Weekly Countdown: In NBA, seems like there's no time like the future
More and more I find myself feeling compelled to write about teenage draft picks who may never pan out, as well as moves that may never happen at the trade deadline this February or in the summer of 2010, while in the meantime, events that are actually happening right now seem to carry less and less importance.
We had been talking about the Suns' difficulties when we naturally began wondering about Nash's future, and whether he might be made available sooner than later. "He would become the NBA's
i. Magic: This would be a tough deal to make, as the Suns probably wouldn't want
h. 76ers: Would the Suns be interested in
g. Hawks: Atlanta could dangle a pick and
e. Raptors: Would they deal emerging point guard
d. Knicks: They could package
c. Cavaliers: Imagine Nash's dealing to LeBron in transition, though the Cavs might have to surrender
b. Trail Blazers: They could package
a. Lakers: How about a package from among the likes of
Fans of Nash may get worked up by this speculation. Let me emphasize, however, that it is all a lot of pap with no basis in reality. I have no inside information that Phoenix is interested in trading Nash, nor that any of these potential suitors is actually interested in acquiring him (though, wouldn't he look good in a Trail Blazers uniform?).
I ran my proposals by a league general manager. He said, "I don't see that kind of a market for Steve Nash.''
I mentioned Bibby as a possible asset to be used for Nash.
"I'm not sure there's a market for Mike Bibby either,'' the GM said. "San Antonio, Boston, Cleveland -- they're not going for Mike Bibby. Who is going to say, We're going to win a championship if we get Mike Bibby?
"Phoenix might do something for Steve Nash, but I think it would have to be for something really good. At his age, it will be tough to get a terrific young player for him. I would think they would be more likely to try to trade
This is the kind of interesting discussion that drives coverage of the NBA on the Internet. It is speculation, and when engaging in it I try to write it as such. But somewhere along the way speculation often becomes more important than fact.
In the meantime, the Cavs (19-3 through Thursday) are contenders to win the championship. Throughout these opening weeks, I've assumed that they were a good player short of contending this season, based on the recent NBA Finals struggles of LeBron and
I can also tell you that the Celtics view Cleveland as their equal, based on the backcourt addition of Williams, the growing cohesion of the Cavs' roster since the blockbuster trade of last February, and the continued improvement of LeBron himself. The Cavs are outscoring all comers by a league-leading average of 13.4 points, they're No. 4 in scoring and virtually equal to the Celtics atop the defensive stats, and they're doing all of this while LeBron plays five fewer minutes per game than last season.
Has my attention on the present been obscured by innuendo about 2010? Maybe. But instead of lathering about the Knicks and LeBron, shouldn't we be attending to the landscape here and now and ask: Who would be so crazy as to walk away from a team as dominant as the Cavs are today? (And Cleveland is near his hometown at that.)
Most of the players who enter the draft are too young and unschooled to contribute at the NBA level. They are years away from becoming useful members of this lucrative society, which is why the NBA draft bears more in common with baseball's draft than with the NFL's.
Every now and then someone like LeBron comes along, but otherwise the draft is a severe futures market. The quality of the draft has never been worse, and yet interest is at an all-time high. I don't understand it.
As the NBA grew more valuable, and the players negotiated more money for themselves, the league had to come up with new ways to prevent its owners from spending themselves out of existence. The salary cap led to the luxury tax, which has created a system in which the contract of a player is often more important than his talent. It is a system in which trades cannot be manufactured unless salaries of equal value are exchanged (with a few loopholes, of course).
Teams used to trade players of similar ability. Now they trade contracts of similar value, or they maneuver those contracts to clear cap space for 2010.
For a league that thrives on the personalities of its players, the valuation of talent has been a dehumanizing trend.
"It's become such a meat market that cap space and 2010 is all the public wants to talk about,'' said an NBA advance scout who spends the season on the front lines traveling to watch a different game every night or two. "There are a few stars in the league that everyone would love to have, and it seems like the rest of the players are just numbers that get moved around. I wonder how the players feel about it.''
I suppose they view it as a small price to be suffered in exchange for the money they're paid.
The other part of this equation is the role of the Internet and the nanosecond news cycle. In this virtual world in which we must always be looking ahead to the next big thing, the medium has become the message.
I wish more stars played like him. He plays hard every night, defends rabidly and antagonizes opponents rather than worrying about maintaining friendships with players on opposing teams. When sports fans complain about the stereotypical NBA star, they aren't talking about Garnett because he is the antithesis of that negative stereotype.
Not that you were alluding otherwise, but the outcome of the Raptors' search for a full-time coach will have more to do with stabilizing the team as a playoff contender and keeping
Brown is on a reasonable two-year, $8.1 million contract. Curry was hired to provide the discipline and accountability that the Pistons felt was lacking from Saunders; it may nonetheless be asking too much of a rookie coach to sort out the complex on-court relationships between Iverson and his new teammates. But even if it doesn't work out this season, the trade can't be judged until we see how the Pistons manage the cap space realized from Iverson's expiring contract. Dumars believed their former lineup had exhausted its championship potential. Let's see how this plays out.
Give the Cavs credit for making the most of what they have up front. They have an excellent trio of big men, but let's be real: Wallace starts at power forward alongside Ilgauskas, so by putting it your way you bring other teams into the discussion -- including the Spurs with
If we're talking about Nos. 1 and 2 center combinations (excluding starters at power forward), then the best include Cleveland with Ilgauskas and Varejao, Portland with
"It means we're blowing them out,'' Kobe said. "I've had like five, six, seven games where I haven't played the entire fourth.''
It isn't a goal to reduce your minutes?
"Not really,'' he said. "I feel great, my body feels good. We've just been creaming people, so it feels a lot better to sit over there on the bench.''
"Yeah, because we were close, we were there,'' he said. "We made a trade midway through the season [for
"Yeah,'' Bryant said, "but they're stronger. At least they were last year physically. So that's something we've made a conscious effort to improve on. Everybody here looks bigger, everybody got in the weight room this summer and got stronger. Because those boys were just stronger than we were, and they got a lot of rebounds because they were tougher in the paint. They're still the barometer which we judge ourselves by.''
I recalled the old criticism of
"I think those are unfair assessments of Kevin and his work,'' Ainge said. "He brings a joke and a smile to work. He's not a guy who's watching thousands of films, but he's bright and can pick things up pretty quick, and the game is a simpler process to him than it is to some of these people who put in thousands of hours. He was the same as a player: Kevin loved to play basketball, to play one-on-one. I always thought of Kevin as an extremely hard worker, but he played for the fun of it. He enjoys life, and he has a different approach to life than some people might. So that can be interpreted in a certain way, but I thought he did work at his game.
"Kevin is a great competitor. He is a guy who is encouraging and positive and upbeat. He likes the players, and he just likes people. It's a different approach than a lot of coaches today, but it can be successful. The big factor is, how committed are you to it? There's no question, if Kevin is committed, he could be a very successful coach.''