The franchise formerly known as the Seattle SuperSonics has, as of today, less than three months to get ready for training camp. And that doesn't just mean getting their players in shape and filling out the rest of the roster. It also means ...
My own feeling is that whatever the Oklahoma team decides to call itself -- and whatever that name becomes, it won't be the Sonics -- it should consider itself a brand new outfit. When you open the media guide to the "History'' section, there should be no mention of what the Sonics did for the last 41 years. Type up a short narrative detailing how the hurricane-displaced Hornets played for a couple of years in Oklahoma City and how they created the appetite for the team moving there now, and leave it at that.
I'm aware that owner
He should view this as an entirely fresh start and honor the fans in Seattle by leaving to them the achievements of the Sonics' 41 years. To this day, I look at what the Baltimore Colts accomplished with
"We need to find a place for our players to play, because they're going to be coming here in a little while,'' said Presti, who called me in between visits to a variety of sites. "The first thing
At 32, Presti is the league's youngest GM. The job was big enough when he was changing over the roster and acquiring draft picks and cap space. Now he's looking for a practice facility. He's also managing the relocation of the players and staff, he's moving the offices from Seattle, and he's still developing the roster while he and his staff search for free agents and scout the summer leagues.
"We're going to a place where they're hungry for basketball,'' Presti said. "We're going to give them a young team that they can get behind. I am excited by that. What we're trying to do here is bigger than basketball. We're moving a franchise in a short amount of time, but we're going to get it done.''
And don't get me started on how wrong it is to call a team the "Redskins.''
Health permitting, the Blazers will add two ready-to-play rookies to a rotation that managed 41 wins last season. Oden will improve the team defensively at the very least, and the Euroleague experience of
As for Oden, he has never been planning to participate in summer league. He is on target to return to the court in September and to participate in training camp. The Blazers have so much young talent already that they won't need him to be a scorer as a rookie, and so he'll be allowed to work his way into the team at his own pace.
The hiring of
It's good news that the NBA hired an outsider to inspect its organization of referees from top to bottom. To bring in another basketball guy for this job would have been a superficial response to a potentially mortal issue.
It's going to be interesting to watch for wholesale changes in the NBA's administration of the referees. The hiring of Johnson suggests that the league was seeking an entirely new perspective on officiating. Will that perspective lead to a new structure? It should, but don't take for granted that it will. And, in all fairness, don't expect improvements to be made quickly, either. Johnson has to be given time to learn the good and the bad of the current system before he can formulate and -- hardest of all -- execute a new relationship between the NBA and its referees.
They have no space to sign another free agent, so they'll have to trade for one. But it needs to be a shooter who has the makings of other skills -- defense especially.
The next phase for the 76ers will be to change the way they defend. They like to scramble the game to create turnovers and a quickened tempo, but the elite playoff teams will always defeat that strategy. The Sixers need to establish a strong man-to-man defense with an ability to play half-court offense if they ever want the signing of Brand to lead to real contention. While they need shooting, the shooter they acquire must be able to contribute athletically at both ends of the floor.
Anyway you look at it, whether it's adding perimeter shooting, developing their young players or improving their fundamentals defensively and in the half court, the 76ers need to be given at least a couple of years to turn the acquisition of Brand into a deep playoff run.
He wanted the security of a guaranteed five-year deal (which the Warriors weren't going to give him), he wanted to play with an All-Star in Brand and he wanted to return to his hometown of Los Angeles, where he'd be in the mix of the movie business in which he is dabbling as a young producer. (I shake my head at some of the facts I find myself typing about this league.) Davis still has two of those three attributes working for him. Brand will be missed, but Davis has the five lucrative years in his pocket, and it isn't his fault that Brand bolted. The laudable intention was to join a team that had a chance to contend, before Philadelphia lured Brand away.
"Does the money make sense for the Warriors? That's free agency,'' a rival team executive said. "By rule, you don't pay a restricted free agent what he's worth; you pay him more than he's worth, because otherwise his team will say, 'Thanks a lot!' and match the offer sheet. If you don't overpay, you don't get him.
"But the thing about a front-line guy who plays as hard as Turiaf does every night is that he can be a little bit overpaid and still be moved [in two or three years]. He's a high-energy guy who is physical and productive; he's not a long-minute guy, you're not going to throw ball to him in the post and ask him to score for you, but he's a great seventh or eighth man as a front-line player. Those guys are always at a premium.''
A lot has been made of the expensive free-agent moves of recent days, but none of them will influence the championship in a meaningful way. The Spurs and Pistons remain very close to winning another championship, as do the Lakers, Hornets and other teams who have been quiet thus far. The 2008-09 championship will be affected by the bargain signings of the next month more so than by the high-profile moves of the past week.