Weekly Countdown (cont.)
3 views from the D-League
3. Past. Othella Harrington, a 35-year-old big man with a dozen years of NBA experience, signed with the D-League to prove he has recovered from knee surgery last season. "I was surprised by this," said Harrington's agent David Bauman, "but we had to get four or five NBA teams calling up Chris Alpert [VP of basketball operations for the D-League] and saying they needed to see Othella in action."
It turns out to be not so easy for an older player to find work in the D-League, even at the $13,000 salary Harrington will be making.
"We occasionally have some veteran players who will play in our league," Alpert said.
While Randy Livingston and others are occasionally invited to play, the league prefers to keep as many roster spots as possible for players who are still developing.
"Jeremy Richardson [who has spent time with the Magic this season] is a young player who maybe wouldn't have had the opportunity to play in our league if we allowed [older] players who were past the developmental stage," Alpert said. "We needed to hear from NBA teams that there is interest in seeing Othella play."
Harrington is one of those experienced players who will set a strong example for his young teammates
2. Present. Not that I'm in the business of watching the D-League, but I wished I'd seen the final minute of the Los Angeles D-Fenders' game last Saturday in which they blew a five-point lead with 10 seconds remaining at Tulsa. Gary Forbes of the Tulsa 66ers was fouled on a three-pointer with 9.2 seconds remaining; his four-point play brought the home team within 96-95. L.A.'s Brandon Heath hit a free throw, but Moses Ehambe drained a three at the buzzer for the 97-96 win.
1. Future. Next month the D-League will enact its plan allowing the top four playoff teams with home-court advantage to pick their first-round opponent from the bottom four seeds. "When I first heard about it, I was a little skeptical," Alpert said. "But the more I think about it, it makes sense. If your team works the hardest to become the No. 1 seed, you've earned the right to choose your opponent. A lot of bulletin-board material will be created. There will be some rivalry stuff starting before they play the games."
Will we someday see the NBA try a similar rule to create more interest in the opening round?
"I don't know how the NBA will respond," Alpert said. "It has been very well received by our teams and coaches."
Other D-League trials have yet to be picked up by the NBA, such as the international goaltending rule or a limitation on the three-point shot until the final two minutes of each quarter and all of overtime.
"We are the research and development element of the NBA," Alpert said.
2 teams in need of help
I asked an outside-the-box executive from a rival team for his strategic thoughts on a couple of underachieving teams.
2. Los Angeles Clippers. "Well, they're stuck with Baron Davis," the executive said. "I don't think they like him and I don't think he likes them. They have a few guys they can't trade, between him and Zach Randolph and Chris Kaman, who I don't think has much value."
Kaman missed 48 games this year, and he is owed $34 million over the next three seasons.
"I think they still believe they can have a good team if they're healthy, but I don't agree," the executive said. "They have a lot of talent -- a lot of scoring, including [rookie] Eric Gordon, who is going to be a really good scorer -- but then you watch them play and you realize it doesn't fit together. They overhauled it last year when they brought in Marcus Camby and Baron Davis, and they can't keep changing.
"They probably have a better chance of winning with Camby, and there is going to be a lot of talk by teams hoping to get him [in a trade] this summer. I think the Clippers will go around the league and see what kind of interest there is for Camby or Kaman, and then move one or the other for an asset to go along with the high pick they'll get in the draft. Then they'll go into next year hoping their guys will be healthy. I don't see a lot else they can try to do without tearing the whole thing down."
1. Toronto Raptors. "Chris Bosh has to be traded," the executive said. "They are another team that can't make a lot of moves to improve the team around Bosh, and if they go into next year winning 40 or so games and maybe getting the No. 8 seed in the playoffs, is that going to convince Bosh to re-sign with them as a free agent in 2010? Of course not. He's going to say, 'Get me out of here.'
"They could wait until next February, but there will be fewer participants in trades at the deadline. Going into the draft they need to look around and see what they can get for Bosh, but I'm not saying it's going to be easy. No team is going to give up two or three assets for Bosh unless they're convinced they can re-sign him."
If Toronto is in fact willing to investigate trades for Bosh this summer, will we see the Knicks pursue a bird-in-the-hand deal in June rather than wait for him to become free in 2010? They could persuade Bosh to sign an extension and use him to recruit LeBron James or another star the following summer, provided they could develop the necessary cap space.
"The other question is what they should do with Shawn Marion," the executive said. "If they renounce him and let him walk, they could get some decent cap space and try to improve the team around Bosh that way. Maybe they could make a trade with one of the teams that will be looking to unload talent in a fire sale. Even then, Toronto is basically just trying to replace Marion.
"Either way, they at least need to see what kind of a market there is for Bosh. If they can get a draft pick and two players for him, and then add another good player with their lottery pick, then they're moving forward."
1 midseason rule change
1. Six men will no longer be permitted to score. After Portland scored a basket that was allowed to stand despite having six men on the floor in a controversial Dec. 30 game against the Celtics, the league realized there was no rule that permitted the referees to take the points off the board. Better to change it now than wait until the summer. The opposing team will now be able to choose whether to accept or nullify the play that took place under illegal circumstances.
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