Friday, February 13, 2004

Too Much Barking from the JYD???

The big story in the papers today is not the 107-87 blowout of the Celtics last night, It involved the postgame comments of Jerome Williams. In a season like this, one win isn't as interesting a topic than the drama behind the scenes. Trade talks, locker room in-fighting, the good stuff. So what did Jerome have to say?

"I don't care if you're 14," he said. "If you're able to play and say you're ready for the NBA, then you have to be ready to do your job. Because the checks come, right? You can't blame [not knowing plays] on age. If you want to come into this league early, get ready to do the work." "It's getting better, but it's bad," Williams said. "As a professional, I look at it as a player has to take it upon himself. You can't rely on coaches to walk you through plays. You have to take the initiative to want to improve the team and know what's going on on the court as soon as the call is made.

"That's the least fans can expect. Know [your] jobs. That's like a trash man going to work and doesn't know where to pick up the garbage."

Very harsh words. It gets better though, as super-scrub Rick Brunson responds:
"Ask him how many times he has stayed after [practice] to help those guys?" Brunson said. "Look in the mirror."
Ok Jerome, how about that one?
"But coaches have told me not to pull them [aside] anymore," he said. "You can't keep dragging them along and say, 'Let me help you.' I did that when I first got here. Now you have to allow them to step up. They have to want to get better.

The JYD speaks some truth here. His message has been repeated over and over again this year, from veterans and coaches alike. The players need to step up themselves, they can't be coddled anymore, and its good to see that the coaching staff recognizes it enough to tell JYD to cut back on the 'teaching'. It may seem like harsh treatment for the young Bulls, but I'm sure they get enough attention from the coaches themselves to be called out every time in practice they are in the wrong spot (which Williams reportedly does).

All that considered though, Jerome Williams' comments are out of line. This is the kind of thing that should be kept within the locker room, and I don't see how it benefits anyone to call out your teammates in public. Especially after a game where they beat their opponents' brains out. Hold a team meeting or something. Talk to your teammates on your own. Talk to the coach.  This kind of stuff is simply uncalled for.

It has been speculated that Williams' comments are partly out of frustration as a result of being included in trade rumors. The most widely-reported trade proposal being him going to the Sixers for Aaron McKie (and a contract...supposedly Amal McCaskill). Even without learing about JYD's recent attitude, the Bulls should jump at the chance to make a move like this. McKie is exactly the kind of player the Bulls have been searching for, a small forward who can hit an outside shot and is a good defender. Plus he has all that intangible crap that people seem to like. Supposedly the deal is waiting to be approved by the Sixers side, so keep your fingers crossed.

Another rumor reported today involved Marcus Fizer. I think that Fizer has set the 4 season record for trade rumors. I mean he has been rumored to be gone since he was drafted. Now he's supposedly going to the Magic for Tyronn Lue and Gordan "G-Force" Giricek (and a contract....Shammond Williams will do). For all those who know how big a Giricek fan I am, its no suprise that I like this trade. I was once the biggest Marcus Fizer fan in the world, but he is completely out of the teams' plans, so getting anything for him would be a plus. Tyronn Lue hasn't been good as the Magic's starting point guard, but I believe he'd be better suited as a backup to Kirk Hinrich. And he's better than Brunson, who's occupying that post now.

So will the trade deadline bring Aaron McKie, Tyronn Lue, and Gordan Girecek in exchange for Jerome Williams and Marcus Fizer? Doubtful, but it wouldn't be a bad way for GM John Paxson to mark his first trading deadline.

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

The Olympic Debate

It started a couple of days ago when I commented on the Rasheed Wallace trade, and it will continue now. I'm gonna try and post on general NBA news as well as keeping it Bulls-centric. This is mainly because the Bulls are simply bad and uninteresting now, the other because I got things to say!!

Anyway, the past week has been filled with debate regarding the NBA's place in Olympic basketball. It was started by Pistons Coach Larry Brown (good to see him focuses while his team has lost 5 straight). He basically was moaning about Mavericks owner Mark Cuban's earlier comments openly questioning his players playing this summer.  Cuban had some snappy words in response:

"If things don't work out, a player gets injured or he doesn't like the way things are going, he can do what he has done everywhere else, just leave," Cuban wrote. "As the owner of the team, I can't do that. I am responsible to everyone in the organization, particularly the fans, who much prefer watching our best players, playing at the top of their game.

"Larry is a great coach, and that is exactly what he should stick to," Cuban said. "When he is responsible for a hundred million dollars or more in contracts, then I will respect his opinion on the subject."

This story has been beaten to death already by the painfully boring ESPN writers bloc,  but I'm going to weigh in on this.

This may be surprising to some (or not), but I wholeheartedly agree with Mark Cuban. I just find his arguments to carry much more practical implications than Brown's. Cuban's argument on the other hand is simple to grasp:  he doesn't want his multi-million dollar investments to get hurt, American or otherwise. Cuban's team is especially vulnerable since a player like Dirk Nowitzki or Steve Nash are the focal points of their respective national teams and can get worn down before the NBA training camp even starts.  The argument I hear from Brown's side is grasping at  intangible emotional arguments like patriotism ( to represent your country), or duty to (showcase the game globally). Being the cold-hearted man that I am, let me answer these:

  • Nobody cares about the Olympics. Oh, you may think you do, but do you honestly care who wins? If the USA wins with stars, ho-hum. If they lose with less than stars like in the 2002 world championships, ho-hum they didn't have their best players. Some pundits claimed to be outraged after the American loss, but I found it to be a vocal minority. And the US team didn't lose because they weren't talented, they simply didn't have the time together that these international teams do. Now a complete all-star team with Shaq, KG, Duncan, et. al would have to practice for about 3 hours before they were ready, but say they do so and whomp up in Athens this summer. Would this cause celebration in the streets? I doubt it.


  • There's no debate where the best basketball is played, its the NBA. Even if you do like watching international teams play to check out the foreign talent, the best are in or are soon to be coming to the league. The NBA title means more to a basketball fan than any international medal. There has been similar debate about a baseball world cup, with one of the common soundbytes reading "a true world series". This is total crap. Like baseball, the best players in basketball come to America to play in the NBA. That's where the best talent is, that's where the best teams are. The team that wins is the best in the world.


  • There are better ways to promote the game. You say the dream team transformed international interest in basketball? Well I tend to agree with that, but its not as bad as Larry Brown's assertions that without the dream team the young ballers would be kicking a soccer ball instead. If you want to simply promote the game, make international competition promotional. Do a world tour with U.S. stars versus international stars. Little practice would be needed, and the games would be exhibition. International players wouldn't have to carry the physical load with star players by their side. And a tour that played in several cities instead of 1 Olympic tournament would do an even better job of promoting the game. Hell, bring the And1 mixtape guy to be on the microphone the whole time. ("OH BABY! PROFESSOR!")


  • What to do with the Olympics then? I'm not saying that NBA players should be completely banned from competing. But if an owner wants to put a clause in a contract to forbid them from playing, the player can either sign the contract or not. It would be left up to the team and the player. If such a system were in place I feel that many players would choose guaranteed millions over playing in the Olympics. As stated earlier, what American basketball really needs is a team who practices together. Cuban's idea for a college-age squad of professionals is worth thinking about. I'm sure there are kids willing to play and make some money instead of being forced to go to communications and geography classes they don't care about. Perhaps it would be possible to have the best college prospects in the country join the squad as well (which would require some arm twisting of the NCAA). Its easy to forget that America still has the best overall talent pool in the world, so if they had enough time together they should match up with any in the world. And the Olympics could go back to featuring young talent in an amateurish setting, which isn't such a bad thing.

I assume that no changes will be made by 2004, so I will sit back and watch another true dream team dominate. And make no mistake, it will be fun to watch. But Mark Cuban has an argument that the league and USA basketball should truly consider. While its a fun idea to think of an American all-star squad being greased up and ready to dominate the world every 4 years, the practical consequences on the players' employers isn't worth the emotional benefits of cheering the red, white and blue.

Monday, February 09, 2004

I've Modified an Advent Calendar Corresponding to Feb 19th

Well, if its sacrilege to hold the NBA trading deadline in the same esteem as Christmas, then consider me out of the church. As it is right now, the trade winds are gathering strength by the day, and its fun to read columnists make half-hazard trade scenarios with no knowledge of the salary cap.

For the Bulls:
I've spent plenty of time in the past couple of weeks expressing my plans for Curry, Crawford and Chandler (summary: keep curry/ crawford only for the right package). And it seems that Jay Mariotti has removed his face from Michael Jordan's rear long enough to make his rallying cry to GM John Paxson:

At the moment, some people are getting excited about him again because he has been avoiding drive-through lanes, responding to Scott Skiles' whip-cracking workouts and delivering impressive offensive stretches in recent games. But in my mind, any positive momentum only serves as another good reason to trade Curry, with hopes another team might relinquish a quality player and give the Bulls a chance to rejoin the NBA one of these decades.
I still think that Curry's value is in fact too low to be even thought of being tradeable. And perhaps its yet another tease, but this road trip makes me think that a half season and full offseason with Scott Skiles may finally unlock the mystery that is Eddy Curry. Kostas Bolos over at RealGM says it best:
And so if Skiles can transform Curry in particular in nine short weeks, just imagine what he can do with a full off-season and training camp under his belt. The Thornwood High School product is only beginning to carve his niche, and the sky remains the limit as far as his impact in the league. Curry is just beginning to scratch the surface of his vast potential.

So forget about him being showcased in any potential deals before Feb. 19. It just isn’t going to happen. Curry will be wearing white, red and black for the foreseeable future and beyond- as long as Paxson does not fall into the same trap that Mariotti has of wanting to win now just for the sake of getting into the post-season, instead of building a potential championship-winner.
Step back, see the big picture. There's nobody the Bulls can get for Curry that has a better shot of bringing the Bulls to title contention than Curry himself.

So now that Paxson himself has pretty much taken the 3 Cs off the market, there's lesser deals rumored involving Marcus Fizer either going to the Clippers for Keyon Dooling/Melvin Ely, or in a package to Detroit for Corliss Williamson.  While the idea of trading Marcus Fizer for Williamson (the rich man's Marcus Fizer) is interesting, his contract is too much for an undersized power forward who has few skills outside of scoring. I for one prefer the Clippers package.

Hawks/Blazers deal:
Rasheed Wallace was finally dealt today, going to the Atlanta with Wesley Person for Shareef Abdur-Rahim, Theo Ratliff, and Dan Dickau. As like most deals, this helps both teams, but I think is an absolute coup for the Hawks. After their ill-fated "playoff guarantee" team centered around an all-star frontcourt of Rahim, Ratliff and Glen Robinson, all 3 have been traded in one year for players who have expired contracts this summer (Terrell Brandon, acquired for Robinson, is expected to retire). Looking at their salaries, they'll have only 6 players under contract next year, and are now added to the list of the Clippers, Nuggets, Jazz and Suns of teams with the means to go after Kobe Bryant. Even if massive cap space can't lure a free agent, they can be major players simply by taking other teams' expensive contracts back in trades. From the Portland side, GM John Nash got exactly what he wanted, good character guys who will help them extend their playoff streak. And all 3 contracts acquired will expire after next season, which will make them very tradeable assets again. Or they can simply wait and have them come off the books (along with Dale Davis and Damon Stoudamire) next summer. 

Whew...remember when trades were about talent? me neither.