Come the playoffs, however, they're going to be glad they have Shaq. When the games slow down against the Lakers or the Spurs, they'll have a rim protector on defense and an inside-out target on offense who will liberate
Bringing in Shaq is going to be a slow-boiling move. Wait until the playoffs to judge whether it succeeds.
On the whole, they're a deeper and more talented team. Emotionally, it's a big gain because the defending conference champions knew deep down that they couldn't continue to survive against the upgraded competition at the top of the league. Now they're sure to approach the remaining two months of the regular season with a newfound intensity as they hurry to incorporate their new talent. There is going to be a sense of mission and purpose that this team had been lacking (e.g. No. 22 in field-goal defense).
Not only will they play with more energy, but they'll also have better weapons.
How will Kidd change their team? They'll get more easy baskets in transition, obviously. But he will also assert leadership offensively. Johnson needed help in a big way here, as it was becoming hard to describe the Mavericks' style -- their identity -- anymore. Was
Kidd will eventually restore Nowitzki's confidence and dominance while bringing order to the Mavs' offense. The Mavs gave up a lot to get him -- the defense of
The emotional impact is a big component of these midseason trades. This is a league that rarely yields upsets in the playoffs, and the best players know better than anyone whether they have a realistic chance of going far. Last summer Bryant wanted out; now he might be unwilling to trade his roster for anybody's ... well, maybe San Antonio's. Or maybe not.
As a versatile and deferential star, Gasol is an excellent complement to Bryant. Gasol,
During All-Star weekend in New Orleans I met with
Bertomeu has been trying to get the top clubs in Europe to view basketball as a business as well as a means of regional competition, the latter being the traditional Old World view. As such, he provides excellent perspective on the challenges commissioner
Bertomeu doesn't necessarily see NBA expansion to Europe as a threat. "I don't think that when people are doing things for basketball that they are damaging basketball,'' he said. "Anybody who is trying to promote basketball -- no matter which is the way -- helps basketball.'' But he does have sincere doubts that the NBA model can succeed overseas.
"For me too, it is amazing,'' Bertomeu said. "But it is part of the culture. It is difficult to explain.''
It is going to be an enormous issue for Stern to make the case to fans that they must pay big money to support the financial interests of NBA teams in Europe. The fans of European basketball are not used to this responsibility.
"These owners,'' Bertomeu said of the top basketball clubs in Europe, "they think this is something they are giving to the community. If you ask Mr.
As bizarre as it may sound to us, Bertomeu is urging his clubs to make money a priority. "We are fighting to convince the clubs that they have to get money from TV, that their clubs have to be profitable,'' he said. "We are pushing them from many points of view to focus in this direction.''
In short, Stern will have to help create a new culture before he can hope to clean up financially in Europe.
This is another difference that's hard to explain, but there aren't a lot of casual sports fans in Europe. In basketball, especially, a fan of Benetton Treviso will follow his own team passionately, but he won't care much about a game involving Barcelona and CSKA Moscow.
"In Europe, we like the competition. We care about the result,'' Bertomeu said. "The fans like the show, but they prefer the competition -- to win or to lose. They are much more emotional about the result than they are to just enjoy the performance.''
The NBA will have to break new ground in getting audiences to watch basketball games as they would attend the theater or the movies.
"Our culture is not based in personalities [of individual players] but in the clubs,'' Bertomeu said. "People are crazy about Panathinaikos or Barcelona no matter who are the players. What we have is something more collective, rather than a culture of individuality. In Europe, the brand is not the player; the brand is the club.''
"When we are talking about some rule in Europe,'' Bertomeu said, "we have to interpret this with 13 different laws in 13 different countries. For example, we are working to develop a unified contract for the players. When we are working on that, we have to take into account 13 different [sets of national] laws, and not all of them allow us to do the same things.
"This is something that also the NBA has to take into account. Because the law in Paris is the French law, and nobody who plays in Paris can ask for a different law other than the French law. So I would like to learn how the collective [bargaining] agreement of the NBA works in Europe. That would be very interesting from the legal point of view.
"I also am interested to see what is the FIBA position on [NBA expansion to Europe] because FIBA is the body who runs basketball around the world. It's in their hands.''
"In Europe, one of the weakest points is still the ticket incomes,'' Bertomeu said. "That is why I'm skeptical about the NBA in Europe, because it's difficult in Europe for the clubs to have a significant part of the budget coming from the ticket. If you think about the NBA ticket price, definitely it's not feasible.
"Here in the NBA, you are working with one country [along with one Canadian team]. So there is a difference between Los Angeles and Memphis -- for sure it is different. But the difference is much bigger between Barcelona and Belgrade. Or Moscow and Belgrade. Or Tel Aviv and Zagreb, in terms of economics. So in Tel Aviv, the average ticket can be 100 euros [close to $150]. In Belgrade, it can be 2 euros or 3 euros [less than $5].''
I would imagine that Stern's retort would be that the NBA will bring a new, fresh approach to Europe in hopes that some of the traditional concerns would not apply. The Championships League of soccer has turned into something of a mainstream entertainment throughout Europe, as has Formula One auto racing.
But it would be a mistake to dismiss the concerns raised by Bertomeu, because he in his own way is trying to introduce parts of the NBA model to European basketball -- and he is finding it extremely difficult to persuade the Old World to view things in a New World way.
"It's not only about business. The question is if all of the parties involved can find a way to cooperate or not in this project,'' Bertomeu said, referring to the project of growing European basketball and turning it into a profitable business. "Or if this is not possible, if we all are going to compete in the same market, then who will be in the better position? Will it be a strong, very recognized brand like the NBA, or will it be the traditional leagues in Europe? We will see.
"No matter if the NBA is coming or not coming, we definitely have to grow basketball in Europe. If they come, then they will come and we will see what happens. I have my doubts about it if -- this is very important -- they want to export the American model in Europe. In terms of the approach, the ticketing, the TV and the main business, this is the question mark.
"I am sure that David knows [of these issues] because he knows almost everything." But of the issues he raises regarding NBA expansion to Europe, Bertomeu said, "I don't see the solutions.''
I was afraid to complain in fear of exposing my ignorance of fashion. But I too was not a big fan of those outfits or of the clothes
Is it right to pay a 19-year-old kid $3 million or more per year one year after he left high school? If he doesn't want to play for a team in London, Rome or Berlin, then good luck to him finding another job that pays as well.
It's OK for a teenager from Serbia, Italy or France to travel here to play professionally, but it's asking too much for young Americans to move abroad in pursuit of their career? You're not giving enough credit to the ability of young Americans to adapt. More than 1,500 American men are playing professional basketball in countries outside the United States, and all are earning less than the average NBA salary of $5 million.
These teams are going to need local ownership. If
As for the drain on talent, these teams would be relying on a predominance of international players as well as coaches and executives. Depending on the ambitions and contract situations of people like