael Wallace

Subject: Re: IMHO

It’s hard to argue with either of your choices. Spoelstra is flirting with Pop territory, where he should just basically be in the mix each year no matter what. I’ll also throw Mike Budenholzer in there, who’s taken a Bucks team that won 60 games a year ago and has them on pace to be even better this season. Nick Nurse should probably be in the conversation, as the Raptors lost the Finals MVP, have dealt with injuries, and are still 19-8. I also think Doc Rivers is about as good as it gets – the Clippers have a totally different team and style of play than they had a year ago, and they’ve been smoking right out of the gate.

Besides Graham, I’d throw Luka Doncic into the mix, as he was posting triple-doubles like it was nothing throughout the first few months. Or how about this for a Most Improved candidate: last year’s winner, Pascal Siakam. Last year Siakam averaged a career best 16.9 ppg and 6.9 rpg. This year he’s upped both of those numbers (to 25.1 and 8.0) while carrying an increased workload for a Raptors team that lost its best player but hasn’t missed a beat.

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