Sam Smith On Pro Basketball
Denver duo hasn't been dynamic
So far, Sixers, Pacers benefiting from deals
February 5, 2007
This is what the Bulls?and most everyone?has to be thinking now with the Feb. 22 trading deadline clearly in view: Does this make us better?
A lot of deals sound good, but not that many really change much, especially those made at midseason. Yes, the Pistons picking up Rasheed Wallace in 2004 was brilliant and produced a championship. So teams try.
But sometimes teams have to move on, which is more often the case, and seemingly so with the Grizzlies' Pau Gasol, booed heartily during a home loss to Dallas last week. Meanwhile, general manager Jerry West put his Memphis home up for sale for almost $4 million and went to Europe to scout. Could he and Gasol be a package deal? Nah. (Almost $4 million in Memphis? Was he living at Graceland?)
The Grizzlies, by the way, appear to be trying to wait out the Bulls. Gasol said in the Spanish media last week there is a secret Western Conference team behind the scenes. It's not Portland despite reports the Trail Blazers refused to deal LaMarcus Aldridge, Sergio Rodriguez and Jamaal Magloire. Not true.
There has been speculation about the Clippers, looking to move Corey Maggette and unhappy about their play; the Warriors with their usual excess of swingmen; and the Kings, falling deep into the inevitable Ron Artest-dug hole. But none have the combination of a good young player, salary-cap relief and high draft pick the Bulls can offer.
If the Bulls do make this deal, figure they'll give up one player from this group: Kirk Hinrich, Luol Deng, Ben Gordon and Andres Nocioni; then P.J. Brown and perhaps Michael Sweetney for salary-cap relief and either the Knicks' first-round draft pick with top-three or top-five protection or a 2008 first-round pick.
League sources say the offers Memphis has been getting aren't close to that. Then again, the Grizzlies don't have to trade Gasol. After all, he's not walking away from more than $60 million still owed him after this season.
But there have been two major trades this season: The 76ers sending Allen Iverson to the Nuggets and the Pacers-Warriors swap of unhappy and/or unappreciated players.
The conventional wisdom at the time was that Denver could start sizing championship rings with Iverson and Carmelo Anthony, while the 76ers seemed to have traded Wilt Chamberlain and Charles Barkley the same day. In Oakland, home of the Warriors, the media was jubilant, contending the trade of Mike Dunleavy and Troy Murphy was worthy of citywide wine-and-cheese toasting for Al Harrington and Stephen Jackson, even if Jackson faces jail time.
So far, out of those two deals, the winner is ? the 76ers.
Not actually, but they are playing far better since the trade (5-18 at the time and 10-15 since). Denver is 9-13 after being 14-9 at the time of the trade, though Anthony's 15-game suspension for throwing a punch has a lot to do with that. Still, even when Anthony and Iverson were together?briefly before Iverson suffered a sprained ankle?the Nuggets were 2-3.
It actually has been worst for the Warriors. They were 19-21 when the trade was announced and have lost five of eight since, while the Pacers have gone 6-3, up from 20-18.
"I know what people said," Pacers President Donnie Walsh said, "but all I know is we've been winning. We've been playing better as a team, though we're still figuring out how to use them."
The Pacers have been one of the East's hottest teams, which seems to ruin my latest trade idea?at least for now. I thought the Dunleavy/Murphy deal was just the start of a major Pacers makeover that eventually will feature Jermaine O'Neal.
O'Neal has started to recall that it's easier to score closer to the basket. The last few seasons O'Neal has been evolving into a jump shooter, moving farther and farther away from the post action. With Pacers attendance in the bottom third of the league, talk in Indiana is that the franchise is ready to move on from its experiment with talented kids that drove Reggie Miller to premature retirement.
I figured O'Neal was next to go because, a month ago, he was talking about being traded. It seems unlikely now with him averaging 19.7 points, 10.3 rebounds and three blocks.
I thought of it watching O'Neal embrace and then furiously defend Isiah Thomas during a recent game in Indianapolis. O'Neal credits Thomas for his chance to become an elite player when Thomas coached the Pacers, and with Thomas' position still insecure in New York, you figured Thomas would jump at a chance to get O'Neal to pair with Eddy Curry. For the Pacers, with a young post player in Ike Diogu from Golden State, it would be a chance to get out from the more than $20 million a season they'll owe O'Neal through 2009-10 and get some good young talent.
The Pacers probably could get players like Channing Frye and David Lee, a future first-round pick and maybe some spare parts like Malik Rose or a shot at Steve Francis and still save plenty of money in future salary. It hardly seems likely for now, though I have a league to fix and I cannot wait on Memphis and Minnesota.
The phantom menace
The Celtics, supposedly building with youth, as we heard with the Bulls for so long, have lost a franchise-record 14 consecutive games and counting. That prompted an interesting comment from forward Brian Scalabrine that with so many players from "the AAU generation," the losses often didn't seem a big deal.
Though it seemed out of frustration, he hit on one of the biggest hidden issues facing the NBA today?the kids who play so much in summers on AAU teams and then come to the NBA with little or no college program discipline. (And, by the way, haven't we had enough of opponents hugging after a loss? Doesn't anyone ever get angry?)
Too many today don't distinguish the value between wins and losses. Some point to the high school generation of players who came to the NBA without college: How many have won championships? Yes, Kobe Bryant did, but he had Shaquille O'Neal. The winners in the last decade were Spurs teams led by Tim Duncan and David Robinson, the veteran Pistons and last year Miami with O'Neal and Dwyane Wade. Where's Kevin Garnett, Jermaine O'Neal, Tracy McGrady, Al Harrington, Eddy Curry, Tyson Chandler, Darius Miles, Kwame Brown and LeBron James?
Click here to find out more!
How about Carmelo Anthony, Larry Hughes, Zach Randolph and Stephon Marbury with one year of college each? Amare Stoudemire is close with the Suns, and most of these players went to poor teams. Now you are seeing teams, like the Bulls, wary of combining too many players who haven't had much college because in the games they know best, winning and losing means a lot less than the shoe you are wearing. Greg Oden and Kevin Durant are expected to turn pro this spring. But both would be better served to remain in college, learn how to play first and value the result.
Hill of a mess
It's been interesting for us conspiracy buffs to watch the classic Bob Hill scenario unfolding in Seattle because of the fate of two franchises, the Sonics and Hornets. This is what Hill does: He undermines the previous coach, as he did with Bob Weiss in Seattle, Hubie Brown in New York and Dick Versace in Indiana, gets the job and usually does worse. He's now 39-60 since replacing the 13-17 Weiss.
In between, Hill went 36-78 in four years at Fordham and was run out with six years left on his contract. Hill then talks about bad fortune, like more than 100 player-injury games this season, though most were to center Robert Swift.
Hill, who is said around the NBA to have a "Pitinoesque" ego, then usually gets local media to write about how it's not his fault. And, surprise, last week there were several such columns in Seattle even as Hill has feuded with numerous players. You'd want to put broadcaster Lenny Wilkens in for the rest of the season just to keep Hill from ruining the roster and further undermining management.
The problem for the Sonics, now with new owners from Oklahoma City, is trying to keep a low profile while lobbying for public money for a new arena (fat chance). If that were somehow approved, they'd keep the franchise in Seattle because it would be a guaranteed financial winner. But if not, the way would be open for the franchise to relocate to Oklahoma City because the Hornets have announced an NBA-pushed return to New Orleans.
This will bring back memories of the attendance figures for the Rochester Royals. The rumor is the league wants to keep Oklahoma City open for the new Sonics owners. That would give the Hornets no place to return if New Orleans cannot support a team (they were last in attendance before the hurricane). That would then put the pressure to sell on maverick Hornets owner George Shinn, not an NBA favorite, thus giving new Hornets owners a chance to go to Seattle if the Sonics leave, or swap with the Seattle owners so they could relocate a franchise to their home in Oklahoma City.
The theory is the league doesn't want Shinn continuing to profit from mismanagement and then moving and would make it hard for him to return to Oklahoma City. And you thought those Raymond Chandler novels were hard to follow.
Injured Jazz star Carlos Boozer is talking about trying to return for the All-Star Game, which could still leave Anthony off with the Mavericks' Josh Howard the likely first commissioner's choice. Perhaps Anthony could play in the NBDL All-Star Game, being held Saturday of All-Star weekend. Players will be announced this week (sorry, no TNT coverage) with some familiar names having a chance, like Eddie Robinson, who is among the scoring leaders; Jared Reiner and Luke Schenscher, among the rebounding leaders; and Randy Livingston and Frank Williams, among the assist leaders. Former NBA players Joe Wolf and Sidney Moncrief will coach. ?
No pushovers anymore, the Bobcats have beaten the Lakers twice and won in San Antonio, Denver and Detroit. ? Kings players were talking about having fun and playing their best game Saturday with coach Eric Musselman suspended for his DUI plea. ? An Internet rumor site was buzzing over the weekend with a report the Bulls are close to dealing a package including Ben Gordon to the Sonics for Ray Allen. Other than the teams not talking and neither having interest in such a deal, it was interesting.
I think Sam always puts 2 and 2 together and gets 5 where the Pacers are concerned. I do like Fry and Lee though.
The trouble is when you get all young players you never go anywhere. You have to have a mix, and you usually need a vet star.
The Pacers already have Harrison, Diogu, 'Range,' Marshall, and Williams to develop, and most all are front court players, adding 2 more wouldn't make much sense.