Teams up for sale usually slash payroll to make their books look attractive to
potential buyers. Not so the Sonics, who after a 35-win season will likely add
to their $51 million payroll. Seattle has a young, two-deep roster that
includes athletic centers Robert Swift and Johan Petro, who are ideal for
running the floor. Further emboldening the Sonics: the midseason acquisitions
of point guard Earl Watson and power forward Chris Wilcox (above), who helped
spark a season-ending 14--11 run. Seattle hopes to keep Wilcox, a restricted
free agent, and expects to sign 23-year-old swingman Mickael Gelabale of
France, a second-round pick in 2005 who spent the last two seasons with Real
Madrid. One NBA team recently offered a nonlottery first-round pick for the
rights to Gelabale. "We can't keep looking toward the future and
rebuilding," team president Wally Walker says.
Larry Brown actually did Isiah Thomas (left) a favor by trashing the team's
talent and winning a pitiful 23 games last season before being fired as coach
last Thursday. Brown so lowered the bar that his successor, Thomas, will
probably be deemed a success if the Knicks win 35 to 40 games and make a run at
the No. 8 playoff spot next season--an improvement that's hardly out of the
question. The Knicks have high-effort players like David Lee and Malik Rose, as
well as athletes who'll thrive in Thomas's up-tempo attack. And love him or
loathe him, Stephon Marbury, if he isn't traded, will have a bounce-back year
under Thomas, who will be far more encouraging than Brown was.
The other big
plus that comes with Brown's departure is that there will no longer be friction
between the front office and the coaching staff. Such tension has undermined
the franchise since the late '90s, when then coach Jeff Van Gundy helped force
out G.M. Ernie Grunfeld. Now that Thomas has total control, there will be no
intraoffice squabbling over personnel moves. There will also be no excuse for
anything less than a dozen more wins.
3 Handicapping the three big names on the market: Allen Iverson? Likely to go
later this summer. Jermaine O'Neal? 50-50. Kevin Garnett? Staying put unless he
demands a trade.
2 Needing size up
front as well as salary-cap room to re-sign center Nenad Krstic in 2007, the
Nets could be forced to deal Richard Jefferson and his $11.2 million
1 The Hawks'
front office knows it has a year to prove itself before the team's murky
ownership situation is resolved. That's why management is interested in
acquiring Iverson and not any more long-term projects.