Team blows opportunity to add draft-lottery talent at bargain price
Feb 25, 2011
I'm sorry, but somebody screwed up. Not sure if it was the Memphis Grizzlies. Not sure if it was the Indiana Pacers. Not sure if it was the New Orleans Hornets, who later got involved in the trade talks.
But somebody somewhere messed up two huge deals Thursday -- the proposed O.J. Mayo-for-Josh McRoberts-and-a-first-round-pick deal and a trade that would have sent Brandon Rush to the Hornets for a first rounder and some other pieces -- and now, the Pacers are left with . . .
Who's to blame?
Shortly after news of the aborted trades broke, Grizzlies owner Michael Heisley seemed to throw the Pacers front office under the bus, telling TNT's David Aldridge, "Indiana was not able to get it all together." That can be interpreted one of two ways, either "Indiana couldn't get its (bleep) together," or "Indiana was waiting on New Orleans to make this three-team deal work, and it didn't come together in time."
Sources told The Star, though, that the Pacers called the league at 3 p.m. to notify them of the three-team deal, and were on hold, waiting to get into the league's queue, when the deadline passed at 3:01 p.m. While the Pacers were waiting, New Orleans apparently backed out of the deal -- which wouldn't have been consummated anyway, since the league insisted it was 3:01.
He said, he said, he said.
The Pacers got absolutely nothing done at this trade deadline, and they missed a fabulous opportunity to add a draft lottery-quality talent who is still young enough to get his head screwed on right.
No question, Mayo has some baggage. He was suspended in high school for an altercation with an official. He was charged with marijuana possession in high school. He got USC put on NCAA probation for accepting freebies.
After a remarkable rookie season in 2008-09 (18.5 points per game) and a solid second season (17.5 ppg), he has gone south in his third season, averaging 12.1 points in 28 minutes, primarily coming off the bench. This season has been a mess: He was late for a game-day shootaround and was pulled from the starting lineup. He got in a fight on a plane with a teammate. And he was suspended 10 games for taking a banned substance, DHEA, which he said he ingested from an over-the-counter energy drink he got at a gas station.
He's also only 23.
And he's got crazy talent.
When his mind is right, the third pick in the 2008 draft is that good. And he would have been worth the minimal risk. The Pacers wouldn't have been forced to give up very much -- just McRoberts, Rush and a first-round draft choice.
Mayo was making only $4.45 million this year and $5.6 million next year, with a team option the third year.
Small risk, huge upside.
These have been some very good weeks for the Pacers, who are playing well after the overdue firing of coach Jim O'Brien. But Thursday was a bad day, a frustrating, mystifying day.
They didn't get Mayo. They didn't get anybody.
Wasn't that all part of the grand plan, to use these expiring contracts at the trade deadline to make deals to acquire young talent?
The Pacers stood there with roughly $30 million in expiring deals -- Mike Dunleavy ($10.5 million); T.J. Ford ($8.5 million); Jeff Foster ($6.6 million); Solomon Jones ($1.5 million) and McRoberts ($885,120) -- and got nothing done. In a league where expiring contracts are incredibly valuable assets, especially at a time when the salary cap is going to be slashed, the Pacers failed to move any of those assets.
So the Pacers are now putting most of their eggs in the free-agent basket, and that's a chilling prospect.
First, this is not one of the better free-agent classes in recent history. I like Dallas' Tyson Chandler, the defensive-minded, shot-blocking power forward. I like David West of the New Orleans Hornets, a hard worker whose scoring average improved each of his first six years in the league. But it's not a long or terribly impressive list, and it's not like the Pacers are the only ones shopping.
Second, this is Indianapolis. We love the place, but honestly, are free agents clamoring for the chance to party in Broad Ripple?
Danny Granger was both honest and incredibly foolish with his comments the other day, telling Mike Wells of The Star, "I don't think (the talent migration to the big markets is) good for the league. It hurts a team like us tremendously if everybody can pick where they want to go. No chance for us at all."
Now, you'd really like the face of your franchise to do a little bit better sales job, but he's not completely wrong.
Cap flexibility is great, and the Pacers will have more than anybody this summer, but only if somebody is willing to take your cash.
The deal for Mayo could have been a game-changer, especially in a league where the power pendulum has moved to the Eastern Conference.
This is one that got away.