NBA Power Poll: Non-contenders
We'll remember this as The Best NBA Regular Season Ever. Naturally, the league is going to seize the momentum by disappearing in July, then duct-taping us to chairs in a dark basement and torturing us with months of lockout rhetoric. By August, we're going to forget about a regular season that gave us dozens of compelling subplots, at least 250-300 truly entertaining games, at least 200 Blake Griffin YouTube clips, multiple polarizing trades, a USSR-like villain in the MoHeatos, playoffs that could dart in about 20 different directions and a heated MVP race led by Derrick Rose, who I will choose to remember this season as someone who
A. Worked his butt off to get better last summer
B. Bought into everything his new coach was selling, led by example and never undermined his coach publicly or privately
C. Was a phenomenal teammate who kept a fringe contender afloat for two months when they were crushed by injuries, then kept them humming as they evolved into a semi-juggernaut
D. Played harder from night to night than anyone else
E. Was the only elite player on a good team who had to make every offensive decision in crunch time because his team didn't have another perimeter player who could create a shot, but hey, let's not factor that into anything
F. Was a legitimate athletic freak who needed to be seen in person to be truly appreciated
G. The guy whose MVP candidacy got crapped on by the entire blogosphere because his plus/minus and true shooting percentage weren't quite good enough.
Look, I haven't decided whether Rose is the MVP yet. After three months, I thought he was. His play tailed off a little once the Bulls got healthy. Now I'm not so sure. It feels like one of those seasons like 2007 when there just wasn't a most valuable player, so we had to talk ourselves into someone. (Note: I copped out and voted for the fans.) I hate those seasons. Regardless, it's a fun debate and I've enjoyed arguing about it with my friends, even if it's bizarre that Rose -- who truly gives a s--- about winning, wants to get better and doesn't care about his own numbers, unlike Dwight Howard (who occasionally gives a s---, continues to block the ball out of bounds because it's cool, can't be trusted in the last two minutes of a game and does care about his numbers) and LeBron James (who thought this was a good idea) -- became the most polarizing candidate.
So give me another week or so with my MVP vote that I don't actually have. In the meantime, let's bang out a two-part NBA Power Poll. Part 1 runs today; Part 2 runs next Friday. And now, the noncontenders.
30. Cleveland Cavaliers
Silver lining for Cavs fans: a vested interest in the 2011 playoffs. Every round until Miami gets knocked out, they get to root passionately/spitefully/irrationally for The Playoff Team That's Playing LeBron. Has any NBA fan base ever cared more about a postseason that didn't involve them at all? It would be like Jennifer Aniston rooting against every Angelina Jolie movie opening, if there were two million Anistons. I say Dan Gilbert should embrace it -- he's the same guy who tweeted "Not in our garage!!" for God's sake. Why not open his arena for Miami playoff games and have "Miami Hate" viewing parties?
Wait, you're saying he's not petty enough? Really?
29. Toronto Raptors
How the NBA advanced professional basketball in Canada since 1995
• Gave control of Toronto's expansion franchise to Isiah Thomas.
• Mangled Vancouver's franchise so horrendously that it fled to Memphis within six years.
• Allowed Toronto's first basketball star, Vince Carter, to tank his way out of Toronto for a trade that netted the Raptors 20 cents on the dollar.
• Allowed Toronto's second basketball star, Chris Bosh, to flee Toronto in 2010 because he, LeBron James and Dwyane Wade had flagrantly violated the league's tampering rules by agreeing to play together well before the 2010 season ended (possibly 2-4 years before, but hey, let's never have a tampering investigation to figure this out).
• Screwed over the best Canadian player ever (Steve Nash) by allowing Robert Sarver to buy the Suns because he was worth hundreds of millions "on paper" (so what if he didn't have any cash?), causing Nash to miss the Finals because his owner cheaped out from 2005-10.
• Invited Wayne Gretzky and Bryan Adams to sing the national anthem at Toronto's last 2010-11 regular-season game, then hired a sniper to gun them down at midcourt? (Note: Hasn't happened yet -- in the works.)
28. Minnesota Timberwolves
Jabaal Abdul-Simmons would have written columns about the following topics
A. If you killed Allen Iverson for being a ball hog during his prime, then by rule, you shouldn't have been cheerleading Jimmer's BYU performance this season right?
B. Usually when Player X guns for his own stats on bad teams, says yes to every interview and cares a little too much about a double-double streak happening on a team headed for 20 wins, this guy gets crushed on radio shows and sports blogs well, unless it's Kevin Love.
(Note: I'm a big fan of both Love and Fredette. Just funny how America works sometimes. Or maybe it's not funny.)
27. Washington Wizards
The past two Wizards seasons easily could have doubled as an HBO dramedy about a dysfunctional NBA team called "Chocolate City." The pilot episode would have been structured around longtime owner Abe Pollin dying (November 2009) and the team going into a state of flux, as Gilbert Arenas slowly melted down over nasty Internet rumors and Andray Blatche did Andray Blatche things. Within a few episodes, Gilbert's card game with Javaris Crittenton (and their heated aftermath in the locker room, including the guns, the investigation and the suspension) would have been the dominant plot of the first season, with backup plots revolving around lovably wacky Internet billionaire Ted Leonsis buying the team, Andray Blatche as Andray Blatche, and Mike Miller playing entire games without ever breaking a sweat. Then the cliffhanger would have been the Wiz winning the John Wall Sweepstakes.
Season 2? Not quite as exciting; still watchable. You'd have the episode in which Wall did the Dougie and got berated by a national radio personality. You'd have episodes for Gilbert finally getting traded, JaVale McGee emerging as a rebounder/shot-blocker and making the dunk contest (where his crazy mom kissed the judges on the lips), and Flip Saunders making history by getting outcoached by Vinny Del Negro in a game. You'd have emerging characters like Yi Jianlian (the overwhelmed Asian import who can't believe he's on such a crazy team); Kirk Hinrich (the dorky guy from Kansas who has nothing in common with anyone on the team); Nick Young (the gunner who everyone hates playing with -- did you know he hasn't had three assists in a game since mid-January?); Mike Bibby (the old guy who got traded here, took a look around, then told his agent, "I'll give up next year's salary just to get out of here"); and, of course, Andray Blatche as Andray Blatche. Maybe it hasn't been as good as Season 1, but the show has legs now. I'm excited for Season 3
26. Detroit Pistons
Name me a bigger hit-or-miss general manager than Joe Dumars. He's like the Warren Beatty of NBA GMs -- either he delivers a hit or bankrupts your studio, with no in-between.
Mega-Hits: Trading Jerry Stackhouse for Rip Hamilton; getting Ben Wallace as compensation for Grant Hill's Orlando signing that would have happened anyway; orchestrating the Rasheed Wallace trade; stealing Chauncey Billups in free agency; drafting Greg Monroe.
Mega-Misses: Blowing the Darko pick (which should really count three times); giving an aging Hamilton a cap-crippling extension for reasons that remain unclear; turning Billups and Antonio McDyess into four months of a past-his-prime Allen Iverson, then $95 million of Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva; giving away Arron Afflalo (and his dirt-cheap contract) that same summer for a future second-round pick to clear salary because he just spent $95 million on Ben Gordon and Charlie Villanueva.
25. Sacramento Kings
I keep getting emails: "Why don't you care about the Kings leaving as much as you cared about the Sonics leaving?" Let's settle this in four paragraphs
The Sonics were bought by Oklahoma-based owners who deceived Seattle into thinking they would do everything possible to keep the Sonics there, then backstabbed the city and moved the franchise to the group's hometown -- a much smaller market, in an arena that wasn't any different than the one they left -- and, as a trail of emails later revealed, it turned out stealing the Sonics away had been their intention all along. Even worse, the commissioner's office enabled what happened, and may have even been in on the plan. It's the darkest NBA saga of the 21st century other than the Donaghy scandal, and whomever ends up writing the Woodward/Bernstein-style investigation someday about how Miami really ended up with LeBron, Wade and Bosh. Which I predict will be written within the next 18 months. And will end with Miami losing somewhere between two and 40 first-round picks.
The Kings? They were stolen from Kansas City in 1986, which stole them from Cincinnati in 1972, which stole them from Rochester in 1958. They're moving to Anaheim because their owners can't afford to run a small-market NBA franchise anymore; they need a better arena and extra cash to keep their team from going under. Within ten years, they will probably move again. They are NBA nomads.
Both situations stink. I feel bad for Kings fans. I continue to feel bad for Sonics fans. But the Kings are leaving Sacramento because their franchise wasn't worth anything where it was. Small-market NBA franchises are doomed in 2011 unless they have (A) a modern arena, and/or (B) a franchise player like Kevin Durant. The Kings have neither. That wouldn't matter if they had lucked out and had owners with deep pockets, but they drew the short straw in this respect. (It happens. Clippers fans have been holding the short straw for 30 years.) At least in Anaheim, they'll be playing in a modern arena in a market that supports two other pro teams.
It's defensible. I hate it but it's defensible. What happened to Seattle wasn't defensible. Their arena was fine, their market was fine, their fans were fine. The hijacking of that franchise was meticulously planned and executed, and that hijacking had the unspoken consent of the commissioner's office. There's no comparison. Other than the fact that both events prove we're saps for caring about sports this much, because you never know when your own team is going to take a sledgehammer to your heart.
THE HAMSTER TREADMILL
24. Charlotte Bobcats
Keeping their playoff hopes alive with an astoundingly awful on-paper collection of players. Watching them gives me the same feeling I get when I watch "Celebrity Rehab," with that "Wait, is that the kid from 'Party of Five'?" feeling replaced by "Wait, is that Shaun Livingston?" Put it this way: If MJ was playing golf with another owner for $500,000 a skin and got creamed, and the other owner said, "Screw the money; trade me your best player for a second-round pick," we'd have this exchange:
MJ (confused): "I would, but I don't have a best player."
Owner: "What do you mean? You have to have someone good."
MJ: "I mean, I could give you DJ Augustin? Stephen Jackson? Gerald Henderson?"
Owner (thinking): "Screw it, cut me a check."
23. Milwaukee Bucks
Remember those old Fox shows, "When Animals Attack?" The 2010-11 Bucks are "When Advanced Metrics Go Wrong!!!!" They traded for an already overpaid Corey Maggette (an efficient scorer on paper, which apparently made him underrated as long as you never, ever watched him); overpaid Drew Gooden (an efficient rebounder and high-percentage shooter who holds the unofficial record for "most times a player made his coach roll his eyes and look at the scoreboard" since 2000); and took care of John Salmons (who had his inevitable post-contract year swoon). Everything made sense on paper.
Which would be fine if this were baseball. But it's basketball: a sport in which five guys have to mesh the right way (a process that often defies statistics), and also, they have to collectively give a crap about the sport and each other. The season started and everyone quickly remembered that (A) there's a reason everybody hates playing with Maggette (actually, two: he's a ball stopper and a ball hog); (B) there's a reason Drew Gooden has been on 47 teams in nine years; and (C) you never want to give a non-All-Star in his 30s his last big contract (by no coincidence, Salmons' Bucks numbers dropped from 20 ppg and 47% FG to 13 ppg and 39% FG).
What's really confusing: Over the past few years, didn't the Thunder's Sam Presti show everyone how to run a small-market team? Build through the lottery; keep your cap space (so you can swing cap-related deals during the season that net you extra draft picks); avoid paying market price for veteran starters who aren't All-Stars; don't overpay your own guys if they aren't building blocks. And the thing is, John Hammond KNEW the blueprint. He was using it these past two years! So what made him go Maggette/Gooden/Salmons on us? Do NBA GMs just slowly lose their minds? Is it like when you go on Amazon to buy one book and end up with two Blu-rays as well, and even as you're paying for it, you're saying, "What's happening right now; why am I buying these?"
HOPE IS A GOOD THING
22. L.A. Clippers
The owner is reprehensible and needs to sell.
Anyway, if you pressed a RESET button for LeBron's Summer of 2010 and asked the question, "Knowing what we know now, what would have been the best pick for him?" there's only one answer
(I'll give you a second.)
(Come on, you'll get it.)
The Clippers! How much fun would it have been to watch LeBron play with Eric Gordon, a Suddenly In Shape Because LeBron Is Here Baron Davis, Chris Kaman, DeAndre Jordan and especially Blake Griffin? Wouldn't that have been one of the ten most entertaining teams in the past 35 years? Let's see the Showtime Lakers, Bird's 1986 Celts, the 2000-02 Kings, the '96 Bulls, the Seven Seconds or Less Suns, maybe the 1983 Sixers, maybe the 1993 Suns, maybe the 2002 Mavs, maybe the '84 Knicks (just because of Bernard and MSG) s---, I'd rank the Pipe Dream Clips fifth or sixth. Throwing LeBron on the Knicks or Bulls would have been almost as fun, admittedly, but holy schnikes, LeBron AND Griffin on the same team? It makes me want to put on Jack's "Lost" beard from Season 3 and say, "We have to go back "
21. New Jersey Nets
My favorite thing about the Deron Williams trade: It single-handedly rejuvenated Brook Lopez's career and obliterated Devin Harris' future trade value. How can we take Harris seriously after this? Lopez is happier than one of those should-have-gotten-divorced-years-ago guys who started dating a 22-year-old and can't believe he forgot how much fun sex was.
My second-favorite thing: The trade had no NBA precedent. Believe me, I tried to find one. Doesn't exist. The Nets gutted their team for a guy who could (and probably will) flee the premises in 16 months. Like someone working for 20 years to make enough money for one big Vegas run, saving $500,000 flying to Vegas, losing a couple of small hands then putting the remaining $482,000 on red on roulette. And by the way, if you were Williams, why would you ever re-sign with them? If he does, I'm just going to believe that it happened as he hung upside down in a helicopter with two burly guys named Viktor and Igor holding his legs, unless someone shows me evidence otherwise.
20. Golden State Warriors
They need to expand the NBA awards process beyond MVP, rookie of the year, etc. and hand out additional awards. And I'm not talking about awards that could never happen, like "Most Shamelessly Inspired Performance in a Contract Year That has No Correlation To Anything That's Previously Happened in The Player's Career" (Kris Humphries), "Worst Attempt to Stay In Shape" (Baron Davis), and "Dumbest Free-Agent Signing" (Travis Outlaw for $35 million, which was about $34 million too much). I'm talking about
The Drazen Petrovic Award: Goes to the league's best international player, honors the memory of a fallen pioneer everyone wins. This year? Dirk. Who'd have at least seven or eight Drazens if we'd been doing this since 1993.
The Mokeski: Given annually to the league's best white American player. Poor Kevin Love -- he thought he had this award locked up for like 13 straight years; now he's headed for a Bird-Magic situation with Jimmer Fredette.
The Julius Erving Award: For the most exciting player of the year. We'd call this one the Doc, with the trophy looking like his tomahawk slam against the Lakers in 1983. Don't you wish we'd had this award these past four decades? I could totally see checking the list and getting retroactively riled up by some of the choices. How did Dominique only win one Doc award??? How is this possible????????? And yes, Griffin was our unanimous Doc winner for 2011.
The DirecTV Award: Given to the team that provided the best ratio of "entertainment value per televised game" versus "games they actually won." Tight vote this year; I have Golden State edging out the Clippers. Their overtime loss in Oklahoma City on Monday was a great example why: They pulled a Reggie Miller (3, steal, 3) to send it to OT, then Monta Ellis (9-for-30 for the game!) missed the game-winner in OT as Stephen Curry inexplicably held his hand up like Larry Legend in the 1988 Slam Dunk Contest and walked toward the locker room with his hand in the air like there was no doubt it was going in. What!?!?!? Throw in the fact that 530 NBA players set career highs against them this year, the electric Ellis-Curry backcourt and their 86-point first half last week and this is my DirecTV team of the year.
That reminds me, I have an idea to save the Warriors: You know how his Knicks experience exposed Mike D'Antoni as the Mike Martz of the NFL? In other words, he's an inventive mind who can coach a certain offense led by a certain quarterback, has no Plan B, and has little use for anyone who doesn't fit into that system. (Note: The fact that he never played Anthony Randolph and had no idea how to use Corey Brewer, a guy who was immediately courted by every smart NBA team when he was released, should tell you something.) You know what his professional destiny should be? Running this run-and-gun Warriors team. He could win 44 games with them for the next few years, score 120 points a game and become the Don Nelson of his generation. So here's my plan for June
A. The Knicks trade D'Antoni to Golden State for a second-round pick.
B. The Knicks hire Phil Jackson as their next coach.
(Now you're saying, "No way! Phil is taking the year off!" Here's the thing: The lockout will last to January at the earliest. He's getting six months off, anyway. Why not finish off your career in New York, where it all started, and do the full-circle routine? Oh, wait, because the Knicks are owned by James Dolan. I forgot.)
19. Utah Jazz
My third-favorite thing about the Williams trade: In a 24/7 reporting world of "Heard this" and "Sources say," nobody knew Williams was on the block until he was traded. It was relatively amazing. So amazing that, apparently, a couple of teams were miffed (not ticked, not pissed; just miffed) that Utah never gave them an exploratory heads-up before saying yes to Jersey.
Utah's reasons made sense: Jersey had the most assets (and was offering them), so Jazz GM Kevin O'Connor was afraid Williams might catch wind and sabotage the deal. Still, with ten minutes to go before officially saying yes, couldn't Utah have called Oklahoma City, Boston, Houston, Golden State, the Knicks and Clippers and said, "Keep it low, but you have ten minutes to consider the following Godfather offer for Deron Williams." Why not? Don't you want to know for sure? What would Golden State have done if it had 10 minutes to respond to "Curry, your 2011 and 2013 unprotected No. 1's and an expiring contract for Williams"? What would Boston have done if given 10 minutes to digest "Rondo, Perkins, and a 2013 No. 1 for Williams"? Or the Clippers if "Gordon, Aminu, Kaman and the rights to Minny's 2012 No. 1 pick" were thrown at them?
Think of this way: Don't you hate when someone gets traded in your fantasy league and you never knew the guy was available? Isn't this how 80 percent of all fantasy league email wars start? Why wouldn't this also be the case for real leagues? Do you think the Williams trade led to a huge reply-to-all email chain with eight or nine GMs bitching about O'Connor, then him firing back with something personal like, "Maybe if you spent as much time scouting as you do emailing, you wouldn't be in the lottery again"? followed by F-bombs flying back and forth and people not talking for three months? Or does this just happen in fantasy?
You're right, it just happens in fantasy. My bad. By the way, my League of Dorks auction lasted for eight and a half hours last weekend. At one point, we were arguing about whether you should be able to trade minor league picks right up to the day of the minor league draft, or whether the deadline should remain the week before -- I was pushing for "day of" -- and one owner actually said the words, "I don't know if we want to set a precedent," like we were Supreme Court justices arguing Brown v. Board of Education in 1954. I should also mention that I set a Google alert for Miguel Pineda these past four weeks. Don't ask. I need professional help. Let's just move on.
THE PLAYOFF JOBBER
18. Indiana Pacers
Danny Granger, Roy Hibbert, Darren Collison, Tyler Hansbrough, Paul George, Brandon Rush and some summer cap space not a bad foundation. That's two-thirds of a perennial playoff team. Still, it's a small-market team with short pockets; they're never signing a marquee free agent, which means they have to get creative and roll the dice. You know, with something like the following post-lockout deal: Hibbert and James Posey (expiring in 2012) in a sign-and-trade for Greg Oden and a future No. 1 pick.
Portland turns Oden into a solid 7-footer (Hibbert, past 2 months: 50% FG, 13.2 ppg, 7.1 rpg, 1.8 bpg) who can definitely stay on the court. Oden gets away from Portland (too much baggage, too many bad memories), goes home to Indiana (where he'll have the longest leash possible) and gets a fresh start. And the Pacers give him a four-year, $40 million extension and get their dice roll; if Oden stays healthy, they just stumbled onto a franchise center. How else would they get one? And can you think of anyone who needs a change of scenery more than Oden? I hope this happens. Uh-oh -- I think I just exploded the Blazer's Edge message board.
THE WRONG CONFERENCE
17. Phoenix Suns
An incredible ten months that included
A. Owner Robert Sarver pushing Steve Kerr out after Kerr miraculously got his Suns under the luxury tax AND to the cusp of the Finals.
B. Sarver replacing Kerr with agent Lon Babby, who acquired two of his clients (Hedo Turkoglu and Josh Childress) at a prohibitive cost. One never plays; the other got traded within a few months. So that's worked out great. And for the record, Sarver allowed Amare Stoudemire to leave (defensible), then spent 80 percent of what it would have kept to keep Stoudemire on Channing Frye, Childress and Hakim Warrick (indefensible).
C. The team trading Turkoglu and Jason Richardson for Marcin Gortat and Vince "Half-Man, Half-Amazingly Washed Up" Carter, which ended up being a steal (Gortat emerged as the franchise's first legitimate center since Alvin Adams?) and a disaster (Carter single-handedly murdered their playoff hopes).
D. Nash suffering through a brutally tough season off the court. To be honest, I wasn't talking about his divorce, I was talking about the fact that every morning, he had to wake up thinking, "Oh my God, I have to play with Vince Carter."
E. You realize Grant Hill quietly just had one of the most incredible seasons in the history of the league, right? He played 135 games total from 2000 to 2006; in the past three seasons, he's played every game but three and averaged 30 minutes a night. This season, he tossed up 48-84-39 percentages for FG/FT/3FG, scored 13 a game, played the best perimeter defense of anyone other than Andre Iguodala and even wrote a takedown essay of Jalen Rose for The New York Times. He's 38 years old! This shouldn't be happening.
One other thing: If you allowed me one do-over for the 2010-11 season, mine would be Phoenix trading Hill to Boston before the deadline for Semih Erden, Avery Bradley, Von Wafer and $3 million. Hill would have gotten one more chance to play for a title. Phoenix would have finally gotten good karma for a transaction. The Celtics could have avoided the potentially disastrous Perkins trade (Hill would have given them Pierce/Allen protection); I would have avoided 2,970 texts, emails and phone calls from my father bitching about the Perkins trade; and also, we could have seen an NBA team with Shaq, KG, Pierce, Allen, Hill and Jermaine O'Neal on it. Combined income since 1992: two kajillion dollars. Too bad. But hey, at least Sarver was consistent; he's like Nic Cage, you can always count on him to do the wrong thing.
16. Houston Rockets
Our go-to example for the rest of eternity for The Law of Too Many Guys. You only need eight and a half guys to win in the NBA: five starters, three bench guys, then an 8½th man who doesn't mind playing 0-10 minutes a night and being on call if a rotation guy gets into foul trouble, gets hurt or whatever. Of those eight and half guys, ideally, you need two scorers, one ball handler, one perimeter defender and one rebounder. You need to be able to play defense. You need everyone to know their roles. You need to know who's playing crunch time and who gets the ball in those last few minutes. And you need a coach competent enough not to screw things up. That's it.
All of these concepts sound incredibly simple, yet NBA teams forget them over and over again. The Rockets started this season with eleven guys who thought they should be playing, as well as a starting point guard who wanted to get paid and thought he was a little better than he was (Aaron Brooks). You're not going to believe this, but it didn't work out. Yao Ming got injured early, then the team dealt Shane Battier and Brooks at the deadline. Suddenly they had an eight-man rotation that made sense: Luis Scola and Kevin Martin as the scorers; Kyle Lowry as the ball handler; Chuck Hayes and Patrick Patterson as the rebounders; Chase Budinger, Goran Dragic and Courtney Lee falling into place as the other three perimeter guys; and Brad Miller lurking as the 8½th man (happy to get a couple of minutes here and there). It's not the most talented group, and they're not quite good enough defensively as you'd want, but they play hard and know their roles. Since the trade deadline, Houston is 13-5.
Here's what fascinates me: Rockets GM Daryl Morey already knew the Law of Too Many Guys. He was running them in 2008 when Houston thrived with Tracy McGrady and Scola (scorers); Rafer Alston (ball handler); Battier (perimeter stopper); Dikembe Mutombo (rebounder); Carl Landry, Bobby Jackson and Luther Head (bench guys); and Hayes (the 8½th man who eventually jumped into Mutombo's spot when Zeke got hurt). T-Mac wasn't even totally T-Mac anymore and that team won 22 straight games. Twenty-two! It's that easy.
It's a common-sense thing. Ask any NBA starter how many minutes would make them happy and they'd say 36 to 38 (one rest per half). There are 240 minutes available in a basketball game. That means you need to allot 180-190 minutes for your five starters to be happy. Now, ask any bench player how many minutes they need to play well and you know what they'd say? Two stretches per half for 8-10 minutes. They need time to run around, break a sweat, get a feel for the game and get comfortable. That means you need to allot 50-60 minutes for your three bench guys and your 8½th man.
So let's split the difference: 185 minutes for five happy starters, 55 minutes for the three and a half bench guys. That adds up to wait for it 240 minutes! What a coincidence.
THE HUNK OF PLAY-DOH
15. New York Knicks
When I caught them in person Wednesday night, they played Anthony Carter, Shelden Williams and Jared Jeffries extended minutes. Let's just fold the D-League. If we can't come up with three D-Leaguers better than that, we need to start over.
Anyway, I stand by my stance when the Melo trade happened: You always trade coins for paper in the NBA. Besides, the Knicks had already made their panic move, spending $100 million on someone whose knees cannot be insured. He may as well have Charlie Sheen and Andy Dick as his left and right kneecaps. That was an "all-in" contract. They couldn't wait two or three years for young players to develop. They couldn't cross their fingers that a 2012 free agent will be there. They were on borrowed time. Even if nothing else about their roster makes sense right now (including the suddenly overmatched coach), a year from now, it might. When you have two stars, it's always easier to get a third. Right, KG, Paul and Ray?
Speaking of contracts, the league's biggest CBA priorities need to be (A) shortening contracts to four years or less, and (B) discouraging teams from overpaying middle-class players with a hard cap, a semi-hard cap, a conditionally hard cap, a flaccid cap or whatever other cap makes you think of a Cialis commercial. In Hollywood, you don't pay "character actors" like Mike Miller or Travis Outlaw $30-35 million to appear in your next five movies. Why? Because it's bad business!!! Because it would be irresponsible! We're headed toward a lockout because NBA "character actors" should be paid like what they are -- character actors -- and because the dopey owners need to be saved from themselves. It's a broken system. Luke Walton and Ron Artest should not be making half as much combined as Kobe Bryant. Brandon Bass, J.J. Redick and Chris Duhon should not be making as much combined as Dwight Howard. If NBA owners ran Hollywood, the creepy uncle from "Winter's Bone" would be enjoying Year 1 of a six-year, $58 million movie deal. Hearing them bitch about "lost revenue" is like hearing Brad and Angelina bitch about future college expenses for their kids. Shut up already.
Bill Simmons is a columnist for ESPN.com and the author of the recent New York Times No. 1 best-seller "The Book of Basketball," now out in paperback with new material and a revised Hall of Fame Pyramid. For every Simmons column and podcast, check out Sports Guy's World or the BS Report page. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/sportsguy33.