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Sitting in front of the TV Tuesday night, I asked myself a question: Am I the only one in the world more interested in seeing how Kenyon Martin fits into the Nuggets' running game than who will be the next leader of the free world? Or was I alone in my thinking that the most notable sweep in Boston sports this year was the tragic four-game elimination of the Celtics in last year's playoffs?
It's absurd to think of anyone preferring regular-season NBA basketball to the most important election in generations, but I'm proof that those people exist. We are the few, the proud, the diehards, the ones who prefer a good rejection to an electoral projection, who are more likely to cheer for a solid swing pass than the taking of a swing state. So, without further ado, I give you some early-season subplots from an NBA lifer who needs to get a life.
Latrell Sprewell vs. the world
Those who think the love fest in Detroit with Rasheed Wallace will continue throughout this season should look no further than what's going on in Minnesota. Sprewell, who was traded to the Timberwolves before last season, has informed management that unless it signs him to an extension greater than the three-year, $30 million deal it has put on the table, he wants out of the Twin Cities.
Are you kidding me?
First, by the time Spree's next deal kicks in he will be 34, not an optimum age for owners to dole out multiyear, multimillion dollar contracts. Second, Sprewell will make in excess of $14 million this season, the final year of a five-year, $61.8 million deal he signed with the Knicks. I feel comfortable saying that no general manager will offer him even close to that.
Sprewell is what he is, a slashing shooting guard who has lost a step and relies more than ever on an unreliable jump shot. For him to reject Minnesota's offer is one thing, but to call it insuting and demand a trade if T'wolves owner Glen Taylor won't up the ante is idiotic.
Minnesota should take the same approach Seattle is taking with Ray Allen: play it out and wave goodbye. Caving to the demands of a player sets a dangerous precedent and can often handcuff a team for years (something the Golden State Warriors will soon find out). Basketball is a business, and in the NBA it's smart to treat it that way.
Say the T'wolves let Sprewell walk. Now they enter next summer without his enormous salary hanging around their necks, a summer that will have a number of big-name free agents hitting the market, including Milwaukee's Michael Redd, one of the best young shooting guards in the league.
O Danny Boy
He ran Antoine Walker out of town. He ran Jim O'Brien out of town. He brought in his coach, he drafted his players, and he revamped a roster that only three seasons ago advanced to the Eastern Conference finals. If ever a team had the stamp of its GM it's the 2004 Boston Celtics with Danny Ainge.
With the reconstruction complete, the pressure to succeed falls squarely on Ainge (he had not held a front-office position before coming to Boston at the end of 2002) to show that the moves he has made over the past 18 months was worth the cost of losing their coach and their captain.
I'm not convinced.
Ainge didn't like Walker's game. He didn't like O'Brien's heavy reliance on veterans and his staunch refusal to play draft pick Marcus Banks (something O'Brien's successors, interim coach John Carroll and new coach Doc Rivers, also have refused to do). So what did Ainge do? He dumped Walker for a power forward with one knee (Raef LaFrentz) and a swingman (Jiri Welsch) who can't crack the starting lineup. He then traded battle-tested vets Eric Williams and Tony Battie for the enigmatic Ricky Davis and Chris Mihm, two players who had no chance of fitting into O'Brien's complicated defensive system.
So what's Ainge left with? He has a superstar (Paul Pierce) who appears to be stagnating in the prime of his career, a point guard (Gary Payton) who doesn't want to be there, and a coach (Rivers) who was fired from the worst team in the league last year. He has Davis, a certifiable coach killer who in the past could be heard along the sidelines cursing his coaches for pulling him from games.
Under Ainge, they've gone from a team with potential to an Eastern power to a club that will struggle to make the playoffs. If they don't, the next one run out of town could be him.
The Warriors have decided to take the New York Knicks' approach and compile as many middle-of-the-pack players as possible and grossly overpay them. This year's examples are Jason Richardson and Troy Murphy, two nice, serviceable players who have never made an All-Star team and in all likelihood never will. With Richardson and Murphy joining Adonal Foyle and Derek Fisher as newly minted Warriors, rookie GM Chris Mullin has successfully saddled his franchise with contracts that will haunt it into the next decade.
The global sphere of the NBA continues to expand. This year it's Yuta Tabuse, a backup point guard with the Phoenix Suns, who is the first Japanese-born player to make an NBA roster.
Nice gesture by the Pistons and owner Bill Davidson. During Detroit's ring ceremony last night, the Pistons awarded fan Dave Muehring, a Detroit firefighter, a 2004 NBA championship ring. Muehring was one of the 25,000 entries for the random giveaway of the $15,000 ring, which the Pistons said was to thank fans for their support.
FYI: Devin Harris is fast. Erick Dampier is strong. And Dirk Nowitzki apparently decided to develop an inside game to complement his devastating perimeter shooting. The Mavericks could be a lot better than we think.
Until next time, blog fans. And congratulations to the next President -- whoever he is.