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View Full Version : Vecsey on the Eastern Conference



ChicagoJ
02-20-2004, 03:44 PM
February 20, 2004 -- HISTORIANS are inclined to summarize the "Rashweed Wallace Era" in Atlanta as positioned somewhere between Richard Jewel and Priest Lauderdale.

The legendary public speaker was in and out of town so fast he didn't have time to smoke a joint or stink it up. Fact is, "Rashweed" looked so good in his Hawks' debut/getaway game in a losing cause (what else is there for opponents in the Lawrence Frank Era?) to the Nets, even the gentlest of GMs questioned why Billy Knight would give up by far his best player for what, for all intents and purposes, is a lousy No. 1 pick (Milwaukee's) in a terrible draft.

"By keeping Wallace you keep your players motivated and playing hard," stressed an Eastern Conference exec. "His presence gives you a chance to win some games and stay competitive in most of them."

Clearly, that's not the game plan. When the decision was made to slash salaries (the incoming ownership group, suddenly debt-free, should gain NBA approval next week) it meant radically reducing the chance of winning as well.

Hey, when you take a dive there can't be any middle ground, only scorched earth, especially in Atlanta. Who knows how low the Hawks can go? The idea is to snare 6-10 Georgia man-child Dwight Howard, projected as a Top 3 treat. But Wallace's skill, size and malignant rep were definitely in the way.

That's why Isiah Thomas and Joe Dumars, in business to win the last game of the playoffs, not the first pick in the lottery, never stopped crashing the Hawks' boardroom. The former Bad Boy backcourt co-conspirators evidently know an artistic outcast when they see one and how his 6-11 portable presence can impact the Eastern Conference race . . . perhaps push them past the satin rope into the Finals.

You get Wallace, you're immediately well off. Or, at least, much better off than you were the day before (his arrival also provides Larry Brown with a bona fide excuse to bail out at season's end should the rebel in "Rashweed" rear its profane skull & bones and the Pistons disintegrate).

That's why Motown is jumpin' today. It's reelin' with the feelin' after easily out-biddin' the asset-exhausted Knicks with expiring peripheral player contracts and a pair of irrelevant first rounders, the second of which (Detroit's) is now an integral part of Danny Ainge's majestic Celtics design.

Adding Wallace to Brown's seven-man regal rotation has propelled Detroit into the East's privileged plateau, a faint rung below the Nets (who may never lose again); which only goes to prove, if a team's gold mine of talent runs deep and the players are in the mood to share the ball and defend on a regular basis, anybody can be put in charge of the sidelines to call times out and make substitutions (no disrespect to Lawrence Frank, of course).

At the same time, the Pistons automatically become scarier than the Pacers, whose secondary All-Star, Ron Artest, underwent an operation (aren't left thumbs of important right-handed shooters generally surgically repaired in the offseason?) yesterday afternoon in New York; expect a minimum three-week recuperation.

Meanwhile, understudy Al Harrington has been ailing for weeks with a knee problem. Didn't we see the beginning of this bad movie directly following last season's All-Star break? Remember, Larry Legend, no excuses!

Would Jonathan Bender please report to the scorer's table and confirm wild assertions by teammates that, when healthy, he devours Jermaine O'Neal in practice and everybody else, for that matter.

So, we all perfectly understand why the Pistons did what they did, right? And we all kinda understand why the Hawks did what they did, correct? The question, as usual, is why did the Celtics do what they did?

Exchanging Mike James and injured Chris Mills' $6.6M fast-fading contract for a meaningless No. 1 pick and Chucky Atkins, whose deal isn't up for two more guaranteed ($4.2M and $4.5M) years? Atkins may be an improvement over James, but not enough to take on two additional years salary.

No wonder why none of us lowbrows comprehend Ainge's master plan. If his demolition of a formidable team that came within two wins of reaching the Finals two playoffs ago was about creating evocative cap room and accumulating valuable draft picks, I'd be more than happy to give him the benefit of the doubt and room to work.

Instead, Ainge seems intent on dumping prized contributors and cherished people (Antoine Walker, Eric Williams, Tony Battie) and collecting retreads, rejects, projects and long-term commitments (Raef LaFrentz, Ricky Davis, and, on a lower scale, Atkins).

Why not simply retain Mills and scrape him off the cap this summer? Why would Ainge do such a big solid for a loathed conference rival? Why would the Celtics savant allow his franchise to be used and abused (not only did the Pistons pull "Rashweed," but also Dumars now has sufficient funds to re-sign rising restricted free agent Mehmet Okur) unless there was something substantial in it for Boston?

At the risk of sounding pessimistic, by the time Ainge's brainstorm begins to drizzle, Paul Pierce's prime time may have passed him by.

"We've made three of the five worst trades in the last 20 years," Pierce, 27 in October, groaned to me several days ago in L.A., pinpointing the acquisition of Vin Baker and the gift-wrapping of Walker to Dallas and Joe Johnson to Phoenix. In all fairness, Ainge was only responsible for Walker; Chris Wallace choreographed the other two monstrosities.

"Yo," wondered the dumbfounded Pierce, "how old was Michael Jordan when he started to win titles?"

Unclebuck
02-20-2004, 05:11 PM
I sometimes wonder if Ainge thinks he is running a fantasy league team.

Hopefully Bird called Ainge and read him the riot act and then I hope DW called Billy Knight and chewed him out too.

Unclebuck
02-20-2004, 05:14 PM
"[/quotWe've made three of the five worst trades in the last 20 years," Pierce, 27 in October, groaned to me several days ago in L.A., pinpointing the acquisition of Vin Baker and the gift-wrapping of Walker to Dallas and Joe Johnson to Phoenix. In all fairness, Ainge was only responsible for Walker; Chris Wallace choreographed the other two monstrosities.

"Yo," wondered the dumbfounded Pierce, "how old was Michael Jordan when he started to win titles?


Sounds Pierce is going to want out next.

Maybe Ainge will take Croshere for Pierce.

ChicagoJ
02-20-2004, 05:19 PM
I sometimes wonder if Ainge thinks he is running a fantasy league team.

Hopefully Bird called Ainge and read him the riot act and then I hope DW called Billy Knight and chewed him out too.


For as close as everyone knows Bird and Ainge are, BK is DW's original protege. I'll bet the conversations between those guys are pretty tense today. Especially since Chad Ford is predicting BK is on his way out anyway - why do this??

Doug
02-20-2004, 05:40 PM
Sounds Pierce is going to want out next.

Maybe Ainge will take Croshere for Pierce.

The salary's don't work. But if we add Pollard and Primoz.... :-)

DisplacedKnick
02-20-2004, 06:04 PM
Danny Ainge is the only NBA GM who can make me feel good about Scott Layden.

waxman
02-20-2004, 06:22 PM
"[/quotWe've made three of the five worst trades in the last 20 years," Pierce, 27 in October, groaned to me several days ago in L.A., pinpointing the acquisition of Vin Baker and the gift-wrapping of Walker to Dallas and Joe Johnson to Phoenix. In all fairness, Ainge was only responsible for Walker; Chris Wallace choreographed the other two monstrosities.

"Yo," wondered the dumbfounded Pierce, "how old was Michael Jordan when he started to win titles?


Sounds Pierce is going to want out next.

Maybe Ainge will take Croshere for Pierce.

I was wondering why Tommy Heinsohn, the ultimate homer, was being overly critical of Paul Pierce after he made a poor play the other night... maybe some of Pauls recent comments have gotten around(even though they're mostly true)... I had never heard a critical peep from tommy about Paul before the other night.

Eindar
02-20-2004, 06:27 PM
I sometimes wonder if Ainge thinks he is running a fantasy league team.

Hopefully Bird called Ainge and read him the riot act and then I hope DW called Billy Knight and chewed him out too.


For as close as everyone knows Bird and Ainge are, BK is DW's original protege. I'll bet the conversations between those guys are pretty tense today. Especially since Chad Ford is predicting BK is on his way out anyway - why do this??

Because DW won't be signing his checks any time soon. If Knight does his job, which is cutting salary and aquiring draft picks, he might get another job as a GM once this is done. If he doesn't, he'll likely find himself looking for work before the season is over, and it is unlikely any other owner would hire a GM known to disobey the owner.