- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 8, 2018

The Washington Wizards stayed quiet at the NBA trade deadline. The team they are chasing for the third seed in the East did not.

The Cleveland Cavaliers blew up their roster Thursday, sending Dwyane Wade back to Miami and trading point guard Isaiah Thomas and four others in exchange for George Hill, Rodney Hood, Jordan Clarkson and Larry Nance. The additions could, arguably, give the Cavaliers more flexibility for the playoff stretch run. The chaos also was an attempt to please LeBron James, who will likely be a free agent in the summer.

The Wizards made one small move — dumping guard Sheldon Mac and cash  to the Atlanta Hawks for a heavily protected second-round pick. Mac has missed the entire season with a torn Achilles.

Trading Mac frees up another roster space and also saves $2 million for a team in the luxury tax. With now two open roster spots, the Wizards could look to add someone when teams start buying out players.

Wizards coach Scott Brooks said they would explore their options. 

“It does definitely give us some flexibility to add a player,” Brooks said. “Right now, we have the flexibility to add a couple of players, if we need. We all know this time of the year, players become available.” 

The Wizards spoke louder at the deadline with the moves they didn’t make. The team held on to Marcin Gortat after reports the center was being shopped.

ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported the Wizards pursued Memphis guard Tyreke Evans, but the Grizzlies ultimately passed on a deal. The Wizards, Lowe reported, offered two second round picks for Evans. Memphis wanted a first.

Washington, understandably, was reluctant to include a first after having traded their first round pick in three of the last four years at the deadline.

Evans would have been an intriguing option for the Wizards off the bench, though his fit with John Wall or Bradley Beal would have been a work-in-progress, given he’s a ball-dominant guard. The Wizards do need better depth, particularly at shooting guard.

Instead, the Wizards will focus on improving with the cast they have, feeding into the “Everybody Eats” mantra that has fueled a five-game winning streak in Wall’s latest absence. In their last six games, Washington has assisted on 71 percent of their made field goals.

“Just because we’ve gotten better, it doesn’t mean we’ve perfected (our game),” Beal said. “It’s not as consistent as we want it to be.”

Cleveland, on the other hand, decided its chemistry problems could not be fixed and is starting over, mid-season.

The Cavaliers shipped out both Thomas and forward Jae Crowder, two of the three major pieces Cleveland acquired from the Boston Celtics for Kyrie Irving. Thomas, in particular, never fit right in Cleveland.

After missing the first three months of the season with a hip injury, Thomas returned for 15 games and Cleveland went 7-8 in those games. Cleveland was 25-12 at one point of the season and they are now 31-22. 

Thomas also irked teammates with his shot selection and his poor defense. He also reportedly called out Kevin Love for being sick, which added tension to Cleveland’s locker room.

“It’s not surprising with their struggles,” Wizards forward Markieff Morris said of the Thomas trade. “There’s a lot being said, you know what I mean? That’s how it goes when you talk your way out of town.”

The NBA rarely sees a team of the Cavaliers-caliber retool drastically on the fly. Besides Thomas and Crowder, Cleveland shipped out Iman Shumpert, Channing Frye, Derrick Rose and Wade. Wade was surprisingly reunited with the Miami Heat, where he played the first 13 years of his career.

Thomas and Frye went to the Los Angeles Lakers, Rose and Crowder went to the Utah Jazz and Shumpert landed in Sacramento.

The Cavaliers will now have Hill be their primary point guard. He is set to make $20 million for the next two seasons, but gives Cleveland a solid 3-and-D guard. Hood has struggled to stay healthy, but is only 24 and can score. Clarkson can be an offensive threat off the bench, even if he doesn’t play defense. Nance is an explosive dunker, a good rebounder and gives Cleveland an upgrade at the 4 while Love recovers from a broken hand

Cavaliers general manager Koby Altman tried to maximize his team’s chances, so they can make their fourth straight finals.

Other contenders in the East finished the day without doing anything drastic.

The Celtics, who lead the conference and played Washington on Thursday, stood pat — having already added center Greg Monroe on a buyout days earlier. The Toronto Raptors flipped fringe prospect Bruno Caboclo to the Kings for guard prospect Malachi Richardson.

Neither move necessarily swings the tide in the conference, though Boston’s addition of Monroe helps.

The Wizards’ goal, in the meantime, will be to get better organically while waiting for Wall’s return.

“We’ve got to silence all the outsiders,” Morris said. “It’s not as deep as it seems. You’d be a fool to say we are better without Wall.”



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