Now that free agency is fast approaching and the Finals are winding down, it is time to access the action and what it means going forward for teams, contenders and pretenders alike. We'll start with transfer rumors that are making the biggest splash around the NBA.
The L.A. Clippers-
Stupid is as stupid does, and you can never put anything past Clippers owner Donald Sterling. This guy has mismanaged his team from the second he made the purchase, and has mishandled more quality first-round picks than any owner in league history. He's also a racist and a cheapskate, proclaiming out loud how proud he is that he underpays coaches, assistants, and players alike. Give it to him to have a small-market mentality in a big-market city.
As the NBA's premier idiot owner, he has stayed the course until a few years ago, when he drafted Blake Griffin and DeAndre Jordan and committed to keeping them. They make up a young, formidable front court that can run shit in the Western Conference for years to come if they commit to getting better. They also have a great point/shooting guard combo coming off the bench in Eric Bledsoe and Jamal Crawford. Why haven't I mentioned Chris Paul yet? Here's the reason...
Paul is a demanding point guard, who, despite his talents, has alienated his front court. Blake Griffin, the face of the franchise, can't stand him. But aside from his abrasive personality, here are two reasons Paul is at once their best player and their biggest liability-
1) No doubt he is one of the best point guards in the league. But he is looking for a max contract that will cripple the team going forward, given the financial obligations to Griffin and Jordan, with almost no hope of re-signing Bledsoe when he becomes a restricted free agent at the end of next year. Doesn't matter because he's on the trading block anyway, but letting Bledsoe, an up-and-coming point guard that many NBA teams covet, walk out the door due to salary restrictions will be a bigger mistake than anyone realizes, given the fact that...
2) Paul has almost no cartilage left in his oft-injured right knee. Signing someone like this to a five-year contract is suicide (see the Knicks and Amar'e Stoudemire). This has been completely underreported by the sycophantic sports media, and should be the Clippers' biggest concern. He has two-three years (and I'm being optimistic here) of high quality play left in him. His downward spiral will come sooner rather than later, and there are only so many trips to Germany he can take before that controversial blood platelet therapy many pro athletes undergo to prolong their careers stops working. The most egregious example of this is Dwayne Wade, who will be worth nowhere near his escalating contract when it ends in THREE YEARS.
Chris Paul has been making noise about playing alongside terminal head case and perpetually injured big man Dwight Howard. There are basically two teams that, again, given current salary cap restrictions, can make this happen-Atlanta and Houston. But with all that money being taken by two players, what type of supporting cast will these teams be able to afford? Especially Atlanta, who may not re-sign Josh Smith (addition by subtraction as far as I'm concerned, given his demands for a max contract, something he CLEARLY does not deserve. Not for lack of talent, but for lack of effort). Al Horford is going to demand big money on the free market soon-how are you going to keep these players if the Howard/Paul move goes down?
And why, oh why, would the Clippers remotely entertain a trade with Boston for coach Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce? Garnett says he won't waive his no-trade clause if Paul Pierce isn't involved, which makes no sense. They both had one year left of good basketball in them, and that was three years ago. In the uber-athletic Western Conference, you don't get better by getting slower, older, and more unathletic. When Garnett gets the ball, one of two things occur that shouldn't. He either settles for a layup because he can't dunk anymore, or he settles for a jump shot because he's no longer quick enough to get past his defender and drive to the basket. You don't trade DeAndre Jordan for a septuagenarian bum (Garnett)who is 5 years past his prime only to pair him with another geriatric hobo who has lost the little athleticism he ever had and can't guard anyone (Pierce).
I must give credit where credit is due. Sterling managed to get the coach he (and more importantly, Chris Paul) wanted, overpaid him ($7 million a year for three years) and agreed with the stipulation that the Clips could not include Garnett and Pierce from Boston for the next year. Moot point, seeing as both players have relocated to New Jersey in one of the most bogus multi-player trades in NBA history.
The Boston Celtics-
Every single move they're considering will make them a better team. They need to get younger and more athletic. Getting rid of Garnett and Pierce for DeAndre Jordan and Eric Bledsoe would have the best move Danny Ainge has pulled off since gathering the original "Big Three" for a championship run that has netted all of one title instead of three they should have won. Yes, Jordan is a project and needs work. but he's twenty-three. Pair him up with point guard Rajon Rondo and Bledsoe, get rid of some more bums off the roster, and you'll have a team that may be able to make some noise in the weak Eastern Conference besides "No Mas". They may miss Doc Rivers now that' he's the new Clippers' coach, but there are a few quality coaches out there who would be a good fit for this squad-Stan or Jeff Van Gundy come to mind. Jeff because he knows his shit, and Stan because he's just a funny motherfucker.
But the Celtics are loath to pay for another high-priced coach now that Rivers and his $7 million a year contract is gone. They'll probably give some assistant a chance so they can underpay him and get away with their rebuilding process by losing more games than they'll win. It makes sense for everyone involved. It also made sense buying out Paul Pierces' contract for $5 million, seeing as his trade value right now is severely limited, but they decided to trade him instead. Now that Garnett waived his no-trade clause and got the hell out of Dodge, he won't have to suffer the indignity of grinding out another worthless season for a team that won't win shit. Their run as "the Big Three" is over. It was over two-three years ago, but Ainge, like many basketball executives, mistakenly wait way too long to blow up a team that was in dire need of an overhaul a while ago.
The Celtics are collecting first-round draft picks like a pimp collects ho's, and my contention is Rondo will be traded next. He is an elite, championship point guard who can command some serious offers even though he's coming off ACL knee surgery. His game was never predicated on athleticism, anyway, and he was always the unsung and under-appreciated member of the Celtics. There is no use and it makes no sense for a player of his calibre to spend the best seasons of his career losing, which is the equivalent of a hooker standing on the corner selling a piece of ass nobody wants to buy.
The LA Lakers-
This team has too many problems that cannot be corrected by one or two moves. First of all, Steve Nash was good five years ago, and the Lakers are paying him for the player he once was. Signing a 39-year old point guard who eerily resembles porn star Peter North was not the way to start luring Dwight Howard into re-signing with them long-term.I still cannot believe he has two years left on his contract.
Who moves to LA to dress like Pee Wee Herman??
Sooo, Steve Nash and Peter North are both Canadian and have never been seen in the same room together. Hmmm...
The bloated carcass called Metta World Peace still has one year left on what is probably his last NBA contract that no one in their right mind would take off LA's hands. Pau Gasol, one of the best big men in the league has been maligned, beleaguered and treated poorly by not only Lakers management and coaching staff, but by it's resident prima donna, who has suffered the type of injury hardly anyone comes back from, especially at his age. The mileage and wear and tire of being the NBA's most selfish and prolific chucker has finally caught up with him, and there is no amount of deer antler spray that will turn back the hands of time after 18 years in the league.
Gasol is attractive as an expiring contract for a team looking for veteran leadership during a late-year playoff push. He needs to go already, and so does Dwight Howard. Bottom line is this-he is wasting the best years of his dwindling athletic career on a team that cannot rebuilt unless they start sacking their bloated contracts, which will mean they will be a bad team for quite a long time. A trade that would benefit both team would be Howard in a sign-and-trade with the Clippers for Eric Bledsoe and DeAndre Jordan, but that won't happen because Donald Sterling has made it official that he will not do business with his rivals from across the hall.
The Lakers have to do something. The $2.5 billion dollar television contract they recently signed isn't going to help them with an $80 million dollar luxury tax looming this coming season. That is just too much money being thrown down the drain for such a bad, old team that is going to be terrible next year. They need to start cost-cutting and rebuilding right now, and the best place to start is to amnesty Kobe Bryant's contract and have him sit out a year, pride be damned. After 18 years in the league, you cannot afford to build around Bryant, who has two years left if he comes back totally rehabbed after sitting out an entire season. He still gets his money and can come back to the Lakers, but at a hugely discounted price. Next would be a sign-and-trade for Dwight Howard, or just let him leave for nothing. Trade the expiring contract of Pau Gasol for a first-round pick in next year's draft with a team that is guaranteed to be in the lottery-either New Orleans or Charlotte. Blow the team up, suck for a year and start from scratch.
The Golden State Warriors-
They were a cute story and made an entertaining little playoff run this year, but that was as good as it got. Sounds condescending? That's because it is. They are not going to get any better than they are right now, and will probably get worse because salary cap restrictions will hamper their re-signing of key players Jarrett Jack and Carl Landry. I don't want to spend too much time on this, but their terrible contract (every team has at least one) is Andris Biedrins. He sucked when he was good during the Warriors' last playoff run, and he's terrible now that he can't give them any minutes of consequence coming off the bench. He does have a nice tan for a white boy, I'll give him that.But that's where it ends. And when your kingpin in the low post is David Lee, retriever of the least athletic 20-and-10 statline in pro basketball, it's only going to get you so far in the Western Conference.
Here is how to go backwards in the NBA-have a breakout year with a new coach (Mark Jackson), add an unconventional star, the everyman, undersized guard who shoots like Pistol Pete, and some media buzz. I appreciate the talents of Stephen Curry, but with a very limited inside presence and no Plan B coming off the bench, the Warriors will remain what they are in the West-an amusing sideshow. And there is no guarantee Curry will see the end of his recently signed contract because of chronic ankle issues that may guarantee we've just seen his best.
At least they have a shiny, new stadium being built with (yet again) more tax payer dollars-