NBA Mailbag (cont.)
What do you make of Kobe's recent comments to CBS' Ken Berger regarding the ongoing labor negotiations:
"I think the owners need to look in the mirror," Bryant told CBSSports.com when asked about the $750 million to $800 million reduction in player salaries being sought by the owners. "They need to make the right judgment themselves and stop trying to force us players to be the ones to make adjustments. They've got to look in the mirror and decide what they want to do with the sport, and we as employees will show up and do what we've got to do."
-- Brandon, Atlanta
Bryant is right. The owners created this mess, and now they need to decide where to take their league. Bryant is not going to like their decisions -- shorter contracts, smaller salaries and a potential reduction in contracts already signed, including the $83 million the Lakers have "guaranteed" over his final three years starting next season. Not many employees around the world will be able to relate to Bryant's demand that the players shouldn't be forced to make adjustments as a result of that mismanagement -- the global recession was influenced by gross mismanagement in the financial sector, but that didn't change the fact that millions of people lost salary or employment as a result. Because of the pain and angst suffered by everyday people over the last few years, I have a feeling the public backlash will be stronger than ever if a player like Bryant should complain about making $20 million instead of the $30 million salary the Lakers originally agreed to pay him in 2013-14.
How come Joe Dumars is getting a pass on all of his poor contracts and poor draft choices and poor trades? If the Pistons didn't have the Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva deals, they would have had plenty of cap space last year. I think it's a conspiracy of ex-Pistons slowing killing the league: Isiah [in New York], Joe D., Bill Laimbeer crying about no NBA coaching jobs for him, and Rick Mahorn wanting a head-coaching job also.
The Chauncey Billups trade put the Pistons on a bad course, and the signings of Gordon and Villanueva haven't paid off. But I don't know how the Pistons would have been able to spend cap space last summer. They weren't going to outbid the Bulls for Carlos Boozer or the Knicks for Amar'e Stoudemire, and they were never going to land the Miami threesome.
Every good GM has had a stretch where he hasn't looked very good at all -- Jerry West, Donnie Walsh, Geoff Petrie have all had their rough times. No one is immune to it. Overall, Dumars' record as GM is 492-345, including a championship, seven straight seasons of 50 or more wins, six straight conference finals and a 2009 Sporting News award for the decade's top NBA executive. Hasn't he earned some benefit of the doubt?
According to a recent report, several teams have inquired about Denver point guard Chauncey Billups. Where could he go? Which team could give Denver someone of value in return?
-- Mike, Boulder, Colo.
The Knicks and the Bobcats have the most urgent need for leadership at point guard, and a move to Charlotte would reunite Billups with Larry Brown. What makes Billups especially attractive is his contract, currently in its final fully guaranteed year at $13.2 million. I doubt the Nuggets will be willing to take on extended salary in a trade for Billups. The Bobcats don't have promising young talent to send to Denver, and the Knicks appear to be focusing their limited assets on a potential deal for Carmelo Anthony.
Mike D'Antoni essentially got a free pass his first years in New York while the Knicks cleaned up their books. At what point will he start feeling some pressure to deliver results?
-- Norman G., Framingham, Mass.
I promise you that D'Antoni is feeling the pressure to deliver. But he doesn't have enough talent. The Knicks haven't assembled a winning roster for nine full years, and now we're supposed to believe their problems are the fault of a coach who won 232 games in four years before coming to New York? That doesn't make sense.
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