Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Possible 'Melo Destinations

According to ESPN, Yahoo, and everyone else, the Denver Nuggets relationship with Carmelo Anthony is beyond disrepair and the Nuggets will try to trade Anthony. The following is a list of teams who have the young talent, draft picks, and expiring contracts that the Nuggets will want back in exchange for Melo. Another caveat to any potential deal is that Melo would have to give his new team a guarantee that he will sign an extension with them. It's also important to note that if Denver does trade him, they would probably look into trading Chauncey Billups and go into a full scale rebuilding. In addition to the talent Denver would receive in exchange from Anthony, they would also get players for Billups.

Sacramento Kings: In any deal with the Kings, the Nuggets would most likely request that rookie DeMarcus Cousins is in the deal. Cousins is a highly-touted prospect out of Kentucky, and at only 19, has the makings of a future All-Star. In addition, the Kings have the expiring contract of Sam Dalembert and a number of SF to replace Anthony. A package of Cousins, Dalembert, and either Omri Casspi or Donte Green would likely be enough for the Nuggets to part with their franchise player.

The Kings would have a starting lineup of:

Tyreke Evans, Fransisco Garcia, Carmelo Anthony, Carl Landry, Jason Thompson. While this lineup might not propel them into contender status, Tyreke Evans has the makings of a franchise player and Landry and Thompson would represent a young, solid front court. Don't forget that the Kings also just drafted a high upside center in Hassan Whiteside.

The Nuggets would have a starting lineup of:

Chauncey Billups (likely to be traded to get playing time for Ty Lawson), Arron Afflalo, Omri Casspi/Donte Greene, Cousins, Nene. This version of a Carmelo trade would give the Nuggets a nice young nucleus to build around.

New Jersey Nets: Moving to NYC in 2 years, the Nets would be a very appealing destination for Anthony. That, and they have a lot of young talent to offer in return. A package of Derrick Favors, Terrence Williams, and Troy Murphy could interest the Nuggets. Favors is a young, freakishly athletic big man with a lot of potential (3rd pick in the draft) who would serve as a perfect replacement for Kenyon Martin once his contract expires. Terrence Williams is a wildly athletic SG who showed a lot of promise in his rookie season and looked fantastic in the summer league. Troy Murphy is a solid PF with range. Denver might look to waive or move him in order to give Favors ample playing time to develop.

With this trade, the Nets would have a starting lineup of Devin Harris, Anthony Morrow, Carmelo Anthony, Sean May, and Brook Lopez. They would still have a glaring whole at PF, but with Harris at PG and Brook Lopez at C, the Nets would definitely be in the upper-echelon of the Eastern Conference.

Tune in tomorrow to see what the Hawks, Rockets, and Knicks could offer in exchange for Carmelo.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Where does J.R. Smith end up?

According to multiple sources, the Denver Nuggets are heavily shopping SG J.R. Smith (runner up for the All-Ink Team). Smith, 24, is wildly athletic and has deep range. Last season with the Nuggets he averaged 15.4 points and 1.9 3's per game on 41% shooting. With the emergence of Arron Afflalo as a deep threat and the signing of Al Harrington, who is a 3 point specialist, Smith is no longer a vital piece to the team. That, and he is not the easiest player to coach, often exhibiting an atrocious shot selection. As a proven scorer coming with a $6.7 mil expiring contract, Smith will draw interest from a lot of teams.

In return, the Nuggets are probably interested in a young big man who is still on the rookie salary. With PF Kenyon Martin entering the final year of his deal and C Nene having the option to opt out, the Nuggets could potentially lose their starting front court (not to mention Carmelo Anthony) and be left with Chris Anderson and Renaldo Balkman as their remaining big men. Here are some teams that might be interested in J.R. Smith:

Golden State Warriors -- The Warriors are always looking for high scoring SGs with deep range. This summer, they lost three point specialist Anthony Morrow to the New Jersey Nets and currently have Monta Ellis, Dorrell Wright, Reggie Williams, Charlie Bell and Vlad Radmanovic as their wing players.

One potential trade that works is J.R. Smith for Charlie Bell and Brandan Wright. Acquiring Brandan Wright could a diamond in the rough for the Nuggets. Drafted out of North Carolina after his freshman season, Wright was highly touted and often described by scouts as "oozing with potential". Unfortunately, Wright has been riddled with injuries and received inconsistent playing time from Coach Don Nelson. With the Warriors drafting PF Ekpe Udoh, Wright's future clearly is not with the Warriors. A change of scenery is just what he needs. In Charlie Bell, the Nuggets would receive a quality shooter to backup Arron Aflallo.

New York Knicks -- J.R. Smith would fit in perfectly with Coach Mike D'Antoni's high octane offense. While the Knicks don't have any players that the Nuggets would be interested in (they aren't moving Anthony Randolph), the Sacramento Kings do.

Nuggets Trade: J.R. Smith
Receive: Jason Thompson

Knicks Trade: Eddy Curry, Bill Walker
Receive: J.R. Smith

Kings Trade: Jason Thompson
Receive: Eddy Curry, Bill Walker

The Nuggets get their young big man in Jason Thompson. After trading for Carl Landry and drafting DeMarcus Cousins and Hassan Whiteside, Thompson is expendable. For taking on Eddy Curry's corpse and contract, the Kings would also receive prospect Bill Walker, who before tearing up his knees was a top 5 draft prospect. The Knicks end up with J.R. Smith, who might average 30 points playing alongside Raymond Felton, Anthony Randolph, and Amare Stoudemire in D'Antoni's offense. Not only that, but Smith's expiring contract does not affect the Knick's plans to acquire Carmelo Anthony next summer.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Basketball in China -- Part 3

In Part 1 of Basketball in China, I touched on the booming culture of basketball in China. In Part 2, I discussed the CBA and the foreign players who have made the leap over the Pacific Ocean. Today I will write a little about the lifestyle that some of the foreign players live while playing professionally in China.

As I mentioned in Part 2, I was fortunate enough to get Rodney White's phone number after another one of his fantastic games (he averaged around 30-10-5). We agreed that we would meet at a popular expat bar called 7 Club at midnight for a few drinks. Midnight rolled around, and next thing I know there was a massive, 6'9 former NBA lottery pick sitting next to me buying me drinks. After my fourth gin and tonic, I became frank with him:

Me: Rodney, be honest, who fucks the most bitches in the NBA?

Rodney: I do.

Me: No Rodney, really...

Rodney: Ned, I do. I fuck the most bitches.

Through talking with him, I got the distinct feeling that Rodney thinks his pro career should have been different. Besides his mediocre play, one of the main reasons Rodney plays overseas is because of his arrest. As a 24 year old free agent, he was caught driving through D.C. randomly shooting a gun out of his sunroof with friends. An undercover Secret Service Agent witnessed it and arrested him. When I told him players like Hedo Turkoglu and Anderson Varajao were awarded with $50 million contracts, he nodded his head in disappointment and sighed. When I told him Gilbert Arenas was in trouble for bringing guns into the locker room in D.C. and the remaining $80 million on his contract was in jeopardy, he became visibly upset and almost left the bar. In retrospect, he probably should have stayed in a school for another year to mature. But, at 19 years old and with no money, how could you justify turning down a guaranteed $8 mil as a lottery pick?

Although it's nothing compared to paydays in the NBA, foreign players are well compensated in China. According to the WSJ, max salaries are $60,000 a month. However, Rodney told me that the team paid his American and Chinese taxes. Furthermore, a lot of players are sponsored by Chinese brands. Rodney was sponsored by Anta, and he was disappointed to discover that I was sporting Shane Battier's PEAK brand. $60,000 a month is a ton of money in Chinese standards. It's my understanding that in Hangzhou, China, the average salary for a Chinese worker was $250 a month. Needless to say, Rodney, P.J. Ramos and other foreign players in China aren't pressed for money. This is why when we went to the clubs, Rodney and P.J. paid for everything. On Friday nights after victories we would go to a club called Coco and get a table with bottles of hard alcohol, beer, and fruit platters. I truly felt like I was living it up like an NBA star (maybe not quite like LeBron), except that girls weren't exactly flocking to us.

By American standards, Rodney and P.J. (7'4) are tall. By Chinese standards, they are physical freaks. At 6'1, strangers often came up to me to admire my size. At 7'4, P.J. stuck out like a sore thumb. P.J. and Rodney both came to our expat Thanksgiving feast. My British friend Lizzie, who is only 5'3, walked up to P.J. and said, "What the fuck?", and walked away. At the clubs, P.J.'s height hindered his ability to talk to girls. Chinese girls are really short and had never seen such a large human being. Thus, he stayed seated to feign an average height and asked me to find girls for him to talk to. I felt extraordinarily proud when I found a girl with whom he hit it off with. When I left the club, she was caressing his six-pack abs while dancing.

Although they may not appreciate it like I would, the foreign players in China travel throughout the majority of the country and see aspects of it that Chinese people don't get to see. Cities like Tiayuan (where Marbury plays) and Fuzhou are smoggy and aesthetically unpleasing, but do offer a glimpse into the fascinating factory life of China, which is what is driving China's economy.

Being a pro basketball player overseas is a fantastic way to see the World while getting paid. Rodney has played in Puerto Rico, Spain, Israel, Italy, and China. While some may poke fun at American players who aren't able to make the NBA and are forced to play overseas, it's hard not to respect them for stepping out of their comfort zone in order to do what they love. This is why appreciate players like Trajan Langdon, Josh Childress(above), Stephon Marbury, Paul Pierce (has said he wants to play in Europe), and Nick Calathes. While it is incredibly difficult to live so far from friends and family, the upside is that these players are getting paid to explore foreign countries and cultures, which is a once in a lifetime opportunity. More importantly, they are globalizing the game of basketball.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Kwame Brown to sign with Bobcats

According to ESPN, C Kwame Brown will sign a 1 year deal worth the veteran's minimum with the Charlotte Bobcats. The signing will reunite Brown, the number one overall pick in 2001, with the man who drafted him, Michael Jordan.

Brown is known as one of the biggest draft busts in NBA history. Drafted straight out of high-school by Washington, he entered the league with sky-high expectations. However, his tenure with the Wizards was tumultuous, as he constantly sparred with the coaching staff and star Gilbert Arenas, while being unable to live up to Michael Jordan's expectations and tutelage. Considering how poorly Brown's first stint with MJ was, it's surprising that that they are joining forces again. Brown played for Detroit last season, where he averaged 3.3 points and 3.7 rebounds per game. As his career winds down, he will forever be known as "the guy MJ drafted", and the main piece of the trade that sent Pau Gasol to the Lakers and propelled them to two straight championships (and counting).

There will be minutes available for Brown, as the Bobcats are entering the season with only Boris Diaw (who is terribly overweight), Tyrus Thomas (Stromile Swift clone), and Nazr Mohammad in the front court rotation. Unless Brown finally has a break out season, Charlotte will regress from their franchise high of 44 wins last year and be a borderline playoff team.

Let's look at what Michael Jordan and company has accomplished this offseason:

-Lost starting PG Raymond Felton for nothing
-Traded away starting C Tyson Chandler and former 1st round pick Alexis Ajinca for Erick Dampier's unguaranteed contract
-Resigned draft bust Tyrus Thomas to a deal they will start regretting after the first mid-range jumper he takes this season
-Signed Kwame Brown

This franchise is going nowhere.

Mrs. Byrnes

The Mrs. Byrnes Dictionary of Unusual, Obscure, and Preposterous Words has been in my family for years. Our copy is sordid, dog-eared, and on some pages, ripped. In this treasure chest of definitions you will find little used gems of the English language. All of the words are real, as each is in at least one major dictionary.

In honor of this wonderful book, I will post a new definition on the right side of the page every day. I dare you to try and use them in conversation. A few examples of preposterous (yet practical) words:

groak v.i. to watch people silently while they're eating, hoping they will ask you to join.

genicon n. a sexual partner imagined by one who is dissatisfied with her actual partner.

henhussy n. a sexist term for a man who does housework.

pilgarlic n. a bald head that looks like peeled garlic.

verbicide n. word-murder; mangling or perverting a word.

unasinous adj. equally stupid

Friday, August 20, 2010

Basketball in China - Part 2

Yesterday, I talked about the NBA's influence on basketball in China and playing with the general public. Today, I will discuss the CBA and the foreign players who play over there.

When I went to my first Zhejiang Guangsha Lions game, during the 2009 season, I had no idea how many foreign players had taken their talents to China. In the rafters of Guangsha's small stadium hung a banner for each player on the team. I immediately recognized Rodney White's face and name, this wasn't the case for Guangsha's other foreign player, Nigel Dixon.

Rodney was a former lottery pick of the Detroit Pistons at 9th overall in the 2001 draft. He played 1 season and UNC-Charlotte and was selected by ESPN as freshman of the year. If you research the 2001 draft, also referred to as the Kwame Brown Draft, you will find that there was talk of him going #1 overall. Inconsistent play, lackadaisical defense, and problems with the law ultimately sent him packing overseas after 5 seasons in the league with three different teams.

Nigel Dixon (shattering the backboard) is a product of Western Kentucky, and is a poor mans Michael Sweetney. At 6'11 and 320 lbs, Dixon is a big boy and is consistently dealing with weight issues. He has had a few short stints in the NBA, but has spent the majority of his time playing overseas.

Not that I'm surprised, but these are two typical stories of foreign players in China. I learned that each team is allowed to have two foreign players on the roster. More often than not, these players are from America and are still trying to live the NBA dream. This, however, is beginning to change. Last season, former All-Star Stephon Marbury made a highly publicized move over to the Chinese team Shanxi Zhongyu. Unlike other foreign players in China, Marbury has had a fantastic NBA career, making two trips to the All-Star game and earning over $150 mil in his career. He is not playing in China to win championships (Shanxi is awful), but rather to cash in on the exploding market for basketball in China, which I discussed yesterday.

As a part of his deal with Shanxi, Marbury and the owner of the team will manufacture, promote and distribute Marbury's shoe brand, Starbury. These shoes will be sold to basketball fans all over China for reasonable prices (as low as $14.88). (WSJ)

I was fortunate enough to have front row seats to one of Marbury's first games in China versus Zhejiang Guangsha. I arrived early and greeted Stephon as he got off the bus, saying, "Welcome to China, Stephon!". We made eye contact but he did not reply. While Marbury may have fallen out of favor to fans in America because of bizarre behavior and his inability to lead a team, he is loved in China. At the game I attended, there was more energy in the crowd than there had been all season and he was cheered relentlessly. (Although there was one taunting sign towards Stephon that read, "NY Knicks PG = Chris Duhon"). Even if Marbury's pro career has ended in America, his playing and business career are just beginning in China.

Attending CBA games in China is great fun. Only a 10 minute bike ride from Zhejiang's stadium, I went to every game. Tickets are only $5 and there is no assigned seating. The crowd is always engaged, unlike the NBA, and every fan claps plastic noisemakers after each made basket. After games, players walk out of the locker room and fight their way through hundreds of short, rowdy fans to the exit. I once stayed after to see if I could meet and talk with Rodney White. When he walked out I hip-checked a few smaller Chinese men out of the way to make room and said hello. He was very nice, and seeing as he did not have many English speaking friends in China, we exchanged numbers and met for beers later that night. To Be Continued in Part 3 on Monday...

(P.J. fighting through the crowd)

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Earl Boykins joins Bucks

PG Earl Boykins as agreed to a 1 year, $1.3 mil deal with the Milwaukee Bucks, according to ESPN. At 5'5, Boykins is the modern day Mugsy Bogues. During his career he has played for 9 teams in 10 seasons, with 2007 being his best year when he averaged 15 points and 4 assists with the Denver Nuggets (31 games) and Washington Wizards (35 games).

With the Bucks, Boykins will be the 3rd string PG behind "Young Buck" Brandon Jennings and Keyon Dooling. More importantly, at 34 years old, he will be a mentor to Jennings, who the Bucks have pegged as a cornerstone of their team.

Being the second shortest player ever in the league (behind Bogues), Boykins is always a fan favorite. He does have an electric game though, as he is sneaky, quick, and is a long range shooter.

Normally players comment via Twitter when their signed, but as Inside Hoops pointed out, Boykins is not on Twitter because he can't reach the keyboard. I feel bad writing that. Get 'em Earl.

Basketball in China - Part 1

In my book, to be considered a superstar, I needed to see that player's jersey being worn on the streets of China. Thus, Brandon Roy is a superstar.

This past April, I returned from a year and a half of living and teaching English in the Chinese city of Hangzhou (think Shanghai's Milwaukee except with 7,000,000 people). While there, I resurrected my basketball career and became even more fanatical about the NBA.

I would like to see what the basketball culture in China was like before the emergence of Yao Ming. On my 10 minute walk to school, I would pass 12 courts. More often than not, there were pick-up games going on between players of all age and skill levels. I think Yao Ming's stardom and the relative success of the Houston Rockets has had a dramatic effect on basketball's popularity in China. This is evident by the majority of Rockets' players having sponsorships in China. Turn on the TV and you will see Shane Battier throwing it down in a commercial promoting the sporting brand PEAK (pronounced Peakuh). Incidentally, I ended buying a pair of Shane Battier's shoes because after going to a dozen shoe stores they were the only pair to fit my size 13 foot (the Chinese have small feet).

Every Rockets game is televised and because of the time difference, aired at 8 or 9 AM. Since I had most mornings free, I was able to enjoy watching Yao and the crew in bed over a bow of delicious boiled dumplings. Being able to watch these games was an important aspect of my life in China. Although I couldn't watch my beloved Bulls, watching any NBA game allowed me to feel closer to home.

Until this past season, Yao's superstar sidekick was Tracy McGrady. He is idolized in China. I didn't realize he had his own brand until I arrived at the basketball courts to see everyone wearing his shoes, shorts, and shirt. Unfortunately, they also tried mimic his shooting form, and even worse, his shot selection. The result is a bunch fundamentally awful players taking off-balance fade away jumpers from all over the court. Every Monday night I played with a 20 year old kid who had a huge T-Mac logo tattooed on his right pectoral. Of course, he never passed and had a horrible shot selection. Surprisingly, he often made them, but when he missed I made sure to let him know that he needed to pass more and that T-Mac is as washed up as driftwood.

I found a basketball hall that was 10 minute bike ride from my apartment. It was open from 6-10PM and was only 10 yuan (~$1) to play. Four nights a week I would bike over after class and play. Since my Chinese was primitive, I often used a variety of hand gestures, mis-pronounced Chinese words, and facial expressions to ask if I could play. In the whole year and a half I was there, I was only rejected a handful of times. Although I'm not that good -- I like to say I have Matt Bonner or Mehmet Okur's game -- they were thrilled to play with an American, someone who was fundamentally sound, knew the rules, and had witnessed a live NBA game. Sometimes onlookers would clap when I made a basket. It was a dream come true -- I was bigger, better, and stronger than everyone on the court. When the offense stalled, they looked to me to make something happen.


Along with imitating Tracy McGrady's game, the Chinese also imitate the NBA's referees. No one told them that in a pickup game, you don't call touch fouls. There was an instance when a foul was called on me as the player I was defending drove to the hoop. I didn't touch him. I lost it and followed him around the court releasing a tirade that made good use to of the words "fuck", "bitch", "shit", "your mom" and more. Although angry, he was ultimately embarrassed as he hung his head and gave the ball to my team. I am American; I know the rules.

Tune in tomorrow for Part 2 of Basketball in China. I will discuss the CBA and the foreign players in China.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Pacers, Hornets, Rockets, Nets trade breakdown

Last week, the Houston Rockets, New Jersey Nets, Indiana Pacers, and New Orleans Hornets agreed on a five-player trade. Here is how I break it down:

New Orleans Hornets:

Traded: Darren Collison, James Posey
Received: Trevor Ariza

Grade: B

This trade is GM Dell Demps first big move with the team. By trading away promising PG prospect and Chris Paul insurance Darren Collison, Demps and the Hornets front office are making a statement that they are serious about building around CP3. In Trevor Ariza, the Hornets will get a young athletic wing player that they haven't had in recent years. Ariza, who last year signed a 5 year, $35 mil deal with the Rockets, averaged 15 points, 5.6 rebounds, and 3.8 assists in his lone year with the Houston. Although effective, his shot selection was often criticized and he ended the year shooting 39% from the field and 33% from 3-point land. Hopefully, with Chris Paul running the show Ariza will get more easy buckets and clean looks.

You would have hoped that the Hornets could have gotten more for PG Darren Collison, who as a rookie averaged 12.4 points and 5.7 assists on the season and 21.6 points and 8.3 assists during the month of February when CP3 was injured. While Ariza is a nice player, he is by no means going to push the Hornets into contender status.

Houston Rockets:

Traded: Trevor Ariza
Received: Courtney Lee

Grade: A

Who would have thought? Another prudent move by Rockets GM Daryl Morey. The Rockets will easily replace Ariza's production at SF with the ageless Shane Battier and the emerging Chase Budinger. In return for Ariza, Houston gets a promising young SG in Courtney Lee, who played a key role in the Orlando Magic's run to the finals 2 seasons ago. He will come off the bench behind Kevin Martin and will see starter's minutes when Martin inevitably gets injured (has played over 70 games only twice in his 6 year career).

With Chase Budinger proving to be a solid rotation player, Trevor Ariza was superfluous on Houston's roster. Also, with Courney Lee playing on his rookie contract for 2 more seasons, the Rockets cut salary and got better at the same time. Their depth chart should look like this:

C: Yao, Brad Miller, Chuck Hayes
PF: Luis Scola, Jordan Hill, Patrick Patterson
SF: Shane Battier, Chase Budinger, Jared Jeffries
SG: Kevin Martin, Courtney Lee, Jermaine Taylor
PG: Aaron Brooks, Kyle Lowry

That ladies and gentlemen, is a deep team. If the Rockets/Yao can manage to stay healthy, they could provide the Lakers with stiff competition for the Western Conference title.

Indiana Pacers

Traded: Troy Murphy
Received: Darren Collison, James Posey

Grade: B+

Finally! The Jamaal Tinsley, T.J. Ford, and Earl Watson era in Indiana is over. The Pacers finally have their PG of the future in Darren Collison, who tore it up in his rookie season with New Orleans. The Pacers also received James Posey onerous contract, which was no doubt a vital part in any trade for Collison. Indiana has over $20 mil in expiring contracts going into this year, thus taking on Posey's contract for 2 more years isn't a death knell. On top of that, Posey has come out and said that he will try to mentor some of the Pacers young players as much as possible (Paul George, Brandon Rush). With the departure of Troy Murphy, the Pacers will hope that Tyler Hansbrough can fully recover from the remnants of last year's concussion and provide productive minutes at PF.

For Indiana, this trade isn't about next year, it's about the future. With so much cap space next summer and Collison, Danny Granger, and Roy Hibbert entrenched as the cornerstones of the franchise, there is a lot to look forward to in Indiana.

New Jersey

Traded: Courtney Lee
Received: Troy Murphy

Grade: B+

With the signing of sharpshooter Anthony Morrow and emergence of Terrence Williams, it seems that Courtney Lee was deemed expendable by New Jersey management. By trading for PF Troy Murphy, the Nets will receive a three point shooting big man who can also crash the glass. Murphy's range will give C Brook Lopez more room to work inside and discourage double teams. This move also indicates that the Nets plan to develop lottery pick Derrick Favors slowly. While I'm not crazy about some of the Nets other moves (signing Travis Outlaw to $35 mil), this appears to be a well thought out trade.