Monday, January 7, 2008

Dunk of the Night: Jamario Moon

Dunk of the Night: Jamario Moon
Check this out: Jamario Moon isn't starstruck by the Cavs as he lands a rocket on them Sunday.

Ed Stefanski's got a job to do
There were a couple of Ed Stefanski mentions in the Sunday papers, he's the guy on the left of this picture who is holding up a jersey signifying just how many wins he would like the 76ers to procure this season, and he's been entrusted to handle the reins of a rebuilding process after the nightmare that was the Billy King Era. And make no mistake; it has to be a rebuilding process: because Ed can't listen to this ridiculous suggestion that has the Sixers going all out to win 40 games, make the playoffs, and enjoy another outstanding 16th pick in the draft.

Stefanski made waves last week when he pointed out that he's not really desperate to unload Andre Miller, the sound point guard who will turn 32 next March and make close to 20-million dollars this year and the next. Miller is a good player with some value around the league, but he's also ill-fit for a rebuilding process that doesn't need a point man entering his down years while making eight-figures.

The Stefanski line about not really wanting to trade him was just a bit of posturing; he knows what's going on, he's going to want expiring contracts, and he's going to want some draft picks. The trade that sent Kyle Korver to Utah last week for Gordon Giricek's expiring deal and a first-rounder made these expectations obvious.

Whatever happens from here and to the February 21st trade deadline doesn't matter, the Sixers will have cap room this summer. Even if they sign or match an Andre Iguodala contract offer that starts at 10-million a year (we're assuming Calvin Booth picks up his player option, thanks Billy!), the team is looking at six or seven million in cap space this summer. Should they trade Miller for an expiring, that figure shoots up to maybe 18-million (we're estimating the 2008-09 salary cap, so bear with us), so there's room to move.�

But for what?

Yeah, if you gave Ben Gordon 60-million bucks to play for your team over five years, that would probably be enough to force the skinflint Chicago Bulls from matching the offer, but what are you left with? Five years of Ben Gordon at an average of 12-million per, just for the sake of using that cap space?

Gilbert Arenas is going to want to come to this mess, for (likely) less than what the Wizards could and would offer him? Luol Deng's not going anywhere, so do you feel like taking a shot at Shaun Livingston? Sign-and-trades are a nice hypothetical to throw out there, but you have to locate a player that wants to be a part of the rebuilding process.

Nobody's a bigger Elton Brand fan than I, he's likely one of the more underrated and (more specifically) underappreciated players of the last 20 years; but if he opts out of his contract this summer, we're looking at a 29-year old power forward who is coming off a significant Achilles tear. This is a player that needs to put a good team over the edge, not someone to pair with your crew of youngsters (Andre Iguodala is 23, Louis Williams, 21) and try to take on the league with. Sans, with Brand and AI signed up, any cap space beyond this summer.

And Iggy's another question altogether. A fine player, who shouldn't be punished for the fact that he's putting up big numbers on a lousy team (he's far from selfish); but in a perfect world, you'd want AI on your team averaging 18 points, eight rebounds, and six assists, because this would mean he's be your third-best player. If that.

And though he's probably worth a contract that nearly averages eight-figures, you're under no obligation to give him that: the Sixers will be the only team with significant cap room this summer, so you'd essentially be bidding against yourself to retain Iguodala's services. Andre could take a chance at life as an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2009, but he'd probably be more willing to take a solid five-year deal from the Sixers instead. Know this going in, and don't overpay.

This stuff isn't easy. It's a bad time to rebuild, any player worth their price tag has already been retained by their own teams, anyone close to stardom (Luol Deng in Chicago, for instance) will see a contract offer matched by the team that holds their rights, and you have to (assuming you're good at this whole "building a team that isn't lousy"-thing) try to come close to matching your best players' primes. Unless the players in question are Shaq and Kobe or Admiral and Duncan, having a 30-year old do his damage alongside a 24-year old doesn't usually result in a championship.

There aren't any easier answers and, frankly, I'm not sure the pieces are in place for a successful (meaning, "building a squad with championship potential," and not just a pretty good team) rebuilding. The timing, if anything, is pretty tricky. Stefanski has the right idea - clear cap space, don't fall in love with any of the holdovers, don't give Andre Miller away - but executing the plan is another story altogether.

McHale ... McWronged!
Even though I disagree with him quite a bit, the Boston Globe's Peter May always comes through with an entertaining Sunday column. Still, I have to take issue with some of the dribs and drabs he threw out during yesterday's piece, which focused on the reshaping of the Boston Celtics. To start,

"When the original Garnett deal fell apart because KG didn't want to come here, Ainge went out and got Allen from Seattle."

Garnett didn't want to come to Boston because that would involve "coming to Boston," he just didn't want to be on a gutted team (Al Jefferson would have to be included in any trade bringing KG in) alone with Paul Pierce. It was a basketball decision, and the same one that Shawn Marion (also rumored to be heading to Boston to be alone with Pierce and no third-option) made. But that could just be iffy wording. The next part is a little more infuriating:

"But, as we know, Kevin McHale caved, accepting Theo Ratliff, Ryan Gomes, Sebastian Telfair, Gerald Green, Jefferson, and two first-rounders (one of them being the one McHale had sent to Boston in the Wally Szczerbiak-Ricky Davis deal) for a first-ballot Hall of Famer and, as we now sit, this season's leader for Most Valuable Player. It has to rank as one of the best trades since Jack Warner pried Ingrid Bergman away from David O. Selznick for six weeks to film "Casablanca" - and agreed to exchange the services of Olivia de Havilland. As Cleveland general manager Danny Ferry accurately said, "Danny Ainge embarrassed us all." (Most of all his buddy, McHale.)"

I'll give Kevin McHale all the stick in the world, I called him the worst GM in the NBA last summer and meant it, but I don't understand for a second how Peter May thinks McHale "caved" in signing off on the deal that sent Kevin Garnett to Boston.

Cap space, a 20-and-12 23-year old, and first round picks? McHale screwed up in not taking the rumored offer from the Chicago Bulls from back in May of 2006 (Luol Deng, Tyson Chandler, second pick in the draft), but McHale didn't want to trade Garnett back then. In dealing with what was out there last summer, Peter is showing a lack of insight into how these things actually work. Where's the "cave?" Was there a better deal available? Are the Timberwolves better off retaining KG? Not sure, no, and hell no.

In the NBA, with different franchises going in different directions, and the salary cap rules that force teams into matching salaries for trades both big and small, you're rarely going to get a straight talent-for-talent, even deal. MVP candidates are never traded for other MVP candidates. And anyone who thinks that an MVP candidate trade that doesn't result in another MVP candidate being sent to the second team is a lopsided deal based on that fact alone should be summarily dismissed.

Usually, what they are traded for is the chance for a struggling team to start over; because, without expiring contracts, draft picks, young talent, and (especially) salary cap space, "starting over" isn't anywhere near as easy as it is in baseball (where you can trade someone making 15-million bucks for a double AA prospect, straight up) or football (where you can cut the excess fat without thinking twice and without paying anything more than the signing bonus).

What was McHale supposed to do? Wait until the Celtics threw in Rajon Rondo? Wait for the Cavaliers to offer LeBron James and a pick? How could he have done better?

Yes, McHale embarrassed himself by putting himself in a position to have to dump Kevin Garnett after years of lousy moves made it so the best KG could hope for was a .500 team to play for, but May doesn't mention that. He's going to make Danny Ainge look better than he actually his (Danny's done an outstanding job, recently, and doesn't need the help), and hope nobody notices this.

We noticed.�

YouTube of the day: Li'l MVPs want to clean your mouth!

I nearly felt like presenting this without comment, until I noticed how miserable Mike Bibby (about 25 seconds in) looked in this clip. L'il MVPs: for the kid that wants to creep out his or her parents. Now with Mutombo!�

(I hope. Someday. Because I'd buy it. I've already tried to fashion my own.)

Here's the place to go to GET YOURS TODAY (beware of pop-ups, and creepy toothbrushes)!

Personal favorite? Bobby Jackson. Check out his brush: this is a man who wants to tell your kid, "Here, let me get that for you."

(Hat-tip: the bosom-appreciators over at With Leather.)�

Kobe Bryant's Top 10 Plays of 2007
One of the most electrifying athletes of his generation, Kobe Bryant, will awe you with these incredible plays in 2007.

Non-guaranteed contracts, guaranteed worry
Henry over at TrueHoop has put together a great post with the list of the NBA's non-guaranteed contracts. This is important to scope out because NBA teams have until 6 p.m. (on the island of Manhattan) tonight to either keep these contracts on board (paying not just the money owed to the players, but potentially the dollar-for-dollar luxury tax incurred by going over the $65.42 million threshold, while waiving your rights to the spoils collected by the teams under the tax line), or cut away.

It's hard to see many more than the names already waived (the Warriors waived DJ Mbenga, Denver dumped Bobby Jones, and the Nets cut Billy Thomas) being sent home, we might see three or four more names hit the skids, but it shouldn't be a massive bloodletting.

Players like Jamario Moon (above) are starting, while names like Malik Allen, Chris Richard, Leon Powe, Mario West, Ryan Bowen (... actually, a whole lot of these names, so let's just stop here) are needed to fill out rosters that have been decimated by injuries thus far this season. �

That said, there's nothing stopping these teams - even the injured ones - from dumping the non-guaranteed players on the list and bringing them back later on with a 10-day contract (which are now available to teams). Someone like Miami's Joel Anthony will definitely be cut today, but he'll be back on the end of the Heat bench soon enough.

So, we'll see how it turns out. Nobody is owed an NBA gig, but this is a day for the junkies to be watching the waiver wire.

Nuggets 109, Sixers 96 (F)
When Allen Iverson first played against the 76ers, he took shots at them before, during and after the game. This time, he saved his shots for the court.

NBA TV Top 10: Jan. 6
Check out the top 10 plays from Sunday, including Jason Smith's outta-nowhere block and a sweet reverse dunk by Andrew Bynum.

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