Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Nothing is Free

First and foremost, I hope everyone had a fantastic 4th. As for me, I brought a nice relaxing extended weekend to a close with a little golf with the family and some quality time with the parents capped off by watching the Italians take out the Germans with two goals in the waning moments of Overtime (the first of which simply had to be seen to be believed). All in all, not a bad way to spend the day. As the evening wound down, however, I took some time to check in on the dizzying NBA free agent action that has picked up right where the insanity of last week’s draft left off. Here are some of the biggest head scratchers thus far:

1) Undoubtedly, the biggest free agent splash thus far is the Bulls’ signing of Ben Wallace. Not only is this huge because the Bulls have thrown down the gauntlet that they must win now by signing a soon to be 32 year old center with no discernable offensive skills to a 4 year $60 million contract, but the ripple effects have already been staggering and could potentially be astounding. To begin with, in an effort to fill the gap left by Wallace’s departure, the Pistons went out and signed Nazr Mohammed to a 5 year $30 million contract. That’s right, $6 million/year for a guy that averaged 6.2 points and 5.2 rebounds a game last year for the Spurs! We’ve spent the past three years praising Joe Dumars as a genius, and now, he goes off and does this? We gave him a pass on the Darko over Carmello and D. Wade debacle, but this might be unforgivable. On the bright side, I don’t think we will have to worry about watching the Pistons playing late into May or June next year. That big sigh of relief you just heard came from the ABC Sports execs!

The repercussions, however, don’t stop there. The insiders (or at least the purported insiders) are claiming that the Bulls are now shopping Tyson Chandler. Most notably, they appear to be trying to pry K.G. away from Minnesota in exchange for Chandler, Deng, and this year’s first round pick, Tyson Chandler. Never mind the fact that I’m still not sure this trade would work under the salary cap, ask yourself this question: If you are Minnesota, would you trade one of the best players of his generation for a guy that averaged 5.3 pts. and 9.0 rebs. a game last year (Chandler), a raw young three man that averaged 14.3 pts., 6.0 rebs., and shot 27% from three point range last year (Deng), and a guy that has never played an NBA game and the term “raw” doesn’t even begin to describe his game (Thomas)? It looks like a classic “3 quarters for a dollar” trade that all your buddies constantly propose in your fantasy leagues. No way I would do it, but Kevin McHale is almost a mortal lock to take the bait. If he does, take a look at the Bulls starting rotation next season:

PG - Kirk Hinrich
SG - Ben Gordon
SF - ?
PF - Garnett
C - Wallace

So, beside the fact that they have a hole that needs to be filled at SF, the other four guys are either proven All Stars or have serious All Star potential. In short, it might be time to crank back up the laser show introductions at the United Center, because something very exciting may be on the horizon in The Second City.

2) Sam Cassell turned down two years and $15 million from the Hawks to take $2 million less over the same time period to stay with the Clippers. I know the Clippers are better than they have been, but when free agents start taking less money to stay with the Clips rather than sign with you, you have BIG problems. (On another infuriating note, here is a list of some guys that’s Chris Sheridan ranked ahead of Cassell in the free agent market: Joel Przybilla, Nazr Mohammed, Jared Jeffries, Mike James, Vladimir Radmanovic, Marcus Banks, and Tim Thomas. WHAT??? Was Chris sleeping for the entire regular season and playoffs? He had Sam I Am ranked 15th overall. I guess Sam has to average 35/game and single handedly lead the worst franchise in the history of professional sports to the Title to get any respect. This infuriates me!)

3) Speaking of the Hawks’ troubles, Al Harrington would apparently rather play for Golden State than the Hawks. Harrington told Atlanta’s horrendous newspaper this past weekend that “My only focus is getting back to the playoffs and eventually competing for a championship.” So, that is a more viable possibility in Golden State than Atlanta? Shoot me now! Seriously, I’m not kidding around. Pull the freaking trigger!

4) Here’s another one from the “kill me now” category: Joel Przybilla is a huge white stiff that averaged 6.1 pts and 7 boards a game last year for the Blazers, and he is on the verge of TURNING DOWN an offer from the Blazers for 5 years and $31 million! Seriously, what has this world come to?

These are just a few things that jumped out at me as I was reviewing the lay of the free agent landscape. They, however, are certainly not fully representative of the insanity spreading throughout the Association right now. For example, keep a close eye on the Mike James and Bonzi Wells situations. They are sure to prove amusing. Not to mention, by all accounts, the Celtics are still hell bent on making a move for A.I. Don’t say I didn’t warn you Danny Ainge! Seriously, just stay out of your own way. We will all be better off for it.

Finally, before signing off today, I would be remised if I didn’t say a few words about Coach Cremins’ decision to accept the head coaching job at The College of Charleston. I’ve had many phone calls and emails from several of you over the past few days seeking my thoughts, so here they are:

I am excited for Coach Cremins, and I am enormously proud of him. I think he undoubtedly faces a challenge in trying to take a solid program to a higher level, and that challenge certainly isn’t made easier by the fact that he has been out of coaching for six years. I, however, am of the strong opinion that the game of basketball is something that runs through the veins of men like Coach Cremins. Even in his absence from coaching, he has surrounded himself with the game as a t.v. analyst, G.T. fan, and general ambassador for the game. This is his life’s love and work, and six years away from the sideline will not impede his success. Sure, he probably won’t be able to bring the likes of Mark, Kenny, Dennis, and Steph to Charleston…at least at first. But don’t you worry, he will bring talent to Charleston, and every one of those kids he brings in will be a better basketball player and person when he leaves. If he gets the proper support and cooperation from the administration (something he so desperately lacked from 1997 – 2000 at Tech), he will win. How big will he win? Well, that I can’t answer, but you can bet that I will be taking many road trips to Charleston over the next few years to find out.