Reggie Miller was rare indeed



http://www.sun-sentinel.com/sports/s...orts-headlines

Ira Winderman
Shooting guards not aging well
Published July 10, 2005


When considering Seattle's agreement last week with Ray Allen on a five-year, $80 million contract, consider more than how the Sonics retained a team leader.

Also consider Allan Houston, Michael Finley and Jalen Rose, among others.

Why? Because about the only thing as consistent as an Allen jumpshot in recent seasons has been the rapid decline of middle-aged (in NBA years) shooting guards under long-term contracts.

When Houston signed his six-year, $100 million contract with the Knicks in the 2001 offseason, he was a 30-year-old offensive leader. Now, four years later, with $40 million still remaining on his deal, he is a 34-year-old, injury-plagued, luxury-tax liability who is about to be waived under the amnesty program in the league's new collective bargaining agreement.

Then there is Finley, who signed a seven-year, $102 million contract that same '01 offseason with the Mavericks, as a seemingly bulletproof 28-year-old two-way contributor. Now, at 32, with three years and $52 million left on that deal, he, too, likely will be kicked to the curb under the amnesty rule, in favor of the youthful possibilities of Marquis Daniels and Josh Howard.

And finally comes the cautionary tale of Rose, who landed a seven-year, $93 million deal in 2000 as a 27-year-old Pacers mainstay. Since then, he has been dealt twice, now viewed as nothing more than $32 million of ballast on Toronto's cap for the next two seasons, dare we say, a 32-year-old has-been.

And that's not even mentioning the salary discomfort the Heat created for itself with its seven-year, $93 million pledge in the 2000 offseason to a 29-year-old Eddie Jones -- a leading scorer then, a third option, at best, now at 34.

The point being, that while the SuperSonics are congratulating themselves about fending off the advances of the Cavaliers, Clippers and Bucks, the bottom line is that Allen will be turning 35 at the end of his new contract.

Beyond Reggie Miller, few shooting guards have aged gracefully at that stage. And the demands on Allen will be far greater than the expectations the Pacers placed on Miller during his thirtysomething concluding seasons.

While fellow free-agent shooting guards Michael Redd and Joe Johnson will wind up with even longer deals than Allen's, the difference is they are 25 and 24, respectively. Both will be relatively young in the most lucrative of their contract years.

The NBA is replete with cautionary tales, from the seven years at $87 million a 28-year-old Penny Hardaway was given in 1999 to the five years at $62 million a 30-year-old Latrell Sprewell received in 2000.

For Seattle, the hope is Allen won't grow cold as he grows old.

The reality is once they hit 30 (Miller and Michael Jordan as the exceptions), recent-vintage NBA shooting guards have tended to age in dog years.

SUMMER DAZE

Among the familiar faces recently added to summer-league rosters is former University of Miami forward Darius Rice, who, after spending last season with the Fort Myers entry in the National Basketball Development League, is working with the Mavericks. A gifted shooter, Rice's problem is Dallas is loaded with those. He has been told that a defensive upgrade would provide his best opportunity to advance to training camp. ...

Forward Matt Freije, who spent time with the Hornets and in the American Basketball Association after being cut by the Heat last fall following his second-round selection, is working with the Cavaliers' summer team. ...

Former Heat forward Tang Hamilton, who in recent years has been a mainstay in the NBDL, is in the Clippers' summer program. ... Former Heat guard Kirk Penney and former Heat forward Harold Jamison will work with the Bucks' summer team, as will former Florida forward Donnell Harvey. ... Former Heat training-camp prospect Kimani Ffriend is working with the Grizzlies. ... Former Heat summer project forward David Bluthenthal is working with the Rockets. ... Journeyman center Jelani McCoy is attempting a comeback through the Nets' summer program. ...

Chinese center Mengke Bateer is making his latest comeback bid in the Bulls' summer program. ... Mateen Cleaves, who in five seasons in the league has appeared in less than two seasons' worth of games, is in camp with the Sonics. ...

Former Heat center Ken Johnson was cut from the Nets' summer program within two days of his arrival. ... Undrafted Florida guard Anthony Roberson bypassed New Jersey's camp invitation to work with the Grizzlies. ... The Lakers have added former Florida State forward Trevor Harvey to their summer roster.

PLANNING AHEAD

With Nate McMillan's defection from Seattle to Portland, Heat coach Stan Van Gundy is now tied for the NBA's fourth-longest coaching tenure, behind only Jerry Sloan in Utah (161/2 seasons), Gregg Popovich in San Antonio (81/2) and Rick Adelman in Sacramento (7). ...

With Daniels heading into the second year of a six-year, $37 million contract, Mavericks coach Avery Johnson made the rare decision to coach the second-year guard during summer-league games, hopeful of getting more out of a player who stands as the heir apparent to likely amnesty-rule casualty Finley. Former Mavericks forward Popeye Jones is working as an assistant coach in Dallas' summer program, hopeful of catching on in a full-time role.

PARTING THOUGHTS

Although the Raptors might have made the politically correct move by allowing center Rafael Araujo to skip summer league to train with the Brazilian national team as it prepares for an August world-championship qualification tournament, it would be difficult to find a 2004 first-round pick more in need of a summer tutorial with his NBA team. The Raptors were forgiving enough in drafting the BYU bruiser at No. 8 last year; they didn't need to be as gracious after such a woeful rookie season. ...

Few have perfected year-round losing as well as the Clippers. This time the wishful thinking for Allen went poof within a week of the start of the free-agency period. Last year, the heartbreak was delivered by Kobe Bryant. Two years ago, Lamar Odom was allowed to revive his career in Miami. Now they're talking about a run at Cuttino Mobley, a Clipper if ever we saw one.

Ira Winderman can be reached at iwinderman@sun-sentinel.com. Material from Sun-Sentinel interviews, wire services, other beat writers and league and team sources was used in this report.