Friday, July 30, 2010

Vakeaton Quamar Wafer inks deal with Celtics

Vakeaton, commonly known as Von, has signed a 1 year deal worth the minimum with Boston. Wafer, who played last season overseas in Greece, will come off the bench behind Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. He will replace the role of Tony Allen, who signed with the Memphis Grizzlies. Although he's not as defensive minded as Allen, he might be just as athletic and is a better scorer. Coming off the bench for the Rockets in 2009 (where he averaged 9 points and shot 39% from 3), Wafer had a knack for throwing down thunderous dunks, hitting 3's, and getting the crowd pumped up.

This signing also means the end of Michael Finley in Boston, who was a defensive liability off the bench and barely saw the court in the playoffs. Remember in the first quarter of game 1 of the Finals when Jordan Farmar, yes Jordan Farmar, blew right by him for a layup? With Paul Pierce and Ray Allen getting older, the Celtics needed a competent scorer off the bench. As of now, their depth chart looks like this:

PG - Rajon Rondo, Nate Robinson
SG - Ray Allen, Von Wafer
SF - Paul Pierce, Marquis Daniels
PF - Kevin Garnett, Glen Davis
C - Jermaine O'Neal, Kendrick Perkins (injured)

With Kendrick Perkins expected to miss the majority of the season after tearing up his knee, the Celtics are also rumored to be after Shaq. If Boston can somehow land Shaq, they will have great front court depth and have a legit shot at getting back to the finals for a second straight year. While Boston's biggest off season move was retaining coach Doc Rivers, one cannot overlook the signing of "The Dutch Cookie".

Wafer via Twitter:

"Thank u god thank u so so so so much ur so good to me yes thank u mr ainge thank u coach rivers thank u thank u thank thank u all

I'm so greatful god has thought me alot and I was payin attention I'm so so so happy rt now I'm so thankful y'all jus don't understand"

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Josh Howard signs with Washington

SF Josh Howard has signed a 1 year, $4 mil deal with the Washington Wizards. Howard played 7 seasons with the Dallas Mavericks before being traded to Washington at the February trade deadline in exchange for Caron Butler. With the Wizards, he was only able to play 4 games before tearing up his knee.

This definitely is not the contract Howard was hoping to get coming into free agency. In 2007, Howard had his best season, averaging 19 points and 7 rebounds and making the All Star Team. The following season he put up good numbers, but "character issues" were manifest. During the playoffs, Howard was extremely honest about his past and current marijuana use to the media, saying that most players in the NBA smoke it and that he does too. In September of 2008 he was the subject of negative news yet again when a video was released of him being disrespectful to the national anthem. He said in the video, "The Star-Spangled Banner is going on, I don't celebrate that shit, I'm Black." Two months later Obama was in office.

These incidents, along with an ankle that's always sprained, unproductive play, and a serious knee injury have left Howard with no choice but to take a one year deal. Seeing as there is a glaring hole at the SF position in Washington, he should have a chance to redeem himself and secure a long-term contract next year.

In terms of Washington, this is a very low-risk signing. Howard will be motivated, and with Mike Miller signing with the Heat, the Wizards needed a scoring option on the wing to help out rookie of the year candidate John Wall.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Heat sign PF/C Shavlik Randolph

According the the AP, the Miami Heat have resigned Shavlik Randolph. This is quite a coup for the Heat, as Randolph will start at C and complement the "Super Friends" as the athletic, shot-blocking, Charles Oakley type body guard they have been looking for. With this signing, the Heat have solidified their status as title favorites.

Just kidding. Randolph will barely see the court this year and will head up the towel-waving at the end of the bench. Known for his excellent work ethic and jovial personality, I suspect Randolph was signed to be a mentor for incoming rookies Dexter Pittman and Jarvis Varnado. With so many stars on the Heat, it is important that these rookies maintain their focus and not get caught-up in the nightlife of South Beach.

Randolph, a Duke product, has (kind of) played 5 years in the league. He enjoyed is best season as a rookie, where he averaged 2.4 points and 2.3 rebounds off the bench for the 76ers. Since 2006, he has only played in a total of 38 games. These statistics, or lack there of, tell me that GM Pat Riley looks at Randolph as a chemistry guy and someone for LeBron James, Chris Bosh, and Dwyane Wade to dunk on in practice. I can see it now....

LeBron: Dribble, dribble, dribble, dribble, BOOM!

Shavlik: Awww... Mr. James, you kneed me in my pelvic area... Please try to...

Dwyane: Shutup Shavlik, get yo ass back under the hoop!! Yo Bron, Chris, Ima try get my nuts alllll up in his face this time.

Dribble, dribble, dribble, dribble, BOOM!

(Shavlik coughing, D. Wade standing over him)

Dwyane: Yeeeaaahhh Boy! My nuts were all up in yo face!

Chris: OOHHHH shit that was sick... My turn! Shavlik get under the hoop....

Monday, July 26, 2010

Cavs Trade for Ramon Sessions

In their first big personnel move since "The Decision", the Cleveland Cavaliers have acquired PG Ramon Sessions, C Ryan Hollins, and a draft pick in exchange for PGs Sabastian Telfair and Delonte West.

Cleveland -- Head Coach Byron Scott has said that he plans to implement a fast paced offense and PG Ramon Sessions may lead the charge. It will be interesting to see what Cleveland plans to do with current PG Mo Williams, as Sessions has shown that he is capable of being a starter (averaged 18-7-4 in 35 mpg during February of 2009). In terms of Ryan Hollins, he is simply a throw-in and will serve as a big body off the bench. While it remains to be seen what the Cavs ultimate rebuilding plan is, you could definitely call this trade a baby step in the right direction.

Minnesota -- Upon receiving Delonte West, Minnesota will waive him. By waiving him before August 4th, Minnesota will only pay him $500,000 of his $4 mil salary. If Minnesota had kept West, him and PF Michael Beasley would have been a great pot smoking tandem.

Last summer Beasley foolishly took a picture (right) of his new tattoo with a bag of weed in the background. This summer, Wolves GM David Kahn openly talked about Beasley's marijuana problems while he played for the Heat (Kahn got fined $50k for doing so). West has always had "issues". In September of 2009, he was pulled over in a traffic stop and was carrying a Berreta pistol, .357 Magnum, and Remington 870 in a guitar case, Desperado style. In terms of weed, check out this video of West stoned at a KFC drive thru waiting for his food. It's classic.

Along with West, Minnesota will also receive lottery bust Sebastian Telfair. Remember when he came out of high-school and his posse made a documentary about him? I wish they would make a film about the life of a bust. Does he sulk all day, or is he still excited because he thinks this will be his breakout season? My guess is that he'll be playing overseas in the next few years. Telfair will serve as the 3rd string PG behind Johnny Flynn and Luke Ridnour. Overall this is yet another puzzling move by GM David Kahn. As ESPN Analyst John Hollinger points out on Twitter, "If they waive West, T'wolves just traded last year's two free agent signings (and a draft pick) for a No. 3 point guard. Remind me again what the plan is here?". Sigh.

N.O. GM Demps Inherits Sticky Situation

Recently hired GM Dell Demps is walking into a precarious situation in New Orleans. His first task: convince All-NBA PG Chris Paul that the Hornets are going to be contending for championships in the next few years. Last week, according to sources in Paul's inner circle (his belly-button?), Paul will formally ask for a trade today and give the Hornets brass a list of teams he would like to play for. They include: Dallas Mavericks, Orlando Magic, and the New York Knicks among others.

While the Hornets are good (50-32 last season), it is clear they aren't at the level of the Magic, Lakers, or Heat. To make matters worse, the team is going through an ownership change and has a sticky salary situation. The Hornets owe C Emeka Okafor $53 mil over the next 4 years and SF James Posey $12 mil over the next two. While Okafor is a starting C, he is grossly overpaid. Posey, with his championship experience, was supposed to be the piece that put the Hornets over the top after they made it to the second round two years ago. Instead, his play has deteriorated and stunted the growth of project Julian Wright.

This will be a lot to handle for a rookie GM. For the past 5 years, Demps has been the assistant to Spurs GM R.C. Buford, one of the best in the business. When Demps and company walk into Monday's meeting with Paul, their presentation will probably include the following bullet-points:

- We have some good young talent. PG Darren Collison and SG Marcus Thornton proved they can play in the league for years to come. This year we drafted 2 promising rotation guys in Craig Brackins and Quincy Pondexter.

- We will have cap flexibility after this season. Peja Stojakovic's ($15 mil) and Darious Songaila's ($5 mil) contracts are both coming off the books. Not to mention David West has an opt out clause that he is likely to exercise because he is underpaid ($8 mil). Next summer, we will have enough money to resign West to a long-term deal as well as another big-name player.

- We are going to be active in the trade market. With all of our young talent and expiring contracts, we will be in the running to trade for anyone who hits the block. Here are some potential trades:

* We trade Darren Collison, James Posey, Darius Songaila, and a future 1st to the Pacers for Danny Granger (

With this move, you will be playing alongside another star for the next few years. The Pacers are desperate for a PG (Collison), just drafted another scoring SF (Paul George), and with all their expiring contracts are rebuilding.

* We trade Darren Collison, James Posey, and Julian Wright to the Hawks in exchange for Josh Smith. The Hawks then trade Jeff Teague and Maurice Evans for Roy Hibbert and Dahntay Jones. ( )

Imagine throwing oops to Josh Smith! The Hawks would finally receive a C (Hibbert) that would allow Al Horford to move to the PF and a young PG (Collison) to complement Joe Johnson. The Pacers receive Teague, who is an intriguing prospect and expiring contract.


While these might not be the exact deals that go down, you can see that the Hornets will be able to be active in the trade market. Before looking to deal Chris Paul, you can expect Demps to thoroughly investigate trading for a star to play alongside Paul.

CP3 really has no leverage in this situation. With two years remaining on his contract, the Hornets are not obligated to trade him and are not yet in jeopardy of losing him for nothing (via free agency). Right now, what Paul's demand really is a call to action. Whether he gets traded or not, the Hornet's front office has to do something to satisfy their disgruntled star and face of the franchise.

However, with all the change taking place in the franchise -- new head coach, new GM, new owners, lots of young players, the Hornets organization as a whole might not be ready to provide Paul with what he needs to take this team to the championship.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The All-Ink Team

Composing The All-Ink Team proved to be more difficult than Team Au Naturel. In ranking players without tattoos, there are no varying degrees. Either they have them or they don't. With The All-Ink team, I had to take a few things into account: coverage, ostentatiousness, and production. Ultimately, I decided not to value production as much as coverage and ostentatiousness. This is about ink, not play. In terms of visibility of tattoos, another problem arose: skin tone. Take Kevin Garnett for example, he has tons of tattoos but his skin is so dark you can barely see them. Thus, he loses points in the ostentatiousness category. I also tried to give the nod to players that have neck tattoos because a) they are highly visible, and b) they have to be incredibly painful to get. Anyone volunteering to have a needle stuck in their jugular is nuts.

I present the All-Ink Team:

PG - Jason "White Chocolate" Williams - With his pasty skin and prominent tats, White Chocolate barely beat out Monta Ellis and Allen Iverson for PG privileges. What really put him over the edge is his "White Boy" tattoo that has one letter on each of his knuckles.Honorable Mention : Allen Iverson, Monta Ellis, Mo Williams, Delonte West

SG - DeShawn "I Can't Feel My Face" Stevenson - DeShawn ran out of room on his biceps, triceps, and forearms and let the ink flow onto his neck. 16th President Abraham Lincoln is visible over his larynx and sternal notch with a 5 on each side. Perhaps he's a fan of the 505 Boyz. On his right temple, "Londyn" is inscribed, which is the name of his son. On the right side of his forehead is a small crack. "I feel like people always try to break me, but I don't crack. So, I put that there." DeShawn is a logical fella.
Honorable Mention: J.R. Smith, Larry Hughes, Caron Butler

SF - Matt Barnes - If Lebron James or Carmelo Anthony's skin were a little bit lighter or had a tattoos on their neck, they would take Barnes' place. My favorite of Barnes' ink is the large "FTH" across his chest which I would imagine stands for, "Fuck The Haters". Some of his other tattoos include "Believe" on his neck with cupped angels' hands behind it and a huge spiderweb covering his elbow. If you want to get to know Matt on a personal level, his wife Gloria stars on VH1's Basketball Wives and her friends openly question his loyalty to her. It's good TV.
Honorable Mention: LeBron James, Carmelo Anthony

PF - Kenyon Martin - When watching the Nuggets play, I always wondered what that red blob on Kenyon Martin's neck was. Once at the free throw line, there was a clear camera angle of the right side of Martin's neck. It appeared there were lips on his neck. But whose lips are they? After digging around the internet, I discovered that they are a replica of his girlfriend, Trinia's, lips. Elsewhere on his body, you will find a large cross covering the entirety of his back with the quote, "Shall fear no man but God". On his bicep is his infant son's bust, wearing a sideways cap with the quote, "Flesh of my Flesh, Blood of my Blood". Profound.

Honorable Mention: Drew Gooden, Andray Blatche, Michael Beasley

C - Chris "The Birdman" Anderson - Cucaawww!! Cucawww!! With the most famous of his 37 tattoos (and counting) being the red wings on the underside of his biceps (ouch), Chris Anderson is known around the league for his ink. Contrasting his white skin, the flamboyant colors he chooses to paint his body with make him a fan favorite. With his arms well covered, The Birdman is moving onto his torso and stomach area, with a chain around his neck, and an incomplete "Honky Tonk Outlaw" going on his stomach.
Honorable Mention: Robert Swift (I really wanted to have Swift as the winner. In fact, I'll post a picture of him anyways because I find his transformation from a scrawny lottery pick to a tatted beast amusing), Shaq, Marcus Camby

There you have it, The All-Ink Team. While not the most skilled team, together they are intimidating. The NBA is unlike other sports in that their uniforms show so much skin, which might encourage players to get tattoos for the attention. Do you really think Robert Swift would get all of those tattoos if he weren't wearing a tank top 90% of the time? Doubtful.

Along with the guns, drugs, sex scandals, and arrests, I think tattoos contribute to the NBA's long-standing image problem. While tattoos can be artistic and have deep symbolic meaning, most people view them as rebellious and thuggish -- see Marquis Daniels' tattoo of a guy blowing his brains out with a shotgun. Back in the 90's, the stars and idols of the NBA (Jordan, Bird, Malone, Magic) had no tattoos. In this era, the top players (LeBron, Carmelo, Iverson) barely have a square inch of skin to spare. While baseball and football players may be just as inked up as basketball players, their uniforms cover their skin. In the NBA, that tattoos have no place to hide.

Comments and arguments are welcome!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Au-Naturel Team

For some reason, I hold a small grudge against players that have way too many tattoos. Take Tyrus Thomas for example -- during his first two seasons with the Bulls, his arms were had no ink. Then BOOM, all of the sudden in his third season, it looked like had contracted some sort of horrible disease on his arms. He looks stupid, never developed as a player, and thankfully was traded out of Chicago. During Thomas' rookie season (19 at the time), I logged onto his fan website and sent him an e-mail offering to buy him booze or to see if he wanted to play videogames sometime -- boy are those days long gone.

So without further ado, I present my Au Naturel Team. Tomorrow, I will post my All Ink Team. The following players have no tattoos, or if they do, keep them well hidden.

PG - Chris Paul

Paul is arguably the best PG in the league, with or without tattoos. Today he said he wants out of New Orleans ASAP. Honorable mention goes to: Steve Nash, Russel Westbrook, Rajon Rondo.

SG - Dwyane Wade

Wade averaged 26-6-5 while leading a horrible Miami team to the playoffs. He's an MVP candidate every year and also heads up the All-STD Team. Zing! Honorable mention goes to: Brandon Roy, Ray Allen, Manu Ginobili

SF - Kevin Durant

With Wade and James joining forces in Miami, the "Durantula" is going to win the scoring title and be an MVP candidate for the foreseeable future. Honorable mention goes to: Danny Granger, Paul Pierce, Luol Deng. I know Luol is a stretch but I really didn't want to put down Vince Carter as an honorable mention after missing those free throws in game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals this year. That, and he averaged only 16 points on 42% shooting.

PF - Dirk Nowitzki

Can you imagine Dirk with a tattoo? It would be laughable. It's ok for some white guys to sport tats as long as they have an attitude. But Dirk? No way. He's still recovering after being duped by his former fiancee. Honorable mention: Pau Gasol, Chris Bosh, David Lee.

C - Dwight Howard

DH12 is the best center in the game. He has won Defensive Player of the Year twice in a row now, and if he could develop an offensive game that didn't revolve around dunking, he would be a Shaq-like force. Honorable mention: Brook Lopez, Yao, Joakim Noah, Andrew Bogut.

This team would be scary on the court together. We'll see how they would match up against the All Ink Team tomorrow. I am concerned that Team Au Naturel isn't mean enough (except for D-Wade with his off-court sexual deviance). Who's going to deliver that hard foul? Who's going to carry guns in the locker room? Who's going to get up in someone's face? I hear crickets.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Suns Hire Lon Babby

In a dramatic shift from the traditional front office management style, the Phoenix Suns have hired high profile sports agent Lon Babby as their new GM. Babby was the agent for Ray Allen, Tim Duncan, and Grant Hill. Jumping to the other side of the negotiating table, he will bring with him a unique perspective, one that owner Robert Sarver hopes proves to be beneficial.

The Suns are stuck in an awkward transition between going young and rebuilding or sticking with veterans Steve Nash and Grant Hill and maintaining championship aspirations. After losing free agent all star big man Amare Stoudemire to the New York Knicks, the Suns made a curious acquisition in Hedo Turkoglu. Turkoglu, 31, was awful last year in his first year with the Toronto Raptors, averages a meager 11 points on 40% shooting. To top things off, the Suns will inherit the 4 years and $43.8 mil left on his contract.

Although the Suns made the conference finals last year, losing PF Amare Stoudemire really hurts. They no longer have a big man who can score or dive to the hoop off of pick and rolls with Steve Nash (who is probably the most frustrated star in the league). While the Suns will probably make the playoffs for the next few years, there is no way they will compete for a title.

As currently built, the Suns have virtuoso PG Steve Nash surrounded by a superfluous amount of offensively minded 3-point shooters. Turkoglu, Channing Frye, Jared Dudley, and Jason Richardson can all score but have proven to be unable to get key defensive stops in the playoffs. The Suns do have some promising young talent... PG of the future Goran Dragic showed that he can play -- especially in game 3 of the conference semis vs. San Antonio, when he exploded for 26 points off the bench. C Robin Lopez is still improving and can create havoc on the defensive end, and enigmatic big man Earl Clark has all the tools to be a Lamar Odom type facilitator, but hasn't been able to put it together.

Thus, Lon Babby is walking into an interesting situation. The acquisition of Turkoglu really cripples his future flexibility (Babby also used to be his agent, which might be weird). At 31, he is only going to get worse (think Peja Stojakovic). On the bright side, both Grant Hill ($3.2 mil) and Jason Richardson ($14.4 mil) have expiring contracts. If the Suns stumble out of the gate and enter "sell" mode, these two players would be viewed as the final piece for a number of contenders.

Seeing as most GMs like to build their own teams, it wouldn't be surprising that at this time next year, the Suns are in a full scale rebuilding phase. While it might be painful for icon Steve Nash to play somewhere else, he simply isn't going to win a ring in the desert. As long as Mike D'Antoni disciple Alvin Gentry remains coach, the Suns will continue to play an exciting brand of basketball and be exciting to watch.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Blazers hire Rich Cho as GM

Last week, Thunder assistant GM Rich Cho was flown to Finland to meet Blazers owner Paul Allen aboard his 414 ft, $200 mil yacht, the Octopus. This unbelievable boat features 2 helicopters, a submarine, basketball court, jet skis etc. Oh yeah, and it costs $20 mil a year to keep up. This link is a pdf file that has the boat's specs as well as 50 pictures of it.

Back to basketball. Cho apparently impressed Allen so much that he was hired as the teams new GM. He will replace Kevin Pritchard, who was fired right before the draft for reasons that remain unclear. Cho will take over a Blazers' team that went 50-32 last year even with a myriad of injuries. He will be challenged with turning the Blazers into legit championship contenders. As of today, this is how their depth chart looks:

PG - Andre Miller, Patty Mills (AUSSIE AUSSIE AUSSIE, OY OY OY!)
SG - Brandon Roy, Jerryd Bayless, Rudy Fernandez
SF - Nicolas Batum, Wesley Matthews, Luke Babbit
PF - LaMarcus Aldridge, Dante Cunningham, Jeff Pendergraph
C - Greg Oden, Marcus Camby, Joel Pryzbilla

They already have a good, young, foundation with Brandon Roy, LaMarcus Aldridge, and Greg Oden. The Blazers' success is dependent on C Greg Oden's health. The former #1 pick has only played in 82 games over 3 seasons in the league. If he lived up to his potential, the Blazers would be very scary. Last year, before wrecking his knee again, he averaged 11 pts , 8.5 boards, and 2.3 blocks in only 23 minutes per game. Before we write off Oden as someone whose career was derailed by injuries, we must remember that Vince Carter and Zydrunas Ilgauskas were both once considered "injury prone" before remaining healthy multiple seasons in a row. I'm a believer.

The Blazers have a lot of interesting pieces surrounding their big three. If I were Cho, I would look at their situation in the following way...

Brandon Roy often handles the ball and initiates the offense. Thus, there is no real need to for Andre Miller. A PG that can spread the floor would be a better fit. The Blazers drafted promising combo-guard Jerryd Bayless in the 2008 draft but haven't given him consistent playing time or a defined role with the team. With Marcus Camby signing for 2 more years, backup C Joel Pryzbilla should be considered expendable.

With those three pieces, I would offer the rebuilding Cavs those three players for Mo Williams and Anderson Varajao. The Cavs might be interested in Pryzbilla's defense and expiring contract ($7.4 mil), Miller $7.8 mil contract that isn't guaranteed after this season, and Bayless' potential. In Williams, the Blazers would receive a sharpshooting PG who is used to playing off the ball. Varajao, although overpaid, is a gritty, defensive minded PF who would backup Aldridge beautifully. With a depth chart of:

PG- Williams, Mills
SG- Roy, Fernandez
SF- Batum, Matthews, Babbitt
PF- Aldridge, Varajao
C - Oden, Camby

Portland would be effective both defensively and offensively. Regardless, Cho is landing himself in a good position and has plenty of flexibility to craft a championship caliber team.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Bulls land PG C.J. Watson

According to Alex Kennedy of, the Golden State Warriors have dealt PG C.J. Watson in exchange for a second round draft pick. As a restricted free agent, the Bulls will sign Watson to a 3 year $10.2 mil deal.

Coming off the bench, Watson will be asked to be the primary ball handler for 10-12 minutes a game so Derrick Rose can rest. He should also see some time at SG and replace Flip Murray as a scorer off the bench, which shouldn't be difficult. Last season with Golden State, Watson averaged 10.3 points, 2.8 assists, and 1.6 steals per game. He did a wonderful job in February and March filling in for the injured Monta Ellis, recording 9 straight games of 15 points or more.

The Bulls now have 10 roster spots filled, and will find 2 scrubs to ride the end of the bench, maybe F Samardo Samuels and PG John Lucas (both looked decent in the summer league). As of right now their depth chart looks like this:

PG - Derrick Rose, C.J. Watson
SG - Ronnie Brewer, Kyle Korver
SF - Luol Deng, James Johnson (Bust!)
PF- Carlos Boozer, Taj Gibson
C - Joakim Noah, Omer Asik

Unlike so many other teams, Chicago didn't overpay for a single one of their free agents. Considering Amare Stoudemire got $100 mil from the Knicks and Chris Bosh got $110 mil from the Heat, 5 years and $75 mil for Carlos Boozer seems like a remarkable bargain. GMs Gar Forman and John Paxson did the best job possible this summer after losing out on the "Big 3" of Bosh, James, and Wade. As I have previously posted, the Bulls will enter this season with high expectations and compete for the conference crown.

Celtics resign Nate Robinson

According to Nate Robinson's twitter feed, he will return to Boston with a 2 year, $9 mil contract. Robinson will continue to backup star PG Rajon Rondo and provide energy and scoring off the bench. With his limited stature (5'9), Robinson was never destined to be a starting PG. However, he does have a knack for scoring and with his constant chatter and emotional play tends to get the crowd fired up. It's hard to forget him climbing on Glen "Big Baby" Davis' back in game 4 of last year's Finals as Boston's bench tormented the Lakers.

GM Danny Ainge acquired Robinson during the 2010 trade deadline from the New York Knicks. After averaging 17-4-4 with a few 3's in 2009, Robinson fell into Knicks' coach Mike D'Antoni's doghouse. His erratic shot selection and unfocused play landed him in Celtics' coach Doc Rivers doghouse once arriving in Boston (he only averaged 6 pts!). Fortunately, Robinson was able to pick it up in the playoffs and was a key piece in the Celtics' run to the finals. If "Krypto-Nate" can improve his shot selection and overall PG play under the tutelage of Doc Rivers, he should be able to earn a lucrative, long term contract in two years.

As for the aging Celts, they will try to make one or two more runs at the title, and Nate Robinson could determine if they are successful.

Miami Heat continue to fill out roster

After landing the 3 biggest fish of 2010 free agency, Pat Riley and the Miami Heat are nearly finished filling in the roster around LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh. Last week, Zydrunas Ilgauskas and Udonis Haslem signed with the Heat for less in order to play with the "Super Friends". This week, it looks like sharpshooter James Jones and cadaver Jamaal Magloire will do the same.

Magloire, a 10 year veteran, was once a highly regarded big man. In 2003 with the Hornets, he averaged 13-10 and even made the All-Star team in what is known as one of the most shocking AS selections in NBA history. His career quickly went downhill after that year, and he hasn't averaged more than 7 points since 2006. He will ride the pine and be available to foul Dwight Howard in the playoffs.

James Jones will be of a lot more use to the Heat. Him and Mike Miller will provide outside shooting to space the floor for LeBron, Wade, and Chris Bosh. Jones, 29, has played for the Heat for 2 seasons while battling an assortment of injuries. He will now try to get his career back on track and provide a James Poseyesque presence off the bench.

In order to have space to sign the big 3, Miami bought out his contract earlier this summer. Now he is resigning for the veteran's minimum of $1 mil. He had more lucrative offers elsewhere, but the idea of playing with 3 all-stars and in a familiar surrounding (he went to Miami University) sealed the deal.

The Heat are going to be good, really good, for the foreseeable future. Pat Riley has been wildly successful in getting serviceable role players (Big Z, Mike Miller, Jones, Haslem) to sign for less than their market value, and this is just year one. Imagine 2 years from now when LeBron, Wade, and Bosh have more chemistry and know exactly what type of role players they need to surround them in order to succeed. Riley will be able to pinpoint free agents with specialized abilities and almost guarantee them a ring. Having a championship on the resume often allows players to sign future contracts for over their market value (see Posey, James, and Madsen, Mark). Props to the GM of the decade in making it work.

Rockets sign veteran Brad Miller

According to Marc Stein of ESPN, C Brad "Slow-Mo" Miller has signed with the Houston Rockets for 3 years and $15 mil. Last season Miller backed up rising star Joakim Noah with the Chicago Bulls. While he isn't going to put up 15-9-4 like he did from 2001-2006, Miller will be a serviceable back up to Yao Ming. He will also be reuniting with coach Rick Adelman, with whom he experienced his best years in Sacramento. Miller is a deft passer and has the ability to hit spot-up jumpers at the top of the key. He should fit in beautifully in Houston.

In Chicago, it's sad to see Miller go. He showed great leadership abilities (wasn't afraid to talk trash to anyone) and served as a mentor to the sometimes unpredictable Joakim Noah. The Bulls anticipated Miller's departure, as they signed Turkish big man Omer Asik to a deal. Asik, 24, was a second round pick of the Portland Trailblazers who the Bulls picked up in a draft day deal in 2008.

Bulls lose out on J.J. Redick, sign Ronnie Brewer

According to ESPN, the Orlando Magic have decided to match the Bulls' 3 year, $20 mil offer sheet to sharpshooter J.J. Redick. He will cost the Magic, who are already over the salary cap, an average of $14 mil a season ($7 mil to Redick and $7 mil for the luxury tax). This is an exorbitant price to pay for a backup SG. With all the off-season happenings in neighboring South Beach, it's possible the Magic felt pressured to make some sort of summer splash.

Drafted 11th overall in the 2006 draft out of Duke, it is clear Redick worked very hard to earn this contract. He entered the NBA with with a beautiful outside stroke, traces of acne on his back, and a lack of muscle. In his first two seasons, he played sparingly off the bench. This year, a now ripped J.J. Redick showed signs of promise averaging nearly 10 points off the pine and playing meaningful minutes in the playoffs.

Redick would have been a perfect fit in Chicago, who with recent signee Kyle Korver would have had two potent outside threats for Derick Rose and Carlos Boozer to kick to. With Redick now unavailable, the Bulls were forced to move on to plan B and have signed former Jazz wing man Ronnie Brewer to a 3 year deal worth $12.5 mil. Brewer is not nearly the shooter Redick is (he and Joakim Noah might have the ugliest mechanics in the league), but is a long, athletic, defensive oriented wing who is capable of knocking down the mid-range J.

At 3 years for $12.5 mil, this is a great signing for the Bulls, who were in dire need of a defensive stopper on the wing after trading away Thabo Sefolosha in the 2009 season and Kirk Hinrich right before the 2010 draft. At 25 years old, Brewer is entering the prime of his career. He averaged 13.7 points on 50% shooting and 1.7 steals just two seasons ago. Last year, he averaged 8.8 pts/per game before getting traded to the Memphis Grizzlies in a salary dump. He played only 5 games with the Grizzlies before sustaining a season ending hamstring injury.

With the Bulls, Brewer should start at SG with Kyle Korver coming off the bench. Chicago has now acquired 3 former Jazz players this summer in Korver, Brewer, and Carlos Boozer. The Bulls were 41-41 last season without an outside or low-post threat. Now with Korver and Boozer, they have both. With these additions, along with the continued development of All-Star Derrick Rose, the Bulls should be a 55-win team and find themselves in the top half of the Eastern Conference competing with Orlando, Miami, and Boston for supremacy in the East.

However, the Bulls are built eerily similar to the Jazz of the past few seasons, who were perennially in the top half of the Western Conference but were unable to get over the hump and compete for the championship. Unless Derrick Rose turns out to be better than Jazz PG Deron Williams (who might be the best PG in the league), it's hard to imagine the Bulls getting passed Orlando or Miami in the playoffs.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Golden State Warriors: Sold!

Today, Mandalay Entertainment CEO Peter Guber and business partner Joe Lacob successfully outbid billionaire Larry Ellison to buy the Golden State Warriors for $450 mil. Guber has porduced some great films, including Midnight Express and Rain Man. Lacob, a Warriors' season ticket holder, appears to be a true sports fan.

This change in ownership could be exactly what this troubled franchise needs. The Warriors front office is notoriously disorganized and continues to make baffling decisions. With Don Nelson as coach, the team has failed to develop it's young talent and repeatedly drafts long, lanky big men. In 2007 they drafted North Carolina F Brandan Wright; a raw 19 year-old oozing with talent. Of course, Don Nelson and his musical chairs starting lineup never gave him consistent playing time to develop (he has also had some injury problems). A year later, the Warriors drafted a clone of Wright in Anthony Randolph. At the time of the draft, Randolph was considered a risky high upside pick. In his limited playing time, Randolph has exhibited himself to be an extremely versatile, shot-blocking bigman. Unfortunately, Randolph also succumbed to Don Nelson's unstable substitution system and wasn't able to see consistent minutes. Just last week he was traded to the Knicks for rebounding machine David Lee. Randolph is going to explode in New York under Mike D'Antoni's system -- I'm thinking 16 pts, 8 boards and a few blocks per game. Rewind to the 2010 draft, and the Warriors yet again drafted a long, lanky, unproven F in Ekpe Udoh. I think the odds that Udoh is a bust must be 2-1. After moving starting SF Corey Maggette, it would have been prudent for them to draft a small forward (and safer pick)-- maybe Xavier Henry or Gordon Hayward.

On the bright side, the Warriors do have a cornerstone PG in Stephen Curry. The son of former NBA sharpshooter Dell Curry, Stephen had a fabulous rookie season averaging 17 points and nearly 6 assists, including a staggering 26 pts, 8 ast, 6 reb, and 2.6 stl/game in the final month of the season. Flanking Curry is Andris Biedrins, a 6'11 C from Russia. Only 24 years old, Biedrins has already been in "the league" (that's what pro players call the NBA) for 6 years and still has room for improvement. In 2009 he averaged a robust 12 pts and 11 boards a game. Complementing Steph Curry in the backcourt is 24 year-old chucker Monta Ellis. A proven scorer, Ellis averaged 25.5 pts/game last season.... while taking 22 shots/game - eek. Only 6'3, Ellis probably isn't the long-term answer playing alongside Curry. He is rumored to be on the trading block, but with 4 years and $44 mil left on his contract, he will be difficult to move.

The Warriors aren't going to improve unless they instill a more stable front office and get rid of Don Nelson. His defensive schemes are incredibly inept and his offensive style and substitution patterns are so inconsistent that it makes it difficult for players to understand their roles and develop a rhythm during the season. Hopefully new owners Guber and Lacob will turn the culture in the Golden State Warriors organization around. They have some nice pieces in place with Steph Curry as the floor general and David Lee and Biedrins crashing the boards, but they need a new coach and a precise strategy as to how they can build the Warriors into a championship contender.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Bobcats Sign PG Shaun Livingston

According to Y! Sports, the Charlotte Bobcats have come to terms with PG Shaun Livingston with a two year deal worth an estimated $7 mil. This is a big coup for Livingston, who through hard work has made his way back from an infamous, career-threatening knee injury that took place in the 2007 season. Since completing rehab, he has bounced around the league, playing for Miami, Oklahoma City, and most recently, Washington. In 26 games with the Wizards last season, Livingston averaged 9 points and 4.5 assists and even broke out with a big game against the Celtics.

As the 4th pick by the Clippers out of high school in the 2004 draft, Livingston entered the league with sky high expectations. Unfortunately, he has succumbed to numerous injuries in his short career. While it is unlikely he will ever reach his potential, the Bobcats are giving him the opportunity to be a productive PG in the league. With Raymond Felton signing with the Knicks, Livingston will battle former first round pick D.J. Augustin for starting PG privileges. Still, after making the playoffs this year as the 7th seed, Bobcats' management has made some baffling moves (Tyrus Thomas for $40 mil!!??). I expect them to be a lottery team next year.

Rockets Retain PG Kyle Lowry

Just a day after PG Kyle Lowry signed an offer sheet from the Cleveland Cavaliers valued at 4 years and $24 mil, Houston Rockets GM Daryl Morey announced via Twitter that the Rockets would match the offer sheet and retain Lowry.

Lowry is a physical, defensive PG with the ability to get to the hole. He will serve as the backup to starting PG Aaron Brooks and will provide a nice change of pace for the Rockets at the PG position. Having averaged 9 pts and 4 ast per game last season, Lowry gives Houston insurance in case Brooks gets injured and provides them with the occasional big game off the bench (he had 9 games with over 15 points and 8 games with over 8 assists last season).

With Yao Ming returning from injury and SG Kevin Martin getting a full training camp with the team, Coach Rick Adelman should have the Rockets prepared to make a run deep into the post-season. GM Daryl Morey has done a good job of surrounding Yao with shooters -- Brooks, Martin, Trevor Ariza, Chase Budinger, and Shane Battier. Morey has also obtained gritty, dirty work players to complement Yao Ming because let's face it, Yao is soft.

In the trade department, the Rockets have a number of interesting pieces. Jordan Hill and Patrick Patterson are young, athletic big men who could interest some teams. They also have the expiring contracts of Shane Battier ($7,429,500) and Jared Jeffries ($6,883,800) to dangle in front of potential trade partners. If Yao and Kevin Martin can manage to stay healthy, the Rockets may be able to challenge the Lakers for the WC throne.

Front Office Trouble in N.O.

The New Orleans Hornets and GM Jeff Bower have decided to part ways, according to SI. Bower had run the show in N.O. since 2005. He had the unenviable task of pleasing franchise PG Chris Paul under a tight budget. However, this tight budget was his fault as he made a number of curious signings in his tenure. In 2006, he signed a declining Peja Stojakovic to a 5-year, $62 mil contract. 29 years old at the time of the signing, Stojakovic's skills were already deteriorating. Last year he was paid $13 mil to average 12.6 pts/game, and this year he will enjoy paychecks totaling $14,256,000. Eek.

In another of Bower's underwhelming moves, last summer he traded defensive minded C Tyson Chandler to the Bobcats for Defensive minded C Emeka Okafor. Chandler's contract expires this upcoming season while Okafor has 4 years and $53 mil left. That's a lot to pay someone who will only put up 10/10.

In 2008, Bower signed NBA Champion and glue-guy James Posey to a 4 year contract worth the full Mid Level Exception (worth about $24 mil, and owner George Shinn doesn't have to pay the luxury tax on it). At the time of signing Posey was 31 years old and was never going to be worth $24 mil. This year he averaged 5 pts/game. Oof. No wonder Chris Paul is disgruntled.

However, Bower has made some prudent draft picks. In 2009, he selected PG Darren Collison in the first round and SG Marcus Thornton in the second. Collison was so good that there has been rumors that Chris Paul might be on the block. Thornton had a fabulous rookie season (especially for a second rounder), averaging 14.5 pts/game, and over 20 pts/game in March and April.

Last month, Monty Williams was hired as coach. It remains to be seen how long he will last. Normally, new GMs like to hire their own coaches.

If you ask me, I think N.O. should go ahead and trade CP3. Collison will be a solid PG for years to come. They should look into trading CP3 to Indiana for Danny Granger and a prospect (Hansbrough?). The Pacers are desperate for a PG and Granger is a high-scoring wing man who would complement Collison, David West, and Okafor very well.

Al Harrington to the Nuggets

According to Marc Stein via Twitter, Al Harrington has agreed to a 5 year, $35 million contract with the Denver Nuggets. Last season Harrington played for the Knicks, where he averaged nearly 18 points off the bench. This signing also signals that the Nuggets will not match the offer sheet that Linas Kleiza has signed with the Toronto Raptors.

Harrington is a 3 point shooting PF who should be able to stretch the floor nicely when playing with Carmelo Anthony. I would expect Harrington to come off the bench and be part of a potent second unit with fellow chucker J.R. Smith (Ty Lawson may not see many shots off the bench!).

All of the sudden the Nuggets are really deep. Their starting 5 should consist of Billups, Afflalo, Anthony, Martin, and Nene with Lawson, Smith, Harrington, and Chris Anderson making up the 2nd unit. Having such depth should allow the Nuggets to explore some potential trade opportunities. Ty Lawson is a talented young PG and Kenyon Martin as well as the mercurial J.R. Smith have expiring contracts worth a combined $23 mil. Shocking as it sounds, if Smith and Martin are moved the Nuggets might be able to shed the label as the most inked up team in the NBA!

2 years ago the Nuggets made it to the Western Conference Finals and played the Lakers in a competitive series. Last season was lost after Coach George Karl was recovering from cancer. While talented, replacement Adrian Dantley wasn't nearly the floor leader that Karl is. Nuggets fans have a lot to look forward to this season as they have a deep, talented team and some movable parts if need be for the deadline.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Tyson Chandler to the Mavs

I remember going to a Bulls game years ago and witnessing Tyson Chandler get booed to the bench. He was on the floor for total of 4 minutes and accumulated 5 fouls, no points, no rebounds, and 1 turnover (box score). To my relief, the Bulls traded him to the Hornets after they signed Ben Wallace for P.J. Brown's expiring contract.

Chandler had 2 decent years in N.O., averaging double digit rebounds, before injuries ruined his last two seasons. Last summer he was shipped to Charlotte for fellow #2 overall pick Emeka Okafor. Today he was traded from Charlotte along with Alexis Ajinca for Eduardo Najera, Matt Carrol and Erik Dampier's unguaranteed contract. This is a pretty low risk trade for Dallas. Chandler will be motivated to stay healthy and crash the boards seeing as this is a contract year for him, and Ajinca is a project at C. With Dallas being a perennial playoff team, Chandler should see some meaningful minutes off the bench behind Brendan Haywood. If he doesn't mesh well, his expiring contract will be attractive to many teams come the trade deadline.

Ajinca was drafted 20th overall in the 2008 draft because.... well no one really knows why. Before playing in the NBA he averaged 5 ppg in France. What hurts is that he was drafted ahead of rotation players such as Ryan Anderson (Magic), Courtney Lee (Nets), Serge Ibaka (Thunder), Nicolas Batum (Blazers), and George Hill (Spurs). Hell, the Spurs are thinking of trading Tony Parker because Hill has developed so nicely. It's difficult to decipher what direction Michael Jordan and Larry Brown are taking this Bobcats team. Today they basically traded a prospect and a respected defensive center with an expiring contract for Najera and Carrol's onerous contracts.

At the end of the day it's a head scratching maneuver by Charlotte and a savvy move by Dallas (sorry Mavs fans, Al Jefferson would not have been a good fit in that offense).

Big Z to Miami

As if Cleveland Cavs fans hadn't already had their hearts ripped out when LeBron James left for the Miami Heat in the coldest way possible, Zydrunas Ilgauskas has decided to join LeBron, Bosh, and Wade in South Beach. Ilgauskas was the Cavs' longest tenured player -- he was drafted 20th overall in the 1996 draft and has never played for anyone but Cleveland.

Clearly, winning was a big motivation for Z to bolt Cleveland. He has already made $123,135,542 since joining the league, so money isn't an issue. I would imagine he signs for the minimum and gives it one last shot to get that ring.

For the Cavs, they are in rebuilding mode. There is no panacea for what has happened to them this summer. They need to trade Jamison and Mo Williams for cap space, prospects, and draft picks. A good deal may come along at the trade deadline when teams are looking to get that final piece. J.J. Hickson is a nice prospect and they ought to give him as much playing time as possible. Christian Eyenga is the only other young player with upside on their roster, but he is pretty raw. Unfortunately they're probably stuck with Anderson Varajao, who is owed $30 million over the next four years. I'm curious to see how long Byron Scott lasts as coach. He was hired with the hope that his championship pedigree would convince LeBron to stay. I doubt a coach of his caliber wants to stick around for a rebuilding project. On the bright side, at least Drew Carey still loves Cleveland!

Al Jefferson to the Jazz, Luke Ridnour to the Wolves

Although not official, it appears that the Minnesota Timberwolves will trade PF Al Jefferson to the Jazz in exchange for the massive trade exception created by Carlos Boozer signing with the Chicago Bulls and some draft picks.

Al Jefferson should fit in nicely with the Jazz as the replacement for Carlos Boozer, who signed with the Bulls for 5 years and $76 million. Statistically, Jefferson had a down year last season, but this decrease in productivity can be attributed to a new coach (Kurt Rambis), a new offensive system (the triangle), and the worst GM in the NBA, David Kahn (above). Just two seasons ago, Jefferson averaged 23 points and 10 boards a game and was putting up 25 and 15 in the 6 games before his season ending knee injury. It's hard to fathom that the centerpiece to the Kevin Garnett trade is now being moved for just cap space and draft picks. There are only so many low post players with good footwork and a wide array of moves, and Jefferson is one of them. However, Jefferson's vacancy will finally allow the promising Kevin Love to get starter minutes. If Minnesota can find an athletic, shot blocking C, they could be in business.

In Utah, this will be Jefferson's first opportunity to play with an elite point guard -- Deron Williams and should put up similar numbers to what Carlos Boozer averaged (20-10). Overall, this trade certainly improves the Jazz but does not propel them into "contender" status. Utah lost 3-point specialist Kyle Korver earlier this month and will struggle to space the floor with the likes of C.J. Miles and Andrei Kirilenko playing the 3, rookie Gordon Hayward developing his outside stroke, and Mehmet Okur recovering from a torn achilles.

In David Kahn and the T-Wolves' second big move of the day, PG Luke Ridnour is close to signing a 4 year, $16 million contract. This move is baffling considering Kahn drafted two PGs in the lottery a year ago in Johnny Flynn and Ricky Rubio and just two years ago signed backup PG Ramon Sessions to the exact same contract Ridnour is about to sign. I don't get it. Minnesota fans can't be happy that their team is going to pay their backup PG and backup C (the infamous Darko Milicic) a combined $10 million a year for the next 4 years.