Thursday, June 30, 2011

Total Mindblow: The Scioscia Effect

I have long maintained that Mike Scioscia of YOUR...Anaheim Angels is the best manager in not just baseball, but in all of sports. Every season he fields consistently competitive teams, regardless of the personnel. Even more impressively, every single one of these teams, no matter how many wins they end up or how far they advance in the postseason, play the exact same way - with hustle, passion and respect. Sure, the Red Sox have consistently won since 2003, but how would you characterize some of those teams? Did Manny Ramirez or Pedro Martinez exemplify class? Has anyone ever spoken of Daisuke or JD Drew and said "damn, those guys are gamers?" Scioscia might not have as many rings as Terry Francona, but he damn sure held his team to a higher standard than a lot of other, more successful organizations. The Angels stay out of the headlines, play as hard as they can and WIN. I can't say that about too many franchises in North American sports.

But the winning doesn't just stop with Mike. Watching the Yankees-Brewers game last night, I was reminded that Ron Roenicke, former Third Base and bench coach for Scioscia, is now the manager for the Milwaukee (or, as it's known in Algonquin, "The Good Land") Brewers and has that squad in first place in the NL Central. Not too shabby for a first year manager.

Roenicke is just one of the 3 current coaches of Scioscia's 2002 World Series Champion Angels that manage in the majors right now. Joe Maddon, the 2002 bench coach, has been the manager of the Tampa Bay Rays since 2006. Bud Black, who was the pitching coach in 2002, has served as the skipper for the San Diego Padres since 2007.

Having three guys on your squad become managers is a pretty impressive statistic in itself. But hey, anyone can manage. Tommy Lasorda just yelled nonsense and ate chocolate malts for 20 years and somehow won 4 pennants and 2 titles. Let's take a look at their managerial records since they left Anaheim:

Mike Scioscia (2000 to current): 1021-842
Joe Maddon (2006 to current): 427-423
Bud Black (2007 to current): 354-377
Ron Roenicke (2011 to present): 44-36
Total Record: 1846 - 1678, a .523 winning percentage

To put that in perspective, one of the winningest managers in the history of the game, Joe Torre, has a .538 winning percentage. Pretty incredible.

Beyond the stats, anyone who pays attention to Anaheim, Tampa Bay, San Diego or Milwaukee baseball (there's got to be at least, three dozen of you out there) will tell you that these 4 managers are amongst the best in the game. Roenicke looks like he could be taking the Brewers to only (and amazingly) their 4th playoff appearance in nearly 41 seasons. Bud Black led a garbage San Diego Padres squad that finished 22nd in runs scored and 27th in OPS to within one game of unseating the future World Champion San Francisco Giants from a playoff spot. He won the 2010 NL Manager of the Year award for the job he did. In his 5 seasons with Tampa, Joe Maddon has coached the team to it's 3 winningest seasons, on track for number 4 (in fairness, they never won more than 70 games before he got there). He won the 2008 AL Manager of the Year award for getting the Rays to their first World Series.

Scioscia's story is better documented. After a pennant-filled career with YOUR...Los Angeles Dodgers, Scioscia started his coaching tenure with the Angels in 2000, and has remained in that post ever since. In 10 seasons, he's taken the Angels to 6 postseasons, winning the 2002 World Series and completely changing the culture of what was one of the most mediocre and underachieving franchises in the majors. When I was growing up, the Angels were an absolute joke - akin to the Los Angeles Clippers or the New Jersey Nets. The "little brother" team that could never quite overcome the stigma of being in the shadow of the "big brother" Los Angeles Dodgers. Scioscia, along with new owner Arte Moreno, changed that perception 180 degrees, to the point where you could potentially call the Angels the premiere baseball franchise in all of Southern California. In a sporting world where managers are hired and fired every couple years, Scioscia is the longest tenured coach in the American League (2nd in the Majors next to Tony La Russa) and just secured a contract extension that will last until the 2018 season. Nowhere in baseball does any coach have a contract like that. For all his work, Scioscia has won two AL Manager of the Year trophies, in 2002 and 2009.

I can't speak to exactly what makes everyone who works around and under Mike Scioscia so great - I'm only a simple blogger, who despite all of his great, great greatness, is so far away from actual clubhouse knowledge. But it seems that he's one of those rare managers that can communicate with meathead baseball players and actually is smart enough to know what he's doing. Good thing the Dodgers hired this guy 10 years ago!

Womp womp.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

One more season

We're day away from a nearly inevitable NBA strike that could potentially rob us of games from the 2011-2012 NBA season. July Free Agency, Summer League, summer trades - none of these will happen. The 2011 NBA Finals could be the last professional basketball event for me to criticize and ruminate over until potentially December (please God, no). As such, I can't stop thinking about the Dallas-Miami matchup that ended over 2 weeks ago.

I wrote a post during the second round, discussing that it might just be time for the sun to set on my NBA.

But Dirk, Kidd, Marion and JET gave us at least one more year.

With LaMarcus, Durant, Westbrook, Wade, Bosh and LeBron all nipping on their old, arthritic heels, the Mavs fended off the young'ns, refusing to switch from a modem to broadband. This title win for the vets leaves Nash and Iverson as the only two elite player from their era without a ring - pretty impressive.

But despite a 16-4 record this playoffs, there's no way that anyone can say this Mavericks team is designed for the long haul. Marion is the young man on the squad here at the tender age of 32, and Jason Kidd could be a season away from retirement. Unless they can pull off a great trade for a young star, like Chris Paul, Deron Williams or Dwight Howard, I don't see this team repeating their success from this year. They won the title because Dirk was nearly unstoppable and all their role players did their jobs to perfection. Even with a healthy Roddy Beaubois, it won't be easy for a group of veterans to perform like that again against Durant, Rose, Dwight and the Heat for another postseason. I don't know if it plays out like that again. My NBA has at least one more year. But maybe not more than that.

And that's what I've been thinking about. How did this Finals play out? It's not exactly the young Mike Tyson analogy I've been hearing so much lately; the one where if you stand up to the bully Tyson, he'll recoil in shock. No, not exactly that. Buster Douglas doesn't have the same type of pedigree as these Mavs. It's disrespectful to Dallas, because they've accomplished so much more in their pasts, and disrespectful to Buster because there's no way that his jump shot is, or was ever as ugly as Shawn Marion's. Let's stick with the boxing analogy here. I like pretending it's still a relevant sport.

This is more of an old, seemingly-washed up fighter taking down the already-crowned young champion. Not really Raging Bull, and not quite Cinderella Man, I think. But...wait. Yes. YES!

...when you think about it, the Finals played out like a title fight between Rocky and...wait for it...Tommy Gunn. Yes, I went there. Here. To Rocky V. Hear this out. It's legit.

In Rocky V, the titular character loses everything he has with a few bad business dealings and entrusting all his wealth into the wrong people. Once on top of the world, a legend in so many respects, a disgraced and humbled Balboa family is back to square one, in the doldrums of their lower-class Philadelphia neighborhood where they began. There, standing knee deep in self-loathing and depression, Rocky takes a young fighter under his wing, an Oklahoman by the name of Tommy...Gunn. Yes. Tommy Gunn.

Rocky trains him and brings him to the top. Tommy dazzles everyone with his athleticism and brute strength, but no matter how great Tommy's accomplishments are, still the critics and pundits constantly deride him. It seems that regardless of how many small fights he won or however many inferior fighters he dominated, no one ever truly gave Tommy the respect he thought he deserved . He would never be the champion until he passed that final hurdle - beating Rocky Balboa in a fight. He had to win the big one.

Tommy, who had long ago turned on his former trainer, finds Rocky in a bar, challenging him to a street fight. Yes, the final scene in a Rocky movie ends not in a ring, but on a street corner in West Philly. This is one of many reasons why no one remembers that there is a fifth Rocky movie.

(It might be because the main antagonist is named Tommy...Gunn. But the street fight is another reason)

So there in the alley stood, the young prize-fighter, with all the strength, athleticism in the world, done with being in the shadows of his predecessor. Tommy had learned all that he could from Rocky, and needed that final victory to justify all the accolades he thought he deserved .

They start slugging it out, and instantly, Rocky knows he's outmatched. Tommy has everything he USED to have - the strength, the moves, the arrogance. He can't win.

But Rock hears a voice in his head..."Remember 06'". I'm sorry, wrong part of the metaphor. Rock hears a voice in his head..."Get up you son of a bitch, cuz Mick loves ya". Rocky knows he can't fight fire with fire here. It's just a losing battle. So he relies on his wits and guile and something that he learned long long ago - you just don't quit. Then, several dramatic and drawn out scenes later, to the shock of everyone watching, Rocky scores that knockout. The old guard stood tall that night, and despite everything put against him, the young buck couldn't get it done. Just wasn't his time yet.

Is this the most ridiculous analogy every posted on THE GREAT MAMBINO? Yes, without a doubt. But that's what happened. LeBron, Wade and Bosh had gained every achievement possible - 1st Team All-NBA spots, All-Star nods, MVP awards and the title before even playing a game. Both Wade and LeBron learned that defense matters on Team USA from Maverick point guard Jason Kidd. They learned more about teamwork and sharing the ball in a month between the 2008 and 2009 seasons than in the 5 years preceding. As I was talking about with a friend yesterday, that's probably the last time LeBron or Wade got better - after their Team USA experience. Before that summer, neither were particularly known for their defense. Now, they are making 1st and 2nd All-NBA Defensive teams. So here it stood, a plot thread that not a lot of people touched on; a matchup between the new generation - the new Big Three - and a guy who helped teach them become complete players.

But when it came down to it, the old fighter just wasn't done. Outmatched in every physical facet, the Mavs relied on their intelligence, wit and guile to beat an opponent, who despite all of our bile and hatred, might have just been better. You play the Finals 5 times, and do the Mavs win every time? I'm not sure about that. But that doesn't really matter right now; My NBA is still here. They'll be here until someone takes them out back in a ridiculous alleyway street fight in an atrociously scripted and acted film. I just hope that LeBron isn't the guy who scores the knockout.

Knicks interim GM Glen Grunwald reads MAMBINO!

I mean, he must...right?

Thanks to my buddy Feiny for sharing the news. To the rest of my loyal servants, look out for my super-late Knicks Draft recap this week.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

If I were GM of....

Here's a compilation of our "If I were GM of..." series for all of tonight's lottery teams. Some of them were written before the actual draft lottery itself, so they might not be accurate, and some may downright suck. But then again, so do all the teams in the lottery, so I think it's a pretty accurate scale we're working on.

Cleveland Cavaliers
Minnesota Timberwolves
Utah Jazz
Toronto Raptors
Washington Wizards
Sacramento Kings
Detroit Pistons
Charlotte Bobcats
Milwaukee Bucks
Golden State Warriors
Phoenix Suns
Houston Rockets

If I were GM of...The Milwaukee Bucks

Milwaukee had a rough rough season last year, coming off a 46-win campaign the year before. They only missed the playoffs by 2 games (which doesn't speak to their "greatness" - they were two wins behind the 37-win Indiana Pacers, who were the eighth seed), but had a litany of injuries all year long to Andrew Bogut, Brandon Jennings, Drew Gooden, John Salmons, Corey Maggette and Carlos Delfino. They scored barely 91 points a game last year, which was worst in the NBA. They need scoring, BADLY, and I think that becomes the focus of this offseason. Coach Scott Skiles will always be a great defensive coach, so that will never be a problem.

The team will have a good bit of wiggle room in regards to free agent signings with Michael Redd's gigantic deal coming off the books. Even with the large contracts that their vets have, the Bucks won't be completely handcuffed.

(On and aside, I know it's Milwaukee (which, in Algonquin, is known as "The Good Land"), so there wasn't going to be a media uproar about this, but I thought I should have seen the 2010 NBA Executive of the Year John Hammond get even more flack for his "improvements" on the then Eastern Conference six-seed Milwaukee Bucks.

That summer, with a boat-load of cap-space, GM John Hammond knew that he had some holes on his roster, with every position besides center and point guard (not a bad position to be in, mind you. The two hardest positions in the league to fill are a legit point and center). So instead of using the money wisely, he thought it would be most prudent to trade for Corey Maggette (3 years and $31 million left on his deal), and use the rest of his cap room to sign Drew Gooden (5 years, $32 million) and John Salmons (5 years, $39 million).

YES. That is correct. With the available cap space he had to maneuver, John Hammond used it to trade for a man widely known as one of the worst ball-stoppers in the entire league, signed a career underachiever in Gooden and a perennial ball hog in John Salmons, who is not happy unless he had the rock in his hands. Yes. Milwaukee, your GM used OVER $100 MILLION TO GET COREY MAGGETTE, DREW GOODEN AND JOHN SALMONS. To put this in perspective, Andrew Bynum, Lamar Odom and Ron Artest made a combined $28 million last year. Maggette, Gooden and Salmons made a combined $23 million. Wow. On behalf of the dozens of Milwaukee Bucks fans that I do not know, EFF YOU JOHN HAMMOND)

Andrew Bogut: 12.1 million
Corey Maggette: 10.23 million
John Salmons: 8.5 million
Drew Gooden: 6.2 million
Carlos Delfino: 3.5 million
Brandon Jennings: 2.5 million
Ersan Ilyasova: 2.54 million
Keyon Dooling: 2.16 million
Larry Sanders: 1.86 million
Jon Brockman: 1 million
Chris Douglas-Roberts: 1.09 million (qualifying offer)
Total: 50.6 million

Michael Redd: 18.3 million
Earl Boykins: 1.35 million
Luc Richard Mbah a Moute: 854,000
20.5 million

1). With the 10th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, the Milwaukee Bucks select, Klay Thompson, from Washington State University.
...or the best shooter they have at this spot. A lot of people have Klay Thompson at this spot, which I think should work out. Apparently he's got a nice stroke, which the Bucks can use in spades. If Kemba or Jimmer are available at this spot, I would give them a look as well. Brandon Jennings hasn't been exactly bulletproof for the past two seasons, so having another nice young point prospect couldn't be a bad thing.

2). Sign Chris Douglas-Roberts to a qualifying offer, and hope that no one matches for big money
I don't really have any problem with CDR. He's a decent shooter, he's got good size for his position and he doesn't really hurt you in any way. I'd be happy to have some instant offense off my bench, and I think he's it. Plus, his nickname always makes me sing "Fortunate Son" in my head. That's never a bad thing.

3). With your $7 million in cap room, see if Thaddeus Young will give you a look
They might be able to offer a little bit more if they don't extend a qualifying offer to CDR. But Young will get the same offers some elsewhere, in better markets from better teams. He's probably the best small forward free agent out there that will play the type of two-way ball Coach Skiles demands. So....

4). Be on the look-out for a scoring small forward via trade
Look, this is Milwaukee. Mil-ay-walk-kay. Carmelo Anthony wasn't going to sign here in the offseason or anything like that. Trades and the draft are the way great players are going to come to Wisconsin.

The combination of Carlos Delfino, Ersan Ilyasova and Keyon Dooling makes up $8 million in expiring contracts, not to mention the Bucks have all their first round draft picks for the forseeable future. Guys like Danny Granger, Andre Iguodala, Kevin Martin and Josh Smith are all good two-way players that might be available in the forseeable future. Any trades probably won't be consummated until after the lockout ends, but I think the Bucks could be surprise players in the trade market.

5). Make sure that Andrew Bogut isn't crippled for life
Just make this guy through a gamut of tests. He looked genuinely hurt all year long, which doesn't surprise me at all.

He wasn't a great free throw shooter before his gruesome arm injury (go youtube it if you want. It's really really awful. I'm not going to link it here; if you want to put yourself through that, I don't want to be directly responsible), but he shot around 60%. This year he was around 42%, and it looked like he was dislocating it every time he put the ball up. The best word I can come up with here is "gnarly". It was gnarly to watch that man shoot. Buy the best tests in the world for this guy and see if anything is still wrong - he needs it.

Again, this is one of the smallest market teams in a bitterly cold winter city. Their fanbase actually is pretty decent, and with Bogut and Jennings, they have some good young players to build around. Competing for a championship is of course ideal, but making the playoffs this year should be good enough for this squad

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Your Uneducated Guide to the 2011 NBA Draft

I'm always slightly amused when I read mock drafts. Put it this way: if talking heads really knew what was going on in an NBA front office...they'd be in the front office. Everything is an educated guess after checking up on who gets invited for workouts, who had the best NCAA tournament performance, and who Nike likes.

Here at Mambino HQ, I won't beat around the bush. Compared to my knowledge of the NBA, I know practically nothing about college basketball. I'm not one of those old purist d-bags who say that college basketball is better because more white people play...umm I mean because the kids really care! The NBA is the greatest collection of talent in the world. They will certainly get blown out in a professional sports league Quiz Bowl, but I truly believe that the most physically gifted human beings play Naismith's game.

Let's get it started. My criteria:
1. I'm using Chad Ford's Big Board because I love ESPN. Dig it. Because of my self-professed acumen for NCAA roundball, I'll basically decide what type of player each NBA team needs and then steal Ford's analysis because I can.
2. This is what me and my buddy Kerny would call a "should" draft. I'm not gonna draft what I think the team will actually do for one simple reason: I know their teams better than they do.

1. Cleveland Cavaliers: LeBron James, St. Vincent St. Mary HS
That was merely just for the possibility that a Cavs fan is reading this.

This basically boils down to Kyrie Irving or Derrick Williams. I'm a Kyrie guy, but Williams has a greater ceiling. As for the Cavs, everybody's mocking Kyrie here. But picture this: first day of training camp, guy walks in late. He's got cheeseburger grease dripping from his mouth and one of those uneven hobo beards. Nope, it's not Robert "Tractor" Traylor. He's already dead. It's Baron Davis.

Baron Davis is absolutely fascinating to watch...when he cares. When he doesn't care, he's a poster child for NBA-haters: overpaid, overweight, and a waste of space. How is Baron gonna feel when the Cavs draft a point guard at #1? At best Baron would be staring at 28ish minutes, since Ramon Sesh has to play too, at least to maintain his trade value.

On the other hand, Derrick Williams plays the same position as The Artist Formerly Known as LeBron. Dan Gilbert would never actually admit it (unless he gets to write in Comic Sans), but even he would subconsciously compare Williams to LBJ. Williams can be legit down the road, but he's still no LeBron. I'm going with Kyrie Irving.

2. Minnesota Timberwolves: Derrick Williams, Arizona
Rubio, Wes Johnson, Beas, Love. Not bad. If Cleveland goes for Williams, can David Kahn resist the impending jokes if he selects a point guard (Kyrie) at #2?

3. Utah Jazz: Enes Kanter, Turkey/Kentucky
The Jazz are actually pretty deep. By deep, I don't mean they're good; they just have a lot of players at similar talent levels. Ford likes Brandon Knight here, but Memo Okur is entering a contract year and could be traded by the deadline. That would leave major minutes and thus an opportunity for Kanter to show that his talent extends far beyond being a UK cheerleader (Ms. Judd's got that title forever.)

4. Cleveland Cavaliers: Jonas Valanciunas, Lithuania
Question: What type of player is most likely to not LeBronize a city that has already been LeBronized?
Answer: Those damn foreigners. Treat them well, get the right coach, and they will be more likely to show loyalty when free agency hits.

5. Toronto Raptors: Kawhi Leonard, SD State
Totally dig the Dwane Casey hire, if only to ponder DeRozan becoming a complete player. Kawhi is a Casey guy because he's a flat out bully on D.

You know it's a weak draft when a guy like this goes this high. He's basically a slightly taller Tony Allen. Rotation impact guy for sure, but he'll never be a superstar.

Brandon Knight is a wayyy more solid pick here, but he's a Calipari recruit. His ego will be too big for Canada in 4 years.

6. Washington Wizards: Tristan Thompson, Texas
Can't draft Knight here either because of Jaaaah Wall, the essence of cool. Ford says Thompson's got a good motor, and he'll need it to keep up with The Dougie.

7. Sacramento Kings: Brandon Knight, Kentucky
Tyreke's no point guard. Maybe Knight isn't either. But it's not like anything's going right for Sacto anyway. The city's best floor general is their friggin mayor.

8. Detroit Pistons: Kemba Walker, UConn
As a Chestnut Hill guy, I can't stand UConn and I can't stand Jim Calhoun. But Kemba is a natural born leader. If I wasn't married to Ford's Big Board, I would have Kemba ahead of Knight. But it works here because Kemba is a true leader, something Joe Dumars needs for his boys.

Only problem is that the Pistons need more than just basketball players. They need to get a life. You guys are scum. Players like you bring shame upon this great league. Everyone here is now dumber for having [watched you]. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

9. Charlotte Bobcats: Jan Vesely, Czech Republic
We'll never forget that His Airness was caught with egg on his face after the Kwame experiment. (Kinda funny that Kwame was on his payroll this year anyway.) Regardless, it's interesting to note that MJ has gone after college stars after Kwame's career played a huge role in the one-and-done rule. It's not surprising that most of them have failed. (Crybaby Morrison is a popular choice here, but does anyone else remember Big Fat Sean May?) Further proof that the college game can't project NBA success. Vesely and his Euro game present a new direction, something the Bobs desperately need.

10. Milwaukee Bucks: Klay Thompson, Washington State
Michael Redd ain't walking through that door. Thompson can stretch the floor for should-have-been-a-Bocker Brandon Jennings. He's also light-skinned black, so maybe Bogut won't be scared of him.

11. Golden State Warriors: Bismack Biyombo, Congo
Mark Jackson probably won't take a risk with his first draft selection as a head coach, but that's just one of the reasons I think he's a bad hire. Wouldn't it be cool to see Biyombo and Ekpe Udoh play together? All we'd need is Kevin Bacon.

12. Utah Jazz: American Idol, BYU
If Jimmer Fredette is available at 12, the entire state of Utah will go bonkers. I would have to select Fredette merely to avoid a mutiny.

13. Phoenix Suns: Chris Singleton, Florida State
Half Man Half Woman won't have his 18M team option exercised, and Grant Hill is a Free Agent who might want to sign with a contender. That smoothes out the swingman logjam a bit, so Singleton fits here. He can cover 3-4 positions depending on who you read and has enough size to play Power Forward in a small ball lineup.

14. Houston Rockets: Alec Burks, Colorado
Burks won't start over Kevin Martin, but he's the perfect bench complement. He's a slasher that will provide a change of pace, compared to Kevin Martin's one elite skill: having a quick release after running off of screens. Who knows, maybe Martin will help Burks improve his perimeter game, just in time to be replaced. Dork Elvis won't have to overpay Martin once he hits free agency in a couple years, if Burks can prove worthy for the job.

15. Indiana Pacers: Tobias Harris, Tennessee
The Pacers have TWO bigs under contract for next year: Roy Hibbert and Tyler Hansbrough. I didn't even click on Harris' player profile. I just saw that he's a Power Forward. Good enough for me.

16. Philadelphia 76ers: Nikola Vucevic, Southern Cal
I'm going to incorrectly assume that Iggy won't be traded, in which case Philly's gotta draft a big. I like Vucevic; he seems like he could be in a Rocky movie. I just wish he fell just one more slot...

17. YOUR New York Knicks: Kenneth Faried, Morehead State
Ugh. Vucevic would have been perfect here. He wouldn't have to score. All he'd have to do is protect STAT and Melo on the defensive end. Faried doesn't have ideal size for a 4 at 6-8, but the Knicks need defense and rebounding about as much as human beings need oxygen. And maybe the lack of size is a good thing; it could force the Bocks to target the frontline in free agency.

YOUR Los Angeles Lakers don't have a first round pick. So there's no point in going further. I got Tweakcity, USA on my mind anyway. See you guys on Tuesday.

If I were GM of...the Charlotte Bobcats

Out of all of these "If I were GM of..." columns, this was far and away the one that I was least excited about writing. Top to bottom, there is almost nothing compelling about the Charlotte Bobcats. This is the most boring team in the league. I would consider myself and my co-blogger BockerKnocker in the top 10% of NBA fans. I don't think either of us could have named 7 Bobcats off the top of our heads.

Nothing really works on this team, from their young players to their old vets, the name of their team, their team colors, their coach, their playing style, their lack of offense and slow, plodding pace of their defense. In fact, the only really compelling thing about this team is their owner. And yes, this the same owner that used up two top three picks on Kwame Brown and Adam Morrison, when Pau Gasol, Jason Richardson and Brandon Roy were all there to be had. Solid work MJ.

Apparently Mike doesn't want to spend money right now and proclaims that he'll spend money when the time is right. As such, I'll operate on a shoestring budget, and assuming that guys like Jason Richardson, Nene Hilario and Jamal Crawford are all out of their price range.

Boris Diaw: 9 million
Stephen Jackson: 9.2 million
Tyrus Thomas: 7.3 million
DeSagana Diop: 6.9 million
Matt Carroll: 3.9 million
Shaun Livingston: 3.5 million
Eduardo Najera: 2.6 million
DJ Augustin: 3.23 million
Gerald Henderson: 2.23 million
DJ White: 2 million
Total: 49 million

Joel Przybilla: 7.4 million
Morris Peterson: 6.64 million
Sean Marks: 1.2 million
Kwame Brown: 1.2 million
Dominic McGuire: 885,000
Dante Cunningham: 762,000
Some other deadbeats: 1 million
Total: 19 million

1). With the 9th pick in the 2011 NBA draft, the Charlotte Bobcats select Jimmer Fredette, from Brigham Young University
This is how, as a GM, I would operate the Bobcats. This is a franchise that's going down the tubes. The attendance is dwindling, the games are hardly watched on TV and the only reason they seem to be around is that Michael owns them. I'm going to take risks and get players with high upside. I would need to do things to jolt the fanbase and bring some electricity to the franchise. Any signs of life will do.

A lot of people have them taking a Marcus Morris at this spot, but I'm taking JIMMER. I can understand how MJ would be reluctant to go with a high-scoring college guard with defensive deficiencies (see Morrison, Adam), but again, I'm doing things to get the pulses moving in Charlotte. Jimmer will sell some tickets, a few jerseys and will definitely give the Bobcats a couple 30 point games.

2). Trade Boris Diaw immediately
A lot of the reason why this franchise really hasn't gone anywhere is because they really have selected very poorly with the high lottery picks they've been given and haven't gotten lucky with the later lottery picks they always seem to end up with. In their short history, the Bobcats have had 10 first round draft picks. Only 3 times have those picks been higher than 8. Those 3 picks were Emeka Okafor at 2 (and then gave him an unwieldly contract extension), Raymond Felton at 5 (didn't keep him, though they should have for the money that the Knicks spent) and Adam Morrison, at 3 (no explanation necessary). Thus, a lot of the reasons why they haven't been able to get any dynamic stars. They're too good to bottom out.

Well NO MORE. If I am GM of the Bobcats, and this team is losing money hand over first, I'm going to bottom the hell out. I am selling all of our pieces for picks and trying to get that number one next season. This team unfortunately hit its ceiling with a first round sweep at the hands of the Magic last season. Boris Diaw is just the first domino to go. I'd try to peddle him, his skills and his 9 million dollar expiring contract onto a team like San Antonio, Atlanta, Denver, Boston, Indiana or Chicago - all have needs for big bodies that can pass AND rebound.

3). Hold out on trading Stephen Jackson until you get something crazy in return
Jackson is obviously not in their plans going forward . He's 33 years old, and has 2 years and 19 million left on his contract. He's a little crazy and easily has the DUMBEST tattoo in professional sports on him But...he's a triple double threat almost every night, has no fear in the clutch and by all accounts, despite his insanity, is a great teammate. The guy once said "I make love to pressure". He's magic. Having him team with a guy like Ron Artest, Kevin Garnett or Joakim Noah would be the best unintentional comedy since Joey Buss made this speech.

I'm holding on to this guy until midseason, when his deal becomes a little more palatable for teams to take. I'd let him know that we weren't going to keep him, and that he should play well enough to get onto a contending team. I think he'll go for it.

4). Make the coach give Matt Carroll a lot of burn and make sure he does one thing, and one thing well
And that's shoot a lot of three-pointers. Carroll has a decent contract that only has two years left. He's a great shooter when he gets the minutes, something that no shortage of teams are missing right now. He looks like he was born to be on the Indiana Pacers. Obviously. Like S-Jax, I'd wait to deal him mid-season.

5). Get some big bodies with upside
If everyone gets dealt that I think should be dealt, they'll be left with Jimmer, Gerald Henderson, Diop , Tyrus, Livingston, DJ Augustin, Najera and DJ White (who is somehow getting paid 2 million dollars? Who the hell is DJ White? Seriously!). I think that Jimmer, Henderson, Livingston and Augustin is a nice little 4 man guard corp. Aside what they'd get back in trades, the team obviously will need some big guys going forward.

I'd expect them to draft a big with the 40th overall pick. But more importantly, I'm extending free agent offers to upside guys like Jonas Jerebko (coming off a big achilles injury), Hamed Haddadi, Spencer Hawes and Joey Dorsey. Not exactly premier rotation guys, but I think their skill level and type of game fit exactly with the electrifying team they're going to.

With the selection of Jimmer, the couple guys they already have and whatever they get from the mid-season fire-sale I'd recommend, the Bobs should be in a good place to contend in a couple years. They won't be the best team you'll ever see, but hopefully with some new blood and guys playing for a trade or a contract, they'll be a little more exciting this year or the next.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011


That's what my mom said to me when I was a kid when I got too over-excited about something. I would start whining and pouting (of course not crying. Ain't no bitch) about something absolutely inconsequential, and my mom would very sternly look over to me and say "HEY! Cool your jets". Then she'd stare at me for a while, with a face like this until I just shut up. It wasn't a overly stern or harsh, but it was just one of those moments that let me know that I needed to stop being ridiculous and calm the eff down. This is the exact expression I want to give anyone that is giving the Pau Gasol to Minnesota deal any type of credence or support.


Pau had a miserable 2011 postseason. That's indisputable. Beyond the numbers (13.1 points on 42% shooting, with a paltry 7.8 rebounds per game), it's obvious that he just wasn't himself. I'm not sure if it was physical, or more likely, mental, but Pau played like absolute garbage. This isn't anything that he wouldn't admit. Just on Around the Horn right now, I heard one sports writer postulate that combined with his 2008 Finals performance, maybe it's time for Gasol to go.

19.6 ppg, 11.1 rpg, 3.5 apg, .539% FG, .759% FT in 39.7 minutes per game.
18.3 ppg, 10.8 rpg, 2.5 apg, .580% FG, .714 FT in 40.5 minutes per game
19 points, 18 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 blocks, 42 minutes

The first two lines are his playoff averages for the past two seasons. Those numbers only help lead to two championships. The third line is his statistics from game 7 of the NBA Finals last year against the Boston Celtics. Perhaps only the most important NBA game played in Los Angeles (no exaggeration there). That last line is the man's birthday. YES, HE WAS BORN IN THE EIGHTIES.

To say that he is either a) over the hill or b) "just doesn't have it" are both ridiculous statements. He has two rings in safety deposit box in Barcelona to prove it. To say he's not worth investing the future in is similarly worthy of ridicule. The guy is not even 31 yet, and has a game that will translate well into his mid-thirties.

And please, let's keep this part in perspective. I want everyone to read this very, very carefully:

IT WAS ONLY 10 GAMES. 1-2-3-4-5-6-7-8-9-10. 10 GAMES.

Man! This is like Stallone being judged JUST on Rocky V. Look at what the man did before! He beat Apollo Creed! He beat Mr. T! He ended the Cold War! Body of work everyone, BODY OF WORK.


The Lakers were 12 games away from winning a title this year. To put this in perspective, the 8th seeded Eastern Conference Indiana Pacers were 14 games away from winning a title this year. Pretty poor showing Lakers.

BUT this is a team whose core is older, yes, but certainly not done. It's true that Kobe or his knees aren't getting any younger and will be put into a new offensive system this year with coach Mike Brown, but trading the most skilled big man in the game isn't really the answer here. As I've noted, the Lakers won because of laziness, apathy and lacking true focus. They need minor tweaks and adjustments, not to blow the whole thing up. They are not the Boston Celtics, with a 34-year old Kevin Garnett, a 35-year old Ray Allen or a 33-year old Paul Pierce. Besides Derek Fisher, Kobe is the oldest guy on the team at age 33. They're facing the exact type of age crunch that the Celtics are. The window is still open, and while the Lakers in two years will have to answer the same tough questions the Celtics are facing now, those could be two championship seasons.


Blowing up the team and starting anew with a 33-year old Kobe isn't what the Lakers need now. They needed a new coach who was going to hold everyone accountable for poor defense and a lack of passion. They need a true point guard who is going to be able to at the very least not get TORCHED by the likes of JJ Barea, Aaron Brooks and Earl Boykins (really). They need some energy and hunger to dominate. I think getting swept out of the playoffs, losing Phil Jackson and getting some new blood in there will do that. Trading Pau isn't just throwing the baby out with the bathwater - it's using a wrecking ball to take out the bathroom. CHILL EVERYONE. Or I will get my mother to tweet "HEY! COOL YOUR JETS (followed with the Kobe scowl, digitally)"

If I were GM of...the Deeeeee-troit Pistons

At this rate, I might be able to actually get Joe Dumars' job. Let's compare everything good move he's made to the bad:

The Good:
Traded for Rasheed Wallace, the last piece to the 2004 title

Did not extend a washed-up Ben Wallace

The Bad:
Drafted Darko Milicic over Carmelo Anthony, Dwyane Wade, Chris Bosh, Chris Kaman, Kirk Hinrich, TJ Ford, Josh Howard, David West, Marquis Daniels.

Extended Rip Hamilton for 3 years and 34 million.

Traded away Chauncey Billups for a washed up Allen Iverson.

Signed Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva for a combined 20 million dollars.

Signed Kwame Brown for any amount of money.

Hired coaches Michael Curry and John Kuester, both of which "lost their locker rooms" within 1 and 2 seasons, respectively.

Has considered Isaiah Thomas for any jobs in the organization.

Wow. Impressive. Do all these incredibly egregious offenses negate winning a title and making the Eastern Conference Finals all those years in a row? Amazingly, I don't think so. That's how much winning even 1 title means. But maybe if the Pistons stay this bad for much longer.

Rip Hamilton: 12.65 million
Ben Gordon: 11.6 million
Charlie Villanueva: 7.54 million
Jason Maxiell: 5 million
Will Bynum: 3.5 million
Rodney Stuckey: 3.86 (qualifying offer)
Greg Monroe: 3 million
Ben Wallace: 2.24 million
Austin Daye: 1.9 milion
Terrico White: 788,872
Total: 48 million

Tayshaun Prince: 11.14 million
Chris Wilcox: 3 million
Tracy McGrady: 1.3 million
DaJuan Summers: 762,195
Jonas Jerebko: 762,195
Total: 17 million

Also, let's identify who are key parts of the team going forward, for various different reasons. I think that Greg Monroe, Austin Daye and whoever they select with their 8th pick are the makings of a core. Villanueva and Gordon will also be around, for contract reasons. Bynum, Maxiell, Wallace and Rip will all be long gone by the time the Pistons are in contention again.

1). Blow up the final pieces of the 2004 Pistons
This team lost 52 games, finished 7 games behind Indiana for the final playoff spot AND had 14 million dollar worth of expiring contracts and did....what with it? Oh, nothing? Oh. Add that to the check list Dumars.

I can't imagine there was a world where Tayshaun Prince wasn't worth at least a 1st round draft pick, or Chris Wilcox a 2nd rounder. That's ludicrous to me. He's a free agent this year, and he won't want to stick around for a Detroit rebuilding effort. Goodbye, Tay.

Then there's the final connector to that 2004 team in Rip Hamilton. He's still got a lot of talent and will definitely have something to prove going forward, but has nothing left to give this franchise. I could see a match with the Bulls, Spurs, Suns, Celts, Knicks, or Nets. They actually should have done this two years ago, but instead thought it would be a better allocation of funds to give money to a point guard who can't pass (or shoot anymore) and another guy who someone once called a "cancer to the team + league". Wow.

Ben Wallace has 1 more year on his deal, but at this stage in his career, I don't really count him being on the team anymore.

2). With the 8th pick in the 2011 NBA Draft, the Detroit Pistons select Alec Burks, from the University of Colorado - Boulder.
From what I've seen of Burks, he reminds me a little bit, ironically, of Rip Hamilton. Nice size for a 2-guard, high release point on the shot, same moves to the elbow, but not a fantastic three-point shooter. The Pistons could do much worse than having a Rip Hamilton clone for the next few years manning that shooting guard spot.

3). Give Rodney Stuckey a small extension - let's say 3 years, 18 million. If he doesn't like it, give him a one-year qualifying deal and a parting prize as he leaves the stage, Bob.
I have never really been impressed with Rodney Stuckey. It's not that he's a bad player, but I'm just not even sure what he's really good at. He's a decent shooter, a decent passer, a decent rebounder, but doesn't do anything really great. Either way, you could do worse than a stable, if unspectacular point guard for the next few years while the team rebuilds.

4). Trade for or sign a shot-blocker
Just because the team is rebuilding doesn't mean that they have to be completely uncompetitive. Right now the Pistons have a 4 guys under 6'10" switching around the center position, and at this point, none of them can really block a shot.

I'd try to turn Rip Hamilton into someone who can play a capable 5. Would the Suns sniff at a Robin Lopez for Rip Hamilton? Or maybe even a Chris Kaman for Rip? It'd really depend on who's looking and selling.

If not, a guy like Nazr Mohammed or Hamed Haddadi could be decent options. you throw out two years, 16 million at Greg Oden? I would definitely offer it, although he might get more money to play elsewhere. However, a lineup with Oden, Monroe, Daye, Burks and Stuckey, if healthy (which, with Oden, obviously good health is assured) could be a pretty fun team to watch.

5). Hire someone who is going to coach DEEEE-Troit basketball, and that man is Lawrence Frank.
Detroit Basketball is exactly what the last 3 titles teams personified; tough, suffocating, interior defense with great, penetrating guard play. No one gets lay-ups. Lawrence Frank does that for you.

Though the age of his players eventually led to a defensive break-down against the Miami Heat this off-season, Frank was brought in to Boston by Doc Rivers to serve as the next-Tom Thibodeau. He didn't fail to impress in his first year with the Celtics; they finished 2nd in opponents field goal percentage, 4th in opponents' turnovers and 2nd in defensive efficiency. This type of bruising play will work fantastic with the Pistons, especially with a young team going forward.

The Pistons are in pretty rough shape. Even in a very weak division and conference, I can't see them making the playoffs for at least 2 seasons. But a great coach like Frank and some good young building blocks give them a head start.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Savior, Commissioner Selig

Today, Commissioner Bud Selig struck down a deal that would reportedly pay the Dodgers and owner Frank McCourt between 1.7 billion and 3 billion dollars. This cash-infusion would get McCourt $385 million up-front, which would be more than enough to get him through this year's personnel payments. McCourt's ability or inability to pay his players on a bi-monthly basis had become a source of hope for the Dodgers' disenchanted fanbase, hoping that perhaps this would be the week that McCourt would have to sell the team for lack of funds.

Selig rejected the TV deal under the pretenses that it not only represented below-market value for the Dodgers (thus setting a below-market precedent for other teams and their television deals going forward), but he also felt that the proceeds from the deal would be used to settle McCourt's divorce, rather than improving the team. As any Dodger fan who has sat in the incredibly outdated outfield bleachers can tell you, there couldn't be a more true statement.

As LA Times writer Bill Shaikin so expertly pointed out last week, this ruling essentially means that Major League Baseball would be able to seize the team at month's end. At that point, most people expect McCourt to sue Selig and Major League Baseball, on the grounds that he is being discriminated against for his financial situation unfairly, despite many of the problemss being similar to the ones that the Wilpon Family and the Mets are facing. Selig and MLB would ask that the suit get thrown out, as McCourt (like every other owner in the League) signs an agreement giving the Commissioner broad powers in anything related to "preserving the best interests of the game", prior to buying the team.

As I stated in my post last month, the key words here are "best interests of the game". A team under the stewardship of Frank McCourt does not serve the best interests of the Dodgers, their fans or the game itself. His irresponsibility has gone on for far too long, and has cost the Dodgers not only future success, but perhaps also prevented past greatness.

The most prevailing thought that comes to my mind is this; if you are Frank McCourt and the Commissioner of Baseball, elected as a representative of the league by all 30 owners, says on their behalf that they do not believe that you have the best interests of the game in mind, why would you want to stay? From that, wouldn't you interpret that your peers, your co-workers for all intents and purposes, want you gone as well? Take that into account for a second. Essentially what the Commissioner is doing here is using his broad powers to force a man to sell his property, company and in Frank's case, his livelihood. If the Commissioner can do this to McCourt, it sets a precedent that under these same circumstances, anyone's team can be sold.

So even with the threat of a set precedent for Selig to take away their teams from them, I haven't heard a single word of dissention from any of the 29 other teams. Now, you could say that these are extraordinary circumstances, but seriously - a rich guy's wife cheats on him with her driver/pool boy/gardner followed by messy divorce? Is that never going to happen again? Hurm. To me, it seems like no one will mind if this guy finds a nice two-story home in Newton and never gets heard from ever again.

So if you're Frank McCourt and everyone wants you gone - your co-workers, your boss, your customers - why would you want to stay around? Because it's your property and "no one is taking that away from you?" How could you dig yourself out of that hole? Why would you want to, more importantly? Even with all your million of dollars of investment (which, you'll get back by the way, and then some, in the proceeds from the sale of the team. Or maybe half of that, depending on how Judge Gordon rules your divorce settlement), why would you want to put up with all the scrutiny and hatred that the entire fanbase of the Los Angeles Dodgers will continue to hoist upon you? You have a family to keep together Frank. You have sons to take care of and a divorce to settle. The Dodgers, their fans and Major League Baseball shouldn't be your first priority right now. You've done quite enough. Leave now, before you disgrace yourself, your family and this "team you love so much" any further.

Thank you Commissioner. And rejoice Dodger fans - salvation is coming. We're almost through the worst.

If I were GM of...the Toronto Raptors

Look, Chris Bosh is a fine player. He can rebound a little bit, and is gifted offensively. I know that there was some level of uproar over him leaving Toronto last summer...but, what's the big deal here? Were the Raptors really that good with him? Bosh led them to a high-water mark of 47 wins 5 years ago and they made the playoffs twice, winning 3 games total. They threw up a ton of points and GM Bryan Coangelo made a somewhat interesting sideplot with how many foreign players that he could bring onto one team. They were decent at best, barely mediocre at worst. The point is that this rebuilding project I'm going to propose here should have started two seasons ago, not in the upcoming one.

Jose Calderon: 9.7 million
Andrea Bargnani: 9 million
Leandro Barbosa: 7.6 million (team option)
Amir Johnson: 5.5 million
Linas Kleiza: 4.6 million
Julian Wright: 3.9 million (qualifying offer)
DeMar DeRozan: 2.6 million
Jerryd Bayless: 3.04 million
Ed Davis: 2 million
James Johnson: 1.8 million
Joey Dorsey: 1 million
Solomon Alabi: 830,000
Total: 45 million

Peja Stojakovic: 14.9 million
Reggie Evans: 5.08 million
Alexis: Ajinca: 1.46 million
Sonny Weems: 854,389
Total: 22.5 million

1). First and foremost, identify your core

This is something the Raptors should have done a while ago - correctly identify their core guys going forward, and try to dump everyone else. Yes, a full scale blow-up. Florida Marlins, 1998-style, almost everyone goes-type blowup.

The way I see it, their core guys are DeMar, Ed Davis (too early to give up on him), Jerryd Bayless and whoever they draft with the fifth pick. Everyone else is expendable. The way that things are set up now, either DeMar or Andrea Bargnani is going to be your best player - and I don't care what country it is, a guy named Andrea shouldn't be your best player. Let's say that DeRozan turned into a less-skilled and crafty Manu Ginobili, Bargnani was a better Memhet Okur, Ed Davis wasn't a bust already and Jerryd Bayless lived up to his college-reputation. They would still be a star short of being a contender. An entertaining team? Sure. Put up a lot of points? Most definitely. But not anything a playoff team. Think the Atlanta Hawks, but with even less defense. You need to blow it up, start over, like they should have done LAST YEAR when Bosh was almost-assuredly leaving. Now that we've established this, let us move on.

2) With the fifth pick in the draft, take Jan Vesely.

Look, I'm not Chad Ford, or anyone at, but I've heard that Vesely isn't a soft Euro, He plays a genuine back-to-the-basket game and can throw it down. I'll take that guy. If you are thinking that Bayless is your point guard of the future, then I'd pass on Kemba (for various reasons beyond just that one), Tristan Thompson and Leonard. They'll need a center after they trade Bargnani.

3) Trade Andrea Bargnani

Oh, right. I know he was your number one pick, but it was a number one in a terrible draft. The best two players turned out to be Brandon Roy's 2006-2009 seasons and LaMarcus Aldridge. Bargnani is owed a decent chunk of change going forward (42 million through 2015), but he's got great numbers. There is going to be a GM that will pay for his services, especially at the price offered - think Al Jefferson trade (basically two first round picks, and an expiring contract). He's a 7-footer that plays 30 feet away from the rim and rebounds as well as I do. They're not going to miss him in Toronto, but hopefully they can find a taker for him.

4) Trade Jose Calderon

Calderon is a much easier fix here. He's better than league-average and only has two years left on his deal. Unfortunately, he has about 20 million owed to him. Would the Thunder give up a few assets for this guy? Or Atlanta? There are a lot of teams aching for a true point, and Calderon is the essence of that. He's not going to be in the Raptors' plans going forward, so why keep him around?

5). Face the facts - Amir Johnson isn't tradeable. Linas Kleiza is, but keep him around too

Bryan Coangelo gave Amir Johnson 30 million dollar last year, despite the fact that he's not good. That's why we're about to see an NBA strike, people. He's not tradeable, and I think that you just have to come to terms with that.

Linas Kleiza is a trade candidate though - big body, rebounds decently, nice stroke from distance. However, you still need players to compete. When you're blowing up your team, you do it piece-meal, not whole-scale. I would keep Kleiza around until next year's trade deadline, or even offseason. He's a good player on a decent contract, and someone will want him.

This season is about developing the core, seeing what they have and moving from there. With Bargnani, Calderon, Kleiza, etc, you know what you have - a group that couldn't win 25 games this year. I'd take the ceiling of the younger players over the defense-allergic Euros previously named.

Friday, June 17, 2011

If I were GM...of the Washington Wizards

Ah, the Wiz Kidz. It wasn't too long ago that Deshawn Stevenson was pulling this type of BS in the District and Gilbert Arenas was the king of all things swag. Those days seem to go as quick as they came and the Wiz are building from the ground up again.

Rashard Lewis: 22.15 million
Andray Blatche: 6.4 million
John Wall: 5.5 million
Yi Jianlian: 5.4 million (qualifying offer)
Nick Young: 3.7 million (qualifying offer)
JaVale McGee: 2.46 million
Kevin Seraphin: 1.68 million
Trevor Booker: 1.3 million
Jordan Crawford: 1.12 million
Total: 40.68 million

Mike Bibby: 5.56 million
Josh Howard: 3 million
Al Thornton: 2.8 million
Mo Evans: 2.5 million
Cartier Martin: 854,389
Some other deadbeats: 1 million
Total: 15.9 million

I would like to point out at 22.15 million and 11.7 ppg, Rashard Lewis makes up over half the payroll, less than one-eighth of their offensive production and 100% of Wiz number 1 fan Andy Orfalea's basketball nightmares.

Let's work on a basic theme here: Defense, rebounding and ball-sharing. These are three things that the Wizards either don't know how to do, or simply don't care to learn. Everything going forward will focus on this. Antawn Jamison, Caron Butler and Gilbert put up points at a prodigious clip; but where did that get them? One series win, a Dirty Harry locker-room pantomime and Yi Jianlian. Defense, rebounding and ball-sharing. Remember that.

1) With the number six pick in the draft, take San Diego State's Kawhi Leonard

Rebounding? Check. Defense? What else did San Diego State do this year? I'd take Leonard over the other guys floating in this general reason of the draft (Tristan Thompson, any of the Euros) as he can make up for Blatche's defensive and rebounding deficiencies, as well as fill the void that Caron and Antawn left. I like this guy a lot and I think he'll add a lot of character to this young Wiz squad.

2). Goodbye Nick Young and Yi

Defense, rebounding and ball-sharing. The scary thing about this is that Yi might have a better handle on what these English words mean than Nick Young does. I'm always pulling for Young, as he is a fellow San Fernando Valley-born child of the 80's, but this is addition by subtraction. Both him and Yi cannot play the type of basketball that is needed to win titles. Peace out gentlemen.

3). Give Trevor Booker more burn, but obtain another big with the 18th pick

Rebounding. From what I saw from Trevor Booker this year, the boy can rebound despite his size. Okay, check. But with the 18th pick, Bismack Biyombo, Kenneth Faried and Markieff Morris might be available at this spot. Take whoever can rebound the ball best and hope that it translates to the major league level.

4) Preserve that cap space

Attention National Basketball League: Sam Presti exists and we will all follow his lead. The Wiz are not a small-market franchise. They operate out of the District and are backed by the deep-pocketed Ted Leonsis. They have and will spend money to win. BUT - unless John Wall takes a Rose-ian leap this year, I don't think you can expect contention, even for a playoff spot. I would absolutely spend my money on lower-tier free agents - guys who can REBOUND, PLAY DEFENSE and SHARE THE BALL. In the meantime, you let Wall, Leonard, Jordan Crawford, McGee and whoever you get with the 18th pick develop TOGETHER. You know how ball-sharing happens? With a good offensive scheme (Flip Saunders' specialty), a great point guard and guys that trust each other. This happened with Oklahoma, San Antonio, the Lakers, Boston, Dallas, the list goes on - with the exception of the Lakers, all of these teams had more than a serviceable point guard who commanded and efficient offense (that got a lot of offensive breaks off defensive stops) that played with each other long enough to earn each other's trust. That's what this Wiz squad needs. The perfect free-agent signing just isn't there yet. Save that cap space and wait to strike. The time hasn't come yet.

5). Sign a couple of veteran, back-up guards

Like the young Sacto squad, this team needs more veteran leadership. While no one is on the DeMarcus Cousins bonehead level (few are), Andray Blatche got caught for soliciting an undercover cop (I'm not saying that this is unusual for an NBA player, I'm just saying it's boneheaded of Andray to get caught. I mean, Kobe never gets caught). Most of the guys on the team are under 24 years old. Someone needs to come in there and show them how to be men. I think a trade for guys like Keyon Dooling, Anthony Carter or Jannero Pargo would be fantastic. Resigning Mo Evans wouldn't be a bad idea, nor would Earl Watson or Charlie Bell. All these guys can give solid minutes, while provided some leadership for a minimal amount of money.

I have the Wiz 2011 line-up going something like this:

Dougie Wall, Jordan Crawford, Rashard Lewis, Andray Blatch, Javale McGee
Bench: Trevor Booker, Kawhli Leonard, veteran guard X, draft pick number 18

This is a solid core. The future is on the shoulders of Mr. Wall. Going forward, the rest of the team essentially has to act as his offensive-line, a la the 2011 Chicago Bulls for Derrick Rose. Defense, rebounding, ball-sharing - don't forget it Washington.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

If I were GM of...The Cleveland Cavaliers

If there's one positive thing about being a Cleveland basketball fan, it's that now you have two teams - the Cavaliers and whoever is playing the Heat. As I watched this year's Lakers-less Finals with almost as much intensity and drama as the previous 3 seasons', I can only imagine the hype that went through Cleveland with every Dirk fall away and Tyson Chandler put-back.

I'm not going to waste anyone's time here by recapping the calamity of The Decision and the ensuing drama and heartbreak of Northeastern Ohio. We all know what happened, and the nightmare season that followed. After winning 61 games before, the Cavs essentially flipped their record and lost 63 games. They were one of the worst offensive and defensive teams in the league, and put together a nightly starting five that might not have been able to contend with Coach Calhoun's 2011 Connecticut Huskies.

This team needs help in almost every conceivable way. If the season were to start today, they would have a roster with two overpaid, perennially injured vets (Antawn Jamison and Baron Davis), four rotation guys on good teams (Anderson Varejao, JJ Hickson, Daniel Gibson, Ramon Sessions) and everyone else being no better than a second-round draft pick (that's almost the truth; only Joey Graham and Christian Eyenga - drafted with the 30th pick two seasons ago - are former first-rounders in this group). Let's take a look at their salary commitments for the 2011-2012 season.

Antawn Jamison: 15.07 million
Baron Davis: 13.9 million
Anderson Varejao: 7.7 million
Daniel Gibson: 4.4 million
Ramon Sessions: 4.25 million
Ryan Hollins: 2.48 million (player option)
JJ Hickson: 2.35 million
Christian Eyenga: 1.09 million
Joey Graham: 1.1 million
Samardo Samuels: 788,000
Manny Harris: 788,000
Semih Erden: 788,000
Luke Harangody: 788,000
Total: 55.85 million

Anthony Parker: 2.855 million
Leon Powe: 915,850
Alonzo Gee: 508,130
Total: 4.25 million

1). Draft Kyrie Irving with the first pick
Thanks to the absolute incompetency of the Clippers' front office, YOUR...Cleveland Cavaliers own both the number 1 and number 4 pick in this year's draft. Duke's Kyrie Irving has long been considered the slam-dunk first overall pick, but I've heard recent reports that the Cavs have thought about both Derrick Williams and Enes Kanter as the number one pick. By going with either of these two players, the Cavs would then select Kentucky point guard Brand Knight with that number 4 pick.
The Cavs have been gifted this number one pick by some very fortuitous bounce of ping-pong balls; don't wait to take Knight IF you think Irving is the better player. Take the best player first.

2) With the number 4 pick, take your gamble
Again, the Cavs need help EVERYWHERE - Derrick Williams, Enes Kanter, Jan Vesely, Tristian Thompson, whoever. Take that guy. Derrick Williams is the same type of guy as JJ Hickson? Big deal. Enes Kanter plays the same position as Varejao? Who cares. Draft for skill, not need. Take the best player available and sort it out later - anyone you take at 4 has trade value. I'm thinking that the Wolves will take Kanter at two (though knowing David Kahn, he might just draft Brandon Knight out of habit) and the Jazz will select Knight at three. This would leave Derrick Williams at the four spot - best case scenario for the Cavs. Williams and Irving in the same draft? What a haul.

3) Resist any temptation to trade Varejao; the same goes for Ramon Sessions or Daniel Gibson unless the return is a first round pick
As Tyson Chandler, Kendrick Perkins, Andrew Bynum and Serge Ibaka have shown us, the league is now leaning towards the model of shot-blocking and rebounding-first centers that work as motors for the defense. Anderson Varejao is that type of player - he's young, plays extremely hard and brings the energy every single night, much like a Brazilian Tyson Chandler with strange, highlighted hair. With the title that Chandler just helped the Mavs win, I imagine that the Cavs front office is going to be flooded with calls for Varejao. I think that with the right draft picks, and the ton of expiring money coming off the books in the next two years from Jamison and Davis (nearly 30 million combined), having Varejao on your team for the next 5 years is a must.

As for Sessions and Gibson - they are solid, young vets who will give you professional minutes. Unless you can find a team that badly needs three-point shooting and is willing to give up a lottery first rounder for either one of them, I'd try to keep these guys on the team just to be competitive. However, would the Bulls give up a future number one for either of these guys? Or maybe the Clippers? Also, you have to figure that Baron is going to spend time on the injured list. Both Gibson and Sessions are reliable enough to run the offense and give young Kyrie a little mentoring in the bigs.

4). Sign a couple guys that can rebound the basketball
Nothing crazy here - Kenyon Martin, Kris Humphries, Chandler and Samuel Dalembert will want to play for contenders. Guys like Nazr Mohammed, Josh McRoberts and Leon Powe can give you professional minutes for the minimum. Even if everything goes right (players stay healthy, Williams and Irving are not only drafted, but are as NBA-ready as everyone says they are), this is still a borderline playoff team. They merely need guys that can backup Hickson and Varejao and not stink up the joint too much when they're out there. Just please, no Collins brothers. Ever.

5). Resist trading for parts
This team is not going to compete for an Eastern Conference crown for at least a couple seasons. I would absolutely resist every temptation to trade for parts. With all their young players (including Hickson), the Cavs might have a core to lean upon going forward. I'd resist trading parts right now.

If everything here goes to plan, the Cavs will run this line-up next season:

Baron Davis, Christian Eyenga, Antawn Jamison, JJ Hickson and Anderson Varejao
Bench: Derrick Williams, Kyrie Irving, Daniel Gibson, Ramon Sessions, Ryan Hollins

Not a terrible team, and certainly not one that's going to lose 25 games in a row, or get blown out by 56 on any given night. The Cavs need to embrace their young core, play the solid defense that coach Byron Scott is known for and try to stay competitive in an extremely weak division. And go Mavs.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

If I were GM of...the Los Angeles Clippers

(Note: I wrote this over two weeks ago, as my way of stockpiling these to post on slow news days. Anything written below was before any trade rumors for Chris Kaman sprouted. Not that it matters if you believe me, because I'm only as good as my word. And everyone knows that if you can't believe what you read on the internet, then it obviously can't be true)

Other than a few selected outbursts, I've managed to keep my hatred and bile of the Los Angeles Clippers to a minimum. I'm certainly proud of myself, even if no one else is (whomp whomp). Even as they sully my city with their incessant stink of mediocrity, I generally decide to stay away from all issues Clippers-related because a) even with their success, I know they will inevitably do something to screw it up or b) if they are bad, it is simply them acting to form.

Chris Kaman: 12.2 million
Mo Williams: 8.5 million
Blake Griffin: 5.7 million
Randy Foye: 4.25 million
Ryan Gomes: 4 million
Eric Gordon: 3.8 million
Jamario Moon: 3.19 million (team option)
Al-Farouq Aminu: 2.75 million
Eric Bledsoe: 1.6 million
Brian Cook: 1.26 million (player option)
Willie Warren: 788,000
Total: 44 million


Rasual Butler: 2.4 million
Craig Smith: 2.3 million
DeAndre Jordan: 854,000
A few other deadbeats: 1 million
Total: 6.6 million

1). Pay Eric Gordon and DeAndre Jordan
Eric Gordon is available for an extension. Pay the man. He's a great young guard, who plays hard in front of passion-less crowds and knows how to defend. He is destined to be the second-best player on this team. He reminds me of a less mouthy Jason Terry, in his prime. Not a bad comparison these days.

As I'll get into later, Chris Kaman is the not the guy going forward. DeAndre Jordan is a freak of nature - a 7 footer with size, speed and athleticism. With a little more patience, a little less pot and thus perhaps some increased intelligence, DeAndre could turn into a Tyson Chandler-like defensive difference-maker on the floor. He's young, so I'll give him a pass for doing at least 3 bone-headed plays in the last 3 minutes of every game, but that's going to have to stop in the coming years. I'd go at least 4 years and 30 million for this guy, going as high as 35 depending on if who gives him an offer sheet.

2). Decide if Al-Farouq Aminu is your man - regardless, sign someone until he's Andrei Kirilenko.
I said it, I meant it and screwwww you. Don't get me wrong, I like Aminu - the Luol Deng comparisons are uncanny and spot-on. If everything works out, and all their young guys develop (the brand new, never before used strategy for YOUR...2011 Los Angeles Clippers!), the line-up looks like this in a couple years:

PG: Eric Bledsoe
SG: Eric Gordon
SF: Al-Farouq Aminu
PF: Blake Griffin
C: DeAndre Jordan

Not bad, especially if Bledsoe, Aminu and Jordan turn into the quality defenders they could be. But at the present moment, you need to see if Aminu can work in this spot. If not...see no. 4.

But if no trades work out, I think that for this upcoming season, Andrei Kirilenko is the logical fit. He's been criticized pretty heavily the last few years in Utah, but mostly it was because he was getting paid like their first or second-best player, and played like theri fourth best player. What's not to like in this spot? Great defender, shot-blocker, rebounder who can make a couple shots. I love him here and would give him 3 years, 27 million for his services.

3). Draft Kyrie Irving with the number 1 pick and build your bench through the draft
Oh wait, they can't do that. Because they traded away the pick to the Cavs last year. So they could have "free agent flexibility". GM Neil Olshey is an idiot.

Also, as an addition to my recent post, most teams build their bench through shrewd free-agent additions and of course, the draft. Let's look at the last 3 championship squads, shall we?

2009-2010 Los Angeles Lakers

Key Bench Players: Lamar Odom (trade), Shannon Brown (trade), Sasha Vujacic (late first-round pick), Jordan Farmar (late first-round pick), Luke Walton (second-round pick)

2008 Boston Celtics

Key Bench Players: James Posey, PJ Brown, Eddie House, Glen Davis (second-round pick), Leon Powe (second-round pick), Tony Allen (first-round pick)

You build through the draft. You build CHAMPIONSHIP TEAMS through the draft. While you can hardly fault the Clippers, as they obviously do not know what winning feels like, still...idiots.

4). Dangle Chris Kaman

I really like Chris Kaman. He's a big 7 footer with great hands and a jump shot. He can rebound pretty well and is more than just a large body on defense. There's nothing he doesn't do well. Tell me, is there any discernible difference in their games between Kaman and Pau's brother, other than the stages they have performed on? Not really. However, the biggest factor in Kaman's career has been his health. He's only played one season in the last four where he played in at least 70 games. The guy can't seem to stay on the floor, and at age 29, it's not like he's getting more durable.

Kaman is in a similar situation as Al Jefferson. While Kaman is a bit older, they are both players whose gigantic expiring (or near expiring in Jefferson's case) contracts are just as valuable as their skill levels at this point. Kaman still provides much value while he's on the floor, and his 12 million dollar expiring is something a lot of teams would love to have - thus, I would do the following:

Let everyone know he's available - at this point, if bloggers from such establishments as THE GREAT MAMBINO (illustrious as it may be) are commenting on how valuable your contract is, pretty much everyone in the league knows. Then, see what you've got. If you can get some first round picks or a valuable but somewhat overpaid player, along the lines of Andre Iguodala or Danny Granger for him, you do it. If not, he's a giant expiring contract and you can use that type of cap room to go after Deron Williams, Chris Paul or Dwight Howard next summer. It's a no lose proposition.

5). Just DON'T screw it up

This suggestion might be the toughest one to hammer out. Just don't screw this one up Clips. Blake Griffin is probably the most important player ever in the history of the franchise. And what's most awful about that statement is that I don't know if there's much debate about it. He is the first player EVER to join the Clippers that has a chance to become a genuine superstar, not just as an athlete, but as an entertainer. Griffin has the right to leave the team in 2 years, but most likely will sign a short extension to stay with the team for a bit longer (let's say 3 additional years to be certain). Thus, the Clippers have 4 seasons to build a contender.

What does this mean? It means not doing things like being stupid and giving up lottery picks. It means not signing bad free agent deals, like a 5 year deal to a guy with a career ridden with injuries and motivation problems AND THEN complaining about it when all these things come to pass. It means not being 6 million below the cap on a yearly basis, but instead spending money on personnel. It means spending money on a coach that knows how to win, not a guy who stumbled into two playoff series because he had Derrick Rose running the offense. It means hiring a staff and importing players that either don't know or care enough about the "Clippers curse" to be affected by it.

This all means that the Clippers don't have to hit a home run right now. They just have to not strike out with the bases loaded. Contact will do just fine. Just don't strike out. Easier said than done.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

We are all Witnesses -- It's OUR Fault

Someone told me a while ago that you needed a few distinct qualities to be the President of the United States of America. Of course, you need to be incredibly smart, worldly, and dependable. You need to be able to capture the imagination of your constituents with your charisma and passion. You need to show you can lead and protect millions of people. But most importantly, you need to be a little arrogant.

Why arrogant? Because if you think that YOU out of 307 MILLION people are the absolute best choice to lead the most powerful nation this world has ever known...well, you have to be a little bit arrogant.

This sound like any professional athlete you've ever heard of?

Every elite athlete has many qualities - an indomitable will to compete, a passion for the game, supreme athletic gifts, natural skills and of course, a varying degree of arrogance. To be the best player on a team full of professional athletes, there has to be that same type of arrogance a Presidential hopeful has. You have to think that out of all the men and women that have ever played your sport, and thus all the professionals that emerged from that group, that out of all those millions of people, you are the best. You are the greatest, and no one will stop you at this particular moment. At every single level, people have fallen in the face of others with superior skill and ability, yet, you believe that none of those obstacles could hinder you similarly. You believe that you are the best.

Don't get me wrong - this mentality isn't confined to just athletics and politics. It extends to all facets of business, social cliques, and the list goes on. However, in basketball, like politics, the spotlight is on you all the time. There are entire networks dedicated to your every action, and reaction to every action. There are shows to gauge and critique your facial movements and how your posture reflects your deep inner workings. The arrogance is apparent, whether you want it to be or not.

Almost every NBA player I've seen is arrogant in some way. Kobe's arrogant. Shaquille was arrogant. Magic, Bird, Michael, Dr. J, Wilt, Kareem - despite their current statuses as untouchable legends, they were all arrogant too. Dirk Nowitzki is probably the most arrogant German player ever to live. LeBron James is arrogant. But we all know the difference between all the aforementioned gentlemen and LeBron James is.

The Miami Heat lost game 6. Dirk, JET, Kidd, Marion and company all showed them that there are "NO shortcuts," to paraphrase a very rich, but bitter, businessman in northeastern Ohio. I've read in many places that Dallas was "America's team," and while often times the Finals excludes any market besides the two left standing in the postseason, this year, everyone who likes the NBA had a rooting interest. It was America versus the Heat. On an NBA nerd e-mail chain I'm on, we have fans of the L with ties to Sacramento, the Lakers, the Knicks, the Celtics, and the Wizards. For once, we were all pulling for a singular cause. No one was exempt (except for the one Heat fan on our chain - whoops). We all loathed LeBron, Bosh, and the rest of the hangers-on that followed Wade into south Florida.

Our collective hatred of James has several root causes - the coldness of the Decision, the cowardice of becoming Wade's sidekick instead of his greatest rival, his promise of multiple titles before having participated in one practice, his steady inability to breakthrough in the waning minutes of a game and his never-ending conveyor belt of foolish media statements. But I actually think it's the following offense that keeps a Gmail chain of LeBron-centric distain going for over 400 replies.

I understand that anyone who has seen LeBron play basketball pushes expectations onto him. He made a decision to play basketball, not to be compared to Michael Jordan. From the age of 18, every critic, writer and basketball fan have had his cross-hairs on LeBron and his game -- and every year, those expectations only mount with another ringless campaign.

But what makes me loathe James as much as I do is that there is no expectation put upon him that he has not put on himself. LeBron is the douche in college that's bragging about how hard of a drinker he is. In his faded PBR shirt and cargo shorts, this guy proclaims that there is no drink he can't finish, and that nothing else matters besides that title. You could say he think he's The Chosen regards to out-drinking any soul that dares to challenge him. But then he pukes all over himself. He can't finish. Congrats LeBron. You just puked all over yourself.

A year ago, following The Decision, LeBron and Nike launched a marketing campaign, featuring LeBron asking the public, "who do you want me to be? Do you want me to the villain? Do you want me to just go away?" The presumptive message here is that James asks the public for the same rights and privileges as everyone else -- he just wants to be who HE wants to be. He doesn't have to be who YOU expect him to be. Because that's just unfair.

But this is the man who LeBron wants to be. Or at the very least, thinks of himself as.

And this is how he allows himself to be displayed.

True, LeBron never has distinctly asked to be a villain. He never distinctly asked for us to expect him to be the next Michael Jordan. Hell, he never even asked to be a Cavalier in the first place. He did not ask to be drafted by Cleveland and as stupid as he can be, no 23-year-old is stupid enough to turn down a 100 million dollar extension. He has even gone on record as saying that growing up, he hated Clevelanders, who would often look down on James and his Akron-born friends and family.

According to his body art and every nickname he has embraced, King James has hoisted expectations of being the Chosen 1 upon himself. He has asked for us to expect MVP trophies and not two, not three, not four, not five, not six, not seven titles from him. He hasn't delivered either in June. He somehow asks to be considered the greatest, but has simultaneously spurned the alpha dog-archetype that all of us hoop historians hoped he would become. We all thought he had the arrogance needed to lead us into a new era of NBA basketball, but instead we find that his arrogance is dissimilar to legends of the past or the political leaders we follow. His arrogance is that of a braggadocious coward, whose words are followed by nothing but an unwillingness to act.

A year has passed since the Cavs lost to the Celtics because of some mysterious circumstances regarding LeBron's disappearing act in Game 4. 11 months have passed since the regrettable telecast on ESPN of The Decision. Yet, when asked about the former, he evades questions with curt non-answers, saying things like "nah, that's corny" or "No explanation, I just played poorly." (What does "that's corny" even mean? Lesson learned: go to college kids, and you won't sound like an idiot.) Today, when he sees the backlash from America regarding The Decision, he bluntly answers that he wouldn't have changed a single thing. James doesn't seem to have the awareness, intelligence, or humility to offer any type of regret or remorse over poor judgments. All we want in our public figures is for them to either apologize when they're wrong, or apologize and show us they were right all along.

LeBron said after Game 6 that he doesn't owe anything to anyone besides his teammates. But I thought we are all witnesses, LeBron! Or did Nike tell us this without asking you if they could put your face next to this slogan? I guess by selling us all on your image of royalty, greatness, and grandeur, you don't owe your consumers the promise of any of that.

The biggest gripe any of us should have with LeBron is his constant desire to ask for everything, deliver nothing and then accept none of the responsibility. Every time, he comes out with an answer indicating that it's our fault that we fell for his sales pitch; that somehow, we built up all these expectations, as he helplessly watched from the hardwood. Sorry Bron - its your word versus a million. Pretty sure we're all right.

He promised us not just greatness, but the greatest, and has thus far fallen so far short of all of our expectations. Some King.

Monday, June 13, 2011

The Aftermath

Zogsports Soccer version Jersey starts up again this week, and I know what to expect. I know that for a bunch of former athlete-wannabes, the field is quite impressive. I know that our one fan will be there unless yogging (it's a soft J) gets in the way. I know that we'll attempt to score from midfield at least once, just because it's worked before. I know that my touch will be far less than stellar, which is great because I don't give a crap. And forgive me for getting cute here, but I know that I'm gonna laugh.

Zog takes everything cool about a sports league and does their best to throw it into the Hudson. But I expect them to do that. I expect them to schedule games super early while still labeling themselves as a league fit for "young professionals." I expect them to "ask" us to move the soccer goals before and/or after games without compensation, financial or sexual. I expect them to lure the unsuspecting rookies into their dungeon by proclaiming that proceeds will go to charity, without mentioning that their definition of "proceeds" is extremely discretionary.

But I know this. My teammates know this. Thus, we make a voluntary choice to subject ourselves to a bootleg establishment.

If you're the second most famous basketball player in the world, you don't televise your choice of employment on ESPN. This was something that had never been done before, and we accepted it, because it was LeBron. Everything that happened afterward, culminating in a uninspired Finals performance (plus-minus of -36!), was a result of a voluntary choice. Our media-driven, kill-first-grieve-later society will never look at this man in the same light ever again, and he deserves it.

Sidenote: If Delonte West and Rashard Lewis really did the dirty, then my hands are off. It wouldn't be right to kick a dude when he's down, for something like that. After all, he would have had no say in the matter. Having a mother and girlfriend as sluts dressed in regular-people clothing = involuntary choice.

Logic doesn't always win out though.

When Zoggers scrimmage this Thursday, I will probably still complain about the consequences of a voluntary choice. Not only am I human, but I'm still a kid. The very fact that I'm writing for a freaking blog (*shudder*) means I haven't grown up yet. And for now, that's just fine. 26 years old...still a kid.

Your procrastinating Google search today?