Knicks and Nets: A Retrospective on How Bad New York’s Basketball Is

New York is a mess, or rather, the Knicks and Nets are. If you search “NBA Standings” on the old internet, you’ll find New York’s professional basketball clubs stuck near the bottom of the worst division in the league.

How bad is the Atlantic Conference, you say?

Well, as of late Saturday, the Raptors are leading the conference with an outstanding record of 12-15. 12 AND 15! What’s worse is that the team who sits just a game worse than the Knicks, the 76ers, was called a team of “six NBA players” and “a bunch of guys who are fighting for spots…”  Was the quoted person in this situation a controversial analyst or former player? Nope, it was the Sixers’ own coach, Brett Brown.

That is how bad the division is.

What’s even worse, and slightly funny, is how the divisional standings are laid out.

  1. Toronto 12-15
  2. Boston 13-17
  3. Brooklyn 10-19
  4. New York 9-20
  5. Philadelphia 8-20

Yeah, it’s that bad, but the aforementioned funny thing is that Toronto and Boston are ahead of the two New York clubs. During the offseason both Toronto and Boston made significant trades, dealing major pieces for long-term salary relief and younger pieces.

The Raptors traded Andrea Bargnani for Steve Novak, the now departed Marcus Camby and Quentin Richardson, a future first-round draft pick and two future second-round draft picks.

Boston, going for a larger affect, traded franchise icons Paul Pierce, Kevin Garnett and Seattle native Jason Terry to Brooklyn for a cavalcade of cap holds and draft picks including Kris Humphries, Gerald Wallace, Kris Joseph, MarShon Brooks, Keith Bogans and future first-round picks in 2014, 2016 and 2018.

Toronto and Boston made those trades to restart, to let young players develop, gather draft picks and build for the future. The Knicks and Nets made those moves in an attempt to win now, at all costs.

In a normal world, the former two teams should be at the bottom of the division, not at the top and in contention for playoff places. But this isn’t a normal world. The east, specifically the Atlantic, and specifically the two New York teams, are really bad.

It would be strange to see the Celtics make the playoffs this season without Pierce and Garnett. What would be stranger would be seeing the two not make the playoffs with their new team. But that is the Atlantic Division, as it is.

Making Sense of the Phoenix Suns.

I’m going to give you three NBA teams who aren’t so high in the standings: the Sacramento Kings, Houston Rockets and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Throw Phoenix into the mix and you have four struggling teams.

Remember the old Sesame Street bit where they sang, “One of these things is not like the other?” This is similar, in the sense of how the teams built their current rosters.

Sacramento has gone the rout of putting as many young, high potential guys who like to shoot the ball (not much else) together.

Houston has a young group of interesting roster decisions. The point there is that they are young. Agree or disagree with how Darryl Morey got the players, the Rockets have exciting youth.

Cleveland rounds out the list with multiple lottery picks littering the roster.

The underlying theme in this is that the teams are young, and however frustrating it is to watch the team on the court (Sacramento), they have potential.

Phoenix however is different. There is no mention of a young building block with the potential or aptitude for stardom (i.e. Kyrie Irving, James Harden or DaMarcus Cousins). Continue reading

Poof! There Goes A Contender!

How one off-season trade has sent the Orlando Magic crashing and tumbling towards the basement and eventual lottery.

First, I should start off by mentioning that the Magic are 2-1 as I write this. I know they have a winning record, but they’ve played three games. They’re serving as kitchen-store lighting at the moment, also known as a flash in the pan. If the season goes really well for the Magic, then the joke’s on me, but on paper and for the future the Magic look anything like their name.

Dwight Howard got traded. I think everyone down to the foul pole at Safeco Field knew it was coming. The question then became, “ok, well what can they get for him?” Continue reading

Game of Dominoes: NBA Free Agency

Let’s cut the flabber and get right to it. Steve Nash is heading to the Lakers in one of the more shocking moves of the offseason. The 38-year-old was shipped to LA in a sign-and-trade for two future first rounders and two future second rounders. The initial reaction isn’t a huge one. With Nash joining a proven playoff team, the picks figure to be at the end of their respective rounds. The thing is, though, that this was probably the best thing Phoenix was going to get. It surely beats letting him walk for nothing, and trumps out whatever sign-and-trade options Toronto, Dallas or New York would have offered.

It’s also somewhat genius for LA. Financial fodder aside, the Lakers got a top-tier player for relatively nothing. Los Angeles has a tendency to move their late first rounders for useful players in years past, so moving them for Nash isn’t surprising. Not to mention Steve Nash is much more than a useful player. No, the Lake Show didn’t get to unload Metta World Peace’s contract in the move, or any contract for that matter, but the Suns probably wouldn’t take it, or want it.

On the flip side of this, Phoenix seems to be throwing their new-found cap space at young, offensively-talented players. They have supposedly signed former Sun and Nash understudy, Goran Dragic, to a four-year deal and have also agreed to terms with former number two overall pick Michael Beasley on a multi-year pact. The third potential attacking prong is that of Eric Gordon. The Suns have signed him to a large offer sheet, and New Orleans could be hesitant to match given the fact that they are rebuilding and don’t want to tie down too much of their future money to one player, even one of Gordon’s talent. The Suns seem to be in less disarray than people would think after losing their face-of-the-franchise. A core of Dragic, Beasley, Kendall Marshall, Markieff Morris and potentially Gordon is pretty desirable, especially for a team that wants to score in drones like Phoenix does.

With Nash now out of the picture, Dallas has lost on one of their point guard options, scratch that, one of their options period. Lamar Odom is gone and the return is simply a trade exception. That we knew was probably coming, but what’s more is that the Mavs find themselves having gone down swinging on Nash, Jason Terry, Jason Kidd and Derron Williams. Yikes. What Mark Cuban and friends do next is beyond me.

Speaking of Williams, he’s staying a Net. One reason for that is the acquisition of one Joe Johnson. Johnson will join Williams along with recently signed Gerald Wallace in Brooklyn at the expense of Anthony Morrow, Jordan Farmar, DeShawn Stevenson (likely a sign-and-trade) as well as forwards Jordan Williams, Johan Petro and a draft pick. This move looks terrible for Atlanta when news trickles in that Jordan Farmar is likely being bought out. That likely leaves the Hawks with some three pointers by Morrow and some defensive stops from Stevenson. Not exactly what you envision when you trade a six-time All Star. But here is why it’s so wonderfully brilliant. All the contracts the Hawks received in return only run through next season. That’s right, all expiring contracts. Even more surprising is the fact that Danny Ferry also shed Marvin Williams oddly long contract by way of Utah, dealing another former number two overall pick to the Jazz for Devin Harris. Who, in sticking to theme, also has an expiring contract after this season.  So add that all up and the Hawks have thrown themselves into the much finagled running for Dwight Howard and All-Star Point Guard X, who might or might not end up being Chris Paul.

In other New York news, Jeremy Lin might be done playing for the Knicks. It’s reported that Jason Kidd has verbally, or whatever the official term is, reached an agreement with the Knicks. Because of the new CBA among other things, the Knicks do technically have the ability to match any offer that is made to Lin, but it could be costly as reports suggest that Houston is discussing an offer sheet in the neighborhood of 30 million dollars. Talk about “overnight” success.

Houston meanwhile is putting a lot of their eggs in that “Lin” basket. The team moved Kyle Lowry to Toronto for a first-round pick that takes a lawyer to decipher when Houston could actually get the pick. That and Goran Dragic’s aforementioned presumable departure leaves the point wide open for Kevin McHale’s club. It would be a bit funny if Lin stays in New York and the Rockets go after and sign Aaron Brooks. Brooks was traded to Phoenix for Dragic, and should he sign with Houston… well you get the point.

With no transition at all here, no really, none at all, the Clippers are getting better. In terms of success, the newer Los Angeles team strengthened a solid backcourt to the point of using the word ridiculous. Randy Foye and Nick Young are likely out the door, but in their place return the now-healthy Mr. Big Shot as well as Jamal Crawford. They join Chris Paul and Eric Bledsoe in a backcourt that now has four starting caliber guards. This move also merits the acquisition of Lamar Odom at the cost of Mo Williams. If you’re playing along at home, that’s a starting five of Chris Paul, Billups or Crawford at the two, Odom at the three (if not off the bench), Blake Griffin at power forward and DeAndre Jordan down low. Yikes.

In a slight towards the Oklahoma Raiders, what a crap deal to trade away Eric Bledsoe’s draft rights for a future first round pick, they could have definitely used him in the playoffs. Actually, good for Bledsoe: the Raiders don’t get a good player and Bledsoe doesn’t have to play for a terrible owner. Win-win.

In guards-who-can-score-at-all-times news, Jason Terry is going to Boston. Or he has “supposedly” agreed to a contract with the Celtics. Terry will get the full mid-level exception for three years and upwards of 15 million dollars. Jason Kidd supposedly signed with the Knicks because they had better pieces, and you can see why. Dirk’s supporting cast has shrunk to Shawn Marion and Vince Carter. Yikes.

And throughout all this, the name “Dwight Howard” seems to be flying under the radar. FOR ONCE. The constant-topical center has supposedly (if I only had a million dollars for every time I said that, I’d be a multi-millionaire! Grins cheesily and gives Borat-esque thumbs up) asked to be moved to New Jersey Brooklyn. Good luck Dwight. After Joe Johnson and his contract (which, by the way, is so big that he had to check it on the flight up to Brooklyn) were acquired, and along with the long-term buildup of Gerald Wallace’s shiny new deal, there isn’t a whole lot of cap room left for you. The Nets do have Brook Lopez, Kris Humphries and MarShon Brooks, who all together almost add up to Howard’s salary. However, I’m not so sure that the Magic should make that move.

 Let the financial finagling continue.

NBA Trade Deadline Grades that Pay

(Corny title, I know.)

The deadline is upon us as I write this. It probably isn’t the magnitude that the baseball trade deadline is, but it’s close, at least on a higher level than the NFL.

Deals will happen. They always happen at the deadline and will continue to do so in the NBA’s existence.

Let’s start with the Lakers, who have glaring needs at forward and the point. Here’s what they have done so far-

  • The Lakers Acquired Ramon Sessions to stabilize the point guard spot while also picking up young forward Christian Eyenga. The cost to acquire those two was and is wings Jason Kapono, Luke Walton and a top 14 protected 2012 first-round pick.

Sessions was expendable from the sense that the Cavs already have Kyrie Irving on payroll and the fact that Irving is the future.

The Lakers give up what is probably a pick somewhere in the 20s if they make a playoff run.

That might be the only huge loss here for LA. They get out of the rest of Walton’s contract as well as Kapono’s. They also get a youth infusion in the front court with Eyenga.

This leaves the Lakers with Sessions, Steve Blake and Derek Fisher on payroll. Which leads us to this…

  • The Houston Rockets Acquire PG Derek Fisher from the LA Lakers for Jordan Hill and the Mavericks first-round pick.

The Lakers have now moved both of the first-round picks that they owned in this year’s draft. But on the flipside, the Lakers have unloaded both Fisher and Walton, who are under contract next year, replacing them with players who might not be under contract next season.

Hill gives the Lakers more youth in the frontcourt as well as depth, which is another thing that they probably could have used to help their championship aspirations.

The Rockets pick up another first-round pick to add to their hull while also picking up a stop gap point guard to fill in for Kyle Lowry while he recovers from injury. The Rockets could also buy out Fisher following the return of Lowry, or keep him for a stretch run.

Hill was movable in a sense because of another trade…

  • The Houston Rockets acquired Marcus Camby from the Portland Trailblazers for former lottery picks Jonny Flynn, Hasheem Thabeet and a second-round pick that originated with the T-Wolves.

The Rockets picked up a presence in the frontcourt after going down swinging in the original Chris Paul trade. Thabeet and Flynn were almost dead weight in Houston and should benefit from a change of scenery. The Blazers might be in a bit of a rebuilding or retooling stretch, whichever lights your fire after moving this key cog to an Eastern Conference team…

  • The New Jersey Nets Acquire F Gerald Wallace from the Portland Trailblazers for frontcourt depth in Shawne Williams, Mehmet Okur and a top three projected 2012 first-round pick.

The Nets are attempting to keep Deron Williams for next season just as Dwight Howard has now chosen to stay in Orlando for next season. A starting five and core of Wallace, Williams, Kris Humphries, Brook Lopez and MarShon Brooks isn’t too bad.

This is curious for Portland, who after dealing Camby and Crash, they have also reportedly fired Mr. Sonic himself, Nate McMillian. This is truly sad news, as the Blazers are supposedly starting to rebuild or retool. Again, whichever lights your fire. Williams has a player option for next year, which will likely be exercised as well as Okur’s expiring deal, which totals almost 11 million dollars. This should set up Portland to go after a big free agent while also getting a potentially high pick in a very good draft.

Moving on with no transition, we see a very surprising trade from George’ Karl’s Denver Nuggets-

  • We move on to more former Sonic news as George Karl’s Nuggets have moved their big free agent resigning- Nene Hilario- to the Washington Wizards for JaVale McGee and Ronny Turiaf. This trade also involves the Los Angeles Clippers as Nick Young will head to LA to help the Clippers’ two guard needs. The Wizards will get forward Brian Cook and a future second-round pick in return.

This moved shocked me to be honest with you. The Nuggets dealt their starting center in Nene for another one in McGee as well as another good bench player in Ronny Turiaf. The Nuggets will certainly be fine because of their exceptional depth, but the Wizards clearly won from a talent perspective now. Nene might just be a better fit with John Wall than McGee was, and he gives a young Washington squad a veteran presence.

The Nuggets might have benefited long term more so than the Wizards because they got to unload Nene’s contract. This frees up money not only for the future, but also money for restricted free agent Wilson Chandler. Chandler, who is fresh off a stint in the CBA (Chinese Basketball Association), would give the Nuggets a boost on the wing.

The Clippers are the under the radar team here as they pick up a shooting guard to replace the long-injured Chauncey Billups. This really helps the Clips in terms of a missing piece and needed scoring punch.

New we really don’t have any transition as the Indiana Pacers get some backcourt depth with Leandro Barbosa.

  • The Pacers picked up Barbosa for a second-round pick and cash considerations from the Toronto Raptors.

The Pacers didn’t need to put any outgoing players in the deal because of their vast salary cap room. Not exactly vast mind you, but under these circumstances, that’s a lot. Good deal for Indy.

  • Golden State acquires Richard Jefferson and a first-round pick from the San Antonio Spurs.

The Warriors did a brilliant job of turning Monta Ellis, Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown into Andrew Bogut, Jefferson and a first-round pick. That’s a nice little roster turnaround for Golden State. Jefferson might be bought out, nobody knows. Nice swap for the Spurs as well as Jackson gives the Spurs a little bit more of a scoring touch compared to Jefferson.

  • In the last move, or first chronologically — whichever way you want to look at it, the Philadelphia 76ers picked up athletic wing Sam Young from Memphis for the rights to former second-round pick Ricky Sanchez.

So there are your trades everybody. Some other notes of prominence-

  • The Raptors have released point guard Anthony Carter, who was originally believed to be part of the Barbosa trade.
  • The Magic didn’t trade Dwight Howard, as he will presumably come back next season.
  • The Celtics kept the Big 3 intact for at least this season.
  • Steve Nash stayed put in Phoenix.
  • Michael Beasley is staying in the Twin Cities.
  • And Deron Williams is still a Net.

The Lakers Search For a Point Guard

Derek Fisher is a veteran point guard. It’s probably safe to say that he is past his prime. That being said, the Lakers need a boost at the point. Steve Blake is currently nursing an injury and will be out for a while. Here are some trades that the Lakers could make to help themselves at the backcourt position not manned by Kobe Bryant.

The Obvious Choice- Steve Nash

Steve Nash to this day is still one of the better point guards in the league and is an obvious trade candidate.  Here’s how it could go down-

  • Steve Nash to the Los Angeles Lakers for Luke Walton, Darius Morris and Fisher. Fisher isn’t the player he once was. The Suns aren’t going to get a player to replace Nash in return. At least here the Suns get two manageable contracts that could very well be bought out (Walton and Fisher) plus a rookie who could have some upside for them (Morris).
  • Steve Nash to the Los Angeles Lakers with Hakim Warrick for Walton, Fisher and Metta World Peace. The Suns get three buy out options as well as getting out of Hakim Warrick’s contract. This saves the Suns some serious money.

The Under-the-Radar Choice- Jarrett Jack

Jarrett Jack is a good point guard despite playing for the lonely Hornets. He is a solid all-around point guard who can score, rebound and dish it.

  • Jarrett Jack to the Los Angeles Lakers for Luke Walton and a future first round pick. Jack makes a whole lot of sense in LA. The Hornets do take on a little money with Walton and lose a lot of production, but they are going to have a down year this year. They basically swap out Jack’s playing time for younger guys with a smidgen of Walton. It should also be noted that Walton and Jack’s  contracts are almost exactly the same. The Hornets (read:   David Stern and his band of team-stealing-buddies) gain another first-round pick to add to their likely growing stash of picks, which, for most GMs of young, bad teams is what you would like. If the Lakers are hell-bent on winning another ring (honestly, what contending team isn’t?) then this first rounder probably will hold as much value as an early second round pick. If not, this might be a pick around number 20 overall. Or if some key players get injured (read Kobe Bryant, Pau Gasol and Andrew Bynum) this might be, gasp, a late lottery pick.

The Guy From Cleveland- (Not Kyrie Irving, cool it Cavs fans) Ramon Sessions

  • Ramon Sessions to the Los Angeles Lakers for Derek Fisher and a second round pick. Sessions also makes sense in LA as does Jarrett Jack. He is a guy who can rebound and dish it. His contract is not obnoxious or ridiculous in any sense of either word. He is a solid player who will help LA a lot. There is also the likelihood that Fisher might be bought out and return to LA. So you have Sessions for a late second round pick, and you give Derek Fisher a week off. Sounds good, lock it up Lakers.

Should You Break up the Big 3?

The Boston Celtics won a ring with the “Big 3” that consisted of and still somewhat consists of Paul Pierce, Ray Allen and Kevin Garnett.

Now the team is a little different. Ok, maybe a lot different. Now the team is in the hands of 26 year-old point guard Rajon Rondo. Rondo was on their championship team, but was looked at as more of a fourth option.

Gone are role players like Tony Allen, Glen “Big Baby” Davis, Eddie House and Leon Powe. Arrived are their current place holders such as Chris Wilcox, Sasha Pavlovic, Keyon Dooling and Mickael Pietrus. Gone also is defensive stalwart Kendrick Perkins, only to be replaced with somewhat offensive center (at this point of his career) Jermaine O’Neal.

This team is going to look like the Rajon Rondo and Jeff Green Show in a couple years, with a hint of Avery Bradley, if the Celtics don’t do anything.

This isn’t a bad young core, but let’s face it, the NBA landscape will probably change in a couple of years and will continue to change with time.

Underlying theme spoiler alert: the Celtics need to make changes.

Not necessarily at this juncture, but depending on their play towards the trade deadline, a couple trades should be made.

If the Celtics are sitting at 10th or 11th in the East towards the trade deadline, they should make a move or two. If they’re somewhere in the 5th to 7th range, then maybe they pick up a bought out contract guy (i.e. Antawn Jamison) to boost the team. If the latter happens, then they should aim for turning over the roster to some extent in the offseason.

To get back to the title, yes you should break up the Big 3. Paul Pierce is probably the last to go, but then again is the most marketable to some extent. Kevin Garnett is probably a keeper for now due to Boston’s problems in the post. Ray Allen could be the most useful to other teams due to the fact that his shooting ability would help anyone.

Obviously at this stage in their careers the C’s aren’t exactly going to get what they gave up for players like Allen and Garnett.

(Ray Allen is the exception, because the Celtics really did trade Jeff Green ,at that time the pick, to the Sonics for Allen.)

Nor are the Celtics going to have Al Jefferson fall into their laps in exchange for KG.

Obviously the Celtics would like a return like the previously listed two, to move them into the next couple of years at a competitive rate.

If you look at veteran players who were still productive on the down spin of their careers and were traded, the return isn’t huge, but it isn’t too bad either.

The Wizards got a first round pick, the chance to buy out Zydrunas Ilgauskas’s contract (which they did) and a low risk, high reward Al Thornton for Antawn Jamison.

In a three-team deal the Rockets got Kevin Martin, Jordan Hill, the chance to buy out Jared Jeffries’s contract (they did) and Hilton Armstrong for Tracey McGrady, Carl Landry and Joey Dorsey. This wasn’t a straight up swap, but it was a good acquisition for Houston.

New Jersey got Courtney Lee, Rafer Alston and Tony Battie out of Vince Carter via the Orlando Magic. Lee isn’t with the team, but the Nets got Troy Murphy’s expiring contract for him to help them toward Darren Williams and potentially Dwight Howard.

Miami got Shawn Marion and Marcus Banks for a declining Shaq. The two were later flipped for Jermaine O’Neal and Jamario Moon. These contracts expired right before the offseason in which they brought in LeBron and Chris Bosh.

Denver got Chauncey Billups for Allen Iverson. You look at that trade, there is no youth involved whatsoever, but Billups played well in Denver and was certainly a better fit than AI. He was then moved to the Big Apple with Melo for a plethora of young pieces and picks that included Danillo Gallinari, Wilson Chandler and a first-round pick of the Warriors (potential gold mine!) in 2014.

These are probably easier targets to achieve for Boston. Maybe the trade doesn’t work out at first, but down the road they will gain something out of the pieces or cap space picked up in the trade.

Another underlying theme spoiler alert: Celtics need to build for the future soon.

The Door is That Way, David Stern

The door is the first on the left. Or the right, frankly it could be the door at the end of the hallway. I have no idea seeing as I’ve never been in the league office.

Point is David Stern has fumbled numerous times. David Stern fumbled with the Sonics situation (still bitter about that), fumbled with the first Chris Paul trade, fumbled with the PR on that, fumbled in the second Chris Paul trade and almost came away with Chris Paul still playing for the Hornets. David Stern fumbled, fumbled again and probably would fumble if he had Walter Jones and Jeff Saturday blocking for him against a bunch of pee-wee players.

Stern won his battle in Seattle because of some cheap shots among other things. He also sets off a domino effect of pain and suffering if he keeps his promise of getting Seattle another team. Stern would probably have to take someone else’s team away from them, leaving them in the situation that we are in, in Seattle. (If you can’t tell yet, I’m not David Stern’s biggest fan.) Or he can be smart about it and give Seattle an expansion team, squash the Sacramento/Anaheim business and give Anaheim a team, and everybody’s happy. Because of the state of the economy, Stern is likely to uproot a team and move them to Seattle. It would be terrible if Anaheim got a team before Seattle. Anaheim is a great town, but what is the use of getting them another team if people can sit in the car for a bit and make the trek to LA to see one of the Lakers or Clippers? The closest thing we have is the Blazers who are in an entirely different state.

Back to the commissioner’s fumble-prone habits. Episode two took place recently when he nixed a deal that would have sent Chris Paul to the Lakers, Pau Gasol to Houston, Lamar Odom to New Orleans, Luis Scola to…. You get the point. A few days later the Clippers stepped up to the table and made a run at the talented New Orleans point guard — only to come up short when David Stern wanted the Clippers to give up their last viable trade piece that doesn’t throw down ridiculous dunks in point guard Eric Bledsoe. The Clippers thought this to be too much and backed out.

Time passed, albeit two days, and the league and one certain commissioner backed off the Bledsoe involvement and agreed to the Kaman, Gordon, Farouq Aminu, Timberwolves first rounder-for-Paul-swap.

All this mumbling-fumbling almost got Stern one of his star players being irked for an entire year, left another one of his star players (Kobe Bryant) perplexed and not liking another trade that was a domino falling over down the line (Lamar Odom trade). And oh yeah, he still has the Seattle situation to deal with.