Big-ticket players need to keep bags packed in fierce arms race
Jazz looking to move Carlos Boozer and big salary and use money to add depth
Lure of chasing NBA title will prevent superstars from leaving to play in Europe
Tracy McGrady undergoing basketball workouts and may be back by midseason
The Twitter questions came fast and furious this week. Here are the top five, with a reminder that you can read about everything that I'm hearing and send questions my way on Twitter by clicking here. Now let's get to it.
Which Carlos Boozer move was worse: what he did to Cleveland or what he is doing to the Jazz?
I have always gone a little easy on Boozer for what happened with Cleveland in 2004, mostly because the Cavaliers were foolish for declining Boozer's third-year option that season. If they had picked it up, Boozer would have been under contract for just $695,000 the next season. In the end, they rolled the dice that Boozer would take their six-year, $41 million free-agent offer without testing the market. What kind of business decision is that? I can understand Cleveland fans feeling burned, but I can't fault Boozer for seeing an extra $27 million on the table and snapping it up, no matter how shady the circumstances.
The situation in Utah is entirely different. Boozer isn't against staying; it's the Jazz -- after committing to Paul Millsap this offseason -- who are looking to move him. Boozer's $12.7 million salary this season just doesn't appeal to them, not if they can pick up depth at other positions for the same money. But I'm not sure there is a big market for Boozer right now. Miami would take him (he lives there in the offseason) and probably give him the kind of money he wants in a new deal. But the rumblings of a Boozer-to-Miami deal have quieted down since Lamar Odom re-signed with the Lakers. The Heat are still the favorites to land Boozer, but any deal will probably take some time to put together.
Do you think the trickle of players leaving NBA for Europe is blown out of proportion?
The Americans-to-Europe storyline was the topic du jour last offseason, right around the time the economy started to tank and rich European owners started throwing Monopoly money at NBA players. My position hasn't really changed. The NBA is still at risk of losing the Josh Childresses, Linas Kleizas and Nate Robinsons. European clubs are willing to give that caliber of player a $5 million-per-year deal while NBA teams might balk at $3 million. But there is no chance -- repeat, no chance -- of the NBA's losing marquee stars to Europe. The Euro leagues helped themselves when Childress came back raving about playing for Olympiakos (which, after checking with sources close to Childress, I learned is true), but we have not reached the point where Kobe Bryant, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade are going to start threatening to go to Europe. Winning the NBA championship still carries a lot of weight, and that's one perk no foreign team can offer.
I completely agree. The Celtics addressed nearly every need they had this offseason. They got a versatile big man (Rasheed Wallace) who can fill in at both power forward and center, they are about to add a nice wing player (Daniels) who should be able to give Paul Pierce and Ray Allen a few extra minutes of rest per game, and they solidified their bench with Shelden Williams and the returning Davis.
An extra point guard is a luxury, but one a championship-contending team such as the Celtics should try to get. Tyronn Lue is at the top of my list. Lue had a tough year playing with Milwaukee and Orlando last season. But the 32-year-old Lue is well liked by his teammates and comfortable in a backup role. Bobby Jackson and Blake Ahearn are two other guys I would look into before training camp.
And no, Stephon Marbury is not an option.
Where do you see the Spurs going after 2010-2011?
There are personnel decisions that need to be made before then, starting with Manu Ginobili, whose contract expires after this season. Certainly the Spurs will look to extend Tony Parker's contract (he has two years left on his deal), a signing that would eat up a large amount of their available cap space for the summer of 2011. Here's my best guess: Richard Jefferson will make $15 million in '10-11, the final year of his contract, and I can see San Antonio shopping him after this season in hopes of bringing back an All-Star-caliber player who is under a long-term contract. Owner Peter Holt has already shown he is willing to spend to win, and Gregg Popovich knows that he might have trouble luring a big-name free agent to a small market like San Antonio.
Who will play in more games this season: Shaquille O'Neal or Tracy McGrady?
I spoke at length with Rockets GM Daryl Morey for this week's Sports Illustrated column, and we talked a lot about McGrady. The latest is that McGrady has just started basketball drills with trainer Tim Grover, and while the Rockets expect him to be in training camp, there is still no timetable for his return. My understanding is that Houston will be happy if McGrady is back by midseason, though it will certainly be looking to deal him (and his $22.5 million expiring contract) well before that.
So my answer is Shaq. I don't think O'Neal will play 75 games again, like he did last season. But I do think he will be in the mid-60s and in good condition when the playoffs start. The Cavs can win 60 games without him; they proved that last season. They want him fresh for the postseason so he can be a presence in the paint defensively and a viable low-post option for LeBron James to look to on offense.
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