Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The State of the NBA...

Here are four things that are bringing down the quality of play in the NBA-

1) Guaranteed Contracts-

2) The Salary Cap-

3) Expansion, and last but not least-

4) Entrenched, Dysfunctional, Incompetent Ownership.

1) Let's take this step by step. Guaranteed contracts only benefit the players. They are a colossal hindrance to the advancement of a franchise looking to upgrade from doormat to playoff team to (hopefully) perennial championship contender. Now there are many facets at play here. You have to have stability in the front office and really smart people who know the game of basketball and a coaching staff who know how to get the best out of their players. But nothing can ruin a teams' chances more than having to sign a player to a long-term deal for guaranteed money.

The problem is threefoldfold-

1) More often than not the player in question is getting paid for past accomplishments. Rarely does a player play as well or better than he did before signing his max contract.

2) With colossal assholes like Gilbert Arenas and Stephon Marbury, even if you have a player in his physical prime that is no guarantee of future success. Marbury loved quoting the very misleading stat that the only other player to average 20 points and 8 assists during his career was Oscar Robertson. Marbury belongs in the same sentence with Oscar Robertson as most guys belong in the same sentence with Ron Jeremy-it just doesn't measure up. There is a fundamental flaw in his reasoning that discounts the reality of his negative impact on almost every team he played for.

Another example is Zack Randolph. Here's a player who can AND WILL score 20 points and snag 10 rebounds a night, which is much more than the vast majority of big men in the NBA can get you on a nightly basis. Is he worth a max contract? Hell fucking no. Only a GM who smokes more crack than Flavor Flav would even entertain such lunacy.

And again, in the case of players like Marbury and Arenas, teams are stuck with them once they've signed. If the situation goes south, a team either have to settle for a buyout so the disgruntled player can go sign for another team to potentially come back and haunt them in the playoffs or sit them on the bench. Either way they've just wasted millions of dollars for absolutely no return on their investment. There has to be a way to cut these clowns in situations like this.

3) Some cats don't deserve a max contract. Look at Amare Stoudemire. He is about as one-dimensional as they come. He more than any other player owes his stats to his point guard, Steve Nash. He has no go-to offensive move in the low post, cannot and will not play any defense and has fucked-up knees. When he physically falls apart (which will be in the next two years), his game will go with it. That will leave you with 4 more years at max-level money to pay a bum who can't hack it any more. Don't do it to yourself, Phoenix-move on without him.

One of the biggest examples of overpaying a player whose best days are behind him has been Rashard Lewis of the Orlando Magic. The Magic were basically bidding against themselves for this one-dimensional offensive player who has no moves going to the basket and can disappear during the course of a game faster than a tourists' wallet in Thailand. He was brought in for one reason and one reason only-to be their big offensive threat from the outside during the playoffs. He has no other responsibilities, no other job. This year he averaged 14 points in the playoffs and was AWOL during the most important stretches of the Boston series, the one that eventually knocked the Magic out when they were favored to go to the Finals.

The cost of this? Six Years, $118 million dollars, every penny of it guaranteed. All for one player. Orlando can do nothing about this. This contract is an albatross around their neck for the next three years at a point (he is going to be 31 in August) in every baller's career where their performance begins to deteriorate. His decline has already begun-if you don't believe me just watch how he performed the last two years in the playoffs. The one thing that went through my mind as I watched him was, "someone in their right mind gave this guy 118 million? For what?"

$118 million can buy you this...

And get you some of this...

...but it won't buy you one of THEEZ, SON!!! 'Cause this bitch right here you have to earn.

2) The salary cap-how many times this year have we heard about teams clearing out cap space for the free agent bonanza of the summer of 2010? Newsflash-many teams will come away empty-handed. If Dwayne Wade and Lebron James stay where they are, that pretty much puts paid to many of the ambitions held by GM's all over the league.

Yes, clear that cap space with nothing to show for it. This is where things will get dangerous. Now teams will get desperate and offer max money to second-tier players like Bosh, Stoudemire, Boozer and Joe Johnson. Yes, I said it. These guys are second-tier because they do not have the requisite star power and overall commanding presence to fill arenas by themselves and also do not have the talent to be a teams' major offensive focus. These guys are great complimentary players if you already have a stacked squad. We have seen what these players have done on their own teams-put them on another that is focused on rebuilding or just looking to crack the playoffs and you will be overpaying for not much in return.

As a season ticket holder, do you really want to hear about your team clearing cap space in hopes of luring free agents that will never come, all the while being subjected to a terrible product on the court? Don't blame the recession on lagging ticket sales-if a franchise is dedicated to putting quality out on the floor, there is no such thing as a small market team. Just ask Oklahoma.

Here is an arena full of fans who decided to wait for the free agent class of 2010 at home-

3) There are certain small markets that cannot support an NBA franchise. Others just aren't cut out to have one. Let's be real-no NBA player wants to live and party in Minnesota, one of the whitest and coldest states in the Union. Time to give it up and toss this franchise into the trash heap.

New Orleans has just announced they would be willing to "entertain" trade talks involving their linchpin point guard Chris Paul. Good for him and even better for New Orleans. The owner is in the process of trying to sell the team, and cutting payroll is a priority. Even though the alleged new owner coming in has deep pockets, right now there is no guarantee he will get the franchise. Even so, he would be an idiot to make this purchase.

The city of New Orleans was practically gutted after Hurricane Katrina of many of it's long-time residents, but let's face it-there just isn't enough money in that town to support basketball AND pro football. The town loves the Saints, the Hornets? There just isn't the support, for a myriad of reasons. And it will get worse once peoples' livelihoods become severely affected by that gigantic oil spill.

The Clippers-see reason number 4.

4) For every Jerry West you will have at least 5-10 idiots like Minnesota Timberwolves GM David Kahn. Any jackass who drafts 3 point guards in the first round like he did last year, one being foreign player Ricky Rubio who had stated unequivocally prior to being drafted that he would NOT play in Minnesota ought to have at least two of those draft picks confiscated after the fact.

It's bad enough this franchise continually puts a substandard product on the floor night in and night out. But because of such decisions they will suck and be mired in mediocrity for years to come.

This is why the L.A. Clippers should be shut down. Not sold to another owner, not moved to another city, just eliminated, as if they were never in the league. They have an owner, Donald Serling, who no one wants to play for, who is a devout racist (if racism was a religion he would be appointed it's West Coast Cardinal). They have gotten more sweet players via the draft than any other team over the last 20-25 or so years due to their consistently dreadful performances during the regular season.

As as soon as these players can get out of their initial contracts they all bolt. I wonder why that is? Serling has made no bones about the fact that, despite being a multi-millionaire he is dreadfully cheap. Meaning, if he has a great player he won't pay him what he's worth. The Clippers are also rumored to have the worst locker room amenities in the NBA-Mark Cuban this guy is not.

This isn't fair to other teams just as mediocre who need to catch just one damn break and could have used one of those draft picks to make improvements. Minnesota is another franchise that needs to give up the ghost. For years they had one of the best defensive low post players the league has ever seen in Kevin Garnett and they could never figure out a way to put decent pieces around him to make that one burst into the Finals.

You can blame mediocrity and nepotism. A mediocre white man can stay at his job forever as long as he gets along with the higher-ups. Kevin McHale is an egregious example of this type of cultural inbreeding that has been the ruin of what was never a good franchise.

And last but not least, we have the New York Knicks. It's one thing to call an owner or GM a crackhead. It's quite another to actually BE one. This guy has the unholy trifecta all rolled into one-entrenched nepotism, dysfunctional management style and an incompetence for running a team that would have either gotten him fired from any other job. Or, in the case of George Bush, would have gotten him elected President of the United States.

No man has been at the helm at more disastrous decision-making since the captain of the Titanic. But unlike that hapless overgrown tugboat, the Knicks are kept afloat by a revenue stream that would make George Steinbrenner blush from Cablevision.

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