Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Team Cuban

There's a certain amount of love out there for Mark Cuban, owner of the Dallas Mavericks. But some people actually find time to spit hate at the guy. Oh he's so bad for the game! He talks too much! He gets into trouble with the league!

Shove it. Cuban is so good for the league that I get excited whenever he's mentioned in rumors to buy other sports franchises. It'd be easy to give you the "it's like if a fan owned an NBA team" line, so other than just spelling that spiel out for you already, I'll go beyond that. Mark Cuban is a man for the people. E-mail him and say that the seat you sat in last night is broken; he'll have it fixed for the next game. (Seriously.) Ask him for some insight for the article you're writing; he'll give you more than what you need. (Please don't think I did that here; the biggest reason I'm writing this post at all is because KOBEsh is dominating the posting game right now and I need to pull my weight.)

And who cares whether he gets fined from time to time for useless crap? Don't tell me that you've never spent money on something you knew beforehand was useless. Come on. I spend a few hundo just for the cool logo on the back pocket of my jeans.

Every casual NBA fan that unnecessarily puts emotion into their LeBron hatred can look no further: it's acceptable to root for Mark Cuban.

If I were GM of...the Oklahoma City Thunder

Unlike many of my endeavors in life, digital or physical, I want to begin this with a well deserved apology. Mr. Sam Presti, GM of the Oklahoma City Thunder, if you're reading this, which you aren't, I want to apologize to you for even insinuating that I could a better job than you are. You make better trades and draft picks in real life than I do in my fantasy NBA league. You are the architect of a team that just made the Western Conference Finals. Your prodigious rise to the top of the world of management has oddly yet appropriately paralleled the Thunder's own basketball savant, Kevin Durant. Even posting this article for literally dozens (...a dozen) could not be a bigger affront to the team you have so carefully crafted. I bring my mother such shame.

But I'm not here to make my family proud - I blew that off long before I even knew what the word "blog" meant. I'm here to write what I would do if I were GM of the Thunder. Here's what their payroll looks like going into the 2011-2012 season (if we have one):

Kevin Durant: 13.6 million
Kendrick Perkins: 7.1 million
Russ Westbrook: 5 million
James Harden: 4.6 million
Nate Robinson: 4.5 million
Thabo Sefolosha: 3.6 million
Cole Aldrich: 2.28 million
Eric Maynor: 1.5 million
BJ Mullens: 1.3 million
Serge Ibaka: 1.3 million
Royal Ivey: 1.2 million
Daquan Cook: 3.1 million (qualifying offer)
Total: 49 million

Nazr Mohammed: 6.8 million

If you didn't believe me with the claim that Sam Presti is the best young GM (if not the best, period in basketball), please understand that the Thunder made the playoffs as the 4th seeded team in the highly competitive western conference, while spending 30 million less than both the Mavericks, Lakers and 20 million less than the Spurs. Serge Ibaka gets paid 1.3 million. That's 5 million less than Luke Walton. That's like me doing this for free and John Hollinger doing this for $100,000 a year. The difference in performance is marginal and the result is outrageousness.

1). Keep the core together

If you strip away all the other superfluous parts of the team, the true core here is Russ, Durant, Harden, Ibaka and Perkins. Everyone else is replaceable. With the new addition of Perkins, I would keep this team together, and allow this core to come closer to each other even more than they are now. Continuity builds trust and trust builds titles. This Thunder squad lost that last series to the Mavs largely because of inexperience and confusion on both ends in the last 3 minutes. The culprits of their late game amateur acts weren't just the players, but also Scotty Brooks and his coaching staff as well. Watching the Thunder bungle those leads in the last 3 minutes was like watching a young Byung Hyun Kim in October, 2001. Painful, awful, incredible and unfortunately, inevitable. The only thing that really cures these type of late game problems is experience, and a summer mentally poring over what just happened.

2). Resist all calls regarding Russell Westbrook...after making one

Yes, I know he plays point guard and I am well aware that someone playing that position should rarely shoot the ball 30 times in a game. I am also aware that Kevin Durant owns, or at the very least co-owns the title of best scorer in the league and sometimes does not get shots in the last 2 minutes of a game. However, I think those adjustments can be made with some coaching and locker room tongue lashing.

But before anything, I think Sam Presti calls up Otis Smith, GM of the Orlando Magic and asks "Hey Otis - yo, it's your boy Sam. Sam Presti. I'm the GM of the Thunder. Yeah, I heard that's what people say on "The Wire" so I tried it out. Whatever, anyway... is Dwight Howard signing that contract extension with you guys? Hmm. Interesting. Well hear this out - you have Jameer Nelson, JJ Redick, Brandon Bass and Ryan Anderson on your team. Those are his best teammates. I know it's OKC, but KEVIN DURANT plays here. We have James Harden, who is better than any of those stiffs you have on your team. He'll sign an extension here, I'm pretty sure. So check this out - Russ and either Serge or Kendrick (your choice) for Dwight. C'mon. Just ask him. Just ask and get back to me. You can even text me. Whatevs. Just hit me back. Okay, gotta go, I got a Halo tournament with Collison and Maynor"

I'd be fully prepared for Otis Smith to text me back "go f urself", but I'd definitely check in. Other than that, screen them calls to the Thunder front office.

3). Use some assets to find a backup center for Perkins

Despite the fact that they just acquired him, OKC has to be prepared for some attrition on Perkins going forward. He just had major reconstructive knee surgery on an injury that I can't believe he came back from within a year. He played directly out of high school in 2003 and is already on his 8th full season, not to mention deep playoff runs the last 3 years. Bill Simmons has made note that a lot of players that came directly out of high school seem to wear faster and are almost irrelevant by the time they turn 30 - Tracy McGrady, Jermaine O'Neal, Shawn Kemp, Al Harrington and Rashard Lewis come to mind. Perkins is 26. Just sayin'.

Nick Collison is a nice player, but he's more of a backup for Serge. I would be on the lookout for someone a bit taller with shot-blocking ability. Packaging some picks, Cole Aldrich, BJ Mullens and Nate Robinson (and his expiring contract of 4.2 million) isn't a bad starting place. I'd target guys like Chris Andersen, Jeff Foster and Anderson Verajao via trade, if possible. If not...

4) Sign Samuel Dalembert

Nothing more than another long, defensive guy in the middle, but he should come relatively cheap and won't be asked to do much at the offensive end. He's durable and from all reports a solid guy that will fit into the Thunder culture. With all the impact that Tyson Chandler has had on the Mavs this year, I'd expect Sam Dalembert to be a very hot commodity.

5). I've run out of suggestions.

This is one of the most well run franchises in the league. It's like criticizing a Beatles record. I'm an asshole.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

If I were GM of...the Utah Jazz

I don't really know how we got to this point so quickly. Maybe the signs were there and I should have known it was coming faster than it did, but here we are - a Utah team without Jerry Sloan, or an accompanying superstar point guard. Pretty far from what the norm has been in Salt Lake City for the past 27 years.

Al Jefferson: 14 million
Memhet Okur: 10.9 million
Devin Harris: 9.3 million
Paul Millsap: 6.7 million
Derrick Favors: 4.44 million
CJ Miles: 3.7 million (team option)
Raja Bell: 3.2 million
Gordon Hayward: 2.5 million
Jeremy Evans: 788,872
Total: 51.9 million

Andrei Kirilenko: 17.8 million
Ronnie Price: 1.38 million
Earl Watson: 1.22 million
Francisco Elson: 1.14 million
Kyrylo Fesenko: 1.08 million
Total: 22.6 million

The first and foremost thing the team, management and their fans have to truly embrace and realize is that this is a small market franchise. Despite them operating like they were something other than that for many years, and with good reason, the fans of Utah basketball have been incredibly spoiled. After nearly 20 years of Stockton and Malone pick and rolls, 2 trips to the finals and the playoffs every single year, The Jazz could have and should have fallen into a deep rebuilding process. Instead they endured one rough season of Andrei Kirlilenko 5x5 nights and lucked out with New Jersey Net #8, Deron Williams. Usually, this kind of thing doesn't happen (i.e., the Sacramento Kings). Small market teams don't just come off a 20 year span of ridiculous success to fall into another (though shorter) period of success.

The one connective fiber here was obviously coach Jerry Sloan. Despite always looking like this, Sloan came back season after season, put on his hard hat and implemented his system. And it worked extremely well - not counting 2011, the Jazz have missed the playoffs once since Jerry Sloan took the helm in 1988. Stories of why Jerry quit usually center on how him and Deron got along, but a lot of times, the simplest answer is probably the right one - I think he just got tired. At age 69, I can't imagine traveling for 41 games a year is easy on anyone's body, let alone a guy that's been doing this since 1965.

GM Kevin O'Connor obviously realized that without Coach Sloan and with the situations in Toronto and Cleveland, he had to trade Deron Williams. O'Connor got a lot of nice pieces from the trade, but there is a lot of work left to be done.

1). Trade Memhet Okur

Okur might be one of the best trade chips of the upcoming offseason - a huge center who can defend, has the shooting tough to stretch the floor WITH a large expiring contract. if he wasn't going to be so expensive and was getting up there in age, I would definitely try to extend the guy. Unfortunately, with his recent injury history and age, he just could not be in future plans for the Jazz, especially with Al Jefferson, Paul Millsap and Derrick Favors on the squad.

I think that the Jazz's pressing need going forward is their hole at small forward (I don't expect that Kirilenko or whatever was resting on his dome the whole season will be resigned). Trading Okur for the likes of Trevor Ariza, Rudy Fernandez, Wilson Chandler or anyone that's not Travis Outlaw could be good targets. It will also allow Derrick Favors, Millsap and All Jeff to take the keys going forward.

2). Take Brandon Knight at the number 3 pick in the draft

I'm not sure that Devin Harris is going to be the answer at point guard in a couple of years. He's got two years left on a decently expensive contract. And hopefully with a young Brandon Knight the Jazz should be set with a competent point going forward. I've been told that he's not going to be anything spectacular, but I think he provides better passing than Harris. I imagine him as a Jrue Holiday-type, which is more than adequate on any team.

3). Use that number 12 pick to take Jimmer Fredette

The Jazz have got to acquire Jimmer, even though he's not really the pick that you want at that spot to be honest (Klay Thompson or Chris Singleton would be much better fits at no. 12). We've established that the franchise is going to be lean for a couple of years - you might as well appease your fans by selecting a local college legend to sell a few jerseys and tickets.

I'm not sure how much he can contribute at the point or shooting guard position defensively, or in terms of ball sharing. But I do know that at the very least, he could be a white Ben Gordon-type coming off the bench for a Utah squad where I'm not exactly sure where their scoring will come from. I think this, combined with the marketing opportunity towards a fanbase that just lost another great point guard and its legendary coach outweighs the contribution a guy like Thompson or Singleton would make.

4) Resign Fesenko's big body and Ronnie Price to a couple of reasonable deals; let everyone else walk

I've seen Fesenko play a number of times, and he's got exactly two pros going for him - he's gigantic and he's young. I don't think he's particularly skilled on the offensive end, nor do I think he's a great rebounder, but despite that glowing scouting report of his skills, he's better than a Collins brother or a big at a competitive price. Ronnie Price is about as solid a backup guard that you can get, and his value is definitely underrated by other teams in the league. He makes solid decisions with the ball and doesn't hurt you in any way.

5) Hold on to Al Jefferson

Last summer, everyone thought that the Jazz's trade for Al Jefferson was an incredible steal, considering they got him for 2 first round draft picks. He didn't have a bad year statistically - he averaged nearly 20 and 10 - but in a situation where he was more than just a good player on a bad team, he didn't deliver on the level that many expected him to. With Carlos Boozer gone, Al Jeff was supposed to create a formidable inside/outside combo with Deron Williams. But Jefferson proved that maybe he was exactly what he'd been the previous 6 years of his career - a good player on a bad team, nothing more.

Jefferson has 2 years, 29 million left on his contract. If I'm the Jazz, I do not trade this man, because of the following 2 scenarios. In scenario 1, he becomes acclimated in Utah, plays well with the young core that the team has assembled and BAM, you have a skilled 26 year-old on your team for two more years. In scenario 2, he is an offense-only center who is allergic to defense, BUT puts up great numbers on a bad Utah team. He only has a year and a half left on his deal, and becomes a good looking trade chip, considering he'll have a nearly expiring contract that will STILL provide some value.

This is a no-lose situation for Utah. In the worst case, they have a 14 million dollar expiring contract in 2012-2013 (when they should be much closer to being a playoff team) that they can shop for usable players. Best case, they have a young 27 year-old, back to the basket center who they can extend with a new deal.

The core here is Gordon Hayward, Favors, Millsap, Knight and with any luck, Jimmer. Everyone else is expendable for the right price. The goal this year is to develop Favors, Hayward and Knight and see what they have. Unlike the last 25 years, playoffs should no longer be the expectation, but rather a pleasant surprise if they happen. The Jazz management has to follow the Sam Presti approach - build through the draft, preserve your cap space and wait for the right time to strike.

Monday, May 23, 2011

YOUR...2003 Anaheim Royals

As the Sacramento Kings were days away from being located to Anaheim, it still surprises me that a team so close to winning a championship not 10 years ago could tumble so far.

It all got me thinking back to May 2002, when the rivalry between the Lakers and the Kings was at its zenith. At the time, the Giants hadn't yet been relevant, the Celtics were watching Antoine Walker throw up 7 threes a game and making 29% of them and Brian Windhorst was still following some teenage phenom around Akron, Ohio. I didn't have any other outlet for my hate - so it all got funneled towards the team that threatened title hopes for YOUR...Los Angeles Lakers.

I hated Vlade's doughy face and how big and slobberly his lower lip would get when he vehemently disputed a foul that he very obviously committed. I hated Chris Webber's face of fake confidence during the game, but loved the well-worn look of defeat that adorned him after yet another missed opportunity. I hated Mike Bibby's face of legitimate confidence and especially hated when he played like one of the 5 best guys in the league. I hated Hedo Turkoglu's face, which set just right below his frosted tips and just behind a moustache that even I scoffed at. I hated Doug Christie's face...that's it, I just hated his face.

The 2002 Western Conference Finals were undoubtedly the toughest test that the Shaquille-Kobe-Phil Lakers squad faced. The Kings were bigger, stronger and more talented. Everything about them seemed to be falling into place with their guys playing at the height of their powers. Chris Webber looked like a future Hall-of-Famer and Mike Bibby challenged Kobe and Reggie for the mythologized title of "most clutch". They seemed ready to carry the baton. The Kings were hungry - but not as hungry as their fans. After 15 years of losing and beat downs from their rivals in neighboring Portland and Los Angeles, the fans could sense that their beloved team was on the verge of breakthrough. The Kings and their loyal followers had all the momentum in the world - one that not even a miracle three-point by Big Shot Rob could break (everyone remembers that shot from the series, but no one remembers that Mike Bibby followed that up with this in game 5).

Game 7 was on June 2nd, 2002. In Sacramento, with a rabid home crowd behind them, the Kings played with all the ferocity and confidence in the world. The way that the fans were reacting before the game, it felt like they were going to win before playing a minute. The Kings believed that they were the better men and there was no way that the Lakers could come into their house and their town and halt the championship dynasty they were about to build. But - they didn't get it done.

From June 2nd, 2002 going forward, the Kings were never the same. With the Lakers eliminated in the 2003 postseason by the Spurs, many proclaimed the Kings the favorite to win the chip. It seemed altogether too appropriate when Chris Webber's knees couldn't support the symbolic weight of such a responsibility. The next year didn't they didn't fare any better, as Kevin Garnett and his Timberwolves survived a seven-game war, with Chris Webber missing a tying three at the buzzer. It was as if the loss at home to a physically inferior Lakers team broke them in ways not visible to the eye. In their "Yes we can" moment, they failed, and from there on all the bravado and talent in the world couldn't get them to truly believe that again. Players faltered physically and emotionally and the stars couldn't quite align again for the Kings to make it to the top.

From then on, it was not a quick, shocking death - like what we just witnessed with the Cleveland Cavaliers, or even the 2004 Lakers. This was a slow, agonizing descent into anonymity, with injuries piling up as quickly as the Maloof's debt, and faces of the franchise slowly shipped out of town, one after the other. Rebuilding was difficult, as huge contracts and the small market nature of the team had crippled the team's ability to compete. Had the Kings won that 2002 series with the Lakers, a move out of the city that had witnessed a championship (more probable than anything else against that year's feeble Eastern Conference champ, New Jersey Nets) would be almost unthinkable. The players would not only be champions, but also wouldn't have worn those all too apparent scars of bungled opportunity. Avoiding that game 7 loss to the Lakers wasn't just about losing 1 title - it might have been about losing several titles.

2006 happened. And 2007. And 2008. And here we are today - with announcers mourning over a team that had the fifth worst record in the league and have fallen from what was once one of the shining beacons of small market athletics to a team that finished in the league's doldrums for years in a row. This is not just hyperbole - that singular Game 7 has had ripple effects that lead to the destruction of a franchise. Amazing. It feels like the fate of your future Anaheim Royals was sealed in the season following the 2002 Western Conference Finals. In short, they've been YOUR...Anaheim Royals for 8 full seasons now.

But the most telling metric of how low the Kings have gotten is my emotional reaction to all of the above - I feel bad.

I watched that afore-linked clip and could only think about how tragic it was. If you had told me in 2002 that in less than 10 years time, this team was going to capsize and they would have to put their tails between their legs and retreat behind the Orange Curtain, I would have driven up there to take down a truck-full of cowbells myself. But things have changed - the Kings are terrible and have been for years. What was once one of the best and most genuine rivalry in basketball has degenerated to a footnote on the daily scoreboard.

When you see Francisco Garcia missing corner jumpers and DeMarcus Cousins looking listlessly around the arena as coach Paul Westphal passionately pounds his playbook, I only miss the rivalry even more. I miss the contentious rivalry between the players, which was only fueled by a real-life geographic rivalry between the dreary-weathered, title-starved blue-collar Northerners and their glamorous championship laden brethren from the south. Nothing seemed to matter beyond the 4 games we played during the year, and even a competition for something as meaningless as the Pacific Division crown was rendered important, if for nothing else but the thrill of the other's defeat. This should feel great.

It is really fun to have a team you hate. Otherwise meaningless games matter. The league pays attention, the fans pay attention and the teams feed off of that excitement. You know which games are exciting every year in Milwaukee? The first game and whenever Michael Redd comes back from his latest knee injury. They have no rivals. There are no regional invaders fighting for importance and no foe to conquer. It's a strange phenomenon to hate a team so much but to absolutely love the rivalry. Everything in you wants to conquer but not destroy. There is nothing fun about vanquishing an opponent until they fade into obscurity. Consistently beating them over and over and devastating generations of fans? That's fun.

I've heard that Mayor Kevin Johnson is doing everything he can to keep the Kings in Sacramento. Let's hope for the best so I can continue to hope for the worst for YOUR...Sacramento Kings.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Western Conference Finals Predictions

I am very aware that I am posting "predictions" for a series after game two. But in fairness, I wrote this two days ago after game 1, and these opinions largely reflect how I felt before the series, and nothing happened to change my mind. Also, this is my blog. Don't tell me what my business is, devil woman.

Two. That's the number of players that are left over from the 2006 epic Finals meltdown squad.

Three. That's the number of players that are left over from the 2007 epic 1st round meltdown squad.

Those three players are Jason Terry, Dirk Nowitzki and Jason Terry. Based on their performances the last two weeks, do you see those players showing any scars from those two infamous playoff meltdowns?

For the last 5 years, that's all we've ever heard about the Mavs - playoff chokers that can't get it done when it matters. But 5 years have passed, Dirk is still playing at the same, if not better than his MVP 2007 season and most importantly, the team has an infusion of new guys that are either too crazy or too dumb to care about past playoff failures. They've learned how to come back from deep deficits, how to win on the road and how to ignore the whispers that a team that lost 4 straight in the Finals SHOULD hear.

The Mavs win this series because they are bigger, hungrier and deeper than this young Thunder squad. With the Lakers taking an early exit, the Spurs trending downwards and right on the precipice of a Western conference ruled by elite OKC, Memphis and Portland squads, this might be the Mavericks' best - and last - shot. And I think they all know it.

Kevin Durant will go absolutely bonkers this whole series. Even with Corey Brewer, Shawn Marion and Peja to throw at him, I think that KD is just as likely to be stopped as Dirk - a very low percentage proposition. But what worries me about the Thunder is that they are still trying to figure out what's the best way to play. Yes, Russ Westbrook is going for 30+ a night, but is that the best way to win when you have the greatest scorer in the league on your side? How can you always have the ball in the hands of a guy who turns it over with alarming regularity? There seems to be a conflict of interest on the the OKC side of offense, which is not something you want in the last 14 games of the season.

This whole playoff run for the Mavericks is about conquering playoff ghosts and 30 years of inferiority to their two Texan NBA neighbors and the big bad Lakers. Dallas needs to finish this in game 6, and not just to escape the uncertainty of a game 7 (even at home). They need to win this game 6 on the road to a smaller, chippier team in an extremely hostile road environment. It won't erase what happened in 2007, but should serve as not only a catharsis of sorts, but propel them to face their next painful apparition of the past. Revenge is coming LeBron. Watch out.

Mavericks in SIX

Thursday, May 19, 2011

If I were the GM of...The New Orleans Hornets

I just watched 2 more New Orleans Hornets games this season than I was prepared to watch. It's really a shame to watch Chris Paul at the height of his powers, showing everyone that everyone's coronation of Rajon Rondo, Deron Williams or even the MVP Derrick Rose as the best point guards in the league was incredibly premature. Truthfully, CP3's best teammate in his just completed playoff series was the Lakers' arrogance and apathetic play. With David West injured, Trevor Ariza was his best teammate, followed by Carl Landry, Emeka Okafor, Jarrett Jack, Aaron Gray and Marco Bellinelli. In no universe, should those guys be your 2 through 6 when you're in the playoffs. If you scour NOLA's roster holdovers from this year, along with their salary commitments, it's not hard to see why talk of Chris Paul leaving the team is such incessant digital chatter. Their series against the Lakers is a testament to how great Chris Paul is, as he dragged 14 stiffs to a playoff spot that had no business taking in the first place. This team is an absolute mess, and if I were the GM, I would have no shortage of work to do.

Chris Paul: 16.35 million
Emeka Okafor: 12.5 million
David West: 7.2 million (player option)
Trevor Ariza: 6.8 million
Jarrett Jack: 5.2 million
David Andersen: 2.7 million (team option)
Marco Bellinelli: 3.37 million
Jason Smith: 3.13 million
Quincy Pondexter: 1.15 million
Aaron Gray: 1.12 million
Total: 50.7 million

Marcus Banks: 4.7 million
Willie Green: 3.9 million
Carl Landry: 3 million
DJ Mbenga: 1 million
A bunch of dudes: 500,000
Total: 13.1 million

1). You can't trade Chris Paul

I'll tackle this one first, obviously. Like Dwight Howard, Chris Paul has an player option for the 2012-2013 season, which he will most likely decline. But the reason to retain rather than trade Chris Paul is more a business decision that's going to be handed down by the league than anything else.

A little more than a year ago, the NBA bought and took stewardship of the Hornets, until a new owner could be found. The hope is that the new owner would be a little bit more free-spending than the notoriously cheap and league-wide detested former owner George Shinn, and more importantly, keep the franchise in New Orleans. So until the team is bought, the league has to treat this team like a used car - the engine might be junked and the future very well could be bleak, but keep that thing clean and running well enough for a test drive.

Without Chris Paul, the Hornets are awful - a borderline lottery team with no young player to build around. But some would argue "if you are going to sell the team and Chris Paul is probably going to leave anyway, why don't you trade him for some young pieces and show a new owner that perhaps the team will be good in the next couple years". A fair point. But let's look at a team like Memphis, for example. They are riding high now with just the fourth 8th seed upset in league history and have a pretty good team with Z-Bo, Pau's brother, Rudy Gay, Mike Conley and OJ Mayo. But when they traded Pau Gasol 3 years ago, could you see that? I don't think anyone expected Rudy Gay would be as good as he is now, Z-Bo was nowhere in sight and Mike Conley was going to theme parties at college in Ohio. That team looked like it had no future with a roster filled with Hakim Warrick, Kyle Lowry, Javaris Crittendon and Kwame Brown. My point is, that even if you are to trade a superstar like Chris Paul, the future looks dim almost no matter what the situation. The prospects that the team would receive for even the league's best point guard (albeit one with bad knees) couldn't make this team look better to a buyer, unless that player was say, Blake Griffin, John Wall, DeMarcus Cousins or Stephen Curry (and obviously those trades aren't happening). You might as well keep Chris Paul, and sell the franchises under the pretenses that he might stay. False hope might work - look at the Clippers. They've turned a profit for years.

BURN. Neil Olshey is an idiot.

2). Hope that David West will punch his player option

I like David West. He's a nice player, seems like a nice guy (his profile picture always looks something like this. How could you hate a guy like that? He looks so friendly) and I was bummed out when he blew out his knee this year. If not for that injury, he was looking towards a 60 to 75 million dollar payday from either New Orleans, New Jersey, Indiana, Milwaukee or Memphis (had they not re-signed Zach Randolph). With his injury, I think he accepts his player option and comes back mid-season to the Hornets, rebuilds his value and then goes for a big deal next summer.

3). Offer Carl Landry a 5-year, 40 million dollar deal

Because that's how much he's worth. Carl Landry could be the best sixth man in the league any year now. He brings energy, hustle and a post game that belies his size. But he's a bench player. He should be paid accordingly. Anything more than that is ludicrous. I wouldn't want that guy as a start on my team, let alone being paid starter's money. Don't get crazy now NOLA.

4). Peace out David Andersen, Jason Smith and Willie Green ; retain Aaron Gray and DJ Mbenga; don't extend Marco Bellinelli

Let those guys walk. Smith has some size and Andersen has a nice shooting touch, but both are replaceable and way too expensive. Willie Green is a streaky player who, on his best day, is a good backup guard. Have fun playing in Charlotte next season guys. I've never seen much out of Aaron Gray, but good lord is that a big boy. I'd retain him by virtue alone of the fact that he is a human roadblock. I just like DJ Mbenga. He is not afraid to shoot 15 foot J's that he can't make and after muscling his way for a rebound, he'll inevitably bobble it out of bounds. But he barely touches the court and I hear he's a great practice player, especially for such a cheap price.

I like Bellinelli, but again, there is no way that that guy should be a starter on your squad. I've realized what the Hornets have is the best second unit in the league...that plays as a first unit. If you had Bellinelli, Landry, Trevor and Jarrett Jack coming off your bench, you'd probably have to infer that your starters were some of the best in the league. That foursome is just as good as Steve Blake, Shannon Brown, Matt Barnes and Lamar Odom, no? But unfortunately that's not the case.

5). Use that little bit of cap room to get a real shooting guard

If they could be had for the right price, Jamal Crawford, Jason Richardson and J.R. Smith are not bad choices. Unfortunately, I think all of those guys will get deals that pay them 8 to 10 million dollars annually, which is a little bit out of NOLA's price range. If you're the Hornets, you have to hope one of these guys is dumb enough to disregard the red flags of a team with no owner, very little money, spotty home crowds in a devastated region of the country that they might not even be in for long and they REALLY want to play with Chris Paul.

Michael Redd is an interesting possibility coming off of knee surgery. He knows how to play with CP3 from their time on the 2008 Redeem Team together, was one of the best 3 shooters in the league and will be looking for a make-good contract after coming back from two (!) major reconstructive knee surgeries.

If none of these guys is available, none of the alternatives is much better than Quincy Pondexter or Marco Bellinelli. The best of the leftovers are a group that includes Leandro Barbosa, Mickael Pietrus, Shane Battier, Shannon Brown, Mike Dunleavey, Sasha Vujacic and Vladimir Radmanovic.

But there is no situation where Sasha Vujacic or Vladimir Radmanovic become viable options.

Barring a miracle trade, a completely underrated 7 million dollar signing for a shooting guard or Quincy Pondexter suddenly playing like Joe Johnson, there is no way that this team will be much better than it is now. Keep that sticker price high and that car clean NOLA.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Neil Olshey is an idiot

At the trade deadline, Los Angeles Clippers traded Baron Davis, the 2 years and $17 million dollars left on his contract and an unprotected 2011 1st Round draft pick to the Cleveland Cavaliers for Mo Williams and Jamario Moon.

Yesterday was the NBA Draft lottery. For those of you that don't know, every year, in order to stop teams from "tanking" (intentionally losing games to get a higher pick in the draft), there is a lottery to determine the order of draft picks. Thus, even with the worst record in the league, you might not have the number one pick (in fact, the team with the worst record in the league rarely gets the number 1 pick).

The Clippers had a 2.8% chance of getting the top pick after finishing with the 8th worst record in the league. This is nothing new to the Clips – they’ve finished with a top 14 pick every year but 3 in their 27 year tenure in Los Angeles. Do the math here kids; that means they’ve made the playoffs 3 times in their glorious run befouling the name of Los Angeles professional athletics.

The Cavaliers were an absolutely decimated squad this year – LeBron fled to South Beach and took with him the fortunes of the franchise. They finished with the second-worst record in the league which gave them the second best odds of the number one picks – a roughly 20% chance. But that wasn’t the pick that gave them the top spot for the draft in June.

Of course, as is the norm for the Clippers and their accursed history, it was LA’s pick that turned out to be number one.

“Adding Mo Williams and $8.5 m in cap room gives us better odds of improving than a 2.8% chance of winning the lottery.”

The Clippers have been terrible almost every single year of their existence. They’ve won 1 playoff series in Los Angeles. They’ve faced injury after injury and hit every single bad break imaginable. GM Neil Olshey, how did you possibly think that this time would be different than the 27 years preceding this one?

How do you not give that pick top-3 protection? How do you not even give it top-1 protection? I imagine the Cavaliers still would have made that trade with that type of protection on it, considering that they only had a 3% chance of being wrong. They Cavalier needed more talent and they needed to do something to prove to their fan base that they were still working.

The Clippers took a gamble here, and they lost. Obviously they were prepared for that small possibility that the pick could be in the top three. But as a GM, you have to make decisions that eliminate those type of (potentially) franchise changing misfires.

I mentioned at the time that I thought this was a dumb move for the Clips to give up a first rounder. You just don't give up a pick like that when you're ALREADY a terrible team. Neil Olshey is an idiot.

“We had a 97% chance of sitting here tonight with Baron Davis, the 8th pick in a bad draft and no cap flexibility.” - Today

This is such a display of arrogance. Even with a top-10 pick in a draft "you hate", that is such a stupid statement to make. When have the Clippers ever made a free agent signing that improved the team? Baron Davis’ contract was and is abhorrent. Cuttino Mobley gave them a couple good years before heart problems ended his career (yes, heart problems for a guy who was in peak physical condition – only on the Clippers could this happen). But other than that, the Clippers have had next to no notable free agent additions in their history. Every good player that has come to them has been through THE DRAFT and through trades (with picks from THE DRAFT).

Point to any good Clippers player EVER. Danny Manning, Blake Griffin, Lamar Odom, Eric Gordon, Chris Kaman and Danny Ferry? Draft picks. Sam Cassel, Elton Brand, Dominique Wilkins, Marcus Camby, Corey Maggette, Andre Miller and Ron Harper? Got all of those guys by trading DRAFT PICKS. Tell me honestly, am I leaving anyone of significance out?

The draft has been the only legitimate source of success (either by keeping the player or trading his rights for another player) for a franchise that has been completely bereft of it in their long history of ineptitude. No one will sign there. Ever. For multiple reasons going beyond just the curse.

Neil Olshey is an idiot.

"Said a Clippers source after the team sent its first-round pick to Cleveland, 'This just shows you how much we hate this draft.'" – Feb 24th, 2011

As the Cavs now have the number 1 (and 4) pick, most people expect them to pick Duke guard Kyrie Irving with the top spot and whoever else is the best on the board with number 4, with the exception of Brandon Knight (another point guard). The Cavs can’t really discriminate with that number 4 pick – they need help at every spot.

Many scouts have favorably compared Irving to Chris Paul, specifically naming similarities their quickness, passing and ability to penetrate.

I hope and pray that Irving turns into CP3 2.0. It would be the only justice appropriate for a franchise that turned it’s back on the only source of success they’ve ever known. The Clippers absolutely deserve to be haunted by their decision making and for disregarding the pathway to rebuilding that every other bad team in the league uses. I cannot wait to watch the Cavs next year as they make the number 8 spot in the playoffs, led by Rookie of the Year Kyrie Irving, as the Clippers finish with 38 wins and a tee time at 8 am on April 16th, 2012. I hope Blake Griffin signs with the Thunder in 4 years.

As I told this to my GREAT MAMBINO cohort BockerKnocker today, he noted that most of my rage may stem from hangover Lakers pain. He’s not wrong. But I’m not either. Neil Olshey is an idiot.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Large Suspension; Small Crime

(NOTE: This post was written by friend of THE GREAT MAMBINO, Alvy. He is one of the foulest, most bile-filled humans that I've met in my life. His hatred of mediocrity goes beyond my own, his hatred of Frank McCourt goes beyond human comprehension and his love of the Los Angeles Lakers is second only to his love of himself.

Last week, we "discussed" Andrew Bynum's suspension for his late game hit on JJ Barea in the deciding game 4 between the Lakers and the Mavericks. Needless to say, Alvy was more than opinionated about it, so much so that we asked him to write a guest post. Read on and welcome Alvy to our distinguished [nope] ranks

There was an ugly moment in the final game of the temporary collapse of the Laker Kingdom. With a few minutes left in the game, Juan Pablo Estaban Manuel Jose Berea de Mexico drove through the matador perimeter defense of the Lakers to the hoop and, while in mid-air, was bulldozed by Fat Albert…err…Andrew Bynum.

Let me set the record straight here - this was a cheap, dirty, classless foul. The kid needs to grow up and stop embarrassing himself, the city of Los Angeles, the Lakers organization and most importantly, me.

The point I want to make is that the public outcry (get a grip, people) and the subsequent suspension (seriously, Stern?) were way over the top. And when I say way over the top…I mean Mel Gibson talking to his wife over the top. Or Christian Bale on a set talking to stage hand over the top. Everyone needs to relax.

Had that foul been committed on 99% of players in the league, it would not have resulted in such a ridiculous outcry. For example, let's say Drew had hit Dwight Howard. He may not have even felt Bynum’s foul on his way to a Sportcenter Top 10 Dunk of the Year. Even if that had been a smaller player like Trevor Ariza or Ronnie Brewer, then it’s just a hard, cheap shot. But because Barea is so freaking tiny, he took the hit harder than other normal-sized players, and his fall to the ground looked worse.

THIS IS NOT BYNUM’S FAULT. It is ridiculous to expect NBA players to consider the size of the opposing player before taking a particular action (in this case, a cheap, hard foul). It’s completely unreasonable.

Bynum is a big boy. One of the biggest in the NBA. Barea is a small boy. One of the smallest on the planet. The NBA is played at a lightning-quick pace. Decisions are made in nano-seconds and plays happen in the blink of an eye. It is a silly statement to presume that an NBA player should have to be responsible for the way a player lands after a foul.

And to the suspension itself - it's absurd. Back in the 90’s, players got 1 and 2 game suspensions for FIGHTING. Not cheap fouls or elbows, fists to the ACTUAL FACE. I point to the famous ’97 brawl between the Heat and Knicks (remember? It's the one where Jeff Van Gundy grabbed onto Alonzo Mourning’s legs). No player got more than 2 games for that. Let me remind you once again - that was a full blown BRAWL. And how about the most infamous fight of all? In 2004, after basically inciting what turned into a riot and oh, after THROWING A CHAIR AT A FAN (yes, a spectator!) Ben Wallace got just 6 games! Bynum jumps into Barea and the little maggot falls to the ground and Bynum get 5 games. Had Bynum subsequently THROWN A CHAIR AT A FAN, then yeah, 5 games is right. But that didn’t happen. All that happened, was that Barea - because he’s so small - fell to the floor hard. That’s not Bynum’s fault and he shouldn’t be held responsible for the tiny stature of Barea. It’s an absurd burden to place on any player in the fastest, most athletic league in the world.

The final argument is that David Stern and his minions that run the NBA Corporation were sending Bynum a message. There was the a de-lunging Gerald Wallace two seasons ago (he’s completely fine btw) and the clobbering of Michael Beasley (also perfectly healthy). IT’S A BIG BOYS LEAGUE. If someone wants to say that this punishment was the league sending a message, I am fine with that. But if a punishment is designed to ‘send a message,’ then one of the implications is that it did not fit this particular crime, but rather the body of Bynum’s assault work. And that just proves my point that this was way over the top (both the media and fan reaction, not to mention the suspension itself) for what actually happened last week. Everyone needs to chill out. He deserved 1-2 games MAX for a dirty play. Anyone who disagrees doesn’t know anything about the NBA.

Tune in, for your sake

The two best shows on TV right now are Parks and Recreation and Tough Enough. The only people who disagree with me are people who haven't watched them. I could describe exactly what makes me tune in to those two shows, but my opinion has no value. I'm just a simpleton who is lame enough to blog in my spare time.
The 2011 NBA Playoffs have been downright riveting. But you'll listen to me even less than had I spouted off on the entertainment brilliance of Parks and TE, for two reasons: 1) you already watch the NBA, and/or 2) the NBA just doesn't have the mainstream appeal of someone like Amy Poehler.
That being said, here are the top 5 moments of these playoffs.
5. The Atlanta Deadbeats winning 6 playoff games.
This doesn't actually count as an awesome event. It's just another way for me to point out that I'm better than Blake at this.

4. Zach Randolph's "blue collar player, blue collar town" speech.
As a sports fan, I want professional athletes to play with the same amount of passion that they did when they were kids. For years, Z-Bo has played a role in killing NBA franchises because he didn't care about anyone else but himself. This year, Z-Bo played the biggest role in killing an NBA franchise...the Spurs. The best power forward in league history had no answer for an incredible array of low-post moves and circus shots that only became more ridiculous as each one swished through San Antonio's hearts and dreams. But the best part was after Game 6, when Z-Bo understood that he wasn't playing for himself. He had been trying to spell "team" with an "i" for his whole career. He finally got it.
3. Pau Gasol's feeble crawl into a corner, leading to his eventual trade to the Golden State Warriors.
Let's say you have a close-knit group of friends. Now suppose that some event occurred involving said group of friends, and there was one person to blame for it. Things could go one of two ways here. The wrongdoer can accept the blame, apologize, and move forward, creating an even more close-knit group of friends. Or, the wrongdoer can shut himself out, refuse to take advice, give his friends the silent treatment, and all that nonsense. The average person is in Group 2 because it's extremely difficult to put pride aside for the good of the group. Nobody blames the Group 2 dude because that's just how most people operate, but the rare person is in Group 1.
Pau Gasol is one of the most talented bigs in the game today. He's like the guy in the group of friends that consistently makes everyone laugh and always contributes to a good time. But that guy usually isn't the person you turn to when times are tough, because he's likely to be more style than substance. Pau's performance in the 2011 Playoffs showed that he was an average human being, regardless of how talented he really is.
2b. Chris Paul coming back to life.
This has been written about far too much, but it's still a huge moment so it has to get listed.

2a. J.J. Barea doing the exact same thing in the very next round.
What this little dude did to the Lakers made Paul's performance far less impressive. Maybe the Lakers played really really bad defense, or maybe J.J. Barea deserves a max contract. You decide.
1. Brandon Roy's 23-point fourth quarter against Dallas.
I really wish Portland beat Dallas. Moreso because I called it, but also because there would be more stories about Brandon Roy. Simmons glossed over this, but I'll push it a little further with a job analogy.

You're really good at what you do. And not just good for your area or region, but you're good enough that everybody in your profession knows you have the goods. You're a bonafide superstar. Then, through no fault of your own, your ability to perform your job is taken away from you. But you can't exactly start a whole new career; this is what you know. You're not going to turn away from what you've been doing your entire life just because the whole world doubts you.
But it gets worse. Your boss comes into your office one day and says, "It's not really working out. We have young recruits coming in from other firms, as well as recent graduates, who show some true promise. I'm gonna let them take the lead on every project, but be ready to assist them whenever they need you."
It turns out, however, that your young replacements are faltering, in front of the world who has almost forgotten you. They're losing important documents. They're screening important phone calls. They're just not ready to do your job. So you have to step in, but not because your boss wants you to, but because your boss has no other choice.
And you DELIVER.
You don't just finish the job. You absolutely own the job, miraculously. The only drawback is just that; it was a miracle. The next day, the boss sides with conventional wisdom because you still don't have the ability to perform on a consistent basis. "It's in the company's best interests to develop the young guns for the future," he says.
Sadly, you know he's right. Your time is up, no different than how it was before your for-the-ages performance. But you'll always have that day. And we'll always remember that.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Eastern Conference Finals prediction

Say what you will about LeBron James, but everything that happened after Game 5 of the Celtics series showed the world that he really does care about winning. Everybody says they would have saved the kneeling, crying, and embracing for something truly worth celebrating, but don't sit there and tell me you don't celebrate the little things in life. Think of the last time you got an interview for a job you really wanted. I'll bet my life that you at least displayed The Face to celebrate the news, but you didn't actually get the job at the point, did you? You got an interview, one step further along the line to achieving your ultimate goal of gaining employment. You didn't win the NBA Finals, you beat the Celtics in a preliminary playoff round. But it felt good didn't it? Stop picking the guy apart when he moved one step further along his ultimate goal.

Back to the matter at hand, there will be added fuel to the fire in this series. Across the court, LeBron will witness the anti-LeBron in Derrick Rose. Rose is everything that LeBron is not. He stayed home and became part of a real team. Fans and sportswriters alike gush over the guy. They speak of his humility, his grace, and drool over the fact that he "leads by example." When the Bulls lose, people blame Boozer for being soft, Thibodeau for playing bench players too much, or Ronnie Brewer and Keith Bogans for being Ronnie Brewer and Keith Bogans.

On the other hand, LeBron left Ohio and will never be welcomed back. He teamed up with his buddies as part of a plan that was conceived three years ago. Unlike Rose, he didn't have faith in the Cavaliers to build a contender around him (albeit, rightly so). And this season, fans and sportswriters alike despise LeBron. They speak of his cowardice, his arrogance, and snicker privately that his headband hides his receding hairline. When the Heat lose, it's not because of Wade, Bosh, or Spoelstra: it's always LeBron's fault.

Rose's Hero will push LeBron's Villain to new heights. Maybe LeBron doesn't care about having more titles than D-Wade, but that won't stop him from getting what he wants. He will rise to the occasion because he doesn't have any other choice. I hate LeBron and everything he stands for, but by the end of this series, I'll be wishing that I liked him. He's that good.

Heat in SIX

Frank McCourt's cheapening of The Dodger Way

I have been to Dodger Stadium every year of my life. My dad took me there before I could walk, before I understood the game and when I only cared about eating a Dodger Dog and getting a chocolate malt. Whenever I step foot in Chavez Ravine, it feels like I belong there. It is the very place where Sandy Koufax destroyed any hitter that dared cross his path and where Orel Hersheiser emulated that to perfection. I know the exact spot in the parking lot where you can see brake lights as Vinny says "and...she...is...gone!" and Gibson does those fist pumps he steadfastly refused to recreate even to this day. I remember what it smelled like when Yoshinoya beef bowl had food stands all over the stadium because of the massive presence of Japanese tourists that came to see Hideo Nomo pitch. I am aware that the greatest Dodger of all time is a guy that's never put on a pair of cleats and watches the games from high above, masterfully and effortlessly painting the games with eloquently crafted words for an experience I can remember from my childhood as my father can remember from his. I know about our six championships, our record number of National League pennants and playoff appearances. I know that there are only a handful of jerseys that a player can put on, look at himself in the mirror and think - "Wow. I can't believe I'm wearing this uniform" - and the Dodgers are one of them. I know it should be an honor to run the bases at our hallowed grounds and to have Vin Scully tell the world what number you wear on your back. It is for all of these reasons and countless more that nothing that Frank McCourt tells me is relevant.

We are a joke and an embarrassment to the league. This is nothing new to our fans, but it might be to most of the country. We are the Los Angeles Dodgers and we can barely afford to pay our players. Several weeks ago, a fan wearing orange and black got beaten senseless in the parking lot, and I use the term "senseless" quite literally; Brian Stow might never feel anything ever again in his life, the length of which varies depending on the day. This might not be an issue if the mismanagement in the Dodgers' front office hadn't been so poor that we've been without a head of security for months now. For 7 summers I have been hopeful that we would be players in the free agent and trade market. We've snagged one guy in that entire time and he took us places not seen since 1988. But it wasn't enough.

McCourt argues that during his tenure the Dodgers have had one of their greatest uninterrupted string of success in our history. And that's absolutely true. We've made 4 playoffs appearances, won two playoff series and 9 playoff games, which is exactly 1 more playoff appearance, two playoff series and 9 playoff games more than the 16 years preceding McCourt's arrival. He's also argued that he successfully traded for, and retained for the sum of $45 million dollars, Manny Ramirez, and along with him, a very successful marketing campaign. There has been much ado about us being cheap when it comes to the draft, to which McCourt points to our recently signed Zach Lee, who, after one of the largest signing bonuses in history, turns out didn't really want to be quarterback at Louisiana State University. Frank very happily points out that we broke attendance records and brought in more money than we have in years, and that the name brand of the Dodgers is worth millions more than when before he got there. Check, check and check, Frank.

I look at McCourt's argument and with that short summary, it's hard to argue with the guy. For all of our bitter hatred, bile and resentment, you have to admit it everyone - he's not entirely wrong. We won two playoff series (sweeps both times, no less) and got further in October than any Dodger team that didn't have a guy named Orel, Fernando, Kirk or Tommy. We drafted Zach Lee when every "expert" said that there was almost no way he was going to sign and that our pick was merely a facade to avoid paying a young man millions of dollars. We've been able to add small pieces and tweaks and have, to McCourt's credit, retained a lot of these players. GM Ned Colletti has made some shrewd trades, along with a couple awful ones, but I can't argue with getting a guy who just hit in 30 straight games and another recently-retired player who once hit nearly .400 in a half-season. Our attendance has swelled to ridiculous proportions and if Frank were to sell the team today, he would be a very rich man. Temporarily. But to even to these extremely well made points, I can do nothing but be filled with resentment and anger.

Whenever you see a team do anything short of winning a championship, the question you have to ask yourself as a competitor, manager or fan is not "look what we did to get there", but rather "what could we have done to get us further". And the latter is exactly what I ask of the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Yes, we got to the National League Championship Series. To that I say Big. Fuckin. Deal. We are the Los Angeles Dodgers. We compete for pennants and championships with Hall of Fame players. The answer is because we win and the question is why has not a thing changed on the uniform since World War II. This is the team that Jackie Robinson has played for. Making it to the NLCS should be the expectation, not a point of defense when the community is asking you to leave. Under McCourt the standards of winning have fallen, and his excuses for our performance and accomplishments, or lack thereof, is an absolute affront to the hundreds of people that made the term "the Dodger Way" mean something. He has taken an impeccable reputation of excellence that was once built on the most sacred values of the greatest game and compromised it. For what, Frank? So you could have an excuse to prolong your bastardization of one of the pillars of Major League Baseball? Compromise is not weakness, nor is it an untenable concept by any means. But compromise in the face of hallowed principles is weakness. It is a coward's act to mask failure.

The core of Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Rafael Furcal, Russell Martin, James Loney, Manny Ramirez, Clayton Kershaw, Chad Billingsley and Jon Broxton was absolutely fantastic. In a lifetime of forgettable October forays into Shea Stadium, Busch Stadium and the Great American Ballpark, I remember the silence of Wrigley Field after a Loney grand slam and never jumping higher after a Mark Loretta hit straight up the middle for a walk-off win. All those moments gave me great memories - but those were great squads that just didn't have enough to quite get all the way there. McCourt claims these memories as a gift from the loins of his Dodger Blue rule, but I see them as a gift from Kevin Malone's scouting department and Dan Evan's draft choices. I see Manny as player someone else paid for who we got for three guys that are now barely major leaguers. I look at these teams and remember not that just that they were fun or that they were almost there, but I frequently think - "How good would those squads have looked with Mark Teixeira in the lineup? Or with CC Sabathia holding down the front end of that rotation? Or Cliff Lee playing hero in Los Angeles rather than Arlington?" Dodger fans, McCourt's claims aren't entirely untrue, but they aren't completely his to take credit for either. The young players were not his to take credit for, save Andre Ethier. I look at those squads and think not about how talented we were, but rather, how our talent could have been augmented with an extra addition...had our owner the funds to supplement such an endeavor. I am not here to judge him on his relationship with his family or how he spends his money. That is every man's personal business. But I am here to judge how a man's management of all those things affects the value of his word and violates the trust of scores of fans.

And while I am not as upset with McCourt for this offense as I am at his other, more grievous ones, it frustrates me that our opportunity to augment what we had for the better was squandered by restrictions that never should have been there in the first place.

I am not saying that Frank McCourt is a bad person. He is not. None of his actions were done done with malicious intent. Everything that he has done has been under the weakness, arrogance and ignorance in his personality. He is a man neither strong enough to manage his personal affairs, nor run a business built on principles of excellence, respect and dignity. He cannot be trusted to enforce the ideals that so many men and women took decades working so diligently for. I don't dislike him for being feebly principled or ignorant of the weight of a torch Mr. O'Malley once held so high.

What I dislike him for most is thinking that he was man enough to be a Dodger.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Doc Rivers is smarter than we thought

Glenn Rivers is a good enough NBA coach. He's no Popovich, Jackson, or JVG, but relative to the 'Antonis and the Byron Scotts of the world, he's better than average. I have some fond memories of Doc playing for the Knicks, like when he hit 6 triples in a playoff game against Indiana. I have some unfortunate memories too, like when he called a timeout while running a three-on-one fast break because his leg started cramping up. Now, I hate the guy. Had KG and Ray Allen went elsewhere during the summer of '07, Doc would probably be hamming it up with Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith on TV. But we'll save the fury for another day.

All season we've heard that Doc was gonna take a year off to spend time with his family, most specifically to watch his prep superstar son, Austin, play a possible one-and-done year at Duke. That was the beginning of his scheme.

The Celtics started off strong, holding the pole position (probably the first and last NASCAR-related reference) in the Eastern Conference for much of the early going. However, his aging team suffered through fatigue, injuries, and a still-ridiculous mid-season trade of Kendrick Perkins.

Boston fell to the 3-seed to face YOUR New York Knicks, in a series that some thought would at least be very competitive. 2 things here: 1) I will avoid admitting when I'm wrong whenever possible, and 2) I am adamant that a fully healthy Bocker squad would have pushed a fully healthy Celtics team to 7 games.

Then came the Heat. 50% of the people who write for this blog picked the Celtics to lose, which they did rather quickly. Yeah yeah injuries injuries blah blah blah. Don't care. Not important right now. What is important is that everybody and their mother expected Boston to either win or at least make it competitive, so a 5-game drubbing seemed like a bigger disappointment than it really was.

So to put the plan in perspective:
1. Everybody already thought Doc was gone.
2. Celtics got progressively worse as the season went on. The loss of Perkins combined with Shaq's inability to walk led to another wasted year for the aging Celtic Hall-of-Famers.
3. It's looking more and more like Phil Jackson is definitely taking at least a year off. Rumors that Doc would be Kobe's Next Coach started running, even just to drive up the price.

Danny Ainge needed to do something. In this case, something = 5 years, 35 mil. Well played.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

If I were GM of...the Minnesota Timberwolves

The Timberwolves confound me - every time I see Jonny Flynn on the bench and Luke Ridnour's face instead of Ricky Rubio's or Stephen Curry's, I have no idea why GM David Kahn still has a job. But then I see Michael Beasley dropping 20 a game and Kevin Love putting up a 30-30 (!) and the man he was traded for, OJ Mayo, being nearly traded for Josh McRoberts and a signed Larry Bird Jersey (an Indiana State throwback jersey though) and I think that maybe the man has a plan.

Sure he signed Darko Milicic to a 4-year deal (please watch this video, as Khan tries to compare Darko to Chris Webber...while doing live, on-air commentary with Chris Webber. I thought C-Webb might commit his first murder) and drafted two point guards that both basically don't play in the league when Stephen Curry, Brandon Jennings, George Hill, Roddy Beaubois and Ty Lawson were still on the board. Yeah he drafted Corey Brewer over Joakim Noah and Wesley Johnson over DeMarcus Cousins and Greg Monroe. And hey, maybe he hired one of the worst coaches in the league and signed Nikola Pekovic to a 3 year deal, guaranteed. The guy might...just might have a plan.

Wait, before you never come to this blog again, I didn't say it was a GOOD plan. I just said it was a plan. He thought that Kevin Love was a better building block than Al Jefferson (who his predecessor, Kevin McHale traded for, not Kahn) and jettisoned him (though, for 70 cents on the dollar). He knew that a guy who goes number 2 like Michael Beasley in the draft had to be worth the second round picks he was giving up for. He is praying that Rubio comes over, is better than advertised and can throw 14 lobs a game to B-Eazy and can make Darko look like Shaquille. He hopes that Wesley Johnson and Martell Webster can make more than a few corner threes. If all this happens, IF...the Wolves might be a playoff team. One day. Maybe.

Michael Beasley: 6.2 million
Martell Webster: 5.2 million
Darko: 4.77 million
Luke Ridnour: 3.68 million
Nikola Pekovic: 4.3 million
Wesley Johnson: 4 million
Kevin Love: 4.6 million
Jonny Flynn: 3.4 million
Anthony Tolliver: 2 million
Anthony Randolph: 2.9 million
Wayne Ellington: 1.15 million
Total: 42.4 million

Eddy Curry: 11.27 million
Sebastian Telfair: 2.7 million
Delonte West: 500,000

1). Save up that cap room
The Wolves are currently 15 million under the cap - conserve that room. At the end of next season, Love, Beasley and (it might be necessary) Anthony Randolph will all be eligible for extensions. I'm guessing that they will all make between 7 and 15 million annually, which will definitely munch up the rest of the cap space. I imagine that in a small market, the franchise will not want to go too far into the luxury tax, so I'd try to preserve whatever flexibility they have. I imagine that Love is an automatic extension candidate, while Beasley and Randolph have to do a little bit more this season to prove themselves worthy of that big money.

Just don't do anything rash Mr. Kahn, like signing Travis Outlaw to a 35 million dollar deal. Like anyone would do something that stupid.

2). Draft the most talented player in the draft, no matter what the position is.
In regards to young players, the Wolves are stacked at almost every position with a young "developing" player (the definition of "developing" will change depending on the player. He might have already "developed" into being mediocre or terrible):

Point: Ricky Rubio, Jonny Flynn
SG: Martell, Wes Johnson
SF: Beasley
PF: Love, Tony Randolph
C: Darko, Pekovic

If you look at all those guys, they have a player at every position that they are committed to for the foreseeable future because of contract concerns or lofty draft position. The Wolves are set with Beasley and Love, and if you believe that Rubio will be coming within the next couple of seasons, then you're set with him as well. Center (as I'll get to in a second) and shooting guard are of concern. Seeing as the best available shooting guard did not enter the draft (Harrison Barnes), and the Wolves will be guaranteed a top 4 pick, I would just draft the best possible prospect, whether that be Kyrie Irving, Derrick Williams or Brandon Knight, and hold on to that player for a future trade for a young, promising SG.

3). ...if Wes Johnson doesn't have it

Wes Johnson had an adequate rookie season, but was pretty uninspiring for a guy who's already 23 years old. I'd give him another year to show the Wolves if he's a fit for the future or not. His role for the team doesn't have to be a guy who puts up 20 a night - that's what you have Beasley and Love for. However, you do have to be a guy that can defend on the perimeter (something Love and Beasley can't do) and knock down open shots from long consistently (something Beasley cannot do). Time is ticking Wes.

4). Trade for a center that can make some baskets
Love and especially Beasley can put up points in a hurry, but other than that, they really don't have any inside presence to speak of. Seeing as Love will be a fixture for many years to come in Minny, the only option is to try to trade for a center with little bit of a back to the basket offensive game, or at the very least someone who can keep defenses honest.

I'll say it - Darko wasn't awful this year. He was actually pretty decent for a 7-foot center. Yes, I know I just gave a backhanded compliment to David Kahn and I used "Darko" and "decent' in the same sentence, without having the word "Free" before the former. Defensively, Darko did a good job but quiet honestly the guy does not know how to take a ball and put it into the basket. From all past experience, I really wouldn't expect Darko to be calling up Hakeem and spending his summer months working hard on a post game.

Could a Wes Johnson/Pekovic swap for Chris Kaman work? Or if the Lakers needed to get an infusion of young talent, would a Bynum for Williams/Kyrie/Etc, Wes Johnson, Pekovic deal do it, especially with everything that just went down? Lot of trade possibilities with the cap room and young players the Wolves have.

4). Hire a couple of friends of mine, do some digging on Facebook, find some incriminating photos of Ricky Rubio and blackmail him
Something's gotta get that boy to leave his family, his country and beautiful Barcelona for Minneapolis, Minnestota.

The Wolves have a lot of young talent, but with the exception of Love, Darko and Martell Webster, they are mostly all still developing. I'm mostly intrigued with the development of Wes Johnson, if they can Rubio over and where they land in the draft. All the dominoes fall from there.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lakers Recap: Apathy is contagious


That's how I felt on Friday, except my suffering was much more silent. My roommate and I watched the game together, and as it ended, we just walked to our rooms. I didn't say anything. He was much more cordial and gave an emotionless "night", as we made no eye contact and went to go suffer alone. He's a much nicer person than me.


That's how I felt on Sunday. I was already psychologically removed from the chaos of everything unfolding on my television screen. The Lakers got dominated in every single way. Every Jason Terry three should have been like another shank in my belly. Every JJ Barea drive should have been like a squeeze of lemon on the wound. And all the minutes the Immortal Brian Cardinal played was like a desecration on the corpse. But all I did was calmly and simply note how that got out of hand. I squelched my emotions and protected my heart from harm. I believe that a psychologist would call that reaction "unhealthy".

I really thought that the Lakers were going to win the title this year. To be honest with you, there was not a doubt in my mind. I didn't see any reason why they'd lose. They had the most talent. They had the best coach, the best front line and one of the most competitive players in the history of the game on their side. Lamar had turned into the player that we all hoped he could be and Andrew turned into the second best center in the league. They had a chance at history - Phil's fourth three-peat, Kobe tying Michael with 6 rings and the Lakers tying the Celtics with 17 championships. Sure they played poorly at times in the season - their first 3+ game losing streak since Pau joined the team, a disgraceful Christmas day no-show against the Miami Heat, an even more disgraceful loss in Cleveland against the worst team in the league and a sputtering string of poor play to end the season. As Charles would say, Jerry West gon' roll over in his grave if he saw that. But the Lakers also won 17 of 18 coming out of the break. They were the champs. They'd be the champs until someone proved that we weren't.

I've heard a lot of things over the past few days. I've heard that Pau played terribly, Steve Blake was a complete waste of money, Derek took too many shots, Andrew didn't assert himself enough in a couple games, Phil made poor substitutions and on and on. These are all completely valid points. Pau had molted the hard shell of a legitimate big man that took a Kevin Garnett and Kendrick Perkins alley way beat down to create. Steve Blake had a game so game so bad that I considered changing my name. Shannon looked like a deer in headlights, Barnes couldn't get it together and Lamar disappeared for minutes at a time.

What I want everyone to understand is that the Lakers didn't lose this series because we weren't the most talented team. They are the most talented team with the best front line in the league. Ron Artest played some of his best basketball of his Lakers career the past 10 games and Kobe once again defied the mileage on his weary legs. Blake, Barnes and Brown are great bench players and according to voters, Lamar IS the best bench player in the league.

I watched every playoff game this year. I watched about 75 games during the regular season. I did the same last year. And the year before. And the year before that. I've probably watched 95% of every game since Pau got traded to the Lakers. This might explain why I know nothing about politics, finance or world news. But it does mean that I know a lot about the Los Angeles Lakers

And I know that the previous 3 seasons, the Lakers had that fire. This fire. An intensity that was palpable and man - did they want it. It felt like that this team needed to win to survive. The players appeared to have the weight of the world on their shoulders. No smiles, no jokes. Just icy cold demeanor and dozen awkward press conferences. They threw out every hyperbolic athlete catch phrase you could think of - "I want this. This keeps me up at night" "winning this game doesn't matter - the job's not done yet" "Series isn't over. I'll smile when the series is over" - but in a league where every press conference seems to reek of hackneyed over-exaggeration, it felt like this group of men really meant it. Winning was the only focus on their minds and nothing else in their world was as important as conquering 4 other teams over the span of two months.

But this year, I did not see that indomitable attitude, or even a fraction of the desire in every player on the past three Finals squads. Quite simply, they just did not want it enough. There wasn't enough jockeying of position inside, taking enough care of the ball or boxing out to prevent tip-ins. But it wasn't just the performance on the court - it was how the players acted off of it. It was in the interview, the press conferences, the reports from practice. Pau seemed distracted and disconnected. Lamar openly talked about how arrogant they were and the irony was as lost on him as he seemed with the ball at times. Kobe smiled and joked. There wasn't the same drive, hunger or singleness of purpose that had been oppressively present the past few years. The Mavericks wanted it much more than the Lakers, and it was apparent on every single front. They played harder, they played more together and they stayed strong in the closing minutes of the games. Yes, the Lakers got definitively beat in games 2 and 4. But games 1 and 3 were the Lakers' to lose. And they allowed that to happen. To quote my buddy Alvy - "this was a total Lakers' implosion. Not a Dallas win".

Dallas played very well, don't get me wrong - but what you saw was how well a team can play when the other team does not communicate and rotate on defense. Every Maverick played out of their minds, but I think it's easy to play so confidently when you see a team in such disarray on the other side of the court. I don't think that anyone keeps this statistic, but the Lakers had to set the NBA record for "most wide-open threes given up" and "most momentum-killing buckets given up". I will give the Mavericks a little more credit than Alvy, but not much. This was a gift Dallas. See if you can cash it in in the next few weeks.

The most frustrating thing here is that they lost not because of any physical malady or shortcoming - it was all mental and emotional. These players have the physical ability to completely dominate anyone they come across. But there seems to be a simple competitive component that is missing from the guys on this team. Perhaps their burning desire was sated by two titles and three runs to the Finals, capped off with a cleansing game 7 victory over their greatest rivals last June. Maybe the emotional high of that moment caused every other experience to feel mundane in comparison. Whatever it is, I don't think that this motor can be replicated or artificially implemented. This might be something that could be lost forever with this particular set of personnel. It's incredibly unfortunate that changes will have to be made to a team whose minds are not attuned to what their bodies can do.

Going into the offseason, I'm not sure what the Lakers have to do. I haven't gotten that far yet. But I do know that they don't need to start over, but they need to bring in enough new guys to inject some life and fire into a team that is largely devoid of it at this point. The team will be broken up to some extent, which is such a shame because while they are able to win with their talent, they just are not willing.

I've heard a lot of talk about trading Gasol, and I'm not sure that's the right move. As I've, he's just wasn't the same guy that he was the past two seasons - he was the guy he was three seasons ago. I've heard a lot of rumors, including those described by my colleague here on THE GREAT MAMBINO, and I'm not even sure what's true. But I know that Pau himself hasn't denied much and has led on that he's had some pretty serious things happen in his personal life. While precluding Kobe from another championship while in the twilight of his prime is a somewhat unforgivable offense from Pau, I understand that if I were in the same (rumored) situation, I would be wrecked as well. I think that at this point, with the situation being taken into account (not to mention his monster deal - 3 years, 60 million), I don't think Pau should be moved. And besides, to put this all on him is ridiculous. Everyone played poorly.

But this is a topic for another day, as is the disgraceful end to the great career of Phil Jackson and another lost year for Kobe to solidify his place even further as one of the all-time greats. There will be a new champion in a month and the next Lakers game probably won't be til January. Maybe I'll learn who this NASDAQ guy is in the meantime.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Who among us put some love into Mama Gasol?

We've seen this happen to a player before. Just one year ago, LeBron James quit on the Cavaliers after Delonte West did the dirty with LeBron's mother.

I was casually watching Lakers-Mavs during a rather delightful Mother's Day when I saw Pau Gasol get hammered near the basket. Foul was called, and Pau fell to the ground. Not one teammate came to help him up. Pau even milked the hit by staying there for a few extra seconds, and still, nothing. That doesn't happen to close-knit teams, especially during the playoffs. Hell, that doesn't even happen to my Zogsports co-ed soccer league team, and I don't even know some of their last names.

Difference between us and the Lakers? We're still defending our title.

Internet rumors swirled around Lakerland that Kobe's wife got into a little tiff with Pau's girlfriend, causing the breakup of Pau's relationship. Of course that would explain it, but wouldn't it be more fun to find out that someone certifiable like Ron-Ron or Matt Barnes ran train on someone in Pau's family? Mother's Day was yesterday, so it's natural to think that Pau was thinking about his once-pure-but-now-addicted-to-NBA-meat mother.

And that tells the story more than the numbers do. But just in case you read this blog because you support my general awesomeness, rather than being an actual NBA fan, here are the numbers anyway:

Pau's regular season:

18.8 points per game. 10.2 rebounds per game. 53% field goal shooting. 14.9 win share (nice!). 0.1 Kobe death stares per game.

Pau's 2011 playoffs:

13.1 ppg. 7.8 rpg. 42% fg. 0.9 win share (yikes!). 4.6 kdspg.

If I were the GM of...the Houston Rockets

(Note: if anyone has noticed my silence during the past week or so, it's mostly been because the Lakers, not the Dallas Mavericks, decided that mid-May was a good time to rip out my heart and free up my calendar for the next month. I will be back with opinions, observations and what to expect going forward from YOUR...Los Angeles Lakers a little later on. When I can stop crying enough to see the screen. Maybe writing about teams that were less successful than the Lakers will make me feel better)

Oh boy - how can a team be such a mess that has so much talent? 4 years ago this team won 55 games. With Tracy McGrady and Yao Ming, Houston looked like it could challenge the Lakers, Spurs and Mavs for conference supremacy. Too bad they didn't take into account that they put their faith into two players with nearly comical medical reports. So here we are in 2010, with McGrady no longer on the roster and amazingly enough an NBA afterthought and Yao missing all but 5 games the past two seasons.

I like a lot about this Houston team. I think that they've completely overachieved for the previous four seasons, all in the face of injuries to their two best players. Now you might say that it's the fault of the Rockets to place such weight on injury prone players like Yao and McGrady. More accurately, it's management's fault, not the players and especially not the coaching staff.

I couldn't disagree more with them dismissing Rick Adelman. He has been one of the best coaches in the league for the last 20 seasons (yes, really - look at his resume) and got more out of guys like Kyle Lowry, Carl Landry, Ron Artest, Aaron Brooks and Kevin Martin than anyone before or after them. 3 seasons ago, this Rockets squad gave the Lakers all they could handle in the 2009 Western Conference semis and were almost good enough to make the playoffs despite two catastrophic injuries to Yao Ming.

The Rockets aren't completely hopeless. They don't have a lot of dead weight in their rotation and Kevin Martin would be great if he were your second best player. Therein lies the problem - Kevin Martin is their best player and while they don't have a lot of dead weight in their rotation, they really are just rotation guys. With pieces like Hasheem Thabeet, Luis Scola, Terrence Williams and Goran Dragic, getting a true number one scorer through trade isn't out of the question. But that's something for the future, not this offseason. This offseason is about keeping the Rockets competitive and hopefully getting them into a low-seed in the postseason.

Kevin Martin: 12 million
Luis Scola: 8.6 million
Kyle Lowry: 5.75 million
Hasheem Thabeet: 5.1 million
Brad Miller: 4.7 million
Jordan Hill: 2.8 million
Terrence Williams: 2.3 million
Goran Dragic: 2.1 million (team option)
Patrick Patterson: 1.9 million
Demarre Carrol: 1.2 million (team option)
Courtney Lee: 2.2 million
Chase Budinger: 884,000 (team option)
Total: 45 million

Yao Ming: 17.7 million
Jared Jeffries: 6.8 million
Chuck Hayes: 2.3 million
Total: 26.8 million

(The Rockets will essentially have about 12 million to play with, as 26.8 million will be coming off their books in a couple months)

1). Re-sign Yao Ming to a 1-year, 5 million dollar deal

Essentially, this signing would be from a purely marketing standpoint. I read a report a few days ago that Yao would like to come back to the Rockets if they would have him. I think whatever money you spend on Yao, you basically make back from him being a walking (well, sometimes) marketing campaign overseas. Plus, if he gives you anything, great. If not, you know what you paid for.

2). Get someone that can block a shot

I love Chuck Hayes. He's 6'6" and gives Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum more fits than anyone that's not Kendrick Perkins or Dwight Howard. But relying on a guy like that going forward is just not dependable. I would go ahead and resign Chuck if he does not command more than 3 million annually.

Samuel Dalembert and Reggie Evans are inexpensive options, but signing Marc Gasol to an offer sheet (5 years, 60 million would be ideal) would really solve a lot of problems for the Rockets going forward. Odds are that with Memphis trading Hasheem Thabeet, that they will match nearly any deal for Gasol (especially in light of his performance in the post season), so signing him to an offer sheet might merely be a way of upping the contract value for a division rival.

3). Punch the options on Dragic and Budinger, not Demarre Carrol

Budinger and Dragic are productive players, especially at those prices. I might even about giving Budinger a small extension, as he finished the season with a flurry. I'd let Demarre Carrol walk, mostly because I do not know who that is.

4). Resist the urge to trade Hasheem Thabeet...right now.

See what you have with the guy. He's 7'3", 270 and he's 24 years old. He's only been playing ball since he was 15. That's 2002 for those keeping track. How could you not give a guy more of a leash when he's that big and started playing basketball before there was gmail? Give him some playing time this year and see what he's got.

5). Hire Dwane Casey

Word is that the Rockets are already cleared to talk to the Mavs assistant coach, who is a defense first guy and got a raw deal with the Timberwolves , as he coached a Kevin Garnett-led-but-not-much-else team to a 53-69 record before being fired after "only" a 20-20 record in January of 2007. Since the day that Casey was fired, the Wolves have won 68 games. In 3 1/2 seasons. Whoops. I'd be more than happy to give this guy a shot and see how he fares with more talent than the Wolves teams he has coached.

The right deal isn't out there for the Rockets right now. I would build this squad with a defense-first coach and hope to make the playoffs as a low-seed. They need to see what they have in Thabeet, Dragic, Williams, Budinger and Hill, and then they can move from there.

Writing this post didn't make me feel any better.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

If I were GM of...the San Antonio Spurs

Ah yes, the picture of a model small-market franchise operating to perfection. There seemed to be no better time to write this post; it is exactly 8:30 pm on the dot, on Friday, April 29th when I write this. The game between the old guard San Antonio Spurs and the upstart Memphis Grizzlies is just tipping off, and a win or loss for the Spurs could be the difference between San Antonio turning a page and beginning from square one after nearly 13 seasons of restoring the fundamentals of basketball to a league that at the time, seem to be bereft of the grace of Tim Duncan, the class of David Robinson and Popovich's genius. One loss could end 13 seasons of absolute domination, the likes of which have only been colored in green, purple and gold for the entirety of our beloved NBA. One loss would put the cap on Timmy tying Kobe's 5 rings and toppling Shaquille's claim as the only Big with 4 championships. Then of course, a win means...well, nothing really. It just means all these questions have to be asked again on Sunday night.

I am going to operate under the assumption that Memphis will prevail tonight, as I feel the Grizz are too big and most importantly, too confident to lose. Since I am writing this with no knowledge of how the Spurs will fare, it's far too early to eulogize, as a Lakers fan, our classiest and most respected opponent of the Phil Jackson and Kobe Bryant era. It seems funny that I have any critiques of a team that won 61 games during the regular season, but like many teams that focus on offense, there is much to be fixed. I never thought I'd write that about a Duncan and Popovich team.

The Spurs ended up losing that game, and as I re-read what I would do if I were their GM, none of my opinions have changed. Here are the Spurs' financial commitments for the 2011-2012 seasons:

Tim Duncan: 21.3 million
Tony Parker: 12.5 million (the terms have not been disclosed by the team)
Manu Ginobili: 12.9 million
Richard Jefferson: 9.2 million
Antonio McDyess: 5.2 million
Matt Bonner: 3.3 million
Tiago Splitter: Terms not disclosed by the team, but let's work with roughly 3 million
James Anderson: 1.4 million
George Hill: 2.08 million
DeJuan Blair: 986,000
Gary Neal: 788,872
Total: 60 million

No expiring contracts of consequence

1). Do not disgrace yourselves

...by trading Tim Duncan. I understand that the Spurs will not do this - of course they won't. They're the Spurs. They're the classiest franchise in all of basketball, and one of the classiest in the entire American sporting world. But I can understand the mechanics of it - you've got a big man with rapidly declining skills who won't be in the league in 4 years (maybe less) AND he makes 21.3 million dollars on an expiring contract. This is in combination with all these newly found young, somewhat promising player the Spurs have - George Hill, Gary Neal, Tiago Splitter and even Tony Parker, to name a few. An alchemy of all those things means that the Spurs have the perfect combination to deal for someone like a Chris Paul, Dwight Howard, or even to a lesser extent, Josh Smith, Andre Iguodala, Al Jefferson or Chris Kaman.

But it would take absolutely extraordinary circumstances to do this. I would not sully the legacy of the Spurs and Tim Duncan, the greatest power forward ever, never mind him being the greatest player in franchise history.

2). Stick with the core for one more season

Keep the Duncan, Ginobili and Parker core together for one more year and build around them. It seems that RC Buford and Gregg Popovich decided this before last season when they gave both Tony and Manu contract extensions that last well beyond 2012. Plus, as has just been noted, Duncan only has one more year on his contract. It seems too perfectly timed. These three have worked pretty comfortably for the last 8 seasons, including 2010-2011. I would say ride it out and give your fans one more 50 win season before a lengthy rebuilding process that will hurt all the much more after the close of the most glorious run in Texas basketball history. The fans deserve it.

3). Get. Some. Size.

The biggest weakness of San Antonio's game without question is their lack of size. McDyess is a great reserve big, but he is in his late 30's on bad knees and borrowed time. DeJuan Blair is an absolute gamer, but there is a reason that 29 other teams passed on him in the draft - and 7 of them did that twice. Despite his 7' wingspan, he is 6'7" with a 7' waistline and has (seriously) no ACLs. He was born without them. "The Red Rocket" Matt Bonner has hilarious hair, a ridiculous looking three point shot, excellent accuracy and no inside toughness to speak of. There is a reason that Pau's brother and Zach Randolph are absolutely abusing the Spurs inside. They need a tough rebounder and shot blocker - not a Craig Smith redux with Blair and a Bizarro Rasheed Wallace in Matt Bonner.

The Spurs have always been an inside-out team, both on the offensive and defensive end. They've had inside scoring in Duncan and David Robinson for over two decades , with defensive dominance to match. These Spurs have always been good defensive teams because it started with their big mean - and you can rarely have a great defensive team if you don't start with the middle (see Garnett, Kevin; Noah, Joakim; Bynum, Andrew; Perkins, Kendrick).

As the Spurs are right up against the cap, they will have to operate their acquisitions through trade, the midlevel exception or the draft. I'd definitely use the midlevel first, and try to sign a guy like Reggie Evans, Kenyon Martin or Samuel Dalembert. Then, I would use that crack San Antonio scouting team to find me another gem with the 30th pick.

Also, the Spurs have an in house option with Thiago Splitter. He showed flashes of competency this season, though it was widely considered a disappointing rookie campaign. With another year of NBA ball (and maybe a long summer to work on skills), I think he could be a useful rotation player for the Spurs next year.

I almost just wrote "try trading for Fran Vazquez's rights (he impressed me this past summer in the FIBA games as a rebounder and shot blocker) from Orlando and use an envoy of Splitter, Manu and Tony Parker to try to get him to play for the Spurs next season." But then I realized that I would be sending a Brazilian, an Argentinian and a Frenchman to go try and recruit a Spaniard. And that I am an ignorant American.

4). Try not to trade George Hill, Gary Neal or Tiago Splitter

Even if they lose Duncan after next season (or he declines at the same rate he has now - so sad to say, but Timmy looks like he has the half-life of play dough under a Texas sun in July), the Spurs are well equipped for the future. Ginobili won't last much longer, but Tony Parker even though I feel like Tony Parker has been 31 since 2004, he's actually only 28 (and virile, I hear). On his best days, George Hill does a poor, but not completely terrible impression of Monta Ellis and as I've noted, I believe in Tiago Splitter. Gary Neal has ice in his veins, and anyone that shows zero expression after hitting a game-tying shot at home like that is someone I want to keep around. Either that, or Pop went Catholic Nun on him and beat him with a ruler after he did that at some point during the season.

I would resist most overtures towards trading any of these guys this season, unless it's a slam dunk trade, like a Joel Przybilla for Gerald Wallace-type heist. The Duncan Era is on its last leg, and I wouldn't gamble away their future for a cap-crippling move, especially in a small market like San Antonio. On the other hand, with the Spurs having one of the best coaches of all-time, a great young core to build around in Hill, Parker, Splitter, Blair and Manu, and some decent Texas weather, I think they'd have an easier time attracting bigger name free agents than say Memphis, Tennessee, Sacramento, California or Milwaukee, Wisconsin (which means "The Good Land" in Algonquin).

The Spurs will look great in the short term and have a couple of pieces moving forward if they make the right moves this summer, but almost everything predicates on getting another shot-blocker/rebounder and hoping that Timmy's decline doesn't accelerate faster than it already has.