Weekly Countdown (cont.)
On to the rest of the Countdown ...
4 questions rescued from the spam
Why did Steve Kerr say that he pulled the trigger on the Shaq trade because "the other team (without Shaq) wasn't going to win''? When he made that trade, weren't the Suns in first place? The Suns didn't seem to have trouble winning. They went to a conference championship with their run-and-gun.
By "winning" he was referring to their chances of claiming a championship. With the backing of his coaches, Kerr gambled on the trade for Shaq in hopes it would bring a title to Phoenix. My view is that the real problems were created when Mike D'Antoni left and Terry Porter was brought in to slow the tempo and emphasize defensive schemes that didn't necessarily work with the Suns' roster. That move cost Phoenix a spot in the playoffs last season.
Behind the scenes, who do you think is the most popular NBA player among his peers? My guess is Shaq, but I am not sure.
My guess, too, is that it's Shaq. No one in the league cracks more jokes, and no star is more outgoing. During timeouts you can see players from other teams leaning toward him to hear what he's going to say next. There are some in the league who believe he has outlived his usefulness on the court, but nobody should doubt the NBA will have a hard time replacing his personality when he retires.
Given the mess that New Orleans is currently trying to sort out, is there any possibility of the Hornets' trading Chris Paul? Should they?
I can't think of a trade involving Paul that would bring equal value in return. Unless they could get LeBron James, Dwyane Wade or Dwight Howard -- good luck -- they aren't going to retrieve a young franchise star who can squeeze the talent out of his team as Paul has done in New Orleans. If the Hornets were to move him, they would be telling the fans that they were giving up and starting over, which would be followed by a large reduction in ticket sales and a renewal of speculation that the franchise will move to another market. I think Paul will be traded only when the Hornets face no other option.
Has the Hawks' ownership situation settled enough to think they might make a play for a big-time free agent in the off season (assuming they don't resign Joe Johnson?) I think the city and the young nucleus would be a draw for a lot of players.
If you're asking whether the Hawks will become luxury-tax payers, the answer is an unqualified no. Can they contend for a championship without hoarding an expensive payroll of talent? Probably not. All of the title contenders are big tax payers -- even the normally fiscally-conservative Spurs have crossed that line.
The Hawks have assembled a very good second-tier team, but unless the top rivals in the East suffer a breakdown, it looks now as if Atlanta lacks the deep pockets or revenue streams to compete with the richest contenders.
If Johnson leaves, I believe the Hawks will replace him with an expensive star -- but at the same time they'll keep their payroll under the tax threshold.
3 reasons why the Nets aren't the NBA's worst team
They're 0-12 headed into Saturday's showdown at the 2-9 Knicks, but ...
They have a promising young roster. The Nets are in this mess because injuries to All-Star point guard Devin Harris, starting shooting guard Courtney Lee, power forward Yi Jianlian and swingman Jarvis Hayes have left them with eight players. They wouldn't be a playoff team if healthy, but the young trio of Harris, Lee and center Brook Lopez (17.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.6 blocks in 12 games) would provide hope for the future.
They haven't surrendered. Chris Douglas-Roberts has emerged as a member of their rotation moving forward while leading the team with 17.4 points. More important is the role played by coach Lawrence Frank, who can afford to coach his players all-out. It's not like he can be concerned about the long haul as he's a lame duck in the last year of his contract.
"If Lawrence gets fired for being 0-12, it will be a disgrace to our league because of how hard they play," a rival scout said. "Most teams would have packed it in by now, but he's getting everything out of them that he can -- they play hard, they execute. He's having to post up Trenton Hassell because that's his best option. This sounds crazy, but if you base it on someone getting the most out of his guys, I think he should be a Coach of the Year candidate."
Reinforcements are on the way. The Nets have major cap space this summer, the promise of a billionaire owner from Russia and the hope of a new home in Brooklyn. Better days are ahead for sure.
2 things you hear over a cup of coffee
I have a hunch (based on nothing more than intuition) that the Bulls will use their cap space to land Joe Johnson this summer.
"That's a good one," an Eastern scout replied. "Think about him and Derrick Rose in the backcourt, with Kirk Hinrich and John Salmons coming off the bench. Hinrich is playing great, and Luol Deng looks like he's getting back to what he was a couple of years ago. I love [Joakim] Noah, but they'd still need a big guy to play with him up front as a scorer. But you think about adding Joe Johnson to what they have now, and they would be that one guy up front away from going up against LeBron in a couple of years."
An Eastern assistant coach and a league scout (who will be go unnamed here) believe Orlando's chances of returning to the NBA Finals are far from long. I was speaking with them about the contenders overall when the assistant predicted that the Magic will be strong once Jameer Nelson recovers from a knee injury next month.
"Vince [Carter] gives them that scorer, that go-to guy they didn't have before," the coach said. "Think about it: Ryan Anderson, Rashard [Lewis], Brandon Bass is a high-level player -- that guy is good. Just look at the amount of players they have."
"They are the deepest team in the league," the scout said.
"Every guy they have can play," the coach said. "J.J. Redick. [Marcin] Gortat would start for 10 or 12 teams, maybe 15. Orlando can beat you in two ways -- actually, it's more than two. They'll guard you, and they've just got too many guys who can score."
"And," the scout added, offering the unspoken third option, "when they get in trouble, they can just throw the ball in the air to [Dwight] Howard."
Said the assistant: "I think it could be Boston and Orlando going at it in the end."
1 shared wish of recovery
To Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Paul Allen. Each is an enigmatic household name in the NBA, and each has been diagnosed with cancer -- Abdul-Jabbar with a rare form of leukemia, and the Trail Blazers' owner with non-Hodgkins lymphoma. May each draw strength from family and friends over the holidays ahead.
NBA Truth & Rumors