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.


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