Friday, July 24, 2009

If Money Makes A Man Strange...

Free agency can be a harsh reality. It boils down to the brutal honesty of placing a monetary value on what a player means to a franchise. Disconnect happens when the player's camp feels that the bar has been set too low; and the wrong seven-figured number is a sign of disrespect. I'd like to address the major signings that have happened and take you into the psychology of each situation. More after the random picture...

Turkoglu to T-Dot. Go ahead. Make all the jokes you want about the foreign exchange rate. Maybe Hedo decided to head to Canada for the free health care. But there's a reason he ditched contending teams for the struggling Raptors. Personally, I believe Turkoglu did not want to deal with the pressures that came with being the most coveted free agent this offseason. So rather than go back to Orlando or to Portland and be the focus of that team's success, he chose Toronto so he can continue to fit in his nicely-carved niche as an "under-appreciated player" whose "intangibles aren't defined by box scores." If you scared, say you scared; and it looks like Hedo's actions spoke loud and clear. Or maybe it was about the money.

The Maestro Stays in the Desert. Speaking of Canada, Steve Nash is a magician. He has assisted in getting deals for players that they really shouldn't deserve (see: Richardson, Quentin). He was the leader of an offensive movement that still sends shockwaves throughout the Association. However, you know what's said about all good things; and gradually the SSOL Headquarters are relocating its workers one by one. So why did he re-sign with a sinking ship? Why not head for MSG and reunite with his sensei and perhaps their monstrous creation? I feel it's because he doesn't have enough in him to lead two revolutions. He is growing SSOL in mind only, and his back muscles weaken by the game. Hopefully, Ramon Sessions can learn from a distance.

Huskies to the Motor City. As I mentioned in "All Dollar Bills," the elite teams make moves that are both upgrades and bargains. RJ—who has grown more, um, questionable in recent times—to the Spurs is a perfect example. San Antonio gets a proven secondary scorer with Finals experience as both an insurance policy on Manu's ankles and as another weapon if fully healthy. On the flip side of this intelligent thinking, there are the teams that overpay for super role players—or pseudo-stars—believing that it's clicked for them somehow; and that now those players are ready to ascend to stardom. In the past, Luke Ridnour's contract was the perfect example of a terrible financial decision. Now it seems that Joe Dumars had noticeably overpaid for Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva in a last-ditch effort save some of his credibility as a GM. Signing Gordon and Villanueva may mean that the days of either or both Rip and Tayshaun in the D are numbered. However, each former UConn Husky has a glaring flaw that will make execs cringe at these contracts in three years. Villanueva is a power forward that can do a few things, except he above average at each of them. He's like Kevin Garnett minus the great; he might be Andrea Bargnani minus the good. At any rate, he's inconsistent. Maybe Dumars paid for both in game stats and number of Twitter followers. Gordon can score. He can shoot. But he also takes a lot of shots. It's like the AI move except he isn't that good nor does he have the resume. If Dumars is supposed to be building towards making the Pistons Stuckey's team, I'm not sure that he and Gordon mix. Their fourth quarter lineup will be interesting.

The Answer With Questions. This reluctantly brings me to Allen Iverson. His skill was as gargantuan as his will for over a decade. But if there ever was an ugly truth that AI fans like me ignored, it's that Iverson is purest form of Ben Gordon. He is the origin of the chemical agent known as, "undersized shooting guard." It seems the one weakness that is readily visible in those diminutive 2-guards has finally shown itself in the host. Because of his style of play, Iverson needs others to mesh with him rather than vice-versa. That's fine, as long as he's The Answer. But when inquiries arise within him, things go awry. Can he still average 20-plus? Sure. But name a team for which he is the perfect fit. You can't, at least not in a starting role. And we've seen how he reacts to the whole coming off the bench thing. I hope you land somewhere, AI.

Odom. Lamar's contract negotiations are appropriate and fitting for him. The Nameless X-Factor, Basketball enthusiasts overlook the fact that next to His Mambaness, Odom is the Lakers' most important player; and they need him. His flourishing gets passed by, but he gets the blame when he himself disappears. Naturally, his worth is undervalued by the management; despite Kobe speaking up on his behalf. It has to be this way. Odom has to be overlooked. It is his destiny to live in the shadows, visible only to those that see his value, nod their heads and say, "true."

Free agency is cold-blooded, and each negotiation is a hard understanding that you're only worth your contract life.


Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Chaos to Anarchy: Revolution from the West

Of all the new draftees, including Griffin and Rubio, fans are most enamored with Stephen Curry; and hope he can ascend in the Association as well and as quickly he did at Davidson. He has already captured our hearts through a lightning quick shot release, and we look to him as a source of joy because we naturally assume the Clippers will take Blake's and turn it into whatever potion that Mike Dunleavy uses to keep himself employed.

These youthful warriors have seemed to rekindle the excitement the Team By the Bay experienced in that "We Believe" year. The methodologies are different, but is one team more exciting than the other?

Flash yourself back to 2007. The eighth-seeded Warriors sparked a city yearning for Tim Hardaway in compression shorts. It was like the atmosphere in the Phone Booth during Part III of the Wiz-Cavs trilogy multiplied by Andres Biedrins. Oracle Arena became a place for the fusion of energies, and no team would have defeated Golden State in that first-round series—much less a Mavs team with a mentally weak star player and a coach willing to change lineups after winning 67 games. Mark Cuban became the suburban kid with the cushy life who felt he owned the best collection of talent money can buy. Then his prima donna team crossed paths with a ragtag band of men with beautiful chaos in their collective heart; possessed by the loyalty and all that's positive about a gang. Throw in the variable of the Mad Scientist who was shunned by the rich boy owner, only to actualize his visions each time Al Harrington was in the game at center. It was an S500 with bun warmers versus a '79 Chevelle on Daytons. Excuse all the "rich/poor" analogies, but if ever there was a microcosm for team, then this is it...word to Camp Lo.

Fueled by Baron's beard and their Fearless Leader in S-Jax, four wins over Dallas became inevitable. Oddly enough, the dunk over AK47 in the second round was the monumental moment of the We Believe era—despite it coming in a series loss. It was as if Rocky IV meets Straight Outta Compton in, "You Just Got Broke, Son." Even though that team had an overall losing playoff record (5-6), it was a brief victory for those hoops fans yearning for Basketball anarchy.

Return to the present. Gone are Davis and his beard, the full force of the Oracle's magic, and Matt Barnes figures in their loss somehow. However, they add the Babyfaced Killah, the new Matt Barnes in Anthony Morrow, as well as the impending sign of the revolution that is Anthony Randolph. Combine these youth with the Fearless Leader and Monta, and this team is more exciting than the 2007 edition. The West Coast vibe went from "Xxplosive" to "Dreams." Does that make Stephen Jackson or Don Nelson Dr. Dre? Where the "We Believe" team was a test run, this collection of Warriors have a myriad of possibilities at their disposal. The revolution will be dribbled.

Shout-out to Shoals and everybody at FreeDarko.


Friday, July 3, 2009

All Dollar Bills

Two quick apologies before I begin. First, an apology for being away for so long. My schedule's gotten really cluttered; and with the events over last weekend, I just didn't feel up to it. My second apology has a similar premise to the first. This post was originally supposed to be my NBA Wish List that I had begun to formulate while watching the Draft aka "Curry, Point Guards, and Cash Considerations." These recent transactions have sent tremors through the NBA world. To me, they prove that the more things change, the more they stay the same. More after the not-so random picture.

The Lake Show getting QB's Finest is the latest move in an arms race between the five title contenders. But true Basketball fans already knew that there were five contenders: LA, Cleveland, Boston, San Antonio, and Orlando Portland Orlando The rest of the Association are just hoping to make an impression in the playoffs. Yes, superheroes like Carmelo, CP3, Deron, and Wade will undoubtedly use their abilities to push these contenders. But in the end, those five teams will be the best five teams in the Association.

Some of you may be thinking that there's always a team that exceeds expectations, much like Denver did last year and Golden State did two years ago. Well, that's respectable for those franchises and it does provide some impulse to the regular season. That aspect combined with other splendid individual surprises like Mr. Durant, Harris, and Granger of a year ago; and we'll briefly talk about those subplots during the 30 x 82.

When this offseason was approaching, there was chatter going around about how moves will be made based on financial logic. And while revenue remains the root of all NBA evil franchises' respective decisions, it's still and always will be in terms of value. In the case of Ron-Ron to LA, the Lakers got a better, tougher player for the mid-level exception, letting Ariza—a journeyman with these under his belt (note the different jerseys)—go when he would've cost more than that. Jefferson to the Spurs is another example of how the Spurs stay among the elite while other franchises fluctuate between success and rebuilding. The Shaq-uisition is a frontcourt upgrade for a team that won 66 games.

When the dust settles, and people have stopped dunking on Hasheem Thabeet; and Steph Curry has stopped torturing Knicks fans with three after three on the opposite coast; and Brandon Jennings does whatever Brandon Jennings does, those five teams will be atop the standings. They will be the ones we care about and want to see for seven-game series. All it took was one team to make a power move, and the rest of the top-tier franchises attempted to trump each other. It's not about money. It's about who was bold enough to take that chance and force the other teams to respond in kind. Five teams did, and the other 25 are just playing to be "best of the rest."