The Indiana Pacers didn't make a trade before the NBA trade deadline passed this afternoon. While there is no trade to discuss, three story lines emerged this that will continue to demand our attention in the coming months and possibly years.
First and foremost, Danny Granger's MRI results came back with bad news of a partial tendon tear in his right foot which will have him watching for 10 days to three weeks. Second, the Pacers were unable to traded Jamaal Tinsley with a labor grievance on the situation pending. And finally, the Pacers didn't trade players with expiring contracts in order to upgrade a position of need for the short term or big contracts in order to shape up the roster financially.
Today all three of these story lines intersected with each having at least a little impact on the other two. It's pretty easy to take shots at Larry Bird and David Morway for not getting anything done before the deadline, but there are circumstances involved which you must include in the equation for an honest appraisal. I want to take a closer look at the issues involved with each storyline and encourage you to add your own thoughts on the issues at hand.
Danny Granger's Injury
At 5:00PM this afternoon, Jim O'Brien opened his radio show admitting he wasn't doing fine, having spent the afternoon digesting the news that the Pacers couldn't get a trade done and, far worse, would be without their best player for at least a couple of weeks.
This changes everything doesn't it? Mike Dunleavy isn't even travelling with the team, and JOB sounded like he wasn't planning on Dun's services any time soon, so that puts the Pacers in development mode starting now. Unless the Pacers rattle off an unexpected string of wins, there is no reason to rush Granger back. Take the full three weeks to allow the foot to heal and in doing so, further rest that right knee bruise.
JOB talked bluntly about the team's needs and at the top of the list was developing the young talent on the roster, specifically Brandon Rush, Roy Hibbert and Josh McRoberts. I was happy to hear mention of McRoberts in the mix, sounds like he may get some run in the coming weeks.
As for Rush, JOB mentioned he has to produce like they expect him to. He's now in line for at least 25 minutes per game for the rest of the season so he will plenty of opportunities to build up his game.
The other angle to the injury is how it impacted trade discussions. Any thoughts of trading for front court help to impact the team immediately were likely circle filed after finding out Granger would miss time. A deal of this type was unlikely anyway, but the injury had to be considered for any dealings since projected draft position is a major factor.
Jamaal Tinsley Remains a Pacer
The Pacers were unable to move Tinsley before the deadline so now the labor grievance filed on his behalf is in play. Despite several teams in desperate need of a point guard, none wanted to take on Tinsley's sketchy injury history or, more importantly, the final two years of his contract.
Will this really go to an arbitrator? If so, it won't be pleasant for either side but could be worse for Tinsley. The worst case for the Pacers is that they have pay all his salary in a buy out or release arrangement and the money stays on the cap. For Tinsley, he could be denied a favorable remedy while stories buried in the bowels of the Fieldhouse are exposed to support the Pacers' case which then further tarnish Tinsley's reputation and make him even a tougher sell to other teams.
According to Bruno's report, Bird claimed two deals were close to completion but the Pacers were unwilling to part with Jeff Foster and/or Brandon Rush. At face value, the reluctance to part with Foster in any deal seems short-sighted considering his current age and production along with the fact he won't have a long-term impact on the team. But keep in mind, while a deal may have been close, we have no idea what players and contracts would've been coming back to the Pacers.
Pacers Didn't Trade To Upgrade Talent
The Pacers had two valuable expiring contracts tied to Rasho Nesterovic and Marquis Daniels which surely drew plenty of inquiries. Since it's tough to rely on free agents signing in the offseason, why not use the expiring contracts to lure an upgrade at a need position with a longer term deal?
If only it were that easy. With the current financial situation around the NBA and specifically within the Fieldhouse, the Pacers were dealing with little to no cap space to take on a multi-year contract of any consequence. The deals completed last summer miraculously freed up a little cap space for this summer. But that was when the salary cap number was expected to grown not shrink.
With the Pacers divulging financial losses while prepping to negotiate a new agreement with the Capital Improvement Board (CIB), there's no way the Simons want to exceed the salary cap. They're looking to save money, not spend it. Sucks? Yes, but that's the economic state of the league right now and it had a massive impact on trading strategies throughout the league (including decisions on prodigal point guards making $7 million a year).
Plus, the league put a damper on deadline day with a memo warning teams about the shrinking salary cap next year, as J.A. Adande reported.
The salary cap is expected to drop next season, with a league memo suggesting a hypothetical number of $57.3 million, according to two team executives. Again, that is only hypothetical; the actual figure won't be finalized until this summer. The salary cap is determined by taking 51 percent of the league's basketball related income and dividing it among the 30 teams. The salary cap for the 2008-09 season is $58.68 million.
So if the Pacers let Rasho, Quisy and Jack expire they'll be bumping right around the projected cap. Keeping the roster fiscally sound with the ability to make a minor signing or two will create a far healthier long-term outlook for the franchise.
Listening to Jim O'Brien's blunt talk this afternoon, he and Larry Bird are well aware that the team needs more talent. There were no names used, but Danny and Roy Hibbert seemed like the two pieces he was willing to build around. To me the first priority is creating a roster around those guys with flexible and/or reasonable contracts for the key role players.
That's not currently the case with Troy Murphy and Mike Dunleavy combining for a third of the salary cap. But in two years their deals are up, along with Tinsley if he's not gone by then (can you imagine?). So if the team can maintain some fiscal sanity until then and develop the young talent they acquire to produce with a reasonable salary, the future horizon begins to brighten.