Best of the worst, a Clippers head-scratcher and more
Posted: Tuesday February 13, 2007 2:06PM; Updated: Wednesday February 14, 2007 12:43AM
Both teams are spiraling out of control, taking wonderful monthlong respites between wins, running with abandon, losing with aplomb, stinking up the joints.
And yet, if forced to choose between the Western Conference-tanking Memphis Grizzlies or the Eastern Conference-lousing Boston Celtics, it's hard to see anyone taking a pass on the boys in green. Neither team wins very often, but only one of them truly stinks.
OK, the C's stink a little. The team's youthful core is wildly inconsistent, even by 25-and-younger standards, and the squad's two best veterans can't seem to stay out of street clothes. And yet, there is hope. Seven strong prospects dot this roster, and that's not even counting the beleaguered Sebastian Telfair, who I've just about given up on (even though he's only 21) due to three underwhelming NBA seasons.
The Grizzlies? They boast some intriguing prospects as well, just fewer of them. Guard Kyle Lowry was as impressive as any rookie before breaking his wrist after 10 games. Rudy Gay can score -- if little else -- and Hakim Warrick can do a little bit of everything on the inside. But just a little bit. Dahntay Jones can lock up anyone, but he can't score in an empty gym, and Stromile Swift hasn't been in an empty gym in his life. Once the mandatory practice ends, he's outta there.
This isn't taking into account Pau Gasol's play, but with agent Arm Tellem working on his behalf and the rumors about Memphis cost-cutting swirling around, how long is he for Tennessee? There have been whispers about owner Michael Heisley's financial frustrations since he brought these Grizzlies Stateside in 2001, so it hardly surprises us that an owner who has long made a point to employ big names (with high price tags) in the front office -- Chuck Daly, Dick Versace and Jerry West come to mind -- would have a bit of trouble breaking even with a team that struggles to draw fans.
It makes little sense to try to compare Boston's sense of NBA permanence with this flighty Grizzlies franchise (the Celtics have been at it since the Truman administration, after all), but you've hardly heard any rumors about Celtics owner Wyc Grousbeck trying to cut costs. And though we've many misgivings about just how far Doc Rivers can take a team (yeah, Doc, the kids are kids -- but 18 straight losses?), he's kept a brave face through an embarrassing season, buying time for a franchise that can't help but see better days.
Memphis, on the other hand, can look forward only to the expiration of Damon Stoudamire's contract in 2009, a bit of free-agent room once Eddie Jones' contract clears out space this summer ... but who's to say Heisley will be looking to add more salary? Even bringing back Gasol, adding a Greg Oden or Kevin Durant and securing a mid-priced free agent, what does that get you in the West? Boston may still be paying Wally Szczerbiak big bucks through 2008-09, but at least the addition of a lottery stud will result in young talent joining forces with more young talent. Young talent that Danny Ainge, for all his many managing faults, acquired in the middle of the first and second rounds.
So yuk it up all you want with these C's, because they've deserved it. Few recent teams have looked this clueless, though you can hardly say they've looked listless. There is promise here, and players who should only improve once the weight of expectations is placed on their shoulders. It may not be the most enviable of choices, but if I'm Durant or Oden, I know what team I'd rather join.
By and large, coach Eddie Jordan has done a fantastic job this season with his young Wizards, and we're squarely on his side when it came to the snippy back-and-forth he shared with a frustrated Gilbert Arenas on Sunday. But it's hard to get behind the way he's been pointing at an injured Antawn Jamison as the reason for Washington's 1-4 swoon.
"We don't have the leadership," he told reporters after Portland's 94-73 thrashing of the Wizards, "and we don't have guys who can make plays like Antawn makes."
What exactly is this team missing with Jamison in street clothes? Nineteen points, eight boards and an ability to score without upsetting the flow of an offense or taking away isolation looks from shot-happy guards. Jamison makes that offense hum, but especially in the case of Sunday's 21-point loss, his absence was hardly the biggest issue.
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