Miles in Boston raises eyebrows, and your pressing questions
It has been a mostly quiet offseason for the Celtics. Other than the loss of reserve forward James Posey to free agency (Hornets), the defending champs have pretty much stood pat. But Boston did make one move recently that has the rest of the NBA taking notice.
The signing of Darius Miles, who was waived last year by the Blazers, is interesting on two fronts. First, the 6-9 forward could help the Celtics if he can come back from the knee injury that derailed his once-promising career. Say what you want about Miles' lack of on-ball defense and episodes of immaturity, but the former No. 3 overall pick was at one time a blossoming talent who averaged double figures for three straight seasons and once scored 47 points in a game. Meanwhile, the loss of Posey had Boston looking for help at the small forward position off the bench.
Granted, it's still a longshot that Miles will become a significant factor. But from the Celtics' standpoint, it's a low-risk, high-reward proposition. They are only paying Miles the minimum salary. If it doesn't work out, Boston can always cut him free.
But even if Miles doesn't make it fully back, he could have a huge impact all the way across the country in Portland. When the Blazers bought him out a year ago, his remaining contract came off their salary cap. But if Miles plays in 10 games in any of the next two seasons, NBA rules require that his salary go back on the Blazers' cap.
Portland, already considered a rising power in the West with Greg Oden set to join Brandon Roy this season, is expected to have some significant cap room next summer. They could have even more in the summer of 2010 when some marquee free agents such as LeBron James, Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh are expected to become available. Obviously, Portland would lose a big chunk of that space if Miles' salary has to go back on its cap.
As one Eastern Conference executive said recently: "There are a lot of teams out there hoping [Miles] plays those 10 games."
Speaking of championship teams, the gold medal-winning U.S. Olympic squad was a hot topic in this week's mailbag. Let's get to some questions...
What did you think of Team USA's performance in Beijing? Do you think the Redeem Team could have beaten the Dream Team?
The U.S. team was obviously very impressive. Jerry Colangelo, coach Mike Krzyzewski and the rest of the powers-that-be at USA Basketball are to be commended. The key (besides having Kobe Bryant this time around) was the three-year commitment. Not only did it help foster chemistry on the court, it ensured that the U.S. stars would dig down and refuse to lose. NBA stars hate to give up part of their precious summers. After three years (or at least two in cases of injury), they were just too invested in the process. It showed on the defensive end. As for the Redeem Team's chances against the Dream Team, let's not get carried away.
Who was the best player for Team USA, in your opinion? Who was the biggest surprise?
Call it a tie between Dwyane Wade, LeBron and Kobe. All three were sensational, especially on defense. As for surprises, the biggest wasn't a player. It was how difficult it was to find the games (or even a taped-delay replay) on TV.
Now that Coach K. has helped restore the U.S. to its rightful place atop the world basketball throne, who will be his replacement? Don't you think it should be an NBA coach this time around?
It's too early to say right now. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich and Jazz coach Jerry Sloan are two prominent names you will hear in the coming days. Knicks coach Mike D'Antoni, an assistant on Coach K.'s staff this year and an experienced hand in international play, also could be in the mix. Either way, I think it will be an NBA coach. I don't see another Coach K. out there on the college landscape right now who could step in and handle a team full of NBA egos.
This list of remaining free agents might be thin, but aren't a few of those guys worth the full [$5.8 million] mid-level exception? Why are so many teams not using it? It doesn't seem like that much money. Isn't it a good way for teams over the cap to add a decent player?
Teams are growing reluctant to use all or even a good chunk of their full mid-level because it eats up salary cap space in future years, and in some cases, puts a team over the luxury tax. Also, some GMs are a little skittish because some high-profile mid-level deals in recent years (Brian Cardinal, Jared Jeffries, Jerome James) have failed spectacularly. The bottom line is that in most cases there is little or no market for those type of full mid-level deals, so teams aren't going to bid against themselves. They can afford to wait it out and try to get those players at cheaper rates.
There has been a lot of talk recently about the possibility of stars like Kobe and LeBron leaving for massive pay in Europe. I have to imagine that this would be an absolute disaster for the NBA. Is there any chance that David Stern changes salary regulations to ensure that NBA teams can offer franchise players larger contracts, and so keep them in the States?
Yes. I think we'll definitely see changes in the next collective bargaining agreement to address some of these issues. Who knows whether it will be enough to keep the likes of a Kobe or LeBron from taking a $50 million offer from some Greek shipping tycoon who is willing to lose money to make his team world famous. But the NBA will probably take steps to try to prevent them from leaving. Stern & Co. also might have to look at the age limit again, since we're staring at a possible future run on U.S. high school players (see: Brandon Jennings) who would rather go to Europe and collect instant riches than wait a year -- and risk injury -- in college.
Regarding your article on Ben Gordon, what could the Bulls get in a trade for him if hwere to sign the one year tender?
If Gordon signs the one-year qualifying offer (for $6.4 million), the Bulls would not be able to trade him without his permission. And if he were to agree, he would forfeit his "Bird" rights. No way Gordon would do that. The only way for the Bulls to deal him would be through a sign-and-trade, in which they ink him to a longer contract and then make a move. But then Gordon becomes a base-year compensation player, which leads to other complications. Ultimately, I think Gordon will "compromise" and sign a four- or five-year deal with the Bulls for around $8 million per season. It might not be what he wanted (or rejected?) a year ago, but it will be enough to give him security.
I realize that everyone is scrambling to clear cap space for the talented free agent class of 2010, but the Kings should be among the teams with the most space available. Although we're looking two years into the future, any thoughts on who they may pursue to go with what by then should be a maturing, talented young squad? My preference would be Chris Bosh.
Right now, Bosh would certainly appear to be a great fit, considering the depleted state of the Kings frontcourt. But would he really leave Toronto for Sacramento? The thing to keep in mind with all these top free agents of 2010 (including LeBron) is that their present clubs will still be able to offer them the most money. Usually that's what wins out in the end.
Who do you see as a trading partner with the Knicks for Zach Randolph and his contract?
The Grizzlies reportedly have shown some interest, with Darko Milicic as the main bait going to New York. The Heat also have been mentioned as a possibility. But I don't see either happening. Randolph is an All-Star talent, at least at one end of the court, and there are so many teams that could use a low post scorer. But he doesn't play D and he's got that whopper contract (three more years, $47.9 million). Plus, a lot of teams are scared off by Randolph's reputation as a difficult personality. Even the Bulls, who desperately needed a low post scorer two years ago -- and had a coach from Randolph's home state (Indiana) and alma mater (Michigan State) in Scott Skiles to keep him in line -- didn't seem interested. If Randolph plays well this season, it could improve his standing. For now, at least, it seems as if the Knicks are going to have to make do with his services.
There has been talk of Chauncey Billups and Tayshaun Prince trades. Do you think that these rumors are true and if so, who could they possibly bring in that would impact the team as much as they have?
Joe Dumars made it clear after last season that he would entertain offers for any of his star players. I think it's safe to say that he probably even initiated a few calls involving Billups or Prince. But I never got the impression from talking to GMs around the league that Dumars was actively shopping those guys. I still think Rasheed Wallace is likely to be traded sometime this season, maybe to Charlotte where he can hook up with Larry Brown and all those former fellow Tar Heels. But I also could see a scenario where Dumars decides to keep the core together for one more run.
Whatever happened to Jamaal Magloire? He was an All-Star just a few years ago. Now he's struggling badly and can't even get signed. He's only 30. That's a FAST decline.
Magloire is an enigma indeed. He not only made that All-Star Game a few years ago, he played well in it, though apparently his selection that season was so fluky that even the NBA has forgotten about it. Magloire's All-Star stats are mysteriously absent from his bio in the 2008-09 NBA Register. At any rate, for one reason or another, the former Kentucky Wildcat just has not been able to put it together. Last year he was a total bust in New Jersey. Magloire recently has drawn the interest of Pat Riley (another former Kentucky guy) in Miami. The Heat desperately needs a center, and they can offer him the chance to play with Wade and for a team that could make some noise come playoff time. Then Magloire could go out and try to get himself a better deal on the free agent market next summer. It makes sense, but one has to wonder if Magloire has anything left in the tank. After all, he had a golden chance to show his game last year in Jersey and couldn't get it done. Why would it be any different in Miami?