Flagrant Fouls

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Trading Tracy at the Deadline

Posted by Richard on February 11, 2010

The NBA trade deadline is less than a week from now, and Tracy McGrady is still a member of the Houston Rockets. GM Daryl Morey is working on that, and has been in talks with teams around the league, hoping to improve the team. Because of the nature of trades, teams obviously want to get the most value that they can in a deal, whether that value is young talent, established veterans, or expiring contracts. As such, teams often won’t show their cards until the deadline. Daryl Morey likely believes that the best deal he can get for McGrady hasn’t been proposed yet, and he’s willing to wait.

With NBA All-Star Weekend kicking off tomorrow, GMs around the league will travel to Dallas and talk business. The best trade rumors often begin to surface over the weekend, and the fact that two promising trade possibilities are being reported as the weekend nears is a good sign. Adrian Wojnarowski’s reported (but incomplete) three-team deal that would bring in Caron Butler and Brendan Haywood seems like the best option for the Rockets as far as value and future financial flexibility, but it would add to the Rockets’ rotation problems. The other trade being floated is a deal with the 76ers that would involve Andre Iguodala and Samuel Dalembert. Neither of these potential options are new revelations, and need some tweaking to make things jive, but let’s pretend that the Rockets would be able to choose.

On New Year’s Eve, some friends and I went to Toyota Center to see the Rockets pull out a good win against the Dallas Mavericks in Houston. As we watched, we discussed players that we’d (realistically) like to see play the two for Houston. I named Joe Johnson as a realistic best-case scenario for free agency this summer, but that’s still a longshot. Kevin Martin came up as well, but Sacramento continues to say that they won’t deal him, most recently telling the Rockets it’s not going down. To that, I still think the Rockets should ante up and include a rotation player like Trevor Ariza or Luis Scola, but let’s assume that’s not happening. Taking Andre Iguodala seemed possible, assuming that Dalembert comes with him. Caron Butler was mentioned, although he’s really more of a SF, because the Wizards may have been looking to start over. Now that Gilbert Arenas in a felon, the Wizards seem more motivated to shed some money and start fresh. So, what’s the better deal?

Both the Philly trade and the Washington trade would bring an athletic wing player and a solid center that could start for at least the rest of this season. With Iguodala, he’s younger and more athletic, and has excelled at distributing the ball when called upon (about 5.3 assists/game over the past four seasons), which is a valuable skill in Rick Adelman’s pass-heavy offense. The bad? Andre makes $12M this year, and will make $56M over the next four years (not to mention another year of Dalembert’s $12M deal expiring after next season). One could also argue that his upside isn’t really as great as people think, with his numbers remaining constant over the past four years with no large jump in production. Iguodala also isn’t a good outside shooter, which could be a problem with the Rockets, especially when Yao returns. Caron Butler has very similar numbers to Iggy and a similar skill set: he can pass, comes up with steals, can rebound, and also isn’t very good from three; Caron’s free-throw shooting is the only statistical advantage. Money is what makes the Caron Butler deal more attractive. Butler will make $10M next year, the last year of his deal, and Haywood’s deal expires after this season.

As an added bonus — well, for me anyway — is that the presence of Caron Butler could lead to another trade for Houston. Shane Battier is the current starter at the three for Houston, and Trevor Ariza, a natural small forward, is playing out of position at the two. Caron Butler is more capable at shooting guard than Ariza is, but he’s still a small forward as well. Perhaps trading for Butler will lead to the Rockets looking to move either Battier or Ariza. Battier makes more money and is older, but his value isn’t in the box score. Trevor Ariza cannot shoot. At all. Bricks galore. It’s not a shooting slump if it lasts all season, Trevor. He’s fighting Bucks rookie point guard Brandon Jennings for the worst FG% in the league for those with enough shots to be eligible, and has the fifth-worst three-point shooting percentage as well. But I digress…

The Rockets will have some options for what to do with Tracy, but they’ll have competition as well. Just as some teams are looking to shed money to get under the cap, others are trying to gear up for the stretch run. Specifically, the Southwest Division-leading Dallas Mavericks are in the market for a wing player as well, and will likely be in direct competition for any players the Rockets are trying to acquire. The Rockets have the pieces to make a big move at the deadline, but whether they choose to do so remains to be seen. Tracy and I sure hope they get something done.


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All-Star Reserves – Western Conference

Posted by Richard on January 27, 2010

Naming my picks for the Western Conference All-Star reserves appears to be a little easier than naming my picks in the East. For one, all the starters deserve the honor based on their play:

Western Conference Starters:
C – Amar’e Stoudemire, Phoenix Suns
F – Tim Duncan, San Antonio Spurs
F – Carmelo Anthony, Denver Nuggets
G – Kobe Bryant, LA Lakers
G – Steve Nash, Phoenix Suns

In the East, Allen Iverson doesn’t deserve to be on the team at all, and you could argue that there are better candidates than Kevin Garnett due to injuries that kept him out of the lineup. Since we don’t have that problem in the West this year, thanks to the fans voting Nash in instead of McGrady (and T-Mac saying he’d step aside if they didn’t), a player that may not have the chance otherwise will get his chance to make the squad. With Yao being out this year, there’s another opportunity for a newcomer on the squad. Still, there will always be snubs. Let’s take a look at what I came up with:

Center – Zach Randolph, Memphis Grizzlies (Rank: 4)

Yes folks, I’m dead-ass serious. Zach Randolph is a 20-10 guy, fourth in the league in rebounds, and he’s leading his team into playoff contention. Did I mention that we’re talking about the MEMPHIS GRIZZLIES here, and they play in the ridiculously tough Southwest Division? Zach is cutting out the silly three-pointers and is stepping in a few feet, freezing defenders in no-man’s land, unsure of whether to let him hit the open J or close out on him. As the rules state, players can play out of position for the reserve voting, and this is how I’d vote.

Forward – Dirk Nowitzki, Dallas Mavericks (Rank: 1)

Dirk is reason number one why the Mavericks keep on competing year after year. Dirk is doing the same things he’s always done in his career, putting up consistent numbers with great percentages. He will be an All-Star like he always is – no-brainer.

Forward – Kevin Durant, Oklahoma City Thunder (Rank: 2)

Kevin Durant, or – ugh – “Durantula” is having a monster of a year. Averaging nearly 30 points a contest is outstanding, but doing do at nearly 50% from the field? Let him and his teammates get some more age and experience, and the Thunder could be the team to beat for several years to come. On a side note, is “Durantula” really a good nickname? I guess it’s better than “Yellow Mamba”. I prefer “Velvet Hoop”:

Guard – Chris Paul, New Orleans Hornets (Rank: 3)

The Hornets have had their struggles this season, but Chris Paul is still playing great ball, 20 points a game and leading the league in assists is no easy task, yet Paul does it with ease. Averaging over 2 steals a game, he doesn’t just play one end of the court like some players. He is the best point guard in the Western Conference.

Guard – Deron Williams, Utah Jazz (Rank: 5)

I hate it when people call Deron Williams the Susan Lucci of the NBA. First of all, as a straight black man, I never knew who she was other than that woman that always lost at the Emmys. That’s fine – that’s what Google is for. However, those in the know will point out that Susan Lucci finally won one 10 years ago, ending the drought. But back to basketball…Deron’s numbers rival Paul’s, but are actually slightly down from year’s past. He’s deserved the honor for many years now (not sure about ol’ Susie), and he should be honored in his hometown like Chris Bosh will be.

Wildcard – Brandon Roy, Portland Trailblazers (Rank: 6)

Roy would easily make the All-Star team if he were completely healthy this year. Roy has hit perennial All-Star status, and should be in the showcase every year, regardless of health…especially if Kevin Garnett can still manage to get voted in. He does around 20/5/5 every year with great percentages, and is easily one of the top 5 shooting guards in the NBA.

Wildcard – Monta Ellis, Golden State Warriors (Rank: 7)

Surprise, surpise! I know that’s a lot of guards for the West All-Stars, but a bunch of guards are fun to watch. Plus,  I’d much rather see him than Chris Kaman’s horrible face on Sunday night. Ellis can play 48 minutes a game (or even 53 if necessary) and leads the league in minutes per game at 42 (along with the Bobcats’ Gerald Wallace); he’s been asked to do so with the slew of injuries on the Warriors. Ellis is scoring the ball even better than usual at 26.1 points per game and I cannot deny his spectacular play any longer – he should be in this game. I’m not certain he makes it, but he’s definitely my pick.

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All-Star Reserves – Eastern Conference

Posted by Richard on January 26, 2010

One thing the NBA does better than any other major sport is all-star festivities. I absolutely love NBA All-Star Weekend.  While the league has its fair share of players it would like to tuck away like a concealed handgun (I’m looking at YOU, Gilbert), the NBA has always done a good job of showcasing their stars. While I admit that the NBA All-Star Game itself can be a bore at times (I’m a much bigger fan of All-Star Saturday), I do enjoy making my picks for the reserves for the Eastern and Western Conferences.

The coaches of the 30 NBA teams are responsible for choosing the bench players for both teams. Each coach was tasked with selecting one center, two forwards, two guards, and two wildcard spots of any position. Coaches are not allowed to pick players from their own teams, and are not tightly-bound to select players as they are listed on the NBA All-Star Ballot, if listed at all. Players chosen should be those that are most advantageous to the team as a whole, granted that they aren’t a stretch to play that position (…so no Shaq at point guard? Okay, fine). Each of the seven players selected are then ranked from one to seven — these ranks are assigned point values and the totals are used to decide who will make the team and break any ties. Not too hard, right? I’ll follow these guidelines to make my picks and pretend I’m Kiki Vandeweghe – the three-win New Jersey Nets definitely can’t have any players in the All-Star game, and should be banned from attending the event.  Those cats need to run suicides all weekend. Am I right? Wait…I may be wrong. Actually, scratch that – I’ll be Rick Adelman instead, because I’m certain I don’t think any Rockets deserve All-Star consideration. Let’s begin with the Eastern Conference.

East Starters:
C – Dwight Howard, Orlando Magic
F – Kevin Garnett, Boston Celtics
F – LeBron James, Cleveland Cavaliers
G – Dwyane Wade, Miami Heat
G – Allen Iverson, Philadelphia 76ers

Center – Chris Bosh, Toronto Raptors (Rank: 1)

Hey, this is my version of Rick Adelman’s ballot, and if I want Bosh to play center, he will. In my eyes, it’ll help make room for a more deserving player at a forward spot, since the center prospects are a bit thin. Bosh’s 24 and 11 make his inclusion a no-brainer, and the kid is showing GMs around the league that he deserves some big money. Plus, I already know Mark Cuban will be voting him in – is there any more perfect opportunity to show Bosh how well he’d be received in his hometown of Dallas?

Forward – Gerald Wallace, Charlotte Bobcats (Rank: 3)

I thought Gerald was deserving of a spot last year, and he’s done nothing but improve his chances of making it this season. The Bobcats are much better than anyone thought they would be, mostly because of the defensive effort they give, led by Wallace. Wallace is scoring well at 18 points a game, and is pulling down 11 boards a game – that’s incredible for a swingman. He can play the two through the four spot, can defend most players in the league, and I’d love to see him ignore all defensive tendencies so he can cherry-pick and try to dunk every time down the court. I hope he doesn’t use all his good stuff trying to win the Slam Dunk Contest Saturday night.

Forward – Josh Smith, Atlanta Hawks (Rank: 5)

I’ve been very critical of Josh in the past, but he’s convincing me to change my tune. He’s cut down on his bricks from three-point land by shooting a lot less (a concept unfamiliar to Trevor Ariza), and his overall offensive game is better for it. Josh is playing better on-ball defense, and is still blocking a ton of shots. Pair that with his rebounding, and he’s a serious Defensive Player of the Year candidate. Josh belongs at All-Star Weekend, and not just in the dunk contest this time.

Guard – Rajon Rondo, Boston Celtics (Rank: 2)

I actually forgot to list my Defensive Player of the Year (so far) pick in my last post, so I’ll gush about him here instead. Rondo is THE best defensive point guard in the league (better than Paul), and is a solid jump-shot away from moving up in the NBA’s point guard ranks (still behind Paul, Williams, and Nash in my mind). Rondo is a consistent triple-double threat, and his quickness is what makes the old men he plays with look a few years younger than they are.

Guard – Joe Johnson, Atlanta Hawks (Rank: 4)

There are a few options here, but I’ll take Joe. Johnson’s ability to score one night and play distributor the next (or even the same night) is another big reason why the Hawks appear to be cementing themselves as an Eastern Conference powerhouse. His efficiency continues to improve over past seasons, and the better the Hawks play, the more I think he’ll end up staying in Atlanta as their go-to guy through this summer’s free agency period.

Wild Card – Paul Pierce (Rank: 6)

I was going to try and find a way to leave Pierce off, but I just can’t. Pierce is a little slower, but he’s even more efficient than he was last year. Throw in that he’s hitting nearly half of his three-point attempts, a career-best 47%, and he wins me over.

Wild Card – David Lee (Rank: 7)

David Lee flirts with 20 and 10 nightly, and even manages to dish out 5 or so assists from time-to-time. The dude plays horrendous defense, but a steal a game counts for something, right? Plus, like Gerald, he deserved to be on the roster last year, and I’ll keep picking him as long as he deserves consideration.

Who did I snub? Voice your comments below, and I’ll tell you why you’re wrong I think you’re wrong. I’ll be back tomorrow with my Western Conference picks.

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Quick Observations: Halfway Home

Posted by Richard on January 25, 2010

I have some obsessive-compulsive tendencies. The way my brain works, I like things to be very exact. For as long as I can remember, I’ve found comfort in measurement. As a child, I used to use measuring cups for everything my mom would let me get my hands on in the kitchen. A pinch of this and a smidgen of that didn’t sit well with me then. Now, in my later and more lazy years, I’ve taken a very lax approach towards the pursuit of exactness — “close enough” is just fine in some cases. Do I always work my 40-hour work week? Well, sometimes, but “close enough” enters my mind quite a bit when it comes to quittin’ time. With the spirit of  “close enough” in mind, it’s just past the halfway point of the 2009-2010 NBA season, so let’s look back and hand out some NBA half-season awards.

Sixth Man of the Year (so far) – Jamal Crawford

With Leandro Barbosa, Manu Ginobili and Jason Terry not playing their best ball at the moment, there’s room for a few new bench players to flex their muscle. With apologies to Carl Landry, Jamal Crawford is proving his worth to the Atlanta Hawks. He seemed like a bit of a redundant addition, but redundancy can be a good thing when it comes to explosive scoring and solid play. Jamal is one of my favorite players to watch, mostly because he does things like this:

Plus, I think he looks a little like Esther Rolle, but only when they’re both smiling. Is it just me?

Most Dissapointing Player (so far) – Blake Griffin

Now, it’s not the youngster’s fault — I already knew his career was in jeopardy when he was drafted by the Clippers. I’m personally disappointed that I didn’t get to see him on the court at all this season. However, one could argue that since he hasn’t played yet, that he’s not a player. I’ll cop out and just say Gilbert Arenas then. He did catch a felony, and that’s always a disappointment. Shawne Williams caught a felony as well, but he’s not a basketball player. Let me clarify: he was a basketball player by definition, until the Nets waived him. That does not necessarily mean he was any good. This is probably the last time I will refer to him in this blog, because he is sorry.

Play of the Year (so far) – Kobe over Wade for the Win

This was a great game-winning jumper, but it was so much more. When watching this play last month, my girlfriend said, “I hate Kobe Bryant” in a way that lets you know he’s one of the best. My reply? “Did you see that guy thumbing his nuts?!” I’m not sure if he was happy about the shot or if it was just a good itch to scratch — as a guy, I can relate. You be the judge — the YouTubers have pointed it out for me.

Rookie of the Year (so far) – Tyreke Evans

This one isn’t really that close. While I admit I was an early adopter of Milwaukee’s Brandon Jennings at the ROY, Evans has outplayed him. Jennings had a nice stretch, but cooled off considerably after that. In Sacramento, Tyreke Evans has taken ownership of the Sacramento Kings as his team. Kevin Martin’s return from injury could cloud Evans’ value for the rest of the season, but all he has to do is play solid basketball to hold on to the honor. Evans is good enough to allow the Kings to consider moving Kevin Martin, another of my favorite players. Tyreke Evans is a man.

Most Improved Player (so far) – Joakim Noah

This one is a difficult call, but I’ll give it to Noah because he’s becoming one of the best rebounders in the NBA. Danilo Gallinari and Yi Jianlian are making serious strides, but Noah, who actually plays like a big man is supposed to, is second in the league in rebounding (12.3/game) and boasts a hefty +20 efficiency rating. He showed some of this last season, but now he’s doing it with consistency. Derrick Rose is key to the Bulls’ potential success, but Noah is every bit as important.

Coach of the Year (so far) – Lionel Hollins

Don’t feel bad if he sounds unfamiliar– he’s the coach of the Memphis Grizzlies. Memphis is usually a forgotten team in the Western Conference, but after tonight’s win over the Orlando Magic paired with a Rockets loss, the Grizzlies slide into the top-8 in the West. That’s right, the Grizzlies are playing well, and not just in comparison to their past failures. Hollins has his team competing every night and playing together. OJ Mayo is more efficient, Zach Randolph is showing people that he deserves an All-Star spot, and Marc Gasol is showing that he can have staying power in this league. Just imagine how good they’d be if they hadn’t wasted their draft pick on Hasheem Thabeet.

MVP (so far) – LeBron James

LeBron is the best player on the team with the league’s best record. Kobe is in the conversation, but LeBron and his Cavs have swept the Lakers in the regular season. I really don’t feel that I have to justify this pick with a response.

Most Deserving Fine (so far) – Glen Davis

Ignore the Chucky Atkins visual, and you can hear Glen Davis tell a Pistons fan to give him some lip service. What did the fan say? He just told Glen to lose some weight. The fan was probably just reminding you that you have a weight clause in your contract, or else he’ll have to pay a fat fine (my personal term), as in a fine for being too portly. Yelling at a fan and telling him to suck your dick is pretty classy. Next time, think about how much food or how many blowjobs you can buy with $25,000.

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Trading Tracy to Toronto

Posted by Richard on January 11, 2010

The Toronto Raptors are in an interesting situation. At right around .500, they are good enough to be in the playoffs. Though they’ve played well lately, they need to improve a great deal to make a legitimate run. Chris Bosh is in the last year of his deal, and it is widely believed that he will leave Toronto as an unrestricted free agent. The more the team wins, the greater the chances are that he stays. If they begin to struggle again, I’m not certain he’ll stick around to play with a bunch of overpaid losers…in Canada. I think this is the Rockets’ best shot at getting good value for T-Mac’s contract. Still, they’d surely have to sweeten the pot some talent-wise, as Bosh currently makes $7M or so less than McGrady. But…how sweet should it be? I’d take Toronto’s potential willingness to part with Bosh as a want to rebuild on-the-fly with reasonable contracts, so long contracts they have now are first they’d like to move. That means the Rockets would have to take back a long deal, which they would do in the right situation.

Houston receives:
PF/C Chris Bosh ($15.8M)
PG Jose Calderon ($8.2M)

Toronto receives:
SG/SF Tracy McGrady ($23M)
PF/C Luis Scola ($3.375M)
PG Aaron Brooks ($1M)

Why Toronto Does It

Toronto has some players under lengthy deals that they’d probably like to move. Toronto likes Bargnani, so not him. Their longest deals belong to Jack (about $5M per through 2013), Calderon (about $9M-$9.5M per through 2013), and Hideous Hedo Turkoglu ($10.5M per through 2014, player option for last year that he WILL exercise, because he’s sorry and already kind of old right NOW). Although it would be an admission of a big mistake, they’d probably LOVE to move Turk. He’s not scoring like they thought he might, and they have too many wing players deferring to each other. If I were in Houston’s shoes though, I wouldn’t do any deal bringing in Turkoglu. One could argue that he is a Rick Adelman-type of player — well, he was before, and still is for now…not sure about in 2014. Jarrett Jack’s deal isn’t bad, and he’s a decent talent for that price; he would be easy to move if they chose to do so. As such, Toronto would probably prefer to hold on to him. That leaves Calderon, who hasn’t played well this year, and he’s been injured some (hip). Couple that with the fact that he wasn’t nearly as effective as the #1 PG last season as they had hoped, and suddenly they have a $10M mistake that could start becoming injury-prone, as he hasn’t proven he can handle a full load without getting hurt. McGrady could help in the short-term, but he may have worn out his welcome the first time he was in Toronto, Still, his expiring deal would increase the room they have to acquire free agents. Luis Scola is a solid PF, who has an expiring deal as well. He also can put up numbers that approach Bosh’s, but at a much cheaper price. The ultimate pot sweetener here is Aaron Brooks though, as he can push the uptempo offense they want, as well as find points for himself, something they lack with Calderon. As an added bonus, they can keep Brooks through 2011-12 for a total of $6M.

Why Houston Does It

Wait a minute Houston fans, hear me out. I know you guys love Brooks and Scola, but you have to give something to get something. Houston may not say this publicly (or at all), but they need to protect themselves in the event that Yao cannot bounce back from these foot injuries. With Yao likely exercising his player option for next year (his last under the current deal), they’ll have a year to see if he can hold up. In a best-case scenario, Yao doesn’t break and they’ll re-sign him the following season, hopefully pairing him next to Bosh for years to come (more on that later). Worst-case? Yao’s feet fall off completely and they’re looking for a new center. Still, having Bosh at the four softens that blow. In addition, Calderon is the type of PG that would work in the Rockets offense we saw last season (less running, more half-court). Aaron isn’t much of a distributor, and turns the ball over a ton. Calderon is the true PG I think Yao might need, and Kyle Lowry would still be around to push the tempo off the bench.

Other Iterations

I thought about Bosh’s value in a sign-and-trade as being valuable to the Raptors, but the thing about that is that if an agreement can’t be reached with Chris’ new team, he could just go there on his own since he’ll be unrestricted. Sure, he’d get another year on his contract with a S&T, but there’s no guarantee that Chris’ desired destination would have pieces Toronto would want…similar to how Ariza and Artest swapped teams this past summer, but a S&T wasn’t worked out. There’s some risk in waiting. Conversely, I think Houston is one of the few teams that would be willing to trade for Bosh without getting him to sign a contract extension first. Plus, Chris may not want to go to a team that has to gut itself of max money’s worth of contracts to get him. In addition, I don’t think Toronto would want to be financially choked like that in the long-term, especially without a franchise centerpiece in place. Then again, is Bosh a franchise centerpiece? He’s playing like it this year…kind of. With this deal, Toronto frees up more cap space than what Bosh’s expiring deal would give, takes back less long-term salary than a S&T would bring, and gets Scola and Brooks, who are two of the best bang-for-your-buck players in the league (for now). Scola, Brooks and McGrady is good value, but perhaps the inclusion of Calderon is too much. I could definitely see Toronto pushing for PF Carl Landry ($3M/yr through next season) in place of Scola, which I’m sure might make the Rockets sweat a little. I think they would still do the deal, but might need a draft pick from the Raptors to ease their pain.

So, what do you think? Impossible? Possible? Am I crazy? Let me know.

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Open Letter to Gilbert Arenas

Posted by Richard on January 8, 2010

Congratulations, Gilbert Arenas! You’ve won my Dumbass of the Year Award! And yes, the season’s less than halfway over, but I decided to create this contest and declare you the DOTY in about a week’s time.

Seriously Gilly (may I call you Gilly?), what were you thinking, man?! I thought things sounded pretty bad when the story first broke, but I gave you a pass — I can understand your desire to get the guns out of the house with your new daughter being born, and it sounds like a plausible excuse. But was taking them to work with you really your best option? And unless you’re a superhero (I presume your weaknesses would be in your knees and in your shot selection), your daughter won’t be mobile for a little while. You could have gotten rid of the guns some other way…couldn’t you have arranged to turn them in to the police? I know cities have programs like that sometimes, and it would have been perfect for you, since the guns weren’t registered. Speaking of which, there’s NO reason for you to carry unregistered guns. Didn’t you learn about that in ’03 when you caught that gun charge?

With your extremely rich history of pranking, none of this surprised me. However, the joking around with Javaris Crittenton in the locker room was way over the line. For one, if you’re carrying for protection, you don’t let everyone in the world know you’re carrying. Nevermind that you were violating league rules by bringing them to the arena at all, but that “joke” you played on Javaris wasn’t even that funny, loaded guns or not. Even after that, I think you still had a chance to skate by for a few more weeks. Going to talk to the cops was the right thing to do. If you have nothing to hide, then don’t hide.

The statement you released was okay also – it seemed genuine and contrite. Well, at least it did before you got on that damn Twitter. I know your aim is to entertain your fans, but Twitter is pure evil for a lot of athletes. It just seems to get you (and other players) in trouble. Alright, re-read your statement. Now, read your Twitter. Oh yeah, you deleted it. It’s a little late for that, Gilly. Here ya go — you do know the internet is very much public, right? It’s more public than actually being in public. Your statement seems a lot less genuine and contrite now, doesn’t it Gilbert?

Still, I think it was your actions that really did you in and made David Stern act sooner than later. Firstly, a lot of people in the media overlooked the gambling, the true cause of this catastrophe. I know you like to gamble a little bit, and I don’t mind a little wager now and then. Still, David Stern doesn’t like gambling. Well, he probably doesn’t hate gambling itself, but he doesn’t like his product being associated with gambling in the media. He also probably didn’t enjoy you taking aim at your teammates with your finger guns against Philly on Tuesday. Also, don’t think we didn’t catch you double-wielding against Memphis, either.

If I get caught bringing guns to work, I might get security called on me, and I’d be surprised if I weren’t fired. If you’re convicted of a felony, you can definitely kiss the rest of that fat-ass contract of yours adios. With your time off, you should brush up on the NBA Collective Bargaining Agreement (specifically this part) and NBA Constitution (especially this part). I suggest you lay low until further notice. The Wizards organization is embarrassed and may already be trying to forget about you, so keeping your mouth shut (and your fingers off the keyboard) will help another team take a chance on you. You’re a nice guy from what I know, and a mentor as well. To tarnish that part of your reputation is terribly unfortunate, and I really do hope you can bounce back from it, whether it be this season or later. Still, it’ll take time for people to forgive you for your actions.

Personally, you’ve wrecked MY fantasy team, so thanks for that. Also, your poor choices haunted me last night’s Texas Alabama game for me, particularly when your cousin Javier Arenas went off on Colt McCoy’s backup Garrett Gilbert.

Oh yeah…Happy Belated Birthday.

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Trading Tracy to Sacramento

Posted by Richard on December 30, 2009

With Yao Ming out for this year, Houston plays a different brand of basketball. Half-court sets used the norm, and fast break opportunities were rare. If you’ve watched a few Rockets games this year, you’ve seen a team that is dedicated to running much more than in past seasons. In this year’s version of the Rick Adelman offense, ball movement is paramount. Tracy McGrady needs the ball in his hands to be effective, and having the ball stop in his hands will be more harmful than ever before. Conversely, without McGrady, the Rockets lack a high-volume scorer that can get to the rim regularly, which could result in frequent visits to the free-throw line. So what’s the fix?

Houston receives:
SG Kevin Martin ($10M)
SF/PF Andres Nocioni ($7.5M)
PF Kenny Thomas (8.5M)

Sacramento receives:
SG/SF Tracy McGrady ($23M)
SF/SG Trevor Ariza ($5.85M)

Why Sacramento Does It

Rookie guard Tyreke Evans is looking like the Rookie of the Year. As we watched the Kings let an overtime game slip away against the Lakers last Saturday, a friend commented to me about how Evans looks like a complete NBA player already. An offensive game with no glaring holes hasn’t been seen in a young guard since Brandon Roy (feel free to correct me). And like Roy, Evans is more effective off the ball. Neither Evans nor Martin can slide to small forward. Evans could slide to the point as he did early this season, but with the way he’s played while Martin has been out, Evans’ natural position has become more evident. With this young team already playing well thus far, they could stand to save a few bucks. Trading for McGrady, who is still popular amongst SOME people, could result in a temporary ticket sales boost in what is typically a rabid NBA fanbase. If McGrady works well with the team, they’ll be able to re-signing him to a cheaper deal. In the more likely scenario, McGrady will leave after this year and leave a surplus of cap space behind. Trevor Ariza is probably the more important piece here, as his ability to run the floor would pair well with Evans on the other wing. It would also allow Ariza to play at his natural SF spot, which would likely lead to an improved FG% and fewer turnovers. This deal would also get Sacramento off the hook for paying Nocioni, who never seems to leave the trading block. Nocioni’s deal lasts through at least the 2011-12 season, with a $7.5M team option in 2012-13. Kevin Martin’s deal increases from the $10M he’s owed this season and tops out at roughly $13M in the 2012-13 season. This would rid the Kings of their longest and most expensive contracts and give them additional immediate cap relief in McGrady.

Why Houston Does It

Even though the Rockets like Trevor Ariza, I think they still like Shane Battier more, even with his age and more limited offensive game. I think Ariza isn’t panning out quite as well as the Rockets had hoped. Ariza doesn’t look very good playing SG – he’s turning the ball over much more than last year (2.39/game, up from 1.06/game), his shooting is off-and-on (but mostly off), and watching him dribble can be used instead of ipecac to induce vomiting. Tracy McGrady is obviously unwanted in Houston, even to the point that people have speculated that even Yao Ming wanted him gone. At this point, if the Rockets could trade him for a box of three-stripe tube socks, some grape Gatorade powder mix, and a $10 gift certificate to Blimpie just to get him off the roster, they might consider it. As for the incoming pieces, Andres Nocioni is a decent offensive player who is a better defender than many people give him credit for. If anything, the Rockets could probably move him in a future deal along with one of their great value players, including Aaron Brooks ($1M this year, a total of $6M through 2011-12), Kyle Lowry ($2M this year, $3M qualifying offer next year), Luis Scola ($3.375M expiring), or super-sub Carl Landry ($3M this year and next). Kevin Martin is the type of player the Rockets would be willing to eat a lengthy contract to get, in addition to Nocioni’s. Martin would be the only true SG on the Rockets’ roster, and he is effective at getting to the free-throw line. Also, with all the ball-movement in Adelman’s offense, defenses won’t be able to focus primarily on him as has been the case during his time in Sacramento. Consequently, this could mean Martin takes less of a physical beating and plays more games than he has the past few seasons. Martin and Nocioni are tough players that would fit the Rockets’ current roster of gritty players. The main draw here is that Kevin Martin has the ability to put up 50 on any given night, and I’m not convinced that McGrady still can.

Other Iterations

There’s a good chance that Sacramento insists on getting a point guard in any deal with the Rockets. PG Beno Udrih is having a good season, but I’m not sure if Sacramento is convinced that he’s their future. I’m fairly certain that backup PG Sergio Rodriguez isn’t the answer for Paul Westphal. I think the Rockets would balk at the notion of sending Aaron Brooks and Ariza, but would be more willing to part with Lowry. There’s also a chance that the Rockets aren’t quite ready to give up on the Trevor Ariza experiment. That could mean that Battier could be substituted for Ariza, or maybe the Kings would want a big man. Behind C Spencer Hawes and PF Jason Thompson, the Kings have no real depth. I personally think Scola or Landry could start on that team, but it really depends on how highly the Kings think of Thompson. Perhaps C David Andersen ($2.3M this year, $2.5M next year, $2.7M team option in 2011-12) could be thrown into the original proposed deal to keep Houston from having to part with Scola or Landry. If the Kings forced their hand, I think Scola might be dealt before Landry. I personally don’t think the Rockets would part with either of them without getting a solid PF in return. Chuck Hayes is really a specialty player, and I’m sure that no other team will value him as much as the Rockets do, but you need more scoring from the backup PF spot than what he can provide. Unless the Kings would want some youngsters like PF Joey Dorsey or wing player Chase Budinger, I see Ariza as the most likely tradeable piece of the rotation. On the flip side, the Rockets could seek to get SG/SF Francisco Garcia instead of Andres Nocioni, or perhaps push for the inclusion of the expiring contract of the retired Shareef Abdur-Rahim ($6.6M) to keep them from having to send out too much talent.

So, this is just one possibility for a Tracy trade. It’s still going to be very difficult to get good value for McGrady, especially with the public knowledge that the Rockets don’t want him, but there are interested teams, no matter what some sources of the media says. It’s Morey’s job to identify them and get some players he can use.

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Trading Tracy McGrady: A Series

Posted by Richard on December 28, 2009

The Tracy McGrady era, a time period marked with equal parts promise and disappointment for the Houston Rockets, is over. McGrady is unhappy with the team, and if playing time is any indication, the team is flat-out fed up with him. I don’t see any reconciliation on the horizon, so the Rockets can do one of a few things: cut him and eat that salary for this year, “Marbury” him (tell him to work from home, which is tough to do for an NBA player), give him the “Nate Robinson treatment” (bench him and don’t play him for an undetermined amount of time), buy him out (which eventually happened with the Stephon Marbury situation last season), or trade him. Rockets GM Daryl Morey is a crafty man and one of the best in the business, so I’m sure that cutting him won’t happen. In my opinion, cutting a player probably hurts the team more than the player, especially when that player is an All-star talent (when healthy) that will land somewhere of his choosing. McGrady would probably not agree to a buyout of a reasonable amount, so that’s out. They could Nate Robinson him, but McGrady will draw too much attention to himself, as he did when he voiced his opinion about playing eight minutes per game since returning from microfracture surgery. Marbury-ing him doesn’t seem to be out of the question, and could be on the verge of happening already. However, the Rockets’ most desirable option is to rid themselves of McGrady via trade.

Simply letting McGrady’s league-richest $23.2M contract (according to some sources) expire at the end of the year will not result in $23.2M in cap space. The Rockets are over the salary cap right now, and next year’s cap will likely decrease according to most projections. Teams can go over the cap to sign their own players, but not to sign unrestricted free agents. As such, McGrady’s contract is worth more in a trade than it is just expiring. In addition, when you consider the fact that Luis Scola needs to be re-signed and has earned an increase in pay (assuming they wish to do so), the Rockets wouldn’t get to use all of that extra space on a shiny new free agent. Add to that the complicated nature of cap holds, and things get a little murky. As it currently stands, the Rockets will not be able to offer a player a max contract in the offseason. I’m not a salary cap expert, and I certainly won’t pretend to be. Read up on the finer points of the NBA salary cap from Larry Coon, because he gets paid to know his stuff.

I personally would like to see the Rockets make a move before the trade deadline because I think they can potentially benefit more via trade than to let Tracy’s contract expire. The Rockets are playing above even their own expectations thus far this year, but adding a go-to scorer to this stellar supporting cast could allow Rick Adelman to make them a solid playoff team instead of the fringe one they are now. I have come up with a few scenarios that I think the Rockets should at least explore, and I will rack my brain to think of a few more. I will make sure that the money matches according to NBA rules. I will also look at the trades from the perspective of the other teams involved, because this isn’t a video game. I wish it were though…dealing McGrady for LeBron and Mo Williams would be a nice get (yes, the salaries do match). Also, I encourage you to give feedback as well as share your ideas. Hit me up at flagrantfoulsATgmailDOTcom to let me know what you think. If you have a particularly promising one, perhaps I’ll analyze it and break it down in a future post (and give you credit). Also, if a deal similar to one that I propose here happens, I will pat myself on the back, as I did after calling for Ron Artest to be traded to Houston about two years in advance. I also called for Steve Francis to be re-signed by the Rockets before they did it after having a brief face-to-face conversation with Franchise (true story), but hey, they can’t ALL be winners. C’mon – let’s trade Tracy.

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Quick Observations: Iverson Back in Philly, Just Wanted Some Brotherly Love

Posted by Richard on December 4, 2009

Yes, there are several things in sports going on that do NOT involve Tiger Woods.

Shortly after Allen Iverson announced his fake retirement and made us all aware that he was sulking, Iverson’s old coaches Larry Brown (Sixers) and John Thompson (Georgetown) contacted him to stroke his ego and tell him not to walk away from the game. After reconsidering, the disappointing Philadelphia 76ers talked with Iverson about a possible return. As I stated in a previous post, Iverson  simply wanted to feel loved and appreciated (more on that later), and if it took an injury to a player to push a team to that realization, so be it. PG Lou Williams was having a career season before breaking his jaw, averaging career-highs in nearly every statistical category. His injury will leave him out with some oral hardware for at least the next month, which created the perfect situation for Iverson to go back where his pro career started. He can certainly help this 5-14 team right the ship before it’s too late. While the old AI is expected to start for at least the short-term, he will have to make sure he keeps the younger and more athletic AI and Thaddeus Young involved in the offense. SIDEBAR: Iguodala was ROBBED in that dunk contest, by the way — I was THERE, and the crowd was not happy with Nate Robinson’s numerous uh-ohs. In my opinion, as long as Iverson isn’t as old-looking and lazy as Elton Brand (and his career-lows) has been as of late, his comeback is a success. Iverson desperately wants to make this work, to salvage his legacy and prove his doubters wrong. See a grown man go through puberty all over again, cracking voice and all at the 2:00 mark:

To me, that looks like a humbled future Hall of Famer that is eager to do the best that he can to show his fans and his teammates that they can count on him giving his all. After reverting to behavior akin to a spoiled little child for the past month, perhaps he is growing up before our eyes…again.

Someone please tell the New Jersey Nets that the season started over a month ago. This isn’t summer league, this isn’t the preseason, and these games actually count. This was supposed to be a promising young team. Sure, they traded away Vince Carter, but does he really make that much of a difference? I thought Devin Harris was supposed to be the truth…but maybe the truth is that these guys just suck. Courtney Lee is decent and is coming off of an injury, but I expected him to come into his own this year. I was thinking along the lines of the expectations I had for Trevor Ariza in Houston, but to a lesser degree. There’s still time for him to show some stuff, but that team as a whole is just a mess. Chris Douglas-Roberts is looking solid, and Brook Lopez is off to a good start after a strong finish to his rookie campaign. Still, as steady and solid as I think Rafer Alston can be, if he is the main veteran presence on your team, it’s going to be a long season. Sure, had the Magic stuck with him instead of a half-speed Jameer Nelson in the Finals last year, perhaps Orlando beats the Lakers, keeps the group together and the Nets still have Carter – or at least trade him elsewhere. But still…18 consecutive losses to start the season? Congratulations New Jersey Nets, you have just made the likes of the Charlotte Bobcats, Sacramento Kings, and Memphis Grizzlies look like elite franchises. Seriously, the Timberwolves have been without Kevin Love, straight-up wasted the 5th pick in the draft this past year, play in the (still) deeper Western Conference, and even they have managed to win twice so far.

Ron Artest likes his Hennessy…so much in fact that he used to make liquor runs at halftime and keep his cognac of choice in his locker when he was with the Chicago Bulls.

Since then, Artest clarified that he used to drink before games as well, but the in-game Henny benders didn’t last for a long period of time.

Do you believe that Artest was drinking before and during NBA games? I’m not sure that I do…I mean, it could help explain some of his odd behavior, but Ron’s an odd cat to begin with, so that can’t be it. Rick Adelman and Chuck Hayes don’t seem to believe it either, with Chuck questioning how one would function with alcohol in their system during a game, “especially dark liquor”. Phil Jackson isn’t completely buying into it, either. Now I’m not going to judge, because I like my Hennessy too *takes a sip*, but that’s not meant for working hours. Also in the interview with The Sporting News, Artest stated that he’s always ready to fight Ben Wallace and thinks that referee Joey Crawford handed Game 2 of last year’s Lakers-Rockets playoff series to the Lakers because Kobe is more important than the Rockets as a whole. I tend to agree with Coach Adelman in that Ron likes to say things to shock people. Whether or not those things are true, that’s for David Stern to decide.

I’ll leave you guys with a musical tribute to Iverson that should accurately sum up his feelings right now. Plus, anytime I can wedge Coming to America into a conversation, I must do so.

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Quick Observations: LeBron Right for the Wrong Reason

Posted by Richard on November 18, 2009

We’re only a few weeks into this NBA season, and already we’re seeing some interesting developments:

Last week, LeBron proclaimed that he will (probably) change his number next season. Before I tell you why he’s right and why he’s wrong, watch his explanation:

I definitely understand LeBron’s intentions here. Michael Jordan is the greatest basketball player on the planet, and he has had more of a global impact on the game than anyone. Still, having respect for a guy is not necessarily a great reason to change your number. So, if he dons the number six jersey as he plans, then has a deep conversation with Bill Russell one day, will he then change his number again? I mean, Russell does have a record 11 NBA titles in thirteen seasons (eat your heart out, Robert Horry), and I don’t see that record falling anytime soon…not in today’s salary-strapped NBA. In addition, he was player-coach for the last two titles, and the league’s first black head coach. THAT’S the kind of guy that everyone should respect.

LeBron himself said that he idolized Jordan at a young age, as do lots of kids that grow up watching basketball. My gripe is that as a grown man, you shouldn’t still be wearing #23 because your idol wore that number, anyway. Unless the guy was your dad…or there’s some other meaning behind your jersey number, it shouldn’t be that important. Personally, I think players should be more like Ron Artest, changing numbers every couple of years. I’m sure the NBA wouldn’t mind that much, as those die-hard LeBron fans would have to buy jersey after jersey to keep up so they can keep idolizing their favorite player. Accordingly, grown men shouldn’t wear another grown man’s jersey. It’s just kind of lame to me to see some out-of-shape fan squeeze into a Kobe Bryant jersey. Seriously man…you could’t pull that look off on Halloween.

Lastly, that’s the type of call that has to come from David Stern and the league. When I think of an entire league retiring a jersey number, I think of Jackie Robinson. Nothing against Jordan, but Jordan wouldn’t be who he is without Jackie Robinson…or Sweetwater Clifton. Notably, Magic Johnson agrees with LeBron on the matter.

– With a win in Houston Tuesday night, the Suns have started off 10-2 with the NBA’s best record. Nash looks great right now. He’s turning it over a lot, but he always does. Amar’e Stoudemire and Leandro Barbosa aren’t exactly impressing me (or my fantasy basketball team), but Channing Frye is playing great basketball, fitting in much better than Shaq ever did. His ability to space the floor makes it much easier for Amar’e to work inside and for perimeter players to drive to the hoop.

– Speaking of Shaq, his positive effect isn’t obvious to me yet in Cleveland. They did manage to beat Orlando, but that probably had more to so with Mo Williams actually playing well, something he couldn’t do in the playoffs last year. The biggest impact I’ve seen Shaq make this year was on Gilbert Arenas’ fiance. Of course, I was eager to see the first Wizards-Cavs game since the rumor broke, but Shaq was out tonight with a bum shoulder. Even though Gil is a nice guy, I don’t know how calmly one can take such large-scale rumors about the biggest clown in the NBA smashing the mother of your two (soon to be three) children. Add Delonte’s issues and the fact that LeBron still isn’t talking about his destination next season, and that’s a lot of drama. Maybe LeBron will give the Browns a chance. I silently think they traded Braylon Edwards away to make him happy.

– Earl Boykins is back in the league, and he just made Mo Williams look stupid, running circles around him late in the game. Earl is a hell of a pickup for the Wizards bench — I’m somewhat surprised he was still floating around and available. He’s a proven bench spark plug, and could probably help any team in the league.

– In contrast, Iverson might be able to hurt every team in the league. When the Grizzlies waive you, that’s what you call rock bottom. As I previously stated, Iverson could have played his way into the starting lineup. Still, it’s probably for the best. I think AI would be wise to chill out for a little while, stay in shape, and hope some team looking for an extra boost to make a playoff run takes a chance on him.

– Can we name Brandon Jennings the Rookie of the Year now, or do we have to wait? I say we should just do it now — just to relieve some of the pressure on Blake Griffin when he comes back. I willmake a bold stament (and by bold, I mean not very bold at all) and say that the ROY will definitely NOT be Hasheem Thabeet.

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