NBA ‘Arms Race’ Still Hot

January 8, 2012

When the big two or three got together in South Beach, speculation ran rampant that other stars would follow suit.  That speculation has been justified by subsequent player movement, and stoked by Dwight Howard, and it continues to be the favorite topic of the CBA-weary NBA world.  Amare and ‘Melo may be just Baron Davis away from competing with the Heat and Bulls for the best in the East.  Chris Paul and Blake Griffin have made the Clippers relevant.

Dwight Howard will not go to the Nets.  Would you ally yourself with the guy taking on Russia’s ex-KGB President?  D12 may not know his European history, but he or Dan Fegan, his agent, will know a Trotsky when they see him.  Plus, the Nets are bad.  He will go though, because like several other teams who were (or thought themselves) contenders a couple of years ago, the Magic are done.  The off-season Rondo rumours indicate that Boston knows what we all thought during last year’s playoff; they are done.  The Spurs are one injury away from being non-contenders, and Phoenix is a non-contending team with no clear future direction.

Add to those the teams who never were contenders, but need to rebuild (or perhaps more accurately; ‘build’), like Sixers, Raptors, and Rockets, and the few veterans on the leagues’ worst teams, and you have an idea of the potential for player movement between now and the March 15 trade deadline for this abbreviated season.  While it has been noted here before that the Heat may have a shorter window than first appeared, the one that comes even before that is the real long term threat.  Kevin Durant and his backpack are locked up until 2016, and with Westbrook still maturing, they have all the advantages of having developed together for the same team.  The Thunder could be buyers as soon as this year, and they will likely still be one of the teams the rest are gunning for in four more years.  Below are sportsvssports suggestions for and guesses at plausible in-season player movement.

Dwight Howard – Lakers for Bynum.   C’mon!  Just do it!

Steve Nash – Blazers, with Shannon Brown, for a first, Ray Felton and Wes Mathews.

Rajon Rondo – Houston, for Luis Scola and Kyle Lowry

Andrea Bargnani – Hawks for Joe Johnson.

Antwan Jamison – Thunder for Cole Aldrich and Lazar Hayward (both teams under cap)

Chris Kaman – 76ers for Spencer Hawes

re: Presentation

November 27, 2011

Ten Bonus Points to Dorrell Wright

The Birdman is served his thanksgiving turkey.

Apparently Dorrell Wright is a Christian.  A real, practicing Christian.  At least practicing in the sense that he mentions God when explaining his motivation for saving a Thanksgiving celebration for his community’s elderly and less fortunate.  Also practicing in the sense that he’s got to get ready for the season awwwwwwwwyyyyyeaaahhh!  Wright’s contract paid him 3.8 million last season, but it was his first year of a new, relatively lucrative contract.  While locked-out, fiscally imprudent players scrambled to cover their expenses without their expected paychecks, Wright not only stepped up, but showed up, stayed, and said all of the right things.  He diplomatically implied regrets from those on the other side of the lockout, suggesting that others wanted to step up.  But they didn’t.

'They question my birth certificate too, buddy.'

Perhaps Dorrell Wright should represent Albert Pujols.  Apparently, being a good Christian is part of the fraud that has made the career of Dan Lozano, Pujols current agent, whom he left top agent Scott Boras for.  In the deal made by Lozano when big Albert jumped to him, Pujols become the 30th highest paid player in the game, despite being an all-star in all 4 of his seasons and having been the 2nd runner-up for the NL MVP.  During the contract’s duration he would be MVP 3 times; as the 30th, 34th and 26th highest paid player for each of those years. Boras would have gotten more, and would probably get more this time around too. Dorrell Wright may not; but at least Albert would have a Christian in his corner.

Where Nothing Happens

October 15, 2011

The above applies not to basketball as a whole, or even pro hoops, but rather the NBA.  That there is professional basketball that this does not apply to would have seemed, to many NBA fans not so long ago, a contradiction with the last statement.  Now we know better.  Sportsvssports will be proud to issue links to vendors who sell Besiktas jerseys if Kevin Durant joins DWill there.  Check out this list!  While things are happening in non-North American pro leagues, things are happening in the ‘labour dispute,’ or at least, the same thing is happening in it.

A lot of players have signed to play in Europe, China, or the Middle East.  There are pro leagues elsewhere, but NBA players, some of them significant, have been signed to teams in the traditional basketball countries of the Old World, plus apparently Denver Nuggets want to play in China.  I started making an ‘all-overseas’ team, but it really looks like two teams.  By my count there are currently 22 NBA players who have guaranteed rotation spots and name recognition who have bolted for ‘foreign’ squads, and almost as many who are close to inking deals.  Since there are only about 300 rotation players, who correspond almost exactly with the players who are known to fans*, this means there could easily be 13% or more of the league’s players who matter on overseas rosters by the time the first regular season game is actually missed.

This is very different from the last ‘labour stoppage,’ and sets up some interesting scenarios, including the only way sportsvssports sees the players getting anything out of the owners (here we go yo).  That best case scenario for the players involves a lot of them playing elsewhere, which the players union does not and cannot officially encourage.  If Durant signs with Besiktas, they will most certainly turn around and offer ESPN and/or competitors broadcast rights to the highest profile pro basketball games in the world. A network with the freedom to do so will jump all over it, and Euroleague basketball will ultimately end up on North American screens.  If this results in a big enough revenue jump to cause an ‘arms race’ in the European leagues, then the players may find themselves with the bargaining chip they needed all along: a paying alternative.

This is where I started ripping apart Chris Sheridan, before I realized that the first set of predictions on this blog was an unmitigated disaster, in which I pointed out even at the time that one of those predictions was completely obvious.  That’s the only one I got right.  The salient point is that no-one knows when it ends, right now.  Not Bill Walton (that grin is not because he knows something, it’s because he knows nothing), not Sheridan, and certainly not Hunter, Stern, or the rest of the nitwits at the bargaining table.  If they’re 3% off, which seems to be the case, then they are also $123 million apart for each year of the deal.  This is actually an overestimate, as basketball revenues will drop significantly as a result of this nonsense.  Also, there’s the minor detail of every other clause in the entire CBA, on which there is literally no indication that any binding agreements have been reached.  Gitmek Besiktas Gitmek!

*The exceptions are guys like Adam Morrison and Jimmer Freddette, who are not rotation players but live on in reputation as such because of ignorance.

Good News/ Bad news Pt. 2: How Caron Butler saved the big leagues. (assists: M. Recchi, T. Thomas) 6:14

June 23, 2011

Big league team owners are people too.  They are wealthy people, who have business empires to run and pensions to fund, but people none the less.  They are also competitive, although they are not necessarily sportsmen.  Therefore, they are prone to making the decision to take their ball and go home, if they feel slighted.  And that is how Caron Butler saved the big leagues.  Still not clear?

The good news is that the numbers are in, and people love their pro sports on tv!  Wait; is that good news?  The ratings for the NBA finals are up.  Way up.  The same for the NHL.  The numbers can be sliced and diced any which way, but it is good for both the NHL and NBA that two larger markets long absent from the finals had teams competing in the last game (though some more than others), and compelling storylines abound in both cases, keeping the teams on front pages, putting ‘Burrows’ and ‘Barea’ on lips that had never known them before.  At the expiration of the collective bargaining agreements of both leagues, the pie to be divvied up is growing, so perhaps both sides in both negotiations will be in a mood more conducive to deals than they would otherwise be.  Each sport also has had a potentially disturbing trend rising, both having ramifications on the relationship between salary-cap and financial regulations in general, and the ability of teams to compete.

In the NHL, contracts with bizarre lengths of duration have been proliferating, and Roberto Luongo’s is a prime example.  The slap on the wrists of the New Jersey Devils for this goes part of the way towards addressing this silly trend, but the total collapse under pressure of a trio of stars, one of whom possesses this team-finance-strangling deals, will do even more.  It will hold forth the Boston model of building patiently through the draft and US College signings and annually fleecing the Toronto Maple Leafs, rather than just throwing the most money at the biggest names.  In the NBA, a trio of players tried to decide the trophy by collaborating.  They failed, and now the clock is on Chris Bosh’s knees and ankles.  If they had won, it would not only have signaled the possible beginning of a dynasty, but also virtually guaranteed the construction of at least one or two more ‘superfriends’ teams, all in ‘major markets’ where the promise of the most sponsorship money is found.  Remembering that the Knicks and Lakers, the Mavs and Bulls were already not going to be the ‘hard line’ teams in the CBA negotiation, teams like Utah and Portland would be faced with an easier decision to cancel games if they felt their chances of winning the title had been foreclosed on already.  This may seem unrealistically petty, until you consider that the average playoff series nets each team several million in revenue, while most of their costs remain fixed.  NBA teams that don’t get out of the first round must have unusual circumstances to turn a profit each year.

Why does it matter that the Heat lost?  Because the NBA’s middle markets were on the brink of joining the smallest markets in an epic fit of whining, as they became all too painfully aware that their chances of winning it all had been reduced to nil for the foreseeable future.  But the Heat didn’t win, and as his team won Caron Butler in a suite was the most cut-too fan of all.  He’s also a two-time all star, younger than a couple of the lynchpins, and relatively capable of defending Dwayne Wade or LeBron James.  More so than say Jason Terry, or Dirk.

So there Caron Butler will be, next year, for 82 games, the third or fourth leader on the defending champions: preserver of labour peace.  Instead of heading into the offseason and labour negotiations filled with bitterness and acrimony, NBA and NHL ‘communities’ will move forward with more positive questions in mind:  Can Dallas repeat with a healthy Butler?  How many games does Rask start in net for Boston next year?  Is Mark Recchi a hall of famer?  We love the big leagues.

Yellow rubber bracelet? No thank you.

May 28, 2011
Cheat to Win

The devil you don't.

I always thought that those yellow bracelets everyone was wearing for a while were lame, to be honest.  You know the ones: remember?  Then the trend somehow became even more unlikely, with people wearing all different shades of rubber on their wrists.  Yeah, all lame, I thought.  Also, I don’t know if Joakim Noah is homophobic, or otherwise bigoted.  Related things.  In fact, the latter explains the former.  How?

Well, Lance Armstrong is a cheaterMaybe.  I don’t know.  Neither do you.  You may know that Lance Armstrong is a cancer survivor.  I personally am less sure that he’s one then that several people who I do know, personally, are.  You probably know a cancer survivor.  I bet they never asked you to wear a yellow bracelet.

So why did people do so when Lance asked them to?  Because they enjoy bicycle racing?  Of course not; the one thing that practically all North Americans agree on is that bicycle racing is not a spectator sport.  Whatever the reason, I hope it is not because they assumed that Mr. Armstrong had made his spectacular return to competitive athletics without benefit of biochemical technology.  This would be naïve.  Competitive cycling is one of the several sports in which steroids and other performance enhancing drugs became normal, before our society’s collective feigning of shock.

Noah called somebody ‘fag’ or ‘faggot.’  He yelled it at a heckler.  It may have just been my imagination, but in the next moment I thought I caught a glimpse of young Joakim catching a glimpse of himself in the cosmic reflector (in this case personified by a television camera directly across from him), and wishing he could hide under his chair, before he realized that the past could never be undone and he was just going to have to hope no-one was paying attention.  Well unfortunately, lots of people were paying attention.  And that’s what’s really sad.  Not the slur.  Not the cheating.  Those are just people doin’ stuff.  People not doin’ stuff, while claiming they’re doin’ stuff, is actually worse.

It is not sporting to associate someone with their worst moment, particularly if it seems isolated, has unusual context, or some other mitigating factor.  Furthermore, obsessing over an individual’s transgression is not the same as doing something about it.  Just like wearing rubber bands and, all too often, ‘raising awareness,’ are not the same as doing something about a problem.

Cancer and homophobia are problems worth our time and effort.  Cheating in sports, obviously less so.  Ought we to endorse or disavow misters Armstrong or Noah for their actions?  Of course not.  We don’t know them.  What possible relevance could our endorsement or disavowal have?  It is relevant only to ourselves, as a method of avoiding the issues.

2011 NBA Playoffs: Where Change Happens

May 6, 2011

It’s around this time each year, when the NBA playoffs have not just arrived but begun in earnest, that things really get interesting.  The first round has finally provided closure to the season for teams who were never contenders in any meaningful sense at all, like the Pacers and Knicks, as well as screening out the teams who really don’t have as much going on as we all might have thought, as was the case with the Mavs a couple of years ago.  That all being done, let’s tune into the NBA playoffs to see – HOLY CRAP where did the Spurs go?  They won the West’s most games!  THE MOST!  What happened?  Didn’t Tim Duncan do this?

He did?  Then why are the Vancouver Grizzlies in the second round?  It can only mean one thing:  a changing of the guard.*

The problem with the Lakers is at its core the same fundamental problem as the Celtics have this year, and it seems likely to keep both teams from even making the finals this aforementioned year-of-the-spurs-loosing-in-round-one.  The problem is that they are not awesome.  Oh, they used to be.  Not only were Kobe and KG awesome, but so were Pau and Ray Allen.  Now they are ‘oldies but goodies.’  That’s good enough for the radio in the car; not the NBA finals.

Both of these teams can plausibly still claim to be contenders, but so can the Heat, the Bulls, and now also the Thunder and Mavericks.  Perhaps just as importantly, with any changing of the guard there are bound to be surprises, so the Griz may not only have Zach Randolph the basketball star, who apparently hatched from the shell of Zach Randolph the drunken overweight sulker, they may also have a chance to shock the league and make a deep playoff run.  What players currently left in the playoffs can stop ZBo in the post?

Randolph’s development over the last 2 seasons into a winner surprised me at first.  I thought Memphis was dead when Gay went down.  On further reflection and examination, however, it looks more like ZBo is thriving in the first situation where that has been a possibility, having been jettisoned from all three previous teams before they went from soul-gratingly terrible to, well . . . at least not that.  Maybe it wasn’t Zach.  Maybe it was all Sean Kemp’s fault after all.  And Steph.  Ugh.

Zach Randolph‘s development:

Season         Team     Record           Notable teammates

’01-’02         Portland   49-33            Rasheed Wallace, Sean Kemp,

’02-‘04                        91-73            Scottie Pippen, Bonzi Wells,

’04-‘07                      121-207   Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Arvydas Sabonis

’07-’08      New York   23-59             Stephon Marbury, Eddy Curry

’08-’09  NY/ Clippers  19-63(LAC)   Baron Davis, Al Thornton

* I believe that’s the Thunder in the clip.  James Harden on cymbals.


December 21, 2010

As I look over the analysis of the trades made by the Orlando Magic the other day, I see one begged question which has yet to be addressed.  This is a lexical question, and an answer for it has implications for all others of a kind.  The question is: Are the Phoenix Suns trading for Vince Carter, or the contract of Vince Carter?  ‘The contract of Vince Carter,’ as a noun phrase, has different connotations than ‘Vince Carter’ does.  The phenomenon of someone becoming their contract in a salary-cap system is well established.  What is the criteria though?  Where is the line?

The criteria would likely be one of two things.  One possibility is that he becomes his contract, for diction purposes, when he becomes his contract for trade purposes, and that this happens when the value of the contract details outweigh the value of the player.  The other possibility is that he becomes his contract, for diction purposes, when people associate the value of his contract sufficiently with him to mention it that way.

I would contend that by either criterion ‘the contract of Vince Carter’ is now the appropriate choice, but it could be argued that Steve Kerr believes Carter will again score over 20 a game with Nash hooking him up, and that that means he does not meet the first criteria.  As a linguistic argument, this is possible.  As a basketball argument, however, it is clearly nonsense.  However negative your opinion of Kerr, there is simply no way that he somehow failed to notice that Vince was losing minutes on a floundering team, and that he is averaging fewer points than the half season in Toronto in which he wasn’t trying.