Weekly Countdown: Sour economy ushers sweeping changes to NBA
Because who wants to talk about the economy?
The league has projected the salary cap will decline by $1.4 million to a total of $57.3 million this summer, which will cut into the nest egg developed by teams to spend on free agents. Of the eight franchises with cap space this summer -- Atlanta, Detroit, Memphis, Minnesota, Oklahoma City, Portland, Sacramento and Toronto -- only the Pistons, Trail Blazers and Thunder are expected to have enough space and ambition to be aggressive in taking on long-term commitments to improve their teams.
Should Boozer walk away from a salary guaranteed at $12.7 million next season in order to become a free agent this summer? His answer is burdened by the injuries that have sidelined him for 45 games this season, though mid-February, and the fact Boozer is shooting just 42.5 percent and averaging 10.4 ppg in eight games since he returned last month.
Boozer is clearly playing his way back into shape from the left knee injury that sidelined him in November, as well as a recently sprained right ankle. In the meantime the surging Jazz are contending for homecourt advantage in the first round of the playoffs, giving Boozer the opportunity to prove his health over an extended playoff run.
Say Boozer decides to remain with Utah through next season; say also that neither
Alternatively, the Jazz could inherit $10 million in cap space if Boozer, Okur and Korver opt out. Boozer's decision is an example of the risk/reward facing players and teams in the declining NBA economy.
With such unpredictability, the answer for Boozer is he should go free only if he is confident of negotiating a sign-and-trade or of cultivating an offer from the Pistons, Blazers (who already have
Prevailing wisdom holds that Utah can't afford to keep both Boozer and Millsap. But the Jazz may be able to retain both pending the decisions of Okur and Korver, or by making a trade to unload salary elsewhere. Maybe they would dare to enter the season as a short-term tax team with the capability of unloading salary at midseason if they aren't in contention.
Another complication for Boozer will be the mystery surrounding the market. While this isn't a celebrated class of free agents --
There is no predicting how it will play out. "A lot of us don't even know what our owners will let us spend," says another exec of the market this summer.
Even so, is it worth the risk? Two injuries or one unfortunate off-the-court incident could change attitudes toward the franchise. That's true in any NBA city -- but a disappointing 2009-10 season, combined with a ticket hike, could especially aggravate customers in Portland at a time when so many are under pressure to keep their jobs or make ends meet.
If it isn't, it should be. The last time the NBA was in such trouble, Stern invented the salary cap to provide a new means for owners and players to share revenues. The salary cap doesn't work any longer because the issues have changed -- the value of franchises aren't escalating exponentially, and revenues are suddenly in decline. The way forward now is to develop a model that deals with these new realities, based on projected incomesm, while accounting for the inequities between small-market and large-market teams.
This can happen in two ways. The owners can try to shove demands down the union's gullet and eventually get their way -- likely after an extended lockout that sets back the promise of this emerging generation of team-first stars led by
The alternative is to strive for a bipartisan approach with the union to come up with an entirely new means of accounting and forecasting to deal with issues that didn't exist 20 years ago. In this relationship,
Just the opposite is true: The smart NBA teams should go overseas this summer to hire ready-made role players from the top clubs in Europe. Remember when the Raptors signed European veterans
NBA owners who may question the value of newspaper coverage are going to begin seeing negative trends. The effects will be felt as newspapers cut back on coverage or go out of business altogether. Layers of media interest in the NBA -- from bloggers, from talk radio -- is built on daily information gathered from local beat writers at newspapers. What happens when those writers stop traveling with the team or vanish altogether?
Some franchises may try to provide news coverage via their own franchise Web sites. But how many of them will tell you what you really want to know? If the star player disagrees with the coach or the team is preparing to make a major trade, is the franchise going to release this information? Less interesting coverage of the NBA will lead to less interest.
It isn't inevitable. It's hard to imagine the current owner, Sen.
Franchises seeking better deals at home will threaten to move elsewhere. But first they have to find a better place that will have them.
He needs a better team. The Heat are headed for a 45-win season. Every MVP over the last 26 years has won at least 50 games (or else he has been on a pace to win more than 50, as the Utah Jazz were in the shortened 1998 lockout season when
I agree with this point of view, that a player who leads a team into championship contention is more valuable than a player leading a lesser team. The most difficult and most important accomplishment in the NBA regular season is to position a team for a title run. No doubt Wade is having a terrific season while carrying Miami, but James is right there with him statistically -- in fact, LeBron is the league-leader in the NBA efficiency stat that accounts for points, rebounds, assists, steals and blocks, with Wade ranked No. 2.
Of course Wade will be on my five-player MVP ballot -- at the moment it would include
Excellent question. Fisher has never been close to becoming an All-Star, which is a minimum standard among Lakers retirees
I disagree with your assertion that he was as important as Kobe and Shaq. But let's say Fisher contributes to one or two more championships with the current Lakers. Think about it this way: If Fisher was a key member of four or five championship teams in Boston, would his number be retired by the Celtics? Maybe. But each team has its own perspective, and being in Hollywood, the Lakers reflect a standard for individual stardom as well as team success. Based on that, I don't think Fisher will be so honored.
How many players sell tickets? Shaq is among the few real stars who delivers at the box office. If you are a contender, if he fits your style and tempo and if you can sign him to a short-term number that makes sense today and tomorrow (so that his expiration results in cap space, for example) then you must think about him. He isn't going to accept a pay cut on a short-term contract unless he is motivated to play at a high level, so chances are good you'll get a return on your investment.
The newly organized Great Britain national team has already recruited NBA names
Team GB won't be invited to play Olympic basketball as the host nation in '12 unless it proves worthy of the honor. "FIBA said we have to show over the next couple of years that we can compete against the best teams in Europe," says
European clubs often turn to expatriate Americans for leadership at point guard. In recent years former Bucknell point guard
"The FIBA rules really emphasize the importance of good point guard play," says Wuotila. "The emphasis is on the pick and roll, so the point guard has to be able to manage that situation both defensively and offensively. And if you aren't shooting well, teams will utilize the zone very effectively in Europe, so you need a point guard -- like a quarterback in American football -- to get in the right spots to attack that zone."
"I'm very Canadian," notes Wuotila, who coached men's and women's college basketball in the U.S. for several years before basing himself in London for British Basketball. "The sport here is waiting for a chance to get everything joined up."
Based on the model of Spain, whose basketball program has grown into a world power from the seeds of the '92 Olympics in Barcelona, Wuotila believes that a naturalized infusion for both the men's and women's roster in '12 could make all the difference to a sport that has had trouble settling in the UK. "We think there's likely to be some talent in America and parts of the world who are eligible to put on the uniform for Great Britain," he says. "I would say I get connected with a lead (on a potential player) on a weekly basis."
A recent recruit is 6-11 Providence College senior
I asked a well-informed pro scout for his answers to two big questions.
"This is the first time he'll be on a team that doesn't ask him to carry a load as a scorer. A lot of guys find they perform better when they're not asked to concentrate on five different things. They'll ask him to rebound and be aggressive, and I would think he'll embrace that. When you've bounced around to all of these teams like he has, I don't think you can be naïve to the fact that you're not the greatest player in the world or that teams aren't dying to have you. I think he'll embrace it as most people do when they join that organization. They're a team that does a lot of background work on players, and they'll know they're getting another guy to give them depth up front, which helps resolve an issue they've had against the Lakers.''
"It could be tough over the next month. Let's face it, over the last year and a half it's been relatively easy for the Celtics: When they've wanted to turn it on, they've been able to turn it on. Each of their great stars has been able to rely on the other stars. But when you're not healthy, it really begins to affect your psyche. When you don't have your best players, I'm telling you, the coaching staff and the other players have doubts they can win. They'll all tell you they do believe, but deep down they're asking, 'How are we going to win without this guy?' That stuff goes on with every team, trust me."
Garnett and Rondo should be back weeks before the playoffs, but the Celtics have a lot of loose ends to fix. The Cavaliers, by comparison, have fewer issues. "I just have a funny feeling this is Cleveland's year, that they believe in themselves and that they've been knocking on the door for a few years now. You look at the history of the game, and how many teams had to do that before they were able to get to the championship? They're all on the same page,
Then he went back and checked. It turned out that the year she picked Florida and UCLA to meet in the NCAA Final, the Gators were a No. 3 seed. So much for that theory.
That year she was one of the only people I knew to forecast the final. At the time I asked how she happened to pick UCLA. "Because they had such a good year in football," she said as an 11 year old. I remember explaining to her that she had confused UCLA with USC.
The bottom line is twofold. One, she doesn't know why she is picking these teams. And two, she'll probably be choosing the restaurant for the fourth year in a row.