Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days
Amazingly, I just said to myself “Ooh, that’ll be exciting” after perusing Utah’s roster for the upcoming season. Along with Rodney Carney, I predict Ronnie Brewer will prove to be one of my favorite swingmen Orlando passed up for JJ Kerr. J-Sloan might be contemplating the use of a more fashionably-paced bebop tempo offense, subbing in defensive vet Fisher and moving Deron “Darren” Williams to his more natural shooting role. Could the Jazz feature enough versatile defenders to employ a speed frontline of Brewer-Kirelenko-Boozer? Perhaps this will Okur to the coaching staff. CJ Miles might be another infusion of range with young legs. Harpring’s handy if you need a three Mehmet can’t provide. They’re one Allen Ray signing away from concerning a few people.
AND A BAG OF POTATOES
Due to mindless frugality, Pat Burke could be a rotation player for Phoenix next season. After so many superbly efficient and economical moves over the past three years, the Suns grew a not-undeserved GM God complex. The got greedy. And why not? Observe the catalog of hall-of-fame selections and signings:
1) Drafting Amare Stoudemire with the #9 pick in 2002
2) Stealing Two-Time MVP Steve Nash away from Dallas for $10M per in 2004
3) Trading San Antonio for the rights to Leandro Barbosa in 2004
4) Sign-and-trading Joe Johnson for Boris Diaw and picks in 2005
5) Signing Free Agent starter Raja Bell for the MLE in 2005
6) Signing Free Agent Tim Thomas for a portion of the veteran’s minimum in 2006
Trading Quentin Richardson for Kurt Thomas and adding James Jones and Eddie House to the arsenal didn’t hurt either. But notice how cheaply this roster was constructed—by taking advantage of other teams’ stupidity. Eight teams (!) passed on Amare, including the Warriors, Cavs and Knicks. D’Antoni ravaged New York and Atlanta for their unsung heroes and diamonds in the rough. An overpaid yet supremely talented combo forward wilting under a disciplinarian becomes a starter in the Western Conference Finals. Bravo.
But the businessmen of the league wised up this summer and Suns management parlayed away serious assets for the sake of avoiding the tax. Gone are the potential Nash understudies that could have been had for cheap at #21 or #27. Trade Rondo to the Celts for a future first, fine: but why not stash Sergio Rodriguez, the Spanish Magician, away in Europe for a few years? Why not get tough or athletic with Lowry or Farmar? Don’t you want to run your dynamic offense and shorten Steve’s minutes so a healthy weasel can feed a hungry Stoudy all postseason long? You let Thomas and House fend for themselves because of your thin pockets: could you really not afford to add a rookie pay scale or two in exchange for their replacements—Shannon Brown, James White, Steve Novak, Alexander Johnson?
Let’s hope a revitalized Amare can hold this skeleton crew together—elsewise, Colangelo The Younger’s departure will herald more growing pains than they bargained for. It’s hard to buy a championship for peanuts.
I love this man. I want to be his grand-nephew just so I could tell stories about how everyone thought my batty old uncle was insane when he made a flurry of draft day deals that turned out to be the tipping point for his franchise’s championship run. Twice.
Rudy Gay is not Kobe Bryant. Neither is Pau Gasol Shaquille O’Neal. They are, however, going to be perfect compliments to one another and have certainly (along with blood-sweat-‘n-tears Lowry and Hakim “Stretch Armstrong” Warrick) piqued my interest unlike any Grizzlies before them. After their seventy eighth consecutive winless playoff exit, my analysis of this Memphis team started thusly: “I have no idea what this team is doing.” That is no longer the case. Not only do I think Rudy Gay will have a better season than Shane Battier—I think he might contribute more to his team than Tracy My-back-Grady. Imagine if T-Mac played defense, cared about his team, and played as many games in a season as Scottie Pippen, but still retained his sick jumper and uber-athleticism. This is what I expect out of Rudy Gay in 2008. The Rockets won’t crack the NBA’s top four in the next two years anyway, so displacing RG for SB makes no sense to me.
Conversely, Memphis might not make it out of the first round this year (likely against Houston), but they’ll win some games. And more the next year. Alexander Johnson (Rodman 2K6?) and Kyle Lowry (Hardaway 2K6?) are two of “my guys” in this draft, and I expect both to become championship-level role players in their careers. Meanwhile, Stromile Swift can either reunite with the frontcourt that earned him his silly contract, or net them a future asset from New Jersey who pursued him last summer and would be poised to contend in the East now with the addition of an athletic shot-blocking force.
Brian Parker and I are writing a love letter to John Paxson. It goes like this: Thank you for praying on the idiocy of both the smartest and stupidest executives in the history of the league.” Though I don’t share his disdain for the flailing Knickerbockers (that would involve caring about them in the first place), I do echo Parker’s predilection for pooh-poohing the Pistons. Not only did offering a mere $3M more per year cause one of the most tremendous heart-and-soul transplants in modern NBA History (Shaq to Miami and Nash to Phoenix are of similar magnitude), but it also insured an even greater disparity between the spots at which the Bulls and the Knicks will be selecting in the 2007 NBA Draft.
Lest ye forget, part of the Eddie “Could Die on the Court At Any Time” Curry trade of 2005 was (along with this year’s pick that became Tyrus Thomas) the right to SWAP picks in loaded 2007. What truly majestic foresight by Pax. Many expect New York to win more games under Isaih than they did under Larry Brown – indeed, it would be hard not to. However, if you can name me five teams that will win fewer games than New York next year, you win a cookie. Heck—one million cookies. Because Minnesota and Philly are the only teams that look like they might blow it up, and those are long shots at best. Portland, Atlanta and Charlotte are certainly lottery bound, but I would put money on the Bulls landing a top ten pick next spring. If Big Ben teaching T2 how to bench-press, rebounding with Luel and snarling with Noccioni isn’t enough to get you excited about the Bulls future, check out the options on the top of the draft board in 2007. At the very worst they get FSU stud forward Al Hortford.
Too many sportswriters are criticizing the Bulls for signing Benedict Wallace to such a hefty tenure because he lacks a post game. Keep in mind, Marc Steins of the world, that this is the New NBA. A post-game helps, but is not necessary to contend. Observe:
Teams Advancing in the Playoffs w/o Interior Scoring:
Detroit (conference finals)
Phoenix (conference finals)
New Jersey (2nd round)
Cleveland (2nd round – and no, Z doesn’t count as he tied Memphis’ star guard Chucky Atkins at 9.8 points per in the 2006 playoffs, nearly catching the likes of Brent Barry’s 10.7 and wunderkind Luke Walton’s 12.1)
Teams Advancing w/ Low-post Scoring:
Clippers (2nd round)
San Antonio (2nd round)
Only nine of the top 50 playoff postseason scorers play in the post. One could argue a perimeter attack can suffice, at least until the very end. And even then, wasn’t Ben Wallace part of the 2004 championship team that only occasionally featured Sheed on the block? I think Chicago knows what they’re doing.
DOESN’T EVERYBODY LOVE RAYMOND?
Apparently not. Dudes out in the cold after draft night ’06 include:
- Allen Ray
- Mike Gansey
- Kevin Pitrsnogle
- Gerry Macnamara
- Rashad Anderson
- J.P. Batista
- Louis Annundson
Despite winning the title, Miami realized they still have needs to fill in order to complement their vast talent level with some cohesive parts. They’ve already locked up Mike Gansey for two years at a paltry $1.1M. A gritty pure shotter, energy/glue-guy in the mold of Jeff Hornacek, Mike G should see productive minutes at SG to give Wade either time on the bench of at the point. Likewise, fellow mountaineer Kevin Pittsnogle is taking a crack at the Heat’s summer league. Who doesn’t want a tough PF who has viable NBA 3-pt range? For the MINIMUM?
Allen Ray has a 6’9” wingspan, making his statue as a 6’2” SG not nearly as debilitating as, say JJ Reddick’s 6’3” wingspan despite standing 6’4”. Rashad Anderson fits the bill as well. Any team in need of a near-Reddick quality sharpshooter with MUCH better defensive length should scoop one of these guys up—Utah, Cleveland, Charlotte, I’m looking at you. Of course it would be Danny Ainge who scoops up a competitive talent like Ray only to present him with the challenge of making it past summer leagues only to be stashed behind Boston’s glut of combo swingmen. One more player in his image, one more reason to smile at a GM’s God complex…
ALL IN THE FAMIILY
Who’s on the Piston’s summer league roster? None other than Rodney Billups, brother of Chauncey, and Wayne Wallace, nephew of Ben. However, Rodney is five inches shorter than his big bro, and Wayne is at least five inches less mean than Uncle Fro. Unless their respective gene pool has some kind of otherworldly surplus, Joe Dumars better hire a good HR person to navigate the hurt feelings of his superstars’ next of kin. Although I guess if Wally Szerbiack were my mom’s brother I’d be pretty excited just to be invited to summer camp with future hundred-thousandaires…
Additionally, I was waiting to hear which legit-sized-shooting-guard-deprived teams would think to enlist Kareem Rush and Casey Jacobson, both fantastic 6’6” shooters who have shown promise in the playoffs. The answer: Orlando and Denver, respectively. Both will make the teams and have the chance not only to earn minutes, but to start over the likes of JJ “T-Rex” Reddick and Ruben “Uh, guys, I’m a small forward…” Patterson.
I heart free agency.