Thursday, February 21, 2013

NBA LESSONS: v2.2



Dan P

When does pleasure outweigh business in sports?

Immediately after I wrote a piece detailing a “Kevin Garnett to the L.A. Clippers deal, I was made to look foolish by the recent twist in Danny Ainge's thought process as now it looks like KG is staying put with Paul Pierce for the remainder of their NBA tenure.  

I thought it was impossible to conceive how a team would pass up trade value on a soon to be 37 year-old (in May) with 3 years left on a deal that will pay him close to $35 million.  That the fact that KG had helped the Boston Celtics to a title in 2008 was already in the rear-view mirror.  And not to mention even the Suns dealt Steve Nash to their long-time nemesis, L.A. Lakers, simply because they couldn't pass up three, first rounds picks.  Seriously, owner Robert Sarver LOVED Steve Nash and HATES the Lakers.  

So why the change of heart by Ainge?  Why the nostalgia for a player that wasn't drafted by the team and has still spent more years playing for the Minnesota T’Wolves (12) than the Celtics (6).  Much ink was spilled before the start of the season about how Rajon Rondo wanted to make the Celtics his team; that it was time to grab the reins and ease the burden of its aging stars.  But Ainge's refusal to deal Garnett for youth, undercuts that notion and brings back something else nostalgic: pride for greatness and love of the game.  Perhaps it has something to do with the fact Ainge played in the NBA or maybe the spirit and energy of KG is too special to let leave the locker room for good.  

Either way, it helped remind this hack writer that sometimes making a deal for the sake of dealing isn't always the best.  I remember feeling the same way about Michael Jordan, and even now I would love to see if MJ, at age 50, could come back just to prove he still has it (He’s at least good enough to beat Michael Kidd-Gilchrist—Ed). It's irrational for the Celtics to pass up any opportunity and yet it never felt more right.

Re-Occurring DwightMare

I'm really sick of Dwight Howard (I second that motion. Head coach, Gregg Popovich would be counted as the third vote.—Ed).  I'm tired of his clean-cut, “smile first” persona that, by now, real NBA fans know is a load of $#*&.  

First let me get something off my chest: I do believe Howard about the health of his back and that he is nowhere close to 100% (He looks “smaller” than he did last year with Orlando. Then again, it could be the hideous purple and yellow that the Lakers wear that make him seem “smaller,” less dominant, this season—Ed).  

Secondly, I do believe playing with Kobe Bryant takes a certain kind of mental toughness and that at times, Kobe has raked Dwight over the coals unfairly (You can read a bit about that, here—Ed).  Finally, I do believe Dwight is salvageable and is the future of the Lakers and they would be wise to keep him, no matter what.  

That being said, he is a bonehead of the highest caliber and is really ruining his best years with his lackadaisical behavior and refusal to understand how he fits into another team's system.  For as much as he and Stan Van Gundy didn't like each other, Stan built a system solely around Dwight. One center down low and four perimeter shooters to take 3's on kick-outs from the post (Shaq 2.0?—Ed).  Dwight flourished under this system and became the league's best center, yet other than one NBA Finals appearance (2009), always came up short.  He got what he wanted in a trade to LA (Although, according to most “experts,” Howard has wanted to really play for the Brooklyn Nets all along—Ed) and despite his animosity towards SVG, he still wants to play like his days in Orlando.  

NEWS FLASH, Dwight!  That isn't going to happen in the Kobe/Mike D'Antoni tenure so get used to it!  

(Dan P actually believes that Pau Gasol is the better first, “big-man” option over Howard.  Read his analysis, here—Ed)

The Lakers are the Lakers so they will weasel themselves out of this mess, but with the oldest backcourt in the NBA (Nash/Kobe) and a ton of money to cut from payroll in fear of the looming luxury tax increase, it looks bleak for the Lakers to really add the pieces Dwight thinks he covets.  

The Return(?) of Derrick Rose

I know I write too much about the Chicago Bulls (You can never write too much about the Bulls—Ed), but this is the league's all-time, youngest MVP and genuine NBA superstar, so it deserves another look.  

The hot topic surrounding Derrick Rose is not if, but when will he come back to playing NBA games.  He made it clear to reporters last week that he will not come back until he feels completely healthy and is 110%.  To this day, I still don't know what that cliche actually means regarding athletic prowess but hey, it always looks good in print.  

Should Derrick Rose miss the whole season?  Unfortunately, there is no right answer, but I am inclined to have a theory.  I've written previously that the Bulls will do anything (short of transforming themselves into the Sacramento Kings—Ed) to avoid this year's luxury tax, which currently they would have to pay if they stood pat.  This, of course, is the horrible idea of trading Carlos Boozer for Andrea Bargnani, which doesn't even make sense financially, let alone in basketball terms.  

What if Derrick Rose returning this season would embolden management to scrap this idea of selling?  I could only think of Rose's ACL this whole time and what it would mean if he came back too soon: a fear I still have.  I know there will be rust in limited minutes, but if he came back looking like his old self, it would rev Chicago into overdrive (Think Ricky Rubio, Dirk Nowitzki and John Wall, but with a better team—Ed) and perhaps be enough to convince management to stay aggressive.  This team has looked much better than I thought was possible without Rose and the East is still a wasteland (sans the Miami Heat) of mediocre rosters (And even the Heat are full of mediocrity outside their “Big 3”—Ed).  

I would love to see the Bulls trim some fat off their salary cap, but I wish it would be anybody but Bargnani.  I would have liked to see them acquire J.J. Redick: A knockdown, three-point shooter.  In 31 minutes per game Redick is posting 45/39/89 shooting percentages for a really bad Orlando team.  At 28 years old and on the final year of his deal that pays him $6.1 million, he may be affordable.  Unfortunately, a Bulls’ division rival has beaten them to the punch:

Rats!  I'm looking foolish, once again! 

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